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Category Archives: corporatocracy

News of the day, 25 March, 2015.

I have four articles from other sources for you today.  I am dealing with some eye issues and so cannot do too much writing myself.  Probably for the best all around,

Here is an article on Israel spying on the negotiations between the US and Iran.  I know that everyone spies on everyone now, but what strikes me in this instance is the sharing of information with certain US Congressmen, who recently have used this information to try to undermine any diplomatic and negotiating efforts of the Obama administration, insincere and half-assed as those efforts may be.  I will mention in passing that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons status, according to the IAEA, whose inspectors have been allowed more investigations and inspections in Iran than were even requested and also according to top US Pentagon officials.  Furthermore, I will note that the US began [illegal] sanctions on Iran decades ago, stealing their money, freezing their assets, causing deprivation to the civilians of Iran through embargoes and trade sanctions, largely cutting their oil trading ability, and has escalated these sanctions under Obama.  All this to punish a country which has never threatened the US nor started a war in over 200 years, and which is not doing what we claim they are doing.  One might ask how the US sees itself fit to unilaterally decide who gets nuclear weapons in any case, especially given that we have armed the entire globe, have broken our nuclear-disarmament treaties, and have made sure that the nation most intent on obliterating Iran out of sheer belligerence (Israel) has nuclear capacity itself.  No-one asks this question, of course.

I am of the opinion that members of Congress committed sedition when they invited Netanyahu to speak and “advise” them on US policy matters, and that particularly those in Congress who publicly stated they would “follow his lead” are guilty of this. [sedition: conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch.]  [see: http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/228125-congress-set-to-take-up-iran-sanctions-bill-next-month-graham-says]

With this latest revelation, that certain Congressmen were given information obtained through a foreign country spying on ours, and used this information to undermine our own on-going negotiations with another sovereign country, I think a bona fide case could be made that they have committed treason.  [treason: the crime of betraying one’s country.]  The recipients did not, after all, report the spying and subterfuge to the White House.  Nor did these people go to the CIA, or the DoJ; they conspired with Israel to use it in attempts to thwart the foreign policies of the sitting administration of the US.

That WH officials found out about this and did nothing aside from calling Israel’s ambassador onto the carpet and then merely engaging in some political jawboning with the Congressmen involved in attempts to sway them toward the WH position is an interesting notation on how unabashedly beyond the law the entire political structure of the US has become.  With this sort of government, a Congress that openly conspires with a foreign country against its own president, a president who openly murders people all over the globe and claims the right to likewise assassinate Americans as well, a judicial that constantly gives decisions favorable to big business over the common good and disregards the Constitution, a government that is actively working to decimate the health and livelihoods of the people and that obeys the dictates of the banks and business cartels, a government hell-bent on invading other countries, overthrowing foreign nations, murdering foreign leaders and starting wars all over the globe – with this sort of government, it is hard to make any case that this one little incident is of much import.  I agree; in and of itself, it is merely a pimple on the ass-end of the country.  However, it serves to indicate how corrupted things have become in Washington.

Israel Spied on Iran Talks, Gave Intel to US Lawmakers to Kill Deal: Report

US officials angered, reports Wall Street Journal, that Israelis used captured information from high-level negotiations to thwart chances of nuclear agreement

The Israeli government secretly spied on high-level talks between the U.S., Iran, and other countries and attempted to sabotage the ongoing nuclear negotiations by serving captured information back to U.S. lawmakers opposed to a deal, the Wall Street Journal is reporting on Tuesday.

According to the WSJ:
Soon after the U.S. and other major powers entered negotiations last year to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, senior White House officials learned Israel was spying on the closed-door talks.

The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal, current and former U.S. officials said. In addition to eavesdropping, Israel acquired information from confidential U.S. briefings, informants and diplomatic contacts in Europe, the officials said.

The espionage didn’t upset the White House as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program, current and former officials said.
“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter.

Israeli officials on Tuesday quickly denied specific aspects of the reporting. “These allegations are utterly false,” a senior official in the Israeli Prime Minister’s office told CNN. “The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies.”

Officials made similar claims to the WSJ, but the newspaper stood by its reporting which it said was based on interviews with more than a dozen current and former U.S. and Israeli diplomats, intelligence officials, policy makers, and lawmakers.

That the U.S. and Israel routinely spy on one another is no secret. As the WSJ notes, citing remarks from U.S. officials, the “U.S. expends more counterintelligence resources fending off Israeli spy operations than any other close ally.”

But in this case, as noted, it was the act of supplying U.S. lawmakers with Israeli captured intelligence on the talks that appears to have most irked the White House and other officials.

According to the WSJ, “Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer met with U.S. lawmakers and shared details on the Iran negotiations to warn about the terms of the deal” as a way to undermine the talks.

Mr. Dermer started lobbying U.S. lawmakers just before the U.S. and other powers signed an interim agreement with Iran in November 2013. Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Dermer went to Congress after seeing they had little influence on the White House.
Before the interim deal was made public, Mr. Dermer gave lawmakers Israel’s analysis: The U.S. offer would dramatically undermine economic sanctions on Iran, according to congressional officials who took part.

After learning about the briefings, the White House dispatched senior officials to counter Mr. Dermer. The officials told lawmakers that Israel’s analysis exaggerated the sanctions relief by as much as 10 times, meeting participants said.

Despite repeated attempts by the Israeli government and their allies in the U.S. Congress to derail nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 nations, those talks continue to make progress as foreign ministers remain under active negotiations in Switzerland this week.

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/03/24/israel-spied-iran-talks-gave-intel-us-lawmakers-kill-deal-report

I’m not sure what endears Israel to the higher-ups in the US.  An ally in the region, blah-blah-blah, yeah, I know, but seriously.  We supply most of their income (so their citizens can have the free healthcare and college educations denied to Americans) and the only things we seem to get in return are instruction manuals on how to run a police state and co-dependent paranoia.  It turns out that a significant number of people in high positions in the US hold dual citizenship with Israel.  This is partly due to the fact that if you are Jewish and set foot on Israel’s soil, you are granted automatic citizenship.  Every other country on the globe requires a naturalization process of some sort.  Some visitors may not even be aware they are legally counted as Israelis by the government there.  Certainly, Israel takes pains to invite our Jewish congress-members to visit as frequently as possible, and our government encourages and pays for these visits.  (We are also now sending local police forces to train in Israel; I would assume some of them qualify for automatic Israeli citizenship, too.)  I guess it is sort of like the Mormons allowing post-death baptism into their church, with the new member being brought into the flock through the sponsorship of a living Mormon; increases the rolls without the trouble of door-to-door proselytizing.  Here is an interesting thing: anyone recognized as an Israeli citizen, including those holding dual citizenship, is subject to mandatory military service in Israel’s armed forces.  I can only surmise that our politicians and well-heeled dual citizens are somehow granted an exemption to this law, since I have never heard of any of them going over there and bombing Palestinians while they hold office here at home.

On the American side, laws have been enacted that allow special exceptions for Israel to our basic rules about dual citizenship and naturalization.  In most cases, one may not be a dual citizen with another country, but we allow it in the case of Israel and a select few other countries. If someone has dual citizenship by birth one might be considered an automatic citizen of Austria, for example, just because his parents were Austrians, although he himself was born in the US and is thus legally an American, too (Austria is one of these “special exception” countries, as well).  In the case where someone is going through the naturalization process as a newly arrived adult immigrant, however, he has to renounce his former citizenship – except if he was formerly an Israeli.

It is nearly impossible to find out exactly how many of our politicians hold dual citizenship with Israel because that information is not required to be published and all freedom-of-information requests about members of Congress have been denied under freedom of religion claims.  Which is kind of racist, come to think of it, since it assumes that all Israelis are Jews, and that is simply not true.  It’s a little odd that Homeland Security doesn’t have a registry of dual citizens (involving any countries and the US) considering all the blather about security issues and foreigners and all, but they don’t.  Most people don’t care about the whole duality thing or are too worried that they’d be labelled anti-Semitic to talk about it out loud, but I can’t imagine we’d have the same attitude if there were suddenly dozens of Iranian-Americans holding office.  Or Muslim-Americans, if you want to put the religious spin on it.  You can bet your ass we’d be talking about divided loyalties and conflict of interest in those situations.

In any case, the only numbers we have come from the individuals themselves openly saying they hold duality.  To the best of my knowledge, there are currently at least 9 or 10 dual Israeli/American citizens in high offices in this administration, including Jack Lew (chief of staff), Gary Gensler (Comm Futures Trading Comm), Dan Shapiro (amb. to Israel), Gene Sperling (dir., Nat’l Econ. Council), Mary Schapiro (chair, SEC), Steven Simon (head, ME/North Africa Nat’l Security Council), Eric Lynn (ME policy advisor), Elena Kagan (supreme court), and Stanley Fischer (vice chair, Fed and former head of Israel Nat’l Bank).

In the first Obama administration, dual citizens included Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Peter Orszag, Larry Summers, and Jared Bernstein.  There are also at least 13 sitting Senators and 27 House members who hold citizenship in Israel.  I won’t list all of them, but here are a few names that might surprise you: Barbara Boxer, Ben Cardin, Dianne Feinstein, Al Franken, Bernie Sanders, Ron Wyden, Charles Schumer, Eric Cantor, Barney Frank, Gabrielle Giffords, Jane Harman, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Harry Waxman, and Anthony Weiner.  I have read a couple of articles recently that aver there are actually over 100 of these members of Congress, but it’s too hard to ascertain for sure, so that might simply be speculation.  The list of prominent people who formerly served in some office or another and who acknowledge dual citizenship with Israel is practically endless.  Mukasey, Chertoff, Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Libby (yeah, “Scooter”), Abrams, Bolten (both Josh and John), Haass, Frum, Kissinger, etc., and the Fed and major banks are notable for dual citizens.

It’s an interesting and verboten phenomenon in our political system.

The following is an interview between “The Saker” and Paul Craig Roberts.  The Saker runs a site which has lately been devoted to the war in Ukraine.  It is probably the best source of information for that subject available in English (link to his website at the end of the article).  I also recommend any articles written by Eric Zuesse on this topic. [for one source of Zuesse’s articles, see: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/author/eric-zuesse-2 ]  This particular piece is not about Ukraine, however; it is about the United States.

Does Washington Intend War With Russia

The Saker interviews Paul Craig Roberts

I had been wanting to interview Paul Craig Roberts for a long time already. For many years I have been following his writings and interviews and every time I read what he had to say I was hoping that one day I would have the privilege to interview him about the nature of the US deep state and the Empire. Recently, I emailed him and asked for such an interview, and he very kindly agreed. I am very grateful to him for this opportunity.

The Saker
March 24, 2015 “ICH” –  The Saker: It has become rather obvious to many, if not most, people that the USA is not a democracy or a republic, but rather a plutocracy run by a small elite which some call “the 1%”. Others speak of the “deep state”. So my first question to you is the following. Could you please take the time to assess the influence and power of each of the following entities one by one. In particular, can you specify for each of the following whether it has a decision-making “top” position, or a decision-implementing “middle” position in the real structure of power (listed in no specific order)
Federal Reserve
Big Banking
Bilderberg
Council on Foreign Relations
Skull & Bones
CIA
Goldman Sachs and top banks
“Top 100 families” (Rothschild, Rockefeller, Dutch Royal Family, British Royal Family, etc.)
Israel Lobby
Freemasons and their lodges
Big Business: Big Oil, Military Industrial Complex, etc.
Other people or organizations not listed above?
Who, which group, what entity would you consider is really at the apex of power in the current US polity?

Paul Craig Roberts: The US is ruled by private interest groups and by the neoconservative ideology that History has chosen the US as the “exceptional and indispensable” country with the right and responsibility to impose its will on the world.

In my opinion the most powerful of the private interest groups are:
The Military/security Complex
The 4 or 5 mega-sized “banks too big to fail” and Wall Street
The Israel Lobby
Agribusiness
The Extractive industries (oil, mining, timber).

The interests of these interest groups coincide with those of the neoconservatives. The neoconservative ideology supports American financial and military-political imperialism or hegemony.
There is no independent American print or TV media. In the last years of the Clinton regime, 90% of the print and TV media was concentrated in 6 mega-companies. During the Bush regime, National Public Radio lost its independence. So the media functions as a Ministry of Propaganda.

Both political parties, Republicans and Democrats, are dependent on the same private interest groups for campaign funds, so both parties dance to the same masters. Jobs offshoring destroyed the manufacturing and industrial unions and deprived the Democrats of Labor Union political contributions. In those days, Democrats represented the working people and Republicans represented business.
The Federal Reserve is there for the banks, mainly the large ones.The Federal Reserve was created as lender of last resort to prevent banks from failing because of runs on the bank or withdrawal of deposits. The New York Fed, which conducts the financial interventions, has a board that consists of the executives of the big banks. The last three Federal Reserve chairmen have been Jews, and the current vice chairman is the former head of the Israeli central bank. Jews are prominent in the financial sector, for example, Goldman Sachs. In recent years, the US Treasury Secretaries and heads of the financial regulatory agencies have mainly been the bank executives responsible for the fraud and excessive debt leverage that set off the last financial crisis.

In the 21st century, the Federal Reserve and Treasury have served only the interests of the large banks. This has been at the expense of the economy and the population. For example, retired people have had no interest income for eight years in order that the financial institutions can borrow at zero costs and make money.

No matter how rich some families are, they cannot compete with powerful interest groups such as the military/security complex or Wall Street and the banks. Long established wealth can look after its interests, and some, such as the Rockefellers, have activist foundations that most likely work hand in hand with the National Endowment for Democracy to fund and encourage various pro-American non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in countries that the US wants to influence or overthrow, such as occurred in Ukraine. The NGOs are essentially US Fifth Columns and operate under such names as “human rights,” “democracy,” etc. A Chinese professor told me that the Rockefeller Foundation had created an American University in China and is used to organize various anti-regime Chinese. At one time, and perhaps still, there were hundreds of US and German financed NGOs in Russia, possibly as many as 1,000.

I don’t know if the Bilderbergs do the same. Possibly they are just very rich people and have their proteges in governments who try to protect their interests. I have never seen any signs of Bilderbergs or Masons or Rothchilds affecting congressional or executive branch decisions.
On the other hand, the Council for Foreign Relations is influential. The council consists of former government policy officials and academics involved in foreign policy and international relations. The council’s publication, Foreign Affairs, is the premier foreign policy forum. Some journalists are also members. When I was proposed for membership in the 1980s, I was blackballed.

Skull & Bones is a Yale University secret fraternity. A number of universities have such secret fraternities. For example, the University of Virginia has one, and the University of Georgia. These fraternities do not have secret governmental plots or ruling powers. Their influence would be limited to the personal influence of the members, who tend to be sons of elite families. In my opinion, these fraternities exist to convey elite status to members. They have no operational functions.

The Saker: What about individuals? Who are, in your opinion, the most powerful people in the USA today? Who takes the final, top level, strategic decision?

Paul Craig Roberts: There really are no people powerful in themselves. Powerful people are ones that powerful interest groups are behind. Ever since Secretary of Defense William Perry privatized so much of the military in 1991, the military/security complex has been extremely powerful, and its power is further amplified by its ability to finance political campaigns and by the fact that it is a source of employment in many states. Essentially Pentagon expenditures are controlled by defense contractors.

The Saker: I have always believed that in international terms, organizations such as NATO, the EU or all the others are only a front, and that the real alliance which controls the planet are the ECHELON countries: US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand aka “AUSCANNZUKUS” (they are also referred to as the “Anglosphere” or the “Five Eyes”) with the US and the UK are the senior partners while Canada, Australia and New Zealand are the junior partners here. Is this model correct?

Paul Craig Roberts: NATO was a US creation allegedly to protect Europe from a Soviet invasion. Its purpose expired in 1991. Today NATO provides cover for US aggression and provides mercenary forces for the American Empire. Britain, Canada, Australia, are simply US vassal states just as are Germany, France, Italy, Japan and the rest. There are no partners; just vassals. It is Washington’s empire, no one else’s.

The US favors the EU, because it is easier to control than the individual countries.

The Saker: It is often said that Israel controls the USA. Chomsky, and others, say that it is the USA which controls Israel. How would you characterize the relationship between Israel and the USA – does the dog wag the tail or does the tail wag the dog? Would you say that the Israel Lobby is in total control of the USA or are there still other forces capable of saying “no” to the Israel Lobby and impose their own agenda?

Paul Craig Roberts: I have never seen any evidence that the US controls Israel. All the evidence is that Israel controls the US, but only its MidEast policy. In recent years, Israel or the Israel Lobby, has been able to control or block academic appointments in the US and tenure for professors considered to be critics of Israel. Israel has successfully reached into both Catholic and State universities to block tenure and appointments. Israel can also block some presidential appointments and has vast influence over the print and TV media. The Israel Lobby also has plenty of money for political campaign funds and never fails to unseat US Representatives and Senators considered critical of Israel. The Israel lobby was able to reach into the black congressional district of Cynthia McKinney, a black woman, and defeat her reelection. As Admiral Tom Moorer, Chief of Naval Operations and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: “No American President can stand up to Israel.” Adm. Moorer could not even get an official investigation of Israel’s deadly attack on the USS Liberty in 1967.
Anyone who criticizes Israeli policies even in a helpful way is labeled an “anti-Semite.”

In American politics, media, and universities, this is a death-dealing blow. You might as well get hit with a hellfire missile.

The Saker: Which of the 12 entities of power which I listed above have, in your opinion, played a key role in the planning and execution of the 9/11 “false flag” operation? After all, it is hard to imagine that this was planned and prepared between the inauguration of GW Bush and September 11th – it must have been prepared during the years of the Clinton Administration. Is it not true that the Oklahoma City bombing was a rehearsal for 9/11?

Paul Craig Roberts: In my opinion 9/11 was the product of the neoconservatives, many of whom are Jewish allied with Israel, Dick Cheney, and Israel. Its purpose was to provide “the new Pearl Harbor” that the neoconservatives said was necessary to launch their wars of conquest in the Middle East. I don’t know how far back it was planned, but Silverstein was obviously part of it and he had not had the WTC for very long before 9/11.

As for the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, US Air Force General Partin, the Air Force’s munitions expert, prepared an expert report proving beyond all doubt that the building blew up from the inside out and that the truck bomb was cover.

Congress and the media ignored his report. The patsy, McVeigh, was already set up, and that was the only story allowed.

