30 Jan 2012

Hip-Hop & Tzol

Hip-Hop & Tzol de la S.C. Maria S.A. Regele familiei sale regale, cu grupa de sânge "albastru... de Prusia" şi taxa de intrare la castelul Peles de 70 de lei...

Cât citiţi aceste rânduri, ‘jde oameni „de bine“, confuzi da' sătui de licheaua securistă, aleasă la căpitănia României de milioanele de "diasporizaţi" (... în ţări relativ mai calde decât este Balcaniada neoliberalismului mioritic din mahalaua Europei!) dau "like-a-like" (maneaua Faecesbook-ului, gestul reflex, condiţionat de frenezia tabloidă a numitorului comun!) pe „ştirile“ „Prinţişorului“ Radu, bâlbâindu-se ca un disc zgâriat în „imaginile“ limbii de lemn, dar cu sângele albastru... de Prusia! Dar, şi mai bine, să ascultăm "bardul" (aproape) în original:

Majestatea S.A. […cu capital anonim, Ponzificat la Bursa non-valorilor Dâmboviţene] Regele va avea întâlniri cu personalități din mediul de afaceri, diplomatic şi […] imaginea Majestatii S.A.le îmbunătăţeşte [iar]imaginea românilor în Italia, […unde] era nevoie de o [surprize-surprize] imagine pozitivă în mediul diplomatic, de un mesaj de încredere în mediul investitorilor şi de un cuvânt cald, deschis şi prietenos (sic!)... În aceste momente, şi nu numai, Majestatea S.A. Regele era cel mai în măsură să le transmită!”

NATO ţie, dă-mi-o şUE: Poezie curată, frate! Adevărat Hip-Hop & Tzol de la beizadeaua scăpătată!

The Great Austerity War: What Caused the US Deficit Crisis and Who Should Pay to Fix It?

by James Crotty, Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst


Rapidly rising deficits at both the federal and state and local government levels, along with prospective long-term financing problems in the Social Security and Medicare programs, have triggered a one-sided austerity-focused class war in the US and around the globe. A coalition of the richest and most economically powerful segments of society, conservative politicians who represent their interests, and right-wing populist groups like the Tea Party has demanded that deficits be eliminated by severe cuts at all levels of government in spending that either supports the poor and the middle class or funds crucial public investment. It also demands tax cuts for the rich and for business. These demands constitute a deliberate attempt to destroy the New Deal project, begun in the 1930s, whose goal was to subject capitalism to democratic control. In this paper I argue that our deficit crisis is the result of a shift from the New-Deal-based economic model of the early post-war period to today's neoliberal, free-market model. The new model has generated slow growth, rising inequality and rising deficits. Rising deficits in turn created demands for austerity. After tracing the long-term evolution of our current deficit crisis, I show that this crisis should be resolved primarily by raising taxes on upper-income households and large corporations, cutting war spending, and adopting a Canadian or European style health care system. Calls for massive government spending cuts should be seen as what they are - an attack by the rich and powerful against the basic interests of the American people.

Key Words: deficit crisis; fiscal crisis; austerity; Social Security crisis; health care crisis.

23 Jan 2012

Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world

As anti-capitalist protesters take to the streets, mathematics has teased apart the global economic network to show who's really pulling the strings...

Updated 13:15 24 October 2011 by Andy Coghlan and Debora MacKenzie
Magazine issue 2835. Subscribe and save
For similar stories, visit the Finance and Economics Topic Guide

AS PROTESTS against financial power sweep the world [...], science may have confirmed the protesters' worst fears. An analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a relatively small group of companies (see below), mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.

The study's assumptions have attracted some criticism, but complex systems analysts contacted by New Scientist say it is a unique effort to untangle control in the global economy. Pushing the analysis further, they say, could help to identify ways of making global capitalism more stable.

The idea that a few bankers control a large chunk of the global economy might not seem like news to New York's Occupy Wall Street movement and protesters elsewhere...

