RSS

Category Archives: environment

Stay classy, USA.

Updated below.

Hurricane Irma is battering the north edge of Cuba as a category 5 hurricane as I write this.  The only comment I have heard on the news about Cuba vis a vis Irma has been relief expressing that by hitting Cuba first, some of the force may be drained off before she makes landfall in the US.

Here’s how the state of Florida is preparing for Irma: mandatory evacuations from cities along the projected path of the worst of the storm.  Repeated announcements that you are on your own to either heed the evacuation notices and get out, or to survive as best you can if you stay.  Repeated warnings to potential looters (note: the term “looters” only means desperate people looking for food or shoes or a free TV after their home just got blown away; it does not refer to the bankers, insurers, and real estate speculators who will rape and pillage the entire area for profit after the storm is over.  Those guys will not only be encouraged to loot wholesale, they will be given tax breaks for doing so.).  Warnings to those who may have criminal charges pending against them that if they seek safety in public shelters, they will be taken to jail because the ID check required as one enters the emergency shelters will expose their status.  The gas stations immediately ran out of gas and the roads north immediately filled with congested traffic.  The airlines jacked up their prices and started cancelling flights.  There were no emergency bus or train services offered, aside from the usual scanty routes already available, because we do not invest in public transportation in the US.  All those people heading north in their cars can only hope they don’t run out of gas along the way.  And where, exactly, they are going seems to be a mystery, as the hotels are completely booked for several states above Florida.  So much for trying to heed those evacuation orders.  After the hurricane, you might be able to get a loan to rebuild your house.  (Or maybe not.  See:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/business/harvey-aid-sba-disaster-loans.html)

Congress has approved some emergency funding for the victims of both hurricanes (Harvey in Texas, and Irma in Florida), at the same time that the current administration is making sure the agencies charged with emergencies like these are defunded and understaffed.  This is the rugged individualism of the US.  You are on your own, although in a somewhat schizophrenic manner, you will be praised for helping your neighbors after the fact, and we all join in with the feel-good sentiment that in an emergency, we “all come together”.  If you haven’t noticed, what they mean is that we “come together” and “help one another out” by sharing our own meager scraps of what we have left after paying taxes and jacked-up exorbitant prices for necessities, while the government only considers “helping one another” to be some socialist plot.  It’s just kind of a shame that the politicians and the media don’t think that spending US taxpayer money on actual US taxpayers should happen except in the most dire of circumstances, and even then, it is done begrudgingly, and demands will be made that US’ians have to give up social spending elsewhere later to pay for it.  Probably not going to get much infrastructure spending in the next budget for the rest of the country, because Congress gave a little something-something to Texas and Florida now, and you may find that Medicare and Social Security get cut to pay for this, as well.  Note must be made here that the ‘infrastructure spending plan’, such as it is, is mostly a plan to give the common infrastructure over to private companies to run at a profit anyway, but now Congress may decide to do away with any public ownership or investment altogether.  When things are rebuilt in these two states, they will be built in the same way they were built before: defiant of the inexorable demands of nature.  If you pave over the swamps and bury hazardous materials under your homes, you get floods because the water has nowhere to go and you get lethal shit released into the air and water when a bad weather event occurs.  In Houston, it is estimated (this is an early estimate, sure to be calibrated upwards as the weeks go on) that two million pounds of hazardous chemicals had been released into the air during the flood.  Texas took care of the problem by turning off its air monitors in the Houston area during hurricane Harvey.  (Can’t worry about what you don’t know, is the theory behind this.)  30,000 gallons of crude oil flowed into the floodwaters that people were wading in when two oil tanks ruptured.  The current condition of all the Superfund sites in the flood zone is unknown.  [Superfund sites are locations polluted with hazardous and toxic materials that require long-term clean-up responses.]  In Florida, there are 54 Superfund sites at risk of flooding and leeching out of containment during heavy rains and storm surges; the EPA claims that all of them have been secured, although reporters found no-one working at any of them in the past week.  Nonetheless, no lessons will be learned and nothing will change, as we will insist that our way is the best because we are just that exceptional.   This brings to mind the “healthcare” debacle. The US politicians refuse to ask all those other countries how they set up their universal healthcare systems – which apparently work efficiently enough and save enough money that none of them ever want to give them up – and instead simply declare that universal healthcare is “not feasible”.  And when the insurance costs skyrocket this winter, as they will due to the shortfalls of the ACA combined with the deliberate efforts of Trump and the Republicans to sabotage the little bit that works, the public will be told it was inevitable and that they must accept something even worse.

