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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Whee-ee-ee!

You know the feeling you get when you are on a ferris wheel or a roller coaster and after hitting the peak, you start the descent?  Feels like your stomach has been left “up there” somewhere?  We’re there.  I get that feeling every day while I read the “news”.  Countries that are thriving and working on solutions do not behave this way:

– Hillary we-came-we-saw-he-died Clinton gleefully announces that her joint task force on counterintelligence (this is where the State Dept., now run by anti-diplomatic diplomats, teams up with a few college frat boys) has been able to pull a good one on al Qaeda.  They hacked into some overseas websites and changed the ads so they read as anti-al Qaeda.  Oh, psych!  Pwn’d ’em.  High five!
http://wemeantwell.com/blog/2012/05/24/state-department-to-unfriend-al-qaeda-on-facebook/

– The president has issued executive orders to sanction some foreign countries and persons – and in at least one case, sanctions Americans – without going to Congress.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/05/01/executive-order-prohibiting-certain-transactions-and-suspending-entry-un

and here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/04/23/executive-order-blocking-property-and-suspending-entry-united-states-cer

and here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/05/16/executive-order-blocking-property-persons-threatening-peace-security-or-

– He also recently issued an executive order which allows him to take over all food production, roads, private companies, infrastructure, oil supplies, etc., and to conscript any American deemed fit into military service.  This can be implemented at his discretion, in both times of war or of peace.  The liberal blogs either ignored this one or brushed it off as unimportant because Clinton and Bush had the same executive orders in place.  He is just doing what presidents do now.  Duh.  No big deal, get a grip.  He could have, had he been so inclined, rescinded both the Clinton and the Bush orders.  He chose not to, instead strengthening the wording in theirs to issue his own kingly proclamation.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/03/16/executive-order-national-defense-resources-preparedness

– The president gave a speech at a Joplin, Mo high school the other day.  Joplin had been flattened last year by one of the deadliest tornadoes on record.  In his speech – and I am looking at his actual words, not just depending on the fawning media to “interpret” them for me, I can read, for God’s sake – there is no mention of climate change as the causative agent of the violent tornado outbreaks across the country.  The devastation was just a blind attack from mother nature, no particular reason.  Hard luck.  I particularly like the part where he tells the students – I guess he was hit suddenly with the need to be honest – that their generation will have to figure out all by themselves how to make higher education affordable.  And rebuild the economy.  And make sure that everyone who is willing to put in the effort can find a job.  Oh, and drill here, drill now, Joplin.  None of these things are up to the president or Congress, who clearly have no intention of working on these issues on your behalf – you little slackers are on your own now.

“[…] And that’s the spirit that has allowed all of you to rebuild this city, and that’s the same spirit we need right now to help rebuild America. And you, Class of 2012, you’re going to help lead this effort. You’re the ones who will help build an economy where every child can count on a good education. (Applause.) You’re the one that’s going to make sure this country is a place where everybody who is willing to put in the effort can find a job that supports a family. (Applause.) You’re the ones that will make sure we’re a country that controls our own energy future, where we lead the world in science and technology and innovation. America only succeeds when we all pitch in and pull together, and I’m counting on you to be leaders in that effort, because you’re from Joplin and you’ve already defied the odds[….]”

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/transcript-of-president-obama-s-speech-to-joplin-high-school/article_aeeb8f8e-a410-11e1-b2c6-001a4bcf6878.html#ixzz1vhS6eHdc

– One of the “progressive” websites celebrates the latest “amazing” “scientific” “break-throughs” in an article sent out today.  Our best think-tanks and scientists have developed some great stuff.  Well, okay, they haven’t perfected the hydrogen engine, found a solution to peak fish, peak oil, fracking earthquakes, toxins in the waterways, the sixth great species die-off [see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocene_extinction] or anything, but by Jove, they have solved the problem of getting that last bit of catsup out of the bottle.  Yay!  Another high five!  And this is what a liberal website finds momentous.
http://www.alternet.org/health/155600

– After letting the derivatives market grow to over one quadrillion dollars, our Congress is suggesting that they may be ready to enact regulation  end the bank bailouts  end the Fed  dismantle Wall Street altogether as a money-laundering scheme bailout the derivatives market.

The government has been bailing out the giant, insolvent banks for years. (Many of the bailed out banks are foreign.)
That is preventing the economy from recovering … like countries that have grabbed the bull by the horns.
The government has allowed the amount of derivatives to reach 1.2 quadrillion dollars.

That is feeding the parasite of casino gambling … which is preventing the real economy from recovering and is killing the host of actual productivity.

What is the government doing for an encore?  Bailing out the derivatives clearinghouses.
As the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday:

Little noticed is that on Tuesday Team Obama took its first formal steps toward putting taxpayers behind Wall Street derivatives trading — not behind banks that might make mistakes in derivatives markets, but behind the trading itself. Yes, the same crew that rails against the dangers of derivatives is quietly positioning these financial instruments directly above the taxpayer safety net.
***

The authority for this regulatory achievement was inserted into Congress’s pending financial reform bill by then-Senator Chris Dodd.
***

Specifically, the law authorizes the Federal Reserve to provide “discount and borrowing privileges” to clearinghouses in emergencies.
***

To get help, they only needed to be deemed “systemically important” by the new Financial Stability Oversight Council chaired by the Treasury Secretary.

Last year regulators finalized rules for how they would use this new power. On Tuesday, they began using it. The Financial Stability Oversight Council secretly voted to proceed toward inducting several derivatives clearinghouses into the too-big-to-fail club. After further review, regulators will make final designations, probably later this year, and will announce publicly the names of institutions deemed systemically important.

We’re told that the clearinghouses of Chicago’s CME Group and Atlanta-based Intercontinental Exchange were voted systemic this week, and rumor has it that the council may even designate London-based LCH.Clearnet as critical to the U.S. financial system.
U.S. taxpayers thinking that they couldn’t possibly be forced to stand behind overseas derivatives trading will not be comforted by remarks from Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler. On Monday he emphasized his determination to extend Dodd-Frank derivatives regulation to overseas markets when subsidiaries of U.S. firms are involved.
***

If there’s one truth we’ve learned about government financial backstops, it’s that sooner or later they will be used. So eventually taxpayers will have to bail out one derivatives clearinghouse or another. It promises to be quite a mess.
Indeed, Nobel prize-winning economist George Akerlof demonstrated that if big companies aren’t held responsible for their actions, the government ends up bailing them out. So failure to prosecute directly leads to a bailout.  Bailing them out- in turn – creates incentives for more economic crimes and further destruction of the economy in the future.

As financial incentive expert William Black notes, we’ve known of this dynamic for “hundreds of years”.

Note: It’s not just banks.   The government has bailed out hedge funds and companies like McDonald’s and Harley-Davidson.  Indeed, drug dealers kept the banking system afloat during the depths of the 2008 financial crisis.  So are the biggest drug cartels “systemically important” and “too big to fail”?  Will the U.S. government backstop the Colombian drug lords?  Sure, their actions don’t help society, and instead harm a lot of people.  But so do those of the giant banks speculating in derivatives.

And there may be more overlap than admitted in polite company.

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/05/as-an-encore-to-bailing-out-the-big-banks-government-to-backstop-derivativees-clearinghouses-in-the-u-s-and-abroad.html

– Despite crashing the economy and receiving continuous bailouts which have totaled over 17 trillion (that we know about so far), despite the astonishing number of people hurt in the depression by losing their savings, jobs and homes, the big banks continue to rake in record profits quarter after quarter.  Nobody notices.  Nothing about this is considered weird or counterproductive or insane.  (What the president worries over, in fact, is that JPMorgan may have lost a little money in their latest gaming at the table; he suggested that we need more regulation to prevent such losses for the oligarchs in the future.)

US bank profits soar while lending drops
By Patrick Martin 
26 May 2012

US bank profits rose sharply during the first quarter of 2012, according to figures compiled by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the eleventh consecutive quarter in which net earnings were higher than the previous year.
Aggregate profits of all the banks and savings institutions insured by the FDIC rose to $35.3 billion in the January-March period, up from $28.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011 and the highest quarterly profit figure since 2007.

The five-year record profits come on top of bumper earnings in 2011, the most profitable year for banking since 2006. While jobs and wages for working people remain deeply depressed, the financial sector, which caused the economic slump, is doing better than ever.

This applies particularly to the financial giants. Two-thirds of all US financial institutions reported increased profits, but the vast bulk of these profits were concentrated in the largest banks, those with assets over $10 billion. While they make up only 1.4 percent of all banks, these institutions raked in 81 percent of the net earnings.

While profits rose 23 percent compared to a year earlier, net operating income revenue was up only five percent. This means most banks boosted their profits not from lending activities, but through bookkeeping operations, like reducing the amount they set aside to cover loan losses (down $6.6 billion compared to the same quarter in 2011).

Overall, banks cut their total lending by about one percent in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the previous quarter. This once again disproves the rationale for the Bush-Obama bank bailout: the claim that rescuing the banks would enable them to resume lending on a wider scale and thus fuel an economic recovery in the United States.

Consumer lending fell in most categories, with the biggest drop in credit card debt, $38.2 billion, a 5.6 percent decline typical of the post-Christmas quarter. Home mortgages fell by $19.2 billion and home equity lines of credit by $13.1 billion. Auto loans rose by $4.5 billion.[…]

Bernanke said that large companies and wealthy individuals could find credit easily, but admitted that for small business owners the conditions were “challenging,” a word that should be translated into ordinary English as “desperate.”

Bank loans to small businesses were still 15 percent below their 2008 peak at the end of last year, he said.[…]

http://wsws.org/articles/2012/may2012/bank-m26.shtml

– Congress just passed, and Obama signed, a new law which makes it easier for us to be ripped off by Wall Street.  This law further deregulates trading, I guess under the school of thought that if you are going to be raped anyway, why not lay back and try to enjoy it?  In an effort to disguise the reality of what they were doing, Congress named it the JOBS Act.  I’m sure they worked hard at coming up with words to make up that acronym.  These days, every bill must be given a name diametrically opposed to the real intent of the bill.  Hell, they spend more time on the names of the bills than on the bills themselves, which are all written by lobbyists anyway.

http://warisacrime.org/content/obama-authorizes-greater-wall-street-theft

– The top-ranking Democrats in the House and Senate, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, are signalling their (continuing) willingness to go after Social Security and Medicare.  This is but one example of the Democrats switching over to the “Austerity for the Masses” theme park fun ride downwards in the USA.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/27/nancy-pelosi-simpson-bowles-social-security-medicare_n_1453323.html  We are operating under a one-party system.  In case you did not notice.

