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Category Archives: big ag/pharma

Notes on the TPP.

The TPP was written in complete secrecy by corporate CEOs and their lawyers, along with official governmental trade negotiators, over a five year period. The trade negotiator for the US is Michael Froman. He served in the Treasury Dept under Bob Rubin within the Clinton administration, during which time the Glass-Steagall Act was overturned, leading directly to the conditions giving rise to the economic meltdown years later.  After that gig, he and Rubin both went to work for Citigroup (big bank and hedge fund a-go-go). In 2013, he became our trade negotiator. I mention this because it’s relevant that our trade negotiator is a big bank guy who worked for one of the banks that helped tank the economy in ’08.

Obama signed the TPP in Feb. this year, as did all the leaders of the 12 signatory nations. None of them, however, has gotten the deal ratified in their countries yet; i.e., the TPP has not been passed through the parliaments or Congresses of any of the 12 nations yet and so has not legally gone into effect.

They have 2 years to ratify the TPP. If it isn’t ratified by Feb 2018, they can put it into force with only 6 countries participating, if the GDP of those 6 countries combined equals 85% of the GDP of the original 12 countries.

The TPP includes an ISDS [investor-state dispute settlement] mechanism. This clause allows a company to sue a treaty-participating country for monetary damages if local laws affect their business. It does not allow them to make changes to local laws, but it does allow them to sue a government for “damages”. The ISDS is run by a tribunal of 3 judges: all of whom are corporate heads, chosen by a panel of big corporations. It has been pointed out that previous trade agreements with an ISDS clause have pushed participating countries to loosen environmental and labor regulations in an effort to preemptively stave off potential lawsuits under ISDS, thus inherently influencing which laws are passed or altered by signatory countries.  It is the ISDS that ensures an end to our national sovereignty, as if the TPP even without it, weren’t bad enough. Any member of Congress that votes yes for this trade agreement and the president that signs it into law is committing treason, in my opinion.

While the ISDS clause cannot forcibly change US laws, some US laws will need to be changed in order to comply with the TPP itself. Obama had the duty (signed into law with the passage of the “Fast-track” bill; aka the Trade Promotion Authority or TPA) of working with the heads of the various US agencies (Dept of Ag, Commerce Dept, Treasury Dept, OSHA, etc.) to create a list of which laws would need to be altered, and to present this list to Congress at the same time the TPP is formally presented to them for vote. Obama signed an executive order in July handing this duty over to Michael Froman (our trade representative). We will find out what laws have been changed if/when Congress votes yes on the TPP. Congress can only vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the TPP and its attached list of regulatory changes; they are not allowed to amend, filibuster, debate, add to, delete from, or alter any text at all.

Which means that any politician (like Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid) who suggests that the TPP can “be improved” by Congress before it is passed is lying through his teeth. Congress cannot change a word of the TPP. Any improvements that Congress might want to suggest before they would pass the damned thing would necessitate the renegotiation of the agreement with the other countries. (Congress cannot amend the text themselves, but they might, behind the scene so to speak, suggest changes that would ensure passage.) In other words, if Congress says they want x,y, or z clauses to be changed, the TPP has to be re-presented to all the countries with the alterations and the whole negotiation started over again, with the leaders of these countries having to sign a new agreement and presenting that new one to their parliaments for ratification. Obama wants this thing done before he leaves office, so it’s unlikely he would consider any recommendations from Congress that would cause the TPP to have to go into renegotiation. And when Clinton makes breezy promises to “improve” it when she is the president, she is eliding the fact that any improvements she might want will likewise send the agreement into renegotiation. (Remember, the countries only have 2 years to ratify the TPP through their parliaments, so there is little time to negotiate a new treaty.)

The “fast-track” bill that Congress wrote and passed and that Obama signed into law last year has its own stipulations that the media has chosen to completely ignore. This bill governs how Congress votes on any trade agreements for the next 6 years. It reads that Congress can only vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on any of these agreements without debate, alterations, or amendments, as I mentioned above. I also mentioned that it made the president responsible for telling Congress of any changes to our existing laws that have to occur to comply to the agreements (a duty that Obama handed off to Froman).

In case you think I am inventing the idea that some of our laws will require alteration or amendment (or, in fact, to be overturned altogether) with passage of the TPP, it is quite obvious that this is the case, as the Fast-track bill includes these paragraphs:

“if changes in existing laws or new statutory authority are required to implement such trade agreement or agreements, only such provisions as are strictly necessary or appropriate to implement such trade agreement or agreements, either repealing or amending existing laws or providing new statutory authority.[…]”

and:

“within 60 days after entering into the agreement, the President submits to Congress a description of those changes to existing laws that the President considers would be required in order to bring the United States into compliance with the agreement.”

But there are further rules imposed by the fast-track law, and these are overarching requirements for any trade agreement for the next 6 years. Fast-track demands that no trade agreement can discourage or prejudice commercial activity between the US and Israel. It stipulates that trade agreements must discourage movements such as BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) against Israel. This “no-BDS” clause includes everyone; the definition is given thusly:

“Definition.–In this paragraph, the term ‘actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel” means actions by states, non-member states of the United Nations, international organizations, or affiliated agencies of international organizations that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories.”

This formal declaration against the BDS movement was included despite the fact that Israel is not a participating country in any of the troika of trade agreements potentially coming up for vote in the near future. [What I call the troika consists of the TTP, the TTIP, and TISA.]

Fast-track also puts an end to any notion that we will ever have the labeling of products like GMOs or nano-technology, as it includes the following, a provision that none of the trade agreements can include:

“unjustified trade restrictions or commercial requirements, such as labeling, that affect new technologies, including biotechnology; […]”

When Obama signed the fast-track bill into law, he also signed the updated TAA (aka the Trade Adjustment Assistance law). This bill acknowledges the fact that trade agreements cost the US millions of jobs and so Congress authorizes funds for the “re-training” of American workers who will need to find new jobs with which to support themselves. The TAA has existed for years, but was set to expire in 2015. Congress reauthorized the bill and increased the funding because they knew that the upcoming TPP would cost jobs. They had to pass the TAA in order to get the fast-track bill passed: Obama demanded both at the same time, as did members of Congress who otherwise opposed the fast-track legislation, specifically because they know the TPP, TTIP, etc. will lead to job losses. Some of them even said so out loud while debating the fast-track and TAA bills – that the TPP will cost the US several million jobs, which is a vast understatement, according to labor experts. In order to pass the TAA re-training bill, Congress scotch-taped it to the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a trade bill supported by the Congressional Black Caucus, to attract more yes votes. In the updated bill, Congress supplied the necessary $950 mm funding (their estimate of the minimum needed for worker re-training if the TPP passes) by cutting Medicare further. They extended the Medicare sequestration reductions – Medicare benefits have been cut repeatedly since Obama took office – through 2024 and reduced reimbursements for Medicare patients who are on dialysis for acute renal failure. If you are one of the Americans qualified to get “re-training” money to help you “upgrade your skills” so you can find a new job at McDonald’s or WalMart after the TPP erases your current job, thank an elderly dialysis patient. Oh, wait, you won’t be able to – they’ll all be dead. And by the way, the amount of money you’ll get from the federal government toward a “re-training” program is $1500. Good luck.

No-one in the media noted that while Congress was talking about how the TPP was a swell idea, so “wonderful” that they wanted (and got) the fast-track bill in order to get the TPP passed as quickly as possible when it comes to a vote, they were admitting within the body of a bill passed at the same exact time as fast-track that the TPP was going to cost US jobs. Obama’s trade-policy advocates say the TPP will create jobs at the same time they say it will cost jobs. Which is it?  According to them (depending on the day of the week and which shill they have talking about it for them that day), it will do both.  Let’s call it the “Vietnam War Theory of Economics and Job Growth”. This new economic theory is that jobs must be lost in order for jobs to be created, and that a “good” trade deal is one that will lead to lost jobs and lower wages, which then must be partially offset by more federal spending for the displaced work force (funded with the tried and true method of simply taking monies from another sector of the public sphere); said pool of “displaced workers” having been created by the government passing the trade agreement in the first place.

And the TPP is what Clinton calls the “gold standard” of trade agreements, at least until she decided she had to lie about her position on it in order to garner votes.  For some reason, we allow our votes to be heavily invested in outright political lies.

The TTIP and TISA, the other two trade agreements currently under negotiation, have the same issues that the TPP does, and while I am not going into the specific details of those two here, if they are signed and brought before Congress, they will also be enacted within the mandates of the fast-track law. Some good information about both can be found on wikipedia, and websites such as publiccitizen.org are doing an outstanding job of reporting on them.

The TPP and the other trade agreements aren’t about trade. Tariffs are already near zero. They are about giving big, multi-national corporations complete control of and power over judicial and legislative decisions in every country, as well as providing unlimited opportunities for corporate cartels to strip money from wages and reduce governmental spending on the commons.

 

This is for posterity.

Now, if this isn’t just the epitome of Current America.  Illegally turn the city over to an unelected “manager” in a replacement coup of their elected mayor.  Privatize the water system. Don’t monitor said water system.  Find out, belatedly, but after being warned several times, that the water is toxic.  Cover up the facts until people are turning up sick, brain-damaged or dead.  Blame it on A) the Democrats, B) the Republicans, C) anyone no longer in office, D) the janitor, E) God, or F) the impoverished poor people who didn’t (i.e., couldn’t) pay their exorbitant water bills from the price-gouging private company and who therefore deserved what they got.  This is just the invisible hand of the market at work, or some such eternal and bright capitalistic truth, right?  Here are a couple of hard and real truths for you: it is unlikely the people who inflicted this on the public in Flint will ever pay any legal price for it.  It is inconceivable that any of them actually care about the matter, although they may mumble some platitudes about how unacceptable it all is, as though they had no idea how this whole thing happened; if they cared about what sort of crap was flowing from the faucets of the city, they would never have made the decisions they did.  And here’s the saddest truth: the people who have been harmed by the water system are utterly dependent on the ones who let it happen in the first place to find a solution.

However, we can now use this as a teaching moment for these poor young ones so they will learn how to use their new free water filters, which they are going to need for the rest of their lives whether they are living in Michigan’s Dead Zone or some other pit of hell carved out specially for them elsewhere in the nation, because they aren’t ever going to get anything better than toxic waste to drink no matter where they are corralled by the assholes in charge, and it is damn near impossible to get out of one of these poverty pockets once you’ve accidentally landed in one.  They can’t even legally sell their homes and try their luck elsewhere, assuming there was an elsewhere to go to; Michigan law is such that a person can’t sell a home knowing that there is no drinkable water running from the taps.  But apparently, yeah, what all God’s children in Flint (and Detroit and elsewhere) need right now is just a little instruction on how to use those fucking water filters and a lesson about the water cycle.  What you never want to talk about – or for them to learn about – is how democracy is supposed to work and how it has been subverted all over the country by corporate interests and toady politicians, or how the EPA, the USDA, and other protective agencies used to be funded and run, or how this shit never had to happen to them in the first damn place.

Oh, and this is an opportunity to collect artifacts from this historic event.  Don’t want to be last in the game of collecting and collating details on how America killed its own.

I wonder how those babies, black and white, will one day feel about being living “artifacts” while they were growing up in the fetid swamp of this new experimental system of governance where privatization and austerity, controlled by corporate interests and imposed by fiat coming from the very officials who are charged with holding the common good in trust, took their futures away from them.   Maybe they should talk to the American Indians about how it feels to be viewed as part of the historical record of artifacts being gathered even as they are struggling to deal with the events, which are still occurring at ground zero.  Maybe the museum holding this event should ask the descendants of the Tuskegee men if their grandfathers might have felt better about the whole thing if only someone had just thought to accumulate and collate the medical artifacts for the public’s perusal while they were still being experimented on.  (Seriously, what the hell is wrong with this country?)

Maybe the curators of this museum event can start some other collections to document life downwind and down-river from one of the 100 nuclear plants around the US – hey, the people living near Hanford and Indian Point have some stories to share.  The museum officials already missed their chance to compile information on what normal human health was prior to the global take-over of the agricultural systems by the companies that are testing their unproven hypotheses about the safety of genetic modification throughout the food chain and saturating everything with toxic chemicals along the way, as well as destroying any nutritional value that was previously available in these foods.  [Here I must give a shout-out to the Clintons and the Gates, the two families who have done more than anyone else, in joint effort with the GMO companies themselves, to inflict this particular form of mass health speculation on the human beings trying to live on this planet.  Well done.  You have now reached what some individuals consider the peak position in the hierarchy of hominids.  You have become, in essence, the world’s apex predators – of your fellow men.  Some people actually admire that.]   I’ll tell you what: neither the museum curators nor the insurance company sponsoring this event will teach the right lessons for posterity to learn in this exercise, and they aren’t collecting the right “artifacts”, because this situation has fuck-all to do with the water cycle and really very little to do with the purity of the water from the nearby lakes and rivers, either.  It has everything to do with poverty, corrupt grifters acting as government officials, the weakening of whatever remains of any useful regulations, and the imposition of the profit-seeking private corporatocracy on a captive population.  The US takes puffy pride in its claim of equality for all, but here’s the thing; no-one whines that he isn’t equal to the poor slob on the bottom rung.  Everyone wants to be equal to the guy above him.  Our current social, political and economic systems reflect that.  So not much will be done to address the root causes of the water problem in Flint.  The best they can hope for is that the free water filters continue to come in and that those filters aren’t made by the same contractor that made the formaldehyde-laden trailers offered to the hurricane Katrina victims. Nothing will be done to ameliorate, much less correct, the grinding and dismal conditions for the poor in this “most equal” of countries. 

And I’m sure it is only moments before some politician or media asshole starts talking about how the people of Flint are getting too much free stuff in the way of those water filters and bottles of potable water.  That just smacks of socialism and the welfare state, after all, doesn’t it?

Children in Flint, Michigan can now visit the Sloan Museum for “Water Works” classes that teach them how to filter their drinking water. The museum is also compiling notes from the community on the lead-contaminated water crisis for future reflection.

As part of the “Water’s Extreme Journey” traveling exhibit, kids experience the water cycle “from the perspective of a water drop trying not to become polluted,” according to the museum’s website.

“One of the takeaways for the public should be that the health of the Flint River is actually quite good,” Exhibit Manager Warren Lehmkuhle said in a museum statement. “It was the lack of corrosion treatment, treatment that even lake water goes through, that caused the problem with our water.”

Students will be given the opportunity to construct and test their own filtration systems, as well as learn the whole history of Flint’s water systems going back as far as 1873. At the end is a comment board where residents can share their stories of how the water crisis impacted them. 

“I think we have a responsibility to document as much as possible now for future generations because, as with any kind of museum collecting, it is much easier to accumulate artifacts pertaining to current events now, rather than waiting 50 years when they are considered historic,” Curator of Collections Jeremy Dimick said in the statement. “If we do a good job collecting items and information now, the community will be better able to look back on the event 50 and 150 years from now.”

The exhibit, sponsored by local health care plan provider HealthPlus, opened on January 23 and ends May 8.