In Cuba, as compared to the US emergency system, there has been a network in place for decades where each family, household or neighborhood is paired with one or more of the same on the opposite side of the island.  Evacuation transportation, by any and all available means, and emergency routes have been planned in advance to cover any contingency, as part of the networks.  Everyone therefore is able to be moved quickly and they already have a place to stay during the emergency.  Despite the fact that Cuba is hit fairly frequently with hurricanes, there is very little death toll thanks to this pre-planning based on the public good.  Of course, this is an example of Dread Socialism at work, so the media in the US simply doesn’t talk about how Cuba manages hurricane preparedness, nor do they talk about Cuba at all, except as I said above, to crow that by running over Cuba first, Irma will be less dangerous to the US.

To add insult to injury, because there is nothing the US likes more than jabbing sharp sticks in the eyes of small nations everywhere, last night at the same exact time that Irma was making landfall along the northern coast of Cuba, the Trump administration announced that the trade embargo against Cuba is going to be extended for another year, until Sept., 2018.  Trump’s presidential memo states that the embargo, which prevents American companies from importing goods from Cuba or exporting goods to the island nation, has been extended under the Trading with the Enemy Act “in the national interest of the United States.”

I guess this presidential memo stands in lieu of any statement of support for, or commonality with, Cuba during an event that is likely to harm both countries severely.

USA, always classy!

Update, 4:30 p.m. 9 Sept., 2018

Earlier today, the weather services announced that they think the track of Irma will run up the west coast of Florida rather than the east coast (which is what they had predicted a couple of days ago).  This led to newly-declared mandatory evacuations of some cities on the western side of Fla.  These places seem very unprepared, which seems rather odd, given that the hurricane is wider than the entire state. No matter which coast it runs up, the entire state will get hurricane force winds, both coasts will get storm surge, rain and possibly tornadoes.  One would think the entire state would have prepared emergency shelters.  Anyway, about two hours ago, I saw a bit on one of the news shows wherein the reporter was walking along a line of people who were waiting to be accepting into a stadium that had just been opened as an emergency shelter in one of the west-coast Fla. cities.  These were people who had not been under mandatory evacuation orders until around noon today.  In other words, they had just been told they had to leave and, gas no longer being available and the storm making landfall by tomorrow morning, they headed for the only place made ready for them as a shelter.  Thousands of them were lined up, some with babies in strollers and old people in wheelchairs, some carrying packages of bottled water, and little satchels of clothes.  The line wasn’t moving at all.  The stadium can hold about 6000 people (without their wheelchairs, strollers and suitcases).  Why is the line not moving?  As the reporter got to the front of the line, he mentioned that he couldn’t get any officials to talk to him.  However, you could see that behind him, the people at the front of the line were filling out multiple sheets of paper clasped on clipboards before they were allowed to present these papers to some official and be let into the stadium.  A stunningly bizarre insistence on some byzantine paperwork while moving people into emergency shelter.  There is no way in hell they are going to get all those people inside before dark.  It will be dark around 7 p.m. here on the east coast of the US, just a few hours from now, and the eye of the storm will make landfall around 8 tomorrow morning.  But the eye wall is rather irrelevant, since the outer bands are already over Fla, and the winds are picking up right now.  Get the people in and settled, assholes.  Asking for papers to be filled out right this minute is just arbitrary bureaucracy.

