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Forum Post: Chris Hedges | Capitalism, Not Government Is the Problem

Posted 2 months ago on May 5, 2014, 4:54 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5854)
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Chris Hedges | Capitalism, Not Government Is the Problem

Monday, 05 May 2014 09:46
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23486-chris-hedges-capitalism-not-government-is-the-problem

The U.S. Supreme Court decision to refuse to hear our case concerning Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which permits the military to seize U.S. citizens and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers without due process, means that this provision will continue to be law. It means the nation has entered a post-constitutional era. It means that extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil by our government is legal. It means that the courts, like the legislative and executive branches of government, exclusively serve corporate power—one of the core definitions of fascism. It means that the internal mechanisms of state are so corrupted and subservient to corporate power that there is no hope of reform or protection for citizens under our most basic constitutional rights. It means that the consent of the governed—a poll by OpenCongress.com showed that this provision had a 98 percent disapproval rating—is a cruel joke. And it means that if we do not rapidly build militant mass movements to overthrow corporate tyranny, including breaking the back of the two-party duopoly that is the mask of corporate power, we will lose our liberty.

“In declining to hear the case Hedges v. Obama and declining to review the NDAA, the Supreme Court has turned its back on precedent dating back to the Civil War era that holds that the military cannot police the streets of America,” said attorney Carl Mayer, who along with Bruce Afran devoted countless unpaid hours to the suit. “This is a major blow to civil liberties. It gives the green light to the military to detain people without trial or counsel in military installations, including secret installations abroad. There is little left of judicial review of presidential action during wartime.”

Afran, Mayer and I brought the case to the U.S. Southern District Court of New York in January 2012. I was later joined by co-plaintiffs Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, journalist Alexa O’Brien, RevolutionTruth founder Tangerine Bolen, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir and Occupy London activist Kai Wargalla.

Later in 2012 U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest declared Section 1021(b)(2) unconstitutional. The Obama administration not only appealed—we expected it to appeal—but demanded that the law be immediately put back into effect until the appeal was heard. Forrest, displaying the same judicial courage she showed with her ruling, refused to do this.

The government swiftly went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. It asked, in the name of national security, that the court stay the district court’s injunction until the government’s appeal could be heard. The 2nd Circuit agreed. The law went back on the books. My lawyers and I surmised that this was because the administration was already using the law to detain U.S. citizens in black sites, most likely dual citizens with roots in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen. The administration would have been in contempt of court if Forrest’s ruling was allowed to stand while the federal authorities detained U.S. citizens under the statute. Government attorneys, when asked by Judge Forrest, refused to say whether or not the government was already using the law, buttressing our suspicion that it was in use.

The 2nd Circuit overturned Forrest’s ruling last July in a decision that did not force it to rule on the actual constitutionality of Section 1021(b)(2). It cited the Supreme Court ruling in Clapper v. Amnesty International, another case in which I was one of the plaintiffs, to say that I had no standing, or right, to bring the NDAA case to court. Clapper v. Amnesty International challenged the secret wiretapping of U.S. citizens under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. The Supreme Court had ruled in Clapper that our concern about government surveillance was “speculation.” It said we were required to prove to the court that the FISA Act would be used to monitor those we interviewed. The court knew, of course, that the government does not disclose whom it is monitoring. It knew we could never offer proof. The leaks by Edward Snowden, which came out after the Supreme Court ruling, showed that the government was monitoring us all, along with those we interviewed. The 2nd Circuit used the spurious Supreme Court ruling to make its own spurious ruling. It said that because we could not show that the indefinite-detention law was about to be used against us, just as we could not prove government monitoring of our communications, we could not challenge the law. It was a dirty game of judicial avoidance on two egregious violations of the Constitution.

In refusing to hear our lawsuit the courts have overturned nearly 150 years of case law that repeatedly holds that the military has no jurisdiction over civilians. Now, a U.S. citizen charged by the government with “substantially supporting” al-Qaida, the Taliban or those in the nebulous category of “associated forces”—some of the language of Section 1021(b)(2)—is lawfully subject to extraordinary rendition on U.S. soil. And those seized and placed in military jails can be kept there until “the end of hostilities.”

Judge Forrest, in her 112-page ruling against the section, noted that under this provision of the NDAA whole categories of Americans could be subject to seizure by the military. These might include Muslims, activists, Black Bloc members and any other Americans labeled as domestic terrorists by the state. Forrest wrote that Section 1021(b)(2) echoed the 1944 Supreme Court ruling in Korematsu v. United States, which supported the government’s use of the military to detain 110,00 Japanese-Americans in internment camps without due process during World War II.

Of the refusal to hear our lawsuit, Afran said, “The Supreme Court has left in place a statute that furthers erodes basic respect for constitutional liberties, that weakens free speech and will chill the willingness of Americans to exercise their 1st Amendment rights, already in severe decline in this country.”

The goals of corporate capitalism are increasingly indistinguishable from the goals of the state. The political and economic systems are subservient to corporate profit. Debate between conventional liberals and conservatives has been replaced by empty political theater and spectacle. Corporations, no matter which politicians are in office, loot the Treasury, escape taxation, push down wages, break unions, dismantle civil society, gut regulation and legal oversight, control information, prosecute endless war and dismantle public institutions and programs that include schools, welfare and Social Security. And elected officials, enriched through our form of legalized corporate bribery, have no intention of halting the process.

The government, by ignoring the rights and needs of ordinary citizens, is jeopardizing its legitimacy. This is dangerous. When a citizenry no longer feels that it can find justice within the organs of power, when it feels that the organs of power are the enemies of freedom and economic advancement, it makes war on those organs. Those of us who are condemned as radicals, idealists and dreamers call for basic reforms that, if enacted, will make peaceful reform possible. But corporate capitalists, now unchecked by state power and dismissive of the popular will, do not see the fires they are igniting. The Supreme Court ruling on our challenge is one more signpost on the road to dystopia.

It is capitalism, not government, that is the problem. The fusion of corporate and state power means that government is broken. It is little more than a protection racket for Wall Street. And it is our job to wrest government back. This will come only through the building of mass movements.

“It is futile to be ‘anti-Fascist’ while attempting to preserve capitalism,” George Orwell wrote. “Fascism after all is only a development of capitalism, and the mildest democracy, so-called, is liable to turn into Fascism.”

