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How Identity Became a Weapon Against the Left

Black Agenda Report

August 30, 2017

by Briahna Joy Gray

 

 

Responses to skepticism about Harris have simply dismissed the substance of the analysis, instead suggesting a “targeting” of Harris because of her gender and/or race.”

 

Having an “identity politics” is incredibly beneficial. Identity politics, which emphasizes the unique concerns of different communities and demographic groups, shows how historical inequities have been distributed across different races, genders, religions, abilities, and sexualities. In doing so, it allows us to better understand how to critique and reform the systems that replicate those inequities. It reveals how the foreclosure crisis disproportionately hurt [1]black home owners, how health issues manifest differently [2] across populations, and how various forms of “hidden taxes [3]” penalize women in professional life. To ignore identity is to ignore injustice. Yet there are risks to viewing the world through the prism of identity. If people are defined by their demographic characteristics, they can be reduced to those characteristics in a way that obscures differences within groups. If “identity” becomes synonymous with “perspective,” dissenting members within the identity group risk having their viewpoints erased and their humanity diminished. And when used cynically, as a political weapon, a simplistic view of identity can allow people of a particular political faction to wrongly imply that they speak for all members of their racial or gender group.

Kamala Harris is black. She is a lot of other things, too: a person of South Asian descent, a woman, a former prosecutor and state Attorney General, a sitting Senator, and, according to Barack Obama, “the best looking attorney general in the country [4].” (I am your sister in side-eye, Michelle.) Out of nearly 2,000 senators in the country’s history, Harris is one of only ten black Americans and two black women to have held the position. Her personal characteristics and political accomplishments, together with the intelligence and tenacity that propelled her to the Senate, have made her a highly visible prospect for the 2020 presidential race. Already, influential Democrats have shown a strong interest in Harris [5], with prominent former Clinton donors meeting privately with Harris in the Hamptons [6]. The San Francisco Chronicle called her the Democrats’ “Great Blue Hope [7],” and a Guardian writer suggested [8] that the combination of Harris’s race and her centrist platform “could be the party’s solution to its identity crisis.”

The San Francisco Chronicle called her the Democrats’ Great Blue Hope.’”

But certain parts of Kamala Harris’s political résumé have led to skepticism from the left. As California’s Attorney General, with responsibilities for overseeing the second largest prison population [9] in the country, Harris’s professional obligation to put people behind bars was seen as being [10] in direct tension with the goals of Black Lives Matter, perhaps the most prominent progressive movement of our time. Harris touted a reform-minded “smart on crime [11]” approach in her prosecutorial role, one that encouraged education and reentry programs for ex-offenders, and in the Senate, she has co-sponsored legislation [12] to improve prison conditions for women. Yet she has also come under heavy criticism from activists for, among other things: defending [13] the state against court orders to reduce its prison population, declining [13] to take a public stand on sentencing reform proposals, attempting to block a court decision [14] requiring the state to provide a transgender inmate with gender reassignment surgery, opposing a measure [15] to require independent inquiries into police uses of force, and obstructing efforts [13] by federal judges to hold California prosecutors accountable for an “epidemic [16]” of misconduct. Harris has been a zealous prosecutor (at times, she said [13], she has been “as close to a vigilante as you can get”), and certain of her policies—like bringing criminal charges [17] against parents whose children miss school—conflict with the efforts of groups like BLM to reduce the reach of the criminal justice system into people’s lives.

Harris has also drawn scrutiny over the crimes she wasn’t tough on. While serving as Attorney General of California, Harris failed to prosecute now-Treasury Secretary Steven “Foreclosure King” Mnuchin after his OneWest Bank engaged in a notoriously aggressive pattern of home foreclosures. Under Mnuchin, OneWest was a “foreclosure machine [18]” that did everything it could to seize people’s houses, inflicting misery [19] on homeowners while failing to properly review foreclosure documents. Harris’s consumer law division found that OneWest had engaged in “widespread misconduct [20]” in its treatment of borrowers; the investigators urged Harris to “conduct a full investigation of a national bank’s misconduct and provide a public accounting of what happened.” Instead, Harris closed the case, not even pursuing the compromise measure of a civil penalty. As David Dayen writes [21], this “watered-down version of public accountability was seen as the best possible outcome, and Harris didn’t even go for that.” In failing to hold the bank accountable, Dayen emphasizes, Harris was far from alone among state law enforcement officials. Harris was, however, the only Democratic senatorial candidate to whom Steven Mnuchin felt compelled to give a campaign donation [22].

Harris said she has been ‘as close to a vigilante as you can get.’”

There are therefore both principled and pragmatic reasons why people on the left might be skeptical of a Harris candidacy. There’s a serious question about whether Harris can be counted on to advance progressive values when doing so might require political sacrifices. But there’s also a question of strategy: from a leftist perspective, it’s unwise to run yet another presidential candidate whose ties to banks could make them “untrustworthy” in an era of low public trust [23] in elected officials. Given the crushing defeat of November 2016 (which was all but predicted [24] by certain insightful progressives), it would seem obviously beneficial for the Democratic Party to listen to progressive criticism early and adapt candidates and their messaging accordingly.

Yet progressive critiques of Harris were met with swift and unyielding hostility. After a Mic article [25] documented the lack of left-wing enthusiasm for a Harris candidacy, investigative journalist Victoria A. Brownsworth suggested that a better headline for the article would be: “Kamala Harris, biracial senator and former Attorney General of the most populous state, faces misogynist white men defaming her.” (This despite the fact that every critic quoted in the piece was female, and one was a woman of color.) Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden, a close Clinton ally and frequent defender of the Democratic Party, declared [26] she found it “odd” that “these folks” (meaning Bernie Sanders supporters) “have [it] in for Kamala Harris and Cory Booker” in particular. “Hmmmm,” she said, implying that criticisms of Harris and Booker were racially motivated. MSNBC host Joy Ann Reid said the Mic article simply reported the opinions of “3 alt-left activists,” “alt-left” being a term used to brand leftists as racist analogues of the neo-Nazi alt-right. In Cosmopolitan, Brittney Cooper wrote [27] that the left in general, but in particular the “Sanders Left,” “has a black-woman problem,” a charge I’ve addressed[28]elsewhere. Cooper said that those criticizing Harris “think that black women who care about establishment politics lack vision” and that the debate “isn’t about Harris, but about the emotional and political labor that black women are expected to do to save America’s soul.” “Angry white Sanders voters,” she said, must “get off [Harris’s] back.” In large part, responses to skepticism about Harris have simply dismissed the substance of the analysis, instead suggesting a “targeting” of Harris because of her gender and/or race.

By wielding identity to neutralize political pushback, these commentators were continuing a trend. Throughout the 2016 campaign season, criticism of Hillary Clinton was frequently deflected with claims that her critics were motivated by sexism. And certainly, there were a lot of sexist attacks. Allusions to her husband’s sexual exploits, scrutiny of her appearance, and a perception of the candidate as “untrustworthy” were all rooted, in part, in gender bias. No one can credibly deny that Clinton’s gender has affected the public’s perception of her since the very beginning of her career, including the early political hostility she faced in Arkansas [29]when she refused to give up her maiden name, and the time in 1992 when she was publicly pressured into proving that she liked to bake cookies [30].

Criticism of Hillary Clinton was frequently deflected with claims that her critics were motivated by sexism.”

But writing off Clinton’s leftist critics as necessarily motivated by gender bias was sexist in itself. It reduced Clinton to her gender and implied that she had no agency in her own decision-making. Some people had perfectly defensible grounds for seeing Clinton as “untrustworthy,” such her shifting position [31] on subjects like the TPP, welfare “reform,”[32] and NAFTA. Others disapproved of Clinton for her hawkishness [33], her insistence that single-payer would “never ever [34]” happen, her ties to Wall Street, or myriad other legitimate reasons [35]. Those who raised these concerns, however, were often dismissed as either “Bernie Bros” or unpersuadable “deplorables” motivated by bigotry.

The “Bernie Bro” narrative, which attempted to paint Sanders supporters as disproportionately sexist (and Sanders himself as borderline bigoted) was deeply pernicious and effective. Sanders was vulnerable to this kind of attack: in a world in which personal identity has become a shorthand for “progress” (see e.g. Obama), and “white man” has become an epithet, Bernie’s identity was an easy target. His unflinching support of women’s issues, his history of advocacy for racial justice, his record of support for civil rights and LGBT issues, even his Jewishness were all made secondary to his image as an “angry white male [36].” Sanders was accused of downplaying the political concerns of people of color. Even now, when 73% of African Americans view Sanders favorably [37] (as compared with 52% of white people), he is still treated as having a race problem.

Since more allies are generally made by engaging one’s critics than dismissing them as biased deplora-bros, the heckling approach was not a politically savvy one. Just as importantly, though, the “bro” stereotype entirely erased the perspectives of countless women and people of color who did not share the center-left political position. The “Bernie Bro” mythology—that progressives are almost exclusively white, male, and young—will not die, no matter how often women and people of color try to speak up to disprove it. In all the words spilled about the uninterrupted whiteness of Sanders supporters, prominent “Bros” like Rosario Dawson, Ben Jealous, Pramila Jayapal, Eddie Glaude, Spike Lee, Killer Mike, Cornel West, and Nina Turner went largely unmentioned. Hillary supporters were appalled [38] that leftists challenged civil rights hero John Lewis’s commitment to Clinton, but it seems civil rights legend Harry Belafonte was considered less sacrosanct—his endorsement of Bernie Sanders was whited-out of the public discourse along with the perspectives of Michelle Alexander [39]and Ta-Nehisi Coates [40]—both of whom are generally considered among the most respected liberal thought leaders.

The ‘Bernie Bro’ mythology—that progressives are almost exclusively white, male, and young—will not die, no matter how often women and people of color try to speak up to disprove it.”

One of the most powerful pro-Black Lives Matter messages heard during the entire campaign was a Sanders video [41] featuring Erica Garner talking about her father, but Garner was an inconvenient figure for the narrative. As black progressive Leslie Lee III said[42] in March 2016:

“Me, myself, and many other POC, people of color, who support Bernie Sanders, feel like we don’t get to be a part of the conversation. We get ignored. We get erased. It’s assumed that the black vote, the Hispanic vote, and everyone is all behind Hillary Clinton and none of us really get Bernie Sanders or like Bernie Sanders.”

In March of 2016, exasperated Sanders-voting POC even employed the hashtag #BernieMadeMeWhite [42], joking that a love of the band Journey and pumpkin spiced lattes would accrue with our new race status. Other, more sardonic, tweeters celebrated the immunity from police violence their newfound caucacity [43] might bring. Ironically, whiteness—when attributed to blacks—became a punishment rather than a privilege.

Twitter has been an especially revealing host forum to this ugly friction between identity and ideology: there, unapologetically leftist people of color and women are routinely shouted down [44], called race traitors, self-hating women, or, incredibly, are accused of being white—even by people with white-presenting avatars. Twitter is where you can find a liberal Democrat referring to Our Revolution president Nina Turner as “Bernie’s Omarosa[45].” It’s disorienting to see white (and black) liberals calling leftists of color sellouts, Uncle Toms, “coons,” house-slaves, and well, white people, all in the name of anti-racism. But the Bernie Bro framework tells us that all the racists are at the fringes of the political spectrum, while the middle remains pure. Progressive women or leftists of color therefore present a kind of glitch in the matrix. The solution? Deny our existenceLeftists of color are regularly told—by white liberals!—that we are white and/or secretly racist. And while stories about the sexism Clinton supporters faced online are familiar, the racism and sexism directed by the center against the left are ignored. Purported anti-racist Democrats stayed largely silent as an Islamophobic smear [46] campaign was waged against progressive black Muslim Representative Keith Ellison, one of the ugliest instances of bigotry to come out of the Democratic Party in recent history.

Leftists of color are regularly told—by white liberals!—that we are white and/or secretly racist.”

The same kind of hypocrisy could be seen in Gloria Steinem’s inane quip that young women who supported Bernie must be in it for “the boys [47].” A feminist icon struggled so much to make sense of the inconvenient fact that a majority of young women supported [48] Sanders that she fell back on the same basic gender stereotypes she has been fighting since the 1960s. But this is the dissonance created by a certain conception of identity: if we believe that Hillary Clinton is “the candidate of women and people of color,” and “women and people of color” are defined entirely by those identities, it becomes impossible to understand how anyone who shares the identity could reject the candidate. Once the distinction between perspective and identity is erased, voters of color become an undifferentiated hive mind incapable of political independence.

It’s strange that we’re at the point where this needs to be said: a black politician is not necessarily the best politician to promote black interests, and a female politician will not necessarily serve women’s interests better than a man would. Race produces a set of lived experiences that inform our political perspective, but identity cannot be used as a mitigating factor for political shortcomings. A glance at the unusually diverse 2016 Republican primary field illustrates as much. If we believe that a political candidate’s identity overrides their substantive beliefs and policy prescriptions, then a Ben Carson/Carly Fiorina ticket would have been a progressive dream. Brittney Cooper of Cosmopolitan, in her defense of Harris, makes a good point here: Cooper says that, despite a history of performing the role, black people should not be cast as “the conscience of the nation.” The burden is too heavy for any group, and it certainly exceeds the capacity of any single politician. Belonging to a protected class does not immunize a politician from error, nor should it insulate her from criticism.

A black politician is not necessarily the best politician to promote black interests.”

During the 2012 presidential race, Cory Booker went on Meet The Press and defended [49]—of all people—Mitt Romney against criticism of Romney’s work for Bain Capital. Booker, evincing more sympathy for the financial industry than for the disproportionate number of black people affected by the financial industry’s bad acts, told voters to “stop attacking private equity.” Booker was wrong to do so. During the 2016 primary, Representative John Lewis unfairly impugned Bernie Sanders’ character, implying [50] that because Lewis hadn’t personally seen Sanders in the crowd of hundreds of thousands at the 1963 March on Washington, Sanders was probably lying about having gone. Lewis, likewise, was wrong to do so. Democrats defending [51] Hillary Clinton’s support of the 1994 Crime Bill relish pointing out that two-thirds of the Congressional Black Caucus voted in favor of it. But those members, too, were wrong—despite being black. The other members of the CBC, the ones who opposed the bill, were right. Likewise, the contemporary equivalent of that dissenting third—the black voters who supported Bernie Sanders in the primary—should not be erased because other quantities of black people disagree. Any statement about what “black people” think or support automatically discounts the perspective of very large numbers of us, because—as is often said but rarely internalized—black people are not a monolith. Identity is, at best, a loose proxy for a person’s political commitments, and individual identity groups contain incredibly diverse perspectives. Failure to recognize that fact can result in dangerous consequences: it can lead us to support policies contrary to the best interests of a community simply because of optics, and it can turn us into a “firewall” to lean on, rather than a constituency to be won.

Even worse, because the optics are improved, it can actually become harder to combat the harm posed by in-group bad actors: a black-run [52] police force can be just as harmful to a black community as one headed by whites, but the optics of equal representation can obscure the reality of systemic racism. Hillary Clinton was widely accepted as the best candidate for what are considered “women’s issues,” such as protecting the right to choose and ensuring access to reproductive care, even though Bernie Sanders had a nearly-identical track record [53]. Yet even though Clinton almost automatically received endorsements from Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and other women’s organizations, she chose as her Vice Presidential nominee a senator who had historically been [54] a staunch opponent of abortion rights. As governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine had advocated for adoption over abortion, pushed for abstinence-only education, and even supported a law requiring that minors seeking to end their pregnancies get parental approval. This history would ordinarily have caused outrage among reproductive rights advocates, who see abortion as a non-negotiable issue. (Witness the trouble [55] Sanders got into after [56] giving a speech supporting an anti-abortion mayoral candidate in Nebraska.) But Clinton’s gender insulated her from scrutiny with respect to women’s issues. Those who challenged Clinton’s VP choice on the grounds that it demonstrated a lack of commitment to feminist principles were—ironically—dismissed as “bros,” regardless of our gender. In short: the interest in Hillary as a woman candidate trumped interest in having the best candidate for women.

Clinton’s gender insulated her from scrutiny with respect to women’s issues.”

The recent backlash to rumors about Kamala Harris’s potential 2020 candidacy shows how this bizarre and cynical version of “identity politics” continues to be used as a weapon to derail progressives whose record of commitment to racial justice, gender equality, and LGBT issues has historically eclipsed that of the Democratic Party itself. Using identity this way is harmful to the interests of progressive politics. Leftists, particularly leftists of color, are invested in ensuring that the Democratic Party learns from its mistakes. To that end, we are committed to helping the party put forward candidates who are less vulnerable to the types of attacks which dogged Hillary – that she was a corporatist, that she was owned by Wall Street, that she could not be trusted. That is why we question candidates like Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Deval Patrick – all floated as 2020 possibilities in recent weeks. Though each of them has at least one black parent, it is intellectually dishonest to pretend it is that quality, rather than their corporatism, which draws criticism from the left. (And with Nina Turner emerging as the presumptive heiress to Bernie’s progressive leadership, it is increasingly difficult to credibly contend otherwise.) It is natural to be skeptical of an out-group member’s views about a subject important to members of that group—especially when certain race or gender-based factions have historically been in conflict. But the inquiry into whether to listen to a particular critic cannot stop at that critic’s identity.

Of course, identity still matters, and prejudice operates in subtle and pervasive ways. On one level, my instinct is to agree with those who say all Harris’s critics are racist: the truth is that everyone is racist [57]. But our culture’s conscious and unconscious biases won’t be resolved before 2020, and until they are, we must rely on something more than mere identity to determine the legitimacy of political criticism. It’s fair to ask of a critic: are you able to articulate a reason why you are wary of a candidate? Do, they, for instance, cite the candidate’s conservative “tough on crime” approach to criminal justice, or do they trade in gendered stereotypes, dog-whistles, or vague statements of “feeling” that suggest an ulterior motive? This analytical step is crucial: a critic should not be impugned on the basis of a candidate’s identity, but on the soundness of the critique itself. Nor should a critic be ignored because of their own identity, without anything more. After all: biology is not (political) destiny.

Harris, Booker, Patrick, Biden, Warren: all deserve scrutiny. So does any other potential candidate. That scrutiny should be applied evenly, in proportion to a candidate’s likelihood of success and the quality of their record. It’s not an act of racism to question whether the Democratic Party should select as its presidential nominee a career prosecutor with a controversial record on misconduct issues. Pretending that these candidates are criticized solely on the basis of race or gender is, in itself, a lesser form of prejudice: it erases their flaws, and flattens their humanity. Treating people as people requires acknowledgment of their imperfections. To err, after all, is human.

 

[Briahna Joy Gray  co-hosts the SWOTI podcast: https://www.swotipod.com/ – she can be followed on Twitter @briebriejoy]

AVAAZ: The Globe’s Largest & Most Powerful Behavioural Change Network [Part I]

July 27, 2017

By Cory Morningstar

 

Avaaz Investigative Report Series 2012 [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VI

 

This series builds on Cory Morningstar’s previous writing and research tracking the connecting lines of networked hegemony that exist between the elite funded NGOs that dominate the non profit industrial complex. Here Morningstar sharpens her focus on key individuals involved in rebranding business-as-usual and a particular Fifth Avenue address to expose the roots of the false narratives favored by the financial elites. Ongoing regime change, climate reformism, financialization of nature and the ‘new economy’ come under Morningstar’s lens making very clear that Avaaz is the propagandizing seat of smart power for those who would have us continue, in sweet delusion, consuming the earth to death. — Australian activist Michael Swifte

 

 

Foreword:

In 2012-2013 I wrote an investigative series titled Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War. I introduced the series began as follows:

“The Ivy League bourgeoisie who sit at the helm of the non-profit industrial complex will one day be known simply as charismatic architects of death. Funded by the ruling class oligarchy, the role they serve for their funders is not unlike that of corporate media. Yet, it appears that global society is paralyzed in a collective hypnosis – rejecting universal social interests, thus rejecting reason, to instead fall in line with the position of the powerful minority that has seized control, a minority that systematically favours corporate interests.

This investigative report examines the key founders of Avaaz, as well as other key sister organizations affiliated with Avaaz who, hand in hand with the Rockefellers, George Soros, Bill Gates and other powerful elites, are meticulously shaping global society by utilizing and building upon strategic psychological marketing, soft power, technology and social media – shaping public consensus, thus acceptance, for the illusory “green economy” and a novel sonata of 21st century colonialism. As we are now living in a world that is beyond dangerous, society must be aware of, be able to critically analyze, and ultimately reject the new onslaught of carefully orchestrated depoliticization, domestication of populace, propaganda and misinformation that is being perpetrated and perpetuated by the corporate elite and the current power structures that support their agenda. The non-profit industrial complex must be understood as a mainspring and the instrument of power, the very support and foundation of imperial domination.”

In 2014 I wrote an article titled SYRIA: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire. This article focused on the Avaaz sister org. Purpose, a for-profit public relations firm in New York City that specializes in behavioural change for many of the largest corporations and institutions on the planet. Specifically it focused on the campaigns Purpose created to foster public acquiescence (and even demand) for a war on Syria following the complete annihilation of Libya in which Avaaz played a vital role for the elites they serve. From that moment, independent journalist Vanessa Beeley (with much assistance from a handful of journalists and ordinary citizens) dedicated her life to exposing the Purpose creation “the White Helmets”, for what they are: a terrorist group operating under the clandestine cloak of humanitarianism, financed by the UK government and USAID. Other journalists and ordinary citizens pursued the truth against a sea of propaganda created in order to foment yet another illegal war and occupation. Women played an extraordinary role in this struggle against imperialism and hybrid NGOs. The goal was for NATO states to destroy and capture Syria at any and all costs.  The non-profit industrial complex has played a vital role in the efforts to achieve this goal, which have failed, in large part to the courageous Syrian Army.  How many countries have succeeded in staving off the most powerful imperial forces in the planet for 6 years? I would like to think those who pursued the truth – in a now dystopian world where the truth is despised – also contributed to empire’s epic fail.

This new series goes further. This research will demonstrate how Avaaz was not only utilized for empire’s illegal destabilizations, but created to provide such a framework for the “responsibility to protect” – Responsibility to Protect (R2P) serving as the doctrine for war under the guise of humanitarianism. This research will demonstrate that the key co-founders of Avaaz and Purpose – must be considered intelligence for both U.S. and Britain – groomed since Harvard (and perhaps even prior to Harvard). This research identifies Harvard as ground zero for the implementation of imperialist foreign policies – to be achieved via war – under the guise of humanitarianism. And what a guise it is. The most vital purpose of the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC) has not been to destroy the ecocidal economic system that enslaves us while perpetuating and ensuring infinite wars. Rather, the key purpose of the NPIC is and has always been to protect this very system it purports to oppose from being dismantled. Hence the trillions of dollars pumped into the NPIC by the establishment.

+++

Avaaz full page ad in the New York Times. June 18, 2015, Avaaz: “In today’s New York Times, a call on President Obama for life-saving action in Syria. Join the campaign for a targeted No Fly Zone here:avaaz.org/safezone

Those at the helm of Avaaz and its sister NGO, Purpose, continue to froth at the mouth for war on Syria. The February 2017 Oscar win for White Helmets (a Purpose creation) demonstrated we have reached a new level of insanity in the West. Also relevant, on April 29, 2017, a second People’s Climate March took place in Washington, D.C. [Full partner list] which will be brought into the fold at a later point in this series.

Today, drowning within a post-modern spectacle, it is past time to revisit who and what institutions are behind today’s manufactured movements. Thus, a fresh look at both Avaaz and Purpose, and their formidable ties to 350.org, is nothing less than imperative.

At a time in which the global economic system continues to teeter close to stall speed, where Earth’s natural resources are to be depleted by the year 2030 which is less than 13 years away (more than enough reason for lunatics to propose colonization of the planet of Mars as an actual viable solution) and where wars over sand and other scarce commodities are a growing reality, the commerce of hatred is a much sought and growing area of expertise. Hate is a hot commodity. Celebrity fetish, an apparent global contagion exported from the West, is being further utilized to manufacture and distribute hate. The behavioral economics of hatred, in the 21st century, has become a fine-tuned art. Perhaps no NGOs (with exception of Amnesty International & Human Rights Watch) are better at manufacturing the supply of hate than Avaaz and its for-profit sister NGO, public relations firm Purpose.

“Culture of Exuberance: the total complex of beliefs and practices associated with the opportunities for expansive life in the Age of Exuberance; a culture founded upon the myth of limitlessness”  — Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change 

Shifting Baseline Syndrome

The recent Oscar award given to the White Helmets documentary is a simple extension of the growing utilization of celebrity to re-brand wars as humanitarian interventions and the manufacturing of movements. Simply put, celebrity is a deliberate creation for the building of acquiescence, to acquire/expand capital and power. Celebrity fetish also serves as a key tool of distraction and the further devolving of whole societies (via the glorifying/marketing of shallowness, excess and narcissism), while many feature-length films and documentaries are behaviour modification instruments created/financed in order to propagate false narratives for a naïve consumer society that aversively upholds white supremacy, one of many Western ideologies driven into the psyche of the collective citizenry. Today, brands, ideologies, and even invasions of sovereign states, achieve authenticity through association. Thus, celebrity has become as vital a tool for empire as the NGO itself. Together they are akin to nuclear fusion.

The Shifting Baseline Syndrome is a concept formulated by Daniel Pauly in 1995. It results in “a drift away from true natural conditions, and as a consequence a change in perception of ecological change varying from generation to generation.” The digital sphere (social media, celebrity) continues to displace our physical sphere (nature, family, community) while the biological becomes more and more irrelevant in the minds of the conditioned. We become empty vessels to be re-made in the image of corporatism. Today’s shifting baseline has not only made nature irrelevant altogether (of value only if we assign monetary value, “fighting” for “clean energy” replacing fighting to protect nature), it has brought us to the brink of complete collective insanity.

As recognized by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, (2016), “new patterns of consumer behavior (increasingly built upon access to mobile networks and data)… The Fourth Industrial Revolution, finally, will change not only what we do but also who we are.” [Source]

Today’s 21st century powerhouse NGOs have proven successfully that hate can be neutralized, and even be turned into adoration, as demonstrated by Avaaz co-founder, MoveOn.org. In a world of make-believe where lies are preferred over truth, charismatic warmongers of the past (Barack Obama) are embraced while vulgar warmongers in the present (Donald Trump) are crucified among the allegedly “unbiased left”. Branding supersedes reality straight across the board.

In the age of post-modern spectacle and modern-day dystopia, environmentalism and humanitarianism are nothing more than egregious misnomers. In the age of 21st century post-truths –  the capture of the public’s emotions is more than adequate for ensuring truth, logic and reason remain completely irrelevant. Hence, whether it’s selling war or selling the financialization of nature, the art of selling – without ever actually disclosing what it is that you are selling, has become a key strategy for selling the unthinkable. Tapping into hate is today a key marketing ploy for selling everything from “clean energy” (the fossil fuel industry is the enemy rather than parasitic capitalism itself) to payments for ecosystem services (strategically exploit the very real contempt for externalities only to sell the financialization of nature) to illegal invasions, occupations and war (demonize the democratically elected leader of the sovereign state, create falsehoods such as the Syrian army are on a murderous rampage, murdering their own people/families). If you can sell the hate, you can sell the war.