Obama is working out the details of a major international trade agreement in secret.  Like, without going to Congress or giving any notice to the unwashed public.  As was the case with his signature health-care “reform”, he is bargaining with the big corporations behind closed doors.  The trade agreement in question will be devastating to the US consumer.  That’s you and I, by the way.  We are not citizens, the public, or people any longer, we are just consumers.  http://rt.com/usa/news/obama-trade-wyden-senator-117/

– The House just passed a bill which eliminates most of the funding for the mortgage fraud investigation.  Remember when the States Attorney agreed to a settlement with the banks over mortgage fraud and assured the public that there would nonetheless be investigations into the fraud?  Yeah, that was such a long time ago, how could you possibly still remember?  Anyway, there are no offices or personnel for the fraud investigation team, and now there’s no money, either.  You know why?  Because, as with every other issue concerning the public weal in the past 12 years, when Congress made the promise that they would look after our best interests, they were just joshin’ our upper lip.

http://www.thenation.com/blog/167783/house-kills-measure-fully-fund-mortgage-fraud-task-force

Of course, they wanted to take the money for the fraud investigation from the NASA budget, which is kind of an interesting idea in and of itself considering that our weather satellites are getting ready to discombobulate due to lack of funding and the ages of the satellites.  In regards to the loss of funding to NASA and NOA, one Republican in office remarked that if we wanted to hear about the weather, we could just watch the Weather Channel.  (Do I need to point out that without the weather satellites, the Weather Channel also loses its ability to track hurricanes and predict weather?)  Apparently all that weather prediction stuff is hocus-pocus and anti-biblical.  Nothing like a good old unexpected out-of-the-blue hurricane or tornado to get the blood racing, by golly.
http://articles.latimes.com/2012/may/10/nation/la-na-weather-probes-20120511

– Congress approved the use of drones over US air space.  That is remarkable and unsettling enough, but now we are going to allow them to be weaponized.  http://rt.com/usa/news/us-domestic-drones-armed-090/

We have a situation here, people.  You might say we are in a bit of a pickle, have hit a wee sticky wicket.  The president claims he can target and assassinate foreigners and Americans at his whim.  He has already done so.  Congress claims the right to capture anyone on the planet, even Americans, and detain them forever without charges or trial.  Congress threatens to start another war, this one with Iran, while at the same time they wage covert war in Syria, and overt war in 6 other countries.  The newspapers run with whatever oddball figures come out of some governmental office regarding employment, poverty, inflation, housing, and debt burden of the US, despite the ever changing methods of compiling the figures and the rank absurdity of the numbers.  Cops are confiscating cash as a routine part of traffic stops in several states.  Lawmakers are trying not only to make abortions illegal, but to disallow heath insurance companies from covering the cost of birth control.  Most of our states are selling off their infrastructure to foreign companies as fast as they can find buyers.  All of our money is going the banks, or to subsidize oil companies, pharma, and big agriculture, wage global war and produce weapons, while the society at large is being robbed and any remnant of safety net is shredded.  We are at peak oil, peak fish, and peak fresh water.  People are getting sick or dying from the massive amounts of toxins in the water, food, and air.  Anyone who attempts to let us know about these things is labeled crazy – or even thrown in jail and prosecuted by the current administration.  We are no longer entitled to the right of protest – we have to beg for permits and submit to the corral of “free speech zones”.   The list of crap that I posted above is just a small portion of the response we get to this situation from our leaders and media.

This is not the way a healthy country behaves.  This is the behaviour of a country on the way down to third world status.  It is going to get worse – by design.  You can ignore all the evidence and just hope the fools in charge suddenly get smart, that the grifters suddenly get morals, that the insane suddenly find reason, that our leaders once again find us irresistibly attractive enough to stop the divorce proceedings.  Let me clue you in, American Woman: your husband, the Political Body, is kicking you to the curb.  It’s not that you haven’t been a real good sport and all – you have.  You let him dumb down the schools and send the kids off to die in wars of choice.  You didn’t say a word when he brought home the bacon and it turned out to be crawling with e-coli, you just spiced it up as best you could with some corn syrup and served it to the family.  When he lied about where he’d been and came home reeking of the perfume from one of his concurrent mistresses, Greed, Money, and Crony Capitalism, you merely cast your eyes down and pretended not to notice.  You stood by him in earnest, steadfast solidarity when the neighbors pointed out that he’d been torturing a few of them and killing millions of them.  Well, okay, that one didn’t bother you all that much, but you were loyal dammit, is the point.  Now you sit in long-suffering silence as he takes the house, the car, and your job.  He is not going to be enticed back to your bedroom.  And he ain’t paying no stinking child support, either.  You are on your own for this ride, be-otch.

You can sit and watch all of it as we race at sickening speed on the down-side of the ride – but carry a barf bag, will ya?  There are people below you on the ferris wheel.

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Smiting the oil market.

For Immediate Release
May 19, 2012

Statement by the G-8 on Global Oil Markets

“There have been increasing disruptions in the supply of oil to the global market over the past several months, which pose a substantial risk to global economic growth.  In response, major producers have increased their output while drawing prudently on excess capacity.  Looking ahead to the likelihood of further disruptions in oil sales and the expected increased demand over the coming months, we are monitoring the situation closely and stand ready to call upon the International Energy Agency to take appropriate action to ensure that the market is fully and timely supplied.”

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/05/19/statement-g-8-global-oil-markets

This would be funny – in fact, I admit I laughed when I first read it – if it weren’t for the effect all this is going to have on pretty much everyone in the world.  These guys might as well have said that having now shot themselves in their collective feet, they just can’t figure out why they are having trouble running the marathon.  The statement released by the White House makes it sound as though the disruptions are happening for reasons beyond anyone’s control.  An act of God or a natural disaster, perhaps?  Why, oh, why dear Lord, are we being smitten by these inexplicable disruptions to the oil supply?

The increasing disruptions are caused, of course, by the sanctions on Iranian oil.  Sanctions to get them to stop doing what they are not doing; i.e., develop nuclear weapons.  Despite all the rhetoric from US and Israeli politicians, the consensus from the world’s military leaders (including those in the US and Israel) and the IAEA is that Iran is not building nukes.  We also managed to take Libya’s oil production off-line for nearly a year; quite effectively and deliberately – no act of God that either – although now that US soldiers are guarding the oil fields, Libya is entering the market again.  (Not that it does Libya much good.  Instead of the oil profits going to the Libyans, they will go to some private companies and to pay the “debt” Libya “owes the NATO countries” for its “liberation”.)

The G8, or “Group of Eight,” consists of eight large world economic powers. (The G7, as the group is sometimes known, lacks Russia.)  The G8 countries are Canada, 
France
, Germany, 
Italy
, Japan, 
Russia
, United Kingdom
, United States.  Russia did not attend this year’s meeting of the G8 at Camp David, so perhaps they should be calling it the G7 Summit, and refuses to participate in the sanctioning of Iran.

Iran oil exports: where do they go?

Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz through which 20% of global oil supplies pass through. Which countries does Iran export to and how much of their crude oil supply does it make up?
    
Iran has threatened to cut oil exports to the west and threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz through which one fifth of global oil supplies pass through – in bitter retaliation to the Iranian oil embargo agreed by the European Union.

The warning from Tehran comes after EU ministers agreed on Monday to stop any further oil contracts with the country with existing deals being allowed to run to July. The latest threats have added to an already tense relationship between the West and the Islamic Republic. Ian Traynor and Nick Hopkins have written:

Tehran threatened to respond by closing the strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of global oil supplies pass, while a senior US official vowed that the west could use force to keep the route open.

The decision by EU foreign ministers in Brussels raised the stakes dramatically in the standoff between Iran and the west over Iran’s nuclear programme.

The closing of the Strait would impact heavily on oil exports from not only Iran but also from Saudi Arabia – the largest exporter of crude oil in 2010. As the third-largest exporter of crude oil, Iran is also of major importance as would be the closure of the Strait of Hormuz which provided the route for 17 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2011 – totalling 20% of oil traded worldwide.[…]

The top destination for Iran’s crude oil exports in the six months between January and June 2011 was China, totalling 22% of Iran’s crude oil exports. Japan and India also make up a big proportion, taking 14% and 13% respectively of the total exports of Iran. The European Union imports 18% of Iran’s total exports with Italy and Spain taking the largest amounts.[…]

Saudi Arabia, as of 1 January 2011, is the country with the top proven oil reserves at 263bn barrels followed by Venezuela and Canada. Iran has the fourth largest oil reserves in the world at 137bn barrels beating Iraq, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/feb/06/iran-oil-exports-destination

 

According to the WH, “In response, major producers have increased their output while drawing prudently on excess capacity. ”

Well, not really.  We have reached peak oil.  OPEC nations know it.   Hell, even the US and German militaries know it.  There is not much of an output to increase unless the point is to suck up the final drops as quickly as possible, and in fact, Saudi output has been decreasing 3% per year.  As far as drawing from the strategic reserves (“drawing prudently on excess capacity”): given that we are facing the natural occurrence of less oil in the immediate future, why are we using up our reserves on a situation we created willfully?  And at a time when global demand is actually going down?  This is known colloquially as “eating the seed corn.”

The peak oil crisis: the German army report
by Tom Whipple

In the last five or six years at least 20 major studies have been published by governmental and non-governmental organizations that either deal with or touch upon the possibility of severe energy shortages developing in the near future.

Studies done by governmental entities, however, are rare for nearly all of the world’s governments still prefer to wait as long as possible before confronting the myriad of problems that will accompany declining oil production. Exceptions to this phenomenon of denial, however, seem to be military organizations that have realistic planning baked into their DNA. All professional military services know that in the last century they have become so dependent on liquid fuels that their effectiveness would be severely degraded should shortages or extremely high oil prices develop.

Last year two military planning organizations went public with studies predicting that serious consequences from oil depletion will befall us shortly. In the U.S. the Joint Forces Command concluded, without saying how they arrived at their dates, that by 2012 surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear and that by 2015 the global shortfall in oil production could be as much as 10 million b/d. Later in the year a draft of a German army study, which went into greater detail in analyzing the consequences of peaking world oil production, was leaked to the press. The German study which was released recently is unique for the frankness with which it explores the dire consequences which may be in store for us.

The Bundeswehr Transformation Center, the organization that prepared the study, starts with the assertion that as there are so many forces in play, it is impossible to determine an exact date for peak oil, but that it will become obvious in hindsight. The Germans also believe that it is already too late to complete a comprehensive global transition to a post fossil fuel economy. They introduce the notion of a peak oil induced economic “tipping point” that would trigger so much economic damage that it is impossible to evaluate the possible outcomes.

For the near future the study foresees that a very large increase in oil prices would harm the energy-intensive agricultural systems that produce much of our food. Not only could the costs of fertilizers and pesticides become prohibitive, but the massive amount of oil-dependent transportation needed to move agricultural products long distances could make food unaffordable for many.