The Occupy Wall Street movement spreads to London (Image: Dave Stock)

But the study, by a trio of complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, is the first to go beyond ideology to empirically identify such a network of power. It combines the mathematics long used to model natural systems with comprehensive corporate data to map ownership among the world's transnational corporations (TNCs).

"Reality is so complex, we must move away from dogma, whether it's conspiracy theories or free-market," says James Glattfelder. "Our analysis is reality-based."

Previous studies have found that a few TNCs own large chunks of the world's economy, but they included only a limited number of companies and omitted indirect ownerships, so could not say how this affected the global economy - whether it made it more or less stable, for instance.

The Zurich team can. From Orbis 2007, a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide, they pulled out all 43,060 TNCs and the share ownerships linking them. Then they constructed a model of which companies controlled others through shareholding networks, coupled with each company's operating revenues, to map the structure of economic power.

The work, to be published in PLoS One, revealed a core of 1318 companies with interlocking ownerships (see image). Each of the 1318 had ties to two or more other companies, and on average they were connected to 20. What's more, although they represented 20 per cent of global operating revenues, the 1318 appeared to collectively own through their shares the majority of the world's large blue chip and manufacturing firms - the "real" economy - representing a further 60 per cent of global revenues.

The 1318 transnational corporations that form the core of the economy. Superconnected companies are red, very connected companies are yellow. The size of the dot represents revenue (Image: PLoS One)

When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a "super-entity" of 147 even more tightly knit companies - all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity - that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network. "In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network," says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group.

John Driffill of the University of London, a macroeconomics expert, says the value of the analysis is not just to see if a small number of people controls the global economy, but rather its insights into economic stability.

Concentration of power is not good or bad in itself, says the Zurich team, but the core's tight interconnections could be. As the world learned in 2008, such networks are unstable. "If one [company] suffers distress," says Glattfelder, "this propagates."

"It's disconcerting to see how connected things really are," agrees George Sugihara of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, a complex systems expert who has advised Deutsche Bank.

Yaneer Bar-Yam, head of the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), warns that the analysis assumes ownership equates to control, which is not always true. Most company shares are held by fund managers who may or may not control what the companies they part-own actually do. The impact of this on the system's behaviour, he says, requires more analysis.

Crucially, by identifying the architecture of global economic power, the analysis could help make it more stable. By finding the vulnerable aspects of the system, economists can suggest measures to prevent future collapses spreading through the entire economy. Glattfelder says we may need global anti-trust rules, which now exist only at national level, to limit over-connection among TNCs. Sugihara says the analysis suggests one possible solution: firms should be taxed for excess interconnectivity to discourage this risk.

One thing won't chime with some of the protesters' claims: the super-entity is unlikely to be the intentional result of a conspiracy to rule the world. "Such structures are common in nature," says Sugihara.

Newcomers to any network connect preferentially to highly connected members. TNCs buy shares in each other for business reasons, not for world domination. If connectedness clusters, so does wealth, says Dan Braha of NECSI: in similar models, money flows towards the most highly connected members. The Zurich study, says Sugihara, "is strong evidence that simple rules governing TNCs give rise spontaneously to highly connected groups". Or as Braha puts it: "The Occupy Wall Street claim that 1 per cent of people have most of the wealth reflects a logical phase of the self-organising economy."

So, the super-entity may not result from conspiracy. The real question, says the Zurich team, is whether it can exert concerted political power. Driffill feels 147 is too many to sustain collusion. Braha suspects they will compete in the market but act together on common interests. Resisting changes to the network structure may be one such common interest.

When this article was first posted, the comment in the final sentence of the paragraph beginning "Crucially, by identifying the architecture of global economic power…" was misattributed.