The city’s water source was switched from the Detroit system to the Flint River in 2014 without the proper follow-up of adding anti-corrosive agents, resulting in lead from pipes seeping into the drinking water supply. Research done in September 2015 by the Hurley Medical Center found that the average number of Flint children under the age of 5 with blood-lead levels considered too high by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had doubled since the switch.
The World Health Organization (WHO) lists reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), shortening of attention span, increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment as examples of brain damage children can face when exposed to lead. Other harmful effects include anemia, hypertension, kidney failure, damage to the immune and reproductive systems.

“The neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible,” according to the WHO.

https://www.rt.com/usa/332569-flint-museum-filter-water/

And when you residents of Flint leave your stories on the museum comment board about how the water crisis has affected you, please remember; this is for posterity. So, be honest. How do you feel?

 

 

ms. anthrope

“Good morning, ma’am,” a member of the uniformed Secret Service once greeted Hillary Clinton. “F— off,” she replied. […]

http://nypost.com/2015/10/02/secret-service-agents-hillary-is-a-nightmare-to-work-with/

Yes, I am going to write about Hillary Clinton.  I have fought the temptation long and hard, but I find I just need to get this off my chest.  Before I start on the goodies, I will say a few words about next year’s election in general.  First, this is not a monarchy.  It is not healthy for the country to create a couple of quasi-royal families, such as the Clintons and the Bushes have become, and then act as though they had some right to ascend an imaginary throne.  Second, to those who say it is “time” to have a woman president, I say, really?  You are voting on genitalia?  Sure, it is time to have a woman president, but it has to be the right one.  If you want a woman in the White House just for the sake of equal rights, you should at least make certain she represents your values and ideals.  Just being a female should not be reason enough for a candidate to capture your support.  If your desire to vote for a woman is based on the idea that a woman will bring a more nurturing and caring posture toward the citizens of this country as well as to the world at large, someone who will respond to the needs of the people before the interests of corporations, end the warmongering abroad and the aggressive policing at home, then make sure that person is at least capable of those emotions and has those sympathies.  

Hillary is not that person.  Hillary has no qualities or policies that differentiate her from the men who are running for election; simply being a woman is therefore not good enough or reason enough.  I agree it’s about damn time we took women candidates seriously, and if this were a country that really saw men and women as equally able, we would have had a woman president before now.  At least this time around, there are several women running.  I understand even the Republicans have a chick in their line-up.  If you want an actual liberal, anti-war, anti-corporatocracy candidate, there is Jill Stein, running as the Green Party candidate; you aren’t going to find that set of adjectives in front of Hillary’s name.  Dr. Stein is concerned with ending the wars, ending domestic spying and the drone-bombing programs, investing in renewable energy and addressing climate change, restructuring our economy away from weapons manufacturing, breaking up the big banks and making the Fed an actual government-run entity.  She does not support our role in arming and financing Israel, or Saudi Arabia for that matter; this position is why you have probably never heard of her and why the oligarchs will try to make sure you never do.  You can read more about Dr. Stein here:

http://www.jill2016.com/ or here: http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/07/17/the-first-woman-president-jill-stein/

A note: I am going to refer to Mrs. Clinton as Hillary throughout, not because I feel some false affection for her which the use of first names would imply, but simply to avoid confusing her with the other Clinton, her husband Bill. So.  Mad Hillary.  Let’s dispense with the e-mail scandal right now.  Bernie Sanders certainly has, and one can only assume he did that deliberately to help Hillary.  The e-mails, however, are significant and she should not be let off the hook for them, but I think that the issue is being used to obfuscate a more important one that the media is largely avoiding; i.e., the notable coincidence that donors to the Clinton Foundation [Clinton Global Initiatives] received what appear to be preferential and lucrative contracts while Hillary was serving as Secretary of State.  Perhaps this partly explains Bernie Sanders scuttling any talk about the e-mail scandal during the debate (perhaps forever?); further pursuit of the e-mails would lead resolutely toward actual proof of bribes paid to the Secretary of State through Clinton Global Initiatives and the speaking engagements of its principals.  No-one has “proven” that any quid pro quo went on, but then no-one is even willing to investigate the matter.  If you think the allegations must not be true because the Republicans would surely be jumping all over it, then you don’t understand that taking bribes is a way of life for these people.  None of them want to kill that goose.  Certainly the mainstream media has refused to cover the topic, although a number of articles have been presented, and ignored, which would suggest that there is a serious issue here that needs research and which present questions that ought to be answered.  

It’s crazy, given the amazing number of people and companies and the startling size of the “donations” given to the Clinton Foundation while these entities were simultaneously seeking favor from the State Dept., that no-one from either camp, the media, or the Justice Dept. is following up on this issue.  There is way too much smoke here to understand why no-one seems to be looking for fire. As an example, we find this:

The size and scope of the symbiotic relationship between the Clintons and their donors is striking. At least 181 companies, individuals, and foreign governments that have given to the Clinton Foundation also lobbied the State Department when Hillary Clinton ran the place, according to a Vox analysis of foundation records and federal lobbying disclosures. […]

The New York Times published a thorough report last week on the sale of uranium mines to a company connected to the Russian government by a group of Canadians who poured millions of dollars into the Clinton Foundation. The Washington Post, also working from Schweizer’s research, reported that Bill Clinton collected $26 million in speaking fees from donors to the Clinton Foundation. And Newsweek reported that a company owned by Victor Pinchuk, one of the top donors to the Clinton Foundation, has shipped goods to Iran.

Public records alone reveal a nearly limitless supply of cozy relationships between the Clintons and companies with interests before the government. General Electric, for example, has given between $500,000 and $1 million in cash to the foundation, and it helped underwrite the US pavilion at the Shanghai Expo in 2010, a project for which top Clinton family fundraisers were tapped by the State Department to solicit contributions from the private sector.

GE lobbied the State Department on a variety of issues when Hillary Clinton was secretary, including trade and energy tax breaks, according to its filings with the federal government. In her most recent memoir, Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton details how she went to bat for GE in Algeria, a country that donated $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation in violation of the charity’s agreement with the Obama administration to place restrictions on contributions from foreign governments.

“When the government decided to solicit foreign bids to build power plants and modernize its energy sector, I saw an opportunity for advancing prosperity in Algeria and seizing an opportunity for American business. General Electric was competing for the more than $2.5 billion contract,” she wrote.

Clinton personally lobbied President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to bless the GE contract. The kicker: Clinton allies have said she will use her work to create business for US companies overseas on the campaign trail as she runs for president. She’s now in position to visit GE sites in the US and talk about how she worked to strengthen the company.

The Washington Post reported earlier this year that the Clinton Foundation failed to seek approval from the State Department when it accepted a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government for Haitian earthquake relief in 2010. […]

Likewise, Coca-Cola has given between $5 million and $10 million to the foundation. The company announced an investment of $200 million in Burma after Hillary Clinton worked to lift sanctions on that country.

Even unions that blame Bill Clinton’s NAFTA deal for killing American jobs, including the AFL-CIO, pop up on the crosstab of companies that donate to the foundation and lobbied Hillary’s State Department. Coke, of course, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of NAFTA, which opened up Mexico, the country with the highest per-capita Coca-Cola consumption in the world. Still, no one — no one — has produced anything close to evidence of a quid pro quo in which Hillary Clinton took official action in exchange for contributions to the Clinton Foundation. If anyone did, Clinton would cease to be a candidate and become a defendant. […]

http://www.vox.com/2015/4/28/8501643/Clinton-foundation-donors-State

In the above article, you might have noted the mention of a Russian uranium mining company (it’s in the second paragraph I quoted.)  I want to highlight this particular deal, although to be clear this is but one of dozens that are questionable.

Because the US does not have nationalized resources, but instead allows private, for-profit corporations to bid on long-term leases (usually lasting 99 years) for the rights to mine our land and make enormous sums of money off our natural resources, these leases are highly sought-after.  The US Sec. of State is the person who controls the awarding of the contracts and leases.  (And, by the way, the Mining Act has only been updated once, and then only slightly, in the 150 years it has been in existence.  The Act is seriously in need of overhaul, as that law has been the wellspring of perpetual obscene profiteering for the extraction industries in the same manner as the Federal Reserve Act has been for the banking cartel.)

While Hillary was SoS, she oversaw many of these deals as part of her job.  This one stands out for a couple of reasons.  She has referred to Putin, the president of Russia, as “Hitler”.  She clearly hates Putin, and has made numerous remarks over the years about the “danger” Russia presents to “American interests”.  (I wrote an article some time ago about this specific topic.  See my article in the archives:  clinton-pokes-the-bear-and-the-dragon, 7/6/12)  Now consider what uranium is used for, as this particular lease is owned by Russian company, Uranium One [U1], to mine uranium.  Uranium has three basic uses: as a component in medical devices, for nuclear power, and for nuclear weapons.  Hillary granted a lease for 20% of America’s uranium to be mined by what was originally a Canadian company which, at the time she inked the deal and known at that time by both her and Obama, was being sold to the Russians.   Seems kind of odd, given that simultaneously the two of them were in the middle of trying to restart a second “Cold War” with Russia and are now doing their level best to make it go hot.  The company, Uranium One, can sell their mined product to whomever they choose, but Russia is crowing about having the lease-rights to 1/5 of our uranium, so clearly it is being shipped there.

Russia took control over 20% of US uranium after Uranium One’s associates made lavish contributions to Clinton Foundation.

A New York Times investigation reveals scandalous details of the Russian nuclear state corporation Rosatom’s acquisition of Uranium One Inc., that established one of the biggest uranium mining firms in the world.

“I am pleased to inform you that today we control 20 percent of uranium in the United States. If we need that uranium, we shall be able to use it any time,” Russian state corporation Rosatom’s head Sergey Kiriyenko said in his address speech to the Russian Parliament after Rosatom consolidated 100% of Uranium One Inc. (U1) in January 2013 and takes it private.

This speech was the final point that sealed the five-year-long-lasted Rosatom – U1 deal triumphantly for Russia, which gained control of more than 20% of uranium resources in the United States, as well as acquired lowest-cost production mines in Kazakhstan.

Today, NYT, based on dozens of interviews, as well as a review of public records and securities filings in Canada, Russia and the United States, claims that donations to Clinton Foundation made in 2006-2011 by U1’s chairman, company’s associates, advisers and other affiliates and totaled to more than $40 million, at least have special ethical issues, keeping in mind that the former president’s wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors.

“Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown”, stated NYT, “but the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation”, which can be summarized with two main points: 1. The US government’s fast-track approval of Rosatom’s acquisition of U1, which controls 20% of domestic strategic uranium reserves 2. Multi-million dollar donations to Clinton Foundation from U1’s associates all the way this multi-step transaction progressed. […]

http://www.mining.com/new-york-times-takes-on-the-clintons-and-uranium-one-connection/

The original NYTimes piece on their investigation into this State Dept. deal is scathing:

[…] As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors.

Other people with ties to the company made donations as well. And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.

At the time, both Rosatom and the United States government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company’s assets to the Russians. Those promises have been repeatedly broken, records show. […]

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/24/us/cash-flowed-to-clinton-foundation-as-russians-pressed-for-control-of-uranium-company.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=3&assetType=nyt_now

This is the sort of thing most assiduously not being discussed while the public is, or rather was, being directed to look at only the “was the server she was using safe for classified information” portion of the e-mail scandal. Not all of these deals involve private corporations; some foreign governments were given weapons and equipment after donating money to the Clinton Foundation.  We are to believe that these were all coincidences.  You can read about some of the quite frankly awful countries given preference for weapons deals here, in one of the only detailed articles about the subject:

  http://www.ibtimes.com/clinton-foundation-donors-got-weapons-deals-hillary-clintons-state-department-1934187

Just for fun, I went to the Clinton Foundation website.  They offer, on their “about us” page, the information that Hillary does not draw a salary from the foundation and was not involved in the running of the business while SoS.  Gosh, and I didn’t even have to ask.  Guess they get a lot of questions about that, as well they should.  After all, it is inconceivable that Hillary and Bill weren’t working and strategizing together and fully informing one another during her entire tenure at State, no matter what drivel is claimed on their website. It is also statistically improbable that so many people and companies with business at State would simultaneously discover their charitable inclinations. Financial reports are here if you want to bother:

https://www.clintonfoundation.org/about/annual-financial-reports

Top donor to the Clinton Foundation: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Here’s a question for you; if a non-profit gives money to another non-profit, does the donor get to write off the donation?  You can click on the donation amount box to see donations of differing amounts.  Good stuff.  Donors include BoA, Goldman Sachs, Monsanto, Boeing, GE, Exxon, numerous countries, such as Saudi Arabia, etc.  So Monsanto donates to the Clintons and the Gates’, who also donate to one another, and then the Clintons and the Gates’ bring Monsanto into other countries under the guise of helping humanity or some such bullshit, and Monsanto makes a profit, some of which they donate back to the Clintons and the Gates’.  What a circle jerk.  I think I am starting to see how this works.

https://www.clintonfoundation.org/contributors?category=Greater+than+%2425%2C000%2C000

I typed “Monsanto” into the Clinton Foundation website’s search box, and came up with a long list of articles about how Monsanto has been involved in the Clinton Foundation’s initiatives.  The Clinton people, which one might have guessed after seeing that Gates is their top donor, use and promote Monsanto to “help African farmers”, “work on the bee colony collapse problem”, etc., etc. The article about “helping farmers” mentions the seed programs and a nice little “loan program” for small farmers in developing countries. Now, where have I heard that before?  Oh, yeah, Pierre Omidyar “helping” the farmers in India, you know, the ones who are committing suicide because they can’t pay back the vig on the loans.  Installing Monsanto, a for-profit company seeking complete domination over the global agricultural production, into every country possible ain’t charity work, and neither is bringing sweatshops into Haiti, another Clinton project.

Rather oddly, to me, is the inclusion of the Help Haiti Fund as a “donor” to the Clintons.  How can a fund that was financed by private individuals to give aid to the Haitian people after the earthquake be giving some of that money to the Clinton Foundation to be mingled in with money for their other pet projects?  How can the Help Haiti money be turned over to the Clintons alone to dispense at their whim and sole discretion?  Is it even legal for the Help Haiti Fund to “donate” to a private US foundation?  This would appear a rather egregious misuse of charitable donations, although nobody in Congress is in the least interested in the subject.  

List I got searching for Monsanto references on the Clinton website (it’s a really long list – they love Monsanto):

https://www.clintonfoundation.org/search/node/monsanto

Just reading the list of donors makes you realize that this is a really incestuous pool of scum all churning around together, changing the world for the worst and patting themselves on the back for it.

But who is the real Hillary, you ask.  You know, deep down inside and all. This other stuff is just nasty political backstabbing.  (Other stuff including her support of a right-wing military coup in Honduras, her active engagement in facilitating a Nazi-style military coup in Ukraine, her backing of Bill’s illegal war on Yugoslavia, her support of the Iraq invasion, her promotion of the TPP, her agreement to continue importation of Japanese food to the US without testing for radiation after Fuskushima, …)  Of course, if you are able to overlook all that “other stuff”, you are pretty much unreachable in any case, but still, I’m glad you asked.  Here is an article from just the other day:

Clinton’s camp says she ‘could have a serious meltdown’. Hillary is furious — and while Clinton advisers think that may save her, it’s making the lives of those who work for her hell.

