Archive for December, 2014

by lizard

Let’s be realistic, 2015 is going to be a very challenging year for those of us who want to see truth, justice and peace ascend to their ideal roles in the day to day governance of our lives. Without adherence to these principles we face another year where lies will dominate our discourse, injustice will inflame our populous and war will continue moving world powers into a confrontation that none of us may escape the consequences of.

In what has to be one of the most audaciously deceitful proclamations from a sitting president, Obama declared the Afghanistan war is over. That is a lie, it is not over. The Chicago Tribune has a good headline emphasizing this deceit: Afghan War is over, except it’s not. From the link:

In a ceremony in Kabul Sunday, the U.S. commander of the NATO forces in Afghanistan grandly proclaimed the “end” of the 13-year combat mission against the Taliban and other terrorist foes. But in doing so, he emphasized that NATO personnel will continue to train home-grown Afghan forces taking up the actual fighting.

President Obama in a written statement declared, “Our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.” And in Kabul, a leading NATO official optimistically declared the beginning of “a new chapter for NATO as an enduring partner of the Afghan government.”

However, the war obviously has not ended, and Obama acknowledged the obvious in adding that Afghanistan is still “a dangerous place.” The American military, in its annoying penchant for pasting cheerleading labels on its endeavors, dubbed this ongoing mission “Resolute Support.”

This is just insane. Last month, when Chuck Hagel resigned, I noted how the Obama regime casually declared the exact opposite of what Obama said this month. What a difference a month makes.

Here is what the New York Times reported on November 21st:

President Obama decided in recent weeks to authorize a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned, a move that ensures American troops will have a direct role in fighting in the war-ravaged country for at least another year.

Mr. Obama’s order allows American forces to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government, a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision. The new authorization also allows American jets, bombers and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions.

In an announcement in the White House Rose Garden in May, Mr. Obama said that the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year, and that the missions for the 9,800 troops remaining in the country would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the “remnants of Al Qaeda.”

The Obama regime must think Americans are the stupidest people on the planet. Is he right? Are we so brainwashed that the liar in chief can say one thing while doing the exact opposite? It’s insane, and the silence from his Democrat supporters is maddening.

Those of us paying attention know why the war in Afghanistan must continue. It was never about fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda. It’s about maintaining US hegemony by any means possible, ensuring Russia and China can’t emerge as viable counter-weights to America’s psychotic quest for full spectrum dominance.

Will 2015 be the year this reality seeps up to the surface? Doubtful.

Remaining in this state of willful ignorance could have dire consequences. We can’t talk about solutions if the scope of the problems we are facing can’t be accurately described.

Truth, justice and peace are just words if we don’t do something to make them breathe. And right now they can’t breathe.

It’s up to us, the people, to change that.

by lizard

My default reaction to anything our government says or does is one of suspicion, that I readily admit. When all the mainstream sources of our state media say it’s this, I starting wondering if maybe it’s not that. This default reaction has certainly caused some rifts. In July, after flight MH17 was shot down over Eastern Ukraine, my suspicion that it was the coup government, not Russia, sparked this reaction from James Conner, who had this to say:

4and20blackbirds has become an alternate reality blog, a realm of conspiracy theories and rants by angry leftists driven by hatred of their nation and soured on humanity. Once an oasis of fact and reason, it’s now a well poisoned by fury and anti-Americanism. I can no longer in good conscience keep it on Flathead Memo’s blogroll.

Two things caused me to reflect on that spat over a controversial issue. The first was a piece of self-congratulation James put up at his blog yesterday. Here’s the first paragraph:

An old verity — when the subject is controversial, the speaker should supply the facts and the audience should supply the indignation — governs my approach to reporting and discussing the issues. Too many adjectives usurp the reader’s prerogative to draw his own conclusions. Insults dishonor the human rights of readers and subjects. Profanity — an occasional hell or damn excepted — offends, and gratuitously; and as my grandfather used to say, is the effort of a weak mind to express itself forcefully. I don’t always abide by those principles perfectly, but I try to.

Getting the facts can be difficult. In the case of MH17, the investigation is incredibly secretive and there’s no telling when, if ever, the results will be made known, considering the non-disclosure agreement the countries involved in the investigation apparently signed. There have been facts that emerged (After James supplied the indignation) that calls into serious question the official narrative. Consortium News has been a great source for those of us “angry leftists”.

The second thing, which reinforces my default reaction, is the pathetic government spin of the Sony hack, which is starting to fall apart. From Zerohedge:

First it was, with “absolute certainly”, North Korea. Then, out of the blue, an even more ridiculous theory emerged about the origin of the Sony hackers: Russia. Now, we finally get the truth, and as it turns out it was neither of the abovementioned sovereign actors who had nothing better to do than to hack movie scripts and racist emails: it was Sony’s own disgruntled worker who was the source of the hack. According to Politico, FBI agents investigating the Sony Pictures hack were briefed Monday by a security firm that says its research points to laid-off Sony staff, not North Korea, as the perpetrator.”

Researchers from the cyber intelligence company Norse have said their own investigation into the data on the Sony attack doesn’t point to North Korea at all and instead indicates some combination of a disgruntled employee and hackers for piracy groups is at fault.

I guess it pays to be suspicious. Facts are a luxury we don’t often get in an information landscape littered with spin and propaganda. James Conner should remember that before swallowing more government whoppers, hook, line and sinker.

by lizard

What the hell does the NYPD expect to accomplish by taking a page from the Westboro Baptist Church and using the funeral of officer Ramos to further escalate tensions in their political war against the Mayor’s office? Chief Bratton is trying to do some damage control, but it’s yet to be seen if his words will have any effect. At least he’s trying:

De Blasio has faced expressions of open hostility from New York’s police unions since two officers were killed last weekend. On Saturday a cordon of officers turned their back on the mayor’s image as it was being screened outside Christ Tabernacle church in Queens, where de Blasio was addressing the funeral of one of the murdered officers , Rafael Ramos.

Bratton condemned the silent protest of the police officers. “I certainly don’t support that action,” he said. “That funeral was held to honor officer Ramos, and to bring politics into that event was very inappropriate.”

Today Democracy Now featured a NYPD officer, Adhyl Polanco, speaking out about what’s going on in New York City. Here is a portion of the interview:

AMY GOODMAN: Your reaction to your fellow officers turning their back on Mayor de Blasio, not in the church, but outside, because there were so many, they couldn’t all fit in the church?

ADHYL POLANCO: Absolutely wrong, absolutely wrong. Mayor de Blasio came to the police department, that had a lot of issues with before he got to this police department. Mayor de Blasio came with the attitude that “I can fix this police department.” But this police department has a culture that is going to make whoever tried to change that culture and life impossible, including the mayor. It’s absolutely wrong to turn their back on the mayor. It absolutely don’t show—this is not what we’re made of. This is—I was not taught—you know, this does not represent the police department. This does not represent how, when a family calls for peace and unity, you’re going to have a hundred officers doing the absolute opposite.

AMY GOODMAN: Do other officers feel as you do?

ADHYL POLANCO: There’s many. There’s many officers that feel like I do.

It takes true courage for someone in Officer Polanco’s position to come forward. Within the 7th largest army in the world, I hope there are more people like Officer Polanco.

It’s too bad the insurrectionary faction of the NYPD don’t understand their actions will inevitably make their job more dangerous. Or maybe they don’t care. Maybe another tragedy is something this faction knows they can exploit to—to what? Enact regime change in NYC?

Whatever the motivation, the effect will be further escalation.

by lizard

Community Medical Center had a 75 million dollar choice to make. Seeing as how this money came from the sale of a non-profit hospital, lots of people had lots of hope that this money could be used to positively impact our community. But instead of engaging the public, the CMC board has essentially spit in the face of Missoula by dumping 10 million on the UM foundation and taking the rest to create another non-profit, because that is what Missoula needs, another non-profit. Dave Woolhiser, a founding board member of the Missoula Community Foundation, wrote a letter about this decision and I’m going to repost it here because Dave says what needs to be said:

As an alumnus of the University of Montana who, through charitable giving and volunteerism, supports much within the Missoula community and across Montana, I am offended by the recent decision of the Community Medical Center’s board.

The board has reached an agreement with Billings Clinic and RegionalCare Hospital Partners to sell Community, a non-profit, community-focused hospital, to become a for-profit entity. No dissatisfaction there. I think they did their homework and can justify their decision intelligently.

My dissatisfaction lies with the board’s decision, after an inadequate and unsatisfactory amount of due diligence regarding the disposition of approximately $75 million of charitable assets from the sale — “our” money. The board has decided to give over $10 million to the University of Montana Foundation and use the remainder to create yet another nonprofit organization in Missoula. The process used by the board, lack of concern for the community’s benefit and ultimate decision are three areas of great concern.

To my knowledge, the board did not undergo any sort of rigorous review of existing organizations with which to partner, nor did they conduct any sort of meaningful public discussion regarding this matter. They did host a few meetings, yet those were not community engagement sessions. Community administration was unwilling to share any meaningful information about disposition of the funds with attendees of the sessions I attended. In fact, in one of them we were directly told the process would remain closed “out of respect to the CMC board”!

Transparency and community focus should have been paramount in this situation. It appears to me that the decision has been clouded by board members’ personal agendas rather than meeting the public good. This is evidenced by many members’ inability to check their personal interests, and in some cases employment relationships, at the door when making this decision. Those relationships weren’t disclosed in CMC’s conflict of interest documents.

In a letter from the attorney for Community to the Attorney General, he states that various partnership options were reviewed. I take great exception to this statement. Two highly qualified organizations were invited to make 30-minute presentations to the CMC board about partnership options. Thirty minutes for a $75 million decision – really? It is clear that the board was going through this step merely to check another box in hopes this would satisfy the AG. The organizations’ presentation times were then reduced to approximately 20 minutes each.

While UM is a solid education institution, depositing $10 million in its Foundation does not meet the cy pres requirement of providing funds that most closely serve the charitable purpose of Community. CMC was built through community support and community generosity. Funds from the CMC sale should be used for charitable purposes within the Missoula/western Montana community for the benefit of all its members. The future board tasked with making grants from the sale proceeds should be the entity making the decision as to which charities receive grants.

I am also disappointed that the CMC board voted to create another nonprofit organization. A new organizational structure creates yet more unnecessary administrative structures and cost centers which could be much more efficiently managed by partnering with an existing organization. Two organizations worthy of consideration are the Montana Healthcare Foundation and the Montana Community Foundation. They happen to be the two organizations the board gave 20 minutes each.

Finally, I have contributed to both UM and Community and a multitude of other charitable efforts in Missoula. When I gave to the hospital it was for health care. When I gave to UM it was for education. If I wanted my donation to the hospital to go to the university, I would have given to the university, and vice versa. That the board would not honor charitable intent is simply dishonorable.

As for the UM’s part in this deal, I feel they are absconding with funds that rightly belong to the poverty-stricken, the aged, the infirm, even the unborn of not just Missoula, but our entire region. UM’s acceptance of such a gift is unconscionable. To solicit and accept gifts from the willing rich is one thing, to take it from the unwitting and ignorant poor is quite another. Shame on you.

This money could have been a game changer. How about looking at the mental health issues and addiction issues we waste millions of dollars triaging in the ER and jail? Nope. I hope there will be some investigative journalism examining the process of how the CMC board produced this unfortunate outcome.

A Thought Experiment

by lizard

I came across an interesting thought experiment I’m going to feature first before describing where I found it. Without any introduction, The Fish Farming Story:

As a thought experiment, let’s consider aquaculture (fish farming) in a lake. Imagine a lake with a thousand identical fish farms owned by a thousand competing companies. Each fish farm earns a profit of $1000/month. For a while, all is well.