Our corporate masters will not of their own volition curb their appetite for profits. Human misery and the deadly assault on the ecosystem are good for business. These masters have set in place laws that, when we rise up—and they expect us to rise up—will permit the state to herd us like sheep into military detention camps. Section 1021(b)(2) is but one piece of the legal tyranny now in place to ensure total corporate control. The corporate state also oversees the most pervasive security and surveillance apparatus in human history. It can order the assassination of U.S. citizens. It has abolished habeas corpus. It uses secret evidence to imprison dissidents, such as the Palestinian academic Mazen Al-Najjar. It employs the Espionage Act to criminalize those who expose abuses of power. A ruling elite that accrues for itself this kind of total power, history has shown, eventually uses it.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

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[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5854) 2 months ago

Cecily McMillan Verdict Proves Dissent Is Dangerous

Tuesday, 06 May 2014 10:55
By Anne Meador, DC Media Group | Op-Ed

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/23526-cecily-mcmillan-verdict-proves-dissent-is-dangerous

The conviction of Occupy Wall Street protester Cecily McMillan for assault on a police officer shows that the judiciary is corrupt and dissent will not be tolerated. We can no longer call ourselves a democratic society, and as Chris Hedges says, we are living in the “post-constitutional era.”

Since 9/11, the justification given for incremental loss of our freedoms has been “keeping us safe from terrorism.” But in truth, governments always seek to accrue more power to control their populaces in service to elite economic interests. It is an imperative which pre-dated 9/11, but one that afterwards spiraled out of control.

A heightened state of fear, a subliminal awareness of being expendable in the neo-liberal economy and the distraction of consumer culture have kept the majority of Americans in paralysis. In the meantime, institutions which protected our rights have been systematically undermined. This, unfortunately, is the regime we now live under:

The Authoritarian State

Dissent will not be tolerated. Cecily McMillan was prosecuted for assaulting a police officer when she herself was assaulted. Prosecuting her for felony assault with severe penalties serves only one purpose: to deter further protest and scare the rest of us into submission.

All of the Occupy movement was subject to surveillance, infiltration and extreme force. In Dallas, some Occupy leaders were targeted for assassination. A multi-city, multi-agency conspiracy was mobilized to shut the encampments down.

Occupy and other movements for change are a threat to the status quo from the grassroots. The government is willing to go the extreme measures to stamp out the “insider threat” too. Whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, and Thomas Drake have been selectively charged under the draconian Espionage Act.

The Police State

Radley Balko has documented the para-militarization of police across the nation. Local police forces have taken advantage of Department of Homeland Security grants to obtain tanks which they display in holiday parades. SWAT teams conduct routine searches. Forces equipped with riot gear, paddy wagons, tear gas, tasers, rubber bullets, pepper spray and even automatic weapons are deployed for almost any large public gathering. Police react with lethal force to the slightest provocation, or no provocation at all. “Driving while black” has become even more risky.

The Surveillance State

Edward Snowden revealed the true extent of government surveillance on its own citizens. We discovered that the NSA’s secret slogan is “Collect It All.” NSA officials and the Senate Intelligence Committee charged with overseeing them remain unrepentant and still try to convince us to “just trust them.” The proposed U.S. Freedom Act is supposed to be a major surveillance overhaul, but it really offers little protection for anybody except the telecoms.

The Post-Constitutional State

Constitutional rights are a thing of the past. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the indefinite detention clause of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows the military to seize American citizens and hold them without charge or due process. “It means that extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil by our government is legal,” says journalist Chris Hedges, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The Supreme Court also just rejected an appeal by a Guantanamo Bay prisoner, refusing for a second time to define the limits of military detention. Seizure and indefinite detention undermine the fundamental right of habeus corpus.

The Totalitarian State

Government asserts the ultimate power of life and death over citizens. The U.S. refuses to outlaw capital punishment at the federal level. Many of its states cherish the power to execute. As we just saw in Oklahoma, a condemned man was tortured to death when an improvised cocktail of lethal drugs was improperly injected.

Our government also asserts the right to declare citizens “enemy combatants” and kill them without due process. President Obama has ordered the assassination of four U.S. citizens in the “targeted killing” program. Anwar al-Awlaki and his son were both blown to bits by drone bombs in Yemen.

The Corrupt State

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United allowed corporate money to flood election campaigns via super-PAC’s. Now McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission has virtually swept away any barriers to bribery of elected officials by eliminating aggregate limits. Allegiance to campaign donors eliminates any distinction between the two political parties.

The Corporate State

Once again, Citizens United allows corporate money to thwart democracy. Billions of dollars in industry lobbying also influences legislation in favor of corporate interests. The American Petroleum Institute, for example, spent $9.3 million on lobbying in 2013. Politicians bought off by Big Oil are now allowing the industry to suck the remaining oil and gas reserves out of the ground by means of extreme extraction methods. The eventual impacts on the environment, health and safety, water supply and climate could be disastrous.

In addition, corporations seek to cement their hegemony by means of free trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Its champions claim that these agreements “level the playing field” for American businesses and create jobs, but in fact they only serve to protect investor rights.

At this point, our options for real reform within “the system” are limited. We can no longer go to the judiciary for relief. Voting is a charade. If we don’t mutiny now, we allow the ship’s captains to chart a doomed course.

Nonviolent protest and exposure two vital tools at our disposal. While dissent is now dangerous, we must continue to assert our right to free speech. Power thrives on secrecy, and sunlight has repeatedly proven to be an effective countermeasure. The TPP, for example, was a done deal until its secret negotiations were made public; now it is seriously off-track. We must keep making the case that exposing the NSA as Edward Snowden did was a public service, not a crime. We must champion people like Cecily McMillan, John Kiriakou and Chelsea Manning who have gone to prison for their courageous acts. It’s time to wake from our dream and resist.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5854) 2 months ago

Occupy Wall Street on Trial: Cecily McMillan Convicted of Assaulting Cop, Faces Up to Seven Years

Wednesday, 07 May 2014 11:10
By Amy Goodman and Aaron Mate, Democracy Now! | Video Interview

http://truth-out.org/news/item/23548-occupy-wall-street-on-trial-cecily-mcmillan-convicted-of-assaulting-cop-faces-up-to-seven-years

An Occupy Wall Street activist has been found guilty of assaulting a New York City police officer in a trial that critics say should have been about the police assaulting her. Cecily McMillan was arrested in March 2012 as protesters tried to re-occupy Zuccotti Park, six months after Occupy began. McMillan was convicted of deliberately striking Officer Grantley Bovell with her elbow, leaving him with a black eye. McMillan says she swung her arm instinctively after being grabbed in the right breast from behind. To support this claim, defense lawyers showed photos of bruising to her chest during trial. In addition to her injuries, McMillan says she went into a seizure as officers pinned her down. She was later treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. After a four-week trial, the jury took just three hours Monday to deliver a verdict. The judge in the case rejected defense pleas to allow her release on bail. McMillan was placed in handcuffs and taken to Rikers Island, where she'll remain until sentencing in two weeks. She faces up to seven years in prison. We speak to McMillan's attorney Martin Stolar and her friend Lucy Parks, field coordinator for the Justice for Cecily Support Team.