“Hillary’s been having screaming, child-like tantrums that have left staff members in tears and unable to work,” says a campaign aide. “She thought the nomination was hers for the asking, but her mounting problems have been getting to her and she’s become shrill and, at times, even violent.”[…]

Bill Clinton and Hillary’s campaign team are concerned that her anger may surface at the wrong time. They are concerned that she could have a serious meltdown in front of TV cameras, which would make her look so out of control that voters would decide she doesn’t have the temperament to be commander in chief.[…]

The goal is to channel her anger and make her focus on Republicans, not on her campaign aides and fellow Democrats.

“Hillary’s always at her most effective when her back is to the wall,” says one of her longtime political advisers. “After weeks of pounding and pummeling by the press, she’s mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore.” […]

And with her approval, her opposition research team has been collecting dirt on Vice President Joe Biden, which Hillary’s camp is prepared to release to the media if Biden enters the nominating race following his family summit this weekend. “She’s beginning to understand that she can use her righteous anger and indignation to good effect,” said the adviser. “After all, her anger is in keeping with the mood of the American electorate.”

http://nypost.com/2015/10/10/hillary-clintons-camp-she-could-have-a-serious-melt-down/

I will assume that this article is as likely to be accurate as not.  I say that because of the myriad, the massive, numbers of articles by other writers which have pointed out the same things – Hillary is nasty, short-tempered, rude, verbally abusive to staff, hates being around “commoners”, feels entitled to queenly privileges, requires huge financial compensation for giving speeches and makes extraordinary demands of the event planners who host her speeches, and expects homage and subservience from all that she considers “lesser mortals”.  Anyone who, as Secretary of State, can giggle maniacally at the torture and murder of the leader of another country – a murder she condoned amidst an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation that she largely planned – is temperamentally unsuited to be president on the face of it and has already exhibited questionable mental stability.  So let’s take the accuracy of this article as a given. What does surprise me in the above article is the bland stance of her campaign advisers and team in the face of her temper tantrums and increasingly violent outbursts. (Let’s remember it’s her own team that used the words “tantrums”, “anger”, “meltdown”, and “violent”.)  This doesn’t seem to be the same sort of PR management that most campaign staffs deal with. These guys admit they have to handle her lest she get out of control in public, and must work to direct her rage at the proper targets so she doesn’t accidentally lash out at the wrong time.  They are even working on a strategy to channel her rage effectively.  In other words, they aren’t just running an election campaign; they have to act as psychologists and therapists in order to keep their candidate on task, on message, and in control of her faculties. Dig it – they have to develop battle plans to work around the fact that their candidate is kind of psycho and can’t control herself.  And this is just the campaign trail; they’ve got another whole year (God help us all) of trying to contain and guide her.  Yet, instead of running away from her and admitting that she is morally and mentally unsuited to high office, they are working to put her in what is arguably the most stressful position in the world.  Who will channel her anger properly then?  Who will keep her under control then?  Will she need a team of psychiatrists to monitor her daily rage levels to prevent her from pushing the little red button in a fit of temper? This is one fucked up, crazy country.

I haven’t yet gotten into the subject of Hillary’s role in destroying Libya.  This is, in my view, something that she can never be forgiven for and no doubt will never face proper repercussions over.  I am not talking about the “Benghazi affair”.  I am talking about the entire country of Libya.  I am talking about her being the primary architect in the utter ruin of a nation, the murder of its leader, and the deaths of tens of thousands of its people for no reasons other than the dollar, oil, and Israel.

 This is a woman who gleefully genocided a thriving country, the great hopeful light of Africa, causing untold misery, chaos, and death – and she has expressed no remorse or regret.  Because she feels none; it was “in our interests”, she has blithely explained in the years since.  There is no excuse for what was done to Libya, and it was largely done under her direction.  You want to know the real Hillary?  This is who she is.  

Some people are dismayed that Hillary supports the Patriot Act and surprised she would put Edward Snowden in jail.  A few days prior to the first Democratic debate, Hillary said she would not be interested in reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act to rein in the big banks and would like to see a no-fly zone imposed over Syria.  These positions are not “liberal” or “progressive” and people seem a mite disappointed and confused by them.  Jesus Christ, you blithering idiots, Hillary is telling you who she is and she’s not a liberal or progressive or even democratic anything.  All the candidates in both of the major parties, including Bernie Sanders, are going to serve Israel’s interests over America’s, follow the policies of the PNAC crowd, and keep the war profiteers in business.  This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around.  This is who these people are and they are straight out telling you that.  Stop acting all bewildered and shit.

As soon as she managed to finish off Libya, Hillary turned her sights on Syria.  She wants al-Assad gone and has for some time.  It doesn’t matter that he was elected by his own people or that Syria is a sovereign nation with a secular government.  She has even threatened Russia and China over the issue.  This is what she said in 2012, while SoS, no less:

Moscow and Beijing will be punished for supporting the regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton harshly stated at the “Friends of Syria” meeting of over 100 Western and Arab nations in Paris on Friday.

“I do not believe that Russia and China are paying any price at all – nothing at all – for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime.  The only way that will change is if every nation represented here directly and urgently makes it clear that Russia and China will pay a price,” Clinton warned. […]

http://on.rt.com/24i1ib

In an effort to illegally take down the elected leader of a foreign nation and interfere in that country’s internal governance, Hillary is willing to threaten the next two largest super-powers on the planet.  She is, quite frankly, unhinged. We can see how her stance is developing on Syria.  She wants a no-fly zone with bombs razing the country to hell and gone, a bloody removal of the leader, and all the while making aggressive threats other nations, followed perhaps by the expansion of the latest “war zone” into yet more territory.

Let’s look back again at Libya to see how that particular situation was finessed by our then-Secretary of State.  The Washington Times, in a series of articles from January, offers proof that Hillary overrode the Pentagon when it came to the destruction of Libya.  The Pentagon wanted to negotiate with Ghaddafi and did not see any reason to invade or bomb Libya, saying that this would cause widespread mayhem not only in Libya but in the entire area.  Hillary told the Pentagon generals to shut the fuck up and not to discuss the matter with Obama; instead, she gave Obama her own version of events and pretty much authorized the invasion on her own. Her choice to invade and destroy Libya was made after talking for just 45 minutes to Jabril, an opportunist cum American stooge, who was once one of Ghaddafi’s inner group, and who turned on him in an effort to seize power, which Hillary was happy to subsequently provide him.  

Nowadays, he [Jabril] says he was utterly shocked that the NATO countries went as far as they did and that he had tried to warn them the unrelenting ruin of the country would lead to chaos.  It worked well for him for a time, though, as he ended up being head of the fictitious, illegal “interim” government that the US and NATO countries “recognized” as “the legitimate Libyan government”, rather than the actual and at that time still extant Ghaddafi government, when they invaded.  He stepped down after Ghaddafi was murdered, I guess his job having been done.  Now he’s kind-of sort-of in charge of one of the political parties in Libya and vying for leadership amongst a field of many.  Jabril’s new political party somehow manages to support both democracy and sharia, without finding any conflict in these two ideals.  And now the country is completely unmanageable, thanks largely to him and Hillary.  He’s a slick one, and I’m sure he and Hillary had immediate rapport.

None of this absolves Obama of blame for invading Libya.  He follows the dictats of the neocons in his administration and it is obvious he shares their worldview.  That he let Hillary have her own little “signature” invasion and destruction of another country merely highlights what an odious and empty human he is.

I have noted before that US Congressman Dennis Kucinich was holding private talks with Ghaddafi’s sons and then presented the outcomes to Congress in an effort to prevent the attacks on Libya.  He is mentioned, in positive light, in these articles.

Links to articles on Hillary’s role in Libya; the first is from washingtonsblog, the rest are to the Washington Times three-part series:

U.S. Rejected Offers by Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria to Surrender … and Proceeded to Wage War Posted on September 15, 2015 by WashingtonsBlog America Wanted War … Not a Negotiated Peace

U.S. Rejected Offers by Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria to Surrender … and Proceeded to Wage War

Exclusive: Secret tapes undermine Hillary Clinton on Libyan war Joint Chiefs, key lawmaker held own talks with Moammar Gadhafi regime By Jeffrey Scott Shapiro and Kelly Riddell – The Washington Times – Wednesday, January 28, 2015 part one:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jan/28/hillary-clinton-undercut-on-libya-war-by-pentagon-/print/

part two

: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jan/29/hillary-clinton-libya-war-genocide-narrative-rejec/

part three:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/feb/1/hillary-clinton-libya-war-push-armed-benghazi-rebe/print/

While other voices in government, even those in the Pentagon, were calling for restraint and diplomacy in Libya, our top diplomat was having none of it.  Another “fuck you”, Ms. Anthrope?  If the swaggering, ruthless, warmongering Hillary represents anyone’s idea of the softer, more feminine and caring side of American politics, if anyone thinks there is any advantage or positive gain to be had by voting her into the highest office in the land, I can only ask: what the fuck?

 

News round up, week ending 5/3/14.

Updated below.

Today’s post is brought to you by our corporate sponsor, the BigusFawk Co. [Big United States Fuckers Aligned for the World Kill.  Their slogan: Fuck you!  And you, and you, and you!].

First, we see that Ukraine not only got an unelected, US-picked junta installed courtesy of USA/CIA/NED/USAID interference in their country and now have to suffer under the austerity measures forced on them by the IMF, they also just got their draft reinstated.  It’s a free bonus gift they weren’t even expecting.

Ukraine reinstates military draft as NATO threatens Russia

NATO officials escalated their military build-up against Russia yesterday, as the pro-Western puppet regime in Kiev reinstated conscription in order to boost its crackdown on spreading pro-Russian protests in eastern Ukraine. […] [Teri’s note:  The acting  (e.g., installed, or interim government) President  Turchinov signed a decree (what we in the US call an executive order, as it comes from the president rather than going through Congress, or in Ukraine’s instance, through their parliament) reinstating compulsory military service for men aged between 18 and 25.]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/05/02/ukra-m02.html

38 people, all of them protesters against the neo-Nazi regime we have installed in Ukraine,  have been killed as a building was set on fire in Odessa. God help these people, who are being used as pawns in our games.  They had it bad enough before we decided to meddle in their affairs.

Washington responsible for fascist massacre in Odessa

3 May 2014

In what can only be described as a massacre, 38 anti-government activists were killed Friday after fascist-led forces set fire to Odessa’s Trade Unions House, which had been sheltering opponents of the US- and European-backed regime in Ukraine.

According to eye-witnesses, those who jumped from the burning building and survived were surrounded and beaten by thugs from the neo-Nazi Right Sector. Video footage shows bloodied and wounded survivors being attacked.

The atrocity underscores both the brutal character of the right-wing government installed in Kiev by the Western powers and the encouragement by the US and its allies of a bloody crackdown by the regime to suppress popular opposition, centered in the mainly Russian-speaking south and east of Ukraine.[…]

Despite Western media attempts to cover up what happened in Odessa—with multiple reports stating that “the exact sequence of events is still unclear”—there is no doubt that the killings in the southern port city were instigated by thugs wearing the insignia of the Right Sector, which holds positions in the Kiev regime, along with the like-minded Svoboda party. […]

The Odessa massacre is the largest death toll so far since the Ukrainian regime, at the urging of the Obama administration, renewed its full-scale military assault on anti-government protests and occupations. […]

At his press conference with Merkel, Obama seized on reports that two Ukrainian helicopters had been struck by ground fire. He cited unconfirmed allegations by the Ukrainian intelligence agency SBU that one was hit by a heat-seeking missile as proof that Russian forces were involved. By the evening, however, even the New York Times admitted that no evidence had been produced of heat-seeking missiles.

Along with Obama’s incendiary claim, his backing for Kiev’s military onslaught points to a drive by the US and its European partners to create civil war conditions and goad Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration into intervening, in order to provide the pretext for crippling economic sanctions and a NATO confrontation with Russia. […]

Russia called another emergency UN Security Council meeting Friday to denounce Ukraine’s actions. Moscow’s ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, warned of “catastrophic consequences” if the military operation continued, only to be denounced by his US counterpart, Samantha Power, who called the attack “proportionate and reasonable.”

Power, who made a name for herself by championing US military interventions in Libya and elsewhere in the name of “human rights” and the “protection of civilians,” declared that Russia’s concern about escalating instability was “cynical and disingenuous.” In keeping with US government propaganda since the beginning of the crisis, she baldly asserted that Russia was the cause of the instability. […]

Ukraine’s initial military assault last month began after CIA Director James Brennan surreptitiously visited Kiev. A second push followed a visit by US Vice President Joseph Biden.

There is evidence of ongoing US involvement. The Russian Foreign Ministry said English-speaking foreigners had been seen among the Ukrainian forces mounting the assault on Slavyansk on Friday, echoing its previous charges that Greystone, a US military contractor, is working alongside the Ukrainian military. […]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/05/03/ukra-m03.html

Also see: http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/05/02/washington-intends-russias-demise-paul-craig-roberts/

and:

http://chewhatyoucallyourpasa.blogspot.com/2014/05/what-happened-in-odessa.html

The US has worked out an agreement with the Philippines which will allow us access to five military bases there, despite the Philippine constitution, which has barred US forces from operating bases since the 1990’s.  Obama makes the repeated point that we are not opening new bases,  which is true enough.  We are just stationing our Navy in 5 already-existing bases “temporarily“;  the new agreement stipulates that we will have this access for ten years.   The US is claiming that this re-deployment, which is what it really is, is being done in part to help with “disaster response and humanitarian assistance”.  I’m a little surprised any country on earth falls for that line any more.  I wonder where we found the money for this – perhaps China gave us another loan?

United States troops will soon have access to upwards of five military bases across the Philippines as the result of an agreement signed earlier this week between nations, the Asian country’s chief negotiator told reporters on Friday. […]

Soon, officials are expected to announce which bases will formally be opened up to the US based off of maritime security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian assistance and disaster response, according to Rappler’s report.

http://rt.com/usa/156428-philippines-edca-five-bases/ 

Azcueta’s announcement opens the door for the first American military deployments to Clark Air Force Base and the naval base in Subic Bay since DOD officially shuttered the facilities in 1991 and 1992, respectively. […]

Manila will receive $30 million in foreign military funding from the the United States this year, according to news reports — nearly three times the $11.9 million in military funds Washington pledged to the Philippines in 2011.  

That money will likely help support the hundreds of Marines expected to flood into the Philippines in the coming years. […]

http://thehill.com/policy/defense/231257-philippines-re-opens-military-bases-to-us-forces-

Here at home, we have a new proposal coming from the White House regarding highway maintenance.  [Spoiler alert: POTUS is not suggesting that we spend less money blowing up bridges, roads and other infrastructures abroad and instead spend that money on US infrastructure.]  My personal notes, not to be confused with the original text, are, as always, bracketed and in red.

White House opens door to tolls on interstate highways, removing long-standing prohibition.

With pressure mounting to avert a transportation funding crisis this summer, the Obama administration Tuesday opened the door for states to collect tolls on interstate highways to raise revenue for roadway repairs.  [As opposed to, for instance, taking the money from the bloated Pentagon budget, or reducing the amount we spend on spying programs, or making corporations pay their taxes, or ending the practice of sending “aid” money to affluent foreign countries, or any number of other more commonsense and fair ideas that would reduce the amount of already burdensome taxes the average person forks over every fucking day.]

The proposal, contained in a four-year, $302 billion White House transportation bill, would reverse a long-standing federal prohibition on most interstate tolling.  [I’ll say – the entire idea of the Federal Highway system was to avoid a toll system being imposed by the various states.]

