Monthly Archives: July 2011

Colonizing Libya

The debt ceiling “debate” has successfully kept us from pondering the fate of Libya, where NATO still drops bombs, killing civilians in attacks that increasingly target Libya’s infrastructure, rather than military installations, in an attempt to frighten the people of Libya into turning against Ghaddafi.  The “kinetic humanitarian intervention” quickly descended into an attempt to simply assassinate the leader of a sovereign nation.  That attempt has so far failed, although the NATO forces did manage to slaughter one of Ghaddafi’s sons and three of his grandchildren in an air attack several months ago on a home in a clearly civilian area.  The casualties caused by the NATO nations to impose a simple “no-fly” zone so far: Libyan soldiers killed – hundreds to thousands (the numbers are very inexact on military deaths); Libyan civilians – 1108 dead and 4500 wounded.  These are people killed by the NATO forces.

The NATO regime change operation – let’s not bother with the pretense that this is a “humanitarian intervention” any longer – has so far cost several hundred million dollars.  NATO has brought into Libya special forces, mercenaries, and intelligence operatives; none of which, oddly, the press considers “boots on the ground”.  France has illegally air-dropped weapons to the rebels.  This week, NATO’s targets included a flu clinic and a food storage depot in the town of Zlitan, which has already had a school and a mosque destroyed by NATO bombing.  While viewing the destruction with a CNN interviewer, a local official from the town said, “It [NATO] is waging wide-scale war on the people. They are destroying everything.”

The “rebels”, as various reports have proven over the past couple of months, are a mixture of former Gaddafi ministers, CIA operatives and pro-Al Qaeda Islamic fundamentalists.
The US is now discussing how best to give the assets it seized from the Libya National Bank (which belongs to Libya’s people) to these rebels.

On July 10, the Libyan Prime Minister al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi asked for UN intervention to stop NATO military attacks against Libya, saying that the intensive airstrikes have caused a great number of civilian casualties, in violation of the UN resolutions on Libya.

In a statement which clearly flies in the face of international law, the US simply announced two weeks ago that it recognizes the rebel forces (the TNC) as the “government” of Libya.  Other NATO nations agreed that they would “deal with” (i.e., bargain with, do business with) the TNC in preference to the actual and current government of Libya.  [See my previous post on the questions of international law and the recognition of the rebel forces.]

Yesterday, the UK formally recognized the rebels as the “government” of Libya, a move that the UK seems to think legitimizes the unfreezing of UK-held assets in the Libyan national oil reserve fund to the rebels.  (The UK has frozen these funds in the same manner the US has frozen the funds in the Libyan National Bank.) Further, the UK is expelling all Libyan diplomats loyal to Ghaddafi from London and asking for members of the TNC – the rebel group – to take over the Libyan embassy building in London.

The decision to recognise the NTC as sole governmental authority led to the unfreezing of £91m in UK assets belonging to the Arabian Gulf Oil Company, a Libyan oil firm under the NTC’s control.

Foreign Office sources said the assets were unfrozen after the NTC gave assurances that the funds would be used to purchase fuel and not arms, which would be illegal under UN security council resolutions.

Hague also announced at his press conference that:

…• No deadline has been set for the military campaign against the Gaddafi regime. British military chiefs have advised ministers they can continue with the bombing indefinitely….

The renewed diplomatic offensive comes as British aircraft stepped up the bombing against Gaddafi’s security and intelligence apparatus before the start of Ramadan on 1 August.


Currently, the governments of the US, the UK, and France are discussing the possibility of “settlement” with Ghaddafi.  A representative from each government made public announcements that Ghaddaf’s fate was “a question for the Libyan people to decide”, yet the “deal” NATO is talking about is for Libya to set up a “power sharing plan” where Ghaddafi would be allowed to remain in his own country, but only under the condition that he not retain his current position.  The Russian government has proposed a five-man “interim regime”, consisting of two Ghaddafi loyalists, two members of the rebel’s TNC group, and a fifth person appointed on the basis of mutual agreement.  This is, obviously, still regime change.  It also sends a clear signal to Ghaddafi’s inner circle: work with NATO in overthrowing Ghaddafi and you might get to keep some of your power and wealth in this deal.  The power sharing plan would be brokered by the NATO forces (mainly the US and UK) and thus install a colonized puppet government more likely to give lucrative oil deals to western companies and take away the nationalized oil revenue from the Libyan people.  (All Libyans currently share in the profits from oil revenue generated by their natural resources – this is under Ghaddafi’s rule.)  It would further end any plans Ghaddafi had for working out an African currency and oil market with other African nations based on gold, and de-nationalize Libya’s National Bank.

In none of these talks, deals, and proposed bargains have the Libyan people been asked for their opinion.  No suggestion has been made that the Libyans actually vote for any member of the “5 man interim regime”.

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Posted by on July 28, 2011 in Libya, mercenaries, MIC, State Dept/diplomacy


The Big Tent.

There are two sides to this global economic class war now being waged.  There is “our” side.  We are the left, the liberal, the progressive, the conservationists – whatever you want to call it.  (Note the word ‘conservationist’.  This is not the same thing as a conservative.  Conservationists believe that we need to preserve our ecology and natural resources for the enjoyment and benefit of future generations.  We do not tear down entire mountains and disastrously pollute waterways in the meaningless attempt to extract all the oil, coal, and natural gas under them.  We do not drive entire species to extinction or strip the oceans of fish, we do not think it is wise to pursue policies which are unsustainable and unreasonable, given the facts of peak oil and toxic waste which kills.)