The Saker: Do you think that the people who run the USA today realize that they are on a collision course with Russia which could lead to thermonuclear war? If yes, why would they take such a risk? Do they really believe that at the last moment Russian will “blink” and back down, or do they actually believe that they can win a nuclear war? Are they not afraid that in a nuclear conflagration with Russia they will lose everything they have, including their power and even their lives?

Paul Craig Roberts: I am as puzzled as much as you. I think Washington is lost in hubris and arrogance and is more or less insane. Also, there is belief that the US can win a nuclear war with Russia. There was an article in Foreign Affairs around 2005 or 2006 in which this conclusion was reached. The belief in the winnability of nuclear war has been boosted by faith in ABM defenses. The argument is that the US can hit Russia so hard in a preemptive first strike that Russia would not retaliate in fear of a second blow.

The Saker: How do you assess the current health of the Empire? For many years we have seen clear signs of decline, but there is still not visible collapse. Do you believe that such a collapse is inevitable and, if not, how could it be prevented? Will we see the day when the US Dollar suddenly become worthless or will another mechanism precipitate the collapse of this Empire?

Paul Craig Roberts: The US economy is hollowed out. There has been no real median family income growth for decades. Alan Greenspan as Fed Chairman used an expansion of consumer credit to take the place of the missing growth in consumer income, but the population is now too indebted to take on more. So there is nothing to drive the economy. So many manufacturing and tradable professional service jobs such as software engineering have been moved offshore that the middle class has shrunk. University graduates cannot get jobs that support an independent existence. So they can’t form households, buy houses, appliances and home furnishings. The government produces low inflation measures by not measuring inflation and low unemployment rates by not measuring unemployment. The financial markets are rigged, and gold is driven down despite rising demand by selling uncovered shorts in the futures market. It is a house of cards that has stood longer than I thought possible. Apparently, the house of cards can stand until the rest of the world ceases to hold the US dollar as reserves.

Possibly the empire has put too much stress on Europe by involving Europe in a conflict with Russia. If Germany, for example, were to pull out of NATO, the empire would collapse, or if Russia can find the wits to finance Greece, Italy, and Spain in exchange for them leaving the Euro and EU, the empire would suffer a fatal blow.

Alternatively, Russia might tell Europe that Russia has no alternative but to target European capitals with nuclear weapons now that Europe has joined the US in conducting war against Russia.

The Saker: Russia and China have done something unique in history and they have gone beyond the traditional model of forming an alliance: they have agreed to become interdependent – one could say that they have agreed to a symbiotic relationship. Do you believe that those in charge of the Empire have understood the tectonic change which has just happen or are they simply going into deep denial because reality scares them too much?

Paul Craig Roberts: Stephen Cohen says that there is simply no foreign policy discussion. There is no debate. I think the empire thinks that it can destabilize Russia and China and that is one reason Washington has color revolutions working in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. As Washington is determined to prevent the rise of other powers and is lost in hubris and arrogance, Washington probably believes that it will succeed. After all, History chose Washington.

The Saker: In your opinion, do presidential elections still matter and, if yes, what is your best hope for 2016? I am personally very afraid of Hillary Clinton whom I see as an exceptionally dangerous and outright evil person, but with the current Neocon influence inside the Republican, can we really hope for a non-Neocon candidate to win the GOP nomination?

Paul Craig Roberts: The only way a presidential election could matter would be if the elected president had behind him a strong movement. Without a movement, the president has no independent power and no one to appoint who will do his bidding. Presidents are captives. Reagan had something of a movement, just enough that we were able to cure stagflation despite Wall Street’s opposition and we were able to end the cold war despite the opposition of the CIA and the military/security complex. Plus Reagan was very old and came from a long time ago. He assumed the office of the president was powerful and acted that way.

The Saker: What about the armed forces? Can you imagine a Chairman of the JCS saying “no, Mr President, that is crazy, we will not do this” or do you expect the generals to obey any order, including one starting a nuclear war against Russia? Do you have any hope that the US military could step in and stop the “crazies” currently in power in the White House and Congress?

Paul Craig Roberts: The US military is a creature of the armaments industries. The whole purpose of making general is to be qualified to be a consultant to the “defense” industry, or to become an executive or on the board of a “defense” contractor. The military serves as the source of retirement careers when the generals make the big money. The US military is totally corrupt. Read Andrew Cockburn’s book, Kill Chain.
The Saker: If the USA is really deliberately going down the path towards war with Russia – what should Russia do? Should Russia back down and accept to be subjugated as a preferable option to a thermonuclear war, or should Russia resist and thereby accept the possibility of a thermonuclear war? Do you believe that a very deliberate and strong show of strength on the part of Russia could deter a US attack?

Paul Craig Roberts: I have often wondered about this. I can’t say that I know. I think Putin is humane enough to surrender rather than to be part of the destruction of the world, but Putin has to answer to others inside Russia and I doubt the nationalists would stand for surrender.
In my opinion, I think Putin should focus on Europe and make Europe aware that Russia expects an American attack and will have no choice except to wipe out Europe in response. Putin should encourage Europe to break off from NATO in order to prevent World War 3.

Putin should also make sure China understands that China represents the same perceived threat to the US as Russia and that the two countries need to stand together. Perhaps if Russia and China were to maintain their forces on a nuclear alert, not the top one, but an elevated one that conveyed recognition of the American threat and conveyed this threat to the world, the US could be isolated.
Perhaps if the Indian press, the Japanese Press, the French and German press, the UK press, the Chinese and Russian press began reporting that Russia and China wonder if they will receive a pre-emptive nuclear attack from Washington the result would be to prevent the attack.

As far as I can tell from my many media interviews with the Russian media, there is no Russian awareness of the Wolfowitz Doctrine. Russians think that there is some kind of misunderstanding about Russian intentions. The Russian media does not understand that Russia is unacceptable, because Russia is not a US vassal. Russians believe all the Western bullshit about “freedom and democracy” and believe that they are short on both but making progress. In other words, Russians have no idea that they are targeted for destruction.

The Saker: What are, in your opinion, the roots of the hatred of so many members of the US elites for Russia? Is that just a leftover from the Cold War, or is there another reason for the almost universal russophobia amongst US elites? Even during the Cold War, it was unclear whether the US was anti-Communist or anti-Russian? Is there something in the Russian culture, nation or civilization which triggers that hostility and, if yes, what is it?

Paul Craig Roberts: The hostility toward Russia goes back to the Wolfowttz Doctrine:

“Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”

While the US was focused on its MidEast wars, Putin restored Russia and blocked Washington’s planned invasion of Syria and bombing of Iran. The “first objective” of the neocon doctrine was breached. Russia had to be brought into line. That is the origin of Washington’s attack on Russia. The dependent and captive US and European media simply repeats “the Russian Threat” to the public, which is insouciant and otherwise uninformed.

The offense of Russian culture is also there–Christian morals, respect for law and humanity, diplomacy in place of coercion, traditional social mores–but these are in the background. Russia is hated because Russia (and China) is a check on Washington’s unilateral uni-power. This check is what will lead to war.

If the Russians and Chinese do not expect a pre-emptive nuclear attack from Washington, they will be destroyed.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following.
http://thesaker.is/the-saker-interviews-paul-craig-roberts/

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article41331.htm

The following article covers information that everyone should know if your intention is to remain in the US for the long slog. We will see more of this sort of thing as we continue our downward spiral. I have mentioned civil forfeiture and asset seizures before; these “legal” thefts are one of the most obvious signs of a nation teetering on the brink of outright fascism, with the people in charge simply taking whatever they can from the powerless and gorging themselves on the decaying flesh of the country.

Orwell and Kafka Do America:
How the Government Steals Your Money–“Legally,” Of Course

Charles Hugh Smith

March 24, 2015 “ICH” –  Did you know that the government of Iran steals your cash if they find more than loose change in your car? They don’t arrest you for any crime, for the simple reason you didn’t commit any crime; but it isn’t about crime and punishment–it’s about”legalizing” theft by the state.

So the government toadies don’t charge you with a crime or arrest you–they just steal your money.

Pity the poor Iranian people–clearly, there is no rule of law to protect them from their predatory, rapacious, fake-democracy, quasi-totalitarian government.

Did you also know that if you deposit too much money in modest sums, the government of Iran steals all your deposits? They will claim–oh, the twisted logic of Orwellian, repressive governments–that you are obviously a drug dealer who is avoiding laws that require banks to report large deposits to the government.

Once again, you won’t be charged with a crime–in true Orwellian fashion the suspicion that you may have committed a crime is sufficient reason to steal your cash. Pity the poor Iranian people, living in such a banana-republic kleptocracy.

Did you also know that if you are caught with any drug paraphernalia in your vehicle, the government of Iran steals your vehicle? The crime isn’t a drug crime–it’s a property crime: what are you doing with the government of Iran’s vehicle?

Pity the poor Iranian people, living in a Kafkaesque nightmare where suspicion alone justifies the government stealing from its citizens, and an unrelated crime (possessing drug paraphernalia) is used to justify state theft.

As in a Kafkaesque nightmare, the state is above the law when it needs an excuse to steal your car or cash. There is no crime, no arrest, no due process–just the state thugs threatening that you should shut up and be happy they don’t take everything you own.

Your car and cash are guilty–and your house, too.

Alas, dear reader, I have misled you. It is not the Iranian government that uses these tricks to steal from its people–it is the  U.S. government that uses these above-the-law excuses to blatantly steal from its citizens. I presented these Orwellian, Kafkaesque travesties of the rule of law as being Iranian so you would see them for what they are–the actions of an above-the-law, predatory state which falsely claims to be a democracy with a functioning judiciary.

All these forms of civil forfeiture in America are well documented:

Taken: Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we’re losing?:[http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/08/12/taken]

Stop and Seize (six parts):[http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/collection/stop-and-seize-2/ ]

I strongly recommend reading every word of these articles before you start spouting nonsense about what a great and glorious government and legal system we have here in America.

After six years of gorging on the ill-gotten civil forfeiture gains of kleptocratic local government mafias, the Attorney General of the U.S., Eric Holder, recently announced that the federal government would no longer be taking its 20% share of the pounds of flesh stripped from the bones of U.S. citizens.

As my old African-American foreman F.B. would say: that’s awful white of you, Eric, after feasting on the billions of dollars stolen from Americans for six long years. The same can be said of President Obama, who has ignored the officially sanctioned thievery by government thugs and toadies for six long years.

Why Eric Holder’s civil forfeiture decision won’t stop civil forfeiture abuse: [http://tinyurl.com/qfao9f3]

This is how Orwell and Kafka do America: each absurd justification for stealing private property is more outrageous than the next.

But wait–there’s More! That bastion of liberal politics, the state of California, a state completely dominated by Democrats claiming the cherished mantle of Progressive, is undoubtedly the most rapacious, thieving, Kafkaesque government in any nation claiming to be a democracy.

As I have documented in detail, the mere suspicion that you might owe the state of California some tax is enough for the state to steal all the money it finds in any of your bank accounts. And in a fashion that would have made the NKVD of the former Soviet Union proud, you also have to pay the bank a $100 (or more) fee for stealing your money for the state of California. (At least in some accounts, you had to pay for the bullet the NKVD would put in the back of your head.)

After they take all your money, you can call the state tax office and listen to a recording. If you have any money left, you can spend it trying to prove your own innocence, since the state of California already declared you guilty without any evidence or due process.

Welcome to the Predatory State of California–Even If You Don’t Live There (March 20, 2012):

[http://www.oftwominds.com/blogmar12/predatory-California3-12.html]

The Predatory State of California, Part 2 (March 21, 2012): [http://www.oftwominds.com/blogmar12/predatory-state3-12.html]

Welcome to the United States of Orwell, Part 2: Law-Abiding Taxpayers Are Treated as Criminals While the Real Criminals Go Free (March 27, 2012):

[http://www.oftwominds.com/blogmar12/taxpayers-as-criminals3-12.html]

When the state steals our cash or car on mere suspicion, you have no recourse other than horrendously costly and time-consuming legal actions. So you no longer have enough money to prove your innocence now that we’ve declared your car and cash guilty?

Tough luck, bucko–be glad you live in a fake democracy with a fake rule of law, a fake judiciary, and a government of thugs with the officially sanctioned right to steal your money and possessions without any due process or court proceedings.

Be glad we don’t have to torture a confession out of you, like the NKVD/KGB did in the former Soviet Union, because your cash and car are already guilty.

And that’s how Orwell and Kafka work in America–a nation that once was a democracy and could once claim to live under rule of law. Wake up and smell the stench of a gilded gulag, America; we’re living in one whether you care to admit it or not.

Charles Hugh Smith is an American writer and blogger. He is the chief writer for the site “Of Two Minds”. Started in 2005, this site has been listed No. 7 in CNBC’s top alternative financial sites. http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.com 

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article41341.htm 

And finally, (hat-tip to Paxhonu, who sent me this), this seems to be the latest strategy, regardless of the industry: Congress writes non-regulations (federal) that do less than nothing, but which include language forbidding states, counties, or towns from doing any regulating on their own behalf or citizens protecting themselves on their own.  And the strategy has the fully complicit support of the federal judiciary.  The legislation discussed in this article has bipartisan support AND it fulfills Oblahblah’s so-called “goals”.  That’s all you need to guarantee the continuing destruction of the environment and sport-killing of human beings by the fuckers in charge.  You’d think the states’ rights advocates (like the Teabaggers supposedly are) would be all up in arms and shit. But somehow they love this sort of thing.

His Chemical Romance: Tom Udall Teams Up With the Chemical Industry, With Explosive Results

Enviros thought this senator was on their side. Now they accuse him of shilling for the chemical industry.
—Jenna McLaughlin on Mon. March 23, 2015 6:15 AM PDT
KIKE CALVO/AP
A lot of environmentalists are mad at Tom Udall. And they’re surprised about this.

The Democratic senator from New Mexico has a long and distinguished record as an environmentalist, and two weeks ago he introduced legislation to reform the testing and regulation of chemicals. But his former green allies—including environmentalists, lawmakers, professors, and public health officials—oppose the legislation, and accuse Udall of becoming too cozy with the chemical industry, which spends over $60 million a year to lobby Congress. They claim that Udall is sacrificing public health for chemical industry profits and that his bipartisan bill, which is co-sponsored by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), doesn’t protect people from dangerous chemicals, such as asbestos, BPA, and formaldehyde, and, moreover, cripples the regulatory efforts of individual states.

“To be 100-percent candid and direct, [Udall’s] bill has been generated by the chemical industry itself,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said at a press conference last Wednesday. Indeed, the chemical industry has been outspoken in its support of Udall. “This bill is the best and only opportunity to achieve a pragmatic, bipartisan solution to reform chemical regulation,” said American Chemistry Council president Cal Dooley last week in a press release.

Boxer has introduced competing legislation­—supported by many environmental groups—that includes provisions that mandate a quicker turnaround time for testing chemicals for safety and grant states more power to regulate chemicals. Her bill is unlikely to win passage; last week, the Republican Senate leadership didn’t allow Boxer to present the bill on the floor.

Udall and his allies insist that his bill, with nine Republican and eight Democratic co-sponsors, has a chance for success. Udall aide Jennifer Talhelm tells Mother Jones that negotiations between Udall, Vitter, and the chemical industry were often strained and that on at least two occasions Udall’s disagreements with industry reps nearly led to a collapse in the talks and no legislation. Supporters of the Udall-Vitter measure contend that the bill is a vital would give the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to control or eliminate dangerous chemicals. Its detractors argue that the chemical industry still has the upper hand.

Backers of the bill and its critics do tend to agree that the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act has failed to protect public health. That law has permitted the $800 billion-a-year chemical industry to produce over 80,000 substances whose traces now appear nearly everywhere—such as in household items including plastic baby bottles, food, and rugs. Only five of those chemicals have been tested for safety and regulated. And under the current law, according to John Stephenson, director of natural resources and the environment at the Government Accountability Office, the burden of proof is on the EPA to show a chemical is dangerous, not on the chemical industry to demonstrate that it is safe. And if a chemical is determined to be a health risk, its use can only be restricted in a way that is “least burdensome”, which is least expensive, for industry. Even a known carcinogen like asbestos—which is linked to the deaths of 10,000 Americans a year—has not been banned under this law because of an industry lawsuit.

So there is a consensus the 1976 law needs to be revamped and bolstered. But most enviros say the Udall-Vitter bill is not sufficient. The critics have three main complaints:

State Preemption: “States have been important leaders in developing rules to protect their residents from harmful chemicals,” says Michael Green, the executive director of the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health. California’s Prop 65 Law has pressured companies to eliminate lead from products such as baby bibs and vinyl lunch boxes, and to stop using arsenic-based wood preservatives in children’s playgrounds.

But Udall’s legislation would undermine strong state action by mostly removing the authority of states and handing it to the EPA, except for chemicals deemed “low priority.” Under this bill, states would not be allowed to develop new restrictions on specific uses of a chemical after the EPA has decided to put the substance on a list of “high priority” chemicals to review. Yet reviewing the chemical could take up to seven years. Thus, the states would essentially be blocked from moving forward with safeguards.

The bill would also strip states of the power to enforce federal standards, a process known as “co-enforcement.” Supporters of the Udall bill acknowledge that state preemption has some downsides, but they note that existing state laws passed before January 1, 2015, would not be affected by the legislation.

Safety Standard: Critics say Udall’s bill won’t keep people safe because the language of the legislation is too vague and weak. Under the new bill, the EPA must consider “unreasonable risks” to human health and the environment when testing and regulating chemicals, but it never explicitly defines what an “unreasonable risk” is. Though the wording seems like a step up from former legislation, which explicitly requires the EPA to consider monetary cost as well as health before even testing a chemical, critics believe this cost-benefit analysis will continue to be a priority, because the bill still requires the EPA to consider cost when it is restricting a chemical proven to be dangerous. A group of 34 professors, environmentalists, and legal experts sent a letter detailing these concerns to Sen. James Inhofe and Sen. Barbara Boxer on Monday. The Environmental Working Group, Greenpeace, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, the Center for Environmental Health, the Breast Cancer Fund, and others agree. Rick Hind, the legislative director of Greenpeace called Udall and his co-sponsors “liars” for insisting that the cost-benefit analysis was removed from the bill. “Even if you had Rachel Carson running the EPA, she wouldn’t be able to do anything,” he says.