Two Heads of the Same Coin: Avaaz/350.org

But, before we delve into the history of Avaaz in addition to its powerful collaborations and influential allies, it is critical to understand  the incredibly close alliances between many of the most prominent NGOs that comprise the non-profit industrial complex. In many instances the NGOs at the top of the NPIC hierarchy, simply create (or absorb) clone sub-NGOs. They are all essentially one in the same – but utilize different methods to attract different audiences (and cultures) to achieve one shared goal: protection and expansion of the current capitalist economic system. Such is the case of Purpose, which is comprised of/manages The B Team , The Rules and a stream of others. The loyalties and interconnectedness of those at the helm of the empire’s lapdog NGOs are powerful. Thus, you will never witness May Bouve, 350.org’s current executive director, speak out against Avaaz’s push for war on sovereign states in the Middle East, as Bouve herself sits on the board of Res Publica – the co-founding organization of Avaaz. You will never witness Naomi Klein criticize Avaaz nor 350.org (both founding NGOs of GCCA/TckTckTck), for their many crimes against humanity as Klein serves on the board of 350.org, alongside Avaaz co-founder Ricken Patel who serves on the 350.org International Advisory Council. The interlocking directorate serves as an insurance policy for ensured and infinite self-censorship. The fact that many of these positions are given/held with no compensation is all the more telling. The lure (and appeal) for the appointee is strictly to gain further access.

Above – Section A. Officers, Directors, Trustees, Key Employees, and Highest Compensated Employees from the 2014 990 form of Res Public (Avaaz/co-founder of Avaaz)

A June 19, 2006 Res Publica job posting (“Senior Staff for Global Version of MoveOn.org”) listed the countries of geopolitical interest that Res Publica’s new NGO (Avaaz) would be focused on. Since this time, many of these countries listed have undergone so-called “coloured revolutions” (Egypt, Tunisia) while others listed by Res Public, are today annihilated (Libya) or under attack (Yemen, Syrian Arab Republic). The starting salary was listed as $60-80,000 per annum plus benefits package. The 2006 description for what would be Avaaz is as follows:

“The organization will begin with 20 full time staff located in 6 countries and a much larger number of volunteers, and will follow an ambitious growth path. It will launch with 700,000 members spread across 148 countries. An Advisory Board for the project comprises politicians, diplomats, activists and celebrities from around the world.”

Of great interest is those who were involved at the inception of Avaaz. At the Thirteenth Session of the United Nations Conference of the parties, which was held in Bali on 14 December 2007, we find the following representatives of the Avaaz foundation on the List of Participants document (p. 5), which include  “Mr. Jonathan Warnow Junior Climate Campaigner, Ms. Gillian May Boeve, Junior Climate Campaigner, Ms. Kelly Blynn, Research Associate and Mr. Jameson Henn,  Research Associate” – all founders of 350.org. [1] [“Observer organizations marked with an asterisk (*) in this document have been provisionally admitted by the subsidiary bodies.”]

From left to right: “Jamie Henn, Communications Director, 350, organizers of the world’s largest climate action on October 24; Ricken Patel, Executive Director, Avaaz, the world’s largest digital campaigning org, with 3.5M supporters; Ben Margolis, Campaigns Director, TckTckTck, an open campaign involving 220+ global NGO partners. At Fresh Air Center facilitated by tcktcktck for bloggers, downtown Copenhagen. 14 December 2009.” flickr, Tcklive

Sustainable Development World Leaders Invited to Paris Agreement Signing Ceremony, April 22, 2016. United Nations, December 10, 2015: Left to right: Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club, Christian O’Rourke, Development Director for Earth Guardians, Ken Berlin, President and CEO of the Climate Reality Project, May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org, UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Al Gore, Chairman The Climate Reality Project, Emma Ruby Sachs, Deputy Director, Avaaz, Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director, Greenpeace International,  Yoca Arditi-Rocha (back row, right of Naidoo) Our Kids Climate, Usha Nair, Climate Leader, Global Gender and Climate Alliance, and Karuna Singh, Director, Earth Day Network India. Flickr

+++

Richard Branson’s The B Team is Purpose

“And yet, it is obvious that the opportunities that come from addressing climate change are equally staggering. Research by the We Mean Business Coalition shows that returns on low carbon investments average close to 30%, not only in the cleantech sectors but across all sectors in every corner of the world. These investments will drive growth and employment, spur innovation and reduce the risk of climate disruption. The truth is that economic growth and environmental protection go hand-in-hand, and one is impossible without the other.” — Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group and Board Member, *We Mean Business, World Economic Forum, January 22, 2015

[*The founding partners of We Mean Business are Business for Social Responsibility (full membership and associate members list), CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), Ceres, The B Team, The Climate Group (an Avaaz partner), The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG)(TckTckTck partner) and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)]

The B Team was incubated by Virgin Unite, the foundation arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, which had previously incubated such organizations the Elders and the Carbon War Room. In October, 2012, Branson and Zeitz (ex-CEO of Puma) announced the formation of The B Team. It has since grown to include 23 “leaders” [1] which includes Kathy Calvin (President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation), Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, Mary Robinson, Secretary of The Elders and President of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice, Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus of the Tata Group, and several others of elite status. [Source] [Full List]  

Although seven co-founders of We Mean Business are identified, We Mean Business is actually a coalition that in 2016 represented 300 corporations:

 “A unified front of leaders came together to demonstrate business demand for progressive climate policy. The B Team joined BSR, CDP, Ceres, The Climate Group, the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to establish We Mean Business, a network of more than 300 companies working within a common platform to amplify business support for bold climate action and policies.” — The B Team Progress Report June 2013 – June 2016, p. 11 [Source]

Today the We Mean Business coalition represents 590 corporations ($1 trillion US total revenue), and 183 investors (representing $20.7 trillion US in assets under management). [Source: We mean Business website]

In addition to this exponential growth, in June 2017, Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010-2016, has joined The B Team.

Here, it is imperative to reflect. The grotesque Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA /TckTckTck) campaign that sabotaged the most vulnerable nations in 2009 at the fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) in Copenhagen, was a creation of the global advertsing firm Havas Worldwide for the United Nations. The objective of the campaignwas to make it become a movement that consumers, advertisers and the media would use and exploit.” The first two NGOs to sign on to the TckTckTck campaign were 350.org and Avaaz. – two of the founding NGOs of the GCCA (with it’s inception dating back to 2006-2007). With an “overall budget of USD 6.8 million – over 95% of which came from foundation funding – the GCCA was undoubtedly the most well-funded global climate campaign of 2009.” [Source] In 2015, Havas and the United Nations, convening partners of the Earth To Paris Coalition, would again partner with select  NGOs (Avaaz, 350, Ceres, We mean Business, Global Citizen, The World Bank group and The Nature Conservatory to name a few) in order to announce and promote the “Paris agreement”.

“Earth To Paris community — There is reason for celebration. At the COP21 United Nations conference in Paris today, officials from nearly 200 countries reached a new agreement to address the threat of global climate change…The afternoon has been filled with hugs, tears, and standing ovations at Le Bourget…”  — COP21 Coup D’état – A Toast to Our Annihilation, Dec 12, 2015

Life in the champagne circuit: In this photograph taken by AP Images for Avaaz, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center left, accepts the ‘End the War on Drugs’ petition from Avaaz Executive Director Ricken Patel, center right, accompanied by Richard Branson, right, and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, left, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Friday, 3 June 2011

Considering that foundations such as Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie, et. al. strategize for the protection/expansion of hegemonic power years and, more often, decades in advance, in addition to the most recent events of 2007-2009 (the creation of GCCA/TckTckTck), one could reasonably hypothesize that the United Nations, in servitude to Annex One Nations, elites and the world’s most powerful corporations, is paramount in the creation of and the fostering of the very NGOs and the liberal left’s beloved “environmental leaders” (whores for imperialism). As this series will demonstrate, those that dominate the NPIC are very deeply embedded in, and very heavily nurtured by, the United Nations. The carefully chosen and groomed sycophants that reside at the helm of the NPIC spoon-feed the citizenry (identified merely as consumers or human capital) exactly what the architects of destruction have longingly prepared for: the perpetual servitude and enslavement of the populace, global in scale. Yet, the necessary acquiescence for such servitude is not given by all. Certainly not the downtrodden, the working class or those that comprise the bottom of the food chain in the global capitalist economic system. The NPIC targets a specific demographic – a privileged, predominantly white, upper/middle-class populace, whose appetite for knowledge has been replaced with an appetite for celebrity fetish and irrelevant prattle.

Further in this series we will explore at length the rebranding of the GCCA/tcktck website which has been redesigned  in the image of Purpose. The new strategy for the “Purpose-esque” re-branding of GCCA is undoubtedly in no small part due to who now serves as  the vice-chair of the GCCA Board of Directors:  Phil Ireland of Purpose Europe, “where he helps shape and implement new progressive movements to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.” [bio]

Ireland serves on the board of GetUp. MoveOn, the US version of the Australian GetUp! is a founding NGO of Avaaz.

The “B Team Experts” include the aforementioned John Elkington, Heather Grady, Senior Fellow, Global Philanthropy for Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors; Alexander Grashow, Clinton Global Initiative, Jeremy Heimans, co-founder of both Avaaz and Purpose, Mindy Lubber, President of Ceres (350 divestment partner), Hunter Lovins, President, Natural Capitalism Solutions, David Jones, co-founder of One Young World, former CEO of Havas Worldwide and creator of the TckTckTck campaign.

On February 23, 2017 The B Team announced its further expansion (and theft) into Africa:

“The launch of The B Team in Eastern Africa kicks-off a broader global campaign, in which The B Team will organise regional platforms around the world to increase the number of company leaders who are willing and able to ‘step up” and lead this transition.

 

The announcement comes on the heels of the release of a new report, produced by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, which provides substantial evidence of the massive global economic opportunities that can be unlocked by new business models focused on addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

The commission reports that achieving the SDGs will be worth at least US$1.1 trillion by 2030 for the private sector in Africa, potentially creating more than 85 million new jobs, with affordable housing accounting for more than 13 million of these jobs…

 

Business – which has contributed to many of these ills – is also an indispensable actor in resolving them.

 

The potential prize for business to align their business goals with the SDGs is significant. The Business Commission identified 60 sustainable and inclusive market “hotspots” in just four key areas (energy; cities; food and agriculture; health and wellbeing) that could create at least US$12 trillion in business value by 2030 – equivalent to 10 percent of forecast GDP – and generate up to 380 million jobs, mostly in developing countries like ours.”

#BeyondDavis

In the following two paragraphs, the two hyperlinks (purpose.us2.list-manage.com…) make clear that both The B Team and #BeyondDavos (“Copyright © 2015 Purpose, All rights reserved”) are campaigns driven/managed by Purpose:

The B Team unveils ‘Plan B’
The B Team unveiled its highly anticipated ‘Plan B‘ for business – a roadmap for creating companies that benefit people and planet – and invites business leaders ready to take on the challenge to join The B Team.

#BeyondDavos Kicks Off
Over 200 thought leaders from a variety of industries and causes united to kick-off the #BeyondDavos coalition to ensure that critical social, economic and environmental opportunities continue to be discussed after the meeting with concerned leaders around the world.

From the same LinkedIn page [Day 3 (Wednesday) #BeyondDavos Daily, January 22, 2015]:

“Purpose CEO, Jeremy Heimans, says, ‘This is a fresh opportunity to continue sharing and learning about each other’s important social campaigns and how they each are already contributing to the new Sustainable Development Goal conversation.'” [Emphasis added]

Here it is important to note Jeremy Heimans (co-founder of both Avaaz and Purpose) concerted effort to not only promote the sustainable development goals (the financialization/privatization of nature), but to also create/lend legitimacy to the Purpose creations, The Syria Campaign and the White Helmets, a UK/USAID financed NGO that works alongside terrorist groups Al Nusra and ISIS:

“Nobody exemplifies the courage needed to protect fundamental human rights better than Syria’s White Helmets. Today, the #BeyondDavos coalition will host them along with other Syrian activists in a discussion about their critical humanitarian efforts in one of the world’s most deadly conflict zones.” — #BeyondDavos hosts Syria’s courageous White Helmets

 

“The discussion brought together leading voices from the international NGO community, including Dr. Ken Roth from Human Rights Watch; Dr. Annie Sparrow; the Syrian Civil Defence (the “White Helmets”), volunteer rescue workers who have saved more than 12,500 lives from under the rubble of barrel bomb attacks; and experts in the field of public mobilization including Tim Dixon from The Syria Campaign. ” — Purpose website

[Further reading: SYRIA: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire, September 17, 2014]

Above: Excerpt from the book Digital Citizenship and Political Engagement. The Challenge from Online Campaigning and Advocacy Organisations. Chapter six, Entrepreneurial Leadership Styles

Above: Purpose requires storytellers. The art of “storytelling” will be discussed at length further in this report.

From the Purpose website, February 2, 2015: Purpose and Here Now featured in The Guardian:

“In addition to being a participating partner of the #BeyondDavos coalition, a group of leading organizations committed to social impact, including The B Team, Global Citizen, Here Now, Omidyar Network, Purpose, and We Mean Business, Purpose’s senior leadership also added to The Guardian‘s international coverage of the Annual Meeting. Jeremy Heimans, CEO of Purpose, and Paul Hilder, Executive Director of Here Now, were recently featured in a Guardian piece where they discussed the importance of corporate sector commitment towards combating climate change. In Davos, two things were apparent to Jeremy and Paul; 1) The surprising amount of corporations publicly announcing their efforts to curb climate change; 2) How little, if any, participatory involvement they sought from their consumers. In the article, which you can read here, the two advocate for corporations to actively engage their consumer base in this fight, with the hope of simultaneously strengthening their clean-energy message and boosting their respective brands.”

Here it is critical to note that Here Now is a creation of Purpose. Paul Hilder, a co-founder of Avaaz and SumOfUs EU advisory board member, serves as executive director of Here Now. [Hilder background]

Nigel Topping is the CEO of We Mean Business. Topping is Executive Director of CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project), “a global NGO which has brought together 655 of the world’s investors, representing assets under management of over $78 trillion, to engage with over 6000 of the largest public corporations on the business implications of climate change.” [Source]

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks as philanthropist Bill Gates looks on during the Global Citizen Concert in Montreal, Quebec, September 17, 2016. / AFP / Geoff Robins

The following address for the #BeyondDavis Coalition on the aforementioned LinkedIn page, has important significance:

Our mailing address is:

Purpose

115 5th Ave

6th Floor

New York, NY 10003

[From the Bloomberg website: “Purpose Global, LLC was incorporated in 2011 and is based in New York, New York. 115 Fifth Avenue. 6th Floor. New York, NY 10003.”]

In May of 2015 the Ford Foundation awarded a 700,000 grant [2] to “The B Team Headquarters Inc.” . The location listed for The B Team Headquarters Inc. is: 115 5th Avenue, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10003, United States. This is the address belonging to Purpose.

The #BeyondDavis campaign is included in The B Team Progress Report June 2013 – June 2016, (p. 7, “Our Journey”).

On a separate note, the grant is for work toward appointing corporations as the driving force in society [“General support to build partnerships in fostering leaders to help redefine the role of business in society as a driving force for social, human rights, environmental and economic advancements. Geographic Area Served: Asia/East Asia/China; Middle East; North America”] [Source]

In 2016 The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation awarded 900,000 grant to The B Team for “[F]or A Project To Promote Norms On Open Contracting, Reduce Tax Loopholes, And Track Sustainable Development Goals Progress.”

From the website:

“This grant supports two streams of their work: first, galvanizing the private sector in support of country-level implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals; and second, fostering transparent and responsive governance by promoting global norms and standards on open contracting, open governance, and fair international tax practices.”

To be clear, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is the very mechanism to implement the financialization of nature, global in scale.  [Source]

In the “About the Grantee” section:

Grantee Website

bteam.org/

Address

115 5th Avenue, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10003

Again, this information identifies The B Team as the address of Purpose.

The Rockefeller Foundation also identifies The B Team Headquarters as the address of Purpose:  115 5th Avenue, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10003

https://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/our-work/grants/b-team-headquarters/

The Rockefeller Foundation address as identified for Purpose to which it granted 1,660,000 in 2016:

The New York State Corporation Search website also identifies The B Team Headquarters as the address of Purpose:

*Further reading on The B Team: McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part XVI of an Investigative Report] [A Revolution of Capitalism]

The April 26, 2017 article #BornB: A Conversation about Leading Businesses with Purpose reported that The B Teams BornB event was to take place at The B Team headquarters (@thebteamhq):

“We’re heading to #London today for @thebteamhq‘s #BornB event! Stay tuned for live updates!”

The B Team event was streamed live on March 30, 2017 at the offices of Unilever: “More than 100 entrepreneurs from the UK and Europe joined us at the Unilever offices for the conversation and thousands more tuned in online via Facebook Live…”

One might question if The B Team has any real life headquarters, anywhere in the real world, at all. The event highly publized to take place at “The B Team headquarters” took place at the offices of Unilever. Yet, this is hardly a surprise if we take into account that The B Team uses the PR firm Purpose (sister org. of Avaaz) for all grant money and legal correspondence. One can safely speculate that The B Team is fully operated by the public relations firm Purpose, after all, this is just one function of Purpose as a public relations firm. This speculation can be given further assurance by the repetitive language of the word “purpose” that absolutely saturates most all B Team materials. Consider that within the aforementioned article the “buzz word” (according to the B Team) “purpose” appears 33 times in a single post.

“Join The B Team for a Conversation About Purpose-Driven Leadership

 

“#BornB: A Conversation about Leading Businesses with Purpose

 

“We are pleased to present, in partnership with Unilever, a conversation that gets to the heart of what it means to be a purpose-driven business leader. ” — Ethical Markets Website

 

Great to be with creative entrepreneurs exploring purpose-driven models to mitigate risks & secure long-term growth” — March 30, 2017, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever

Here, three things are certain. 1) The quintessential goal for both corporations, being assisted by NGOs that comprise the NPIC is to secure long-term growth, 2) that The B Team headquarters in London is actually Unilever (whose CEO Paul Polman is a “B Team leader”), 3) that The B Team headquarters in New York is identified as Purpose. Avaaz/Purpose co-founder Heimans is publicly identified as a B Team expert. Unilever is a key client of Purpose. Here we can use the catch phrase “all for one, one for all” [“Each individual should act for the benefit of the group, and the group should act for the benefit of each individual.”] [Source]

“Under the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever is meeting its ambition of decoupling environmental footprint while increasing its positive social impact. Its sustainable living brands are growing 30% faster than the rest of the business and delivered nearly half its total growth in 2015.” — Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, The B Team Progress Report June 2013 – June 2016, p. 11 [Source]

The Rules – is Purpose

In the October 8, 2015 article, Global Goals – The Party’s Over, The Rules, an NGO with a radical veneer that was founded by Purpose, gives the false impression that they oppose the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG):

“Now we want to go straight to the top of the UN with an open letter telling them that their plans [SDG] do not represent the best interests of the world’s majority. Join Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges and others in signing an open letter to the UN and global decision makers below.”

Yet, as disclosed in the aforementioned grant information, The B Team (which is Purpose) received at minimum one grant (700,000) specifically to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Rules also identifies its address as the same one belonging to its founder, Purpose:

 

115 5th Avenue, NY, NY, 10003, USA

Avaaz/Purpose co-founder Jeremy Heimans and Alnoor Ladha, Executive Director of The Rules, founding partner and the Head of Strategy at Purpose | Image courtesy of The Advertising Age

“Successful social initiatives that create real social impact will need a combination of 20th century top-down persuasion—brands that tell the world their point of view through marketing and communications—with the tools of 21st century engagement: movements that provide the tools for advocacy, social involvement, distributed evangelism and self-organization. We hope these rules are a starting point for a greater dialogue about the role of brands in ushering in a new era of social change.” — Advertising Age, The New Rules for Purpose-Driven Brands, How Marketers Can Survive the Cause-Marketing Bubble, Jeremy Heimans, October 14, 2010

Alnoor Ladha is a founding member and the Executive Director of The Rules (/TR). His work focuses onthe intersection of political organizing, systems thinking, storytelling, technology and the decentralization of power.” Prior to co-founding and directing The Rules, Ladha is a founding partner and the Head of Strategy at Purpose. Ladha serves on the board of Greenpeace USA board where its Executive Director, Annie Leonard, has co-founded Earth Economics – yet another NGO to assist and exploit the global financialization of nature (payment for ecosystem services) now well underway behind closed doors:

“Earth Economics, with the support of our Community Partners and Advisors, maintains the largest, spatially explicit, web-based repository of published and unpublished economic values for ecosystem services. With generous funding from our sponsors, in 2012 Earth Economics began porting our internal database to a web-based service. The Ecosystem Service Valuation Toolkit (EVT) portal was launched at Rio +20 in June 2012. The Researcher’s Library and SERVES were previewed at the ACES Conference in December 2012.”

The elites financing The Rules is par for the course:

“We receive financial support from a variety of sources including through crowdsourcing, the Novo Foundation, the Open Society Foundation, the New Venture Fund, the Joffe Charitable Trust (UK), and the Wallace Global Fund. We do not accept money from governments or corporations.” [Source]

Novo Foundation is Warren Buffett, Open Society is George Soros, Joffe Charitable Trust is Oxfam and Order of the British Empire, Wallace Global fund is a product of the Pioneer Hi-Bred Corn Company. To state ” we do not accept money from governments or corporations” is meaningless.  Very few so-called environmental NGOs receive money directly from corporations . This is what foundations were created for.

If you want to preserve your power indefinitely, you have to get the consent of the ruled. And this they will do, partly by drugs, partly by these new techniques of propaganda. They will do it by passing the sort of rational side of man, and appealing to his subconscious, and his deeper emotions, making him actually love his slavery. I mean I think this is the danger that actually  people may be in some ways, happy, under the new regime. But they will be happy in situations where they oughtn’t to be happy.”  — Aldous Huxley interview by Mike Wallace, May 18, 1958

 

End Notes:

[1] ” As co-founder and executive director of 350.org, May Boeve … When 350.org started in 2008 we were focused on the [2009] UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen.” [Source]

[2] Grant Period: 10/01/14 – 09/30/16, Duration: 24 months

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can support her independent journalism via Patreon.]

Edited with Forrest Palmer, Wrong Kind of Green Collective.

 

The Green Economy as a Continuation of War by Other Means

CNS Web

February 2, 2016

by Alexander Dunlap

 

NO MEANS NO TO GREEN IMPERIALISM

 

The following essay has been modified from a speech given at the 10th Conference of Critical Justice in Latin America (X Conferencia Latinoamericana de Crítica Jurídica) on April 23, 2015 on a panel titled: “Rights, Dependency and Capitalist Accumulation in Latin America” (Mesa Derecho, dependencia y acumulación capitalista en América Latina). This speech was based on the paper, “The Militarisation and Marketisation of Nature: An Alternative Lens to ‘Climate-Conflict,’” (Geopolitics, 2014) while also building from it, discussing some examples from wind turbine development in the coastal area of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region in Oaxaca Mexico, known as the Istmo.

When we speak about “anthropogenic climate change,” we speak about climate change that is intimately linked to our modern or industrial lifestyles, ones that feel like a routine of jumping through and between boxes: The box shape of the house to the rolling rectangle of the bus, which leads us to work, back to the car, then to the bar, back home, to the computer before bed, and finally, to the rest that anticipates repeating this routine all over again, with hopes of something different for the weekend. In its most simple and basic form, this is the process of anthropogenic climate change. It reeks of the depressing problem of everyday social control and daily confinement within this box system.

What these lifestyles are dependent on are a series of systemic processes: those of industrial waste that result from mining, oil extraction, electricity generation, cars, concrete, asphalt, electronics, and the list goes on. And climate change is really just the result of needing to make this list of resource extraction and technologies grow for the last two hundred years, while intertwining this need with our daily lives.

So when we understand climate change as an issue that is bigger than us, it prevents reflection, inhibits agency, and sends the message that only governments, corporations and NGOs can stop this phenomenon. Yet these institutions’ mitigation and security practices only serve to reinforce global environmental degradation, for the mainstream framework of climate change, while acknowledging a cumulative problem, also projects submission to authority and governing structures that have created new “dystopian markets” with ideas of geo-engineering (see Simon Dalby’s “Geoengineering: The Next Era of Geopolitics?” Geography Compass, 2015).

As I hope to show in the lines that follow, we must acknowledge that climate change has been wielded as a neoliberal weapon to create the idea of the “green economy” in the hopes of maintaining the state and growing economies. These are processes that continue land conflict and pacification through climate change mitigation initiatives and an environmental ethic with various notions of sustainability.

“Green grabbing”

Mainstream notions that seek to address climate change are deeply intertwined with ideas of sustainable development that emerged in the 1970s with the Club of Rome and the 1987 United Nations’ (UN) report Our Common Future, where it was recognized that industrial development had to soften and change its course otherwise it would destroy itself and many of the people dependent on it.

The 1992 Rio+20 Earth Summit recognized climate change and biodiversity loss as critical issues, which would lead to the creation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It would then give way to the 1997 Kyoto protocol that decided market mechanisms would be the principle way forward to mitigate the problem of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Now enters the notion of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) that has sought to integrate market processes into the natural environment to dissect and quantify it, so that corporations and philanthropists can pay to keep forests standing and “natural resources” intact.

For businessmen and stupid environmentalists alike, these proposals have been called a “win-win” solution. These areas have been cordoned off on the false and historically genocidal premise of “pristine” or “wild nature,” which claims that humans but specifically indigenous peoples cannot live in forests if they are to be “saved”, conserved, and maintained as “pristine.” As I hope many know, this is contrary to the historical record as many indigenous people made the pristine forests of the Amazon and the world (see my previous work with James Fairhead: “The Militarisation and Marketisation of Nature,” Geopolitics, 2014.)

These are the same areas that are now the new frontiers of capital investment; these new measures and market mechanisms have now made new markets out of trees, plants, and animal life with notions of “carbon sequestration” and “biodiversity.” These novel and strange terms are used to measure and quantify the natural environment and support the commodification and transformation of larger and “exotic” wildlife into a spectacle for office workers and the wealthy with the rise of ecotourism.

Most recently we have the “green market” as the latest pretext to take over land, displace native groups, and create new sustainable development initiatives while powering the cities and factories with renewable energy, often in the name of slowing anthropogenic climate change. Journalist John Vidal has dubbed this capture of land through sustainable development using an environmental rational as “green grabbing,” gesturing to a shared logic of “land grabbing” Marx once termed to describe the systematic theft of communal property from the 15th to 19th centuries.

It is no surprise that these friendly and environmentally conscious ideas have continued the trajectory of the industrial economy, for there was never once a reflection about slowing this industrial cancer that has become so common.

The green economy as counterinsurgency

We should also remember that the history of state craft, development, and the market has been firmly rooted in waging a war for the submission and acquiescence of people and the natural environment into its organizational structure and growth. Nancy Peluso and Peter Vandergeest have shown how geographical landscapes and towns are built on campaigns of widespread terror against both people and the natural environment, whether in colonial, post-colonial or democratic countries (“Political Ecologies of War and Forests: Counterinsurgencies and the Making of National Natures,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 2011).

Terrorizing unruly people into submission has always been a perquisite for all states to establish a territory and gain a grasp on, and make legible the people, forest, minerals and animals of “the nation”—after all, the kings, empires and states claimed it as their own and because we were their “subjects” this was never a problem, right? This means that if people are not revolting, they are submitting to a claim brought upon them, and this claim was always met with resistance.