Though some older segments of the network — notably the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes and Interstate 95 in Maryland and Interstate 495 in Virginia — are toll roads, most of the 46,876-mile system has been toll-free.

“We believe that this is an area where the states have to make their own decisions,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We want to open the aperture, if you will, to allow more states to choose to make broader use of tolling, to have that option available.”  [I will, out of respect for my gentle reader, decline to take the opportunity of making the obvious joke about “open aperture” offered by Mr. Foxx in his remarks.]

The question of how to pay to repair roadways and transit systems built in the heady era of post-World War II expansion is demanding center stage this spring, with projections that traditional funding can no longer meet the need.

That source, the Highway Trust Fund, relies on the 18.4-cent federal gas tax, which has eroded steadily as vehicles have become more energy efficient.  [We can thus infer that the decline in funds is caused by the stupid taxpayers themselves, who should now pony up.  You did not think you were going to be allowed to save money on gas and keep that savings, did you?  You haven’t any idea how this capitalistic model works.]

“The proposal comes at the crucial moment for transportation in the last several years,” Foxx said. “As soon as August, the Highway Trust Fund could run dry. States are already canceling or delaying projects because of the uncertainty.”

While providing tolling as an option to states, the White House proposal relies on funding from a series of corporate tax reforms, most of them one-time revenue streams that would provide a four-year bridge to close the trust-fund deficit and permit $150 billion more in spending than the gas tax will bring in.  [Corporate tax reform?  Corporate tax reform?  The Obama proposals on corporate tax reform always include reducing corporate taxes. I am perplexed.  However, since this article declines to state what these reforms are, exactly, I will have to remain mystified.]  […]

Details of the president’s proposal, which he first outlined almost two months ago, were welcomed as a sign of growing momentum toward a resolution, even by those who couldn’t fully embrace his plan. […]

Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said the bill helped “advance the discussion” but said a federal gas tax increase should be used to fund it.

“The gas tax remains the most tested and logical way of meeting our critical investment needs,” O’Sullivan said.

“For too long, Congress’s duct-tape approach has made our roads and bridges unsafe, destabilized the construction industry and slowed our economy.”  [Well, the duct tape approach, combined with austerity measures, while banks and corporations get free money and pay no taxes.]
The federal tax last was raised in 1993 and has not been adjusted for inflation.  [Neither has my pay, but I digress] […]

“Congress has an opportunity to not only save the transportation program, but to recommit to investing in the repairs and improvements our communities and businesses need,” said James Corless, the group’s director [the nonprofit Transportation for America].

Corless predicted that most Americans would accept tax increases to fund transportation.  [By this he means that most Americans will have tax increases foisted upon them whether they like it or not, and aside from some minor and insignificant written protests by unknown bloggers, most will be dumbly clueless about the issue.  Besides, the only alternative currently in play being the President’s proposed every-road-a-toll-road scheme, a gas tax increase might, in the end, be more digestible for the public.  Here in Maryland, the state just increased its state gas taxes by 3 cents per gallon this year.  This is what is known as a regressive tax.]

“When people understand where the dollars are being spent, the direct impact to their lives, they support paying their fair share,” he said.
Foxx said the highway trust fund would face a $63 billion shortfall over the next four years.  [Ironically, on Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee “sent a package of bills to the House floor that would cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years by making permanent tax provisions multinational corporations use to avoid paying U.S. taxes”.  I will give quotes from an article which covers this BigUSFawk project below the article you are currently reading.]   […]

The proposal emphasizes a fix-it-first approach that would give funding priority to existing roads, bridges and transit systems rather than expanding their network.

It would expand reforms intended to streamline environmental reviews and project delivery that were begun in the current federal highway bill.  [Ah, yes, streamlining environmental reviews.  The same procedure that brings BP back into the Gulf, allows rampant fracking without regard to consequences to the water we drink, and gives us many opportunities to view exciting youtube videos of oil-transport trains exploding into flames.  In for a penny, in for a pound, I always say; streamline it all.]

It also would expand popular loan-guarantee programs that have been used by state and local governments to fund projects. The White House plan would almost double funding — from $12.3 billion to $22.3 billion — for transit systems and intercity passenger rail.  [This sounds suspiciously like some public/private partnership deal in the works.  It also sounds much like the bond programs the big banks have been using to scam local governments for a decade now, and which have resulted in the broke-ass states having to cut public pension funds and, uh, do away with stuff like road repairs.]

In addition, the plan would increase the fine an automaker could face for a safety violation from the current $35 million to $300 million.
Though that proposal is not new, it takes on greater significance amid the debate over General Motors’s delayed recall of 2 million cars with faulty ignition switches that are alleged to have led to at least 13 deaths.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/white-house-opens-door-to-tolls-on-interstate-highways-removing-long-standing-prohibition/2014/04/29/5d2b9f30-cfac-11e3-b812-0c92213941f4_print.html

Well, hey now, it turns out Yves Smith over at Naked Capitalism also thinks the above proposal might be a public/private partnership piece of shit:

Will “Highway Cliff” Allow Obama to Revive “Public/Private Partnership” Infrastructure Scam?:

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/05/will-highway-fiscal-cliff-allow-obama-to-revive-public-private-partnerships-for-infrastructure.html

Now, let’s take a gander at the latest “corporate tax reform” as envisioned by our Congress.

Do-Nothing Congress Continues Helping GE, Apple, Other Multinational Tax Dodgers

On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee sent a package of bills to the House floor that would cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years by making permanent tax provisions multinational corporations use to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

“For all of the talk in Washington about getting our fiscal house in order, the Committee did not consider how to pay for these expensive tax breaks,” said Dan Smith, U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Advocate, “despite repeated attempts by Ranking Member Sandy Levin to raise the issue.”

H.R. 4429 would re-enact the currently expired “active financing” provision, and make it permanent. This provision is known as the “GE” loophole, because General Electric not only prodigiously benefits from it, but also because the company has sent an army of lobbyists to ensure the provision, which expired last year, was re-enacted.

Making the GE loophole permanent would cost nearly $60 billion over ten years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. The relevant Senate Committee took a slightly different approach, sending a two-year extension to the Senate floor that would cost “only” $7 billion. Another bill that cleared committee Tuesday was H.R. 4464, which would re-enact the “CFC look through” rule and make it permanent.

This provision is known as the Apple loophole, because Apple innovated it and uses it to protect billions it would owe U.S. tax on, if the tax code looked at where the money was earned – where the value was actually generated – rather than where companies can assign the profits. Making the Apple loophole permanent would cost $20.3 billion over ten years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

The Senate bill, since it would extend the provision for two years, would cost “only” $2 billion. “While Wall Street banks, tech giants, and pharmaceutical companies would get a windfall from these loopholes,” Smith added, “average taxpayers and small business owners would get stuck footing the bill through cuts to public programs, higher taxes, or a larger deficit.”  [Cuts to public programs like road and transportation upkeep, addressed in the preceding article.]

Two other corporate tax cuts that cleared committee Tuesday were not about tax havens, however. They reflected other problematic policies. One is called the “Research Credit.” As Steve Wamhoff, Legislative Director for Citizens for Tax Justice, explained, “The so-called research credit does not encourage research. Congress should not re-enact it, much less make it permanent until it addresses the problems so that it actually encourages research.”

If the House gets its way, the “Research” Credit would cost $155 billion over 10 years. Again, the Senate is considering a two-year extension of a slightly different version of the credit, which also does not address the issues that concerns Wamhoff.

The last and arguably least problematic tax cut bill to clear committee Tuesday aims to inspire smaller businesses to invest in their businesses by making the tax treatment of such investment more favorable. But, Wamhoff says, “I do not expect it to encourage investment or help grow the economy. We work with some small business folks, and they say what will get them to invest is more customers, not more tax breaks.”  [These customers would be the now mythical “US consumer base”.  Since the current labor participation rate is only 62.8% and 1 in 5 American households have no-one in the house actually working, the “US consumer base” is largely a rumor not related to any fact in evidence.]

The smaller business tax cut would cost $73 billion over 10 years. Wamhoff, like Smith, praised Michigan Democrat Sandy Levin: “Under Levin’s leadership,” Wamhoff said, “even those Democrats who support the tax breaks decided that if the country couldn’t afford to deficit-finance unemployment insurance and food stamps, it couldn’t afford to deficit-finance these tax breaks.”

Unfortunately for taxpayers, House Republicans didn’t agree and sent these bills to the House floor.

http://www.benzinga.com/news/14/04/4508611/do-nothing-congress-continues-helping-ge-apple-other-multinational-tax-dodgers?utm_campaign=partner_feed&utm_source=marketfy_partners_bobz&utm_medium=marketfy_partners&utm_content=site

On my note in the above article, “1 in 5 American households have no-one in the house actually working”:

“[…] In 20% of American families in 2013, according to new data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), not one member of the family worked.  A family, as defined by the BLS, is a group of two or more people who live together and who are related by birth, adoption or marriage. In 2013, there were 80,445,000 families in the United States and in 16,127,000—or 20%–no one had a job. The BLS designates a person as ’employed’ if ‘during the survey reference week’ they ‘(a) did any work at all as paid employees; (b) worked in their own business, profession, or on their own farm; (c) or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family.’ […]”

http://www.theautomaticearth.com/debt-rattle-apr-30-2014-the-boy-in-the-bubble/

Furthermore, although the official unemployment rate went down for the month of April (to 6.3 %), this was largely because the labor force participation rate [LFPR] also went down again.  I explained the LFPR in my last post; this number basically tells us how many people, out of the number of people eligible to work, who are actually employed.  The labor force number has suddenly dropped again, from the previous 63.2% to 62.8%, the lowest since 1978.  800,000 people dropped out of the labor force in March.  These are people who have simply abandoned  the search for nonexistent jobs.  That is simply a staggering number.

This means that, despite the bogus, heavily massaged, and virtually meaningless number given to us as the “unemployment rate”, the population of job-eligible people who are working is declining rapidly.  Average wages have also remained completely stagnant, but I suppose we must be grateful that the oligarchy didn’t cut our wages significantly last month.

Moving on, the Supreme Court has once again offered irrefutable proof that it has no interest in upholding the Constitution.  There is no need to mention the WH or Congressional positions on constitutional law; that horse left the barn some years (and administrations) ago.

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to NDAA Detention Power
By Jason Ditz On April 28, 2014

The US Supreme Court has further enhanced the administration’s ability to detain anyone, at any time, on any pretext today, when it refused to hear the Hedges v. Obama case, meaning an Appeals Court ruling on the matter will stand.

The case stems from a 2012 lawsuit brought by Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky and others, and sought to block the enforcement of a 2012 National Defense Authorization Act statute that allows the president to unilaterally impose indefinite detention on anyone, without access to courts, if he personally believes something they did “aided” the Taliban or al-Qaeda.

Courts initially banned such detentions, over intense objection from President Obama, who argued that prohibiting the detentions would be an unconstitutional restriction of presidential power.

The Appeals Court eventually restored the detention power, however, insisting that Hedges et al didn’t have standing to contest their future detention because they couldn’t prove that the president might decide to detain them at some point in the future.

The standing argument effectively makes it impossible to challenge the NDAA statute, as it precludes challenges before the detention takes place, and once a person has been disappeared into military custody under the NDAA, the law explicitly denies them any access to the courts.

http://news.antiwar.com/2014/04/28/supreme-court-rejects-challenge-to-ndaa-detention-power/

There have been a number of articles about the EPA’s proposal to allow a massive increase in the use of the herbicide known as 2,4-D, one of the main ingredients in the defoliant used during the Vietnam War (Agent Orange). Because the weeds in fields where genetically modified foods are grown (commonly referred to as GMOs, or as genetically engineered – GE – crops) are becoming resistant to glyphosate, the Big Ag growers would like to resort to more powerful herbicides.  The GMO crops are inherently immune to RoundUp (glyphosate) and 2,4-D; that was the whole point in developing them and why they are called “RoundUp Ready”.  Another GMO crop, Bt Corn, was created to act as a pesticide in and of itself.  However, insects feeding on the Bt Corn are likewise becoming immune to the pesticide within the corn.  Time to spray stronger crap and lots of it.  Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, et.al., are quick to point out that it was not the 2,4-D which turned out to be the big human killer in Agent Orange, but another active ingredient called 2,4,5-T, which was itself contaminated with something else (dioxins). Studies conducted by independent scientists and research labs (e.g., those not employed by Monsanto) are now showing that glyphosate and 2,4-D do, in fact, have an adverse effect on people and animals, especially given the massive amounts of the stuff being sprayed on the crops throughout the growing cycle.

It’s all bullshit and flim-flammery, of course; the fact is that the problem is not glyphosate alone, or 2,4-D alone, or any of the other major ingredients of these herbicides and pesticides alone, all of which are questionable enough, but the addition of inert ingredients.  These additions create entirely new compositions with their own unique hazards.  Although the combinations can be highly toxic, the EPA does not test these cocktails.  Why?  Hey, I’m glad you asked.  Turns out the mixtures are “proprietary trade secrets” and don’t have to be disclosed to anyone.  Exactly like the protected “proprietary” mix of toxic sludge going into fracking fluids and then dumped into our water supplies.  When Agent Orange was created, it was produced expressly for the purpose of chemical warfare.  Were we a more alert and informed society, we might still recognize it as such.

Used in yards, farms and parks throughout the world, Roundup has long been a top-selling weed killer. But now researchers have found that one of Roundup’s inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.

The new findings intensify a debate about so-called “inerts” — the solvents, preservatives, surfactants and other substances that manufacturers add to pesticides. Nearly 4,000 inert ingredients are approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.[…]

Until now, most health studies have focused on the safety of glyphosate, rather than the mixture of ingredients found in Roundup. But in the new study, scientists found that Roundup’s inert ingredients amplified the toxic effect on human cells—even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns.[…]

“This clearly confirms that the [inert ingredients] in Roundup formulations are not inert,” wrote the study authors from France’s University of Caen. “Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death [at the] residual levels” found on Roundup-treated crops, such as soybeans, alfalfa and corn, or lawns and gardens. […]

Inert ingredients are often less scrutinized than active pest-killing ingredients. Since specific herbicide formulations are protected as trade secrets, manufacturers aren’t required to publicly disclose them. Although Monsanto is the largest manufacturer of glyphosate-based herbicides, several other manufacturers sell similar herbicides with different inert ingredients.

The term “inert ingredient” is often misleading, according to Caroline Cox, research director of the Center for Environmental Health, an Oakland-based environmental organization. Federal law classifies all pesticide ingredients that don’t harm pests as “inert,” she said. Inert compounds, therefore, aren’t necessarily biologically or toxicologically harmless – they simply don’t kill insects or weeds.

But some inert ingredients have been found to potentially affect human health. Many amplify the effects of active ingredients by helping them penetrate clothing, protective equipment and cell membranes, or by increasing their toxicity. […]

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/weed-whacking-herbicide-p/

On to this week’s news about 2,4-D then:

The US Environmental Protection Agency has revealed a proposal for mass use of Dow Chemical’s herbicide 2,4-D on the company’s genetically-engineered corn and soybeans.

