Who Rules the World?
How a concentration of wealth and political power undermines democracy
With a $4 billion price tag, the recent US midterm election was the most expensive in the country’s history. For the first time in eight years, the Republicans gained complete control of Congress, as well as won victories in key Senate and gubernatorial races across the country.
With elections in the US, we are granted the illusion that voters generally have power over our elected leaders, the direction of the economy, and how to tackle climate change and other major issues. But where does the real power lie?
Wealth and political power are so dramatically concentrated in this country that elections have become a bitter farce. The recent midterm vote provides a great opportunity to reflect on the structural ways in which the system is rigged against the people.
The 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case essentially enabled corporations and billionaires to be able buy US elections and politicians without government oversight. According to David Bossie, the plaintiff in the case and the president of the conservative Citizens United organization, the court ruling helped the Republicans WIN this year’s midterms.
The day after the election, Bossie said that Citizens United “leveled the playing field, and we’re very proud of the impact that had in last night’s election.” He said this corporate funding helped the republicans WIN, and created “a robust conversation, which is what a level playing field allows, really creates an opportunity for the American people to get information and make good decisions.”
Rather than creating a level playing field, Citizens United gives disproportionate power to corporations and elites to decide elections. Meanwhile, most voters are left disempowered on the sidelines, pawns in elections that are largely fueled by clandestine corporate MONEY.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that among the world’s ten richest people are the conservatives Charles and David Koch. The infamous Koch brothers are major funders of the Tea Party, and spent an estimated $290 million to aid in Republicans’ election in the recent mid-term, helping to put out some 44,000 political ads in an attempt to place the Senate back into Republican hands.
The Koch brothers’ reach is wide and disastrous; much of their wealth is from the oil industry, and they are fierce proponents of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline. If the pipeline goes through, the brothers are set to profit an estimated $30 billion.
As a result of Citizens United, “this election is turning out to be kind of the Wild West,” political reporter Lee Fang told Democracy Now during the recent election day. “Not only are campaign entities raising and spending unlimited amounts, much of it in secret, but we have no cop on the beat, we have no enforcement of election law…”
The impact of Citizens United corresponds to a widely-shared view that the US is indeed not a democracy. In fact, this perception was confirmed in a research study released earlier this year by professors at Princeton and Northwestern University.
Their research found that the wealthy and business elites of the nation wield all of the power, leaving most people on the margins. The report explained, “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”
This concentration of political power is reflective of the global concentration of wealth. The 85 richest people in the world now have the same wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest. That was one of the findings of a report from UK-based Oxfam International, which also concluded that the wealthiest 1% of the global population owns roughly half of the world’s wealth. Inequality is rising most rapidly in the US, where the richest 1% have benefitted the most from economic growth since 2009. During that same period, the poorest 90% in the US became poorer.
“This massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people presents a significant threat to inclusive political and economic systems,” the Oxfam report stated.
Just as most of the world’s wealth is in the hands of a few people, according to a recent article in the academic journal Climatic Change, two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions were produced by just 90 companies, with Chevron, Exxon and BP leading the list as the biggest polluters. Half of these emissions were from the past 25 years.
“There are thousands of oil, gas and coal producers in the world,” Richard Heede, the author of the journal article, told the Guardian. “But the decision makers, the CEOs, or the ministers of coal and oil if you narrow it down to just one person, they could all fit on a Greyhound bus or two.”
Confronting climate change requires a systemic transformation of how our economies are run and who runs them. Part of this radical change will involve disempowering the global 1% and the disaster-producing industries they profit from.
Across the US, we are living in a dream state; crisis is the new normal. In the face of global catastrophe, the leading political parties of the country typically offer more business as usual, meaning more corporate power to fuel democracy, more capitalism to fight inequality, more war to fight for peace, and more pollution to fight climate change.
We cannot depend on the 1% of the world to lead us away from disaster – they caused our global crises in the first place, continue to profit from them, and cannot bring about solutions from the top-down. It has to be the people’s movements leading the way from below, deconstructing capitalism and building a better world from the bottom-up.
Benjamin Dangl has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America, covering social movements and politics in the region for over a decade. He is the author of the books Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, and The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. Dangl is currently a doctoral candidate in Latin American History at McGill University, and edits UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America, and TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events.
Obama’s Gun-running Operation
If you thought the Isis war couldn’t get any worse, just wait for more of the CIA
Even America’s top spies know that arming rebels is ‘doomed to failure’ – but that can’t stop Obama’s gun-running operation
By Trevor Timm
As the war against the Islamic State in Syria has fallen into even more chaos – partially due to the United States government’s increasing involvement there – the White House’s bright new idea seems to be to ramping up the involvement of the intelligence agency that is notorious for making bad situations worse. As the Washington Post reported late Friday, “The Obama administration has been weighing plans to escalate the CIA’s role in arming and training fighters in Syria, a move aimed at accelerating covert U.S. support to moderate rebel factions while the Pentagon is preparing to establish its own training bases.”