We believe in the New Deal.  We believe that a government exists to serve the general well-being of the people.  Our taxes should be used primarily to benefit the society from which they are collected.  We take care of the elderly, the halt and the lame.  We do not want the US to engage in illegal wars of aggression for the benefit of big banks, war profiteers and oil companies.

We do not want a handful of people owning all the property in the US or having all the money.  We do not think the average American should pony up more than he has already given just so that the fuckers who took our economy down and who have, in any case, already received 17 trillion bucks (yeah, the number has gone up) from the Fed printing machine, can get even wealthier.  We want jobs.  We want to keep our homes.  We want our public schools for our children.

We are, in short, humans.  You may think one or two of these ideas is worthy of quibbling over.  Do not get so involved in quibbling that you lose sight of the larger picture.  You think we should vote for Ron Paul instead of Fill-in-the-blank?  (He’s ‘real’, he has ‘integrity’, the ‘MSM hates him’, the business class ‘hates him’ – which they don’t, BTW – he is the best friend a big business has ever seen – these were all the same reasons given to vote for Obama.  How’d that work out? Paul has the most conservative voting record in the Senate.  He fundamentally believes in the free market and has openly called for the end of SS, medicare, food stamps, the minimum wage, the Civil Rights Act, etc.  Read his wikipedia page or his own website, people.  Anyway, what the hell is the point of voting for any of these fools?  Don’t you see you are being played?  There IS NOT going to be a candidate offered who does not intend to take all your money and give it to the MIC.)  You want to argue over the definition of “rights”?  Fuck that.  I don’t know and I don’t care to discuss whether the rights listed in the Bill of Rights are inherent in some theoretical sense to all humanity or simply there because we enforce them.  I want those rights and I want our Congress to uphold them because that is what they swore to do.  That’s our agreement, that’s our deal, that’s our Constitution.  Maybe the people of Zimbabwe believe they have different “rights”; I don’t live there and neither do my members of Congress.

Now let’s  define the Other Side in this war.  They are the MIC, the financial oligarchs, the big corporations, both parties in Washington (including the POTUS; he is the biggest cheerleader the other side has), and all the mouth-breathers who let themselves be tricked into supporting those groups.  They are loosely arranged and one group may rise or fall in prominence at different times.    They are only united in the one goal – to own all the stuff in the world – and the marriage of these groups is largely accidental.  There’s no secret cabal that plans all this out.  For now.  Right now, it serves the bankers to unite with the the oil companies.  As natural resources dwindle, those two sub-groups may end up fighting each other.  The bankers will dump support of the oil companies and try to get the green technology guys to join up.  This will happen, and you’ll know it is happening, when you see the renewable industries calling for higher taxation on and limited public access to their energy products.  More than likely, however, the oil companies intend to subsume the renewable companies so as not to lose their place at the trough.

What is the common policy of that side in this war is to do all they can to attract otherwise normal Americans to join up on that side.   You see how they have succeeded in getting the teabaggers so bamboozled that the teabaggers now  (with cow-eyed stupidity) serve the big money interests.  They want the commoners so confused by media propaganda and fear mongering that some of the population will join in to help kill off what’s left of our middle and poor classes.  Once the big boys are done with the “lefties”, the minorities, the old and the sick, they will go after the idiots who helped them, of course.  You think Halliburton or JP Morgan needs you?  They’ll let you drop a bead on a few “socialists” for fun – and then they will take your stuff and let you die in the street, too.

The other side will take all comers.  Their tent is big and has many tables attractively arranged, all set up to lure passers-by with all kinds of trinkets.  Hate dark-skinned people?  Here, have a brochure explaining how “blacks owning houses” caused the economic melt-down.  Hate the government?  Why, look.  Here is a Ron Paul screed showing why we need to dismantle the wasteful “entitlements” and keep people from trying to “live off” the “nanny state” and how the minimum wage is killing business.  Hate the college elites?  Let me tell you how Washington wastes your money on silly Pell grants.  Drill, baby, drill.   Natural gas fracking is the answer.  Over there is a happy-faced clown man who will tell you all about the wonders of Reagan’s trickle-down theory.  He’ll tell you why the budget “crisis” is real and must never, ever include tax increases – in fact, he can explain exactly why we need to decrease the taxes on the wealthy.  You will be a real economist when you finish with his lecture series.    Plus, he makes balloon animals.  Love the Lord?  Well, praise Jesus, so do we!  And Jesus, as we know, only loves them that helps themselves.  The rich are rich as a sign of God’s love.  All that “social gospel” crap is pure, well, it’s crap.  A true Christian values the rich because they are the shepherds given to guide us in these trying times.  And if you enjoy being just a little scared, if you dig that kind of thrill, at this table right over cheer is a nice lady with big hair who will tell you about the godless, heathen Muslims and their Sharia law, which they are trying to impose secretly on Amurika.    Go, Israel, boo, Islamofascistpigdogs.

The other side doesn’t give a shit if you can’t spell or don’t know the difference between Keynes and von Mises – in fact, they prefer it. They could give a crap if you like their brochure art or know how to define the word “is”.  That side will take anyone who can shoot, no questions.

Our side, on the other hand, is busy thinning its own herd, chasing out what we see as the “impure” and “imperfect” and those who offer any slight deviation of the liberal borg script.  We are busy picking off our own with friendly fire.

Guess who’s going to win?



I’m not sure why Obama has signed onto the plan to ruin the American economy once and for all – I only know that he has.  So have many Democrats and all the Republicans.  The teabagger Republicans are a particularly ruthless sub-species of Republican, who would like to see a really violent and spectacular crash with lots of blood and body parts flying about.  It’s an odd thing for a group which started with the idea of holding the Wall Street mafia accountable and ending bank bailouts to reach the place where they are calling for the deaths of the less well-to-do, but hitching your horse to the Koch Brothers will do that.  “Make no mistake”, as the President likes to say, your leaders are crashing this country and the end result will be death for the elderly, the poor, the young.  A complete and dramatic increase in job losses.  An increase in police state tactics.  Hunger.  Soaring food prices and energy costs.