The people and the forest worked together to wage every type of insurgency against the colonial, post-colonial and democratic regimes in different times and places in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. In general, one can see a pattern that required all states to terrorize and traumatize people through campaigns of counterinsurgency warfare, resettlement campaigns into suburban style villages, cities, and factories with an overall goal to corral and integrate people into “modern” work, national culture and the demands of the economy. Indeed, all states have been at war to subjugate and colonize the people of their “territory” to the imperatives of its organization, which demarcated “Jungles” wild, from “forests” controlled, and forests from agriculture, regimenting every aspect of life and environment to the principle of separations inherent in scientific method. It is under this history of war that the economy and now the green economy stands.

Placing the green economy within the framework of counterinsurgency, the leading theory of state sanctioned pacification, is insightful in this regard. For example, David Kilcullen, Lieutenant Colonel in the Australian Army and a leading counterinsurgency strategist, defines counterinsurgency as “a competition with the insurgent for the right and ability to win the hearts, minds and acquiescence of the population” (“Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency,” 2006 [PDF]). Here, the term “hearts” is described as “persuading people their best interests are served by your success,” and the term “minds,” as “convincing them that you can protect them, and that resisting you is pointless.” The green economy is thus an advancement in capturing people to rally for the survival of the economy and business imperatives of the state and its corporate partners—and this in both the city and countryside.

Inclusionary control as pre-emptive pacification

By now, most people have formed their identities and habits around this industrial system, and are attracted to ideas about carbon and biodiversity offsetting, participatory conservation, and renewable energy that provide us with illusions that life and the economy can co-exist. But in many ways this is not true.

Taking the Barra de Santa Teresa near where I live as an example, Mareña Renovables/Eólica del Sur wants to build upwards of hundred industrial wind turbines (aerogeneradore), on a scared and rare ecological zone that took 10,000 years to form, but guess what? The Barra is made of sand and vegetation, which means they will have to pour around a kilometer or possibly more of concrete for their foundations—individually for around one-hundred industrial wind turbines. This is an insane amount of concrete that will no doubt destroy the water table, and create an excess of sand, which as I was told by coastal ecologist, Patricia Mora, “will be total ecological devastation.”

The green economy is advancing techniques of “inclusionary control,” which is a way to include more humans and non-human lives into state and market structures. However, the mid-to-long-term interest of people is to not take the money or questionable promises of jobs, but to get rid of these structures and rehabilitate the land with healthy soil, fruit trees, and animals so they can secure food, shelter, and work to build healthy environments.

Inclusionary control is counterinsurgency and the art of preemptive pacification, which is the art of including people to exclude and neglect their structural grievances—no/crap jobs, no/crap education, drinking toxic waste, police violence, and the standardization of life (the box system) and so on— that is inherent in states, economies and capitalism of every brand. It is why the importance of transforming one’s task into improving the environment is multiplied tenfold if people also value their cultures, land, and lifestyles not being entirely dependent on the economy.

Free, Prior and Informed Consent as Inclusionary Control

An interesting mechanism that is being deployed in the Istmo right now, in the struggle over the invasion of thousands of wind turbines, is the UN’s Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) procedure, which is mandatory for signatory nations to conduct when constructing development projects on indigenous lands and communities. This mechanism, a success after years of struggle for indigenous recognition, could be important for stalling and fighting megaprojects.

Nevertheless, if people are not conscious, if they are divided and fighting each other—the goal of all governments, corporations and drug dealers alike—then this mechanism can be used by corporate-state alliances to pacify people with the feeling that they are being heard, included, and consulted. It will then reaffirm the strong mythology of democracy that everyone wants to desperately believe in.

But for some reason, whether democracy or dictatorship, people are never really permitted the simple answer: No, we do not want these projects here. No we do not want a form of development that is our submission to factories, migration, and mechanized labor. Rights create constructs of illusion that will always mediate the power of people through states and as I am watching now, FPIC is in a way similar to a ceasefire that allows the deception and fragmentation of people in resistance, while the state, companies and unions can re-strategize and regroup their forces.

Likewise, as I have argued in another paper about UN-REDD+, FPIC is equivalent to an indigenous Miranda Rights (“The Expanding Techniques of Progress: Agricultural Biotechnology and UN-REDD+,”Crossmark, 2014). Miranda rights in the United States are your rights once you have been arrested—“you have the right to remain silent, seek legal counsel,” and so on. In the case with the FPIC in the Istmo, it tells people that you have the right to be consulted by experts, to voice your grievances, and fight for jobs, but while we talk 18 parks are being constructed, with more planned on top of Ejidos and communal land [Silvia Chavela Rivas, “Eólicas: ocaso o resplandor?” 2015 [PDF, Spanish]).

In short, people are being arrested to the imperatives of economic growth and industrial expansion that will destroy life, make alternatives more difficult and create the collective fate of shuffling papers, pimping plastic and flipping burgers—a fate that is already a reality for many, many who often do not care about wind turbines and whose desires and projectuality tend to mimic what is televised in soap operas and music videos.

FPIC is a way to implicate people and hang them with their own participation and rights, when really people have their best interest in rejecting all mediation by state and corporate structures and coming together to create alternative projects, perspectives and even ‘jobs’—since this is a selling point for wind turbines in the region—to improve their lives, but in the end, the hierarches supported by the state and the powers that they bear will not let them without a brutal fight.

War is complex and the green economy is advancing land acquisition and displacement, claiming to fight environmental degradation, while simultaneously advancing it. It is nothing short than crazy, and it is a type of psychosis built in the fantasies of the American or development dream that either are not true for many, hollow for those who achieve it, or maybe it is the answer to everything. Either way, regardless of the different trajectories everyone will still be working to propel the modern industrial system. Probably in an office or some type of building, losing your vision and breath to a computer, trapped in a toxic environments, when really humans should probably be working for healthy, happier and freer lives and we must acknowledge that freedom is disingenuous when it is capturing and killing the people around you, both human and non-human alike.

 

[Alexander Dunlap is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. His current research focuses on the social impact of wind energy projects in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico. He can be contacted at a.d.dunlap@vu.nl]

Trilogy Flashback | Through the Looking Glass: Herding Cats for the People’s Climate March – What We Refuse to See

#1: This Changes Nothing. Why the People’s Climate March Guarantees Climate Catastrophe

September 17, 2014

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Image courtesy of Mark Gould

Excerpt:

“The People’s Climate March in New York City is a mobilization campaign created by Avaaz and 350.org, with 350.org at the forefront. The oligarchs do not bankroll such a mobilization (via millions of dollars funnelled through foundations) without reason. There is an agenda. The information that follows makes the agenda very clear and the only thing green about it is the colour of money. The term “green”, in reference to environment is, officially dead….

It is incredible (as in, difficult to believe) that today’s biggest shills for the Empire of the 21st century double as the iconic symbols of progressive change and activism for the so-called left. Aldous Huxley often expressed a deep concern that citizens could become subjugated via refined use of the mass media. His fears were most prophetic. There is little doubt that if he were alive today, even he would be taken aback by the sheer “success” and madness of it. [Further reading: On the Eve of an Illegal Attack on Syria, Avaaz/350.org Board Members Beat the Drums of War]

Citizens who claim they wish to protect our shared environment must educate themselves on the role of foundation funding and the key NGOs (350.org, Avaaz, Purpose, WWF, etc.) being heavily financed to implement the illusory green new economy. Joan Roeloff’s exceptional book, Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism, is a good place to start. If we are unwilling to do this work collectively, perhaps we deserve everything the oligarchs are designing for us and intend for us in the future. There will be tears.”

Read the full article: http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2014/09/15/this-changes-nothing-why-the-peoples-climate-march-guarantees-climate-catastrophe/

Available formats: PDF | PDF – as double-sided A4 foldover booklet | EPUB

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#2: Netwar in the Big Apple

July 30, 2014

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Excerpt:

“Mainstream media, when it mentions conflicts between Indigenous nations and modern states, portrays these conflicts as challenges to be resolved by assimilating Indigenous cultures into market systems. Extinguishing tribal sovereignty, annihilating tribal resources, coercing tribal leaders, and implementing the final solution; this is the corporate agenda mainstream media supports.

When these conflicts cannot be ignored, mainstream media looks for compromised NGOs to speak for Indigenous Peoples, thereby marginalizing Indigenous intellectuals, diplomats, and governing authorities—a mass communications tactic examined under the concept of Netwar. While mainstream media informs, it does not make information comprehensible; what it leaves out is essential to knowledge that allows readers to form their own judgment, rather than consume corporate distortions and state propaganda.”

Read the full article: http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/07/30/netwar-in-the-big-apple/

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#3: Under One Bad Sky | TckTckTck’s 2014 People’s Climate March: This Changed Nothing

September 23, 2015

herding cats

Excerpt:

While GCCA/TckTckTck working hand in hand with 350.org, Avaaz and Greenpeace undoubtedly far surpassed the United States United Nations expectations for the 2009 TckTckTck campaign, it would repeat a similar stunning performance for the United Nations just 5 years later with the popular 2014 Peoples Climate March, again uniting citizens with corporate interests:

“GCCA worked behind the scenes for over a year to prepare for the biggest date in 2014, leveraging every possible asset and contact to rally around the historic Peoples’ Climate March in the run-up to the UN Climate Leaders Summit…. In the preceding months, GCCA convened weekly calls with key partners 350.org, Avaaz, USCAN and Climate Nexus to catalyse activities and identify gaps…. Everything came together on the day as we bore witness to the world’s biggest ever climate march, and inspiring events across the globe, with world leaders, business people, activists, parents and artists walking shoulder-to-shoulder.” — GCCA Annual Report 2014

Forbes, Sept 25, 2014: Leadership Lessons from The People’s Climate March:

“With that as her model of leadership it is perhaps no surprise that so many cats have been so successfully herded. But there is more. The other leadership lesson is putting project before person.”

Truer words were never spoken. As in Africa under the TckTckTck campaign where economic growth was valued as being more important than the life of Africans, such projects (as referred to above), have a singular common thread. They are all based on more of the same perpetual growth; perpetual growth that is dependent upon and interwoven with exploitation and environmental degradation – perpetual growth which society has collectively deemed more important than life itself….

Who could argue that 400,000 citizens working hand-in-hand with their children, family and neighbours, transforming 400,000 (grass) lawns, boulevards and public spaces into beautiful food gardens (a political act in itself) would have had far more effect in establishing a path to self-sufficiency and energy efficiency than burning fossil fuels and energies to partake in a spectacle – a spectacle created only to build acquiescence to further collective insanity.

Until there is no more bread, finally leaving one too hungry to be entertained by the circus any longer, we will not see the take-down of those who oppress us nor will we bear witness to the necessary destruction of the industrialized capitalist system built upon patriarchy, racism, classism, imperialism, colonialism and ecological devastation. Decades of indoctrination, obedience, pacification and overindulgence has left us docile and incapable of mustering up the necessary courage for meaningful, difficult, real resistance … the kind that puts the fear of “god” into the state. The privileged – until no longer privileged and famished – will not participate in a revolution. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) financed “revolutions” do not count. And this is our reality. This is what we must face – if we are to change the writing on the wall in any regard.

Read the full article: http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2015/09/23/under-one-bad-sky/

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Further Reading:

The “Purpose” of “Consumer Activism” & COP21 – “We Mean Business”

FLASHBACK: The Class-Domination Theory of Power

Who Rules America

First published April 2005; updated February 2012

by G. William Domhoff

 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: WhoRulesAmerica.net is largely based on my book, Who Rules America?, first published in 1967 and now in its 7th edition. This on-line document is presented as a summary of some of the main ideas in that book.

 

Who has predominant power in the United States? The short answer, from 1776 to the present, is: Those who have the money — or more specifically, who own income-producing land and businesses — have the power. George Washington was one of the biggest landowners of his day; presidents in the late 19th century were close to the railroad interests; for the Bush family, it was oil and other natural resources, agribusiness, and finance. In this day and age, this means that banks, corporations, agribusinesses, and big real estate developers, working separately on most policy issues, but in combination on important general issues — such as taxes, opposition to labor unions, and trade agreements with other countries — set the rules within which policy battles are waged.

While this conclusion may at first seem too simple or direct, leaving little room for elected officials or voters, the reasons behind it are complex. They involve an understanding of social classes, the role of experts, the two-party system, and the history of the country, especially Southern slavery. In terms of the big world-historical picture, and the Four Networks theory of power advocated on this site, large economic interests rule in America because there are no rival networks that grew up over a long and complex history:

  • There is no one big church, as in many countries in Europe
  • No big government, as it took to survive as a nation-state in Europe
  • No big military until after 1940 (which is not very long ago) to threaten to take over the government

 

So, the only power network of any consequence in the history of the United States has been the economic one, which under capitalism generates a business-owning class and a working class, along with small businesses and skilled craft workers who are self-employed, and a relatively small number of highly trained professionals such as architects, lawyers, physicians, and scientists. In this context, the key reason why money can rule — i.e., why the business owners who hire workers can rule — is that the people who work in the factories and fields were divided from the outset into free and slave, white and black, and later into numerous immigrant ethnic groups as well, making it difficult for workers as a whole to unite politically to battle for higher wages and better social benefits. This important point is elaborated on toward the end of this document in a section entitled “The Weaknesses of the Working Class.”

Moreover, the simple answer that money rules has to be qualified somewhat. Domination by the few does not mean complete control, but rather the ability to set the terms under which other groups and classes must operate. Highly trained professionals with an interest in environmental and consumer issues have been able to couple their technical information and their understanding of the legislative process with timely publicity to win governmental restrictions on some corporate practices. Wage and salary workers, when they are organized or disruptive, sometimes have been able to gain concessions on wages, hours, and working conditions.

Most of all, there is free speech and the right to vote. While voting does not necessarily make government responsive to the will of the majority, under certain circumstances the electorate has been able to place restraints on the actions of the wealthy elites, or to decide which elites will have the greatest influence on policy. This is especially a possibility when there are disagreements within the higher circles of wealth and influence.

Still, the idea that a relatively fixed group of privileged people dominate the economy and government goes against the American grain and the founding principles of the country. “Class” and “power” are terms that make Americans a little uneasy, and concepts such as “upper class” and “power elite” immediately put people on guard. Americans may differ in their social and income levels, and some may have more influence than others, but it is felt that there can be no fixed power group when power is constitutionally lodged in all the people, when there is democratic participation through elections and lobbying, and when the evidence of social mobility is everywhere apparent. So, it is usually concluded by most power analysts that elected officials, along with “interest groups” like “organized labor” and “consumers,” have enough “countervailing” power to say that there is a more open, “pluralistic” distribution of power rather than one with rich people and corporations at the top.

Contrary to this pluralistic view, I will try to demonstrate how rule by the wealthy few is possible despite free speech, regular elections, and organized opposition:

  • “The rich” coalesce into a social upper class that has developed institutions by which the children of its members are socialized into an upper-class worldview, and newly wealthy people are assimilated.
  • Members of this upper class control corporations, which have been the primary mechanisms for generating and holding wealth in the United States for upwards of 150 years now.
  • There exists a network of nonprofit organizations through which members of the upper class and hired corporate leaders not yet in the upper class shape policy debates in the United States.
  • Members of the upper class, with the help of their high-level employees in profit and nonprofit institutions, are able to dominate the federal government in Washington.
  • The rich, and corporate leaders, nonetheless claim to be relatively powerless.
  • Working people have less power than in many other democratic countries.

Before running through this list, it is first necessary to define the term “power” and to explain the “indicators” of power that are used to determine who has it. Later other concepts will be introduced as they are needed. They include “social class,” “upper class,” “corporate community,” “interlocking directorates,” the “policy-planning network,” the “power elite,” the “special-interest process,” the “candidate-selection process,” and a few others. All of these concepts are necessary in order to understand the nature and operation of the “power structure” in the United States.

Power and Power Indicators

Power is one of those words that is easy to understand but hard to define in a precise manner. We know it means “clout” or “juice” or “muscle” or “the ability to make things happen.” We know it comes from words implying the ability to act in a strong, compelling, and direct way, but we also know that power can be projected in a very quiet and indirect manner.

By “power” I mean “the capacity of some persons to produce intended and foreseen effects on others” (Wrong, 1995). This is a very general definition that allows for the many forms of power that can be changed from one to another, such as economic power, political power, military power, ideological power, and intellectual power (i.e., knowledge, expertise). It leaves open the question of whether “force” or “coercion” is always lurking somewhere in the background in the exercise of power, as many definitions imply. However, to say that power is the ability to produce intended and foreseen effects on others does not mean it is a simple matter to study the power of a group or social class. A formal definition does not explain how a concept is to be measured. In the case of power, it is seldom possible to observe interactions that reveal its operation even in a small group, let alone to see one “social class” producing “effects” on another. It is therefore necessary to develop what are called “indicators” of power.

For research purposes, power can be thought of as an underlying “trait” or “property” of a social group or social class. It is measured by a series of signs, or indicators, that bear a probabilistic relationship to it. This means that all the indicators do not necessarily appear each and every time power is manifesting itself. Research proceeds through a series of “if-then” statements: “if” a group or class is powerful, “then” it should be expected that certain indicators of this power will be present. It is especially important to have more than one indicator. Ideally, the indicators will be of very different types so that any irrelevant components in them will cancel each other out. In the best of all possible worlds, these multiple indicators will point to the same group or class, increasing the likelihood that the underlying concept has been measured correctly.

There are three primary indicators of power, which can be summarized as (1) who benefits? (2) who governs? and (3) who wins? In every society there are experiences and material objects that are highly valued. If it is assumed that everyone in the society would like to have as great a share as possible of these experiences and objects, then the distribution of values in that society can be utilized as a power indicator. Those who benefit the most, by inference, are powerful. In American society, wealth and well-being are highly valued. People seek to own property, earn high incomes, to have interesting and safe jobs, and to live long and healthy lives. All of these “values” are unequally distributed, and all may be utilized as power indicators.

Power also can be inferred from studies of who occupies important institutional positions and takes part in important decision-making groups. If a group or class is highly over-represented in relation to its proportion of the population, it can be inferred that the group is powerful. If, for example, a group makes up 10% of the population but has 50% of the seats in the main governing institutions, then it has five times more people in governing positions than would be expected by chance, and there is thus reason to believe that the group is a powerful one.

There are many policy issues over which groups or classes disagree. In the United States different policies are suggested by opposing groups in such “issue-areas” as foreign policy, taxation, welfare, and the environment. Power can be inferred from these issue conflicts by determining who successfully initiates, modifies, or vetoes policy alternatives. This indicator, by focusing on actions within the decision-making process, comes closest to approximating the process of power that is contained in the formal definition, but it must be stressed that it is no less an inference to say that who wins on issues is an indicator of “power” than with the other two types of empirical observations — value distributions and positional over-representation — that are used as power indicators.

The decisional (who wins) indicator is also the most difficult to use in an accurate way. First, it is often difficult to gain access to decision-makers to interview them, much less observe them in action. Second, aspects of a decision process may remain hidden. Third, some informants may exaggerate or play down their roles. Fourth, and not least, people’s memories about who did what often become cloudy shortly after the event. Those are some of the reasons why social scientists often end up relying on written records about key decisions, but they often are not available until years later. So we end up historians as well as social scientists, or depending on historians for much basic information.

In summary, all three of the power indicators have strengths and weaknesses. However, these weaknesses present no serious problem. This is because each of these indicators involves different kinds of information drawn from very different kinds of studies. The case for the power of a group or class should only be considered a convincing one if all three types of indicators “triangulate” on one particular group or social class.

The Social Upper Class

One good starting point for the study of power in the United States, and the one I have preferred as a sociologist (especially in the 1960s and 1970s, when there was far less readily available information than there is now) is a careful consideration of the small social upper class at the top of the wealth, income, and status ladders. This is because the social upper class is the most visible and accessible aspect of the power equation. It is not necessarily the heart of the matter, but it is nonetheless the best place to get a handle on the overall power structure.

By a “social class” I mean a set of intermarrying and interacting families who see each other as equals, share a common style of life, and have a common viewpoint on the world. This general definition is accepted by most social scientists whatever their views on the distribution of power. By the “social upper class,” hereafter to be called simply “the upper class,” I mean that social class that is commonly agreed by most members of the society to be the “top” or “elite” or “exclusive” class. In various times and places Americans have called such people the “high hats,” the “country club set,” the “snobs,” and the “rich.” In turn, members of this class recognize themselves as distinctive. They call themselves such names as the “old families,” the “established families,” and the “community leaders.”

The upper class probably makes up only a few tenths of one percent of the population. For research purposes, I use the conservative estimate that it includes 0.5% to 1% of the population for determining the over-representation of its members in corporations, nonprofit organizations, and the government. Members of the upper class live in exclusive suburban neighborhoods, expensive downtown co-ops, and large country estates. They often have far-away summer and winter homes as well. They attend a system of private schools that extends from pre-school to the university level; the best known of these schools are the “day” and “boarding” prep schools that take the place of public high schools in the education of most upper-class teenagers. Adult members of the upper class socialize in expensive country clubs, downtown luncheon clubs, hunting clubs, and garden clubs. Young women of the upper class are “introduced” to high society each year through an elaborate series of debutante teas, parties, and balls. Women of the upper class gain experience as “volunteers” through a nationwide organization known as the Junior League, and then go on to serve as directors of cultural organizations, family service associations, and hospitals (see Kendall, 2002, for a good account of women of the upper class by a sociologist who was also a participant in upper-class organizations).

These various social institutions are important in creating “social cohesion” and a sense of in-group “we-ness.” This sense of cohesion is heightened by the fact that people can be excluded from these organizations. Through these institutions young members of the upper class and those who are new to wealth develop shared understandings of how to be wealthy. Because these social settings are expensive and exclusive, members of the upper class usually come to think of themselves as “special” or “superior.” They think they are better than other people, and certainly better able to lead and govern. Their self-confidence and social polish are useful in dealing with people from other social classes, who often admire them and defer to their judgments.

For research purposes, the important thing about these social institutions is that they provide us with a starting point for systematic studies of power. For example, these class “indicators” allow us to determine which economic and political leaders are and are not members of the upper class. Put another way, class indicators allow us to trace members of the upper class into the economic, political, and ideological power systems of the society.

Starting with these class indicators, we can show that the upper class is nationwide in its scope. This is because there is “overlapping” membership among the many social clubs around the country. A person from Chicago, for example, might belong to clubs in New York, Boston, and San Francisco, implying that he or she interacts with upper-class counterparts in those cities. By comparing dozens of club membership lists, we have been able to establish the “density” of this club network. (See the pages on the Bohemian Grove for findings on social cohesion and a photo essay; and for a wonderfully detailed and colorful portrait of what one of these clubs is like, see this memoir of going to the Links Club in New York City, which is one of the most central clubs in the social club/corporate executive network.)

Similarly, the alumni lists of exclusive private schools reveal that their students come from all parts of the country. The summer addresses of those members of the upper class who are listed in in-group telephone books called blue books and social registers show that people from all parts of the country mingle together at secluded summer resorts that have been upper-class watering holes for many generations.

But here we must enter our first caution. The class indicators are not perfect. Some members of the upper class do not join clubs, or list in a social register, or reveal their school affiliations in such sources as Who’s Who in America that we have to rely on for much of our information. We cannot trace such people through the power system. They are counted as not being upper class when they really are. On the other hand, there are local, or scholarship children (often people of color) at some prep schools who are not members of the upper class, and some honorary members of social clubs are not upper class. They are counted as upper class when they really are not. In large-scale studies, these two kinds of mistakes tend to cancel each other out, so in general we obtain an accurate picture. But it is true that the class indicators could be wrong on specific individuals. They are useful for group studies, not for identifying individuals.

Cautions aside, there is no doubt that there is a nationwide upper class in the United States with its own distinctive social institutions, lifestyle, and outlook. There is also no doubt that most of these people are active in business or the professions, and that all of them are very wealthy. Their great wealth is obvious, of course, from the large sums that it takes to maintain their homes and their style of life, but systematic studies also show that the wealthiest families are part of the social institutions of the upper class. Combining our studies with findings by economists on the wealth and income distributions, it is possible to say that the upper class, comprising 0.5% to 1% of the population, owns 35-40% of all privately held wealth in the United States and receives 12-15% of total yearly income. In short, the upper class scores very high on the “who benefits” power indicator.

The wealth and income of members of the upper class certainly imply that the upper class is powerful, but they do not demonstrate how power operates. It is therefore necessary to turn to studies of the economy to gain further understanding of the American power structure.

The Corporate Community

Major economic power in the United States is concentrated in an organizational and legal form known as the corporation, and has been since the last several decades of the 19th century. No one doubts that individual corporations have great power in the society at large. For example, they can hire and fire workers, decide where to invest their resources, and use their income in a variety of tax-deductible ways to influence schools, charities, and governments. The argument begins over whether the large corporations are united enough to exert a common social power, and then moves to the question of whether they are still controlled by members of the upper class.

The unity of the corporations can be demonstrated in a number of ways. They share a common interest in making profits. They are often owned by the same families or financial institutions. Their executives have very similar educational and work experiences. It is also important for their sense of unity that corporate leaders see themselves as sharing common opponents in organized labor, environmentalists, consumer advocates, and government officials. A sense of togetherness is created as well by their use of the same few legal, accounting, and consulting firms.

However, the best way to demonstrate the unity among corporations is through the study of what are called “interlocking directors,” meaning those individuals who sit on two or more of the boards of directors that are in charge of the overall direction of the corporation. Boards of directors usually include major owners, top executives from similar corporations or corporations located in the same area, financial and legal advisors, and the three or four officers who run the corporation on a daily basis. Several studies show that those 15-20% of corporate directors who sit on two or more boards, who are called the “inner circle” of the corporate directorate, unite 80-90% of the largest corporations in the United States into a well-connected “corporate community.”

Most social scientists agree that corporations have a strong basis for cohesion. However, there is disagreement over their relationship to the upper class. Some theorists, the pluralists, say that members of the upper class used to dominate corporations, but not any more due to their increase in size, the need for highly trained and specialized executives, and the decline in family ownership. Thus, there is an upper class of rich families with one set of interests and a group of professional business executives who have their own interests and power base. Members of the upper class have power based on their wealth, and corporate executives have organizational power.

Contrary to this claim of a division between owners and managers, I think there is strong evidence for the idea of great overlap in membership and interest between the upper class and the corporate community. The wealthiest and most cohesive upper-class families often have “family offices” through which they can bring to bear the concentrated power of their collective stock ownership, sometimes placing employees of the office on boards of directors. Then too, members of the upper class often control corporations through financial devices known as “holding companies,” which purchase a controlling interest in operating companies. More generally, members of the upper class own roughly half of all corporate stock . Then too, upper-class control of corporations can be seen in its over-representation on boards of directors. Several past studies show that members of the upper class sit on boards far more than would be expected by chance. They are especially likely to be part of the “inner circle” that has two or more directorships. According to the “who governs” power indicator, the upper class still controls the corporate community. Thus, we can conclude that the upper class is rooted in the ownership and control of the corporations that comprise the corporate community. We can say that members of the upper class are for the most part a “corporate rich” who continue to be involved in the business world as investors, venture capitalists, bankers, corporate lawyers, and top executives.

True enough, there are many top corporate executives who did not grow up in the upper class. Most CEO’s of major corporations do not come from the upper class. However, they are gradually socialized into the upper class and its values as they move up the corporate ladder; indeed, they are advanced on the basis of their ability to fulfill upper-class goals of corporate expansion and profitability. In return, these rising managers are given the opportunity to buy corporate stock at below-market prices, paid very high salaries, and given other “perks” that make it possible for them to join the upper class economically as well as socially. The end result is a strengthening of the power of the upper class, not a diminution of it.