The GE [genetically engineered] crops were developed to withstand several herbicides, including 2,4-D. Dow would be allowed to sell the herbicide if the EPA approves it following a 30-day public comment period.[…]

Dow’s genetically-engineered corn and soybeans – known as Enlist – have received preliminary approval from the US Department of Agriculture. Should Enlist crops win ultimate authorization, the USDA said that would increase the annual use of 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) in the United States from 26 million pounds per year to possibly 176 million pounds.

The crops are designed to withstand high doses of glyphosate – brought to market by biotech giant Monsanto as their Roundup weed killer – and 2,4-D. […]

Scientists, human and environmental health advocates, farming organizations, and food transparency groups have urged government regulators to think twice about unleashing more 2,4-D. […]

Medical researchers have linked exposure to 2,4-D, and other chemicals like it, to increased rates of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disruption, and low sperm counts, among other conditions. Higher rates of birth anomalies have been found where there is heavy use of 2,4-D.

Health concerns had prompted the Natural Resources Defense Council to petition the EPA to halt use of the herbicide, though that effort was defeated in 2012.  “With this decision it is clear that the EPA is serving the interests of Dow Chemical and the biotech industry rather than protecting our health and the environment,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety.

In an agribusiness chemical arms race, Dow’s development of 2,4-D-resistant crops came about once first-generation genetically-modified crops made by Monsanto evolved to resist the company’s Roundup herbicide. The flood of new GE crops increased the use of glyphosate, which has its own links to a host of ill health effects, and glyphosate-resistant “superweeds.”

“2,4-D is not a solution to glyphosate-resistant weeds,” Kimbrell said. “Weeds will rapidly evolve resistance to 2,4-D as well if these crops are approved, driving a toxic spiral of ever-increasing herbicide use. Dow’s Enlist crops are a textbook example of unsustainable farming, profiting pesticide companies to the detriment of American farmers, public health and the environment.”

Nevertheless, Dow maintains that farmers need an answer for “hard to control” weeds. […]

http://rt.com/usa/156272-epa-dow-agent-orange-herbicide/

Monsanto’s GMO “Bt Corn”, which now makes up 86% of the corn crop in the US, is not technically a food product.  If you were confused by the references to both the EPA and the USDA in the above article, part of that is because Bt Corn is registered and regulated by the EPA as a pesticide.  The bacteria, bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, is genetically inserted into the corn.  Thus the pesticide is actually produced inside the plant, as part of the plant, so not only can it never be washed off: it makes the plant itself a pesticide.  Which you are eating every time you eat anything containing corn or corn syrup; the latter ingredient is found in damn near every food product on American grocery store shelves.  The EPA lists these GMOs as Plant-Incorporated Protectants (PIP).  You can find the list of GMOs thus recognized on the “Type of Pesticide: Plant-Incorporated Protectant (PIP)” chart at:
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/biopesticides/pips/smartstax-factsheet.pdf

One might think that being listed as a pesticide would automatically create the need for mandatory labeling on food products containing this ingredient.  One would be, in a word, wrong.  There is an inherent doublespeak going on with GMOs in general anyway, and has been since they were first formulated.  The biotech firms were allowed to patent their grotesque creations based on the idea that they were “unique”, which they sure as shit are.  Bt could have never naturally become part of corn seed, for example.  Another GMO patent exists on tomatoes combined with salmon genes (yes, the fish), done to make the tomatoes viable into the cold weather season.  But when it comes to labeling and regulating these things, we are told that the products needn’t be labeled because they are “just the same” as the traditional food products.  They obviously shouldn’t be allowed to have it both ways.  And, no, these products are not equivalent to hybrids, an argument I see all the time presented by GMO proponents.  Hybrids can occur naturally between closely related species, especially among plants.  A cross between a tomato and a salmon would never occur in nature, nor would a cross between corn and the Bt bacteria.

GMO “RoundUp Ready” crops are genetically altered so the plant can take multiple hits of glyphosate and/or 2, 4-D without being killed.  The weeds around them are deader than dead, but the RoundUp Ready crops are not.  This does not mean they aren’t absorbing the herbicide; they are.  They just aren’t killed by it.  When you eat these foods, you are eating the glyphosate as well.  The crops are sprayed many, many times during the growth period and right before harvest are put through what is called “crop desiccation”; i.e., fully saturating the fields with RoundUp to kill off all the green matter (as opposed to the fruit or vegetable itself) to make it easier for the harvesting equipment to go through.  Desiccation is done immediately before the harvest; it is absorbed by the crop, just like the earlier applications of herbicide and cannot be washed off.  Then the “food” is harvested, processed, packaged, and sold to you.  I don’t know how much RoundUp a human can safely eat before getting sick or dying, but since the warning label on RoundUp reads, in part, “Keep out of reach of children, harmful if swallowed, avoid contact with eyes or prolonged contact with skin,” I suspect it is much less than what we are being fed.

Pre-harvest crop desiccation (also siccation) refers to the application of a herbicide to a crop shortly before harvest. The herbicide most widely used is glyphosate, while use of diquat and glufosinate is much more limited. For potatoes, carfentrazone-ethyl is used. Other desiccants are cyanamide, cinidon-ethyl, and pyraflufen.

Uneven crop growth is a problem in northern climates, with wet summers, or poor weed control. With desiccation a number of advantages are cited: More even ripening is achieved and harvest can be conducted earlier; weed control is initiated for a future crop; earlier ripening allows for earlier replanting; desiccation reduces green material in the harvest putting less strain on harvesting machinery. Some crop may be mechanically destroyed when crop desiccation machinery moves through the field.

The application of glyphosate differs between countries significantly. It is commonly used in the UK where summers are wet and crops may ripen unevenly. Thus in the UK 78% of oilseed rape is desiccated before harvest, but only 4% in Germany. Other countries have banned desiccation practices, such as Austria[6] and Switzerland.

Pre-harvest desiccation has been applied to a wide variety of plants including: cereals, oilseed rape, legumes, linseed, lupins, flax, linola, maize, sunflower, kiwi, wine grapes, raspberries, apples, soy, alfalfa, and potatoes.

Criticism:
Glyphosate is applied to plants just before harvest and absorbed by plants; it cannot be washed out prior to human use. Herbicides can also reach humans through meat and milk of cattle that has been fed herbicide-treated fodder. It has been identified in the urine of urban dwellers who do not handle glyphosate at concentrations of 0.5-2ng/ml, much higher than allowed in drinking water (<0.1ng/ml).  The extent and the effects of an accumulating glyphosate contamination of humans and animals deserve further studies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crop_desiccation

Suggested further reading on GMOs:
http://www.gmfreeze.org/site_media/uploads/publications/glyphosate_residues_in_UK_food_final.pdf

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/10/23/glyphosate-found-in-human-urine.aspx

http://www.globalresearch.ca/monsanto-roundup-the-impacts-of-glyphosate-herbicide-on-human-health-pathways-to-modern-diseases/5342520

http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/roundup.cfm

EPA denies petition to halt use of 2,4-D in 2012:
http://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/cb/csb_page/updates/2012/2-4d-petition.html

A new study reveals an insecticide produced in GM corn actually gets absorbed into the human body:
http://foodintegritynow.org/2011/05/19/gmo-study-omg-you’re-eating-insecticide/

and:
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/toxin-from-gm-crops-found-in-human-blood/1/137728.html

An accessible intro and explanation of genetically engineered products and why there is cause for concern with genetic splicing.  If you choose only one article to read out of the list, this is probably the one you want:   http://thegeneticengineeringdebate.blogspot.ca/2014/02/genetics-101-why-you-should-be.html

Update Sunday, 4 May:

On the US military agreement with the Philippines, we are finally seeing the document itself.  I will remind you that the Philippines’ president, Aquino, signed this agreement without any consultation with his legislature: this is basically another “presidential executive order”, which bypasses the normal legal processes in a country.

US military basing deal sets legal framework for neocolonial rule in the Philippines

The US basing deal signed during US President Barack Obama’s recent visit to the Philippines, and now surreptitiously published in the “Historical Papers” section of the Philippine government’s web site, marks a reactionary political milestone in the Philippines and Asia. […]

Under the EDCA [Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement], Washington receives exclusive access to bases, referred to as “agreed locations,” throughout the Philippines. The list of “agreed locations,” which the document does not even bother to specify, can also be added to at the request of the US military. The “agreed locations” are to be exclusively accessed by US forces and contractors. […]

Effectively, moreover, the US military is being given free rein throughout the country. The EDCA states that, in addition to the “agreed locations,” US forces have access to “public land and facilities (including roads, ports, and airfields), including those owned or controlled by local government.” There is no space or facility within the Philippines exempted from this clause.

The agreement authorizes the deployment of unlimited numbers of US military and civilian personnel and US military contractors to the Philippines. Once there, they are authorized to conduct “training, transit, support, and related activities; refueling of aircraft; bunkering of vessels; temporary maintenance of vehicles, vessels and aircraft; temporary accommodation of personnel; communications; prepositioning of equipment, supplies and materiel; deploying of forces and materiel; and any other such activities as the Parties may agree.”

Any US war materiel in the country is for the “exclusive use of United States forces,” which shall be provided with “unimpeded access to Agreed Locations.”

These terms provide a legal framework for Washington to use the Philippines as a staging area for war against China, or whatever other target is selected by US imperialism. During the Vietnam War, Washington used its bases in the Philippines to launch bombing raids targeting North Vietnam and Cambodia. […]

The agreement is being imposed in blatant violation of the Philippine constitution, which bans the presence of any foreign troops or bases in the country without the approval of a treaty by a two-thirds majority in the Senate. The Philippine legislature, which is not party to the agreement, has been left with no legal recourse to contest it. […]

The agreement exempts US forces from oversight under Philippine or international law—a measure recalling US policy in occupied countries like Iraq, or imperialist extraterritoriality clauses on colonial countries of 19th-century Asia. Instead, US forces and contractors will “operate under US law, regulations and policies.” […]

Article XI of the EDCA states, “Disputes and other matters subject to consultation shall not be referred to any national or international court, tribunal or other similar body, or to any third party for settlement.”

This article precludes the review of the EDCA by either the Philippine judiciary or legislature. Should a US serviceman shoot or rape a Filipino, or run over a child with his car—events which have repeatedly occurred around US military bases in Asia—he will be subject to US law and jurisdiction. Any disputes over the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the United States within the Philippines, or any other aspect of the agreement, may not be reviewed by the Philippine judiciary.

The United States is to pay no rent whatsoever for its Philippine bases. The document even arrogantly specifies that if Washington chooses to vacate a particular base, it can exact from Manila “compensation for improvements” it has made.

Washington is also guaranteed access to “water, electricity, and other public utilities” at the same rate paid by the Philippine government. All taxes and fees exacted on these utilities, which all Filipinos are obliged to pay, will be paid for the US military by the Philippine government. […]

In one of the few restrictions imposed on US forces, the agreement stipulates that, as dictated by the Philippine constitution, Washington may not “preposition” any nuclear weapons in the country.

Declassified documents from the period of the US occupation of Subic naval base and Clark Airbase have shown that in the past Washington illegally stored nuclear weapons in the Philippines. What is more, Washington routinely refuses to comment on which of its ships carry nuclear weapons. Given the limits imposed by the EDCA on the inspections that can be conducted by the Philippine “authorized representative,” this clause is toothless.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/05/03/phil-m03.html

On Ukraine, I would like to note that this weekend, I have seen the repeated use of the word “rebels” by the Western media (i.e., US and Europe) to describe the protesters in Ukraine.  The protesters are not “rebels”, a word used to deliberately provoke images of insurgents and terrorist groups.  They are Ukrainian citizens who are protesting against the junta installed in Kiev.  Some of the protesters want to rejoin Russia, but not many, and certainly not most of them.  Some agreed with their ousted president that Ukraine would have been better served by financial aid coming from Russia rather than through the EU.  The EU/US aid comes via the IMF, and includes serious austerity measures and steps to make Ukraine a NATO border country.  Most of the protesters are federalists.  Seeing that the new government, which they did not elect, is largely comprised of fascists, who are making distasteful agreements with the IMF and NATO, this group – by far the majority in the protest movement – want autonomous states within Ukraine, each having a locally-elected government allowed some independence from the central Ukraine government, which they would like to be weaker.

The BBC, the Washington Post, and Reuters have all begun using the word “rebels” to describe these Ukrainians, as evidenced by this Reuters headline, “Moscow May Day parade lauds Putin as rebels seize more Ukraine buildings”, and this quote from the WaPo, in an utterly over-the-top, rancid piece of jingoistic filth: “Ukraine suffered its bloodiest day in nearly three months on Friday, with at least nine people killed when the army launched its first major assault on a rebel stronghold and 34 killed in clashes between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian mobs in the Black Sea port city of Odessa. […]”.  [http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/ukraine-army-launches-assault-on-rebel-stronghold/2014/05/02/b1c589e8-be8f-43a1-9927-13310c24b653_story.html?hpid=z1]

A poll taken in Ukraine mid-April revealed the following (this was a poll in which Ukrainians themselves were invited to participate; not one of those stupid “what do Americans think” things):

2/3 of the respondents think Ukraine should remain a united country.  Only a minority support reunification with Russia.  Majorities also favor the idea of autonomous states with locally elected officials rather than power concentrated in Kiev.  [Hence, we see that protesters are not necessarily “pro-Russian”.  That label is a simplistic political term used by the media.  The Ukrainian citizens themselves are obviously much more capable of thinking about and forming opinions on complex issues than are western media and western leaders.]

Over 50% believe acting President Turchynov is “illegally occupying his post,” and just under half felt the same way about about acting Prime Minister Yatsenyuk [“Yats”].

74% in Donetsk and 70% in Luhansk feel that the entire interim government is “illegitimate”.

Ukraine is supposed to hold an actual national election on May 25.  Despite the fact the acting government is merely a temporary, interim group (more accurately called a junta) and was not elected, the IMF is releasing the first $3 bb of its $17 bb loan to this acting government immediately.  In other words, an illegally installed “government” gets to make the decision of putting the entire country in debt to the western banking cartel and additionally, to decide how to start spending that money.  An IMF staff report reads that should the central government in Kiev “lose control” over the eastern section of Ukraine, the terms of the loan will have to be re-designed.  The US and Europe do not seem to regard this as blackmail or an instigation toward civil war: the IMF is sort of goading the junta into further violence against protesters as Turchynov and Yatsenyuk try to keep their deal with the IMF in place.

The US State Dept. announced that USAID is giving another $1.2 mm to “support Ukrainian media outlets” as they prepare for the Ukrainian presidential election.

“This additional funding will help to protect vulnerable journalists while also advancing press freedoms and democratic governance in Ukraine. USAID supports respect for universal rights around the world as central to its mission that we’ve talked a lot about in here as well.” – State Dept briefing, 2 may ’14

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2014/05/225545.htm

Yessirreebob, that good old USAID (CIA) and its love of press freedom and democratic governance.

There had been an interesting exchange during the previous day’s press briefing where a reporter asked the State Dept. spokeswoman what she thought about the May Day demonstrations in Russia, which the reporter first mistakenly called “protests”.  Because he opened with that word, and because Ms. Harf was completely clueless as to what he was talking about (callowness being the predominant trait exhibited by State Dept personnel), this amusing conversation took place:

QUESTION: It’s the first time – well, apparently since the break-up of the Soviet Union that they’ve had such large May Day protests in Moscow.

