Professional Football to Thrive and Grow

July 28th, 2011 by Sherwood Ross

Pro football will thrive and grow because it is based on a revenue-sharing model that strengthens all of its 32 teams simultaneously, says John “Jack” Mula, the noted players’ representative. Going back to its earliest days, the executives who developed the sport “understood that in order for the league to survive, the weakest member had to survive so pro football has been built on a sharing foundation, one that said the league is only going to be as strong as its weakest member,” he said.

Averting what might have been a disastrous lost NFL season required owners and players each to make concessions. Press photographs earlier this week showed them embracing each other with relief after their pact was signed. In light of the agreement, which runs through the 2020 season, Mula’s comments are particularly pertinent. They will be aired at 11 A.M. this Sunday, July 31st, on the hour-long Comcast SportsNet broadcast “Educational Forum” produced by the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover(MSLAW). The show, titled, “The Business of Sports,” will be hosted by Associate Dean Michael Coyne.

At the time of the signing, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft echoed the same point that Mula made earlier in the taping of “Educational Forum.” Apologizing to the fans on behalf of both sides, Kraft told the AP, “For the last five, six months we’ve been talking about the business of football and not what goes on on the field… (but) building the teams in each market. The end result is we’ve been able to have an agreement that I think is going to allow this sport to flourish over the next decade.”

In a separate interview, Mula told Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com that the owners were concerned over team expenses “increasing at a rate higher than revenues” and that these would “eventually force owners into a position that no business owner desires.” Where under the previous arrangement owners and players shared revenue 50-50, owners now do slightly better at 53 percent to 47 percent. The owners also won an important victory whereby the regular season is expanded from 16 to 18 games, producing more revenues. As a longer season inescapably means more injuries, players, the AP said, “won changes to offseason and in-season practice rules that should make the game safer.” The deal also included unrestricted free agency for most players after four seasons. Currently, about 600 of the League’s 1,500 players are free agents.

Elaborating on the principle of sharing all revenue equally among the 32 clubs, Mula said it had its basis 50-60 years ago, “which is why the NFL is the Number One spectator sport, why the amount of money that’s taken in by the NFL through TV dwarfs other sports leagues…I believe there’s such an allegiance to (the) amount of teams is because teams like Green Bay couldn’t survive in an economic environment that didn’t have some form of revenue sharing… The NFL has built a strong foundation and that’s been an economic model that allows even the small market teams to survive.”

Behind the recent unrest was the attitude of owners who believe “we need to continue to grow the pie, and to do that we need investment dollars off the top to invest in stadiums, to expand internationally for our NFL network,” Mula said. Their interests ran parallel to those of many players who were saying “grow the pie and more money comes to us, it’s as simple as that.” Other plays contend, however, that the money is not that important.

Mula pointed, though, to the steadily sliding costs of the Green Bay Packers, a franchise that earned $30 million a few years ago but only $9 million last year. “There’s a trend there that isn’t good for sustaining those small market teams. If your level of expenses keep rising at a faster level than your revenue, eventually there’s going to be businesses that fail.”

Central to the profitability of the sport, Mula says, is the multi-purpose stadiums that hold high school football games, concerts, soccer matches, and perhaps in the future even tennis, boxing, and lacrosse games. “As a matter of fact, I think there’s some outdoor hockey games that have taken place in football stadiums. So in and of themselves, they become destinations for more than football” and the surrounding areas benefit by having an athletic venue there… Any venue that brings tens of thousands of people in is going to certainly spur some economic development and success outside of it.”

As players will be exposed to more injuries, Mula is unequivocal in his view that higher benefit levels are needed. Players get medical benefits for five years after they’ve hung up their uniforms for the last time, Mula says. “I don’t know if you can name a whole lot of businesses that continue to cover you (that way). But even with that, can there be more done because some of the players suffer career-ending and debilitating injuries?” he asks. “The NFL has already instituted programs to achieve that.” Mula goes on to say that while the benefits level is not all the the union would like it has led to private groups  as Gridiron Greats “that are looking out for some of the older veterans who don’t qualify.”

Mula says it needs to be understood that sports are entertainment and professional football “is there to entertain.” He says that’s tough to tell players who are colliding with each other but they know “they’re putting on a product for people who watch.” He adds, “Those people pay for tickets, merchandise, concessions, parking,” and there’s also “TV rights fees, network fees, and radio fees, that’s all part of the business and I see that expanding. I see the players getting paid a lot more money. I see the business owners making a lot more money.”

As for players’ salaries, Mula said thorny issues of fairness continue to nettle the NFL. “You have a group of athletes who are being paid, in some cases, tens of millions of dollars, and they haven’t stepped foot on the field. The argument is they’ve been auditioning for four years in their college and by virtue of their success they’re now placed at the head of the class and they deserve all that money. Some would say, ‘How can you argue with that?’” Others might say, he continued, those players are entering the work force for the first time and they’re being paid tens of millions over and above players who are much more accomplished “who are being paid a tenth of that, so where’s the fairness?” Mula points out that other Leagues have adopted a wage scale which says, “Come into the League. You’ll be paid a base salary, and perhaps some little extra money depending on how much you play.” This arrangement would be basically uniform for every rookie entering the League. “The money that would normally be paid to these (rookies) will be distributed somewhere. Is it distributed in the form of expenses back to the owners for further investment in their venues, in their teams, in the game? Should it be distributed as the players want, all back to the veterans? Should some go to retired players?” (Under the new agreement, an innovative arrangement has been set up that limits spending on first-year draft picks.) Mula explains he does not believe the issue confronting the players and the owners during the recent lockout was whether there would be a wage scale or not but a question of “Where might some of these savings go? Where should they go?”

Looking ahead, Mula says, “I look for expansion. There’s more exposure through the media and I think it’s all a good thing. I think you continually have to invest in that product, just as we need to invest in our youth, just as we need to pay the teachers a heck of a lot more than they are making now. And some would say, “Jack, you’re making a pretty good leap from teachers to NFL players, and I say, ‘It’s the principle of business development that you need to invest, to continue to grow and if you stay stagnant, you’ll be passed over.”

Mula says that, as a players’ representative he derives satisfaction from helping young men grasp the realities of the pro football world. “I’m teaching them how the agents recruit them, and how in some cases, they are filling them with inaccuracies and falsehoods about what they are going to be facing over the next few years.” He adds, “Just the fact that I’m there with some of these guys causes agents who would ordinarily give a presentation to recruit a guy one way, they just totally change it.” Mula explains, “I don’t even have to ask questions but I sit there with parents and players and the agents come in to put their pitch on and some of them are shocked (by my presence). One guy just lost his entire presentation, he didn’t know what to say, which obviously meant that he was going to BS through the whole thing. Oh, I love it, I love it.”

The young men he counsels, Mula says, “come out without knowing anything. They’re tremendous athletes and they’re being exposed to a business, the entertainment business. The product on the field is put on for the enjoyment of those people in the stands and the countless millions who are watching on TV. That’s entertainment. They (the athletes) become part of that and it’s no longer a game to them and you need to educate, counsel and advise them, (as) they’re still kids.”

Mula says he also likes the bonding between him and his young players. “I’m working with 21- and 22-year-old young men who, when they finish their playing career are married, in their Thirties and have matured so much their kids are playing youth football. You’re part of their success, you’re part of their misfortune in some cases. You see kid’s dreams get wasted because they no longer have the ability to compete at that high level. So you see a whole range of human emotions and you connect with that much more, say, than you do with a Super Bowl ring or a Lombardi trophy.”

Mula said that his client Doug Flutie, the great Patriots starting quarterback, was successful in pro football because he “enjoyed the game so much” and he had self-confidence. There was a time, Mula said, when Flutie had to play in Canada as no NFL team would bring him down. “And when he did get his shot, he took a 75% pay cut to go from Toronto of the Canadian league to Buffalo. It ended up working out financially well for him, as he became an all-pro and signed a multi-million dollar deal, but Doug did that because he was a competitor and he enjoyed the game. He didn’t make that decision (for financial reasons.)”

Canny players, he points out, use their celebrity to form the business connections that will sustain them for life after football. “As long as you’re on top of the world and in the public eye and you’ve got the good image, you can make those extra dollars (from advertising). ..There are players who are getting a few hundred dollars to show up at the local cell phone store, and there are players who are making tens of millions to be part of endorsing household products or men’s care products. Not everyone gets them and not in the same amount.”

“Every player is in and of itself his own corporation. Now he gets signed to a standard player contract and he gets a check. But the fact that he is seen by millions of people, and is (known throughout) New England (means) the public knows who he is. These athletes have a leg up. People know who they are and with just a little bit of effort their mini corporations are going to be a lot more than just a paycheck from the team, and I think this actually helps the team.”

Mula says a great many former Patriots players remain in the Boston area where their celebrity has greater value. And they make public appearances whether they like to do so or not, he explains, “because they’re taking that incremental revenue and they’re supplementing themselves, and that’s money that in times of perhaps a work stoppage that could come in handy to them.”

The Massachusetts School of Law, producers of “Educational Forum,” was founded in 1988 to provide a rigorous, practical, affordable legal education to students who would otherwise be denied the opportunity to obtain one. The law school defines its educational role broadly to include presenting issues of vital importance to the public through its seminars and conferences, publications, and television presentations.

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Obama returns to the fraud of “equal sacrifice”

July 28th, 2011 by Patrick Martin

The back-to-back nationally televised speeches delivered Monday night by President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner were a political fraud on every level. The so-called debate in Washington on the federal deficit is rigged in advance. All of the participants take as their first principle the imposition of massive cuts on programs that benefit working people.

The Democratic administration and the congressional Republicans are using an orchestrated crisis over the raising of the federal debt ceiling to create the conditions for an unprecedented attack on the living standards and social rights of working people.

The two parties do not represent the American people, but rather the American financial aristocracy, whose wealth and income they defend at the expense of the broad masses. They will see basic social programs on which they rely—Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps—devastated by spending cuts.

Obama delivered a cynical speech whose purpose was to appeal to the American people to support spending cuts that will drive millions of them into poverty while leaving the gargantuan wealth of the financial aristocracy untouched. Virtually every sentence in his 15-minute address was a lie.

Obama described the two sides in the debate in terms that underscore the essential unity of the two big business parties. He noted that both sides “agree on the amount of deficit reduction” but disagree on what form that should take.

One approach, he said, was based on painful cuts in federal spending, including basic programs like Medicare, but asked the wealthy and the corporations “to give a little.” This he described as a “balanced approach.” His opponents, Obama continued, “insist on a cuts-only approach,” with “nothing from the wealthy.”

In order to conceal the dimensions of the cuts endorsed by both sides, Obama was careful to give no figures. Both the White House and the congressional Republicans have proposed cuts as high as $4 trillion over the next ten years, including devastating attacks on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps and federal programs supporting education, transportation, housing, environmental protection and consumer and worker safety and health.

As for tax increases on the rich, Obama has proposed only a few hundred billion dollars to serve as a fig leaf for the anti-working-class character of his overall budget policy. He complained that the Republicans would not provide him with even a token tax increase to disguise the class-war character of his program.

The president warned that the intransigence of the House Republicans threatened to force the US government into default on its obligations after August 2, and he repeatedly urged the Republicans to compromise on legislation to raise the debt ceiling.

The pathetic, cringing character of these appeals was remarkable. US presidents usually commandeer the airwaves for a nationally televised address to announce a major policy action in either domestic or foreign policy. But Obama announced nothing except his own impotence in the face of the ultra-right, ending with a call for people to write letters to Congress urging a compromise.

Obama now complains of the federal government’s solvency being held hostage by the most right-wing faction of the House Republicans. But the White House and the congressional Democrats ceded this power to the ultra-right.

The Democrats controlled the House and Senate during the first two years of Obama’s presidency and refused to raise taxes on the wealthy. On the contrary, they expanded and extended the bailout of Wall Street begun under the Bush administration while refusing to take any serious action to create jobs for the millions thrown out of work by the economic slump that followed the 2008 Wall Street crash.

In December 2010, while the Democrats still controlled Congress, Obama made a deal with the Republicans to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy for another two years and deferred action on the debt ceiling. The president claimed he had no choice but to yield to blackmail by the Republicans, who threatened to block an extension of tax cuts for working people unless the much larger tax cuts for the wealthy were included.

When the newly installed Republican House majority then insisted that the legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling include huge cuts in federal social spending, Obama not only acceded to their demands, he embraced the debt ceiling deadline as an opportunity to push through social spending cuts far deeper than even the Republicans initially proposed. It was Obama, not Boehner, who first put Social Security on the table for budget cuts.

At one point in his Monday night speech Obama urged the Republicans not to “let the American people become collateral damage” in the debt ceiling conflict. This was perhaps the most grotesque distortion in an entire litany of lies. The American people are not accidental or unintended victims, they are the deliberate target of the onslaught of spending cuts being debated by the two parties.

Obama and Boehner represent the US financial aristocracy, which is seeking to make use of the orchestrated crisis over the raising of the federal debt ceiling to create the conditions for an unprecedented attack on the living standards and social rights of working people.

The latest proposal introduced by the House Republicans would condition an increase in the debt ceiling on $3 trillion in spending cuts over ten years, to be enacted in two stages. An initial $1.2 trillion would incorporate all the cuts in non-entitlement programs already accepted by the Obama administration in talks led by Vice President Joseph Biden. A further $1.8 trillion, including cuts in Medicare and Social Security, would be worked out by a bipartisan congressional committee and adopted by next January.

The latest Democratic plan was put forward Monday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. It would raise the debt ceiling immediately, rather than in two stages, and provide for $2.7 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, with no tax increases. Reid proposed to put off cuts in Medicare and Social Security until after the 2012 election and instead count as a spending cut the planned decline in military spending due to the drawdown of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Both plans embrace the same $1.2 trillion in cuts in non-entitlement programs, which will have devastating effects on the social infrastructure, particularly education, the environment and transportation, as their first stage.

The principal difference is that the Republican plan calls for a two-step process that would force a second vote on raising the debt ceiling and slashing social programs, particularly entitlement spending, sometime in 2012, a provision whose transparent purpose is to help mobilize the ultra-right Tea Party elements and depress traditional Democratic Party turnout in the elections.

In his television speech, Obama endorsed the Reid plan, which demonstrates that his rhetoric about taxing the wealthy is just hot air. He now backs a plan that provides zero tax increases on the rich, abandoning even the pretense of “shared sacrifice.”

In the official Washington debate, the needs and interests of working people count for nothing. Obama pitches his campaign for raising the debt ceiling entirely to the financial concerns of Wall Street, while the Republicans respond with an ever more brutal defense of the “right” of the wealthy to keep every penny they have plundered from the working class.

The working class must oppose any and all calls for sacrifice, whether in the name of deficit reduction or to avert a federal government default after August 2. Working people are not responsible for the Wall Street crash, or the economic slump that followed, or the massive federal deficits generated by the slump and the bailout of the banks.

If the capitalist politicians in Washington touch off a financial crisis through their maneuvers, that will only underscore the irresponsibility and recklessness of the American financial aristocracy.

The response to such a crisis must not be “shared sacrifice,” but the launching of a political struggle by the working class to put an end to the profit system, through a break with the Democrats and Republicans and the building of an independent political movement of working people based on a socialist program.

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America’s War at Home and Abroad

July 28th, 2011 by Global Research

 


Propaganda and the War on Truth
Independent media strikes back
– by Global Research – 2011-08-04


Absurdities and Atrocities: The Threat of World War III
NEW E-Book from Global Research
– by Prof Michel Chossudovsky – 2011-07-31


The War on Libya : An Imperialist Project to Create Three Libyas
– by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya – 2011-07-29

Obama returns to the fraud of “equal sacrifice”
– by Patrick Martin – 2011-07-28


Is America Caught In The Closed Mind Trap?
– by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts – 2011-07-28


War and Religion: Air Force Cites New Testament, Ex-Nazi, to Train Officers on Ethics of Launching Nuclear Weapons
– by Jason Leopold – 2011-07-28


Famous Quotes about Fiat Money
– by Martin Zeis – 2011-07-28

Tax Cuts for the Middle Class and Poor STIMULATE The Economy, But Tax Cuts for the Wealthy HURT The Economy
– by Washington’s Blog – 2011-07-28

This Is What A Collapsing Ponzi Scheme Looks Like
Housing Market Headed Off A Cliff. 10.8 Million Mortgages At Risk
– by David DeGraw – 2011-07-27

If you agree that it’s time to fight back against media lies and disinformation, then we ask that you consider making a donation or starting a membership with Global Research to help us and our correspondents continue our efforts to deliver the truth. Your support is truly appreciated.

 


Libya’s War for “The Abaya”: Women’s Rights and NATO’s Support of Pro-Islamist Rebels
– by Susan Lindauer – 2011-07-27

The Rebel’s agenda to reinstate Shariah and retract women’s rights…

Wall Street Steps Up Pressure for Deal on Budget Cuts
– by Patrick Martin – 2011-07-27


How Will A Downgrade of U.S. Debt Impact Stock and Bond Prices?
– by Chris Ciovacco – 2011-07-27


There’s Only One Way to Avoid a Downgrade to U.S. Credit
– by Washington’s Blog – 2011-07-27


The “Solution” to America’s Debt Ceiling Crisis: Looting What has Already been Looted…
– by Bob Chapman – 2011-07-27


US Sponsored “Democracy” in Colombia: Political Assassinations, Poverty and Neoliberalism
– by José David Torrenegra – 2011-07-27


The Political Theater and the Debt Ceiling Crisis: Are We Being Had?
– by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts – 2011-07-26


VIDEO: Hands Off Libya! Mass Demonstration at the White House
Watch what happened on GRTV
– 2011-07-26


“Conquer” by Love rather than Force of Arms: America Needs to Replace the “Pentagon Approach” with the “Peace Approach”
– by Sherwood Ross – 2011-07-26


Why Does “The Left” Support “Colored Revolutions” and “Humanitarian Wars”?
– by William Bowles – 2011-07-26


Debt Ceiling Intransigence: Unintended Consequences…
– by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts – 2011-07-25


Obama’s Illegal War Rages On
From Global Research’s Special Correspondent
– by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya – 2011-07-25


As the American Empire Spreads Abroad, it Becomes a Police State at Home
– by Sherwood Ross – 2011-07-25

The Disturbing “Super Congress” that is being Created as Part of the Debt Negotiations
– 2011-07-25


Pentagon to Deploy 20,000 Troops Inside the U.S. to Curb Potential Civil Unrest
– by Shepard Ambellas, Alex Thomas – 2011-07-25


Democrats, Republicans push for deeper US spending cuts
– by Patrick Martin – 2011-07-25

Colored Revolutions and “Regime Change”: Washington Attempts to Destabilize Belarus
– by Michèle Brand – 2011-07-25


The Development of “Privacy Killing Technologies”: A Link to the Murdoch Scandal?
Black Ops for Major U.S. Banks and Corporations
– by Tom Burghardt – 2011-07-25


9/11: Who Really Benefited?
Fact and Not Fiction…
– by Captain America – 2011-07-24

Fact and Not Fiction… Forget conspiracy theories. Instead look at reality. Dare ask yourself who actually seems to have benefited from the 9-11 calamity…


The Geopolitics of Water in the Nile River Basin
– by Prof. Majeed A. Rahman – 2011-07-24


Libya: Demonization and Self-determination
The Pentagon Lynch Mob
– by Sara Flounders – 2011-07-24

Who Rules America? An Investment Manager Breaks Down the Economic Top 1%, Says 0.1% Controls Political and Legislative Process
– 2011-07-24


Washington’s Allies Run Amok: Saudi and Emirati Forces Open Fire on Unarmed Protesters in Bahrain
– by Finian Cunningham – 2011-07-24

 

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Is America Caught In The Closed Mind Trap?

July 28th, 2011 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

A reader responded to my recent column about how the US president was becoming a Caesar with a question:  “Wouldn’t a Caesar be preferable to a democracy in which the people are too ignorant, disinterested, and stupid to engage in self-government?”

Before I became a widely read columnist with many reader responses, I would have disagreed with the reader’s characterization of the American people.  Today, I cannot answer the reader’s question with a “no” as confidently as I would like.

I receive appreciative words from many readers who are well aware of what is going on.
I also hear from many who are so partisan and have such strong emotional responses that they are unable to follow an argument.  I don’t know what percentage these groups comprise in the population, but there seem to be a number of Americans, both on the left and the right, who are prepared to censor and even to kill in order to defend their illusions and delusions.

I remain a suspect bogyman for some on the left, because of my association with the Kemp-Roth bill and Reaganomics. As I, and others, have explained so many times, Supply-Side economics reversed the monetary/fiscal policy mix in order to cure stagflation.  But some leftists persist in their insistence that it was all a trick to cut taxes for the rich–the rich being those with more money than they. A stressed-out $100,000 a year guy with a family in a high-cost city is thrown into the rich class with the hedge fund manager who paid himself one billion dollars.

To give the leftists their due, at least they know that I was a member of the Reagan administration.  However, the right-wing zealots think that I am a pinko-liberal-commie.
Recently I wrote an article pointing out that the Republicans had picked a bad time, when the world was already concerned about US financial credibility, to make an issue over the routine increase of the debt ceiling, thus creating an impasse that threatens default. The Republicans see in the debt ceiling issue an opportunity to cut social spending as the price of allowing an increase in the national debt.  

One can’t blame the Republicans for trying to do something about the growth of the public debt.  However, there is a risk in the Republican’s intransigency, and that risk is that, thanks to presidential directives put on the books by President Bush, President Obama has the authority to declare the prospect of default a national emergency.  Obama can simply set aside the debt ceiling limit and seize the power of the purse from Congress.  The transformation of the president into Caesar would take another large step forward.

I wrote that I regarded this risk to be greater than the risk of additional public debt.

Several Republicans never reached the point of the article. I had taken for granted that everyone knew, especially Republicans, of the Republicans’ concern with entitlements and unfunded liabilities.  I assumed that Republicans were aware of their party’s long history of reacting against the debts that are being piled upon our grandchildren, that they knew of the Grace Commission during the Reagan years, that they knew of Republican Pete Peterson’s many dramatic warnings and proposals, that they knew of David Walker’s accounting of the unfunded liabilities and the Republican Party’s determination to do something about the heavily-hyped cost of Social Security and Medicare. .

I assumed that Republicans knew that during the Reagan years David Stockman and Alan Greenspan had accelerated the payroll tax increases that President Carter had put in place to ensure the long-term viability of Social Security and had spent the money for current operating expenses, leaving unfunded IOUs in the Social Security “trust fund.”  I Assumed that Republicans knew that Republican Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, Michael Boskin, and his Boskin Commission had reconfigured the Consumer Price Index in order to understate inflation and, thereby, reduce the cost-of-living-adjustments in Social Security checks.

I assumed that Republicans somewhere along the way had read at least one paper by a Republican policy analyst or think-tank member about the Social Security “Ponzi scheme” and the unaffordability of Medicare.

But, no, the Republican partisans who denounced me as an anti-Republican liberal propagandist for saying what is widely reported in the media–that the Republicans want large cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as the price of their agreement to an increase in the debt limit–know nothing whatsoever of their party’s position on social spending. Apparently, they don’t even watch Fox News.

These same partisans apparently have not noticed that the $1.2 trillion military/security expenditures are “off the table” when it comes to controlling spending. The Republicans and also the Democrats regard war as more important than old age pensions and medical care for the poor and the elderly. My Republican critics have also failed to noticed that House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor has made certain that tax increases on mega-high incomes are also “off the table.” According to mega-billionaire Warren Buffet, in America today we have the situation in which Buffet’s secretary pays a larger share of her income in taxes than does Buffet.

When I wrote that the Republicans’ fixation with slashing the social safety net–a throw away line that is in every news report on the debt ceiling imbroglio–could turn out to be a threat to the separation of powers,  several Republican partisans took extraordinary offense. Only a no-good liberal propagandist would claim that Republicans wanted to slash the safety net.  My statement of an obvious fact reflected in the Republicans own proposals was all that it took for my critics to conclude that a notorious Reaganite was a Republican-hating liberal.

It is annoying that people who have no idea what they are talking about are so ready to pop off.  But it is discouraging to a writer that people are so emotional that they cannot follow an argument.  Discouraged, in part by block-headed readers and from censorship of my writings by various Internet sites, I quit my column a while back and signed off.

I was beset by thousands of emails pleading and demanding that I continue to write.

I relented, and the emails from thoughtful readers keep me going. 

It is rewarding to hear from intelligent and open-minded people.  But as the weeks and months go by, I find it ever more tiresome to tolerate closed minds spewing hate and ignorance.  I have become convinced that there are enough frustrated and ignorant people out there to constitute a movement for a Fuhrer. 

Washington, which has produced a long list of disastrous policy decisions since the collapse of the Soviet Empire two decades ago, will no doubt continue making incredible mistakes about everything, and we will end up with a Caesar or a Fuhrer.

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Werner Von Braun, a former member of the Nazi Party who used Jews imprisoned in concentration camps, captured French anti-Nazi partisans and civilians, and others to help build the V-2 rocket for Hitler’s Third Reich, is cited in an Air Force PowerPoint presentation about the morals and ethics of launching nuclear weapons.  The United States Air Force has been training young missile officers about the morals and ethics of launching nuclear weapons by citing passages from the New Testament and commentary from a former member of the Nazi Party, according to newly released documents.

The mandatory Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare session, which includes a discussion on St. Augustine’s “Christian Just War Theory [3],” is led by Air Force chaplains and takes place during a missile officer’s first week in training at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The Christian Just War Theory has been touted [4] by Rep. Ron Paul, a 2012 presidential candidate, on the campaign stops. During his Nobel Prize acceptance speech two years ago, President Obama also invoked [5] the concept of a “just war,” stating there will be times when the use of force will be “morally justified.”

St. Augustine’s “Qualifications for Just War,” according to the way it is cited in a 43-page PowerPoint presentation [6], are: “to avenge or to avert evil; to protect the innocent and restore moral social order (just cause)” and “to restore moral order; not expand power, not for pride or revenge (just intent).”

The Air Force documents were released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and provided to Truthout by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation [7] (MRFF), a civil rights organization. MRFF President Mikey Weinstein said more than 30 Air Force officers, a majority of whom describe themselves as practicing Protestants and Roman Catholics, have contacted his group over the past week in hopes of enlisting him to work with the Air Force to have the Christian-themed teachings removed from the nuclear weapons ethics training session. [Full disclosure: Weinstein is a member of Truthout’s Board of Advisers.]

Included with the PowerPoint presentation are more than 500 pages of other documents [8] pertaining to a missile officer’s first week of training. After missile officers complete their training they are sent to one of three Air Force bases to guard the country’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) arsenal and, if called upon to do so by the president, launch their nuclear-armed Minuteman IIIs.

One of the slides used to explain to missile officers the moral justification for launching nuclear weapons quotes Wernher Von Braun [9], a former member of the Nazi Party and SS officer who used Jews imprisoned in concentration camps, captured French anti-Nazi partisans and civilians, and others, to help build the V-2 rocket.

“We knew that we had created a new means of warfare and the question as to what nation, to what victorious nation we were willing to entrust this brainchild of ours was a moral decision [emphasis in document] more than anything else,” Von Braun said upon surrendering to American forces in May 1945. “We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured.” [emphasis in document]

Von Braun was part of a top-secret military program known as “Operation Paperclip [10],” which recruited Nazi scientists after World War II who “were secretly brought to the United States, without State Department review and approval; their service for [Adolf] Hitler’s Third Reich, [Nazi Party] and SS memberships as well as the classification of many as war criminals or security threats also disqualified them from officially obtaining visas,” according to the Operation Paperclip web site [11].

Von Braun and about 500 or so other Nazi scientists who were part of the classified program worked on guided missile and ballistic missile technology at military installations in New Mexico, Alabama and Texas.

Ethical Questions

The Air Force has been mired in numerous religious scandals [12] over the past decade and has been sued for allowing widespread proselytization at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. It has been citing Christian teachings in its missile officer training materials for at least a decade.

One Air Force officer currently on active duty, who spoke to Truthout on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the media, said he was trained as a missile officer in 2001 and vividly recalls how the chaplain leading the training session on the ethics of launching nuclear weapons said, “the American Catholic Church and their leadership says it’s ok in their eyes to launch nukes.”

Last year, however, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican representative to the United Nations, said [13] in speeches in Washington and New York City that “nuclear weapons are no longer just for deterrence but have become entrenched in the military doctrines of the major powers.”

“The conditions that prevailed during the Cold War, which gave a basis for the [Catholic] Church’s limited toleration of nuclear deterrence, no longer apply in a consistent and effective manner,” the Archbishop said.

The 381st Training Group and 392nd Training Squadron are responsible for training every Air Force Space and Missile Officer. Several emails and phone calls left for spokespeople at Vandenberg Air Force Base, where the squadron is based, were not returned. The PowerPoint identifies Chaplain Capt. Shin Soh as leading the nuclear ethics presentation.

One of the ethical questions contained in the PowerPoint presented to missile officers asks: “Can you imagine a set of circumstances that would warrant a nuclear launch from the US, knowing that it would kill thousands of non-combatants?

Another question trainees are confronted with asks: “Can we train physically, emotionally and spiritually for a job we hope we never have to do?”

To help officers answer these ethical queries, the PowerPoint presentation cites numerous examples of characters from the New and Old Testament fighting “just” wars. For example, “Abraham organized an army to rescue Lot,” God motivated “judges (Samson, Deborah, Barak) to fight and deliver Israel from foreign oppressors,” and “David is a warrior who is also a ‘man after God’s own heart.'”

Also included in the PowerPoint presentation is a slide containing a passage from the Book of Revelation that attempts to explain how Jesus Christ, as the “mighty warrior,” believed war to be “just.”

It goes on to say that there are “many examples of believers [who] engaged in wars in Old Testament” in a “righteous way” and notes there is “no pacifistic sentiment in mainstream Jewish history.”

The PowerPoint documents’ blatant use of religious imagery and its numerous citations of the Bible would appear to be a violation of the First Amendment establishing a wall of separation between church and state and Clause 3, Article 6 of the Constitution, which specifically prohibits a “religious test.”

Weinstein, a graduate of the Air Force Academy and a former Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG), said a section of the PowerPoint presentation that has been cited by MRFF clients as being at the top of the list of “unconstitutional outrages” is the one “which wretchedly asserts that war is both ethical and part of ‘the natural order’ of man’s existence on earth.”

“Astonishingly, the training presentation grotesquely attempts to justify that unconscionable concept of ‘war is good because Jesus says it is’ by specifically textually referencing allegedly supportive bible passages from the New Testament Books of Luke, Acts, Hebrews, Timothy and, finally even Revelation,” said Weinstein, a former White House counsel during the Reagan administration. “If this repugnant nuclear missile training is not Constitutionally violative of both the ‘no religious test’ mandate of the Constitution and the First Amendment’s No Establishment Clause then those bedrock legal principles simply do not exist.”

A senior Air Force Space and Missile officer who reviewed the materials, said the teachings are “an outrage of the highest order.”

“No way in hell should this have been presented as a mandatory briefing to ALL in the basic missiles class,” the officer, who requested anonymity, said in an email. “It presumes ALL missile officers are religious and specifically in need of CHRISTIAN justification for their service.

“If they wanted to help people with their spiritual/religious/secular justification for serving as missile officers, then they should’ve said something like ‘for those of you with religious concerns about missile duty, we’ve arranged the following times to chat with chaplains from your particular faith group.’ For those with secular concerns about the morality of missile duty, we’ll have a discussion moderated by a professor [and/or] counselor, a noted ethicist, too. If you’re already good with your role and duty as a missile officer, then you’re welcome to hit the golf course or gym.”

The senior Air Force officer added that the commander of the training squadron “that approved this, along with the Training Group Commander at Vandenberg, should be fired instantly for allowing it.”

“Jesus Loves Nukes”

Former Air Force Capt. Damon Bosetti, 27, who attended missile officer training in 2006 and was stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana, said he and his colleagues used to call the religious section of the ethics training the “Jesus loves nukes speech.”

“What I went through in 2006 didn’t have that level of inappropriateness in it, but it was still strongly religious,” he said of the PowerPoint presentation the Air Force now uses for training missile officers.

Bosetti, who is represented by MRFF, said he believes the intent of quoting Bible passages was to make officers feel “comfortable” about launching nuclear weapons and signing a legal document stating they had “no moral qualms” about “turning the key” if ordered to do so.

The legal document from the Department of the Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, which was also released under the FOIA, states, in part, “I will perform duties involving the operation of nuclear-armed ICBMs and will launch them if lawfully ordered to do so by the President of the United States or his lawful successor.” [emphasis in document]

Bosetti, an officer who left active duty in the Air Force last year, said officers were immediately presented with the three-page document to sign after the end of the training session on nuclear ethics.

“I think the average American would be and should be very disturbed to know that people go through training where the Air Force quotes the Bible,” Bosetti said. “This type of teaching sets a dangerous precedent because no one above you is objecting. It shifts the group definition of acceptable behavior more and more off track.”

Weinstein said the combination of citing fundamentalist Christianity and a Nazi scientist as a way of explaining to missile officers why launching nuclear weapons is ethical is a new low for the Air Force.

“Leave it to the United States Air Force to find a way to dictate the ‘ethical’ value of nuclear war and it’s inevitable role in the ‘natural order’ of humanity’s existence, to it’s missile launch officer trainees by merging unadulterated, fundamentalist Christian end times Armageddon doctrines with the tortured ‘people who are guided by the bible’ endorsements of a former, leading Nazi SS official,” Weinstein said. [14]

 Links:

[1] http://www.truth-out.org/print/4535

 [2] http://www.truth-out.org/printmail/4535

[3] http://catholicism.about.com/od/beliefsteachings/p/Just_War_Theory.htm

[4] http://www.dailypaul.com/170284/ron-paul-speaks-on-the-christian-just-war-theory

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/11/world/europe/11prexy.text.html?pagewanted=all [6] http://truthout.org/files/nuclear_ethics.pdf

 [7] http://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org

 [8] http://www.scribd.com/doc/61068592/ICBM-Training-Material

[9] http://www.operationpaperclip.info/wernher-von-braun.php

[10] http://www.operationpaperclip.info/ [11] http://www.operationpaperclip.info

[12] http://www.google.com/#sclient=psy&hl=en&source=hp&q=%22jason+leopold%22+and+%22air+force+academy%22&pbx=1&oq=%22jason+leopold%22+and+%22air+force+academy%22&aq=f&aqi=&aql=1&gs_sm=e&gs_upl=1797l14016l0l14254l67l40l9l0l0l3l2391l12924l0.6.15.5.3.1.1.0.1.1l33&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=d5ef1517b4bad13f&biw=1280&bih=513

 [13] http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/georgetown/2010/05/vatican_questions_nuclear_deterrence.html

 [14] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/

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Declaring a Victory & Ongoing Struggle

Written Statement by Short Corridor Collective (a small representative of the Hunger Strike Leaders at Pelican Bay)

To Supporters:

On July 1, 2011, a collective group of PBSP-SHU inmates composed of all races began an indefinite hunger strike as a means of peacefully protesting 20-40 years of human rights violations. The offenses against us rose to the level of both physical and mental torture—for example, the coercing of SHU inmates into becoming known informants for the state and thereby placing those prisoners, and possibly their families outside of prison, at serious risk of danger in response to being known to have informed on and caused harm to other inmates via informing on them. The decision to strike was not made on a whim. It came about in response to years of subjection to progressively more primitive conditions and decades of isolation, sensory deprivation and total lack of normal human contact, with no end in sight. This reality, coupled with our prior ineffective collective filing of thousands of inmate grievances and hundreds of court actions to challenge such blatantly illegal policies and practices (as more fully detailed and supported by case law, in our formal complaint available online here) led to our conclusion that a peaceful protest via hunger strike was our only available avenue to expose what’s really been going on here in CDCR-SHU prisons and to force meaningful change.

We ended the hunger strike the evening of July 20, 2011, on the basis of CDCR’s top level administrators’ interactions with our team of mediators, as well as with us directly, wherein they agreed to accede to a few small requests immediately, as a tangible good faith gesture in support of their assurance that all of our other issues will receive real attention, with meaningful changes being implemented over time. They made it clear: such changes would not happen over night, nor would they be made in response to a hunger strike going on.

Many inmates across the state heard about our protest and rose to the occasion in a solid show of support and solidarity, as did thousands of people around the world! Many inmates put their health and lives on the line; many came close to death and experienced medical emergencies. All acted for the collective cause and recognized the great potential for forcing change on the use of SHU units across the country.

With this support in mind, a core group of us was committed to taking the hunger strike to the death, if necessary, to force the changes sought. Naturally, though, we hoped it would not come to that!

On July 20, 2011, several top CDCR administrators sat across the table from us and made assurances that they are in the process of making meaningful changes right now, and will make affecting change a priority in the future, while providing regular updates and engaging in additional dialogue. And, we know they’re being forced to restructure the entire CDCR system in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Plata ruling, which deals with reduction of inmate population.

Thus, our collective decision was to end the hunger strike, on basis of their good faith gesture with a few small things and to give them the opportunity to make good on their assurances, e.g. an end to human rights abuses and torture. This decision drew from our view that we have been successful in exposing CDCR’s illegal policies and practices to the world!

And, when it’s all said and done, there comes a point where you have to give an entity the opportunity to perform their end of an agreement and the bottom line is this: CDCR could have signed off on a piece of paper, granting all of our demands and telling us, “you’ll all be cut loose to the general population prison in six months.” Then, six months later, tell us, “we’ve reconsidered and it’s not happening.” So, we’ll see soon enough where CDCR is really coming from. More important is the fact that while the hunger strike is over, the resistance/struggle to end our subjection to (SHU) human rights violations and torture is just beginning!

We’ve drawn the line on this and should CDCR fail to carry out meaningful changes in a timely fashion, then we will initiate a class action suit and additional types of peaceful protest. We will not stop until the CDCR ends the illegal policies and practices at SHU!

We’re counting on all of our outside supporters to continue to collectively support us and to carry on with shining light on our resistance in here. This is the right time for change in these prisons and the movement is growing across the land! Without the peoples’ support outside, we cannot be successful! All support, no matter the size, or content, comes together as a powerful force. We’ve already brought more mainstream exposure about these CDCR-SHU’s than ever before and our time for real change to this system is now! As for CDCR’s propaganda—that the hunger strike was initiated and ordered by gang members and the fact that up to 6,600 inmates participated in 13 prisons across the state demonstrates the gangs’ influence, which is why they’re in SHU in the first place—our response is, (1) CDCR has never responded to our formal complaint, wherein we state, many of us have been in SHU 10-40 years, just based on a CDCR gang label, based on claims by confidential inmate informants; we have never been found guilty of committing an illegal gang-related act! Meanwhile, tens of thousands of other inmates whom CDCR has also labeled as gang affiliates are allowed in the general population of prisons! And, (2) the other inmates who participated did so based on their own recognition of, and decision to resist and protest, their similar conditions! All of our public statements about the PBSP-SHU protest clearly stated it was voluntary and those whose age and/or medical issues were an issue, should not participate! If PBSP-SHU inmates had the influence over the gang affiliates in CDCR prisons, as their propaganda claims, there wouldn’t have been tens of thousands of inmates participating in the hunger strike (by CDCR’s own statistics, their system is composed of approximately 70% gang affiliates—that’s 70% of more than 140,000 inmates!)

The protest and resistance is not about gangs. It’s all about a collective effort to end the torture in these SHUs and we hope it sill serve as an example to all inmates: there’s real power in collective peaceful protest actions.

Todd Ashker, Arturo Castellanos, George Franco, Louis Powell.

Written July 22nd, 2011

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Famous Quotes about Fiat Money

July 28th, 2011 by Martin Zeis

“The problem with fiat money is that it rewards the minority that can handle money, but fools the generation that has worked and saved money.”

– Adam Smith

“At the end fiat money returns to its inner value—zero.”

– Voltaire

“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”

– Thomas Jefferson

“The money power preys upon the nation in times of peace and conspires against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy.”

– Abraham Lincoln

“Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes the laws.”

– Amschel Rothschild

“I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. No longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and vote of majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.”

– President Woodrow Wilson (regretting signing into law the Federal Reserve Act)

“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before morning.”

– Henry Ford

“By this means (fractional reserve banking) government may secretly and unobserved, confiscate the wealth of the people, and not one man in a million will detect the theft.”

– John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1920)

“The modern banking process manufactures currency out of nothing. The process is perhaps the most astounding piece of slight hand that was ever invented…If you want to be slaves of the bankers, and pay the cost of your own slavery, then let the banks create currency”.

– Lord Josiah Stemp, Former Director of the Bank of England (1937)

“If the governments devalue the currency in order to betray all creditors, you politely call this procedure “inflation.”

– George Bernard Shaw

“In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation […] Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the “hidden” confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights.”

– Alan Greenspan, Gold and Economic Freedom (1968)

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Extreme conservatives push for tax cuts … but just for the wealthy.

Extreme liberals are against all tax cuts, believing that we need higher taxes to pay for government programs … and that taxes somehow won’t create any drag on the economy.

Both extremes are wrong.

In fact, tax cuts for the middle class and poor stimulate the economy, but tax cuts for the wealthy hurt the economy.

This is actually a very simple concept, although some politicians and economists unintentionally or intentionally muddy the waters.

As Ed Harrison notes today:

Bruce Bartlett, a Republican political appointee and domestic policy advisor to Ronald Reagan, points out that:

Taxes were cut in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006.

It would have been one thing if the Bush tax cuts had at least bought the country a higher rate of economic growth, even temporarily. They did not. Real G.D.P. growth peaked at just 3.6 percent in 2004 before fading rapidly. Even before the crisis hit, real G.D.P. was growing less than 2 percent a year…

According to a recent C.B.O. report, they reduced revenue by at least $2.9 trillion below what it otherwise would have been between 2001 and 2011. Slower-than-expected growth reduced revenue by another $3.5 trillion.

Spending was $5.6 trillion higher than the C.B.O. anticipated for a total fiscal turnaround of $12 trillion. That is how a $6 trillion projected surplus turned into a cumulative deficit of $6 trillion.

Bartlett offers this killer chart as a summary of the numbers:

Changes in CBO projections 2001-2011

If you recall, it was George W. Bush’s father, GWH Bush, who, when campaigning against Reagan, called supply side economics’ claims that tax cuts pay for themselves Voodoo Economics. And Bush was proved right when deficits spiralled out of control and both Reagan and Bush were forced to raise taxes.

***

The Bush tax cuts accrued disproportionately to the wealthy. The Tax Policy Center shows that 65 percent of the dollar value of the Bush tax cuts accrued to the top quintile, while 20 percent went to the top 0.1 percent of income earners.

If you want to talk about redistribution, there it is.

The New York Times reported in 2007:

Families earning more than $1 million a year saw their federal tax rates drop more sharply than any group in the country as a result of President Bush’s tax cuts, according to a new Congressional study.

The study, by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, also shows that tax rates for middle-income earners edged up in 2004, the most recent year for which data was available, while rates for people at the very top continued to decline.

Based on an exhaustive analysis of tax records and census data, the study reinforced the sense that while Mr. Bush’s tax cuts reduced rates for people at every income level, they offered the biggest benefits by far to people at the very top — especially the top 1 percent of income earners.

The Economic Policy Institute reported in June:

The Bush-era tax changes conferred disproportionate benefits to those at the top of the earnings distribution, exacerbating a trend of widening income inequality at a time of already poor wage growth.

***

The top 1% of earners (making over $620,442) received 38% of the tax cuts. The lower 60% of filers (making less than $67,715) received less than 20% of the total benefit of Bush’s tax policies.

The Bush-era tax cuts were designed to reduce taxes for the wealthy, and the benefits of faster growth were then supposed to trickle down to the middle class. But the economic impact of cutting capital gains rates and lowering the top marginal tax rates never materialized for working families. Inflation-adjusted median weekly earnings fell by 2.3% during the 2002-07 economic expansion, which holds the distinction for being the worst economic expansion since World War II.

This isn’t complicated. Rampant inequality largely caused the Great Depression and the current economic crisis (and see this). Cutting taxes on the middle and lower classes reduces inequality and stimulates the consumer economy. But cutting taxes for the wealthy reduces aggregate consumer demand.

As economics professor Robert Reich notes:

First, the rich spend a smaller proportion of their wealth than the less-affluent, and so when more and more wealth becomes concentrated in the hands of the wealth, there is less overall spending and less overall manufacturing to meet consumer needs.

Second, in both the Roaring 20s and 2000-2007 period, the middle class incurred a lot of debt to pay for the things they wanted, as their real wages were stagnating and they were getting a smaller and smaller piece of the pie. In other words, they had less and less wealth, and so they borrowed more and more to make up the difference. As Reich notes:

Between 1913 and 1928, the ratio of private credit to the total national economy nearly doubled. Total mortgage debt was almost three times higher in 1929 than in 1920. Eventually, in 1929, as in 2008, there were “no more poker chips to be loaned on credit,” in [former Fed chairman Mariner] Eccles’ words. And “when their credit ran out, the game stopped.”

And third, since the wealthy accumulated more, they wanted to invest more, so a lot of money poured into speculative investments, leading to huge bubbles, which eventually burst. Reich points out:

In the 1920s, richer Americans created stock and real estate bubbles that foreshadowed those of the late 1990s and 2000s. The Dow Jones Stock Index ballooned from 63.9 in mid-1921 to a peak of 381.2 eight years later, before it plunged. There was also frantic speculation in land. The Florida real estate boom lured thousands of investors into the Everglades, from where many never returned, at least financially.

Tax cuts for the little guy gives them more “poker chips” to play with, boosting consumer spending and stimulating the economy.

As Reich noted last year:

Small businesses are responsible for almost all job growth in a typical recovery. So if small businesses are hurting, we’re not going to see much job growth any time soon.

On the other hand (despite oft-repeated mythology), tax cuts for the wealthiest tend to help the big businesses … which don’t create many jobs.

In fact, economics professor Steve Keen ran an economic computer model in 2009, and the model demonstrated that:

Giving the stimulus to the debtors is a more potent way of reducing the impact of a credit crunch [than giving money to the big banks and other creditors].

And as discussed above, Reich notes that tax cuts for the wealthy just lead to speculative bubbles … which hurt, rather than help the economy.

Indeed, Keen has demonstrated that “a sustainable level of bank profits appears to be about 1% of GDP” … higher bank profits lead to a ponzi economy and a depression. And too much concentration of wealth increases financial speculation, and therefore makes the financial sector (and the big banks) grow too big and too profitable.

No wonder Ronald Reagan’s budget director David Stockman called the Bush tax cuts the “worst fiscal mistake in history”, and said that extending them will not boost the economy.

This Is What A Collapsing Ponzi Scheme Looks Like

July 27th, 2011 by David DeGraw

This Is What A Collasping Ponzi Scheme Looks Like: Housing Market Headed Off A Cliff As A Shocking 10.8 Million Mortgages At Risk Of DefaultYou might want to sit down for this one. As bad as the housing crisis has been over the past three years, it has only been a warm up to what we have headed our way. Laurie Goodman, from Amherst Securities, has been tracking the housing market as well as anyone. She just presented her latest findings at the American Enterprise Institute and it is a horrific forecast, to say the least. As she puts it, “10.81 million homes are at risk of default over the next 6 years. Even if we try to be extremely conservative we can’t get the number below 8.7 million units.”

With defaults already piling up, the shadow inventory of homes has been growing rapidly, and given this new data the number is going to skyrocket. As this chart shows, the total has gone up from 2 million homes in 2009 to 3.35 million as of April, a 67.5% increase already.

The Atlantic explains this shadow inventory chart: “What’s happening to the homes of all those defaulted borrowers that we hear about? Many of those properties are a part of so-called shadow inventory. This is the sort of limbo between when a home’s loan defaults and when the property is put on the market for purchase. The increase shown above is staggering. The shaded area shows mortgages more than 12 months delinquent or in foreclosure (darker blue) and those seized by the bank (lighter blue).”

Laurie Goodman’s full presentation is available in pdf format here.

Obviously this is going to significantly drive home prices further down, as I reported a few weeks ago, 28% of US homeowners already owe more on their mortgage than their homes are worth. A recent survey by Fannie Mae found that 27% of American homeowners are considering walking away from their mortgage. A perfect storm is brewing. As prices continue to drop, with 10 million now at risk of default, a strategic default movement could devastate the “too big to fail” banks that caused this mess in the first place.

With all this trouble headed their way, no wonder they are fighting hard to, as Reuters put it, get “immunity over irregularities in handling foreclosures, even as evidence has emerged that banks are continuing to file questionable documents.” They can attempt to fraudulently paper over reality, play accounting games, “extend and pretend” and buy off all the state attorneys and regulators they want, even have the Fed, Treasury, Congress and the president in their pocket; they can buy all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, but they can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

This is what a collapsing Ponzi scheme looks like.

We must break up the “too big to fail” banks and end this RICO racket now. As the data proves, the longer we wait, the uglier this is going to get.

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For European bankers, it’s a war for Libya’s Gold. For oil corporations, it’s a war for Cheap Crude (now threatening to destroy Libya’s oil infrastructure, just like Iraq). But for Libya’s women, it’s a fierce, knock down battle over the Abaya— an Islamic style of dress that critics say deprives women of self-expression and identity.

Hillary Clinton and President Sarkozy might loath to admit it, but the desire to turn back the clock on women rights in Libya constitutes one of the chief goals for NATO Rebels on the Transitional Council.

For NATO Rebels—who are overwhelmingly pro-Islamist, regardless of NATO propaganda (see www.obamaslibya.com) — it’s a matter of restoring social obedience to Islamic doctrine. However the abaya is more than a symbol of virtue and womanly modesty. It would usher in a full conservative doctrine, impacting women’s rights in marriage and divorce, the rights to delay childbirth to pursue education and employment—all the factors that determine a woman’s status of independence.

That makes this one War Libya’s women cannot afford to lose. For those of us who support Islamic modernity, there are good arguments that Gadhaffi would be grossly irresponsible to hand over power to a vacuum dominated by NATO Rebels. Given the savagery of their abuses against the Libyan people (www.obamaslibya.com) —and the Rebel’s agenda to reinstate Shariah and retract women’s rights, Gadhaffi has an obligation to stand strong and block them for the protection of the people.

Indeed, it’s somewhat baffling that France or Italy would want to hand power to Rebels, outside of an election scenario. Elections would be a safeguard that would empower Libyan women to launch a leadership alternative that rejects the Abaya. That’s exactly what the Rebels fear, and it accounts for their deep, abiding rejection of the election process. Democracy poses a real threat to NATO’s vision of the “New Libya.”

The abaya carries so much weight in the battle for Islamic modernity that Gadhaffi pretty much banned Islamic dress from the first days of his government. Getting rid of the abaya was part of Gadhaffi’s larger reform package supporting women’s rights—one of the best and most advanced in the entire Arab world. The transformation of women’s status has been so great that the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran imposed a fatwa against Gadhaffi years ago, declaring his government blasphemous to Islamic traditions.

To gain insider perspective on Gadhaffi’s reforms for women, members of a fact-finding delegation in Libya spoke with Najat ElMadani, chairwoman of the Libyan Society for Culture and Sciences, an NGO started in 1994. They also interviewed Sheikh Khaled Tentoush, one the most prominent Imams in Libya. Imam Tentoush has survived two NATO assassination attempts, one that was particularly revealing.

Tentoush said that he and 12 other progressive Imams were traveling to Benghazi to discuss a peaceful end to the conflict. They stopped for tea at a guest house in Brega— and NATO dropped a bomb right on top of them, killing 11 of the 13 Imams, who had embraced Islamic reforms that empower women’s rights and modernity.

There were no military installations or Gadhaffi soldiers anywhere nearby that would have justified NATO bombing. This was a deliberate assassination of Islamic leaders who give religious legitimacy to Gadhaffi’s modernist policies, and therefore pose a great threat to the conservative ambitions of Islamic Rebels. NATO killed them off.