How Government Policy Is Shaped From Outside Government

The upper class and the closely related corporate community do not stand alone at the top of the power structure. They are supplemented by a wide range of nonprofit organizations that play an important role in framing debates over public policy and in shaping public opinion. These organizations are often called “nonpartisan” or “bipartisan” because they are not identified with politics or with either of the two major political parties. But they are the real “political party” of the upper class in terms of insuring the stability of the society and the compliance of government.

Upper-class and corporate dominance of the major nonprofit organizations can be seen in their founding by wealthy members of the upper class and in their reliance on large corporations for their funding. However, dominance is once again most readily demonstrated through studies of boards of directors, which have ultimate control of the organizations, including the ability to hire and fire top executives. These studies show that (1) members of the upper class are greatly over-represented on the boards of these organizations, and (2) that nonprofit organizations share a large number of directors in common with the corporate community, particularly directors who are part of the “inner circle.” In effect, most large nonprofit organizations are part of the corporate community.

All the organizations in the nonprofit sector have a hand in creating the framework of the society in one way or another, and hence in helping to shape the political climate. The cultural and civic organizations set the standard for what is beautiful, important, and “classy.” The elite universities play a big part in determining what is important to teach, learn, and research, and they train most of the professionals and experts in the country. However, it is the foundations, think tanks, and policy-discussion organizations that have the most direct and important influences. Their ideas, criticisms, and policy suggestions go out to the general public through a wide array of avenues, including pamphlets, books, local discussion groups, mass media, and not least, the public relations departments of major corporations. Their materials also reach government through a variety of means that will be outlined shortly.

It is worthwhile to look a little more closely at the foundations, think tanks, and policy-discussion organizations to show how they function as a “policy-planning network.”

Tax-free foundations receive their money from wealthy families and corporations. Their primary purpose is to provide money for education, research, and policy discussion. They thus have the power to encourage those ideas and researchers they find compatible with their values and goals, and to withhold funds from others. Support by major foundations often has had a significant impact on the direction of research in agriculture, social science, and the health sciences. However, foundations also create policy projects on their own. The Ford Foundation, for example, helped to create a complex network of advocacy groups and funding sources for Community Development Corporations (CDCs) that provide housing and social services in the inner city.

The role of the think tanks is to suggest new policies to deal with the problems facing the economy and government. Using money from wealthy donors, corporations, and foundations, think tanks hire the experts produced by the graduate departments of the elite universities. The ideas and proposals developed by the experts are disseminated through pamphlets, books, articles in major magazines and newspapers, and, most importantly, through the participation of the experts themselves in the various forums provided by the policy-discussion organizations.

The policy-discussion organizations are the hub of the policy-planning network. They bring together wealthy individuals, corporate executives, experts, and government officials for lectures, forums, meetings, and group discussions of issues that range from the local to the international, and from the economic to the political to the cultural. New ideas are tried out in weekly or monthly discussion groups, and differences of opinion are aired and compromised. These structured discussion groups usually begin with a presentation by the invited experts, followed by questions and discussion involving all participants. Such discussion groups may range in size from ten to 50, with the usual group having fifteen to 25 members.

The many discussion groups that take place within the several policy-discussion organizations have several functions that do not readily meet the eye. They are often overlooked by theorists — pluralists and state-autonomy theorists, primarily — who do not believe that the upper class and corporate community have the ability to develop overall policy sophistication and thereby be in a position to influence the government. First, these organizations help to familiarize busy corporate leaders with policy options outside the purview of their day-to-day business concerns. This gives these executives the ability to influence public opinion through the mass media and other outlets, to argue with and influence experts, and to accept appointments for government service. Second, the policy-discussion organizations give members of the upper class and corporate community the opportunity to see which of their colleagues seem to be the best natural leaders through watching them in the give and take of the discussion groups. They can see which of their counterparts understand the issues quickly, offer their own ideas, facilitate discussions, and relate well to experts. The organizations thus serve as sorting and screening mechanisms for the emergence of new leadership for the corporate rich in general.

Third, these organizations legitimate their participants to the media and interested public as knowledgeable leaders who deserve to be tapped for public service because they have used their free time to acquaint themselves with the issues in nonpartisan forums. The organizations thereby help make wealthy individuals and corporate executives into “national leaders” and “statesmen.” Finally, these organizations provide a forum wherein members of the upper class and corporate community can come to know policy experts. This gives them a pool of people from which they can draw advisors if they are asked to serve in government. It also gives them a basis for recommending experts to politicians for government service.

The organizations also serve obvious functions for the experts. First, presenting their ideas and policies to these organizations gives them an opportunity to have influence. Second, it gives them a chance to advance their own careers if they can impress the upper-class and corporate participants.

The policy-planning network is not totally homogeneous. Reflecting differences within the corporate community, there are moderate-conservative and ultra-conservative wings within it. Moderate conservatives favor foreign aid, low tariffs, and increased economic expansion overseas, whereas the ultra-conservatives tend to see foreign aid as a giveaway. Moderate conservatives tend to accept the idea that governmental taxation and spending policies can be used to stimulate and stabilize the economy, but ultra-conservatives insist that taxes should be cut to the very minimum and that government spending is the next thing to evil. Moderate conservatives accept some welfare-state measures, or at least they support such measures in the face of serious social disruption. Ultra-conservatives have consistently opposed any welfare spending, claiming that it destroys moral fiber and saps individual initiative, so they prefer to use arrest and detention when faced with social unrest.

The reasons for these differences are not well understood. There is a tendency for the moderate-conservative organizations to be directed by executives from the very largest and most internationally oriented of corporations, but there are numerous exceptions to that generalization. Moreover, there are corporations that support policy organizations within both camps. However, for all their differences, leaders within the two clusters of policy organizations have a tendency to search for compromise due to their common membership in the upper-class and corporate community. When compromise is not possible, the final resolution of policy conflicts often takes place in legislative struggles in Congress.

The existence of the policy-planning network provides evidence for another form of power possessed by the wealthy few: expertise on social and political issues. It is an important complement to the naked economic power possessed by the corporations.

The Power Elite

Now that the upper class, corporate community, and policy-planning network have been defined and described, it is possible to discuss the leadership group that I call the “power elite.” I define the power elite as the leadership group of the upper class. It consists of active-working members of the upper class and high-level employees in profit and nonprofit institutions controlled by members of the upper class through stock ownership, financial support, or involvement on the board of directors. This does not mean that all members of the upper class are involved in governing. Some are only playboys and socialites; their social gatherings may provide a setting where members of the power elite mingle with celebrities, and sometimes they give money to political candidates, but that is about as close as they come to political power.

Conversely, not all those involved in the power elite are members of the upper class. They are sons and daughters of the middle class, and occasionally, the blue-collar working class, who do well at any one of several hundred private and state universities, and then go to grad school, MBA school, or law school at one of a handful of elite universities — e.g., Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, MIT, Johns Hopkins, University of Chicago, and Stanford. From there they go to work for a major corporation, law firm, foundation, think tank, or university, and slowly work their way to the top.

The idea of the power elite intertwines class theory and organizational theory, two theories which are often thought of as distinctive or even as rivals. The basis for the intertwining of the two theories is to be found in the role and composition of the boards of directors that govern every large profit and nonprofit organization in the United States. It is on boards of directors that the values and goals of the upper class are integrated with those of the organizational hierarchy. Upper-class directors insure that their interests are infused into the organizations they control, but the day-to-day organizational leaders on the board are able to harmonize class interests with organizational principles.

It is important to stress that I am not saying that all experts are members of the power elite. People have to be high-level employees in institutions controlled by members of the upper class to be considered part of the power elite. Receiving a fellowship from a foundation, spending a year at a think tank, or giving advice to a policy-discussion organization does not make a person a member of the power elite. It also may be useful to note that there are many experts who never go near the policy-planning network. They focus on their teaching and research, or work for groups that oppose the policies of the power elite. In short, experts and advisers are a separate group just below the power elite in the pecking order.

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With the composition of the power elite clearly stated, it is now possible to show how it dominates the federal government in the interest of the upper class and corporate community.

The Power Elite and Government

Members of the power elite directly involve themselves in the federal government through three basic processes, each of which has a slightly different role in ensuring “access” to the White House, Congress, and specific agencies, departments, and committees in the executive branch. Although some of the same people are involved in all three processes, most leaders specialize in one or two of the three processes. These three processes are:

  1. The special-interest process, through which specific families, corporations, and industrial sectors are able to realize their narrow and short-run interests on taxes, subsidies, and regulation in their dealings with congressional committees, regulatory bodies, and executive departments;
  2. The policy-making process, through which the policies developed in the policy-planning network described earlier are brought to the White House and Congress;
  3. The candidate selection process, through which members of the power elite influence electoral campaigns by means of campaign donations to political candidates.

Power elite domination of the federal government can be seen most directly in the workings of the corporate lobbyists, backroom super-lawyers, and industry-wide trade associations that represent the interests of specific corporations or business sectors. This special-interest process is based in varying combinations of information, gifts, insider dealing, friendship, and, not least, promises of lucrative private jobs in the future for compliant government officials. This is the aspect of business-government relations described by journalists and social scientists in their case studies. While these studies show that the special interests usually get their way, the conflict that sometimes erupts within this process, occasionally pitting one corporate sector against another, reinforces the image of widely shared and fragmented power in America, including the image of a divided corporate community. Moreover, there are some defeats suffered by the corporate rich in the special-interest process. For example, laws that improved auto safety standards were passed over automobile industry objections in the 1970s, as were standards of water cleanliness opposed by the paper and chemical industries.

Policies of concern to the corporate community as a whole are not the province of the special-interest process. Instead, such policies come from the network of foundations, think tanks, and policy-discussion organizations discussed in an earlier section. The plans developed in the organizations of the policy-planning network reach the federal government in a variety of ways. On the most general level, their reports, news releases, and interviews are read by elected officials and their staffs, either in pamphlet form or in summary articles in the Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal. Members of the policy-planning network also testify before congressional committees and subcommittees that are writing legislation or preparing budget proposals. More directly, leaders from these organizations are regular members of the dozens of little-known committees that advise specific departments of the executive branch on general policies, making them in effect unpaid temporary members of the government. They are also very prominent on the extremely important presidential commissions that are appointed to make recommendations on a wide range of issues from foreign policy to highway construction. They also serve on the little-known federal advisory committees that are part of just about every department of the executive branch.

Finally, and crucially, they are appointed to government positions with a frequency far beyond what would be expected by chance. Several different studies show that top cabinet positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations are held by members of the upper class and corporate executives who are leaders in policy-discussion organizations.

The general picture that emerges from the findings on the overrepresentation of members of the power elite in appointed governmental positions is that the highest levels of the executive branch are interlocked constantly with the upper class and corporate community through the movement of executives and lawyers in and out of government. Although the same person is not in governmental and corporate positions at the same time, there is enough continuity for the relationship to be described as one of “revolving interlocks.” Corporate leaders resign their numerous directorships in profit and nonprofit organizations to serve in government for two or three years, then return to the corporate community or policy-planning network. This system gives them temporary independence from the narrow concerns of their own organizations and allows them to perform the more general roles they have learned in the policy-discussion groups. They then return to the private sector with useful personal contacts and information.

As important as the special-interest and policy-planning processes are for the power elite, they could not operate successfully if there were not sympathetic, business-oriented elected officials in government. That leads us to the third process through which members of the power elite dominate the federal government, the candidate-selection process. It operates through the two major political parties. For reasons to be discussed in a moment, the two parties have very little role in political education or policy formation; they are reduced to the function of filling offices. That is why the American political system can be characterized as a “candidate-selection process.”

The main reason the political system focuses on candidate selection to the relative exclusion of political education and policy formulation is that there can be only two main parties due to the structure of the government and the nature of the electoral rules. The fact that Americans select a president instead of a parliament, and elect legislators from “single-member” geographical areas (states for the Senate, districts for the House) leads to a two-party system because in these “winner-take-all” elections a vote for a third party is a vote for the person’s least desired choice. A vote for a very liberal party instead of the Democrats, for example, actually helps the Republicans. Under these rules, the most sensible strategy for both the Democrats and Republicans is to blur their policy differences in order to compete for the voters with middle-of-the-road policy views, or no policy views at all.

Contrary to what many believe, then, American political parties are not very responsive to voter preferences. Their candidates are fairly free to say one thing to get elected and to do another once in office. This contributes to confusion and apathy in the electorate. It leads to campaigns where there are no “issues” except “images” and “personalities” even when polls show that voters are extremely concerned about certain policy issues. You don’t raise unnecessary issues during a campaign, one successful presidential candidate once said.

It is precisely because the candidate-selection process is so personalized, and therefore dependent on name recognition, images, and emotional symbolism, that it can be in good part dominated by members of the power elite through the relatively simple and direct means of large campaign contributions. Playing the role of donors and money raisers, the same people who direct corporations and take part in the policy-planning network have a crucial place in the careers of most politicians who advance beyond the local level or state legislatures in states with large populations. Their support is especially important in party primaries, where money is an even larger factor than in general elections.

The two-party system therefore results in elected officials who are relatively issueless and willing to go along with the policies advocated by those members of the power elite who work in the special-interest and policy-planning processes. They are motivated by personal ambition far more than they are by political conviction. Still, there are some extremely conservative elected Republicans who often oppose power elite proposals, claiming that such policies are the work of secret communists or pointy-headed intellectuals out to wreck the “free enterprise” system. There also are many Democrats from blue-collar and university districts who consistently oppose power elite policies as members of the liberal-labor coalition. However, both the ultra-conservatives and the liberals are outnumbered by the “moderates” of both parties, especially in key leadership positions in Congress. After many years in Congress the elected liberals decide to “go along to get along.” “This place has a way of grinding you down,” explained one liberal Congressman of the early 1970s in a classic summary of what happens.

Although members of the power elite are far and away the most important financial backers for both parties, this does not mean that there are no differences between the two parties. The leadership levels have intra-class differences, and the supporters tend to have inter-class differences. The Republican Party is controlled by the wealthiest families of the upper class and corporate community, who are largely Protestant in background. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, is the party of the “fringes” of the upper class and power elite. Although often called “the party of the common person,” it was in fact the party of the Southern segment of the upper class until very recently. The power of the Southern Democrats in the party and in Congress was secured in a variety of ways, the most important of which was the seniority system for selecting committee chairs in Congress. (By tradition, the person who has been on the committee longest just about automatically becomes the chair; this avoids conflict among members of the party.) However, the underlying point is that the one-party system in the South and the exclusion of African-Americans from the voting booth until the mid-1960s gave the Southern planters and merchants power at the national level through the Democratic Party out of all proportion to their wealth and numbers. Thus, it is not necessarily the wealthiest people who rule. The nature of the political system also enters into the equation. But the Southern elites are not poor; they are only less rich than many of their Northern counterparts.

The Southerners dominated the Democratic Party in alliance with the “ethnic rich” in the North, meaning wealthy Jews and Catholics who were shunned or mistreated by the rich Protestants. The businesses they owned were often local or smaller than those of the Republican backers, and they usually were excluded from the social institutions of the upper class. These ethnic rich were the primary financial supporters of the infamous “political machines” that dominated Democratic politics in most large northern cities.

The alliance between the Southern segment of the upper class and the Northern ethnic rich usually was able to freeze out the policy initiatives of the party’s liberal-labor coalition through its control of congressional committees, although there was a time (1940 to 1975) when labor unions had significant influence on the Democrats. When that alliance broke down on certain issues because the machine Democrats sided with the liberals and labor, then the Southern Democrats joined with Northern Republicans to create the “conservative coalition,” AKA “the conservative voting bloc,” wherein a majority of Southern Democrats and a majority of Northern Republicans voted together against the Northern Democrats. This conservative coalition most often formed around the issues that reflect class conflict in the legislative arena — civil rights, union rights, social welfare, and business regulation. Legislation on any of these issues weakens employers in the face of workers and their unions, so it is not surprising that the conservative coalition is based on the shared interests of Northern and Southern employers. This alliance won far more often than it lost in the years between 1937, when it was formed, and the 1990s, when it disappeared for the simple reason that many of the Southerners had become Republicans.

Once the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was in effect, the Democratic Party was slowly changed because African-Americans in the South were able to vote against the worst racists in the party primaries. The gradual industrialization also was causing changes. As a result of these two forces, Southern whites started to move into the Republican Party, which thus became the party of wealthy employers in both the North and South. In that context, the Democratic Party is slowly becoming what many always thought it to be, the party of liberals, minorities, workers, and the poor.

In summary, the special-interest process, policy-planning process, and campaign finance make it possible for the power elite to win far more often than it loses on the policy issues that come before the federal government. The power elite is also greatly over-represented in appointed positions, presidential blue-ribbon commissions, and advisory committees within the government. In terms of both the “who wins” and “who governs” power indicators, the power elite dominates the federal government.

However, this domination does not mean control on each and every issue, or lack of opposition, and it does not rest upon government involvement alone. Involvement in government is only the final and most visible aspect of power elite domination, which has its roots in the class structure, the nature of the economy, and the functioning of the policy-planning network. If government officials did not have to wait on corporate leaders to decide where and when they will invest, and if government officials were not further limited by the acceptance of the current economic arrangements by the large majority of the population, then power elite involvement in elections and government would count for a lot less than it does under present conditions.

Why Business Leaders Feel Powerless

Despite these various kinds of objective evidence that the power elite has great power in relation to the federal government, many corporate leaders feel that they are relatively powerless in the face of government. To hear them tell it, Congress is more responsive to organized labor, environmentalists, and consumers. They also claim to be harassed by willful and arrogant bureaucrats. These negative feelings toward government are not a new development, contrary to those who blame the New Deal and the social programs of the 1960s. A study of businessmen’s views in the 19th century found that they believed political leaders to be “stupid” and “empty” people who went into politics only to earn a living, and a study of businessmen’s views during what are thought of as their most powerful decade, the 1920s, found the same mistrust of government.

The emotional expressions of business leaders about their lack of power cannot be taken seriously as a power indicator, for that confuses psychological uneasiness with power. Feelings are one thing, the effects of one’s actions another. But it is nonetheless interesting to try to understand why businessmen complain about a government they dominate. First, complaining about government is a useful political strategy. It puts government officials on the defensive and forces them to keep proving that they are friendly to business. Second, businessmen complain about government because in fact very few civil servants are part of the upper class and corporate community. The anti-government ideology of the United States tends to restrain members of the upper class from government careers except in the State Department, meaning that the main contacts for members of the power elite within government are at the very top. There is thus uncertainty about how the middle levels will react to new situations, and therefore a feeling that there is a necessity to “ride herd” on or “reign in” the potentially troublesome “bureaucrats.”

There also seems to be an ideological level to the business leaders’ attitudes toward government. There is a fear of the populist, democratic ideology that underlies American government. Since power is in theory in the hands of all the people, there always is the possibility that someday “the people,” in the sense of the majority, will make the government into the reflection of pluralist democracy that it is supposed to be. In a certain very real way, then, the great power of the upper class and corporate community are culturally illegitimate, and the existence of such power is therefore vigorously denied. It is okay to be rich, and even to brag about wealth a little bit, but not to be powerful or, worse, to flaunt that power.

Finally, the expressions of anguish from individual corporate leaders concerning their powerlessness also suggests an explanation in terms of the intersection of social psychology and sociology. It is the upper class and corporate community that have power, not individuals apart from their institutional context. As individuals, they are not always listened to, and they have to convince their peers of the reasonableness of their arguments before anything happens. Moreover, any policy that is adopted is a group decision, and it is sometimes hard for people to identify with group actions to the point where they feel personally powerful. It is therefore not surprising that specific individuals might feel powerless.

The Weaknesses of the Working Class

There are many democratic countries where the working class — defined as all those white-collar and blue-collar workers who earn a salary or a wage — has more power than it does in the United States. This power is achieved primarily through labor unions and political parties. It is reflected in more egalitarian wealth and income distributions, a more equitable tax structure, better public health services, subsidized housing, and higher old-age and unemployment benefits.

How is it possible that the American working class could be relatively powerless in a country that prides itself on its long-standing history of pluralism and elections? There are several interacting historical factors. First, the “primary producers” in the United States, those who work with their hands in factories and fields, were more seriously divided among themselves until the 1930s than in most other countries. The deepest and most important of these divisions was between whites and African-Americans. In the beginning, of course, the African-Americans had no social power because of their enslavement, which meant that there was no way to organize workers in the South. But even after African-Americans gained their freedom, prejudices in the white working class kept the two groups apart.

This black/white split in the working class was reinforced by later conflicts between craft workers — also called “skilled” workers — and industrial workers — also called mass-production or “unskilled” workers. Craft workers usually tried to keep their wages high by excluding industrial workers. Their sense of superiority as skilled workers was reinforced by the fact that they were of Northern European, Protestant origins and the industrial workers tended to be Catholics and Jews from Eastern and Southern Europe. Some African-Americans were also found in the ranks of the industrial workers, along with other racial minorities.

It would have been difficult enough to overcome these divisions even if workers had been able to develop their own political party, but they were unable to develop such a party because the electoral system greatly disadvantages third parties. Workers were stuck. They had no place to go but the Republicans or Democrats. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the craft workers often supported the Democrats, while the recent immigrant industrial workers tended to support the Republicans. Even when craft and industrial workers moved into the Democratic Party en masse in the 1930s, they couldn’t control the party because of the power of the wealthy Southern planters and merchants.

Nor did the workers have much luck organizing themselves through unions. The employers were able to call upon the government to crush organizing drives and strikes through both court injunctions and police arrests. This was not only because employers had great influence with politicians then, just as they do now, but because the American tradition of law, based in laissez faire (free market) liberalism, was so fiercely opposed to any “restraint of trade” or “interference” with private property. It was not until the 1930s that the liberal-labor coalition was able to pass legislation guaranteeing workers the right to join unions and engage in collective bargaining. Even this advance was only possible by excluding the Southern workforce — i.e., agricultural and seasonal labor — from the purview of the legislation. Further, the passage of the legislation had only limited impact because the industrial unions were defeated almost completely in the South and Southwest. Unions thrived in a few major industries in the North in the years after World War II, but then their power was eroded beginning in the 1970s as the big corporations moved their factories to other countries or lost market share to European and Japanese companies.

Given this history of internal division, political frustration, and union defeat, it is not surprising the American workers continue to accept the highly individualistic ideology that has characterized the United States since its founding. This acceptance in turn makes it even more difficult to organize workers around “bread-and-butter” issues. They often vote instead on the basis of social issues or religious convictions, with those who are deeply religious, opposed to affirmative action, or opposed to gun control voting for the avowedly anti-union Republican Party.

Thus, it is important not to confuse freedom with social power. Between 1962 and the 1990s there was a great expansion in individual rights due to the civil rights, feminist, and lesbian-gay movements, but during that time the ratio of a top business executive’s pay to a factory worker’s pay increased from 41 to 1 to about 300 to 1. American workers can say what they want and do what they want within very broad limits, and their children can study hard in school so they can go to graduate school and join the well-off professional class as doctors, lawyers, architects, or engineers, but when it comes to social power most Americans have very little of it if they are not a part of the power elite.

Community Power

Not all power is wielded at the national level. For more on local power, click here.

Conclusion

The argument over the structure and distribution of power in the United States has been going on within academia since the 1950s. It has generated a large number of empirical studies, many of which have been drawn upon here. In the final analysis, however, scholars’ conclusions about the American power structure depend upon their beliefs concerning power indicators, which are a product of their “philosophy of science.” That sounds strange, I realize, but if “who benefits?” and “who sits?” are seen as valid power indicators, on the assumption that “power” is an underlying social trait that can be indexed by a variety of imperfect indicators, then the kind of evidence briefly outlined here will be seen as a very strong case for the dominant role of the power elite in the federal government.

If “who wins?” on a wide range of government decisions is seen as the only valid indicator of power, and if it is expected that the power elite must win every time, which is the stance adopted by pluralist theorists on the basis of a “strict positivist” view of how power must be measured, then the argument presented here, based on a “soft positivism,” will be seen as less impressive. That’s because those relatively few of us who disagree with the pluralists have not yet had the time and the resources to do enough case studies within the framework of the special-interest and policy-planning processes to show the full range of power elite dominance on policy issues. A good start has been made in this direction, but it will take more to convince the skeptics.


References

Kendall, D. (2002). The power of good deeds: Privileged women and the social reproduction of class. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Wrong, D. (1995). Power: Its Forms, Bases, and Uses (2nd ed.). New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

 

The North Dakota Frontlines: Between A Standing Rock And A Hard Place

Wrong Kind of Green

October 4, 2016

by Forrest Palmer

 

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On the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, an indigenous uprising which captured national attention in August 2016 that those in power hope will be naturally extinguished due to time and conventional society’s short attention span on matters such as this (this characteristic best represented by the Occupy movement of a few years ago). The outward reason for the present uproar is the passage of North Dakota portion of the Bakken pipeline through the Standing Rock Sioux reservation that will intersect the area’s sacred burial grounds, and, critically, could pollute the freshwater source of the region’s inhabitants. As the American populace is wholly averse to addressing this to any great degree, the cause of the indigenous being cloistered in these remote, isolated and destitute lands is our desire to not recognize the last remaining reminders of the price that was paid in order to establish this so-called ‘land of the free and home of the brave’.  In particular, this movement has brought to light the fact that the mainstream public is totally ignorant about this particular reservation and the reservation system in general when it comes to the atrocious living conditions of the descendants of those domestically colonized in this country.

To understand the base of the anger residing in the participants of the uprising, it is necessary to take a closer look at the lifestyle of the people on the Standing Rock Reservation

 

These are all the endemic signs of a people who are wholly broken due to centuries of systemic abuses by their conquerors. Therefore, the question isn’t why are the Standing Rock Sioux citizens involved in this rebellion. The question is why is anyone shocked when being pushed past this limit has led to this inevitable outcome. But, just like the proverbial straw that has broken the camel’s back, this current injustice is the catalyst for pushing the rightly aggrieved people past their breaking point as a community.

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As detailed above, what is being unreported and overlooked in this uprising (which is one of the first steps to any revolution, with it yet to be determined if this will be the end result in this occasion) is the fact that life on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation is insufferably toxic and this current maneuver by the state at the behest of private industry will make it worse in the present and increasingly so in the future. But in order to truly ascertain the level of disinterest shown by the United States in its dealings with the government’s internally colonized descendants that currently reside in the grey area between ethnic cleansing and outright genocide, any unbiased individual need look no further than the behavior of United States in its dealings with defeated foes domestically and the ones internationally. As a specific case, the response by the United States in its treaties with the defeated foes of the Third Axis externally after World War II is the direct opposite of that implemented with the internal First Nations tribes. The treaties entered into by the United States with the defeated Axis powers and the resulting policies were totally in line with the promise to rebuild infrastructure that would be installed in the charred remains of Europe due to the war’s decimating effects, even those of its former enemies during the war. As the current successful state of the defeated combatants is a testament to the United States keeping its promise subsequent to its victory, it must be asked why is it that Nazi Germany, Imperialist Japan and Fascist Italy were given preferable treaty terms and the promises held fast to by the United States, which is in stark contrast to the historical treatment of a full-out genocide executed upon the remaining indigenous in this country, who are purported sovereign citizens of the United States.