The study goes on to postulate a “mobility crisis” that would arise from substantial increases in the costs of operating private cars and trucks. Although sudden shortages could be relieved by volunteer and regulatory measures, ultimately the mobility crisis would feed into and add to the worsening economic situation.[…]

For the immediate future, however, the German Army study foresees: 1. increasing oil prices that will reduce consumption and economic output (i.e. a recession or worse); 2. increasing transportation costs that will lead to lower trade volumes – less income for many and unaffordable food for some; and 3. pressure on government budgets as they must keep populations fed, deal with the social consequences of mass unemployment, and attempt to invest in sustainable sources of energy. Governmental revenues are bound to fall as unemployment increases along with resistance to further taxation.[…]

http://energybulletin.net/stories/2011-09-22/peak-oil-crisis-german-army-report

The G8, says the Obama White House, is “looking ahead to the likelihood of further disruptions in oil sales,” and they should know.  The entire range of sanctions on Iran go into effect in July.  And, of course, if the mad dogs in the US Congress and Israel get their way, there may be a new war in the Middle East soon enough. That will cause a bit of an oil supply issue, yessireebob.

Why, oh, why dear Lord, are we being smitten by these inexplicable disruptions to the oil supply?

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in economy, fossil fuels, Iran

 

Circling the drain.

President Obama taped an interview which was to air on Thursday night.  I did not watch it.  I can no longer tolerate more than a second of such pap any more.  However, prior to the broadcast, a few of his remarks from the interview were released to the media.  The media loved this quote:

Just hours after a top JPMorgan Chase executive retired in the wake of a stunning $2 billion trading loss, President Obama told the hosts of ABC’s “The View” that the bank’s risky bets exemplified the need for Wall Street reform.

“JPMorgan is one of the best managed banks there is. Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we got and they still lost $2 billion and counting,” the president said. “We don’t know all the details. It’s going to be investigated, but this is why we passed Wall Street reform.”

While a powerhouse like JPMorgan might be able to weather an error that the bank’s own CEO called “egregious,” the president questioned what might happen to smaller institutions in similar situations.

“This is one of the best managed banks. You could have a bank that isn’t as strong, isn’t as profitable managing those same bets and we might have had to step in,” he said. “That’s why Wall Street reform is so important.” […]

http://news.yahoo.com/obama-jpmorgan-one-best-managed-banks-214359921–abc-news-politics.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=feed

 

Each article I’ve read about these quotes stresses that Obama thinks we need more financial reform and regulation.  That de-regulation led directly to the crash of ’08 is a fact not in dispute, unless someone ate your brain.  However, I don’t think that the take-away from the quotes is whatever lip-service Obama gave to reform and regulation.  Look again, bearing in mind that the largest banks in the US, which caused the financial melt-down and which have been given over 17 trillion in hidden bailouts, are now much bigger than they were.  These banks have spread their toxic waste globally and are now taking out entire countries.  Banks are able to borrow from the Federal Reserve at 0% and are also able to post virtually worthless derivatives or notional securities with no discernible market value as collateral for Fed facilities; wherein, the Fed accepts the collateral at its notional, i.e., face, value without regard for its lack of market value and will lend to these banks up to 90% of that notional value of those “toxic assets”, once again at 0% or damn close to it.   As Primary Dealers of US Treasuries, these banks are then permitted to invest as much of that free Fed money as they want into US Treasuries, generating them the interest paid by taxpayers on the Treasuries: a pretty nice rate of return on free money.   And because of fractional lending, they’re able to lend a multiple of many times over the money they are getting for free from the Fed at any interest rate they choose to charge individuals and businesses, when they choose to lend at all.

In these quotes, Obama praises his buddy Jamie as “one of the smartest bankers we got.”  He calls JPMorgan “one of the best managed banks there is.”  These statements are only true if you particularly admire the ability of Jamie and his bank to plunder the public.  The banks that were “too big to fail” in ’08, which led to 99% of the public calling for the break-up of these banks and to Congress nonetheless bailing them out, are now exponentially larger.  Yet here Obama is lauding the massive size of one of them.

“[…]the president questioned what might happen to smaller institutions in similar situations. […]‘You could have a bank that isn’t as strong, isn’t as profitable managing those same bets and we might have had to step in,’ he said.”

You go, Jamie.  Barry admires your audacity.  Hopefully, you will continue on your current trajectory and one day soon own the entire world.  We “passed Wall Street reform” not to save the average dumb-ass American, but to prevent the banks from suffering losses.  (Those are the O-man’s words, without the media interpreting them for us.  “…they still lost $2 billion and counting,” the president said. “We don’t know all the details. It’s going to be investigated, but this is why we passed Wall Street reform.”)  All this anguish over freaking JPMorgan losing 2 bb (or 5 bb or whatever) when what we should be concerned about are the truly astronomically uncountably obscene profits they have been making off our sorry asses ever since the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 which gave the banks absolute control over US monetary policy met up with the Robert Rubins, Alan Greenspans, Hank Paulsons, Ben Bernankes, and Timmeh Geithners of Generation @Now.

Here are some fun facts to learn and share.  JPMorgan, “one of the best managed banks there is,” according to Obama:

•    Is the world’s largest publicly-traded company

•    Is the largest bank in the U.S. … the biggest of the too big to fail banks which are killing the American economy

•    Is the largest derivatives dealer in the world, and derivatives are inherently destabilizing for the economy

•    Essentially wrote the faux “reform” legislation for derivatives, which did nothing to decrease risk, and killed any chance of real reform

•    Is the creator of credit default swaps – which caused the 2008 financial crisis, and is the asset class which blew up and caused the loss

•    Has had large potential exposures to credit default swap losses for years […]

•    Went completely insolvent in the 1980s

•    … and again in 2007  (and was saved both times by the government at taxpayer expense)

•    Heads – with Goldman Sachs – the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee, which helps set government financial policy[…]

•    Was kept alive by a huge government bailout … but used the money to invest in India and other projects which won’t really help Americans

•    Has made a killing by kicking companies and governments when they are down, engaging in various types of fraud, allegedly manipulating the silver market, and profiting on misery by acting as the largest processor of food stamps in America […]

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/05/the-truth-about-jp-morgans-2-billion-loss.html

 

The derivatives market was notionally valued at 200 trillion in ’08 despite the fact that the actual value of the underlying assets – the real estate in the US – was worth 20 tt.  The GDP of the entire world is roughly 58 tt.  Today, the derivatives market is estimated to be over a quadrillion dollars. 

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/05/top-derivatives-expert-finally-gives-a-credible-estimate-of-the-size-of-the-global-derivatives-market.html

95% of this market is held by Fannie and Freddie (because the US government keeps dumping the derivatives there to hide them for the big banks) and 5 banks.  That’s some audacity.  That’s some bubble.  That’s going to be one hell of an impressive explosion when it blows up.

The mortgage fraud settlement that was just agreed to by the Obama administration and the States Attorney has yet to seat an investigative team.  No-one even quite knows if they have an office; for sure, they have no staff.  The money from this settlement, most of which is actually coming from the taxpayers and not the banks, is being used by the states in a myriad of inventive ways, but almost none of it is actually going to the homeowners who are being fraudulently foreclosed on.  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/16/business/states-diverting-mortgage-settlement-money-to-other-uses.html?_r=1&emc=eta1   The state of Ohio (and soon Hawai’i) has found a particularly repugnant use of their share of the funds which is being copied in several other states: they are using some of the money to tear down the empty foreclosed homes.  You don’t understand why that is offensive, do you?      Let me remind you that these vacant houses are owned by the banks – they are supposed to maintain the properties.  In an effort to prevent the banks from having to spend any of their cash whatsoever – on maintenance or in property taxes (land with buildings on it brings in higher property taxes to the state) – the states are going to tear the empty houses down for the banks.  The banks don’t even have to carry the cost of destroying the houses they don’t really want.  Now do you get it?  Furthermore, two of our US congressmen from Ohio have a bill in front of Congress to make this a national policy at a taxpayer cost of 4 billion dollars.

But enough about the banks for the moment.  Let’s look at where we stand on other issues.

The 2012 NDAA was passed with sections that allow for the indefinite detention of Americans and foreigners for ties to terrorism (whatever that means) or terrorist organizations (which groups this means is unclear and undefined).  It does away with several of the rights we have always assumed were basic here in the US.  This law has just been successfully challenged in federal court in a suit brought by Chris Hedges and others, where it has been enjoined pending a higher court ruling on constitutionality.   http://www.salon.com/2012/05/16/federal_court_enjoins_ndaa/singleton/   No-one is certain if the Obama administration is going to appeal this decision.  The 2012 NDAA was passed with 100% of the Senate voting “aye” – and here you thought they were the sane ones in Washington.  Despite the judge’s ruling earlier this week, and despite the clear threat to our rights, Congress has kept the same clauses in the 2013 NDAA, which has already passed the House and is headed for the Senate.  Furthermore, as Congressman Dennis Kucinich points out, in addition to the grave threat to our civil liberties, the 2013 NDAA prepares us to go to war with Iran.

This week, Congress is considering two pieces of legislation relating to Iran. The first undermines a diplomatic solution with Iran and lowers the bar for war. The second authorizes a war of choice against Iran and begins military preparations for it.

H.Res.568: Eliminating the Most Viable Alternative to War
The House is expected to vote on H.Res. 568. Read the resolution. Section (6) rejects any United States policy that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran. Section (7) urges the President to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability and opposition to any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to Iranian enrichment.

This language represents a significant shift in U.S. policy and would guarantee that talks with Iran, currently scheduled for May 23, would fail. Current U.S. policy is that Iran cannot acquire nuclear weapons. Instead, H. Res. 568 draws the “redline” for military action at Iran achieving a nuclear weapons “capability,” a nebulous and undefined term that could include a civilian nuclear program. Indeed, it is likely that a negotiated deal to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and to prevent war would provide for Iranian enrichment for peaceful purposes under the framework of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty with strict safeguards and inspections. This language makes such a negotiated solution impossible.

At the same time, the language lowers the threshold for attacking Iran. Countries with nuclear weapons “capability” could include many other countries like Japan or Brazil. It is an unrealistic threshold.

The Former Chief of Staff of Secretary of State Colin Powell has stated that this resolution “reads like the same sheet of music that got us into the Iraq war.”

H.R. 4310: Authorizing War Against Iran and Preparing the Military for it
While H. Res. 568 undermines our diplomatic efforts and lowers the bar for war, H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 begins military preparations for war. Section 1221 makes military action against Iran a U.S. policy. Section 1222 directs our armed forces to prepare for war.

SEC. 1221. DECLARATION OF POLICY.
“(a) Findings- Congress makes the following findings:
“(2) At the same time, Iran may soon attain a nuclear weapons capability, a development that would threaten United States interests, destabilize the region, encourage regional nuclear proliferation, further empower and embolden Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provide it the tools to threaten its neighbors, including Israel.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as U.S. and Israeli intelligence, have all agreed that Iran does not currently have a nuclear bomb, is not building a nuclear weapon and does not have plans to do so. Both U.S. and Israeli officials also agree that a strike on Iran would only delay their nuclear program and actually encourage them to pursue a nuclear weapon.