But Udall and those involved in negotiations say these complaints are not based on the facts. The phrase that essentially severely limited EPA’s authority as a result of its lawsuit over banning asbestos is removed from the bill. In this 1991 suit, the EPA was required to choose the “least burdensome” restriction in regulating a chemical. In Udall’s bill, the EPA must regulate chemicals based on health “without taking into consideration cost or other nonrisk factors.”  If the chemical is determined unsafe, the EPA must regulate it so that it will not pose a risk to health and the environment.
Timeline: Most environmental groups are concerned that the bill would give regulators too much time to conduct safety investigations of chemicals: up to seven years for each review. Also, the chemical industry only has to foot 25 percent of the cost of testing, with a cap of $18 billion a year. Udall’s staff insists that these proposed guidelines come straight from the EPA, which maintains that this timeline and budget are the only feasible ways for them to test and regulate chemicals without fear of missing deadlines.

Last Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing where Udall spoke for his side, and Boxer spoke for the opposition. Udall acknowledged that “there is still room to improve” the bill. But he is not phased by the opposition. “I’m not going to stand by and let our best chance to protect our kids from dangerous chemicals to be torpedoed,” Udall tells Mother Jones.
Despite controversy over the bill, it seems likely that it will advance out of committee with a large amount of bipartisan support. While the EPA told The Hill that the administration isn’t currently taking a position on the bill, an agency official who spoke at last Wednesday’s hearing noted that it fulfilled the Obama administration’s goals to reform chemical legislation set out in 2009.

Copyright ©2015 Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress. All Rights Reserved.

http://m.motherjones.com/politics/2015/03/war-over-chemical-reform?google_editors_picks=true

 

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.

 

Yes, it is about energy supplies.

I am going to post an article (below) from Glen Ford, whom I greatly admire, which was published at both GlobalResearch and his own website, Black Agenda Report.  First, however, I would like to mention a couple of things.  Did anyone else notice that just as in Greece, Libya, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, the new (acting) head of the Ukraine government, Yatsenyuk, is a banker?  Why is this, do you suppose?

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/13/world/europe/ukraine-acting-prime-minister-arseniy-yatsenyuk.html?_r=0

Also see my own article from 2011 for a quick recap of Libya, Italy and Greece, which had bankers installed as the heads of their governments in a rapid cascade:

http://teri.nicedriving.org/2011/11/replacements/

Obama issued some more new sanctions this morning on several more Russian individuals and a Russian bank.  It is interesting that he can, without Congress, order the seizure of foreigners’ assets and money, but I guess since he could, in theory at least, demand that they be drone-bombed to death; i.e., summarily executed, the seizure of assets is considered rather mild punishment.

As I pointed out in my last post, there have been sudden developments in our “drill, baby, drill” theme park (a.k.a., the United States) in the past week or two.  Obama and Congress refer to turning our country into a dead zone as “all of the above” policy; unfortunately, aside from a few shaggy protesters, most Americans seem oblivious to the country-wide destruction going on right under their noses.  Or they praise it as “gaining energy independence”.  It comes at a cost: toxic waste, loss and/or poisoning of our fresh water supplies, devastation of the land, and utter ruination of the ecosystem.   We seem to have the mistaken notion that this “energy independence” is a wealth creator for the average person living here; a stupendously ignorant misconception, given that we do not have nationalized resources.  (Nationalized?  Like, y’know, socialism?  We don’t want no stinkin’ socialism.)  The energy companies lease land for a few bucks a year on hundred-year leases and they get to keep the profits on anything they pull out from under the ground.  You get to try and live next door to a fracking operation and hope that your water is safe to drink, or eat seafood which is genetically deformed and full of oil and Corexit, or hope that your house isn’t destroyed by sudden earthquakes.  Your children will wonder what the fuck we were thinking as they look out over barren landscapes and oceans bereft of life.  That’s assuming some deep water drilling site or fracking operation doesn’t hit the Big Kahuna and set off an earthquake that entirely changes the shape of the country.  You aren’t going to profit from this exercise.  The oil companies are.  That’s the system we have here.  And, by the way, your tax money is going to pay subsidies to the oil companies so they can have even more money.  And maybe your son or daughter will get to sign up to fight for the glorious cause of stealing another country’s oil (to give to the US oil companies), something we seem to find patriotic and praise-worthy.  It’s all rather baffling.

Glen Ford (bolding mine):

U.S. Prepares to Gas Russia Into Submission

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

“Washington’s strategy is to permanently ratchet up tensions to ‘new cold war’ levels to justify sanctions against Russian energy exports.”

The massive – and desperate – American offensive against world order is entering a new phase, as the U.S. prepares to resume its historical status as global energy superpower. The Obama administration’s brazen implantation of a rabidly anti-Russian, fascist-led regime in Ukraine places U.S. proxies astride pipelines that carry much of Siberia’s gas to Europe and beyond. Seventy-six percent of Russia’s natural gas exports are bound for Europe, the bulk of it to Germany, Italy, France and the United Kingdom. Russia’s weight in the world is largely derived, not from its economically burdensome nuclear arsenal, but as an energy giant. The U.S.-engineered coup in Kiev sets the stage for a protracted assault on Russia’s energy trade, which accounts for more than half of Moscow’s federal expenditures. Without its huge oil and gas exports, Russia deflates like a leaky dirigible.

Even the Americans were not so stupid as to believe that their neo-Nazi friends in Kiev could somehow pry Russia from its naval base in Crimea. Such was never the plan. Rather, Moscow’s response to the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government was predictable, as was that of the Russian-speaking Crimean majority. Washington’s strategy is to permanently ratchet up tensions to “new cold war” levels to justify sanctions against Russian energy exports while exploiting America’s own natural gas “surplus” as an enhanced weapon of global hegemony.

“The U.S.-engineered coup in Kiev sets the stage for a protracted assault on Russia’s energy trade.”

Thanks to shale fracking, the United States recently surpassed Russia as the world’s number one exporter of natural gas, and will next year become the top oil producer [14]. As the New York Times [15] reported on March 5, “The administration’s strategy is to move aggressively to deploy the advantages of its new resources to undercut Russian natural gas sales to Ukraine and Europe.” That’s not the half of it. When Moscow stood up to U.S.-backed jihadists in Syria, the Obama administration understood that the U.S.-Russia button could not be “reset” to Washington’s satisfaction under current conditions. An assertive Russia, increasingly coordinated with China, must be taken out of international contention. Washington will move to crush, or at least seriously disrupt, Russia under its “sanctions as war by other means” machine, by targeting its energy exports, while simultaneously boosting the foreign markets for U.S. natural gas.

The U.S. government tells its people that it spends more on weaponry than the rest of the world’s nations, combined, in order to, among other things, maintain the free flow of energy throughout the planet. But, that didn’t stop Washington from attempting to cripple Venezuela’s [16] oil production in 2003, or from preventing Iran, once the world’s fourth largest exporter, from marketing more than a fraction [17] of her production under the current U.S. sanctions regime. U.S. rulers have never been guardians of free oil flow. Rather, American policy is designed to ensure that U.S.-based corporations and financiers dominate the global energy trade, and that the dollar remains central to energy transactions, regardless of where the oil and gas comes from.

Russia also plays a key role as the energy giant among the BRIC bloc, which is the most likely venue for hatching alternatives to dollar hegemony. Venezuela, which barters oil with some of its Latin American partners and uses the proceeds of its dollar-denominated exports to build structures of resistance to U.S. imperialism, must also be forced back into line, or taken out of the game.

“U.S. rulers have never been guardians of free oil flow.”

Ever since the Arab oil embargo of 1973, U.S. presidents have trumpeted the quest for “energy self-sufficiency” as a national security imperative, requiring subsidies for domestic energy production. Richard Nixon proclaimed: “In the last third of this century, our independence will depend on maintaining and achieving self-sufficiency in energy.” In truth, oil producers enjoyed bounteous subsidies when the U.S. was indisputably the oil production king of the world, from 1925, when U.S. oil fields accounted form more than 70 percent [18] of total global production, to the early 70s. Citizens assumed self-sufficiency meant drilling for domestic development. “Self-sufficiency” – and jobs – is what makes fracking “worth it” in the eyes of many Americans. Now that the aquifers of much of the country have been fouled by shale-frackers intent on cornering gas markets around the globe, the script must be flipped, so that the surplus can be exported. As George Washington University law professor Richard Pierce told Al Jazeera [19], last year, “The US is now 100 percent independent in natural gas and within the next half a dozen years [North America] will be independent in oil. It will become a global supplier, rather than a demander, in a hurry.”

Room must be made for this global supplier in an energy-glutted world. Russia’s gas sales to Europe need to be “undercut,” as the Times puts it. Sanctions can reshape the global markets to the advantage of the new energy superpower – war by other means. Corporate media mask the historical moment with juvenile jibes at Putin, as Washington prepares to subdue the planet with gushing oil and burning water. 

http://blackagendareport.com/content/us-prepares-gas-russia-submission

 

News Round-up, Week Ending 1/11/14.

Updated below.

It was a tough week to suss out the news.  Not that there hasn’t been any; it’s just that the media is playing hard to get.  I even thought at one point that there was something wrong with my computer.  I kept seeing the same stories day after day, with only slight changes to the headlines – I thought the internet had entered some weird “Groundhog’s Day” where the same news items were being repeated over and over.  And the stories were remarkably devoid of details and full of half-witted statements left unexplained.  However, I tried to take what information was available and piece together some items of interest, mostly by reading dozens of articles on the same subjects – each article containing one little bit of a story  – and putting the pictures together myself.  Maybe that’s the best any of us can do any more – read an article and try to verify it elsewhere before assuming that it is true.  Look around with discernment to find the most truthful news outlets that you can and start there.  Believe me, those places are becoming scarce.  The state of the media is rapidly declining in this country.  One might think the media moguls who run the news operations in the US were deliberately trying to obfuscate things and hinder our ability to access any substantive news.  If you are interested in Kim Kardashian’s butt-cheeks or want to see the latest photos of Miley Cyrus trying to stretch her tongue out far enough to lick her own boobs, you can find any number of articles on that sort of useless nonsense; those articles will be amongst the top ten articles in any of the news compilers’ lists (when I say news compilers, think of yahoo news or google news as examples – each of them more interested in generating ad clicks than in distributing news – and see a link at the bottom of this post for an article regarding google’s ties to the NSA and as military contractors).   NPR (National Public Radio) has become a nationalistic, warrior-centric news forum largely drawing on human interest stories to keep its place in the media market.  Some of the websites I used to count on for actual news news have changed their editorial policies lately.  Each day, I get an e-mail from Alternet with their top stories of the day; for the past six months or so, this “top ten” list has invariably included a sex-tip article.  “How my husband and I revitalized our sex lives by inviting in the family pets.”  “The undervalued – and fun! – female orgasm as shared by lesbians.”  “Size matters: stories from small men and the small-minded women who love them.”  (Yes, I made those titles up; you needn’t bother goggling them.  They are fictitious approximations of how the actual headlines read.)  Really?  Seriously?  I expect this from the Huffington Post, an internet tabloid that has gone so far downhill into the muck at the bottom of the ravine that I haven’t bothered to even look at their front page in at least two years.  Part of the problem is that of revenue generation in the capitalist system under which we live; the media has to find ways to make money and support itself.  The idiotic celebrity coverage and sex stories lead to “ad clicks”, which these companies partially depend on for income.  I don’t know how you get beyond this basic issue of needing to generate financial support and still have truly independent journalism.  It’s always been an underlying conflict in the media – how beholden are the news outlets to their advertisers and sponsors and how does that affect the reporting?  Some internet news companies rely on paywalls (paid subscriptions) for funding, which effectively cuts off a sizable chunk of the population from access.  Some ask for periodic donations from readers – which, as long as the readers who donate aren’t allowed to dictate to the reporters about how to cover the news, may be the “cleanest” way to fund internet news.

The admittedly thorny problem of the relationship between money and news doesn’t account for all the really bad reporting going on now, but it certainly accounts for some of it.  We have fewer and fewer moguls/cartels owning the news and they have a gluttonous need for ever increasing personal income.  Journalistic integrity is being placed in a secondary position.  The fact that most Americans don’t seem to be capable of telling the difference is just a pathetic side note.

Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post [HuffPo] has famously found one way to keep expenses down and retain more money at the top: she just doesn’t pay a lot of the help.

[…] Despite its massive growth and sale to AOL for $315 million, the Huffington Post still relies heavily on the work on unpaid workers, and has refused to sign an agreement with the National Writers Union to pay all of its reporters who are assigned stories or report to editors. The Huffington Post currently has 50 paid reporters and more than 400 other staff employed as editors, photo editors, graphic designers, and business staffers on payroll, according to Huffington Post spokesman Rhoades Alderson. But the majority of its content is still generated by its network of more than 8,000 unpaid bloggers.[…]

However, at the RNC [Teri’s note: Republican National Convention; HuffPo sent several reporters, paid and unpaid, to cover the RNC in 2012], the Huffington Post has shown just how quickly paying people for exposure can spread to professions beyond reporting.

“As part of its presence in Tampa, the Huffington Post offers convention attendees Oasis, a candle lit retreat that’s ‘a reminder to find balance in the hustle and bustle of the conventions,’ ” notes the National Writers Union in a statement. “Among the offerings are yoga classes, massages, mini-facials, and meditation. Like its thousands of citizen journalists and bloggers, the massage professionals are unpaid and working for ‘exposure.’ ” […]

Earlier this summer, the Obama administration enshrined the Huffington Post doctrine of having people work for free in order to gain exposure as an official policy for the unemployed. A new Department of Labor “Bridge to Work” demonstration program would build on Huffington model of working for exposure by allowing up to 10 states to let companies employ workers receiving unemployment compensation without the employer necessarily having to pay those workers. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis wrote on Twitter when announcing the program, “As we explore every avenue to help our workforce recover, #volunteerism is a way job-seekers can do good and become more marketable.”… [Teri’s note: Obama also praised Amazon’s sweatshops as a model of corporate efficiency in one speech.  The problem inherent in using the unemployed as free labor, and this has been pointed out by many observers of the idea in action, is that companies tend to try to use it as a way to get rid of their paid employees and replace them with unpaid “volunteers” and “interns”, whom they not only don’t have to pay, they also have no requirements to provide any benefits.  This is known as “churning the work-force”.]

The reality is that unpaid work such that at the Huffington Post rarely leads to real jobs.

“Unpaid work and volunteerism should not be seen as ‘stepping stones’ to a regular job: after all, today there are more unpaid internships around than ever before, and yet youth unemployment is near its all-time high,” says Ross Perlin, author of the book Intern Nation (which In These Times excerpted). “Unpaid internships and ‘volunteer’ situations (in cases where the person is really anything but) in fact tend to destroy jobs rather than create them, because firms learn that they don’t have to pay for work, they don’t have to hire.” […]

http://shameproject.com/shame-blog/huffpo-america-arianna-huffingtons-unpaid-massage-therapists-obamas-bridge-work-program/

Which brings me to the first item in this week’s round-up.

It seems the billionaires running this country don’t control enough of the media outlets yet.  In some country, somewhere, having only a couple of rich people owning all the news is considered a normal thing.  We might call that country a banana republic or suggest it is run by a fascist elite bent on propaganda.  I’m not sure which of those is happening here, but truly independent reporting is dying out in the US. (Ironically, given that this is the “information age” of the “free internet”.)  If only a few people own all the media outlets, you may have news, and it may be “uncensored” in the respect that we know way more about everyone else’s private parts than any other society in the world, but you end up with news sources trending toward the direction we see more and more now: articles heavily edited to remove factual content, reporters who decline to completely toe the line and follow the owner’s personal political agenda being fired from their jobs, lackadaisical research, gross grammatical errors, and bald lies passed off as news items.

Arianna Huffington is teaming up with some of her rich buddies to start up a new website devoted to the news.  Run by and devoted to the wealthy class, the decisions they are making for the good of the rest of us, and all the news they want us to know.  It will be for-profit, naturally, because as Huffington says, “It has to be profitable to be sustainable.”  (By the way, I wish she would get voice lessons with some of her expendable income if she is going to insist on talking, like, in public and all.  Does she really have no idea how grating her speaking voice is?  She sounds like the whining squeal my screen door made right before it finally fell off the damn hinges altogether and ended up on the front lawn.)  Of course, Bill fucking Gates will be a contributor, because there is simply no end to the items on his bucket list.  (“Things I can meddle in and fuck up for the rest of the world before I shuffle off the mortal coil, assuming I can’t buy my way out of death, too.”)  On the editorial board is Pierre Omidyar, who just recently announced he was starting up a different internet news outlet – presumably for the less well-off than this Huffington do-wop – with Glenn Greenwald.  Guess Omidyar is just covering all the bases.  A rich guy can never have too many news conglomerates, and if some part of the internet gets shuttered with CISPA or through such similar provisions in the TPP, one would not want to be caught with only a single slice of the pie.  Omidyar is an interesting guy; he wants his new media company with Greenwald to be fiercely independent and “capable of challenging some of the most powerful people in the world”, one of whom is, well, himself.

“Omidyar tells Rosen that the site will be a company rather than a nonprofit, but that ‘all proceeds… will be reinvested in the journalism.’  If that’s the case, it will be a sort of quasi-nonprofit: able to sell ads and otherwise act like a publishing company but paying little to no taxes.  Omidyar has made it clear that the organization isn’t a philanthropic hobby.”

http://cjr.org/the_audit/the_extraordinary_promise_of_t.php

Tax avoidance is huge incentive for the upper crust, but I am uncertain that “quasi-nonprofit” is a category recognized by the IRS.  Omidyar also founded (in 2010) and owns the Honolulu Civil Beat, an on-line paper which is decidedly for-profit.  Civil Beat does not take ads, but instead has corporate sponsors and charges a $10/month subscription fee.  The original fee was $20/month, but was later reduced without editorial comment.  Civil Beat took on HuffPo as a partner last year, so the new “elite” publication that Huffington is launching is not the first time Omidyar has joined up with her in a media project.  I will take the trouble here to point out that while I might be critical of Omidyar’s empire building in this arena, as I am of any industry being controlled by a small group of individuals, I have no objection to Civil Beat’s reporting itself; one is allowed to access a few articles a month there for free before hitting the paywall, and the articles I have been able to read in that way do not appear to have any particular hidden political agenda.  I do find Huffington’s business model repugnant and can only speculate as to why he would want her as a partner on any endeavor.  Finally, none of this has anything to do with any journalists, bloggers, or reporters who might work for Omidyar on any of these ventures.

The 1% are about to get their own publication. The digital media titan Arianna Huffington and the billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen on Wednesday announced the launch of World Post, a comment and news website that looks set to become a platform for some of the most powerful people on the planet.