The reason being is that the Marshall Plan, the United States economic framework of rebuilding Western Europe and Southeast Asia, and its attending policies were beneficial to the economic strength and growth of power of the United States, which allowed it to become the present and primary global entity. Hence, the United States had an economic reason to rebuild the broken shards of these areas that comprised the war theaters. Oppositely, there never has been and never will be an economic incentive for the United States to invest and fortify the reservations or support the people who inhabit them since their prosperity will never be a benefit to capitalism, but a drain on its precarious and ever dwindling resources.

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Photo: Terray Sylvester

To further illustrate the removal of the indigenous from the consciousness of almost all the people internal to the country who aren’t a part of the First Nation communities, the invisibility of the native in comparison to every other non-anglo furthers their collective removal from any discussion in terms of white supremacy and its deleterious effects on internal non-European populations. The closest in proximity to the tangible aspects of impoverishment and oppression of the indigenous in the U.S. would be the black and brown communities, identified as the descendants of the formally enslaved Africans and Latins from south of the U.S. border, respectively. Yet, in this particular instance, the black and brown U.S. citizens reside in a much better position due to the necessity of their particular existences in comparison to the decimated First Nation populations, who are congregated in the farthest outposts of the United States. The fact that black and brown people exist in areas close to the hubs of capitalism of major cities in the United States (as they always have been) and still are a necessary form of labor in an expression of white supremacy by historically doing jobs that anglos were and are unwilling to do means that any uprising these communities participated in would be disruptive to the economic system of capitalism that is the foundation of national prosperity. As the First Nations people reside in land that is far removed from the primary places and industries of which commerce is reliant upon, any comparable disruption in their present areas will have no effect upon the everyday ability of capitalism to function.

south-dakota-mines

Therefore, unlike every other non-anglo ethnicity in the country that can have some type of effect on the system, the indigenous population can remain isolated and unheard with no means of popular acknowledgement in terms of its ever present painful condition. Tragically, the only reason that this agony is heard to any degree presently and any problems addressed to any facile measure is to allow the dominant culture to not acknowledge that it has effectively decimated the entirety of the indigenous population while at the same time not deal with the guilt (if there would be any) of delivering the final death blow of genocide that has always been the unspoken threat directed at the relative handful of people still residing in the United States. Ultimately, if it wasn’t for this piece of pipeline that will only stretch a few miles into the region of the Standing Rock Reservation, there would be no reason whatsoever to even acknowledge their present protest, let alone do anything about it.

So, the presence of this seemingly spontaneous protest has dual layers to it. On the surface, it is about this singular pipeline and the possible problems that may arise due to its placement in close proximity to their living area.  However, in the same vein as non-violent direct action (NVDA) is based on the civil rights movement in the United States and its perceived success here in this country (although all evidence points to the contrary), many of the singular atrocities that galvanized the black community to utilize this particular means of protest, such as the murder of Emmitt Till and the arrest of Rosa Parks for not sitting in the back of the bus, were mere sparks that set off the powder keg that was already present in society due to the centuries long oppression that preceded them.

Similarly, the pipeline is just the catalyst for addressing inequities that have laid dormant for far too long. This is the layer beneath the surface where the righteous anger residing on the reservation has been fomenting since the natives were forced into this open air prison by the barrel of a gun decades ago. Whether it was this pipeline or some other form of intrusion on the land that the state said was theirs after surrendering as an entire ethnic group in order to not be fully exterminated, the need for capitalism to continuously gobble up everything in its path inevitably led to this current situation, where the natives are a harbinger for all of mankind as the extremities of needed energy accumulation will close on all of us more and more with each passing day whether we choose to accept it or not. And as current flow always follows the path of least resistance, the state has always looked first to the reservation system and its inhabitants to appropriate anything it may need to survive since the continued existence of the indigenous is seen as an inconvenience rather than a necessity by most non-indigenous citizens in this country.

As NVDA is a remnant of the aforementioned much ballyhooed civil rights movement, the response by the state has advanced and evolved while the tactics employed by the ethnic victims in regards to white supremacy has stagnated and remained the same. This is no more apparent than in the current actions by private interests regarding the indigenous uprising. During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the state employed attack dogs on protestors as a response to their marches. In the present iteration of the response, it isn’t the state that has employed these abusive tactics, it is the corporation that now has its paid minions to deliver counterattacks to the movement. ICYMI, a private security company, was employed by the manufacturers of the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, to confront the protesters by employing attack dogs to disperse the crowd and put a final end to this perceived effrontery to the dominant culture.

As this is a new wrinkle in the oppression of the masses, the million-dollar question is who or what is supposed to be held accountable for any injuries caused by the use of these tactics by private interests? Is it now a civil matter, even though the state is saying that it is in the public interest to have this land for the pipeline, as the term “eminent domain” is as nebulous term imaginable in masking the interest of private corporations by way of determining land appropriation as an expression of the public good. Can the corporation be taken to civil court for these attacks? As the land is in the grey area of appropriation, is it public or private land at this juncture? These are all legal questions that aren’t being addressed because the hope was that this endeavor would cease all of the ongoing uproar in North Dakota. In addition, these ill-defined forms of accountability make it much more difficult for the aggrieved to seek redress from those in power.

In the end, the most important thing for this uprising is to not just relegate the movement to this pipeline and the leaders must speak honestly about the need to attend to all the inequalities that have been imposed on the natives on this particular reservation and the reservation system as a whole. Of the over 500 treaties that have been entered into between the government and the First Nations people, all have been broken in some form or fashion by the U.S. government.  And these acts of broken treaties have been deemed legal by the same justice system that is supposed to be fair and balanced in its decision making as it purports to be based on an eponymous “rule of law”, something not reliant on the arbitrary positions of man. Yet, the U.S. populace readily believes this when all empirical evidence shows that this is anything but the case. Either the “rule of law” is faulty or our implementation of it is at issue.  More than likely, it is just a nice term utilized by the powers that be to inculcate people into an imaginary belief that when the outcome of a particular case is not to their well being or liking it is because of the weakness of the case and not due to systemic biases related to the arbiters culturally inculcated belief that anglo ethnicity and the attending economic system is more important than any aggrievement of the indigenous.

Whatever the reason for these decisions, the fact of the matter is that Einstein once famously said that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. As such, there can be nothing more insane than expecting redress from the same justice system that has deemed 500 instances of broken treaties over a span of centuries to all of a sudden change course in this given instance regarding the ongoing pipeline conflict. Hence, this movement must be utilized as a tool to recognize, respect and ultimately implement the indigenous stated goals of self-determination, decolonization and self-government.

It is going to take a concerted effort that goes beyond a simplified NVDA that was used to allow black people the “privilege” of doing acts that are in hindsight trivial things, such using the same bathrooms as white people. The old stale tactics of the past can’t be used as the goals aren’t the same in this instance (self-determination from people who aren’t looking for integration as they want to be recognized as a sovereign nation within a nation) as those previously attempting to be obtained during the civil rights movement (an assimilationist integration based off of a wholly acknowledged acceptance regarding non-anglo inferiority by both oppressors and oppressed). To use sports as an analogy, this is akin to using a baseball bat on a soccer field or utilizing a hockey stick during a basketball game.

As this is the case, the strategy employed by the modern indigenous can’t be the same as those who preceded them in this country.  As Cuba famously utilized its guerrilla strategy in assisting African nations in their battles to end European colonialism, the devices employed by the First Nation members must be different than anything ever employed previously.  What is to stop the indigenous from aligning their interests with MEND in the Niger River Delta, whose enemy is also the multinational corporations trespassing on its land? This is another organization that is going through the same issues as the Standing River Sioux and numerous other tribes, like the Black Hill Sioux and their land being destroyed by uranium mining and coal mining on the Black Mesa plateau that has disaffected the water source of the Hopi and Navajo tribes. In addition, there needs to be a network of groups who have the same interests who must now band together with a common goal which is to stop the continuous encroachment of private interests in their particular domains at one level, as well as to address the fact that this will invariably be all of us.

nodapl-meme

When all is said and done, this protest in North Dakota is the only portion of this conflict that is for the good of the public as the pipeline itself is anything but a benefit to humans or any other life form, no matter what portions of the mainstream society profess in this regard.  By any measurement of what is beneficial to the continuance of sentient beings on this Earth, the uprising in North Dakota is one of the few relevant ongoing acts presently. Although near-term human extinction (NTHE) is almost a certainty at this point, whatever portion of life that can be salvaged, be it human or otherwise, must start somewhere and it has to be at the grassroots level since the expectation that any portion of the establishment will save us is beyond insane when all evidence to this juncture has proven otherwise.

Ultimately, the First Nation members need to use this as a catalyst for an overall change in their collective living circumstances. Their problems reside in having their entire existence totally dependent on the goodwill of a white power structure that still sees them as savages. This structure, whose continuance is dependent on institutional racism, only gives a nod to the indigenous when they dress like them, use them as mascots or talk about the fact that their members’ great, great, great grandma was a First Nation member or something to that effect. Other than those few useless nods to the people and culture, the systemic need is to keep them isolated, weak and emaciated on a reservation where the only thing to be done is take the resources under their feet and relegate them to eternal impoverishment and disenfranchisement.

As the pipeline is a mere conduit of the resource that flows through its vessels, the uproarious response by the First Nations community is the conduit of the centuries long anger which as has been internalized on these outposts of human despair. We can only hope that the rupture of  First Nation emotions will make all of the previous pipeline fissures pale in comparison.

 

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

‘Activism’: The Lies We Have to Tell Ourselves

World News Trust

June 21, 2016

by Mickey Z.

 

Photo credit: Mickey Z.Photo credit: Mickey Z.

Almost exactly four years ago, I wrote an article that opened with this, um, “anecdote”:

As part of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Summer Disobedience School, I was marching with my fellow occupiers through Times Square in early June 2012. While skirting the edge of the demo to take photos, I passed a group of young men in business attire. On the surface, they appeared “mainstream” — right out of Central Casting, in fact.

One man was clearly confused by the boisterous march — the signs, the drummers, the costumes, and so much more. “What are they doing?” he pondered aloud. The largest man in the group — his face pinched into an expression of scorn — bellowed: “I’ll tell you what they should be doing. They should be looking for a fuckin’ job.”

He looked so self-satisfied with his parroting of the corporate media line that I couldn’t help taking him down a notch. I stopped walking, positioned myself about three feet away — directly in his line of sight — and glared into his eyes. 

When he looked at me and saw my “99%” button and the Red Square affixed to my t-shirt, Alpha Male was suddenly confronted with the uncomfortable reality that those he was mocking weren’t the skinny hippie pacifists he’d read all about on the interwebs.

His eyes met mine and I held my squinty stare. In a matter of seconds, his self-confidence waned and he diverted his gaze downwards. (#winning) With a smirk, I turned and moved off to catch up with my OWS tribe.

Pardon me while I curl into the fetal position and weep in shame for the next three hours. 

I can still recall how unabashedly excited I was to participate in the event described above (and so many others like it) but now — armed with four-plus years of painful but essential hindsight — it makes me cringe that my exuberance tricked me into thinking we were doing anything even remotely effective or “making a difference.” 

Before I can allow myself to simply look back with a sense of nostalgia at a fun afternoon with some upbeat folks who, um, occupied my life for a brief moment in time, I must first expose, address, and own up to the arrogance and denial on display that afternoon.

What we were doing… 
I’ve already wasted enough ink on the “get a job” canard so let’s instead focus on the extreme validity of the first dude-bro’s question: “What are they doing?” Think about it. Why wouldn’t he or anyone be puzzled? There was literally no rational reason why passers-by would understand the show we were putting on for ourselves (and the cops).

If you asked me “What are you doing?” at the time, I likely would’ve spouted off a whole lot of nonsense about “revolution.” Ask me now though. Please. Ask me now about OWS and its various spin-offs and spectacles.

Even better, if I could somehow track down the guy who confusedly wondered what we were doing that Saturday afternoon in Times Square four summers ago, here’s some of what I’d tell him: 

We were entertaining ourselves. Mic checks, hand signals, carefully crafted performances, a ridiculous overemphasis on “outsmarting” the “pigs,” and virtually no perception of or interest in what might potentially lure in mainstream New Yorkers. This counterproductive tendency to perform for each other progressed rapidly and virtually guaranteed failure. 

We were doing in ZERO outreach. I can remember commenting on how curious and interested the tourists in Times Square appeared to be about us and the issues we were raising. What the fuck was I thinking? Of course they watched and took photos and videos. That’s what tourists do! They weren’t becoming “woke af.” Just the other day, while standing near the entrance to Bryant Park, I witnessed two homeless men in a screaming match that almost became violent. Glancing around, I saw tourists staring at them and filming them with the exact same facial expressions as those watching my “OWS Tribe” in the exact same spot four years earlier. 

We were engaging in the classic “take the streets” nonsense. It takes an incredible amount of denial and privilege for a mostly white crowd of “activists” to taunt cops, disobey street-related laws, and perceive such silliness as rebellion. Meanwhile, on the same day described above, when the march reached Bryant Park, the NYPD predictably singled out a black man from the crowd. He was stopped and frisked right in front of us. We chanted and took photos and “showed our solidarity” with people of color and when he was let go without being arrested, we also managed to convince ourselves that somehow, his freedom was thanks to the presence of OWS. (insert deep sigh here)

Photo credit: Mickey Z.Photo credit: Mickey Z.

We were congratulating ourselves afterwards. Once inside Bryant Park, the “occupiers” broke into small groups to analyze that day’s event and discuss “important issues” (student debt, radical theory, and yes: stop and frisk!) — as if anything we were doing could have even an iota of impact beyond our echo chamber. Meanwhile, a different set of on-lookers took photos of what must’ve appeared as a freak show. 

We were partaking in a social media ego-fest. I don’t have a smart phone but many, many others were uploading images and videos in “real time,” all day. Later, folks like me got busy posting photos and videos, tagging, sharing, and creating yet another insular circle jerk of delusion. #winning!

We were wasting our own precious time and energy. As I documented in this article, despite all the smoke and mirrors, nothing of sustained value has been accomplished by OWS and its offshoots since September 17, 2011. Really. Please. READ THIS ARTICLE. For now, I’ll offer a snippet: 

“The damage is relentless and ongoing and impervious to Occupy-related tactics and self-perception. None of our exhibitionist acting out or our Instagram selfies or our clever memes or our accumulation of social media notifications or our sign waving and petition signing and drum banging got us any closer to the root causes and certainly no where near to creating sustainable social change.”

“What are they doing?” that bewildered bro begged. Since it would be far too flattering to simply say “nothing” (“worse than nothing” = way more accurate), please allow me to amend the cringeworthy recollection with which I began:

One man was clearly confused by the boisterous march — the signs, the drummers, the costumes, and so much more. “What are they doing?” he pondered aloud. So, I stopped walking, positioned myself about three feet away — directly in his line of sight — and replied: “We’re doing what ‘activists’ do, of course. We’re willfully lying to ourselves. What does it look like we’re doing?”

Repeat after me: The people united will never be defeated!

Further reading:

“Activism”: How to Lose Friends & Influence Nobody

 

[Mickey Z. is currently writing his fourteenth book, How to Lose Friends & Influence Nobody: My Life as an “Activist.” In the meantime, he can be found here.]

 

Environmentalism is Dead – Welcome to the Age of Anthropocentrism [McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street: Part XIV of an Investigative Report]

April 22, 2016

by Cory Morningstar

 

Part fourteen of an investigative series

 [Part I of this series, McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street, can be found here. Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI, Part XII, Part XIII]

 

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” — Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

 

Prologue: A Coup d’état of Nature – Led by the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

It is somewhat ironic that anti-REDD climate activists, faux green organizations (in contrast to legitimate grassroots organizations that do exist, although few and far between) and self-proclaimed environmentalists, who consider themselves progressive will speak out against the commodification of nature’s natural resources while simultaneously promoting the toothless divestment campaign promoted by the useless mainstream groups allegedly on the left. It’s ironic because the divestment campaign will result (succeed) in a colossal injection of money shifting over to the very portfolios heavily invested in, thus dependent upon, the intense commodification and privatization of Earth’s last remaining forests, (via REDD, environmental “markets”  and the like). This tour de force will be executed with cunning precision under the guise of environmental stewardship and “internalizing negative externalities through appropriate pricing.” Thus, ironically (if in appearances only), the greatest surge in the ultimate corporate capture of Earth’s final remaining resources is being led, and will be accomplished, by the very environmentalists and environmental groups that claim to oppose such corporate domination and capture.

Beyond shelling out billions of tax-exempt dollars (i.e., investments) to those institutions most accommodating in the non-profit industrial complex (otherwise known as foundations), the corporations need not lift a finger to sell this pseudo green agenda to the people in the environmental movement; the feat is being carried out by a tag team comprised of the legitimate and the faux environmentalists. As the public is wholly ignorant and gullible, it almost has no comprehension of the following:

  1. the magnitude of our ecological crisis
  2. the root causes of the planetary crisis, or
  3. the non-profit industrial complex as an instrument of hegemony.

The commodification of the commons will represent the greatest, and most cunning, coup d’état in the history of corporate dominance – an extraordinary fait accompli of unparalleled scale, with unimaginable repercussions for humanity and all life.

Further, it matters little whether or not the money is moved from direct investments in fossil fuel corporations to so-called “socially responsible investments.” The fact of the matter is that all corporations on the planet (and therefore by extension, all investments on the planet) are dependent upon and will continue to require massive amounts of fossil fuels to continue to grow and expand ad infinitum – as required by the industrialized capitalist economic system.

The windmills and solar panels serve as beautiful (marketing) imagery and a panacea for our energy issues, yet they are illusory – the fake veneer for the commodification of the commons, which is the fundamental objective of Wall Street, the very advisers of the divestment campaign.

Thus we find ourselves unwilling to acknowledge the necessity to dismantle the industrialized capitalist economic system, choosing instead to embrace an illusion designed by corporate power.

+++

Divestment Launch Goes Global

 

“The creation of value continues to drive capitalism, yet the meaning of ‘value’ shifts and is reimagined within the context of neoliberal capitalism—Commodity Activism: Cultural Resistance in Neoliberal Times”— Commodity Activism: Cultural Resistance in Neoliberal Times, 2012

On September 18, 2014, three days prior to the Peoples Climate March, a press release shared by the website Look to the Stars, The World of Celebrity Giving, announced:

“A coalition of endowments and individuals committed to divesting from fossil fuels and investing in clean energy will announce pledges totaling $50 billion in assets and growing at a press conference in New York City on Monday, Sept. 22. The coalition, first launched in January, will announce scores of new domestic and international foundations, hundreds of high-net worth individuals as well as major NGOs, faith groups and health organizations. The next day, commitments will be presented at the UN Climate Summit with many world leaders in attendance including President Obama. Taking part in the press conference will be: Archbishop Desmond Tutu (by video), Mark Ruffalo, actor, Stephen Heintz, President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, David Blood, formerly Goldman Sachs, co-founder Generation Investment, Agnes Abuom, principal at the World Council of Churches and Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director Wallace Global Fund (moderating)” [Emphasis added]

Three days later on September 21, 2014, the People’s Climate March took place in New York City. This spectacle was overseen/managed in part by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The members only “State of Play on the People’s Climate March” event listed by the Environmental Grantmakers Association Website (posted 08/20/2014 – 1:00pm) stated the following:

“An unprecedented 550 organizations from labor, faith, environment and justice movements are coming together to make the September 21st People’s Climate March the largest ever public mobilization on climate. Join us to learn why such a huge diversity of organizations, networks, and individuals are mobilizing at this key moment, just days before the Climate Leaders Summit hosted by Ban Ki-moon. We’ll discuss how organizations are working together to bridge movements, as this effort not only seeks to raise awareness for climate impacts, but also open a significant political narrative about economic and environmental justice.

 

Speakers:

  • Irene Krarup, Executive Director, V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation (moderator)
    • Emma Ruby-Sachs, Campaigns Manager, Avaaz
    • Jamie Henn, Political and Communications Director, 350.org
    • Eddie Bautista, Executive Director, NYCEJA”

 

“This will be the first of a series of two calls – the second will be a funder-only conversation during the first week of September. If you are unable to make either call and still want to learn more, please feel free to contact Stephanie Bencivenga of Rockefeller Brothers Fund (sbencivenga[at]rbf.org) or Irene Krarup of V.K. Rasmussen Foundation (ikrarup[at]vkrf.org).” [Emphasis added]

One would be naïve to believe that there was not (and continues to be) an intense amount of coordination and concerted effort functioning behind the scenes. A unification of all players woven within the non-profit industrial complex, united in one strategic purpose: To expand, further capture and create new capital markets, with a supportive public under the guise of a “new economy”  to which the divestment plays a pivotal role.

[Here it must be noted that the media circus surrounding the Peoples Climate March effectively eclipsed the first UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples which took place on September 22-23, 2014, planned years in advance.]

peoples_climate_march_poster2

Although it is comforting to most (for reasons difficult to comprehend) that the now global climate marches appear to be led by Rockefeller’s multi-million “scruffy little outfit” 350.org [1], the NGO at the helm of all these machinations is still Global Call for Climate Action (TckTckTck) – an NGO with a slightly damaged patina – damage extensive enough that they obscure their clout from the glare of the public spectacle. This is a simple sleight of hand considering 350.org is a founding partner of GCCA.

“GCCA worked behind the scenes for over a year to prepare for the biggest date in 2014, leveraging every possible asset and contact to rally around the historic Peoples’ Climate March in the run-up to the UN Climate Leaders Summit…. In the preceding months, GCCA convened weekly calls with key partners 350.org, Avaaz, USCAN and Climate Nexus to catalyse activities and identify gaps…. Everything came together on the day as we bore witness to the world’s biggest ever climate march, and inspiring events across the globe, with world leaders, business people, activists, parents and artists walking shoulder-to-shoulder.” — GCCA Annual Report 2014

GCCA, an initiative that began in Bali (2007) with a $300,000 funding commitment from the Quebec government, is a “coalition of twenty key international organizations” including Avaaz, 350.org, Greenpeace , Kofi Annan’s Global Humanitarian Forum, OXFAM, WWF, World Council of Churches, Union of Concerned Scientists, Equiterre, Global Call to Action against Poverty (also co-chaired by Kumi Naidoo), and the Pew Environment Group. [Source]

+++

On February 19, 2015, the co-opted CJN! listserv shared a communiqué in regard to the divestment campaign with the following subject line: “Fossil fuel divestment seems to frighten London financial bourgeoisie.”

This “observation” amounts to willful blindness at its best.

The first question to ask of any campaign is this: What do the oligarchs wish to gain via the financing of this campaign? Aside from the shaping, managing and over-seeing/controlling of (and even the creation of) “movements” – while simultaneously possessing the ability to effectively enforce self-censorship via what amounts to an unspoken, agreed upon alibi – oligarchs are primarily interested in not only maintaining power, but also expanding it. (A quick glimpse into the demise of real movements since foundation funding started flowing like the River Nile in the sixties confirms this to be true, with a prime example being the funding used to counteract and destroy the powerful and revolutionary Black Power movement while using its largess to appropriate any remaining shards after its demise.) The capitalist’s way to expand power is via the pursuit, expansion and capture of capital, furthering profits and market share. Thus, when we ask what oligarchs wish to gain via the financing of particular campaigns, one must always consider not only how the campaign could/will affect capital but also the ideologies surrounding capital.

Using the Keystone XL (KXL) campaign as an example, the billionaire Warren Buffett (financial advisor and close confidant to Barack Obama) legally funneled over 26 million dollars (as of 2011) into the Tides foundation. In turn, Tides doled out the money to NGOs that would campaign against the tar sands pipelines, including the KXL, which became the focal point of not only all tar sands campaigns, but the primary focal point of the “environmental movement” in North America. Hence, while all eyes were on a single pipeline (KXL) for years, Buffet built a billion dollar rail dynasty with zero dissent. Today, more oil is being produced in North America than ever before. In 2013, rail delivered 407,761 carloads of crude (approx. 300 million barrels of oil). This amounts to more than a 4,000% increase from 9,500 carloads in 2008. [Source: The Association of American Railroads.] No one blinked an eye when on July 6, 2013 a train carrying Bakken Formation crude annihilated downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec killing 47, 5  of whom were literally vapourized. Many more environmental disasters and explosions due to crude-via-rail derailments would follow, as would more deaths.

Both framing and language is paramount in the social engineering of a global populace. Consider the media headlines for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) Divestment announcement that strategically coincided with the aforementioned “People’s Climate March” and the United Nations climate summit that followed in NYC on September 23, 2014. The words “Rockefellers”, “divest”, “$860 million”, and “$50 billion” flooded the media and social networks. The rash of  announcements were met with admiration by many. Yet upon closer inspection, the RBF (the smaller Rockefeller foundation founded in 1940) divested a portion (7%) of its 860 million-dollar fund, which is the equivalent of $60 million (within a 5-year period). The “50 billion” repeatedly cited was a reference to the multiple “philanthropies and high-wealth individuals” which/whom together owned $50 billion in assets and had pledged to divest from fossil fuels over five years “using a variety of approaches” since the campaign was launched in 2011 – with the RBF comprising part of the 50-group coalition (Global Divest-Invest Coalition) who made the announcement. One question which does not arise is this: why are “philanthropies and high-wealth individuals” (including 650 individuals and 180 institutions) who/which hoard/control/own $50 billion dollars, tolerated by society at all? Considering the divestment campaign sells itself as a “moral” issue, it is revealing that the ethics behind so few people controlling so much monetary wealth never comes into question.

10624626_379929975493229_2953284548497180345_n

In 2014, global fossil fuel assets (oil, gas and coal) were valued at approx. $US 5-trillion. In comparison, assets belonging to Rockefeller Brothers Fund amount to approximately $US 860-million while the Rockefeller Foundation (founded in 1913) has assets of approximately $$US 4.2-billion (2014). And although the divestment campaign boasts that hundreds of institutions, local governments and individuals, (which represents over $US 50-billion in assets as of September 2014) have pledged to divest from fossil fuels, one must note that the Rockefeller Foundation— has shown no such desire. Nor have other powerful institutions/foundations such as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (with $US 9-billion in assets) or the David & Lucile Packard Foundation (with $US 7-billion in assets).

The heirs of the Rockefeller Family Fund (founded in 1967) maintain ties to the RFB. They also retained their personal stock in Exxon Mobil which made gains in 2014 of approx. 11%. While many believed that Exxon’s rejection of divestment was based upon fear of big money moving against it (i.e. “stranded assets“) – the Rockefeller Foundation and the RFF’s decision to hold onto their Exxon shares (along with the Rockefeller heirs) demonstrated that this premise was largely false.

Fast forward to 2015. How quickly things can change. November 13, 2015, Bloomberg: “OPEC reports the biggest oil glut in a decade.” As oil prices drop, demand/consumption continues to climb (globally by 1.8 million barrels per day to 94.6 million in 2015), while growth for the world economy continues to stand still. On October 1, 2015 it was reported that the according to the International Energy Agency, global oil demand was climbing at the fastest rate in five years. By December 2, 2016, committed pledges to divest from fossil fuels would reach $3.4 trillion. Floating oil storage (tankers), rolling oil storage (rail cars) and oil storage terminals became sought after commodities. On December 2, 2015, Bloomberg reported that the US is ploughing billions into infrastructure (with the various projects well underway) to pump the oil back underground into massive salt calverns, as well as additional storage facilities/terminals. Each calvern will hold 3.5 million barrels of oil.