But each fish farm produces waste, which fouls the water in the lake. Let’s say each fish farm produces enough pollution to lower productivity in the lake by $1/month.

A thousand fish farms produce enough waste to lower productivity by $1000/month, meaning none of the fish farms are making any money. Capitalism to the rescue: someone invents a complex filtering system that removes waste products. It costs $300/month to operate. All fish farms voluntarily install it, the pollution ends, and the fish farms are now making a profit of $700/month – still a respectable sum.

But one farmer (let’s call him Steve) gets tired of spending the money to operate his filter. Now one fish farm worth of waste is polluting the lake, lowering productivity by $1. Steve earns $999 profit, and everyone else earns $699 profit.

Everyone else sees Steve is much more profitable than they are, because he’s not spending the maintenance costs on his filter. They disconnect their filters too.

Once four hundred people disconnect their filters, Steve is earning $600/month – less than he would be if he and everyone else had kept their filters on! And the poor virtuous filter users are only making $300. Steve goes around to everyone, saying “Wait! We all need to make a voluntary pact to use filters! Otherwise, everyone’s productivity goes down.”

Everyone agrees with him, and they all sign the Filter Pact, except one person who is sort of a jerk. Let’s call him Mike. Now everyone is back using filters again, except Mike. Mike earns $999/month, and everyone else earns $699/month. Slowly, people start thinking they too should be getting big bucks like Mike, and disconnect their filter for $300 extra profit…

A self-interested person never has any incentive to use a filter. A self-interested person has some incentive to sign a pact to make everyone use a filter, but in many cases has a stronger incentive to wait for everyone else to sign such a pact but opt out himself. This can lead to an undesirable equilibrium in which no one will sign such a pact.

Now, for how I came across this little tidbit.

The thought experiment comes from a blog called Slate Star Codex, specifically from a post titled Meditations on Moloch which opens with a look at the Moloch section of Allen Ginsberg’s poem, Howl. Before yesterday I’d never heard of this blog. I stumbled across the link at Rigorous Intuition, one of the better online communities of conspiracy theorists centered around the author Jeff Wells. The guy who posted the link is Wombaticus Rex, an interesting fellow in his own right.

I didn’t want the content to be weighed down with the baggage of how I came across it, because I know how easily certain perspectives are judged and dismissed. But for those interested in looking deeper, any one of those links is an interesting thread to follow.

by lizard

I would like to ask every moron who thinks they are championing free speech by going to “The Interview” what they think about some other opportunities to support free speech in America. A decade ago, on the eve of America’s war against Iraq, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks made some comments in London against the war. Conservatives across the nation threw a collective hissy fit:

In March of 2003, the drumbeat for war in Iraq had reached a fevered pitch. Despite massive protests throughout the world, over 70 percent of Americans supported the invasion. In that month, presidential approval also shot over 70 percent, the highest it would be for the remainder of George W. Bush’s tenure in office. Despite these currents, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks spoke out during a London show on the eve of the war, saying “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”

When media reports about the concert got back to the United States, all hell broke loose. Their record sales plummeted, they fell down the Billboard charts and a full scale boycott swept through their largely right-wing country music fan base. Country radio stations across the U.S. pulled them from circulation, with radio network giant Cumulus banning the Dixie Chicks from its more than 250 local stations. Former fans gathered to burn previously-purchased CDs and even, in one media spectacle, crush them with a giant farm tractor.

Unsurprisingly, conservatives welcomed this effort to economically discipline political speech. President Bush himself said of the debacle: “The Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind. They can say what they want to say … they shouldn’t have their feelings hurt just because some people don’t want to buy their records when they speak out. … Freedom is a two-way street. ”

And how about criticizing the brutal, apartheid state of Israel? Chris Hedges recently found out that those nice University speaking gigs can go south when associating Israel with ISIS. From Mondoweiss:

I had been invited to talk next April 3 at the University of Pennsylvania at a peace conference sponsored by the International Affairs Association, but last week after Truthdig published my column “ISIS—the New Israel” the lecture agency that set up the event received this email from Zachary Michael Belnavis, who is part of the student group:

“We’re sorry to inform you that we don’t think that Chris Hedges would be a suitable fit for our upcoming peace conference. We’re saying this in light of a recent article he’s written in which he compares the organization ISIS to Israel (here’s the article in question). In light of this comparison we don’t believe he would be suitable to a co-existence speaker based on this stance he’s taken.”

Being banned from speaking about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, especially at universities, is familiar to anyone who attempts to challenge the narrative of the Israel lobby.

Here is the offending article. And here is another article by Hedges discussing banning dissent in the name of civility:

Dershowitz has called on Israel to use bulldozers to demolish entire Palestinian villages, rather than individual houses, in retaliation for Palestinian terrorist attacks, although collective punishment violates international law. In another context he defends the use of torture and proposes methods that include shoving a “sterilized needle underneath the nail.” He lambastes as an anti-Semite nearly everyone who has criticized the Israeli state; he once said “there is a special place in hell” for former President Jimmy Carter and that South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu is “one of the most evil men in the world.”

When Dershowitz spoke at Penn in 2012, David Cohen, the chairman of the university board of trustees and executive vice president of Comcast Corp., read to the audience a letter written for the occasion by the school’s president, Amy Gutmann, who was in California at the time. In the letter Gutmann praised Dershowitz and castigated the BDS movement, saying “Penn is blessed to have one of the largest and most active Hillel chapters in the country. And we are unwavering in our support of the Jewish state. Let me say it in the clearest possible words: we do not support the goals of BDS.”

The code word that the Israel lobby and its facilitators at universities use to silence critics is “civility.” Israel supporters are permitted to spout hate and calls for indiscriminate violence against Palestinians. Critics of Israel, however, even if they are careful to denounce violence and not to demonize Jews, are banned in the name of “civility.” It is the height of academic duplicity.

There is a similar duplicity at work within the dynamics of the emerging movement to address police brutality. Protestors are in the streets because black lives don’t seem to matter. The list of names is long, unlike the list of cops held accountable for their actions, even when caught on camera. And while the NYPD is busy fomenting an insurrection against the Mayor, the LAPD is investigating an incident that occurred at a party for a retired LAPD officer where a Jim Croce classic was transformed into an ugly piece of racial incitement:

“Michael Brown learned a lesson
about a messin’ with a bad … police man
And he’s, bad, bad Michael Brown
Baddest thug in the whole darn town
Badder than an ol’ King Kong
Meaner than a junkyard dog
Two men took to fightin’
And Michael punched in through the door
and Michael looked like some old Swiss cheese
His brain was splatter on the floor.”

So cops can say and do whatever they want, but when anger and rage is expressed by non-cops, you better believe arrests will be made. According to CNN, 9 people have been arrested in NYC for “making threats”:

Of the arrests, police said, at least three stemmed from postings made on social media, and at least two came from misdemeanor charges of false report incident, in which the suspects allegedly called 911 reporting threats made by a third party that were later debunked.

One arrest was made after the suspect phoned in a direct threat to 911.

And on Wednesday, a man was arrested on weapons, drug and harassment charges after he was overheard threatening to kill cops while talking on his cell phone inside a bank in Queens, according to the NYPD.
That man is accused of saying on the phone that he was going to kill a cop, and that Brinsley should have killed white police officers, according to a criminal complaint filed in court. The complaint says that when police interviewed the suspect, he elaborated that two white officers should have been killed “if the guy really wanted to send a message.”

In a tweet Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio thanked the police department and the civilian who saw something suspicious and acted:

“Thank you to the NYPD officers who today arrested a man who threatened to kill cops, and to the good Samaritan who provided key information.”

So how invested are those moronic movie goers in defending free speech in America? From artists to academics to disgruntled New Yorkers grappling with their wartime police department, speech is banned, marginalized, suppressed and outright criminalized.

It turns out there are different prices to pay for what is allegedly free in America, and that price depends on who has the power. Confused? Here’s a recap.

You can commit war crimes and lie a nation into war with no accountability but if you criticize that war you will be economically punished.

You can talk openly about killing, torturing and sterilizing Arabs and destroying whole villages as collective punishment and still retain an ability to talk to American college kids, but if you point out the depraved nature of the apartheid state of Israel you will be banned from campus.

You can kill black people with impunity if you have a badge and escape indictment nearly every time, even when there is video evidence of the crime, but if you make verbal threats you will be arrested.

Free speech in America, baby. Love it or leave it!

by lizard

An article that first appeared in The Atlantic two years ago seems to be getting some recent attention again. Maybe it’s because the absurd premise of Millennials being The Cheapest Generation keeps warranting derisive reminders that Millennials aren’t buying shit because they’re fucking broke. Instead of acknowledging that, we get crap like this:

In a bid to reverse these trends, General Motors has enlisted the youth-brand consultants at MTV Scratch—a corporate cousin of the TV network responsible for Jersey Shore—to give its vehicles some 20-something edge. “I don’t believe that young buyers don’t care about owning a car,” says John McFarland, GM’s 31-year-old manager of global strategic marketing. “We just think nobody truly understands them yet.” Subaru, meanwhile, is betting that it can appeal to the quirky eco-­conscious individualism that supposedly characterizes this generation. “We’re trying to get the emotional connection correct,” says Doug O’Reilly, a publicist for Subaru. Ford, for its part, continues to push heavily into social media, hoping to more closely match its marketing efforts to the channels that Millennials use and trust the most.

All of these strategies share a few key assumptions: that demand for cars within the Millennial generation is just waiting to be unlocked; that as the economy slowly recovers, today’s young people will eventually want to buy cars as much as their parents and grandparents did; that a finer-tuned appeal to Millennial values can coax them into dealerships.

Perhaps. But what if these assumptions are simply wrong? What if Millennials’ aversion to car-buying isn’t a temporary side effect of the recession, but part of a permanent generational shift in tastes and spending habits? It’s a question that applies not only to cars, but to several other traditional categories of big spending—most notably, housing. And its answer has large implications for the future shape of the economy—and for the speed of recovery.

There should be an entirely different assumption here, but it would be too troubling for the people who want to sell cars and houses: Millennial buying behavior reflects their reality of debt and service-sector job opportunities serving lunch to smug Baby Boomers who were born into opportunity and decided to tear the whole thing apart then blame the kids.

Some of the recent reactions to this article include a post featured on Moyers & Co. by Donovan Ramsey, who has this to say:

It’s not about smart phones, selfies or social media. Millennials aren’t making some of life’s biggest purchases because we’re broke. As James Carville might say, “it’s the economy, stupid.”

Reading the money pages of popular publications as a millennial can be infuriating. Every other article seems to stumble through clumsy speculation about my generation’s financial decisions, as if they’re so mysterious.

A recent article for The Atlantic calls millennials “The Cheapest Generation” and expends more than 2000 words to explain “why Millennials aren’t buying cars or houses, and what that means for the economy.”

“The largest generation in American history might never spend as lavishly as its parents did — nor on the same things,” it reads. “Since the end of World War II, new cars and suburban houses have powered the world’s largest economy and propelled our most impressive recoveries. Millennials may have lost interest in both.”

The word “debt” appears only once throughout the entire piece.