Put aside for a minute that the Central Intelligence Agency has been secretly arming Syrian rebels with automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and antitank weapons since at least 2012 – and with almost nothing to show for it. Somehow the Post neglected to cite a front-page New York Times article from just one month ago alerting the public to the existence of a still-classified internal CIA study admitting that arming rebels with weapons has rarely – if ever – worked:
As the Times’ Mark Mazzetti reported:
‘One of the things that Obama wanted to know was: Did this ever work?’ said one former senior administration official who participated in the debate and spoke anonymously because he was discussing a classified report. The C.I.A. report, he said, ‘was pretty dour in its conclusions.’
The Times cited the most well-known of CIA failures, including the botched Bay of Pigs invasion and the arming of the Nicaraguan contra rebels that led to the disastrous Iran-Contra scandal. Even the agency’s most successful mission – slowly bleeding out the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s by arming the mujahideen – paved the way for the worst terrorist attack on the US in its history.
But as anyone who has read journalist Tim Weiner’s comprehensive and engrossing history of the CIA knows, the agency’s past is a graveyard rife with literally dozens of catastrophic failures involving covert weapons deals to countless war criminals and con artists in an attempt to overthrow governments all over the world. Not only has the CIA failed repeatedly, but oftentimes its plan has completely backfired, solidifying the very power of the actor it sought to remove and leaving the people the agency claimed to be helping in a much, much worse-off spot than before the CIA gun-running mission began.
We’ve already seen Syrian fortunes turn for the worse as the US has stepped up involvement in the past few months, as Bashar al-Assad has gone on the offensive against the US-backed rebels, and as the US airstrikes have reportedly led to Isis and al-Qaida reuniting, after being sworn enemies for more than a year. The two terrorist groups then proceeded to route the “moderate” rebels in combat and are currently in possession of many of the US-made weapons previously owned by the rebels.
Two months ago, the US Congress voted to send hundreds of millions of dollars in more arms to Syria. Even the politicians voting on sending countless more US weapons into the middle of a civil war were kept in the dark about the CIA’s internal report. That should be a scandal, right up there with the torture report the CIA is trying to keep secret, too.
But at least a few in-the-know elected officials were aware of the dangers of insanity of Congress’ Syria vote. The Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim and Sam Stein quoted an unnamed Democratic Congressman in September who was even more blunt, insisting that the CIA’s belief in arming rebels was “doomed to failure”:
‘I have heard it expressed, outside of classified contexts, that what you heard from your intelligence sources is correct, because the CIA regards the effort as doomed to failure,’ the congressman said in an email. ‘Specifically (again without referring to classified information), the CIA thinks that it is impossible to train and equip a force of pro-Western Syrian nationals that can fight and defeat Assad, al-Nusra and ISIS, regardless of whatever air support that force may receive.’
The unnamed Congressman added: “The CIA also believes that its previous assignment to accomplish this was basically a fool’s errand, and they are well aware of the fact that many of the arms that they provided ended up in the wrong hands.”
But the information on the secret weapons that were already flowing into Syria has been kept in hiding from most of Congress. John Kerry refused to answer any questions about the CIA’s activities in Syria when asked by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, despite the news of the agency’s involvement in Syria being on the front page of newspapers for years. “I hate to do this,” he said. “But I can’t confirm or deny whatever that’s been written about and I can’t really go into any kind of possible program.”
Perhaps the most shocking part is that we know Barack Obama himself has read the CIA study and knows that arming rebels in Syria – or anywhere – was an incredibly dangerous idea. Seemingly referencing the study, Obama told David Remnick of the New Yorker earlier this year:
Very early in this process, I actually asked the C.I.A. to analyze examples of America financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn’t come up with much.
So even though the CIA “couldn’t come up with much” proof of any time when sending tons of weapons into a war zone full of extremists has worked in the past, or that the agency itself has told Congressmen arming the rebels was “doomed to failure,” the Obama administration is ready to do just that.
No one doubts that Isis is a horrific terrorist group that’s terrible for the entire Middle East – as it proved over the weekend by barbarically beheading another innocent aid worker – but further entrenching the CIA and its weapons into an already awful situation can really only make things worse. Much worse.
© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
Renewal bombardment of the Military Mitiga airport in Tripoli belonging to Qatar and Misurata Dawn
Renewed aerial bombardment on the Mitiga Militay Airport in the capital Tripoli, Libya ****(governed by Qatar and Misurata Dawn.)
Tuesday, after targeting his warplanes and heard three explosions, according to an official source, and witnesses.