I have a theory that we are seeing the splitting of the human DNA.  The original group had some empathy and some sense of taking care of the vulnerable.  The desire to see many do well, with a grand variety of career options.  The new group is driven by only one impulse: the desire to own everything in the world.  That’s it.  That is their entire point of view.  They should have all the stuff.  They have no souls.  We have forever had this gene pool, but until now, they were not tolerated for very long and were weeded out; sometimes through the use of civil laws and sometimes with violence.  Now, however, there are many of them – they have multiplied – and they are not being challenged.  These things are running our country now.  We let them multiply and now they rule.

How stupid do you have to be to believe that withholding medicine and retirement funds from old people, or ending educational programs, gutting environmental regulations, stopping unemployment benefits for those who simply cannot find the non-existent jobs, will somehow solve the budget issues?   All it will do is erode the economy further and make it less likely to bounce back.  Impoverish the nation’s people and you have no income to tax to do anything with.  (Not even to run your goddamn wars, Washington.)  In the end, you will drive society so deeply into poverty that you cease to even have a people.  How stupid do you have to be to think that giving all the wealth and tangible assets to a few individuals will do anything but, uh, give all the stuff to a few individuals?

It turns out that the people in charge, of the golem DNA, want you to be that stupid.  They know what they are doing.  They hope you don’t.   They are ruthless.  They are winning.  No, strike that.  They have won.  When you see the entire governing bodies of every country deliberately acting in unison to destroy economies and societies across the globe, with so little outrage aimed back at them, they have won.  And in particular, so little concern from the masses here in the States, the point of origin for most of the destruction forces.

Here is an excerpt from the latest tomdispatch; a small essay written by Mike Davis, called “Crash Club”.  Please take the time to read the original in its entirety.  He gets into much more detail about the financial issues in China than I am including here.

…From three directions, the United States, the European Union, and China are blindly speeding toward the same intersection.  The question is: Will anyone survive to attend the prom?

Shaking the Three Pillars of McWorld

Let me reprise the obvious, but seldom discussed. Even if debt-limit doomsday is averted, Obama has already hocked the farm and sold the kids. With breathtaking contempt for the liberal wing of his own party, he’s offered to put the sacrosanct remnant of the New Deal safety net on the auction bloc to appease a hypothetical “center” and win reelection at any price.  (Dick Nixon, old socialist, where are you now that we need you?)

As a result, like the Phoenicians in the Bible, we’ll sacrifice our children (and their schoolteachers) to Moloch, now called Deficit.  The bloodbath in the public sector, together with an abrupt shutoff of unemployment benefits, will negatively multiply through the demand side of the economy until joblessness is in teenage digits and Lady Gaga is singing “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”

Lest we forget, we also live in a globalized economy where Americans are consumers of the last resort and the dollar is still the safe haven for the planet’s hoarded surplus value.  The new recession that the Republicans are engineering with such impunity will instantly put into doubt all three pillars of McWorld, each already shakier than generally imagined: American consumption, European stability, and Chinese growth.

Across the Atlantic, the European Union is demonstrating that it is exclusively a union of big banks and mega-creditors, grimly determined to make the Greeks sell off the Parthenon and the Irish emigrate to Australia.  One doesn’t have to be a Keynesian to know that, should this happen, the winds will only blow colder thereafter.  (If German jobs have so far been saved, it is only because China and the other BRICs — Brazil, Russia, and India — have been buying so many machine tools and Mercedes.)

Boardwalk Empire Times 160

China, of course, now props up the world, but the question is: For how much longer?  Officially, the People’s Republic of China is in the midst of an epochal transition from an export-based to a consumer-based economy…

Unfortunately for the Chinese, and possibly the world, that country’s planned consumer boom is quickly morphing into a dangerous real-estate bubble. …

In effect, a shadow banking system has arisen with big banks moving loans off their balance sheets into phony trust companies and thus evading official caps on total lending…

As the three great economic blocs accelerate toward synchronized depression, I find that I’m no longer as thrilled as I was at 14 by the prospect of a classic Felsen ending — all tangled metal and young bodies.


If this doesn’t alarm you, nothing will. (Updated below.)

It appears that with the approval of Obama and the heavy-hitters in Congress, our legislative bodies have decided to contemplate a complete usurpation of the way our Constitutional system works.  A plan, put forth by Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid (who, despite their bland physical appearance, are in reality soulless golems –  monsters) would create a Super Congress composed of only 12 members of Congress.  This new body would have the right to draft legislation which would not be subject to debate, amendments, or any other such democratic niceties.  The implications here are staggering: this is not the same thing as a committee making recommendations which the full Congress then has hearings and discussions on, followed by suggestions for amendments and a vote.  This is a fairly straight-forward attempt to thwart that whole process and the very reason we have a Congress.  This idea, if accepted, creates an ipso-facto top echelon of little oligarchs within the Congress who would be allowed to rule by fiat.

This is the final act in our American drama and the end to our democratic processes.

Here is how the Super Congress plan is explained by Ryan Grim at the Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — 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. A picture of Boehner’s proposal began to come into focus Saturday evening: The debt ceiling would be raised for a short-term period and coupled with an equal dollar figure of cuts, somewhere in the vicinity of a trillion dollars over ten years. A second increase in the debt ceiling would be tied to the creation of a Super Congress that would be required to find a minimum amount of spending cuts. Because the the elevated panel would need at least one Democratic vote, it would be presumably include at least some revenue, though, if it’s anything like the deals on the table today, would likely be heavily slanted toward spending cuts. Or, as Obama said of the deal he was offering Republicans before Boehner walked out, “If it was unbalanced, it was unbalanced in the direction of not enough revenue.”