Closer to home, Dan Brooks chimed in with a post pointing out that Christmas is over and work still sucks:

Merry Kristmas, Kombat! kids. The holiday is over, but sloth persists. There is no Combat! blog today, because I need to re-metabolize insulin and do a little paying work. Fortunately, the rest of the internet continues apace. If you’d like to become enraged, the New York Times is hosting a Room For Debate on whether it’s smart for millennials to delay adulthood. Nearly all the respondents acknowledge that young people aren’t getting married and buying houses because the job market is terrible and real estate prices are absurdly high, but they go on to suggest that a generation is opting out of adulthood anyway. While we’re characterizing whole generations, I’m going to say that it’s a very Baby Boomer thing to be born into the best economy in American history, wreck it, and then damn your children for not wanting to own homes and work high-paying jobs. Those of you who like your broad statements a little more quantitative are encouraged to consider the four charts the defined the economy in 2014, including the alarming convergence in assets of the wealthiest .1% of Americans and the “bottom” 90%. Can you believe that 90% of this country opted out of getting rich? Neither can I.

Always the optimists, Zerohedge has a guest post about how we just enjoyed the last Christmas in America and another about the destruction of the Middle Class nearing the final stage. From the first link the author offers a little recent historical perspective on how we’ve gotten through the last few decades with energy and technology:

The economic stagnation, despite various stock market rallies and false starts, essentially lasted 10 years, from 1973 to 1982.

The malaise had a happy ending: huge new oil fields were discovered in Alaska, the North Sea, West Africa and elsewhere, ushering in a renewed era of cheap, abundant petroleum. President Reagan re-set Social Security for a generation and introduced a lower taxes, higher permanent deficits ideology that is now accepted as the only possible way to sustain the Status Quo: deficits don’t matter, even when they reach the trillions, because our good friends the Gulf Oil Exporters and Asian exporters will buy all our debt forever and ever, keeping interest low forever and ever.

(And if they drop the ball, then the Federal Reserve prints money and buys trillions of dollars of Treasury bonds. Sweet! We don’t need any external buyers, just the Federal Reserve creating money out of thin air.)

Then the U.S. created and launched two revolutionary technologies which both created new wealth around the globe: the personal computer (microprocessor and cheap RAM) and the Internet (TCP/IP, Ethernet, and the commercialization of Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web with free browsers) spawning the generation-long boom of the 1980s and 90s.

Those “saves from stagnation” were one-offs; there will be no more supergiant energy finds, nor any equivalents of the Internet expansion cycle.

That’s just an opinion, of course. Maybe the next technological breakthrough will be in energy. I’m still hoping there is some value in this planet that will motivate a more evolved species of extra-terrestrials into intervening because this house of cards can’t stand forever.

The other piece posted at Zerohedge comes from Tom Chatham via Project Chesapeake and does such a great job framing the ongoing financial crisis in a succinct, easy to understand manner that I’m going to repost most of it here:

The events of the past few months seem astounding when taken in all at once. The plan to destroy the U.S. dollar and the American middle class is moving at an ever increasing speed.

At the recent G20 meeting the nations agreed that bank deposits would no longer be considered money. These bank deposits become the property of the banking institution and as such can be used any way the bank wants. This means that any money you deposit in a bank now is no longer yours but makes you an investor in the bank and subject to lose that money if a banking crisis takes down the bank.

The spending bill just passed by congress makes the American taxpayer responsible for any derivatives loses that banks may suffer. These derivative holders now have first priority when any funds are paid out and depositors are relegated to last place. FDIC insurance will have to pay out these funds but it has no where near enough money to pay the more than 300 trillion in losses that will be suffered in a banking crisis. That means any depositor has little hope of getting anything back. In order for depositors to get anything back massive money printing would have to take place making any payout amount to only pennies on the dollar.

And if you don’t think there is any danger of a banking crisis in America you may want to keep in mind that the Treasury Dept. has recently ordered $200k worth of 72 hr emergency kits for dispersion to every major bank in America. These are known by many as bug-out-bags and are used to support individuals when disaster strikes and they have to care for themselves for the first few days of crisis.

New legislation now gives pension plans the ability to cut benefits to pensioners in the future making the future welfare of these people uncertain. They say it is necessary to prevent these funds from going bankrupt. It will “apply to multi-employer pensions, where a group of businesses in the same industry join forces with unions to provide pension coverage for employees. The plans cover some 10 million U.S. workers,” You may be happy to know this will not affect congressional pensions, as long as they are funded by the taxpayers.

The sanctions being placed on Russia are beginning to destabilize the world in many ways. The sudden drop in oil prices will send ripples through many foreign nations and cause an already tense situation to become highly flammable. It seems this is what is wanted to provoke a new world war and hide the complicity of bankers and politicians in the coming destruction of the economy.

For the past few years those elite with knowledge of the coming monetary destruction have been putting their fiat dollars into any hard assets they can find. The recent record prices paid at auction for collectables is just one more indication that those in the know are moving into hard assets as fast as they can to preserve their wealth.

This diversification includes precious metals and land as well. I believe when there are no more metals or suitable properties available for purchase, these entities in control of this game will pull the plug and let everything collapse. Those holding fiat paper, electrons or other paper promises will be devastated as those assets evaporate into thin air.

You may feel some security knowing you have a good job but among the deposits that disappear will be billions in commercial accounts that belong to businesses. When these businesses lose this money, many will likely close destroying many jobs in the process. This will send ripples through the transportation, production and distribution system when it happens. In an economy made up of 70% consumer spending, this will be fast and devastating to those with few resources to fall back on when it happens.

There are three lessons that many people will learn in the coming months. If you do not have it already you may not be able to get it. If you do not have it physically in your hands you do not own it. If you cannot protect it you will not have it for long.

Maybe we should look on the bright side, the terrorists didn’t stop America from watching “The Interview” so good things are happening. And some people, like UM graduate and Obama toadie, Jim Messina, are helping the economy by buying a 2 million dollar house through some anonymous trust.

Kids, if you want to have nice things like your parents, try and be more like Jim Messina.

Cosby Goes to Cuba

by lizard

The frequency of posting I’ve maintained will continue into 2015, but it does come at a cost. I haven’t written a poem in forever, and the cycle of songs I was working on dried up.

But today, two days before Christmas, I am happy to share a poem that came to me this morning, triggered by reading this article at Counterpunch about Cuba.

So here it is!

COSBY GOES TO CUBA

he looked into the pudding pop
saw royalties, saw clout
to soften up her homeland
the foreplay of his snout
can breathe, and did, and will
as we inhaled him in
when Dr. Huxtable broke out
from the blackness of his skin

in Cuba now the Spanish Fly
is pouring down her throat
the embassy is coming
and capital will gloat
now Bill can be dismantled
and piece by piece removed
his usefulness is over
an embargo past its due

a new day here is dawning
old flames eventually burn out
to soften up her homeland
drip drops of drugging doubt
so cars will come to Cuba
and the revolution is dead
and Bill Cosby’s America
lies unconscious on the bed

—William Skink

by lizard

I do my best around family to abstain from overt political diatribes (with limited success), but when my dad mocked North Korea’s request for a joint investigation into the Sony hack at dinner last night, I decided he needed a little more information about what the Sony hack has actually exposed.

For most people, when the laughing subsides, this issue is thought of as a free speech issue. Conservative blogger Douglas Ernst, for example, casts this as a make-it-or-break-it moment for free speech in America:

The Founding Fathers knew that the right to free speech was important, which is why it is covered in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as part of the Bill of Rights. Today, Dec. 17, 2014, is the day that U.S. capitulation clowns at Sony gave a dictator veto power over the free speech rights of its American artists and sent a message to thug regimes that if they have enough tech savvy, then they can make studio executives cower in fear.

The fallacious assumption here is that “The Interview” is a product of American artistry. It’s not. The reality is this movie is actually a piece of propaganda that involved the State Department and the Rand Corporation. From the link:

The Daily Beast reported yesterday on leaked emails from the Sony hack which show that the United States government was involved at high levels with the content development of The Interview, especially its controversial ending depicting the assassination of North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Un. As the report’s headline states, “Sony Emails Say State Department Blessed Kim Jong-Un Assassination in ‘The Interview.’” The emails also reveal that a RAND corporation senior defense analyst who consulted on the film went beyond “blessing” and outright influenced the end of the film, encouraging the CEO of Sony Entertainment to leave the assassination scene as it was (in spite of misgivings at Sony) for the sake of encouraging North Koreans to actually assassinate Kim Jong-Un and depose his regime when the movie eventually leaks into that country. According to the Sony CEO, a senior US State Department official emphatically and personally seconded that advice and reasoning in a separate correspondence. The emails also reveal that the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human-rights issues also consulted with Sony on the film.

While a tiny nation state possibly being involved in scuppering a movie premiere by hacking and threatening a Hollywood studio by proxy may be more novel and sensational than yet another psyop by the US Regime Change Machine, the latter is far more important. The United States, as part of its “Asian Pivot,” made an explicit push for assassination and regime change in yet another foreign country under the cover of art and commerce, and the North Korean regime and its ally China are both now 100% aware of it. That has huge implications for politics in the region, for US relations with those countries, for the character and integrity of American art and media, and for the mischievous, generally havoc-wreaking way our government is secretly using our tax dollars.

The reality of how this “film” was produced undermines the free speech argument conservatives like Ernst are peddling. We aren’t talking about art, here, we are talking about propaganda with real world impacts. Here’s more from the conservative nitwit who thinks he knows what he’s talking about:

Anyone who cares about free speech should be downright terrified that companies operating in the U.S. would run for the hills the moment a nebulous hacking group threatens Americans with violence. The fact that it was even under consideration to torpedo the film is an indicator that America’s cultural rotgut has grown to gargantuan proportions. We have been hollowed out from the inside, and Sony’s reaction to being hacked by the “Guardians of Peace” has exposed that sad reality for everyone to see.

No, what has been exposed here is a pathetic scheme by state and corporate actors to use a film as a sort of Trojan horse to propagate regime change in North Korea.

The free speech red herring was examined on Democracy Now yesterday. Here’s a bit from the transcript of the segment featuring Christine Hong’s perspective:

With regard to this film, one thing that I’d say is that the lines between truth and fiction are extraordinarily thin. I mean, the plot of this film, which very few people have seen, was actually screened in rough-cut form at the State Department. And the content of this film is supposedly—you know, it’s about the CIA using Hollywood entertainment and a talk-show host sort of vehicle as a kind of cover to assassinate the leader of North Korea. What’s interesting about this film is, on the one hand, it’s framed in the United States, in U.S. media, as a kind of free speech issue, but this is really a red herring. You know, what’s interesting to me about this is the fact that if you actually look at what the Sony executives did, they consulted very closely with the State Department, which actually gave the executives a green light with regard to the death scene. And they also consulted with a RAND North Korea watcher, a man named Bruce Bennett, who basically has espoused in thesis that the way to bring down the North Korean government is to assassinate the leadership. And he actually stated, in consulting with Sony about this film, that this film, in terms of the South Korean market, as well as its infiltration by defector balloon-dropping organizations into North Korea, could possibly get the wheels of a kind of regime change plot into motion. So, in this instance, fiction and reality have a sort of mirroring relationship to each other.

This isn’t a free speech issue. This is another example of America weaponizing whatever it can to move forward its agenda of global dominance.

by lizard

The execution of two NYPD officers—an unjustifiable act that I do not condone—is being obscenely exploited to attack Mayor De Blasio and discredit the millions of people who have (and will continue) peacefully protesting police brutality. Two days ago when this cop slaying was unfolding, I put up this post about the response of Pat Lynch and the police union he heads, declaring the NYPD a ‘wartime’ police department. Wasting no time taking advantage to escalate tensions, Lynch confirmed that cops turned their backs on the Mayor as he approached the press conference.