Why? Not because of the divestment campaign, but rather because of a rare occurrence with a far greater significance. The global economy has become stagnant. Capitalism has reached it’s limits. And under the capitalist economic system, if the economy does not grow, it will collapse. Hence the need for new markets. Hence the need for a third industrial revolution. Hence the need for the global financialization of nature.

The Global Economy is Flying Close to Stall Speed

Oct 22, 2015:

“We are flying at close to stall speed,” Dr Summers said at the Center for American Progress business and economic policy conference.”

Rarely in our history does such a situation – to dismantle capitalism – present itself. Which begs the question – why are “movements” focused on saving the fledgling economic system rather than destroying it? The answer can be found in one word: privilege.

World Bank on Growth

“The expanding crisis is a symptom of capitalism in an advanced state of disintegration…. All of these crises are surface manifestations of something more profound: the crisis of the world capitalist system itself. This crisis brings with it the danger of world war and a descent into barbarism. At the same time, it creates the objective basis for the overthrow of the capitalist system—the radicalization of the working class internationally.” [Source]

So much for Naomi Klein’s primary thesis of “Capitalism vs. the Climate“. Those of you who believed the intent of Klein’s book project (financed by the elites) was to actually dismantle the capitalist system must be sorely disappointed.  With the industrialised economy now essentially on life support, the NPIC, in which Klein is embedded, is doing everything in its power to keep it alive.

Klein Reformist Capitalism 2

Public relations knocks. On March 23, 2016 the RFF (130 million in holdings, 6% of the portfolio in fossil-fuel investments) announced it would withdraw all investments in fossil fuel companies “as quickly as possible” while publicly highlighting concerns/criticisms of Exxon Mobil. Exxon Mobil became engulfed in a PR nightmare when in September of 2016, the corporation was internationally exposed for deliberately covering up critical climate documents decades ago.

The  effective (and well-deserved) slandering of Exxon timed with an historical global oil glut, served as a key opportunity for the insignificant RFF to bask the Rockefeller brand in the bright green spot light of divestment that 350.org et al. would bestow with zeal. A promise to divest “as quickly as possible” (allowing for up to 5 years) painted the ruthless and apathetic Rockefeller brand with one high-gloss, broad, green stroke.

Divest, Invest but Don’t Contest

Intermingled investment portfolios and limited partnerships are not required by law to disclose their investments and trading activities, thus, even large institutions  that may oblige to take divestment as an undertaking, will more often than not, have no comprehension, on any given day whether they are invested in fossil fuels or not. Further still,  for an institution to rid itself of all fossil fuel holdings (keeping in mind the reality that most every traded commodity on Earth is carbon based, carbon dependent or both, from cradle to grave), this would entail great caution presiding over a painfully slow process that ensures board members do not breach their fiduciary trust to keep the said fund solvent. In essence, this legal provision dictates that those who run corporations have a legal duty to shareholders first and foremost – a duty to maximize wealth (at every quarter) – infinitely. Not doing so can leave board directors and officers open to being sued by shareholders. It is telling that although the NPIC spends billions on environmental and climate campaigns, it does not seek/obtain legal council to abolish this outdated, ludicrous (and dangerous) law once and for all.

And while the atrocious act of corporations (protected by law) maximizing their profits for their shareholders, first and foremost, has been completely accepted and normalized, the racket of “interest” (money generating money; which was best described as the “fetishism of capital” by the economist Karl Marx, whose words are becoming more prescient everyday) has been firmly established in western society as an irrefutable fact of life – akin to breathing. And although it is understood by most that the payment of interest causes much hardship, stress and misery for the grossly exploited working class, the collective acclimatization to paying interest (to the rich) is so ingrained, it is difficult to imagine a society without it. And yet this exists in many societies throughout the Middle East (such as Libyan society before it’s grotesque annihilation led by the NATO States) via Islamic Banking Principles. Most American’s are likely unaware that Islam’s prohibition of interest and usury was not unprecedented. Renowned Greek philosopher, Aristotle, condemned acquiring of wealth by the practice of charging interest on money: “Money was intended to be a means of exchange; interest represents an increase in the money itself. Hence of all ways of getting wealth, this is the most contrary to nature.” Aristotle, The Politics, tr. Sinclair, pg. 46, Penguin [Source]

Clean Energy Infrastructure as Stranded Assets

To revisit the concept of stranded assets in regard to conventional fossil fuels, this notion is based upon the premise that conventional infrastructure and the associated commodity will become stranded following governments soon/eventual implementation of specific climate legislation [2] and/or increasingly stringent climate policies that would result in the commodity no longer being able to turn a profit– thus it would become stranded. Yet a stronger argument could be made for “clean” energy” infrastructure becoming stranded since it is also carbon based/dependent although this inconvenient truth remains unacknowledged in environmental circles. Consider the fact that climate science aside, humans are rapidly exhausting all Earth’s natural resources. (October, 2010: “…our demand on natural resources has doubled since 1966 and we’re using the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support our activities. If we continue living beyond the Earth’s limits, by 2030 we’ll need the equivalent of two planets’ productive capacity to meet our annual demands.”) And although this sounds ludicrous to the privileged who take most every aspect of the Earth’s life sources for granted, the warning is taken very seriously by the heads of NASA. Consider the response by Administrator of NASA, Charles Bolden speaking at the Humans to Mars summit:

“If this species is to survive indefinitely we need to become a multi-planet species. We need to go to Mars, and Mars is a stepping stone to other solar systems.” (Note that the quest to place greenhouses on and colonize Mars is well underway.

Thus, let us assume that to start, by 2020, just 4 short years away, the 60 trillion (needed for “clean” infrastructure alone) is raised. The task then becomes the companies creating this infrastructure fulfilling the promise of return on these investments by now building/creating the new global infrastructure. Unparalleled quantities of rare earth metals must be mined (by machines dependent on crude). The steel, copper, glass, as well as the energy required (and fossil fuels) to build infrastructure of this scale will be unprecedented. And it will generate massive growth as our Earth continues to be plundered.

But what of the Earth’s resources being completely depleted by 2030 as predicted by scientists – what then of the sixty trillion dollar investment – with monetary returns no longer insight? These uncompleted infrastructures, due to depleted resources, will be, without doubt, stranded assets. It’s hard to believe we are going to use what little of Earth’s finite resources that remain to fulfil the promise of climate wealth, by building a new “clean energy” infrastructure, rather than radically conserving and attempting to nourish, what remains. Consider that a mere half of 1% of the total energy consumed in the U.S. is generated by wind, solar, biofuels, or geothermal heat. Despite much touted efforts in Germany, Spain, and China, globally, in 2013, 1.1% of the world’s total energy was provided by wind with only 0.2% by solar.[Source | Source] Thus, imagine the magnitude of infrastructure required to increase the world’s total energy from renewables up to even 50%. It is unfathomable. It is this promise of unparalleled growth (under the guise of sustainability) that has the insatiable capitalists circling the climate crisis like voracious vultures. Rubbing salt in the wound is the fact that this new infrastructure will serve the same people that have always had the energy – the same 1% (anyone who can afford to get on a plane) responsible for 50% of the global GHG emissions. To put this into perspective, consider that only 5% of the world’s population has ever flown. [Source]

While many scientists, including NASA, note that the prospect that “global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution”, the fact that sought after renewable systems such as solar thermal panels will not only push us towards this collapse but also, cannot exist outside of an industrialized civilization, appear to non-existent. The proverbial 8000 lb. elephant in the room is documented in a 2009 paper by professor of Atmospheric Studies at the University of Utah, Tim Garrett. Nov. 22, 2009: “In a provocative new study, a University of Utah scientist argues that rising carbon dioxide emissions – the major cause of global warming – cannot be stabilized unless the world’s economy collapses….”

“But most centrally, alternative energy spectacles protect us from considering our own growth, in consumption and population, which could not otherwise come to a peaceful end within the logic of the current expansionist milieu.” — Conjuring Clean Energy: Exposing Green Assumptions in Media and Academia, February 13, 2015

Let’s Pretend

But let’s pretend that Earth’s resources are infinite. It is assumed (foolishly) that fossil fuel power plants will be shut down once adequate solar and wind energy infrastructure is established. To date, there appears to be not a single example of a fossil fuel power plant that has closed, due to solar and wind. Under the industrialized capitalist system, logic conveys that this fact will not change in the future. In real life (not foundation financed campaigns that pander to public) the energy producers understand that all/any additional energy that may be produced via “renewables” will result in more energy to use/sell/waste and feed the engine of industrialized growth. This is the naked truth, which speaks to the very inconvenient truth upheld by the capitalist system. In a world built upon both denial and fantasy, techno-fetish made vogue, is the preferred choice.

acid mining

Post-closure coal mine AMD (acid mining drainage) treatment on the East Rand, South Africa (Source: Future Terrains)

All non-ambient energy creates pollution and destruction, including renewables which are carbon based and dependent on carbon resources from cradle to grave – coupled with built-in obsolescence by design. Even when small or local in scale, renewable energy aids and abets growth, accelerates global warming, and contributes to further ecological destruction. Further ecological damage is caused by rare earth mining, as well as the acid drainage type mining for the necessary materials and special metals such as copper and lead. Added to this ecological devastation are the fossil fuels required/used for the mining and manufacturing of the renewable products and infrastructure.  After the manufacturing they are transported using large-scale industrial equipment also dependent on crude. Finally, all these same resources are non-renewable. These very inconvenient facts are ignored. In a perfect world, in another time, perhaps renewable energies will be made of butterfly kisses and rare, precious Earth minerals will fall from the sky.

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Acid mine drainage in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

University of California physics professor Tom Murphy has calculated that “the batteries required to store this electricity in the U.S. alone (otherwise no electricity at night or during cloudy or windless spells) would require about three times as much lead as geologists estimate may exist in all reserves, most of which remain unknown.  If you count only the lead that we’ve actually discovered, Murphy explains, we only have 2% of the lead available for our national battery project.  The number are even more disheartening if you try to substitute lithium ion or other systems now only in the research phase.” [Source]

acid mining 4

Cyanide Leach Mining and Acid Mine Drainage imperils the Futaleufu River Valley. Mine Tailings, Sudbury Ontario, Canada, photo: Edward Burtnyski

To not consider renewable energy infrastructures, global in scale, as equally contributing to growth, ecological destruction and climate change is willful blindness. Such willful blindness is sought after and fervently embraced by the same 1% of the population that creates 50% of all global greenhouse gas emissions today. Considering the magnitude of the task before us, it is little wonder we prefer stories, in which we write the script with a storyline of our liking. Our frail egos do not accept there are consequences to having plundered our planet in which the outcome will be dictated by nature.

lithium mexico

La Ventana Drilling Results, Sonora Lithium Project Mexico

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The brine pools and processing areas of the Soquimich lithium mine on the Atacama salt flat. This is the planet’s second largest salt flat, located in the Atacama desert of northern Chile

COPPER _1_copy.sized

Bingham Canyon Copper Mine | © 2005 Mark Gulbrandsen

Chuquicamata copper mine, Chile-Aerial view of Chuquicamata copper mine

Chuquicamata copper mine, Chile

“Debord wrote that “the society which rests on modern industry is not accidentally or superficially spectacular, it is fundamentally spectaclist.” Perhaps he could have spoken similarly about modern energy or modern environmentalism. Debord’s spectacle is a divine deity around which duty-bound citizens gravitate to chant objectives without reflecting upon fundamental goals. It’s all too easy for us to miss the limitations of alternative energy, Debord might say, as we drop to our knees at the foot of the clean energy spectacle, gasping in rapture. This oracle delivers a ready-made creed of ideals and objectives that are convenient to recite and that bear the authority of science. These handy notions of clean energy reflexively work into environmental discourse. And as we have seen here, productivist environmentalists enroll media to tattoo wind, solar and biofuels into the subcutaneous flesh of the environmental movement. In fact, these novelties come to define what it means to be an environmentalist. And environmentalist’s aren’t the only ones lining up for ink.” — Conjuring Clean Energy: Exposing Green Assumptions in Media and Academia

Through the Lens of Deception – Burning Trees & Injecting C02 into Seas

co2 injected into seas

The Sleipner project: The injection rate of almost one million tons per year makes the project one of the largest demonstrations of CCS in the world to date.

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Aerial view of clearcut. Small clumps of trees left during clearcutting for biomass, in compliance with Nova Scotia’s Wildlife Habitat and Watercourse Protection Regulation © ECELAW- jamie Simpson

Divesting from fossil fuels and investing into a “clean economy” (for the wealthy) is predicated on market solutions. One such example is the pursuit of “clean coal”, which translates into the illusory carbon capture and storage technology and therefore ultimately translates into business as usual. The terminology “green energy” is equated with environmental stewardship and sustainability. Yet, behind closed doors, a large proportion of what corporations and states constitute as society’s perception of “green” energy is all but lost. A green energy plan or portfolio, as viewed by industry, investors, states, etc. is predominantly comprised of biomass and bio-fuel—by far two of the most damaging sources of energy. Yet under the guise of “clean energy” and the “new economy”, plans to expand these two deadly sources of energy continue to proliferate with the International Energy Agency (IEA) expecting a five-fold increase in wood-burning power plants and a threefold increase in biofuels by 2035. Another form of “clean energy” already taking place, unbeknownst to most all global citizens is the injection of CO2 into the ocean. Industry is already injecting CO2 on an industrial scale in the sandstone, in the North Sea and also in the Bering Sea in greater water depths. [Source]

Environmentalism is Dead – Replaced by Anthropocentrism

Anthro 1

The acquiescence to the burning of billions of trees under the guise of environmental stewardship is both particularly disturbing—and revealing. Consider that bio-fuel, that is the growing of crops/grains/plants for fuel rather than food, was challenged by many environmentalists in the past. Yet the same argument, with the same key issues when applied to growing grain for direct human consumption, rather than growing grain for industrialized livestock, which is then brought to the market for human consumption, is avoided at all costs. Two questions must be asked. When did “environmentalists” stop caring about sentient beings, and, when did “environmentalists” stop caring about trees?  The answer is 1) long ago, and 2) disturbing. Collectively, postmodern Western society has been acclimatized to believe/accept that anthropocentrism is environmentalism and anthropocentrists are environmental activists. This is an anthropocentrism that believes in, and caters to white supremacy, even if this belief is subconscious or subtle (aversive racism). This must be considered one of the best examples of successful social engineering to date, as financed by the world’s most powerful oligarchs.

sacrilege-2 (2)

A modern day “radical” movement such as Black Lives Matter™ is a “movement” that would (and perhaps has) make a past revolutionary such as Stokley Carmichael roll over in his grave. Naomi Klein™ has never been and never will be a Marilyn  Buck – to even write the two names together in the same sentence feels sacrilege. The fierce revolutionaries that still exist, such as Omali Yeshitela are a rare, endangered species. Largely invisible behind the blinding light the oligarchs bask upon their chosen “leaders” such as McKibben™, Klein™ et al. The genocide being carried out against Indigenous leaders of warrior/matriarchal Indigenous tribes continues under the global dome of patriarchy. Euro-Americans who identify with those chosen by our oligarchs are more than happy to ignore the revolutionaries on the front lines of the struggle, ” demanding” (clicking) justice for those who toil in mines, while simultaneously demanding a new global infrastructure of “clean” energy absolutely dependent on steel, copper, lithium, rare Earth/precious minerals acquired only by land theft/displacement and  the expansion of mining. The fact that the miners use essentially none of what is mined for their own lives, that all is captured and used for the west, for luxury/lifestyle, doesn’t even cross the mind of the audience targeted by the NPIC. Critical thinking is a largely dead concept.

“If we had as many people fighting for the revolution as we have fighting for useless voting rights and re-enfranchisement we might actually have something going on here. That’s bourgeois democracy in a nutshell: people fighting for the right to be equally fucked by the system, as long as it’s not so flagrant as being denied one’s right to vote.” — Jeff Weinberger

The Sell

The simple answer is that the 1% creating 50% of the all global greenhouse gas emissions must use a radically less amount of everything. Of course this reality is far less exciting than the dream of a consumerist green utopia. Impressing this green utopia as delusional upon the masses is even more difficult when collectively, your target audience has been spoon-fed entitlement, narcissism and privilege, since birth. The necessity to radically and drastically cut back all forms of consumption (which by default reduces demand for energy) flies in the face of a global economy intermarried and dependent upon infinite growth. Under the industrialized capitalist economy – no solutions outside of market solutions will be pursued or campaigned upon. Thus society, with youth as the sacrificial lambs of the 21st century at the forefront, is fed a lie – which is voraciously consumed. The path to “sustainability” is to follow the oligarchs yellow brick road to the “new” economy— paved in foundation dollars. The necessity for a radical contraction of consumption by the privileged is replaced with “solutions” comprised of more infrastructures, more technology, “green” consumption, more mining, more burning of fossil fuels, more growth—all of which will benefit (only in the short-term) the same 1% who have created and continue to accelerate the nightmare. Ask us for the moon. Even for Mars. But don’t ask us to change.

Bearing Witness. The Foundation is Laid. Assigning Monetary Value to Nature.

PES 1

“Those who have been raised in the world of conservation may find it hard to adjust to a future where ecosystem assets and services are priced, invested in and traded, but this is an experiment that the world is now embarked upon—and must energetically pursue.” — The Biosphere Economy, 2010

On October 3, 1937 US President Franklyn D. Roosevelt, wrote that he found an editorial published by a “Great Falls Paper” on the “balancing the budget of our resources”, most compelling. Of course it is extremely doubtful (but not impossible) that Roosevelt’s interest was of pathological intent as is the case today. In the same vein as the funding/development of genetically engineered Golden Rice having commenced decades ago, the economic system/infrastructure for the commodification of all nature is not a new idea.

The concept of an ecosystem was first used in 1935. The term ecosystem was coined by British botanist Arthur Roy Clapham, at the bequest of British ecologist Arthur Tansley. In 1953 leading ecosystem ecologists Eugene P. Odum and Howard T. Odum (brothers ) published Fundamentals of Ecology. This publication (one of the most successful ecology textbooks ever published) made the ecosystem concept the central organizing principle of ecology. In 1970 Merton Love, agronomist and range scientist at the University of California, Davis, argued that “in time we would be able to manage wilderness much as we had learned to manage our agricultural systems. His vision was of total human control over ecosystems.” [Source]

The concept/theory of ecosystem services was not fully utilized until the 1980s and 1990s. A milestone in the monetization of ecosystem services (ES) was reached in 1997 when Costanza et al. published a dollar estimate of the value of the ES of the entire planet. [Source: Have Ecosystem Services Been Oversold?] The theory was formalized in 2005 upon the publication of UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report. While the original definition put forward by Gretchen Daily (co-founder of the Natural Capital Project) distinguished  ecosystem goods from ecosystem services, Robert Costanza and colleagues’ later work and that of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment lumped all of these together as ecosystem services. [3]

As an adjunct to more easily enable people to accept this lunacy being pawned off as fact, the NPIC is most adept at co-opting and sanitizing civil rights leaders such as MLK in order to further their brand. They steal the legitimacy and credibility of those now deceased to facilitate the present credibility and legitimacy of their efforts they cannot achieve on their own. Simply because they can truly possess neither by any rationale, unbiased analysis. How grotesque it is to destroy someone’s work, reputation and legacy when they are not even here to defend themselves. Perhaps nowhere has such gross co-optation occurred as what is now underway with the work of E.F. Schumacher. The very thing he strongly opposed – assigning monetary value to nature, is now being pushed forward and implemented by institutions who affiliate themselves with his name and work.

The term ‘natural capital’ was first used by in 1973 by economist and author E.F. Schumacher. There is irony in the fact that Schumacher was very critical of the ideology behind reducing everything in life to a monetary value within a market-based framework, stating that:

“In the market place, for practical reasons, innumerable qualitative distinctions which are of vital importance for man and society are suppressed; they are not allowed to surface. Thus the reign of quantity celebrates its greatest triumphs in ‘The Market’. Everything is equated with everything else. To equate things means to give them a price and thus to make them exchangeable. To the extent that economic thinking is based on the market, it takes the sacredness out of life, because there can be nothing sacred in something that has a price. Not surprisingly, therefore, if economic thinking pervades the whole of society. even simple non-economic values like beauty, health, or cleanliness can survive only if they prove to be ‘economic’.

To press non-economic values into the framework of the economic calculus, economists use the method of cost/benefit analysis. This is generally thought to be an enlightened and progressive development, as it is at least an attempt to take account of costs and benefits which might otherwise be disregarded al- together. In fact, however, it is a procedure by which the higher is reduced to the level of the lower and the priceless is given a price, It can therefore never serve to clarify the situation and lead to an enlightened decision. All it can do is lead to self-deception or the deception of others; for to undertake to measure the immeasurable is absurd and constitutes but an elaborate method of moving from preconceived notions to foregone conclusions; all one has to do to obtain the desired results is to impute suitable values to the immeasurable costs and benefits. The logical absurdity, however, is not the greatest fault of the undertaking: what is worse, and destructive of civilisation, is the pretence that everything has a price or, in other words, that money is the highest of all values.” [Source: Small is Beautiful, 1973]

Further irony arises with Schumacher’s name being co-opted by the NPIC as a key tool to build acquiescence for the assigning of monetary value to nature, with key players assigned to this task such as Bill McKibben (The Next System) who wrote a new forward for the 2010 edition of Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful first published in 1973. In the decade that followed, the recently “killed” (“we’re going to have to kill green,” Jeremy Heimans) term “green economy” was coined in the Blueprint for a Green Economy (paper by Pearce, Markandya, and Barbier (1989). Today the term “natural capital” is identified as the Natural Capitalism economic model of “climate wealth” proponents Paul Hawken [676], Amory Lovins, and Hunter Lovins who  in 1999 released their book: Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. Hawken claimed that the term natural capitalism was misinterpreted adding that while he endorses “the spirit” of commerce and entrepreneurship, he does not endorse the “pathological” qualities inherent in “pure” capitalism.” The Natural Capitalism website states “it seems proper to declare that interest by listing our personal and institutional private-sector clienteles (omitting our larger public-sector and non-profit clienteles) during the past decade, which dates the (public) commencement of the project back to 1989—27 years ago.

“…we’ll build the green economy, but we just won’t talk about it and we won’t say that we’re doing it.” —Jeremy Heimans (Avaaz/Purpose co-founder, B Team), 2012

Natural Capitalism, Creating the Next Industrial Revolution Website:

“Our research and work were partly supported by grants from the Surdna, Columbia, Geraldine R. Dodge, MacArthur, Energy, Joyce, Aria, William and Flora Hewlett, Sun Hill, Charles Stewart Mott, Turner, and Goldman foundations, as well as the Educational Foundation of America, Environmental Protection Agency, G.A.G. Charitable Corporation, Merck Family Fund, J. M. Kaplan Fund, and Wallace Global Fund. Our appreciation for this support extends far beyond the publication of this book. These and other funders are investing in the preservation and restoration of the life on this planet, and are leaders all.”

It must be noted here that many of these same foundations are today at the forefront of the now global divestment campaign with Wallace Global Fund, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the John Merck Fund, and at the forefront.

The full list of those involved/associated with the development of Natural Capitalism is both immense and incomplete. Personal and institutional private-sector clienteles (not including larger public-sector and non-profit clienteles):

Aerovironment, American Development Group, Arthur D. Little, Ashland Chemical, Aspen Ski Co., Atlantic Electric, AT&T, Baxter, Bayernwerk, Bechtel, Ben & Jerry’s, Bosal, Boston Consulting Group, Boston Edison, BP, Calvert, Carrier div. of UTC, Cesar Pelli, CH2M Hill, Ciba-Geigy, Citicorp, Collins & Aikman, ComEd, Continental Office, Daimler-Chrysler, Datafusion, Delphi, Diamonex, Dow Chemical, Emmett Realty, Esprit de Corps, First Chicago Building, Florida P&L, General Mills, GM, Gensler, Global Business Network, Grand Wailea Resort, Herman Miller, Hexcel, Hines, Honda, Hong Kong Electric, HP, IBM, Imagine Foods, Interface, Landis & Gyr, Levi Strauss & Co., Lockheed Martin, Michelin, Minnesota Power, Mitsubishi Electric, Mitsubishi Motor Sales America, Monsanto, Motorola, Nike, Nissan, Nokia, Norsk Hydro, Northface, NYSE&G, Odwalla, Ontario Hydro, OG&E, Osaka Gas, Patagonia, PG&E, PGE, Phillips Petroleum, Prince div. of Johnson Controls, Rieter, Royal Dutch/Shell, Sage J.B. Goodman Properties, Schott Glas, Schweizer, SDG&E, Searle, Shearson Lehmann Amex, STMicroelectronics, Stonyfield Farms, Sun Microsystems, Sun [Oil], Swiss Bank Corp./UBS, UniDev, Unipart, US West, Volvo, VW, Xerox, and Zoltek.

Prior to the formation and development of Natural Capitalism as an economic model, Natural Capitalism authors Amory Lovins, and Hunter Lovins, co-founded Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) in 1982. In December of 2014 RMI merged with Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room. [“RMI now has approximately 75 full-time staff, an annual budget of $12 million, and a global reach and reputation. RMI advances market-based solutions, engaging businesses, communities, and institutions to cost-effectively shift to efficiency and renewables. We employ rigorous research, analysis, and whole-systems expertise to develop breakthrough insights. We then convene and collaborate with diverse partners—business, government, academic, nonprofit, philanthropic, and military—to accelerate and scale solutions.”]

The predominant terminology that appears today, “ecosystem services”, “natural capital”, the “biosphere economy”, “The Next System“, “regenerative capitalism”, “new economy”, etc. can be viewed as the decided-upon, politically correct terms identified by marketing executives as the terminology most palpable (and non-alarming) to global citizens – ready for public consumption after 27 years of meticulous finesse.

Note that the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) contains the internationally agreed upon standard concepts, definitions, classifications, accounting rules and tables for producing internationally comparable statistics on the environment and its relationship with the economy. Coordination of the implementation of the SEEA and on-going work on new methodological developments is managed and supervised by the UN Committee of Experts on Environmental-Economic Accounting (UNCEEA). The final, official version of the SEEA Central Framework was published in February 2014. [“The UNCEEA is a body composed of senior representatives from national statistical offices and international organizations. The SEEA Central Framework was released jointly by the UN, European Commission, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.”] Other key organizations behind the commodification of the commons include the Natural Capital Coalition and the Natural Capital Declaration and Roadmap, Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), World Bank’s Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVE) and scores of others (many to be discussed further in this report). Many organizations/institutions/NGOs serve as instrumental in the development and implementation of the financialization of nature/payments for ecosystem services (PES)while most all environmental NGOS serve the over-all goal by providing simple distraction, silence and discourse.

The steadfast work in the goal to commodify the commons is not far off in the future. It is well underway. The ties and organizations to manifest this goal into a global reality are complex and convoluted hidden behind a marketed narrative. A narrative that global citizens will unite behind in the demand for a “new  economy”.

Never has the phrase “be careful what you wish for’ been so apt and prophetic.