What’s got radical Islamists so upset in Libya? Here’s a primer on women’s rights under Gadhaffi:


No Male Chaperones in Libya

  • In Libya, women are allowed to move about the city, go shopping or visit friends without a male escort. Unbelievable as it sounds, throughout most of the Arab world, such freedoms are strictly forbidden. In much of Pakistan, for example, a 5 year old male child would be considered a suitable chaperone for an adult woman in the marketplace. Otherwise she’d better stay home.  In Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, women are frequently locked in their apartments while their husbands, brothers or fathers go off to work. Yes, there are exceptions. Some families individually reject these practices. However, before readers protest this characterization, you must be honest and acknowledge that the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Saudis/Kuwaitis aren’t the only groups that constrain women’s freedoms in the Arab world. This is common social behavior throughout large swaths of Arab society.
  • In Libya, women are never locked in their homes, while their husbands, fathers and brothers go to work. Gadhaffi forbids restricting women’s mobility.
  • In Libya, women have full legal rights to drive cars—unlike their sisters in Saudi Arabia. In a lot of Arab countries, a woman’s husband holds her passport. So she cannot travel outside of the country without his approval.

Marriage Rights

  •  Tragically, in Kabul, Afghanistan, a young woman can be locked in Prison for rejecting her father’s choice of husband. Until she changes her mind, her prospective mother in law visits the prison every day, demanding to know why her son is not “good enough” for this girl. Why does she disobey those who know what’s best for her?  That poor woman stays locked up in Kabul prison until she changes her mind. And it happens right under the noses of American and NATO soldiers. A NATO Occupation won’t protect Libyan women, either.
  •  All over the Arab world—from Yemen to Jordan to Saudi Arabia to Iran— fathers and brothers decide what age a young woman will be given away in marriage, usually as soon as she hits puberty— She has no choice in the most important decision of her life. Frequently a young girl gets married off to one of her father’s adult friends or a cousin. Throughout the Arab world, it’s socially acceptable for a shopkeeper to ask a young Muslim girl if she has started to menstruate. A good Islamic girl is expected to answer truthfully.
  •  Not in Libya. To his greatest credit, bucking all Islamic traditions—from the first days of government, Gadhaffi said No Way to forced marriages. Libyan woman have the right to choose their own husbands. They are encouraged to seek love marriages. Under strict Libyan law, without exception no person can force a Libyan woman to marry any man for any reason.
  • Forced marriages have been such a problem throughout the Arab world, that in Libya, an Imam always calls on the woman if there is an impending marriage. The Imam meets with her privately, and asks if any person is forcing her to marry, or if there’s any reason she’s marrying this person other than her desire to be with this man.  Both Najat and Imam Tentoush were very adamant on these points.
  • In Libya, the Imams are expected to protect the woman from abuse by relatives.

Right to End a Marriage

  • Divorce is brutally difficult for a woman throughout the Arab world. A husband can beat or rape his wife, or commit adultery or lock her in a room like a prison. No matter what a woman suffers, as a wife she has no legal rights to leave that marriage, even for her own protection.  When her father negotiates that marriage contract, she’s stuck for life. A man can divorce a woman in front of two witnesses by repeating three times: “I divorce you. I divorce you. I divorce you.” He can text that message on a cell phone, and it’s over. The woman has no reciprocal freedom. She’s stuck in that marriage until her husband lets her go.
  • Not so in Libya.  A Libyan woman can leave a marriage anytime she chooses. A woman simply files for divorce and goes on with her life.  It is very similar to U.S. laws, in that a man has no power to stop her. It’s completely within her control to initiate a divorce.
  • In Libya, if a woman enters a marriage with her own assets and the marriage ends, her husband cannot touch her assets. The same is true of the man’s assets.  Joint assets usually go to the woman.

These “abnormal” marriage rights stir deep anger among conservative Libyan men. Rebels particularly hate Gadhaffi’s government for granting marriage rights to women.
But consider how delaying marriage impacts women’s opportunities in society.  

Delayed marriage means delayed childbirth, which empowers young women to continue education and gain employment. Not surprisingly then, Libyan women enjoy some of the best opportunities in the Arab world. That might also cause simmering resentments among conservative Libyan men.


Education of Libyan Women

  • In Libya more women take advantage of higher education than men, according to Najat.  There are professional women in every walk of life.  Many Libyan women are scientists, university professors, lawyers, doctors, government employees, journalists and business women.  Najat attributes that freedom and the range of choices to Gadhaffi, and his government’s insistence that women must be free to choose their lives and be fully supported in those choices.  Najat and Tentoush said that some Imams in Libya would like it to be otherwise—especially those Imams favoring the Rebels— but Gadhaffi has always over ruled them. For example there are many women soldiers, and they are very strong and fully capable of contributing to the military defense of the country.
  • Women receive education scholarships equal to the men’s. All Libyans can go abroad and study if they so desire— paid for by Gadhaffi’s government. Single women usually take a brother or male relative with them, and Najat said all expenses are covered for both the woman and her companion.
  • In Libya, women are not required to seek a husband’s permission to hold a job, and any type of job is available to her. In contrast, many employment opportunities are proscribed in many other Arab countries, because work puts women in daily proximity to men who are not their husbands. That eliminates many types of job opportunities.

Bashing Women’s Rights

These are some of the reasons why Rebels consider Gadhaffi an “infidel.” They frequently express a desire to reinstate the Shariah. It’s an open secret in Arab circles. In ignoring this point, NATO resembles the three monkeys. See no truth. Hear no truth. Speak no truth. But the Arab community understands this dynamic. Rebels are going to pat Hillary Clinton and Sarkozy on the head right up until they capture power. Then they’re going to do exactly what they started out to do. Reinstate Islamic law—under the protection of the United States and NATO governments. Conservative social codes will be enforced just like Afghanistan.

Libyans understand this point, even if Americans and Europeans are lost in denial. It should surprise no one, therefore, that some of Gadhaffi’s greatest support comes from Libyan women. Nor should it surprise Libya watchers that Gadhaffi’s not exactly “clinging to power” as the corporate media likes to suggest. Quite the contrary, Gadhaffi’s support has skyrocketed to 80 or 85 percent during this crisis. President Obama, Sarkozy and Bersculoni would be thrilled to enjoy such intense popular support.

NATO bombing has backfired and alienated the Libyan people from the Rebel cause, destroying community infrastructure that Libyans are truly proud of. Rebels are chasing pro-Gaddhaffi families out of Benghazi, a sort of political cleansing. But they have no street credibility that would give them power in negotiations with other Libyans, because losers don’t get to dictate the terms. NATO can propagandize until Sarkozy falls over in a fit, but the people have resoundingly rejected these Rebels.

NATO is pushing a political resolution, because Europe wants off the merry-go-round. In truth, the music is getting uglier every day. NATO never should have jumped on this bandwagon in the first place. There’s no sense to it. They’re fighting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and embracing Al Qaeda and conservative Islam in Benghazi.

Those of us who support Islamic modernity should be relieved that Libya’s people are smarter and savvier than NATO bureaucrats. And we should all say a prayer that Gadhaffi holds on.

Susan Lindauer covered Libya and Iraq at the United Nations from 1995 to 2003, and started negotiations for the Lockerbie Trial. Lindauer is the author of “Extreme Prejudice: The Terrifying Story of the Patriot Act and the Cover Ups of 9/11 and Iraq.”

The trial and sentencing of Tim DeChristopher highlights the conflict between the people of the United States and the corporate-government that protects the privileged. In his pre-sentencing statement (republished below) Tim told Judge Dee Benson that the judge was making a choice: “The choice you are making today is what side are you on.”

Tim brought out the corruption of leases of public lands by the Bureau of Land Management, an agency with an ugly history of corruption, and how in this bidding the oil companies expected to get the land at the cost of pennies on the dollar. For the lands Tim did not bid on the average price was $12 an acre, for the one’s he did bid on they were $125. That number rose to the higher levels because oil companies knew that even at the higher price they would make tremendous profits. These public land leases occur for a wide range of corporations and are another example of massive corporate welfare that robs the American people of their public resources, while causing tremendous environmental damage and funneling wealth to the wealthiest 1%.

The connection between corporations and government was highlighted to Tim early in this prosecution. One day before he was indicted the Associated Press called him to tell Tim he would be indicted. The AP reporter had known about it for weeks because an oil and gas industry lobbyist had told him. Evidently the prosecutor’s office was keeping his colleagues in the corporate world well informed about their plans to punish DeChristopher for spoiling the illegal lease auction.

Tim also brings out the twisted nature of the rule of law in a government corrupted by corporatism, saying: “The rule of law is dependent upon a government that is willing to abide by the law. Disrespect for the rule of law begins when the government believes itself and its corporate sponsors to be above the law.” The rule of law is twisted by government often working hand in glove with corporate interests in foreign and domestic policy. When Judge Benson ruled early in the trial that Tim could not show the jury how his actions prevented a greater harm, i.e. preventing an illegal auction and preventing environmental destruction, the judge essentially ruled that the violation of the rule of law by the government in cahoots with the oil companies was not something the jury should know about. Tim told the judge at sentencing: “I agree with the founding fathers that juries should be the conscience of the community and a defense against legislative tyranny.” The judge did not want the jury to have that power.

 On civil disobedience Tim said: “the rule of law was created through acts of civil disobedience. Since those bedrock acts of civil disobedience by our founding fathers, the rule of law in this country has continued to grow closer to our shared higher moral code through the civil disobedience that drew attention to legalized injustice. The authority of the government exists to the degree that the rule of law reflects the higher moral code of the citizens, and throughout American history, it has been civil disobedience that has bound them together.” Civil disobedience has always challenged the unjust status quo – whether it was slavery, Jim Crow, women not voting or the crony capitalism Americans confront today.

Finally, Tim makes the important point that making an example of him with a harsh punishment will backfire as the history of political prisoner’s shows. His sentence will not stop others who are standing up for a sustainable future. He says “those who are inspired to follow my actions are those who understand that we are on a path toward catastrophic consequences of climate change . . . they know we are running out of time to turn things around . . . [and] the people who are committed to fighting for a livable future will not be discouraged or intimidated by anything that happens here today.”

And, Tim displays his courage and conviction telling the judge: “I will continue to confront the system that threatens our future. Given the destruction of our democratic institutions that once gave citizens access to power, my future will likely involve civil disobedience. Nothing that happens here today will change that. I don’t mean that in any sort of disrespectful way at all, but you don’t have that authority. You have authority over my life, but not my principles. Those are mine alone.”

 This brief summary does not do full justice to the words of Tim DeChristopher. His ethical approach to challenging unjust laws and corporate-government actions should inspire all of us to Stand with Tim – by standing against corporatism that is destroying the nation and planet. Join us in stopping the machine and creating a better world, www.October2011.org.

Pre-Sentencing Statement of Tim DeChrisotpher July 26, 2011

Thank you for the opportunity to speak before the court. When I first met Mr. Manross, the sentencing officer who prepared the presentence report, he explained that it was essentially his job to “get to know me.” He said he had to get to know who I really was and why I did what I did in order to decide what kind of sentence was appropriate. I was struck by the fact that he was the first person in this courthouse to call me by my first name, or even really look me in the eye. I appreciate this opportunity to speak openly to you for the first time. I’m not here asking for your mercy, but I am here asking that you know me.

Mr. Huber has leveled a lot of character attacks at me, many of which are contrary to Mr. Manross’s report. While reading Mr. Huber’s critiques of my character and my integrity, as well as his assumptions about my motivations, I was reminded that Mr. Huber and I have never had a conversation. Over the two and half years of this prosecution, he has never asked my any of the questions that he makes assumptions about in the government’s report. Apparently, Mr. Huber has never considered it his job to get to know me, and yet he is quite willing to disregard the opinions of the one person who does see that as his job.

This is not going away. At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like. In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow. The choice you are making today is what side are you on.

There are alternating characterizations that Mr. Huber would like you to believe about me. In one paragraph, the government claims I “played out the parts of accuser, jury, and judge as he determined the fate of the oil and gas lease auction and its intended participants that day.” In the very next paragraph, they claim “It was not the defendant’s crimes that effected such a change.” Mr. Huber would lead you to believe that I’m either a dangerous criminal who holds the oil and gas industry in the palm of my hand, or I’m just an incompetent child who didn’t affect the outcome of anything. As evidenced by the continued back and forth of contradictory arguments in the government’s memorandum, they’re not quite sure which of those extreme caricatures I am, but they are certain that I am nothing in between. Rather than the job of getting to know me, it seems Mr. Huber prefers the job of fitting me into whatever extreme characterization is most politically expedient at the moment.

In nearly every paragraph, the government’s memorandum uses the words lie, lied, lying, liar. It makes me want to thank whatever clerk edited out the words “pants on fire.” Their report doesn’t mention the fact that at the auction in question, the first person who asked me what I was doing there was Agent Dan Love. And I told him very clearly that I was there to stand in the way of an illegitimate auction that threatened my future. I proceeded to answer all of his questions openly and honestly, and have done so to this day when speaking about that auction in any forum, including this courtroom. The entire basis for the false statements charge that I was convicted of was the fact that I wrote my real name and address on a form that included the words “bona fide bidder.” When I sat there on the witness stand, Mr. Romney asked me if I ever had any intention of being a bona fide bidder. I responded by asking Mr. Romney to clarify what “bona fide bidder” meant in this context. Mr. Romney then withdrew the question and moved on to the next subject. On that right there is the entire basis for the government’s repeated attacks on my integrity. Ambition should be made of sterner stuff, your honor.

Mr. Huber also makes grand assumptions about my level of respect for the rule of law. The government claims a long prison sentence is necessary to counteract the political statements I’ve made and promote a respect for the law. The only evidence provided for my lack of respect for the law is political statements that I’ve made in public forums. Again, the government doesn’t mention my actions in regard to the drastic restrictions that were put upon my defense in this courtroom. My political disagreements with the court about the proper role of a jury in the legal system are probably well known. I’ve given several public speeches and interviews about how the jury system was established and how it has evolved to it’s current state. Outside of this courtroom, I’ve made my views clear that I agree with the founding fathers that juries should be the conscience of the community and a defense against legislative tyranny. I even went so far as to organize a book study group that read about the history of jury nullification. Some of the participants in that book group later began passing out leaflets to the public about jury rights, as is their right. Mr. Huber was apparently so outraged by this that he made the slanderous accusations that I tried to taint the jury. He didn’t specify the extra number of months that I should spend in prison for the heinous activity of holding a book group at the Unitarian Church and quoting Thomas Jefferson in public, but he says you should have “little tolerance for this behavior.”

The rule of law is dependent upon a government that is willing to abide by the law. Disrespect for the rule of law begins when the government believes itself and its corporate sponsors to be above the law.

But here is the important point that Mr. Huber would rather ignore. Despite my strong disagreements with the court about the Constitutional basis for the limits on my defense, while I was in this courtroom I respected the authority of the court. Whether I agreed with them or not, I abided by the restrictions that you put on me and my legal team. I never attempted to “taint” the jury, as Mr. Huber claimed, by sharing any of the relevant facts about the auction in question that the court had decided were off limits. I didn’t burst out and tell the jury that I successfully raised the down payment and offered it to the BLM. I didn’t let the jury know that the auction was later reversed because it was illegitimate in the first place. To this day I still think I should have had the right to do so, but disagreement with the law should not be confused with disrespect for the law.

My public statements about jury nullification were not the only political statements that Mr. Huber thinks I should be punished for. As the government’s memorandum points out, I have also made public statements about the value of civil disobedience in bringing the rule of law closer to our shared sense of justice. In fact, I have openly and explicitly called for nonviolent civil disobedience against mountaintop removal coal mining in my home state of West Virginia. Mountaintop removal is itself an illegal activity, which has always been in violation of the Clean Water Act, and it is an illegal activity that kills people. A West Virginia state investigation found that Massey Energy had been cited with 62,923 violations of the law in the ten years preceding the disaster that killed 29 people last year. The investigation also revealed that Massey paid for almost none of those violations because the company provided millions of dollars worth of campaign contributions that elected most of the appeals court judges in the state. When I was growing up in West Virginia, my mother was one of many who pursued every legal avenue for making the coal industry follow the law. She commented at hearings, wrote petitions and filed lawsuits, and many have continued to do ever since, to no avail. I actually have great respect for the rule of law, because I see what happens when it doesn’t exist, as is the case with the fossil fuel industry. Those crimes committed by Massey Energy led not only to the deaths of their own workers, but to the deaths of countless local residents, such as Joshua McCormick, who died of kidney cancer at age 22 because he was unlucky enough to live downstream from a coal mine. When a corrupted government is no longer willing to uphold the rule of law, I advocate that citizens step up to that responsibility.

This is really the heart of what this case is about. The rule of law is dependent upon a government that is willing to abide by the law. Disrespect for the rule of law begins when the government believes itself and its corporate sponsors to be above the law.

Mr. Huber claims that the seriousness of my offense was that I “obstructed lawful government proceedings.” But the auction in question was not a lawful proceeding. I know you’ve heard another case about some of the irregularities for which the auction was overturned. But that case did not involve the BLM’s blatant violation of Secretarial Order 3226, which was a law that went into effect in 2001 and required the BLM to weigh the impacts on climate change for all its major decisions, particularly resource development. A federal judge in Montana ruled last year that the BLM was in constant violation of this law throughout the Bush administration. In all the proceedings and debates about this auction, no apologist for the government or the BLM has ever even tried to claim that the BLM followed this law. In both the December 2008 auction and the creation of the Resource Management Plan on which this auction was based, the BLM did not even attempt to follow this law.

And this law is not a trivial regulation about crossing t’s or dotting i’s to make some government accountant’s job easier. This law was put into effect to mitigate the impacts of catastrophic climate change and defend a livable future on this planet. This law was about protecting the survival of young generations. That’s kind of a big deal. It’s a very big deal to me. If the government is going to refuse to step up to that responsibility to defend a livable future, I believe that creates a moral imperative for me and other citizens. My future, and the future of everyone I care about, is being traded for short term profits. I take that very personally. Until our leaders take seriously their responsibility to pass on a healthy and just world to the next generation, I will continue this fight.

The government has made the claim that there were legal alternatives to standing in the way of this auction. Particularly, I could have filed a written protest against certain parcels. The government does not mention, however, that two months prior to this auction, in October 2008, a Congressional report was released that looked into those protests. The report, by the House committee on public lands, stated that it had become common practice for the BLM to take volunteers from the oil and gas industry to process those permits. The oil industry was paying people specifically to volunteer for the industry that was supposed to be regulating it, and it was to those industry staff that I would have been appealing. Moreover, this auction was just three months after the New York Times reported on a major scandal involving Department of the Interior regulators who were taking bribes of sex and drugs from the oil companies that they were supposed to be regulating. In 2008, this was the condition of the rule of law, for which Mr. Huber says I lacked respect. Just as the legal avenues which people in West Virginia have been pursuing for 30 years, the legal avenues in this case were constructed precisely to protect the corporations who control the government.

The reality is not that I lack respect for the law; it’s that I have greater respect for justice. Where there is a conflict between the law and the higher moral code that we all share, my loyalty is to that higher moral code. I know Mr. Huber disagrees with me on this. He wrote that “The rule of law is the bedrock of our civilized society, not acts of ‘civil disobedience’ committed in the name of the cause of the day.” That’s an especially ironic statement when he is representing the United States of America, a place where the rule of law was created through acts of civil disobedience. Since those bedrock acts of civil disobedience by our founding fathers, the rule of law in this country has continued to grow closer to our shared higher moral code through the civil disobedience that drew attention to legalized injustice. The authority of the government exists to the degree that the rule of law reflects the higher moral code of the citizens, and throughout American history, it has been civil disobedience that has bound them together.

The authority of the government exists to the degree that the rule of law reflects the higher moral code of the citizens, and throughout American history, it has been civil disobedience that has bound them together.

This philosophical difference is serious enough that Mr. Huber thinks I should be imprisoned to discourage the spread of this idea. Much of the government’s memorandum focuses on the political statements that I’ve made in public. But it hasn’t always been this way. When Mr. Huber was arguing that my defense should be limited, he addressed my views this way: “The public square is the proper stage for the defendant’s message, not criminal proceedings in federal court.” But now that the jury is gone, Mr. Huber wants to take my message from the public square and make it a central part of these federal court proceedings. I have no problem with that. I’m just as willing to have those views on display as I’ve ever been.

The government’s memorandum states, “As opposed to preventing this particular defendant from committing further crimes, the sentence should be crafted ‘to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct’ by others.” Their concern is not the danger that I present, but the danger presented by my ideas and words that might lead others to action. Perhaps Mr. Huber is right to be concerned. He represents the United States Government. His job is to protect those currently in power, and by extension, their corporate sponsors. After months of no action after the auction, the way I found out about my indictment was the day before it happened, Pat Shea got a call from an Associated Press reporter who said, “I just wanted to let you know that tomorrow Tim is going to be indicted, and this is what the charges are going to be.” That reporter had gotten that information two weeks earlier from an oil industry lobbyist. Our request for disclosure of what role that lobbyist played in the US Attorney’s office was denied, but we know that she apparently holds sway and that the government feels the need to protect the industry’s interests.

The things that I’ve been publicly saying may indeed be threatening to that power structure. There have been several references to the speech I gave after the conviction, but I’ve only ever seen half of one sentence of that speech quoted. In the government’s report, they actually had to add their own words to that one sentence to make it sound more threatening. But the speech was about empowerment. It was about recognizing our interconnectedness rather than viewing ourselves as isolated individuals. The message of the speech was that when people stand together, they no longer have to be exploited by powerful corporations. Alienation is perhaps the most effective tool of control in America, and every reminder of our real connectedness weakens that tool.

But the sentencing guidelines don’t mention the need to protect corporations or politicians from ideas that threaten their control. The guidelines say, “protect the public.” The question is whether the public is helped or harmed by my actions. The easiest way to answer that question is with the direct impacts of my action. As the oil executive stated in his testimony, the parcels I didn’t bid on averaged $12 per acre, but the ones I did bid on averaged $125. Those are the prices paid for public property to the public trust. The industry admits very openly that they were getting those parcels for an order of magnitude less than what they were worth. Not only did those oil companies drive up the prices to $125 during the bidding, they were then given an opportunity to withdraw their bids once my actions were explained. They kept the parcels, presumably because they knew they were still a good deal at $125. The oil companies knew they were getting a steal from the American people, and now they’re crying because they had to pay a little closer to what those parcels were actually worth. The government claims I should be held accountable for the steal the oil companies didn’t get. The government’s report demands $600,000 worth of financial impacts for the amount which the oil industry wasn’t able to steal from the public.

That extra revenue for the public became almost irrelevant, though, once most of those parcels were revoked by Secretary Salazar. Most of the parcels I won were later deemed inappropriate for drilling. In other words, the highest and best value to the public for those particular lands was not for oil and gas drilling. Had the auction gone off without a hitch, it would have been a loss for the public. The fact that the auction was delayed, extra attention was brought to the process, and the parcels were ultimately revoked was a good thing for the public.

The people who are committed to fighting for a livable future will not be discouraged or intimidated by anything that happens here today. And neither will I.

More generally, the question of whether civil disobedience is good for the public is a matter of perspective. Civil disobedience is inherently an attempt at change. Those in power, whom Mr. Huber represents, are those for whom the status quo is working, so they always see civil disobedience as a bad thing. The decision you are making today, your honor, is what segment of the public you are meant to protect. Mr. Huber clearly has cast his lot with that segment who wishes to preserve the status quo. But the majority of the public is exploited by the status quo far more than they are benefited by it. The young are the most obvious group who is exploited and condemned to an ugly future by letting the fossil fuel industry call the shots. There is an overwhelming amount of scientific research, some of which you received as part of our proffer on the necessity defense, that reveals the catastrophic consequences which the young will have to deal with over the coming decades.

But just as real is the exploitation of the communities where fossil fuels are extracted. As a native of West Virginia, I have seen from a young age that the exploitation of fossil fuels has always gone hand in hand with the exploitation of local people. In West Virginia, we’ve been extracting coal longer than anyone else. And after 150 years of making other people rich, West Virginia is almost dead last among the states in per capita income, education rates and life expectancy. And it’s not an anomaly. The areas with the richest fossil fuel resources, whether coal in West Virginia and Kentucky, or oil in Louisiana and Mississippi, are the areas with the lowest standards of living. In part, this is a necessity of the industry. The only way to convince someone to blow up their backyard or poison their water is to make sure they are so desperate that they have no other option. But it is also the nature of the economic model. Since fossil fuels are limited resources, whoever controls access to that resource in the beginning gets to set all the terms. They set the terms for their workers, for the local communities, and apparently even for the regulatory agencies.

A renewable energy economy is a threat to that model. Since no one can control access to the sun or the wind, the wealth is more likely to flow to whoever does the work of harnessing that energy, and therefore to create a more distributed economic system, which leads to a more distributed political system. It threatens the profits of the handful of corporations for whom the current system works, but our question is which segment of the public are you tasked with protecting. I am here today because I have chosen to protect the people locked out of the system over the profits of the corporations running the system. I say this not because I want your mercy, but because I want you to join me.

After this difference of political philosophies, the rest of the sentencing debate has been based on the financial loss from my actions. The government has suggested a variety of numbers loosely associated with my actions, but as of yet has yet to establish any causality between my actions and any of those figures. The most commonly discussed figure is perhaps the most easily debunked. This is the figure of roughly $140,000, which is the amount the BLM originally spent to hold the December 2008 auction. By definition, this number is the amount of money the BLM spent before I ever got involved. The relevant question is what the BLM spent because of my actions, but apparently that question has yet to be asked. The only logic that relates the $140,000 figure to my actions is if I caused the entire auction to be null and void and the BLM had to start from scratch to redo the entire auction. But that of course is not the case. First is the prosecution’s on-again-off-again argument that I didn’t have any impact on the auction being overturned. More importantly, the BLM never did redo the auction because it was decided that many of those parcels should never have been auctioned in the first place. Rather than this arbitrary figure of $140,000, it would have been easy to ask the BLM how much money they spent or will spend on redoing the auction. But the government never asked this question, probably because they knew they wouldn’t like the answer.

The other number suggested in the government’s memorandum is the $166,000 that was the total price of the three parcels I won which were not invalidated. Strangely, the government wants me to pay for these parcels, but has never offered to actually give them to me. When I offered the BLM the money a couple weeks after the auction, they refused to take it. Aside from that history, this figure is still not a valid financial loss from my actions. When we wrote there was no loss from my actions, we actually meant that rather literally. Those three parcels were not evaporated or blasted into space because of my actions, not was the oil underneath them sucked dry by my bid card. They’re still there, and in fact the BLM has already issued public notice of their intent to re-auction those parcels in February of 2012.

The final figure suggested as a financial loss is the $600,000 that the oil company wasn’t able to steal from the public. That completely unsubstantiated number is supposedly the extra amount the BLM received because of my actions. This is when things get tricky. The government’s report takes that $600,000 positive for the BLM and adds it to that roughly $300,000 negative for the BLM, and comes up with a $900,000 negative. With math like that, it’s obvious that Mr. Huber works for the federal government.

After most of those figures were disputed in the presentence report, the government claimed in their most recent objection that I should be punished according to the intended financial impact that I intended to cause. The government tries to assume my intentions and then claims, “This is consistent with the testimony that Mr. DeChristopher provided at trial, admitting that his intention was to cause financial harm to others with whom he disagreed.” Now I didn’t get to say a whole lot at the trial, so it was pretty easy to look back through the transcripts. The statement claimed by the government never happened. There was nothing even close enough to make their statement a paraphrase or artistic license. This statement in the government’s objection is a complete fiction. Mr. Huber’s inability to judge my intent is revealed in this case by the degree to which he underestimates my ambition. The truth is that my intention, then as now, was to expose, embarrass and hold accountable the oil industry to the extent that it cuts into the $100 billion in annual profits that it makes through exploitation. I actually intended for my actions to play a role in the wide variety of actions that steer the country toward a clean energy economy where those $100 billion in oil profits are completely eliminated. When I read Mr. Huber’s new logic, I was terrified to consider that my slightly unrealistic intention to have a $100 billion impact will fetch me several consecutive life sentences. Luckily this reasoning is as unrealistic as it is silly.

A more serious look at my intentions is found in Mr. Huber’s attempt to find contradictions in my statements. Mr. Huber points out that in public I acted proud of my actions and treated it like a success, while in our sentencing memorandum we claimed that my actions led to “no loss.” On the one hand I think it was a success, and yet I claim it there was no loss. Success, but no loss. Mr. Huber presents these ideas as mutually contradictory and obvious proof that I was either dishonest or backing down from my convictions. But for success to be contradictory to no loss, there has to be another assumption. One has to assume that my intent was to cause a loss. But the only loss that I intended to cause was the loss of secrecy by which the government gave away public property for private profit. As I actually stated in the trial, my intent was to shine a light on a corrupt process and get the government to take a second look at how this auction was conducted. The success of that intent is not dependent on any loss. I knew that if I was completely off base, and the government took that second look and decided that nothing was wrong with that auction, the cost of my action would be another day’s salary for the auctioneer and some minor costs of re-auctioning the parcels. But if I was right about the irregularities of the auction, I knew that allowing the auction to proceed would mean the permanent loss of lands better suited for other purposes and the permanent loss of a safe climate. The intent was to prevent loss, but again that is a matter of perspective.

Mr. Huber wants you to weigh the loss for the corporations that expected to get public property for pennies on the dollar, but I believe the important factor is the loss to the public which I helped prevent. Again, we come back to this philosophical difference. From any perspective, this is a case about the right of citizens to challenge the government. The US Attorney’s office makes clear that their interest is not only to punish me for doing so, but to discourage others from challenging the government, even when the government is acting inappropriately. Their memorandum states, “To be sure, a federal prison term here will deter others from entering a path of criminal behavior.” The certainty of this statement not only ignores the history of political prisoners, it ignores the severity of the present situation. Those who are inspired to follow my actions are those who understand that we are on a path toward catastrophic consequences of climate change. They know their future, and the future of their loved ones, is on the line. And they know were are running out of time to turn things around. The closer we get to that point where it’s too late, the less people have to lose by fighting back. The power of the Justice Department is based on its ability to take things away from people. The more that people feel that they have nothing to lose, the more that power begins to shrivel. The people who are committed to fighting for a livable future will not be discouraged or intimidated by anything that happens here today. And neither will I. I will continue to confront the system that threatens our future. Given the destruction of our democratic institutions that once gave citizens access to power, my future will likely involve civil disobedience. Nothing that happens here today will change that. I don’t mean that in any sort of disrespectful way at all, but you don’t have that authority. You have authority over my life, but not my principles. Those are mine alone.

I’m not saying any of this to ask you for mercy, but to ask you to join me.

I’m not saying any of this to ask you for mercy, but to ask you to join me. If you side with Mr. Huber and believe that your role is to discourage citizens from holding their government accountable, then you should follow his recommendations and lock me away. I certainly don’t want that. I have no desire to go to prison, and any assertion that I want to be even a temporary martyr is false. I want you to join me in standing up for the right and responsibility of citizens to challenge their government. I want you to join me in valuing this country’s rich history of nonviolent civil disobedience. If you share those values but think my tactics are mistaken, you have the power to redirect them. You can sentence me to a wide range of community service efforts that would point my commitment to a healthy and just world down a different path. You can have me work with troubled teens, as I spent most of my career doing. You can have me help disadvantaged communities or even just pull weeds for the BLM. You can steer that commitment if you agree with it, but you can’t kill it.

This is not going away. At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like. In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow. The choice you are making today is what side are you on.

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Wall Street Steps Up Pressure for Deal on Budget Cuts

July 27th, 2011 by Patrick Martin

Key agencies of the American financial aristocracy are beginning to assert themselves directly and openly in the mounting political crisis in Washington, demanding a deal that would combine raising the federal debt ceiling with trillions of dollars in cuts in social spending.

The Obama administration has forecast that soon after next Tuesday, August 2, the government will be unable to pay its bills without further borrowing, now barred because the Treasury reached the current debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion in early May.

Late Monday, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the main center for the trading of derivatives, one of the major forms of financial speculation, announced that it would no long classify short-term Treasury bills as risk-free when used as collateral by traders. The exchange also will require traders to provide larger amounts of longer-term Treasury bonds when using them as collateral.

The “haircuts” applied to the value of government securities used as collateral for trades ranged from half a percentage point for Treasury bills to a full percentage point for Treasury notes and bonds, with the changes to take effect on Thursday.

The CME justified the increases as a response to the greater volatility in the prices of US government securities because of mounting speculation that there will be at least a short-term interruption in US government payments to bondholders.

Already on Friday, when budget talks between the White House and congressional Republicans collapsed, the CME told traders it would raise the amount of collateral required to trade Treasury futures by 8 percentage points to 22 percent, according to a report by the Dow-Jones News Service.

These are the first concrete actions taken by a major financial institution to disfavor US government securities since the Obama administration first announced the August 2 deadline for raising the debt ceiling.

George Goncalves, head of interest rate strategy at Nomura Securities, told the Financial Times, “The bond markets in the US will now have the debt ceiling decision and deficit reduction talks as its highest concerns over the next week and a half.”

Interest rates on new issues of US government securities, while still low, rose Tuesday from 0.41 percent to 0.44 percent. The Treasury is auctioning $99 billion in new debt this week, using the funds to pay off maturing bills, but not increasing the total outstanding.

Moody’s Investor Services, one of the three main bond-rating agencies, warned its mutual fund clients Tuesday that the impasse in Washington over the debt ceiling threatened money market mutual funds.

A statement from Moody’s said, “Direct risks include the potential for a missed interest or principal payment on government bonds for a short period of time, as well as incremental weakening of the overall credit quality of money-market fund portfolios that have US government exposure.”

Moody’s had earlier warned that it would downgrade US government debt in the event that Congress and the Obama administration failed to reach agreement on lifting the debt ceiling by August 2.

Standard & Poor’s, another bond-rating agency, spelled a more detailed warning last week. S&P said that either of two events could lead to a downgrading of US government debt: if the debt ceiling was not raised, leading to a default on US government obligations; or if the agreement to raise the debt ceiling did not include sufficient spending cuts—in the eyes of S&P—to assure a declining path for future federal deficits.

The ratings agencies, like the Wall Street firms they represent, have lined up behind the Obama administration in seeking the largest possible deficit reduction package, at least $4 trillion over the next ten years.

S&P analyst John Chambers, discussing the downgrade warning, told the press, “Our working assumption is that this is the time to get a meaningful agreement by both parties. Once this moment passes, future moments will be more difficult to ascertain.”

In a further sign of unease in financial markets, the dollar fell Tuesday against most world currencies, while the price of gold rose $4.60 an ounce, ending the day at $1,616.80 an ounce. The price of gold topped $1,600 for the first time on July 18.

According to a report in the New York Times, some hedge funds are stockpiling cash, planning to buy up US government securities at cut-rate prices if there is a default or debt downgrade which forces pension funds and other institutional investors to sell their Treasury holdings.

The price of credit-default swaps, which would pay investors in the event of a US default, has doubled in the last few weeks, which one financial columnist cited as “indicating a lively market for bets against America.”

The orchestrated and artificial character of the debt ceiling crisis—there is no lack of willing lenders to the US government, only a legal prohibition on government borrowing that could be lifted by Congress any day—does not alter the fact that even a temporary US debt default could have devastating consequences for world capitalism.

The new managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, warned in a speech in New York Tuesday that action on the debt ceiling was urgent. “The clock is ticking, and clearly the issue needs to be resolved immediately. Indeed, an adverse fiscal shock in the United States could have serious spillovers on the rest of the world.”

Lagarde then added: “But more fundamentally, a credible fiscal adjustment plan is needed sooner rather than later.” This comment is the most significant one. Like her counterparts at S&P, Lagarde is demanding both a rise in the debt ceiling, to stabilize financial markets, and massive cuts in US social spending, particularly the entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Her prescription for the United States is the same as for Greece: the working people must pay for the crisis of the profit system, while the banks and big capitalists must be defended at all costs.

At the same time, Lagarde expressed nervousness about the political and social consequences, referring to the upheavals in Egypt and throughout the Arab world. “Social problems are a major concern to advanced economies too,” she said. “The young in particular are having a hard time finding work—with potentially lifelong implications in terms of employability and income. At the same time, the older generations are fighting to protect their health and pension benefits.”

The Obama administration welcomes the intervention of the financial markets and representatives of finance capital, which help to create a crisis atmosphere to push through measures that devastate Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and federal programs supporting education, transportation, environmental regulation and housing.

Congressional maneuvering on the debt ceiling continued Tuesday with no agreement on a bill that can pass even one house, let alone both. House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion and mandate spending cuts of $3 trillion was to be brought a vote late Wednesday night, amid mounting indications that it will be rejected by ultra-right Republicans tied to the Tea Party movement, on the grounds that the cuts are too small.

Representative Jim Jordan, chairman of the Republican Study Group, a conservative caucus of nearly two-thirds of Republicans in the House, held a press conference with a half dozen other right-wing congressmen to announce they would vote against the Boehner bill.

The Democratic alternative, drafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, would also raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion and includes $2.7 trillion in spending cuts, although $1 trillion of that total is derived from reduced military spending as troops are pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan over the next ten years. The bill is likely to be blocked by a Republican filibuster.

Late Tuesday, there were press reports that the House and Senate might agree on a temporary postponement of the crisis for 30 days by raising the debt ceiling by the amount required to get through the month of August. Obama had previously threatened to veto any such short-term measure, but his threats have proven empty at every stage in the protracted political maneuvering over the federal deficit.

What the intervention of Wall Street makes clear is that the Washington “debate” is limited to the financial aristocracy and its political operatives in the two big business parties. Workers’ interests have no representation. On the contrary, there is a consensus among the capitalist politicians that the entire burden of the crisis of American capitalism must be placed on the backs of working people, through the destruction of social programs on which tens of millions rely. 

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Since the United States has carried a AAA debt rating since 1917, the term unprecedented has been properly applied to the possibility of a downgrade to AA. The uncertainty associated with a debt downgrade/short-term default was captured by the Wall Street Journal on July 25:

In one recent meeting at a major bank, executives were asked to suggest what they would recommend buying the very moment the debt limit wasn’t raised. For each argument made, there was a valid counterargument for why the purchase wouldn’t be wise.

Before we cover the possible impact of what appears to be an almost inevitable downgrade of U.S. debt, let’s discuss one possible way to approach the markets. When confusion creeps into a decision-making process, it is always wise to take a step back and focus on the basics. Do we really need Standard and Poor’s to tell us, via a downgrade, that the long-term fiscal outlook for the United States is on less-than-stable footing? Obviously, the answer is “no”. If that is the case, the financial markets may have already priced in a downgrade based on common knowledge of our nation’s budget woes.

If the financial markets will gain no new knowledge upon the announcement of a downgrade, the current trends in asset prices may remain in place. A market’s 200-day and 22-week moving average often serve as good bull/bear litmus tests. Healthy markets tend to have positive slopes on their moving averages; weaker markets tend to have negative slopes. The table below shows the state of affairs as of July 26. The U.S. dollar has been weak and risk assets have been relatively healthy, which depicts an ongoing bull market in risk assets. If the market has priced in the fiscal state of affairs in the United States, then the table below may continue to serve as a good guide for investors.

Impact Downgrade Stocks and Bonds  - Ciovacco Capital - Short Takes

A “tipping point” scenario looks at the situation from a more bearish perspective. A debt downgrade may be the fundamental straw that breaks the bull market’s back. Numerous straws are already weighing on the market’s spine – a weak recovery, elevated unemployment, debt problems in Europe, and inflation in Asia. If the “tipping point” scenario plays out following a downgrade of U.S. debt, the table above would migrate to a much more red dominated state as the 200-day and 22-week moving averages begin to roll over in a bearish fashion.

In the “tipping point” scenario, the silver lining for the bulls would be the time it typically takes for markets to shift from a bullish bias (as we have now) to a bearish bias (as we saw in late 2007/early 2008). The transition period should allow for some allocation adjustments to be made over a few weeks, or more likely a few months. You can get a better visual understanding of the bull/bear transition period in this July 2011 stock market outlook by focusing on the slope of the S&P 500’s 200-day moving average.

The impact of a debt downgrade on the markets and the economy is difficult to assess due to the unprecedented nature of the situation. However, we do know the United States Treasury market currently has two major selling points: (1) AAA-rated, and (2) very, very liquid. Following a downgrade, the United States Treasury market will have two major selling points: (1) AA-rated, and (2) very, very liquid. Downgrade-related concerns in the markets would be greater if there was a viable and competitive alternative to a debt market that carries a still-sound AA rating and is very liquid. Japan has problems of its own and its debt carries a lower rating of A1. The common currency in Europe makes it difficult to completely separate German bonds from those issued by Greece, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, especially over an intermediate-to-long-term time horizon.

If following a downgrade, with no highly-liquid substitutes for U.S. Treasuries, the question becomes one of repricing. Investors will be willing to pay less for a bond that carries a lower rating and more risk. How much less? According to a New American article:

Tom Porcelli, chief economist at RBC Capital Markets, looked at the price performance of sovereign debt of four countries that lost their AAA rating and said the yields (which move inversely to bond prices) fell just six basis points — six one-hundredths of a percentage point — translating to a decline in bond prices scarcely worth mentioning.

A ” target=”resource window”Bloomberg story pegs the impact as being a little more significant, but not earth shattering:

A cut of the U.S.’s AAA credit rating would likely raise the nation’s borrowing costs by increasing Treasury yields by 60 to 70 basis points over the “medium term,” JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Terry Belton said on a conference call hosted by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.

Bloomberg reported the results of a debt survey in early July:

Ten-year Treasury yields may rise about 37 basis points if the U.S. government temporarily misses a debt payment while promising to make bondholders whole as soon as the debt limit was raised, according to a mean estimate of 45 JPMorgan clients that were surveyed by the firm. Foreign investors forecast yields would rise 55 basis points.

Note the JPMorgan survey above assumes the U.S. goes into a short-term form of default, rather than just being hit with a downgrade by one of the rating agencies. The ramifications of a default scenario would be more significant than a downgrade alone.

How significant is a 60 basis point move (or 0.6%) in interest rates? Significant, but not all that unusual, and taken alone it is not a reason to move to a portfolio that incorporates your mattress as the primary investment vehicle. On November 30, 2009 the yield on 10-year Treasuries was 3.20%. On December 31, 2009 the yield had climbed all the way to 3.84%, which is a move of 0.64% or 64 basis points. Did the 64 basis point move kill the bull market in risk assets? The S&P 500 closed at 1,095 on November 30, 2009, prior to the 64 basis point move in the 10-year Treasury. Over the next eighteen months the S&P 500 moved from 1,095 to 1,370, despite the 0.64% rise in interest rates.

The current situation is serious, but as we noted on July 25, the bond market has thus far remained stable. Our ongoing concern relative to the markets centers around the “tipping point” scenario rather than the cataclysmic-event scenario. Our portfolios are currently aligned with the table above, which is based on observable facts. If the facts change, we are ready, willing, and able to make adjustments.

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The Quartzsite, Arizona Police Corruption Scandal

July 27th, 2011 by Rady Ananda

Governor Jan Brewer continues to ignore the international attention paid to Quartzsite, Arizona over $5 million in corruption charges, while the Chief of Police suspended nine of the city’s 14 police officers with pay, ordering them not to leave their homes between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm.

All of the suspended officers blew the whistle on the chief, calling for an independent investigation into several serious charges, including false arrests and violating federal medical privacy laws.

Freedom Watch reported:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RfgESmqeVM
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In response to citizen demands for action, Brewer’s office wrote

“As you may know, the Governor does not have the authority to intervene in local law enforcement matters. Nor does this office have the authority to investigate misconduct by the police, county jails, federal prisons, and/or judges.”

Well, she may not have the “authority,” but she certainly has the power to pressure Chief of Police Jeff Gilbert into a leave of absence while he is being investigated.

The Quartzsite Arizona blogspot posted a copy of the Notice of Investigation served on the officers for possibly violating “Personnel Policy” by reporting crimes allegedly committed by Chief Gilbert. Hardly a crime worth being suspended over, especially when compared to the charges leveled against Gilbert, who has not been suspended.

Assistant Town Manager Al Jognson is conducting the investigation. Jognson is part of the gang holding secret City Council meetings, and refusing to explain the $5 million in secret payments, in violation of state laws. But they don’t care, according to statements made to Arizona Republic:

“In interviews, [Councilmen Jose] Lizarraga and [Jerry] Lukkasson said they do not care if some council meetings are deemed unlawful or if public-records laws are broken.”

These people swore an oath to uphold the laws and don’t care they’re breaking them? That’s ground for recall. Ironically, Lizarraga resigned last month to run for office in the upcoming Mayoral recall election.

Hemet Productions is currently making a documentary about Quartzsite and seeks interviewees. That’s because the current controversy stems from political battles going back years.  Arizona Republic reports:

“In the past three years alone, Quartzsite has been through five mayors and a trio of recall elections. (Foster, who has been mayor since 2010, is facing a recall vote next month.) The municipal government is buried in costly lawsuits.”

Voicing disagreement with the Police Chief or City Council results in arrest and criminal charges. City Attorney Matt Newman, who refused to abuse the law in this way and dismissed all charges against several people, was fired “without explanation.”

In his place, Martin Brannan was appointed, though he was recently reprimanded by the State Bar Association for prosecutorial misconduct in a murder case. Brannan ordered officers to contact the defendant without giving prior notice to his attorney. The detectives made several threats if he did not waive his legal rights. Their actions resulted in a dismissal of all charges against the defendant, though that dismissal is being appealed.

How’s that for abuse of process? But it parallels Chief Gilbert’s false arrest of anyone who criticizes him or the City Council. Though state and federal laws are being openly violated, the state has yet to stop any of it.

Of course, this is the state where its Chief Federal Judge, John Roll, was killed (along with five others) and Member of Congress Gabriel Giffords was shot in the head this past January when a “lone gunman” staged a shooting spree, hitting 19 people. Giffords was released from the hospital last month, though she will undergo daily physical therapy, possibly for years.

Incidentally, the shooting occurred after President Obama claimed the power to order extra-judicial killings.

After discussing the shooting spree, Chief Gilbert warned the Council in an open meeting on January 11 that the same level of anti-government rhetoric exists in Quartzsite (starting at about 6:24), which he characterized as warning signs similar to those exhibited by Jared Lee Loughner, Roll’s assassin:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zHOlbYWHdo
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Rady Ananda specializes in Natural Resources and administers the sites Food Freedom and COTO Report.

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There’s Only One Way to Avoid a Downgrade to U.S. Credit

July 27th, 2011 by Washington's Blog

According to Reuters, a majority of economists now think that U.S. credit will be downgraded.

The debt ceiling plans being proposed likely will not avoid a debt downgrade.

Indeed, as Zero Hedge notes, the cuts being proposed in the debt ceiling proposals would be offset by the costs of the downgrade:

The US downgrade alone, now virtually taken for granted by everyone, will offset any beneficial impact from any deficit reduction that will have to happen for the debt ceiling to be increased.

Indeed, many are starting to say that a downgrade is inevitable.

In truth and in fact, we could still avoid a downgrade … but only if we immediately:

(1) End the imperial wars, which reduce – rather than strengthen – national security (and see this and this);

(2) End the never-ending bailouts for Wall Street;

(3) Prosecute fraud and claw back ill-gotten gains;

(4) End the Bush tax cuts, which Ronald Reagan’s budget director David Stockman said were the worst fiscal mistake in history; and

(5) Slash pensions for public employees, at least when they are pegged to an artificially “spiked” final year’s salary.

The talking heads will say that these actions are not politically feasible.

However, as I’ve previously noted, that phrase is just code for:

The powers-that-be don’t want it, even if the people overwhelmingly and passionately support it.

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As we write the US government short-term debt extension is still up in the air. Both sides are not about to give up and lose a political victory. The President still is trying to recover from his ill-timed attempt at extortion. That is if a solution is not found by August 2nd, that he will let US bonds fall into default and terminate government’s Social Security obligations.

Our question is how can you loot what has already been looted?

The account is already empty. We also found it very strange the opposing party members had nothing to say on the issue, but then again it isn’t so surprising. They are all being paid off and controlled by the same group of people. This sort of behavior is fraud, but what does that mean to an illegal alien, who has already broken so many laws that he cannot keep up with the number. If the facts be known the government has plenty of money to keep running uninterrupted. There are those who call the President a scoundrel, but we have better adjectives to describe him.

Essentially, except for current income, to loot Social Security is absurd, because there is nothing to loot. The bonds held in behalf of the Social Security Trust are valueless. They cannot be traded on the open market and must be redeemed by the US government, which is broke. All the President has to do is issue new bonds, sell them to the Fed, and fund SS and Medicare for that matter.

The extension of the short-term debt solves nothing and only throws problems into the future. Like so many things the elitists do, the debt extension is a distraction. The congressional game is being played to keep people’s attention away from the very real economic and financial problems. How can anyone believe that creating more debt will solve the debt problem?

We have to laugh at these geniuses that continue to make economic and financial predictions, which are incorrect more than 90% of the time. Their listeners and subscribers have to be losing many opportunities if not considerable lots of money. Worse yet have been many so-called chartists, waviest and cyclists. You cannot use these props in manipulated markets and worse yet most of these purported forecasters have no experience or professional background to make such decisions. Remember, a fool and his money are soon parted. Furthermore, they do not understand or know the historical perspective of events that have and will take place and why they have and are taking place. Few have the knowledge to understand and those who discovered what makes things happen are reluctant to write about them.

We wonder if Americans and others realize that for 25 years the war on terror has been the excuse to move forward most any agenda. The latest is that is why we need the debt extension. That is totally ludicrous and a visual bit of foolishness some actually believe. There is little talk of making real budget cuts or raising taxes. Almost the entire House is interested in maintaining the status quo. One of the salient points of the whole event points out that Congress is a sad lot. They are happy to receive the benefits of deficit spending without additional taxation. They know very well the way to reducing the budget deficit is to cut military spending. Few propose that because the military and industrial machine has paid these so-called public servants too much money in campaign contributions to say no. Deficit spending is never going to end until the rules are changed or there is revolution. We do not see the House and Senate ending the gravy train anytime soon. 95% of both parties have sold out, so how can anyone expect change. Essentially that means there is little hope America’s problems will be solved by this motley lot.

Not a week goes in Colombia without reports of assassinations and persecution of labor and political activists.

Ana Fabricia Cordoba, gender activist and leader of displaced peasants, was shot dead on June 7th inside a street bus, after she foretold her own death due to constant threats and abuses against her family.(1)

Manuel Antonio Garces, community leader, Afro-descendent activist and candidate for local office in southwestern Colombia received on July 18th a disturbing warning that read “we told you to drop the campaign, next time we’ll blow it in your house” next to an inactive hand grenade.(2)

Keyla Berrios, leader of Displaced Women’s League was murdered last July 22nd, after continuous intimidation of her organization and threats on behalf of death squads linked to Colombian authorities (3), a fact so publicly known after hundreds of former congressman, police and military personnel are either jailed or investigated for colluding with Paramilitaries to steal elections, murder and disappear dissidents, forcefully displace peasants and defraud public treasury, in a criminal network that extends all the way up to former president Alvaro Uribe and his closest aides (4).

The official explanation for these crimes is also well known; Bacrim, an acronym which stands for “Criminal Gangs”, a term created from the Colombia establishment including its omnipresent corporate media apparatus to depoliticize the constant violence unleashed against union leaders, peasants and community activists.

Human Rights defenders point to the unequal and unjust structures of power and wealth which rely heavily on repression. However, no matter how much effort is put into misleading public opinion about the nature of this violence, the crimes are so systematic and their effects always turning out for the benefit of the elite that a simple class analysis debunks the façade of these “gangs” supposedly acting on their own, and exposes the insiduous relationship between the armed thugs and seats of political power in Colombia.