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AARON MATÉ: An Occupy Wall Street activist has been found guilty of assaulting a New York City police officer, but critics say the trial should have been about the police assaulting her. Cecily McMillan was arrested in March 2012 as protesters tried to re-occupy Zuccotti Park six months after Occupy began. McMillan was convicted of deliberately striking Officer Grantley Bovell with her elbow, leaving him with a black eye. McMillan says she swung her arm instinctively after being grabbed in the right breast from behind. To support this claim, defense lawyers showed photos of bruising to her chest during trial. In addition to her injuries, McMillan says she went into a seizure as officers pinned her down. She was later treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

AMY GOODMAN: But prosecutors rejected Cecily McMillan's claims and suggested she may have even caused the bruises to her body herself. After a four-week trial, the jury took just three hours Monday to deliver a verdict. The judge in the case rejected defense pleas to allow her release on bail. As outraged supporters chanted "Shame," McMillian was placed in handcuffs and taken to Rikers Island. She'll remain there until sentencing in two weeks, when she faces up to seven years in prison.

In a moment, we'll be joined by her attorney and a friend, but first I want to turn back to our interview we did in 2012 that we did in 2012 with Cecily McMillan when she joined us on Democracy Now! just six days after her arrest. This is part of that interview.

AMY GOODMAN: We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Cecily, you limped in here. You're very bruised. You have a bruise over your left eye. And I can see, with your—the scoop neck of your T-shirt, you are scratched and it is black and blue. It is—

CECILY McMILLAN: A handprint.

AMY GOODMAN: —the shape of a hand. Black and blue, the shape of a hand.

CECILY McMILLAN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: That is above your right breast. And then your arms. Your arms are black and blue around both elbows. You've got finger marks of black and blue on both arms. And you're clearly—

CECILY McMILLAN: My back.

AMY GOODMAN: —in a lot of pain on your back, and we can't show those bruises now. Your ribs—what happened?

CECILY McMILLAN: My ribs are really bruised.

AMY GOODMAN: What happened to you? You went out on Saturday, six-month anniversary of Occupy, with hundreds of other people to Zuccotti. And what took place?

CECILY McMILLAN: Like I said, I haven't seen any of the videos yet. I ended a 40-something-hour stay in jail and ended up with all these bruises. I mean, that's—I have an open case, so I can't talk more about it, and I'm sure you can tell that it would be difficult for me to remember some things. But I have these.

AMY GOODMAN: For more on Cecily McMillan's case, we're joined by two guests. Martin Stolar is a criminal defense attorney who served as co-counsel during the trial. And Lucy Parks is the field coordinator for the Justice for Cecily Support Team.

We welcome you both. Martin Stolar, what happened in this trial? She now has been convicted.

MARTIN STOLAR: Well, she's convicted and is awaiting sentencing. The maximum sentence that she faces is a two- to seven-year term in state prison. It is conceivable that the judge could impose probation, as well. But we are really concerned about an appeal in this case. The nature of the trial was such that the judge excluded some substantial evidence that was favorable to Cecily, in ruling, for example, that several of our character witnesses were cumulative, that we couldn't present different perspectives from Occupy Wall Street and their vision of who Cecily was. The judge prohibited us from questioning the police officer who was assaulted about the lightness of the injury, because later that night, a couple hours after he was given the black eye that led to this conviction, he was banging some Occupy Wall Street protesters' heads on the stairs of a bus, a guy who was in handcuffs. The judge wouldn't let us ask about that. So, on balance, you know, the fact that this prosecution went forward is really what's of concern. This officer got a black eye, a bit of a mouse, and was back on duty a week later, no particular difficulty.

Cecily, regardless of what you think about whether she slugged the cop or not, was severely beaten and was put into a seizure, or what appeared to be a seizure, with some serious physical injuries and a lack of—total lack of memory about what happened to her. She was then dragged to a hospital, where she was told that she was going to be released, so she said, "All right, I want to go see my own doctor." And then, subsequently, she was told, "You're being charged with assaulting this police officer." She was completely shocked. She had absolutely no idea what she had been arrested for and what she had done or what she had been accused of doing. So the claim that Cecily somehow intentionally assaulted the police officer was a bit ridiculous.

This is a young woman who is known as a nonviolent activist. In fact, on this particular night, she wasn't even out protesting. She was out celebrating St. Patrick's Day and only wound up in Zuccotti Park to meet somebody so they could continue going drinking at the Irish pubs that are down by the Wall Street area. She was caught up in the police department's manufactured need to sweep Zuccotti Park clear on the six-month anniversary of the occupation of the park. They made up a notion that, somehow or other, the park had to be cleaned at midnight; therefore, everybody who had gathered peacefully and in a rather festive and joyful occasion to celebrate the anniversary had to be cleared out. Cecily was among those who were cleared out. What is absurd, and which I have difficulty understanding how the jury could reject it, is that when you look at the video, you see Cecily in a bright green dress. The police officer testified that before she swung her elbow, she said, "Film this. Film this, please," as if she's advertising, in her bright green dress, that, "Hey, I'm going to commit a crime. Why don't you just film it, so everybody can spot me?"

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5854) 2 months ago

AMY GOODMAN: Let's turn to the footage that was presented in court. Here, you can barely make out Cecily McMillan and a police officer in the crowd. Prosecutors claim the footage shows, as you said, McMillan elbowing Police Officer Grantley Bovell in the face. Explain what it is that we are seeing here.