Republicans, however, are looking to force a second debt ceiling fight as part of the package, despite the Democratic rejection of the plan. Under the Republican plan, lawmakers would need to weigh in on the debt ceiling during the heat of the presidential election, a proposal Democrats reject as risky to the nation’s credit rating. “We expressed openness to two stages of cuts, but not to a short-term debt limit extension,” a Democratic aide close to the negotiations said. “Republicans only want the debt ceiling extended as far as the cuts in each tranch. That means we’ll be right back where we are today a few months down the road. We are not a Banana Republic. You don’t run America like that.”

The aide said that Democrats are open to a series of cuts as well as a Super Congress, but only if the debt ceiling is raised sufficiently so that it pushes past the election. “Our proposal tonight was, do two tranches of cuts, but raise the debt ceiling through 2012 right now, though the McConnell process would be one way,” said the aide, leaving open the possibility that Boehner could craft a new process and distinguish it from McConnell’s, which the Tea Party despises as a dereliction of duty. “Do that now with a package of cuts, and have the joint committee” — the Super Congress — “report out a package that would be the second tranch. Republicans rejected that, and continued to push a short-term despite the fact that Reid, Pelosi and Obama all could not have been clearer that they will not support a short-term increase. A short term risks some of the same consequences as outright failure to raise the ceiling — downgraded credit rating, stocks plunge, interest rates spike, etc. It is unclear why Republicans have made this their sticking point.”…

Obama has shown himself to be a fan of the commission approach to cutting social programs and entitlements. Shortly after taking office, Obama held a major conference on deficit reduction and subsequently created, by executive order, The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The White House made two telling appointments to chair the commission: The first was former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wy.), a well known and ill informed critic of Social Security who earned notoriety by suggesting, among other things, that the American government had become “a milk cow with 310 million tits!” His Democratic appointment was even more indicative of whose interests took priority, former Sen. Erskine Bowles (D-N.C.). Bowles is a member of Morgan Stanley’s board of directors; an adviser to Carousel Capital, a private equity firm; and is a director of Cousins Properties Incorporated, a firm with significant investments in commercial and mixed-use real estate.

Simpson and Bowles, unsurprisingly, produced a report recommending corporate and high-end tax cuts, along with cuts to Social Security, Medicare, veterans’ benefits and a host of other social programs.The commission needed 14 of 18 members to approve the plan in order for it to advance to Congress for a vote. The commission fell short, but did win a majority.

Proponents of slashing spending won’t make the same mistake with a new Super Congress. Only a simple majority will be necessary.

You surely see where this is going, don’t you?  Eventually, you have all the laws written by a small group of elite members of Congress, with the entire balance left as mere window dressing up-and-down voters to give the faintest tinge of “democracy at work” blushing to what is actually a junta ruling over the country.  There is no limit to the number of issues which could be declared “important” enough to be handled via a fast-track through the elite Super Congress.  Why not all of them?  It’s all important stuff, right?

This is all aside from the fact that the debt ceiling should be handled as a stand-alone, clean vote, the way it always was until Obama began tinkering with that process the last time.  (When last we saw our debt ceiling, Obama had traded the 2-year extension of the Bush tax cuts in return for a temporary increase in the debt ceiling.  Before the Republicans even asked for it.)  The deficit issues have no place in the debt ceiling debate and deserve a full discussion process with a full Congress, with the citizens given time to weigh in with their representatives.  We should not change our entire social bargain based on the secretive bargaining of a committee of 12 with only up and down votes allowed by the full Congress.


Ryan Grim has updated his article here (this is an update from what is actually the second article he wrote on the subject; the article I quoted above was his first).

He points out the teabaggers hate the idea, not because it is unConstitutional or gives too much power to too few, but because they think it would raise taxes.  Getting rid of the New Deal, not such an issue with them.  They are retarded.  Sorry, I just had to point that out in case anyone has missed it.

Here are some bits from his new article with its update:

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….

The liberal advocacy organization, 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.

[My note: apparently MoveOn is also missing the larger picture.  They only oppose the Super Congress because it might cut SS, and fail to see the threat inherent in the whole concept.  That’s just lame.]

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 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.

The structure of Reid’s proposed Super Congress is similar to Boehner’s…,

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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Posted by on July 24, 2011 in austerity, Congress, corporatocracy, economy


Follow up to the legality issue of recognizing the Libyan rebels as the “government” of Libya

I questioned in a previous post if would be legal under international law for the US to just name the rebels in Libya as the “government”.  I did some research, and it is, of course, blatantly illegal to do so.  I came across this fascinating discussion.  The interview below is with John Bellinger, the former legal adviser to the State Dept., now with the Council of Foreign Relations (you know you’re in trouble if those guys don’t like your nation-building policy).

Bellinger is concerned that this latest move is ill-advised and, in fact, against international law.  He also clearly states that not all the members of the 30 country coalition has “recognized” the rebels; in fact, and making a lie of the media statements in the US that the entire 30 country coalition had used that phrase, he points out that most of the other countries involved merely avowed a willingness to “deal with” (i.e., “work with”) the rebels, and fell far short of officially recognizing the rebels as the de facto government.


From article:

Writing for the Council on Foreign Relations this week, John B. Bellinger III, former legal adviser to the State Department, said the announcement raises “legal and practical problems,” including questions over whether Gaddafi’s government or the NTC is legally bound to respect international treaties….