Sustained, diplomatic engagement with Iran is the only way to ensure transparency and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Rejecting or thwarting any inspections-based deal we are currently seeking with Iran, even when analysts are expressing guarded optimism that a near term deal is achievable, makes pre-emptive military action against Iran more likely.[…]

The United States, IAEA and Israel have all publically recognized that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. In a January 2012 interview on CBS’ Face the Nation, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated unequivocally that Iran is not trying to build a nuclear weapon. This clause further ignores that the U.S. and Iran have barely engaged in direct negotiations. Prior to last month’s negotiations, the U.S. and Iran had only engaged in 45 minutes of direct talks since 2009.

“(b) Declaration of Policy- It shall be the policy of the United States to take all necessary measures, including military action if required, to prevent Iran from threatening the United States, its allies, or Iran’s neighbors with a nuclear weapon.”

This is an authorization for the use of military force against Iran. It ignores the warnings of both current and former U.S. top military brass who have spoken in opposition to the use of military force against Iran, including former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.[…]

SEC. 1222. UNITED STATES MILITARY PREPAREDNESS IN THE MIDDLE EAST.
“Section 2 (A) pre-positioning sufficient supplies of aircraft, munitions, fuel, and other materials for both air- and sea-based missions at key forward locations in the Middle East and Indian Ocean;
“(B) maintaining sufficient naval assets in the region necessary to signal United States resolve and to bolster United States capabilities to launch a sustained sea and air campaign against a range of Iranian nuclear and military targets, to protect seaborne shipping, and to deny Iranian retaliation against United States interests in the region;
“(D) conducting naval fleet exercises similar to the United States Fifth Fleet’s major exercise in the region in March 2007 to demonstrate ability to keep the Strait of Hormuz open and to counter the use of anti-ship missiles and swarming high-speed boats.”

A plain reading of these provisions in H.R. 4310 taken together with H.R. 568 makes it clear: Congress is setting the stage for war with Iran.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-dennis-kucinich/ndaa-authorizes-war-again_b_1524474.html

We have wasted trillions of dollars on wars of aggression and invasion.  We are going broke.  Hell, we are broke.  But our “representatives” in Congress and our President will protect and increase the Pentagon budget and continue to spend our money on weapons and military pursuits no matter how we feel about it.  We have to send petitions begging them not to let us be picked up on the street and held forever, without formal charges or trial, in a black hole somewhere.  The petitions are ignored.  They like this new sort of situation.  We participate in polls, protest, and write letters, sending the clear message that we want to end the goddamn wars now.  In response, they try to maneuver us into yet another war and increase war funding, which will be paid for by cutting the already decimated domestic spending.

This week, as world leaders gather in Chicago to make long-term plans for Afghanistan, your representative in Congress will cast votes that could help end the destabilizing U.S. military presence in that country or prolong it.  Congress could cut the bloated military budget to put funds into urgently needed domestic programs – or give the Pentagon even more money.

The FY 2013 military budget (NDAA) is up for a vote in the House likely this Friday. It contains more than $642 billion of taxpayer money to pay for a war the majority of Americans oppose, nuclear upgrades that threaten non-proliferation agreements, programs and weapons that even the Pentagon doesn’t want. The bill also promotes provocative threats on Iran, enables reckless actions by Israel and prohibits the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo to the United States.

Austerity for the Pentagon at a time when the deficit is huge and vital domestic programs are being cut? Not a chance if the House Armed Service has its way. It’s not just the Republicans, who are at fault.  The majority of Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee also voted in favor, producing a lopsided 56-5 margin for an outrageous bill for a military budget that is even bigger than the one requested by the White House.

Partisan rhetoric should not obscure the reality that if this over-sized military budget passes the Congress, it will be paid for by programs that affect the most vulnerable-food stamps, school lunches, health insurance for low income children, “Meals-on Wheels” for the elderly. – petition from USLaw.

Our money is also being spent to police us.  To make sure we don’t get out of hand.  We will now have drones hovering over us and lots of inventive new methods are being put into place to spy on us.  The domestic drones are not going to be used to spy on us, we are assured by our Congressional Drone Caucus, because that would be, like, all illegal and shit.  (Yes, drones have their own caucus.)  But if some drone somewhere overhead accidentally has its surveillance apparatus turned on, we can save the recordings for 90 days, examine them to see if any suspicious activity has been picked up, and use the recordings against you.  Because you never know what you’ll find when you spy on Americans on purpose accidentally.  And what is the law for if not to instruct us where it can be circumvented?
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/05/air-force-drones-domestic-spy/#more-80214

So here is a really cool idea for how a city can use taxpayer money.  Buy these cunning streetlamps.  They may look like ordinary streetlights, but they actually record all sound and movement nearby.  Oh, and they have a little television screen to alert passing citizens about emergencies or what-not.  As Janet Napolitano says, there’s nothing so delicious as scaring the crap out of the citizens every minute of every day.  These streetlamps just went live in a town in Mich.

[…]Simply put, the Intellistreets project is a system of Internet-connected luminaries that communicate with one another across the city. In addition to lighting the area, they can broadcast verbal and written messages, monitor rainfall and give directions.
According to their own website, the system is also great for “data harvesting.”

Not only does Intellistreets offer information about the neighborhood and provide light, it also monitors the conversations of pedestrians, records video, monitors foot-traffic and counts heads — all of which is recorded and stored for possible analysis. And according to Harwood [Intellistreets designer and owner], the tiny 80,000 community of Farmington Hills isn’t going to be the only town using his technology — Detroit, Chicago and Pittsburgh have placed orders and the inventor claims that he is in talks with the Department of Homeland Security.

http://on.rt.com/072ubj

You can visit Intellistreets website here:  http://www.images1.com/
But one of our dedicated civil servants in office has an idea for saving money – bring out the dogs.  Ah, yes, nothing says ‘land of the free’ quite like uniformed officers with Alsatians on leash manning checkpoints at all transportation hubs.

[…]The TSA’s top financial officer, David Nicholson, defended the agency, saying it has cut its warehouse costs from $7.6 million in 2009 to $3.5 million in 2011.

But Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) suggested that the TSA consider what he said was a cheaper, more effective alternative to the scanners: bomb-sniffing dogs.

“People are going to die if you continue to make these kinds of asinine decisions,” he told Nicholson. “Go get the dogs.” […]

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/may/13/business/la-fi-0514-travel-briefcase-20120514

This madness needs to stop.  The people in charge are making such bad decisions in part, perhaps, because many of them are so stupid that if they were in elementary school, they’d be riding the short bus, but mainly because they are soulless, shark-eyed, low-level grifters, bought and paid for.  They no longer serve the country – its people or its best interests.  They are deliberately letting our country go to ruin internally while spending our money on instigating wars, killing people in far-off lands, and handing buckets of cash to the biggest banks and corporations they can find.  When they do spend our own taxpayer money domestically, it is only for projects that poison our water and our air, bail out the companies that ship our jobs overseas, or are designed to keep us in line lest we get out of hand while they bankrupt the nation.

Support or join in protest.  If you feel you have to vote in what is now basically a one-party election, vote for a third party.  Vote for Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson.  The only reason we have the idea that a third party can’t win is because that is what the media and the power-brokers want us to believe.  Stop believing this bullshit.  Support the Occupy movement.  They are trying to change this thing around.  The only reason you think they are irrelevant is because that is what the media and the power-brokers want you to believe.  Stop believing this bullshit.  Maybe it is too late and we will quietly crumble into a third-world country anyway with few of us taking note as it happens or understanding why.  But for God’s sake, if you get any of it, if you have a glimmer of understanding, stand up and protest in whatever way you can.

Some creative people in the Occupy movement have designed a set of cards that can be used for educational purposes.  Each card contains information about a different topic.  You can print the cards yourself from their website, or order them from Occucards.  So far, they have ten different cards, with more in the works.  The information is succinct and factual.  You can view, order, or print your own copies from this site:  http://www.occucards.com/

If you choose not to order, but want to support the project, I’m sure they will be pleased to accept donations to continue their work.  I am not affiliated with this project in any way, by the way.  Kitt (thank you!) brought Occucards to my attention in the comments and I think it is a wonderful idea – I am happy to help spread the word.

Sample: Occucard on the US Monetary System, back:

The Monetary System
The text as it appears on the back of the card
Federal banking rules allow banks to make loans of up to nine times the amount of money they have in reserve. This is called “fractional reserve banking” and is the process by which private banks increase the money supply by creating and loaning out more money than they actually have. Fractional reserve banking is commonly misunderstood to mean that banks must put 10% of their money into reserves, after which they can loan out the remaining 90%. But in fact, when banks put money in reserve, they are then allowed to create and loan out new money, up to nine times the amount they actually put in reserve, or 900% more. This means that when a bank makes a loan, it is literally loaning money into existence. This newly created money enters into circulation and increases the nation’s overall money supply. Then, as the borrower begins making loan payments back to the bank, the principle portion of each payment is removed from circulation, while the interest remains, becoming the bank’s profit. This entire process takes place digitally. No paper money needs to be printed, since loans and repayments are made simply by increasing and decreasing account balances on computers.
This awesome power to create money out of nothing is the reason banks are the most powerful institutions in the nation. The ability to loan new money into existence gives private banks unlimited capital with which to finance and control society’s development, and the pursuit of profit is their only consideration. Commercial bank loans are awarded with no consideration for the social or environmental consequences of the commercial activity, but rather solely on whether the business will make money and hence be able to pay back the loan with interest. The immense wealth banks are able to accrue through this process also allows them to manipulate society’s political institutions. By funding the political campaigns of both major parties and hiring huge armies of lobbyists, banks and other giant corporations have subverted the political process, resulting in a government unresponsive to the needs of citizens.
Currently, all new money entering into circulation is created by banks through the process of issuing loans, which saddles the population with massive debt. However, there are other ways money can be created. The U.S. government could create its own money (rather than borrowing it from the Federal Reserve) and release it into circulation in the form of salaries and wages via public works programs, or in the form of subsidies given directly to private companies that provide benefits to society. Spending money into existence like this increases the money supply without creating debt.
The wholesale privatization of the money creation process, where all new money is released into circulation in the form of bank loans, and where the US Government is forced to borrow money from the Federal Reserve (or else tax the people) before it can spend, enriches private banks at the expense of ordinary Americans, the majority of whom are perpetually in debt. Given the power of large, financial corporations over our government, returning to a just monetary system will require a broad-based movement of protest, education and civil disobedience.
References and external links
http://www.positivemoney.org.uk/2011/12/capitalism/

 

Update on a Murder in Hawai’i.

Updated below.

There is a new development in the Deedy/Elderts murder case in Hawai’i.  My first article on this case is here: http://teri.nicedriving.org/2011/11/a-murder-in-hawaii/
Here is a brief summary from my second article to bring you up to speed (link to the full article at the end of this quote):

[…]The gist of the case is as follows:  on the 5th of November, a special agent named Christopher Deedy, assigned to protect diplomats who would be attending the APEC conference in Hawaii, went out on the town.  For some reason, he was carrying his gun and a knife while out drinking.  He had an argument of some sort with a 23-year-old Hawaiian resident named Kollin Elderts while both were drinking in a bar.  Elderts left the bar and went to the nearby McDonald’s.  Special Agent Deedy followed Elderts there.  Their argument apparently continued.  Eye-witness testimonies differ slightly on several small details, which I will point out as they occur in the story.   The internet has now been scrubbed of the witness statements and 911 calls, and even some of the original news stories have disappeared.