MARTIN STOLAR: Well, what you're seeing, from the prosecution's point of view, was somebody who, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, just out of the blue, slug a cop. Right? Makes absolutely no sense, given who the person is. When you slow down the video and you look at it frame by frame, you see a—what appears to be the officer's arm across Cecily's torso. And it is—what her recollection of the event is, is that arm came up and grabbed her breast, and she just reacted. Her elbow went up and hit the police officer in the eye. It's an accident. It was not an intentional effort to prevent the cop from doing his job. And what his job was was escorting Cecily out of the park. It is difficult to believe that Cyrus Vance, who is the elected district attorney of this county, could look at the injuries that Cecily got, her—what is probably going to be a lifelong course of post-traumatic stress disorder that she's suffering from, and this little black eye that the cop got—not that he deserved a black eye, but if you grab somebody's breast, then you have to think that something's going to happen.

AARON MATÉ: You had photographs of bruises all over her body. When she came on our show, she was displaying some of them. But the prosecution cast doubt on all this, and one of their claims was that she never told medical officials of her injuries. How did they work to undermine her claims of being injured?

MARTIN STOLAR: That is really one of the more difficult things to understand. April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the District Attorney's Office. However, the DA argued to the jury that because Cecily did not, from the very first hospital she went to, Beekman Downtown, or the second hospital, Bellevue—they argue that because she didn't all of a sudden make an immediate outcry that her breast had been groped by a police officer, therefore it didn't happen. Now, that's really a sexist, anti-woman position. And that they were able to get away with it, when—you know, with the assistant district attorney being a woman and in Sexual Awareness Week in the DA's Office, to suggest that because of a lack of an outcry that somebody had groped your breast, therefore it didn't happen, that's really ancient history and never should have been allowed.

AMY GOODMAN: Lucy Parks, you're a friend of Cecily, though you weren't there that night. What are you calling for now? She's been convicted. She, to the surprise of many, was actually taken off to Rikers and—I'd like to ask about that, as well—denied bail. And in two weeks, the sentence will be determined.

LUCY PARKS: Well, Cecily has a support team, and we're still figuring out what our next step is going to be, because we were all—the verdict came very much like a punch in the gut, and especially the fact that she did get sent straight to Rikers. But, I mean, there was a very organic rally and march that happened last night at Zuccotti Park. We'll also be putting together petitions, call-in days, all that sort of stuff, and also trying to bring together, like, the communities of like—like sort of U.S. activists and anyone who, like, feels strongly about this trial to try and heal and then try and move forward, and also broaden the conversation about the justice system to talk about more people than just Cecily, because she's got it pretty bad, but there are people who have been hurt worse by the justice system even.

AARON MATÉ: The Manhattan DA, Cyrus Vance, he's obtained indictments against seven Occupy activists between 2011 and 2012 on charges of assaulting police officers. Two pleaded guilty, one was acquitted, and three were allowed to plead guilty on misdemeanors. Do you think that with this prosecution and with this verdict, there was a political message being sent to activists?

LUCY PARKS: I most definitely do. To me, the political message is that dissent isn't really legal anymore. I mean, you can go to a protest—not even to protest, just be there—and get sexually assaulted, accidentally hit a cop and wind up in prison for two to seven years. So that, that's really scary. And I also think that part of why this case was prosecuted so hard was because the NYPD and the criminal justice system in New York wanted to send a message and put, like, its bookend on Occupy, saying, with the guilty verdict, that, like, they've won.

AMY GOODMAN: Marty Stolar, she could have made a plea deal.

MARTIN STOLAR: Well, the only plea deal that was offered was for her to plead guilty to a felony. That is—

AMY GOODMAN: Would she have gone to jail in that case?

MARTIN STOLAR: She would have been offered probation as part of the plea.

AMY GOODMAN: So she could have gotten probation.

MARTIN STOLAR: She could have pled guilty to a felony. She could have gotten probation.

AMY GOODMAN: She knew she faced seven years in jail, but felt—

MARTIN STOLAR: And she knew she faced seven years in jail, and she chose, because she's a—look, she's an innocent woman. And it's unfortunate that sometimes an innocent person gets convicted in the criminal courts. That's what we have appellate courts for. And we will continue the fight to try to get this conviction reversed. It is pretty outrageous that this puts the bookend on Occupy Wall Street. The statistics that you read before about how many people were arrested for assault and how many pleaded guilty are incorrect. Cecily is the only felony conviction after trial for assaulting a police officer. Nobody else was convicted. And over 90 percent of the roughly 3,000 arrests that took place during the time when Occupy Wall Street was active were dismissed. So, why go after Cecily with such a heavy hand? The only explanation that I've ever been able to figure out is that it's an effort to protect the city of New York from a substantial monetary penalty for the conduct and for the treatment that she received in getting beat up, neglected and, finally, hospitalized, and for the lifelong effects that she's going to have from how she was brutalized on the night that she was arrested.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us. Marty Stolar, criminal defense attorney, co-attorney in this case, affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild, a co-counsel with Cecily McMillan's case along with Rebecca Heinegg. And I want to thank you, Lucy Parks, a field coordinator of Justice for Cecily Support Team.

When we come back, we'll be joined by Kathleen Cleaver and Danny Glover. Stay with us.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5854) 2 months ago

Cecily McMillan: The Latest Butterfly on the Wheel

Thursday, 08 May 2014 10:26
By Joe Macare, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23582-cecily-mcmillan-the-latest-butterfly-on-the-wheel

"Who Breaks a Butterfly Upon a Wheel?"

This was the question posed by William Rees-Mogg, editor of the London Times, on July 1, 1967, in the headline of an editorial denouncing the sentencing of Rolling Stones members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to three and 12 months in prison, respectively, on drug-related charges.

Four years before Richard Nixon declared a "war on drugs," and over a decade before Ronald Reagan’s administration kicked the American drug war and racist mass incarceration into overdrive, Rees-Mogg had already correctly observed the power imbalance and excessive force involved in caging human beings for months or years on end for nonviolent drug offenses.

Yet even the most ardent Rolling Stones fan - should they be able to acknowledge how power and privilege operate - would surely have to concede that Jagger and Richards were, already in '67, less vulnerable figures than many against whom the power of the state has been brought to bear. No doubt Jagger and Richards were singled out for being as lacking in respectability as two white, mostly heterosexual Englishmen from comfortable backgrounds could be. But while the case against the two may have been politically motivated, the Stones’ politics would come to be the epitome of the status quo. As Rees-Mogg later described, Jagger even then had a "libertarian view of ethical and social issues which turned out to be one of the constituents, though only one, of Thatcherism . . . [and which] predicted the Anglo-American ideology of the 1980s."