MS. HARF: Well, we – I actually haven’t seen those reports, but we do support the rights of people to peacefully protest.

QUESTION: So – but they were shouting out things like Putin is right, proud of their country, let’s support Putin’s decisions.

MS. HARF: Well, just because I disagree with what they’re saying doesn’t mean I don’t think they should be able to say it.

QUESTION: So given that you support the right to protest, did you see the similar protests that were happening in the Red Square as well in Russia?  But, I mean, obviously, we’ve talked a lot in here about the propaganda that the United States feels that the Russian people are being fed through such things as RT. Do you – are these – are the hundred thousand people who turned out in Moscow, are they deluded?

MS. HARF: Again, I haven’t seen all those reports. But we don’t agree with the notion that what President Putin and Russia has done is right, that there’s any legal basis for it, certainly, and that’s why we’ve been very clear that there will be continued consequences.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2014/05/225493.htm

Since Ms. Harf cannot tell you about it, I will.  100,000 people gathered in Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate May Day.  The crowd was jubilant and carried signs supporting Russia itself, Putin, and the joining of Crimea back into Russia.  Putin currently has an 82% approval rating in Russia.  There has been an upswell of patriotism and loyalty in Russia.  This is only to be expected: as I have said before, when a country is threatened from without, either through military actions or economic sanctions (a form of warfare), the people do not tend to start hating their own government, but instead protectively “circle the wagons” around their country and respond with heightened feelings of unity and loyalty.

Americans would react the same way, were some country to sanction us and try to ruin us economically.  We don’t much notice or care when this is done to us by our own leaders and corporate oligarchy, but you won’t hear me accusing Americans of being overly discerning and insightful.

May Day was also joyfully celebrated in Cuba.  You won’t read about that either, Cuba being another country we have been sanctioning and trying to ruin for generations, so our media won’t report on anything which shows Cubans actually liking their country.  Nonetheless, 600,000 Cubans marched through Revolution Square and millions more held celebrations in other cities, exhibiting signs, waving Cuban flags, and expressing support for their revolution and leaders.  There were thousands of banners honoring Fidel and Raul Castro, Che Guevara, and the late Venezuelan president Chavez.   And I doubt the Cubans, by and large, much give a shit if our reporters cover their holidays.

 

The incoherent ramblings of a dying empire.

The signs of an empire dying are found both in its foreign policies and in its domestic.  The US is dying as an empire, that is certain, and in its last vain attempts to hang on, there are increasing signs that the end stages will be brutal for Americans and for the world at large.  I would like to think there are enough men of good will to turn the tide away from the angry lashing out of the wounded beast, but I find little to encourage the hope.  We long ago began ceding the country over to the corporate sector and the wealthy oligarchs, and now their ownership is complete.  They run our government at all levels, design the laws, decide our monetary policies, create and control our currency, and hold sway over the highest courts in the land.  We call this “free market capitalism”, a system which most of us defend vociferously despite not having a clue what the words mean, and which we unerringly confuse with “democracy”.  Democracy cannot exist in a capitalistic/corporate system, which constantly accrues control and power through monopoly and money.  This ownership and rule of the many by the wealthiest few individuals and companies successfully kills off all competition.  It might have been possible for the free market idea and true democracy to coexist for awhile, and the argument may be made that this occurred in the US for some time.  However, with the erosion of the independence from corporate influence upon our government that is necessary for such a wedding to result in a long, perhaps uneasy but at least workable, marriage, the inevitable has happened.  There is a divorce, and the corporations and oligarchs have won the whole house in the settlement.

We got here through policies of constant deregulation, corrupt politicians willing to take grift rather than serving the people, the dumbing down of the public, tax policies that unduly favor the rich and punish the poor, and the overt corporate control of the media.  Remember, we were trying to make capitalism work with democracy; this requires that the government act as a control mechanism on the oligarchic tendencies of capitalism so that the welfare of the commons is protected from predation.

This is where the Ayn Rand/ Libertarian viewpoint escapes me.  Get rid of the government, let the monied rule as they will, let the “free market” choose the winners and losers, they say, and all will be right in the land and everyone will be happy.  We are getting a taste of that now, and I have to say in response, “How’s it working out for you?”  We have Bill fucking Gates allowed to design our education policies simply because he is wealthy.  You want to understand why our schools are failing?  I suggest we might find a clue in the fact that under both Bush and Obama, the system has been totally remade in a corporate model.  Our agricultural policies are decided by a cartel of big-ag companies; as a result, everything we eat is drenched in glyphosate, a massive experiment on the population’s ability (or lack thereof) to withstand the constant onslaught of genetic manipulation, food additives, chemicals, and toxins is being undertaken almost completely unchecked by any agency.  The weapons industries run our military and foreign policies.  We have a few big banks, replete with the endless cash they provide themselves through the sham of the Fed, lending this free money back to the government at interest, collected from the taxpayers.  And this was after they intentionally destroyed the global economy.  Here’s your free market: now these same banks, under the guise of the IMF and World Banks, are given the power to demand austerity from pretty much each and every country on the planet, manipulate interest rates, totally rig the commodities markets (driving up food and oil prices), whimsically create new derivatives to the point where currently the derivatives market (you remember that a couple hundred trillion dollars of housing derivatives were the main driver of the crash of ’08, right?) is notionally valued at over 2.3 quadrillion dollars.  That this is an entirely impossible and unrecoverable number eludes the imaginations of our politicians, who call the Dodd-Frank Bill “re-regulation” and claim that the SEC, run by former bankers, is on top of it all.  Who is going to bail out the banks when this mother of all con-games blows up?  Me?  You?  Rwanda?  I think the answer is all the aforementioned.   I could go on, but the point I am making is that according to libertarian, e.g., Koch Brothers, philosophy, these are the terms under which we should be happy to exist.  These monolithic companies are the winners and we shouldn’t complain if we are the losers.  The theory is that we are the losers because we are, well, losers.  Take all this down to the final end of the game and you have Monsanto deciding what you will be allowed to eat, Xe mercenaries deciding where you are allowed to go, Haliburton free to tear up the entire country for natural gas without restraint on the chemicals dumped back into our water and permitted to use up all the fresh water, Shell drilling in all the oceans with no repercussions for accidental toxic spills, and every corporation free to operate without safety regulations, limits on how far down they can drive workers’ wages, how far up they can raise CEO earnings, and no limits on how many hours or under what conditions the employees work.  The libertarian ideal is already failing – I would submit we are already well into that system – and yet they would have us go further.  I simply do not believe that governments per se are bad, but I do believe that this government has sold us out and forgotten what their only duty is; that of seeing to the good of the society it is supposed to serve.  It has reneged on its prime directive and is rife with corruption and shysters.  Of course the empire is dying.  There are no honest statesmen running the place, and the voters are too bamboozled by ideology, too confused by the obfuscation of factual information and propaganda, and too busy trying to hold on to the scraps they have been left with to change the situation.

As America fails, we see ever more outlandish and unlikely statements coming from its leaders and increasingly incoherent and abusive policies taking hold.  Thus, after spending $5 bb taxpayer dollars and sending in our covert agents to provoke a coup in Ukraine and after installing a junta to take the place of a government that was elected there, Obama and John Kerry make complaint about Crimea voting to join Russia as though, yeah, Crimea holding that vote, that was the non-democratic way to do things.  Congress joins the administration to sanction Russia for what they call violations of international law, violations which they aver the US never commits.  This, after Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, drone-bombings in multiple countries, the use of torture, secret rendition, white phosphorus and depleted uranium weapons, and repeatedly orchestrating the overthrow of governments on every continent.

For her part, Russia responded to the US by pointing out that the US has embedded 150 members of the mercenary group Greystone in the country to destabilize Ukraine further.  There are ongoing uprisings in several Ukrainian cities.  Jay Carney, White House spokesman, said that “there is strong evidence that some of these demonstrators were paid.”  He was suggesting, of course and despite evidence to the contrary, that it was Russia who was doing the paying and the infiltrating.
[http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-04-07/russia-accuses-us-mercenaries-inciting-civil-war-ukraine]

Russia is also in the midst of negotiating an oil-for-goods deal with Iran, which will bypass the US dollar and help to negate the sanctions from the US on both countries.  The two US Senators who authored the Iran sanctions bill (Menendez and Kirk) are very pissed off and told Obama that if this Iran/Russia deal goes through, the US should broaden and strengthen the sanctions.  They are overlooking the implications of Iran and Russia, and potentially other countries who might follow their lead, going off the petro-dollar and the effects it would have on the US economy if we lost reserve currency status, but goddamnit, we will sanction every country on the planet if we have to.  Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister pointed out that Russia has the right to reject unilateral US sanctions as having no basis in international law.  Juan Cole recently wrote an article in which he observes that while UN Security Council sanctions are binding on UN members, the US assumes its own sanctions must be binding on everyone.
[http://www.nationofchange.org/russian-sanctions-busting-putin-s-bruited-500k-bd-oil-deal-iran-draws-us-threats-1397224316]

Not content to threaten only Russia, our officials are now threatening our allies in NATO countries.  Turns out the EU is righteously miffed at our NSA spying on everyone and several countries are talking about creating an internet system which would bypass US companies, who, after all, provide data to the NSA.  Because we are so determined to keep our universal spy apparatus in place, the US Trade Representative made swift to threaten the EU with trade penalties for “violating trade laws”.  (This is the same guy who is currently working on the TPP trade negotiations that will give corporations immunity from the laws of all countries who sign the fucker.)  [http://rt.com/news/us-europe-nsa-snowden-549/]

Obama issued an executive order last week placing sanctions on “certain persons” with respect to South Sudan.

I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, find that the situation in and in relation to South Sudan, which has been marked by activities that threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan and the surrounding region, including widespread violence and atrocities, human rights abuses, recruitment and use of child soldiers, attacks on peacekeepers, and obstruction of humanitarian operations, poses an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat. I hereby order:

Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State:

(i) to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, any of the following in or in relation to South Sudan:
(A) actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan;
(B) actions or policies that threaten transitional agreements or undermine democratic processes or institutions in South Sudan;
(C) actions or policies that have the purpose or effect of expanding or extending the conflict in South Sudan or obstructing reconciliation or peace talks or processes;
(D) the commission of human rights abuses against persons in South Sudan;
(E) the targeting of women, children, or any civilians through the commission of acts of violence (including killing, maiming, torture, or rape or other sexual violence), abduction, forced displacement, or attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, or locations where civilians are seeking refuge, or through conduct that would constitute a serious abuse or violation of human rights or a violation of international humanitarian law;
(F) the use or recruitment of children by armed groups or armed forces in the context of the conflict in South Sudan; […]

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/04/03/executive-order-blocking-property-certain-persons-respect-south-sudan

The order does not mention, of course, that South Sudan only even exists because the US interfered in the civil war in Sudan in order to carve out the oil-rich south through referendums we wrote for that purpose.  We continue to pour billions of dollars into the new country, since the civil war between Sudan and South Sudan remains ongoing and vicious.  We have no humanitarian concerns for the people there; our interest is in getting lucrative contracts for US oil companies firmly set into place.  The executive order makes much to-do about the use of child soldiers in South Sudan, which is interesting, given that despite signing the Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008,  Obama has signed waivers every year since for several countries that recruit child soldiers, including South Sudan.  The Child Soldiers Act makes it law that we cannot give military aid to any country using children in their armed forces.  In other words, while sanctioning “certain persons” who may be encouraging the use of child soldiers in South Sudan, the US gov’t is itself providing military and other aid to the armed forces in that country.

1 Oct., 2013
The White House on Monday afternoon announced that it had issued blanket waivers to three countries, allowing them to receive military aid despite their ongoing use of child soldiers despite a 2008 law to the contrary.

The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CPSA) is meant to bar the United States from providing military assistance to countries who have “governmental armed forces or government- supported armed groups, including paramilitaries, militias, or civil defense forces, that recruit and use child soldiers.” As per the Optional Protocol on the Convention of the Rights of the Child, “child soldiers” include children under 18 who have been forced into service, those under 15 who have volunteered to fight, and and those under 18 who have joined up with any force aside from an army. It also includes those who serve in a “support role such as a cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard, or sex slave.”

A national security interest waiver was built into the law, however, giving the President the authority to override the law should he deem it necessary to do so. That’s precisely what the Obama administration did on Monday, issuing blanket waivers to three countries known to use child soldiers: Yemen, Chad, and South Sudan. Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo received partial waivers as well; this means that they’ll be granted lethal aid only in support of the peacekeeping missions currently ongoing in the country. […]

http://thinkprogress.org/security/2013/10/01/2704611/child-soldier-waivers/

October 7, 2013
[…]  For the past three years, the Obama administration has routinely waived sanctions on countries subject to withholdings – including in 2010, the first year they were to go into effect.  At that time, the White House failed to inform Congress or the NGO community of its decision in advance, setting off a fierce backlash that has continued since. In February 2013, a United Nations committee further urged the U.S. president to take a tougher stance. […]

http://securityassistancemonitor.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/u-s-approves-withholds-military-aid-to-countries-with-child-soldiers/comment-page-1/

We are also now giving anti-aircraft weapons to members of the “rebel forces” in Syria.  (The US media and political classes don’t want us to confuse this with arming terrorist organizations or trying to overthrow a foreign government, although it is in reality both those things.)
[http://rt.com/usa/us-syria-moderate-opposition-weapons-921/]

On another front, we have some twisted blather from a federal judge regarding the Obama assassination-of-Americans program.  Judge Rosemary Collyer just threw out the lawsuit against the Obama administration for the murder of three US citizens abroad brought on behalf of the now-dead Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan, and Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman.  Last July, when she heard oral arguments in the case, she repeatedly asked the Obama lawyers, “where is the due process here?” and stated, ““the executive is not an effective check on the executive”.  She has apparently since changed her mind (or had it changed for her) and her decision to dismiss the case is based pretty much on the notion that we have to “trust” any executive decisions on these matters in the interest of national security and that these officials have acted in accordance with the AUMF enacted after 9/11.  Are you digging this?  The president can kill anyone he wants for any reason he wants, without any oversight from, recourse to, or relief available via, the US legal system.  And there goes the heart of the Constitution, based on the Magna Carta, that we have the basic right to be presumed innocent and to have our cases heard in court, swirling right down the toilet.

Here is how a “The New American” article put it:

[…] According to the lawsuit:
The U.S. practice of “targeted killing” has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, including many hundreds of civilian bystanders. While some targeted killings have been carried out in the context of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, many have taken place outside the context of armed conflict, in countries including Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Sudan, and the Philippines.These killings rely on vague legal standards, a closed executive process, and evidence never presented to the courts…. The killings violated fundamental rights afforded to all U.S. citizens, including the right not to be deprived of life without due process of law.

All those reasonable arguments are moot now, in light of the court’s tossing of the case. […]

Although Obama administration officials finally admitted that the three men were killed by the United States, they argued to the federal court that national security concerns should preclude the matter from being adjudicated.

While Judge Rosemary M. Collyer refused to accept the concept of the executive branch judging the constitutionality of its own actions, she dismissed the suit.