But will the NYPD take any responsibility for escalating tensions? In pro-cop rallies, supporters AND officers were seen wearing I CAN BREATHE t-shirts. Cops are apparently also peddling other merchandise, mocking the last moments of Eric Garner. Disgusting. I understand why Jayceon Taylor, aka The Game, would tweet what he did. From the link:

When NYPD cops and their supporters are so callous and heartless as to wear shirts with the saying, “I can breathe” emblazoned upon them to a pro-police rally, while other cops go so far as to sell “breathe easy don’t break the law” t-shirts that mock the death of Eric Garner, as we reported on earlier this week, should anyone be surprised that The Game or the public at large are extremely disgusted by these actions and let it be known?

The message cops are sending, by wearing/selling those shirts, is one that they are above the law, and that their lives are in some way more valuable than the lives of the people they kill.

People who blame the protesters and the Mayor of NYC for incitement should also take a look at the disgusting editing trick of a Baltimore Fox affiliate. The trick was to cut away from a chant before it was complete. Go to the link for the video evidence. To see, in words, the change, the edited clip turned this:

We can’t stop!

We won’t stop!

’til killer cops are in cell blocks!

into this:

We can’t stop!

We won’t stop!

So kill a cop!

Tensions are so high right now that another incident on either side of the growing divide could blow the lid off. Too bad the NYPD is escalating those tensions, because they are the ones with the lethal authority to kill with impunity.

Our Longest, Darkest Night

by lizard

The winter solstice this year coincides with a new moon, making the longest night of the year also one of the darkest. Seems like a good time to take a trip down memory lane to the weeks after 9/11, specifically the Anthrax attacks that occurred in the aftermath of 3 buildings being totally demolished from 2 airplane strikes. Here’s wikipedia with some surface-level context:

The 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, also known as Amerithrax from its Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) case name, occurred over the course of several weeks beginning on Tuesday, September 18, 2001, one week after the September 11 attacks. Letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and two Democratic U.S. Senators, killing five people and infecting 17 others. According to the FBI, the ensuing investigation became “one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement”.[1]

A major focus in the early years of the investigation was a bio-weapons expert named Steven Hatfill, who was eventually exonerated. Another suspect, Bruce Edwards Ivins, became a focus of investigation around April 4, 2005. Ivins was a scientist who worked at the government’s biodefense labs at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. On April 11, 2007, Ivins was put under periodic surveillance and an FBI document stated that “Bruce Edwards Ivins is an extremely sensitive suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks.”[2] On July 29, 2008, Ivins died from an overdose of acetaminophen.[3]

On August 6, 2008, despite having no direct evidence of his involvement,[4][5] federal prosecutors declared Ivins to be the sole culprit of the crime.[6] Two days later, Senator Charles Grassley and Rep. Rush Holt called for hearings into the DOJ and FBI’s handling of the investigation.[7][8] On February 19, 2010, the FBI formally closed its investigation.[9]

A review of the scientific methods used in the investigation at the National Academy of Sciences,[10] published in February 2011, cast doubt on the U.S. government’s conclusion that Ivins was the perpetrator. The review report said that, although the type of anthrax used in the letters was correctly identified as the Ames strain of the bacterium, there was insufficient scientific evidence for the FBI’s assertion that it originated from Ivins’ laboratory.

A few days ago ABC reported on another report that came to a similar conclusion that the FBI’s Anthrax investigation was flawed. This is the same FBI now claiming North Korea was responsible for the Sony hack. From the link:

The FBI used flawed scientific methods to investigate the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and sickened 17 others, federal auditors said Friday in a report sure to fuel skepticism over the FBI’s conclusion that Army biodefense researcher Bruce Ivins was the sole perpetrator.

The 77-page report from the Government Accountability Office says the FBI’s research, including novel microbial forensic tests, did not provide a full understanding of how bacteria change in their natural environment and in a laboratory. This failure to grasp the reason for genetic mutations that were used to differentiate between samples of anthrax bacteria was a “key scientific gap” in the investigation, the report says.

The GAO also found a lack of rigorous controls over sampling procedures and a failure to cite the degree of uncertainty in measurement tools used to identify genetic markers.

“Although the complexity and novelty of the scientific methods at the time of the FBI’s investigation made it challenging for the FBI to adequately address all these problems, the agency could have improved its approach,” the report said.

The GAO didn’t take a position whether Ivins, who worked at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, made and mailed the anthrax-filled envelopes.

For Americans who can’t fathom domestic involvement in the attacks that radically altered the trajectory of our country, the Anthrax attacks offer a fascinating window into the final push to get the Patriot Act passed and to ensure the media understood the consequences of not falling into line.

7 years ago a Bush insider, Francis Boyle, weighed in on the Anthrax attacks. Here is a bit from his wikipedia resume:

Francis Anthony Boyle (born 1950) is a professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law.[1] Boyle received a A.B. (1971) in Political Science from the University of Chicago, then a J.D. degree magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, and A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in Political Science from Harvard University. He also practiced tax and international tax with Bingham, Dana & Gould.

And here is a lengthy excerpt from an article by Steve Watson for more context:

Is it possible that the anthrax attacks were launched from within our own government? A former Bush 1 advisor thinks it is.

Francis A. Boyle, an international law expert who worked under the first Bush Administration as a bioweapons advisor in the 1980s, has said that he is convinced the October 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people were perpetrated and covered up by criminal elements of the U.S. government. The motive: to foment a police state by killing off and intimidating opposition to post-9/11 legislation such as the USA PATRIOT Act and the later Military Commissions Act…

And that is exactly what has happened. Here’s more:

“Senators Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) were holding it up because they realized what this would lead to. The first draft of the PATRIOT Act would have suspended the writ of habeas corpus [which protects citizens from unlawful imprisonment and guarantees due process of law]. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, come these anthrax attacks.”

“At the time I myself did not know precisely what was going on, either with respect to September 11 or the anthrax attacks, but then the New York Times revealed the technology behind the letter to Senator Daschle. [The anthrax used was] a trillion spores per gram, [refined with] special electro-static treatment. This is superweapons-grade anthrax that even the United States government, in its openly proclaimed programs, had never developed before. So it was obvious to me that this was from a U.S. government lab. There is nowhere else you could have gotten that.”

Boyle’s assessment was based on his years of expertise regarding America’s bioweapons programs. He was responsible for drafting the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 that was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.

After realizing that the anthrax attacks looked like a domestic job, Boyle called a high-level official in the FBI who deals with terrorism and counterterrorism, Marion “Spike” Bowman. Boyle and Bowman had met at a terrorism conference at the University of Michigan Law School. Boyle told Bowman that the only people who would have the capability to carry out the attacks were individuals working on U.S. government anthrax programs with access to a high-level biosafety lab. Boyle gave Bowman a full list of names of scientists, contractors and labs conducting anthrax work for the U.S. government and military.

Bowman then informed Boyle that the FBI was working with Fort Detrick on the matter. Boyle expressed his view that Fort Detrick could be the main problem. As widely reported in 2002 publications, notably the New Scientist, the anthrax strain used in the attacks was officially assessed as “military grade.”

“Soon after I informed Bowman of this information, the FBI authorized the destruction of the Ames cultural anthrax database,” the professor said. The Ames strain turned out to be the same strain as the spores used in the attacks.

The alleged destruction of the anthrax culture collection at Ames, Iowa, from which the Fort Detrick lab got its pathogens, was blatant destruction of evidence. It meant that there was no way of finding out which strain was sent to whom to develop the larger breed of anthrax used in the attacks. The trail of genetic evidence would have led directly back to a secret government biowarfare program.

This FBI agent, “Spike” Bowman, is an important name for those who aren’t satisfied with the government account of what transpired on 9/11. Why? Because he’s the guy who kept the laptop computer of Zacarias Moussaoui from being examined. From the link:

Mike Maltbie and Rita Flack of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) forward a request for a warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings (see August 21, 2001) to National Security Law Unit chief Spike Bowman. The request was submitted by the Minneapolis field office (see August 22-28, 2001), which has been trying to obtain a warrant for some time. Earlier in the day, Maltbie edited the request, removing information connecting Moussaoui to al-Qaeda through a rebel group in Chechnya (see August 28, 2001). RFU chief Dave Frasca was to attend the meeting, but is called away at the last minute. According to Bowman, who is already very familiar with the facts in this case, Maltbie is adamant that there is not enough evidence to issue the warrant. Bowman agrees, saying that the evidence fails to implicate Moussaoui as an agent of a foreign power. The FBI thus abandons the effort to obtain a FISA warrant and begins planning his deportation (see (August 30-September 10, 2001)). [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 164-6, 168 pdf file; US Department of Justice, 3/1/2006 pdf file]

I sympathize with those who don’t want to look too closely into this stuff. I actually appreciate these two comments from Turner in a previous post about Fascism:

Count me among the many who can’t process the thought that elites were behind 9/11.

Actually, I’m not much of a seeker. Most of the time I’m willing to settle for appearances. They’re damning enough.

Unfortunately I disagree, appearances aren’t damning enough, they are masterfully controlled, making it so much easier to ignore, minimize, rationalize, attack, ridicule, dismiss and deny the connections that implicate foreknowledge and complicity of domestic actors in the greatest terror show ever sold.

It’s almost 2015. Babies born after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 are now teenagers. Psychic shock fades over time.  That said, now that programs of torture are out in the open and mostly accepted by the American people, maybe another 9/11 won’t be necessary.  Just little jolts as reminders to remain compliant while they play the global chessboard for the spoils.

by lizard

Before executing two police officers while they sat in their car, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley allegedly murdered shot his girlfriend (she is expected to survive—earlier reports had her dead), then telegraphed his intentions via Instagram:

A gunman who announced online that he was planning to shoot two “pigs” in retaliation for the police chokehold death of Eric Garner ambushed two officers in a patrol car and shot them to death in broad daylight Saturday before running to a subway station and killing himself, authorities said.

The suspect, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, wrote on an Instagram account: “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs,” officials said. He used the hashtags Shootthepolice RIPErivGardner (sic) RIPMikeBrown.

I’ve been following these events as they’ve unfolded on Twitter and it’s been surreal.

The NYPD is essentially going off the rails now by declaring itself a ‘wartime’ police department. Pat Lynch, head of the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association (PBA), has explicitly blamed Mayor De Blasio for race incitement and protestors for having the audacity to declare that black lives matter. Things are about to get really ugly.

Buzzfeed has been all over this story from the beginning (unlike worthless weekend cable news). The ‘wartime’ reaction by the NYP comes directly from a statement by the PBA:

FROM NYC PBA: Starting IMMEDIATELY- At least two units are to respond to EVERY call, no matter the condition or severity, no matter what type of job is pending, or what the opinion of the patrol supervisor happens to be. IN ADDITION: Absolutely NO enforcement action in the form of arrests and or summonses is to be taken unless absolutely necessary and an individual MUST be placed under arrest. These are precautions that were taken in the 1970’s when Police Officers were ambushed and executed on a regular basis. The mayors hands are literally dripping with our blood because of his words actions and policies and we have, for the first time in a number of years, become a “wartime” police department. We will act accordingly. FORWARD MESSAGE IN ITS ENTIRETY TO ANY AND ALL MOS

This is bad, really bad. Especially when taken with the additional context of an article from two days ago, reporting on secretly recorded comments from Pat Lynch:

Mayor Bill de Blasio acts more like the leader of “a f- -king revolution” than a city, police union president Pat Lynch said at a recent delegate meeting.

“He is not running the City of New York. He thinks he’s running a f- -king revolution,” said Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, during the private gathering in Queens last Friday.

Lynch, who was secretly recorded, also all but ordered a rule-book slowdown, according to the seven-minute tape obtained by Capital New York.

“If we won’t get support when we do our jobs . . . then we’re going to do it the way they want it,” Lynch said. “Let me be perfectly clear: We will use extreme discretion in every encounter.”