Just shy of half a century later, we cannot count the butterflies who have been put upon the wheel of "justice" in supposedly civilized, democratic, "free" countries like the United Kingdom and United States. The "butterfly upon a wheel," first conjured up by 18th century poet Alexander Pope, endures as a striking metaphor for what happens when a government uses its criminal justice system punitively and for political reasons against individuals who cannot hope to marshal anything like equivalent resources with which to defend themselves.

While it may appear that they have been targeted for their personal drug use, more often, that has been merely an excuse; they have actually been targeted for being poor, and/or black, or otherwise determined as disposable by those in power and too many in our societies. In cases like those of Marissa Alexander, Patreese Johnson and CeCe McDonald, they have been targeted in a way that seems almost designed to illustrate - when set against the cases of George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn - who is granted permission to engage in "self defense" and who is not.

Most recently, we have seen this excessive punitive force aimed, with a deliberate intent that only the most willfully blind apologists could deny, at those who have defied the system’s authority.

Victimless, Manufactured Crimes or "Terrorizing"?

Examples of this from the last few years are myriad. There is Chelsea Manning, who on May 27 will have been in some form of confinement for four years, after revealing war crimes and torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond. Now fighting to reduce her 35-year sentence via appeal, Manning is already forgotten by too many, her name and gender identity now formally recognized by those who hold her prisoner, yet still somehow not always recognized or remembered by those who have claimed to stand in solidarity with her.

There are Brian Jacob Church, Brent Betterly and Jared Chase, the young men known as the NATO 3, who were targeted, "befriended" and manipulated by undercover Chicago police officers, then arrested for allegedly making Molotov cocktails. While the state of Illinois was unable to get either convictions on terrorism charges to stick or the 14 years in prison that officials demanded for each defendant, Judge Thaddeus Wilson handed down sentences of five to eight years each, and, despite the jury’s Not Guilty verdicts on every single terrorism charge, declared that the crimes of which the NATO 3 were convicted, "might not be terrorism but [are] terrorizing."

As in other cases of police infiltration and entrapment of activists such as the Cleveland 4, the case of the NATO 3 reveals a predatory system willing to target the vulnerable and exploit their weaknesses. Testimony revealed that one of the undercover police officers offered alcohol to Jacob Church, who was underage at the time. In their sentencing statement, prosecutors invoked the Boston Marathon bombing, paid assassins and entirely unrelated cases of violence. But as Kevin Gosztola has noted, Assistant State’s Attorney Jack Blakey also cynically invoked Huntington’s disease, the rare genetic neurodegenerative disorder from which Jared Chase suffers, as a possible cause of danger to others and a reason to give him a longer sentence. And Blakey dragged Brent Betterly’s seven-year-old son into his sentencing arguments, calling him "no 'Father of the Year.' "

The examples go on and on. Ahmed Ferhani, another vulnerable young man manipulated by undercover police, serving 10 years for his part in a plot that seems to have been concocted by the NYPD. Jeremy Hammond, serving 10 years in federal prison for exposing troubling collusion between private corporations and government agencies. Barrett Brown, imprisoned since September 2012, initially for charges including the truly heinous crime of pasting of a link. Grand jury resisters in the Pacific Northwest and New York City, now released but held in jail for months for refusing to cooperate with a secretive process often used against political movements.

Whether incarcerated for days, months or years, what they have in common is the absence of having committed anything recognizable as actual crimes with actual victims - in the popular understanding of these terms which, while never perfect, has more logical and ethical sense to it than the definition of crime that the United States government is now handing down.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5854) 2 months ago

Criminalized Identities

There is an unfortunate tendency on the left to talk about a dichotomy between so-called "identity politics" and substantive, structural differentials of power. Cases like those of Monica Jones and Cecily McMillan (to name but two) illustrate how false this dichotomy is.

Monica Jones was targeted by the Arizona police for being a black woman, a black trans woman, and a former sex worker now organizing for sex worker rights. Racism and open, explicit and aggressive transphobia were used against Jones in her trial on charges of intent to commit prostitution. The Windy City Times described the trial:

During the nearly three-hour proceedings, the prosecution presented only one witness - the arresting officer. Throughout his testimony, he referred to Jones with the pronouns "he" and "him." The judge deliberated for less than a minute before handing down a guilty verdict. Jones was sentenced to thirty days. She will be forced to serve that term in a men's facility.

"As an African American and as a woman, the justice system has failed me," said Jones after the verdict. Not only did it fail her, the justice system sought to make an example of her. As Laura Campagna observed:

Monica’s case is occurring within a larger context of criminalizing queer and gender-variant people in Arizona. . . . Monica Jones was profiled for looking like a sex worker in a state where law enforcement has been granted the power to determine who people are based on their appearance . . . The judge believed the officer’s story over hers not because his made more sense (it didn’t), but because she is an African-American transgender woman. Her identity has already been criminalized.

Power - as currently manifested in an unholy fusion of corporate oligarchy and the authoritarian, security-obsessed state - will not hesitate to use your identity against you if it can. It will not only target people because of patriarchy and rape culture, various forms of racism from Islamophobia to anti-blackness, homophobia or transphobia, class prejudice and stigma. It will also specifically use structures of inequality - and the prejudices they inculcate in media, jurors and the wider public - against its targets.

Rape Culture as Tool of the State

On Monday, May 5, Cecily McMillan was found guilty of assaulting NYPD Officer Grantley Bovell. She faces up to seven years in prison. She was convicted by a jury who apparently did not all understand the implications of their decision and who had been prevented from considering the broader context of NYPD violence against the movement of which McMillan was part. According to Molly Knefel, writing at The Guardian:

[T]he jury didn't hear anything about the police violence that took place in Zuccotti Park that night [on March 17, 2012]. They didn't hear about what happened there on November 15, 2011, when the park was first cleared. The violence experienced by Occupy protesters throughout its entirety was excluded from the courtroom. The narrative that the jury did hear was tightly controlled by what the judge allowed - and Judge Ronald Zweibel consistently ruled that any larger context of what was happening around McMillan at the time of the arrest (let alone Bovell's own history of violence) was irrelevant to the scope of the trial.