What we are dealing with is the expression of present-day fascism in Latin America.

In a country overwhelmed with unemployment and poverty – nearly 70% – and 8 million people living on less than U$2 a day who daily look for their subsistence in garbage among stray dogs or selling candies at street lights and city buses, is also shockingly common and surreal to see fancy cars – Hummers, Porsches – million dollar apartments, country clubs and a whole bubble of opulence just in front of over-exploited workers, ordinary people struggling merely to make ends meet, or at worst, children, single mothers, elderly, and people with disabilities, without social security and salaries, much less higher education and decent housing.

For instance, in Cartagena, a Colombian Caribbean colonial city plagued with extreme poverty, beggars, child prostitution and U$400 a night resorts, you can pretend to feel in Miami Beach or a Mediterranean paradise, and in less than five minutes away you can also visit slums which would make devastated Haiti look like suburbia.

The same shocking contrast can be experienced in all major cities in Colombia. Thus, in order to keep vast privileges of a few amidst inhuman conditions of the majority, the elite needs to have an iron grip on political power. And once its power is contested or mildly threatened by the collective action of social movements, democratic parties and conscious individuals, a selective burst of state violence is unleashed effectively dismantling any kind of peaceful organizing by fear and demoralization.

The high levels of attrition suffered by activists raising moderate democratic banners such as the right to assembly, collective bargaining, freedom of expression and reparation from political violence, are the result of decentralized state repression carried out by death squads led by high state officers (5) who supply them with intelligence and economic resources extracted from defrauding public treasury and money laundry in the narcotics chain, where social investigators claim that most of the profit accounts for institutional economy, the banks and the state (6). This elaborated repressive strategy differs from the one perpetrated by the military juntas the ruled Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, among others, where public forces exercised directly the political violence against dissidents without pretentious democratic credentials, such as the ones constantly regurgitated by the Colombian establishment, making it more difficult to expose its deep dictatorial mechanisms that have disappeared more than 30000 Colombians (7) in the last years of US backed “counterinsurgency” policies, far surpassing Pinochet’s reign of terror.

In Colombia, where the dominant social elite prevails, thousands of bodies of the “disappeared” have been buried into mass graves, the assassination of trade union leaders is the highest in the world (on a per capita basis rate). Meanwhile, several million peasants have displaced and impoverished. In a context of brutal social repression backed by neoliberal policies, an atmosphere of generalized fear prevails.

This state of affairs raises a basic question, as James Petras puts it: “How does one pursuit equitable social policies and the defense of human rights under a terrorist state aligned with death squads and financed and advised by a foreign power, which has a public policy of physically eliminating their adversaries?”(8). Some in Colombia already found and an answer in the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that constitutes the basis for all modern states:

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law (9).

In the light of the exposure of the Colombian hybrid state which pits formal democracy and excessive privileges for a few against brutal repression and poverty for the majority, one must comprehend the existence of an armed conflict. This class confrontation has resulted in a “polarization of civil war proportions between the oligarchy and the military, on one side, and the guerrilla and the peasantry, on the other”, (10) and is mostly funded by US government using taxpayers money to back a rogue state and a comprador elite that prefers to wage dirty war against its own population rather than yield some political power and moderate social reforms. Modernity hasn’t arrived in Colombia, where few can enjoy excesses and vices of promised ‘civilization’ in fancy restaurants and country clubs, and most still live in 1789.

In times when president Obama justifies his “humanitarian intervention” and escalation of the Libyan civil war by having public opinion to believe NATO and US bombs are there to protect civilians, and when the International Criminal Court applies selective justice as it rushes to levy charges against Gaddafi for alleged crimes that pale in comparison to the ones daily committed by the Colombian regime, the international community is turning a blind eye to crimes against humanity in the shameful custom of double standards and insulting those truly resisting with their teeth, the savagery and abuse of power.

Jose David Torrenegra is a Lawyer specialized in Public Law and Political Activism in Colombia.

 Notes

1. Euclides Montes. “Ana Fabricia Córdoba: A death foretold”. The Guardian. June 13, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/13/colombia-women-victim-conflict

2. Red de Derechos Humanos del Suroccidente Colombiano ‘Francisco Isaias Fuentes’. “Atentado y amenaza en contra del líder comunitario Manuel Antonio Garcés Granja y detención arbitraria de dos testigos del atentado”. July 18, 2011. http://www.colectivodeabogados.org/Atentado-y-amenaza-en-contra-del

3. Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe para la Democracia. “Alerta: asesinato de miembro de liga de mujeres desplazadas”. Julio 22 de 2011. http://www.democracialatinoamerica.org/1315/alerta_asesinado-de-miembro-de-la-liga-de-mujeres-desplazadas-de-colombia.html

4. Simon Romero. “Death-Squad Scandal Circles Closer to Colombia’s President”. New York Times. May 16 2007.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/16/world/americas/16colombia.html?ref=world 

5. Garry Leech. “Exorcising the Ghost of Paramilitary Violence: Reclaiming Liberty in Libertad.

http://colombiajournal.org/exorcising-the-ghosts-of-paramilitary-violence.htm .

6. Brittain, James (2010). Revolutionary Social Change in Colombia. New York: Pluto Press. 129.

7. Kelly Nicholls. “Breaking the Silence: In search of Colombia’s Dissapeared”. The Guardian. December 9, 2010.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2010/dec/09/colombia-disappeared.

8. James Brittain, op cit. Foreword. By James Petras.

9. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. United Nations. 1948. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr /.

10.James Brittain, op cit. 144.

In my last column I suggested that an unintended outcome of the debt ceiling impasse could be Congress’ loss of the power of the purse. In this column I suggest an intended outcome that the ongoing political theater might be designed to produce.

President Obama has said that he will not resort to the various powers open to him to keep the government running should Congress fail to deliver a debt ceiling increase. This is a suspicious statement, as it is not credible that a president would leave troops at war unpaid and without supplies, Social Security checks unsent and stand aside while the US dollar collapses and the credit rating of the US government is destroyed.

There are national security directives and executive orders already on the books, as well as the 14th Amendment, that Obama can invoke to set aside the debt ceiling. Congress would sigh with relief that Obama had prevented the lawmakers from destroying the country.

So what might be going on?

One possibility is that the political theater is operating to bring about otherwise politically impossible cuts in the social safety net. If the drama continues to the absolute deadline without a deal, Obama, who perhaps favors cutting the safety net as much as do the Republicans, would have to accept the Republican package in order that the troops are not cut off from supplies, Social Security checks can continue to go out, and the dollar be saved. Having opposed the Republicans to the last minute, Obama can say that he had no other recourse.

What American wants the troops deserted on the field of battle and the elderly without groceries? Who other than the rich can stand the higher prices from dollar devaluation?

It would be a perfectly orchestrated scenario for getting rid of the New Deal and the Great Society that use up money that could be spent on wars and bailouts and tax cuts for the rich.

If the American public is not sufficiently softened up by August 2, the political theater can continue with temporary debt ceiling increases until things really begin to crack. On July 15 S&P put all AAA-rated insurance companies on CreditWatch citing ties to the US sovereign credit rating. On July 25, the US dollar fell to a new low against the Swiss franc, and gold reached a new high. Some more of this, and the public will see benefit cuts as preferable to economic armageddon.

If Bush and Cheney were still in office, they would use the debt ceiling impasse to seize more power from Congress. Obama, however, might be so well aligned with financial interests that the opportunity he sees is to cut Social Security, Medicare and education loose from the federal budget. Then Wall Street can privatize them.

Whatever emerges from the debt ceiling impasse, it will not be in the interest of the American people.

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If the United States attempted to “conquer” by love rather than force of arms, it might be respected, not reviled, globally.

If the White House took an altruistic approach in foreign affairs—that is, if it rejected greed, exploitation, and war in favor of fair play, charity, and humanitarian assistance—it might enjoy such prosperity as exists beyond the dreams of its misguided rulers.

It is no naïve suggestion to urge the Congress to transpose the budgets and numbers of personnel of the Pentagon and the Peace Corps. Naïve is how one would define the Pentagon’s 10-year-long failure to conquer Afghanistan by force of arms. Naïve is how the Pentagon can claim the U.S. has improved Iraq when that country far is worse off today than when the Pentagon first bombarded it eight years ago.

The U.S. has invested 10 years and $3 trillion in attempting to conquer Iraq and Afghanistan and what does it have to show for it, apart from the increased hatred of peoples throughout the Middle East? Congress has taken the Pentagon’s road and what’s been achieved apart from massive slaughter and despoliation of those nations and a bankrupt Treasury at home? For President Obama to prosecute these criminal wars, based on a tissue of lies, and to initiate new wars is naïve as well as criminal.

No, the goal of American foreign policy must be to serve, not to rule. There is strength and dignity in serving others—in building infrastructure, in opening schools and educating, in ministering to the afflicted. That’s the way to win friends and influence people.

What the military-industrial complex does not grasp is that time is running out for all of the creatures on this small blue planet. Global warming, significantly induced by the greenhouse emissions of the U.S. and other great consumer/polluter nations, is gathering momentum. Based on what we can already see happening elsewhere, as in Bangladesh, it appears that in the foreseeable future the streets of New York and Miami will be underwater and the nation’s electric power grids overtaxed beyond blackout. Trying to keep cool and find a drink of fresh water may yet be the greatest challenges of this century.

For a preview of the future read Don Belt’s excellent article in the May National Geographic titled “The Coming Storm” about the suffering (and, yes, resilience) of the 164 million people of Bangladesh.

“They’ve watched sea levels rise, salinity infect their coastal aquifers, river flooding become more destructive, and cyclones batter their coast with increasing intensity—all changes associated with disruptions in the global climate,” Belt writes.

“Thousands of people arrive in Dhaka (the capital) each day, fleeing river flooding in the north and cyclones in the south,” Belt continues. “Many of them end up living in the densely populated slum of Korail. And with hundreds of thousands of such migrants already, Dhaka is in no shape to take in new residents. It’s already struggling to provide the most basic services and infrastructure.” By 2050, the country’s population is predicted to reach 220 million “and a good chunk of its current landmass could be permanently underwater.”

“By 2050 millions of displaced people will overwhelm not just our limited land and resources but our government, our institutions, and our borders,” Major General Muniruzzaman of the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies told Belt.

One farmer told Belt, “In previous times this land was juicy, all rice fields. But now the weather has changed—summer is longer and hotter than it used to be, and the rains aren’t coming when they should. The rivers are saltier than before, and any water we get from the ground is too salty to grow rice.”

Belt goes on to show the many ingenious ways Bangladesh’s people are adapting to global warming, from making transportable shanties to developing new salt-resistant strains of rice to building floating schools, hospitals and libraries. Belt quotes Mohammed Mabud, a professor of public health at Dhaka’s North South University as saying that investing in educating Bangladeshis would help them train professionals to work inside the country and also to immigrate abroad where they can work and earn.

This kind of challenge is just one of thousands of educational tasks around the world where America’s Peace Corps could be of service and make friends for this country. “During the global financial meltdown, trillions of dollars were mobilized to save the world’s banks,” Abu Mostafa Kamal Uddin, a former manager with the government’s Climate Change Cell, told Belt. “What’s wrong with helping the poor people of Bangladesh adapt to a situation we had nothing to do with creating?” Belt repeatedly makes the point the world has a lot to learn from the ways Bangladeshis are responding on their own. They might well have shown the Bush regime how to save New Orleans.

So here, my friends, is the better path for America in our time: to harness the same ingenuity that created for the world the electric light, the airplane, the telephone, and a thousand and one medical advances and to put it at the service of humanity. Sending masses of Peace Corps volunteers around the world to educate, (that’s just one example of one vital area), would be far better appreciated than our present investments in germ warfare, nuclear bombs, killer drone attack planes, “daisy cutters,” torture chamber prisons, and the like. It would not only defuse the raging hostility against this country that is reducing foreign purchases of our goods and triggering anti-American riots and violence, it would forge bonds of friendship as it calls forth our best efforts.

The Peace Corps has a budget of just $400 million and 8,700 employees, while the U.S. military budget comes to about a trillion dollars annually, counting all the intelligence agencies, and employs more than three million employees. The U.S. spends more for war, for example, than, roughly the next dozen countries combined and the Pentagon is eating up about 52 cents of every tax dollar. The budgets of the Pentagon and the Peace Corps need to be reversed, as well as their employee numbers.

We have a clear choice between continuing to fight on the Pentagon’s endless battlefields of war or working in the vineyards of peace.

Sherwood Ross, who formerly reported for national magazines and wire services, now directs the Anti-War News Service. All donations cheerfully accepted. To comment or contribute reach him at [email protected]

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A new filing in the King Lincoln Bronzeville v. Blackwell case includes a copy of the Ohio Secretary of State election production system configuration that was in use in Ohio’s 2004 presidential election when there was a sudden and unexpected shift in votes for George W. Bush.

The filing also includes the revealing deposition of the late Michael Connell. Connell served as the IT guru for the Bush family and Karl Rove. Connell ran the private IT firm GovTech that created the controversial system that transferred Ohio’s vote count late on election night 2004 to a partisan Republican server site in Chattanooga, Tennessee owned by SmarTech. That is when the vote shift happened, not predicted by the exit polls, that led to Bush’s unexpected victory. Connell died a month and a half after giving this deposition in a suspicious small plane crash.

Additionally, the filing contains the contract signed between then-Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and Connell’s company, GovTech Solutions. Also included that contract a graphic architectural map of the Secretary of State’s election night server layout system.

[click images above to enlarge (pdf)]

Cliff Arnebeck, lead attorney in the King Lincoln case, exchanged emails with IT security expert Stephen Spoonamore. Arnebeck asked Spoonamore whether or not SmarTech had the capability to “input data” and thus alter the results of Ohio’s 2004 election. Spoonamore responded: “Yes. They would have had data input capacities. The system might have been set up to log which source generated the data but probably did not.”

Spoonamore explained that “they [SmarTech] have full access and could change things when and if they want.”

Arnebeck specifically asked “Could this be done using whatever bypass techniques Connell developed for the web hosting function.” Spoonamore replied “Yes.”

Spoonamore concluded from the architectural maps of the Ohio 2004 election reporting system that, “SmarTech was a man in the middle. In my opinion they were not designed as a mirror, they were designed specifically to be a man in the middle.”

A “man in the middle” is a deliberate computer hacking setup, which allows a third party to sit in between computer transmissions and illegally alter the data. A mirror site, by contrast, is designed as a backup site in case the main computer configuration fails.

Spoonamore claims that he confronted then-Secretary of State Blackwell at a secretary of state IT conference in Boston where he was giving a seminar in data security. “Blackwell freaked and refused to speak to me when I confronted him about it long before I met you,” he wrote to Arnebeck.

Read the email correspondence here [pdf]

On December 14, 2007, then-Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, who replaced Blackwell, released her evaluation and validation of election-related equipment, standards and testing (Everest study) which found that touchscreen voting machines were vulnerable to hacking with relative ease.

Until now, the architectural maps and contracts from the Ohio 2004 election were never made public, which may indicate that the entire system was designed for fraud. In a previous sworn affidavit to the court, Spoonamore declared: “The SmarTech system was set up precisely as a King Pin computer used in criminal acts against banking or credit card processes and had the needed level of access to both county tabulators and Secretary of State computers to allow whoever was running SmarTech computers to decide the output of the county tabulators under its control.”

Spoonamore also swore that “…the architecture further confirms how this election was stolen. The computer system and SmarTech had the correct placement, connectivity, and computer experts necessary to change the election in any manner desired by the controllers of the SmarTech computers.”

Project Censored named the outsourcing of Ohio’s 2004 election votes to SmarTech in Chattanooga, Tennessee to a company owned by Republican partisans as one of the most censored stories in the world.

In the Connell deposition, plaintiffs’ attorneys questioned Connell regarding gwb43, a website that was live on election night operating out of the White House and tied directly into SmarTech’s server stacks in Chattanooga, Tennessee which contained Ohio’s 2004 presidential election results.

The transfer of the vote count to SmarTech in Chattanooga, Tennessee remains a mystery. This would have only happened if there was a complete failure of the Ohio computer election system. Connell swore under oath that, “To the best of my knowledge, it was not a fail-over case scenario – or it was not a failover situation.”

Bob Magnan, a state IT specialist for the secretary of state during the 2004 election, agreed that there was no failover scenario. Magnan said he was unexpectedly sent home at 9 p.m. on election night and private contractors ran the system for Blackwell.

The architectural maps, contracts, and Spoonamore emails, along with the history of Connell’s partisan activities, shed new light on how easy it was to hack the 2004 Ohio presidential election.

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WASHINGTON — A powerful coalition that includes Tea Party members of Congress rejected a debt ceiling offer from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday, calling a proposed bipartisan, bicameral committee that would draft deficit-reduction legislation “troubling” — not because it would afford too much power to too few people, but because they said it could lead to tax increases.

Nevertheless, separate proposals put forward by Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday each included versions of a Super Congress — referred to on the Hill as a Super Committee — that would write laws that could not be amended by the regular Congress, only voted up or down. In Boehner’s version, the debt ceiling would be raised a second time if Congress approved the cuts decided on by the Super Congress.

“Perhaps most troubling is the proposed Congressional Commission. History has shown that such commissions, while well-intentioned, make it easier to raise taxes than to institute enduring budget reforms,” reads a statement put out by the Cut, Cap and Balance Coalition, which is made up of a number of Tea Party groups.

Erick Erickson, a leading conservative blogger, was equally dismissive of the joint committee. “For thirty years and seventeen debt commissions we have raised the national debt $13 trillion, seen taxes rise and fall and rise again, uncertainty come and go, and Washington remain unchanged,” he wrote on his blog RedState. “And now some of you want to seek cover by having yet another commission — but this time it will be different! Sure.”

The liberal advocacy organization MoveOn.org, meanwhile, argued that any joint committee empowered to make cuts should specifically exempt Medicare and Social Security from cuts, and is organizing members in opposition. “[A]ny Joint Congressional Commission must be set up in such a way that it protects Social Security and Medicare benefits. Any plan that includes a backdoor to cut those vital programs is just as unacceptable as one that puts the cuts up front,” said MoveOn head Justin Ruben.

Progressive opponents of the Super Congress, however, argue that its very purpose is to cut entitlements, so negotiating its parliamentary outline misses the point. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told FireDogLake.com that he would approve of a “commission that makes recommendations,” but not one empowered to send fast-track legislation to Congress. “But if it’s got any kind of parliamentary advantage, then no,” he said.

Boehner described the new legislative body in a summary of his proposal released by his office Monday afternoon:

The framework creates a Joint Committee of Congress that is required to report legislation that would produce a proposal to reduce the deficit by at least $1.8 trillion over 10 years. Each Chamber would consider the proposal of the Joint Committee on an up-or-down basis without any amendments. If the proposal is enacted, then the President would be authorized to request a debt limit increase of $1.6 trillion. Story continues below The structure of Reid’s proposed Super Congress is similar to Boehner’s, though the legislation it would consider would not be tied to an increase in the debt ceiling. Reid and the White House insist that the debt limit must be increased enough now to extend past the 2012 election, saying that any short-term increase is a non-starter and will be vetoed. Boehner, meanwhile, wants a two-part process that forces the president to once again absorb the political pain that comes with raising the debt ceiling in several months.

Reid’s plan, according to a spokesperson, would create a 12-member body that includes six Democrats and six Republicans, with an equal number coming from the House and Senate. Legislation would need seven votes before heading for Congress, where it would face a fast-tracked, up or down vote.

The Super Congress amounts to an institutionalization of the gang structure that exists informally in the Senate, where a small number of lawmakers write legislation behind closed doors and then announce it to the public. Legislation written by the Super Congress would be extremely difficult for individual members of Congress to stop.

UPDATE: MoveOn’s Justin Ruben sends the following statement firmly opposing a Super Congress that would be able to cut Social Security or Medicare: “Republicans want a Super Congress so they can push through unpopular cuts to Medicare and Social Security. MoveOn members, and the vast majority of Americans, oppose benefit cuts, and Democrats shouldn’t give Republicans a vehicle to make it easier to cut them. MoveOn members oppose the idea.”

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Norway’s cold-blooded mass killer Anders Behring Breivik claimed in a closed court hearing that he was a member of two cells in a far-right organisation committed to bringing about a cultural revolution in Europe.

The claim by the 32-year-old son of a diplomat implies that he had accomplices in carrying out his deadly mission in which at least 76 people were killed in a twin bomb and gun attack in and around the Norwegian capital, Oslo, last Friday.

Some observers have pointed to the possible involvement of far-right or neofascist groups that have seen a resurgence in recent years in Western and Northern Europe.

More sinisterly, others have speculated, without supporting evidence, on the shadowy hand of government and supragovernmental agencies in the atrocity. Did Israel’s Mossad find a willing killer in Breivik to hit back at the pro-Palestinian voices within Norway’s ruling Labour Party? Was the CIA trying to send a grotesque message over Norway’s planned withdrawal from NATO operations in Libya? Were the global banksters trying to subvert the policies of the left-leaning government in Oslo?

It would seem natural to raise questions given the scale of horror apparently inflicted by one individual.

First, a six-tonne car bomb rips through downtown Oslo late Friday afternoon killing seven people working in government buildings. Within an hour, the alleged perpetrator of that atrocity, Breivik, is on his way by car ferry to an island resort 20 miles from Oslo where the Labour Party youth wing is holding an annual summer camp for over 600 members.

The six-foot, blond-haired Breivik is dressed as a policeman and armed with a Ruger assault rifle and pistol. He calmly tells the assembled youth on Utoeya island that he has arrived to assist in a security check in connection with the earlier bomb blast. Lured into a false sense of security, the killer then opens fire on his young victims.

With security forces preoccupied by the bomb devastation in Oslo, Breivik had 90 minutes to carry out his cold-blooded mission to wipe out a generation of new politicians belonging to the Labour Party he despised for its perceived liberal policies on immigration and foreign affairs.

Breivik did not get excited or lose control, according to the survivors. “He followed those trying to escape by walking, not running, saying, ‘I am going to kill you… This is your last day’,” recalled one young man lucky to have been spared.

Another told how Breivik’s demeanour was that of “a perfect Nazi stormtrooper”. He went about his killing coldly, methodically, shooting people a second time as they fell on the ground – just to make sure. It is thought that the assassin used dum-dum bullets to maximise the lethal carnage; bullets that have the effect of exploding inside the victims’ bodies.

Survivor 18-year-old Erin Kursetgierde said: “People were begging him for their lives and he just ignored their pleas. His face looked so emotionless – it was like he was out mowing the lawn.”

At one point, Breivik – a hunting enthusiast – stood on top of rocks along the shore of the island picking off people who were desperately trying to escape by swimming through the freezing waters back to the mainland. The full death toll remains unaccounted for because police divers are still searching the waters for corpses.

Some survivors spoke of seeing “two gunmen” on the island amid the rampage. Other observers point out that Norwegian police carried out security checks a day before in the district where the bomb went off. Questions are being asked about the 60-minute delay between police hearing of reports of the shooting spree on Utoeya and the arrival of Norwegian special forces on the island and the arrest of Breivik. Apparently, he gave himself up to officers without a struggle while still possessing ammunition.

But in hindsight these apparent anomalies can be explained by the chaos of the moment. Breivik could have easily used a timing device to give himself as much time as possible between attacks. On the island, if he was switching between using an assault rifle and a pistol for his shootings then that could appear to be the work of two individuals. As for the delay in security forces arriving, Utoeya is about an hour’s drive and ferry crossing from Oslo where police were grappling with the deadly mayhem of a six-tonne fertiliser-fuel bomb. Admittedly, questions remain about the police’s earlier security check in the vicinity.

But the available evidence points to one man driven by psychopathic calculation who had planned his murderous assault for at least two years. Breivik may claim that he belongs to a cell of a neoNazi movement, but his description seems to be more delusional that factual. After all, he wrote on the internet that he wanted his act of savagery to spark a revolution. This implies that Breivik was hoping for copycat atrocities from among his “virtual cells” rather than actually being party to an organised campaign of terror.

Yes, Breivik appears to have had association and communication with like-minded ultra rightwing individuals and groups across Europe. He claimed to have attended a far-right “summit” in London in 2002 and at one time he expressed admiration for the English Defence League (EDL). At a later stage, Breivik appears to have become disenchanted with the EDL, dismissing the ultra nationalist organisation because of its professed non-violent methods.

In his manifesto, 2083 A European Declaration of Independence, posted hours before the massacre on Friday 22 July, Breivik reveals his single-minded purpose to free Europe from “multiculturalism”. Among his many influences and causes, it is clear that above all else, the killer was driven by an intense “Islamophobia”.

Drawing on medieval Christian crusades, Breivik writes: “As a knight, you are operating as a jury, judge and executor on behalf of all free Europeans. There are situations in which cruelty is necessary, and refusing to apply necessary cruelty is a betrayal of the people whom you wish to protect.”

As for governmental accomplices in Breivik’s horrific onslaught, there are culprits. But to invoke Mossad, the CIA and banksters, does not stand up on grounds of evidence or motive. These agencies are well capable and willing to carry out such atrocities, but on this occasion that doesn’t make sense.

Besides, to engage in such theorising is to miss the most obvious relation between the massacre in Norway and the role of Western governments.

Of all the toxic pathological ideas against his mother, his father, Marxists, feminists, multiculturalists, Breivik is indisputably a creation from the “war on terror” mindset that has been fomented by the governments and media of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and other Western countries over the past ten years. These governments include even that of Norway, which has been a significant military player in Afghanistan.

In the 10th anniversary year of the September 11 terror attacks in New York, we need to see the Norway massacre in that context. For 10 years, Western governments under Bush, Obama, Blair and Cameron, have waged criminal wars all over the globe allegedly to defend democracy from Islamic terrorists (terrorists that either do not exist, or where they do exist there is a murky history of Western governments creating them in the first place.)

This phony war on terror – a cover for neoimperialist wars by capitalist governments – has been given uncritical full vent by the mainstream media over the past decade. Despite obvious fraudulent rationale, despite bankrupting economies, despite lawlessness at home and abroad, the Western mainstream media continue to cover the war on terror as if it is some necessary, noble crusading cause.

When Breivik went on this murderous rampage, the media followed the Western politicians, including Obama and Cameron, in automatically assuming the action was that of “Islamic terrorists”. Well, that’s par for the course. After 10 years of relentless, unswerving propaganda, the response of political leaders and Western media is the product of brain washing.

Breivik, and many like him, are of the view that Europe is under some kind of cultural or security assault from dark-skinned Muslims. This Islamophobia did not conjure out of thin air. It is the logical conclusion from an ideological mental slide created by Western governments and their dutiful media.

From Bush’s “you are either with us or against us” to Cameron’s speech in Munich earlier this year in which the British leader reiterated the views of German Chancellor Angela Merkel when he deliberately used the toxic words “state multiculturalism is a failure”. How much would Breivik and his neoNazi ilk got off on that?

This was Cameron effectively saying to Islamophobes: you are right to target Muslims as the cause of terrorism. And why wouldn’t he? After all this is the ineluctable logic of the West’s phony war on terror.

In this system of mind control, each and every heinous act is and must be attributed to “Islamic jihadis”. Even when the perpetrator of the Norway massacre was clearly a white, ultraright Scandinavian who detested Muslims, the Western media still persisted in somehow linking Islamists to the event.

This is not to say Islamic extremists do not exist or operate. The weekend of the Norway horror, five Afghan children were wounded by a British Apache helicopter “firing on militants” in Helmand Province. So long as Western governments continue criminal wars of aggression, continue denying Palestinians their long-overdue rights or continue sponsoring unelected tyrants in places like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, then there will always be the danger of backlash. But it is the West and its imperialist screwing of the planet and other people’s right that is the lash.

In the aftermath of the Norway killings, a BBC reporter asked incredulously: “Where could such hatred come from?”

The answer is quite simple: from the toxic climate of hate that Western governments and their media have spent 10 years fostering to cover for criminal wars of aggression.

Finian Cunningham is a Global Research Correspondent based in Belfast, Ireland.

[email protected]

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Fascist killer appears in Norwegian court

July 26th, 2011 by Robert Stevens

The right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik appeared in court yesterday and confessed to the mass murder of 76 people in Norway, many of them children.

Breivik pleaded not guilty in a closed session of an Oslo court. This was despite his admitting to having planted the bomb which exploded in Oslo city centre on Friday and later carrying out the mass shooting at a Labour Party summer camp on the island of Otøya.

Eight people were killed in the bomb attack, and 68 in the shooting rather than 83 as previously claimed. Given the size of the Norwegian population, which is only some 4 million, and the population of Oslo, which is just over half a million, the death toll is all the more horrific.

Breivik was arrested while still in possession of weapons and ammunition. He is accused of “acts of terrorism.”

The defendant’s statements were reported to the media later by the judge. Speaking through an interpreter, Judge Heger said that Breivik believed he was saving Norway and Western Europe from “cultural Marxism and Muslim domination.” He claimed that his victims were guilty of “treason” for promoting multiculturalism.

Judge Heger remanded the accused in custody for eight weeks, the first four in total solitary confinement. He will not be allowed visits or to send or receive messages, except from his lawyer. The judge insisted that this was necessary to allow the police to carry out their investigations without interference from Breivik.

Heger gave the same reason for holding the hearing in private. The prosecution raised the possibility that the defendant would use a public hearing to send messages to co-conspirators.

Breivik had earlier told his defence lawyer, Geir Lippestad, that he had acted alone. But Heger said “that there is concrete information that a public hearing with the suspect present could quickly lead to an extraordinary and very difficult situation in terms of the investigation and security.”

Police Chief Sveinung Sponheim told reporters that it was “not at all certain” if Breivik had acted alone or not. “That is one of the things that the investigation will concentrate on,” he said. But he admitted that police had no other suspects.

After the hearing, Judge Heger said that it was now believed that there were two terrorist cells associated with Breivik.

Just what Breivik would seek to communicate on the stand, either in the form of a political statement or a message to any co-conspirators was not indicated. He has already made extensive statements on the Internet, including publishing a 1,500 page document setting out his right-wing views. A further statement of those views in court, under highly controlled conditions and facing cross examination from skilled lawyers, could hardly do any further damage.

The closed court hearing for Breivik suggests that the Norwegian authorities have something to hide.

He first came to the attention of the secret service, by their own admission, in March, when he placed an order with a Polish chemical firm. The head of Norway’s secret service, Janne Kristiansen, said that they did not investigate the matter any further. It was also reported that Breivik and an unidentified second person tried to buy fertiliser earlier this year.

Fertiliser and a range of basic household chemicals have been repeatedly used to manufacture explosives. In 2007, five men were convicted in Britain for an attempt to blow up a shopping mall using a fertiliser bomb. The claim that the Norwegian authorities let what they admit was an unusual purchase of chemicals pass without investigation must be accounted for. The one clear fact that emerges is that Breivik was on their radar before the Oslo bombing and the Otøya massacre.

Even the British intelligence services seem to have noticed this man and his connections with right-wing groups in England. He is said to have attended a meeting with UK fascists in April 2002. He is said to have contact with the Stop the Islamification of Europe and the English Defence League.

Breivik posted a video on YouTube—since removed—showing himself in scuba gear pointing an automatic weapon at the camera saying, “Before we can start our crusade we must do our duty by decimating cultural Marxism.” It was called Knights Templar 2083. The title of the video supposedly referred to the siege of Vienna in 1683, when a Turkish army was defeated. Breivik’s manifesto was called “2083—A European Declaration of Independence” the date is the 400th anniversary of the siege. Breivik seems to have posted material on an anti-Islamic blog called “The Gates of Vienna.”

There was plenty of warning about Breivik’s intentions. Breivik is said to have written,“Once you decide to strike, it is better to kill too many than not enough, or you risk reducing the desired ideological impact of the strike.”

Breivik appears to have been well financed and well organised. He leased a farm north of Oslo two years ago. According to Reuters, the farm is near a military base housing the 2,000-strong Telemark battalion. He posted an entry on his internet diary commenting on the proximity.

“It’s quite ironic,” Breivik wrote, “being situated practically on top of the largest military base in the country. It would have saved me a lot of hassle if I could just ‘borrow’ a cup of sugar and 3kg of C4 (explosive) from my dear neighbour.”

Locals noted what an unlikely farmer Breivik was. A woman who worked at the local pub and filling station said that he insisted on getting receipts for all his purchases and paid with a card.

Soldiers from the local camp drink at the pub, which is decorated with pictures from Afghanistan.

Owning a farm allowed Breivik to buy large quantities of fertiliser for an apparently legitimate purpose. Even so, the Polish company he used was sufficiently concerned at the amount he was buying to alert the police. It is thought that it was at this farm, under the noses of the Norwegian army and with the police warned of his purchases, that he built the car bomb that devastated central Oslo.

Breivik seems to have joined a gun club in 2005, and he had a number of registered weapons. But the ease with which he could get hold of automatic weapons and the dumdum bullets with which he is alleged to have shot people on the island of Otøya must also raise questions. Norway is a hunting country, but firearms are strictly controlled and the level of gun crime is relatively low. Breivik claims that he got his armoury from the Czech underworld, but if true this does not explain how he got them into Norway.

The two phase character of the Norway killings strongly suggests that Breivik did not work alone. It was reported that six people had been arrested in Norway as well as an employee at the Polish agricultural supplier that had sold fertiliser to Breivik. All have since been released without charge.

The ease with which he gained access to the camp must be explained. This was a regular summer event organised by the Labour Party. It regarded as the nursery of future politicians and future leaders of the country. Labour leader and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was due to visit on Saturday.

Breivik was able to gain access to the island apparently disguised as a policeman. No one has yet explained where he got hold of a uniform that was sufficiently convincing to persuade the security guards on duty that he was there on official business.

When the police were alerted to the massacre that was taking place on Otøya, it took them over an hour to set foot on the island. Breivik’s shooting spree lasted 90 minutes. By the time they arrived only Breivik was there and he handed himself over to custody without a struggle, despite having guns and a large amount of ammunition.

There has been mounting criticism of the police response to the massacre. The police have claimed that they did not have the right kind of helicopter to reach the area, and that when they attempted to reach it by boat, the craft was so overloaded with police and equipment that it began taking on water and was forced to turn back.

On Monday, over 100,000 people rallied in Oslo in solidarity with the victims of the attack. While initially called as a march, the throngs of demonstrators was too great to move through the city’s streets. Similar rallies were held elsewhere across Norway.

In an essentially excellent piece Sara Flounders ‘Libya: Demonization and Self-determination‘ (Global Research, July 24, 2011), near the beginning under the sub-hed ‘What should be the response to this terror?’ she writes:

“Unfortunately, a minority of groups or individuals who present themselves as opponents of war spend more time cataloguing Gadhafi’s past real or alleged shortcomings than rallying people to respond to this criminal, all-out U.S. attack. Their influence would be small, except that it coincides with the opinions of the U.S. ruling class. Thus it is important to thoroughly answer their arguments.”

Then she writes:

“The response to this colonial war of aggression should be the same as the response to a racist mobilization, a racist lynch mob or a police attack on an oppressed community: Mobilize all possible forces to stand up to the crime and say �no!� Refuse to take part in the orchestrated campaign of vilification.

“This may not be an easy position to take. But it is essential to reject the racist political onslaught that accompanies the military onslaught.”

I get the impression that the author is caught between a rock and an alleged leftie, else why say ‘This may not be an easy position to take’? Why is it not an easy position to take if it’s so clearly a imperialist and racist attack on a sovereign country? Flounders continues:

“Of course, such misguided groups are a small minority in the progressive movement. But there are those political organizations, which six months ago had not bothered to mention Libya, that now suddenly seek out respectable venues to add their own reasons that the dictator Gadhafi �must go� � an echo of the imperialist demand. Some even insist that in order to be part of the political discourse, every anti-war voice must first join in condemnation of Gadhafi.”

But nowhere do I find Flounders asking the question why?

And it’s not merely “misguided groups [who] are a small minority” who fell (again) into the Imperial trap. We saw the same ‘misguided minority’ do it over Yugoslavia and Kosovo. At the the end of the 60s it was Nigeria and the Biafra War (over oil of course with surprise-surprise, Shell, at the centre of it).

But why is the ‘misguided minority’ even regarded as being a part of a (real) left in the West? Or does it reflect a general loss of direction, even motivation for wanting real change within what’s left of the left?

I think it’s time to take a look at the timeline of the latest barbarian attack on the defenceless of the world. I think it reveals far more about how the left in the West operates, what are its motivations, than it does about the aims of the Empire (which should surely by now be apparent even to a reluctant leftie).

First, the ‘Arab Spring’ which was in fact an ‘African Spring’ as it kicked off in Tunisia then spread to Egypt. But this is par for the course. It used to be that all of Africa was actually in Africa but in the 19th century the Western colonialists starting moving things around a bit and all of a sudden, Egypt was an Arab country, as was Algeria, indeed all of the Mahgreb.

We see the same sleight of hand used in the Sudan (now successfully partitioned, eg Balkanized), whereby the country is split between the ‘Arab’ North and the Christian and ‘Black’ South. But they are all Africans in Africa! Most African countries had their current boundaries decided not by them but by their Western colonizers. Most didn’t even exist within their current boundaries before they were colonized and then successfully neo-colonized.

In any case, the popular insurrections in Africa and the Middle East were the setting, the context for what was in Libya, clearly an attempted coup masquerading as a popular insurrection carried along on the wave of the ‘Arab Spring’. This is where it gets interesting.

First, it should have been apparent that unlike the other ‘revolutions’, the Empire was gung ho for the Libyan version, that should have been a warning sign. But for the ‘established’ Western Left Gaddafi is a bit of a Gadfly (in the Western media they can’t even bother to spell his name right, I must have seen at least four varieties and now I’m not sure how it’s spelt either). He didn’t fit the mould of liberation fighter. He was peddling this weird (to lefties) Green Book, neither capitalist nor socialist, floating somewhere inbetween. And he ‘switched’ sides thus he wasn’t to be trusted.

In reality of course the Empire said either you do as we say or we’ll destroy you. So Gaddafi, Khadafi, Ghaddafi or Qhadafi did a deal. It wasn’t the first time and unfortunately it won’t be the last and anyway it didn’t help him, they got his oil, or nearly so.

‘Britain [to Gaddafi]: We’ll let you stay if you step down’ The Times front page headline, 26 July 2011

Hence the initial response on the left and not just a minority, was to support the ‘rebellion’, after all it appeared to have all the right credentials, unless you looked very closely. For me, as soon as I saw that a main player in the rebel camp was a CIA asset based in Washington DC, that was it for me. Game over.

In any case, this ‘assessing’ by the Western Left generally of all those actually engaged in struggle, as to whether or not it’s ‘supportable’ reflects the arrogance of Empire. Who are we to judge? What business is it of ours anyway? This is especially galling when we can’t get our own act together and are still conducting a never-ending fraticidal struggle with each other over who has the ‘real’ socialist vision, let alone who or what to support.

Then came UN Resolution 1973 and the ‘no-fly zone’, itself a clear act of war, period. This got some on the left thinking a little more clearly, but not all. Some actually felt it might compel Gaddafi, Khadafi, Ghaddafi or Qhadafi to go, leave town, disappear. Outrageous but true as it’s predicated on the idea that we have the right to decide whether Gaddafi, Khadafi, Ghaddafi or Qhadafi should live or die.

The setting for this was the propaganda war launched by the West with allegations of ‘African mercenaries’ (note not Arab mercenaries), then mass rapes and slaughter from the air. You know the thing, none of it true and simply airbrushed out of the equation. It had had the intended effect and thus could be conveniently ditched. ‘Black ops’ that many on the Left swallowed hook, line and sinker.

Even Flounders falls into the trap of making apologies for Gaddafi, Khadafi, Ghaddafi or Qhadafi when she writes:

“Whatever mistakes made by the leaders of a small, underdeveloped country facing U.S. sanctions, sabotage and assassination attempts, they are not the reason the U.S. is hell-bent on destroying Libya today.’

Whatever ‘mistakes’ Gaddafi, Khadafi, Ghaddafi or Qhadafi has made are to be deplored, no doubt, but unless you want to invade and overthrow him, there is little that can be done about it except by the Libyans themselves and right now they come out in marches a million strong in support of the guy, and apparently they are all armed. But what if they didn’t? What then?

We all live in a world dominated by Capital as for example Venezuela, the first post-Soviet country to attempt to embark on some kind of quasi-socialist road but it does it in a world dominated in every sense of the word, by its northern neighbour. Building a genuinely socialist economy in Venezuela is all but impossible, there are simply too many obstacles placed in the path of the Bolivarian revolution. Chavez treads a narrow line, able to initiate genuine reforms in some areas but limited by all manner of factors in others. Some because of ‘internal’ contradictions and others from the outside (which in any case feed back on to internal events).

Thus whatever even vaguely anti-imperialist countries do to resist the predations of the Empire should be supported, even Iran, a capitalist country run by the Mullahs. Let the Iranians sort out their own government, a task made all the easier if we do our job and change our governments whose attacks directly drive internal repression in Iran, in part it’s their function.

Should we not support Russia when it objects to NATO expansion right up to its borders? It doesn’t mean we support Russian capitalism or its own lack of human rights or whatever, so why is it so difficult to apply the same reasoning to Libya or Iran? Surely it should be a reflex by now?

If you cast your mind back to the post-war period with its multitude of liberation movements, especially in Africa, virtually all the successful ones were led by Marxists of one flavour or another and even those that weren’t adopted central planning and state intervention in the economy. Many called themselves socialist or ‘African socialist’ and thus most were locked out of the global economy and doomed to fail. Did we in the West not support them even if we didn’t like what they were doing? Did we stop supporting the ANC when it embarked on an armed struggle and in the process killed civilians?

When I worked with and later for, the ANC I was under no illusions about it not having a socialist vision or indeed socialist platform but that didn’t stop me working for the ANC to win power. After that it’s up to South Africans to sort it out one way or the other.

Either way, we have to make the decision about which side we are on. If you think it’s our business to decide what kind of government a country should have then you must surely support armed intervention by the Empire. If you don’t then it’s incumbent on you to try get your government not to do it. All else is merely opinion.

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Barack Obama: El Cambio que No Fue

July 25th, 2011 by Eric Toussaint

Con el anuncio del lanzamiento de la candidatura de Barack Obama para las elecciones presidenciales de los Estados Unidos de 2012, se ha abierto oficialmente la campaña electoral en este país. Al contrario de lo que se hubiera podido esperar hace 2 años, Obama enfrenta un difícil panorama y su reelección no parece estar garantizada. A pesar de la estabilización del sistema financiero, lograda a través de la entrega masiva de recursos públicos por medio de mecanismos opacos a los mismos responsables de generar la crisis, la economía real aún continúa esperando la llegada de una verdadera recuperación económica. Mientras que el 89 % de los beneficios del crecimiento económico de los Estados Unidos durante la administración Obama han ido a parar al sector corporativo, los ciudadanos comunes continúan enfrentando una dura realidad caracterizada por altos niveles de desempleo, salarios a la baja y números record de desalojos de hogares. Es precisamente la incapacidad de esta administración de proveer respuestas y soluciones a los acuciantes problemas de la población que pone en entredicho su capacidad para obtener la reelección, a pesar de poseer una maquinaria publicitaria con más de 1.000 millones de dólares disponibles para este fin.

Sin embargo, esta situación no es sorpresiva, si se tienen en cuenta las opciones que Obama tomó desde el principio de su administración. Mientras algunos esperaban que éste nombrara un equipo económico profundamente renovado para poder poner en marcha un New Deal, con miras a cambiar el capitalismo, aunque no abolirlo, y a instaurar una nueva era de regulación de la economía, la realidad fue diferente. Obama eligió a los más conservadores entre los consejeros demócratas, los mismos que organizaron una desreglamentación desbocada durante la presidencia de Bill Clinton, a finales de los noventa. Cuando nos detenemos en tres nombres emblemáticos, la coherencia de su elección es reveladora.

 

El primero de dichos consejeros es Robert Rubin, secretario del Tesoro entre 1995 y 1999. Desde que llegó al Tesoro tuvo que enfrentarse con la crisis financiera de México, primer gran fracaso del modelo neoliberal en los años noventa. Luego impuso, junto con el FMI, un tratamiento de choque que agravó las crisis producidas en el sureste asiático en los años 1997-1998, y después en Rusia y Latinoamérica en 1999. R. Rubin no dudó nunca de los beneficios de la liberalización y contribuyó decididamente a imponer a la población de los países emergentes políticas que degradaron sus condiciones de vida y aumentaron las desigualdades. En Estados Unidos, ejerció su potente influencia para conseguir la abrogación de la Glass Steagall Act, o Banking Act, vigente desde 1933, y que, en especial, declaraba la incompatibilidad de los bancos de depósitos con los bancos de inversiones. De este modo, la puerta quedó abierta para toda suerte de excesos de los financieros ávidos del máximo beneficio, lo que posibilitó la crisis internacional actual. Para rizar el rizo, la derogación de la Banking Act permitió la fusión de Citicorp con Travelers Group para formar el gigante bancario Citigroup. En el año 2000, Robert Rubin se incorporó a la dirección del Citigroup, que el gobierno estadounidense tuvo que salvar, con urgencia, en noviembre de 2008, ¡garantizándole más de 300.000 millones de dólares de activos! Hay que decir que los servicios prestados por Rubin como presidente del comité ejecutivo del Citigroup fueron generosamente retribuidos. Según el Financial Times, Rubin percibió más de 118 millones de dólares en concepto de salario más bonos y acciones entre 1999 y 2008.[1] Pues bien, fue precisamente en el curso de su mandato cuando el Citigroup se lanzó a una política financiera cada vez más aventurada que condujo al fiasco que conocemos, que costó al Tesoro público estadounidense la astronómica suma de 45.000 millones de dólares.[2] A pesar de ello, Robert Rubin es uno de los principales asesores externos de Barack Obama.

La segunda personalidad en escena es Lawrence Summers, heredado del puesto de director del Consejo Económico Nacional de la Casa Blanca. Sin embargo, su carrera contiene cierto número de manchas que deberían ser indelebles. En diciembre de 1991, mientras era economista jefe del Banco Mundial, Summers osó escribir en una nota interna: «Los países con escasa población de África tienen una bajísima contaminación. La calidad del aire es de un nivel inútilmente mayor que la de Los Ángeles o de México. Es necesario alentar el desplazamiento de las industrias contaminantes hacia los países menos avanzados. Debe existir cierto grado de contaminación en los países en los que los salarios son más bajos. Pienso que la lógica económica que dice que los residuos tóxicos deben volcarse allí donde los salarios son los más bajos es imparable. […] La inquietud [a propósito de los agentes tóxicos] será evidentemente mayor en un país donde la gente vive bastantes años como para enfermar de cáncer, que en un país donde la mortalidad infantil en menores de cinco años es del 200 por mil.»[3] Con Summers en los mandos, el capitalismo productivista gozará de un espléndido porvenir.

Habiendo sido nombrado secretario del Tesoro durante el gobierno de Clinton, en 1999, Summers presionó al presidente del Banco Mundial, James Wolfensohn, para que se sacara de encima a Joseph Stiglitz, que lo había sucedido en el puesto de economista jefe y que era muy crítico con las orientaciones neoliberales que Summers y Rubin ponían en marcha en todas las partes del mundo donde estallaban incendios financieros. Después de la llegada de George W. Bush, Summers continuó su carrera convirtiéndose en presidente de la universidad de Harvard en 2001, pero se destacó particularmente en febrero de 2005, cuando logró la enemistad de toda la comunidad universitaria después de una discusión en la Oficina Nacional de Investigación Económica (NBER, sus siglas en inglés).[4] Preguntándose sobre las razones por las que hay escasas mujeres en los puestos elevados en el ámbito científico, afirmó que las mujeres están menos dotadas que los hombres para las ciencias, descartando cualquier otra explicación posible como el origen social y familiar, o una voluntad de discriminación. Esto provocó una gran polémica [5], tanto en el interior como en el exterior de la universidad. A pesar de sus excusas, las protestas de una mayoría de profesores y estudiantes de Harvard lo obligaron a dimitir en 2006.

Si bien su responsabilidad en la situación actual todavía no está demostrada, su biografía, que se puede consultar en el sitio internet de la universidad de Harvard de la época de su presidencia, confirma que «ha dirigido el esfuerzo de la puesta en marcha de la más importante desreglamentación financiera de estos últimos 60 años». ¡No se podría ser más claro! Lawrence Summers renunció en septiembre 2010 del Consejo Económico Nacional de la Casa Blanca.

La tercera personalidad del equipo de economistas es Paul Volcker, quien, como presidente de la Reserva Federal, había aumentado drásticamente, en octubre de 1979, los tipos de interés en Estados Unidos. Esto constituyó, por un efecto de contagio internacional, el principal detonante de la crisis de la deuda pública, tanto en el Sur[6] como en el Norte del planeta, a principios de los años 80.

La cuarta personalidad elegida por Obama, Timothy Geithner, ha sido nombrado secretario del Tesoro. Justo antes de su designación era presidente del Banco Central de Nueva York. Había sido subsecretario del Tesoro encargado de las relaciones internacionales entre 1998 y 2001, adjunto sucesivamente de Rubin y de Summers, y activo, en particular, en Brasil, México, Indonesia, Corea del Sur y Tailandia, todos símbolos de los desastres del neoliberalismo, que sufrieron graves crisis durante ese período. Las medidas promovidas por este cuarteto infernal hicieron recaer el coste de la crisis sobre las poblaciones de estos países. Rubin y Summers son los mentores de Geithner. En febrero de 2009, Geithner estuvo a punto de no ser nombrado porque la prensa reveló que había defraudado al fisco ocultando una remuneración percibida del FMI. El lucro cesante del Tesoro público se elevaba a 34.000 dólares[7]. Finalmente, para obtener su puesto, reembolsó su deuda al Tesoro. Con Obama, Geithner continúa defendiendo las grandes instituciones financieras privadas, sordo a los derechos humanos fundamentales, ridiculizado en Estados Unidos y en cualquier lado debido a las políticas económicas que defiende con vehemencia.

La decisión de Barack Obama no era trivial, habría podido cambiar la propuesta, designando a consejeros que mantienen una orientación keynesiana. Economistas como Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini y James K. Galbraith estaban de acuerdo en aceptar esta responsabilidad. Pero Obama optó por unos economistas responsables de la desreglamentación bancaria de los años 90, en otras palabras, amigos o agentes de Wall Street.

La política económica que Barack Obama y su equipo han puesto en práctica en 2009 está muy lejos de la desarrollada en 1933 por Franklin D. Roosevelt en los primeros 100 días de su primer mandato.

El Cambio que No Fue

 

A pesar de ser elegido sobre la premisa de cambio, tras 2 años en el poder Obama ha demostrado que está más que satisfecho en cumplir un rol de mero guardián del status quo actual. En contra de las expectativas de ciertos sectores, la administración Obama sostuvo el rumbo fijado por la administración Bush en temas claves de la agenda de política exterior y económica. La diferencia entre ambos gobiernos ha sido entonces más una cuestión de estilo que de fondo.

La falta de acciones concretas que hagan frente a la crisis social originada en el colapso económico y financiero de 2008, ha erosionado la base de apoyo de la administración Obama. A la fecha, 14.4 millones de familias han perdido sus hogares desde el inicio de la crisis y cerca de 25 millones de personas se encuentran desempleadas o en condiciones precarias de empleo. Las políticas implementadas hasta el momento, antes que atender a las urgentes necesidades de este vasto segmento de la población norteamericana, han sido dirigidas a apoyar y asegurar la supervivencia de las instituciones financieras responsables de la crisis económica.