Lynch, when referring to de Blasio, encouraged members to be wary of what he called “enemies.” “Our friends, we’re courteous to them. Our enemies, extreme discretion,” he said. “The rules are made by them to hurt you. Well, now we’ll use those rules to protect us.”

Merry Christmas, New Yorkers. The war is now right outside your door.

by lizard

Looking for a book for that geopolitical enthusiast in your family? Look no further than Pepe Escobar’s compilation, titled Empire of Chaos: The Roving Eye Collection. From the link:

The essential features of the empire of chaos, “where a plutocracy progressively projects its own internal disintegration upon the whole world,” are “a progressive drift towards not conventional war but above all economic war – manifestations of Liquid War.” The purpose of that chaos is “to prevent an economic integration of Eurasia that would leave the U.S. a non-hegemon, or worse still, an outsider.”

The book covers the era from early 2009 up to late 2014. The central idea being the empire of chaos and its range of activities to thwart the Eurasian integration by way of pipelines (Pipelinestan), road, rail, and cyberlinks from China through various routes to western Europe, the “New Silk Road.” Along the way it touches on what are considered by the western mainstream media to be separate topics, perhaps united by an underlying violence, but nothing of a unified geopolitical attempt at preventing the loss of western (Washington) hegemony.

It is a wonderful read, occasionally repetitive due to the nature of it being a series of compiled distinct articles into a whole, sometimes humorous – generally rather dark – accounting of modern history or current events. It is sometimes whimsical when writing about a particular cultural aspect of his sojourns or when critiquing another author or activist. If history could be written/read this way, there would be far more historians in academic circles – this is not the history of the dominant media, but that of an educated roving eye capable of putting ideas and actions together into a coherent, somewhat scary whole.

The long-anticipated rise of China passed a statistical mark that Forbes was quick to dismiss as not mattering a darn:

There’s much worrywarting over the new figures from the IMF telling us the fact that China is now the world’s number one economy in terms of size. The truth is though that, other than for collectors of statistical trivia, this really isn’t important. Perhaps on a par with wondering how Lady Gaga is going to dress next but no more than that. Because the whole idea of “an economy” as defined by the borders of a nation state is pretty arbitrary anyway and further, it matters a great deal more how many people that economy is spread over than it does the size of it. Luxembourg’s economy is considerably smaller than that of India but with 400,000 people not 1.4 billion who is living better?

I like how Forbes parses out their perspective with a Lady Gaga reference. That’s how much this doesn’t matter, right? But there’s more to the not mattering that Forbes wants its readers to understand, and that’s the per capita breakdown:

There’s simply so many people in that area of land that, barring any truly stupid set of economic policies (here’s lookin’ at you, Marxism) the place is simply going to be one of the larger, if not the largest, component of the global economy. Think of it this way: why shouldn’t 18% of the people on the planet have 18% of the economy of the planet?

So apart from the obviousness of this there’s also that other thing that we might want to consider: its importance. And it’s not important. For what determines how well people live (and yes, aiding people in living well is pretty much the point of this whole having an economy thing) is economic output per capita. That total economy divided by the number of people who get to consume the output. Here the US is well ahead (north of $50,000 a year in the US, only just over $5,000 a year in China and yes, that is after adjusting for price differences) and China would need another three generations of breakneck growth to close that gap.

There are other realities beyond the continuing abysmal living standards for the majority of the Chinese population, and that’s the sheer scale of the infrastructure being developed, and for a look at that reality we can go to Pepe Escobar’s latest piece, titled Go West, Young Han. From the link:

November 18, 2014: it’s a day that should live forever in history. On that day, in the city of Yiwu in China’s Zhejiang province, 300 kilometers south of Shanghai, the first train carrying 82 containers of export goods weighing more than 1,000 tons left a massive warehouse complex heading for Madrid. It arrived on December 9th.

Welcome to the new trans-Eurasia choo-choo train. At over 13,000 kilometers, it will regularly traverse the longest freight train route in the world, 40% farther than the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway. Its cargo will cross China from East to West, then Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, France, and finally Spain.

You may not have the faintest idea where Yiwu is, but businessmen plying their trades across Eurasia, especially from the Arab world, are already hooked on the city “where amazing happens!” We’re talking about the largest wholesale center for small-sized consumer goods — from clothes to toys — possibly anywhere on Earth.

The Yiwu-Madrid route across Eurasia represents the beginning of a set of game-changing developments. It will be an efficient logistics channel of incredible length. It will represent geopolitics with a human touch, knitting together small traders and huge markets across a vast landmass. It’s already a graphic example of Eurasian integration on the go. And most of all, it’s the first building block on China’s “New Silk Road,” conceivably the project of the new century and undoubtedly the greatest trade story in the world for the next decade.

Escobar calls this new silk road the project of the new century, which seems legit from where I sit, December 20th, 2014. 14 years ago the Neocons were day dreaming of their Project for a New American Century. The goals of that little project outlined a decade and a half ago went something like this:

* Reposition permanently based forces to Southern Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East;
* Modernize U.S. forces, including enhancing our fighter aircraft, submarine and surface fleet capabilities;
* Develop and deploy a global missile defense system, and develop a strategic dominance of space;
* Control the “International Commons” of cyberspace;
* Increase defense spending to a minimum of 3.8 percent of gross domestic product, up from the 3 percent currently spent.

The fourth bullet point is an interesting one, considering the Sony hack. While conservatives freak out, b at Moon of Alabama is skeptical:

A Japanese company with some offices in California was hacked. Several terrabytes of data were copied off its internal networks and some of it was put on file sharing sites. One of the items copied was a film produced in Canada that depicts as comedy the terror act of killing of a current head of state. The U.S. State Department applauded that movie scene. But there were tons of other data like social security numbers, payroll data, and internal emails stolen all of which that might have been the real target of the hackers.

The tools to hack the company are well known and in the public domain. The company, Sony, had lousy internal network security and had been hacked before. The hackers probably had some inside knowledge. They used servers in Bolivia, China and South Korea to infiltrate. There is zero public evidence in the known that the hack was state sponsored.

But the U.S. is claiming that the event is a “national security matter”. Who’s national security? Japan’s? Canada’s? Why? A private Japanese entertainment(!) company left the doors open and had some equipment vandalized and some of its private property stolen. Why, again, is that of U.S. “national interest”? Why would the U.S. even consider some “proportional response”?

Good questions.

As Americans idiotically whine about being deprived of a stupid movie, time would be better spent reading up on Stuxnet:

In 2011, the US government rolled out its “International Strategy for Cyberspace,” which reminded us that “interconnected networks link nations more closely, so an attack on one nation’s networks may have impact far beyond its borders.” An in-depth report today from the New York Times confirms the truth of that statement as it finally lays bare the history and development of the Stuxnet virus—and how it accidentally escaped from the Iranian nuclear facility that was its target.

The article is adapted from journalist David Sanger’s forthcoming book, Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power, and it confirms that both the US and Israeli governments developed and deployed Stuxnet. The goal of the worm was to break Iranian nuclear centrifuge equipment by issuing specific commands to the industrial control hardware responsible for their spin rate. By doing so, both governments hoped to set back the Iranian research program—and the US hoped to keep Israel from launching a pre-emptive military attack.

The code was only supposed to work within Iran’s Natanz refining facility, which was air-gapped from outside networks and thus difficult to penetrate. But computers and memory cards could be carried between the public Internet and the private Natanz network, and a preliminary bit of “beacon” code was used to map out all the network connections within the plant and report them back to the NSA.

That program, first authorized by George W. Bush, worked well enough to provide a digital map of Natanz and its industrial control hardware. Soon, US national labs were testing different bits of the plan to sabotage Natanz (apparently without knowing what the work was for) using similar centrifuges that had come from Libya’s Qadaffi regime. When the coders found the right sets of commands to literally shake the centrifuges apart, they knew that Stuxnet could work.

Empire of Chaos indeed.

by lizard

It’s not surprising that Americans have a difficult time understanding geopolitics today. One of the big contributing factors to our perpetual misunderstanding of global dynamics is this: the lies of the past continue to inform the present.

So as the ruble collapses and the U.S. relationship with Cuba thaws, it might be helpful to go back a half century in order to reassess the good war and the bad guy America vanquished.

In an article titled Fascism and War: Elite Tools to Crush and Kill Dissent two underlying tensions beneath WWI and WWII are examined. From the link:

Both WWI and WWII had two dimensions: the vertical dimension, namely the rivalry between empires, and the horizontal one, class warfare, Pauwels explains.

These wars were actually the best way for the western elite to cope with the ever growing revolutionary and democratic movements fueled by dire economic conditions and which threatened the established order.

In Nietzsche’s view for example, Pauwels says “war was the solution against revolution, since in a war, there are no discussions, like there is in a democracy. In a war, the minority, the elite, decides and the majority, the proletarians, obey.”

For members of the elite like Malthus, “the system could not be the cause of poverty since they were profiting from it. The cause of poverty was the poor: there were too many of them. Therefore the solution to poverty and threatening revolutionary movements was simply to eliminate poor people and what better solution than war to kill poor people?”

After WWI though, “revolution was no longer a simple idea but rather something concrete: the Soviet Union.” That’s when fascism came to the rescue. “Fascism was the instrument used by the elite to further the objectives of 1914, namely put an end to revolutions and communism.”

The problem with American thinking is we identify with our empire, not our class status. That is not true for the class that runs our empire. Because of this misidentification, Americans simply can’t process certain scenarios, like the possibility of American elites colluding in the terrorist attack of 9/11, or the possibility of the US-backed Ukrainian regime being responsible for the MH17 shoot-down (which would explain the unprecedented secrecy surrounding the investigation).

Here’s more from the first link:

According to popular belief Western leaders were defending democracy, engaged in a war against Germany to save humanity from fascism and the US involvement in the war led to the downfall of Hitler’s war machine. Nothing is further from the truth. “Hitler was supported by other European countries and the US because they wanted him to destroy the USSR, the cradle of the revolution.” The exact opposite occurred: it was the USSR that defeated Nazi Germany, losing over 20 million souls in the battle.

The Good War is the psychological lynch pin holding the American psyche together. It prevents the kind of corrosion that would exist if exposed to our ruling class’s penchant for using fascism to keep the peasants in line. Americans are therefore effectively insulated from the reality that what we were told we were fighting half a century ago is what we have actually become today: a hyper-nationalist imperial force of consumers providing our ruling elite with a foundation from which to attack the 21st century version of the USSR.

The concept of the big lie comes from that infamous historical character who, when mentioned, creates immediate mental hysteria, collapsing dialogue and freezing critical thinking. From wikipedia:

A big lie (German: Große Lüge) is a propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, about the use of a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

Thus concludes today’s brief history lesson.

“Long live justice. Es lebe die Gerechtigkeit”
— Diren’s father Celal

By JC

At approximately 1:15pm today, the jury found Markus Kaarma guilty of deliberate homicide in the murder of Diren Dede.

Open thread for discussion. Keep it clean.

CIA Torture was “contrary to who we are”

— Barack Obama 

By JC

Well, it was just a matter of time till the pollsters revealed that yes, it is who we are. And this is how the rest of the world sees us.

In a WaPo-ABC News poll out today, it appears that the subversion of American morality has been completed:

A majority of Americans believe that the harsh interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were justified, even as about half the public says the treatment amounted to torture, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

By an almost 2-1 margin, or 59-to-31 percent, those interviewed support the CIA’s brutal methods, with the vast majority of supporters saying they produced valuable intelligence.

In general, 58 percent say the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified “often” or “sometimes.”