At the McDonald’s, the two men (and possibly several others, friends of one or the other – accounts differ) argued.  Tests on Elderts’ body later showed that he was legally drunk at the time of his death.  Deedy “declined” a blood-alcohol test, although a number of witnesses said he appeared intoxicated.  At one point, Elderts laughingly asked Deedy, “What are you going to do – shoot me?”, to which Deedy responded, “How would you like to get shot tonight?”  All witnesses agree that Deedy then kicked Elderts in the chest, knocking him down.  Deedy then pulled out his service revolver and fired three shots, one of which hit Elderts in the chest, killing him.  At this point, accounts differ again.  According to one witness, Deedy left the McDonald’s immediately, but came back in when sirens were heard.  According to other witnesses, Deedy never left.  In any case, by the time the police and paramedics got there, Deedy had pulled out his knife, cut open Elderts’ shirt, and started CPR on Elderts.  [This is the strangest way to perform CPR I’ve ever heard of and I dare not speculate on why Deedy pulled out his knife.  I leave that to your imagination.]

A security tape from inside the McDonald’s exists and was used to charge Deedy with 2nd degree murder.  This tape has not been released to the public, although it would answer any questions as to the sequence of events and who “aggressed” on whom.  It is known for certain, however, that Elderts had no weapon of any sort.  The police also have bar receipts showing Deedy’s purchases at the bar earlier which would offer evidence of how much he drank and verify the fact that he was in the bar at the same time as Elderts and did, in fact, follow Elderts to the McDonald’s.  The claim that Deedy was acting in self-defense or in defense of others is peculiar, considering that Elderts was unarmed and had already been knocked to the ground by Deedy’s karate kick to the chest.[…]

Deedy was charged with 2nd degree murder (rather than 1st degree), and was allowed to go free after posting a $250,000 bond.  He was placed on paid administrative leave from the State Department and told to remain in Hawaii.  Now, however, he has been allowed to return to his home in Virginia and will work at a desk job at the State Dept.  I don’t know what you have to do to actually get fired from the State Dept, but apparently murdering the locals doesn’t do it.  The trial has been postponed until September.[…] Nowhere is it explained why a person who is charged with murder, State Dept. employee or not, was set free on bail or allowed to leave the state in which he is charged.[…] In any case, Deedy was on paid leave during this time.  His income has not been affected by the murder charges, except to the extent that he had to rent a condo in paradise while awaiting trial. The State Department will not answer any questions on this case beyond saying that they “support” Deedy; I wonder if their support included paying his Hawaiian condo rent until he returned home on Saturday.

[From news article Honolulu, Hawaii 31 Dec, 2011
by Ken Kohnyashi]:
Agent accused in fatal shooting can travel.  Christopher Deedy will return to live and work in Virginia until his trial.

State Department special agent Christopher Deedy can now return home to Virginia pending his trial in September on charges of murdering a 23-year-old Kailua man early Nov 5 at the McDonald’s restaurant on Kuhio Avenue.

Circuit Judge Karen Ahn granted a request Friday by Deedy’s lawyer Brook Hart to modify the bail conditions to allow him to leave Hawaii and reside at his Virginia home and work at a desk job with the State Department.[…]

She also set conditions that include requiring that Deedy be unarmed and work at a desk job.  In addition, he cannot travel beyond 100 miles of his home.[…] -the Star Advertiser, print version.

[Teri]: Actually, he has already returned home; he immediately took a late night flight back to Virginia after the hearing.  Guess arranging for a flight isn’t so difficult when you have the support of the State Department.

[from news article]: 27-year-old Christopher Deedy returned to his home in Virginia Saturday after gaining special permission to leave Oahu while awaiting trial[…]

He will not return to his normal work as a State Dept. agent, according to Hart.  He will continue working for the department as an analyst and is not permitted to have his weapon or engage in other security detail.  Under the special agreement Deedy must also stay within a 100 mile radius of his Northern Virginia home.

Deedy’s lawyer issued assurances that he will return to court when criminal proceedings continue, which is currently set for September 10, 2012.[…]

http://www.kitv.com/news/30110360/detail.html#ixzz1iCaNMW00http://

teri.nicedriving.org/2012/01/follow-up-to-a-murder-in-hawaii/

A few points that I bring up in the comment section in the above article:

1) If Deedy had identified himself first, eye-witnesses would have said so. Not one single person interviewed for the news stories made any such remark, nor did anyone in the 911 tapes. Deedy was only referred to as “a guy”, “someone” or “a caucasian” who got in a fight with “another guy”, etc. Secondly, if he had properly ID’d himself, his attorney certainly would have brought that to light, as it would go a long way in exonerating his client. His attorney has taken pains to point out that Deedy is LEO [law enforcement officer], but has never said that Deedy identified himself as such. I don’t think that the grand jury would have indicted him on any level of murder charges had they felt he was legitimately acting in the role of LEO – they might have considered it negligent homicide, but not murder. I don’t believe that cops and other LEO get indicted on murder charges every time they kill someone in the line of duty.

2) As to whether or not Deedy was drunk himself; his own attorney won’t say. The att’y has said that Deedy was within his rights to refuse a blood alcohol test prior to arrest and in one interview for a local Hawaiian station, when asked if Deedy had been drinking, made the comment, “Well, he had been at a bar.” That is all he has said.

3) Federal law allows LEOs to carry concealed weapons on duty or off, but one of the stipulations is that the officer may not carry when under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

4) Deedy is charged with two offenses. The issue of whether Deedy was acting as LEO and/or whether or not he was drinking seems to be addressed by the second charge he is facing: Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony, Hawaii Revised Statutes, HRS 134-21.

5) You [original commenter I am replying to] are mistaken in your belief about why Deedy was charged with second degree murder.[…] It turns out that in Hawaii, unlike most of the other states, 1st degree murder only applies in very limited cases, with strict definitions.

“Under Hawaii law, second-degree murder is defined as occurring simply ‘if the person intentionally or knowingly causes the death of another person,’ while first-degree murder involves specific kinds of victims.

“First-degree murder would pertain to someone who intentionally or knowingly causes the death of: more than one person in the same or separate incident; a law enforcement officer, judge or prosecutor involved in the prosecution; a witness in a criminal prosecution; a person by a hired killer, in which case the killer and the person who did the hiring would be charged; or a person while the defendant was imprisoned.”

Deedy is being charged with 2nd degree (HRS 707-701.5) because Elderts was not a judge, a LEO, a witness in a case, etc., and because Elderts was the only victim. It has nothing to do with Deedy’s intent or foreknowledge of Elderts. – from my own comment on “Follow up to a murder in Hawai’i.”

This past Monday, Deedy’s attorney filed a motion to have the charges dismissed.

Star Advertiser 17 May, 2012

Agent Claims Immunity in Shooting

The State Department special agent accused of fatally shooting a man at a McDonald’s restaurant in Waikiki in November claims he was performing his duties as a federal law enforcement officer and is therefore immune from prosecution under state law, according to records filed in the case this week.

Christopher Deedy, 28, is scheduled to stand trial in state court for murder in September.

However, his lawyer, Brook Hart, filed legal papers seeking to dismiss the case or to at least delay his trial.  Hart filed the documents Monday detailing Deedy’s version the events that culminated in the Nov. 5 fatal shooting of Kollin Elderts, 23, and the reasons Deedy believes he should not be prosecuted.[…]

Hart says Deedy was in Honolulu as a federal law enforcement officer on an official State Dept. assignment with the power of arrest and the right to carry a firearm.[…]

Deedy has claimed in previously filed documents that he was defending himself and his friend[…]when he shot Elderts.  He submitted a report from the doctor who treated him at the Queen’s Medical Center after his arrest.  The report from Dr. Kyle Perry says Deedy a scrapes and a broken nose from an assault.[…]

[Judge] Ahn is scheduled to hear arguments in July on Deedy’s immunity claim, his request to delay the trial, and a second request for a dismissal contending the grand jury proceedings in the case were defective.

As a matter of course, the defense received a video of the proceedings, which shows a prosecutor and police detective describing events as they unfold on a McDonald’s surveillance video.  The video was played to the grand jury on a television, but the video of the proceedings does not show the TV screen, leaving doubt as to whom and what the prosecutor and officer are talking about, Deedy claims.

Police said Deedy shot Elderts in the chest after an argument.  When officers arrived at the restaurant Deedy and Elderts were both covered in blood.  The officers said Deedy told them he had a gun and had shot Elderts.  Deedy also said he had a pocketknife, which police recovered in the restaurant.  Officers also noted that Deedy had red, glassy eyes and slurred speech.

It was Deedy who started the fight by kicking Elderts in the chest, said lawyer Michael Green, who is representing Elderts’ parents in their lawsuit against Deedy.

According to an autopsy, Elderts had abrasions from gunpowder on the right side of his face, a blood alcohol content of 0.127 and traces of the active ingredient in marijuana and cocaine in his system.

– from print version of Star Advertiser article, Thurs., 17 May, 2012

Deedy’s mug shots, taken shortly after his arrest, certainly show no sign of a broken nose.  Nor does he appear to have a broken nose, or marks or bruises of any sort on his face, in the photos taken by reporters at his grand jury hearing a few days later.  Witnesses say that after Deedy kicked Elderts to the ground, Elderts got to his feet and hit Deedy in retaliation.  That might be the point at which Deedy was injured, although from photos, he clearly suffered no major injuries at all.

Elderts had abrasions on his face from gunpowder residue.  That’s very close-range.  Deedy must have tried to shoot him in the face.  Maybe the first or second shot, both of which missed – the third, of course, entering Elderts’ chest.

The argument about the McD’s video is not that the jury couldn’t see the video or that the McD’s video doesn’t show what it is purported to show, but that in the courthouse video of the grand jury proceedings itself, whoever filmed the hearing was not positioned to catch both the witnesses testifying and the tv screen at the same time.  If the grand jury comes up with a true bill – i.e., decides the evidence merits prosecution – which they did in this case, the accused and his attorney are entitled to a transcript of witness testimony.

Each side has to share evidence prior to trial.  Since the McD’s tape is being used as key evidence, Deedy and his attorney will or already have received a copy of the original McDonald’s tape.  The whole “can’t see the tv” thing is a moot point.

In fact, today the same newspaper, the Star Advertiser, mentions this:

City prosecutors are asking a state judge to keep sealed a request to dismiss a murder charge against a State Department special agent and its supporting exhibits, which include surveillance videotapes of the fatal shooting at a McDonald’s Waikiki restaurant last year.