On the CCR website, the group’s lead attorney, Maria LaHood, commented on the effect of Collyer’s refusal to judge the legality of the murders:
Judge Collyer effectively convicted Anwar Al-Aulaqi posthumously based on the government’s own say-so, and found that the constitutional rights of 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi and Samir Khan weren’t violated because the government didn’t target them. It seems there’s no remedy if the government intended to kill you, and no remedy if it didn’t. This decision is a true travesty of justice for our constitutional democracy, and for all victims of the U.S. government’s unlawful killings.

LaHood’s understanding of the constitutional standards for government-sanctioned assassination is accurate. Any killing by the government must conform to the standards established by the Fifth Amendment. That key provision of the Bill of Rights guarantees that “no person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

While every person killed in the name of the United States who has not received the due process the Constitution guarantees is a tragedy and a significant weakening of our moral and constitutional foundation, the case of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki is particularly disturbing and his killing unconscionable. […]

Judge Collyer’s decision to dismiss this historic lawsuit witnesses the era into which our Republic has entered. The president of the United States sits in a chair in the White House rifling through dossiers of suspected terrorists. After listening to the advice of his claque of counselors, it is the president himself who designates who of the lineup is to be killed. As the New York Times explained in 2012:
Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical. He had vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values; the chart, introducing people whose deaths he might soon be asked to order, underscored just what a moral and legal conundrum this could be.

The legal conundrum has apparently now been solved in favor of the president’s power to add names to and subtract them from kill lists worthy of the bloodthirstiest Roman dictators.

http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/constitution/item/18019-federal-court-drone-killing-of-u-s-citizens-is-constitutional

And lest we forget about the economy as we tumble downwards, let us look at some numbers.  No, no, no, not the “official” unemployment number.   The mainstream media, being comprised of willful idiots and outright liars in the time of our decline, was pleased to offer up the happy news last week that the unemployment number was 6.7 % and that we have regained all the jobs lost since ’08.  Okay, first of all, the jobs weren’t “lost”; they were outsourced, taken away to fatten corporate profits, replaced with part-time jobs where the employees are squeezed to produce full-time output, stolen.  Being idiots, none of the reporters mentioned the fact that replacing the 8 million jobs “lost immediately after the downturn” does nothing about the jobs needed to keep up with the population growth which has occurred since.  We need roughly 190,000 new jobs each month to match the number of new people entering the work force.

Let’s look at a more honest number: the labor force participation rate.  A brief explanation of what constitutes the LFPR is offered here:

(CNSNews.com) – The average annual labor force participation rate hit a 35-year-low of 63.2 percent in the United States in 2013, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).[…]

The BLS bases its employment statistics on the civilian noninstitutional population, which consists of all people in the United States 16 or older who are not on active duty in the military or in an institution such as a prison, nursing home or mental hospital.  The labor force participation rate is the percentage of people in the civilian noninstitutional population who either had a job or who actively sought one in the previous four weeks.

The 63.2 percent average annual labor force participation rate for 2013 means that in the average month of 2013 only 63.2 percent of the civilian noninstitutional population held a job or actively sought one.

The BLS has been tracking the labor force participation rate since 1947, when it was 58.3 percent. Over five decades, it climbed to a peak of 67.1 percent in 1997–a rate it maintained in 1998, 1999, and 2000.

As the civilian noninstitutional population has increased and the labor force participation rate has dropped, the number of people not in the labor force has climbed to record highs. In 2000, there was an annual average of 69,994,000 Americans not in the labor force. By 2013, there was an annual average of 90,290,000 not in the labor force.

In January 2014, according to BLS, there were 92,535,000 not in the labor force.[…]

In 2013, according to BLS, there was an annual average of 245,679,000 in the civilian noninstitutional population. On average, 155,389,000 (or 63.2 percent) of those people participated in the labor force. Another 90,290,000 (or 36.8 percent) of them did not have a job or actively seek one–and, thus, were not in the labor force. […]

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/ali-meyer/labor-force-participation-2013-lowest-35-years

These numbers are straight-forward and give the accurate reading of unemployment in the US.  The BLS has correctly removed from its count anyone in jail, the military and those who can’t work due to long-term physical or mental disabilities.  What the current number tells us is that more than one third of Americans who are of age and capable of working do not have jobs.  This obviously gives us an unemployment rate of over 33 %.

I will give but two more short vignettes of the nation’s dismal state as it brings on its own collapse.  I offer these as brief examples of how little the current crop of American leaders, both political and industrial, care about the health and welfare of the people.

The first has to do with the radiation leaks at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).  This is a facility for storing radioactive waste, located within a salt mine in New Mexico.  Two immediate questions should be: why are we even housing nuclear waste in a salt pit, given that salt is highly corrosive, and: of what materials are the storage containers constructed, given that salt is particularly harsh on metals?  Unfortunately, no-one has asked the questions of anyone who might have the answers.

In any case, the place began leaking radioactive particles in Feb.  At first, we were told that no-one had been affected or sickened.  Now, however, some of the workers are showing signs of radiation sickness.  The site is still leaking.  You can find a number of articles if you ‘google’ “leak at WIPP”; I am only going to give a few unbelievable sentences from a local NM paper.

[…] the DOE is not giving up hope that all radiation particles in WIPP’s south salt mine can be eradicated. […]

Radiation was first detected below ground on the evening of Feb. 14 and traces of americium and plutonium were later found outside the site as far as a half mile away from the nation’s only nuclear repository for transuranic waste. […]

A couple of the plans cleanup crews are considering underground at WIPP include mining some of the salt off the existing wall which is done regularly and using sprayable concrete over the contamination areas to get it off the walls. […]

Scientists will also eventually begin testing the salt mined in the north mine for radiation contamination. WIPP currently sells the salt to local private industry, including for use as salt feed at local dairies. Franco [DOE Field Office manager] said he thinks the DOE should be able to continue selling the mined salt.[…]

http://www.currentargus.com/carlsbad-news/ci_25292180/robot-probe-underground-at-wipp

They have been selling the salt from a radiation storage mine to use as animal feed at local dairies, which provide milk to the area.  Are you fucking shitting me?

Okay, here’s another.   The new food labels, touted by our FLOTUS, Michelle Obama, a month or so ago.  The FDA and the White House have unveiled changes (coming soon to a store near you!  Well, okay, this may take a few years, but we are making an effort here) to the nutrition facts printed on food products, ostensibly made to enhance consumer information.   Mrs. Obama said as she introduced the new labels, “As consumers and as parents, we have a right to understand what’s in the food we’re feeding our families. Because that’s really the only way that we can make informed choices – by having clear, accurate information. Our guiding principle here is simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into a grocery store, pick an item off the shelf, and tell whether it’s good for your family.”  The labeling changes are relatively simple and will affect all packaged foods except certain meat, poultry and processed egg products.  Calories will appear in larger font. Serving sizes are updated to reflect the amounts Americans actually eat; i.e., since we eat ridiculous amounts of food at one time, the “serving size” will reflect that.  A 20 oz soda, currently listed as 2.5 servings, will be labeled as 1 serving.  A “serving” of ice cream will increase from 1/2 cup to a full cup.  Some serving sizes are (seriously) going to be based on the current, typical container sizes, perhaps so the food industry does not have to retrofit the factory equipment.  So, for example, right now a typical single-serve yogurt container holds 6 oz, but is labeled as less than one serving (the calories, etc. on the label are based on 8 oz being a single serving); rather than change the packaging, the FDA is just going to call 6 oz a single serving.  Other stuff like muffins and toaster pastries (are those still considered real food?) will have the “serving” size doubled to reflect the packaging already used.  We’ll get a new category called “added sugars”, which will show sugars that are not naturally occurring in food.  They are not going to highlight the corn syrup content or give its percentage by volume.  Whether this disastrous ingredient will be listed as “sugars” or “added sugars” is not clarified.  Vitamin D and potassium will be added to the labels, but vitamins C and A are no longer required to be listed.  If you are like most parents, you tend to pick your kids’ juices based on vitamin C content.  That’s going to disappear from the labels.

Despite the estimated $2 bb it will cost them to implement the changes, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups “applaud the announcement” and “look forward to working with the FDA on these updates to the nutrition labels” to “help consumers build more healthful diets for themselves and their families.”

[http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/nutrition-labels-facelift-reflect-reality-122521120–abc-news-health.html?vp=1]

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups are exactly the same entities that claim adding the two words “Contains GMOs” is too costly for them to absorb, that such labeling is unrelated to nutrition and health, and that it is completely unnecessary information.  One of their representatives actually admitted in a printed outburst that labeling GMOs would cause people to avoid those products.

Over 90% of the population wants GMO labeling.  Countries all over the world are fighting the invasion of our GMO crops and consider them dangerous.  Our First Lady, on the other hand, is helping the food industry giants obfuscate the widespread use of GMOs through this deceptive labeling initiative, ostensibly designed to let the public know which food items are “good for their families”, but which does not include any demand for the inclusion of the the number one piece of information that the public needs and wants.  You can be sure that the food industry will use this “new label” ploy to avoid forevermore the idea of displaying GMO content on product labels (or highlighting the amounts of corn syrup, now known to bring its own health risks); they will say that they have just earmarked a tidy sum of money to modernize labels and, by the way, they followed the guidelines offered by the White House.  For his part, Mr. Obama has loaded the FDA, EPA, and USDA with former Monsanto executives and employees.  The Dept. of Agriculture, thanks to pressure from companies like Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta, is now considering legalizing the usage of the herbicide 2,4-D (the primary ingredient in Agent Orange, for God’s sake) on US food crops, as apparently the vast amount of glyphosate housed within the GMO crap we have been force-fed, not to mention the GMOs themselves, has not been killing us off fast enough.
[http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/03/12-4]

Based on what I see in comment sections, I think more people are beginning to catch on that something is awry, but are very confused about who to trust and what to do, a situation expressly encouraged and largely instigated by the powers that be.  We talk about electing “better politicians” or we idealize one political group or candidate, each promising “the solution” and argue over which is “the best”.  But this country was built by hustlers and is now entirely run by sociopathic con-men.  I doubt there is any changing the trajectory of the fall.  This is the Thunderdome, baby.  There is no hero waiting in the wings to make it all right again.  All I can suggest, if you aren’t one for active revolution, is that you keep your loved ones close, be as kind as you can to those you meet, as they are stuck in this with you, and try to avoid the flying monkeys.

 

News round-up.

Here are some brief notes on a few news items of the past week or two, most of which were overlooked by the mainstream press.  I’ll really try to keep it all brief (though I am not very good at that and am more known for my enthusiastic verbosity), so if you are one of those people who is wrecking the attention span and memory functions of your brain by overusing “twitter” and such shit, you can skim quickly and not have to digest too much at a time.  I won’t use hashtags, though.  One has to draw the line somewhere.

As of November this year, 164 detainees remain at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp without charge or trial; many of them have been held for more than 11 years. Since 2010, 86 detainees have been approved for release by the Administration’s Guantanamo Review Task Force, yet only 2 have been transfered in the past year.

The U.S. will no longer report to the public any hunger strikes taking place among the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.  Disclosure of hunger strikes at the prison are “not in the interest” of the military.  This would be called censoring the news were it to occur in the old USSR or modern North Korea.  Here, we don’t call it anything – we just do it.

MIAMI — The U.S. military will no longer disclose to the media and public whether prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are on a hunger strike, a spokesman said Wednesday, eliminating what had long been an unofficial barometer of conditions at the secretive military outpost in Cuba.

Hunger strikes have been employed by men held at Guantanamo since shortly after the prison opened in January 2002, and the United States has long disclosed how many are refusing to eat and whether they meet military guidelines to be force-fed.

Officials have determined that it is no longer in their interest to publicly disclose the information, said Navy Cmdr. John Filostrat, a spokesman for the military’s Joint Task Force Guantanamo.

“JTF-Guantanamo allows detainees to peacefully protest, but will not further their protests by reporting the numbers to the public,” Filostrat said in an e-mail. “The release of this information serves no operational purpose and detracts from the more important issues, which are the welfare of detainees and the safety and security of our troops.” […]

Human rights groups, lawyers and the media had long used the number of hunger strikers as a measure of discontent at the prison. A mass protest over conditions this year peaked in July at 106 detainees.

The Miami Herald reported that as of Monday, when the statistics were apparently released for the last time, 15 men were on hunger strike, up from 11 in mid-November.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/guantanamo-detainees-hunger-strikes-will-no-longer-be-disclosed-by-us-military/2013/12/04/f6b1aa96-5d24-11e3-bc56-c6ca94801fac_story.html

The FDA issued rules pertaining to the removal of antibiotics from animal feed; the overuse of antibiotics in feed has increased drug-resistant strains of infectious diseases amongst both animals and humans in what is being called an epidemic by the medical community.  Naturally, being the present-day FDA, run by former Monsanto employees, the new rules are voluntary, non-binding, and allow a three-year timeframe for phasing out the the use of antibiotics on healthy animals.

In response to concerns about the rise in drug-resistant superbugs worldwide, US regulators Wednesday issued voluntary guidelines to help cut back on antibiotics routinely fed to farm animals.

The plan described by the Food and Drug Administration is not mandatory, and applies only to certain pharmaceuticals that are given to healthy livestock in a bid to grow bigger animals and boost food production. […]

The FDA guidelines set out a three-year timeframe for phasing out the use of antibiotics that are important in human medicine for growth uses in farm animals. […]

The World Health Organization says inappropriate use of antimicrobial medicines in farm animals is one the factors underlying the spread of drug-resistant infections in people, including tuberculosis, malaria and gonorrhea. […]

Consumer advocates say 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States are destined for use in livestock, so leaving the responsibility in the hands of business is a mistake.

Louise Slaughter, the only microbiologist in Congress, described the FDA’s voluntary guidance as “an inadequate response to the overuse of antibiotics on the farm with no mechanism for enforcement and no metric for success.”

This guidance “falls woefully short of what is needed to address a public health crisis,” she added in a statement.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said there are “several loopholes” in the FDA plan that could undermine its aim.

“Unfortunately it requires the drug companies who profit from sales of their drugs to initiate the process,” said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal. […]

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/11/fda-issues-non-binding-rules-for-removing-antibiotics-from-farms/

We have killed 18 people via drone-bombing in Yemen in just the past week.  In one instance, there were 15 members of a wedding party murdered (what the hell else can you call it?) and a few days before that, three people traveling in a car were assassinated by a drone missile.

(Reuters) – Fifteen people on their way to a wedding in Yemen were killed in an air strike after their party was mistaken for an al Qaeda convoy, local security officials said on Thursday.

The officials did not identify the plane in the strike in central al-Bayda province, but tribal and local media sources said that it was a drone.

“An air strike missed its target and hit a wedding car convoy, ten people were killed immediately and another five who were injured died after being admitted to the hospital,” one security official said.

Five more people were injured, the officials said. […]

On Monday, missiles fired from a U.S. drone killed at least three people travelling in a car in eastern Yemen.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/12/us-yemen-strike-idUSBRE9BB10O20131212?irpc=932

We adopted the Volker so-called “rule” this week.  However, like Elizabeth Warren’s 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act and John Delaney’s infrastructure bill (see my recent articles on these subjects), the Volker rule has been watered down enough to make it essentially meaningless.  The banks have until 2015 to comply with the “rules”.  The “rules” will be overseen and enforced by the regulatory agencies now peopled largely by former Goldman, Sachs employees.  That there is what we call reform in these United States.