In an interview, Bellinger said he suspects State Department lawyers “have been advising their policy clients of the difficult international law questions that recognizing the NTC would raise and that, nonetheless, the policy officials wanted to go ahead with this recognition.”

Checkpoint: Why might the recognition of a group like the NTC be seen as problematic from an international law perspective?

Bellinger: For the last several decades, for the United States and indeed most other states, the practice has been to recognize only new states but not new governments. And by that I mean that if a new geographic territory comes into existence, like Kosovo or Montenegro, the United States will make a decision whether to recognize that as a new state.

But for a number of decades, the Untied States has decided as a matter of diplomatic practice that it does not want to get into the business of having to recognize a new government every time there is a change of government. So if there’s a coup or if there’s a dispute over who’s in power or if there’s an insurgent group that claims to be the government, U.S. practice and the practice of most states is just not get into it. It’s just difficult.

This recognition last Friday of the Libyan National Transitional Council is a departure from that practice and is particularly problematic in this case because the council clearly doesn’t control all of the territory of Libya. It only controls part of it, and can’t reasonably say that it even speaks for all of the people of Libya, since there is at least some portion who are still loyal to Gaddafi. So it raises legal questions there.

Historically under international law, an outside country could even be accused of interfering illegally in the internal affairs of a country if it were to recognize an insurgent group. Of course, at this point, the United States is doing far more than just recognizing. We’re providing assistance and military support generally.

And then finally, in this case, [the recognition] raises difficult questions as to who has the international obligations of Libya under international law, and who owes those obligations. For example, under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which requires the government of Libya to provide State Department access to any detained person, who owes that obligation? Is it that the old Libyan government under Gaddafi or the new transitional council?…

[Discussion of how the Obama administration has gone off the policy in several cases. Deleted for space.]

Checkpoint: And the real world consequences, as you say, could be more dire in terms of upholding international obligations, right?

Bellinger: It really does raise questions as to whether the NTC now owes international obligations to the United States and the outside world and whether the Gaddafi regime, which is no longer recognized by the United States and certain other countries, no longer has those obligations.

The State Department has not made clear exactly how it is going to treat the question of treaty obligations…

I think what has been going on is that the lawyers at the State Department have been advising their policy clients of the difficult international law questions that recognizing the NTC would raise and that, nonetheless, the policy officials wanted to go ahead with this recognition. The lawyers than tried to come up with the best alternatives they could…

One of the countries that apparently didn’t go that far was Great Britain. Britain, which has historically been a stickler for finer points of international law, has been willing to go along with the “deal with” formulation but has pointedly refused to recognize the insurgency because of the various international legal problems it raises…

[Discussion of the Libyan funds. Again, space.]

Checkpoint: Now we have to hope that the Gaddafi government, while scorned by the United States, is still happy to oblige by its international obligations?

Bellinger: Well, that’s right. I would be worried about that. It’s not clear, at least publicly, what message is being conveyed to the Gaddafi regime, since they have been told publicly by the State Department that they are no longer considered to have any legitimate authority in Libya. How can we also expect them to fulfill certain international law obligations that they have to us or to others if we don’t think they’re the government anymore? That certainly raises some difficult legal questions….

This is a very interesting discussion and I highly recommend reading it in its entirety.

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Posted by on July 21, 2011 in Libya, State Dept/diplomacy


Today’s random thoughts.

I need to get a few things off my chest.  These items are unrelated to each other, but have in common that they bug the crap out of me.
In no particular order of pissed offedness:
1) The US and 30 other countries have now formally recognized the Libyan rebels as the governing body of Libya. []
So much for the claim that this is not about regime change.  We just changed the regime via government in a box.  What is democratic about this whole procedure?  Did the people of Libya themselves vote for or ask that these rebels be their government?  No. They did not.  We just told them that this group IS their government.  More and more evidence mounts that the rebels, good-looking though they are, are a CIA-backed coup against Gaddafi.  Human Rights Watch notes the rebels have abused civilians in at least 4 cities.  The US seized the Libyan National Bank, the people of Libya’s money, containing 30 billion bucks (a lot of it stored in the form of gold – is that relevant, one wonders?) and instead of returning it to the people of Libya, have announced they will give some of it the rebels.  Do the people of Libya want their money going to the rebels?  Why the fuck would anyone ask them? It no longer matters what the people of Libya want.  We (and NATO) are clearly telling them what they will have.  Could the unfrozen funds be used by the rebels to purchase arms?

“Rebel spokesman Mahmoud Shammam welcomed the NTC’s recognition and called on other nations to deliver on a promise to release hundreds of millions of dollars in funds to the opposition. ‘Funds, funds, funds,’ Shammam said, in order to stress the opposition’s demand. It remained unclear Friday whether the unfrozen assets could be used to purchase arms, or if some restrictions would still apply.”

Some other restrictions, like maybe the little fact that there was imposed an arms embargo as part of the agreement to this NATO kinetic action?

How Obama and the NATO participants have gotten away with what they just did here is a wonderment, especially in light of how relatively recently we saw Bush the Lesser do the exact same thing in Iraq.

2) Eric Cantor is being accused of potentially profiting should the US default on its debt. []  Shocked! are the Democrats.  Of course, they can’t and won’t do anything about it, since members of Congress are exempt from insider trading laws, an issue they wouldn’t want to address in a gazillion years as this exemption provides Congress with one of the less well known perks of the job. []
There was a law introduced to make this as illegal for Congress as it is for the lumpen proletariat, the “Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge” Act, but the legislation is being handed around desultorily to one committee after another.