Inevitably, the World Post will be launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this month. Many of its contributors including former British prime minister Tony Blair, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Google’s Eric Schmidt are regulars at the annual jamboree for the world’s most connected people. Many are also advisers to the Berggruen Institute, the billionaire investor’s nonpartisan policy think tank [….]

The publication’s initial editorial board has deep ties to media companies around the world. Alongside Huffington and Berggruen it includes Juan Luis Cebrian, founding editor of El Pais, Dileep Padgaonkar, consulting editor of the Times of India, Yoichi Funabashi, former editor-in-chief of Asahi Shimbun, and Pierre Omidyar, founder and chairman of eBay and backer of a new investigative reporting organisation, First Look Media, set up with former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald.[…]

The launch comes amid a wave of new money going into media ventures. Berggruen said it was clear that traditional news organisations were still struggling and that many more would fail. “I think there will be a few media voices that really have weight and will survive but fewer and fewer,” he said. […]

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/jan/08/world-post-news-website-launches-huffington

The second bit of news this week was the contamination of the water supply of nine W Va. counties by a chemical spill from a coal-washing plant.  Roughly 300,000 people cannot use their water for an unknown length of time because to do so would make them sick.

It was only when people began to complain about a peculiar smell in their tap water that the leak of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (Crude MCHM) was discovered coming from Freedom Industry’s (a company which makes chemicals that are used to wash coal) storage tanks and leaking into the Elk River in Charleston.   Freedom Industry had not noticed the leak themselves and could not say how long it had been leaking.  The tank holding the chemical holds 40,000 gallons, although “officials” are sure that no more than 5,000 gallons ended up in the river.  Unfortunately, the W. Va. American Water plant, which treats and provides clean water for the area, is downriver from the leak, and has no means of removing the chemical.  Until the stuff washes through the system on its own (doing God only knows what to the wildlife and groundwater in the meantime), the tap water in these nine counties cannot be used – not even for bathing or washing dishes.  People are having to use bottled water, brought in in emergency vehicles, but are being told to bring their own containers to take that water home.

Freedom Industries not only did not notice the spill in the first place and had no containment measures in place as of Friday (the spill was found on Thursday), they have not been in contact with the water treatment facility.

Obama declared the area a federal disaster so as to provide some emergency relief from the federal government.  I guess Freedom Industries is hoping someone else will deal with the mess and that they won’t have to do more than pay some small fines in a year or two over this incident.  What we need, according to Congress, is fewer regulations on this sort of industry.  Oh, and clean coal.  Just the ticket.

See also:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/11/usa-westvirginia-spill-idUSL2N0KL04J20140111

http://news.yahoo.com/chemical-spill-brings-w-va-capital-standstill-215537896.html

http://www.alternet.org/water/6-most-terrifying-facts-about-chemical-spill-contaminating-west-virginias-drinking-water?akid=11396.201112.pWHJHo&rd=1&src=newsletter945919&t=12

http://www.nationofchange.org/west-virginia-declares-state-emergency-after-coal-chemical-contaminates-drinking-water-1389454225

I have seen some articles about how the Senate has had some Success! in its effort to extend unemployment benefits; i.e., they are somewhat more seriously considering a debate on the issue.  Which may or may not be followed by some sort of vote.  (I actually got an e-mail from some Democratic fundraising site mid-week claiming that the Senate had passed the extension already – an outright lie.  But this site was collecting money to “sway the House”, so I guess we are supposed to overlook this little mishap in their editorial processes.)  Assuming it passes in the Senate, it would then go to the House.  Where it would be killed outright, because ha, ha, ha, there is nothing more amusing to the fuckers in both houses of Congress than starving Americans, unless it is starving Americans freezing to death because they lost their heating aid in the last budget go-round. First of all, the thinking in Congress goes, the jobless – who lost their jobs because they are lazy and not because of trade agreements or corporate greed and down-sizing or because the big banks blew up the economy – have no right to expect handouts when there are wars to be planned and paid for, which is Job Number One for Congress and secondly, we aren’t talking about that many people in the grand scheme of things and thirdly, the Fed is printing money as fast as it can and if you aren’t standing close enough to Jamie Dimon’s urinal to get trickled on, that’s your own lack of foresight and not Congress’ problem, you loser.  The members of Congress have planned for their futures assiduously – they are all going to work for Monsanto or Wall Street or will be regulators in some federal agency after they finish collecting all the grift that’s available to them during their stint in the Hallowed Halls – you should have likewise partaken of the American Dream and thought ahead.  And your lack of humor about the situation has been noted.  Believe that.

The Senate is actually supposed to vote on the unemployment benefits issue today, Monday, if they can get their shit together.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of details involved in the “deal” being worked out that are not being widely reported.

“[…] The Democratic plan would extend the federal program until mid-November. It would also lower the benefits for the unemployed in the hardest-hit states from 47 to 31 weeks, on top of the usual 26 weeks that most states allow for jobless aid. Republicans are opposed to the proposal because they want to offset the cost of the unemployment benefits with other budget cuts. The program has been extended 13 times.[…]”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/economy-added-74000-jobs-in-weak-december-report-jobless-rate-down-to-67percent/2014/01/10/3b2b82c6-7960-11e3-8963-b4b654bcc9b2_story.html

When we see that business about lowering the benefits by numbers of weeks, what is meant is this: before Dec. 28, when the unemployment benefits extension expired, many states offered up to 63-73 weeks of unemployment aid because the federal government helped out with the “extended federal benefits” package which paid for additional weeks of benefits that the states themselves did not have to fund.  After Dec. 28, most states went back to offering the jobless only 26 weeks of benefits, the same amount allowed pre-recession.  The Senate Democrats’ plan for reinstating extended benefits does not suggest bringing the number of weeks of federal participation back up to the 47 weeks of federal aid to the jobless on top of the states’ 26 weeks that had been offered until the end of Dec., but cuts the federal aid down to 31 weeks.  This means that extending the federal aid would not allow the long-term jobless 63 to 73 weeks of benefits, but 57 weeks.  If the measure passes.

“[…] Right now, as a result of the downturn, the average job-hunter takes about 35 weeks to find a new job. So that means many jobless workers will see their benefits cut off before they find work again. All told, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities expects some 4.9 million people to get kicked out of the program before they find a job in the coming year […]”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/01/07/the-senate-is-debating-unemployment-benefits-here-are-seven-things-they-should-know/

The long-term unemployed are dropped, not only from receiving benefits, but from the numbers used to figure overall unemployment.  (Once a person is not eligible for benefits any longer, they “disappear” and are not used in the “official unemployment rate”, currently given as 6.7%.  Well, hell, if everyone dropped out of the “labor force”, the unemployment rate would be 0, now, wouldn’t it?)  One should also bear in mind that even a temporary job lasting a mere three weeks is counted as “employment” by the government and serves to lower the unemployment rate.  Of the 74,000 jobs added in Dec., 40,000 were temp jobs.  Temporary jobs work well for employers, as they don’t have to offer paid vacations or health insurance coverage.

Furthermore, the Democrats propose cutting payments to the jobless who receive disability benefits as well as unemployment benefits.  They are offering to offset the projected $18 bb cost of extended unemployment benefits by keeping the sequester cuts going for an additional year; i.e., until the end of 2024.  They have also reportedly agreed to cut $9 bb of food stamp benefits – this is on top of the $5 bb cut to that program that occurred in Nov.

We have a problem with long-term unemployment which is not being very well addressed.  We are told the recession is over.  However, let’s look at some facts.  Christmas sales this past season were among the lowest they’ve been in decades.  People simply don’t have money.  Macy’s just announced it is cutting 2500 jobs and closing 5 stores to help its profitability – in other words, sales are really down.  Here in Md., an ice cream plant had 1600 people lined up to apply for a couple of dozen job openings.  The six largest banks reduced their workforce by 29,000 people in the first nine months of 2013.  In every sector, there are at least 3 applicants for each job.

“[…] According to the official wage statistics for 2012 http://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/netcomp.cgi?year=2012 , forty percent of the US work force earned less than $20,000, fifty-three percent earned less than $30,000, and seventy-three percent earned less than $50,000. The median wage or salary was $27,519. The amounts are in current dollars and they are compensation amounts subject to state and federal income taxes and to Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. In other words, the take home pay is less.[…]”

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/01/03/case-missing-recovery-paul-craig-roberts/

“[…] According to a survey by the Economic Policy Institute, 5.99 million ‘missing workers’ have dropped out of the labor force over the past five years for economic, not demographic, reasons. If these missing workers were counted as unemployed, the unemployment rate would be 10.2 percent.  The labor force participation rate fell to 62.8 percent in December from 63.0 percent the month before, hitting the lowest level since 1978. Over the past year, the labor force participation rate has dropped by 0.8 percentage points…

“In another sign of economic weakness, the average private-sector work week fell by a tenth of an hour, to 34.4 hours. […]”

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/01/11/jobs-j11.html

“Combined profit at the six largest U.S. banks jumped last year to the highest level since 2006, even as the firms allocated more than $18 billion to deal with claims they broke laws or cheated investors.  A stock-market rally, cost cuts and a decline in bad loans boosted the group’s net income 21 percent to $74.1 billion, according to analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That’s second only to 2006, when the firms reaped $84.6 billion at the peak of the U.S. housing bubble. The record would have been topped were it not for litigation and other legal expenses. […]”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-09/big-six-u-s-banks-2013-profit-thwarted-by-legal-costs.html

“Almost a third of the country’s half-million bank tellers rely on some form of public assistance to get by, according to a report due out Wednesday.

“Researchers say taxpayers are doling out nearly $900 million a year to supplement the wages of bank tellers, which amounts to a public subsidy for multibillion-dollar banks.[…]”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/low-bank-wages-costing-the-public-millions-report-says/2013/12/03/21a932ee-5bb0-11e3-bf7e-f567ee61ae21_story.html

How much money does the Pentagon spend in one month, thanks to the lavish budget Congress allocates to the “war effort”?  Somewhere north of seventy billion?  But what’s the real number we spend on war?  We don’t know because the Pentagon has never been audited, and other military spending is hidden elsewhere, e.g., DHS, State Dept., etc., or carried out by agencies with no “official” budget at all, e.g., CIA.  The total military/mercenary/materiel expenditures probably dwarf that “official” $70 bb/month number.  How much money is printed up by the Fed and handed to the big banks each month?  Why, I think it is around $80 bb.  Wait, but is that the real number?  No, that’s only the official “on balance sheet” quantitative easing number, and, like the Pentagon, the Fed has never been audited.  The routine (off balance sheet) Fed loan facilities to these banks are estimated to be in the tens of trillions of dollars currently, most definitely dwarfing the “official” $80 bb per month.  That’s some serious jack.  You get the idea.

See also:

http://qz.com/165820/more-than-half-of-the-us-jobs-added-in-december-were-temporary/

http://www.foxbusiness.com/economy-policy/2014/01/09/just-74000-new-jobs-created-in-december/

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/01/caused-crash-labor-participation-rate.html

Obama has announced five areas around the country to be included in his “Promise Zones”.  These are going to be cradle to grave experiments in running every aspect of the lives of the people in the Zones, with corporate investment being the main supplier of funding.  I’m just going to give you Michael Hudson on these Zones, as he seems to have the best understanding of what is going on here.

Deregulation, Privatization, and Cheap Labor

Obama’s Corporate Plantations

by MIKE WHITNEY

The man who promised to restore hope and bring change to America, has announced a plan to open five corporate plantations in the United States. On Thursday, President Barack Obama, whose policies have resulted in the greatest number of public sector job losses in US History (Public sector jobs have declined by 718,000 jobs since Obama took office.) announced the opening of five “Promise Zones” located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. According to an article in USA Today:

“Under the proposed Promise Zones, the federal government plans to partner with local governments and businesses to provide tax incentives and grants to help combat poverty.” (“Obama to name 5 ‘Promise Zones’ for assistance“, USA Today)

‘Combatting poverty’ has nothing to do with it. Obama plans to shower the nation’s biggest corporations–which recorded record profits in the last year and are presently sitting on more than $1.3 trillion in cash–with more lavish subsidies and tax breaks while providing an endless source of cheap slave labor to boost future earnings. The president believes that the wealth generated in these profit zones, er, promise zones will trickle down to the area’s residents, even though–as the Christian Science Monitor notes–”it can be hard to tell whether a program’s benefits reach the poorest people, rather than flowing largely into the hands of the business owners who get the tax credits.”

Here’s more from USA Today:

“Obama said his administration plans “to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. We’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, and education, and housing.” (USA Today)

Translation: The Obama administration is committed to assisting the corporate oligarchy whenever possible even if it means further eviscerating the rapidly-diminishing US middle class and reducing millions of hard-working Americans to grinding third world poverty. Deregulation will allow corporations to privatize policing, education and any other lucrative public resource or service. According to the New York Times: “White House officials said the Promise Zones initiative would not provide new money, rather it would be aimed at providing the local governments and agencies “aid in cutting through red tape to get access to existing resources.”

No new money??

How do you like that? So, the man that helped push through the multi-trillion dollar Wall Street bailouts is not going to give one red cent to the nation’s poorest and most needy people. Instead, he is going to do whatever he can to eliminate the rules that keep voracious corporations from feeding at the public trough.

Conservative Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — “praised the proposed Promise Zone for Eastern Kentucky saying:

“I wrote a letter last year supporting this designation because this region has suffered enormous economic hardship over the last several years,” McConnell said in a statement.”

Mitch McConnell likes Obama’s plan. That says it all, doesn’t it?

Plantations were a familiar feature of the antebellum South, but were abandoned following the Civil War. Now a new generation of corporate kleptocrats want to revive the tradition. They think that weakening consumer demand and persistent stagnation can only be overcome by skirting vital labor protections and shifting more of the cost of production onto workers. Obama’s promise zones provide a way for big business to slip the chains of “onerous” regulations and restore, what many CEO’s believe to be, the Natural Order, that is, a Darwinian, dog-eat-dog world where only the strongest and most cunning survive. This is a world in which Obama has done quite well, although he’s had to distance himself from his political base and throw friends under the bus (Jeremiah Wright) in his relentless climb to the top. Even so, selling out has never been an issue for Obama.

Special economic zones are not a new idea, in fact, they’ve been tried in the UK, Australia and other places where the global bank cartel exerts its grip. In Tokyo, last month, right-wing PM, Shinzo Abe announced the launching of his own “Special Economic Zones”. Here’s a short summary of Abe’s plan from an article in the Japan Times:

“Special zones aimed at spurring corporate investment through deregulation and tax incentives are to be created in Tokyo as well as Osaka and central Aichi Prefecture….Other deregulation steps to debut in such zones will let private firms operate public schools, let experts without teaching licenses teach classes, expand the scope of treatment that can be administered by non-Japanese doctors and nurses, facilitate the use of foreign drugs and increase the number of hospital beds.” (Japan Times)

Sound familiar? Deregulation, privatization, and cheap labor; the toxic coctail that has vaporized the US middle class and wiped out a good portion of the developing world.

Obama calls these promise zones. We think corporate plantations is a more fitting moniker.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/10/obamas-corporate-plantations/  

See also:  http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/01/09/obam-j09.html

Other stories of interest on different topics:

Having now turned Iran into a starving state, thanks to sanctions, the big reveal is that what we really are negotiating for is US and European oil companies’ access to the Iranian sweet, light crude. Who’d a thunk?

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/01/09/iran-j09.html

Another continuing resolution, stop-gap measure and threat of government shut-down.  Oh, yeah, we kinda forgot the last spending bill was temporary, didn’t we?

“WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The House of Representatives next week will pass a stop-gap funding measure to prevent a government shutdown for three days as negotiators try to finalize a $1 trillion spending bill, Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on Friday.[…]”

http://news.yahoo.com/congress-pass-stopgap-funding-bill-next-week-top-020538787–sector.html

So this guy being nominated by Obama to be vice chair of the US Federal Reserve, which handles monetary policy in the US and which is currently handing $80 bb/month to the big banks, holds dual US/Israeli citizenship, currently works at Citigroup, was a governor of Israel’s central bank from ’05 until last year, and also worked for the IMF and World Bank. There is no word on whether he, like Jack Lew, has been offered a Citigroup bonus for taking a government position.  Or if he is getting a bonus from the Israeli government for obtaining a high position in the US monetary system.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/01/10/obama-nominates-financier-stanley-fischer-as-federal-reserve-vice-chair/

“Biotech titan Monsanto saw its shares surge by more than 2 percent on Wednesday morning after announcing better-than-expected first quarter earnings earlier that day.[…]”   Thanks in large part to surging sales of Round-up, which is sprayed in extraordinary amounts by farmers using GMO seeds.

http://rt.com/usa/monsanto-first-quarter-earnings-322/

Wasn’t the CIA-led coup against Zelaya the first open Obama interference in someone else’s gov’t?  Why, yes, I believe it was, back in ’09.  How gauche of me to remember that.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/01/07/dirty-war-over-clean-fuel-farmers-in-honduras-terrorized-by-u-s-backed-security-forces/

“Google CEO Larry Page has rapidly positioned Google to become an indispensable U.S. military contractor.”

http://dailycaller.com/2014/01/09/googles-robots-and-creeping-militarization/#ixzz2qImYunhk

UPDATE, Wed., 15 Jan.:  In a move that should surprise nobody, the Senate just scuttled the extension of unemployment benefits.  They got mired down in their “procedural votes” and “partisan wrangling” and in general just overwhelmed themselves with the tough work of being assholes.  And now they are off for another long week-end.

” […] For now, senators will likely step back, move on to working on a larger omnibus spending bill that needs to be passed to keep the government running. […]”

That’s their opportunity to further cut food stamps, energy assistance, WIC, etc., so the unemployed won’t have those programs to turn to either.  But they will slip in more money to the Pentagon, because a bill isn’t really a bill unless it has military spending increases in it.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/extension-of-unemployment-benefits-dead-in-senate-for-now/

 
 

The Greecing of America.

Or, Greece as a role model.

My new (elected 2012) Representative to the House is one John Delaney.  He ran as a Democrat. (Snort.)  Sometimes he was referred to as a “progressive Democrat”, whatever the hell that means, by the media during the election.  To be fair, he won not because this part of Md. suddenly turned into raging liberals (before they gerry-mandered our district, I was in the most Republican district in the state), but because it seems everyone had had enough of old Roscoe Bartlett, who had been in office for ten terms and who had accrued more than a few embarrassing scandals on his tote sheet.  The Republicans gerry-mandered Bartlett out.  Delaney, my new guy, is the 6th wealthiest member of Congress – both chambers.  His net worth is between 47 and 231 million dollars.