In the trial, physical evidence was considered suspect but the testimony of the police was cast as infallible. Despite photographs of her bruised body, including her right breast, the prosecution cast doubt upon McMillan's allegations of being injured by the police - all while Officer Bovell repeatedly identified the wrong eye when testifying as to how McMillan injured him. And not only was Officer Bovell's documented history of violent behavior deemed irrelevant by the judge, but so were the allegations of his violent behavior that very same night.

The police violence to which McMillan was subjected was explicitly gendered in nature, and in this she is far from alone: It is part of what has been alleged to be a broader pattern, an expression of rape culture as repressive policing tactic.

At her trial, Assistant District Attorney Erin Choi ridiculed McMillan’s allegations of being assaulted by Officer Bovell, calling her "not shy," saying she would have reported it earlier were it true, and concluding "She might as well have said that aliens came that night and assaulted her." In other words, the case against McMillan was built on using rape culture and misogyny: These were the tools used to silence dissent and send, in the words of writer and organizer Wagatwe Wanjuki: "a reminder from the state that women (all people, really) should just accept sexual assault by its hands."

Against the Wheel

When we think of the image of the butterfly on the wheel, it should not be to think of these dissidents as weak or fragile, or to romanticize them. It should be to recognize the immense power differentials at work and the need for this to be not only recognized but spoken loudly and fought.

In 1967, Jagger and Richards were lucky - one might say privileged - enough to have the editor of the Times in their corner. What local pillars of the establishment have spoken out for Cecily McMillan in 2014?

Not NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, hailed by liberals for his rhetoric on economic inequality and stop-and-frisk, who has made no comment on Cecily McMillan’s case. (It should also be noted that any reforms he has brought to the NYPD have so far been cosmetic, as might be expected following his selection of Bill Bratton as NYPD Commissioner. Bratton, meanwhile, has found appropriately terrifying targets against whom to aim the power of the NYPD, in the form of young black men who dance on the subway.) The founding chapter of the National Organization for Women in NYC has not spoken out, but it found time to do some no doubt much-appreciated PR recently for Bratton and other members of the police force responsible for McMillan’s assault.

So who speaks now for Cecily McMillan and others put on the "wheel" of the criminal justice system? No one, if not you and me.

Write to Cecily McMillan.

Petition New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio to pardon Cecily McMillan.

Copyright, Truthout.

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[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5854) 2 months ago

Guilty Verdict for Occupy Activist an "Attack on Dissent"

Thursday, 08 May 2014 11:01
By Jessica Desvarieux, The Real News Network | Video Interview

http://truth-out.org/news/item/23578-guilty-verdict-for-occupy-activist-an-attack-on-dissent

More at The Real News

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKxir_u2T_0&feature=player_embedded

Attorney Kevin Zeese discusses how the judge hearing Cecily McMillan's case did not allow the defense to show images which would have proven that the activist was reacting to getting her breast grabbed.

TRANSCRIPT:

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

So you may have heard of Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan. She was allegedly assaulted by a New York police officer on the six-month anniversary of the Occupy movement two years ago. That night, police moved in to clear the park and make arrests, and during the chaos, McMillan's defense says that an officer grabbed her breast from behind, swung her around, and threw her to the ground. You can see here a picture of some of what her defense says were bruises from that night.

Now her trial has come to a close, and Cecily was found guilty of assaulting an officer, which is a felony. She faces up to seven years in prison.

Now joining us to get into this case and discuss more is an attorney, Kevin Zeese. He's been following the case closely, and he's one of the original organizers of the national occupation of Washington, D.C.

Thanks for joining us, Kevin.

KEVIN ZEESE, ORGANIZER, POPULARRESISTANCE.ORG: Happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

DESVARIEUX: So, Kevin, just quickly, what was your reaction to the verdict?

ZEESE: Disappointment, severe disappointment. Worry for Cecily. And not totally surprised, because the judge in the case was very aggressive on the side of the prosecutor throughout the case, pretrial and trial. And so it wasn't totally surprising that it turned out the way it did. But, really, disappointment.

And, also, thinking about the context of our times, you know, with the police abuse all of the country--I saw--the same say that I saw her conviction, I saw a tape of in Albuquerque City Council meeting where the citizens came in and took over the council meeting, so angry about police abuse. The same day also, articles about the Supreme Court refusing to hear the Hedges case against the NDAA, you know, which allows military to hold people without charges.

So it's a lot of these things coming together. It's a real attack on dissent. But mostly I felt for Cecily.

DESVARIEUX: So you mentioned that the judge really wasn't allowing the defense to show some really strong evidence that would have helped Cecily's case. Can you speak little bit more about that?

ZEESE: Well, the judge, Judge Zweibel--and, you know, I looked him up before I wrote about this case. And one of the first things you see when you look him up is he's a prosecutor in robes. So we know where his bias is.

And you saw in some of the pretrial motions one of the key issues was getting to use the personnel file of the police officer involved, Grantley Bovell, and the judge refused to allow that. He only allowed a small portion that was before the jury, which was about his fixing tickets in the Bronx as part of the Bronx ticket-fixing scandal, which many--that should have undermined his ethics right there, but I guess that wasn't enough for the jury. But there's more in his history of police abuse. In fact, that same night, there was a guy who had his head hit against the ground by Bovell, and he was in court, and [he was ready to testify about that]. The judge wouldn't let that in. But he wouldn't go into the personnel files and let the defense see any other kind of reprimands he's said, any other kind of problems he's had. He's facing a number of--at least two lawsuits for abusing citizens. And so none of that got in before the jury, so the jury didn't hear any of that.

Then, throughout the trial, whenever the government would make an objection, it was upheld. The judge agreed with the government whenever they said they object to that, they object to that question, that videotape, whatever, that line of questioning. But whenever the defense made an objection, it was almost always overruled. He always denied the defense. In fact, at one point, Marty Stoler, the defense lawyer, said, you know, what's going on here? You always believe what the prosecutor says; you never believe what I say. And so it was pretty evident. And people in the courtroom were Tweeting out about how the judge is just obviously against Cecily the whole way through.

And my hope was that the jury would see that. And sometimes you get a reverse reaction and the jury says, oh, boy, this judge is making it impossible. What's going on here? This is, a railroading. But that didn't work with this jury, that didn't come across with this jury, and so the jury allowed it to go the way it was.