This is a sad day for America, and those Americans who disapproved of our military “strategy.” Our chickens will inevitably come home to roost, as any nation of torturers will eventually pay the price for its evil. Today I am not proud to call myself an “American.”

nation-of-torturers

by lizard

Below is today’s edition of Democracy Now. At 5:27 you can watch Elizabeth Warren utter one of the most forceful statements against a specific entity—Citibank—I have ever seen. Set aside that well-justified cynicism for just a moment so you may enjoy the pure catharsis of Warren delivering this direct hit:

“There’s a lot of talk lately about how the Dodd-Frank Act isn’t perfect, there’s a lot of talk coming from Citigroup about how the Dodd-Frank Act isn’t perfect. So let me say this to anyone who is listening at Citi: I agree with you. Dodd-Frank isn’t perfect. It should have broken you into pieces.”

Watch it below. I’ve found Warren’s tone enhances appreciation of her words.

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/show/2014/12/15

Contrast Elizabeth Warren with Obama’s language, which you can watch at 6:47 in the clip:

This by definition was a compromise bill. This is what’s produced when we have the divided government that the American people voted for.

Obama sounds a little miffed that his party got roundly trounced last month. So I guess it’s your fault, American (Democrat) voters, that you will once again be responsible for providing public welfare when those Wall Street gambling addicts (who should have been thrown in jail the first go-around with their fraudulent derivative schemes) blow up markets one more time, because they can.

Man, things might get so bad that even conservatives will be forced to acknowledge their ideology appears incoherent when free market consequences can be suspended for big banks.

Things are really simmering beneath the surface right now. For those who don’t choose ignorance, America’s true nature is being exposed on a number of fronts; evidence of injustice is piling up faster than the mechanisms of social control can spin away.

Not even Darth Cheney invoking the terrorist death star of 9/11, on Meet the Press, has any real influence anymore, save fodder for snark and parody on social media.

Is there enough loosening to warrant another shock from the master class? I think it depends on how uppity the peasants get. We shall see.

by lizard

I follow Laura Seay on Twitter, an assistant professor at Morehouse College who makes good use of social media to share her expertise on issues relating to Africa. From the link:

For anyone active on social media and interested in African policy research, chances are they have come across Morehouse College Assistant Professor Laura Seay, otherwise known as @TexasinAfrica. Through Twitter and her blog of the same name, Seay has earned a reputation as one of the web’s most prolific commentators on Africa, recently publishing in Foreign Policy, The Atlantic and Christian Science Monitor just to name a few. As she tells us in this interview, the benefits of online engagement have traveled to her offline scholarly career as well, where she studies state fragility and community responses to conflict in central Africa.

This morning I took issue with a tweet I doubt anyone would find controversial because it ridicules a seemingly ridiculous trend. Here’s the tweet:

I refuse to feel guilty about judging people who wear bedazzled armpit hair extensions. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/12/13/meet-the-woman-who-helped-start-the-dyed-armpit-hair-trend … HT @khanserai

Yeah, so modifying one’s armpit hair is a trend. What I find more curious, though, is the fact it’s being reported by the Washington Post, so this was my reply to the tweet:

@texasinafrica maybe this gets reported to create the kind of generational divide you exhibit with judgement. Judge the media.

All of this may come off as a bit silly, and maybe it is, but there is an aspect of Millennial media construction (like Democrat scapegoating Millennials for their 2014 ass-kicking) that is purposely derogatory. For a generation that will be getting continually shit on, politically and economically, the role created and perpetuated by the media will increasingly function as a form of containment.

While dying one’s armpit hair may seem a safe enough target to ridicule, this part of the Washington Post article should be considered:

Destiny Moreno, a 17-year-old high school student in Seattle, began posting YouTube videos about dyeing her own armpit hair a few months ago. Her family was “disgusted” at first, she told The Post; but her friends have been supportive and some of them have even joined the movement.

“I’m now super comfortable boasting about my armpit hair, but at the beginning it was difficult sharing, especially with people I know in real life,” she said.

Her favorite color? “Voodoo Blue” from Manic Panic.

Moreno noted that the public response to her videos has been overwhelmingly negative, with commenters questioning her sexuality or labeling her a “hippie.” Moreno said she’s unfazed by the negativity, but worries that other teenagers who might want to experiment with their body hair might be deterred by it.

“I had the lowest self esteem as a tween, and the fact that that’s considered normal is pretty … unfortunate,” she said. “I want girls to know that their body is normal and nothing to be ashamed of.”

Before judging this teenager, anyone who didn’t grow up under a digital microscope should stop first and think about the often brutal environment Millennials have grown up in. The cyber-reach of bullying and judging and attacking that leads young people to commit suicide is a very real, very serious problem. This is from the CDC:

Suicide (i.e., taking one’s own life) is a serious public health problem that affects even young people. For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. It results in approximately 4600 lives lost each year.

I wonder, if this was a cultural trend in an African country, would professor Seay be as quick to judge as she was in this situation? Probably not.

A Shelter Renewed

by lizard

Congratulations to everyone who made the new Poverello Center a reality.

by lizard

There is an underlying thread of entitlement that connects two seemingly unconnected situations: the brazenly outrageous Citigroup rider and the Markus Kaarma homicide case where a German exchange student was gunned down while garage-hopping for alcohol.

Citigroup apparently feels entitled to write, then sneak, a rider essentially putting the public back on the hook for their derivative schemes. From the first link:

The Citi-drafted legislation will benefit five of the largest banks in the country—Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo. These financial institutions control more than 90 percent of the $700 trillion derivatives market. If this measure becomes law, these banks will be able to use FDIC-insured money to bet on nearly anything they want. And if there’s another economic downturn, they can count on a taxpayer bailout of their derivatives trading business.

So what will happen in the following hours as a government shutdown looms? It will take Democrats siding with Republicans to allow this obscenity to become law. Elizabeth Warren is getting some good headlines being loud over this right now, and all those hopeless Hillary supporters should take note that Citigroup is HC’s biggest donor.

This is a big, post-political-meltdown decision for Congressional Democrats. Who counts more, donors or voters?

For Citigroup, it’s clear their entitlement includes an assumption that laws are designed to serve their interests, public be damned. I think a similar assumption helped to create the conditions that resulted in the death of Diren Dede.

First I’d like to point out that this trial is bringing up a question JC posed in a post back in May: Why isn’t Janelle Pflager being charged as an accomplice? That question is again relevant as neighbor testimony paints a disturbing picture of Janelle’s behavior, both before and after the shooting:

Several of Kaarma’s neighbors also took the stand Tuesday morning, testifying that Janelle Pflager used the term “bait” or “baiting” in conversations describing how she and Kaarma were going to catch the burglars who were entering their garage.

On April 18, Pflager approached Robin Rosenquist, who lives across the street from the couple. Pflager told Rosenquist they had just been robbed and they were unsatisfied with the police response.

“She was upset and indignant because the officer told them to keep their doors locked and garage doors closed, and they weren’t going to do that,” Rosenquist said.

Pflager told Rosenquist her partner was “was pissed because his favorite pipe was stolen.”

Pflager also said she called the cellphone and confronted the burglars, yelling at them to bring the belongings back, she said.

“Do you really think someone would come back again, knowing how upset they are?” Rosenquist allegedly replied.

“Oh yeah, he’s coming back because we are going to bait him,” Pflager allegedly said.

Janelle received some pretty common sense advice from law enforcement, but it wasn’t enough for this unhinged vigilante. Personally, when I had objects stolen from my vehicle outside my home, I realized it was because leaving the car unlocked at night created an opportunity for theft. Instead of calling the police and wasting their time on a crime of opportunity I was in part responsible for, I decided I should probably just make sure to lock my car at night.

The expectation that the law is there to serve their interests seems to have created a sense of profound disappointment when that expectation was deflated by the reality that petty theft just isn’t going to be a high priority for law enforcement, especially when the crime is one of opportunity. Here’s more neighbor testimony:

Neighbors’ testimony continued into the afternoon with Terry Klise and several others taking the stand.

Klise said that Pflager called him at 1 a.m. April 18 after her garage was burglarized. Pflager believed Klise’s car had also been burglarized.

A Missoula police officer was taking the initial report when Klise approached. Pflager decided to call the iPhone that had been stolen from their garage. When the burglars picked up, Klise said Pflager’s conversation was “jaw-dropping.”

“She quickly went into a tirade,” he said. “She was calling them (expletive) and calling them (expletive) and screaming at them. I remember looking at the officer and asking if this was out of line.”

She then allegedly told them, “If you continue to return to our garage, you could be killed,” he explained.

He said the officer raised his eyebrows, but didn’t admonish Pflager for her language or behavior.

“I became incredibly uncomfortable and asked if I could leave,” he said.

On the morning of the shooting, Klise said he awoke after a neighbor texted him, but police officers asked him to stay in his home as they worked on the scene.

The following morning, he and his wife Suzanne sent a text message to Pflager asking how she was doing. Pflager invited her neighbors over, but soon their sympathetic attitude toward Pflager shifted to disbelief.

“You don’t have to worry about the burglaries anymore because he’s dead,” she allegedly told the couple.

“Her demeanor was just matter of fact,” Klise told the court. “She was very cold and almost the attitude of well, we’ve got him. We don’t have to worry about this anymore.”

She gave the couple a tour of the parts of the house that were damaged by the pellets, he said. As the couple went through the kitchen and the laundry room, she asked if they would like to see the garage – now stained with Dede’s blood.

“We told her we were not interested and we wanted out of there at that time,” he said.

Just the fact there is a trial happening at all is an indication that Markus Kaarma has the means to pay a decent lawyer. And they live in a nice, 6 bedroom house up Grant Creek, which was brought up by one of the neighbors on the stand. I tried finding the tweet, because it’s not in the articles, but it was something to the effect that some neighbors speculated how this couple was living large, so to speak.

Because Janelle Pflager wasn’t charged, I wonder if the defense is trying to leverage her premeditated involvement in setting the fatal trap as a way to generate enough doubt for her husband. If it works, and the Castle Doctrine mentality is expanded to include this kind of “home defense”, then those who can afford good lawyers should feel even more unconstrained in defense of their personal property, like bongs, from the dangerous teenage garage-hoppers committing misdemeanor crimes in search of booze.

Take note, Citigroup. If they come for your stuff, shoot at will.

by lizard

A few posts back Steve Kelley offered a link to this Global Research article about the Bank of International Settlements. A few posts before that I had mentioned the BIS when Turner asked this:

This may strike some as a naïve request for information, but I’m making it anyway.

I’d like those who claim there are puppeteers running our elections, our economy, everything else, to come up with a few names. I’m aware of billionaires and organizations like the Koch bros, ALEC, and Adelman — and a few on the left, too.

But is there a hard-to-identify cadre of puppeteers? Are they conspiring closely or are they a loose group? Or are they in competition for the job of chief puppeteer? Do they have agents manipulating both political parties? If so, down to what level — state, county, municipal?

Who are the manipulators in this state? Whom do they report to?

I’m not saying that the puppeteers don’t exist. I just want to know who these people are who’re working on the ground to make (in some people’s opinions) voting irrelevant.

Back to the Global Research article:

In Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (1966), Dr. Carroll Quigley revealed the key role played in global finance by the BIS behind the scenes. Dr. Quigley was Professor of History at Georgetown University, where he was President Bill Clinton’s mentor. He was also an insider, groomed by the powerful clique he called “the international bankers.” His credibility is heightened by the fact that he actually espoused their goals. He wrote:

“I know of the operations of this network because I have studied it for twenty years and was permitted for two years, in the early 1960′s, to examine its papers and secret records. I have no aversion to it or to most of its aims and have, for much of my life, been close to it and to many of its instruments. . . . [I]n general my chief difference of opinion is that it wishes to remain unknown, and I believe its role in history is significant enough to be known.”