[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Delaney_(Maryland_politician)]

Well, clearly the man is bona fide  – in the way we Americans measure such things.

I’m getting to know him through his e-mailed responses to me when I sign some petition that goes to his office.  For instance, I suggested to Delaney that I support diplomatic solutions to the Iran issue and would kinda like him to, as well.  Just letting him know what one of his constituents thinks.  Using diplomacy – as opposed to bombs and sanctions, which are generally not understood to be “diplomacy” as the word is commonly defined – with a foreign country that has not invaded or threatened another country in several hundred years is not a strange, freaky, or outlandish viewpoint, in my opinion.  And we surely don’t need to get mired down in another war of choice in the Middle East.

This crap is the answer I got from his office:

Dear [friend];

Thank you for contacting me about U.S. policy towards Iran. I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter.

Iran developing nuclear weapons is one of the most significant foreign policy threats facing our country. A nuclear Iran has the potential to destabilize the Middle East and threatens our allies in the region. To prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, we must continue to impose tough economic sanctions and closely monitor the Central Bank of Iran, so we can prevent the Iranian government from funneling money to its weapons program. It is essential that the U.S. be willing to leave all options on the table.

I am committed to working with my colleagues in both the House and Senate to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities.

I’m only surprised that the whole thing wasn’t written in all capital letters with numerous exclamation points tossed around and about; just to emphasize the Enormous Risks! that our Homeland! faces from the Rogue Nation! that is Iran! which threatens our Purity!, our very Democracy! and our Womenfolk! (not to mention Israel!) on a freaking daily basis!  Hey, there, Mr. Delaney, is anyone monitoring our banks, by the way?  You know, just to make sure we aren’t funneling money into weapons programs and illegal wars or disrupting the financial well-being of the entire globe?  Oh.  Never mind.

Then one day I got an unanticipated e-mail from Delaney.

21 Nov, 2013:

Dear Friend,

I write to you today to update you on my efforts to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure through the Partnership to Build America Act, H.R. 2084. This major bipartisan legislation will finance $750 billion in needed repairs to our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, at no cost to the taxpayer. This week, H.R. 2084 gained its 50th cosponsor in the House of Representatives, bringing us one step closer to starting critical work that will update our nation’s infrastructure and keep our economy competitive.

As you know, infrastructure plays a critical role in our country, connecting millions of people with their jobs, families and more. My bill would help to upgrade our country’s aging infrastructure by creating a $50 billion American Infrastructure Fund (AIF), leveraged to $750 billion, through the sale of bonds offering a one percent interest rate. Bonds sold to capitalize the AIF would not be guaranteed by the government, ensuring that the fund does not put taxpayers at risk.

Since its introduction, H.R. 2084 has garnered substantial backing from Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. This week, supporters of infrastructure development won a major victory when my bill received its 50th cosponsor in the House of Representatives, with 25 Republican and 25 Democratic backers. While this progress is encouraging, our focus has now shifted to the introduction of a Senate companion bill that will continue to build on the momentum we have seen in this Congress.

You sent me to Washington to break the partisan gridlock and rebuild our economy, and that spirit has motivated this legislation. As the 113th Congress moves forward, I will continue to support smart, bipartisan efforts to put our economy back on track.

Gosh, bipartisan support and smart and all.  Except that it sounds a bit like the private/public bond deals with the big banks that have been getting so many states and counties in trouble all around the US.  Aren’t some of these states/counties having to renege on their public workers’ pension funds and the like in order to pay back these bond deals when they head south?  And don’t some of these private/public deals result in higher user costs to the public?  (Think of the parking meter deal in Chicago, for example.)  Looking into it further, I saw that it was exactly this sort of thing, with some extra juicy goodness thrown in to entice the private entities.  I’ll get to that in a minute.

This whole idea of the American Infrastructure Fund has multiple layers of corporate and financial sector incentives that don’t square readily with the public interest.  It will create projects, or replace or repair existing projects, with potentially privatized or partially privatized projects requiring user fees to service the debt, with the projects themselves serving as collateral.  The local states or counties act as the governmental sponsors (the “public” part of this deal) rather than the federal government for any such projects; they are on the hook as the ultimate borrower/guarantor.  Now how Delaney sees this as “ensuring that the fund does not put taxpayers at risk” – which he mentions twice so as to really, really reassure us that we aren’t just the patsies in this whole fucked-up carnival game – when most of us have to pay taxes to our states and so would see our local taxes go up should the deals not work out so well, might have an interesting answer should one bother to ask it of him.  No-one has yet.

Here is how his idea works.  A new public/private “bank” type entity, the American Investment Fund (AIF), is set up with $50 billion of private capital and given 15:1 federal fractional reserve (leverage) authority (allowing up to $750 billion in project fundings) for the purpose of making loans to counties or states for county- or state-sponsored infrastructure projects.  The jurisdictions may elect to include private partners in those projects, but AIF is restricted from making a loan on any project lacking state or county sponsorship.

Corporations are incented to provide the initial $50 billion in a number of ways: 1) a nominal interest rate of 1% paid on their investment into the fund (their investment is actually a 50-year loan to the fund, which is often referred to or stated in other terms such as “buying a bond” in the fund);   2) a likely share in the profits and ownership of AIF, which, to be fair, may be minimal because: i) the charter is for AIF to make low interest rate loans; ii) AIF is a public/private entity, though I haven’t seen that expanded on so I’m not sure how (or how much) public ownership there will be in AIF  – and its Board, significantly, is set up to be private sector majority; iii) AIF may even be structured as a non-profit though I’m not sure about that; but, 3) by far the most important incentive and corporate driver is that there is to be a multiplier, set by the auction of the AIF bonds themselves, on the number of dollars that the corporations are allowed to repatriate, tax-free, back into the US, for each dollar they invest in AIF.

Delaney estimates the multiplier will auction out at around $4 of tax-free repatriation for each $1 invested in AIF, which is plenty rich enough already. His math is based on two layers of suspect assumptions, however, and no allowance at all is made for corporate malfeasance (collusion) to pervert the auction process (as is the normal standard in oil and gas lease auctions, etc.), so God only knows how high the tax-free repatriation multiplier will actually be.

Obviously, whatever the final numbers are, the federal government is giving up a lot of potential tax revenue to create this fund, and the actual effective return to the corporate investors will, in any scenario, be quite, shall we say, substantial.

To get comfortable with any of this, you have to buy off on the notion that, absent such vehicles as AIF, they (the corporations) were never going to repatriate those dollars at all. And once you believe that, you must decide that neither the US, the states, nor the counties have the capacity to build or maintain infrastructure without private assistance and/or that private ownership of public use assets is actually desirable.

This bill appears to me to be a way to accomplish both corporate tax avoidance and privatization while conducting infrastructure improvements that would be accomplished more readily and cheaply by the governmental structures already in place. For example, if the US government were to simply fund AIF (or the projects themselves) directly, preferably by: a) generating the money by actually taxing the repatriation of corporate profits; b) generating the money by actually taxing corporations at all, as most of the big corporations currently pay an actual tax rate of zero or less on corporate profits; c) generate the money by repealing the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and then printing the money; d) taking the money from the Pentagon or the CIA or Homeland Security or NSA; or e) generating the money by the usual dumb-shit method of selling treasuries, we would, even in the worst case analysis, be funding those projects at normal Treasury rates, with no user fees required (unless local jurisdictions wanted to create new revenue sources, which we’d hope not because all such consumption taxes are super regressive), and without the odious, sovereignty-destroying, potential privatization of public-use infrastructure assets.  And why would these civic-minded entities be at all inclined to take on projects that serve the public benefit (think libraries, schools, bridges) rather than tollroads, bioweapons labs, new spy agency headquarters, and oil pipelines?

Since Goldman, Sachs, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan are the experts which will get to run the whole shebang, and along with Halliburton, Bechtel, and Lockheed, are the ones with global profits to repatriate at the attractive tax rate of zero, fully tax-free, and they will collectively get all the no-bid infrastructure construction jobs, and they may each or all elect to participate in the initial public/private ownership of those assets, and will receive the interest paid by the jurisdictions on the AIF loans, and will, after jurisdictional default, then own, via their ownership of AIF, all of those assets plus the deficiency still owed by the jurisdiction, what’s not to like?

By my count, that’s a win-win-win-win-win-win-win!  Shit, Delaney is underselling this booger.

Following hard on the heels of this email from him, I saw that Delaney had an opinion piece published in the Washington Post.

21 Nov, 2013

John Delaney, a Democrat, represents Maryland’s 6th District in the U.S. House.

Washington has gotten so used to political theater that many here have lost the ability to spot real chances to do the right thing. The budget conference is an opportunity for Congress to craft a bipartisan compromise that serves the common good. Despite low expectations, the conference should be taken seriously.

The facts before the conferees are clear: Millions of Americans are out of work, growth remains stagnant, our long-term fiscal trajectory is unsustainable and the American people have said, loudly, that Washington is broken. Policy and political needs are aligned: Washington and the country desperately need a bipartisan, pro-growth compromise.

The conferees ought to consider a bipartisan solution that would create jobs in the short term, improve long-term economic growth and lower barriers for private-sector investment. The Partnership to Build America Act (H.R. 2084) is such a solution. The bill has 25 Republican and 25 Democratic co-sponsors, which may make it the most significant piece of unfinished bipartisan economic-oriented legislation in the House.[…]

My bill would create an American Infrastructure Fund (AIF), a large-scale financing capability that could act like a bond insurer or bank for state and local governments to build transportation, energy, water, communication and educational infrastructure. The fund would be capitalized with $50 billion that could be leveraged 15 to 1 to create a $750 billion infrastructure financing capability. Over 50 years, the AIF could finance $2 trillion worth of infrastructure and create more than 3 million jobs. [Teri’s note: Okay, the whole thing is neoliberal privatization, but seriously?  3 million jobs over 50 years? That’s your hard estimate?  We’ve already lost more jobs than that in just the past 5 years that all need to be replaced, not to mention the number of people who will need jobs over the next 50 freaking years.]

The $50 billion of capital would be funded not by government but by private companies that purchase 50-year bonds at 1 percent interest that are not government-guaranteed. No taxpayer money would support the American Infrastructure Fund. As an incentive to purchase these below-market bonds, buyers would be allowed to repatriate a certain amount of overseas earnings tax-free. The specific ratio would be established by auction, which would encourage interested companies to bid against one another, guaranteeing a fair deal for the government. The winners of the auction would be the companies that bid the lowest exchange ratio. I expect the winning ratio to be in the neighborhood of 4 to 1, based on what companies would be willing to pay as an effective tax. This means that if Company X purchases $1 billion in infrastructure bonds, it would be able to bring back $4 billion in overseas earnings tax-free. If the bonds are worth 20 cents on the dollar to the company, then the cost to Company X is the equivalent of a 13 percent tax.

This would help private and public sectors. Almost $2 trillion of corporate cash is sitting overseas. [Teri’s note: given that this is probably an underestimate of the cash sitting overseas, why don’t you slackers in Congress just demand these companies pay their fucking taxes instead of allowing such outrageous tax-avoidance scams in the first place?] Many large companies would like to bring home some of this money and reinvest it. By tying that repatriation to infrastructure, we guarantee that jobs would be created. [Teri’s note: I have to seriously question the premise that “many large companies” would “like to bring the money home”.  If they wanted to, they would have already.  It is patently obvious by this late date that they have abandoned the US.] […]

If U.S. ports can’t meet the demands of global commerce, jobs will leave our shores. If U.S. schools fall apart, American students will fall further behind. And if U.S. roads remain in disrepair, commutes will grow longer. [Teri’s note: Done, done and done.]  Infrastructure is a good investment; for every $1 spent on infrastructure, the economy receives $1.92 in benefit.

Pro-growth economic policy helps address our national debt in a politically feasible manner. Under current trajectories, we will face extremely tough choices after 2020, when interest on the debt and unreformed entitlement programs will threaten to crowd out our ability to pay for anything else. [Teri’s note: I particularly like the jab at Social Security and Medicare here.  Spoken like a true New Neolib Democrat.]  Economic growth, coupled with additional reforms, would lead to fiscal stability and ensure that the next generation has a chance to live the American dream. […]

Both parties have long called for a budget conference. Now that we have one, we should seize the opportunity to strengthen the economy. Congress has staged enough tragedies this year. Let’s come together and give the American people an ending worthy of our audience. [Teri’s note: I am not certain to which he refers here – the end of the Congressional year or the end of America.] 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/john-delaney-driving-the-economy-forward-with-infrastructure-investment/2013/11/21/15ea1278-5211-11e3-a7f0-b790929232e1_story.html

This opinion piece can be challenged on nearly every front, including the desirability of “lower[ing] barriers for private-sector investment” when that really means “lowering barriers for private sector ownership of public assets”, or the desirability of allowing corporations to invest in and own actual hard assets in lieu of them paying taxes to the government so the government (i.e., the people) can invest in and own the actual hard assets.

Even if we were to accept as a given that the total combined capital equipment and materials costs, e.g., cement, steel, technology, project management, etc., for the infrastructure projects are held to a ridiculous estimate of zero dollars ($0.00), which seems to be what Delaney is suggesting, even though, of course, infrastructure projects are by their nature quite capital intensive, his ambitiously calculated $2 trillion in projects over 50 years can produce 3 million jobs only by paying an un-liveable $11,000 per employee.  So either it creates 3 million permanent – but way below poverty-level jobs – or it creates a much smaller number of part-time or temporary jobs.

For example, someone who worked only once during the entire 50 years, for only a total of 8 months during calendar year 2027 when he was employed to help build the Keystone Pipeline Annex Cul de Sac Coffee Klatch & Homeland Dronewar Heliport (the KPACdSCKHDH) in Bismarck, North Dakota, or one of the KPACdSCKHDH’s built in Oklahoma, Texas, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Louisiana, or Montana (because all those KPACdSCKHDH projects will definitely qualify as necessary infrastructure), will be counted among the 3 million jobs created, even though it might appear to the casual observer that he, more accurately, has been basically wholly unemployed.  (Hope he’s careful with the money he made.)  Do you think perhaps the corporate investors will hire him to serve coffee or maintain the heliport?  Oh, wait.  Robots do those tasks now.  The robots we got for free with all the other free capital materials and equipment we used while putting Delaney’s whole entire budget toward creating those 3 million jobs.

I was interested, after doing my research for this article, to see that the noted economist, Dr. Michael Hudson, had already addressed this private/public infrastructure bank concept way back in July; apparently Obama brought up the idea in a speech he gave at that time.   And I missed it – shoot dang.  I guess Obama gave this particular assignment to Delaney.  (“Hey, you!  New guy!   You been here long enough to screw over any Americans yet?  No?  Okay then, I’m sending my friends Jamie and Lloyd over to your office at lunch to help you write some ‘legislation’, if you get my drift.”)

Dr. Hudson sees it the same way I do, but he is a lot smarter than I am, so I’ll post some excerpts of his article to close with:

25 July, 2013

President Obama chose Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois (originally founded by anti-slavery activists in the 1830s) to float the economic program he has been working out with Wall Street investment bankers. His aim is to wrap this program in a democratic rhetoric. The speech’s actual content boils down to: “I’m doing fine and housing prices are recovering. The way to heal the economy faster is to make a Public-Private Partnership (with Wall Street) to finance new infrastructure investment. The government will guarantee a return – and if there’s any loss, we (you taxpayers) will bear it.” His political genius was not to sugar-coat the shady parts of his proposals. […]

The question is, how will infrastructure be financed. The danger that is looming is a giveaway to high finance, such as we have seen in Chicago, where Goldman Sachs and other hedge funds bought the right to install tollbooths on Chicago’s sidewalks with parking meters to squeeze out revenue at the cost of raising the price of driving and transportation in the city.

Most great fortunes in history have been carved out of the public domain. That was the case with America’s colonial land grants, and the railroad land grants after the Civil War. The great question facing Europe as well as America today is whether infrastructure will be provided at a low price – which can best be achieved by public investment – or at a high price as rent-extracting owners turn roads into toll roads, bridges into toll bridges, and so on throughout the economy. This is the looming Wall Street plan, using today’s downturn as an opportunity to cloak a vast new monopoly grab as a “solution” to the economic problem rather than looming as a new threat to price American labor and industry out of global markets.

The same thing is happening in Greece and other Eurozone countries obliged to pay bondholders by selling off infrastructure. In today’s world, privatization means financialization – funding the new construction with debt-financing, building interest and dividend charges into the price of services – and making this revenue tax-free as a result of the tax deductibility of interest. […]

This is essentially what the President proposes to do with mortgages that are still underwater. “I’ve asked Congress to pass a good, bipartisan idea – one that was championed by Mitt Romney’s economic advisor – to give every homeowner the chance to refinance their mortgage and save thousands of dollars a year.”  Under this plan the government will absorb the loss – the writedown – that otherwise would be borne by the banks and other mortgage holders. Taxpayers will foot the bill to pay Wall Street. This is the basic model for Obama’s infrastructure plan to be unveiled in the next few weeks. […]

The basic script is a fairy tale that balancing the budget in the face of the $13 trillion in Wall Street bailouts requires cutting back spending elsewhere in the economy. The Federal Reserve and Treasury were able to create this money for the banks, but pretend to be unable to do the same for the projected $1 trillion in Social Security deficits that may or may not materialize a generation from now. New wars in Syria and elsewhere can be funded by money creation, but not social spending programs – to say nothing of financing public infrastructure costs with public money creation rather than by recourse to Wall Street. This is the great policy asymmetry of the Obama Administration’s plans to use the economic crisis as an opportunity to cut and ultimately privatize Social Security as the capstone of a financialized Public-Private Partnership.

Here’s the problem that President Obama did not address yesterday: Today’s debt deflation and economic shrinkage are pushing federal, state and local budgets into deficit. This is forcing public spending to be cut back proportionally. That cutting will push state, local and federal budgets even further into deficit. This is why we are hearing calls to start selling off public infrastructure – to buyers who will become new customers for Wall Street investment banks.

It is the same phenomenon we are seeing in Europe. The newest economic prize is the right to buy rent-extraction rights to turn public roads into toll roads and similar rentier tollbooth installations. All this increases the cost of living and doing business, making the economy high-cost even as it is being impoverished.