Teniendo en cuenta la composición del equipo económico de la administración Obama conformado, como se ha señalado, por miembros de los equipos económicos de Clinton y Bush, el camino seguido no ha debido representar ninguna sorpresa. Personas directamente responsables por los excesos de instituciones financieras en su calidad de reguladores de las mismas, como Timothy Geithner o Ben Bernanke, enfrentaron desde el principio serios conflictos de intereses. Su interés personal recae claramente sobre encubrir su responsabilidad más que sobre la implementación de medidas que busquen superar la crisis económica. Perder de vista este elemento de responsabilidad, no solamente política sino también judicial, impediría comprender cómo, ante las denuncias de abusos por parte de instituciones financieras en el desalojo de familias de sus hogares o de especulación con los fondos de rescate provistos por el gobierno, la Casa Blanca ha defendido los intereses de Wall Street una y otra vez.

Sin embargo, está claro que la claudicación más importante tuvo lugar con la Ley de Reforma Financiera Frank-Dodd. Desaprovechando la oportunidad real que se presentó durante la crisis de poner en cintura al sector financiero, la administración Obama llevó adelante la implementación de una supuesta reforma que falla por completo en imponer controles en las áreas críticas de operación de dicho sector. Aprobada en 2010, dicha Ley no sólo no condena el uso de dudosas prácticas contables que permiten esconder las pérdidas en las hojas de balance, sino que también fortalece las prerrogativas de las instituciones “Demasiado Grandes para quebrar”, y deja completamente de lado la regulación de los mercados de derivados financieros. Esta actitud permisiva hacia el sector financiero por parte de la administración Obama es la que permite explicar que ningún ejecutivo de este sector haya sido procesado judicialmente tras una crisis que el FBI, ya en 2004, había caracterizado como una epidemia de fraudes.

Ante esta situación no es sorpresivo que el pueblo norteamericano haya dado la espalda al Partido Demócrata en las elecciones del Congreso y Senado que tuvieron lugar en noviembre de 2010. Con un discurso ultraconservador, y aprovechándose de la incertidumbre y ansiedad que caracterizan un entorno de crisis económica, el Partido Republicano retomó el control sobre el Congreso y amenaza con tomar el control del Senado en 2012. Como respuesta a la pérdida del Congreso, Obama dispuso algunos cambios en su equipo económico, con la salida de miembros prominentes del mismo, como Lawrence Summers, Cristina Roehmer y Paul Volcker. Sin embargo, los reemplazos indican que los cambios sólo tienen un carácter cosmético. Estos incluyen a Gene Sperling, antiguo miembro de la administración Clinton y fuerte defensor de los recortes impositivos, Jeffrey Inmelt, previamente director de la multinacional General Electric, y William Daley, previamente alto ejecutivo de JP Morgan

El nuevo escenario que ha tenido lugar desde noviembre de 2010 le ha permitido al Partido Republicano bloquear completamente a la administración Obama, dadas las prerrogativas del Congreso sobre el presupuesto del gobierno y el nivel de la deuda publica. La estrategia de bloquear de los Republicanos de bloquear sistemáticamente al gobierno, para así disminuir las posibilidades de una reelección, ha llegado a su mas clara expresión en la actual batalla para elevar el limite de la deuda Federal. Esta prerrogativa del Congreso de los Estados Unidos fija un monto máximo de deuda que puede ser emitida por el Gobierno Federal y fue creada como un mecanismo para ejercer control por parte del poder legislativo sobre el poder ejecutivo. Históricamente el elevar el limite de la deuda federal ha sido una operación política llevada a cabo sin mayores contratiempos. Sin embargo en el contexto actual, y tal como ocurrió en 1995, el partido republicano esta utilizando su control del Congreso para forzar al gobierno a realizar recortes en el gasto social a riesgo de negarse a elevar el limite de la deuda. Esa vez el limite no fue elevado por un tiempo y se presentaron algunas disrupciones menores en los mercados financieros. Sin embargo esto ocurrió en un contexto de fuerte expansión de la economía norteamericana. En la situación actual, una cesación parcial de pagos podría volver a poner al sistema económico y financiero de los Estados Unidos en una situación de fragilidad e inestabilidad.

Si es posible aprender de la historia reciente, los mas afectados por una nueva recaída económica serán los despojados y desempleados de la sociedad norteamericana, mientras que los banqueros y especuladores continuaran siendo protegidos por la administración Obama. Este definitivamente no fue el cambio por el cual el pueblo norteamericano voto lleno de esperanza en el 2008.

[1]. «Mr. Rubin, que permaneció como uno de los directores del Citi, había recibido más de 118 millones de dólares (unos 80 millones de euros) de salario, bonos y una compensación de base desde que se unió a los servicios financieros en Estados Unidos, en 1999, como presidente del comité ejecutivo. Financial Times, 26 de agosto de 2008.

[2] El Tesoro público aportó 45.000 millones de dólares al Citigroup en 2008. A ello se añade una garantía del Estado hasta 306.000 millones de dólares. Una suma que nunca se había alcanzado. Véase http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/opinion/04lewiseinhornb.html?pagewanted=print

Debido a este «rescate» el Estado estadounidense es accionista del Citigroup (34 %).

[3]. Han sido publicados extractos en The Economist, (8 de febrero de 1992), así como en Financial Times (10 de febrero de 1992) con el título «Preservad al planeta de los economistas».

[4]. Financial Times, 26-27 de febrero de 2005.

[5]. La polémica también estuvo alimentada por la desaprobación del ataque lanzado por Summers contra Cornel West, un universitario negro y progresista, profesor de Religión y de Estudios afroamericanos en la universidad de Princeton. Summers, pro sionista, denunció a West por antisemita porque éste sostenía la acción de los estudiantes que exigían un boicot a Israel mientras el gobierno israelí no respetara los derechos de los palestinos. Véase el Financial Times del 26-27 de febrero de 2005. Actualmente Cornel West, que ha apoyado a Obama con entusiasmo, se asombra de que se haya rodeado de Summers y Rubin. Véase www.democracynow.org/2008/11/19/cornel_west_on_the_election_of

[6] En el caso de la crisis de la deuda de los países en desarrollo que estalló en 1982, hay que sumar un segundo detonante: la brusca caída del precio de los productos primarios que originó una drástica reducción de los ingresos por exportaciones, a los que los gobiernos pueden recurrir para pagar la deuda externa pública.  

[7] Véase http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99319593 y http://www.npr.org/documents/2009/jan/geithner.pdf

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U.S. Intelligence Eyes Chinese Research into Space-Age Weapons

July 25th, 2011 by The National Security Archive

Possible Use of Electromagnetic and Microwave Radiation against Taiwan or U.S. Fleet Raised

Declassified Documents Are Part of Major New Collection on a Half Century of U.S. Spying on China

Other Highlights of the Collection Include:
References to Cyber-Warfare
Dangers of Building Nuclear Plants in Japan (Fukushima Plant an Example)

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 351
Compiled by Dan Jenkins and Malcolm Byrne

Posted – July 21, 2011

For more information, contact:
Jeffrey Richelson and Matthew Aid
(202) 994-7000

The  complete set is available at http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB351/

Washington, D.C., July 21, 2011 – In 2005, U.S. intelligence agencies monitoring Chinese research into high-power microwave (HPM) and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) radiation speculated that Beijing might be trying to develop a capability to incapacitate Taiwan electronically without triggering a U.S. nuclear retaliation, according to documents published in a major new National Security Archive collection.

Image of the Fukushima Nucelar Power Station from a 1974 Defense Intelligence Agency report (Document 7)

In recent years, China’s development of an assortment of conventional and nuclear weapons has regularly attracted the interest and concern of U.S. policy-makers, intelligence officials, and China watchers.  So has Beijing’s interest in less conventional means of conflict, including cyber-warfare – with Chinese hackers recently linked to or suspected in a number of incidents, notably breaking into highly sensitive U.S. government computer systems (see CBSNews.com, for example). 

But cyber-warfare is only one of a number of unconventional approaches to warfare that China has investigated.  A declassified 2005 report from the U.S. National Ground Intelligence Center describing Chinese experiments using HPM and EMP on animals concluded that the real objective was to determine the effects of that radiation on humans.  Analysts did not believe the experiments, which produced “high mortality rates” among the animal subjects, were aimed at developing “antipersonnel” weapons, but they did describe a hypothetical “Taiwan Scenario” in which a lower altitude EMP burst would damage electronics on the island without causing enough human casualties, “either Taiwan[ese] or U.S. military,” to trigger “a U.S. nuclear response.”

Other recently declassified materials describe similar military concerns. A U.S. defense intelligence document from 2001, for example, details Chinese plans for developing radiofrequency weapons (although it stops short of speculating on their possible purpose).  Still others reflect on issues of current interest, for example the risks of constructing nuclear power plants – like the Fukushima facility that exploded after the recent tsunami – at questionable sites in Japan.

These and 2,300 other records are part of a new National Security Archive publication, U.S. Intelligence and China: Collection, Analysis and Covert Action, the latest addition to the “Digital National Security Archive” series published through ProQuest Information and Learning.  A sampling of materials in this important new collection is posted below.

*             *             *             *

The scope of the U.S. Intelligence and China set covers both the People’s Republic and Taiwan, from 1945-2010.  As the materials demonstrate, even before the formation of the PRC in October 1949, the United States targeted China for intelligence collection, hoping to uncover secrets about everything from Communist military capabilities to domestic policies.  The resulting intelligence was not only critical in helping to shape U.S. policy toward the emerging world power, it was also used to guide sensitive covert action operations by the U.S. and Taiwan in the 1950s and 1960s aimed at weakening the Communist regime’s hold on the mainland.

Even the Nationalist regime on Taiwan – a U.S. ally and a collaborator against China – was a target of U.S. intelligence collection efforts.  Against both targets, the United States used a variety of methods, including human sources, signals intelligence, overhead imagery, and other lesser-known techniques.

For years, the results of most of these multifaceted collection efforts against both Mao’s China and Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist forces were kept highly classified.  Now, thanks to the work of two widely recognized intelligence experts – Jeffrey Richelson and Matthew Aid –these important historical records are now available to the public, providing new insights into all aspects of the United States’ intelligence operations against its rival, the People’s Republic, and its ally, Taiwan. 

The collection includes new materials from a full array of intelligence entities inside the U.S. government that shed light not only on U.S. intelligence activities but on substantive topics relating to the PRC and Taiwan as well:

Foreign policy

Military capabilities and intentions

Domestic/regime politics and internal conditions

Science, technology, and industry

Economic conditions

More specifically, the set includes:

Estimates and studies of the PRC’s foreign and defense policies, strategic power, scientific  and industrial capabilities, and domestic affairs

Biographical information on Chinese military and civilian leaders

Studies of the possibility of a PRC-Taiwan clash (whether over islands in the Taiwan Straits or Taiwan itself)

Materials discussing Taiwan’s production of conventional arms, and its occasional quest to develop nuclear weapons

Documents

The National Security Archive’s China Intelligence document set contains a wide variety of materials on diverse topics and originating from all corners of the U.S. intelligence community.  The following samples reflect some of this variety:

1)  “Disruption to Shipping in the China Trade Major Problem to Peiping,” in CIA, Office of Current Intelligence, Current Intelligence Review, August 19, 1954, Top Secret Froth, CREST Collection, Document No. CIA-RDP61S00527A000200010070-8, NA, CP. Pages: 2

Early in 1953, President Eisenhower lifted the blockade of Communist China which was subsequently reinitiated by the naval forces of Nationalist China. In the early days of the First Taiwan Straits Crisis the Central Intelligence Agency produced this report that highlighted the economic and political impact of the blockade on Communist China. The report claims increased economic strife and political isolation as a result of limited alternatives (floods washing-out north-south railroads), embarrassing set-backs (seizure of the Polish tanker Tuapse), and the curtailed ability of Eastern European allies to lend assistance.

2)  Memorandum, Smith to Director, Effect on the Chinese Nationalists of a US Refusal to Permit an Attack on the Chinese Mainland, June 21, 1962, Secret, CREST Collection, Document No. CIA-RDP79R00904A000800030018-4, NA, CP. Pages: 3

Following the Taiwan Straits crises of the 1950s, avoiding a war between the two Chinas by ensuring a stable status quo became a U.S. priority. Knowing the desire of Nationalist China to reclaim the mainland, the Central Intelligence Agency analyzed the likely response to U.S. attempts to secure the current stability.  This memorandum highlights probable responses which range from a chilling effect on U.S.-Taiwan relations, a unilateral Nationalist Chinese invasion of mainland China, and a turnover in the government in Taiwan.

3)  Airgram, CA-7647, Department of State to Hong Kong, Health and Behavior of Mao Tse-tung, February 3, 1964, Secret, RG-59, Subject-Numeric Files 1964-1966, POL 15-1 CHICOM, NA, CP. Pages: 1

The Department of State, in an effort to glean human intelligence about the Chinese leadership, forwarded this list of questions to be posed to visitors to China. Specifically, those who came in contact with Mao Tse-tung were to be asked about the specifics of their interactions and any “peculiar physical characteristics” displayed by Mao.

4)  Joint Atomic Intelligence Committee, Memorandum for the Record, Reporting of the Chinese Nuclear Test on 16 October 1964, October 16, 1964, Secret, CIA FOIA. Pages: 1

On October 16, 1964, the People’s Republic of China tested its first nuclear weapon at the Lop Nur site in western China. Communist China became the fifth nation to test a nuclear weapon. Though heavily redacted, this Joint Atomic Intelligence Committee memorandum reports the test and notes the preparation of a public statement for National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy.

5)  CIA, Intelligence Information Cable, Presence of Chinese Communist Troops in North Vietnam in October 1965, February 18, 1967, classification markings not declassified, CIA FOIA. Pages: 5
 
Though Communist China was not a major combatant in the U.S. war in Vietnam, the PRC did send anti-aircraft and engineering units into North Vietnam in the 1960s to defend and repair transportation infrastructure. The U.S. intelligence community showed great interest in Chinese involvement and this detailed intelligence cable reveals the activities of Chinese anti-aircraft units stationed in North Vietnam. Strangely, the anti-aircraft units were furnished with small arms, but none of the heavy weapons required to deter airstrikes.

6)  Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Intelligence Note, Denney to Secretary, USSR/China: Soviet and Chinese Forces Clash on the Ussuri River, March 4, 1969, Secret, RG-59, Subject-Numeric Files 1967-1969, Box 1969, POL 32-1 Chicom-USSR, NA, CP. Pages: 6

The ideological Sino-Soviet divide widened in the 1960s and led to a number of border skirmishes, one of which is detailed in this Department of State Bureau of Intelligence and Research intelligence note. In addition to discussing the events that transpired on March 2, 1969, this document discusses some of the broader issues at play in the Sino-Soviet dispute at the time. Manchuria was already heavily militarized by China at the time and the Soviet Union had begun a large troop build-up years earlier. Chinese grievances at the terms of the border treaty and extensive propaganda campaigns against the Soviet Union are discussed alongside an analysis that neither side was interested in provoking a war. A map of the disputed area is also included which highlights the location of the skirmish.

7)  Defense Intelligence Agency, Directorate for Scientific and Technical Agency, Defense Intelligence Report, ST-CS-02-398-74, Nuclear Energy Programs: Japan and Taiwan, September 3, 1974, Secret, Pages: 47

Attempting to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and related technology, the U.S. conducted espionage on its allies in Japan and Taiwan. Though heavily redacted in parts, this document reveals an interesting discussion about the expulsion of the Taiwanese representative from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The report admits that the Taiwanese government could easily bar inspections at its nuclear sites, but allows IAEA teams continued access to facilities. Another interesting portion of the report discusses the potential problems with the siting of nuclear energy reactors in Japan (pages 22, 26-27). In fact, the Fukushima nuclear power complex is pictured in the section dealing with the related issues faced by the Japanese government at the time.

8)  Defense Intelligence Agency, Biographic Sketch, Deng Xiaoping, February 1979, NOFORN, DIA FOIA, Pages: 5

Intelligence on the Chinese leadership often helped guide and inform diplomatic interactions and even broader U.S. strategy towards Communist China. This biographic sketch of Vice Chairman Deng Xiaoping produced by the Defense Intelligence Agency shows the breadth of information collected. Included in the sketch are Deng’s politics, educational background, military service, family, and personality (“energetic,” “abrasive, arrogant”).

9)  Cable, 230716Z OCT 79, AIT TAIPEI to AIT WASHDC, Post-Normalization Taiwan, October 23, 1979, classification markings redacted, Department of State FOIA. Pages: 15
 
The normalization of relations between the U.S. and People’s Republic of China presented a new challenge to Taiwan and its relationship with the U.S. This cable from the American Institute in Taiwan highlights the impact of normalization on the political power structure in Taiwan. President Chiang Ching-kuo is the locus of the discussion – his governing style, political opposition, and relationship with key institutions: the security apparatus, the armed forces, the party, the technocratic bureaucracy, and the private business community.

10)  National Ground Intelligence Center, Assessment of Chinese Radiofrequency Weapon Capabilities, April 2001, Secret, Pages: 18

This report from the National Ground Intelligence Center is a more technical document as a great deal of time is spent discussing the technology behind radiofrequency weapons. The key determination of this report is that the Chinese have not deployed radiofrequency weapons; however, significant research and development is being conducted on high-power radiofrequency technology that could quickly evolve into a weapons system. In particular, the Chinese are reported to be working on radiofrequency technology designed to disable computer systems and disarm mines.  Additionally, the Chinese military has shown interest in radiofrequency weapons for use in anti-aircraft and anti-satellite operations.

11)  National Ground Intelligence Center, China: Medical Research on Bio-Effects of Electromagnetic Pulse and High-Power Microwave Radiation, August 17, 2005, Secret, Pages: 8

In January 2004, Chinese medical researchers presented research into the biological effects of high-intensity radiation at a public conference in Thailand. Their briefings, despite the basis on animal experiments, revealed great interest in the potential ramifications of human exposure to Electromagnetic Pulse and High-Power Microwave radiation. The report goes on to speculate as to what the implication of this research is on the trajectory and progress of Chinese efforts into developing radiation weapons. Included in the discussion are electromagnetic pulse weapons derived from nuclear and non-nuclear explosions and carbon/graphite-fiber bombs. The speculation largely revolves around the potential impact of such weapons systems in a “Taiwan Scenario” and potential deployment strategies that would minimize the risk of U.S. involvement or prevent nuclear retaliation if a conflict with the U.S. did arise.

12)  Report, Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2010, Unclassified, Pages: 83

In 2000, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress required the Department of Defense to write an annual report assessing the military capabilities, doctrine, strategies and operational concepts of the People’s Republic of China. The 2010 edition of the report presented here discusses military modernization, the Taiwan situation, and bilateral contacts with the U.S. military. A brief section on page 16 details Chinese cyberwarfare developments including reports of computer systems (including U.S. government networks) being targeted by cyberattacks seeking to exfiltrate information of strategic or military value. The brevity and absence of detail could indicate a lack of concrete data: “unclear if these intrusions were conducted by […] the PRC government” – or a topic of heightened, thus closely guarded, concern for the Department of Defense: “developing capabilities for cyberwarfare is consistent with authoritative PLA [People’s Liberation Army] military writings.”

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Seeing ‘Islamic Terror’ in Norway

July 25th, 2011 by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

Right-wing terror suspect Anders Behring Breivik reportedly killed 76 people in Norway on Friday, by all accounts driven by far-right anti-immigrant politics and fervent Islamophobia. But many early media accounts assumed that the perpetrator of the attacks was Muslim.

On news of the first round of attacks–the bombs in Oslo–CNN‘s Tom Lister (7/22/11) didn’t know who did it, but knew they were Muslims: “It could be a whole range of groups. But the point is that Al-Qaeda is not so much an organization now. It’s more a spirit for these people. It’s a mobilizing factor.” And he speculated confidently about their motives:

You’ve only got to look at the target–prime minister’s office, the headquarters of the major newspaper group next door. Why would that be relevant? Because the Norwegian newspapers republished the cartoons of Prophet Mohammad that caused such offense in the Muslim world…. That is an issue that still rankles amongst Islamist militants the world over.
CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank (7/22/11) took to the airwaves to declare that “Norway has been in Al-Qaeda’s crosshairs for quite some time.” He added that the bombing “bears all the hallmarks of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization at the moment,” before adding, almost as an afterthought, that “we don’t know at this point who was responsible.”

On Fox News Channel‘s O’Reilly Factor (7/22/11), guest host Laura Ingraham declared, “Deadly terror attacks in Norway, in what appears to be the work, once again, of Muslim extremists.” Even after Norwegian authorities arrested Breivik, former Bush administration U.N. Ambassador John Bolton was in disbelief. “There is a kind of political correctness that comes up when these tragic events occur,” he explained on Fox‘s On the Record (7/22/11). “This kind of behavior is very un-Norwegian. The speculation that it is part of right-wing extremism, I think that has less of a foundation at this point than the concern that there’s a broader political threat here.”

Earlier in the day on Fox (7/22/11), Bolton had explained that “the odds of it coming from someone other than a native Norwegian are extremely high.” While he admitted there was no evidence, Bolton concluded that “it sure looks like Islamic terrorism,” adding that “there is a substantial immigrant population from the Middle East in particular in Norway.”

An early Wall Street Journal editorial (7/22/11) dwelled on the “explanations furnished by jihadist groups to justify their periodic slaughters,” before concluding that because of Norway’s commitment to tolerance and freedom, “Norwegians have now been made to pay a terrible price.”

Once the alleged perpetrator’s identity did not conform to the Journal‘s prejudice, the editorial was modified, but it continued to argue that Al-Qaeda was an inspiration: “Coordinated terrorist attacks are an Al-Qaeda signature. But copycats with different agendas are surely capable of duplicating its methods.”

Many pundits and outlets had to scramble to justify their ideological presumptions in the wake of the unexpected suspect. Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin (7/22/11) had called the Norwegian violence “a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too expensive to wage a war against jihadists,” citing Thomas Joscelyn of the Weekly Standard‘s assertion that “in all likelihood the attack was launched by part of the jihadist hydra.” In a follow-up post (7/23/11), Rubin insisted that even though she was wrong, she was right, because “there are many more jihadists than blond Norwegians out to kill Americans, and we should keep our eye on the systemic and far more potent threats that stem from an ideological war with the West.”

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat (7/25/11) likewise argued that we should respond to the horror in Norway by paying more attention to the alleged perpetrator’s point of view:

On the big picture, Europe’s cultural conservatives are right: Mass immigration really has left the Continent more divided than enriched, Islam and liberal democracy have not yet proven natural bedfellows and the dream of a postnational, postpatriotic European Union governed by a benevolent ruling elite looks more like a folly every day…. Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic have an obligation to acknowledge that Anders Behring Breivik is a distinctively right-wing kind of monster. But they also have an obligation to the realities that this monster’s terrible atrocity threatens to obscure.
The New York TimesJuly 23 report explained that while early speculation about Muslim terrorists was incorrect,

there was ample reason for concern that terrorists might be responsible. In 2004 and again in 2008, the No. 2 leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, who took over after the death of Osama bin Laden, threatened Norway because of its support of the American-led NATO military operation in Afghanistan.
Of course, anyone who kills scores of civilians for political motives is a “terrorist”; the language of the Times, though, suggested that a “terrorist” would have to be Islamic.

The Times went on:

Terrorism specialists said that even if the authorities ultimately ruled out Islamic terrorism as the cause of Friday’s assaults, other kinds of groups or individuals were mimicking Al-Qaeda’s brutality and multiple attacks.

“If it does turn out to be someone with more political motivations, it shows these groups are learning from what they see from Al-Qaeda,” said Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism researcher at the New America Foundation in Washington.
It is unclear why any of Breivik’s actions would be considered connected in any way to terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, which certainly did not invent the idea of brutal mass murder. But the Times was able to turn up another expert the following day who saw an Islamist inspiration for Islamophobic terrorism (7/24/11):

Thomas Hegghammer, a terrorism specialist at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, said the manifesto bears an eerie resemblance to those of Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders, though from a Christian rather than a Muslim point of view. Like Mr. Breivik’s manuscript, the major Qaeda declarations have detailed accounts of the Crusades, a pronounced sense of historical grievance and calls for apocalyptic warfare to defeat the religious and cultural enemy.

“It seems to be an attempt to mirror Al-Qaeda, exactly in reverse,” Mr. Hegghammer said.
To the paper’s credit, the Times‘ Scott Shane wrote a strong second-day piece (7/25/11) documenting the influence of Islamophobic bloggers on Breivik’s manifesto:

His manifesto, which denounced Norwegian politicians as failing to defend the country from Islamic influence, quoted Robert Spencer, who operates the Jihad Watch website, 64 times, and cited other Western writers who shared his view that Muslim immigrants pose a grave danger to Western culture…. Mr. Breivik frequently cited another blog, Atlas Shrugs, and recommended the Gates of Vienna among websites.
(Spencer was one of the anti-Muslim pundits profiled in FAIR’s 2008 report, “Meet the Smearcasters: Islamophobia’s Dirty Dozen.”)

Shane’s piece noted that the document, rather than being an Al-Qaeda “mirror,” actually copied large sections of Ted Kaczynski’s 1995 Unabomber manifesto, “in which the Norwegian substituted ‘multiculturalists’ or ‘cultural Marxists’ for Mr. Kaczynski’s ‘leftists’ and made other small wording changes.”

It is not new for media to jump to the conclusion that Muslims are responsible for any given terrorist attack; the same thing was widespread after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings (Extra!, 7-8/95). “It has every single earmark of the Islamic car-bombers of the Middle East,” syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer (Chicago Tribune, 4/21/95) asserted. “Whatever we are doing to destroy Mideast terrorism, the chief terrorist threat against Americans, has not been working,” wrote New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal (4/21/95). “Knowing that the car bomb indicates Middle Eastern terrorists at work, it’s safe to assume that their goal is to promote free-floating fear,” editorialized the New York Post (4/20/95). It is unfortunate that so many outlets have failed to learn any practical lessons from such mistakes–or question the beliefs that drive them.

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Debt Ceiling Intransigence: Unintended Consequences…

July 25th, 2011 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

Which party is responsible for intransigence on raising the debt ceiling?  Republicans say the Democrats are, and Democrats say the Republicans are. 

One could blame both parties equally, as both have their positions, but as I see it, it is the Republicans who are the most intransigent.  The Democrats have shown more willingness to compromise, even offering cuts in Medicare and Social Security.  Moreover, the Republicans started the fight, whereas the Democrats were willing to just raise the debt ceiling routinely, as in the past, and to get on with things.

The Republicans created the issue, so they are responsible.  In fairness to the Republicans, it is a more important issue for them than for Democrats. The Democrats have always been more relaxed about debt than the Republicans.  At the present time, the Democrats figure that if the financial crisis is reason enough for the Federal Reserve to lend $16.1 trillion, that is, $16,100  billion to private banks in the US and Europe–an amount $1.6 trillion larger than the Gross Domestic Product of the US, the US Treasury can afford to borrow another couple of trillion dollars. http://sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/news/?id=9e2a4ea8-6e73-4be2-a753-62060dcbb3c3 

Citibank alone received $2.5 trillion in government loans, an amount larger than the Gross Domestic Product of Great Britain and larger than the GDP of all but five countries in the world. If one bank can borrow this much from the Fed, the US Treasury should be able to continue borrowing as well.

Nevertheless, one has to respect the Republicans for their concern with debt levels. 

Fiscal discipline should never be written off as too much trouble. It is easier to spend money irresponsibly if the money can be borrowed, as many American consumers have learned. One should not denigrate Republicans for wanting to control the growth of the public debt, especially when the debt is consistently growing faster than the GDP.

However, for many, and perhaps most, of the Republicans in Congress, the issue is not merely about debt.  It is about using a hyped “debt crisis” to slash the social safety net.

The reason Republicans are intransigent is that they see in the “debt ceiling crisis” the opportunity to return the country to a moral basis by curtailing welfare, handouts, and “Ponzi schemes like Social Security.”

Republicans believe, appropriately in my opinion, that people should support themselves and not be leeches on others or on society. Republicans believe that if given opportunities to become leeches, many will take them, and that the Democrats have created too many opportunities for Americans to abandon self-sufficiency and to become leeches.
Aside from the moral issue, too many leeches mean higher taxes on the productive and/or more debt burdens for our children and grandchildren.  In other words, the moral decline from handouts and welfare leads to economic decline. 

It would be a mistake to dismiss the Republicans concerns out of hand. It is a fact that Roman bread and circuses produced a large leech class at a time when desperately needed manpower and resources for the Legions was scarce.  The issue that I have with Republicans is not their valid concerns, but what Republicans do not take into account.

One important fact that many Republicans overlook is that in a market economy large numbers of people can find themselves without resources through no fault of their own.  Ordinary run-of-the-mill business cycles can leave millions jobless.  Once jobless, people cannot make mortgage and car payments and become homeless.  Unable to pay credit card bills, they have no recourse to credit. No country can simply say, “OK, hard luck, go die in the streets with your wives and children.”

These problems are more acute today, because so many American jobs have been moved abroad to increase profits, thus making the income distribution extremely unequal.  There are no longer family farms to which to return, as during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  

In the 1930s Marxism was a force.  The new Soviet Union and its promises had raised hopes for workers and the poor, hopes that proved to be unfounded, but the prospect of revolt in America softened hard hearts, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress were able to put in place a social safety net to provide for those who were cast aside  by the crises of capitalism.

Many Republicans believe that the “New Deal” was the undoing of the Republic.  I know this both because I have spent my life among Republicans and because I am a scholar.
For Republicans, or many of them, everything started going wrong with the New Deal, which created “leechdom,” expanded by President Johnson’s “Great Society” three decades later. 

Republicans have been trying to rescue the Republic ever since.

In the early 1980s when I, as Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury, was tasked with getting the Reagan tax rate reduction out of his administration and into law, I encountered  more opposition from some Republicans than from Democrats. The Democrats could see that something had to be done about stagflation and that they had no solution, so they, or a number of influential ones, got on board.  The Republicans, however, or too many of them, opposed the Reagan tax rate reduction on the grounds that it would enlarge the deficit and the national debt. 

To bring a number of Republicans onboard, the Reagan administration resorted to a non-economic argument that the tax cuts would starve the government of revenues and force the desired Republican shrinkage of government.  I opposed this tactic. I argued that it would confirm the claim that Republicans wanted to take the tax burden off the rich and place it on the poor by curtailing the services from government.

I pointed out that House Speaker Tip O’Neil and the Senate Democrats were prepared to pass the Reagan tax rate reduction and that there were enough House and Senate Republicans and Democrats to carry the vote.  But the White House Chief-of-Staff would have none of it. He wanted a Republican “victory” over the Democrats. Thus, a necessary economic policy was misrepresented as a crusade against “big government.”  

To summarize, the Reagan tax rate reductions were designed to cure stagflation, and they succeeded. However, in order to garner enough Republican support, Reaganomics was sold to congressional Republicans as a way to shrink the government by denying it revenue.  This was not the purpose, and denying the government revenue has nothing whatsoever to do with supply-side economics. Our purpose was to enable the economy to grow without having to pay for the growth with a rising rate of inflation.

Having illustrated the folly to which Republicans can be driven by their obsession with debt and “leechdom,” let us now consider possible unintended consequences of the debt ceiling impasse.  This brings us to the most important aspect of the debt ceiling “crisis” that the Republicans are ignoring. 

If Republicans become obsessed with their agenda and refuse a reasonable deal, and the Democrats do not cave, the executive branch will be faced with an inability to continue its operations.  This could mean, for example, that the troops in the various wars could not be supplied or paid, that air traffic controllers could not be paid, that the US government could not roll over the debt that comes due or issue the new debt that pays for 43% of federal budget expenditures. Unlike during  the Newt Gingrich government shutdown in the 1990s, today “nonessential government” does not total 43% of federal expenditures unless we include the wars, which, of course, the Republicans don’t.

The US dollar could plummet in exchange value and lose its role as world reserve currency. The US would no longer be able to pay its oil bill in its own currency, and as its balance of payments is heavily in the red, the US has no foreign currencies with which to pay its oil import bill.  Or its manufactured goods import bill, or any other bill.  

We are talking about a crisis beyond anything the world has ever seen. Does anyone think that President Obama is going to just sit there while the power of the US collapses?  He doesn’t have to do so.  There are presidential directives and executive orders in place, put there by George W. Bush himself, that President Obama can invoke to declare a national emergency, suspend the debt ceiling limit, and continue to issue Treasury debt.  This is exactly what would happen.  

The consequences would be that the power of the purse would transfer from Congress to the President. It would be the end of the power of Congress.  Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, have already given away to the President Congress’ Constitutional right to decide whether the country goes to war. Now Congress would lose its power over debt, taxes, and the budget itself.

Republicans need to decide whether the advantage of delivering a blow against “leechdom” is worth such extreme risks.  

Some readers will say “this could never happen.”  But Congress is already emasculating itself as a result of the Republicans’ intransigence over the debt ceiling increase. Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Harry Reid have come up with a proposal for a committee of Congress, called a Super Congress, that could fast-track legislation by prohibiting amendments. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/23/super-congress-debt-ceiling_n_907887.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl1%7Csec1_lnk2%7C80603 

In other words, the few members of the Super Congress could bypass any citizen opposition that might still be represented in the ordinary old Congress.  The more likely outcomes would be an end to the mortgage interest deduction and the deductions for retirement savings. Legislation to gut the social safety net could not be amended. 

A Congress that is willing to destroy its remaining power over a debt ceiling increase that is less than a Federal Reserve loan to one US bank is a Congress moved to folly by Republican intransigence.

 
The Honorable Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was appointed by President Reagan Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury and confirmed by the US Senate. He was Associate Editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, and he served on the personal staffs of Representative Jack Kemp and Senator Orrin Hatch. He was staff associate of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, staff associate of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, and Chief Economist, Republican Staff, House Budget Committee. He wrote the Kemp-Roth tax rate reduction bill, and was a leader in the supply-side revolution.  He was professor of economics in six universities, and is the author of numerous books and scholarly contributions.  He has testified before committees of Congress on 30 occasions.

Misrepresentation of DNA Evidence about Srebrenica

July 25th, 2011 by Stephen Karganovic

The International Commission for Missing Persons[1], also known as ICMP, is systematically deluding the public about the true reach of DNA technology in order to foster the illusion that its laboratories hold the key to the solution of the Srebrenica enigma. On the 16th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre this year ICMP claimed that it has “closed 5,564 cases of Srebrenica victims” and that “only about 1,500 remain to be resolved.”[2] However, that announcement is completely at odds with science. By calling persons that it has allegedly identified by using DNA techniques “Srebrenica victims” ICMP is taking a clear position that they were in fact executed prisoners (victims, rather than legitimate combat casualties) and also that their deaths are related to Srebrenica events of July of 1995. Both suggestions are false. DNA technology serves only to identify mortal remains or reassociate disarticulated parts of the same body, but it has absolutely nothing to say about the manner or time of death. ICMP has no means to differentiate “victims,” i.e. executed prisoners, from persons who perished in combat and whose death therefore is not a war crime. Nor does ICMP, or any DNA laboratory for that matter, have the means to establish that the death of persons whose remains have been identified occurred within the time frame of July 1995 Srebrenica events. They could have died anywhere, at any time.

When ICMP puts forth the thesis that in its laboratories it is accomplishing things that are scientifically impossible, that suggests one of two conclusions: either ICMP was specifically set up to disinform the public and the courts under the guise of cutting edge science, or it is an organisation of charlatans which should urgently be shut down.

As we are accustomed when any aspect of the Srebrenica issue is under consideration, nothing is as it appears to be. ICMP’s alleged data are completely unreliable and, most important of all, totally unverifiable.

Inaccessible and unverifiable evidence

In the various court cases where facts relating to Srebrenica were adjudicated no exhaustive and transparent analysis of DNA evidence has ever been conducted. For instance, DNA evidence was offered in the most recent ICTY case Popović et al., but – in closed session. And even so it occurred under conditions designed to be the most unfavorable for the defence. Defence teams were deprived of both the time and resources to subject the proffered DNA evidence, such as it was, to a thorough professional examination. The Tribunal’s rationale for such extraordinary restrictiveness was that public insight into this data would constitute a “callous” act which might injure the dignity of the victims and could even inflict great pain on their surviving relatives. The feelings and interests of persons and whole communities who – as a result of the acceptance of such dubious and independently untested evidence – might have to be burdened by decades of prison time or carry the stigma of the heinous crime of genocide apparently did not greatly concern the chamber. Each and every request to ICMP by private parties facing serious accusations or research organisations to be allowed access to DNA samples for the purpose of independent verification is invariably met by the same polite response: that it is a potential violation of privacy and is therefore impossible without the signed consent of the victim’s relatives in every single case. So far nobody has ever obtained such written consent.

It appears, however, that at ICTY the entirely laudable goal of privacy protection has been taken a bit too far, even to the point of absurdity. It appears to extend even to the Hague Tribunal prosecution. There are, in fact, solid reasons to suppose that not even the Office of the Prosecutor has properly examined the DNA evidence generated by ICMP which it has nevertheless been happy to offer to the chamber as the material basis for the conclusion that in Srebrenica a crime of genocidal magnitude has been committed. How else to interpret the statement made by prosecutor Hildegard Uertz-Retzlaff in response to a demand made by the accused Karadžić for the right to examine the DNA evidence in his case: “ICMP has not shown the DNA to us either, It is not correct that they gave it to us, but not to others.”[3]

Abuses in the Karadžić case

But a careful reading of the ruling issued by the Karadžić chamber, which intimated to the defence that it might be allowed to examine a small number of samples (300 out of over 6,000), something that was hastily praised as an important step forward in relation to the situation as it stood previously, reveals that even that small concession was conditional and had built into it the possibility that the defence might still receive nothing.[4] For, first of all, in making its ruling the chamber did not discard in principle the position championed by ICMP that DNA analyses may be shown to others only with the relatives’ written permission. The implicit retention of that position, the potential effect of which is always to deny to the defence the opportunity to independently check one of the most significant elements of proof in the prosecution’s case against the accused, is in itself scandalous and constitutes a grave violation of the procedural rights of the accused person. Then, in its ruling the chamber only states that “ICMP has agreed to obtain the consent of the approximately 1,200 family members who provided samples relevant to the 300 cases selected by the Accused, so that the Accused’s expert can then conduct the necessary analysis”. [5] It is left unexplained in the court’s decision what would follow if those 1,200 relatives, or a substantial number of them, simply refused to sign the requested permission. If we take it as a matter of principle that their permission is, indeed, required[6] we must then also accept it as a possibility that they might refuse to grant it. The defence would in that case be back to square one and the alleged “movement” in its favour would be clearly shown to be what it really is – another illusion.

If in relation to this evidence, which since the Popović trial has moved to center stage and has practically displaced traditional forensics as the prosecution’s main evidentiary tool[7] and which, we are told, constitutes the last word of science on the subject, the principal players, the prosecution, the chamber, and the defence, are all operating in the dark, how much credence can the findings of fact that are based on it realistically command? Based in significant part on ICMP data, the Hague Tribunal chamber in the recent Popović case drew, and proceeded to incorporate into its judgment, factual and legal findings of far reaching significance that rest substantially upon evidence which is billed as the last word of science but that was admittedly unseen and unexamined.

ICMP’s history of non-compliance with professional licensing requirements

The degree of indulgence that the Hague Tribunal has shown to ICMP is truly phenomenal. In the course of the Popović trial it was disclosed that until October of 2007 ICMP was operating without professional certification from the international agency which approves DNA laboratories, Gednap. That fact was freely admitted by ICMP’s director of forensic studies, Thomas Parsons, under cross examination.[8]

However, even then, while testifying under oath, ICMP’s witness did not state the whole truth. Our NGO “Srebrenica Historical Project” on July 20, 2010, sent an inquiry to Professor Bernd Brinkman, chairman of GEDNAP at that time, seeking information whether his organisation had issued a professional license to ICMP and whether ICMP was officially registered to perform laboratory DNA testing. Professor Brinkman’s reply was as follows:

“We do not have the ICMP Tuzla laboratory on our list of GEDNAP participants. That means that the Tuzla laboratory is unknown to the organizers of GEDNAP Proficiency Tests.”

Professor Brinkman then offers a detail which gives the whole ICMP charade away:

“However, there are two ICMP laboratories which participate in the GEDNAP Proficiency Tests (i.e., from Sarajevo and Banja Luka).”[9]

It should be noted that the Sarajevo facility is ICMP’s administrative office and that in Banja Luka ICMP maintains a small specialised laboratory. The most likely reason it is located in Banja Luka is to create the appearance that in selecting its venues ICMP is not neglecting the Republic of Srpska. But GEDNAP inspection and certification of those two locations is without any practical significance because almost all of the routine DNA work is being performed elsewhere, in the secretive Tuzla facility, including the premises of the Podrinje Identification Project, where neither the Hague defence, nor the Hague prosecution or apparently the inspectors of the world body which professionally licenses DNA laboratories have ever set foot. That means that from a professional standpoint ICMP’s principal operational facility in Tuzla continues to evade and defy standard licensing procedures today just as all of its facilities had been doing it for years prior to 2007.

The bulk of the significant work performed by ICMP, the thousands of alleged DNA matches which ICMP tirelessly invokes in its public relations stunts and in courtrooms – the alleged evidence which in the Hague and before the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has served as the basis for verdicts establishing mass executions of genocidal proportions – is in fact taking place in ICMP’s inpenetrable Tuzla laboratories. To repeat, that operationally only significant facility was never visited by international inspectors nor was the validity of its work ever professionally reviewed. Most importantly, it never received a professional certificate entitling it to engage in the work it is doing, which simply means that this laboratory which plays the key role in generating the illusion that the enigma of Srebrenica is on the verge of being solved is actually operating on the edge of professional legality.

Biased personnel selection

According to London “Financial Times”[10] 93% of ICMP personnel are Bosnian Moslems. To complete the picture, ICMP chairman is Thomas Miller, former US ambassador in Bosnia and Herzegovina[11], the director, Kathryn Bomberger is also from the US, and her assistant Adam Boys is from the United Kingdom. When will the other Bosnia-Herzegovina ethnic communities get their one third representation on the staff of ICMP? When will the representatives of other countries within the international community, about 190 in all, obtain an opportunity to take part in the work of the International commission for missing persons on the executive level? Why couldn’t the chairman be from Argentina, the director from Ethiopia, and her assistant from India?

Our challenge to ICMP

The NGO “Srebrenica Historical Project” issues the following challenge to ICMP and in the public interest puts to them the following questions which require answers without delay:

[1] Is it correct that the most that DNA analysis can be expected to establish is the identity of mortal remains and that it may additionally be useful in reassociating parts of the same body, but that DNA is utterly useless in furnishing information about the manner and time of death, which happen to be the key issues in a valid criminal investigation? If that is correct, then ICMP’s identifications and findings, except for the comfort it may offer to the families, are completely irrelevant for resolving the substantive issues associated with Srebrenica because DNA analysis cannot differentiate whether a person was executed or perished in legitimate combat. Furthermore, it cannot furnish any answer to the question whether death occurred in July of 1995 in the course of the Srebrenica operation or before or after that.

[2] Regardless of the answer to the preceding question, why is ICMP concealing the names of the persons that it has allegedly identified? By publishing their names it would at least make it possible to drastically reduce the length of the missing persons’ lists which, judging by its name, should be its primary task.

[3] When will ICMP make its biological samples available to independent laboratories so that the results that it claims to have achieved might be independently tested and so that the public and the courts would no longer be obliged to take them on faith, as was the custom with dogmas in the Middle Ages?

[4] When will ICMP open its laboratory premises in Tuzla to international inspectors to facilitate independent verification of the quality of its work, which might lead to the issuance of a professional certificate without which no DNA laboratory which aspires to credibility can function?

[5] When will ICMP cease playing games with the term “missing” and misusing it wantonly as if it had the same meaning as “executed”? Why is ICMP, and the acronym stands for International commission for missing persons, conjuring up the misperception that DNA technology can accomplish more than mere identification of mortal remains and why is ICMP implicitly disinforming the public and the courts that it can also establish the manner and time of the deceased’s death, when that is false? And if it is false, then why is ICMP engaged in generating and perpetuating the misleading impression that its technology can demonstrate that the persons it has allegedly identified were in fact executed prisoners of war and that they died in the immediate aftermath of July 11, 1995 in the vicinity of Srebrenica?

Notes

[1] http://www.ic-mp.org/

[2] “Oslobodjenje” (Sarajevo), July 11, 2011, p. 3

[3] ICTY, Prosecutor v. Karadžić, Status conference, 23 July, 2009, p. 364, lines 21 – 23.

[4] Although the Karadzic chamber is verbally committed to enable the defence to check 300 DNA reports, it continues to hold inviolate ICMP’s principled position that independent sample verification without the written approval of relatives is impermissible: „NOTING that the ICMP has stated that it cannot provide its entire database of genetic profiles obtained from blood samples taken from family members of missing persons to the Accused without obtaining the consent of each family member who provided such a sample, and that this process would take significant time in view of the volume of samples taken“, see ICTY, Prosecutor v. Karadžić, “Order on selection of cases for DNA analysis,” 19 March, 2010., p. 2.

[5] ICTY, Prosecutor v. Karadzic, “Order on selection of cases for DNA analysis,” 19 March 2010, p. 2.

[6] Which, of course, is not correct at all because the Tribunal is endowed with full jurisdiction over all aspects of the criminal case under its consideration if only it should decide to make use of it. But the use of that authority is not in every instance discretionary. The court has an obligation to effectively employ its powers to make unconditionally available to the accused all evidentiary materials that are being used in the case against him.

[7] Small surprise there, given the highly disappointing results yielded by traditional methods. Barely 1,920 bodies of persons who died of a variety of causes, clearly including combat casualties, and therefore embarrassingly short of the 8,000 “executed men and boys” goal.

[8] ICTY, Prosecutor v. Popović et al, February 1 2008, Transcript, p. 20872.

[9] Correspondence reproduced in S. Karganovic et al., “Deconstruction of a virtual genocide: An intelligent person’s guide to Srebrenica” [Den Haag-Belgrade, 2011], p. 230-232;
http://www.srebrenica-project.com/DOWNLOAD/books/Deconstruction_of_a_virtual_genocide.pdf

[10] December 11, 2007; http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/c4474d94-a6f1-11dc-a25a-0000779fd2ac.html#axzz1RjIqNP8c

[11] http://www.ic-mp.org/press-releases/ambassador-thomas-miller-appointed-new-chairman-of-the-international-commission-on-missing-personsambasador-thomas-miller-imenovan-za-novog-predsjedavajuceg-medunarodne-komisije-za-nestale-osobe-icmp/ 

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Obama’s Illegal War Rages On

July 25th, 2011 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

July 14, 2011

Today on Flashpoints Obama’s illegal war in continues to rage through Libya where officials claim NATO bombs have killed more than 1000 civilians and have left more than 4000 wounded. Madhi Nazemroya joins us for an update. We then turn our attention back to Haiti where that country’s president continues to loose popularity over pandering to the right-wing that supported the coup against former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. And finally we take a look at a move to change the electoral college voting system in the United States to a popular vote count.

Guests: Madhi Nazemroya – Flashpoints special correspondent on the ground in Libya, Fred Branfman, Brian Concannon-Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, and Jerry Hill-Assembly member.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN


July 13, 2011

Today on Flashpoints, we get a regular update on ground in Libya from our special correspondent Madhi Nazemroaya, we also look at the current state of the war in Iraq, then we continue our dialogue with historian Gareth Porter about Obama’s policies in Afghanistan, finally we take a closer look at the Rupert Murdoch scandal with Jonathan Schell.

Guests: Mahdi Nazemroaya – Flashpoints special correspondent from Libya, Raed Jarrar-Iraqi American Political Analyst, Gareth Porter-investigative journalist and policy analyst, and Jonathan Schell-Fellow at the Nation Institute and and visiting fellow at Yale.

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July 12, 2011

Today on Flashpoints, we return to Obama’s illegal war in Libya with an update from our special correspondent Madhi Nazemroya. We then debrief one of the memebers of the Freedom Flotilla 2 aimed at calling attention to the blockade of the Palestinian people in Gaza. We then talk to Keith McHenry of Food not Bombs who was just released from jail for feeding the hungry in Orlando Florida. Then major league baseball’s decision to hold tonight’s all-star game in Phoenix Arizona comes under fire as hundreds of protestors converge on Chase Field. We discuss yesterday’s protests against yet another deadly shooting by Bay Area Rapid Transit police, or BART police, on July the 3rd. And finally a breaking news story where five activists from the organization Earth First are arrested after locking themselves in the Montana governor’s office to protest Big Oil’s invasion of their state.

Guests: Mahdi Nazemroaya – Flashpoints special correspondent from Libya, Henry Norr-retired journalist and activist, Keith McHenry-founder of Food Not Bombs in Orlando, Enrique Morones-Border Angeles and former Major League Baseball executive, Antonio Medrano-San Pablo School Board Member, Hannibal Shakur-No Justice No BART & Oakland For Justice, and Max Grainger of Earth First Montana.

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July 7, 2011

Today on Flashpoints, Congress votes to limit funding for Obama’s illegal war in Libya as we’re joined by Madhi Nazemroya with another report on the ground. We’ll also hear about planned demonstrations against the war in Libya in San Francisco and Washington, DC. Then we return to Orlando Florida where Food Not Bombs founder Keith McHenry is still behind bars but due to be released on charges stemming from feeding the hungry and homeless. Finally we look at Honduras two years after a coup deposed the democratically elected government of President Manuel Zelaya.

Guests: Mahdi Nazemroaya – Flashpoints special correspondent on the ground in Libya, Richard Becker of the International Action Center, Miguel Rodriguez from the First Congregational Church of Winter Park, Laura Wells-Organizer of the East Bay Social Forum for 2012 and 2010 Green Party Candidate for Governor of California, and Roger Harris-Past President of the Marin Task
Force on the Americas.

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July 6, 2011

Today on Flashpoints, we continue our drumbeat coverage of Obama’s illegal war and the situation in Libya, where it is reported that rebels have taken several key townships in an offensive aimed at capturing the capitol of Tripoli. We then devote the rest of the hour to the sixth anniversary of a massacre committed by UN troops in the poor neighborhood of Cite Soleil in Haiti. In doing to we examine one of the greatest human rights cover-ups in the history of the hemisphere.

Guests: Mahdi Nazemroaya – Flashpoints special correspondent from Libya, Seth Donnelly-member of San Fransico Bay Area Labor Council in Haiti, Dave Welsh-member of San Fransico Bay Area Labor Council in Haiti, Marguerite Laurent-founder and director of Haitian Lawyers’ Leadership Network, and Brian Concannon-director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.

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Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

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As America’s empire spreads abroad, it becomes ever more the police state at home. The methods used for the suppression of foreigners by military force and violence are eventually mirrored in the “homeland.”

In an article last September 25th titled “It Is Official: the US Is A Police State,” author Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Treasury Secretary during the Reagan years, wrote, “’Violent extremism’ is one of those undefined police state terms that will mean whatever the government wants it to mean. In this morning’s FBI foray into the homes of American citizens of conscience it means antiwar activists, whose activities are equated with ‘the material support of terrorism’…”

The FBI raids at home are reminiscent of U.S. military raids overseas. In Iraq, for instance, labor union offices were raided and rifled and labor leaders imprisoned by the Occupation forces. Their “crime” was to oppose sweetheart contract deals with private oil firms.

The vast U.S. prison system, which houses 2.4 million Americans, may be compared with the Gulag the U.S. has built abroad. America today is the World’s Jailer. As Allan Uthman reported on AlterNet, in 2006 the Bush regime began building “detention centers” to warehouse inmates for unspecified “new programs” when the Army Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root nearly $400 million. What we do abroad, we do at home.