And so it was a very hard case for the defense to present their defense. There was no good videotape. That was one of the big problems. The only videotape that was had was after the breast grabbing, the alleged breast-grabbing, which--people saw pictures of her breast bruised with fingerprints on them. But they did have videotape of her hitting him.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5854) 2 months ago

DESVARIEUX: Yeah. And that videotape, Kevin, 'cause some people are going to see that and say, at the end of the day, she did hit an officer, she committed a crime, and, you know, just because you have--.

ZEESE: Well, it's not a crime.

DESVARIEUX: It's not a crime? Okay.

ZEESE: If you hit someone, you need to have criminal intent.

DESVARIEUX: You need to have criminal intent. Okay.

ZEESE: You have to intend to commit a crime. What she--looks like what she did, from the evidence, is that she reacted, and just someone grabbed her from behind, she didn't know who it was, and she reacted to push him off her. That's not criminal intent. And so that's not necessarily a crime, if it really was just her reaction without her thinking about I'm going to attack this officer. So that's not--that's the key issue. There was no real denial of her hitting Officer Bovell. The question was: did she do it intentionally with criminal intent, or was it just a kind of reaction?

DESVARIEUX: Cecily's story sort of ties into a lot of, I think, Occupy protesters who came forward saying that the way the police reacted to them was very aggressive. Can you speak to that a little bit? What were some of your experiences?

ZEESE: Well, especially in New York that was true in the beginning. In fact, I would credit the police aggressiveness as helping Occupy take off. I mean, there were two key incidents early in Occupy Wall Street in New York. One was in the first weekend. After they'd [spent] a week down, they had a weekend protest. They were marching to Union Square. Police separated the crowd, arrested some people. There were some women behind some orange mesh, and a police officer with a white shirt, a white-collar cop, went over and pepper sprayed these women for no reason. It was, you know, nonviolent protesters being abused by a police officer. He tried to deny it. They said the women were doing something. But there were, like, six cameras from people's telephones that caught it all on camera, and you can see they did nothing wrong. You can even see one of the blue-collar cops saying, I can't believe he just pepper sprayed her. And, you know, the media coverage of that really sided with the women who were pepper sprayed and against the cop, who's now faced all sorts of discipline issues because of that. And that really helped to spark the movement.

The second thing that sparked the movement was when the police kind of directed the protesters into the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge rather than on the sideways, and 700 people were arrested that day, kettled on the bridge. Once they got onto the bridge, the police closed them off and closed them off and, you know--

DESVARIEUX: Yeah, I remember that day.

ZEESE: --arrested hundreds of people.

And you saw these similar kinds of incidents in other cities. Some cities have a long reputation of police abuse. Oakland, for example, has a terrible reputation of a police force that's out of control. They've been under federal court orders and they've been monitored by federal judges. And during Occupy, they were very aggressive. And there've been lots and lots of settlements, both in New York and Oakland, on behalf of Occupiers who were abused.

Other police--I think the D.C. police used a different strategy. They'd been sued multiple times in the late 1900s, in the early part of this century, and they've had some pretty big judgments against them. They've been more cautious. And I think they've learned that a soft-pillow approach is better: unless the protesters give the police a justification that the public will agree with, they take a soft-pillow approach and allow the protesters to do they want to do. And that makes it actually harder for us to grow. We get less media attention. People get less sympathy for us. You know, they're less aware of us. The only times--really, the times when the police got aggressive in D.C. was when the public started to turn against Occupy. And if occupiers went a little bit over the line--and nothing ever really seriously violent or anything happened in the Occupy in Washington, D.C. But, you know, enough of a justification, the police could then go ahead and be a little bit more aggressive. Then you saw that. But pretty much the police didn't take that approach in D.C.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. Let's go back to Cecily's case. What can we expect next for her? What's going on?

ZEESE: Well, she's in jail right now. After she was found guilty, the judge did what he called stepping her back, stepped her back into prison. She's at Rikers Island. And the next sentence: they're sentencing her on the 19th.

Pretrial, the judge said to Cecily that if she didn't take the plea bargain, she'd get a longer sentence after her trial. Now, a longer sentence, you know what that's going to mean. It could be up to seven years. The plea bargain that was offered was she had to plead to a felony. She didn't want to plead to a felony, 'cause she didn't think she did anything. But she would get probation. So, longer than probation. Okay, we'll see what that could be--you know, time served, it could be a year, it could be much longer. And we don't know what's going to happen.

Now, Judge Zweibel with all is pretty much a prosecutor's judge. We don't know what the prosecutor's going to ask for, either, you know, whether or not the prosecutor requests a long sentence or recognizes that she's already had two years of stress from this and going through a very difficult trial, and now spending, you know, multiple weeks in prison. Maybe that's enough to satisfy the prosecutor. We'll see. This case shouldn't have been prosecuted. I think the district attorney, Cy Vance, made a gigantic error in prosecuting this case. They got a conviction, but they only got a conviction 'cause they had a judge who was very much on the side of the prosecutor and really maneuvered the jury in that direction. That's a real sad reality. And it's--unfortunately, it's all too common in U.S. justice, because you look at who becomes judges, it's often prosecutors, often corporate lawyers. It's very rarely a defense lawyer or a civil rights lawyer or a consumer lawyer. It's usually a prosecutor or a corporate lawyer who becomes a judge.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. We're going to certainly keep track of this case. And we'd love to have you back on to give us an update. Thank you so much for joining us in the studio.

ZEESE: Happy to do it. Thank you.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5854) 2 months ago

The United States Military Junta

Monday, 05 May 2014 14:29
By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23508-the-american-military-junta

America is now officially being ruled by a military Junta.

That's right. Much like the military government in Chile that was led by General Augusto Pinochet, our military now has expansive powers, which infringe upon our Constitutional rights.

Back on December 31, 2011, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (the NDAA) into law for the fiscal year 2012.

The NDAA is a bill that is passed into law every year, which allows the government to continue funding national security and military operations for the following fiscal year.

But the 2012 bill wasn't your average NDAA bill.

The 2012 version of the NDAA gave the federal government vast new powers to add to its arsenal in the name of fighting terrorism.

Opponents of the act and even some of its sponsors believe that it gives the federal military the power to carry out the policing of American citizens, something that's been off the books in America since the Posse Comitatus Act was signed into law back in 1878.