That is not a solution. It bears out the classic principle that the solution to every problem tends to create new, even larger problems. Often these are unforeseen. But today’s problems in the making are all too foreseeable. What is needed is to keep translating the President’s speeches into their subtext.

http://michael-hudson.com/2013/07/obamas-master-class-in-demagogy-101/

Further reading:

Matt Taibbi on bond-rigging scams:

“[…]  The banks [GE, JP Morgan Chase, BoA, UBS, etc.] achieved this gigantic rip-off by secretly colluding to rig the public bids on municipal bonds, a business worth $3.7 trillion. […] the banks systematically stole […] from virtually every state, district and territory in the United States.[…]”

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-scam-wall-street-learned-from-the-mafia-20120620#ixzz2n5TP3Dfk 

Taibbi’s most excellent 2010 article on the bond deals in Jefferson Co., Ala., “Looting Main Street: How the nation’s biggest banks are ripping off American cities with the same predatory deals that brought down Greece”:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/looting-main-street-20100331

Taibbi, 2011, in a follow-up on Jefferson County, Ala:

“The good times just keep coming for Jefferson County, Alabama […] the city was roped into a series of deadly swap deals by a number of banks, most notably JP Morgan Chase, that left the county billions of dollars in debt. […]”

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/jefferson-county-alabama-screwed-by-wall-street-still-paying-20110407#ixzz2n5VKhbE5

Les Leopold on Greece:

http://www.alternet.org/story/153795/vampire_hedge_funds_are_sucking_greece_dry?page=0%2C2&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

Dr. Michael Hudson on Greece; this is one of the best articles on the general topic of the global neoliberal cramdown ever written.  Dr. Hudson has presented a clear and compelling synopsis, readily decipherable, and familiar enough as a description of what is happening right now in the United States.  “Replacing Economic Democracy with Financial Oligarchy”:

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/06/michael-hudson-replacing-economic-democracy-with-financial-oligarchy.html

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2013 in Congress, corporatocracy, economy, Wall St and banks

 

Wikileaks releases a chapter of the TPP trade agreement.

Today, Wikileaks released the Intellectual Property chapter of the secret TPP [TransPacific Partnership] trade agreement.  I am going to give excerpts from two articles on this subject, and although they may be lengthy, I think they are important reading.  I do not believe that there is any such thing as being “too alarmist” over the TPP and its sister trade agreement in the Atlantic areas, the TTIP.

Breaking: Pivotal Trans-Pacific Partnership Section Revealed

Wednesday, 13 November 2013 09:39

By Staff, PopularResistance.org| Press Release

The TPP has been shrouded in secrecy from the beginning because the Obama administration knows that the more people know about it, the more they will oppose the agreement. The release of the full Intellectual Property chapter today by Wiikileaks confims what had been suspected, the Obama administration has been an advocate for transnational corporate interests in the negotiations even though they run counter to the needs and desires of the public.

This is not surprising since we already knew that 600 corporate advisers were working with the US Trade Representative to draft the TPP.  This means that for nearly four years some of the top corporate lawyers have been inserting phrases, paragraphs and whole sections so the agreement suits the needs of corporate power, while undermining the interests of people and the planet.

Now from these documents we see that the US is isolated in its aggressive advocacy for transnational interests and that there are scores of areas still unresolved between the US and Pacific nations. The conclusion: the TPP cannot be saved.  It has been destroyed by secret corporate advocacy.  It needs to be rejected.  Trade needs to be negotiated with a new approach — transparency, participation of civil society throughout the process, full congressional review and participation, and a framework that starts with fair trade that puts people and the planet before profits.

Congress needs to reject Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority as these documents show the Obama administration has been misleading the people and the Congress while trying to bully other nations.  This flawed agreement and the secrecy essential to its becoming law need to be rejected.

From Wikileaks:

Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Today, 13 November 2013, WikiLeaks released the secret negotiated draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Intellectual Property Rights Chapter. The TPP is the largest-ever economic treaty, encompassing nations representing more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. The WikiLeaks release of the text comes ahead of the decisive TPP Chief Negotiators summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19-24 November 2013. The chapter published by WikiLeaks is perhaps the most controversial chapter of the TPP due to its wide-ranging effects on medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents. Significantly, the released text includes the negotiation positions and disagreements between all 12 prospective member states.

The TPP is the forerunner to the equally secret US-EU pact TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), for which President Obama initiated US-EU negotiations in January 2013. Together, the TPP and TTIP will cover more than 60 per cent of global GDP.

From Public Citizen:

Leaked Documents Reveal Obama Administration Push for Internet Freedom Limits, Terms That Raise Drug Prices in Closed-Door Trade Talks

U.S. Demands in Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Text, Published Today by WikiLeaks, Contradict Obama Policy and Public Opinion at Home and Abroad

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secret documents published today by WikiLeaks and analyzed by Public Citizen reveal that the Obama administration is demanding terms that would limit Internet freedom and access to lifesaving medicines throughout the Asia-Pacific region and bind Americans to the same bad rules, belying the administration’s stated commitments to reduce health care costs and advance free expression online, Public Citizen said today.

WikiLeaks published the complete draft of the Intellectual Property chapter for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed international commercial pact between the United States and 11 Asian and Latin American countries.

http://truth-out.org/news/item/20006-breaking-pivotal-corporate-dominated-trans-parcific-partnership-section-revealed

 

The Wikileaks press release is here:  https://wikileaks.org/tpp/pressrelease.html

Within this press release, Wikileaks gives a link from which you can download the complete text of the Intellectual Property chapter of the TPP as a pdf.

The NY Times editorial board has endorsed the TPP; Maira Sutton of the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes that the Times endorsement “[…] raises two distressing possibilities: either in an act of extraordinary subservience, the Times has endorsed an agreement that neither the public nor its editors have the ability to read. Or, in an act of extraordinary cowardice, it has obtained a copy of the secret text and hasn’t yet fulfilled its duty to the public interest to publish it. […]”

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/11/how-can-nytimes-endorse-agreement-public-cant-read

The excerpt below is from Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism.   Yves writes and summarizes the subject so well that I couldn’t stand to cut much.  She does her usual great job here:

[…]  Word has apparently gotten out even to Congressmen who can normally be lulled to sleep with the invocation of the magic phrase “free trade” that the pending Trans Pacific Partnership is toxic. This proposed deal among 13 Pacific Rim countries (essentially, an “everybody but China” pact), is only peripherally about trade, since trade is already substantially liberalized. Its main aim is to strengthen the rights of intellectual property holders and investors, undermining US sovereignity, allowing drug companies to raise drug prices, interfering with basic operation of the Internet, and gutting labor, banking, and environmental regulations. […]

“Fast track” authority limits Congress’s role in trade negotiations. The Administration presents a finished deal, and individual members have only an up or down vote. At that point, because the pending agreements have been misleadingly presented as “pro trade,” dissenters will be depicted as anti-growth Luddites. […]

Let’s give more detail on how heinous this deal and its ugly sister, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership [TTIP], aka the Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, are. They would extend the authority of secret arbitration panels to hear cases against governments and issue awards. Mind you, the premise of these panels is that some of the signatory nations have banana republic legal systems that might authorize the expropriation of assets, like factories, so foreign investors need recourse to safe venues to obtain compensation. This is a ludicrous proposition to most of the signatories, not only to signatories of the Atlantic agreement (all advanced economies with mature legal systems) as well as potential signatories like Singapore, Japan, Canada, and Australia (and while America’s judicial system leaves a lot to be desired, it can hardly be accused of being unfriendly to commercial interests).

A post in Triple Crisis by Martin Khor gives a good overview:

In the public debate surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), an issue that seems to stand out is the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system. It would enable foreign investors of TPPA [e.g., the TPP] countries to directly sue the host government in an international tribunal.

In most US free trade agreements (FTAs) with investor-state dispute provisions, the tribunal most mentioned is the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), an arbitration court hosted by the World Bank in Washington.

ISDS would be a powerful system for enforcing the rules of the TPPA, which is currently being negotiated by the US and 11 other Pacific Rim countries. Any foreign investor from TPPA countries can take up a case claiming that the government has not met its relevant TPPA obligations.

If the claim succeeds, the tribunal could award the investor financial compensation for the claimed losses. If the payment is not made, the award can potentially be enforced through the seizure of assets of the government that has been sued, or through tariffs raised on the country’s exports.

ISDS is related to relevant parts of the TPPA’s investment chapter. One of the provisions is a broad definition of “investment” which includes credit, contracts, intellectual property rights (IPRs), and expectations of future gains and profits. Investors can make claims on losses to these assets.

Under the “national treatment” provision, a foreign investor can claim to be discriminated against if the local is given preference or other advantage.

Under the clause on fair and equitable treatment, which is contained in many existing trade and investment treaties, investors have sued on the ground of non-renewal or change in the terms of a licence or contract and changes in policies or regulations that the investor claims will reduce its future profits.

Finally, investors can sue on the ground of “indirect expropriation”. Tribunals have ruled in favour of investors that claimed losses due to government policies or regulations, such as tighter health and environmental regulations.

Even though no one has seen the exact language of the text, since it is being kept under wraps, both deals are believed to strengthen and extend investor rights, which means give them easier access to the courts. Consider this description from a July presentation by Public Citizen:

What is different with TAFTA [pending Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement] (and the TPP) is the extent of “behind the border” agenda:

• Typical boilerplate: “Each Member shall ensure the conformity of its laws, regulations and administrative procedures with its obligations as provided in the annexed Agreements.” …

• These rules are enforced by binding dispute resolution via foreign tribunals with ruling enforced by trade indefinite sanctions; No due process; No outside appeal. Countries must gut laws ruled against. Trade sanctions imposed…U.S. taxpayers must compensate foreign corporations.

• Permanence – no changes w/o consensus of all signatory countries. So, no room for progress, responses to emerging problems

• Starkly different from past of international trade between countries. This is diplomatic legislating of behind the border policies – but with trade negotiators not legislators or those who will live with results making the decisions.

3 private sector attorneys, unaccountable to any electorate, many of whom rotate between being “judges” & bringing cases for corps. against govts…Creates inherent conflicts of interest….

• Tribunals operate behind closed doors – lack basic due process

• Absolute tribunal discretion to set damages, compound interest, allocate costs

No limit to amount of money tribunals can order govts to pay corps/investors

• Compound interest starting date if violation new norm ( compound interest ordered by tribunal doubles Occidental v. Ecuador $1.7B award to $3B plus

• Rulings not bound by precedent. No outside appeal. Annulment for limited errors.

And that’s alarming in light of some of the cases already brought before these panels in existing trade agreements like NAFTA. For instance:

Eli Lilly is suing the Canadian government for not having the same extremely pro-drug-company patent rules. It is seeking $500 million in damages for two drugs that Canada approve to be sold as generics. If Eli Lilly prevails, other drug companies are sure to follow suit.

Vattenfal, a Swedish company, is a serial trade pact litigant against Germany. In 2011, Der Spiegel reported on how it was suing for expected €1 billion plus losses due to Germany’s program to phase out nuclear power…

Phillip Morris threatened suit against Australia for its plain cigarette packing rules and is suing Uraguay for anti-smoking regulations

Now consider what this means. These companies are not suing for actual expenses or loss of assets; they are suing for loss of potential future profits. They are basically acting as if their profit in a particular market was guaranteed absent government action. […]

So this is the time when it is REALLY important to call or e-mail your Representative and let him or her know how terrible this deal is and how firmly opposed to it you are. Use the link to the Public Citizen overview (http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/GlobalTradeWatch_TAFTAslides_070913.pdf) or cite other posts or articles you think they should see. […]

Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/11/house-pushing-back-on-trade-deal-more-detail-on-how-secretive-arbitration-panels-undermine-laws-and-regulations.html#xlGHK5yg6O31B8Xo.99

“These companies are not suing for actual expenses or loss of assets; they are suing for loss of potential future profits. They are basically acting as if their profit in a particular market was guaranteed absent government action.”

“If the claim succeeds, the tribunal could award the investor financial compensation for the claimed losses. If the payment is not made, the award can potentially be enforced through the seizure of assets of the government that has been sued, or through tariffs raised on the country’s exports.”

Thus is the Great Taking revealed in all its plastic elastic glory.  (As is Obamacare and the continuing bank bailouts and all the austerity crap, but those are subjects for another time).  The loss of any potential and theoretical future profits may be sued for, and will be adjudicated by a tribunal of corporate attorneys, in secret.  The compensation for losses, both in the present and in the misty imaginary future, may include seizing the assets of the government being sued.  Those are your assets, people.  Those assets might be buildings, lands, any amount of taxpayer monies paid to the IRS (in the USA) in the form of taxes, tariffs on our (admittedly few) exports, or – who knows what the corporations might demand? – the funds held in the social security system.

This is not “free market capitalism”.  This is simply an oligarchic/corporate taking; a shake-down of nations in a magnificent and breathtaking coup.  Started by former President Cheney Bush. Carried forward, fully supported, and gleefully promoted by President Obama.  And although about 170 members of the House have signed letters objecting to the fast-track method of cramming this thing through, that does not necessarily indicate an objection the TPP per se.  This number also indicates that there is a large set of House members who don’t object to fast-tracking (or, presumably, again, to the trade agreement itself).

Occucards has an informative card on the TPP; you may read it and/or buy copies to pass around here:

http://www.occucards.com/tpp/

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2013 in corporatocracy, trade agreements

 

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/

 

Exit from Eden.

The books of the Bible are generally divided into two types; books of revelation, which reveal the history of God’s people, and books of prophecy, which predict events that had not yet happened at the time of the writing of those particular books.  Thus, the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse) is actually a book of prophecy, not revelation.

I have long thought that the first chapters of the book of Genesis, understood to be a book of revelation (i.e., history), is actually a book of prophecy.  The first humans were given the earth as a Garden of Eden and told to care for it.  But having eaten from the tree of Knowledge of good and evil, God expelled them from the Garden. I see this as an on-going event.  The more we use our knowledge as a tool to destroy the earth and kill our fellow humans, the further we are removed from the Eden-like qualities of the earth. Eventually, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, we will have made the earth a place which cannot support human life and we will bring ourselves to an extinction event – or close enough to it that it may not matter if we are technically extinct or not; there may be so few of us left that we are never again the dominant species on earth.

Oh, sorry, you are probably not comfortable with references to the Bible and God, particularly if you are “on the left” of the political spectrum.  It’s a common and hypocritical stance for those on the left to vociferously defend the right of the Muslim to follow his faith, to express earnest admiration for the Buddhist and to loudly proclaim that the atheist has it right, while denigrating and mocking anyone, particularly any American, who professes any sort of Christian belief.  I weary of it, quite frankly, and get annoyed at the childish references to “Dog” or “The Flying Spaghetti Monster” used in place of the word “God” that litters the comment sections of progressive websites.  While I agree that most Christians in America are practicing a faith that doesn’t resemble in the least the teachings of Jesus, and is in fact antithetical to those teachings and in some instances actually dangerous to society as a whole, and while I don’t belong to any church myself, I think to cut off all discussion of faith or religion guarantees that we will not ever reach a meaningful dialogue with those who practice the more inhumane versions of Christianity (without going into details, which I feel no need for in this post, these forms of Christianity are what I refer to as Sharia Christianity, and its adherents are the sort of people who would inflict their strict interpretations of the Bible on the United States collectively).  We certainly aren’t going to convince them to come anywhere near our viewpoint by mocking them before a conversation even begins.  Just my opinion, for what it’s worth.

So let’s put this in more scientific terms.

We have a planet which has allowed us to evolve into the species we are today: homo sapiens sapiens, or “wise, wise man”.  (Yeah, we thought we were so smart that we felt compelled to put the ‘wise’ in there twice. Although who we thought we were impressing with this name – gorilla gorilla, perhaps? – is beyond me.)  We did not get very far into our evolution before we started finding ways to bump off rival human tribes and the other species with whom we share the planet.  We have reached the point where we are destroying the very things we need in order to survive on the earth.  We are the only species which has guaranteed its own extinction and which has turned against its own herd in such vicious, unrelenting fashion.

Nature is subtle and nuanced; yet we treat it as though it were all a crude game that we can manipulate and rig.  By all evidence, we will continue to do this until we die out.  We choose to pollute our water, the air we breathe, and the food we eat.  Perhaps you and I do not personally dump toxic waste into the rivers, but we have allowed ourselves to become so stressed by the elites and big companies that run this country that we don’t protest much when they do it.  We are too busy trying to hang onto the poorly paying jobs we have (90% of the new jobs created this year are part-time.  And they are all poorly paid), or trying to figure out how to stay in our homes, or pay for the kids’ educations and the like that we can’t pay too much attention to the myriad other ways we are being beaten down, abused, and poisoned.

We are also dealing with a Triple-Crown of phenomena on these issues. First, we have been stupid enough (and it is stupidity and ignorance and lack of enough curiosity to check into these matters ourselves) to let politicians, the wealthy, and big corporations dupe us into blaming each other for every ill in our society.  A huge number of Americans blame their poor neighbors for the “budget deficit” rather than the big banks and the war/weapons/spying programs spending.  Secondly, we have almost complete media black-out on the issues.  The media is owned by only a handful of companies, which are almost entirely comprised of the biggest arms manufacturers in the world.  The reporters and television personalities toe the line and only report what they are told to; there is no longer an adversarial press in this country.  The third phenomenon is that of the complicity and mendacity of our elected government officials.  With only one or two exceptions, our state and federal representatives have taken the bribes offered by big corporations and the MIC.  They not interested in the well-being of the American populace.  They want to be re-elected until they can finally retire to collect the reward of sitting on a board of directors or as an executive in a big company – a reward offered by the very companies that write the Congressional bills our elected officials vote into law.