Something else: last night, in the wee hours, I caught a re-run of some Fox News segment which apparently aired earlier in the evening.  I don’t know the reporter’s name or the name of the show, and it’s Fox News, so who gives a fuck anyway?  The lady reporter was practically shrieking that the “fake news” outlets were trying to use a hurricane to sell the Fake Idea of fake climate change.  Under her angry twisted-up face, there was a banner which read, “Liberal news sites try to promote global warming.”  She and her co-hosts were appalled that a hurricane, of all things, was used as an example of climate change.  And, they pointed out, the projected path of Irma had been changed, like, a lot over the past week, by the incompetent weather people, all of whom, they insisted, work for the government, which is totally run by liberals and whackaloons, except for the parts run by Trump and the Republicans, but they aren’t the ones to blame for the liberal, fake weather people and their sinister global warming hoaxes, and the altered trajectory of the storm proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that climate change is bullshit.  Some people  – maybe a lot of people – watch this crap and believe it.  So let’s consider climate change for a moment, while we are talking about hurricanes and weather.  Imagine you are sitting on your porch on a breezy autumn day.  A leaf falls from a tree and gets caught in the wind.  It swirls and dances around the yard.  Where will it land, you might idly wonder as you watch it flutter about.  Thing is, no matter what you predict, you will probably be wrong; there are too many variables at work, from the air temperature to the ground temperature, to the strength of the breeze, to the air pressure, to obstacles in your yard.  Weather prediction is hard.  It is a science and it is currently enhanced by computers, but it is still hard.  The expected path of Irma changed a little within the past twelve hours because it went over Cuba’s landmass, because the temperature of the ocean below it may have changed a bit, because the prevailing winds shifted a tad, but it is still heading for Florida and it is still a huge storm.  To claim that this slight alteration means climate change as a whole is therefore false is just ignorant.

There are other theories about why we are having massive droughts some places, record-breaking rainfall in others, hurricanes, flooding and wildfires all over the planet aside from man-caused global warming.   You might believe that the weather is always changing and this is just part of a normal cycle of cooling and warming.  You might believe that the government is playing with the weather so as to force us to pay higher taxes to alleviate the bad weather they caused on purpose.  You might think the power companies are hyping a fake story so they can usher in carbon taxes, where they can collect a shit-ton of money from you on top of whatever they rip you off for in normal circumstances.  You might believe that reptile space aliens are screwing with weather patterns as part of their plan to take over the earth.  I’m not sure why Americans are so wedded to their simplistic belief systems that they can only believe in binary truths; everything has to be just one thing or it can only be the exact opposite thing.  We have no nuance in this country and no ability for complex thought.

I think it is proven that the climate is changing due to the burning of fossil fuels.  But it can also, simultaneously, be true that there are normal cycles of the weather in the long term, and the effects of these normal cycles are merely enhanced by our mistaken overuse of coal and oil.  It can also be true that politicians and energy companies want to abuse the science to foist financial misery on everyone for their own profit.  It can also be true that the US government plays with the weather  – hell, they were already doing it during the Vietnam war, and proud of it.  Probably the space alien thing isn’t true, though.  Point is, it doesn’t have to be all one or the other, and claiming the whole shebang is a hoax is dangerously simpleminded and keeps us from doing what we ought to ameliorate the worst of the effects of climate change.  The climate is changing.  And that is a fact.

Another fact is that the US military wants to, or already is, using the weather as a weapon against other countries.  Don’t take my word for it; read this white paper, written in 1996 as a precis for the Pentagon.  This is major fucked-up fuckery, right here:

Title: Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025

Opening disclaimer: “2025 is a study designed to comply with a directive from the chief of staff of the Air Force to examine the concepts, capabilities, and technologies the United States will require to remain the dominant air and space force in the future. Presented on 17 June 1996, this report was produced in the Department of Defense school environment of academic freedom and in the interest of advancing concepts related to national defense. The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force, Department of Defense, or the United States government.  This publication has been reviewed by security and policy review authorities, is unclassified, and is cleared for public release.”