Many believe that the NDAA gives dictatorial powers to the federal government and military, because it allows our military to arrest any American citizen without a warrant, on American soil, and to hold an American citizen against their will for an indefinite amount of time without being criminally charged.

In January of 2012, journalist Chris Hedges, along with attorneys Bruce Afran and Carl Mayer, sued the federal government over Section 1021(b)(2) of the 2012 NDAA.

According to the lawsuit's website, StopNDAA.org, that provision, "includes undefined terms such as 'associated forces' and 'substantial support' – terms that government attorneys refused to clarify ... The right of the US government to detain anyone, anywhere without charge until 'the end of hostilities' is now codified into law."

Later in 2012, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest declared that part of the NDAA was indeed unconstitutional.

In her decision, Forrest wrote that Section 1021(b)(2) of the NDAA echoed the 1944 Supreme Court ruling in Korematsu v. United States, which let our military detain over 100,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II, and throw them in internment camps without due process.

The federal government appealed Forrest's ruling, asking the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay of Forrest's ruling. The 2nd Circuit agreed with the government's request for a stay, and ultimately tossed out Forrest's decision altogether.

After that decision, Hedges, Afran, Mayer and the lawsuit's other plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to hear the case.

Last Monday, the Supreme Court announced that it would not be hearing the case.

After learning of the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case, attorney Carl Mayer said that, "In declining to hear the case Hedges v. Obama and declining to review the NDAA, the Supreme Court has turned its back on precedent dating back to the Civil War era that holds that the military cannot police the streets of America. This is a major blow to civil liberties. It gives the green light to the military to detain people without trial or counsel in military installations, including secret installations abroad. There is little left of judicial review of presidential action during wartime."

And, in a piece over at Common Dreams, Chris Hedges writes that, "In refusing to hear our lawsuit the courts have overturned nearly 150 years of case law that repeatedly holds that the military has no jurisdiction over civilians."

Our military, thanks to the wording of the NDAA, now has the power to label us terrorists, capture us, lock us up in jail, and hold us there without any regard for our Constitutional rights to due process or to a fair trial.

Section 1021(b)(2) of the 2012 NDAA trashes our Constitution, and the very freedoms that our Founding Fathers fought and died for.

Despite what the Supreme Court may think, our Constitution still says we have the rights to due process, to a free trial, and to not be thrown in jail by the military.

In this case, a highly reactionary Supreme Court has thrown away nearly 200 years of historical precedent, and turned its back on the American people.

I want my Constitution back.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5854) 2 months ago

The World Has Nothing to Fear From the US Losing Power

Monday, 05 May 2014 10:28
By Mark Weisbrot, The Guardian | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23492-the-world-has-nothing-to-fear-from-the-us-losing-power

The news that China will displace the US as the world's largest economy this year is big news. For economists who follow these measurements, the tectonic shift likely occurred a few years ago. But now the World Bank is making it official, so journalists and others who opine on world affairs will have to take this into account. And if they do so, they will find that this is a very big deal indeed.

What does it mean? First, the technicalities: the comparison is made on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, which means that it takes into account the differing prices in the two countries. So, if a dollar is worth 6.3 renminbi today on the foreign exchange market, it may be that 6.3 renminbi can buy a lot more in China than one dollar can buy in the US. The PPP comparison adjusts for that; that is why China's economy is much bigger than the measure that you have most commonly seen in the media, which simply converts China's GDP to dollars at the official exchange rate.

The PPP measure is a better comparison for many purposes. For example, take military spending: the money that China needs to build a fighter jet or pay military personnel is a lot less than the equivalent in dollars that the US has to pay for the same goods and services. This means that China has a bigger economy than that of the US, for purposes of military spending. And in a decade, the Chinese economy will most likely be about 60 percent bigger than the US economy.

President Obama has just returned from a trip to Asia where he was criticised for not being tougher with China. However, Americans may want to consider whether "containing" China with a "pivot" to Asia is an affordable proposition. When the US had an arms race with the Soviet Union, the Soviet economy was maybe one-quarter the size of ours. We have not experienced an arms race with a country whose economy is bigger than ours, and whose economic size advantage is growing rapidly. Are Americans prepared to give up social security or Medicare in order to maintain US military supremacy in Asia? To ask this question is to answer it.

Fortunately, such an arms race is not necessary. China is a rising power, but the government does not seem to be interested in building an empire. Unlike the US, which has hundreds of military bases throughout the globe, China doesn't have any. The Chinese government seems to be very focused on economic growth; trying to become a developed country as soon as it can. Since China has 1.3 billion people, having an economy the size of the US means that average living standards are less than one-fourth of ours. They have a long way to go to become a rich country.

Of course, just because an arms race is unnecessary or unwinnable doesn't mean it can't get started. The Washington foreign policy establishment is much accustomed to the authority, prestige, and privilege of being the overwhelmingly dominant power on the planet. And as we saw during the eastward expansion of Nato in the 1990s – now coming back to haunt us in a new cold war with Russia – there are politically powerful military contractors that can also have a voice in US foreign and military policy.

The American people, according to polling data, are of another point of view. They are largely tired of unnecessary wars and mostly sympathetic to Obama's response to critics while in the Philippines: "Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force, after we've just gone through a decade of war at enormous cost to our troops and to our budget?" It is arguable that the only reason our government is able to maintain an imperial foreign policy is that so few Americans serve in the military and pay the ultimate price for it.

Still, there is a powerful ideology of American exceptionalism and a widespread belief that if the US does not run the world, somebody worse – possibly China – will. The fact that the US and its European allies still have more democratic societies with more developed rule of law than most middle-income countries – despite the setbacks of the past decade – reinforces this notion that the world will be worse off if the US loses power and influence.

But the US lost most of its influence in Latin America over the past 15 years, and the region has done quite well, with a sharp reduction in poverty for the first time in decades. The Washington-based International Monetary Fund has also lost most of its influence over the middle-income countries of the world, and these have also done remarkably better in the 2000s.

In the 18th century, those who opposed democratic revolutions like that of the United States had dystopian visions of governance without monarchy. So, too, our foreign policy establishment cannot imagine a multipolar world where the US and its allies must negotiate more and give orders less often. But economic trends are making this reality inevitable, and Americans should embrace it. Whatever the internal political systems of the countries whose representation in the international arena will increase, the end result is likely to be more democratic governance at the international level, with a greater rule of international law, fewer wars, and more social and economic progress.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.