You may not want to think that your local politicians don’t care about you, but if you live in Wisconsin, Ohio, or certain other states, surely you can’t be deluded about it any longer.  Even in my state, Maryland, the governor has recently become enamored of some of the very things he ran against in his recent and successful bid for a second term, such as fracking.  And you may not want to believe that our Congress in Washington, DC has completely sold us out, but it is a simple fact.  They are throwing their lot in with the wealthy and the big companies and the rest of us do not matter.  Don’t believe it?  Ask yourself why Congress wrote and voted for, and Obama signed into law, the NDAA, and did so two years running, about which Chris Hedges writes:

The three branches of government may want to retain the ability to use the military to maintain control if widespread civil unrest should occur in the United States. I suspect the corporate state knows that amid the mounting effects of climate change and economic decline the military may be all that is left between the elite and an enraged population. And I suspect the corporate masters do not trust the police to protect them[…]

If Section 1021 stands it will mean that more than 150 years of case law in which the Supreme Court repeatedly held the military has no jurisdiction over civilians will be abolished. It will mean citizens who are charged by the government with “substantially supporting” al-Qaeda, the Taliban or the nebulous category of “associated forces” will be lawfully subject to extraordinary rendition. It will mean citizens seized by the military will languish in military jails indefinitely, or in the language of Section 1021 until “the end of hostilities”—in an age of permanent war, for the rest of their lives. It will mean, in short, obliteration of our last remaining legal protections, especially now that we have lost the right to privacy, and the ascent of a crude, militarized state that serves the leviathan of corporate totalitarianism. It will mean, as Forrest pointed out in her 112-page opinion, that whole categories of Americans—and here you can assume dissidents and activists—will be subject to seizure by the military and indefinite and secret detention[…]

“There’s nothing that’s built into this NDAA [the National Defense Authorization Act] that even gives a detained person the right to get to an attorney,” Afran said. “In fact, the whole notion is that it’s secret. It’s outside of any judicial process. You’re not even subject to a military trial. You can be moved to other jurisdictions under the law. It’s the antithesis of due process.”[…]

http://www.nationofchange.org/last-chance-stop-ndaa-1378214357

Congress allows the wholesale spying on every American through the phone and email systems in the US.  They have never charged the big banks with fraud or any of the crimes of which they are guilty – and now the statute of limitations is up for most of the criminal activities with which they brought down the global economy in ’08.  Congress defunds the EPA, the FDA, and all the regulatory agencies rather than making sure these agencies do their jobs.  Why are they giving subsidies to the oil industries that poison our water and destroy our land instead of pursuing any sort of green technologies?  Why are they giving them subsidies at all?  The big oil companies are making more profit than any other companies in history.  Why are we invading and destroying country after country around the globe – and bankrupting our nation in the process – in an effort to steal their resources rather than just engaging in honest trade with them?  Congress is letting Monsanto, Sygenta and Bayer fuck around with the DNA of the very food we eat, letting Halliburton, Exxon, et al dump toxic chemicals in our water, and ensuring we have no access to the courts for redress when it turns out these companies are killing us.  Congress is still talking about the chained CPI as a way to cut back on the Social Security we paid for and is starving the aid programs for people who are hungry and have been forced from jobs and homes instead of any having any discussion about cutting war-spending or shutting down any of the 850 military bases we run around the globe.  Congress, the Supreme Court, and the current administration – they may not be actively trying to kill you, but they sure don’t give a shit if you die.

The numbers coming out of Congress and printed in the papers regarding job creation and the financial state of the country are complete and utter fabrications.  One might notice that each month’s jobs reports are “corrected” later or that every article contains gross inconsistencies within its paragraphs.  One might notice that the jargon is becoming harder to decipher as the “financial writers” struggle to maintain the illusion that all is well when, in fact, the wizards of Wall Street are playing their games of worldwide grand theft with sheer bravado and a vengeance not seen even during the Great Depression.

The US Treasury is operated in complete accordance with the policies and wishes of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, with absolutely zero measure of counter-balancing dissent, and thus the US Treasury acts solely and entirely on behalf of the private Federal Reserve and its (the Fed’s) Owner/Member Banks over, above, and at the direct expense of any needs or protections for the US citizenry at large; thus the citizens have found themselves lacking any governmental ally whatsoever in the war for survival against the financial oligarchy.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was pleased to announce in May that, though the US has again, for the second time this year, hit its Congressionally mandated “debt ceiling”, the Treasury is able to have that not be a problem because of certain unelaborated, mysterious, some might even say miraculous, reasons, as follows: “The U.S. bumped up against its borrowing limit Sunday, forcing the Treasury Department to employ ‘extraordinary measures’  to make sure the government keeps paying its bills. Congress agreed to suspend the nation’s $16.4 trillion borrowing limit the last time they approached it, in January.  In a letter to congressional leaders, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the extraordinary actions should allow the government to meet all its obligations at least through the Sept. 2 Labor Day holiday.”  – Chicago Tribune, The Hill

None of the publications, not even any of those that bothered to comment on the fact of the US hitting its debt ceiling in the first place, even bothered to ask exactly how the Treasury Secretary mysteriously manages, once again, to have that debt (or its ceiling) simply disappear, i.e., what, dear sir, are those extraordinary measures of which ye speak – be they magical incantations of the sort we might rely on for the long haul, or be they mere flimflammery?  They are most happy to wield these mystical powers, inexplicable though they may be, particularly as that old black magic is so obviously and unambiguously good for the global financial cartel of US megabanks, who are now receiving a bare minimum of acknowledged, direct, and on-balance-sheet (US-national-debt-increasing) transfers a total annual sum approximately equal in size to the entire stated Pentagon/DOD budget (each being greater than or equal to $1.2 Trillion per year).  And even that accounts for only the acknowledged and on-balance-sheet transfers, a tiny subset of the full amount of financial assistance and largesse actually being extended exclusively to those same megabanks by their (privately held) Federal Reserve.  Hitting the debt ceiling yet again, were it noticed by anyone, might help create some public interest in questioning why, exactly, we might be giving a handful of megabanks at least as much money as we give the Pentagon, which itself is utterly ridiculous, and/or might bring some in the financial sector or the public sphere to actually question the long-term sustainability of the economy and the US itself under such management.  And the Treasury Secretary can’t have that happening, obviously, so it remains in the articles as the never explained ‘extraordinary measures’.

The pain the banks are inflicting across the world are also affecting us here at home – these are equal opportunity takings, after all, and we Yanks are not immune: there are now over 100 million people in the US living under the poverty level while the Fed continues to print an astonishing amount of cash each month which it simply gives to a handful of banks.

Changing subjects, let’s now look for a moment at the poisons our Congress has decided are acceptable for us to ingest.  This would be the same Congress that purportedly looks out for our welfare and puts the interests of the public as its top priority.

The gas and oil extraction practice called ‘fracking’ is known to poison waterways and underground aquifers, cause earthquakes, and ruin the land leased to the fracking companies.

The Wilderness Society Feb. 2011 report [http://beyondoil.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/drilling-in-america-february-2011.pdf ] states that by the end of 2009 there were already 2.6mm oil and natural gas wells, of which 1mm were active, and 2,000 active drilling rigs, plus 4,000 Gulf of Mexico platforms adding over 40,000 new oil and gas wells each year.  The US has more drilling rigs and wells than any other country on earth, and is the top natural gas producer in the world and the number three oil producer, despite having less than 2% of world’s oil supply and less than 4% of world natural gas.  The US accounts for 23% of world oil usage and 21% of world natural gas usage; so no amount of drilling will ever close that gap.  Ecowatch, Feb., 2013 [ http://ecowatch.com/2013/land-leased-oil-and-gas-industry/] reports that at the end of 2011, the top 70 oil/gas companies held extraction leases on 141mm acres in the US, more land than California and Florida combined.  90% of all US oil and gas production is via fracking. Environmental and other restrictions and regulations governing fracking on the Bureau of Land Management Federal leased land (federal public lands account for 1/3 of above total) have simultaneously been loosened.  NRDC, from a 2011 report, states that as of 2009, the US already housed 2/3 of all the oil and gas wells ever drilled in the entire world. [http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/dlovaas/drilling_us_has_been_there_don.html]

Post-production out-of-service wells are almost as problematical from an environmental toxins standpoint as the ones in active production and are often used as a permanent underground storehouse of the toxic wastes from the production phase.  Yet the BLM allows them to then be simply and completely abandoned with no more liability to the extraction company, end of story.  And federal oil and natgas regulations on drilling, chemicals, disclosures, study periods, environmental impact, etc., have continued to be weakened each year to today.

Then there is the problem of methane leakage from the natural gas fracking operations:

 

Researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have reconfirmed earlier findings of high rates of methane leakage from natural gas fields. If these findings are replicated elsewhere, they would utterly vitiate the climate benefit of natural gas, even when used to switch off coal.Indeed, if the previous findings — of 4% methane leakage over a Colorado gas field — were a bombshell, then the new measurements reported by the journal Nature are thermonuclear:
… the research team reported new Colorado data that support the earlier work, as well as preliminary results from a field study in the Uinta Basin of Utah suggesting even higher rates of methane leakage — an eye-popping 9% of the total production. That figure is nearly double the cumulative loss rates estimated from industry data — which are already higher in Utah than in Colorado.

How much methane leaks during the entire lifecycle of unconventional gas has emerged as a key question in the fracking debate. Natural gas is mostly methane (CH4).  And methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than (CO2), which is released when any hydrocarbon, like natural gas, is burned — 25 times more potent over a century and 72 to 100 times more potent over a 20-year period.[…]

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/01/02/1388021/bridge-to-nowhere-noaa-confirms-high-methane-leakage-rate-up-to-9-from-gas-fields-gutting-climate-benefit/?mobile=nc

As a further threat, we have the GMO (genetically modified organisms) industry giants such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, and Bayer playing God with the DNA of the foods we eat, and by extension, with our DNA.  We have little understanding of how this interference will affect us in the long run, despite industry claims that no harm will come from eating GMO crops (a claim disputed by the scientific communities here and abroad, at least by the scientists not paid by Monsanto to obfuscate the facts).  Our bodies have evolved to handle certain foods, and this evolutionary process takes millenia.  I suppose we could eventually adapt to eating, say, arsenic without being poisoned to death by it, but we could not force this adaptation in one generation.  What Monsanto is doing is forcing us to handle altered DNA into our bodies as “nourishment”.  The DNA of these crops is altered, for the most part, to allow the plants to accept Round-up (a powerful weed-killer descended from Agent Orange) without the death of the plant itself.  Thus, the fields are drenched in Round-up to kill the weeds and pesticides to kill the bugs (unfortunately killing the bees and other pollinators along the way – too bad, sorry about that), while the corn, soy, beets, or whatever the crop is, will grow, produce fruit and be taken to the market.  You are not only getting a product that has altered DNA, you are getting a product that has been inundated with weed-killer and pesticides.

The GMO product itself is engineered to be resistant to these poisons so you can spray the shit out of your field (after fertilizing it with super toxic ammonium hydrate and phosphorous, of course) and not worry about weeds or bugs.  They’re all dead.  And the land takes decades to recover, so it’s now dead.  And the crops they produce uptake the poisons (and has poisons coded into its altered DNA) so we sure as hell shouldn’t be eating the shit or continuing to allow these soulless corporate gollems to directly poison us and our land, sea, and air.  The media largely covers the topic of GMO’s to paint any protests against them as some sort of hysterical reaction from nuts and conspiracy theorists.

Congress is heavily lobbied by the companies and has written (and passed for the second time) what is called the Monsanto Protection Act.

Congress extends Monsanto Protection Act

…Called “The Monsanto Protection Act” by opponents, the budget rider shields biotech behemoths like Monsanto, Cargill and others from the threat of lawsuits and bars federal courts from intervening to force an end to the sale of a GMO (genetically-modified organism) even if the genetically-engineered product causes damaging health effects….

http://rt.com/usa/monsanto-protection-extended-house-741/

It was one of my own Md. Senators, Barbara Mikulski, a “progressive” [sic] “Democrat” [sic] who made sure that the original Monsanto Protection Act was inserted into another bill and passed into law.

None of anything I wrote above matters much if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (the TPP) trade agreement goes into effect.  (I have written about the TPP several times.  See under ‘trade agreements’ on the menu bar to the right.)  Obama can’t wait to approve this monster and is seeking fast-track status for it from Congress.  The TPP will end the sovereignty of any nation that signs it.  We will be under the rule of corporate lawyers, who would be able to override the laws of every signatory country to the benefit of big business and big banks.  At that point, there is no longer a need for Congress or a Constitution.

I wanted to end this post on a positive note, since it’s all been such a downer. However, I find there is nothing more to say – certainly nothing cheerful.  The odds are overwhelmingly against us and the forces aligned against the common man are powerful and ineffably evil.  I can only hope you have someone to share your campfire with as we enter a strange sort of feudalistic new Dark Ages, for unless the entire world is able to somehow unite and fend off those who are engineering our demise for the sake of monetary profit, our fate is fairly well sealed.

 

Further reading:

Obama, Congress advance plans for deeper social spending cuts 
[…]  Meanwhile, Treasury Department figures released Thursday show that the federal deficit, supposedly the reason for austerity measures, has plunged to the lowest level since Obama took office, less than $700 billion in fiscal 2013:
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/09/16/budg-s16.html

The EPA’s controversial new Protective Action Guides (PAGs) allows exposure to very high doses from radiation releases before the government would take action to protect the publichttp://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2013/09/16-3

Congressional approval for new gas and oil drillinghttp://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/07/house_approves_bill_to_greatly.html

Speculation on the food markets leading to hunger around the globehttp://www.nationofchange.org/six-shameful-facts-about-hunger-1372075687

Speculation on the ethanol market – This topic brings a lot of things together, farm subsidies, gmo corn, fossil fuels, predatory bank speculation, cornered commodities, and a fucked-over public.
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/09/15/business/wall-st-exploits-ethanol-credits-and-prices-spike.html

Increasing militarization and surveillance state in the US:
http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/bill-and-melinda-gates-foundation-kindly-fund-research-student-worn-bracelets

http://rt.com/usa/army-raytheon-jlens-blimps-594/

http://stratrisks.com/geostrat/12516

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/06/29/immi-j29.html

FBI biometric data program:
http://rt.com/usa/disclose-facial-program-recognition-387/

http://epic.org/foia/fbi/ngi/

https://www.eff.org/press/releases/eff-sues-fbi-access-facial-recognition-records

Environment:
– “Extinction Crisis”: 21,000 of World’s Species at Risk of Disappearing
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/07/02-9-

‘Canary in the Ocean’
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/05/16-2

– Roughly 80 percent of all the packaged foods sold within the United States contain chemicals outlawed in other parts of the world.   http://rt.com/usa/banned-additives-food-outlawed-089/

– Unlimited Arsenic and Other Poisons Dumped Daily Into US Waters
http://www.nationofchange.org/unlimited-arsenic-and-other-poisons-dumped-daily-us-waters-1374673846

– Effects of frackinghttp://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/25-4

http://www.nationofchange.org/duke-study-links-fracking-water-contamination-epa-drops-study-fracking-water-contamination-137225702

http://www.alternet.org/fracking/fracking-already-straining-us-water-supplies

 

Fukushima:

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/06/radiation-levels-skyrocket-at-fukushima.html

http://www.nationofchange.org/radiation-levels-hit-new-high-fukushima-1378647935

http://enenews.com/japan-times-discharges-of-nuclear-material-into-the-pacific-from-fukushima-have-effectively-contaminated-the-sea-melted-reactor-cores-will-burn-again-if-water-not-perpetually-poured-in-t

The fact that the Fukushima reactors have been leaking huge amounts of radioactive water ever since the 2011 earthquake is certainly newsworthy.But the real problem is that the idiots who caused this mess are probably about to cause a much bigger problem.  Specifically, the greatest short-term threat to humanity is from the fuel pools at Fukushima.
http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/09/the-real-fukushima-danger.html

Gulf of Mexicohttp://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/06/130621-dead-zone-biggest-gulf-of-mexico-science-environment/

– GMOs:

Genetic Roulette  http://geneticroulettemovie.com/

http://www.nationofchange.org/first-long-term-study-released-pigs-cattle-who-eat-gmo-soy-and-corn-offers-frightening-results-13723

TPP:
http://www.nationofchange.org/tpp-trans-pacific-pact-1-solution-democracy-government-corporate-dictates-1372167065

http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/1005-trade/307503-president-ready-to-engage-with-congress-on-fast-track

http://www.nationofchange.org/tpp-another-job-killing-trade-deal-so-why-are-both-parties-supporting-it-1377784863

 

 

Stupid human tricks.

The first generation of humans, according to the Bible, was seriously flawed.  As Nancy Astor (1879-1964) once wagged, “In passing, also, I would like to say that the first time Adam had a chance, he laid the blame on a woman.”

The second generation began farming and herding practices, but then one brother, in a fit of pique and jealousy, bashed the other brother over the head and killed him dead.

Thus ended the evolutionary process of the human species, for we have never moved beyond the urge to kill each other, that being our first and last response in any given situation.  This has been constant through the ages.  All the great empires took their military forces and marched out, conquering and slaying, pretty much for the hell of it from what I can see.  Surely a lack of gardening space was not the issue.  Taking but two examples from history, we see the Romans gradually overtook Britain in a series of conquests.  The Romans had ventured out from a country where they had paved the roads, mastered the arts of metallurgy and running water, had bathing spas, formal schools, and a high arts’ council; they looked at the Brits with their rough hide clothing, inferior weapons and lack of basic sanitation and decided that the British had something they just had to have.  In one of the early Roman attempts at invasion, the story is that around AD 40, Caligula planned an attack campaign.  He faced the English Channel and ordered his troops to attack the standing water.  Then he had the troops gather sea shells, referring to them as “plunder from the ocean, due to the Capitol and the Palace”.  Well, okay, Caligula was a nut, but eventually the Romans did successfully conquer Britain.

Then there was Genghis Khan in AD 1200 or so, with his hordes of Mongol warriors, out to take over all of Eurasia.  This involved a wholesale slaughter of the locals in one place after another.  He did this to expand his empire, although a lack of space for his tribe was clearly not a problem.

And so it went, throughout history, until today, with the USA as the primary empire on earth.  We have looked around at the landscape with its serious problems of climate, food shortages in various places, increasing scarcity of fresh water, pollution, etc. and decided that everlasting war is just the ticket.  The Pentagon announced to a Congressional panel the other day that the War on Terror [sic] has no end in sight. [http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-05-21/pentagon-admits-war-terror-will-never-end or see: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/05/decades-of-war/ ]  Never mind that the Pentagon is supposed to be under civilian control and that they are, according to our Constitution, to take orders from Congress, not the other way around.  Congress has apparently decided to ignore that little bit of writing; I did not hear cries of “treason” or “military coup” coming from Congress over the Pentagon’s message, although one or two members did seem a bit uneasy.  (Only one or two.  The rest seemed to take it all as unremarkable.)

As far as evolution goes, we have invented ways to kill other people and conquer other lands without being physically present ourselves: we now have planes dropping bombs and even unmanned planes dropping bombs.  That’s “progress”.  The motto of the Pentagon seems to be the same one that all empires have used over the millenia, to wit: “There are other humans on the planet.  Let’s go fuck up their shit.”