Adopting police state tactics on Americans the U.S. Empire first used on subjects abroad has a long history. When Filipinos rebelled against U.S. rule after their country was “liberated” from Spain, captured resistance fighters were subjected to water torture. Twenty years later, imprisoned American pacifists who opposed the Wilson administration’s entry into World War One were hung by their hands, and had running hoses shoved in their faces.

In its editorial of July 25th, The Nation magazine denounces America’s use of “secret armies, covert operations…offshore torture centers, out-of-control armed corporations, runaway military spending, wars by fleets of robots, wars by assassination—and all the other features of the imperial presidency…”

The magazine has long sought to end these practices. It’s still a great idea but now it’s a tad late. The Reactionary Elite that runs America is powerful. Congress rubber-stamps President Obama’s five wars of aggression abroad and enacts laws at home that scorch individual liberty. The result is the emergent police state.

The other day I watched people entering a bus station in Orlando, Florida, submit to a body scan by two security officers who had no probable cause whatever to search them. Americans boarding trains and planes now accept such scans routinely. In area after area, Americans are accepting violations of their privacy in the name of “national security” with hardly a murmur of dissent. The Bush regime created “watch”(75,000 names) and “no fly”(45,000 names) lists that restrict individuals’ air travel–and those searched and/or stopped from flying can complain all they like because it won’t do them any good.

Robert Johnson, an American citizen, Naomi Wolf reports in her book “The End of America”(Chelsea Green), described the humiliation factor of being strip searched when he attempted to board an airplane: “I had to take off my pants. I had to take off my sneakers, then I had to take off my socks. I was treated like a criminal.” This has now become a commonplace ordeal for countless numbers of Americans. Even at the height of World War Two, such invasions of personal rights would have been unthinkable.

Fear of government, unlike anything I have ever known in my lifetime, appears widespread. How do I know people are fearful? Because many readers call me “courageous” (which I definitely am not) for challenging the government, revealing that they truly do fear to speak out.

David Cole, a professor at Georgetown Law School, writes in The Nation that Congress last May reauthorized provisions of the misnamed “Patriot Act” that “permit the government to obtain ‘roving’ wiretaps without identifying the person or the phone to be tapped, (to)demand records from libraries and businesses without establishing any reason to believe the target is involved in criminal, much less terrorist, activity; and (to)use surveillance powers initially restricted to agents of foreign governments or terrorist organizations against ‘lone wolves’ not affiliated with any such group or government.” This is an echo of the ECHELON system the U.S. and its British Commonwealth allies have employed since World War Two to eavesdrop on the entire planet, track dissenters, and steal business secrets.

Cole also writes Attorney General Eric Holder will now allow FBI agents “to rummage through citizens’ trash, conduct searches of computer databases and repeatedly use surveillance squads to track people without any suspicion of individual wrongdoing or court approval.” (Just like the body searches at the bus terminal.) The absence of court approval is significant in that a court is the only legal bulwark a citizen has against unbridled police power. And now that’s gone. The peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq have suffered far worse at the hands of American-led military.

The fact is, when the Empire goes to war, the life of its individual citizen is devalued and degraded—not only on the battlefield, where it is often sacrificed for all the wrong reasons, but at home as well. It’s happening here. The right to form unions freely is scrapped in defiance of the vast majority of workers who want one. The public treasury is looted by Congress to bail out the bankers over the 100-to-one protests of constituents. Foreign wars are waged over the wishes of the popular majority who want them ended.

As liberty after liberty is being circumscribed or eliminated, the common man and woman are being reduced to the common serf. Harold Laski, a former chairman of the British Labor Party, once noted, “We live under a system by which the many are exploited by the few, and war is the ultimate sanction of that exploitation.” Imperialism—whether practiced by Spain in the 16th century, England in the 18th century, Soviet Russia, Imperial Japan, and Nazi Germany in the 20th century, or America today—is a gangrene that expands tyranny at home with the equivalent velocity that it spreads war abroad.

Sherwood Ross is director of the Anti-War News Service. He formerly worked as a columnist for daily newspapers and wire services. All donations to his news service cheerfully accepted. Reach him at [email protected]

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There is some very alarming news coming out of the debt negotiations. Hidden in any deal may be the creation of a “Super Congress” that would result in more power being placed in the hands of the super-elitists and dilute the influence of the average congressman. The left is most up in arms about this development, as it would likely mean that cuts to Medicare and Social Security would be easier to get through Congress, but it could also result in the elimination of tax credits for retirement savings plans and the elimination of the tax deduction for mortgage interest payments. The “Super Congress” would place more power in the hands of Washington D.C. power players and limit the power of the average congressman.

Ryan Grimm explains how this “Super Congress” would work, a joint committee that both House Speaker Boehner and the President are in favor of (My emphasis):

Debt ceiling negotiators think they’ve hit on a solution to address the debt ceiling impasse and the public’s unwillingness to let go of benefits such as Medicare and Social Security that have been earned over a lifetime of work: Create a new Congress.

This “Super Congress,” composed of members of both chambers and both parties, isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, but would be granted extraordinary new powers. Under a plan put forth by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his counterpart Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), legislation to lift the debt ceiling would be accompanied by the creation of a 12-member panel made up of 12 lawmakers — six from each chamber and six from each party.

Legislation approved by the Super Congress — which some on Capitol Hill are calling the “super committee” — would then be fast-tracked through both chambers, where it couldn’t be amended by simple, regular lawmakers, who’d have the ability only to cast an up or down vote. With the weight of both leaderships behind it, a product originated by the Super Congress would have a strong chance of moving through the little Congress and quickly becoming law. A Super Congress would be less accountable than the system that exists today, and would find it easier to strip the public of popular benefits. Negotiators are currently considering cutting the mortgage deduction and tax credits for retirement savings, for instance, extremely popular policies that would be difficult to slice up using the traditional legislative process.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has made a Super Congress a central part of his last-minute proposal, multiple news reports and people familiar with his plan say…Obama has shown himself to be a fan of the commission approach to cutting social programs and entitlements.

Got that? “Anti-tax” Boehner wants a Super Congress, which could eliminate popular tax credits and deductions. With “anti-tax” patriots like Boehner, who needs Democrats?

Bottom line: What the entire D.C. crowd is really looking for is a way to screw the elderly and also raise taxes, while not get caught doing it.

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 “Please get this information out to everyone. It is better to be safe than sorry.”  —  Shepard

In 2008 The Pentagon announced plans to deploy a 20,000 strong internal troop force inside the continental United States (CONUS) that was set to be trained by 2011, thus dovetailing into the current troop and equipment movements around the country reported by truckers as well as many more troop sightings by everyday citizens.

Interestingly enough, this plan directly correlates with a 2009, Army funded, Rand Corporation study that called for an internal United States police force to combat civil unrest.

This study asks several questions. First, is a Stability Police Force (SPF) necessary? An SPF is a high-end police force that engages in a range of tasks such as crowd and riot control, special weapons and tactics (SWAT), and investigations of organized criminal groups. In its ability to operate in stability operations, it is similar to such European forces as the Italian Carabinieri and French Gendarmerie.

Its focus on high endtasks makes it fundamentally different from UN or other civilian police, who deal with more routine law and order functions. It is also different from most military forces, which are generally not trained and experienced to conduct policing tasks in a civilian environment.

Second, if an SPF is necessary, what should it look like? This includes considering such issues as: its objectives, tasks, and size; its speed of deployment; its institutional capabilities; where it should be headquartered in the U.S. government and how it should be staffed (standing force, reserve force, and hybrid force); and its cost.

It is openly admitted that the internal force will be used to quail civil unrest due to massive large scale terror attacks and/or economic collapse.

Will the powers-that-be stage a repeat of the martial law threats to congress that they presented back in 2008 to get the bailouts passed, to get the debt ceiling raised now?

Rep. Brad Sherman laid out exactly took place during the bailouts in 2008:

Many people have voiced fears that this will turn our country into a total militarized police state, wondering what will happen in the future once the sheeple are conditioned to the military roaming the streets in America.

Others have speculated that this announcement directly coincides with all of the pre-positioning of troops, equipment, and (NOTAM) No-Fly Zones throughout The United States over the last few months.

Does any of this correlate with the debt ceiling (economy), earth changes, or nuclear threats from reactors in danger within the US?

The following is an RT clip of the Pentagon’s announcement:

Original Russia Today description from 2008: Twenty thousand additional U.S. uniformed troops, set to be trained by 2011, are to help as a response to the threat of a possible mass terror attack or civil unrest following an economic collapse. But despite assurances from the Pentagon, many Americans are worried by the prospect of seeing the military guard in the streets.

Some have speculated that this is the beginning phases of REX84 (Readiness Exercise 1984) being activated due to a catastrophic event that is yet to take place.

Could this event be a threat from afar?

NASA seems to think so. NASA recently released a warning to all employees regarding living near large bodies of water that seemed rather suspicious, take a look for yourself;

What seems even more suspicious is the fact that the White House was prompted by NASA late last year that there was a threat from outer space now facing the nation and a deflection campaign would need to be implemented. This document was signed by Eric P. Holdren.

The White House document was released October 15, 2010 a few months prior to the so called “discovery” of comet  C/2010 X1 (Elenin) discovered by Leonid Elenin with a 18″ telescope.

The strange thing is that only a select few sources worldwide have seen the object a few of which we traced back to DARPA directly.

It appears the ELENIN is some type of advanced warning system (used in conjunction with NASA’s JPL) for the elites, upper echelon military, and people in-the-know to decipher upcoming earth change events prompted by another object (classified) that has entered our solar system.

There has been many documented earth changes that have taken place on or near ELENIN’S alignment dates (when ELENIN is in alignment with other objects) including the Japanese earthquake and Tsunami disaster of 2011.

The JPL orbital diagram and data seems to be fictitious and reverse engineered into some type of advanced encrypted database for the upcoming event anticipated.

ELENIN, according to some researchers stands for Extinction Level Event Notable Impact November — also encoded into the name is Elevin Nine (Nov. 9), and LEONID (a meteor shower that peaks in November).

This also ties in with the massive gearing up of underground bases worldwide at a rapid rate and mass graves for U.S. citizens which were exposed worldwide on March 25, 2009 on the Alex Jones Show by Shepard Ambellas.

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On Nov 9, 2011 the earth will supposedly cross the threshold of the debris tail of ELENIN on the same plain (assuming ELENIN is a real object that would be catastrophic)

However, this, according to our sources as well as independent researchers, is some sort of military code and ELENIN is not a physical object.

If ELENIN is not a real object we might be expecting a major earth change, a solar event caused by another space object, (possibly 2005 YU55) or a staged attack.

We must also be open to the idea that this is all a psyop for an event that the elites are going to purposely cause and blame on Elenin.

It is equally important to take into consideration the FEMA/FCC Take over drill happening on November 9, 2011, the very same day that asteroid 2005 YU55 threatens to hit earth and/or the moon.

It seems almost surreal that this information all lines up the way it does, and is still currently under a full scale investigation by The Intel Hub.

Also one most ponder the fact that if there was some catastrophic event that is destined to take place in the near future, would the governments of the world plan to have us in martial law and populations under control before the event, or would they wait until after?

The plan fits all to well, keep your ears to the ground.

Please send any Tips or Intel on domestic troop and equipment movements to [email protected]

Related: NATO Summit: Chicago Trains 13,000 Police For Mass Arrests

LATEST WATER NEWS: Radiation Detected In Drinking Water In 13 U.S. Cities — Get your ANTIRAD-Plus — Radioisotope (Radiation), Heavy Metal and Chemical Reduction + Alkalizer WATER FILTER TODAY! (Ad)

Update: For those that do not trust Russia Today or do not believe anything unless the corporate controlled media reports it. 

Washington Post

The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.

*********

There are critics of the change, in the military and among civil liberties groups and libertarians who express concern that the new homeland emphasis threatens to strain the military and possibly undermine the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military’s role in domestic law enforcement.

*********

The American Civil Liberties Union and the libertarian Cato Institute are troubled by what they consider an expansion of executive authority.

Domestic emergency deployment may be “just the first example of a series of expansions in presidential and military authority,” or even an increase in domestic surveillance, said Anna Christensen of the ACLU’s National Security Project. And Cato Vice President Gene Healy warned of “a creeping militarization” of homeland security.

“There’s a notion that whenever there’s an important problem, that the thing to do is to call in the boys in green,” Healy said, “and that’s at odds with our long-standing tradition of being wary of the use of standing armies to keep the peace.”

This plan was quietly announced in 2008 and was set to be ready in 2011. Fast forwarding to the present time we now  have clear indicators of why this military force could be needed in 2011 including economic collapse, Elenin, (PSYOP or not) and continued claims that normal everyday Americans are possible terrorists.

The trial of four senior former Khmer Rouge officials opened with an initial session at the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh on June 27.

Nuon Chea, regarded as the Khmer Rouge’s chief ideologue; Khieu Samphan, the former head of state; Ieng Sary, the ex-foreign minister; and Sary’s wife and former social action minister, Ieng Thirith, are charged with various offences, including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and murder, committed between 1975 and 1979.

The trial is expected to last months or even years. It is already clear from the investigative phase of the cases which began in 2007 that the main aim of the process is to not to bring justice for the survivors. Rather it is a show trial designed to close the book on the Khmer Rouge genocide while covering up the responsibility of others, inside Cambodia and internationally.

The Khmer Rouge, which was based on a form of Maoism, was profoundly hostile to urban workers and intellectuals and was undoubtedly guilty of mass murder during its reign of terror. However, those implicated in these crimes also include members of the present Cambodian government and the major powers, such as China and the US, that in one way or another supported the Khmer Rouge.

The present Cambodian premier Hun Sen was himself a district deputy leader for the Khmer Rouge government until he fled to Vietnam to avoid being purged. He returned in January 1979 to lead the new regime set up after Vietnamese troops invaded the country.

US President Richard Nixon was directly responsible for destabilising Cambodia as part of the neo-colonial war in Vietnam, leading to the rise of the Khmer Rouge. Washington organised the coup that ousted Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1970 and installed General Lon Nol, triggering a civil war. A massive bombing campaign, illegal even under US law, from 1969 to 1973 killed an estimated 700,000 Cambodians and wrecked the economy.

The US, China and the European powers recognised the Khmer Rouge as the legitimate government of Cambodia until 1991. With the end of the Cold War, the major powers struck a deal with the Hun Sen government to open up Cambodia as a cheap labour platform. Under the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement, Vietnam withdrew its military, paving the way for elections and an influx of foreign investment.

However, the crimes of the Khmer Rouge were too enormous to be ignored. They had to be addressed, but without opening up a historical can of worms. As a result, the formation of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) has been a lengthy and tortuous process aimed at protecting the interests of all countries involved.

The first trial, which concluded last July, resulted in the conviction of Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who was in charge of the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh where 12,272 people were murdered. Duch, a relatively low-level Khmer Rouge functionary, cooperated with the ECCC proceedings, admitted his crimes, expressed remorse and based his defence on the fact that he was obeying orders.

Duch’s case was designed to prepare the ground for the current trial, formally known as “Case Number 2.” It is likely to be far more complex, not least because the defendants have denied the charges.

The prosecution alleges that the four defendants, along with Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, who died in 1998, were responsible for bloody purges and forcing the urban population into the countryside. The Documentation Centre of Cambodia estimates that some two million people were executed and another million died from starvation, overwork and disease.

The prosecution claims to have ample evidence of communications between the Khmer Rouge government and the killers in the countryside. It alleges that by virtue of their leadership positions the accused are guilty of a “joint criminal enterprise.” The four have, however, pleaded not guilty and might well try to implicate others in the crimes.

Commenting on the opening session, the New York Times noted: “The trial is confined to the years of Khmer Rouge rule, with minimal reference to historical context, and the defence lawyers’ demands to broaden testimony appeared to be a foretaste of vigorous legal wrangling that is expected to last for years.”

On the first day in court, defence lawyer Michiel Pestman told the five-judge panel that a fair trial was not possible. Pestman addressed the court after his client, 84-year-old Nuon Chea, was allowed to leave the court room to watch the trial from his cell.

“Our main objections”, Pestman told the court, “were against the judicial investigation carried out by the investigative judges that was so unfair and so harmful to the rights of our client, Nuon Chea, that we think these proceedings should be terminated.”

In the intricate ECCC system, drawn up in 2006 after more than a decade of haggling between the Hun Sen regime and the UN, the investigative phase is quite important. The report by the investigative judges set the parameters for the trial: the charges, the list of witnesses and the evidence that can be presented. The trial judges can overrule the investigative judges and even order a new investigative phase but it is already clear that this will not happen.

Pestman protested that 300 witnesses whom Nuon had wanted to call had been ruled out by the court. In addition, the investigative judges had rejected every defence argument. Some of the accused had reportedly called for Sihanouk, senior Cambodian government ministers and officials, and witnesses to the role of Vietnam and the US, to testify.

In October 2009, a scandal erupted over the bias of investigative judge Marcel Lemonde. A senior member of the French judge’s investigative team, Wayne Bastin, signed a statement at an Australian police station that month saying that Lemonde had shocked his staff by telling them: “I would prefer that we find more inculpatory evidence than exculpatory evidence.” In plain language, Lemonde was only interested in evidence that might prove the guilt of the four, not their innocence.

Michael Karnavas and Ang Udom, counsel for Ieng Sary, applied to the ECCC to have Lemonde removed as he was “giving instructions to his investigators to game the process. In other words, to look primarily for evidence that supports the prosecution.” The job of the investigative judges, according to the ECCC rules, is to consider all evidence regardless of which side it favours.

In October 2010, the ECCC Pre-Trial Chamber dismissed the request for annulment of all investigations and brushed aside claims of bias. It ruled that there was a presumption of the judge’s impartiality and that, notwithstanding Lemonde’s comment, the defence had not met its burden of proof to prove bias.

The Pre-Trial Chamber similarly overruled defence objections that a French television crew had been allowed to interview a witness contrary to the ECCC rules establishing the confidentiality of all investigations.

These rulings point to the manner in which the trial will be conducted. Any attempt by the defence to point to the broader political context, especially to the crimes of US imperialism in Indochina during the 1960s and 1970s, will be summarily ruled out of order. The judges are clearly determined to find the accused guilty and suppress any evidence that might embarrass or incriminate the major powers.

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The latest turn in the bipartisan talks on the federal debt ceiling demonstrates that both Wall Street and its political representatives in Washington are making use of the debt ceiling deadline to push through historic cuts in social spending.

White House-led negotiations on a measure to lift the debt ceiling before the August 2 deadline set by the Treasury collapsed Friday after House Speaker John Boehner, the leading congressional Republican, pulled out.

Boehner’s walkout was the latest in a series of maneuvers, as each side has sought to outdo the other as an advocate of austerity policies that make working people pay for the crisis of American and world capitalism.

For several weeks, the White House had seized the initiative, with Obama putting cuts in Social Security on the agenda, without any such demand by the Republicans, and then proposing a deficit reduction plan totaling $4 trillion, much larger than the $2.4 trillion initially proposed by Boehner.

After House Republicans complained they were being “outflanked” by the Obama administration—in other words, that Obama had made proposals even more right-wing than their own—the Republican negotiators backed out on the agreement whose broad outlines were agreed on by Obama and Boehner ten days ago.

Both sides in the Obama-Boehner talks have now leaked to the press details of the package that had been kept secret. These demonstrate the extraordinary scale of the social cuts now under discussion in Washington, cuts whose consequences the American people are completely unprepared for. These include:

  • $1 trillion in cuts over ten years in discretionary domestic programs, like education, the environment, transportation, housing and other infrastructure.

  • $243 billion in cuts from non-healthcare government benefits, including farm subsidies, food stamps and federal worker retirement plans.

  • $250 billion in cuts in Medicare, from some combination of higher premiums, reduced reimbursement to hospitals, and raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67.

  • $100 billion from Medicaid, the joint federal-state program, which underwrites healthcare for the poor and disabled.

  • $300 billion in cuts in Social Security, through a recalculation of the cost-of-living estimates to generate smaller increases in benefit payments when prices rise.

Appearing in the White House pressroom Friday, after the collapse of this deal, Obama said, “It is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away from this kind of deal,” he said. “This was an extraordinarily fair deal.” He said his Republican counterparts were being unreasonable, since they had largely gotten their way in the talks. “Can they say yes to anything?” he asked.

Obama pointed out that he had offered to make additional cuts in Medicare, despite the political toll on the Democrats in last November’s congressional elections, when Republicans won control of the House in large measure by denouncing cuts in Medicare used to finance Obama’s healthcare program. “We’ve shown ourselves willing to do the tough stuff on an issue that Republicans ran on,” he said.

The president’s main concern was not the elderly, sick and poor people who will be the victims of the cuts both Democrats and Republicans embrace, but the impact on the financial markets of a failure to reach agreement on the debt ceiling. “It’s very important that the leadership understands that Wall Street will be opening on Monday,” he told the press, “and we better have some answers during the course of the next several days.”

The debt ceiling talks resumed Saturday evening between the top leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties in the House and Senate, without an Obama administration representative taking part.

According to press reports Sunday, the two Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, agreed to consider a Republican plan to raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion in two stages, matched dollar-for-dollar by cuts in domestic spending.

By dropping any suggestion of tax increases for the wealthy, even the nominal amount proposed by the White House, this plan would mark a further capitulation to the ultra-right majority in the House of Representatives.

As outlined by Boehner aides in comments to the press, the House Republicans will introduce a proposal Monday to raise the debt ceiling by $1 trillion immediately, in a bill that also enacts $1 trillion in cuts in spending over the next ten years. The balance of the debt ceiling increase, another $1.4 trillion, would be introduced in early 2012, and tied to further spending cuts to be devised by a joint House-Senate commission.

Reid is reportedly drafting his own version of this plan, which would combine the two-stage process into one bill that raises the debt ceiling $2.4 trillion and cuts future spending by a slightly greater amount.

The bottom-line positions of the Democratic and Republican parties, as revealed in these talks, testify to the symbiotic roles they play within the capitalist two-party system. Both parties are political instruments of big business, but they are assigned different tasks.

The Republicans, representing the most rapacious sections of the ruling elite, take as their fundamental principle that not so much as an additional dollar in taxes should be taken from the wealthy.

In the 2010 elections, the Republicans used the bogus “Tea Party” campaign to appeal to sections of working people and the middle class angered by the refusal of the Obama administration to lift a finger to create jobs. They also postured as defenders of Medicare against cuts proposed by Obama to finance his healthcare program, only to turn around after winning the election and advocate even greater cuts, and the ultimate abolition of the program.

The Democrats have readily backed huge cuts in Medicare and Social Security—Obama actually insisted on introducing Social Security cuts when the Republicans failed to do so. But the White House and congressional Democrats are adamant in their opposition to a two-stage process that would require another vote raising the debt ceiling, coupled with additional massive spending cuts, during the 2012 election campaign.

The Democrats fear that a vote to gut Social Security and Medicare on the eve of the 2012 election would severely undermine their ability to masquerade as the “friend” of working people, and thus block any challenge by the working class to the capitalist system.

While the two right-wing parties representing corporate America continued their posturing, Wall Street financial interests stepped more directly into the debate. Standard & Poor’s, one of the three major debt-rating agencies, warned that it would downgrade US government securities not only if the debt ceiling was breached, but in the event an agreement to raise the debt ceiling did not cut future deficits sufficiently.

The Washington Post observed, reporting this decision Sunday: “Wall Street’s top concern is no longer that the United States will fail to increase the federal limit on borrowing by Aug. 2 but that political leaders will fall short in their negotiations over an ambitious plan for taming the nation’s debt, according to financial analysts…

“S&P has said that raising the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by the deadline, and thus avoiding a potential default, is not enough to avoid a downgrade.”

In other words, the debt-rating agency, a key mouthpiece of the financial aristocracy, is reinforcing the demands of Obama and Boehner that the debt ceiling be used to engineer a fundamental transformation in social relations in America, devastating working class living standards to pay for a deficit created by the Wall Street crash, the bank bailout, and the deepening economic crisis of the profit system.

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On June 29 and 30, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Vilnius, Lithuania to participate in a meeting of the “Community of Democracies” and to visit one of the many US-funded international “tech camps.” These camps host “civil society” (i.e.opposition) activists from various nations whose governments the US doesn’t appreciate, and teach them internet and social network organizing skills to be used toward fostering, in official words, “democratic transition,” or more correctly, color revolutions and regime change. According to the AP, “Much of the democracy meeting’s opening day dealt with the new mechanics of protest, such as social media networks.” During her visit Clinton stated that “The United States has invested $50 million in supporting internet freedom and we’ve trained more than 5,000 activists worldwide.” This is of course in addition to the hundreds of millions that the US spends in other ways attempting to destabilize its enemies and to force “democratic transitions.”

The choice of Vilnius was not by chance: it lies 30 kilometers from the Belarusian border. This tech camp is hosting 85 activists from the region, “primarily from Belarus.” Belarus is currently being targeted by a concerted effort towards an orange revolution, financed and remote-controlled by the West. Simultaneously, the country is being subjected to a relatively new pressure from the East: certain Russian elements have apparently decided that Belarus and its profitable state-owned enterprises should belong to them, and are contributing in their own way to the effort to destabilize the government.

I’ve just returned to Paris from a second extended trip to Belarus. Western media faithfully relay the monstrous picture of Belarus that our governments want to convey, and so I’d like to report on the situation in this little-known country, and encourage others to visit it in order to experience for themselves the Belarusian culture, economy, hospitality and character. Among other visits I attended an international conference on the resistance to Nazi fascism, in Brest on June 22, the 70th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. In a country which lost between a third and a quarter of its population during the war, the memory of the ravages of foreign attacks and the heroism of those who resisted it is very strong and alive. Located dangerously between Europe and Russia, entirely flat and endowed with few natural resources, Belarus has fought hard to build a successful independent state. It is not inclined to lose its sovereignty now.

The United States and other Western countries have been attacking the government of President Alexander Lukashenko ever since it refused to follow the path of the other ex-Soviet countries in the 1990s, which famously sold off the state-owned industries to oligarchs, destroyed the social protection system and allowed kleptocratic mafia capitalism to take over. Under Lukashenko, Belarus has developped gradually into a strong socially-oriented market economy with the highest growth rate in the CIS even during its current financial troubles (according to the CIS Interstate Statistical Committee, between January and April 2011 Belarusian industry grew 12.9% year-on-year), while still maintaining its free health care, job protection, social services, retirement programs, low unemployment, state-subsidized housing and utilities, and high level of education. This is one reason why the country is naturally in the line of fire of the West, whose bankrupt governments are now obsessively telling their citizens that “there is no alternative”: we must drastically decrease or kill pensions and other social programs, fire government employees, flexibilize the work force, privatize education, health care, infrastructure and everything possible, etc. etc. Located just next door to crisis-stricken Europe, Belarus is more than a thorn in its side; it is living proof that European and American neoliberal propaganda is only lies.

This seems to be one reason that the attacks against the Belarusian economic model and its government have recently gone into higher gear. Its economy is an isolated pocket of export-oriented production next to the Western economies of consumption. Belarus was the most highly industrialized area in the Soviet Union, manufacturing machines, petroleum and chemical products for the whole Soviet sphere and receiving its energy and raw materials from the East. 75% of the economy is exports; 80% is state-owned production, and there are many public-private partnerships. Smaller businesses are mainly private. The country has recently benefitted from a good deal of foreign investment, for example from China, which has invested in infrastructure projects and with whom Belarus has a unique commercial credit swap program. GDP grew 7.6% in 2010. Signs of growth are to be seen everywhere, much more so than during my first visit to the country two years ago, and the skyline of Minsk is dotted with cranes.

The first impression one has of Belarus is how clean it is — there’s hardly a cigarette butt on the street — and the second is the immense number of trees and parks in the cities. (The third might be, depending on whether one had presuppositions about the country being a late Soviet backwater, the modern cars, cell phones and cosmopolitan way of life of its citizens.) Belarusian cuisine is healthy and delicious; agricultural products are local, low-chemical and inexpensive. The food distribution system is not parasited by rapacious large private distributors. The tomatoes are actually red inside and have a real tomato flavor, not whitish inside and tasteless like in the West. The country’s Gini coefficient, measuring income equality, is excellent (29.7, much better than France or the US, or its neighbors Russia and Poland). The country is attracting immigrants from other CIS states who are fleeing their countries’ corruption, crime and drugs in favor of Belarus’ low crime, low unemployment, social services, clean streets and green cities.

These are some of the reasons that the government of President Lukashenko is genuinely popular among the majority of Belarusians, who naturally compare their society’s development over 20 years to that of their neighbors. And it is this popularity that poses a problem for the West and its desire for “democratic” regime change.

Western governments claim that the presidential election of last December 19 was fraudulent, and use this to justify their recent round of attacks. I have spoken with a number of international observers of that election who affirm that they saw no fraud or irregularities, and exit polls confirmed that the majority of Belarusians voted to reelect President Lukashenko. One such report can be read here: http://www.counterpunch.org/shamir12312010.html. The CIS observers reported that they had witnessed a fair election, while the OSCE, predictably, stated the opposite. The selective coverage of this election in Western media is astounding, and to understand the events I recommend this short documentary: “Ploshcha: Beating Glass with Iron” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFKHrZPfCqg). For about a month before the election the major opposition candidates were spending more time calling on their supporters to protest in a central square in Minsk on the evening of the election, than on campaigning in a normal way by outlining their policies and calling on people to vote. On the evening of the election at around 7:00, before voting stations had closed and well before the results were announced, the opposition groups rallied in October Square in Minsk, the traditional place for demonstrations, flying the blue European flag and the red and white former Belarusian flag, symbol of the opposition. Then the presidential candidates called on their supporters to head to the central government building “and ask them to vacate the offices,” and led a crowd of around 7,000 to Independence Square, just in front of the Parliament. It should be said in passing that out of 1.3 million voters in Minsk, this is a small number. Opposition candidates proceded to announce that they contested the election results and to proclaim they were forming a new government, the “government of rescue,” reading a printed statement clearly prepared in advance, before results were announced. The police did not interfere with the rally until a large group of well-prepared individuals forcibly tried to enter the Parliament building, using metal rods and shovels. It could have been worse: in the weeks before the election, Belarusian border authorities had seized a number of cargoes of metal rods, grenades, knives, guns, and explosives. The police intervened and prevented what was clearly an attempt at a coup d’état, following the pattern used in the “tulip revolution” in Kyrgyzstan in 2005. Opposition representatives later claimed that the attack on the Parliament was done by government provocateurs, but many of those arrested and / or filmed trying to break into the Parliament were identified as having relations with various opposition groups.

The goal was apparently twofold: either seize power by occupying the buildings, or if not, at least get international media footage of combat between police and protesters, preferably with blood. Though there were no major injuries, the second goal was obtained since now Western governments and media call this a “violent crackdown” on an opposition rally, and accuse the government of breaching human rights. The hypocrisy of the West, who (with Russia) paid for the campaigns of much of the Belarusian opposition, and who try to foster a “democratic” transition by violently overturning a democratic electoral process, is extraordinary. As many know well, the US has no lessons to give on human rights. I have directly experienced the way in which the US police protect the human rights of non-violent protesters, for example on April 16, 2000 in front of the Treasury building in Washington, when riot cops violently dispersed a group of non-violent activists sitting in the street to protest the policies of the World Bank and IMF, and a young man near me who couldn’t crawl away fast enough had 3 ribs broken by a riot cop’s bludgeon. It seems that the Belarusian police, given the destruction of government property and attempt to take over Parliament, were very restrained. The people still imprisoned after the events of December 19, including 3 ex-candidates, were convicted of participation in or instigation of the riot. Imagine the reaction if a similar event had taken place at the Capitol building.

Many of the ex-presidential candidates (there were 10 candidates in all) have well-documented relations with the West, which isn’t surprising given the millions that the US and Europe spend on “democratic transition” in the country. They generally call for privatization of state enterprises, liberalization of the economy and adhesion to NATO. A number of them have spent time studying regime change at the George C. Marshall Center European Center for Security Studies in Germany, a partnership between the US military (US European Command) and the German government, which, according to the US embassy in Minsk, hosts 25 Belarusians per year. Since 2001, the US has enacted a series of Belarus Democracy Acts, applying economic sanctions, visa blacklists and asset freezes on government-related people and companies, and providing tens of millions of dollars per year for the promotion of “democracy.” In February of this year, citing the recent elections, the US State Department announced an increase of its “democracy assistance” to Belarusian civil society by 30% to $15 million for the year. In 2009, the National Endowment for Democracy gave $2.7 million to finance Belarusian “independent” media, civil society (promoting “democratic ideas and values… and a market economy”), NGOs and political groups. A Wikileaks cable (VILNIUS 000732, dated June 12, 2005) confirmed money smuggling into Belarus on the part of USAID contractors, though such proof is hardly necessary. Also in February, the EU, individual European countries, Canada and the US put together a “war chest” of 87 million euros aiming toward regime change in Belarus. With so much money being offered to anyone who wants a job as an activist, it’s not hard to find takers. Youth who run into trouble are offered free education in the West. There is evidence that many of those who partook in the violent acts of the night of December 19th were paid for their participation, by either Western or Russian elements.

For the West is not the only source of financing, nor of interventionist pressure. One of the most important ex-candidates was financed by the Russians. While Western pressure is a known quantity in Belarus, Russian attempts at destabilization are relatively new. Russian oligarchs have been ogling the profitable Belarusian state enterprises, and since the government has historically refused to sell them, the Russian kleptocracy has begun to try to topple Lukashenko. The Russian media have begun a concerted campaign against the Belarusian government, airing pro-opposition documentaries and indulging in smearing and misinformation. Russian operatives are now making inroads; on the Minsk-Moscow highway, my Belarusian friend pointed out the expensive Russian cars with tinted black windows heading into Minsk. Russian oil prices have risen sharply — 30% in January — and the price of natural gas imported from Russia has quadrupled in four years. Although the economy has diversified since independence, it is still reliant on importing energy and raw materials for its production. The hike in energy and commodity prices has had a harsh impact in Belarus, where the cost of energy now makes up 78 cents of every dollar of goods produced. High commodity prices explain the trade deficit despite strong industrial and export growth.

In January of this year, at the same time that the Russians severely raised oil prices, Belarus was subjected to a major speculative attack on its currency. The Russians control 37% of the country’s banking sector, and according to analysts in Minsk, early this year Russian banks started to sell off their Belarusian rubles. In January, 50 times more foreign currency was bought with Belarusian rubles than in December, and that pattern continued in February and March. This sparked the effect desired: inflation of 33% in the first half of the year, general panic and a run on the bank where people tried to convert their Belarusian rubles into dollars or gold. The central bank was obliged to devalue the Belarusian ruble by 36%. The government has not printed currency, contrary to some media reports. The speculative attacks have not been covered in the news; Ria Novosti for example typically stated that “the Belarusian ruble collapsed in the first five months of the year as the result of a large trade deficit, generous wage increases and loans granted by the government ahead of the December 2010 presidential elections, which spurred strong demand for foreign currency.” But the trade deficit is not new and would not itself spark a currency collapse, while wage increases or loans would not logically provoke a demand for foreign currency.

According to Minsk residents, the main problem this Spring has not been a lack of products on the shelves, as one reads in the West, but rising prices, a shortage of foreign currency and hoarding, which has somewhat disrupted the supply chain. When I was there in mid-late June, the shelves were fully stocked, the stores and markets were full of shoppers and there were no lines at gas stations, contrary to what Western media have been reporting. Inflation is apparently stabilizing now. Protests on the Western borders by cross-border traders have been widely covered by Western media who are seeking signs of unrest, but who rarely show that the traffic of cheap Belarusian products and gasoline for sale at a profit in the West is a practice that is harmful for the Belarusian economy, especially in the context of the current economic difficulties. This is why the government recently limited such border crossings to once every 5 days (formerly traders would often go 5 times per day) and to limit the products that can be individually exported. The scarcity of foreign currency explains the late payment of bills to the Russian electricity supplier (which demands payment in dollars), prompting it to temporarily halt delivery of electricity to Belarus a number of times recently. This strong-arming, reported extensively in the international press, is more bark than bite since Russia only provides around 12% of Belarusian electricity and there have been no blackouts.

Because of the spiraling Belarusian ruble, the government has had to seek foreign loans. It has appealed to the IMF for a loan of $8 billion, though the IMF replied on June 13 that a loan would come with the usual strings attached — structural adjustment programs, privatizations, a freeze on salaries, letting the Belarusian ruble float, etc. The IMF admonishes the government that it has not yet enacted similar conditions that were set with the last loan it received in 2009 during the world financial crisis; for example, a government agency to oversee privatizations was created but no privatizations carried out. On the other hand, it was rarely reported that the IMF also hailed measures by Belarus’ government to end the country’s financial crisis, for example raising interest rates and supporting the unemployed and poor.

Whether the country will get an IMF loan or not, the traditional refusal to privatize is now ending, since the country was granted a $3 billion emergency loan from the Russian-controlled Eurasian Economic Community, which also had strings attached for the privatization of $7.5 billion of state enterprises over 3 years. This is part of what the Russian oligarchs have been working toward. The first disbursement of this loan, $800 million, was released on June 21, putting an end to the immediate financial problems. However, the Russians may not be getting the cheap deals they had wanted, nor will they necessarily be the beneficiaries of the privatizations. The actual sales and IPOs are in negotiation, and President Lukashenko has been very clear that by Belarusian law, privatizations of state enterprises must follow strict conditions. On June 17th, he stated, “The conditions have been spelt out: the company should develop, it should not be closed, the workers’ pay should increase each year, they should be protected socially and, most importantly, the company should be modernized. That is, if you come and buy it, you should invest in its development.” On June 30, Venezuela, with whom Belarus has close economic and diplomatic ties (among other agreements, Venezuela has provided oil to Belarus), announced its interest in acquiring shares in Belarusian state companies. Analysts in Minsk say that the country is reorienting itself away from Russia and toward China. An IPO on foreign stock exchanges of a minority stake in the huge state potash and fertilizer company, Belaruskali, is in preparation, and the national gas pipeline will most likely be sold to Gazprom. Other state enterprises are on the block, and the future is unknown; but President Lukashenko stated recently that “I would like to give you firm assurances that we will not accept risky experiments or an unacceptable lowering of living standards. We will continue implementing a Belarusian economic model, which has proved to be stable under different and complex circumstances for over 15 years.”

The economy seems to be showing signs of stabilizing now. Despite the recent financial troubles, Belarus’ debt remains at an impressively low level: including the recent loan, public debt will not exceed 45% of GDP, including both domestic and foreign public debt. The foreign debt ceiling is 25% of GDP. The government has reported a slight trade surplus of $116 million in May, apparently because of import restrictions enacted this Spring. The finance ministry has recently lowered its 2011 GDP growth forecast to 4.5% and the World Bank has recently lowered it to 2.5%; at even 2.5%, the economy is clearly resisting. The World Bank added that the Belarusian economic model isn’t viable; rather it should be more concerned with the US model of credit-based consumption and skyrocketing foreign debt.

In June, coinciding with these financial problems, Western governments returned to the attack, as though to take advantage of the momentum to destabilize the Belarusian government. On June 14, President Obama renewed and reinforced US sanctions against the country, declaring a “national emergency” (that is, for the US, not Belarus) and citing, incredibly, “the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” that Belarus constitutes. The only way in which he may be right is simply in that the success of the Belarusian economic model constitutes a threat to neoliberal dogma. It is also possible that for Obama the country represents a “threat” to US foreign policy by being located next to Russia, and it may be caught within escalating US and Russian tensions over NATO and the missile shield. If the US could manage to install a Western-friendly government in Belarus, it would be a great step forward in its attempt to surround Russia, which has close military ties with Belarus and whose own missile shield is located there.

Be this as it may, the sanctions are coming from all sides. On June 17, the UN Human Rights Council voted to condemn “human rights violations” following the recent presidential election. On June 20, the European Union in their turn reinforced its sanctions against Belarus, adding companies and names to the blacklist (the Belarusian government has stated its intention to sue the initiators of the sanctions), and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has reoriented its financing activities away from the government and toward “civil society.”

And “civil society” hasn’t missed the opportunity provided by US tech camps and the recent financial troubles. Since the beginning of June, there has been a new movement on the part of various opposition groups in Belarus, calling itself “revolution through social networks.” They have taken to weekly protests in the central streets organized on the internet or by twitter in which participants clap their hands, without banners or chanting. Since the violence of December 19th, protests have been prohibited in the central area of Minsk, though they are allowed in certain other areas of the city. Whatever one thinks of this prohibition, it is clear that these protests consist of the same pro-Western, well-financed groups with a new, high-tech face. According to Western media, the protests are being violently repressed and protesters arbitrarily arrested. According to Belarusian authorities, participants have been arrested because they were shouting profanities at police and pushing them. I unfortunately didn’t happen to see one of the protests while I was in Belarus recently, and can’t personally report more details about them. A number of videos of the protests are available on the web, and I’ve seen no violence in them, no raised billy clubs and no blood; one can see protesters being arrested but not what immediately preceded the arrests. If there were major police violence, one could be sure that images of it would be all over the web. Of course, the government should make images available showing that it is violent participants who are arrested, since the arrests only play into the protesters’ hands and give Western governments more fodder for sanctions. The number of participants is unclear from the videos, which are usually closely framed shots. One video claiming to show a clapping protest was clearly not one, as within the clapping crowd (probably an audience applauding an outdoors show) one can see the red and green Belarusian flag, which is never used by those who protest the government — they fly the former red and white national flag as well as the European blue one.

I did speak to people, including youth, about the protests. One young man, when he learned that I was from the US, said to me, “Flashmob! Fun!” giving me the thumbs up. For him, it was clearly more of a fun public gathering with drums, stomping and clapping, than a real political statement. Another young man told me, “When I read Western media, I wonder, is this my country? Am I in a war zone?” What is clear in the videos is that the crowd is well-off. Belarusian participants in Clinton’s tech camp said as much; according to the AP, they “described the active opposition as largely limited to students and educated citizens. The movement needs the support of working class people, said the activists.” Clearly, the Belarusian working class has reasons not to support the current movements: they are generally satisfied with the policies of President Lukashenko. If the movements are limited to the Western-oriented elite, Western or Russian financed operatives, and youth wanting to have a street party, then they have no future, no matter how many millions the US and others throw at them.

On July 6, the US House renewed the Belarus Democracy Act, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey, chairman of the Helsinki Commission. During the debate, Rep. Ron Paul denounced it. He said:

“I rise in opposition to the Belarus Democracy Act reauthorization. This title of this bill would have amused George Orwell, as it is in fact a US regime-change bill. Where does the United States Congress derive the moral or legal authority to determine which political parties or organizations in Belarus — or anywhere else — are to be US-funded and which are to be destabilized? How can anyone argue that US support for regime-change in Belarus is somehow promoting democracy? We pick the parties who are to be supported and funded and somehow this is supposed to reflect the will of the Belarusian people? How would Americans feel if the tables were turned and a powerful foreign country demanded that only a political party it selected and funded could legitimately reflect the will of the American people? I would like to know how many millions of taxpayer dollars the US government has wasted trying to overthrow the government in Belarus. I would like to know how much money has been squandered by US government-funded front organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, Freedom House, and others…. It is the arrogance of our foreign policy establishment that leads to this kind of schizophrenic legislation, where we demand that the rest of the world bend to the will of US foreign policy and we call it democracy. We wonder why we are no longer loved and admired overseas. Finally, I strongly object to the sanctions that this legislation imposes on Belarus. We must keep in mind that sanctions and blockades of foreign countries are considered acts of war. Do we need to continue war-like actions against yet another country? Can we afford it? […] We have no constitutional authority to intervene in the wholly domestic affairs of Belarus or any other sovereign nation.”

I can only agree wholeheartedly, and wish the government and the people of Belarus courage in their resistance to the current attacks, and success in protecting their independence. At the international conference in Brest on the resistance to Nazism, participants described again and again the heroic courage and strength of the Belarusian people during the war years under the invasion coming from the West. Belarusians will need to continue to draw on that strong character for some time to come, as the attacks are not yet finished, but they have proven they are up to the fight.

Michèle Brand is an independent journalist and researcher originally from the US, living in Paris. She can be reached at [email protected]

Following revelations earlier this year by The Tech Herald that security firms with close ties to the Pentagon ran black ops for major U.S. banks and corporations, it became clear that proprietary software developed for the military and U.S. intelligence was being used to target Americans.

Those firms, including now-defunct HBGary Federal, parent company HBGary, Palantir (a start-up flush with cash from the CIA’s venture capital arm In-Q-Tel) and Berico Technologies had partnered-up with the Bank of America’s law firm Hunton & Williams and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and devised a sub rosa plan of attack against WikiLeaks and Chamber critics.

And when the cyber-guerrilla collective Anonymous published some 70,000 emails and documents filched from HBGary servers, it was off to the races.

In the intervening months since that story first broke, journalists and researchers have turned their attention to a dark web of security firms developing surveillance software for law enforcement, the Pentagon, and repressive foreign governments.

Last week, Wired revealed that one such firm, TruePosition, “a holding of the Liberty Media giant that owns Sirius XM and the Atlanta Braves,” is marketing “something it calls ‘location intelligence,’ or LOCINT, to intelligence and law enforcement agencies,” investigative journalist Spencer Ackerman disclosed.

The Pennsylvania-based company has sold their location services system to NSA surveillance partner AT&T and T-Mobile, allowing those carriers to pinpoint “over 60 million 911 calls annually.”

“For the better part of decade,” Ackerman writes, “TruePosition has had contracts to provide E-911 services with AT&T (signed originally with Cingular in 2001, which AT&T acquired) and T-Mobile (2003).”

Known as “geofencing,” the firm explains that location tech “collects, analyzes, stores and displays real-time and historical wireless events and locations of targeted mobile users.”

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported that amongst the services TruePosition offers clients are “products for safety and security applications, including family monitoring, personal medical alert, emergency number service, and criminal tracking.”

Additionally, BusinessWeek reports, the company tailors its “enterprise applications” to corporations interested in “workforce management, asset tracking, and location-based advertising; consumer applications, including local search, traffic, and navigation.”

But what should concern readers is the firm’s “government applications” market which includes everything from “homeland security” and “military intelligence” to “force tracking.”

According to a press release posted on the firm’s web site, the “TruePosition Location Intelligence Management System (LIMS)” is a “a multi-dimensional database, which uses probes within mobile networks to capture and store all mobile phone network events–including the time and the location of events. Mobile phone events are items like calls made and received, text messages sent and received, a phone powered on and off, and other rich mobile phone intelligence.”

Deploying technology dubbed Uplink Time Difference of Arrival (U-TDOA), the system, installed on cell phone towers, identifies a phone’s approximate location–within 30 meters–even if the handset isn’t equipped with GPS.

Undoubtedly the system can save lives. “In one case,” Ackerman reports, “a corrections officer … was abducted by a recent parolee. But because her cellphone was turned on and her carrier used TruePosition’s location tech, police were able to locate the phone along a Kentucky highway. They set up a roadblock, freed the officer and arrested her captor.”

All well and good. However, in the hands of repressive governments or privacy-invading corporations, say Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, there just might be far different outcomes.

A Link to the Murdoch Scandal?

The relevance of location intelligence in general and more pointedly, TruePosition’s LIMS cellphone surveillance products which may, or may not, have been sold to London’s Metropolitan Police and what role they may have played in the Murdoch News of the World (NoW) phone hacking scandal have not been explored by corporate media.

While the “who, what, where” aspects of the scandal are now coming sharply into focus, the “how,” that is, the high-tech wizardry behind invasive privacy breaches, and which firms developed and profited from their sale, have been ignored.

Such questions, and related business entanglements, should be of interest to investigators on both sides of the Atlantic.

After all, TruePosition’s parent company, the giant conglomerate Liberty Media currently holds an 18 percent stake in News Corporation.

With corporate tentacles stretching from investments in TimeWarner Cable to Expedia and from QVC to Starz and beyond, Liberty Media is a multi-billion dollar media behemoth with some $10.9 billion in revenue in 2010, according to an SEC filing by the firm.

With deep pockets and political clout in Washington the company is “juiced.”

In 2011, Liberty’s CEO, John C. Malone, surpassed Ted Turner as the largest private landowner in the United States, controlling some 2.1 million acres according to The New York Times.

Dubbed “Darth Vader” by The Independent, Malone acquired a 20 percent stake in News Corp. back in 2000 and “was one of the main investors who rode to the rescue of Mr Murdoch in the early 1990s when News Corp was on its knees.”

The New York Times reported back in 2005 that Malone’s firm was “unlikely to unwind its investment in the News Corporation” because he considered “the stake in the News Corporation a long-term investment, meaning that the relationship between him and Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of the News Corporation, was not likely to be dissolved any time soon.”

After acrimonious mid-decade negotiations that stretched out over two years, the media giants cobbled together a deal in 2006 resulting in a $11 billion asset swap, one that gave Liberty control of the DirectTV Group whilst helping Murdoch “tighten his grip” on News Corp., according to The New York Times.

Interestingly enough during those negotiations, investment banking firms Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan Chase along with the white shoe law firm Hogan & Hartson advised News Corp., while Liberty was represented by Bear Stearns and the Baker Botts law firm, long time Bush family consiglieres.

All this can be chalked-up to an interesting set of coincidences. However, the high stakes involved and the relationships and connections forged over decades, including those amongst players who figured prominently in capitalism’s 2008 global economic crisis and Bush family corruption, cannot be ignored.

A Suspicious Death

Last week’s suspicious death of former NoW whistleblower Sean Hoare should set alarm bells ringing.

When the scandal broke, it was Hoare who told The New York Times last year that senior editors at NoW and another Murdoch tabloid, The Sun, actively encouraged staff to spy on celebrities and others, including victims of the London terror attacks, British soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq and the murdered teenager Milly Dowler; all in pursuit of “exclusives.”

The Guardian reported that Hoare said that “reporters at the NoW were able to use police technology to locate people using their mobile phone signals, in exchange for payments to police officers.”

“He said journalists were able to use ‘pinging’, which measured the distance between a mobile handset and a number of phone masts to pinpoint its location,” The Guardian revealed.

Hoare described “how reporters would ask a news desk executive to obtain the location of a target: “Within 15 to 30 minutes someone on the news desk would come back and say ‘Right, that’s where they are.'”

Quite naturally, this raises the question which “police technology” was used to massage NoW exclusives and which firms made a pretty penny selling their wares to police, allegedly for purposes of “fighting crime” and “counterterrorism”?

It was Hoare after all who told The New York Times just days before his death that when he worked for NoW “pinging cost the paper nearly $500 on each occasion.”

According to the Times, Hoare found out how the practice worked “when he was scrambling to find someone and was told that one of the news desk editors, Greg Miskiw, could help.”

The Times reports that Miskiw “asked for the person’s cellphone number, and returned later with information showing the person’s precise location in Scotland.”

An unnamed “former Scotland Yard officer” interviewed by the Times said “the individual” who provided confidential information to NoW and other Murdoch holdings “could have been one of a small group entitled to authorize pinging requests,” that is a senior counterterrorism officer charged with keeping the British public “safe.”

Hoare told the Times “the fact that it was a police officer was clear from his exchange with Mr. Miskiw.”

“‘I thought it was remarkable and asked him how he did it, and he said, ‘It’s the Old Bill, isn’t it?'”

“At that point, you don’t ask questions,” Hoare said.

Yet despite the relevance of the reporter’s death to the scandal, police claimed Hoare’s sudden demise was “unexplained but not thought to be suspicious.” Really?

As the World Socialist Web Site points out: “The statement is at the very least extraordinary, and at worst sinister in its implications.”

Left-wing journalist Chris Marsden wrote that “Hoare is the man who broke silence on the corrupt practices at the News of the World and, most specifically, alleged that former editor Andy Coulson, who later became Prime Minister David Cameron’s director of communications, was fully aware of phone hacking that took place on an ‘industrial scale’.”