“The NPIC’S networked hegemony is propagated with a perversion of bio-mimicry. The complexity of the tangled and institutionalised tendrils make it virtually incomprehensible.” — activist/journalist Michael Swifte

The goal to capture the commons has been heavily financed and under development for at minimum 27 years (the “gradual strategy”).  As previously stated, the schemes, campaigns and ideologies that foundations support via finance (i.e. investment), are always systematic, never haphazard. Thus, it stands to logic that a long-term strategy may well be the complete and total capture/control of the Earth’s remaining water (via privatization), food (via genetic engineering), forests (via REDD), all life (via privatization/financialization of nature/PES), and the Earths remaining fossil fuels (via divestment). Divestment could well be the ultimate long con. The elite give the windmills, solar panels and the “clean energy” portfolios to the liberals and the 1% status quo, (note that this encompasses 90 trillion between now and 2030 that is required for planned mega-infrastructure projects, which is up from initial estimates of $60-70 trillion as of 2015) while behind private investments, hedge funds and closed doors, the global super elite will invest/capture and control the planets most valuable remaining natural resources (all required for the “third industrial revolution”) as we spin into climate chaos.

Although such a hypothesis may seem a bit far-fetched to some, it is not inconceivable considering foundations and think-tanks lead in the intense study of, and shaping of, behavioural change. These same foundations/institutions have not only shaped whole societies, they have designed, thus altered the history of modern man. We are a socially-engineered species; a product of social engineering rather than a process of having evolved naturally. The time involved in commercializing all aspects of society until saturation was achieved amongst the populace (ensuring tomorrow’s ‘consumers’ would submissively acquiesce to an ideology of mass-commodification and privatization) would have been well-understood by foundations and think-tanks alike. Considering the 21st century explosion of land and water grabs that has gone hand in hand with little public interest shown (let alone dissent) in the race to privatize and commodify the Earth’s remaining commons, such a hypothesis is deserving of both consideration and further investigation. One thing is certain: there is nothing in progress today that has not been tactically designed and deployed to quench the desires and expectations of the elite establishment.

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To illustrate and give credence to this hypothesis, it is somewhat fascinating to note the following occurrence. In 1996, Public Good uncovered legal papers linking Fortuna Alliance (previously Whole Earth Alliance) to the Constitutionalist movement. The resultant action by the Federal Trade Commission was the largest ever taken involving fraud on the Internet. The white supremacist Christian Patriot pyramid scheme at the time was raking in millions from gullible New Agers who thought they were building “a new world economy“. [Source] The point being, language and framing have long been perhaps the most critical of efficacious strategies exploited by the elites. Media, employing the right language and repetition, can effectively and effortlessly seduce and manipulate an entire populace.

 

Divestment Timeline:

  • 350.org “Do The Math Tour” (lays the foundation for a illusory carbon budget and divestment campaign)
  • McKibben and Klein (350.org board member) create/develop the divestment campaign based on the 2011 Carbon Tracker report (Financial Times)
  • Those inside the 350.org organization, state that the divestment campaign was developed in consultation with their “friends on Wall Street”
  • Divestment campaign launched November 7, 2012
  • Establish framing and language: carbon budget, carbon bubble (coined by Carbon Tracker), stranded assets,
  • Saturate media with carbon bubble/stranded assets and carbon budget articles [Example: The Guardian: Countries most exposed to the carbon bubble – map, April 19, 2013 – The term carbon bubble on The Guardian website generates “about 16,300 results” accessed March 17, 2015
  • The term stranded assets on The Guardian website generates “about 1,890 results” accessed March 17, 2015
  • The term carbon budget on The Guardian website generates “about 8,530 results” accessed March 17, 2015
  • Hype notion that conventional fossil fuels will lose all value in near future despite the fact that the sought-after “clean energy economy” is infinitely carbon based and fossil fuel dependent
  • Ignore fact the fact that 1% of the world are creating 50% of all global GHG emissions (the target audience)
  • Institutions endorse carbon bubble/ stranded assets and carbon budget ideologies
  • The final, official version of the SEEA Central Framework published (February 2014)
  • International media announcement/hype on divestment follows Peoples Climate March (September 2014)
  • Coincides with 350.org’s Klein’s book release This Changes Everything (September 2014)
  • The IMF and World Bank Group, identify a reduction in the growth of the global economy as a primary risk to the world (October 10, 2014)
  • Can long-term global growth be saved? (January 2015, McKinsey and Company)
  • Naomi Klein (350.org) and documentary filmmaker Avi Lewis partner with The Guardian (March 10, 2015)
  • The United Nations endorses the now global divestment campaign (March 15, 2015)
  • 350.org partners with The Guardian (March 16, 2015)
  • Media-industrial complex manufactures super-star influential celebrity status for both McKibben and Klein
  • “The global economy is in serious trouble as emerging markets have basically taken a major turn down. We are flying at close to stall speed.” (Larry Summers, Financial Review, October 22, 2015)

 

End Notes:

[1] 350.org, now international in scope which continues to be referred to as a “grassroots” movement, despite the injection of millions from its nefarious silent partner, the Clinton Foundation (via 1Sky) at its inception and ongoing funding from the oligarchs in the millions.

[2] (by way of an internationally agreed upon carbon price or other policies such as increased regulations and associated costs/fees on issues such as pollution/environment, water consumption, public health, energy efficiency and mandates for renewable energy.)

[3] Brown, Thomas C.; John C. Bergstrom; John B. Loomis (2007). “Defining, valuing and providing ecosystem goods and services” (PDF). Natural Resources Journal 47 (2): 329–376

Smart Power & The Human Rights Industrial Complex

UK Column

March 15, 2016

by Patrick Henningsen

human-rights-21wire

Human rights in the West: does the reality live up to the rhetoric? On the surface, the cultural narrative seems innocent enough: billionaire philanthropists, political luminaries and transnational corporations, along with legions of staff and volunteers – all working together in the name of social justice, forging a better, fairer and more accountable world.

The story reads well on paper, and well it should. After all, the 20th century saw a string of failures by various governments to curb and halt some of the most horrific exhibitions of genocide and crimes against humanity. The door has been opened for many charities and human rights organizations to play a bigger role in moderating international affairs. Upon more rigorous inspection, however, what emerges is one of the most unfortunate realities of 21st century geopolitics. Though many human rights charities still market themselves as ‘neutral’ and ‘nonpartisan’, the reality is something very different. With public skepticism at an all-time high, the danger is clear: if conflicts of interest are not addressed in a serious way, they threaten to undermine the credibility of the entire non-governmental organization (NGO) sector internationally.

One difficult aspect in analyzing this struggle for ‘perception management’ is that most human rights and aid organizations are staffed and run by good, hard-working and extremely well-educated individuals, many of whom carry out their roles with an altruistic heart and with the best of intentions. For the most part, many remain unaware or uninterested in who actually funds their organisations and what those financial strings mean in terms of the what a given organisation’s stance will be on any range of geopolitical issues or military conflicts. It’s certainly true that over the years, sincere and dedicated campaigning by organisations has helped to free individuals who where unjustly imprisoned and achieved due process and justice for the dispossessed. It’s also true that many of these same organizations have helped to raise awareness on many important social and environmental issues.

Due to increased funding from corporate interests and direct links to government and policy think tanks in recent years, these organisations have become even more politicised, and more closely connected with western ‘agents of influence.’ As a result, an argument can be made that, on many levels, these ‘human rights’ organisations may be contributing to the very problem they profess to be working to abate: causing more suffering, death and instability worldwide through their co-marketing of the foreign policy objectives of Washington, London, Paris and Brussels.

The problem is both systemic and institutional in nature. As a result, many of the western world’s leading human rights organizations based in North America and Europe have become mirror reflections of a western foreign policy agenda and have become virtual clearing houses for interventionist propaganda.

Writer Stephanie McMillan describes the new role of the non governmental organizations in the 21st century:

Along with military invasions and missionaries, NGOs help crack countries open like ripe nuts, paving the way for intensifying waves of exploitation and extraction.

Outsourcing Consensus Building

Shaping western public perception and opinion on major international issues is essential if major world powers are to realise their foreign policy goals. Not surprisingly, we can see that many of the public positions taken by NGOs are exactly aligned with western foreign policy. In the Balkans War of the 1990’s, human rights groups supported partitioning. In the Ukraine in 2014 and with both Syria and Yemen in 2016 they supported regime change. In each instance NGOs function as public relations extension to a United Nations western member Security Council bloc, namely the US, UK and France. This collusion is manifest throughout the upper echelons of these organizations whose streamlined agenda conforms through a lucrative revolving door which exists between a cartel of western NGOs, government and media.

As western governments find themselves more heavily involved in long-term conflicts around the globe, the need to outsource their ethics and morals to NGOs becomes more apparent. Continuity between these symbiotic entities is essential if governments are to successfully frame the geopolitical narratives on which international human rights organizations so often derive their own public relations and fundraising campaigns. Together, all of these things converge to form a highly efficient, functioning alliance which could be described as a type of ‘government-media-human rights’ industrial complex.

Nowhere is this complex more evident than with the United States-led foreign policy towards Syria. By framing the Syrian Conflict (2011 to present) as a “civil war”, both western media and human rights organizations did their part in propping-up an important western foreign policy narrative. Inaccurate and distorted, this narrative has helped shield the US-led clandestine proxy war which has been allowed to carry on almost unimpeded below the surface narrative of western public perception. For mainstream US audiences, if truly known, the reality of Syria might be too much to bear – a US-backed guerrilla war where Washington and Ankara, along with NATO and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) allies, flooding Turkey and Syria with weapons, cash, equipment, social media teams, military trainers and foreign fighters from as a far away as Pakistan. When analyzed from this wider perspective, very little is ‘civil’ about the Syrian Conflict.

The Human Rights Industry

What was once a 20th century adjunct to an emerging international progressive movement has since mushroomed into a 21st century multi-billion dollar, internationalised ‘third sector’ concern – underwritten by some of the world’s leading transnational corporations. This impressive labyrinth is led by organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the Worldwide Human Rights Movement (FIDH). Each of these organisations has well-developed links leading directly into central governments, and perhaps more surprisingly, links leading straight into the heart of the military industrial complex. Safely cloaked under the official guise of ‘charity organisation’, many of these entities push a political agenda and effectively serve as public relations outlets for US and NATO forward military planning.

Working behind the public-facing human rights industrial complex is another key component which helps set the geopolitical agenda. Leading western governmental efforts are the White House and the US State Department. Behind the political facade, however, is where the real work takes place; a myriad of think tanks which serve as an unofficial academic-like support structure for managing policy planning, rolling out grand strategies and other big ideas. Some recognisable names in this industry are the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Brookings Institute, Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and Foreign Policy Initiative (the heir apparent to PNAC). These think tanks and foundations are also referred to as ‘policy mills’ because of their ability to churn-out volumes of policy ‘white papers’, surveys and strategic studies which are then disseminated through various industry journals and at functions, conferences and events in Washington DC and New York City. Certain think tanks, like the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf, were set-up in the 1990’s to push through specific foreign policy objectives – like kick-starting the war in Iraq. Where you find a war, you most certainly will find a think tank advocating behind it.

Follow the Money

To find the common thread between think tanks, foundations and human rights charities, one needs only to follow the money.

Many of these entities receive large portions of their funding from the same sources – transnational corporations. One large contributor of annual funding for human rights organisations, including HRW, is the controversial Wall Street billionaire George Soros, through his NGO the Open Society Institute. Other human rights organisations like FIDH which draw together some 178 organizations from 120 countries, receives funding from the US State Department by way of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Here we have a direct financial link which forms a ring connecting western governments, NGOs and charities.

One can argue, and successfully, that this nexus ensures that the output, ideas and marketing messages of each leg of a human rights campaign conforms to western foreign policy language and objectives.

Smart Power: Formerly of the US State Dept., now an NGO luminary, Suzanne Nossel

Washington’s HR Revolving Door

It’s no secret that a revolving door exists between the US State Department and many of the western world’s leading human rights organisations. That relationship can be gleaned from this CFR policy paper which states:

To advance from a nuanced dissent to a compelling vision, progressive policymakers should turn to the great mainstay of twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy: liberal internationalism, which posits that a global system of stable liberal democracies would be less prone to war … Washington, the theory goes, should thus offer assertive leadership – diplomatic, economic, and not least, military – to advance a broad array of goals: self-determination, human rights, free trade, the rule of law, economic development, and the quarantine and elimination of dictators and weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

That passage, taken in the context of the Syrian conflict, reveals a stark picture of how Washington really works. It was written by Suzanne Nossel, one of Washington’s most high-profile humanitarian advocates who managed to transition seamlessly from her position as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organisations at the US State Department – directly into an executive director position at Amnesty International USA in 2012. Prior to the State Dept., Nossel was also served as chief operating officer for Human Rights Watch, vice president of strategy and operations at the Wall Street Journal and a media and communications consultant to CFR founding corporate member, law firm McKinsey & Company.

Here we see a powerful public relations resumé, combined with established links to Washington’s foreign policy core, and at a time where multiple Middle Eastern nations states, like Libya and Syria, were being forced into submission under the yoke of US-led international pressure. Projecting Washington’s preferred narrative is paramount in this multilateral effort and Nossel would be a key bridge in helping to project US foreign policy messaging internationally through top tier NGO Amnesty.

2012 Amnesty International USA PR campaign.

Around this time, Amnesty USA launched a new PR campaign aimed at millennials and selling the following geopolitical narrative: “NO MORE EXCUSES: Russia has vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions while continually supplying arms, causing the violence to worsen.”

This digital and print campaign was also backed by rallies and other live events used to promote their anti-Russia and Anti-Syria PR effort. At one event in 2012, young school children in Nepal could be seen holding up signs that read, “Russia: Stop Arms Transfer to Syria!”.

When you consider its mirror reflection of foreign policy lines emanating from the US State Dept., it’s easy to see how this catchy slogan had little if anything to do with human rights, but but could easily be viewed as trying to isolate both the Russian and Syrian governments geopolitically.

In truth, Amnesty’s narrative was a complete inversion: while attempting to lay the blame on Russia as being responsible for the escalation and sustained violence in Syria, the country was being over-run by tens of thousands of foreign terrorist militants, illegally trafficked weapons, along with CIA and other foreign assets, as part of the wider US-led Coalition presently waging a proxy war in Syria.

Soft Power vs Smart Power

Despite its foreign policy aspirations, the West still needs public opinion backing for any military action. While the public are none the wiser, blinded by the fog of mass media coverage and bombarded with faux moral imperatives and ‘ticking bomb’ style scenarios demanding that, “we must act now to save innocent lives” – soft power agents have provided the crucial communication bridge for most interventions.

Both media and NGOs fall under the classification of ‘soft power’, and it is this soft power complex which provides the soft cushion upon which soft-sounding foreign policies like “humanitarian intervention” and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) can comfortably rest on in western discourse. In reality, these foreign policies are anything but soft, and in the absence of declaring war between nation states – these policies now serve as the tip of an imperialist spear. If you surveyed any of the millions of Middle Eastern residents on the receiving end of the west’s recent humanitarian interventions they will tell you it was anything but soft – especially for the people living in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Yugoslavia and Iraq.

Inside Washington’s inner sanctum, ‘soft power’ has given way to Smart Power. Indeed, it was Susan Nossel who coined the term “Smart Power” while working alongside US humanitarian hawks like Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power and Susan Rice, and also with Washington’s lesser known Atrocity Prevention Board, all of whom worked to successfully implement this new range of intervention marketing concepts including humanitarian intervention and R2P.

In this age of professionally staged colour revolutions and ‘Arab Springs’, and wars fought by proxies and front organizations – vaunted human rights organisations should really acknowledge that there are nation-states and central governments who are not long for this world, and who are literally fighting for their survival. Governments who find themselves under the western hammer cannot always afford the luxury of settling internal disputes nicely, or putting down armed rebel factions and terrorists with all affordable due process. If these rebels or terrorists are western-backed, or GCC-backed, then this condition becomes more acute. Certainly, the United States and its NATO allies, or Israel for that matter, do not afford such civility for any of its victims of collateral damage’ or during a protracted ‘humanitarian intervention’.

‘Agents of Change’ & Emotive Appeals

By now, it’s also a well-documented fact that America’s CIA and Pentagon intelligence departments have used an array of charities, aid organisations, and even religious missionary organisations as fronts for conducting espionage overseas, and with the prime directive of to further foreign policy objectives.

In recent years, however, under the banner of ‘human rights’, the US has developed some new and innovative methods of intelligence gathering and achieving an increased military footprint in new countries.

To reach these objectives, western governments enlist ‘change agents’.

No story serves as a better example of how a human rights organisation can be applied as a sharp tool of foreign policy than Kony 2012, described by the Atlantic Magazine as a viral video campaign which “reinforces a dangerous, centuries-old idea that Africans are helpless and that idealistic Westerners must save them.”

As viral social media campaigns go, Kony 2012 set a new standard for speed and efficiency in penetrating the western youth market. This effort was not with out help from mainstream corporate media in the US, and also from the US government in Washington DC.

Here, soft power was applied in order to manufacture public consent through an emotive public appeal which was eventually exposed as a gross distortion of reality. In this case, the antagonist was the illusive warlord Joseph Kony, leader of the Lords Resistance Army. According to their campaign, if the president could send a military force to “find Kony”, then many children would be saved in the process. The only problem was that no one had actually seen Kony in over 6 years, with rumors abound that Kony may even have died years earlier. This did not deter the campaign though, as organisers pressed ahead, raising millions along the way. The human rights charity which fronted the project, Invisible Children, actually targeted their viral campaign and fundraising drive at under aged American school children, and even drafted primary school students to raise money on the charity’s behalf. In the end, the project collapsed, but the ultimate objective was achieved: culminating with a successful public relations event and photo opportunity at the White House, and under cover of the Kony 2012 media campaign – President Barack Obama publicly deployed US military assets to Uganda under an expansion of US AFRICOM operations in Africa.

Trapped inside their own ideological controlled environment where every decision is a virtual fait accompli, western media and government officials will routinely refer to the human rights industry in order to provide a necessary moral back-stop for any foreign policy objective. This same practice is also repeated by the United Nations too, which often cites the very same statistics and reports used by Washington to back-up its foreign policy moves.

Independent human rights activist Rick Sterling explains this all too familiar cycle in today’s international affairs:

There is a pattern of sensational but untrue reports that lead to public acceptance of US and Western military intervention in countries around the world: In Gulf War 1, there were reports of Iraqi troops stealing incubators from Kuwait, leaving babies to die on the cold floor. Relying on the testimony of a Red Crescent doctor, Amnesty International ‘verified’ the false claims. Ten years later, there were reports of ‘yellow cake uranium’ going to Iraq for development of weapons of mass destruction. One decade later, there were reports of Libyan soldiers ‘drugged on Viagra and raping women as they advanced.’ In 2012, NBC broadcaster Richard Engel was supposedly kidnapped by ‘pro-Assad Syrian militia’ but luckily freed by Syrian opposition fighters, the “Free Syrian Army”. All these reports were later confirmed to be fabrications and lies. They all had the goal of manipulating public opinion and they all succeeded in one way or another. Despite the consequences, which were often disastrous, none of the perpetrators were punished or paid any price.

Strange Bedfellows: NATO, Amnesty and HRW

It’s no coincidence that nearly every foreign policy front the US State Department has prioritised is mirrored by Amnesty International USA. The US State Department together with the Pentagon, will also utilise social justice issues in order to advance a foreign policy objective. The most potent of these has to be gender identity politics, seen through the western lens as “woman’s rights”. By projecting this issue on to a non-favoured’ nation, western war planners can quickly construct an important leg in foreign policy messaging.

In 2012, Amnesty International USA ran a national billboard campaign with images depicting Afghan women and girls, accompanied by the slogan: “NATO: Keep the Progress Going.” Not surprisingly, at this same moment, western media were referring to NATO’s military operation in Afghanistan as “the first feminist war.” In its totality, this is one example of near perfect streamlined marketing campaign which tied together all branches of the interventionist network – the US State Department, the Pentagon, the mainstream media and Amnesty International. This cynical attempt to manipulate public opinion by Amnesty International, on behalf of the Pentagon and Brussels, could be traced back to one Amnesty patron, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who in the 1990’s, famously remarked, “We think the price is worth it,” referring to the death of a half million Iraqi children as a result of crippling US economic sanctions.

In early 2015, Ken Roth, Director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted out an aerial image purporting to be from Kobane, Syria, showing a neighborhood reduced to rubble which he described as, “a drone’s eye tour of what Assad’s barrel bombs have done to Aleppo.” It turned out that Roth’s tweet was a forgery. The image he used was actually taken from Gaza the previous summer, showing the destruction of Palestinian neighborhoods at the hands of Israel’s IDF. This was another example of slipshod propaganda disseminated by high profile human right organization – expressly designed to demonise a foreign government that Washington nation builders are seeking to overthrow. It’s no surprise then that HRW would also appoint CIA operative Miguel Diaz to serve on its advisory board, or that Javier Solana, former Secretary General of NATO and architect of the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia (a war which HRW itself condemned in 2000) also serves on HRW’s board of directors.

Beyond the slick marketing and celebrity endorsements, in all actuality HRW is nothing more than a Cold War era propaganda relic which has been retrofitted to serve a 21st century Atlanticist geopolitical agenda. According to Washington DC-based transparency advocate Keane Bhatt, “HRW was originally called Helsinki Watch. It was created in 1978 during the Cold War to scrutinize and criticize the crimes that were being committed by the USSR and its allies. That Cold War ideology has long played a role in the kinds of priorities and advocacy that HRW engages in”.

Syria’s NGO Kaleidoscope

One of the most egregious examples of a NGO being used to reinforce a US-led geopolitical narrative is the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), created in 2006. Beyond the grandiose name, this ‘organisation’ is basically a one-man show which until recently, was run out of a one bedroom apartment in Coventry, England. SOHR is run by a Syrian dissident named Osama Ali Suleiman, commonly known in the media as “Rahmi Abdul Rahman”. The SOHR has played the key role in developing the all-important “facts on the ground” story for the Washington-London-Paris Axis seeking to topple the government in Damascus through its stoic policy of ‘regime change’ in Syria. When it comes to ‘official’ death toll numbers out of Syria, almost every mainstream report in the US and Europe has cited the SOHR as its data source with hardly a passing thought as to either the accuracy or the credibility of its numbers, and under which category death tolls are counted.

Despite the fact that the SOHR is closely affiliated with the US and UK-backed Syrian opposition, its data sets will often include casualty figures of ‘rebel forces’ (which will often include known foreign terrorist fighters) within its civilian casualty figures. These dubious figures are also used by a number of UN agencies, as well as leading human right organisations. Similarly, US, UK and European officials will frequently attribute a figure of 250,000 ‘Syrian deaths’ to civilians killed by “the regime” embodied by President Bashar al Assad. One week, a western official will quote a number of 150,000, and the next week it will be 350,000. As a result, most mainstream reports of Syria’s casualty figures are rife with bias and methodological inconsistencies, and as a result no one really seems to know the real figure. The larger the number, the more passionate the plea for western military intervention. Even the Council of the Foreign Relations is on record stating that the numbers being cited by the likes of John McCain simply don’t add up. Micah Zenko and Amelia M. Wolf of the CFR admitted in 2014 that, “most of the reported deaths in Syria have not been committed by forces under Bashar al-Assad’s command.” Meanwhile, western media, politicians and human rights organisations routinely ignore the fact that over 100,000 deaths since 2011 have been Syrian Army and Security personnel killed by foreign-backed militants and terrorists. Zenko later added that, “the types of interventions that proponents have endorsed for Syria … have almost nothing to do with how Syrian non-combatants are actually being killed.”

While the Syrian Conflict is a messy and tragic affair, with brutality and violence affecting every side of the fighting, readers should note exactly how this subtle, yet relentless western campaign of disinformation feeds neatly into the western policy of regime change embodied in the rhetorical demand that “Assad must go.” John Glaser from Antiwar.com adds here:

A common policy proposal to mitigate the mass suffering in Syria is for the U.S. to help the rebels and undermine the Assad regime, a scheme that just becomes ludicrous after looking at the data.

It should also be noted that the SOHR receives its funding directly from the EU, and also enjoys substantial support from the British Foreign Office – both of whom are actively seeking to overthrow the government in Syria through guerrilla proxies. At the very least this could be described as a conflict of interest. The SOHR is hardly ‘non partisan’ and more likely to be used as a tool to manufacture consensus for humanitarian intervention in Syria.

Intervention Digital Marketing

They say that ‘the road to tyranny is paved with good intentions’. That old adage couldn’t be more true today, despite all of our seemingly wonderful internet tools and ‘activist’ platforms online.

A key set piece in any nation building or humanitarian intervention is the ‘No Fly Zone’. Made famous during NATO’s Balkans War in Yugoslavia, the US-led Gulf Wars for Iraq, and later with NATO Libya, securing a No Fly Zone is essential for dictating the terms and conditions of any interventionalist program. The term has since developed an elastic quality and has been subtly altered into what many now refer to a “Safe Zone”, the idea being that by securing the skies above with western air power, the people below will be ‘safe.’

However, it’s still become a hard-sell because of negative connotations associated with past unpopular operation that have been viewed western wars of aggression. New technology is needed in order to repackage and market this damaged brand.

WANTED FULL 2

The internet and social networking have provided just that, where a myriad of social networking online petition web portals have been launched in recent years, the most prominent of which is the online organization Avaaz.org was co-founded in 2007 by Res Publica and Moveon.org, and whose funding sources include the George Soros’ Open Society umbrella foundation network. Key founders and players include Tom Perriello, Ricken Patel, Tom Pravda, Jeremy Heimans, David Madden, Eli Pariser and Andrea Woodhouse, each of whom have working relationships with the UN and World Bank, and coordinate with US-controlled institutions like the UN Security Council and UN Human Rights Council.

According to the Avaaz website, their mission is to “organise citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.”

Non-profit Avaaz works closely with its for-profit arm, New York City-based PR firm Purpose, which refers to itself as a “proud public benefit corporation.”

It is important to understand that by their own admission, these organizations are not meant to be purely altruistic, but rather are enterprise businesses. In her article entitled “The Rise of the Movement Entrepreneur and its Impact on Business”, writer Allison Goldberg explains the ‘big idea’ which is used a wrapping for their self-styled social license:

The rise of new technology has drastically lowered the barrier to movement creation while providing an alternative to established institutions, formerly seen as the route to reform. Instead of relying on government bodies or other established organizations often weighed down by bureaucracy, entrepreneurs are utilizing the power of social media to mobilize the masses in favor of large-scale change. As a result, organizations have arisen such as Avaaz.org, which defines itself as “the campaigning community bringing people-powered politics to decision-making worldwide.” Avaaz now boasts seven million members worldwide.

Together, Avaaz and Purpose create the language and the online consensus-building tools. While maintaining the illusion of grassroots activists advocating for human rights, the core function of their public relations campaigns are outcome-based, or to help herd public opinion in order to provide a pretext for multilateral institutions like the the IMF and NATO to implement programs like economic sanctions, or  military intervention.

One of the Avaaz ‘Safe Zone’ campaigns for Syria in 2012-2013

In 2012 and 2013, Avaaz campaigns featured a number of large online petitions which demanded that international bodies (like the UN) send “3,000 international monitors” into the country, and that Western military powers (like NATO) impose a ‘No-Fly Zone’ over the entire country in order to “save innocent lives.” One petion read as follows:

To the Arab League, European Union, United States, and Friends of Syria: As global citizens, we call on you to take immediate action to stop the deadly terror in Syria. Enough is enough. We ask you to immediately demand a ceasefire to stop the bloodshed so that parties can come to the negotiating table to agree on a way forward. Until a ceasefire is reached, we call on you to work together and with the international community to enforce a no fly zone to stop the bombardment of Syria’s civilians and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those most in need.