And like all empires, this one is finally turning on its own tribe.  Congress, abdicating its mandate to work for the people, now allows the security agencies (which they set up) free range to spy on our own citizens.  They have allowed the militarization of local police forces (with inevitable results) and sell weapons to both sides of any given conflict (most started by us, although Congress no longer votes on such things, perhaps thinking that holds them harmless when another country gets razed to the ground).  They – Congress – give the bulk of our tax monies to “war efforts” or directly to the Wall Street banks which crashed our economy in the first place, while many Americans go hungry and lack jobs.  They set loose the corporations, letting them pillage our own country for assets, money, and land.  They are so enamored of the wealthy that when Obama’s latest nominee, Penny Pritzker for Commerce Secretary, was questioned by the committees, they were tickled by the idea that she had been able to “misplace” $80 mm of income.  [ http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/17667-focus-senators-swoon-over-billionaire-pritzker ]

Monsanto is protected by Congress despite scientific research showing the dangers of GMO crops.  Fracking is allowed, in increasing areas, by both the national and local governments, although there is no longer any question that it causes earthquakes and poisons waterways.  Obama includes fracking as one of his “all of the above” energy solutions.  Ironically, most Americans do not seem to understand that they are letting the land be torn up and the water supplies poisoned for no reason.  We do not have nationalized resources here.  That, I gather, would be socialism and socialism in any form is awful.  So the oil and natural gas companies run amok, take the products, and sell them on the open market.  And, by the way, get to keep the profits for themselves.  Congress actually gives them subsidies to do this and takes no measures to make sure the companies even pay fair taxes on the profits.  It has been revealed that the oil companies have been manipulating oil prices all along.  No doubt Eric Holder and Congress will investigate and give us all refunds for the over-pricing of gasoline that has been going on.  (Or not.  Well. okay, definitely not.)

On fracking in general:

Not only can companies hide fracking chemical information behind trade secret claims, they won’t have to test individual wells’ cement casings—a critical barrier between fracking chemicals and underground aquifers. Our federal public lands provide drinking water for millions of Americans. This weak policy will put these drinking water sources at risk.As Earthjustice’s Jessica Ennis told the Washington Post and New York Times, “The Bureau of Land Management caved to the wealthy and powerful oil and gas industry and left the public to fend for itself.”

This controversial oil and gas development technique–in which drillers blast millions of gallons of chemically treated water into the earth to force gas from underground deposits–has been linked to air and water pollution and public health problems. In its current form, the proposal fails to stem these problems.

In its latest proposal, the BLM fails to propose adequate well construction and integrity standards. A key test to ensure drinking water sources are properly isolated from the well was dropped. Now a test to ensure proper cementing will be required on only one “type well” and the data from that well used to approve others. Such a procedure invites companies to develop one model well and then to cut corners on the rest. Industry should have to demonstrate the integrity of every well.

The draft requires companies to disclose chemical constituents in fracking fluids, after fracking is complete. Disclosure should occur both before and after fracking, in order to give nearby communities time to establish baseline water quality and then test and monitor water supplies for any fracking-related water pollution. States including Wyoming already requires pre-fracking disclosure, so the BLM proposal should go at least this far.

The proposal also signals the use of FracFocus as the tool for disclosure. In its current form, FracFocus is insufficient. It’s an industry-funded database that fails to allow users to search across forms or aggregate data from multiple wells. To ensure data is complete, adequate and available, the BLM should have its own website for this information reporting, complete with the ability to search and aggregate data.

The president promised in his State of the Union that this country’s gas drilling boom would not come at the expense of public health. As it stands now, the proposed rule fails to meet that promise.  – Earthjustice Alerts action alert

On hydroflouric acid fracking, the latest iteration of assaults on our water and land:

As California lawmakers discuss 10 bills that would regulate fracking, some environmentalists are warning that the debate overshadows a more serious process that involves the use of hydrofluoric acid.

The state regulator is drawing up rules for hydraulic fracturing, lawmakers are consideration various regulatory bills, environmentalists are protesting drilling in the Monterey oil formation, and filmmakers are creating a movie about the debate. Many believe the concerns over fracking are well-founded, but some corporations plan to use a different method to extract oil or gas altogether.

“All this anti-fracking language misses the target and I am very concerned it is a diversion,” Steve Shimek of the environmental group Monterey Coastkeeper told Reuters.

Venoco, a private oil and gas production corporation, has estimated that eight out of 10 of its Monterey wells can be completed without the use of fracking  – a method which injects water, sand and chemicals into faults at high pressure to shatter rock formations and release oil or gas. Using an alternate method, chemicals such as hydrofluoric acid are pumped into the wells to melt rocks and other obstructions to extract oil.  Occidental Petroleum Corp, a California-based oil and gas production company that leads the Monterey development, in 2011 announced that most of its shale was extracted using acid jobs – not fracking. This month, the company said that only one sixth of its wells are currently being fracked. […]

Only one of the 10 legislative fracking bills addresses acid jobs, which has some environmentalists concerned. Companies are not required to report their use of acid, which allows them to pump large quantities of this substance into the ground with no regulation.

“These are super-hazardous, poisonous chemicals and we have no idea what they are doing out there with it – how deep it is going, the volumes – nothing,” Bill Allayaud of the Environmental Working Group told Reuters. “Why shouldn’t our state agency be regulating it as we hope they’ll be regulating hydraulic fracturing?”

Earlier this month, Allayaud told Environment & Energy Publishing that regulation for acid use is desperately needed because it is unknown how much of the substance is being used and where. Damon Nagami, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said techniques that replace fracking – including gravel packing, water flooding, steam flooding and acidization – remain largely excluded from the public debate.[…]

Lawmakers are trying to address environmentalists’ fracking concerns, but acidization continues to remain a little-known process with unknown environmental effects.

http://rt.com/usa/california-fracking-rules-debate-895/

 

Hydrogen fluoride gas is an acute poison that may immediately and permanently damage lungs and the corneas of the eyes. Aqueous hydrofluoric acid is a contact-poison with the potential for deep, initially painless burns and ensuing tissue death. By interfering with body calcium metabolism, the concentrated acid may also cause systemic toxicity and eventual cardiac arrest and fatality, after contact with as little as 160 cm2 (25 square inches) of skin. […]

Hydrofluoric acid is a highly corrosive liquid and is a contact poison. It should be handled with extreme care, beyond that accorded to other mineral acids. Owing to its low dissociation constant, HF as a neutral lipid-soluble molecule penetrates tissue more rapidly than typical mineral acids. Because of the ability of hydrofluoric acid to penetrate tissue, poisoning can occur readily through exposure of skin or eyes, or when inhaled or swallowed. Symptoms of exposure to hydrofluoric acid may not be immediately evident. HF interferes with nerve function, meaning that burns may not initially be painful. Accidental exposures can go unnoticed, delaying treatment and increasing the extent and seriousness of the injury.[8] […]

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

 

[…] The acid grade of fluorspar is used as raw material to produce hydrofluoric acid. Worldwide production of hydrofluoric acid is estimated at more than three million metric tons. Once the ore is dug from the earth the impurities are removed to leave a fluorspar which contains minimum 97% calcium fluoride. The bi-products are collected and serve a variety of industrial purposes. Acid grade fluorspar is transported to hydrofluoric acid plants by ship, road, rail or barge… where it is reacted with sulphuric acid to form hydrogen fluoride gas.

Hydrofluoric acid is stored for use as a liquefied gas or may be diluted with water to make liquid solutions of hydrofluoric acid. Fluorine is the chemical element with atomic number 9, represented by the symbol F. Fluorine forms a single bond with itself in elemental form, resulting in the diatomic F2 molecule. F2 is a supremely reactive, poisonous, pale, yellowish brown gas. Elemental fluorine is the most chemically reactive and electronegative of all the elements.

The fluoride added to drinking water is hydrofluoric acid and is man-made. In the hydrofluoric acid form; fluoride has no nutrient value at all and it is one of the most caustic of industrial chemicals. […]

http://naturalhealthtechniques.com/basicsofhealthwater_fileswater_fluoride_good_bad_ugly.htm

I offer the following links in no particular order of importance, but have divided them into subject matter.  Pick your poison, as they say.

Half of America at or near poverty:
https://mail.google.com/mail/?shva=1#inbox/13eef06c8cc03f42
and:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/real-numbers-half-america-poverty-and-its-creeping-toward-75-0

Let’s kick poor people off food assistance:
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/05/31-0

And look at this amendment to the Farm Bill – passed unanimously – I guess you never pay the full price for your crimes in the US, but must be punished forever.

http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/05/24/vitter-proposes-eliminating-food-stamps-for-those-convicted-of-violent-crimes/
and:
http://wsws.org/en/articles/2013/02/12/snap-f12.html
and:
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/05/30/oil-prices-climb-despite-record-stockpiles/

On the manipulation of the oil markets:

http://beta.dawn.com/news/1013845/manipulated-prices-ruling-oil-market

and:  http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/05/17/oil-price-probe/2215241/

On latest oil prices: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/05/30/oil-prices-climb-despite-record-stockpiles/

On fracking in general: http://teri.nicedriving.org/2012/01/bakken-keystone-xl-and-fracking/

Links on the Death Star Monsanto:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/senate-dems-fail-overturn-monsanto-protection-act-article-1.1353287  This article pretends that the fucking Monsanto-protecting Senators are all Republican even though Democrats still, last I checked, hold the majority in the Senate.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/push-overturn-monsanto-protection-act-article-1.1352178     This describes Senator Markey’s proposed amendment to overturn the Monsanto Protection Act.  (Note that Markey’s amendment was in fact overwhelmingly killed by the Democratic Majority Senate on Thursday).

http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/interspire/news/2013/04/30/(ips)-us-activists-outraged-over-so-called-monsanto-protection-act.html   Old coverage of the Monsanto Protection Act and suggests Monsanto plans to use the judicial-review-free period covered by the continuing resolution to introduce a number of new (not specified) controversial GMO products into the ecosystem.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/u-s-state-dept-helped-promote-monsanto-products-overseas-article-1.1343801  Points out the (should be rather amazing) fact that the State Department is effectively a marketing and protection racket for Monsanto.

http://truth-out.org/news/item/16565-in-europe-march-against-monsanto-is-latest-rejection-of-the-gmo-giant    An excellent Truthout/Occupy.org/Greenpeace article which discusses the reasons 8 European countries: Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg and Poland, with Italy soon to follow, and also joined by certain regions and municipalities within numerous other countries not having a full uniform national position on GMO; that have banned Monsanto and GMO, and revealing Monsanto’s push-back and attempted hijacking of the EU from its lobbying center in Brussells, along with Monsanto’s (et.al.) attacks on governments, government officials, scientific organizations, agricultural organizations, farmers and farm communities, as well as many individual scientists and activists, and a bit of revelation on the hugely non-democratic, behind the scenes US support of Monsanto’s actions (which can be properly labeled only as terrorism).

http://grist.org/food/gut-punch-monsanto-could-be-destroying-your-microbiome/    Discusses a bit of the science and how the EPA and DOA, at least, have colluded with Monsanto to actually raise the published “allowable limits” to better reflect the actual content of indisputably deadly toxins found in (Roundup treated) GMO crops.

http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=2909    A pretty much random USGS report about glyposate (Roundup) now (@2011) being common in rivers, streams, other surface waters, rainfall, and the air throughout GMO agricultural areas (the technical study was done in Mississippi), and wherein the USGS chemist and author cautions “Though glyphosate is the mostly widely used herbicide in the world, we know very little about its long term effects to the environment”.

http://www.naturalnews.com/040210_GM_corn_March_Against_Monsanto_glyphosate.html     More science, including details on the lack of minerals and vitamins and the off-the-charts, 200 times the maximum recommended exposure levels, of formaldehyde found in GMO.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xow6VC851C0     Great discussion of the specifics of the law known as the Monsanto Protection Act and the laws it references and incorporates.  With regular updates at the stormcloudsgathering.com website

 

The dynamic duo.

When last we saw our heroes, Obama and Holder, Barack Obama was assuring the students at Ohio State that their government has only their best interests at heart and that they should not despair.  Rather, they should participate fully.  Vote early and often.  After all, this country is all of us working together for the common good, rumors to the contrary.

[Teri’s note: First, the obligatory salute to the warrior class.  It must be pointed out, since we all – including Obama himself – seem to have forgotten, that the president is the Commander in Chief to the Armed Forces.  If you are not in the military, he is not your Commander in Chief, he is your President.]

[…] Consider that today, 50 ROTC cadets in your graduating class will become commissioned officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. (Applause.) A hundred and thirty of your fellow graduates have already served — some in combat, some on multiple deployments. (Applause.) Of the 98 veterans earning bachelor’s degrees today, 20 are graduating with honors, and at least one kept serving his fellow veterans when he came home by starting up a campus organization called Vets4Vets. And as your Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder of all of you. (Applause.) […]

Now, if we’re being honest with ourselves, as you’ve studied and worked and served to become good citizens, the fact is that all too often the institutions that give structure to our society have, at times, betrayed your trust. In the run-up to the financial crisis, too many on Wall Street forgot that their obligations don’t end with what’s happening with their shares. […] [Teri’s note: And Wall Street is quite satisfied that the rest of us have forgotten their obligations, malfeasance, crimes, grift and theft.  Luckily for Wall Street, Obama and Holder have complete amnesia about the whole state of affairs as it was then, and willful blindness as to what it is now.]

And that’s precisely what the Founders left us — the power, each of us, to adapt to changing times. They left us the keys to a system of self-government, the tools to do big things and important things together that we could not possibly do alone — to stretch railroads and electricity and a highway system across a sprawling continent. To educate our people with a system of public schools and land-grant colleges, including The Ohio State University. To care for the sick and the vulnerable, and provide a basic level of protection from falling into abject poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth. (Applause.) To conquer fascism and disease; to visit the Moon and Mars; to gradually secure our God-given rights for all of our citizens, regardless of who they are, or what they look like, or who they love. (Applause.)[…]  [Teri’s note: Well, ain’t that a hoot coming from the guy who signed the sequester and the “fiscal cliff” bills, gave the insurance and pharma industries carte blanche on making as much cash as possible from a captive income pool, and is trying to gut social security, medicare, and sell off the TVA.  He is also attempting to fast-track the TPP, a trade agreement that totally relinquishes our national sovereignty to corporate power.  See: http://economyincrisis.org/content/the-trans-pacific-partnership-would-destroy-our-national-sovereignty]

Where we’re going should give you hope. Because while things are still hard for a lot of people, you have every reason to believe that your future is bright. You’re graduating into an economy and a job market that is steadily healing. […]  [Teri’s note: Numbers?  You want numbers?  We can make up any numbers you want – we got accountants!  Twenty-four point six, that’s a good number.  Hey, we can give you forty-two – that’s the answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything in it.  How about a quadrillon – that’s a great number!]

“The founders trusted us with this awesome authority. We should trust ourselves with it, too. Because when we don’t, when we turn away and get discouraged and cynical, and abdicate that authority, we grant our silent consent to someone who will gladly claim it,” he said. “That’s how we end up with lobbyists who set the agenda; and policies detached from what middle-class families face every day; the well-connected who publicly demand that Washington stay out of their business — and then whisper in government’s ear for special treatment that you don’t get.”[…]  [Teri’s note: The man knows of which he speaks.]

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2013/05/06/transcript-obamas-commencement-speech-at-ohio-state/

A day or so later, he followed up this fine, fine speech with a little hint that he may be open to backdoor internet wiretaps of everyone all the time.

United States President Barack Obama is likely to endorse a Federal Bureau of Investigation effort that would ensure all Internet companies in the US provide a way for the government to conduct undetected, backdoor surveillance.[…]

http://rt.com/usa/obama-internet-wiretap-surveillance-009/

Eric Holder, for his part, was revealing plans to use his good offices to sue the arch-criminal, Lance Armstrong, on behalf of the citizens of the United States, who have been much abused by this nefarious character.
http://news.msn.com/us/government-sues-armstrong-over-usps-sponsorship-money

Ah, but today, the dynamic duo wants you to know that they have Justice in their Hearts and the Sword of Righteousness in their Hands.  For, lo, Holder and Obama are coming to the defense of a person badly wronged a few years ago.  They would like to correct his sentence, which was obviously and egregiously too harsh, by reducing his sentence by ten years.  Considering that the criminals doing the same fucking thing as he did in the intervening years since his sentencing have never even faced charges, this is the only reasonable thing to do.  USA number one!  Go, go, Team Justice!  Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers!

“The Obama administration’s Justice Department announced Wednesday that it has reached a deal with Jeffrey Skilling, the former chief operating officer of Enron that would see him released from jail as early as 2017, ten years ahead of his original sentence.”

A deal?  What deal, you ask?  How do you “cut a deal” with someone who has already been sentenced, you might wonder.  Well, see, the poor fellow had been ordered to pay $40 mm or so in restitution (a joke of a settlement, in any case), but does not have to pay it as long as he still has appeals pending.  So Holder and Obama, ever so bright and so solicitous of the public weal, are offering him a deal wherein he ends his appeal processes and actually pays the restitution in exchange for ten years off his sentence (currently being served at Club Fed).

[…] Skilling was found guilty in 2006 of conspiracy, insider trading and multiple charges of securities fraud relating to the collapse of Enron in 2001. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison and fined $45 million.

Along with former CEO Kenneth Lay, who died in 2006, Skilling systematically defrauded investors and siphoned money from millions of people by manipulating energy prices and employing false accounting. Among its many crimes, Enron defrauded the state of California out of billions of dollars during the 2000-2001 energy crisis by creating artificial energy shortages and jacking up prices.Enron’s bankruptcy in December 2001 led to thousands of layoffs, the collapse of the company’s stock price and the loss of billions of dollars by investors, including many of the company’s own employees.

Two billion dollars in employee pensions were wiped out, as well as $60 billion in stock. Five thousand employees lost their jobs, and 20,000 people lost their entire life savings. […]

The fine leveled on Skilling was a fraction of his salary at Enron, which in 2001 alone was $132 million. Now the government is allowing him to leverage his vast personal fortune, amassed through fraud, in order to get out of jail sooner.

As a multi-millionaire, Skilling was afforded every opportunity of legal defense, with multiple appeals, including a hearing before the Supreme Court. The ongoing legal procedures kept the $40 million in restitution he owed to his victims from being seized.[…]

http://wsws.org/en/articles/2013/05/10/skil-m10.html

What a thing of beauty it is to see the law work in such delicate and nuanced fashion.  Solomon, I tell you, King Solomon himself, with God whispering in his ear, could not surpass the wisdom and righteousness of either Holder or Obama.  Together, they are simply unstoppable.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2013 in corporatocracy, Wall St and banks