The top 50 of the 147 superconnected companies:

1. Barclays plc
2. Capital Group Companies Inc
3. FMR Corporation
4. AXA
5. State Street Corporation
6. JP Morgan Chase & Co
7. Legal & General Group plc
8. Vanguard Group Inc
10. Merrill Lynch & Co Inc
11. Wellington Management Co LLP
12. Deutsche Bank AG
13. Franklin Resources Inc
14. Credit Suisse Group
15. Walton Enterprises LLC
16. Bank of New York Mellon Corp
17. Natixis
18. Goldman Sachs Group Inc
19. T Rowe Price Group Inc
20. Legg Mason Inc
21. Morgan Stanley
22. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc
23. Northern Trust Corporation
24. Société Générale
25. Bank of America Corporation
26. Lloyds TSB Group plc
27. Invesco plc
28. Allianz SE 29. TIAA
30. Old Mutual Public Limited Company
31. Aviva plc
32. Schroders plc
33. Dodge & Cox
34. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc*
35. Sun Life Financial Inc
36. Standard Life plc
37. CNCE
38. Nomura Holdings Inc
39. The Depository Trust Company
40. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance
41. ING Groep NV
42. Brandes Investment Partners LP
43. Unicredito Italiano SPA
44. Deposit Insurance Corporation of Japan
45. Vereniging Aegon
46. BNP Paribas
47. Affiliated Managers Group Inc
48. Resona Holdings Inc
49. Capital Group International Inc
50. China Petrochemical Group Company

* Lehman still existed in the 2007 dataset used
Graphic: The 1318 transnational corporations that form the core of the economy
(Data: PLoS One)

19 Jan 2012

The War on Democracy

by John Pilger
Published 19 January 2012

From the Chagos Islands to Pakistan, innocent civilians are pawns to America, backed by Britain. In our compliant political culture, this deadly game seldom speaks its name.

Lisette Talate died the other day. I remember a wiry, fiercely intelligent woman who masked her grief with a determination that was a presence. She was the embodiment of people's resistance to the war on democracy. I first glimpsed her in a 1950s Colonial Office film about the Chagos Islanders, a tiny creole nation living midway between Africa and Asia in the Indian Ocean. The camera panned across thriving villages, a church, a school, a hospital, set in phenomenal natural beauty and peace. Lisette remembers the producer saying to her and her teenage friends, "Keep smiling, girls!"

Sitting in her kitchen in Mauritius many years later, she said: "I didn't have to be told to smile. I was a happy child, because my roots were deep in the islands, my paradise. My great-grandmother was born there; I made six children there. That's why they couldn't legally throw us out of our own homes; they had to terrify us into leaving or force us out. At first, they tried to starve us. The food ships stopped arriving, [then] they spread rumours we would be bombed, then they turned on our dogs."

In the early 1960s, the Labour government of Harold Wilson secretly agreed to a demand from Washington that the Chagos archipelago, a British colony, be "swept" and "sanitised" of its 2,500 inhabitants so that a military base could be built on the principal island, Diego Garcia. "They knew we were inseparable from our pets," said Lisette. "When the American soldiers arrived to build the base, they backed their big trucks against the brick shed where we prepared the coconuts; hundreds of our dogs had been rounded up and imprisoned there. Then they gassed them through tubes from the trucks' exhausts. You could hear them crying."

Air Base of Diego Garcia located in the Indian Ocean

Lisette, her family and hundreds of the other islanders were forced on to a rusting steamer bound for Mauritius, a journey of a thousand miles. They were made to sleep in the hold on a cargo of fertiliser - bird shit. The weather was rough; everyone was ill; two of the women on board miscarried.

Dumped on the docks at Port Louis, Lisette's youngest children, Jollice and Regis, died within a week of each other. "They died of sadness," she said. "They had heard all the talk and seen the horror of what had happened to the dogs. They knew they were leaving their home for ever. The doctor in Mauritius said he could not treat sadness."