The defense for special agent Christopher Deedy this week filed the dismissal motion and supporting exhibits that include McDonald’s videotapes at the Kuhio Avenue restaurant.[…]

http://www.staradvertiser.com/s?action=login&f=y&id=152002455

I mentioned Peter Van Buren’s take on this case in my previous articles.  His opinion is interesting as it comes from a current State Dept. employee.  The following, however, is from the blog of a different and now-retired State Dept. employee, who held the same position that Deedy currently does.

Update: The Murder of Kollin K. Elderts in Honolulu: Thoughts and Analysis

Having devoted a career as a special agent at the US Department of State, I consider myself more than qualified to offer some thoughts on the murder of Kollin K. Elderts, 23, by US Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) special agent (S/A) Christopher W. Deedy, 27 in Honolulu on Saturday (November 5).

Although I strongly disagree with persons who have been charged with serious felonies to be tried in the court of public opinion, there are a number of issues in this case that concern me.

As a follow-up to my earlier posting on Deedy’s shooting death of Elderts, what makes this case so perplexing is the lack of news coverage on it since it occurred on November 5. Hence, my comments.

Unfortunately, my observations raise far more questions than they address.[…]

Was S/A On-Duty at the Time He Shot Elderts? No, considering that he was reportedly intoxicated, according to witnesses at the scene.

Was Elderts armed with a weapon? According to the Elderts family attorney, Michael Green, Elderts was not armed. Although police found a knife at the scene, it has not been connected to a specific owner. [Teri’s note: this has been clarified since.  Deedy claimed ownership of the knife found at the scene.]

Was Deedy armed with a firearm? Yes. From all indications he was carrying his DS-issued service weapon, even though according to witnesses he was visibly intoxicated. A prudent agent who knew he would be drinking while off duty, who did NOT have full police powers, would have locked the weapon in his car or secured it in a hotel safe deposit box.

Why was a DS agent assigned to Honolulu to support the protection of dignitaries at APEC intoxicated at 0300 hours in the morning? Unfortunately, there is no reasonable explanation to this question, particularly in light of the fact that he was carrying his service weapon while intoxicated.[…]

Has Deedy been charged with a crime? Yes, reportedly he was arrested and charged with 2nd degree murder and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Yet, he was released on $250,000 bail with no apparent restriction to remain in Honolulu.

Although DS agents are issued Diplomatic passports, they are not accredited diplomats when assigned domestically.

It is not normal for those charged with murder to be released on bail, particularly when they have the resources to flee the jurisdiction. One can only assume that he was released on bail because he was a federal agent.

What were the details of the altercation between Deedy and Elderts? According to press reports, after leaving a local bar, Elderts ended up in the Waikiki McDonald’s where they were joking around with workers in the restaurant when Deedy and three others walked into the restaurant. From all indications, an altercation commenced when Deedy “karate-kicked” Elderts in the chest, knocking him down, resulting in Elderts hitting Deedy. The two then began struggling with each other when Deedy fired three shots, one of which hit Elderts in the chest.

Were either Deedy or Elderts intoxicated? This question is problematic. Although the medical examiner’s office reported that Elderts blood-alcohol level was 0.12%, it is unknown whether Honolulu police conducted a breathalyzer test on Deedy before he was released on bail. If it was not conducted, it should have been.[…]

http://stayingsafeabroad.blogspot.com/2011/11/murder-of-kollin-k-elderts-in-honolulu.html

Deedy has already been allowed to bypass his travel restrictions (he was allowed to return to Va., provided he stay within 100 miles of his home.  His office at the State Dept. is within this radius.):

[…]Meanwhile, Deedy has been allowed to travel beyond his current 100-mile radius restriction. According to court documents, he has the court’s permission to attend a wedding July 27 in Cape Charles, Va. He was granted permission to visit his 84-year-old grandmother earlier this month in Naples, Fla.[…]

Hart also wants to delay the trial, scheduled for September, until at least March 2013.

http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/241956323d7641569602826373f42cf5/HI–Hawaii-Restaurant-Shooting/#share

Judge Ahn will rule on the motions to dismiss charges or to delay the trial in July.  If she agrees to delay the trial, it will mean that the Elderts family will have waited almost a year and a half to get justice in this case.  In the meantime, Deedy will be receiving his full salary as a State Dept. employee.  And he has had the unheard-of benefits of being allowed to post bail and leave the jurisdiction after being charged with murder, and has been able to have the trial delayed for months already.  The State Dept. refuses to discuss the case with the press.

UPDATE:  Sunday.

It turns out the insurance company who carries Deedy’s renter’s insurance on the Virginia house he and his wife live in, Allstate, has to cover the cost of his legal fees in the civil case being brought against him by the Elderts family.

BY JIM DOOLEY – In a flurry of motions this week, the attorney for accused murderer Christopher Deedy said the State Department security officer is immune from state criminal charges and accused prosecutors of improperly recording evidence against Deedy given to the grand jury last year.

In a related court development today, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that Deedy’s legal expenses in a wrongful death lawsuit pending against him here are covered by a renter’s insurance policy issued to Deedy and his wife in Arlington, VA in late 2010 by Allstate Insurance Co. […]

Another legal dispute related to the killing is playing out in federal court, where the family of Elderts has filed a civil suit against Deedy.Deedy made a claim against his Virginia renter’s insurance policy for coverage of his legal expenses in the lawsuit.

In Virginia federal court, Allstate said it was not obligated to pay Deedy’s legal expenses.

Today, Virginia U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Trenga ruled for Deedy, holding that Allstate has “a duty to defend” him in the suit.

Local attorney Robert Richards, who represents Deedy in the civil case here, confirmed that Allstate is now liable for Deedy’s legal bills.

Richards said he doesn’t expect the trial in the civil case to begin until after completion of the criminal case.

Michael Green, who represents the Elderts family in the civil case, said the U.S. State Department and Justice Department have not made a decision on whether to defend Deedy in the civil case.

http://www.hawaiireporter.com/legal-motions-fly-in-murder-case-against-u-s-state-department-agent-christopher-deedy/123

 
21 Comments

Posted by on May 18, 2012 in Deedy, State Dept/diplomacy

 

The UN report on indigenous peoples in the US.

We weren’t lost, and we didn’t need any book.  Indians are Jesus, hanging from the cross”.  –  John Trudell   [John Trudell (born February 15, 1946) is an American author, poet, actor, musician, and former political activist. He was the spokesperson for the United Indians of All Tribes’ takeover of Alcatraz beginning in 1969, broadcasting as Radio Free Alcatraz. During most of the 1970s, he served as the chairman of the American Indian Movement, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. – wikipedia entry.  This quote references the Mormon teaching that the Indians are the lost tribe of Israel.]

“It’s like there is this predator energy on this planet, and this predator energy feeds on the essence of the spirit.” – John Trudell

“They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one: they promised to take our land and they took it.” – Red Cloud (Makhpiya-Luta), Oglala Lakota chief.

Note the final sentence from this account of Wounded Knee:

December 29, 1890: Big Foot’s band of Minneconjous try to reach Pine Ridge and the protection of Red Cloud after hearing of Sitting Bull’s death.  Also present were members of the Sioux band led by Chief Spotted Elk. Hungry and exhausted, they had assembled under armed guard as requested to receive the protection of the Government of the United States of America, surrendering their arms and submitting to a forced search of tents and teepees that yielded but two remaining rifles.

Marched to Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota, they were disarmed by the U.S. Army.  A group of 120 men and 230 women and children were counted by Major Samuel Whitside at sundown on December 28, 1890. The next day an unidentified shot rang out and the well-armed 487 U.S. soldiers ringing the defenseless people opened fire. Afterwards, 256 Sioux lay dead and were buried in mass graves.

Twenty (20) Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded the soldiers.

http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/imperialism/notes/nativeamericanchron.html

We so condoned this sort of wholesale slaughter that Medals of Honor were awarded to some of the perpetrators.

General George Custer is famous for his role in the Indian wars.  In a sickening little footnote to history, it turns out that Custer liked to have a band to playing an Irish jig called “Garry Owens” during the his attacks on Indian villages; he felt it “gentled” the action and made the killing “more rhythmic”.  – http://teri.nicedriving.org/2012/03/these-things-happen/

The UN has been conducting a special investigation into the way the US treats its native populations, including in Alaska and Hawaii.  You have not heard about this because although there are over 5 million Indians in the US, the politicians here do not see them, so the mainstream media rarely covers this issue; therefore, you do not see them.  The UN investigation is about 200 years late in coming, but the sorriest part of the story is that this “exceptional country” cannot bear to examine itself too closely – it takes an outside agency to point out the obvious.  In the time-honored tradition of our Congress regarding Indian matters, not one member of the US House or Senate would meet with the UN representative when he asked to speak to them as a part of his study. The problem of land-grab from the native population continues unabated even today, of course.  Sites sacred to the Hawaiians are constantly being taken over for the purpose of expanding military bases on the islands, towns in Alaska are “relocated” so that oil can be extracted from the ground under them, etc.  We are still unable to live and let live; for some reason, in this land of plenty we view anything our neighbor has as one thing less for us.

As a result of this investigation, the UN finds that there is systemic racial discrimination and their recommendation is that the US should return some of the stolen land back to the Indians.

This article from commondreams.org includes quotes from other articles on the subject, so I have chosen to use it as my resource on the UN finding.  You may want to read the original sources linked within this article as well.

In an investigation monitoring ongoing discrimination against Native Americans, the United Nations has requested that the US government return some of the stolen land back to Native Americans, as a necessary move towards combating systemic racial discrimination.

James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, “said that in nearly two weeks of visiting Indian reservations, indigenous communities in Alaska and Hawaii, and Native Americans now living in cities, he encountered people who suffered a history of dispossession of their lands and resources, the breakdown of their societies and ‘numerous instances of outright brutality, all grounded on racial discrimination,'” the Guardian reports.

“You can see they’re in a somewhat precarious situation in terms of their basic existence and the stability of their communities given that precarious land tenure situation. It’s not like they have large fisheries as a resource base to sustain them. In basic economic terms it’s a very difficult situation. You have upwards of 70% unemployment on the reservation and all kinds of social ills accompanying that. Very tough conditions,” Anaya stated.

I’m talking about restoring to indigenous peoples what obviously they’re entitled to and they have a legitimate claim to in a way that is not divisive but restorative. That’s the idea behind reconciliation.”

* * *

The Guardian/UK: US should return stolen land to Indian tribes, says United Nations

A United Nations investigator probing discrimination against Native Americans has called on the US government to return some of the land stolen from Indian tribes as a step toward combating continuing and systemic racial discrimination.

James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said no member of the US Congress would meet him as he investigated the part played by the government in the considerable difficulties faced by Indian tribes….

“It’s a racial discrimination that they feel is both systemic and also specific instances of ongoing discrimination that is felt at the individual level,” he said.
Anaya said racism extended from the broad relationship between federal or state governments and tribes down to local issues such as education.

“For example, with the treatment of children in schools both by their peers and by teachers as well as the educational system itself; the way native Americans and indigenous peoples are reflected in the school curriculum and teaching,” he said.