The so-called “Volcker rule,” adopted Tuesday by the main US bank regulatory agencies, is being hailed by the Obama administration as a major reform that will rein in Wall Street speculation and hold bankers accountable. In fact, it is a toothless measure that will do nothing to stop the speculative and fraudulent activities that triggered the financial meltdown of 2008 and have continued unabated since then.

The rule, named after former Federal Reserve chairman and Obama economic adviser Paul Volcker, is among the most contested parts of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul that was signed into law by President Obama in July of 2010. The rule ostensibly bars commercial banks, which benefit from federally guaranteed retail deposits and other government backstops, from speculating with bank funds, including customers’ deposits, on their own account—a practice known as proprietary trading. […]

The document approved Tuesday by the Federal Reserve Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), spanning 953 pages, nominally restricts proprietary trading. But it incorporates loopholes and exemptions that will enable the banks to continue to make risky bets on stocks, bonds and other securities for their own profit.

The rule delays the date for compliance by the banks to July 2015, three years after the date laid down in the Dodd-Frank law. This is designed to give the banks and their lawyers ample time to devise ways to evade the rule’s provisions and, if they so decide, mount lawsuits to block all or part of the measure. […]

The measure requires bank CEOs to affirm annually that they have established programs to ensure that their firms are complying with the rule’s provisions. However, in another concession to Wall Street, its does not require that the executives attest that their companies are actually in compliance with the rule. […]

The Wall Street Journal in an editorial Wednesday was more blunt. The newspaper wrote: “Rest assured banks will find loopholes. And rest assured some of the Volcker rule-writers will find private job opportunities to help with that loophole search once they decide to lay down the burdens of government service.” […]

As the Wall Street Journal noted on Thursday, “Consultants wasted no time in starting to work with their banking clients on how to put in place the new rules… Law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP last year hired Donald Lamson, who had been a banking regulator at the OCC [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency] to help focus on Volcker-rule matters… ‘We’re already getting inquiries from our clients,’ said Robert Cook, a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, who until earlier this year was helping write the new financial rules as a lawyer at the SEC.”

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/12/13/volc-d13.html

The annual Mayors’ Report has been issued and it is not pretty – in fact, the statistics on poverty and homelessness in our cities are horrible.  This will not stop Congress from stripping federal aid from the poverty-stricken, the working poor, the jobless and the homeless as quickly as possible.  And until the majority of non-military Americans is completely decimated and living on the edges of starvation, I’m pretty sure most of the country has no problem with that – I cannot recall a period in my entire lifetime where so much of the population has had so much animosity and outright hatred toward the less fortunate.  The operative theory here is that giving money to the rich makes them work harder and entices them to “provide jobs”, while giving any amount of aid to the poor makes them stop working altogether.

And the military, via Pentagon funding, will continue to receive the bulk of federal funds so that we can continue in perpetuity the “war on terror”.  (Can I hear a “USA – fuck yeah!”?  I thought so.)

A new report on hunger and homelessness paints a devastating picture of the conditions facing millions of workers and poor people in America. The new US Conference of Mayors’ Task Force annual survey highlights the extent and causes of hunger and homelessness in 25 cities for the year between September 1, 2012 and August 31, 2013.

The report finds that 83 percent of the cities surveyed reported an increase in requests for emergency food assistance over the past year, and 52 percent saw an increase in the total number of people experiencing homelessness. Despite this growing need, mayors in the surveyed cities expect assistance for the hungry and homeless to decrease in the coming year.

This social catastrophe is unfolding as the federal government prepares deeper cuts to the food stamp program, now known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and Congress allows federal extended jobless benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed to expire after Christmas. […]

All but four of the surveyed cities reported a rise in emergency food assistance requests, and across all cities this need increased by an average of 7 percent. Among those seeking assistance, 58 percent were persons in families, 21 percent were elderly, and 9 percent were homeless. The working poor made up 43 percent of those requesting food assistance.  

The surveyed cities listed unemployment as the leading driver of hunger, followed by low wages, poverty and high housing costs. With unemployment insurance claims jumping to 368,000 in the week that ended December 7, from 300,000 the week before, and the Obama administration and Congress prepared to cut jobless benefits, the need for food assistance is certain to rise even further.

While cities reported a 7 percent average increase in the amount of food distributed during the past year, budgets for emergency food purchases increased by less than 1 percent. As a result, more than one-fifth of those needing emergency food assistance—21 percent—did not receive it. 

In all of the 25 cities surveyed, food pantries were forced to reduce the quantity of food people could receive at each visit, and emergency kitchens had to cut back on the amount of food offered per meal. In two-thirds of the cities, people were turned away due to a lack of resources. […] 

Based on a single-night count in 3,000 US cities and counties, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that more than 610,000 people were homeless across the US on any given night last year. Of these, 65 percent were living in emergency shelters or transitional housing, while 35 percent were living in unsheltered locations such as under bridges, in cars, or in abandoned buildings. Individuals comprise 64 percent of those experiencing homelessness, while families make up 36 percent.

The number of homeless families increased in 64 percent of the cities included in the mayors’ report. Sixty-eight percent of cities cited poverty as the main cause of homelessness among families, followed by lack of affordable housing (60 percent), unemployment (54 percent), eviction (32 percent), family disputes (28 percent), and domestic violence and low-paying jobs (12 percent each). […]

The surveyed cities were also asked to provide information on the characteristics of their adult homeless populations. The cities reported that, on average, 30 percent of homeless adults were severely mentally ill, 19 percent were employed, 17 percent were physically disabled, 16 percent were victims of domestic violence, 13 percent were veterans, and 3 percent were HIV Positive.

Seventeen of the 25 cities surveyed reported that emergency shelters had to turn away families with children experiencing homelessness because there were no beds available, while two-thirds of the cities were forced to turn away homeless unaccompanied individuals. The unmet need for emergency shelter ranged from 25 percent to 50 percent in eight cities. […]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/12/13/conf-d13.html

The savvy Obama administration has made its usual move of killing the hostages itself before Congress has a chance to.  Immediately after working out a (bogus) interim agreement with Iran, Obama expanded the list of Iranian people and companies included in current sanctions.

In what some charge is a bid to ‘stave off congressional action,’ White House expands list of Iran-linked people and companies subject to financial blockade.

Iranian officials on Friday slammed a U.S. expansion of a sanctions blacklist of companies and people claimed to be linked to Iran’s alleged nuclear program, with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi declaring it “against the spirit of the Geneva deal.”

“We are evaluating the situation and Iran will react accordingly to the new sanctions imposed on 19 companies and individuals,” Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, told the Iranian Fars news agency on Friday.

The late November interim agreement between Iran and the P5+1 nations required Iran to freeze its nuclear program, despite no evidence of nuclear weapons development, in exchange for a slight—and critics charge grossly insufficient—easing of sanctions in a bid to buy time for more talks.

The deal unleashed a wave of hope in Iran that an easing of US-led sanctions would alleviate severe economic hardship and shortages of medical supplies and equipment that hit Iran’s poor and working classes the hardest.

Yet, immediately following the agreement, the U.S. vowed to escalate enforcement of the sanctions that remained, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

Meanwhile, members of Congress are calling for more severe sanctions on Iran—a move that critics charge could jeopardize the deal and increase the risk of a regional war with dangerous and unknown consequences. The congressional move appears to be in step with vigorous efforts by both Israel and Saudi Arabia to prevent a deal with Iran.

Robert Naiman, policy director for Just Foreign Policy, told Common Dreams that the U.S. expansion of the black list is likely a bid on the part of the Obama administration to “stave off congressional action.”

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/12/13-3

The southern leg of the Keystone pipeline, which despite not yet being officially approved, is beginning to ship oil through.  One might wonder how that is possible, given that it does not have approval yet, but such wonderment is simply the vague musings of a baffled mind.  In this nation of laws, the management is free to overlook said laws.  That’s how it works now. Still confused?  You must hate democracy.

TransCanada has begun pumping oil into the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, a company spokesman announced on Tuesday. However, it remains to be seen whether President Obama will actually approve the project.

The corporation began moving oil into the stretch of pipeline that runs from Oklahoma to the Texas Gulf Coast early on Saturday. […]

The completed section of the pipeline will soon be filled with three million gallons of oil, the company said. […]

http://rt.com/usa/oil-pumped-southern-keystone-pipeline-031/

On the tentative budget agreement: it’s atrocious and keeps in place most of the sequester (except for the Pentagon part, which gets a raise).  Not surprising, though.  Once those fuckers in Congress got their cuts to the poor and the public good via the sequester, you knew they wouldn’t open their tightly clenched fists.  Yet as George W. Bush once said, “It’s clearly a budget.  It’s got a lot of numbers in it.”

US House and Senate negotiators reached agreement Tuesday on a budget that will leave in place over a trillion dollars in sequester spending cuts over 10 years, while slashing the retirement benefits of federal workers and military retirees and imposing regressive consumption taxes. 

The brutal character of the bipartisan agreement is underscored by the fact that it makes no provision for the extension of federal extended jobless benefits, threatening over a million unemployed people with the loss of their only cash income the week after Christmas. […]

By the White House’s own figures, failure to extend the unemployment benefits will end cash assistance for 1.3 million people immediately after the holidays and impact an additional 3.6 million people in the first half of 2014. […]

Obama added that “this agreement replaces a portion of the across-the-board spending cuts known as ‘the sequester’ that have harmed students, seniors, and middle class families.”

In fact, the proposed two-year budget restores only a small fraction of the more than $1 trillion in cuts scheduled over the next ten years, and the reduced level of cuts is more than offset by regressive consumption taxes in the form of “user fees,” increased pension costs for federal civilian workers, cuts in retirement benefits for military employees and further reductions in Medicare spending. 

Above all, the deal leaves intact the mechanism of automatic across-the-board cuts in domestic discretionary spending known as sequestration, which took effect last March and has already resulted in $85 billion in cuts, in part through unpaid furloughs affecting hundreds of thousands of federal workers. […] 

Under the proposed budget agreed to on Tuesday, $63 billion in government spending is scheduled to be cut back in 2014 and 2015, or about one third of the total in sequester cuts slated for those years, will be restored. The biggest chunk of restored funds will go to the Pentagon. 

This modest rollback in sequester cuts will be more than offset by an additional $85 billion in deficit reduction over the next ten years. One of the largest cuts, amounting to $12 billion over a decade, will be to retirement benefits for federal civilian workers and military employees.

Beginning January 1st, new federal civilian employees will increase their contributions to their pensions by 1.3 percent, slashing spending by $6 billion. This will come on top of a three-year pay freeze for federal workers and the loss of as much as 15 percent of their income as a result of sequester-related unpaid furloughs.

Military retirees between the ages of 40 and 62 will see their cost-of-living adjustments slashed, adding another $6 billion in deficit reduction.

The budget proposal also adds another $22 billion to the existing sequester cuts by extending cuts to Medicare providers through 2022 and 2023.

The budget will raise $12.6 billion by increasing security fees for airline passengers and another $8 billion by charging higher fees for insuring private-sector pensions. […]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/12/11/budg-d11.html

 

Further reading:

EU announces token fines on banks caught rigging global rates.  “Token” is accurate, and it is stunning, to say the least, that these cartoonish fines (no criminal prosecutions for this group of economic hitmen) aren’t being broadcast with screaming headlines everywhere.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/12/07/libo-d07.html

 

An article at vice.com describes how many major liberal news outlets (Mother Jones, Democracy Now) exploits unpaid interns while railing on about how horrible economic inequality is. Here is one nice quote:

“Meanwhile, Democracy Now!, venerable progressive broadcast hosted by journalist Amy Goodman, requires interns at its new, LEED Platinum–certified office in Manhattan to work for free for two months, for a minimum of 20 hours a week, after which ‘a $15 expense allowance is provided on days you work five or more hours.’ ”

http://www.vice.com/read/the-exploited-laborers-of-the-liberal-media

 

Very good essay on the latest re: Fukushima:

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/12/fukushima-radiation-hits-west-coast.html

 

On Obamacare (h/t Kitt):

http://jacobinmag.com/2013/12/socialism-converting-hysterical-misery-into-ordinary-unhappiness/

 

Two videos.

In the US, we have entirely forgotten about the BP oil spill.  (Well, unless you are one of the unlucky down south who is sick and/or dying from Corexit – aka Fuxit – the dispersant that BP sprayed all over the place in an effort to “clean up” the spill.)  The Macondo site is still leaking and there are reports that someone is still spraying dispersants in various places around the Gulf.  Sea life is still washing up dead on beaches and the fish caught for our consumption are deformed and showing signs of genetic mutation.  Despite this, we have resumed eating the seafood and swimming in the Gulf waters.  We do this because the only media coverage in our country about the Gulf of Mexico are commercials, sponsored by BP,  telling us that the “Gulf is open for business”.  We are apparently not only a resilient people, we are fairly dumb; something that BP and the other big corporations count on with great success.

It was up to the Australian version of “60 Minutes” to do a follow-up on the continuing health problems caused by the oil spill here.  Their concern was generated by the fact that oil companies in Australia are allowed to use Corexit in the waters around Australia, including in the Great Barrier Reef.

The video of the 60 Minutes broadcast lasts about 25 minutes.  Their coverage of the Corexit issue is split roughly 50/50 between its use in the US and its use in Australia.

BP oil spill investigation, Sixty Minutes summary:

When petroleum giant BP spilled millions of litres of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico three years ago, it was the worst ever offshore oil disaster.

To try and break up that massive slick, vast quantities of chemical dispersant was sprayed on the spill. It seemed to work: the oil disappeared. But people started getting sick and then people started dying.

Now, this environmental disaster has become a health catastrophe. The dispersant, when mixed with the oil, increases in toxicity by 52 times. This sickly, invisible toxin, still lurks in the water and absorbs straight into peoples’ skin.

In this special 60 Minutes investigation, we reveal the same chemical dispersants have been sprayed on the Great Barrier Reef and off the north west coast of Australia.

They’re still approved for use and our authorities are clueless as to how deadly they are.

The broadcast, from August this year:

 

The second video is very short, as it is just a preview of the longer film entitled “Genetic Roulette – The Gamble of Our Lives”, a film by Jeffrey M. Smith.

Description from their website:

Genetic Roulette – The Gamble of Our Lives has won the 2012 Movie of the Year by the Solari Report and the Top Transformational Film of 2012 by AwareGuide!

Never-before-seen-evidence points to genetically engineered foods as a major contributor to rising disease rates in the US population, especially among children.  Gastrointestinal disorders, allergies, inflammatory diseases, and infertility are just some of the problems implicated in humans, pets, livestock, and lab animals that eat genetically modified soybeans and corn.  Monsanto’s strong arm tactics, the FDA’s fraudulent policies, and how the USDA ignores a growing health emergency are also laid bare. This sometimes shocking film may change your diet, help you protect your family, and accelerate the consumer tipping point against genetically modified organisms (GMOs). […]

http://geneticroulettemovie.com/

You can buy the full-length film from their website or from Amazon.  I have watched the film, and can tell you that it is not sensationalism.  It is a sober and scientific look at the GMO foods being forced on the American public by companies like Monsanto, Sygenta and Bayer, and by the US Congress, which serve as their lackeys.  If you have fourteen bucks, buy the film, watch it yourself, and then show it to everyone you know.

The three minute trailer:

http://geneticroulettemovie.com/trailer/