This act of mass kidnapping was carried out in high secrecy. In one official file, under the heading "Maintaining the Fiction", the Foreign Office legal adviser exhorts his colleagues to cover their actions by "reclassifying" the population as "floating" and to "make up the rules as we go along". Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court says the "deportation or forcible transfer of population" is a crime against humanity. That Britain had committed such a crime - in exchange for a $14m discount off a US Polaris nuclear submarine - was not on the agenda of a group of British "defence" correspondents flown to the Chagos by the Ministry of Defence when the US base was completed. "There is nothing in our files," said the MoD, "about inhabitants or an evacuation."

Today, Diego Garcia is crucial to America's and Britain's war on democracy. The heaviest bombing of Iraq and Afghanistan was launched from its vast airstrips, beyond which the islanders' abandoned cemetery and church stand like archaeological ruins. The terraced garden where Lisette laughed for the camera is now a fortress housing the "bunker-busting" bombs carried by bat-shaped B-2 aircraft to targets on two continents; an attack on Iran will start here. As if to complete the emblem of rampant, criminal power, the CIA added a Guantanamo-style prison for its "rendition" victims and called it Camp Justice.


What was done to Lisette's paradise has an urgent and universal meaning, for it represents the violent, ruthless nature of a whole political culture behind its democratic façade, and the scale of our own indoctrination in its messianic assumptions, described by Harold Pinter as a "brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis". Longer and bloodier than any other war since 1945, waged with demonic weapons and a gangsterism dressed as economic policy and sometimes known as globalisation, the war on democracy is unmentionable in western elite circles. As Pinter wrote, "It never happened . . . Even while it was happening it wasn't happening." Last July, the American historian William Blum published his updated "summary of the charming record of US foreign policy". Since the Second World War, the United States has:

1) Attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, most of them democratically elected.

2) Attempted to suppress a populist or national movement in 20 countries.

3) Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.

4) Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.

5) Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.

In total, the United States has carried out one or more of these actions in 69 countries. In almost all cases, Britain has been a collaborator. The "enemy" changes in name - from communism to Islamism - but mostly it is the rise of democracy independent of western power, or a society occupying strategically useful territory and deemed expendable, like the Chagos Islands.

The sheer scale of suffering, let alone criminality, is little known in the west, despite the presence of the world's most advanced communications, nominally freest journalism and most admired academy. That the most numerous victims of terrorism - western terrorism - are Muslims is unsayable, if it is known. That half a million Iraqi infants died in the 1990s as a result of the embargo imposed by Britain and America is of no interest. That extreme jihadism, which led to the 11 September 2001 attacks, was nurtured as a weapon of western policy (in "Operation Cyclone") is known to specialists, but otherwise suppressed.

While popular culture in Britain and America immerses the Second World War in an ethical bath for the victors, the holocausts arising from Anglo-American dominance of resource-rich regions are consigned to oblivion. Under the Indonesian tyrant Suharto, anointed "our man" by Margaret Thatcher, more than a million people were slaughtered in what the CIA described as "the worst mass murder of the second half of the 20th century". This estimate does not include the third of the population of East Timor who were starved or murdered with western connivance, British fighter-bombers and machine-guns.

These true stories are told in declassified files in the Public Record Office, yet represent an entire dimension of politics and the exercise of power excluded from public consideration. This has been achieved by a regime of uncoercive information control, from the evangelical mantra of advertising to soundbites on BBC news and now the ephemera of social media.

It is as if writers as watchdogs are extinct, or in thrall to a sociopathic zeitgeist, convinced they are too clever to be duped. Witness the stampede of sycophants eager to deify Christopher Hitchens, a war lover who longed to be allowed to justify the crimes of rapacious power. "For almost the first time in two centuries," wrote Terry Eagleton, "there is no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the western way of life." No Orwell warns that we do not need to live in a totalitarian society to be corrupted by totalitarianism. No Shelley speaks for the poor, no Blake proffers a vision, no Wilde reminds us that "disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man's original virtue". And grievously no Pinter rages at the war machine, as in "American Football":


Praise the Lord for all good things . . .