[This is followed by over 40 pages of how the US can manipulate the weather to create adverse conditions for other countries, to use the weather as a weapon of mass destruction, and to weaponize space for the same purposes.]

http://csat.au.af.mil/2025/volume3/vol3ch15.pdf

Advertisements
 

Trump wins. Thank the Democrats.

Donald Trump has won the 2016 election and the Republicans retain control of both the House and the Senate.  

There is no-one to blame but the Democratic party politicians, the DNC, and their big donors. They had a candidate (actually more than one) who could have beat Trump in a landslide, yet they decided they had to do everything in their power, including rigging the primaries and colluding with the media, to give the nomination to a person so universally despised and so obviously corrupt that she couldn’t beat the carnival barker.  Irony of ironies; as the Clinton and DNC emails prove, the Clinton people were pushing for the nomination of Trump as an opponent because they thought he would be easier for her to beat than any other Republican. The fatal flaw of this plan was that the Democratic machine had been rigging everything in favor of the one person who couldn’t beat anyone with enough of a margin to overcome the insurmountable and peculiar electoral college system we use.  [Although they claim she beat Bernie Sanders, running as a fellow Democrat, in the primaries, the evidence of the DNC rigging the primaries is, well, irrefutable at this point and her nomination was cinched by Sanders’ own and finally obvious collusion in merely playing the sheepdog to deliver his innocent flock over to her.]  

Not only that, but the DNC spent all their money – against the party regulations, by the way – on the Hillary Victory Fund instead of spreading it out to the down-ticket Democrats; as a result, they still have a minority in both the House and the Senate. Not to mention that the only down-ticket Democrats that they supported verbally, if not financially, were nothing but ‘Blue Dog’ sell-outs instead of progressives or liberals. Despite losing the hold they had in both houses of Congress and losing state houses all across the country during the 2014 mid-terms, they didn’t bother with getting out the vote, or bother to deal with gerry-mandering issues, or pay any attention whatsoever to what people were telling them – that the economy sucks, people need jobs, Obamacare is really really bad, wealth disparity is dividing the country, Obama didn’t keep any of his promises and people were pissed about it, and everyone is sick of the “bipartisan compromises” that keep making things worse on the ground.  47 million Americans don’t have enough food to eat.  Fully one-third of eligible working-age Americans do not have jobs.  Social Security benefits continue to get cut or remain stagnant despite the fact that people can see with their own two eyes that food, housing and every other expense they routinely have to pay each month continues to increase in price.  Health insurance costs are so high that a family plan now costs more than the average person earns in 6 months.  Wages are effectively lower than they were 20 years ago.  Although the “family income” level was purred over repeatedly by Obama and Clinton on the campaign trail and touted as a sign of how things have improved under Obama, the fact is that according to the reports themselves, family income has not even risen above the level it was in 1999 – 17 years ago.  This is obfuscated by politicians and media pundits who don’t reveal the actual charts, try to equate “household income” with “personal income”, and who never point out the obvious; family income includes the combined incomes of all members of a family living in one household, and we now have the highest number of adult children living with their parents than at any time in our history.  Even if all they have is some measly part-time job at McDonald’s, these young adults contribute to that “household income” number.  Which, despite 1/3 of Americans under the age of 30 having to live with Mommy and Daddy, is still lower than than it was 17 fucking years ago.