Aside from the secret state, what other entities are capable of intercepting phone and other electronic communications on “an industrial scale”? Given Rupert Murdoch’s close ties to the political establishment on both sides of the Atlantic, is it a stretch to speculate that a “sympathetic” intelligence service wouldn’t do all they could to help a “friend,” particularly if cash payments were involved?

How could Hoare’s death not be viewed suspiciously?

Indeed, “the morning after Hoare’s body was found,” Mardsen writes, “former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and his former deputy, John Yates, were to give evidence before a home affairs select committee. Stephenson had tendered his resignation Sunday and Yates Monday.”

Conveniently, for those with much to hide, including police, “the death of Hoare means that his testimony will never be heard by any such inquiry or, more importantly, by any criminal investigation that may arise.”

Yet, despite a pending coroner’s inquest into the exact cause of the reporter’s death, corporate media have rushed to judgement, labeling anyone who raise suspicions as being, what else, “conspiracy theorists.”

This despite the fact, as the World Socialist Web Site reported Saturday that information has surfaced “regarding the extent of News International links to known criminals.”

Indeed, on July 6 left-wing journalist Robert Stevens reported that “Labour MP Tom Watson told Parliament that News International chief executive and former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks ‘was present at a meeting with Scotland Yard when police officers pursuing a murder investigation provided her with evidence that her newspaper was interfering with the pursuit of justice’.”

“‘She was told of actions by people she paid to expose and discredit David Cook [a Detective Superintendent] and his wife Jackie Haines so that Mr. Cook would be prevented from completing an investigation into a murder’.

“Watson added,” Stevens writes, that “‘News International was paying people to interfere with police officers and were doing so on behalf of known criminals. We know now that News International had entered the criminal underworld’.”

Although Hoare had suffered from years of alcohol and cocaine abuse, he was in rehab and by all accounts on the road to recovery. Hoare could have died from natural causes but this has not yet been established.

Pending histology and toxicology tests which will take weeks, and a coroner’s inquest was adjourned July 21 until said test results were in, short of a definitive finding, nothing can nor should be ruled out, including murder, by a party or parties unknown.

While it would be a fatal exercise in rank stupidity for News Corp. to rub out Sean Hoare, would others, including police or organized crime figures caught up in the scandal and known to have been paid by News Corp. “people to interfere with police officers” and to have done so “on behalf of known criminals,” have such qualms?

An Open Question

We do not know if TruePosition sold LIMS to London’s Metropolitan Police, key players in the Murdoch hacking scandal, and the firm won’t say who they sell to.

However, whether they did or did not is a relevant question. That security firms develop and sell privacy-killing products and then wash their hands of responsibility how and by whom their products are used–for good or ill–is hardly irrelevant to victims of police repression or private corruption by entities such as News Corp.

The issue here are the actions taken by our corporate and political minders who believe that everything in terms of smashing down walls between public and private life is up for grabs, a commodity auctioned off to the highest bidder.

While we are told by high-tech firms out to feather their nests and politicians that “law enforcement” require we turn over all our data to police to “keep us safe,” the Murdoch scandal reveals precisely that it was police agencies corrupted by giant corporations which had allowed such criminal behavior to go unchecked for years.

And with Congress and Obama Justice Department officials pursuing legislation that will require mobile carriers to store and disclose cell-tower data to police and secret state agencies–all without benefit of a warrant, mind you–as well as encryption back doors built into the internet, we are reaching a point where a perfect storm threatens privacy well into the future, if not permanently.

A Looming Threat

Since LIMS 2008 introduction some 75,000 mobile towers in the U.S. have been equipped with the system, FoxNews, ironically enough, reported two years ago.

That same report informed us that “LOCINT continues to operate in Middle Eastern and Asia-Pacific nations where no legal restrictions exist for tracking cell phone signals.”

TruePosition’s marketing vice president Dominic Li told Fox “when you establish a geofence, anytime a mobile device enters the territory, our system will be alerted and provide a message to the customer.”

Li went on to say, “we realize that this has a lot of value to law enforcement agencies outside of search and rescue missions. It gives rise to a whole host of new solutions for national security.”

In keeping with the firm’s penchant for secrecy, risk averse when it comes to negative publicity over the civil liberties’ implications of their products, “citing security concerns,” Fox reported that “company officials declined to specify which countries currently use the technology.”

TruePosition claims that while wireless technology “has revolutionized communication” it has a “dark side” as “terrorists and criminals” exploit vulnerabilities to create “serious new threats to the security of nations worldwide.”

Touting their ability to combine “location determination and network data mining technologies,” TruePosition “offers government agencies, security experts and law enforcement officials powerful, carrier-grade security solutions with the power to defend against criminal and terrorist activity.”

Never mind that most of the “serious new threats” to global citizens’ rights come from unaccountable state security agencies and international financial cartels responsible for the greatest theft of resources in human history.

For interested parties such as TruePosition, “actionable intelligence” in the form of “data mining to monitor activity and behavior over time in order to build detailed profiles and identify others that they associate with,” will somehow, magically one might say, lead to the apprehension of “those who threaten the safety of citizens.”

Unasked is the question: who will protect us from those who develop and sell such privacy killing technologies?

Certainly not Congress which has introduced legislation “that would force Internet companies to log data about their customers,” CNET News reported earlier this month.

“As a homeland security tool,” Wired reported, LIMS is “enticing.” Brian Varano, TruePosition’s marketing director told Spencer Ackerman to “imagine an ‘invisible barrier around sensitive sites like critical infrastructure,’ such as oil refineries or power plants.”

“The barrier contains a list of known phones belonging to people who work there, allowing them to pass freely through the covered radius. ‘If any phone enters that is not on the authorized list, [authorities] are immediately notified,'” Varano told Wired.

While TruePosition’s technology may be useful when it comes to protecting nuclear installations and other critical infrastructure from unauthorized breaches and may be an important tool for investigators tracking down drug gangs, human traffickers, kidnappers and stalkers, as we have learned from the Murdoch scandal and the illegal driftnet surveillance of Americans, the potential that governments and private entities will abuse such powerful tools is also likely.

According to Wired while “TruePosition sells to mobile carriers,” the company is “cagey about whether the U.S. government uses its products.” Abroad however, Ackerman writes, “it sells to governments, which it won’t name. Ever since it came out with LOCINT in 2008,” Varano said that “‘Ministries of Defense and Interior from around the world began beating down our door’.”

That technological “quick fixes” such as LOCINT can augment the power of secret state agencies to “easily identify and monitor networks of dissidents,” doesn’t seem to trouble the firm in the least.

In fact, such concerns don’t even enter the equation. As Wired reported, the company “saw a growth market in a field” where such products would have extreme relevance: “the expanding, globalized field of homeland security.”

“It really was recession-proof,” Varano explained to Ackerman, “because in many parts of the world, the defense and security budgets have either maintained where they were or increased by a large percentage.”

Small comfort to victims of globalized surveillance and repression that in many places, including so-called “Western democracies,” are already an ubiquitous part of the political landscape.

Consider the ease with which police can deploy LIMS for monitoring dissidents, say anticapitalist activists, union leaders or citizen organizers fighting against the wholesale theft of publicly-owned infrastructure to well-connected corporations (Greece, Ireland or Spain for example) by governments knuckling-under to IMF/ECB demands for so-called “deficit reduction” schemes.

As Stephen Graham points out in his seminal book Cities Under Siege, “as the everyday spaces and systems of urban everyday life are colonized by militarized control technologies” and “notions of policing and war, domestic and foreign, peace and war become less distinct, there emerges a massive boom in a convergent industrial complex encompassing security, surveillance, military technology, prisons, corrections, and electronic entertainment.”

“It is no accident,” Graham writes, “that security-industrial complexes blossom in parallel with the diffusion of market fundamentalist notions for organizing social, economic and political life.”

Creating a climate of fear is key to those who seek to manage daily life. Thus the various media-driven panics surrounding nebulous, open-ended “wars” on “deficits,” “drugs,” “terror” and now “cyber-crime.”

That firms such as TruePosition and hundreds of others who step in to capitalize on the highly-profitable “homeland security” market, hope to continue flying under the radar, we would do well to recall U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who strongly admonished us that “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research,  he is a Contributing Editor with Cyrano’s Journal Today. His articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book from Global Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.

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On Thursday, July 21, prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) were about to enter the fourth week of their hunger strike, demanding an end to the inhumane conditions of solitary confinement. Hundreds of prisoners in other prisons had joined them in solidarity, refusing food. That morning, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) issued a press release saying the strike was over. And later that night, Marilyn McMahon from California Prison Focus reported that she and Carol Strickman, an attorney working with the mediation team representing the hunger strikers, had spoken with four of the hunger strike leaders who were eating again. McMahon said the prisoners had “extended their deeply heartfelt thanks to all their supporters outside” and “they emphasized that that support was responsible for their wins and their safety from retaliation. Above all, they hammered home the message: This is just the beginning!”

The heroic struggle of prisoners from the most brutal hellholes of the U.S. prison system is an extremely significant and extraordinary development. These prisoners have set a courageous example and inspired people all over the world.

Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity (PHSS), a coalition based in the Bay Area committed to amplifying the voices of and supporting the hunger strikers, listed some of the gains of the hunger strike:

“While the CDCR vigorously dehumanizes prisoners, and refused to negotiate, saying (‘we don’t negotiate with prisoners’), they were effectively forced into offering an agreement to make changes; this historic strike has demanded everyone who is against torture in any way to recognize prisoners as human beings, to act on their beliefs that no one should ever be tortured; …widened and intensified international scrutiny into prison conditions and policies in California, and around the United States, as well as solidarity in intervening in CDCR ‘business as usual’; …(re)inspired prisoners to work together in struggling for their humanity to be recognized; …proven to family members, former prisoners, advocates, lawyers, faith-based and religious groups, medical professionals, and community members and organizations that we can and need to continue to work together better in the struggle to change the conditions we live in, and to transform the devastation and disappearance prisons cause in our communities; …re-invigorated rigorous and collective prisoner-led resistance in the U.S. [“It’s Not Over!” posted July 22, 2011 at http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/]

Danger of Retribution

The press release from the CDCR reflected what has been the attitude of prison officials toward this hunger strike from the very beginning—that prisoners in the SHU are the “worst of the worst” and deserve what they get. The statement repeated the lie the CDCR has used to try to invalidate the prisoners’ demands: “This strike was ordered by prison gang leaders, individuals responsible for terrible crimes against Californians…”

The CDCR press release also implied there is going to be retribution—that they are going to punish the prisoners for daring to demand they be treated like human beings. It said: “We will now seek to stabilize operations for all inmates and continue our work to improve the safety and security of our prison system statewide.” Many prisoners have talked about how, on a daily basis, prison officials and guards exact retribution for all kinds of things they consider “uncooperative behavior.” For example, there are the “cell extractions,” where gangs of guards in full riot gear violently force a prisoner out of his cell, hog-tie and beat him—for something as minor as not returning a food tray or yelling at a guard. Already there has been a report from family members that Pelican Bay is on lockdown and visits are being denied. This underscores the importance of people on the outside monitoring the situation and making sure there is no retribution for the hunger strike.

This hunger strike has shone a light on the inhumane crimes being carried out by prison officials. The CDCR—and the system these prisons are a part of—do not like this, do not want this to continue, and need to crush the solidarity and organization the prisoners accomplished around their demands. This is the context for prison officials now saying they are going to “stabilize operations” and “improve the security and safety of our prison system statewide.”

And think about this: Many prisoners who end up in long-term solitary confinement were convicted of nonviolent crimes like drug possession and then ended up in the SHU simply because they were “validated” as a gang member. This could be based simply on a guard’s say-so or another prisoner being “debriefed”—that is, “validating” another prisoner in order to get out of the SHU himself. In fact, an end to “debriefing” has been one of the prisoners’ key demands.

Because prison officials have declared that this hunger strike was organized by gangs, they could now “validate” those who participated in the strike for even more punishment. And on this basis, hunger strikers who were not in the SHU could now be validated for participating in the strike—and put in the SHU.

Support Must Be Amplified

The CDCR press release says the prisoners stopped the strike after “they better understood CDCR’s plans, developed since January, to review and change some policies regarding SHU housing and gang management. These changes, to date, include providing cold-weather caps, wall calendars and some educational opportunities for SHU inmates.”

Prison officials are not speaking to the overall inhumane conditions of long-term solitary confinement in the SHU. This press release does not say anything about reviewing, let alone changing, conditions where prisoners are kept in windowless cells with no human contact for 23 hours a day. It does not say anything about the fact that prisoners in the SHU are subjected to conditions that experts have said cause serious psychological disorders.

A statement posted at the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity website said: “One thing is absolutely clear: the five core demands have not been met. Long-term solitary confinement is still being used as torture. Supporters everywhere must amplify the prisoners voices even more fiercely than before. The goal of supporting the hunger strike was not to make sure prisoners continue to starve, rather to support the prisoners in winning their demands to change conditions of imprisonment. This struggle is not over.”

This IS Just the Beginning—The Struggle Must Continue

“We all realize that it took over 20 yrs of state sponsored torture and discrimination for us (prisoners) to come together and challenge this system under one Banner; that of liberty and justice, and that if we don’t hold our ground and win this fight, not only will that keep the chains on us, but more importantly, it will allow future generations to remain forever enslaved to this injustice as well. So for this purpose we remain committed to see this through until the bitter end.”

From a hunger striker at Pelican Bay Prison, writing to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund

The struggle does continue. The hunger strike shined a light on an absolutely intolerable, inhumane situation. It has built awareness and support among many different kinds of people. In cities around the country, people held press conferences and rallies in support of the hunger strike. And many statements of support were written, from legal, religious, and community organizations, family members, actors, prominent intellectuals, and others. Many people took a clear stand that NO human being, no matter what they have done, should be tortured, should be subjected to this kind of long-term solitary confinement.

The day after the strike ended at Pelican Bay, the L.A. Times reported that “California corrections officials acknowledged more than 500 inmates continue to refuse meals at three other state prisons.” So it is important to find out what is happening with other prisoners who have been on the hunger strike. And there is a real need to find out the medical condition of all the prisoners who participated in the strike.

Especially as it became clear that some of the hunger strikers were in a medical crisis, many people on the outside saw this was a life-and-death situation and recognized the urgency of supporting the prisoners’ demands. This has been extremely important—and must be built off and developed even further into a mass, determined movement to put an END to these prison torture chambers.

The fact is: tens of thousands of prisoners are being held in the kind of barbarous conditions that the prisoners at Pelican Bay have so courageously rebelled against. These prisoners are dying a slow, horrible death. The fact is: a life-and-death situation exists for these prisoners every day. And it is in the interests of those who oppose injustice and oppression to wage a determined fight to put an end to this. Whatever the outcome of any particular battle in this struggle to put an end to the torture going on in U.S. prisons, the challenge from the prisoners to people on the outside remains. We cannot stand to the side, it is up to us not only to continue but to build this struggle even further. An important factor in whether or not prison officials are forced to give any concessions to the prisoners will be the level of outside support for the prisoners, including the degree to which this grows and spreads awareness of this struggle more broadly in society, among all kinds of people.

The hunger strikers—by asserting their humanity, by demanding that they be treated like human beings—have issued a challenge to people on the outside, to assert their own humanity by continuing the fight against the crimes against humanity being carried out in prisons throughout the USA. The support that has been built around this hunger strike is a good beginning. But it is only a beginning—many, many more people need to join this fight.

Li Onesto is the author of Dispatches from the People’s War in Nepal and a writer for Revolution newspaper (www.revcom.us). She can be contacted at: [email protected] 

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9/11: Who Really Benefited?

July 24th, 2011 by Captain America

Global Research Editor’s Note

We bring to the attention of our readers this provocative review of the strategic and corporate interests behind 9/11 including Wall Street, the Texas oil companies and the defense contractors. 

The statements in this article are corroborated by numerous studies, books, news articles and research reports published since September 2001. 

In the course of almost ten years, Global Research has conducted a detailed review and analysis of the 9/11 attacks, focussing on their broad implications as well as their historical significance. See our 9/11 and the War on Terrorism Dossier

Michel Chossudovsky, July 24, 2011

Forget so-called conspiracy theories. Instead look at reality. Dare ask yourself who actually seems to have benefited from the 9-11 calamity. In light of the debt ceiling debates and the continuous corrupt politics as usual of Washington D.C., it is time for the American people, and individual states of this federation, to look at a troubling set of facts. It seems there were “several” beneficiaries of 9-11 that don’t exactly fit the story line we were constantly fed by the propaganda machine and mainstream media as to how to connect the dots (which we were rhetorically asked to do).

Here is a list of peoples that benefited. Most of this list is factual. Some are more opinion but with strong support in reality-based argument:

1) The New York Port Authority was having difficulty renting out space in the Twin Towers. More importantly there was a huge asbestos liability. Surprisingly these Towers were sold to a new owner Larry Silverstein just three months prior—who managed to get an insurance contract for a big payout if any of the Tower buildings got hit by an airplane. This is a fact.

2) Our first international move was to bomb Afghanistan under the assumption that people there were involved. So the heroin industry of Afghanistan came back to life in a big way—that is international and local drug cartels rediscovered a gold mine of money supply. Bin Laden and the Taliban, because of their religious fanaticism, pretty much closed down the trade to a trickle. But after the bombing shake-up, people connected with the heroin trade in Central Asia reaped billion dollars rewards—including money-laundering groups of financiers—such as banksters, etc. (And this is pretty much all the U.S. military/ intelligence has really accomplished—despite all the rhetoric and high-sounding goals about exporting democracy.) This is fact and not fiction.

3) Investors of profitable corporations connected to the military industrial complex made a killing (pun intended). Obviously war has been profitable for some industries for eons as we are told by most war historians profits are an inevitable consequence of war for merchants of death yet they say profit is “not” the driving force behind war. Think again. For our American culture, since at least the Vietnam War, it seems to have become the driving force. (What else does America still manufacture?) Prior to 9/11 there was little in the way of war material inventories being depleted. But soon after 9/11 this all changed. In fact some corporate stocks immediately went up in value—as did some military contracts. Note as well that after the cold war both the Pentagon and the Intelligence apparatus should have cut their budgets in half. (But then no one would have been promoted and the Pentagon would have lost some of its clout.) That did not happen. Rather the budgets doubled in size. How is that for financial austerity? This is fact and not fiction.

4) Some powerful industry leaders and think tank politicos believed it was necessary for certain “companies” to “control” various strategic resources such as oil and gas. And not surprisingly the very countries in which we declared a war against terrorists are surprisingly the same countries that contain such resources—especially in the Middle East.

Gas and oil reserves are coveted by every industrial civilization and every military as a necessity. For example, there was a plan to build an oil pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan to ship out from the Indian ocean—requiring stable societies that don’t sabotage pipelines. Nevertheless despite things not going as planned oil companies for whatever reason reaped huge profits. Fact and not fiction.

5) Advocates, such as Paul Bremer, for extreme laissez faire economic policies, attempted to rewrite an Iraqi constitution to promote a free market system of neo-liberal economic principles to make it especially easy for foreign nations to own Iraq’s resources. And if you do your research you will come to learn that the U.S. did not have any gripes with Saddam Hussein until he kicked oil companies out of Iraq because they wanted to take the lion’s share of the profits. He nationalized oil. This is fact and not fiction.

6) Israel benefited by having one of their neighboring enemies, namely Saddam Hussein and his standing army, weakened and preoccupied. It is not a coincidence that advocates and newspaper pundits most defensive about our invasion happen to be strong advocates of Israel’s right-wing will. Evidence clearly shows that some Israeli supporters were part of the culture of deception to take us to war with Iraq—as they are now working to take us to war with Iran with a similar pattern of phony intelligence. Equally it is a fact that whatever Middle East group harbors hostility toward Israel is now considered terrorist in nature to Americans. It is a fact that the Israeli lobby pushed hard for war with Iraq.

7) Right-wing politicos, especially Christian and Judaic, who like to promote prejudice against anything Muslim and Arab benefited. Since 9-11 there has been a constant propaganda war against Muslims throughout Western countries. (This is not to argue that Americans should not be wary of foreign motives.) But the fact is that those who do not wish Muslims to have influence in this culture have clearly wages a major propaganda campaign for Westerners to fear and distrust a huge segment of the world’s population—as a “cultural clash” or clash of civilizations like the medieval era of The Crusades. This is to say that Israel’s enemies have become our enemies as “neocon” propaganda campaign harps on “Islamo-fascism,” “Islamo-extremism,” and “Islamo-fanaticism”. Meanwhile this event is used to further persuade Americans Israel is America’s “natural” ally and partner against the forces of evil. (Yet rightwing Israelis too are not willing to separate Church and State and so they discriminate against those not Jewish. Therefore they too do not share our democratic values of equality for “all” people—like many of the theocratic countries in the Middle East.) This is opinion but it still reflects reality.

8) Politically motivated people with the desire to use “fear,” namely terrorism, as an excuse to curtail and destroy civil liberties and freedoms normally honored in democratic countries. We have become more a fascist state with Homeland Security surveillance. This curtailment is similar to those who continue to try to censor free speech—and make it more difficult to have the right to “associate” via technologies such as the Internet. Such mentality has allowed spying on citizens by “privatized” corporations not accountable to the tax paying public who pay organizations to secretly spy and keep records on its own citizenry. Obama and his team have done nothing to make real, substantive changes, and in fact have reinforced this tyranny. The curtailment of our freedoms is fact and not fiction.

9) Some international political operatives willing to take American bribe money in exchange to playing and saying our tune have benefited, such as some political factions in the Middle East who equally play they game with our tax dollars—including journalists who will write and say whatever Uncle Sam wants as long as there is a brick of one hundred dollar bills as “disappeared” just like military contracts that did not get performed—but were still played. This could also include those creating phony websites to spew messages or take credit for events done by others.

10) People with a desire to destroy the political strength and good will of the American people and government. Our country is no longer looked upon as a “positive” force for democracy. Further our economy has been severely damaged by corrupt forces willing to sacrifice real national security to greedy and self-interested ends. We are seen as the rogue state by too many. It doesn’t seem to bother some profiting that America goes broke invading foreign countries—irrespective of what the rest of the world thinks—and what could be a long term disaster—if not a World War 3. (It almost seems like a deliberate foil to destroy military preparedness and to weaken our security.) Furthermore, those who believe in a two class system benefited because the wealth investor class, including most of the Congress and Senate, are “not” sending their kids to die—rather they rely on a volunteer military of lower and middle class kids that can’t find jobs or have few prospects to go to school.

11) Along with this financial bust is a drive to destroy liberal notions of any kind of welfare for the less fortunate—save welfare for corrupt corporations. While it is true that there is no free lunch (unless you live in the beltway) there is also way too much scorn for people who are not super-rich as deserving some kind of humanity.

Perhaps Obama should let the country default. Perhaps individual states “should” give serious consideration to secede from the Union. It has become one massive failure anyway. This litany is as contentious as the list of grievances in the Declaration of Independence written over two hundred years ago. And there is good reason to modify our current banking system and the Federal Reserve.

The U.S. Congress, like most pseudo-liberal chicken lefties, who have not had the guts to look seriously at what likely happened on 9/11, or why, have succumbed to the cowardliness of voting to not close the U.S. gulag. They are more afraid of their own lost of stature than they are of honoring the rights of law and justice. Meanwhile the legal system—id est lawyers—have been far too compliant.

This is to say that the U.S. is being strangulated by corporate America and its finance sector. This is a form of slavery to be manipulated into doing things under false assumptions. Why the ultra rich became even more so, they “own” Congress with their bribery of lobby money and especially the Republican party—despite all the Tea Party advocates.

You may not like these realities. Few do. So go ahead and continue to shun all “theories” about 9-11 as mere skewed imagination. Because while it is true that 99.99% of the Government is innocent that doesn’t mean a relatively small, but high-ranking cabal, could not have been involved—especially given all the security transgressed and air force stand down that ensued.

Still it is easy to point fingers at identifiable groups of people as over-generalizations. Nevertheless many people looked the other way to not notice the dots the machine was drawing was itself tainted—which had its own wisdom of reticence. But where are we to go as a culture if we continue to play blind?

You can believe in fantasy as most people choose—because in the short term it feels easier. But it may turn out to be worse in the longer term with both parties being irremediably corrupt. More importantly to the sell out of our human rights to corporations with laws like Citizens United vs. the Federal Elections Commission.

Good Luck to all people who think they know something because they have been conditioned to believe what they currently do. Yet ask yourself how many Muslims actually benefited? Then ask that irrespective of who did it, does it not seem that our culture has some issues to contend with and some bureaucracy to address besides the liberal agenda? If lawyers don’t start making more noise we could have some serious problems.

"Jens Stoltenberg på Utøya"

“Jens Stoltenberg på Utøya” (Picture of the Youth at Utøya -2010) by Arneiderpartiet (Labor Party) on flickr

Watching the international media on the web and TV change gears Friday, as information started to fasten to the fact that the worst terrorist act in Scandinavia since the 3rd Reich was perpetrated by a right-wing Christian zealot, was fascinating. This, rather than what Pam Geller, Steve Emerson, Daniel Pipes, Dennis Prager, David Horowitz, CNN, Fox News and many others were touting for hours as most likely an act of Muslim Jihad in a country that is way, way too liberal.

I was keyed into paying attention to how this meme might have to morph fairly early in the afternoon, by an item carried by Michael Rivero at What Really Happened, about the major event at the youth camp the day before the massacre:

During the second day of Labour Youth League summer camp at Utøya got the Labour Party’s young hopefuls visit by Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store.

Together with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation correspondent Sidsel Wold and Norwegian People’s Aid Kirsten Belck-Olsen, discussed the Foreign Minister of the deadlock between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

As foreign minister arrived Utøya he was met with a demand from the AUF that Norway must recognize a Palestinian state.

– The Palestinians must have their own state, the occupation must end, the wall must be demolished and it must happen now, said the Foreign Minister to cheers from the audience. [automatically translated from Norwegian by Google translate]

That was an event held Thursday at the summer camp for the children of Norwegian liberals.

As the story developed Friday, almost every news outlet was quick to provide experts on Muslim terrorism and how that might have a growing negative impact on Norway and Europe.  On Anderson Cooper, Friday afternoon, as he had his experts on Jihadism on camera, he was being told by another person – a CNN reporter – that the shooter, possibly the bomber, was a blond Norwegian.  Cooper seemed to be taken aback, turning back to his Jihad experts, who were dismissive of the new information.

The bombing-shootings took up enormous bandwidth in our media machine until it came out that the alleged perpetrator has more in common with Sarah Palin and Alan Dershowitz than with Rachel Corrie or Furkan Doğan, both of whom have been labelled terrorists by Dershowitz.

As the end-of-the-week-in-midsummer stupor overtakes the media on a hot Friday evening in the USA, will they get around to trying to find out what set Anders Behring off?

The bombing had to be pre-planned, probably for some time.  Was the pro-Palestinian event Thursday at the camp where over 70 were killed published on the web, facebook, twitter or somewhere else?  Most likely.  That may be what pushed this guy’s last button.

And just who created the group that fictitiously took credit for the massacres early Friday?

The ‘Helpers of Global Jihad’ group, of which al-Nasser is a member, made the claims in an email circular issued to various sources. The group does not appear to have any past history.

It is thought that the bombings are a belated response to Norwegian newspapers and magazines republishing cartoons of Mohammed originally published by Jyllands-Posten of Denmark.

I’m not about to go all conspiracy theory on this story.  I am bothered, though, that the media was extremely rapid to ramp up the radical Islam run amok meme, yet so unready to deal with what is increasingly appearing to be possible – that the Christian gunman was impelled to kill liberals he may have felt were too sympathetic to Palestinians.

Update – Saturday, 12:30 p.m. PDT:

This diary questions what pushed Breivik over the edge.  Phoenix Woman’s diary this morning, He’s Not a Terrorist – He’s a Freedom Fighter! touches upon some of the more pathetic errors in the media on Friday, as accurate information on the shooter-bomber became available.  David Dayen’s front page fdl diary, takes this subject further – Norway Terror Reveals Disturbing Assumptions About Muslims.

Glenn Greenwald devoted his Saturday column to yesterday’s pathetic media coverage.  His second update links to an Electronic Intifada article that shows how the false meme developed soon after the bomb went off in downtown Oslo.  Essentially, it appears one dubious “expert” pushed the global media “over the edge”:

The source is Will McCants, adjunct faculty at Johns Hopkins University. On his website he describes himself as formerly “Senior Adviser for Countering Violent Extremism at the U.S. Department of State, program manager of the Minerva Initiative at the Department of Defense, and fellow at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.” This morning, he posted “Alleged Claim for Oslo Attacks” on his blog Jihadica:

This was posted by Abu Sulayman al-Nasir to the Arabic jihadi forum, Shmukh, around 10:30am EST (thread 118187). Shmukh is the main forum for Arabic-speaking jihadis who support al-Qaeda. Since the thread is now inaccessible (either locked or taken down), I am posting it here. I don’t have time at the moment to translate the whole thing but I translated the most important bits on twitter.

The Shmukh web site is not accessible to just anyone, so he is the primary source for this claim. McCants stated from the beginning that the claim had been removed or hidden, and on Twitter he even cast doubt on whether it was a claim of responsibility at all.

snip – EI posted screenshots of several tweets by McCants, then this:

McCants later reported that the claim of responsibility was retracted by the author “Abu Sulayman al-Nasir.” Furthermore, according to McCants, the moderator of this forum declared that speculation about the attack would be prohibited because the contents of the forum were appearing in mainstream media. It does seem more than a little bit odd that genuine “jihadis” would post on a closed forum that a former US official and “counterterrorism expert” openly writes about infiltrating.

EI is highly critical about how easily McCants’ dubious information was spread:

The media also failed. They reported on the claims McCants disseminated because his position and perceived expertise gave these claims credibility. Would The New York Times have required multiple sources and independent confirmation of the existence of the posting and its contents if it had not come from someone with McCants’ supposedly solid credentials?

For hours after McCants posted the update that the claim of responsibility was retracted, BBCthe New York TimesThe GuardianThe Washington Post were still promoting information originally sourced from him. The news was carried around the world and became the main story line in much of the initial coverage.

The threshold for a terrorism expert must be very low. This whole rush to disseminate a false, unverifiable and flimsily sourced claim strikes me as a case of an elite fanboy wanting to be the first to pass on leaked gadget specs.

Update – 4:30 pm PDT:  Here is what is being purported as his farewell video, posted before the downtown bomb went off:

Libya: Demonization and Self-determination

July 24th, 2011 by Sara Flounders

If you went to a shopping center, a street corner or a graduate school of a top university in the U.S. and conducted a pop quiz asking who are the kings or crown princes of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and Bahrain; the emir of Kuwait, Qatar or Dubai; and the sultan of Oman, most people would not be able to name any of them.

These dictators and feudal monarchs hold absolute control in corrupt and brutal regimes. Their rule is kept in place by U.S. arms, troops and mercenaries, but they are anonymous to the U.S. population and to most of the world’s people.

But if you went anywhere in the U.S. today and asked who lives in Libya, there is only one name that a large part of the population could tell you: Gadhafi. Many people, even if they do not know that Libya is in Africa, might tell you that Gadhafi is an evil man who “must go.”

The corporate media can demonize the leader of a country targeted by the Pentagon to the point that the consequences of using the most deadly weapons against a totally defenseless population are hidden and dismissed.

No other country in history has the capacity to wreak such havoc, using cruise missiles, bunker busters, drones, depleted uranium and dense inert metal explosive bombs, anti-personnel razor shredding bomblets, and anti-personal mines.

What should be the response to this terror?

Unfortunately, a minority of groups or individuals who present themselves as opponents of war spend more time cataloguing Gadhafi’s past real or alleged shortcomings than rallying people to respond to this criminal, all-out U.S. attack. Their influence would be small, except that it coincides with the opinions of the U.S. ruling class. Thus it is important to thoroughly answer their arguments.

Whatever mistakes made by the leaders of a small, underdeveloped country facing U.S. sanctions, sabotage and assassination attempts, they are not the reason the U.S. is hell-bent on destroying Libya today.

What is at stake?

U.S., French, British and Italian imperialists are determined to lay hold of Libya’s now well-developed infrastructure of oil refineries, pumping stations, gas lines, ports and pipelines directly into Europe, as well as billions of dollars in gold reserves, oil reserves — the largest in Africa — and Libya’s other rich assets. All of this has been built up over the four decades since U.S. and British imperialism were kicked out of the country.

The imperialists are especially determined to stop Libya’s assistance in the development of other African countries. The plans for a United Federation of Africa, which were put forth by Libya and backed with $90 billion in investment funds, deeply threaten the continued multinational corporate looting of the continent.

The people of Libya have resisted more than four months of nonstop aerial assault. The bombing has united the population. Their cohesion has grown. More than 1 million people hold giant rallies in Tripoli.

A government in fear of its population would never hand guns to the public, but Libya’s government has distributed more than 3 million weapons in a country of 6.5 million people to enable them to resist occupation.

Incredibly, it looks like the imperialists are facing still another failed war. A falling out among thieves seems to be taking place as NATO’s frustration mounts.

The response to this colonial war of aggression should be the same as the response to a racist mobilization, a racist lynch mob or a police attack on an oppressed community: Mobilize all possible forces to stand up to the crime and say “no!” Refuse to take part in the orchestrated campaign of vilification.

This may not be an easy position to take. But it is essential to reject the racist political onslaught that accompanies the military onslaught.

Demonization is meant to disorient and put the massive, criminal destruction planned by U.S. imperialism beyond debate. Enormous pressure is placed on every level of the U.S. population to accept the premise that the targeted country and its leadership are to blame. The attacks are presented as if only one person lives in Libya, and not 6.5 million people.

In preparation for a war of conquest, the role of the corporate media is to endlessly repeat every charge and statement made by the institutions of U.S. power. An almost frenzied level of lies, wild fabrications, racist stereotyping and ugly caricatures saturates all political discussion.

The corporate media spread the demands that the Pentagon death machine must act in the name of “humanity” in order to “save lives.” The war itself is cloaked in neutral terms. In the case of Libya, more than 16,000 bombing sorties against people are described as implementing a “no-fly zone.” The White House has assured the population that this bombing is not an act of war. The administration won’t even discuss it with Congress.

The response to media demonization in the midst of a war mobilization must be to focus on the outrageous crime being committed and refuse to accept or give weight to any justification for it.

Despite an ocean of propaganda, poll after poll has confirmed that from 60 percent to 65 percent of the U.S. population is against the U.S. war on Libya. This should give all opponents of this imperialist war great hope and confidence.

But the demonization and racist war propaganda have seeped down into a layer of the progressive and anti-war movement.

In every imperialist war for decades, a whole series of writers, commentators and political organizations considered to be progressive have buckled under enormous social pressure. While claiming to be against U.S wars, they allocate their greatest energies to focusing on and discussing every shortcoming, mistake and inconsistency of the targeted country — in the very same condemnatory tone as the corporate media.

They have said “neither NATO nor Milosevic,” “neither Bush nor Saddam,” “neither Israel nor Hizbollah,” thus helping to weaken the anti-war forces.

The responsibility of progressive intellectuals and groups in the United States is to utilize their considerable research skills to extract every piece of information that could explain the corporate stakes — the anticipated profits behind the imperialist war. And never to echo in left terminology the charges made in the imperialist media.

Working people need to know the real reason behind the attack. Thus every effort must be made to avoid reinforcing government propaganda. Progressives should look to build the broadest possible unity in order to speak with one voice against the war.

Of course, such misguided groups are a small minority in the progressive movement. But there are those political organizations, which six months ago had not bothered to mention Libya, that now suddenly seek out respectable venues to add their own reasons that the dictator Gadhafi “must go” — an echo of the imperialist demand. Some even insist that in order to be part of the political discourse, every anti-war voice must first join in condemnation of Gadhafi.

In a few places this chorus on the sidelines has even disrupted anti-war meetings, calling on the anti-war movement to fall in line and echo the racist ruling class.

The Cynthia McKinney tour

In their determination to join with all the “respectable voices” condemning Libya, some groups have even sounded just like the imperialist media by seeking to silence the courageous voice of former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney. This is how arrogant and offensive those who demand collusion in U.S. wars have become.

McKinney risked her life to visit Libya with a U.S. delegation in the midst of the U.S./NATO bombing. She deserves respect.

McKinney was first a target of national media condemnation as a young, first-term state representative in the Georgia Assembly, when she dared to speak out against the U.S. war on Iraq. The entire chamber of representatives stood up, turned their backs on her and walked out.

When elected to the U.S. Congress, her outspoken opposition to and questioning of the orchestrated national frenzy surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001, attack; her clear opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement; her defense of political prisoners; and her support of the Palestinian people generated national campaigns to pour funds into opposing candidates in her small Georgia congressional district. Again and again the district lines were redrawn in an attempt to disqualify McKinney from the U.S. Congress. She has earned international acclaim for her candidacy for president on the Green Party ticket, for her participation in humanitarian convoys to Gaza and for being jailed by Israel.

McKinney’s tour to six cities organized by the Answer Coalition, and now to 15 cities organized by the International Action Center — all of which have successfully mobilized forces against the U.S./NATO invasion of Africa — have also come under criticism and cowardly attack. Some of these elements are even writing and speaking against McKinney’s right to speak against the war in Libya.

Even more arrogant and insensitive are their attacks on the Nation of Islam and Pan-African voices opposing the war.

For more than three decades many Pan-African activists, African people and Muslims have followed developments in Libya with great interest and enthusiasm. Many people traveled to Libya and favorably compared the social accomplishments in Libya — which, according to the U.N., scored highest in Africa on the Human Development Index in education, housing, length of life, nutrition and infant mortality — to the enormous poverty and glaring underdevelopment of most of the continent. They have spoken out forcefully against the looting of Africa and defended Libya as a country that, although sanctioned, sabotaged and under continuing attack, managed to maintain a level of independence from imperialism.

It is criminal to dismiss those actually mobilizing, writing and speaking against war as just pro-Gadhafi.

Pentagon lynch mob

What should be the attitude toward a family or a town seized by a lynch mob?

How does one respond if a racist gang of thugs, with torches and gasoline, is ready to set fire to a home with children inside, or is determined to capture someone who they felt had not shown proper “respect?” Is that a time to wander off into analysis of the targeted victims’ credit card payments, driving record or other possible past mistakes or personal shortcomings?

Bombs are falling on Tripoli. Isn’t that a Pentagon lynching?

In the face of a criminal terror campaign against a whole country, it’s imperative not to do anything to support the attack. It’s essential to do everything in your power to mobilize people to resist.

To use every possible argument of defense, and not give a shred of legitimacy to the racists who are attempting to burn the whole country down, along with all of its proud accomplishments.

Don’t allow yourself to be on the same side as the imperialist war makers.

Leave it to the Libyan people to decide their own future without U.S./NATO bombs. Leave it to African, Arab and especially Libyan people to discuss and debate, without outside interference.

But here in the center of the U.S. empire, it is important to refuse to join in the demonization and attacks used to justify atrocities committed by corporate power. Most important: Don’t echo imperialist propaganda in the midst of a war of aggression. Don’t join in a lynch mob being organized by the Pentagon!

Unite behind one clear slogan:

Stop the U.S./NATO war on Libya.

Sara Flounders is Co-Director of the International Action Center

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Article Sent in by G. William Domhoff, author of Who Rules America? [3]

This article was written by an investment manager who works with very wealthy clients. I knew him from decades ago, but he recently e-mailed me with some concerns he had about what was happening with the economy. What he had to say was informative enough that I asked if he might fashion what he had told me into a document for the Who Rules America Web site. He agreed to do so, but only on the condition that the document be anonymous, because he does not want to jeopardize his relationships with his clients or other investment professionals.

G. William Domhoff

I sit in an interesting chair in the financial services industry. Our clients largely fall into the top 1%, have a net worth of $5,000,000 or above, and if working make over $300,000 per year. My observations on the sources of their wealth and concerns come from my professional and social activities within this group.

Work by various economists and tax experts make it indisputable that the top 1% controls a widely disproportionate share of the income and wealth in the United States. When does one enter that top 1%? (I’ll use “k” for 1,000 and “M” for 1,000,000 as we usually do when communicating with clients or discussing money; thousands and millions take too much time to say.) Available data isn’t exact. but a family enters the top 1% or so today with somewhere around $300k to $400k in pre-tax income and over $1.2M in net worth. Compared to the average American family with a pre-tax income in the mid-$50k range and net worth around $120k, this probably seems like a lot of money. But, there are big differences within that top 1%, with the wealth distribution highly skewed towards the top 0.1%.

The Lower Half of the Top 1%

The 99th to 99.5th percentiles largely include physicians, attorneys, upper middle management, and small business people who have done well. Everyone’s tax situation is, of course, a little different. On earned income in this group, we can figure somewhere around 25% to 30% of total pre-tax income will go to Federal, State, and Social Security taxes, leaving them with around $250k to $300k post tax. This group makes extensive use of 401-k’s, SEP-IRA’s, Defined Benefit Plans, and other retirement vehicles, which defer taxes until distribution during retirement. Typical would be yearly contributions in the $50k to $100k range, leaving our elite working group with yearly cash flows of $175k to $250k after taxes, or about $15k to $20k per month.

Until recently, most studies just broke out the top 1% as a group. Data on net worth distributions within the top 1% indicate that one enters the top 0.5% with about $1.8M, the top 0.25% with $3.1M, the top 0.10% with $5.5M and the top 0.01% with $24.4M. Wealth distribution is highly skewed towards the top 0.01%, increasing the overall average for this group. The net worth for those in the lower half of the top 1% is usually achieved after decades of education, hard work, saving and investing as a professional or small business person. While an after-tax income of $175k to $250k and net worth in the $1.2M to $1.8M range may seem like a lot of money to most Americans, it doesn’t really buy freedom from financial worry or access to the true corridors of power and money. That doesn’t become frequent until we reach the top 0.1%.

I’ve had many discussions in the last few years with clients with “only” $5M or under in assets, those in the 99th to 99.9th percentiles, as to whether they have enough money to retire or stay retired. That may sound strange to the 99% not in this group but generally accepted “safe” retirement distribution rates for a 30 year period are in the 3-5% range with 4% as the current industry standard. Assuming that the lower end of the top 1% has, say, $1.2M in investment assets, their retirement income will be about $50k per year plus maybe $30k-$40k from Social Security, so let’s say $90k per year pre-tax and $75-$80k post-tax if they wish to plan for 30 years of withdrawals. For those with $1.8M in retirement assets, that rises to around $120-150k pretax per year and around $100k after tax. If someone retires with $5M today, roughly the beginning rung for entry into the top 0.1%, they can reasonably expect an income of $240k pretax and around $190k post tax, including Social Security.

While income and lifestyle are all relative, an after-tax income between $6.6k and $8.3k per month today will hardly buy the fantasy lifestyles that Americans see on TV and would consider “rich”. In many areas in California or the East Coast, this positions one squarely in the hard working upper-middle class, and strict budgeting will be essential. An income of $190k post tax or $15.8k per month will certainly buy a nice lifestyle but is far from rich. And, for those folks who made enough to accumulate this much wealth during their working years, the reduction in income and lifestyle during retirement can be stressful. Plus, watching retirement accounts deplete over time isn’t fun, not to mention the ever-fluctuating value of these accounts and the desire of many to leave a substantial inheritance. Our poor lower half of the top 1% lives well but has some financial worries.

Since the majority of those in this group actually earned their money from professions and smaller businesses, they generally don’t participate in the benefits big money enjoys. Those in the 99th to 99.5th percentile lack access to power. For example, most physicians today are having their incomes reduced by HMO’s, PPO’s and cost controls from Medicare and insurance companies; the legal profession is suffering from excess capacity, declining demand and global outsourcing; successful small businesses struggle with increasing regulation and taxation. I speak daily with these relative winners in the economic hierarchy and many express frustration.

Unlike those in the lower half of the top 1%, those in the top half and, particularly, top 0.1%, can often borrow for almost nothing, keep profits and production overseas, hold personal assets in tax havens, ride out down markets and economies, and influence legislation in the U.S. They have access to the very best in accounting firms, tax and other attorneys, numerous consultants, private wealth managers, a network of other wealthy and powerful friends, lucrative business opportunities, and many other benefits. Most of those in the bottom half of the top 1% lack power and global flexibility and are essentially well-compensated workhorses for the top 0.5%, just like the bottom 99%. In my view, the American dream of striking it rich is merely a well-marketed fantasy that keeps the bottom 99.5% hoping for better and prevents social and political instability. The odds of getting into that top 0.5% are very slim and the door is kept firmly shut by those within it.

The Upper Half of the Top 1%

Membership in this elite group is likely to come from being involved in some aspect of the financial services or banking industry, real estate development involved with those industries, or government contracting. Some hard working and clever physicians and attorneys can acquire as much as $15M-$20M before retirement but they are rare. Those in the top 0.5% have incomes over $500k if working and a net worth over $1.8M if retired. The higher we go up into the top 0.5% the more likely it is that their wealth is in some way tied to the investment industry and borrowed money than from personally selling goods or services or labor as do most in the bottom 99.5%. They are much more likely to have built their net worth from stock options and capital gains in stocks and real estate and private business sales, not from income which is taxed at a much higher rate. These opportunities are largely unavailable to the bottom 99.5%.

Recently, I spoke with a younger client who retired from a major investment bank in her early thirties, net worth around $8M. We can estimate that she had to earn somewhere around twice that, or $14M-$16M, in order to keep $8M after taxes and live well along the way, an impressive accomplishment by such an early age. Since I knew she held a critical view of investment banking, I asked if her colleagues talked about or understood how much damage was created in the broader economy from their activities. Her answer was that no one talks about it in public but almost all understood and were unbelievably cynical, hoping to exit the system when they became rich enough.

Folks in the top 0.1% come from many backgrounds but it’s infrequent to meet one whose wealth wasn’t acquired through direct or indirect participation in the financial and banking industries. One of our clients, net worth in the $60M range, built a small company and was acquired with stock from a multi-national. Stock is often called a “paper” asset. Another client, CEO of a medium-cap tech company, retired with a net worth in the $70M range. The bulk of any CEO’s wealth comes from stock, not income, and incomes are also very high. Last year, the average S&P 500 CEO made $9M in all forms of compensation. One client runs a division of a major international investment bank, net worth in the $30M range and most of the profits from his division flow directly or indirectly from the public sector, the taxpayer. Another client with a net worth in the $10M range is the ex-wife of a managing director of a major investment bank, while another was able to amass $12M after taxes by her early thirties from stock options as a high level programmer in a successful IT company. The picture is clear; entry into the top 0.5% and, particularly, the top 0.1% is usually the result of some association with the financial industry and its creations. I find it questionable as to whether the majority in this group actually adds value or simply diverts value from the US economy and business into its pockets and the pockets of the uber-wealthy who hire them. They are, of course, doing nothing illegal.

I think it’s important to emphasize one of the dangers of wealth concentration: irresponsibility about the wider economic consequences of their actions by those at the top. Wall Street created the investment products that produced gross economic imbalances and the 2008 credit crisis. It wasn’t the hard-working 99.5%. Average people could only destroy themselves financially, not the economic system. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but the collapse was primarily due to the failure of complex mortgage derivatives, CDS credit swaps, cheap Fed money, lax regulation, compromised ratings agencies, government involvement in the mortgage market, the end of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, and insufficient bank capital. Only Wall Street could put the economy at risk and it had an excellent reason to do so: profit. It made huge profits in the build-up to the credit crisis and huge profits when it sold itself as “too big to fail” and received massive government and Federal Reserve bailouts. Most of the serious economic damage the U.S. is struggling with today was done by the top 0.1% and they benefited greatly from it.

Not surprisingly, Wall Street and the top of corporate America are doing extremely well as of June 2011. For example, in Q1 of 2011, America’s top corporations reported 31% profit growth and a 31% reduction in taxes, the latter due to profit outsourcing to low tax rate countries. Somewhere around 40% of the profits in the S&P 500 come from overseas and stay overseas, with about half of these 500 top corporations having their headquarters in tax havens. If the corporations don’t repatriate their profits, they pay no U.S. taxes. The year 2010 was a record year for compensation on Wall Street, while corporate CEO compensation rose by over 30%, most Americans struggled. In 2010 a dozen major companies, including GE, Verizon, Boeing, Wells Fargo, and Fed Ex paid US tax rates between -0.7% and -9.2%. Production, employment, profits, and taxes have all been outsourced. Major U.S. corporations are currently lobbying to have another “tax-repatriation” window like that in 2004 where they can bring back corporate profits at a 5.25% tax rate versus the usual 35% US corporate tax rate. Ordinary working citizens with the lowest incomes are taxed at 10%.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is this: A highly complex and largely discrete set of laws and exemptions from laws has been put in place by those in the uppermost reaches of the U.S. financial system. It allows them to protect and increase their wealth and significantly affect the U.S. political and legislative processes. They have real power and real wealth. Ordinary citizens in the bottom 99.9% are largely not aware of these systems, do not understand how they work, are unlikely to participate in them, and have little likelihood of entering the top 0.5%, much less the top 0.1%. Moreover, those at the very top have no incentive whatsoever for revealing or changing the rules. I am not optimistic.

A shocking new video shows Saudi and Emirati forces firing indiscriminately at a crowd of unarmed youth protesting against the autocratic US-backed Bahraini government [1].

The attack took place after Friday prayers in the Shia village of Duraz, about 15 kilometres west of the capital, Manama, where the US Navy Fifth Fleet is based with some 4,000 personnel.

All three Gulf states are key allies of the US, with Washington supplying each with billions of dollars worth of military equipment. The three autocratic regimes have also been crucial supporters of the US and NATO’s nearly five-month military assault on Libya – allegedly conducted to defend the human rights of the Libyan people.

In the latest outrage against human rights in Bahrain, the video shows two jeeps racing towards a crowd of young males, almost running some of them over. Uniformed police then jump out of the vehicles and start firing shotguns and rubber bullets at the fleeing protesters. Many in the crowd were obviously young teenagers, dressed in shorts and barefoot.

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Despite claims by the Bahraini regime that it has ended a three-month state of emergency and that it has opened a process of national dialogue and reform, the latest outrage in Duraz clearly shows that repression and excessive use of force is a continuing reality for the mainly Shia-led pro-democracy movement.

Last week, a 47-year-old mother, Zainab Hassan Al Jumaa died from teargas inhalation after police launched a similar attack on the Shia town of Sitra. Several other Shia towns and villages are routinely assailed by armed forces – nearly a month after the so-called end of emergency powers.

The video of the attack in Duraz shows personnel in Bahraini ministry of interior vehicles wearing Bahraini state uniforms. But security sources have confirmed to Global Research that the personnel include troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It is an open secret that Saudi and Emirati troops disguise themselves as Bahraini police, which in itself is a transgression of international law.

Last month, Bahraini head of state King Hamad Al Khalifa declared an end of a state of emergency that began in mid-March when thousands of Saudi and Emirati troops entered the Persian Gulf kingdom to suppress a peaceful pro-democracy uprising. During the following months nearly 40 civilians have been killed by pro-state forces, hundreds have been injured, and more than 1,000 arrested and held in detention without charges.

Some 400 people have been brought before martial courts and sentenced to years of imprisonment. Currently, 48 doctors, nurses and paramedics are being prosecuted for “inciting hatred against the rulers” and for breaching medical codes after the medics treated hundreds of protesters who had suffered horrendous state-inflicted injuries.

Up to 2,000 workers have been sacked from their jobs, accused of supporting anti-government rallies. This has caused untold economic hardship and amounts to “collective punishment”.

The vast number of victims of state repression are from the majority Shia community. The Bahraini Sunni elite has enlisted the help of the Wahhabi Saudi state in a blatant campaign of retribution against Bahrain’s Shia majority, which has deliberately stoked sectarian divisions on the Gulf island. As well as countless human rights violations, Saudi forces have been involved in bulldozing dozens of Shia mosques and burial sites

Washington, which repeatedly describes the Bahraini regime as “an important ally”, has tacitly backed the Saudi and Emirati military intervention even though this has resulted in atrocities and crimes against humanity.