We blew their balls into shards of dust,

Into shards of fucking dust . . .

Into shards of fucking dust go all the lives blown there by Barack Obama, the Hopey Changey of western violence. Whenever one of Obama's drones wipes out an entire family in a faraway tribal region of Pakistan, or Somalia, or Yemen, the American controllers sitting in front of their computer-game screens type in "Bugsplat". Obama likes drones and has joked about them with journalists. One of his first actions as president was to order a wave of Pre­dator drone attacks on Pakistan that killed 74 people. He has since killed thousands, mostly civilians; drones fire Hellfire missiles that suck the air out of the lungs of children and leave body parts festooned across scrubland.

Remember the tear-stained headlines as Brand Obama was elected: "Momentous, spine-tingling" (the Guardian). "The American future," Simon Schama wrote, "is all vision, numinous, unformed, light-headed with anticipation." The San Francisco Chronicle saw a spiritual "Lightworker . . . who can . . . usher in a new way of being on the planet". Beyond the drivel, as the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg had predicted, a military coup was taking place in Washington, and Obama was their man. Having seduced the anti-war movement into virtual silence, he has given America's corrupt military officer class unprecedented powers of state and engagement. These include the prospect of wars in Africa and opportunities for provocations against China, America's largest creditor and the new "enemy" in Asia. Under Obama, the old source of official paranoia, Russia, has been encircled with ballistic missiles and the Russian opposition infiltrated. Military and CIA assassination teams have been assigned to 120 countries; long-planned attacks on Syria and Iran beckon a world war. Israel, the exemplar of US violence and lawlessness by proxy, has just received its annual pocket money of $3bn together with Obama's permission to steal more Palestinian land.

Surveillance state

Obama's most "historic" achievement is to bring the war on democracy home to America. On New Year's Eve, he signed the National Defence Authorisation Act, a law that grants the Pentagon the legal right to kidnap both foreigners and US citizens secretly and indefinitely detain, interrogate and torture, or even kill them. They need only "associate" with those "belligerent" to the US. There will be no protection of law, no trial, no legal representation. This is the first explicit legislation to abolish habeas corpus (the right to due process of law) and, in effect, repeal the Bill of Rights of 1789.

On 5 January, in an extraordinary speech at the Pentagon, Obama said the military would not only be ready to "secure territory and populations" overseas but to fight in the "homeland" and "support [the] civil authorities". In other words, US troops are to be deployed on the streets of American cities when the inev­itable civil unrest takes hold.

America is now a land of epidemic poverty and barbaric prisons - the consequence of a "market" extremism that, under Obama, has prompted the transfer of $14trn in public money to criminal enterprises in Wall Street. The victims are mostly young, jobless, homeless, incarcerated African Americans, betrayed by the first black president. The historic corollary of a perpetual war state, this is not fascism, not yet, but neither is it democracy in any recognisable form, regardless of the placebo politics that will consume the news until November. The presidential campaign, says the Washington Post, will feature "a clash of phil­osophies rooted in distinctly different views of the economy". This is patently false. The circumscribed task of journalism on both sides of the Atlantic is to create the pretence of political choice where there is none.

The same shadow is across Britain and much of Europe, where social democracy, an article of faith two generations ago, has fallen to the central bank dictators. In David Cameron's "big society", the theft of £84bn in jobs and services exceeds even the amount of tax "legally" avoided by piratical corporations. Blame rests not with the far right, but with a cowardly liberal political culture that has allowed this to happen and which, as Hywel Williams wrote following the 9/11 attacks, "can itself be a form of self-righteous fanaticism". Tony Blair is one such fanatic. In its managerial indifference to the freedoms that it claimed to hold dear, bourgeois Blairite Britain created a surveillance state with 3,000 new criminal offences and laws: more than for the whole of the previous century. The police clearly believe they have an impunity to kill. At the demand of the CIA, cases like that of Binyam Mohamed, an innocent British resident tortured and then held for five years in Guantanamo Bay, will be dealt with in secret courts in Britain in order to "protect the intelligence agencies" - the torturers.