“In a series of procedural moves, the bill was referred to six House committees (Financial Services, Agriculture, House Administration, Judiciary, Ethics, and Rules) on Mar. 17, 2011, then re-referred and “discharged” from five of those committees (all but Rules) and referred to all six committees again on Mar. 29, 2011. As of May 25, 2011 there has been no additional Congressional action.

This is the latest information I can find on it.

3) During Friday’s press conference, Obama said that raising the debt ceiling without imposing spending cuts was the “least attractive” option.  That’s a pretty strange position to take, considering that Obama requested a “clean vote” at the beginning of this whole fiasco. It was John I-am-obviously-a-fucking-alcoholic-please-stop-me Boehner who first insisted on all the deficit reduction equivalent add-ons.
Obama also said he would take the US back to the levels of domestic spending percentage as under Eisenhower, as though that were a GOOD thing.
(“I am willing to take down domestic spending to the lowest percentage of our overall economy since Dwight Eisenhower.”)

During the years of the Eisenhower administration (1953-1961), the only significant federal social program was Social Security. Medicare and Medicaid didn’t happen until 1965, and it was only during the late 60’s and the 70’s that we saw increased funding for public education, the creation of the EPA and HUD.
Of course, the top tax rate for the wealthy under Eisenhower was over 90%, but apparently that part is not germane to the discussion.
According to the statistics I have read over and over, half of senior citizens now survive on incomes below $22,000 a year and for one-third of the elderly, Social Security accounts for more than 90 percent of their income.
During the Q and A part of the press conference, I did not hear a single question suggesting that the wealthy, not working people, should bear the cost of the fiscal crisis, although the crisis exists because of 2008 Wall Street crash and the subsequent measures taken to bail out the big financial interests.  The entire discussion has been successfully diverted (largely by Obama, it must be noted) into a talk about how much more the middle-class and poor will give up in order to buy toxic assets from the big banks, put them on the public’s balance sheet, and avoid any tax “burden” on the people who have profited most from this scheme.

And that’s all I have to say for today.  Off to work.  At lunchtime, I will be working on the 79th recipe for the family’s cookbook project, “100 Slightly Less Than Wonderful, But Still Edible, Recipes with Ramen Noodles”.  We were going for 200, but then you have to include stuff like wallpaper paste, and simply NObody uses wall paper any more.  Although the wallpaper paste we developed would have technically fit into the “edible” requirement that our working title suggests.

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Posted by on July 16, 2011 in austerity, Congress, economy, Libya


indefinite detention of Americans

From the ACLU.  This needs no comment from me:

Hooray! With your help, we prevented the Senate from authorizing the president to engage in worldwide war.

For months, we have been pushing to prevent Congress from passing legislation that would give this president (and any of his successors) the authority to engage our country in a worldwide war without a defined enemy.

A couple of weeks ago, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012 (NDAA), H.R. 1253. The committee recently released the official language — and the worldwide war authority provision was nowhere to be found!

We can take only a moment to pat ourselves on the back because the fight is far from over. We now need to turn our attention to the devastating indefinite detention provisions that the committee did include in the bill.

These provisions are inconsistent with fundamental American values embodied in the Constitution and in this country’s adherence to the rule of law.

If enacted, the provisions could:

* authorize the federal government to imprison indefinitely without charge or trial civilians — including American citizens— apprehended both inside and outside the United States, including individuals who had no role in the 9/11 attacks or any actual hostilities (the bill would mark the first time since 1950 that Congress explicitly authorizes the detention without charge or trial of American citizens)

* mandate military detention of some civilians who would otherwise be outside of military control, including civilian suspects apprehended within the United States itself

* transfer to the Department of Defense core prosecutorial and investigative responsibilities now held by the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons, and the Marshals Service, as well as by the state attorneys general of the 50 states.

These provisions could significantly cut back on the historic protections provided to American citizens by the Non-Detention Act of 1971 and to all U.S. residents by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878…

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Posted by on July 7, 2011 in civil rights, Congress


Obama going after social security.

As I expected, it appears Obama is going after Social Security in a trade for some meaningless corporate loophole “tax increases”.  These loophole increases are nothing much to speak of and the Republicans are demanding that any changes to loopholes be “revenue neutral”; in other words, entirely offset by spending cuts elsewhere.  In other other words, while Obama is cutting SS in “exchange” for loophole changes, the loopholes will ALSO be offset by cuts elsewhere.  Furthermore, as revenue neutral actions, the corporate loopholes won’t, by definition, affect the deficit.  So it is now meaningless as far as the deficit goes.

The biggest error being made in these negotiations, however, is that Social Security cannot, BY LAW,  affect the Federal budget.
They will take your SS for no reason. Well, okay, for one reason: so that people will have to invest in 401’s and other privatized plans. (Read: Wall Street. Anyone remember what Wall St. did to the 401k’s? Anyone? Hello?)

SS cannot, by law, have any impact on the Federal budget. So they will dismantle it, or reduce benefits for the purpose of “deficit reduction” this year and next year they will casually say that we need more austerity measures because (surprise!) it turns out that reducing SS benefits did not have any effect on the “budget crisis”. I can only assume that they hope we will have forgotten in a year’s time exactly what reason they gave for reducing benefits. Or maybe by then we will be so overwhelmed with wars and other budget cuts, foreclosures (ramping up again), more job losses, a new proposal to end public education in America (watch for this – it’s coming), more oil spills, maybe a nuclear disaster or two in the Homeland, that we will see the loss of SS as a minor one.

Please read the following article in full (link at bottom provided) and pass it around.

From “Social Security and the Deficit Commission: Myths and Realities”, by Kristen Friend, staff US Supreme Court, Sept., 2010

…Here are the truths behind some of the more common Social Security myths.