In the face of countervailing evidence, President Barack Obama has talked up the Bahraini regime’s declared political talks initiative as a positive development.

However, the latest video showing Saudi and Emirati troops firing on pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain provides a snapshot of clarity about where Washington actually stands on the issue of democratic freedom and human rights. Troops from two of the most autocratic and repressive regimes in the world are very much still assisting the anti-democratic Bahraini rulers by firing on young peaceful demonstrators who are calling for nothing other than their basic human rights. And clearly, the US government is on the side of the oppressors.

Now, what’s that about defending democracy and human rights in Libya?

Finian Cunningham is a Global Research Correspondent based in Belfast. He was expelled from Bahrain for his critical journalism on 18 June 2011.

[email protected]  

NOTES

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnwCHs_a9cs  

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This article originally appeared on Facing South, online magazine of the Institute for Southern Studies. also posted on Alternet, July 22, 2011

It was April Fool’s Day, 1979 — 30 years ago this week — when Randall Thompson first set foot inside the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Middletown, Pa. Just four days earlier, in the early morning hours of March 28, a relatively minor problem in the plant’s Unit 2 reactor sparked a series of mishaps that led to the meltdown of almost half the uranium fuel and uncontrolled releases of radiation into the air and surrounding Susquehanna River.

It was the single worst disaster ever to befall the U.S. nuclear power industry, and Thompson was hired as a health physics technician to go inside the plant and find out how dangerous the situation was. He spent 28 days monitoring radiation releases.

Today, his story about what he witnessed at Three Mile Island is being brought to the public in detail for the first time — and his version of what happened during that time, supported by a growing body of other scientific evidence, contradicts the official U.S. government story that the Three Mile Island accident posed no threat to the public.

“What happened at TMI was a whole lot worse than what has been reported,” Randall Thompson told Facing South. “Hundreds of times worse.”

Thompson and his wife, Joy, a nuclear health physicist who also worked at TMI in the disaster’s aftermath, claim that what they witnessed there was a public health tragedy. The Thompsons also warn that the government’s failure to acknowledge the full scope of the disaster is leading officials to underestimate the risks posed by a new generation of nuclear power plants.

While new reactor construction ground to a halt after the 1979 incident, state leaders and energy executives today are pushing for a nuclear energy revival that’s centered in the South, where 12 of the 17 facilities seeking new reactors are located.

Fundamental to the industry’s case for expansion is the claim that history proves nuclear power is clean and safe — a claim on which the Thompsons and others, bolstered by startling new evidence, are casting doubt.

An unlikely critic

Randall Thompson could never be accused of being a knee-jerk anti-nuclear alarmist. A veteran of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarine program, he is a self-described “nuclear geek” who after finishing military service jumped at the chance to work for commercial nuclear power companies.

He worked for a time at the Peach Bottom nuclear plant south of Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania’s York County, but quit the industry six months before the TMI disaster over concerns that nuclear companies were cutting corners for higher profits, with potentially dangerous results. Instead, he began publishing a skateboarding magazine with his wife Joy.

But the moment the Thompsons heard about the TMI incident, they wanted to get inside the plant and see what was happening first-hand. That didn’t prove difficult: Plant operator Metropolitan Edison’s in-house health physics staff fled after the incident began, so responsibility for monitoring radioactive emissions went to a private contractor called Rad Services.

The company immediately hired Randall Thompson to serve as the health physics technician in charge of monitoring radioactive emissions, while Joy Thompson got a job monitoring radiation doses to TMI workers.

“I had other health physicists from around the country calling me saying, ‘Don’t let it melt without me!” Randall Thompson recalls. “It was exciting. Our attitude was, ‘Sure I may get some cancer, but I can find out some cool stuff.'”

What the Thompsons say they found out during their time inside TMI suggests radiation releases from the plant were hundreds if not thousands of times higher than the government and industry have acknowledged — high enough to cause the acute health effects documented in people living near the plant but that have been dismissed by the industry and the government as impossible given official radiation dose estimates.

The Thompsons tried to draw attention to their findings and provide health information for people living near the plant, but what they say happened next reads like a John Grisham thriller.

They tell of how a stranger approached Randall Thompson in a grocery store parking lot in late April 1979 and warned him his life was at risk, leading the family to flee Pennsylvania. How they ended up in New Mexico working on a book about their experiences with the help of Joy’s brother Charles Busey, another nuclear Navy vet and a former worker at the Hatch nuclear power plant in Georgia. How one evening while driving home from the store Busey and Randall Thompson were run off the road, injuring Thompson and killing Busey. How a copy of the book manuscript they were working on was missing from the car’s trunk after the accident. These allegations were detailed in several newspaper accounts back in 1981.

Eventually, after a decade of having their lives ruled by TMI, the Thompsons decided to move on. Randall Thompson went to college to study computer science. Joy Thompson returned to publishing and writing.

Today they live quietly in the mountains of North Carolina where, inspired by time spent seeking refuge with a traveling circus, they have forged a new career for themselves as clowns — or what they like to call “professional fools.” As Joy Thompson wrote in the fall 2001 issue of Parabola, a journal of myth, the role of the fool is to help people “perceive the foolishness in even … the most powerful institutions,” noting the medieval court jester’s role of telling the King what others dare not.

That conviction has led the Thompsons to tell their story today.

“They haven’t told the truth yet about what happened at Three Mile Island,” says Randall Thompson. “A lot of people have died because of this accident. A lot.”

Anomalies abound

That a lot of people died because of what happened at Three Mile Island, as the Thompsons claim, is definitely not part of the official story. In fact, the commercial nuclear power industry and the government insist that despite the meltdown of almost half of the uranium fuel at TMI, there were only minimal releases of radiation to the environment that harmed no one.

For example, the Nuclear Energy Institute, the lobbying group for the U.S. nuclear industry, declares on its website that there have been “no public health or safety consequences from the TMI-2 accident.” The government’s position is the same, reflected in a fact sheet distributed today by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency charged with overseeing the U.S. nuclear power industry: TMI, it says, “led to no deaths or injuries to plant workers or members of the nearby community.” [The watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert offers their take on the NRC factsheet here.]

Those upbeat claims are based on the findings of the Kemeny Commission, a panel assembled by President Jimmy Carter in April 1979 to investigate the TMI disaster. Using release figures presented by Metropolitan Edison and the NRC, the commission calculated that in the month following the disaster there were releases of up to 13 million curies of so-called “noble gases” — considered relatively harmless — but only 13 to 17 curies of iodine-131, a radioactive form of the element that at even moderate exposures causes thyroid cancer. (A curie is a measure of radioactivity, with 1 curie equal to the activity of one gram of radium. For help understanding these and other terms, see the glossary at the end of this piece.)

But the official story that there were no health impacts from the disaster doesn’t jibe with the experiences of people living near TMI. On the contrary, their stories suggest that area residents actually suffered exposure to levels of radiation high enough to cause acute effects — far more than the industry and the government has acknowledged.

Some of their disturbing experiences were collected in the book Three Mile Island: The People’s Testament, which is based on interviews with 250 area residents done between 1979 and 1988 by Katagiri Mitsuru and Aileen M. Smith.

It includes the story of Jean Trimmer, a farmer who lived in Lisburn, Pa. about 10 miles west of TMI. On the evening of March 30, 1979, Trimmer stepped outside on her front porch to fetch her cat when she was hit with a blast of heat and rain. Soon after, her skin became red and itchy as if badly sunburned, a condition known as erythema. About three weeks later, her hair turned white and began falling out. Not long after, she reported, her left kidney “just dried up and disappeared” — an occurrence so strange that her case was presented to a symposium of doctors at the nearby Hershey Medical Center. All of those symptoms are consistent with high-dose radiation exposure.

There was also Bill Peters, an auto-body shop owner and a former justice of the peace who lived just a few miles west of the plant in Etters, Pa. The day after the disaster, he and his son — who like most area residents were unaware of what was unfolding nearby — were working in their garage with the doors open when they developed what they first thought was a bad sunburn. They also experienced burning in their throats and tasted what seemed to be metal in the air. That same metallic taste was reported by many local residents and is another symptom of radiation exposure, commonly reported in cancer patients receiving radiation therapy.

Peters soon developed diarrhea and nausea, blisters on his lips and inside his nose, and a burning feeling in his chest. Not long after, he had surgery for a damaged heart valve. When his family evacuated the area a few days later, they left their four-year-old German shepherd in their garage with 200 pounds of dog chow, 50 gallons of water and a mattress. When they returned a week later, they found the dog dead on the mattress, his eyes burnt completely white. His food was untouched, and he had vomited water all over the garage. They also found four of their five cats dead — their eyes also burnt white — and one alive but blinded. Peters later found scores of wild bird carcasses scattered over their property.

Similar stories surfaced in The People of Three Mile Island, a book by documentary photographer Robert Del Tredici. He found local farmers whose cattle and goats died, suffered miscarriages and gave birth to deformed young after the incident; whose chickens developed respiratory problems and died; and whose fruit trees abruptly lost all their leaves. Local residents also collected evidence of deformed plants, some of which were examined by James Gunckel, a botanist and radiation expert with Brookhaven National Laboratory and Rutgers University.

“There were a number of anomalies entirely comparable to those induced by ionizing radiation — stem fasciations, growth stimulation, induction of extra vegetative buds and stem tumors,” he swore in a 1984 affidavit.

Scientists say these kinds of anomalies simply aren’t explained by official radiation release estimates.

Evidence of harm

The evidence that people, animals and plants near TMI were exposed to high levels of radiation in the 1979 disaster is not merely anecdotal. While government studies of the disaster as well as a number of independent researchers assert the incident caused no harm, other surveys and studies have also documented health effects that point to a high likelihood of significant radiation exposures.

In 1984, for example, psychologist Marjorie Aamodt and her engineer husband, Norman — owners of an organic dairy farm east of Three Mile Island who got involved in a lawsuit seeking to stop TMI from restarting its Unit 1 reactor — surveyed residents in three hilltop neighborhoods near the plant. Dozens of neighbors reported a metallic taste, nausea, vomiting and hair loss as well as illnesses including cancers, skin and reproductive problems, and collapsed organs — all associated with radiation exposure. Among the 450 people surveyed, there were 19 cancer deaths reported between 1980 and 1984 — more than seven times what would be expected statistically.

That survey came to the attention of the industry-financed TMI Public Health Fund, created in 1981 as part of a settlement for economic losses from the disaster. The fund’s scientific advisors verified the Aamodts’ calculations and launched a more comprehensive study of TMI-related cancer deaths led by a team of scientists from Columbia University. The researchers found an association between estimated radiation doses received by area residents and instances of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, lung cancer, leukemia and all cancers combined. Crucially, however, the researchers decided there wasn’t “convincing evidence” that TMI radiation releases were linked to the increase in cancers in the area because of the “low estimates of radiation exposure.” The paper did not consider what conclusions could be drawn if those “low estimates” turned out to be wrong.

By the time the Columbia research was published in the early 1990s, a class-action lawsuit was underway involving about 2,000 plaintiffs claiming that the radiation emissions were much larger than admitted by the government and industry. (The federal courts eventually rejected that suit, though hundreds of out-of-court settlements totaling millions of dollars have been reached with victims, including the parents of children born with birth defects.)

Consulting for the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the Aamodts contacted Dr. Steven Wing, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health in Chapel Hill to provide support for the plaintiffs. Dr. Wing was reluctant to get involved because — as he wrote in a 2003 paper about his experience — “allegations of high radiation doses at TMI were considered by mainstream radiation scientists to be a product of radiation phobia or efforts to extort money from a blameless industry.” But impressed with the Aamodts’ compelling if imperfect evidence, Wing agreed to look at whether there were connections between radiation exposure from TMI and cancer rates.

Wing reanalyzed the Columbia scientists’ data, looking at cancer rates before the TMI disaster to control for other possible risk factors in the 10-mile area. His peer-reviewed results, published in 1997, found positive relationships between accident dose estimates and rates of leukemia, lung cancer and all cancers. Where the Columbia study found a 30 percent average increase in lung cancer risk among one group of residents, for example, Wing found an 85 percent increase. And while the Columbia researchers found little or no increase in adult leukemias and a statistically unreliable increase in childhood cases, Wing found that people downwind during the most intense releases were eight to 10 times more likely on average than their neighbors to develop leukemia.

Dr. Wing reflected on his findings at a symposium in Harrisburg marking the 30-year anniversary of the Three Mile Island disaster last week.

“I believe this is very good evidence that releases were thousands of times greater than the story we’ve been told,” he said. “As we think about the current plans to open more nuclear reactors, when we hear — which we hear often — that no one was harmed at Three Mile Island, we really should question that.”

Documenting discrepancies

Randall and Joy Thompson couldn’t agree more. If anything, they think Dr. Wing’s findings understate the impact of Three Mile Island because they’re based on low-ball estimates of radiation releases.

“Given what he was allowed to know or could figure out, he did a slam-bang job of it,” Joyce Thompson says.

In 1995, the Thompsons — with the help of another health physics expert who was also hired to monitor radiation after the TMI disaster, David Bear (formerly Bloombaum) – prepared a report analyzing the Kemeny Commission findings. Their research, which hasn’t been covered by any major media, documents a series of inconsistencies and omissions in the government’s account.

For example, the official story is that the TMI incident released only 13 to 17 curies of dangerous iodine into the outside environment, a tiny fraction of the 13 million curies of less dangerous radioactive gases officials say were released, primarily xenon. Such a number would seem small compared with, for example, the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl, which released anywhere from 13 million to 40 million curies of iodine and is linked to 50,000 cases of thyroid cancer, according to World Health Organization estimates.

But the Thompsons and Bear point out that the commission’s own Technical Assessment Task Force, in a separate volume, had concluded that iodine accounted for 8 to 12 percent of the total radioactive gases leaked from Three Mile Island. Conservatively assuming the 13 million curie figure was the total amount of radioactive gases released rather than just the xenon portion, and then using the Task Force’s own 8 to 12 percent estimate of the proportion that was iodine, they point out that “the actual figure for Iodine release would be over 1 million curies” — a much more substantial public health threat.

In another instance, the Kemeny Commission claimed that there were 7.5 million curies of iodine present in TMI’s primary loop, the contained system that delivers cooling water to the reactor. But a laboratory analysis done on March 30 found a higher concentration of iodine in the reactor water, which would put the total amount of iodine present — and which could potentially leak into the environment — at 7.65 million curies.

“Thus, while the apparent difference between 7.5 and 7.65 seems inconsiderable at first glance,” the Thompson/Bear report states, “this convenient rounding off served to ‘lose’ a hundred and fifty thousand curies of radioactive Iodine.”

They also offer evidence of atmospheric releases of dangerously long-lived radioactive particles such as cesium and strontium — releases denied by the Kemeny Commission but indicated in the Thompsons’ own post-disaster monitoring and detailed in the report — and show that there were pathways for the radiation to escape into the environment. They demonstrate that the plant’s radiation filtration system was totally inadequate to handle the large amounts of radiation released from the melted fuel and suggest that the commission may have arbitrarily set release estimates at levels low enough to make the filtration appear adequate.

Shockingly, they also report that when readings from the dosimeters used to monitor radiation doses to workers and the public were logged, doses of beta radiation — one of three basic types along with alpha and gamma — were simply not recorded, which Joy Thompson knew since she did the recording. But Thompson’s monitoring equipment also indicated that beta radiation represented about 90 percent of the radiation to which TMI’s neighbors were exposed in April 1979, which means an enormous part of the disaster’s public health risk may have been wiped from the record.

Finally, in a separate analysis the Thompsons point to discrepancies in government and industry accounts of the disaster that suggest the TMI Unit 2 suffered a scram failure — that is, a breakdown of the emergency shutoff system. That would mean the nuclear reaction spiraled out of control and therefore posed a much greater danger than the official story allows.

The Thompsons aren’t the only ones who have produced evidence that the radiation releases from TMI were much higher than the official estimates. Arnie Gundersen — a nuclear engineer and former nuclear industry executive turned whistle-blower — has done his own analysis, which he shared for the first time at a symposium in Harrisburg last week.

“I think the numbers on the NRC’s website are off by a factor of 100 to 1,000,” he said.

Exactly how much radiation was released is impossible to say, since onsite monitors immediately went off the scale after the explosion. But Gundersen points to an inside report by an NRC manager who himself estimated the release of about 36 million curies — almost three times as much as the NRC’s official estimate. Gundersen also notes that industry itself has acknowledged there was a total of 10 billion curies of radiation inside the reactor containment. Using the common estimate that a tenth of it escaped, that means as much as a billion curies could have been released to the environment.

Gundersen also offered compelling evidence based on pressure monitoring data from the plant that shortly before 2 p.m. on March 28, 1979 there was a hydrogen explosion inside the TMI containment building that could have released significant amounts of radiation to the environment. The NRC and industry to this day deny there was an explosion, instead referring to what happened as a “hydrogen burn.” But Gundersen noted that affidavits from four reactor operators confirm that the plant manager was aware of a dramatic pressure spike after which the internal pressure dropped to outside pressure; he also noted that the control room shook and doors were blown off hinges. In addition, Gundersen reported that while Metropolitan Edison would have known about the pressure spike immediately from monitoring equipment, it didn’t notify the NRC about what had happened until two days later.

Gundersen maintains under the NRC’s own rules an evacuation should have been ordered on the disaster’s first day, when calculated radiation exposures in the town of Goldsboro, Pa. were as high as 10 rems an hour compared to an average cumulative annual background dose of about 0.125 rems. No evacuation order was ever issued, though Gov. Dick Thornburgh did issue an evacuation advisory on March 30 for pregnant women and preschool children within 5 miles of the plant. The government also did not distribute potassium iodide to the public, which would have protected people from the health-damaging effects of radioactive iodine.

Lessons for the future?

When asked by Facing South to respond to these allegations, a spokeswoman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission did not address them directly, instead stating that it continues to stand by the Kemeny Commission report. The NRC further insists that the radiation releases from Three Mile Island had only “negligible effects” on the physical health of humans and the environment, citing other reports from federal agencies [For a PDF of the NRC’s response to Facing South, see here.]

But Gundersen and the Thompsons argue such claims don’t address new findings at odds with the government’s account.

“I believe [the] data shows releases from TMI were significantly greater than reported by the federal government,” Gundersen says.

They also say their findings that releases were potentially much larger have important ramifications for current plans to expand the nuclear power industry.

With more than $18 billion in federal subsidies at stake, 17 companies are seeking federal licenses to build a total of 26 nuclear reactors across the country, the first applications since the 1979 disaster. The Atlanta-based Southern Co. plans to begin site work this summer for two new reactors at the Vogtle site in Georgia, where state lawmakers recently approved legislation forcing ratepayers to foot the bill for those facilities up front. Florida and South Carolina residents have also begun paying new utility charges to finance planned reactors, USA Today reports. Plans are in the works as well for new reactors in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Harold Denton, a retired NRC official who worked in Three Mile Island during the crisis, recently told Greenwire that changes made after the 1979 disaster “significantly reduced the overall risks of a future serious accident.” But the Thompsons and Gundersen point out that the standards the NRC is applying to the new generation of nuclear plants are influenced by assumptions about what happened at Three Mile Island. They say the NRC’s low estimates of radiation exposure have resulted in inadequate requirements for safety and containment protocols as well as the size of the evacuation zones around nuclear plants.

Other nuclear watchdogs have also raised concerns that the NRC’s standards for protection against severe accidents like TMI remain inadequate. In a December 2007 report titled “Nuclear Power in a Warming World,” the Union of Concerned Scientists notes that the worst accident the current generation of reactors was designed to withstand involves only partial melting of the reactor core but no breach of containment. And the NRC requires operators of plants found to be vulnerable to severe accidents to fix the problem “only if a cost-benefit analysis shows that the financial benefit of a safety backfit – determined by assigning a dollar value to the number of projected cancer deaths that would result from a severe accident – outweighs the cost of fixing the problem,” the report states.

Given their personal experiences, the Thompsons warn that we may be fooling ourselves into believing nuclear power is safer than evidence and history suggest.

“Once you realize how deep and broad the realignment of facts about TMI has been, it becomes really pretty amazing,” Randall Thompson says. “I guess that’s what it takes to protect this industry.”

(Images from top: Photo of President Jimmy Carter leaving Three Mile Island for Middletown, Pa. on April 1, 1979 from the National Archives and Records Administration; photo of Randall Thompson swallowing fire by William Mosher; map showing increases in cancer rates in the TMI area after the disaster courtesy of Dr. Steve Wing; graph showing dramatic spike in pressure inside the TMI containment on March 28, 1979 courtesy of Arnie Gundersen.)

Mass Psychosis in the US

July 24th, 2011 by James Ridgeway

Drug companies like Pfizer are accused of pressuring doctors into over-prescribing medications to patients in order to increase profits [GALLO/GETTY]

Has America become a nation of psychotics? You would certainly think so, based on the explosion in the use of antipsychotic medications. In 2008, with over $14 billion in sales, antipsychotics became the single top-selling therapeutic class of prescription drugs in the United States, surpassing drugs used to treat high cholesterol and acid reflux.

Once upon a time, antipsychotics were reserved for a relatively small number of patients with hard-core psychiatric diagnoses – primarily schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – to treat such symptoms as delusions, hallucinations, or formal thought disorder. Today, it seems, everyone is taking antipsychotics. Parents are told that their unruly kids are in fact bipolar, and in need of anti-psychotics, while old people with dementia are dosed, in large numbers, with drugs once reserved largely for schizophrenics. Americans with symptoms ranging from chronic depression to anxiety to insomnia are now being prescribed anti-psychotics at rates that seem to indicate a national mass psychosis.

It is anything but a coincidence that the explosion in antipsychotic use coincides with the pharmaceutical industry’s development of a new class of medications known as “atypical antipsychotics.” Beginning with Zyprexa, Risperdal, and Seroquel in the 1990s, followed by Abilify in the early 2000s, these drugs were touted as being more effective than older antipsychotics like Haldol and Thorazine. More importantly, they lacked the most noxious side effects of the older drugs – in particular, the tremors and other motor control problems.

The atypical anti-psychotics were the bright new stars in the pharmaceutical industry’s roster of psychotropic drugs – costly, patented medications that made people feel and behave better without any shaking or drooling. Sales grew steadily, until by 2009 Seroquel and Abilify numbered fifth and sixth in annual drug sales, and prescriptions written for the top three atypical antipsychotics totaled more than 20 million. Suddenly, antipsychotics weren’t just for psychotics any more.

Not just for psychotics anymore

By now, just about everyone knows how the drug industry works to influence the minds of American doctors, plying them with gifts, junkets, ego-tripping awards, and research funding in exchange for endorsing or prescribing the latest and most lucrative drugs. “Psychiatrists are particularly targeted by Big Pharma because psychiatric diagnoses are very subjective,” says Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, whose PharmedOut project tracks the industry’s influence on American medicine, and who last month hosted a conference on the subject at Georgetown. A shrink can’t give you a blood test or an MRI to figure out precisely what’s wrong with you. So it’s often a case of diagnosis by prescription. (If you feel better after you take an anti-depressant, it’s assumed that you were depressed.) As the researchers in one study of the drug industry’s influence put it, “the lack of biological tests for mental disorders renders psychiatry especially vulnerable to industry influence.” For this reason, they argue, it’s particularly important that the guidelines for diagnosing and treating mental illness be compiled “on the basis of an objective review of the scientific evidence” – and not on whether the doctors writing them got a big grant from Merck or own stock in AstraZeneca.

Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and a leading critic of the Big Pharma, puts it more bluntly: “Psychiatrists are in the pocket of industry.” Angell has pointed out that most of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the bible of mental health clinicians, have ties to the drug industry. Likewise, a 2009 study showed that 18 out of 20 of the shrinks who wrote the American Psychiatric Association’s most recent clinical guidelines for treating depression, bipolar disorders, and schizophrenia had financial ties to drug companies.

“The use of psychoactive drugs – including both antidepressants and antipsychotics – has exploded…[yet] ‘the tally of those who are disabled…increased nearly two and a half times.”

Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine

In a recent article in The New York Review of Books, Angell deconstructs what she calls an apparent “raging epidemic of mental illness” among Americans. The use of psychoactive drugs—including both antidepressants and antipsychotics—has exploded, and if the new drugs are so effective, Angell points out, we should “expect the prevalence of mental illness to be declining, not rising.” Instead, “the tally of those who are so disabled by mental disorders that they qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) increased nearly two and a half times between 1987 and 2007 – from one in 184 Americans to one in seventy-six. For children, the rise is even more startling – a thirty-five-fold increase in the same two decades. Mental illness is now the leading cause of disability in children.” Under the tutelage of Big Pharma, we are “simply expanding the criteria for mental illness so that nearly everyone has one.” Fugh-Berman agrees: In the age of aggressive drug marketing, she says, “Psychiatric diagnoses have expanded to include many perfectly normal people.”

Cost benefit analysis

What’s especially troubling about the over-prescription of the new antipsychotics is its prevalence among the very young and the very old – vulnerable groups who often do not make their own choices when it comes to what medications they take. Investigations into antipsychotic use suggests that their purpose, in these cases, may be to subdue and tranquilize rather than to treat any genuine psychosis.

Carl Elliott reports in Mother Jones magazine: “Once bipolar disorder could be treated with atypicals, rates of diagnoses rose dramatically, especially in children. According to a recent Columbia University study, the number of children and adolescents treated for bipolar disorder rose 40-fold between 1994 and 2003.” And according to another study, “one in five children who visited a psychiatrist came away with a prescription for an antipsychotic drug.”

A remarkable series published in the Palm Beach Post in May true revealed that the state of Florida’s juvenile justice department has literally been pouring these drugs into juvenile facilities, “routinely” doling them out “for reasons that never were approved by federal regulators.” The numbers are staggering: “In 2007, for example, the Department of Juvenile Justice bought more than twice as much Seroquel as ibuprofen. Overall, in 24 months, the department bought 326,081 tablets of Seroquel, Abilify, Risperdal and other antipsychotic drugs for use in state-operated jails and homes for children…That’s enough to hand out 446 pills a day, seven days a week, for two years in a row, to kids in jails and programs that can hold no more than 2,300 boys and girls on a given day.” Further, the paper discovered that “One in three of the psychiatrists who have contracted with the state Department of Juvenile Justice in the past five years has taken speaker fees or gifts from companies that make antipsychotic medications.”

In addition to expanding the diagnoses of serious mental illness, drug companies have encouraged doctors to prescribe atypical anti-psychotics for a host of off-label uses. In one particularly notorious episode, the drugmaker Eli Lilly pushed Zyprexa on the caregivers of old people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, as well as agitation, anxiety, and insomnia. In selling to nursing home doctors, sales reps reportedly used the slogan “five at five”—meaning that five milligrams of Zyprexa at 5 pm would sedate their more difficult charges. The practice persisted even after FDA had warned Lilly that the drug was not approved for such uses, and that it could lead to obesity and even diabetes in elderly patients.

In a video interview conducted in 2006, Sharham Ahari, who sold Zyprexa for two years at the beginning of the decade, described to me how the sales people would wangle the doctors into prescribing it. At the time, he recalled, his doctor clients were giving him a lot of grief over patients who were “flipping out” over the weight gain associated with the drug, along with the diabetes. “We were instructed to downplay side effects and focus on the efficacy of drug…to recommend the patient drink a glass a water before taking a pill before the meal and then after the meal in hopes the stomach would expand” and provide an easy way out of this obstacle to increased sales. When docs complained, he recalled, “I told them, ‘Our drug is state of the art. What’s more important? You want them to get better or do you want them to stay the same–a thin psychotic patient or a fat stable patient.'”

For the drug companies, Shahrman says, the decision to continue pushing the drug despite side effects is matter of cost benefit analysis: Whether you will make more money by continuing to market the drug for off-label use, and perhaps defending against lawsuits, than you would otherwise. In the case of Zyprexa, in January 2009, Lilly settled a lawsuit brought by with the US Justice Department, agreeing to pay $1.4 billion, including “a criminal fine of $515 million, the largest ever in a health care case, and the largest criminal fine for an individual corporation ever imposed in a United States criminal prosecution of any kind,”the Department of Justice said in announcing the settlement.” But Lilly’s sale of Zyprexa in that year alone were over $1.8 billion.

Making patients worse

People and Power: Drug Money

As it turns out, the atypical antipsychotics may not even be the best choice for people with genuine, undisputed psychosis.

A growing number of health professionals have come to think these drugs are not really as effective as older, less expensive medicines which they have replaced, that they themselves produce side effects that cause other sorts of diseases such as diabetes and plunge the patient deeper into the gloomy world of serious mental disorder. Along with stories of success comes reports of people turned into virtual zombies.

Elliott reports in Mother Jones: “After another large analysis in The Lancet found that most atypicals actually performed worse than older drugs, two senior British psychiatrists penned a damning editorial that ran in the same issue. Dr. Peter Tyrer, the editor of the British Journal of Psychiatry, and Dr. Tim Kendall of the Royal College of Psychiatrists wrote: “The spurious invention of the atypicals can now be regarded as invention only, cleverly manipulated by the drug industry for marketing purposes and only now being exposed.”

Bottom line: Stop Big Pharma and the parasitic shrink community from wantonly pushing these pills across the population.

James Ridgeway writes for The Guardian newspaper, and is the senior Washington correspondent for Mother Jones magazine.

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JULY 30 • SAT • 5 pm
AT THE RIVERSIDE CHURCH
Assembly Hall, 122nd St & Riverside Dr, NY, NY   (Enter at 91 Claremont Ave entrance)   Light refreshments served
 
Report from Libya:
      – U.S. war in Africa
 
Hear former U.S. Congressperson Cynthia McKinney, recently returned from leading a delegation to Libya during the U.S. bombing  


And former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Akbar Muhammad & other leading opponents of the U.S. war on Libya along with VIDEO footage.
 
Report on Millions Marching in Harlem • Sat • AUG 13
ASSEMBLING ON MALCOLM X BLVD AT 110TH STREET
 
More than 120 days of U.S./NATO bombing of Libya
1 cruise missile could pay 10 teachers for a year.
We need jobs, health care & education, not budget cuts, prisons and war.
The national 15-city educational & fundraising Report from LIBYA tour with Cynthia McKinney is organized by International Action Center, www.IACenter.org in coordination with many antiwar and community organizations from July 7 to August 24, 2011.
NYC Program is in coordination with: The Riverside Church Prison Ministries
and Stop the War on Libya Coalition: (List in formation) AMA American Muslim Alliance, American Muslim Task Force, Nation of Islam, Freedom Party, Answer Coalition, Black Is Back Coalition December 12 Movement, The Dignity Delegation, International Action Center and others.
 
STOP U.S./NATO
WAR ON LIBYA
 
For more information and a complete list of cities or to help donate for the tour expenses see: www.IACenter.org or call: 212-633-6646          Labor donated 7/11
 

Donate at iacenter.org/africa/donatemckinneylibyatour


Download pdf flyers: Newark, NJ New York City Boston / Los Angeles
 

McKinney Libya Report NYC July 30
 
Donate at iacenter.org/africa/donatemckinneylibyatour
Download pdf flyers: Newark, NJ New York City Boston / Los Angeles

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Remember Libya?

July 23rd, 2011 by Global Research

This weekend, headlines in mainstream media were broadly proclaiming statements such as “Gadhafi regime not legitimate, world leaders say” or “US, other Western nations declare Gadhafi regime no longer legitimate.”

According to MSNBC, “In a final statement following a meeting of the so-called Contact Group on Libya, the nations said: The “Gadhafi regime no longer has any legitimate authority in Libya,” and Gadhafi and certain members of his family must go.”

But Western powers and certainly Western media are working overtime to suppress the fact that Libyans themselves do not share this view of their leader. For better or worse, the people have spoken, and how are Libyans showing their support? To NATO? Certainly not:

As Brian Becker said, the question of being “pro-Gadhafi” or “anti-Gadhafi” is irrelevant when it comes to supporting Libya and Libyans, and to understanding that what these NATO missions are accomplishing is the personification of cruelty, injustice and ultimate greed:

“Humanitarian war” is an oxymoron of the utmost proportions. Western military and imperial powers need to stop playing their high-stakes PR game of “monkey-in-the-middle”, pitting themselves as self-appointed “saviours” to the Libyan people against their heavily propagandized version of Gadhafi as the universal “evil-doer”. And we need to stop playing into this game. We need to turn off our televisions with their flashy news stories, rife with disinformation and lies, and look at what is really happening.

More and more people across the globe are starting to see through the lies and are turning to independent media sources (like Global Research) for their information. So you would like to know what is really happening in Libya? Here is what has slipped through the ample cracks of mainstream media:

The truth behind the U.S./NATO war on Libya from ANSWER Coalition on Vimeo.

Turning the lens back on the Western world, this week US President Obama stated, “I cannot guarantee that those [Social Security, veterans and disability] checks go out on August 3rd if we haven’t resolved this issue [of raising the government’s debt ceiling] because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it,” (Interview released by CBS 12/07/2011).

Empty coffers? And yet under NATO’s cynically-named “Operation Unified Protector”, we know that “more than 15,000 sorties have been directed against the Libyan People… since the beginning of the NATO operation” (Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, July 14, 2011). Clearly this comes at a very high cost to taxpayers being forced to support inflated defense funds, and an even higher cost to Libyans being killed day after day during this unjust military campaign.

So while the nation with the empty coffers which “cannot guarantee” that it can support its own people is busy making dangerous and costly judgements against the world in the pursuit of oil, wealth and empire, perhaps we need to be asking the rest of the world whether they consider the US/Obama regime legitimate? If not, would that justify bringing NATO’s “humanitarian medicine” back home?

Libyans were never given the choice to answer these questions for themselves, and now they are paying a heavy price. So when we ask, “remember Libya?”, it is a reminder that there is much more to the story than what is presented in mainstream news, which is funded by adminstrations, lobby groups and corporations interested only in presenting their side of the story.

For news that independent, free of ties to all corporate, private, foundation and government funding, we encourage you to keep visiting Global Research, sharing the articles – which will always be available free of charge – with friends and colleagues, and to consider making a donation or starting a membership to support us in bringing you the truth. Every amount makes a difference and contributes directly to our operations.

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Class War Without Mercy

July 23rd, 2011 by Gregory Elich

One can never have too much money. In the U.S., the top one percent of the population rakes in almost a quarter of the national income and enjoys 40 percent of the wealth. That class sees this as a problem. It is not enough.

For ordinary workers, the recession brought only economic hardship. But for corporate America, it meant one thing: opportunity. This is the chance to permanently mold the economy into something approximating the Third World model: vast wealth and privilege for those at the top, and unemployment, falling wages, and inadequate or nonexistent social services for the rest of society.

The recession ended two years ago, yet more than nine percent of the population remains without work. If one takes into account discouraged workers and part-time workers wanting a full-time position, nearly one sixth of the workforce is underutilized. For people of African descent, the situation is even more dire, with unemployment approaching a rate twice as high. Yet, a jobs program has never been on lawmakers’ agenda.

Instead, the trend has been to slash benefits at a time of heightened need, while simultaneously calling for more tax cuts for the wealthy. Deficits run up by the George W. Bush Administration and President Barack Obama have handed the right wing a cudgel to impose their will and discipline workers. President Obama needed no votes from Congress had he been willing to simply let the Bush tax cuts expire. By insisting on an unwinnable partial continuation of the tax cuts, Obama ensured that the entire package would remain in effect. At a time when the recession has caused a plunge in tax revenue, starving the government of funds when they are most needed is exacting a toll on the well being of the population, and opening the door for slashing benefits. According to the Congressional Budget Office, continuation of the Bush tax cuts through the year 2020 will contribute $3.3 trillion toward the national debt. This is money that would be better utilized in providing much needed social services and launching a real jobs program, assuming of course, the political will to do so – which has been noticeably lacking.

Add in the fact that the Bush Administration’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were mostly run on borrowed funds to the tune of $1.2 trillion. Take into consideration associated costs, and the total price tag on the Iraq and Afghan wars rises to at least $3.2 trillion, according to the Costs of War project. Those wars are still underway, chewing up resources, and for good measure President Obama has added a third war, in Libya. There is no end in sight for military adventurism, and the defense budget remains sacrosanct. For all the talk of budget cuts, this department remains immune. Indeed, the House of Representatives recently voted to boost the already bloated defense budget by an additional $17 billion.

What we get instead of a responsible and progressive tax policy or trimming of the defense budget is the steady drumbeat of debt panic, with loud demands to cut social services, shrink pensions and pay, and, oddly enough, provide additional tax reductions for the well-to-do. This debt panic has become the driving argument for a ferocious assault on workers. Class war is being waged, and sensing victory, the owning class is taking no prisoners.

Current policies already in place ensure that workers are being bypassed in the economic recovery. Over the course of the two year recovery, worker salaries remain essentially unchanged, showing in fact a slight decline. Meanwhile, median compensation for CEOs ballooned 27 percent in 2010 alone, rising to a cool $9 million. Before-tax corporate profits fared even better, growing by nearly 37 percent in 2010 and maintaining their pace with an additional nine percent growth in the first quarter of 2011. Indeed, so one-sided has the recovery been that corporate profits account for 92 percent of the growth in national income since the beginning of the recovery.

These are booming times for corporations. To a large extent, this comes at the expense of their workforces. When workers are laid off, those remaining on the job must shoulder the extra burden. After shedding millions of jobs during the recession, the corporate world remains loath to hire full-time workers during the recovery. Half of newly created jobs are in temporary help agencies, and many of the newly created full-time positions lack benefits. Over 90 percent of the growth in output has been due to rising productivity. Workers still fortunate enough to have a job are being driven to work harder, put in longer hours, and to take on more duties without any corresponding gain in pay. In plain terms, the exploitation of labor is increasing.

Workers are understandably fearful. With the unemployment rate so high, and with so many of the unemployed finding it difficult or impossible to find another job, no one wants to rock the boat. Circumstances dictate that workers feel they have to put up without whatever outrage management chooses to impose. The current climate of fear has all but eliminated union action. To be sure, this is a continuation of a long-standing trend. Work stoppages involving more than one thousand workers averaged 269 per year during the 1970s. Under the Reaganite onslaught of the eighties, the average fell to 69 per year, and then down to 34 per year in the nineties. But even those sorry figures have been outdone in the last three years. In 2009, there were just five major work stoppages, the lowest total by far since records began to be kept in 1947. Last year there were only eleven, and the pace so far in 2011 promises to fall short of even that figure. The recession has produced a dream come true for the corporate world, with a workforce that has essentially become de-unionized.

But despite enforced speedup, benefit cuts, and downward pressures on wages, U.S. firms continue to export jobs abroad. Why pay a U.S. worker a piddling $8 an hour, when you can get someone in Indonesia, for instance, to do the same job at 50 cents an hour? In the decade leading up through 2009, U.S. multinational corporations slashed 2.9 million domestic jobs. At the same time, they added 2.4 million employees abroad. This figure represents direct hires only, and does not take into account subcontracting to foreign films, which is typically the means used for moving one’s manufacturing to sweatshops.

So what does one make of all this? If you listen to the pundits and politicians, the urgent need now is to end the “privileges” of government workers. Smash government employee unions, reduce or ditch pensions altogether, cut salaries and lay off workers. Tough economic times call for shared sacrifice. To hear them tell it, the American people are clamoring for an end to decent benefits for all workers. All must share the pain. President Obama fired a shot across the bow of Federal employees by freezing their pay for two years – in effect, implementing a pay cut. And he was recently quoted as saying, “In the public sector, what is true is that some of the pension plans that have been in place and the health benefits that are in place are so out of proportion with what’s happening in the private sector that a lot of taxpayers start feeling resentful…What this means is, is that all of us are going to have to make some adjustments.” All, that is, except the wealthy, who can continue to party on.

The right-wing philosophy is profoundly anti-government. In their eyes, the only proper function of government is to serve the wealthy and devise new ways of allowing the well-to-do to further enrich themselves. Unceasing efforts are made to convince the rest of us that all other governmental functions are essentially illegitimate and should be reduced or abolished. The only other pressing task of the moment is how to provide additional tax cuts for corporations, even though two thirds of corporations now pay zero Federal income taxes, and most Fortune 500 companies pay a lower percentage of earnings in Federal taxes than do ordinary workers.

We are told that excessive taxation is all that stands in the way of job creation. Unleash the power of the market by reducing the corporate tax rate, goes the refrain. Yet corporations are already sitting atop a pile of $1.9 trillion in cash reserves, which they are holding onto as a hedge against economic insecurity. Adding another trillion or so to that stack is not going to encourage a manufacturing plant to ramp up production when consumers are being hammered so hard that there are not enough buyers for the goods that are already on the market. The job creation premise, of course, is a smokescreen to get public buy in for funneling yet more money into the pockets of the wealthy. It is dismaying to hear President Obama parroting that mythology, as in a comment he made in late June that “it makes perfect sense” to look at “other tax breaks for business investment that could make a big difference in terms of creating more jobs right now.”

One of the more prominent plans being bandied about is for a corporate repatriation tax holiday. U.S. multinational corporations pay zero Federal income taxes on money earned abroad until – and if – the money is brought into the U.S. Many firms establish sham headquarters in places such as Bermuda, and monies are siphoned through foreign subsidiaries, all in order to circumvent tax laws. Cisco Systems, for example, reduced its taxes by $7 billion by booking about half of its earnings at a small subsidiary office in Switzerland.

Corporate lobbyists are winning considerable support among senators and congressmen for the tax holiday proposal. Instead of paying a maximum rate of 35 percent, the tax holiday would allow firms to transfer these funds into the U.S. at a top rate of just over five percent. This plan, we are told, could bring in $1 trillion and foster investment and job creation. The only problem is that this proposal has been tried before, when a two year corporate repatriation tax holiday was granted in 2004 for the same ostensible goal. On that occasion, U.S. multinationals took advantage of the opportunity to transfer $400 billion into the U.S., and used that money to pay down debts, provide dividends to shareholders, and give bonuses to managers; in short, everything except creating jobs. A repeat performance is unlikely to produce a different result. Indeed, passage of such a plan would signal businesses that if only they would move more of their production abroad, they could expect to enjoy periodic tax holidays and pay much less in taxes than they would by keeping plants running in the U.S.

The recession sharply reduced tax revenues for state governments across the land, but with 29 Republican governors leading the way, the shortfalls have provided an opening for an all out assault on workers at the state level, and cuts in social services have been introduced in nearly all states.

In New Jersey, for example, governor Chris Christie eliminated funding for family planning, cut medical assistance for home care and nursing homes, wiped out funding for Rutgers University legal programs that assisted the poor, and sliced 40 percent from funding for civil legal services for the needy. No money was given for the Urban Enterprise Zone program, which had been designed to encourage economic development in poor neighborhoods. Also dropped were after school programs, while changes to eligibility rules are expected to cause over 50,000 poor people to lose access to health care coverage.

Such cuts were deemed necessary due to inadequate state revenue, yet at the same time, Christie granted corporations $180 million in tax breaks.

The New Jersey Supreme Court overturned Christie’s education cuts of $1 billion last year, ordering the state to spend half that amount on its poorest schools in the current fiscal year. Christie considers this only a momentary setback, however. Unremittingly hostile to the concept of public education, Christie envisions the complete privatization of education in his state, and to help spur efforts in that direction, he appointed Christopher Cerf, former president of Edison Schools Incorporated, as acting Commissioner of Education. Replacing public education with a voucher system has long been on the Right’s agenda. The well-to-do send their children to private schools, and resent having to pay taxes to support public education. With their narcissistic rejection of the concept of the public good, they see only their own personal interest. In their eyes, the beauties of the voucher system are manifold. Poor families would not be able to afford any amount over the voucher amount, with the result that their children would be condemned to attend the most poorly funded schools. The “riffraff,” in other words, would be kept out of sight. The well-to-do, however, would see the fees they currently pay to private schools reduced by the voucher amount. And perhaps best of all in the free market mindset, would be the evisceration of schoolteacher unions and the opportunity for private companies to run schools, where quality of education would run a distant second to the drive for profit.

To take another example, Ohio Governor John Kasich has played a particularly prominent role in the attack on workers. Even before he took office, he announced that he would kill the nascent program to bring much needed train service linking Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, the largest population base lacking such service. That train service was to eventually lead to high speed rail, but proved unpopular with the new governor because it would be publicly owned.

Despite persistent demonstrations in opposition, Kasich easily pushed through passage of a bill that eliminated collective bargaining rights for state workers. Determined efforts by the labor movement gathered 1.3 million signatures for a ballot initiative to repeal the law, and the outcome of that battle remains to be seen. Although poll results are initially encouraging, vast sums of advertising money are sure to be devoted to convincing voters to reject the ballot measure.

In his first press conference following electoral victory, Kasich promised to implement a four percent tax cut. Then upon taking office, he proclaimed that social services would need to be reduced because there was not money enough in state coffers. In the recently passed state budget, Kasich made good on his pledge to implement the tax reduction. Support for local governments shrinks in the budget by $630 million, which will surely result in an adverse effect on local social services. Five prisons are to be privatized, and plans are afoot to privatize the Ohio Turnpike, with a sharp increase in user fees expected. Counties are being granted the ability to sell local government-owned buildings, and then lease them back from the new owners, as a sort of gift to wealthy interests. Also included in the budget is a plan to assist small businesses, which is expected to reduce state revenue by $100 million every two years. The estate tax is scheduled to be completely eliminated beginning in 2013, reducing revenue for local governments by $250 million a year. And in another gift to corporate interests, the Kasich budget prohibits cities from attempting to regulate the use of trans fats in restaurant meals.

Make no mistake. There is worse to come. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives will continue to push President Obama to the right. And the outcome of the 2012 election is by no means certain. It is noted that many workers, worried over unemployment and the decline in living standards, are expressing a determination to vote a straight Republican ticket, under the illusion that a Republican victory will benefit working people. Corporations are ramping up to flood the next campaign season with political advertising, and in a culture where most people rely on television for their view of the world, such advertising does have an effect.

Corporate lobbyists are besieging Washington in droves, all pushing the same proposals. And right wing think tanks are operating in overdrive, churning out policy recommendations that receive serious attention on Capitol Hill to an alarming degree. These efforts largely determine the limits of discourse and the issues that are felt to merit attention. As a result, workers’ concerns are left out in the cold, with only the corporate agenda on the table.

There is not much variation in the policies that corporate lobbyists and right-wing think tanks advocate. The same set of prescriptions is on offer wherever one looks. Therefore, it suffices to consider a single example, the Cato Institute, as typical of the nature of proposals for downsizing the Federal government.

Unemployment insurance, argues Cato, distorts the economy and is in need of reform. At a time when millions of Americans are unable to find work, Cato wants to replace unemployment insurance with a system of personal savings. As Cato sees it, unemployment insurance causes unemployment, because all those people collecting paltry payments that are inadequate to cover their expenses are enjoying the experience, and choose not to look for work. The jobs are out there, if only one bothers to apply. That is so remarkably wrong-headed as to defy comprehension. Workers should simply save their money to cover potential periods of unemployment, Cato recommends. Never mind that many workers earn barely enough to pay their bills, and that young workers who lose their jobs will not have had much time to save. Another alternative Cato suggests is to move the entire operation down to the state level, which would allow states to “be free to move to a more market-oriented system,” and “repeal any laws that obstruct insurance firms from offering private UI policies.” Here we come to the crux of Cato’s complaint. Under the current system, private corporations cannot get a share of the action. What is the good of unemployment insurance if no corporation can directly profit by it?

Not surprisingly, the Department of Labor draws the ire of Cato. Employment and training services should be eliminated, because they “don’t fill any critical need that private markets don’t already fill.” Congress “should downsize the Department of Labor’s regulatory activities.” Cato then goes on to complain that “the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Wage and Hour Division, and other agencies impose a thick web of rules on America’s employers. The main issue is not the Federal budget costs of these agencies, but the damage to the economy caused by unneeded regulations such as the Federal minimum wage.” From the standpoint of corporate America, it is time to get rid of pesky regulations that help protect workers from unsafe conditions, and to remove any limitation on how far businesses can drive down wages. These “unneeded regulations” stand in the way of corporations being able to boost their earnings.

To peruse Cato’s philosophy regarding unions is a jaw-dropping experience. It is difficult to believe that even corporate managers could take this literally, so keenly aware are they of their class interests, and how at variance those are with the class interests of working people. Perhaps Cato’s position papers are intended to convince those working people who are not class conscious to act against their own interests. “Major Federal interventions in favor of unionism,” such as the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, Cato reasons, “were premised on the false idea that business management and labor are natural enemies. In fact, both management and labor are employed by consumers to produce goods and services, and so it makes no sense to assume a sharp divide between these groups.” One has to have considerable nerve to make such an outlandish claim during these tough economic times. And the goal of business is to produce profit; any goods produced are only the means of doing so.

“It is important for policymakers to reexamine labor union laws and repeal those laws that are harmful to economic growth and inconsistent with a free society,” Cato helpfully suggests. Already legislators are responding to such proposals, and efforts are underway in a number of states to prohibit unions from collecting dues through payroll deduction. Workers would be instead required to write a check to the union each month. The intent is obvious. By making it more difficult for unions to collect dues, their operations would be crippled. State employee collective bargaining rights are under siege in several states. Corporations are not content with their already lopsided advantages. They are seeking total victory, in which workers are left without any means of defending their rights.

Cato wants to see the repeal of every law favorable to labor. High on its wish list is to eliminate the prohibition on union-free contracts. “A rule that requires a worker to remain union-free would be merely part of the job description,” Cato explains, “and the worker is free to accept or reject the job offer.” How free would one be, in this free market dream world, when the inevitable result would be that nearly every employer would make a contract to remain union free a condition of employment. The worker would have a free choice: he could either sign such a contract or go hungry.

Among the “important reforms” Cato urges Congress to pass are the elimination of exclusive representation, in other words, authorizing open shops; passage of a national right-to-work law; allowing firms to permanently hire scab replacement workers; and allowing companies to refuse to continue to employ union representatives. Cato would also like to see a bill permitting company unions, since, as it puts it, “the current ban on cooperation…makes no economic sense.”

Cato’s recommendations for the Department of Health and Human Services are no less draconian. “Medicare reduces individual freedom,” the think tank proclaims. Cato resurrects that tired old saw that Medicare is a “pyramid scheme allowing each generation to take advantage of the next.” Cato wonders why young people should have to be taxed to support the elderly. Never mind that the elderly have already paid into the system. Once again, the all too common right-wing sociopathic hostility toward the public good is on display. “Congress must cut Medicare spending,” Cato demands, because “the elderly are more prosperous today than ever before.” Congress should end Medicare and offer retirees a voucher to purchase health insurance. That is Cato’s solution. After all, what is the good of a program in which corporations cannot profit? One wonders, though, how many insurance companies would be willing to insure an elderly person, and if so, at what exorbitant rates they would do so.

Cato praises President Clinton’s welfare reform of 1996 for having slashed two thirds of people from the rolls. But more can be done. “The ultimate reform goal,” Cato explains, “should be to eliminate the entire system of low-income welfare for individuals who are able to work. That means eliminating not just TANF but also food stamps, subsidized housing, and other programs. Individuals unwilling to support themselves through the job market would have to rely on the support of family, church, community, or private charity.” It is the perfect Third World model, just waiting to be brought into the U.S. Maybe Cato has not noticed, but the job market has not been doing so well at employing people willing, even eager, to work. And not everyone has family they can fall back on, nor are all families doing so well financially that they can take on an added burden. One wonders how charities and churches could ever handle the task of supporting millions of people in need. There are not homeless shelters enough to accommodate them all. But never mind, because “private charity is superior to government welfare.” And there are still plenty of park benches where one can sleep, and bridges to settle under.