This invisible state allowed the Blair government to fight the Chagos Islanders as they rose from their despair in exile and demanded justice in the streets of Port Louis and London. "Only when you take direct action, face to face, even break laws, are you ever noticed," Lisette said. "And the smaller you are, the greater your example to others." Such is the eloquent answer to those who still ask, "What can I do?"

I last saw Lisette's tiny figure standing in driving rain next to her comrades outside the Houses of Parliament. What struck me was the enduring courage of their resistance. It is this refusal to give up that rotten power fears, above all, knowing it is the seed beneath the snow.

17 Jan 2012

Corporate "justice" rears its ugly head...

Is the genocidal criminal, Augusto Pinochet, escaping what ought to have been just retribution after Margaret Thatcher's extra-judicial shenanigans going to have the last laugh?...

via the BBC News

Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge who famously indicted late Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet, has found himself in the dock for the first time.

He went on trial at the supreme court in Madrid charged with illegally authorising police to bug the conversations of lawyers with clients.

It is the first of three private prosecutions Judge Garzon is facing.

Suspended from Spain's National Court in 2010, he could see an end to his career if convicted.

Dressed in his own judge's robes, Mr Garzon, 56, sat next to his lawyer in court and listened as the presiding judge read out the charges.

Judge Garzon's supporters say he is being unfairly targeted by people who resent his work on human rights over the past two decades.

In a second case opening on 24 January, he is charged with exceeding his powers by ordering an investigation into the disappearance of tens of thousands of people during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War and under Franco's dictatorship.

No date has yet been set for his third trial, where he is accused of taking bribes over payments he allegedly received for bank-sponsored seminars in New York.

'Absolute corruption'

If convicted in his first trial, Judge Garzon would not go to prison but could be suspended from the legal profession for 17 years.
Arriving at the court, he smiled as he was applauded by a small crowd of supporters who were held back behind a police line.

The judge is accused of overstepping his authority by ordering the recording of prison conversations between three defendants and their lawyers.

He sat quietly with his lawyer, reading papers and taking notes, as a seven-judge panel heard a clerk read out the charges and background to the case.

Asked by the Associated Press news agency how he was feeling, Mr Garzon said: "Fine, just fine."

Spanish law allows the bugging of prison conversations involving terrorism suspects but is vaguer on non-terrorism cases.

It does allow for bugging if the investigating judge believes the conversations will yield evidence relevant to an investigation.

One of the signs held by the protesters outside the court read: "They are covering up their crimes by going after Garzon."

Gaspar Llamazares, an MP for the United Left party, told AFP news agency that Mr Garzon was being persecuted for this work to expose the crimes of the Franco era.

"We are faced with an act that shames Spanish democracy, justice and the supreme court itself judging an innocent person for trying to judge Francoism and also for trying to fight corruption," he said.

"I think the damage is done and the sentence is pre-determined."

Another protester, 68-year-old Angel Fernandez, said: "I don't know the law, but I can see there is an injustice.

"I can see there is absolute corruption and that they are not judging those who should be judged."

9 Jan 2012

The Streets of 2012

by Naomi Wolf

NEW YORK – What does the New Year hold for the global wave of protest that erupted in 2011? Did the surge of anger that began in Tunisia crest in lower Manhattan, or is 2012 likely to see an escalation of the politics of dissent?

The answers are alarming but quite predictable: we are likely to see much greater centralization of top-down suppression – and a rash of laws around the developed and developing world that restrict human rights. But we are also likely to see significant grassroots reaction.