According to an official source from inside the airport that the plane (did not specify the identity) dropped three missiles away from runways and aircraft, and did not cause any human and material damage, and pointed out that it was closed airspace for the airport immediately after renewed shelling.
Witnesses said they heard three explosions before you see a cloud of black fumes at the airport sky, while reports of damage in neighborhoods adjacent to the airport did not respond.
Editors Note: In the article I added the information of who is in control of this military airport which is Qatar and Misurata Dawn. It’s about time that the national Army took some action over this military base so that it can stop the importation of mercenaries/arms/hard currency for their salaries brought by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. It has been established that Turkey all terrorists: Daash, Isis, Al Qaeda and any other terrorist invented name for all these extremists to be protected and assists them to recover of any heavy injuries in their hospitals. It’s also established that Turkey has allowed in their country offices of Isis so that they can recruit mercenaries and of course with the hawk eyes of CIA’s analysts in the region. Unless you my readers wake up this will keep going on. The plan is very simple, we recruit poor people pay them a small salary force them to swear allegiance to whatever terrorist group is on a killing spree, baptize it to Extreme Islamists or Jihadists whose orders are: to kill anything that moves in two legs whether Muslim or Christian. This is the new American/Zionists cheap labour Army instead of using your sons, daughters, wives, husbands. To force the CHRISTIAN INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY to go to war against the Muslims. Check all the Western Media News everyday you will see we are bombarded by the Media on what these monsters are doing to innocent civilians. Makes you feel sick to your stomach, rage creeps up, they will keep on doing this till it comes to a point that Europe will declare war to all Arab states and then we will go into the 3WW. Its time to realise WHO BENEFITS FROM THESE MERCENARIES/JIHADISTS OR WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL THEM? It’s not you or me that is for sure, so who benefits out of this mess? I will be very happy to hear your views.
Results of Western intervention in Libya
By Abayomi Azikiwe
On October 20, 2011, the leader of the North African state of Libya was brutally assassinated in the city of Sirte. Col. Muammar Gaddafi had been leading a struggle to defend his country from a war of regime-change coordinated and financed by the United States and NATO.
Since the overthrow of the Jamahiriya system of government in Libya, the social conditions prevailing inside the country are by no means stable. Various factions, most of which were utilized as ground troops in the Pentagon-NATO aerial war between March 19 and Oct. 31 of 2011, remained locked in a mortal conflict for control over the oil-rich state.
Conflicting sources of political power backed up by armed militias exist in the two largest cities of Tripoli, the capital, and Benghazi, in the east, where the counter-revolution against Gaddafi began. Areas in the south of the country have armed themselves against the US-installed regimes in Tripoli and Benghazi often in sympathy with the previous system under the Jamahiriya.
The two regional states that participated in the imperialist-engineered war against Libya, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have been carrying out periodic airstrikes against alleged “Islamist” strongholds in various locations in the east and west. Also renegade former Gen. Khalifa Hefter, a longtime Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset, has mounted a bid for power utilizing sophisticated weapons and airstrikes.
Oil production rising despite internal conflict
For several months during 2014, oil production in Libya was down considerably. Conflicts between various labor organizations in addition to clashes among the militias resulted in the decline of barrels-per-day extraction to almost nil.
A dispute over who could actually sell Libyan oil on the international market was eventually addressed by the US when it sent a naval warship to reclaim cargo traded by interests inside the country who were not endorsed by Washington. Subsequent efforts aimed at the resolution of the disagreements have still not cleared the way for a consistent boost in production.
Unrest has erupted again surrounding which political group claiming authority in Libya would control the proceeds from oil sales. Both the parties controlling the capital of Tripoli, who are often labeled as “Islamists,” and the “government in exile” in the eastern city of Tobruk say they are entitled to the revenue generated from the trade in oil.
With the decline in prices on the global market during October, the situation involving the struggle over the control of oil in Libya prompted the attention of the Wall Street Journal. Efforts by five Western countries designated by the United Nations to reach a political settlement in the Libyan quagmire has failed, and consequently, the major imperialist powers are concerned about the supply of oil and the role of Libya in the process.
“In a joint statement late Saturday, France, Italy, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. said they supported the U.N.-sponsored peace talks and a cessation of hostilities,” noted the Wall Street Journal. “The five governments condemned the violence by Islamist group Ansar al-Shariah, voiced concern about the attacks of the renegade general and said they were ready to sanction those threatening Libya’s security.” (Oct. 19)
This same article went on to point out that “Libya is normally one of Europe’s largest oil suppliers, but disruptions since the fall of strongman Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 have reduced its contribution to the continent’s oil supply.” Therefore, even the publication of the international finance capital has to openly acknowledge that the Pentagon-NATO policy of regime-change in Libya has disrupted oil supplies to the European continent.