“And discrimination in the sense of the invisibility of Native Americans in the country overall that often is reflected in the popular media. The idea that is often projected through the mainstream media and among public figures that indigenous peoples are either gone or as a group are insignificant or that they’re out to get benefits in terms of handouts, or their communities and cultures are reduced to casinos, which are just flatly wrong.”

* * *

Inter Press Service: U.N. Wraps Up Contentious Study of Native American Communities

A United Nations special envoy on Friday called on the U.S. government to step up efforts to address historical injustices that continue to affect the country’s indigenous population.

James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, warned that historical wrongs, particularly the loss of land, continue to have an overriding impact on the well-being of Native American communities….

The trip marked the first time that the U.N. has waded into the contentious issue of U.S. treatment of its indigenous communities, one of the poorest and most marginalized populations in the United States.

The unemployment rate for American Indians has typically been double that of the white population. On reservations – self-governed tracts of land given to Native American communities by the U.S. government – Anaya reported a 70 percent unemployment rate.

Native Americans have also long suffered from disproportionately low statistics in health and education, as well.

* * *

Reuters: UN official: US must return control of sacred lands to Native Americans

The United States must do more to heal the wounds of indigenous peoples caused by more than a century of oppression, including restoring control over lands Native Americans consider to be sacred, according to a U.N. human rights investigator…

That oppression, he said, has included the seizure of lands and resources, the removal of children from their families and communities, the loss of languages, violation of treaties, and brutality, all grounded in racial discrimination.

Anaya welcomed the U.S. decision to endorse the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010 and other steps the government has taken, but said more was needed.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/05/05-0

“Indian Sunset” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.   They took a few liberties in this song; Geronimo did not die fighting, for instance.  However, plenty of other chiefs did get murdered exactly as the lyrics say: they were conned into relinquishing their weapons and were then shot dead once they were unarmed.

This post dedicated to Titonwan.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on May 6, 2012 in American Indians

 

Dispatching the news.

Updated below.

I have but a few minutes, so this is a fast take on some of the latest news.

Mr. Obama raided the taxpayer cookie jar for an undisclosed amount in order to give a televised speech to US citizens broadcast from Kabul, which is in Afghanistan.  Which is pretty far away from the US mainland.  You can google that.  I didn’t hear much about the reaction from the average Afghan civilian to Obama’s speech….oh, yeah.  Pretty much no-one in Afghanistan has television.  So, anyway, while he was there, he signed some sort of agreement with Karzai about US forces withdrawing from Afghanistan.  (Article opens with obligatory air-kiss to Obama’s manly manness in killing bin Laden.  I think we will see every article which mentions the president’s name from now until election day managing to bring up The Death of Osama bin Laden.  Enjoy the election season; it’s no doubt going to be the last one we get.)

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — President Barack Obama marked the first anniversary of the death of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden with an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, signing a long-awaited strategic partnership agreement meant to set the conditions of an American withdrawal from the war-torn nation.

The president reiterated that U.S. forces will not remain “a single day longer” than necessary, that he remains committed to pulling 23,000 troops out of the country by September and that he will stick to a 2014 deadline to fully withdraw from Afghanistan.

We will not build permanent bases in this country, nor will we be patrolling its cities and mountains,” the president said during a nationally televised speech to the U.S. people from Bagram Air Base early on Wednesday (Tuesday evening in the United States). “That will be the job of the Afghan people.” – CNN, link given in final quote from the article.

Oops, too late.  We have already spent a shitload of money building bases in Afghanistan, some of which we have turned over to Afghani control, but in fact we are still building bases and quite a number of them are scheduled for use by US elite forces and drone operations.  Nick Turse points out:

In late December, the lot was just a big blank: a few burgundy metal shipping containers sitting in an expanse of crushed eggshell-colored gravel inside a razor-wire-topped fence.  The American military in Afghanistan doesn’t want to talk about it, but one day soon, it will be a new hub for the American drone war in the Greater Middle East.

Next year, that empty lot will be a two-story concrete intelligence facility for America’s drone war, brightly lit and filled with powerful computers kept in climate-controlled comfort in a country where most of the population has no access to electricity.  It will boast almost 7,000 square feet of offices, briefing and conference rooms, and a large “processing, exploitation, and dissemination” operations center — and, of course, it will be built with American tax dollars.

Nor is it an anomaly.  Despite all the talk of drawdowns and withdrawals, there has been a years-long building boom in Afghanistan that shows little sign of abating.  In early 2010, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had nearly 400 bases in Afghanistan.  Today, Lieutenant Lauren Rago of ISAF public affairs tells TomDispatch, the number tops 450.

The hush-hush, high-tech, super-secure facility at the massive air base in Kandahar is just one of many building projects the U.S. military currently has planned or underway in Afghanistan.  While some U.S. bases are indeed closing up shop or being transferred to the Afghan government, and there’s talk of combat operations slowing or ending next year, as well as a withdrawal of American combat forces from Afghanistan by 2014, the U.S. military is still preparing for a much longer haul at mega-bases like Kandahar and Bagram airfields. The same is true even of some smaller camps, forward operating bases (FOBs), and combat outposts (COPs) scattered through the country’s backlands.  “Bagram is going through a significant transition during the next year to two years,” Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Gerdes of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Bagram Office recently told Freedom Builder, a Corps of Engineers publication.  “We’re transitioning… into a long-term, five-year, 10-year vision for the base.” 

Whether the U.S. military will still be in Afghanistan in five or 10 years remains to be seen, but steps are currently being taken to make that possible.  U.S. military publications, plans and schematics, contracting documents, and other official data examined by TomDispatch catalog hundreds of construction projects worth billions of dollars slated to begin, continue, or conclude in 2012. 

While many of these efforts are geared toward structures for Afghan forces or civilian institutions, a considerable number involve U.S. facilities, some of the most significant being dedicated to the ascendant forms of American warfare: drone operations and missions by elite special operations units.

Recently, the New York Times reported that President Obama is likely to approve a plan to shift much of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan to special operations forces.  These elite troops would then conduct kill/capture missions and train local troops well beyond 2014.  Recent building efforts in the country bear this out.

A major project at Bagram Air Base, for instance, involves the construction of a special operations forces complex, a clandestine base within a base that will afford America’s black ops troops secrecy and near-absolute autonomy from other U.S. and coalition forces.  Begun in 2010, the $29 million project is slated to be completed this May and join roughly 90 locations around the country where troops from Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan have been stationed…

Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered that the U.S.-run prison at Bagram be transferred to Afghan control.  By the end of January, the U.S. had issued a $36 million contract for the construction, within a year, of a new prison on the base.  While details are sparse, plans for the detention center indicate a thoroughly modern, high-security facility complete with guard towers, advanced surveillance systems, administrative facilities, and the capacity to house about 2,000 prisoners.

At Kandahar Air Field, that new intelligence facility for the drone war will be joined by a similarly-sized structure devoted to administrative operations and maintenance tasks associated with robotic aerial missions.  It will be able to accommodate as many as 180 personnel at a time.  With an estimated combined price tag of up to $5 million, both buildings will be integral to Air Force and possibly CIA operations involving both the MQ-1 Predator drone and its more advanced and more heavily-armed progeny, the MQ-9 Reaper.

The military is keeping information about these drone facilities under extraordinarily tight wraps…

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175501/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_prisons%2C_drones%2C_and_black_ops_in_afghanistan/#more

Back to the CNN article:

An undetermined number of U.S. forces will remain in country past 2014 working as military advisers and counterterrorism forces, but officials have yet to decide for how long…

Speaking to reporters from Turkey after the trip to Afghanistan, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Michigan, and member Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, pointed to a series of lightening-rod issues expected to be addressed at the summit.

They include hot topics such as Taliban and Haqqani safe havens in Pakistan, Afghan economic dependency on international spending and the grittier details of senior leadership positions within the nation’s armed forces.

One thing we’re going to see if there can be an early retirement of the officer corps to make room for the younger class (of Pashtuns from the country’s restive southern and eastern provinces),” said Levin, noting those groups are underrepresented.

That’s something that’s going to be discussed in Chicago, a retirement incentive,” he said, a subtle nod to lingering questions over the army’s current legitimacy in traditional Taliban strongholds. – from CNN article

Hmm.  So while our President and Congress work on not-so-clandestine plans to decimate Social Security and Medicare for older Americans, we intend to pay for the retirement benefits of the Afghan fighting forces.  How very noble of us.  A sacrifice in which we will all gladly share, I’m sure.  We are just swell like that.

…The president’s trip was his third since taking office and comes amid heightened tensions between the Obama and Karzai governments after a string of incidents involving U.S. personnel.

Among them include an American service member charged with killing of 16 Afghan civilians, Quran burnings at a U.S. military base and the release of photographs of Americans posing with the remains of dead militants. – from CNN article

I would like to point out that the base where the books were burned is a joint US/Afghan base which houses prisoners.  When you see “a few copies of the Quran burned” in any given article, what is actually being referred to is an incident where almost the entire Afghan portion of the prison library was confiscated –  1,652 books and Islamic texts, including 48 copies of the Quran – and “boxed for storage”.  All of these books were “mistakenly” taken to an incinerator to be burned. Several Afghan garbage collectors working at the base reported finding a number of charred books and quickly notified an Afghan National Army commander, who halted the burning.  Whether or not the collection contained “damaged” books, as the US military claims, it seems a minor point.  No-one seems interested in questioning why only the books written in Pashtu or Dari (Afghan Farsi) were taken from the library or why almost the entire collection (the only reading material available for both Afghan guards and prisoners alike) was being removed.
Back to CNN:

… Obama also spoke of a “negotiated peace” and said his administration has been in direct talks with the Taliban. In March, the Afghan Taliban suspended the development of a diplomatic office in Qatar designed to allow them to hold talks with the United States, following public anger over the killing of the 16 civilians.

“We’ve made it clear that they can be a part of this future if they break with al Qaeda, renounce violence and abide by Afghan laws,” Obama said Wednesday….

He later added that the U.S. “did not come here to claim resources or to claim territory. We came here with a very clear mission to destroy al Qaeda.” – from CNN article

The Taliban are not affiliated with al Qaeda.  We did go into Afghanistan to claim resources; US troops are currently guarding at least one gold mine for JP Morgan bank, and we have intended from the inception of this undeclared war to claim territory on which to build a natural gas pipeline.  Further, as even our top brass admit, there is no al Qaeda presence remaining in Afghanistan.
Back to CNN:

Last week, Afghan National Security Adviser Rangin Daftar Spanta and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker initialed the text that outlined the kind of relationship the two countries want in the decade following the NATO withdrawal.

The deal had been long expected after Washington and Kabul found compromises over the thorny issues of “night raids” by U.S. forces on Afghan homes and the transfer of U.S. detainees to Afghan custody.

It seeks to create an enduring partnership that prevents the Taliban from waiting out a U.S. withdrawal to try to regain power, the senior administration officials have said.