1. Social Security adds to the deficit.

Social Security, by law, cannot add to the deficit. It is a separate program, paid into through FICA contributions, with benefits paid only from the revenue it raises. If the trust fund were to be exhausted and current contributions were not adequate to pay benefits, Social Security could not borrow from the general budget. Federal law prohibits Social Security from borrowing.

2. Social Security is broke, and there is no “Trust Fund.”

Conventional wisdom among Social Security skeptics is that the program is out of money now and that there is no Social Security Trust Fund. This is fueled largely by the fact that Social Security did begin to pay more in benefits than it received in taxes earlier than was projected due to the depth of the 2008 recession. Regardless of this fact, The Social Security Trust Fund currently runs a $2.5 trillion surplus. The Economic Policy Institute estimates the surplus will peak at $4.2 trillion in 2024 [7]

Trust Fund intact, with no changes to the program, Social Security is projected to be able to pay 100 percent of benefits until the year 2037. After 2037, Social Security will still be able to pay 75 percent of benefits. [8]…

5. Benefit cuts are needed

To the extent that there will be shortfalls in the Social Security budget in the future, they are minor in relation to other budget expenditures, and can be corrected without cutting benefits. In 1983, when Social Security actually did run out of funds, a “deal” was made with workers to put Social Security back in the black. Payroll taxes were raised, significantly, on middle and lower income workers. The tax increase was highly regressive, but, coupled with a raise in the retirement age, was responsible for building the large surplus Social Security enjoys today.

The increase in taxes on lower income individuals also allowed Reagan to cut taxes on those earning higher incomes. At the time, implicit in the deal was the idea that lower income workers would overpay their taxes for 30 years, at which point higher income individuals would pitch in to relieve some of the burden and cover any funding shortfalls. After a period of overpayment of payroll taxes, the tables would turn, and middle and lower income individuals would begin to underpay payroll taxes with the difference being covered by a raise in income taxes on higher earners. [10]

Thirty years later, the second part of that deal has been conveniently forgotten. Without cutting benefits, and in the spirit of Alan Greenspan’s 1983 recommendations, creating new sources of revenue could increase funds. The cap on Social Security taxed-income, currently $106,800, could be raised or eliminated… [Teri’s Note: This was a point made by candidate Obama during a debate. As President, however, he has reduced the amount paid by wage-earners and is suggesting a “holiday” on the employer side now as well. This has the effect of WEAKENING the SS fund, exactly the opposite of what we should be doing and the opposite of what he himself proposed on the trail.]

6. Social Security faces the same issues as Medicare and Medicaid.

Social Security often gets lumped in with Medicare and Medicaid as a problem “entitlement” program. It is true, Medicaid and Medicare do face funding problems, but much of this is due to the ballooning costs of health care. Social Security does not face the same problems as Medicare and Medicaid as payouts are not affected by rising health care costs…

Current and future retirees would be well served if politicians would stop confusing the distinction between cuts in Social Security and cuts in the national debt. Mounting deficits are a legitimate concern, but can in no way be attributed to Social Security…

Read the full article and pass the link around to everyone you know.

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Posted by on July 7, 2011 in austerity, Congress, economy


budget things

I really like  They usually do a good job on the synopsis (synopsi? synopsises?) – summaries – of the headlines of the day.  But this morning, the sight of these two headlines, one right under the other is a bit much to take.

Attorney: Evidence Strauss-Kahn bruised maid’s vagina

Jon Stewart delighted by Halperin’s ‘dick’ remark

So, okay, fun over.  A couple of economic stories from other sources.
Jane Hamsher at firedoglake points out a strange give-away to North Korea in her article about a little-discussed tendency of Obama’s to sign whatever free-trade agreement crosses his line of vision.  The article is titled, “What Obama Fights for – Giving 9.55 B to North Korea to Spend on Nukes”.  Yes, and he is also giving away a ton of US jobs with this deal.

Yesterday the White House took the last step to owning all three leftover Bush NAFTA-expansion deals with Korea, Colombia and Panama by announcing that they would send them to Congress imminently.  The Economic Policy Institute estimates that we’ll lose 159,000 jobs with the Korea deal alone.

At a time of high unemployment, it’s difficult to fathom why the President would be fighting to increase our trade deficit and ship tens of thousands of jobs overseas.

Even more stunning, however, is the loophole in the Obama deal that will hand billions over to North Korea to spend on their  nuclear weapons program (PDF)….

Krugman discusses the debt limit talks in his article, “To the Limit”.  He points out:

In about a month, if nothing is done, the federal government will hit its legal debt limit. There will be dire consequences if this limit isn’t raised. At best, we’ll suffer an economic slowdown; at worst we’ll plunge back into the depths of the 2008-9 financial crisis.

So is a failure to raise the debt ceiling unthinkable? Not at all.

Many commentators remain complacent about the debt ceiling; the very gravity of the consequences if the ceiling isn’t raised, they say, ensures that in the end politicians will do what must be done. But this complacency misses two important facts about the situation: the extremism of the modern G.O.P., and the urgent need for President Obama to draw a line in the sand against further extortion.

Let’s talk about how we got here.

The federal debt limit is a strange quirk of U.S. budget law: since debt is the consequence of decisions about taxing and spending, and Congress already makes those taxing and spending decisions, why require an additional vote on debt? And traditionally the debt limit has been treated as a minor detail. During the administration of former President George W. Bush — who added more than $4 trillion to the national debt — Congress, with little fanfare, voted to raise the debt ceiling no less than seven times.

So the use of the debt ceiling to extort political concessions is something new in American politics. And it seems to have come as a complete surprise to Mr. Obama….