Quigley wrote of this international banking network:

“[T]he powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations.”

The key to their success, said Quigley, was that the international bankers would control and manipulate the money system of a nation while letting it appear to be controlled by the government. The statement echoed one made in the eighteenth century by the patriarch of what would become the most powerful banking dynasty in the world. Mayer Amschel Bauer Rothschild famously said in 1791:

“Allow me to issue and control a nation’s currency, and I care not who makes its laws.”

Mayer’s five sons were sent to the major capitals of Europe – London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin and Naples – with the mission of establishing a banking system that would be outside government control. The economic and political systems of nations would be controlled not by citizens but by bankers, for the benefit of bankers. Eventually, a privately-owned “central bank” was established in nearly every country; and this central banking system has now gained control over the economies of the world. Central banks have the authority to print money in their respective countries, and it is from these banks that governments must borrow money to pay their debts and fund their operations. The result is a global economy in which not only industry but government itself runs on “credit” (or debt) created by a banking monopoly headed by a network of private central banks; and at the top of this network is the BIS, the “central bank of central banks” in Basel.

I’m bringing this up because a recent piece at Zerohedge caught my attention, titled Even The BIS Is Shocked At How Broken Markets Have Become. In that article banker-speak is quoted and commented on. I’ll excerpt this part:

But it’s best to leave it to the BIS itself, where this time Claudio Borio picks up the torch left by Jaime Caruana. What is notable is that none other than the BIS slams the infamous, and now legendary intervention by James “QE4” Bullard to assure the S&P’s levitation continues without a hitch!

To my mind, these events underline the fragility – dare I say growing fragility? – hidden beneath the markets’ buoyancy. Small pieces of news can generate outsize effects. This, in turn, can amplify mood swings. And it would be imprudent to ignore that markets did not fully stabilise by themselves. Once again, on the heels of the turbulence, major central banks made soothing statements, suggesting that they might delay normalisation in light of evolving macroeconomic conditions. Recent events, if anything, have highlighted once more the degree to which markets are relying on central banks: the markets’ buoyancy hinges on central banks’ every word and deed.

Wait, so the central banks’ central bank is openly chastising one of its own now and for what: for stabilizing the market and preserving the unstable euphoria that the BIS has been warning about for so long?

Does this mean that the BIS is now openly calling for a crash? Perhaps, what is clear is that even the BIS, or the “good cop” (if only for the middle-class, certainly bad cop for the 0.01%-ers) is now shocked by just how broken the markets have become as summarized in the following line:

The highly abnormal is becoming uncomfortably normal. Central banks and markets have been pushing benchmark sovereign yields to extraordinary lows – unimaginable just a few years back. Three-year government bond yields are well below zero in Germany, around zero in Japan and below 1 per cent in the United States. Moreover, estimates of term premia are pointing south again, with some evolving firmly in negative territory. And as all this is happening, global growth – in inflation-adjusted terms – is close to historical averages. There is something vaguely troubling when the unthinkable becomes routine.

So yes, thank you for confirming – years after most who still follow the farce that is the “market” with an open mind – just how absolutely broken it is thanks to central bankers.

Saying international bankers run the world may sound like an easy, conspiratorial scapegoat. It may also be true.

by lizard

I was testing my gag-reflex by watching Morning Joe this morning and they didn’t disappoint. The topic was the torture report, which will be released later this morning. Screamer Howard Dean was on, getting excoriated by one of Joe’s sidekicks, the blond-haired one (not Mika) who prays to God that America will do whatever it takes to stop the next 3,000 people from being blown up by al-Qaeda. Oddly there was no discussion about why branches of al-Qaeda are now working with U.S. mercenaries in Syria.

It amazes me that anyone can still assume America is the moral center of the universe. I think it was Joe, or maybe the blond, who lauded American torturers for having a doctor in the room. It was helpfully pointed out that ISIS doesn’t have a doctor present before they behead their victims. Great insight!

U.S. embassies are on high alert today in anticipation of the release of this report. I bet the CIA is hoping there is some kind of attack somewhere, and may be so inclined to have some of their terrorist pals do something to validate their concerns.

While idiot Joe bumbled on about how only 3 people were water-boarded, the story of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program tells a different story involving 54 countries. You can see the map here with the participating countries colored appropriately in red. From the link:

After Sept. 11, 2001, the CIA launched a program of “extraordinary rendition” to handle terrorism suspects. The agency’s problem, as it saw it, was that it wanted to detain and interrogate foreign suspects without bringing them to the United States or charging them with any crimes. Their solution was to secretly move a suspect to another country. Sometimes that meant a secret CIA prison in places such as Thailand or Romania, where the CIA would interrogate him. Sometimes it meant handing him over to a sympathetic government, some of them quite nasty, to conduct its own “interrogation.”

The CIA’s extraordinary rendition program is over, but its scope is still shrouded in some mystery. A just-out report, released by the Open Society Foundation, sheds new light on its shocking scale. According to the report, 54 foreign governments somehow collaborated in the program. Some of those governments are brutal dictatorships, and a few are outright U.S. adversaries.

Their participation took several forms. Some, such as Poland and Lithuania, allowed the CIA to run secret prisons in their countries. Many Middle Eastern, Central Asian and European countries handed over detainees to the CIA, some of whom those countries captured on the agency’s behalf. Other states, particularly in the Middle East, interrogated detainees on the CIA’s behalf, such as Jordan, which accepted several Pakistanis. Several, such as Greece and Spain, allowed flights associated with the CIA program to use their airports.

The report being released today, extensive as it is, probably won’t include any accounts of the torture committed by other countries on behalf of the monstrous, murderous CIA. Just good ‘ol American torture will be described in detail.

It’s good this report is finally coming out, but I doubt it will have much impact. Americans seem to have already accepted that atrocities were carried out in their name, and as long as boogeymen are invoked, no deeper epiphanies will be broadly experienced by our sleepwalking populace of complacent enablers.

Such is the state of America.

by lizard

Oh Montana Democrats, you are too easily played. Going apoplectic over the GOP dress code is a great way to deplete the outrage reserves before the session even starts. Surprisingly there is a comment from the link worth reposting here from Dallas Reese:

This “dress policy” is misdirection and the Ultra-Conservatives are good at misdirection, if nothing else. They know how D’s will overreact and rely on the D’s hew and cry while they secretly, quietly, try to accomplish other goals. It’s a trick they use all the time, and rather effectively, since we continue to fall for it.

The issue of our focus, as Rob points out, is the potential removal of the press office from a convenient location within the Capital Building. And the challenges to open meetings laws. And continued gutting of environmental laws, more tax cuts for the un-needy and corresponding, budget cuts to education, social services, etc, etc.

If we present every peccadillo as a crisis, the truly critical gets washed out in the noise. And to win back the Legislature, we’re going to need moderate and independent voters and many of them are thinking “what’s the big deal about this dress code nonsense”. Every little injustice like this need to be pointed out but overplaying our hand (something else the right-wingers depend on) won’t convince the independent voter to give us a chance. And won’t get public opinion on our side for the truly critical during the Legislative Session.

While this local controversy provides great fodder for Twitter, it certainly does distract from other more serious items of business being undertaken before the end of the year, like legislating via riders—something our disingenuous Democrat Senator said he wouldn’t do if elected back in 2006. From Ochenski:

Some may well recall U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s first campaign, in which he challenged then-incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns. One of the things about Burns’ record that Tester attacked – and promised not to do – was use “riders” on unrelated bills to pass legislation. No doubt this was a reflection on Tester’s time in the Montana Senate, where such riders are, for all the right reasons, prohibited.

But of course that was before Mr. Tester went to Washington. Since he’s been there, however, Tester’s tune has definitely changed. He used a rider on an unrelated bill to exempt wolves from Endangered Species Act protections – a first in the 37 year history of the act and a horrible precedent that will undoubtedly be followed whenever an endangered species gets in the way of commerce.

Likewise, Tester has desperately tried to stick his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act on unrelated bills without success, and admitted to reporters last week that he “pushed hard for the bill but it made people nervous because it would change how land was managed.” Indeed, the measure contains an unprecedented congressional mandate to set logging levels on Montana’s national forests. Tester’s terrible policy precedent has already been followed in a Draconian House-passed bill that would permanently set aside enormous chunks of national forest for logging as its highest and best purpose.

Tester and U.S. Sen.-elect Steve Daines have now tacked on several public lands measures to the totally unrelated Defense Authorization Act, which passed the House late last week. This week the Senate will take up the measure and, most likely, won’t strip the riders off the bill.

The NDAA is itself a terrible piece of legislation, but why talk about that when there are necklines to discuss?

Internationally, an American is dead after a botched rescue attempt in Yemen. Once again our pathetic media fails to achieve the quality of reporting found at blogs like Moon of Alabama. On December 6th, b reported on the reckless U.S. rescue attempt that killed not only an American (the only kind of people who count in our state media) but also a South African who was about to be freed the following day. Today b has another post on the topic, and it raises some serious questions:

A second foreign hostage, Pierre Korkie, was killed in the recent rescue attempt. Eight Yemeni civilians were also killed. Korkie was supposed to be freed the very same day due to a ransom payment. There have long been negotiations between the hostage takers and the charity Gift of the Givers that employed Korkie. The U.S. now claims it was unaware of negotiations for his imminent release. That does not sound plausible to me. The NSA is certainly listening to every call in Yemen that might be of interest.

For the full context, go to the link and read the whole post. There is clearly something else going on here, and I think b’s perspective is closer to the impetus for this “rescue” than anything you’d find in our complicit corporate media. Here is a bit more from the conclusion of b’s post:

It is not plausible with all the national and international communication going on between the charity, the parents of the hostage, the mediators and the hostage takers that the U.S. was unaware of all this.

In November it hit the mediators with a drone when they were going to meet the hostage takers. This time it hit the hostages right when the mediators were taking off to meet them. At least ten innocent people were killed with this last raid.

The U.S. has some explaining to do. How did it detect the hostage takers if not by following the mediators communications? Why did it decide to do those two raids on November 25 and December 6 when there was, at least at the first date, no imminent threat to the civilian hostages lives? What was the real purpose and target of these military attacks?

There are still rumors that AQAP nabbed a U.S. “trainer” during a raid on Al Anad airbase in November. Was that captured U.S. soldier the real target of the failed raids? Or what about the Marine Travis Barton AQAP claims to have captured during Saturday’s raid?

I know it’s a lot more fun to talk about GOP cavemen and how they want their lady folks to be modestly dressed, but some of us would like to keep the focus on the issues that have more serious implications for the future.

by lizard

I don’t mean this as an attack on those individuals who chose journalism as a profession, but more as a plea to the yet-to-be-compromised youngsters moving through the institutionalized bowels of their higher education. The fourth estate is fucked, and if you want to make a living reporting the news, you will inevitably be employed to shit on its remnants.

On The Death of the Fourth Estate, Billy O’Connor opens with this:

“Even if your mother says she loves you, check it out,” my professor preached. “Believe nothing you hear or read without verification.”

When I earned my journalism degree from the University of Florida, Mike Foley chiseled those two sentences in my brain.

Non-journalists are also beginning to question print and broadcast news. According to a recent Gallup survey, only 40 percent of Americans believe what they read in newspapers.

The scattered remnants of the fourth estate now flitter across the digital landscape, disembodied bits of data that must be sought out, often to confirm one’s bias. That Gallup poll putting belief in print at about 40 percent signals a growing cynicism over the accuracy of the old-guard media form of information dissemination. And for good reason.

In a more desperate plea, John Pilger opens his piece about War by Media and the Triumph of Propaganda with a clutch of rapid-fire questions:

Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and the Washington Post deceive their readers?