I’m just amazed that the political grifters weren’t able to pull off the final fake-out and simply make up the election results like they do the unemployment numbers, economic measurements, or poll numbers and just claim Clinton won; on the other hand, it should occur to everyone that perhaps Trump is just as acceptable to the plutocracy as she is.  Maybe it’s that easy to figure out why they didn’t bother to rig the election – either candidate suffices to get the powers-that-be where they want to be; in total control of all the commons and all the wealth, and so they let the general election play out without interference.   Hell, maybe they did rig it, but didn’t go far enough, underestimating the numbers they needed.  Or – here’s a conspiracy theory for you – maybe Clinton’s health really is so bad that they realized, too late, that they couldn’t let her take office.  It strikes me as odd that she conceded before Trump had officially hit the magic 270 number in the electoral count and well before all the popular votes were in, especially given her determined, bullish, self-righteous pursuit of the office for so many long years.  Or perhaps the investigations into the Clinton Foundation are showing indications that criminal charges are forthcoming; the FBI has not ended those investigations, after all.  However, that will be taken care of by Obama preemptively pardoning Clinton before he leaves the White House so that no charges can ever be filed and the Clinton Foundation’s felonious enterprise will never be publicly exposed.  Perhaps the electoral college will not vote the way it is pledged to, in the end, and Clinton has been told to expect this.  She actually has won the popular vote, after all.  The electoral college does not cast its official vote until Dec. 19.  Supposedly, the electors have to vote the way they are pledged, but they may be convinced to test the system this time on behalf of “DNC primary super-delegate winner” Clinton.  Maybe this election has yet other surprises in store.

The country could have gone either way – more liberal or more conservative – in its presidential decision.  As the results of various ballot measures across the country prove, our societal tendency as a whole is clearly toward the liberal side.  The voters approved measures for legalized marijuana and increased minimum wages in state after state, for example.  It’s the politicians who are trending ever further right.  The Democratic party refused to encourage this social trending and instead offered the most right-wing Democrats they could find.  The voters repudiated that; unfortunately, having been abandoned by the Democrats, voting for Republicans was the only way to voice their discontent.  It wasn’t so much a choice for the conservatives as an un-choosing of the status quo.  In fact, the Republican party can only claim somewhere between 25 and 30% of the voting public as its base.  Clinton, Obama, and her other spokesmen were out there on the campaign trail, however, praising Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger, and Madeleine Albright, for God’s sake.  The Republican big-wigs supported Clinton, as did all the neocons and neoliberals.  She talked about the need for more wars (with Iran, China, and Russia, God help us all) and more Pentagon spending, and the only mention made of liberal ideas were to dismiss them as things that might  be “worked out eventually in a bipartisan fashion”.  It all made anything she said about “supporting progressive promises” and “Democratic ideals” look so phony that, in the end, nobody could believe a damn word of it.  I guarantee you, if the Democrats had run seriously progressive candidates and responded to, heeded the message of, the massive support Sanders got and what it implied, this election would have ended differently. It’s too bad, because Trump’s trickle-down economic ideas won’t do a damned thing for any but the wealthiest Americans and corporate cartels, but the people responded at a gut level. They found him to be authentic in his strange, but ultimately Ayn Randian way, and intuitively knew Clinton was a liar, a warmonger and a Wall Street stooge.  Going with their gut feelings was all they had; the billionaires, corporate elites, whorish media, and political parties have finally managed to so dumb down and confuse the population that all the people had left was unfiltered, inchoate anger and primal survival instinct.  They tossed a Hail Mary pass for the one they felt was at least a political outsider, driven by the devil’s bargain that had been foisted on them by party elites.