Now, Mr. Obama was right about the dangers of failing to raise the debt limit. In fact, he understated the case, by focusing only on financial confidence.

Not that the confidence issue is trivial. Failure to raise the debt limit — which would, among other things, disrupt payments on existing debt — could convince investors that the United States is no longer a serious, responsible country, with nasty consequences. Furthermore, nobody knows what a U.S. default would do to the world financial system, which is built on the presumption that U.S. government debt is the ultimate safe asset.

But confidence isn’t the only thing at stake. Failure to raise the debt limit would also force the U.S. government to make drastic, immediate spending cuts, on a scale that would dwarf the austerity currently being imposed on Greece. And don’t believe the nonsense about the benefits of spending cuts that has taken over much of our public discourse: slashing spending at a time when the economy is deeply depressed would destroy hundreds of thousands and quite possibly millions of jobs…

It surprises ME that it never occurs to Krugman that Obama  may just  be part and parcel of a plan to LET the government hit the ceiling and go into default.  The public would get a taste of a few weeks of government shut-down, no social security checks sent to old people, temporary (with no pay) lay-offs of public workforce, Wall Street going bonkers, etc. and then an imposition of austerity measures the likes of which we can’t imagine to “end the crisis” and “come to an agreement”.   There is, of course, always the original plan currently winding its way behind the scenes should actually going into default get too scary: agree to pre-emptively impose austerity measures in a bipartisan agreement with the Republicans.

House Democrats are trying to warn us that Oblahblah is going to cave to the Republicans, but we are reading about dicks and vaginas.

From The Hill, an article called, “House Democrats Feel Jilted by the President…”

…Partly to temper mounting discontent, Obama called House Democrats to the White House on June 2, a day after meeting with House Republicans, to hear their concerns about the debt negotiations.

It was a tense encounter, according to several accounts.

One Democrat who was there said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) bluntly asked Obama whether he was willing to fight for Democratic priorities amid GOP calls for trillions of dollars in spending cuts.

In asking the question, Waxman said he’d asked several Republicans about their White House meeting the day before and had been concerned by their response.

“To a person, they said the president’s going to cave,” Waxman told Obama, according to his colleague’s account.

“If you’re not going to cave, eliminating that misunderstanding is very, very important to the negotiations,” the lawmaker said, retelling Waxman’s message. “And if you’re going to cave, tell us right now.”

Obama, however, “didn’t answer the question,” the Democrat added. “Obama got in a huff, and he said, ‘I’m the president of the United States, my words carry weight’ — which is not the answer,” the lawmaker said. “That’s not what anyone challenges. It’s whether he is doing this negotiation in the right way.”…

Make of it all what you will.  I know what I make of it.


Resurrecting McCarthy

I keep trying to tell myself I am just an overwrought, emotional, middle-aged lady. Things cannot be as bad as they might appear. And then…well, and then I take a deep breath and realize that things are worse than they appear.

The Greek people are going to be starving in the streets to serve the rentiers who caused the economic devastation in the first place. It would be obvious to anyone with a brain that by slashing jobs and imposing austerity on the major portion of the population, there will never be a chance for the economy to rebound. The bankers who created the mess will get richer, while the rest die off. It will happen there, where the gov’t is being forced to sell off its infrastructure to private companies as part of the loan package; in Ireland, where the gov’t is scrounging for discarded copper laying on the sea floor to raise money; in Tunisia and Egypt, where the IMF and WB are suggesting austerity as a condition for loans – and where our Congressmen are activists in promoting American companies as leaders in the jobs front rather than Egyptian or Tunisian companies. It will happen in Libya – it’s the whole POINT of Libya. It will happen here and, indeed, has begun in earnest here.

To go along with austerity, the PTB must have a rigorous control of the population they are decimating. And so we have the gradual changes which we have all noticed: TSA pat-downs in airports and bus depots, enormous scoops of phone calls and e-mails, security cameras being installed and ever more report-your-neighbor programs, etc.

Yesterday, the call for control just got a tad louder.

From CNN:

Washington (CNN) — A new U.S. counterterrorism strategy released Wednesday focuses on the ability of al Qaeda and its network to inspire people in the United States to attack the homeland, said John Brennan, White House counterterrorism adviser.

Speaking at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Brennan said, “Indeed, this is the first counterterrorism strategy that designates the homeland as a primary area of emphasis in our counterterrorism efforts.”…

He made it clear the administration wants to follow a strategy of drone strikes and targeted raids against terrorists and avoid prolonged wars…

The U.S. can’t go after every terrorist group and must focus attention on those that seek to harm the U.S., Brennan said. He said al Qaeda and its affiliates still represent the greatest danger, even after the May raid by U.S. Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Brennan said the U.S. wants to work with allies to bring terrorists down, but he would not rule out future unilateral strikes even in the territory of allies.

“As the president has said repeatedly, if we have information about the whereabouts of al Qaeda, we will do what is required to protect the United States — as we did with bin Laden.”…

Brennan admitted there is a concern that Americans could become complacent since there hasn’t been a large-scale attack here since 9/11 and since Osama bin Laden has been killed. But with the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 coming soon, Brennan said, “We want to make sure that we’re as vigilant and we’re as poised to detect and thwart these attacks.”

He added Congress is well aware of the need to stay focused on the threat of terrorism.

The crawl on MSNBC yesterday simply stated that the State Dept. wants to focus on “al Qaeda in the homeland as the new front in the war on terror.”   Somehow, the casual reference to this is more alarming than even the article I cite.  It’s such a casual and offhand way to announce that we are focusing internally for “the enemy”.  Can we not see the clear parallels to the Nazi squads hauling away dissenters, the KGB doing the same, the internment of Japanese-Americans during WW2?