A special hostility is reserved for the Department of Transportation. “The Federal Transit Administration should be eliminated,” because of its support for rail. The loss of Federal transit subsidies would lead local governments to open “transit markets to private operators.” Air traffic control ought to be “removed from the Federal budget,” as its operations could be run by a private company. Amtrak, too, should be privatized. And the Federal Highway Administration should be eliminated, which would encourage state governments to “look to the private sector for help in funding and operating highways,” including electronic tolling, all at a healthy profit, naturally. Imagine life where driving on highways entails repeated charges, and where rail service as a safe, speedy, and more climate-friendly transportation alternative has been permanently killed off, and you will gain a small taste of just some of the wonders this free market dreamland can bring us.

These are not just some crackpot concepts, although they certainly give that impression. Lobbyists and think tanks sense that the moment is theirs, and they are pursuing these goals with abandon. Already many state governments are moving to implement some of these policy objectives, and House Republicans have introduced a number of bills along these lines. Indeed, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget proposal reflects the recommendations of organizations like Cato, and includes many of the same ideas. While Ryan’s proposal has no chance of passage into law unchanged, it is certain that sooner or later, some elements will find their way into law.

House Republicans are proposing that Amtrak be privatized. In effect, that would mean the sale of the northeast corridor to a private company which would operate the line, charging customers higher fees. And since the profitability of that line helps to support train service to the rest of the nation, other lines are unlikely to find buyers, resulting in their closure. China has embarked on a $1 trillion high speed rail, infrastructure and highway program, while in the U.S. that kind of money is reserved for military adventures and tax cuts. Instead, we are offered transportation plans that are based on privatization, elimination of alternatives to the automobile, and deteriorating infrastructure. Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois has introduced a bill that typifies this approach, calling for private investment in highways and airports, and the “commercialization” of highway rest stops.

As far as things have gone, these ideas will only gain more traction with the election of a Republican president. Working people are faced with an unenviable choice in the 2012 election: vote for President Obama, who can be counted on to serve corporate interests, or vote for the Republican candidate, who can be counted on to do the same, only in a harsher manner.

In the months ahead, we are certain to see more savage cuts in pensions and social services, as well as relentless attempts to undermine Social Security. Judges in two court cases, in Colorado and Minnesota, have dismissed legal challenges by retired state workers whose pension cost of living adjustments had been cut. The decisions are widely seen as giving a green light to state legislatures to slash pensions, and already New Jersey Governor Christie has signed into law severe cuts in state worker pension and health benefits. And Christie says that he has received calls from governors in other states, asking for advice on how they can replicate his action.

With a low level of solidarity among workers, the battle is unequal. But unions, weakened as they are, continue in spirited opposition to the attacks on workers. They comprise the best weapon in our defense, and deserve our full support. The corporate world is aggressively pushing its agenda. We should be no less militant in defending our rights.

Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and on the Advisory Board of the Korea Truth Commission. He is the author of the book Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit. http://www.amazon.com/Strange-Liberators-Militarism-Mayhem-Pursuit/dp/1595265708

We would already have had a much needed American revolution in response to the tyranny of the money-fed two-party plutocracy that is destroying the middle class except for one big problem: so much of the American population is just plain stupid.  Too stupid to behave like angry Greeks and rise up in the streets to rebel against the dysfunctional government.

In the never ending fight of Republicans and their cancerous (make that stupid) Tea Party members to gain even more control of the US political system, economy and culture they have fixed on another semantic weapon.  The latest attack on intelligence is the constant use of the term job creators in place of words like the rich or wealthy.  Not just plain Republicans in Congress are doing this, but especially the large crop of Republican presidential candidates.

This bit of cleverness surely was deemed necessary because much of the nation was beginning to appreciate the class warfare going on.  Rising economic inequality, unemployment set in concrete, and merging of the middle class into the poverty stricken lower class were all becoming clearer.

Keep this in mind: As Zuckerman pointed out, the US “experienced the loss of over 7 million jobs, wiping out every job gained since the year 2000.  From the moment the Obama administration came into office, there have been no net increases in full-time jobs, only in part-time jobs.  This is contrary to all previous recessions.  Employers are not recalling the workers they laid off from full-time employment.”  Business sectors have discovered that they can maximize profits with smaller US work forces; they export jobs and their capital investments.  And they benefit from all kinds of tax loopholes protected by Republicans so that they pay very little if any US taxes.

A terrific new article by Jeff Reeves makes the case that unemployment will actually rise to over 10 percent, because of anticipated layoffs in the financial, technology, and aerospace and defense sectors.  The data are compelling.  All this despite high profits.

Apple is sitting on an amazing $76 BILLION in cash.  Other than understanding that people are paying too much for their products, just imagine if they invested a big fraction of that on moving manufacturing of its products from foreign countries to the US.  An enormous number of good jobs could be created here.

What were Republicans to do, especially as they used the current crisis surrounding the need to raise the national debt limit to seek huge cuts in federal spending affecting ordinary Americans and prevent higher taxes for the greedy rich and corporate forces?

What better way than to falsely claim and constantly presume that those that should be paying higher taxes are exactly the ones who create jobs and that they would not do so if hit by higher taxes.  In truth, this is a bold lie.  The richest Americans have been paying the lowest taxes in many decades and corporate profits have been enormous, and this reality has clearly had absolutely no positive impact on the unemployment and underemployment plaguing at least 30 million Americans and their family members.

Go back to the post-World War II era when the richest Americans paid very high taxes and you discover that jobs and fairly distributed wealth were created in abundance.

Neither wealth nor jobs trickle down from the Upper Class. Proper government policies are required to prevent criminally large fractions of the nation’s wealth going to the most greedy and selfish elites.  Those NOT rich that support Republicans are very stupid; they have been brainwashed by the steady stream of Republican lies and propaganda that are used to serve the rich and corporate interests sustaining Republicans with much money.  The return on their investment has proven more than adequate to justify their endless input of money to Republicans.

We probably will soon see President Obama cave in and giver Republicans much of what they want.  There will be major cuts in federal programs that will place millions of Americans in even more precarious economic uncertainty and pain.  And there will probably be far too little increases in taxes on the rich and corporations.  Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security may all be cut in ways that harm many people.

Lies are constantly being fed to the public.  Will you be smart enough to see them for what they are?  The more you face this ugly, disturbing reality, the more embarrassed you will be about the US political system and, hopefully, the more inclined you will be to stop voting for any Republicans or Democrats and participating in our delusional democracy.

Contact Joel S. Hirschhorn through delusionaldemocracy.com.

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Within hours of Norway’s deadly bomb and gun attacks claiming at least 91 victims it has become clear that the horror was perpetrated by a Norwegian loner with rightwing Christian fundamentalist affiliations.

Yet President Barack Obama reacted immediately to the news of the atrocity to insinuate an Islamic connection and to justify America’s war on terror.

Obama spoke on Friday while hosting New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in the White House.

The US President said of the attacks: “It’s a reminder that the entire international community has a stake in preventing this kind of terror from occurring, and that we have to work co-operatively together both on intelligence and in terms of prevention of these kinds of horrible attacks.”

Prime Minister Key added: “If it is an act of global terrorism I think it shows that no country, large or small, is immune from that risk, and that is why New Zealand plays its part in Afghanistan as we try and join others like the United States in making the world a safer place,” he said.

On Friday evening local time, 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik was captured by police moments after he went on a two-hour shooting rampage at a youth summer camp, killing at least 84 people, most of whom were aged between 14 and 18.

Hundreds of teenagers had gathered on the island of Otoeya, about 20 miles northwest of the capital, Oslo, for an annual summer camp organised by the Scandinavian country’s ruling Labour party.

Six-foot blond-haired Breivik was heavily armed and dressed as a policeman when he arrived on the island and beckoned the youths to assemble near him. About two hours earlier, a massive car bomb had exploded in the downtown area of Oslo ripping through government buildings and killing at least seven.

The youths on the island of Otoeya thought that Breivik was carrying out a security check in connection with the bombing in the capital. He proceeded to open fire on the campers and ran amok for nearly two hours before being arrested. There were scenes of pandemonium as the gunman chased after victims through wooded areas on the tiny resort island. Some youths dived into the water in a bid to swim back to the mainland, with Breivik shooting at those trying to escape.

The gunman is believed to have also carried out the bombing. Days before the massacre, Breivik reportedly posted a message on the internet saying: “One person with belief can achieve more than one hundred thousand without belief.”

The Norwegian is also reportedly associated with extremist rightwing groups in Northern Europe. A Christian fundamentalist, Breivik is believed to have shared rabid “Islamophobic views”.

He is said to have been living with his mother in a wealthy district of Oslo and to have run a farming business. This is how he obtained the fertilizer materials believed to have been used in making the car bomb.

The profile of Breivik that emerged minutes after the incidents was clearly that of a Norwegian citizen who acted on a deranged loner mission.

However, this did not restrain Obama or his New Zealand guest from issuing wild insinuations about Islamic terrorism. Obama is reported to have been briefed by intelligence officials before he spoke on the matter. Which makes his response an all the more odious bit of politicking to turn a horrific, tragic event into a propaganda stunt to stir up anti-Islamic fears and shore up Washington’s illegal “wars on terror”.

What should be disturbing is the level of inculcation of such irrational propaganda. It seems that every and any horror no matter how obviously unrelated to Islamic countries can now immediately be attributed by Obama and other Western leaders to “Islamic terrorists”.

It is as astounding act of reality inversion. The US leader who has taken international wars of aggression to record heights of lawlessness and who has made such a big deal of “embracing the Muslim world” nevertheless shows a disgraceful ability to prolong these wars by twisting any tragedy into a snide vilification of Islam.

Finian Cunningham is a Global Research Correspondent based in Belfast, Ireland.

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President Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner are allegedly close to a $3 trillion deficit-reduction package as part of a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling before an Aug. 2 deadline. But the deal is coming under fire from both congressional Democrats and Republicans. Part of it calls for lowering personal and corporate income tax rates, while eliminating or reducing an array of popular tax breaks, such as the deduction for home mortgage interest. Some Democratic lawmakers expressed outrage on Thursday because the Obama-Boehner agreement appears to violate their pledge not to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits, as well as Obama’s promise not to make deep cuts in programs for the poor without extracting some tax concessions from the rich. We’re joined by economist Michael Hudson, president of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends, a Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and author of “Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire.” [includes rush transcript]

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner are said to be close to a $3 trillion deficit-reduction package as part of a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling before an August 2nd deadline. But the deal is coming under fire from both congressional Democrats and Republicans.

            According to the Washington Post, part of the deal calls for lowering personal and corporate income tax rates while eliminating or reducing an array of popular tax breaks, such as the deduction for home mortgage interest. Some Democratic lawmakers expressed outrage on Thursday because the Obama-Boehner agreement appears to violate their pledge not to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits, as well as Obama’s promise not to make deep cuts in programs for the poor without extracting some concessions from the rich.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, more details have emerged about the massive government bailout of the banking industry. On Thursday, the Government Accountability Office issued an audit of the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending programs. It revealed the Fed provided more than $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders responded to the audit by saying, quote, “This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re-on-your-own individualism for everyone else.”

            To talk more about the debt debate in Washington, as well as the overall economic crisis here and in Europe, we’re joined by economist Michael Hudson, president of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and author of Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire.

            Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Professor Hudson. What about these latest revelations?

MICHAEL HUDSON: If you’re talking about the revelations of the Senator, these are the second big story to come out in the last two weeks. The first story, really, was two weeks ago when Sheila Bair finished her five-year term at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. And now that she left, she was able to talk about the arguments that were going on while all of this money was being given away. She opposed it. She said none of this money, not a penny, had to be given away at all. She said the job of the FDIC was to do what it did with Washington Mutual and IndyMac. They could have closed down Citibank, they could have closed down AIG and the others. Depositors insured by the FDIC wouldn’t have lost a penny. She said, “That’s what the FDIC does.”

            She was overruled by Geithner and by the Treasury Department, and especially by Bernanke, who essentially said, “We have to save the rich first. We have to save the gamblers.” There was plenty of money in all of the banks to cover all of the retail vanilla deposits for businesses and families. What there was not money for was for all the cross-gambles that they had made on derivatives—that is, which way interest rates would go, which way currencies would go. And so, this was really a casino. These were bets. And people like the AIG couldn’t pay. And the question is, how are you going to get the winners in this casino to get money from the losers, who are broke? So these $16 trillion worth of loans were all for junk securities. They weren’t for the solid securities that did back out the deposits. These were all for junk gambles, having nothing to do with the real economy at all.

            And the result was that while many of the $16 trillion have been repaid, there has been a residue of $13 trillion added to the government debt since September 2008, when all of this began. All this was created simply on a computer keyboard at the Treasury. So the question is, if they can create a $13 trillion on a computer keyboard, taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the Federal Reserve can simply give this money, why can’t they, over 50 years, pay the trillion dollars for the Medicare and the Social Security? It’s—obviously, it’s a charade.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, that was precisely my question. Where did this $13 trillion come from? So this was basically all paper, paper loans.

MICHAEL HUDSON: Well, not even paper. It’s electronic. We’ve sublimated the whole thing. The Federal Reserve can create a deposit, just like a bank does. If you go into a bank, you sign an IOU, and the bank adds money to your account. It’s done on a computer keyboard. That’s what money—how it’s created these days. And the government can do exactly what the bank can do. They can create the money on their own computer keyboards. And that’s—usually, they do that by running a budget deficit. That’s why the economy needs a budget deficit to grow. When the government runs a budget deficit, that puts money into the economy and helps us recover from the recession. That’s pretty obvious.

            Under Clinton, we had a budget surplus. And what that meant was, normally, that would have pushed the economy down, but the gap was all provided by banks, commercial banks, on their computer keyboards, at interest. They cleaned up. And that’s a situation that President Obama is trying to restore today. Instead of the government creating free money on its keyboard with a deficit, all of the increase in money used by the American economy will be created by Wall Street at interest. It’s completely unnecessary.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, let me ask you about the $3 trillion deal that no one yet knows the specifics of, but we’re already getting the outlines of it leaked little by little. This whole issue of eliminating the tax deduction that millions of Americans use for home mortgage interest, this was supposedly what helped so many people be able to buy homes. With the entire housing industry of the United States in crisis, why would they eliminate mortgage interest deduction, which it seems to me would make—mean fewer houses are bought and sold in the United States?

MICHAEL HUDSON: The banks normally wouldn’t back anything that was going to lead to more foreclosures. But in this case the government has told the banks: “Yes, there are going to be a lot more foreclosures, but we’re going to bail you out, because we’ve insured the mortgages.” Eighty percent of the mortgages in America are now insured by the government, so the banks won’t lose the money. By cutting the deduction, this is going to lead to a huge—a higher bailout by the government to Wall Street on the guarantees that Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Authority have done.

            Now, you said one thing, that making mortgage interest deductible makes homes more affordable. It really doesn’t. What happens is, it enables the banks to make a larger loan against the value of the home, and the buyer now has to pay more interest and take on a larger debt, because they have more free money to pay. Whatever the tax collector relinquishes is available to be paid to the banks as interest. So all this tax deductibility in the first place was an attempt to un-tax real estate, so that home buyers could take out larger mortgages. And 80 percent of banks’ business is making mortgage loans.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Hudson, let me ask you about the Republican proposal dubbed “cut, cap and balance.” It passed the House earlier this week, and the Senate will vote on the measure today. This is House Speaker John Boehner.

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Also this week, the House passed our “cut, cap and balance” legislation that represents exactly the kind of “balanced legislation” the President has talked about. It provides him with the debt limit increase that he’s requested. But it gives families and small businesses the real spending cuts and reforms that they’re demanding without any job-crushing tax hikes. What this legislation also shows, that it’s not only important to avoid default, it’s also important that we take a meaningful step toward real deficit reduction. This means, in addition to cutting and capping spending now, there should be real structural reforms to our entitlement programs. And there will be no tax increases.

AMY GOODMAN: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid described the “cut, cap, balance” bill as one of the worst bills in the history of the country.

SEN. HARRY REID: I think this piece of legislation is about as weak and senseless as anything that has ever come on this Senate floor. And I am not going to waste the Senate’s time, day after day, on this piece of legislation, which I think is an anathema to what our country is all about. So everyone understand, we’re going to have a vote tomorrow. I’m not going to wait ‘til Saturday. We’re going to have a vote tomorrow, and I feel confident that this legislation will be disposed of, one way or the other. The American people should understand that this is a bad piece of legislation, perhaps some of the worst legislation in the history of this country.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Hudson, your response?

MICHAEL HUDSON: He’s quite right. This is an awful piece of legislation, and it’s too bad that Mr. Obama supports it. But you could see it all coming even before Mr. Obama took office, when he appointed the Deficit Reduction Commission. He appointed opponents of Social Security to the commission: Republican Senator Simpson and Erskine Bowles, who was Clinton’s chief of staff. Obama really believes in trickle-down economics. He believes that Wall Street are job creators, not downsizers and outsourcers and foreclosures. That’s the tragedy of all this.

            Now, how—the question is, how can a Democratic president put forth a Republican program? There has to be a crisis. Now in reality there is no crisis at all. In reality, raising the debt ceiling has been done for a hundred years automatically. There is no connection between raising the debt ceiling and arguing over tax policy. Tax policy takes many years to work out. All of a sudden, Mr. Obama is going along with the charade of saying, “Wait a minute, let’s create a crisis.” As his former manager Rahm Emanuel said, a crisis is too important an opportunity to waste. But Wall Street doesn’t like real crises, so there’s an artificial non-crisis that Obama is treating as a crisis so that he can put forth the recommendations of the Deficit Reduction Commission to get rid of Social Security that he has supported all along. That’s the problem. He believes it.

JUAN GONZALEZ: You know, I wanted to ask you specifically about that, because every time you turn on the TV now or you read a mainstream newspaper, there are all these quotations from Moody’s and this rating agency and this expert that August 2nd will be a financial Armageddon for the country. And I’m saying to myself, we’ve already been through a financial Armageddon for the last couple of years, and now they’re suddenly saying that, on this date, if this stuff is not passed, if a deal is not reached, suddenly the entire world financial system will be under severe strain.

MICHAEL HUDSON: Well, you had this kind of debt ceiling come up, I think, maybe 20 times under Bush’s administration. It’s a non-threatening thing. It’s something automatic. It’s technical. It’s sort of like going to the corner and having a notary public certify what you’ve done. It’s a technical thing that has nothing to do with real economy or policy at all. They’re pretending it’s a crisis because they have a plan. And the plan is what Mr. Boehner has put forth. Just like after 9/11, the Pentagon pulled out a plan for Iraq’s oil fields, Wall Street has a plan to really clean up now, to really put the class war back in business and get rid of Medicare, get rid of the programs for the poor, and say, “There’s no money for you. We’ve given it all away in the bailouts.”

AMY GOODMAN: So, Michael Hudson, what could President Obama do?

MICHAEL HUDSON: He could say, “This debt ceiling has nothing to do with policy. You want to argue about the tax policy? Fine, let the Democrats and Republicans do it under non-crisis conditions. But this has nothing to do at all with the debt ceiling. If you want to refuse to increase the debt and plunge the economy into disaster, maybe you’d better talk to your campaign contributors and see what they want. Because I know what they say. Your campaign contributors in the Republican camp are my own campaign contributors: Wall Street. And they don’t like crises.” If he said this, you would find that the charade would pop, just like pricking a balloon.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, what about that? I mean, the very people that are supporting the Tea Party, you know, congressmen activists, are these very same financial institutions that, of course, are demanding a lifting of the debt ceiling.

MICHAEL HUDSON: What they’re pushing for really isn’t a default on the debt. They’re pushing for a crisis to let Mr. Obama rush through the Republican plan. In order for him to do it, the Republicans have to play good cop, bad cop. They have to have the Tea Party move so far to the right, take a so crazy a position, that Mr. Obama seems reasonable by comparison. And of course he is not reasonable. He’s a Wall Street Democrat, which we used to call Republicans.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of the danger to Social Security and Medicare, how do you see the direction that they are hoping to go into, in terms of the reductions on this deal?

MICHAEL HUDSON: As Mr. Obama’s Deficit Reduction Commission said, we have to get rid of Medicare, we have to get rid of Social Security, put the Social Security funds into the stock market, create a stock market boom, create new business for his—for Wall Street. He believes in trickle-down economics.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And the retirement accounts.

MICHAEL HUDSON: Yes. That’s what he believes in. And this would be a disaster, as people have already seen the last time the market crashed.

AMY GOODMAN: What about unemployment? How does it fit into this picture? We say 9.2, but in fact it is so much higher in so many communities. We’re talking 30 and 50 percent.

MICHAEL HUDSON: That’s right. And it’s getting worse. The interesting thing is when you look at the press reports, the adjective you always see is “unexpected” or “surprising.” What that means is plausible deniability, as if nobody could have foreseen it, while every economist I know says, “Look, we’re in the middle of debt deflation.”

            In fact, before he took office, Mr. Obama said he was going to fight to make sure that mortgages—relief was given to mortgage debtors, because if there were foreclosures, there was going to be unemployment. He then did absolutely nothing. He broke his promise. And everything that he warned about has taken place. So it really should not be surprising.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I also wanted to ask you about the connection to—from what’s going on here to what’s going on in Europe, and especially in Greece, the situation there. On Thursday, European leaders agreed to a new $155 billion bailout for Greece. Manuel Barroso, who is the European Commission president, said this:

JOSÉ MANUEL BARROSO: We needed a credible package. We have a credible package. It deals with both the concerns of the markets and of citizens. It responds also to the concerns of all member states of the euro area. It is a package that every government has signed up to. For the first time, the crisis, politics and markets are coming together. Now I expect every one of them to go out and defend and implement, with determination, this package.

JUAN GONZALEZ: The connections, if any, between what’s going on in Greece and Europe and the battle we’re having here?

MICHAEL HUDSON: Well, Greece’s should be viewed as a dress rehearsal for the United States. It’s exactly the same thing. Greece didn’t really get any bailout funds at all. All of the bailout funds were given by European creditor governments to the banks that held the Greek bonds. And Greece was told, “Well, there’s a 50 billion euro loss on your bonds that have gone down. You have to sell off and privatize €50 billion of your land and property in the public domain.” So for every euro that the bankers lose, Greece has to sell off an equivalent amount. Tthe idea is to carve up the government and privatize it, just like Illinois and Chicago and Wisconsin and California are doing. So it’s a dress rehearsal for what’s happening here.

AMY GOODMAN: If you talk about dress rehearsal, there are massive protests—there have been—in the streets of Greece, in Spain, when we were just in Britain, in London. What about here?

MICHAEL HUDSON: You’ve seen the protests in Madison, Wisconsin. And in the Greek Parliament Square, in front of the parliament building, there were signs up to say, “We are Wisconsin.” There was a very clear connection they were making that this is a worldwide struggle. What’s happening across the world is an attempt by the financial sector to really make its move and say this is their opportunity for a power grab. And they’re creating this artificial crisis as an opportunity to carve up the public domain and to give themselves enough money. They’re taking the money and running, because they know that unemployment is going up. The game is over. They know that. And the only question is, how much can they take, how fast?

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Hudson, we want to thank you very much for being with us, president of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and author of the book Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire.

Michael Hudson, president of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and author of the book Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire.

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The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about how the U.S. provided a whopping $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. An amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders to the Wall Street reform law passed one year ago this week directed the Government Accountability Office to conduct the study. “As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world,” said Sanders. “This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re-on-your-own individualism for everyone else.”

Among the investigation’s key findings is that the Fed unilaterally provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations from South Korea to Scotland, according to the GAO report. “No agency of the United States government should be allowed to bailout a foreign bank or corporation without the direct approval of Congress and the president,” Sanders said.

The non-partisan, investigative arm of Congress also determined that the Fed lacks a comprehensive system to deal with conflicts of interest, despite the serious potential for abuse.  In fact, according to the report, the Fed provided conflict of interest waivers to employees and private contractors so they could keep investments in the same financial institutions and corporations that were given emergency loans.

For example, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase served on the New York Fed’s board of directors at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed.  Moreover, JP Morgan Chase served as one of the clearing banks for the Fed’s emergency lending programs.

In another disturbing finding, the GAO said that on Sept. 19, 2008, William Dudley, who is now the New York Fed president, was granted a waiver to let him keep investments in AIG and General Electric at the same time AIG and GE were given bailout funds.  One reason the Fed did not make Dudley sell his holdings, according to the audit, was that it might have created the appearance of a conflict of interest.

To Sanders, the conclusion is simple. “No one who works for a firm receiving direct financial assistance from the Fed should be allowed to sit on the Fed’s board of directors or be employed by the Fed,” he said.

The investigation also revealed that the Fed outsourced most of its emergency lending programs to private contractors, many of which also were recipients of extremely low-interest and then-secret loans.

The Fed outsourced virtually all of the operations of their emergency lending programs to private contractors like JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo.  The same firms also received trillions of dollars in Fed loans at near-zero interest rates. Altogether some two-thirds of the contracts that the Fed awarded to manage its emergency lending programs were no-bid contracts. Morgan Stanley was given the largest no-bid contract worth $108.4 million to help manage the Fed bailout of AIG.

A more detailed GAO investigation into potential conflicts of interest at the Fed is due on Oct. 18, but Sanders said one thing already is abundantly clear. “The Federal Reserve must be reformed to serve the needs of working families, not just CEOs on Wall Street.”

To read the GAO report, click here.

Fed Audit

 

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Arrested: Anders Behring Breivik (32).
Photo: PRIVATE

According to a Norwegian-language version of Associated Press, the terrorist who bombed downtown Oslo and shot numerous children at summer camp was an Anti-Islam nationalist:

In online debates marks Anders Behring Breivik as well read, and one with strong opinions about Norwegian politics. He promotes a very conservative opinions, which he also called nationalist. He expresses himself strongly opposed to multiculturalism – that cultural differences can live together in a community.

Breivik has had many posts on the site Document.no, an Islam-critical site that publishes news and commentary.

In one of the posts he states that politics today no longer revolves around socialism against capitalism, but that the fight is between nationalism and internationalism. He expressed clear support for the nationalist mindset.

Anders Breivik Behring has also commented on the Swedish news articles, where he makes it clear that he believes the media have failed by not being “NOK” Islam-critical.

MSNBC reports:

TV2, the country’s largest broadcaster, identified him as Anders Behring Breivik, 32, describing him as a member of “right-wing extremist groups in eastern Norway.” Shortly thereafter, The Telegraph newspaper of London reported the same information, citing Norwegian Justice Minister Knut Storberget.

***

Tore Bjorgo, a professor at Norwegian Police University College — which state broadcaster NRK reported is working with police on the investigation — said the fact that the second attack was directed at a political youth organization suggested the involvement of local or European right-wing extremists.

The suspect is allegedly described as a Conservative Christian on his Facebook page.

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For well over a century the British state has relied on its professional civil service (known as the Establishment and for reasons I hope that become apparent) to maintain the status quo and whilst the state has had to make concessions over time (eg, universal suffrage, legalize trade unions and eventually establish the ‘welfare state’) the Establishment’s primary function is to preserve the rule of Capital, regardless of the party in power. Thus continuity is preserved through the role of a permanent and unelected elite run by the ‘Whitehall Mandarins’.

The success in selling the illusion of the Establishment as some kind of ‘neutral’ body cannot be under-estimated. But starting with Thatcher and continued by Blair there has been a concerted effort to demolish an ‘interventionist’ state. By this I mean that to some degree the state was obliged to take onboard the demands and the needs of working people as well as maintain a well regulated state with which to administer an Empire. This was what the post-WWII ‘social compact’ was based on in return that is, for preserving our imperial position in the world.

Of course the public service resists its destruction but only through its trade unions and again it fought, understandably, only to defend the rights and gains of its members. The larger role of the state in society is not considered to be a concern of a trade union (hence there is a law that makes ‘political’ strikes illegal in the UK).

Policy makers at the highest level were of course quite happy to ‘outsource’, in other words privatize what had formerly been an ‘in-house’ function, performed by an army of public servants. The highest levels of the civil service supplies the various Cabinet secretaries and under-secretaries who are assigned to all the various portfolios held by elected MPs; health, the police etc, most ably portrayed in the TV series ‘Yes Minister’. Little of this elite has been affected by the dismantling of our public services as quite often they are re-employed at outrageous rates as ‘consultants’.

It’s at this point that we see the true nature of the Establishment and why it’s called the Establishment. The higher echelons of the civil service share the same education, belong to the same clubs, they even marry each other and it’s been this way for at least the last 150 years. They operate as a network because the civil service elite share the same values and outlook as the elite of the legal profession, the armed forces, education and the police and finally of course, they share it with the elite of the capitalist class.

Until Thatcher’s revolution was consummated by Blair/Brown’s government, the nefarious actions of the state had always been very well hidden from public view. Civil servants have always had an intimate relationship with the corporate/state media. Most ’embarrassing’ events could be hidden from public view with little more than a phone call or a private meeting between the Establishment and the editors. Failing that there is always the ‘D’ Notice’, in place since 1922. Most often it was self-censorship at work: ‘it was ‘understood’ that you didn’t write about specific events or mention names’.

The single most striking aspect of News Corp’s corporate disaster-in-the-making is that along with the MPs expenses scandal, for the first time, we are able to see how ruling elite actually rules. And not surprisingly, it’s the one aspect that the MSM rarely, if ever explores.

In a sense the corporate press and the state have been hoisted by their own petard: by outsourcing propaganda to the corporate media it has exposed the media as an integral component of state/corporate control but one no longer under the direct control of the Establishment. Ergo, the arrogant bastards who run News Corp.

So the police for example, a state institution that wields immense power in every sense of the word, has been harnessed by News Corp to protect both corporate and state power through the way the police chose or not, to use that power.

A similar process took place between the political class and News Corp, whereby the support of News Corp’s propaganda arms were more important than prosecuting a criminal empire, thus gazes were averted. This lack of transparency and accountability explains why, when ex-assistant Police commissioner Yates decided that two villains were sufficient to close the case the MSM averted its gaze as well.

The parallels with Watergate are not coincidental as they both flow from the same belief that the ruling elite and its servants are invincible given the immense and in some instances ultimate power it gives individuals. But it’s when they start to actually believe that they are invincible that the trouble begins. Nixon believed himself to be untouchable. ‘What me? I’m the f..king president!’

It ain’t rocket science: it took ex-assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police Yates exactly eight hours to skim through thousands of emails and texts to conclude that no further investigation of the News of the World shenanigans was necessary. The two patsies who did time for News Corp satisfied the state. It kept the lid on things and gave all the outward appearance, to a blind person that is, as the right thing to do.

And whilst the BBC and the rest were eulogizing over the (long overdue) demise of the NotW, not a single one of them pointed out that the NotW was a vile piece of gutter press.

Whilst the above-mentioned media pundits were holding a wake over the death of the NotW, this was the same paper that had hacked into the phone of the murdered Milly Dowler and then sold these stories in the NotW to the same people who now expressed disgust at what the NotW had done to get them in the first place!

“She [Brooks] came up to me and said, ‘Oh, Mr Bryant, it’s after dark — shouldn’t you be on Clapham Common?”

“At which point Ross Kemp [the ex-EastEnders actor and her then husband] said, ‘Shut up, you homophobic cow’.” — ‘Quote of the day: “Shut up, you homophobic cow“‘, News Statesman, 8 July 2011

Rebekah Brooks comment to the outed (by the NotW, the paper she edited at the time) gay MP Chris Bryant. And outed at a critical pre-election period by the NotW with a pic of Bryant in his undies.

What the NotW and others of its ilk reveal is not only how it exploits its largely working class readership but what the capitalist class thinks of them! It obviously has nothing but contempt for its readers and treats their often painful life experiences as vehicles for advertising revenue and to be used as state-sponsored propaganda (eg Murdoch’s obscene intervention in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, or its exploitation by supporting ‘our boys in Afghanistan’ then hacking the phones of dead soldiers for copy).

The irony of Thatcherism is that it signaled the beginning of the demolition of an interventionist state but in so doing it has exposed the way the state works in direct collusion with big capital and how integral our so-called independent media is to the functioning of the state. By outsourcing its functions to the lowest of the low, the slimiest of the ruling elite, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, the state has exposed itself for what it really is and whose interests it really represents.

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Introduction

Empires are built through the promotion and backing of local collaborators who act at the behest of imperial rulers. They are rewarded with the outward symbols of authority and financial handouts, even as it is understood that they hold their position only at the tolerance of their imperial superiors. Imperial collaborators are referred to by the occupied people and the colonial resistance as “puppets” or “traitors”; by western journalists and critics as “clients”; by the imperial scribes and officials as “loyal allies” as long as they remain obedient to their sponsors and paymaster.

Puppet rulers have a long and ignoble history during the 20th century. Subsequent to US invasions in Central America and the Caribbean a whole string of bloody puppet dictators were put in power to implement policies favorable to US corporations and banks and to back US regional dominance. Duvalier (father and son) in Haiti, Trujillo in the Dominion Republic, Batista in Cuba, Somoza (father and son) in Nicaragua and a host of other tyrants served to safeguard imperial military and economic interests, while plundering the economies and ruling with an iron fist.

Rule via puppets is characteristic of most empires. The British excelled in propping up tribal chiefs as tax collectors, backing Indian royalty to muster sepoys to serve under British generals. The French cultivated francophone African elite to provide cannon fodder for its imperial wars in Europe and Africa . “Late” imperial countries like Japan set up puppet regimes in Manchura and Germany promoted the Vichy puppets in occupied France and the Quisling regime in Norway .

Post-Colonial Rule: Nationalists and Neo-Colonial Puppets

Powerful national liberation, anti-colonial movements following World War II, challenged European and US imperial dominance in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Faced with the enormous costs of reconstruction in Europe and Japan and domestic mass movements opposed to continuing colonial wars, the US and Europe sought to retain their economic holdings, military bases via ‘political collaborators’. They would assume administrative, military and political responsibilities, forging new links between the formally independent country and their old and new imperial masters. The economic and military institutional continuities between colonial and post-colonial regimes were defined as ‘neo-colonialism’.

Foreign aid gave birth to and enriched an ‘indigenous’ kleptocratic bourgeoisie which provided a fig leaf to imperial resource extraction. Military aid, training missions and overseas scholarships trained a new generation of military and civilian bureaucrats inculcated with imperial-centered ‘world views’ and loyalties. The military-police-administrative apparatus was perceived by imperial rulers as the best guarantor of the emerging order, given the fragility of neo-colonial rulership, their narrow base of appeal and the demands of the masses for substantive socio-economic structural changes to accompany political independence.

The post-colonial period was riven with long term large-scale anti-imperial social revolutions ( China , Indo-China), military coups (throughout the three continents), international civil wars ( Korea ) and mostly successful nationalist-populist transformations ( Iraq , India , Indonesia , Egypt , Algeria , Argentina , Brazil , Ghana , etc.). The latter became the bases for the non-aligned movements. Outright ‘colonial settler regimes’ ( South Africa , Israel/Palestine, Southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe) were the exception. Complex “associations”, depending on the specific power relations between empire and local elites, generally increased income, trade and investments for the decolonized newly independent countries. Independence created an internal dynamic based on large scale state intervention and a mixed economy.

The post-colonial period of radical nationalist and socialist uprisings, lasted less than a decade in most of the three continents. By the end of the 1970’s, imperial backed coups overthrew national-populist and socialist regimes in the Congo , Algeria , Indonesia , Argentina , Brazil , Chile and in numerous other countries. The newly independent radical regimes in the former Portuguese colonies, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and the nationalist regimes and movements in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Latin America were severely weakened by the collapse of the USSR and China’s conversion to capitalism. The US appeared as the sole ‘superpower’ without a military and economic counterweight. US and European military and economic empire builders saw an opportunity to exploit natural resources, expropriate thousands of public enterprises, build a network of military bases and recruit new mercenary armies to extend imperial dominance.

The question arose as to the form the new US empire would take: the means through which the remaining nationalist rulers would be ousted. Equally important: with the demise of the USSR and China/Indo-China’s conversion to capitalism, what ideology or even ‘argument’ would serve to justify the powerful thrust of post-colonial, empire building?

Washington’s New World Order: Colonial Revivalism and Contemporary Puppetry:

Western imperialism’s recovery from the defeats during the national independence struggles (1945-1970’s) included the massive rebuilding of a new imperial order. With the collapse of the USSR , the incorporation of Eastern Europe as imperial satellites and the subsequent conversion of radical nationalists ( Angola , Mozambique etc.) to kleptocrat free marketers, a powerful thrust was given to White House visions of unlimited dominance, based on projections of uncontested unilateral military power.

The spread of ‘free market ideology’ between 1980 – 2000, based on the ascendancy of neo-liberal rulers throughout Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and a large swathe of Asia opened the door for unprecedented pillage, privatizations (mostly the same thing) and the concentration of wealth. Corresponding to the pillage and the concentration of a unipolar military power, a group of ultra-militarists, so-called neo-conservatives ideologue, deeply imbued with the Israeli colonial mentality entered into the strategic decision-making positions in Washington , with tremendous leverage in European spheres of power – especially in England .

History went into reverse. The 1990’s were inaugurated with colonial style wars, launched against Iraq and Yugoslavia, leading to the break-up of states and the imposition of puppet regimes in (Northern Iraq) ‘Kurdistan’, Kosova, Montenegro and Macedonia (former Yugoslavia). Military success, quick and low cost victories, confirmed and hardened the beliefs of the neo-conservative and neo-liberal ideologues that empire building was the inevitable wave of the future. Only an appropriate political trigger was necessary to mobilize the financial and human resources to pursue the new military driven empire.

The events of 9/11/2001 were thoroughly exploited to launch sequential wars of colonial conquest. In the name of a “word wide military crusade against terrorism”, plans were made, massive funds were allocated and a mass media propaganda blitz was launched, to justify a series of colonial wars.

The new imperial order began with the invasion of Afghanistan (2001) and the overthrow of the Taliban Islamic-nationalist regime, (which never had anything to do with 9/11). Afghanistan was occupied by the US – NATO – mercenary armies but not conquered. The US invasion and occupation of Iraq led to the regroupment of Islamic, nationalist and trade union anti-colonial forces and prolonged armed and civil resistance movements.

Because of widespread nationalist and anti-Zionist influence within the existing Iraqi civilian, police and military apparatus, neo-conservative ideologues in Washington opted for the total dismantling of the state. They attempted to refashion a colonial state based on sectarian leaders, local tribal chiefdoms, foreign contractors and the appointment and ‘clearance’ of reliable exile politician as ‘presidential or ‘prime ministerial’ national fig leafs for the colonized state.

Pakistan was a special case of imperial penetration, military intervention and political manipulation, linking large scale military aid, bribes and corruption to establish a puppet regime. The latter sanctioned sustained violations of sovereignty by US warplanes (“drones” and piloted), commando operations and the large scale mobilization of the Pakistan military for US counter-insurgency operations displacing millions of Pakistan ‘tribal’ peoples.

The Puppet Regime Imperative

Contrary to US and EU propaganda, the invasions and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and the military interventions in Pakistan were never popular. They were actively and passively opposed by the vast majority of the population. No sooner were the colonial civil officials imposed by force of arms and efforts began to administer the country then passive popular and sporadic armed resistance emerged. The colonial officials were seen for what they were: an alien, exploitative, presence. Treasuries were looted, the entire economy was paralyzed, elementary services (water, electricity, sewage systems, etc.) did not function, and millions were uprooted. The wars and occupations radically decimated the pre-colonial society and the colonial officials were hard pressed to create a replacement.

Billions in military spending failed to create a civil service capable of governance. The colonial rulers had severe problems locating willing collaborators with technical or administrative experience. Those willing to serve lacked even a modicum of popular acceptance.

The colonial conquest and occupation eventually settled on establishing a parallel collaborator regime which would be financed and subordinate to the imperial authorities. Imperial strategists believed they would provide a political façade to ‘legitimate’ and negotiate with the occupation. The enticement to collaborate was the billions of dollars channeled into the colonized state apparatus (and easily plundered through phony ‘reconstruction’ projects) to compensate for the risks of political assassination by nationalist resistance fighters. At the pinnacle of the parallel regimes were the puppet rulers, each certified by the CIA for their loyalty, servility and willingness to sustain imperial supremacy over the occupied people. They obeyed Washington ’s demands to privatize public enterprises and supported Pentagon recruitment of a mercenary army under colonial command.

Hamid Karzai was chosen as the puppet ruler in Afghanistan , based merely on his family ties with drug traffickers and compatibility with warlords and elders on the imperial payroll. His isolation was highlighted by the fact that even the presidential guard was made up of US Marines. In Iraq , US colonial officials in consultation with the White House and the CIA chose Nouri al Maliki as the “Prime Minister” based on his zealous “hands on” engagement in torturing resistance fighters suspected of attacking US occupation forces.

In Pakistan the US backed a convicted felon on the lam, Asif Ali Zardari as President. He repeatedly demonstrated his accommodating spirit by approving large scale, long term US aerial and ground operations on the Pakistan side of the Afghan border. Zardari emptied the Pakistani treasury and mobilized millions of soldiers to assault and displace frontier population centers sympathetic to the Afghan resistance.

Puppets in Action: Between Imperial Subservience and Mass Isolation

The three puppet regimes have provided a fig leaf for the imperial savaging of the colonized people of the countries they preside over. Nouri al Maliki has over the past 5 years, not only justified the US occupation but actively promoted the assassination and torture of thousands of anti-colonial activists and resistance fighters. He has sold billion dollar oil and gas concessions to overseas oil companies. He has presided over the theft (‘disappearance’ or “unaccountable”) of billions of dollars in oil revenues and US foreign aid (squeezed from US tax payers). Hamid Karzai, who has rarely ventured out of the presidential compound without his US Marine bodyguards, has been ineffective in gathering even token support except through his extended family. His main prop was narco warlord brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, killed by his CIA certified Chief of Security. Since Karzai’s domestic support is extremely narrow, his main functions include attending external donors meetings, issuing press statements and rubber stamping each increase (“surge”) in US troops. The intensified use of Special Forces death squads and drone warplanes, inflicting high civilian casualties, has further enraged Afghans. The entire civilian and military apparatus nominally under Karzai is unquestionably, penetrated by Taliban and other nationalist groups, making him totally dependent on the US troops and warlords and drug traffickers on the CIA payroll.

The Pakistani puppet Arif Ali Zardari, despite strong resistance from sectors of the military and intelligence agencies, and despite 85% popular hostility to the US , has plunged the country into a series of sustained large scale military offenses against Islamist communities in the Northeast territories, displacing over 4 million refugees. Under orders from the White House to escalate the war against Taliban sanctuaries and their Pakistan armed allies, Zardari has lost all credibility as a ‘national’ politician. He has outraged nationalist loyalties by ‘covertly’ approving US gross violations of sovereignty by allowing US Special Forces to operate from Pakistan bases in their murderous operations against local Islamic militants. The daily US drone bombing of civilians in villages, on highways and in markets has led to a near universal consensus of his puppet status. While puppet rulers provide a useful façade for external propaganda purposes, their effectiveness diminishes to zero domestically, as their subservience before the imperial slaughter of non-combatants increases. The initial imperial propaganda ploy portraying the puppets as “associate” or “power-sharers” loses credibility as it becomes transparent that the puppet rulers are impotent to rectify imperial abuses. This is especially the case with pervasive human rights violations and the destruction of the economy. Foreign aid is widely perceived as nurturing widespread extortion, corruption and incompetent administration of basic services.

As the domestic resistance grows and as the imperial countries ‘will’ to continue a decade long war and occupation wanes, the puppet rulers, feel intense pressure to make, at least, token expressions of ‘independence’. The puppets begin to “talk back’ to the puppet-masters, attempting to play to the vast chorus of mass indignation over the most egregious occupation crimes against humanity. The colonial occupation begins to sink, under the weight of one-billion-dollars-per-week expenditures from depleted treasuries. The token troop withdrawals signal the growing importance and dependence on a highly suspect ‘native’ mercenary force, causing the puppets increasingly to fear for loss of office and life.

Puppet rulers begin to contemplate that it is time to probe the possibilities of making a deal with the resistance; time to voice popular indignation at civilian killings; time to praise the withdrawal of troops, but nothing consequential. No abandoning the protection of the imperial Praetorian Guard or, ‘god forbid’, the latest tranche of foreign aid. It’s an opportune time for Ali Zardari to criticize the US military intrusion, killing Bin Laden; time for Al Maliki to call on the US to “honor” its troop withdrawal in Iraq ; time for Karzai to welcome the Afghan military takeover of a province of least resistance (Bamiyan). Are the puppets in some sort of ‘revolt’ against the puppet master? Washington apparently is annoyed: $800 million in aid to Pakistan has been held up pending greater military and intelligence collaboration in scourging the countryside and cities in search of Islamic resistance fighters. The Taliban assassination of Karzai’s brother and top political adviser Jan Mohamed Khan, important assets in buttering the puppet regime, signals that the puppet rulers’ occasional critical emotional ejaculations are not resonating with the Taliban “shadow government” which covers the nation and prepares a new military offensive.

The puppet ‘revolts’ neither influence the colonial master nor attract the anti-colonial masses. They signal the demise of a US attempt at colonial revivalism. It spells the end of the illusion of the neo-conservative and neo-liberal ideologists who fervently believed that US military power was capably of invading, occupying and ruling the Islamic world via shadow puppets projected over a mass of submissive peoples. The colonial example of Israel , a narrow strip of arid coastline, remains an anomaly in a sea of independent Islamic and secular states. Efforts by its US advocates to reproduce Israel’s relative consolidation through wars, occupations and puppet regimes has instead led to the bankruptcy of the US and the collapse of the colonial state. Puppets will be in flight; troops are in retreat; flags will be lowered and a period of prolonged civil war is in the offering. Can a democratic social revolution replace puppets and puppet masters? We in the United States live in a time of profound and deepening crises, in which rightwing extremism has penetrated the highest office and has seized the initiative for now but hopefully not forever. The overseas colonial wars are coming to a close, are domestic wars on the horizon?

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In light of the fact that in the ongoing budget negotiations President Obama and the Republican leaders share the common objective of drastically cutting non-military social spending, all the bickering between the two sides seems somewhat puzzling. Considering that their targeted cuts in social spending are almost identical, why do they squabble so much?

In the days when the Democrats and Republicans had marginally different positions regarding fiscal policy, the debate between the two parties over budgetary issues was easy to understand. The Democrats would start from the center left, the Republicans from the center right, and they would usually end up at the center. It was a very subtle division of labor as the two sides provided political cover for each other’s positions or posturing.

The wrangling during the current budget negotiations, however, is somewhat different: it is prompted not so much by a clash of differing positions on the two sides as it is by a competition over the same or similar position by both parties—a competition to win the hearts and minds of the Wall Street bigwigs. The Republicans are angry because they feel that the president has broken traditional rules of the bipartisan game, and has staked out their customary position on the right. And Mr. Obama is incensed because the Tea Partiers within the Republican Party are not playing by the conventional rules, and are not providing him with the tax cover he needs in order to justify his bigger-than the Republicans’ cuts in social spending.

Viewed in this light, the disagreement between Barack Obama and John Boehner is essentially similar to the disagreement between two military generals or commanders who fight a common enemy—in this case the American public—but disagree over the tactics of how to defeat that enemy. In other words, they have a shared strategic goal (of dismantling social safety net programs) but different tactics of achieving that goal. That’s the essence of the ongoing backbiting between the two sides.

The National debt ceiling has been raised many times since the mid-1970s in order to facilitate the drastic increases in military spending, the major tax breaks for the wealthy and, most importantly, the multi-trillion dollar bailouts of the Wall Street gamblers. Having thus accumulated nearly as much debt as gross domestic product ($14.3 trillion), the bipartisan servants of the plutocracy now claim that the debt ceiling would reach its “crisis” limits by August 2nd, and that it cannot be raised beyond this “critical” limit without counterbalancing cuts in non-military social spending.

The Republican leadership initially sought to take advantage of the budget negotiation by holding the debt ceiling hostage to severe cuts in social spending in order to score political points with Wall Street against President Obama. “These calculations were upset, however, when Obama proposed even greater spending cuts than those demanded by the House Republicans. . . .He even proposed to put cuts in Social Security on the table, leading to House Republican complaints that they had been ‘outflanked’ by the White House” [source].

At an earlier stage of negotiations, the House Republican leader, Speaker John Boehner,insisted that the legislation to raise debt ceilingought to include spending cuts (dollar-for-dollar) equal to the raise in the ceiling. He proposed an increase of $2.4 trillion in the ceiling, matched by cuts in social spending of the same magnitude.

President Obama countered by proposing a much bigger package, $4 trillion, which included the collection of some vaguely-defined taxes from the wealthy. Inclusion of the tax provision made the president’s proposed package appear more balanced and somewhat progressive. A closer scrutiny of the package, however, revealed two problems. First, the suggested tax revenue to be collected from the wealthy was estimated to be only $1 trillion, which left the remaining $3 trillion to be cut from social spending—obviously bigger than Boehner’s proposed cut of $2.4 trillion. Second, the purported $1 trillion new taxes on the wealthy was designed not to come from higher tax rates on the highest incomes but from closing or narrowing some tax loopholes for large corporations, which would eventually be recovered by those corporations in the form of lower tax rates:

“His proposals for closing a few tax loopholes that benefit corporations and the wealthy were largely regarded by the financial aristocracy as a minor inconvenience that would provide a political cover for the overall budget cutting. . . . Moreover, the multimillionaires have been assured that any small charges on their wealth incorporated into an eventual deficit-reduction package will be more than recouped in tax reform proposals that will slash overall tax rates on corporations and high-income households” [source].

In return for his unflinching service to big business, Mr. Obama has been handsomely rewarded through generous infusion of cash contributions to his reelection campaign, more than twice as much as that of all the Republican candidates combined.

Despite his success in outdoing his Republican rivals in winning the trust and the cash contributions of the Wall Street, Mr. Obama has nonetheless been uncharacteristically agitated during the ongoing budget negotiations. For example, he angrily walked out of a meeting with the Republican leaders on July 13 when the discussion to raise the debt ceiling broke down. Lashing out at the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), the President blurted out, “don’t call my bluff,” adding that he would veto any short-term bill that Cantor sent him. The president “lit up Eric Cantor like he’s never been lit up,” wrote Joe Klein of the New York Times. The question is why? Why has the usually unflappable President been unusually edgy during these negotiations?

I suspect the reason is that his plan to camouflage his big cuts in social spending by wrapping them up in a token or fake tax hike on the wealthy has been exposed by the Tea Party elements of the Republican Party who adamantly opposed any change in taxation, thereby depriving him of the cover he needed to misrepresent his budget plan: pretending that he was fighting “the Republican budget cutters” on behalf of the working people while feverishly working to serve the corporate welfare system.

Two conclusions can be drawn from this brief discussion.

First, it is obvious, as many others have pointed out, the debt ceiling “crisis” is used as a charade by the bipartisan policy makers in both the White House and the Congress in order to recoup from the working and needy people the trillions of dollars they gave (and are still giving) to Wall Street gamblers, to the beneficiaries of war and militarism, and to the super-rich (in the form of huge tax breaks). By the same token, it is also obvious that most of the bipartisan posturing and wrangling, significantly heightened and mystified by the corporate media, is designed to scare the people of a “looming debt crisis,” to hide their real intentions of cutting the people’s bread and butter, and to endear themselves to big business in pursuit of cash contributions for their reelection.

Second, the labor and liberal supporters of President Obama have an important lesson to learn from these budget negotiations: that his economic (like his foreign) policies are not any different than those of his Neoliberal/Neoconservative colleagues in the Republican Party, that his allegiance and dedication is primarily to the corporate welfare system, and that it is time to come out of the denial of these facts, and not waste their votes on Obama in the next presidential election.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007) and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (PraegerPublishers 1989).

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