I think we are going to lose our Social Security, Medicare, unemployment and food stamps benefits no matter who had won, as both parties have been colluding to that end since Bill Clinton was in office.  Obama formed his “catfood commission” as one of the first things he did during his first term, if you’ll recall.  When Obama took office in 2008, he had a Democratic majority in both houses.  And yet he utterly failed to implement any of the progressive platforms he had run on, instead squandering the opportunity (with no objection from the Democrats in either house, mind you) to end torture, take action against the Bush regime, close Guantanamo Bay, end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, punish the Wall Street bankers who crashed the economy, or push for universal health-care.  He brought in Timmeh Geithner and other Goldman Sachs men to run the Treasury and immediately assigned Monsanto people to run the FDA and the USDA, granted permits for even more deep-water drilling, and named a charter-schools promoter to run the Dept. of Education.  Within a few years, he had signed the NDAA giving him the ability to assassinate anyone he chose anywhere on the planet (Trump may love that presidential perq), and expanded our illegal “war zone” to seven countries.  Like the Syriza Party in Greece, Obama and the Democrats took office with false promises and immediately handed the country over to everything the people thought they were voting against.  We were given the discipline of austerity measures, a health “reform” that gave exponentially more profits to the private insurers and pharmaceutical companies, and exposed to the quackery of the Federal Reserve programs.  It is guaranteed that now, at this late date and with the Republicans in charge of both houses and the presidency, there will be no re-regulation of Wall Street, all our tax monies will continue to feed the Pentagon, big corporations will still get governmental subsidies while raking in record profits, there will not be an end to the toxic shit dumped into the water and food, every state will be fracked, and every politician in Washington will continue to ignore the wishes of the people who voted them into office.  Here’s the thing: we weren’t going to get anything good out of this election anyway.  You might not have noticed, but neither party talked about actual policies they might implement.  The media never asked questions along those lines, either.  Climate change was never mentioned in the debates, nor the militarization of the police, nor the legality of the US bombing  multiple countries, none of with whom we are legally at war .  Likewise ignored was civil asset forfeiture, NSA spying, and all the other losses of our civil liberties over the years.  Despite Trump’s promises, the House and Senate won’t spend a dime on infrastructure, jobs, or education, and for sure, climate change or environmental issues are completely dead in the water now (those being not even mentioned by Trump), but at least there isn’t going to be any pretense about who both parties of Congress serve any more. And it isn’t the people of the United States; it’s the plutocracy.  Desperate Trump supporters and the die-hard Clinton supporters may not have figured that out yet, and may never; for we are a supremely fact-free and stupid society now.  

[As an aside, I have to mention that Clinton didn’t even bother to address her faithful in person last night.  She phoned in her concession to Trump, had someone announce to the media that she’d speak publicly in the morning, and just left all those Clinton people deserted in the hall where they’d gathered in the assumption that win or lose, she’d at least grace them with her presence.  She didn’t spare a minute for them, however.  All those sad Clinton supporters, mourning the fact that their very own Caligula had lost the election, were left to catch some rest as best they could in their folding chairs until around noon today, when she gave her official concession speech.  I watched that event live when it occurred.  She had the unmitigated nerve to blather on about how the US “treats everyone equally under the law” and about how “the Constitution” and “rule of law” guides us all and makes us such a great country.  Much to my surprise, a bolt of lightening did not come down from the heavens and strike her dead.]

But whatever happens from here on out, put the blame where it belongs: on the Democrats, who insisted that it was the criminal War-pig’s “turn”, no matter what the voters were saying they wanted.  As it turns out, the fact that she pees sitting down wasn’t a big selling point, and that was the only card they had to play.  What’s the old saying?  Democrats stab you in the back, Republicans stab you in the front.  The Democrats sold us out gradually over the years; from Bill Clinton’s time in office onwards, they turned ever more rightward, leaving behind and deserting the civil rights movement, the peace movement, the unions, and the idea that our society and commons should be the primary recipients of taxpayer monies.  We were at a turning point with this election.  We could have gone more toward the right or toward the left in this choice, as I said.  We had candidates who were clearly more to the left of Clinton, candidates who were kept as hidden as possible by the collaboration of the media and the political parties until it was too late, and the left was deserted.  The Democratic power machine deliberately chose to take the rightward lean, they deliberately chose to ignore what their voter base wanted, and in so doing, deliberately threw away a chance to nudge our society ever closer toward true equality and social uplift.  We will pay the price for a long time and the price will be heavy.  

 

 

This is for posterity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Further reading:

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Very good essay on the latest re: Fukushima:

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

 

On Obamacare (h/t Kitt):

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