Again, another NGO public relations messaging campaign mirroring foreign policy planks from the US State Department and Washington’s defense community.

On Avaaz’s website you can often find a number of sensational claims. During their No-Fly-Zone campaign cycle this statement appeared:

The Syrian air force just dropped chlorine gas bombs on children. Their little bodies gasped for air on hospital stretchers as medics held back tears, and watched as they suffocated to death.

Unfortunately, the incident in question never actually happened.

Rick Sterling explains:

Many well-intentioned but naive members of the U.S. and international public are again being duped into signing an Avaaz petition based on fraud and misinformation. If the campaign succeeds in leading to a No Fly Zone in Syria, it will result in vastly increased war, mayhem and bloodshed.

The following illustration outlines to sequence of events that eventually lead to Avaaz calling for a ‘No Fly Zone’ in Syria.

One organization championed in Avaaz marketing campaigns is a ‘neutral’ organization called the Syrian Civil Defense also known as the ‘White Helmets‘.

Writer Vanessa Beeley explains the all-too familiar funding sources for the White Helmets in her article entitled, Syria’s White Helmets: War by Way of Deception – Part I:

The White Helmets were established in March 2013, in Istanbul, Turkey, and is headed by James Le Mesurier, a British “security” specialist and ‘ex’-British military intelligence officer with an impressive track record in some of the most dubious NATO intervention theatres including Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. Le Mesurier is a product of Britain’s elite Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, and has also been placed in a series of high-profile pasts at the United Nations, European Union, and U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The origins of The White Helmet’s initial $300k seed funding is a little hazy, reports are contradictory but subsequent information leads us to conclude that the UK, US and the ‘Syrian opposition’ (or Syrian National Council, parallel government backed an funded by the US, UK and allies) are connected. Logistical support has been provided and given by Turkish elite natural disaster response team, AKUT. A further $13 million was poured into the White Helmet coffers during 2013 and this is where it gets interesting. Early reports suggest that these “donations” came from the US, UK and SNC with the previously explored connections to George Soros in the US. However, subsequent investigations reveal that USAID has been a major shareholder in the White Helmet organisation. The website for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) claims that, “our work supports long-term and equitable economic growth and advances U.S. foreign policy objectives by supporting: economic growth, agriculture and trade; global health; and, democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance.” In a USAID report update in July 2015 it is clearly stated that they have supplied over $ 16m in assistance to the White Helmets.

Regarding USAID, Beeley adds that:

The USAID track record as a primary US Government/CIA regime change facilitator is extensively documented. From South America to the Ukraine and in the Middle East, USAID serve a malevolent and ultimately destructive role in the dismantling of sovereign nations and their reduction to western hegemony vassal states, as always, all in the name of freedom and democracy.

Even more crucial in this case, is evidence that links the White Helmets to militant fighting groups in Syria, including al Nusra Front (al Qaeda in Syria). While this does not prove anything beyond association between members of both organizations, it’s significant when one considers that both organizations are receiving material and financial support from the same member nations of the US-led Coalition.

Geopolitically Correct

For all practical purposes, as a moral and ethical tenet, ‘human rights’ is an anomaly in any western military action.

How one frames a story determines its thesis. In the 21st century, the concept of human rights has been weaponised, pointed at nonaligned and independent nation-states who are seen as obstacles to American and European market-makers and nation builders. A number of target states not geopolitically aligned with the US, NATO or the GCC, are yet to be absorbed, seduced, conquered, or as in the case of Libya, completely collapsed, or in the case of Syria – completely dismembered. These include states listed by former US General and NATO Supreme Commander, Wesley Clark, in his Commonwealth Club speech in San Francisco in 2007. During the event, Clark intimated a conversation he had after a classified defense briefing where a Pentagon source had told him weeks after 9/11 of the Pentagon’s plan to attack Iraq, as well as a “coup” being plotted by Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz along with “a half dozen other collaborators from the Project for the New American Century”. According to Clark, his told him about seven countries which were slated for overthrow: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.

It should also be noted that both Wesley Clark and George Soros serve on the board of trustees of The International Crisis Group.

For any of these unlucky states, a sustained US or ‘Coalition’ military campaign means that a nation can be under attack 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and yet, that nation and its residents are given no quarter by western human rights organizations, governments or media. A perfect example of this is Saudi Arabia’s highly illegal undeclared war of aggression against its neighbor Yemen which began in the spring of 2015.

It’s worth noting here, that despite its own hotly contested human rights record, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was somehow managed to get elected to the UN’s prestigious Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Evidence suggests that this appointment was facilitated in part by British officials as part of a larger quid pro quo arrangement. According to classified Saudi foreign ministry files that were passed to Wikileaks in June 2015, and translated by Geneva-based UN Watch and revealed how UK initiated the secret negotiations by asking Saudi Arabia for its support. Eventually, both countries were elected to the 47 member state UNHRC. The following passage from the leaked cables reveals how a clear deal was struck:

The ministry might find it an opportunity to exchange support with the United Kingdom, where the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would support the candidacy of the United Kingdom to the membership of the council for the period 2014-2015 in exchange for the support of the United Kingdom to the candidacy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

According to The Guardian another cable revealed a Saudi Arabia transfer of $100,000 for “expenditures resulting from the campaign to nominate the Kingdom for membership of the human rights council for the period 2014-2016”. At the time of their report, no one knows how this money was spent.

In addition, it was later shown that Saudi Arabia pledged $1 million to UNHRC prior to winning the its seat. Then rather amazingly (or not), in the fall of 2015, the UN appointed Saudi as Chair of the UNHRC.

When pressed on the matter, a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said, “as is standard practice with all members, we never reveal our voting intentions or the way we vote.”

This was followed by a standard, throwaway PR platitude:

The British government strongly promotes human rights around the world and we raise our human rights concerns with the Saudi Arabian authorities.

While its commendable that Saudi officials would want to take a leading role in advocating for international human rights, one cannot ignore the political hypocrisy at play considering Riyadh’s own soiled laundry regarding this issue which includes, among other items, the sanctioning of more than a 150 beheadings in 2015 – a number believed to be even higher than Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS).

To make matters worse, the controversial Saudi appointment also took place amid the a new diplomatic row over a lucrative UK prison building contract in the Kingdom and the proposed execution of 17 year old Shia student activist, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was sentenced to ‘death by crucifixion’ for joining an anti-government demonstration.

Consider the amount of political and media campaigning against the government of Syria over numerous and largely unfounded allegations, where an international network comprised of the US State Department, UK Foreign Office, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) lobby, HRW and humanitarian interventionist luminaries are all backing a policy of regime change in Syria – and then contrast this with Saudi Arabia’s proven record on human rights and abuse of power. It’s impossible not to see the double standard.

As far as the Western political establishment are concerned, if there are any human rights violations or any local casualties mounting in one of its many dirty wars, geopolitical correctness dictates that these are either ignored or neatly filed away as an inconvenient consequence of America’s ‘national security’ or an unfortunate byproduct “collateral damage” along the road to international progress, peace and prosperity (democracy). Because it crosses swords with the US State Department, or NATO HQ, pubic pressure by humanitarian organizations like HRW and Amnesty USA is relatively nonexistent.

Outside of the theater of combat, the international community is also faced with the inconvenient dilemma of illegal detentions of supposed ‘enemy combatants’, ‘enhanced interrogation’ (torture) and ‘extrajudicial killings’ (assassinations). These are the politically correct terms for the age of western militarisation.

Again, because of “bad optics” in Washington DC very little attention or pressure is applied by marquee international human rights charities.

The human rights industry also has its own politically correct lexicon and identifiers like ‘defectors’, ‘detainees’, ‘activists’ and a new emerging category of ‘activist-journalists’. Sometimes these terms can be accurate, but in a war theater like Syria, they are often euphemisms for actors in full spectrum information warfare. In the case of Syria, this information warfare is designed to embolden a foreign-backed opposition, but more importantly, to apply sustained public relations pressure towards an end goal of regime change.

The WMD Ritual

Conjuring a ‘WMD’ subplot in order to trigger a humanitarian intervention has become commonplace in western foreign policy. After being exposed as a momentous lie in Iraq in 2003, this set-back did not stop Washington from aggressively  pursuing the same narrative in Syria in 2013. Fortunately, the Syrian WMD narrative collapsed in the aftermath of a failed false flag Sarin gas attack that turned out to be orchestrated by US Coalition-backed ‘moderate’ rebels52. It was hardly a coincidence then to discover that HRW was the NGO tasked with providing the ‘smoking gun’ Washington and London needed to make their R2P case in August 2013.

Elizabeth Palmer reported for CBS News at the time, “on Tuesday, the group Human Rights Watch issued a report that said evidence strongly implies that Syrian government troops’ firing of rockets containing a nerve agent into a Damascus suburb on August 21 that the U.S. said killed over 1,400 people.” In the end, this turned out to be another epic lie.

While the US-led ‘Coalition’ is quick to seize upon spurious WMD narratives against its geopolitical targets, it will routinely ignore common Geneva Convention violations like Israel’s use of deadly white phosphorous in Gaza, the use of depleted uranium munitions by American military units in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabian cluster bombs being dropped on Yemeni civilians.

Western Institutionalised Bias

Wars, whether conventional or covert, are a dirty business.

One argument that the western human rights industry judicially avoids is that an armed opposition cannot rightly be classified as a ‘political opposition’, so long as it is armed. This could certainly be the case in Syria. Syrian president Assad explained this dilemma during his 2015 interview with CBS News anchor Charlie Rose, stating that “whenever you hold a gun, and kill people, and destroy public buildings, destroy private properties, that’s terrorism.”

Although most foreign policy officials in Washington DC would beg to differ, especially if the opposition in question is receiving weapons, cash or logistical support from the US or its allies. Assad futher clarifies the position and also exposes the fallacy in western rhetoric, explaining:

The word opposition, everywhere in the world, including your country, is a political opposition. Do you have military opposition in the United States? Would you accept it? You wouldn’t, and we wouldn’t. No-one accepts military opposition.

During his speech at Columbia University in 2006, Australian journalist and filmmaker John Pilger explained:

The oldest cliché is that truth is the first casualty of war. I disagree. Journalism is the first casualty. Not only that: it has become a weapon of war, a virulent censorship that goes unrecognized in the United States, Britain, and other democracies; censorship by omission, whose power is such that, in war, it can mean the difference between life and death for people in faraway countries.

Pilger’s reference can especially be applied to the institutional media bias that has underpinned the long running international war which the Middle East and Central Asia finds itself currently embroiled in. Some might argue that even if western human rights organisations could somehow be cured of their systemic bias towards Washington and CFR foreign policy narratives –  their needs to be an overhaul in defining the concept and the context of what ‘human rights’ are in real terms. A fresh look needs to take into account a level of western subterfuge which maybe western politicians and media are not yet ready  to acknowledge.

In Conclusion

Indeed, it was ‘human rights’ campaigning which led directly to the illegal bombing of Libya (NATO’s aggressive bombing campaign in Libya was not authorized in the UNSC Resolution 1973 which only called for a ‘No-Fly Zone’, and should therefore be considered illegal under international law), where the West’s sole intent was to topple the government of Muammar Gaddafi. Regrettably, thousands of innocent civilians died in the process and the nation state of Libya quickly collapsed, separating into sub-regional, tribal and lawless militant enclaves.

The lesson of Libya was stark. The world should have taken note, but unfortunately it did not. Instead, onlookers saw then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who, when asked during a CBS News interview about the removal of the Libyan president, could only cackle and laughingly joke, “we came, we saw, he died.”

Is this the new tone of humanitarianism?

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch regularly solicit support from Hollywood celebrities and international recording artists, and spend millions of dollars per year producing films which depict situations around the world through their own political lens. To date, they have yet to produce a film showing the other unsavory side of the ‘rebel insurgency’ in Syria. Is this because that might undermine the entire US and NATO member foreign policy?

The public and private sponsors of NGO’s like HRW and Amnesty have invested, not donated, hundreds of millions collectively into these organisations so that they can portray world events in such a way that will enable their own corporate aspirations to be met. No matter how idealistic the rhetoric might sound coming from leading human rights organisations, the money could stop flowing if they discontinued manufacturing consent for wars.

This also raises the question of whether or not a non-governmental organisation that champions the issue of human rights can remain apolitical – as many such organizations claim to be. What would happen should such an organisation dare to adopt a truly righteous geopolitical (not political) stance advocating opposition to destructive western imperialist policies? Would western governments move to withdraw their 501c3 or tax exempt status which allows these charities to maintain their viability as a nonprofit organisation?

Once again, if conflicts of interest and revolving doors between government and charities are not properly addressed, it could eventually undermine the integrity of the entire NGO sector internationally. Corruption at the top of the pyramid also threatens to damage countless other small to medium sized organisations who do not have access to the US State Department or Hollywood, but who are still performing important services and engaged in real civic aid projects.

For human right organisations to be in lock-step with the US State Department, or hiring military operatives as board members and chief executives, is simply inexcusable by any social standard.

If the international community is to advance beyond defunct neocolonialist paradigms, it will need to place compassion ahead of policy, and humanity ahead of profits. Only then can the reality live up to the rhetoric.

 

[Author Patrick Henningsen is founder and editor of the news and analysis website 21st Century Wire, and is an independent foreign and political affairs analyst for RT International. He is also the host of the SUNDAY WIRE radio program which airs live every Sunday on the Alternate Current Radio Network. Find out more at: www.patrickhenningsen.com]

Clinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton’s State Department

International Business Times

May 26, 2015

By David Sirota and Andrew Perez

 

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Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Under Hillary Clinton, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments had given millions to the Clinton Foundation.

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Even by the standards of arms deals between the United States and Saudi Arabia, this one was enormous. A consortium of American defense contractors led by Boeing would deliver $29 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to the United States’ oil-rich ally in the Middle East.

Israeli officials were agitated, reportedly complaining to the Obama administration that this substantial enhancement to Saudi air power risked disrupting the region’s fragile balance of power. The deal appeared to collide with the State Department’s documented concerns about the repressive policies of the Saudi royal family.

But now, in late 2011, Hillary Clinton’s State Department was formally clearing the sale, asserting that it was in the national interest. At a press conference in Washington to announce the department’s approval, an assistant secretary of state, Andrew Shapiro, declared that the deal had been “a top priority” for Clinton personally. Shapiro, a longtime aide to Clinton since her Senate days, added that the “U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army have excellent relationships in Saudi Arabia.”

These were not the only relationships bridging leaders of the two nations. In the years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation, the philanthropic enterprise she has overseen with her husband, former president Bill Clinton. Just two months before the deal was finalized, Boeing — the defense contractor that manufactures one of the fighter jets the Saudis were especially keen to acquire, the F-15 — contributed $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to a company press release.

The Saudi deal was one of dozens of arms sales approved by Hillary Clinton’s State Department that placed weapons in the hands of governments that had also donated money to the Clinton family philanthropic empire, an International Business Times investigation has found.

Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure — derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) — represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.

The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, resulting in a 143 percent increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. These extra sales were part of a broad increase in American military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House. The 143 percent increase in U.S. arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors compares to an 80 percent increase in such sales to all countries over the same time period.

American defense contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements. Such firms and their subsidiaries were listed as contractors in $163 billion worth of Pentagon-negotiated deals that were authorized by the Clinton State Department between 2009 and 2012.

The State Department formally approved these arms sales even as many of the deals enhanced the military power of countries ruled by authoritarian regimes whose human rights abuses had been criticized by the department. Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar all donated to the Clinton Foundation and also gained State Department clearance to buy caches of American-made weapons even as the department singled them out for a range of alleged ills, from corruption to restrictions on civil liberties to violent crackdowns against political opponents.

As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton also accused some of these countries of failing to marshal a serious and sustained campaign to confront terrorism. In a December 2009 State Department cable published by Wikileaks, Clinton complained of “an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.” She declared that “Qatar’s overall level of CT cooperation with the U.S. is considered the worst in the region.” She said the Kuwaiti government was “less inclined to take action against Kuwait-based financiers and facilitators plotting attacks.” She noted that “UAE-based donors have provided financial support to a variety of terrorist groups.” All of these countries donated to the Clinton Foundation and received increased weapons export authorizations from the Clinton-run State Department.

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Clinton Foundation did not respond to questions from the IBTimes.

In all, governments and corporations involved in the arms deals approved by Clinton’s State Department have delivered between $54 million and $141 million to the Clinton Foundation as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to the Clinton family, according to foundation and State Department records. The Clinton Foundation publishes only a rough range of individual contributors’ donations, making a more precise accounting impossible.

Winning Friends, Influencing Clintons

Under federal law, foreign governments seeking State Department clearance to buy American-made arms are barred from making campaign contributions — a prohibition aimed at preventing foreign interests from using cash to influence national security policy. But nothing prevents them from contributing to a philanthropic foundation controlled by policymakers.

Just before Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State, the Clinton Foundation signed an agreement generally obligating it to disclose to the State Department increases in contributions from its existing foreign government donors and any new foreign government donors. Those increases were to be reviewed by an official at the State Department and “as appropriate” the White House counsel’s office. According to available disclosures, officials at the State Department and White House raised no issues about potential conflicts related to arms sales.

During Hillary Clinton’s 2009 Senate confirmation hearings, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., urged the Clinton Foundation to “forswear” accepting contributions from governments abroad. “Foreign governments and entities may perceive the Clinton Foundation as a means to gain favor with the secretary of state,” he said. The Clintons did not take Lugar’s advice. In light of the weapons deals flowing to Clinton Foundation donors, advocates for limits on the influence of money on government action now argue that Lugar was prescient in his concerns.

“The word was out to these groups that one of the best ways to gain access and influence with the Clintons was to give to this foundation,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, an advocacy group that seeks to tighten campaign finance disclosure rules. “This shows why having public officials, or even spouses of public officials, connected with these nonprofits is problematic.”

Hillary Clinton’s willingness to allow those with business before the State Department to finance her foundation heightens concerns about how she would manage such relationships as president, said Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics.

“These continuing revelations raise a fundamental question of judgment,” Lessig told IBTimes. “Can it really be that the Clintons didn’t recognize the questions these transactions would raise? And if they did, what does that say about their sense of the appropriate relationship between private gain and public good?”

National security experts assert that the overlap between the list of Clinton Foundation donors and those with business before the the State Department presents a troubling conflict of interest.

While governments and defense contractors may not have made donations to the Clinton Foundation exclusively to influence arms deals, they were clearly “looking to build up deposits in the ‘favor bank’ and to be well thought of,” said Gregory Suchan, a 34-year State Department veteran who helped lead the agency’s oversight of arms transfers under the Bush administration.

As Hillary Clinton presses a campaign for the presidency, she has confronted sustained scrutiny into her family’s personal and philanthropic dealings, along with questions about whether their private business interests have colored her exercise of public authority. As IBTimes previously reported, Clinton switched from opposing an American free trade agreement with Colombia to supporting it after a Canadian energy and mining magnate with interests in that South American country contributed to the Clinton Foundation. IBTimes’ review of the Clintons’ annual financial disclosures also revealed that 13 companies lobbying the State Department paid Bill Clinton $2.5 million in speaking fees while Hillary Clinton headed the agency.

Questions about the nexus of arms sales and Clinton Foundation donors stem from the State Department’s role in reviewing the export of American-made weapons. The agency is charged with both licensing direct commercial sales by U.S. defense contractors to foreign governments and also approving Pentagon-brokered sales to those governments. Those powers are enshrined in a federal law that specifically designates the secretary of state as “responsible for the continuous supervision and general direction of sales” of arms, military hardware and services to foreign countries. In that role, Hillary Clinton was empowered to approve or reject deals for a broad range of reasons, from national security considerations to human rights concerns.

The State Department does not disclose which individual companies are involved in direct commercial sales, but its disclosure documents reveal that countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation saw a combined $75 billion increase in authorized commercial military sales under the three full fiscal years Clinton served, as compared to the first three full fiscal years of Bush’s second term.

The Clinton Foundation has not released an exact timetable of its donations, making it impossible to know whether money from foreign governments and defense contractors came into the organization before or after Hillary Clinton approved weapons deals that involved their interests. But news reports document that at least seven foreign governments that received State Department clearance for American arms did donate to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary: Algeria, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Thailand, Norway and Australia.

Sales Flowed Despite Human Rights Concerns

Under a presidential policy directive signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, the State Department is supposed to specifically take human rights records into account when deciding whether to approve licenses enabling foreign governments to purchase military equipment and services from American companies. Despite this, Hillary Clinton’s State Department increased approvals of such sales to nations that her agency sharply criticized for systematic human rights abuses.

In its 2010 Human Rights Report, Clinton’s State Department inveighed against Algeria’s government for imposing “restrictions on freedom of assembly and association” tolerating “arbitrary killing,” “widespread corruption,” and a “lack of judicial independence.” The report said the Algerian government “used security grounds to constrain freedom of expression and movement.”

That year, the Algerian government donated $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation and its lobbyists met with the State Department officials who oversee enforcement of human rights policies. Clinton’s State Department the next year approved a one-year 70 percent increase in military export authorizations to the country. The increase included authorizations of almost 50,000 items classified as “toxicological agents, including chemical agents, biological agents and associated equipment” after the State Department did not authorize the export of any of such items to Algeria in the prior year.

During Clinton’s tenure, the State Department authorized at least $2.4 billion of direct military hardware and services sales to Algeria — nearly triple such authorizations over the last full fiscal years during the Bush administration. The Clinton Foundation did not disclose Algeria’s donation until this year — a violation of the ethics agreement it entered into with the Obama administration.

The monarchy in Qatar had similarly been chastised by the State Department for a raft of human rights abuses. But that country donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was running the State Department. During the three full budgetary years of her tenure, Qatar saw a 14-fold increase in State Department authorizations for direct commercial sales of military equipment and services, as compared to the same time period in Bush’s second term. The department also approved the Pentagon’s separate $750 million sale of multi-mission helicopters to Qatar. That deal would additionally employ as contractors three companies that have all supported the Clinton Foundation over the years: United Technologies, Lockheed Martin and General Electric.

Clinton foundation donor countries that the State Department criticized for human rights violations and that received weapons export authorizations did not respond to IBTimes’ questions.

That group of arms manufacturers — along with Clinton Foundation donors Boeing, Honeywell, Hawker Beechcraft and their affiliates — were together listed as contractors in 114 such deals while Clinton was secretary of state. NBC put Chelsea Clinton on its payroll as a network correspondent in November 2011, when it was still 49 percent owned by General Electric. A spokesperson for General Electric did not respond to questions from IBTimes.

Clinton Article Screenshot 1

The other companies all asserted that their donations had nothing to do with the arms export deals.

“Our contributions have aligned with our longstanding philanthropic commitments,” said Honeywell spokesperson Rob Ferris.

“Even The Appearance Of A Conflict”

During her Senate confirmation proceedings in 2009, Hillary Clinton declared that she and her husband were “committed to ensuring that his work does not present a conflict of interest with the duties of Secretary of State.” She pledged “to protect against even the appearance of a conflict of interest between his work and the duties of the Secretary of State” and said that “in many, if not most cases, it is likely that the Foundation or President Clinton will not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.”

Even so, Bill Clinton took in speaking fees reaching $625,000 at events sponsored by entities that were dealing with Hillary Clinton’s State Department on weapons issues.

In 2011, for example, the former president was paid $175,000 by the Kuwait America Foundation to be the guest of honor and keynote speaker at its annual awards gala, which was held at the home of the Kuwaiti ambassador. Ben Affleck spoke at the event, which featured a musical performance by Grammy-award winner Michael Bolton. The gala was emceed by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe show. Boeing was listed as a sponsor of the event, as were the embassies of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar — the latter two of which had donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

The speaking fee from the Kuwait America Foundation to Bill Clinton was paid in the same time frame as a series of deals Hillary Clinton’s State Department was approving between the Kuwaiti government and Boeing. Months before the gala, the Department of Defense announced that Boeing would be the prime contractor on a $693 million deal, cleared by Hillary Clinton’s State Department, to provide the Kuwaiti government with military transport aircraft. A year later, a group sponsored in part by Boeing would pay Bill Clinton another $250,000 speaking fee.

“Boeing has sponsored this major travel event, the Global Business Travel Association, for several years, regardless of its invited speakers,” Gordon Johndroe, a Boeing spokesperson, told IBTimes. Johndroe said Boeing’s support for the Clinton Foundation was “a transparent act of compassion and an investment aimed at aiding the long-term interests and hopes of the Haitian people” following a devastating earthquake.

Boeing was one of three companies that helped deliver money personally to Bill Clinton while benefiting from weapons authorizations issued by Hillary Clinton’s State Department. The others were Lockheed and the financial giant Goldman Sachs.

Lockheed is a member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, which paid Bill Clinton $250,000 to speak at an event in 2010. Three days before the speech, Hillary Clinton’s State Department approved two weapons export deals in which Lockheed was listed as the prime contractor. Over the course of 2010, Lockheed was a contractor on 17 Pentagon-brokered deals that won approval from the State Department. Lockheed told IBTimes that its support for the Clinton Foundation started in 2010, while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

“Lockheed Martin has periodically supported one individual membership in the Clinton Global Initiative since 2010,” said company spokesperson Katherine Trinidad. “Membership benefits included attendance at CGI annual meetings, where we participated in working groups focused on STEM, workforce development and advanced manufacturing.”

In April 2011, Goldman Sachs paid Bill Clinton $200,000 to speak to “approximately 250 high level clients and investors” in New York, according to State Department records obtained by Judicial Watch. Two months later, the State Department approved a $675 million foreign military sale involving Hawker Beechcraft — a company that was then part-owned by Goldman Sachs. As part of the deal, Hawker Beechcraft would provide support to the government of Iraq to maintain a fleet of aircraft used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Goldman Sachs has also contributed at least $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to donation records.

“There is absolutely no connection among all the points that you have raised regarding our firm,” said Andrew Williams, a spokesperson for Goldman Sachs.

Federal records show that ethics staffers at the State Department approved the payments to Bill Clinton from Goldman Sachs, and the Lockheed- and Boeing-sponsored groups without objection, even though the firms had major stakes in the agency’s weapons export decisions.

Stephen Walt, a Harvard University professor of international affairs, told IBTimes that the intertwining financial relationships between the Clintons, defense contractors and foreign governments seeking weapons approvals is “a vivid example of a very big problem — the degree to which conflicts of interest have become endemic.”

“It has troubled me all along that the Clinton Foundation was not being more scrupulous about who it would take money from and who it wouldn’t,” he said. “American foreign policy is better served if people responsible for it are not even remotely suspected of having these conflicts of interest. When George Marshall was secretary of state, nobody was worried about whether or not he would be distracted by donations to a foundation or to himself. This wasn’t an issue. And that was probably better.”

Clinton Article Screenshot 2

UPDATE (7:38pm, 5/26/15): In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office told IBTimes: “Taiwan’s 2003 donation was for the fund to build the Clinton Presidential Library. This was way before Mrs. Clinton was made the U.S. Secretary of State. We have neither knowledge nor comments concerning other issues.”

 

[David Sirota is International Business Times’ senior editor for investigations. He is also a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and a bestselling author. He lives in Denver, Colorado and covers the intersection of money, politics and finance.]

[Andrew Perez is a National Political Reporter at the International Business Times.]