What we are witnessing in the drama of increasingly globalized protest and repression is the subplot that many cheerleaders for neoliberal globalization never addressed: the power of globalized capital to wreak havoc with the authority of democratically elected governments. From the perspective of global corporate interests, closed societies like China are more business-friendly than troublesome democracies, where trade unions, high standards of human-rights protection, and a vigorous press increase costs.

All over the world, the pushback against protest looks similar, suggesting that state and corporate actors are learning “best practices” for repressing dissent while maintaining democratic facades. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron routinely impugns human-rights laws; the Metropolitan Police have sought authority to use baton rounds – foot-long projectiles that have caused roughly a dozen deaths, including that of children, in Northern Ireland – on peaceful protesters; and a police report on the threat of terrorism, distributed to “trusted partners” among London businesses, included updates about Occupy protests and referred to “suspected activists.”

The UK has stringent internal-security legislation, but it never had a law like the United States Patriot Act. After anti-austerity protests in early 2011, followed by riots in major cities in August, the Metropolitan Police claimed powers to monitor private social-media accounts and smartphones. And, under the guise of protecting this summer’s Olympics against terrorism, the British military is establishing a massive base in London from which SAS (special forces) teams will operate – a radical departure from Britain’s traditional civil policing.

In Israel, Ha’aretz reports that Occupy-type protests have been met with police violence, including a beating of a 15-year-old girl, and threats of random arrest. Israel, like Britain, has seen a push, seemingly out of nowhere, to enact new laws crippling newsgathering and criminalizing dissent: a new law makes it potentially a crime to donate to left-wing organizations, human-rights laws have been weakened, and even investigative reporting has become more dangerous, owing to stricter libel penalties. Ha’aretz calls the push “the new feudalism.”

Finally, in America, the National Defense Authorization Act, enacted by Congress in December, allows the president to suspend due process for US citizens, detain them indefinitely, and render them for torture. One should not be surprised to see similar legislation adopted in democracies worldwide.

Not only are laws criminalizing previously legal dissent, organizing, and reporting being replicated in advanced democracies; so are violent tactics against protesters, backed by the increasing push in countries with long traditions of civil policing to militarize law enforcement.

Indeed, increasingly sophisticated weapons systems and protective equipment are being disseminated to civilian police officers. In the US, the federal government has spent an estimated $34 billion since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to arm state and local police forces with battlefield-grade hardware. Investigative reporting has also revealed cross-pollination of anti-protest training: local police from cities like Austin, Texas, have been sent to Israel for training in crowd control and other tactics.

The globalization of mercenaries to crack down on dissent is also proceeding apace. Mercenaries are important in a time of global grassroots protest, because it is easier to turn a foreigner’s guns or batons against strangers than it is to turn the military or police against fellow citizens. Erik Prince, the head of the most infamous outfit, Academi (formerly Xe Services, formerly Blackwater), has relocated to the UAE, while Pakistani mercenaries have been recruited in large numbers to Bahrain, where protesters have been met with increasingly violent repression.

But this apparently coordinated pushback against global protest movements is not yet triumphant – not even in China, as the people of Wukan have shown. While the outcome of the villagers’ protest against the local government’s confiscation of their land remains uncertain, the standoff reveals new power at the grassroots level: social media allows sharper, coordinated gatherings and the rapid dissemination of news unfiltered by official media. The Internet is also disseminating templates of what real democracy looks like – instantly and worldwide.

Not surprisingly, people use this technology in ways that indicate that they have little interest in being cordoned off into conflicting and competing ethnicities, nationalities, or religious identities. Overwhelmingly, they want simple democracy and economic self-determination.

That agenda is in direct conflict with the interests of global capital and governments that have grown accustomed to operating without citizen oversight. It is a conflict that can be expected to heighten dramatically in 2012, as protesters’ agendas – from Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Moscow – gain further coherence.

Much is at stake. Depending on the outcome, the world will come to look either more like China – open for business, but closed for dissent – or more like Denmark.

Naomi Wolf is a political activist and social critic whose most recent book is Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries.
Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.