All CNN quotes are from this article:

http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/02/politics/afghanistan-obama/

I have a question – can the President sign an agreement like this without Congress ratifying and consenting to it?  Just asking.  He is, after all, committing the US to an “enduring partnership” with a foreign country, for an indeterminate length of time. [Answer: He is not.  See update below.]  And again, I will point out that the Taliban was not our enemy, nor the reason we went into Afghanistan.  They are currently fighting the US/NATO forces because they see themselves as protecting their country from foreign invaders, which is what we are.

Speaking of Ryan I-am-a-real-man-hear-me-roar Crocker, our top “diplomat” in Afghanistan, let us reflect for a moment on some of his wise and diplomatic language from a couple of weeks ago.

“Mr Crocker, who took up his post in Kabul last year, said al-Qaeda remained a potent threat despite suffering setbacks. ‘We have killed all the slow and stupid ones…’ ”  – http://soc.li/ivBOxHF

The Taliban, as a sign of their objection to the Obama/Karzai long-term pledge, immediately launched an attack on a compound in Kabul that houses some 2000 westerners, killing at least 7 people within two hours of Mr. Obama leaving Afghanistan.  Mr. Crocker had this to say about the attack:

“Mr. Crocker characterized the attack as a feeble attempt to strike a psychological blow to the U.S.-Afghan partnership. ‘It was not exactly a significant military attack,’ he said. ‘This is not Tet 3. If this is the best they can do, they are not exactly winning this war.’ “

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304746604577379263984093608.html

He has clearly read Mrs. Clinton’s book on diplomatic responses to international questions, “Our State Department Today: How to Create, Fund, Arm, and Incite the Enemy de jour in Four Easy Lessons”.

As our top officials dicker over exactly how much money to further squander in this useless exercise in Afghanistan, gleefully building bases and commissioning drone aircraft and “elite” forces, discussing the retirement plans for our Afghan “team-mates”, poverty in America increases to levels never before seen.  I can think of absolutely nothing funny or clever to say about our own hunger situation.

In 1962, Michael Harrington shocked the nation when he wrote The Other America, estimating that 40 million to 50 million Americans—one quarter of the population—lived below the poverty level.

Today, the numbers are more than three times higher. Recent statistics show half the American population—over 150 million people—are either poor or near poor. Millions are forced to turn to food banks to feed their families….

“One in six Americans, 49 million people, including one in five kids, are struggling with hunger,” [Feeding America’s chief communication officer] Daly said. She added that while poverty is the single predominant factor in food insecurity, unemployment is the largest contributor to the condition. “There are so many people already in what we traditionally call the ‘near-poor’ that any loss of a job translates directly into food insecurity.

“Unemployment continues to be at record-level highs. Yes, it has gone down a little in the last two years, but the number of people who are unemployed remains very high.”

Daly pointed to high food and fuel prices and the fact that many people are still suffering from the foreclosure crisis.
“We have serious threats to the safety net,” she added. “Congress is considering drastically cutting SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—food stamps), while at the same time we have seen a 40 percent decline in the amount of food coming in to food banks.”

Daly pointed to a drastic decline in the amount of food available for distribution. She said the government provides 25 percent of the 3.3 billion pounds of FA food. Last year, she said, there was “almost a 50 percent decline in what we call bonus commodities” available to Feeding America.

Daly told the WSWS how the system works: the US Department of Agriculture purchases surplus food when commodity prices drop, to provide a price floor. However as of late, when prices are steadily rising, the government reduces its buys of cheese, flour, corn and other surplus commodities.

As of February 2012, food prices had risen 4.4 percent for the year, with meat, coffee and peanut butter up 9 percent, 19 percent and 27 percent respectively. This has resulted in a significant decline in the food flowing to charities.
“Because food prices are high, the USDA has been making fewer purchases of commodities and therefore there is less food from the federal government flowing through food banks. We have seen about a 50 percent increase in the number of people who need help over the last four years; while at the same time there is less food available from these steady sources.

“That combined is what we in our network call a perfect storm. Need is up, availability of food is down, and the people that we are serving are struggling with more and more challenges in meeting basic needs.
“We have to be careful in discussing food insecurity because we know that two-thirds of those who are food insecure actually are not living below the poverty line.”

The threshold for SNAP is 130 percent of the poverty level. The threshold for WIC and other child nutrition programs is 185 percent of poverty. Daly said that one-quarter of the people in the US who report they are food insecure make more than 185 percent of the poverty income, meaning they don’t qualify for any form of federal assistance. The only place they have to go for food assistance is through the charity system.

“The federal programs are really targeting the poorest of the poor,” she said. “There are millions of people who are living in the ‘near poor’ category and many of those folks are unemployed or underemployed. This is driving the increase in the number of people who are hungry.”
Daly said FA is seeing an increase in food need in every demographic group: “It is happening across the board. Statistically, we feed almost one in four African Americans in the US. We also see a large number of white workers.

“One of the biggest misnomers is that people see hunger as an urban issue, when the reality is that 55 percent of the counties in the US with the highest rate of food insecurity are rural. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a hunger-free community. This is an issue that exists in every county in America.”…

Lucio Guerrero [said], “It’s a shame that this is happening in a country with so much abundance. One in six is the average number of children who are food insecure, but there are communities where it is 50 percent of kids, in some parts of Texas or in the rural South.  It really is affecting every community. Even in places like Palm Springs [California], there are people who are hungry.”

http://wsws.org/articles/2012/may2012/hung-m02.shtml

Update, Wed.:  According to former Congressman Alan Grayson, the President is not authorized to sign an agreement or treaty such as the one he signed with Karzai and doing so violates the Constitution.

From Grayson:

To little fanfare, President Obama announced last week that he signed an agreement to extend the U.S. military occupation of Afghanistan for twelve more years. No one noted the irony of this, since under our Constitution, President Obama can be President for no more than another 4 1/2 years.

Also under our Constitution, a treaty requires the concurrence of two-thirds of the Senate. (Article II, Section 2, Clause 2). No one in the Obama Administration even took a stab at explaining why this agreement with a foreign power was not being submitted to the Senate for concurrence. But the reason is obvious: the Senate would not concur.

Also under our Constitution, you will search in vain for any provision that authorizes a lengthy military occupation of a foreign country. In fact, the Constitution does not authorize a standing army, much less an army standing in Kabul. In the Bizarro world in which we live, we have 27 Attorneys General challenging the constitutionality of 35 million Americans getting health coverage, but no one challenges the constitutionality of an undeclared war (see Article I, Section 8 on that) that has now entered its second decade.

 
 

If at first you don’t succeed…

BP has searched its soul – corporations now being people, they feel pretty certain that they can claim after-life rights to the Kingdom of Heaven – and decided that seeing as to how there is still unoiled blue water in certain locations of the Gulf of Mexico, they must continue with plans to entirely kill the place off once and for all.  The BP executive in charge of new wells, the aptly-named Mr. Looney, expressed shock that there were eyeless shrimp being netted in the Gulf and that baby dolphins were apparently being born with such remarkable genetic defects as to guarantee their early deaths.  This indicates, much to BP’s dismay, that blind shrimp can indeed swim and that dolphins are still engaging in marine coitus.  BP thought they had put a stop to that sort of activity.  Okay, I made the up the part about Mr. Looney discussing shrimp and dolphins.  That was sarcasm, in case you couldn’t tell.  He doesn’t actually give a fuck about sea life and wouldn’t talk about sea creatures on a bet.

The Obama administration, also notably silent about the fish, animals, and humans in or near the GoM, is allowing BP to forge ahead on three new rigs, which is eight more than the number BP was operating prior to the spill.  Giving them a few more shots at killing off the last few fish in the barrel.  Literally.   One of BP’s next new projects (after these three rigs start up) will likely be in what the company calls “Mad Dog phase 2” – and if that name isn’t a finger to the GoM, I don’t know what is.  They are hoping to open up Mad Dog within the next decade.  By that time, the Gulf will be so obviously and completely dead that no-one could reasonably claim that the oil companies were doing “further” damage, thus removing the possibility that any lawsuits will be brought forward.

If you are interested, you might want to read my telescoped summary of the Deepwater Horizon spill here:

http://teri.nicedriving.org/2012/02/deepwater-horizon-spill-continues/

BP is planning to start three new oil drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico this year. The launch of the new rigs will bring the number of BP rigs in the Gulf to eight more than the oil giant had before the devastating Deepwater Horizon disaster three years ago.

Bernard Looney, BP’s executive in charge of new wells, said BP is expecting to spend $4bn (2.5bn pounds) on new developments in the Gulf of Mexico this year and hopes to “invest at least that much every year over the next decade”.

After much soul-searching in the fall of 2010, we concluded it would be wrong to walk away [from the Gulf of Mexico],” Looney said at an offshore oil conference in Houston, Texas, on Monday. “We would have been walking away not only from our past, but from a key component of our future.

He said the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 people, had “challenged us to the core”, but said the company has been working hard to help prevent “such an accident from ever happening again”.

While conceding that BP was in “absolutely no position to preach”, he called on the industry to adopt broader safety standards.

Last October US regulators granted BP its first permit to drill a new well since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, that spewed 4.9m barrels of oil into the fragile Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. The permit, for drilling in BP’s Kaskida field 250 miles south-west of New Orleans, was approved after BP’s well design met more stringent post-spill standards. [Teri’s note: the “more stringent” part was thrown in there for propaganda purposes.  The standards are “more stringent” in the same way we have “re-regulated” the banks.]

Looney did not state where the new rigs will drill, but industry figures said they expect an appraisal well in BP’s “giant” Tiber field 250 miles south-west of New Orleans. BP has long wanted to explore the area it discovered in 2009, but had been banned by regulators.

The company’s next big project, Mad Dog phase 2, is expected to start production towards the end of the decade. Looney said the field, which was discovered in 1998 and first began producing oil in 2005, holds more than 4bn barrels of oil – enough to promote it to the “super-giant” oil field category.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/apr/30/bp-new-gulf-mexico-oil-rigs

 

Here is a 14 minute interview conducted by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now on 5 March this year regarding the proposed BP monetary settlement. She is talking with Antonia Juhasz, Greg Palast, and Ian MacDonald.  Note that at the 5:54 mark, Greg Palast says “horrific” deal, not “terrific” deal; it’s a little tough to catch the word.  This is a great interview, and although I don’t like the way Juhasz makes an attempt to make the settlement sound like it is “reasonable”, Palast does a wonderful job dispelling any such notion.  And since BP didn’t quite manage to make its mark felt in a horrible enough way in the Gulf, the Obama administration is giving them a chance to join Shell in destroying the Arctic as well, as is brought out in this interview.  BP and the other big oil companies will not declare success until all the oceans are dead.  Your future is of no concern.  They are interested in their profitable futures as oil giants.  Perhaps they also believe in corporate reincarnation, wherein they get to come back and make more money off whatever species rules the planet once they have made the place uninhabitable for humans, mammals, fish, etc., etc.

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