Why are young journalists not taught to understand media agendas and to challenge the high claims and low purpose of fake objectivity? And why are they not taught that the essence of so much of what’s called the mainstream media is not information, but power?

These are urgent questions. The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.

Americans should never forget or forgive the role of the New York Times in selling the Iraq war by peddling Bush regime lies. Journalist students should spit on the ground at the mention of the Grey Lady. The mainstream media has grown too monstrous to not revile in the harshest of terms. Millions of people have been slaughtered as a direct result.

Here’s more from Pilger about the current state of the MSM:

The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government”. It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.

The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.

Add to the rubble the Rolling Stone for allowing its UVA rape piece by Sabrina Erdely to hit print without, apparently, enough pre-print scrutiny. From A Note to Our Readers:

Last month, Rolling Stone published a story titled “A Rape on Campus” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity house; the university’s failure to respond to this alleged assault – and the school’s troubling history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults. The story generated worldwide headlines and much soul-searching at UVA. University president Teresa Sullivan promised a full investigation and also to examine the way the school responds to sexual assault allegations.

Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Erdely spent reporting the story, Jackie neither said nor did anything that made Erdely, or Rolling Stone’s editors and fact-checkers, question Jackie’s credibility. Her friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported Jackie’s account. She had spoken of the assault in campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn’t confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence.

In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.

Will Dana
Managing Editor

Honoring her request or not doing your fucking job? Misplaced trust or abandoning journalistic standards?

The media environment journalism students enter after their higher education (probably loaded with debt) is a landscape of compromised principles that directly correlate with the career ladder and the paycheck. The more you make, the more prominent you become, the less you should be trusted.

This lesson comes free of charge. You are welcome.

Talking Turkey, TPP

by lizard

I wrote yesterday about direct actions blooming on multiple fronts. People are mobilizing, and that’s a good thing.

As that is happening the imperial lust of U.S. hegemony is faltering significantly, which will make the last two years of the Obama regime very dangerous.

Talking Turkey, Michael Whitney explores the seemingly dumbfounded non-reaction by the Obama regime on the news Monday of Putin’s surprising gas deal with Turkey:

How can this happen? How can Putin waltz into Ankara, scribble his name on a few sheets of paper, and abscond with a key US ally right under Washington’s nose? Isn’t there anyone at the White House who’s smart enough to anticipate a scenario like this or have they all been replaced with warmongering ding-dongs like Susan Rice and Samantha Powers?

The Obama administration has been doing everything in its power to control the flow of gas from east to west and to undermine Russian-EU economic integration. Now it looks like the nimble Putin has found a way to avoid the economic sanctions, (Turkey rejected sanctions on Russia) avoid US coercion and blackmail (which was used on Bulgaria, Hungary, and Serbia), and avoid Washington’s endless belligerence and hostility, and achieve his objectives at the same time. But– then again– isn’t that what you’d expect from a level-headed martial arts pro like Putin?

“I won’t beat you,” says Bad Vlad. “I’ll let you to beat yourself.”

And, so he has. Just ask the befuddled Obama who has yet to prevail in any of his encounters with Putin.

But why the silence? Why hasn’t the White House issued a statement about the big Russian-Turkey gas deal that everyone’s talking about?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because they don’t know what the hell just hit them, that’s why. They were completely blindsided by the announcement and can’t quite figure out what it means for the issues that are on the very top of their foreign policy agenda, like the pivot to Asia, or the wars in Syria and Ukraine, or the much-ballyhooed gas pipeline from Qatar to the EU, that was supposed to transit– you guessed it– Turkey. Is that plan still in the works or has the Putin-Erdogan alliance put the kibosh on that gem too? Let’s face it, Putin has really knocked it out of the park this time. Team Obama is clearly out of its league and has no idea of what’s going on. If Turkey turns eastward and joins the growing Russian bloc, US policymakers are going to have to scrap the better part of their strategic plans for the coming century and go back to Square 1. What a headache.

Other headaches Obama is expected to sell to Americans are the still murky trade deals like the TPP. Ben Beachy, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, looks at revived fast-tracking and lists a bunch of materials linking these kinds of trade deals with increased economic inequality. From the link:

Obama acknowledged yesterday that TPP proponents will have a tough time arguing that this time is different — that reviving Fast Track authority in attempt to push through Congress another more-of-the-same trade pact would not fuel further inequality growth. Fast Track was the Nixon-created maneuver that allowed the executive branch to railroad through Congress controversial, inequality-spurring pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by negotiating and signing the pacts before Congress got an expedited, no-amendments, limited-debate vote. A study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research finds that were the TPP to be Fast Tracked through Congress, all but the wealthiest among us would lose more to inequality increases than we would gain in cheaper goods, spelling a pay cut for 90 percent of U.S. workers.

Recognizing the unpopularity of Fast Track and the TPP, Obama told the business executives: “There are folks in my own party and in my own constituency that have legitimate complaints about some of the trend lines of inequality, but are barking up the wrong tree when it comes to opposing TPP, and I’m going to have to make that argument.”

It’s tough work dismantling American sovereignty and losing allies to an emerging Russia. Obama only has two years left to create a teflon legacy capable of covering the disaster his presidency has been.

by lizard

You know the house of cards is about to collapse when it takes Henry Kissinger to acknowledge what us lowly bloggers have been writing about for months and months.

Steve W. gets the h/t for bringing my attention to a Salon piece by Patrick Smith titled New York Times propagandists exposed: Finally, the truth about Ukraine and Putin emerges. While I agree with the author that gloating is unseemly, the amount of crap heaped on those of us who have pointed to the evidence of what is now being officially acknowledged makes a brief indulgence understandable.

Those who bought in to the demonize Putin campaign were duped.

The MSM acknowledgment that NATO provoked the Ukraine crisis is twofold: Henry Kissinger, interviewed by Der Spiegel; Katrina vanden Huevel, an op-ed at the Washington Post.

If you want to hear their take, go to the link. I’ve already covered it here.

I will quote the part where Smith acknowledges the critical importance of those few who persevered in reporting what was actually happening in Ukraine:

I can anticipate with ease a thoughtful reader or two writing in the comment thread, “But we knew all this already. What’s the point?” We have known all this since the beginning, indeed, thanks to perspicacious writers such as Robert Parry and Steve Weissman. Parry, like your columnist, is a refugee from the mainstream who could take no more; Weissman, whose credentials go back to the Free Speech Movement, seems fed up with the whole nine and exiled himself to France.

Something I have wanted to say for months is now right: Thank you, colleagues. Keep on keeping on.

Also to be noted in this vein is Stephen Cohen, the distinguished Princeton Russianist, whose essay in the Nation last February gave superb and still useful perspective, a must-read if you propose to take Ukraine seriously and get beyond the propaganda. (Vanden Heuvel rightly noted him, too, wrongly omitting that she and Cohen are spouses. A report to the Ethics Police has been filed anonymously.)

These people’s reporting and analyses require no imprimatur from the mainstream press. Who could care? This is not the point. The points as I read them are two.

One, there is no shred of doubt in my mind that the work of the above-mentioned and a few others like them has been instrumental in forcing the truth of the Ukraine crisis to the surface. Miss this not. In a polity wherein the policy cliques have zero accountability to any constituency — unbelievable simply to type that phrase — getting accurate accounts and responsibly explanatory copy out — and then reading it, equally — is essential. Future historians will join me in expressing gratitude.

Two, we have indirect admissions of failure. It is highly significant that Foreign Affairs and the Washington Post, both bastions of the orthodoxy, are now willing to publish what amount to capitulations. It would be naive to think this does not reflect a turning of opinion among prominent members of the policy cliques.

I had thought for months as the crisis dragged on, this degree of disinformation cannot possibly hold. From the Nuland tape onward, too much of the underwear was visible as the trousers fell down, so to say. And now we have State and the media clerks with their pants bunched up at their ankles.

The lingering effect of the propaganda probably won’t dissipate anytime soon, but this shift is significant, for the reasons stated above. Interesting how some anonymous Montana blogger can credibly claim that a small virtual audience got more accurate information here than at the New York Times.

What’s next, accurately reporting the real dynamics of the petrol price war and pipeline politics?

November 30th marked the 15th anniversary of the direct actions that shutdown the WTO meetings in Seattle. It’s encouraging to see direct action once again blooming on multiple fronts. Last night it was the shutdown of city streets and highways over another non-indictment of a dead black man. Before that black Friday protests at Walmarts. Dreamers have brought effective pressure for immigration reform and port workers have stopped Israeli cargo at the docks.

To repeat a phrase from the quotation, the disinformation cannot possibly hold.

And it’s not.

by lizard

The Times of Israel has done critics of the Israeli apartheid state another favor. The first favor was allowing Yochanan Gordon’s piece “When Genocide is Permissible” see the light of day. Sure, it was quickly removed, but if you’re interested in exploring the ugly depths of the racism that permeates Zionism, you can read it at Mondoweiss. If you can’t handle the whole thing, just read his concluding question:

I will conclude with a question for all the humanitarians out there. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly stated at the outset of this incursion that his objective is to restore a sustainable quiet for the citizens of Israel. We have already established that it is the responsibility of every government to ensure the safety and security of its people. If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?

I actually appreciate this explicit grappling with permissible genocide because it states clearly what many Zionists and their American counterparts privately agree with, but have to use crafty rhetoric and euphemisms to dance around stating outright. Bravo Yochanan Gordon!

That favor was gifted to us last August. December’s gift is a helpful guide to the 9 (racist) similarities between Palestinians and Black People in Ferguson. This piece was also removed, so here’s Electronic Intifada providing the online capture of this gem.

EI also takes a look at the Palestinian/Ferguson comparison Palestinian activists started making early on, when the unrest in Missouri first erupted:

Zionist organizations are rattled by the growing displays of solidarity between people in Ferguson, Missouri, and Palestine, but until Wilkes’ outburst they generally focused on slamming the Ferguson-Palestine connection as inaccurate and offensive.

This has been the preferred strategy of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the anti-Palestinian advocacy group that operates under the guise of fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry.

Soon after the Ferguson uprising began, the ADL accused Palestinian rights activists who demonstrated solidarity with Ferguson and Michael Brown of “trying to rouse support for an anti-Israel agenda by attracting like-minded activists.”

The group went so far as to compile lists tracking events and protests promoting unity between Ferguson and Palestine.

Not long after that, the ADL accused the Students for Justice in Palestine national conference of hosting panels that “conflate social justice with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” citing as an example a panel titled ”From Ferguson to Palestine: Resisting State Violence and Racism.”

After a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson in a purposely defective process, Reggie Bush, running back for the Detroit Lions American football team, posted to Instagram a photo of a Palestinian man holding a sign that says, “The Palestinian people know what mean to be shot while unarmed because of your ethnicity #Ferguson #Justice.”

Damn, another uppity football player. No wonder the ADL is worried.

So what are the similarities you ask? Here’s more from EI:

Wilkes’ piece is as remarkable as it is vile in its appeal to anti-Palestinian and white American racism.

On African Americans and Palestinians, Wilkes writes, “Anger defines them, and anger keeps both mired in failure. Rather than make better choices they prefer to ride the ‘victim’ train to nowhere.”

He continues, “Both wish to undermine the state’s moral authority by provoking violent reactions, then portraying themselves as victims of oppression.”

Mocking Black American leaders as “con artists” and “race-hustlers in a ‘business’ fueled by anger,” Wilkes decries supposedly irrational Black and Palestinian anger as a product of inferior cultures that teach hate.

“Black problems in America,” he argues, “derive from the breakdown of family and unhealthy aspects of black culture.”

These are some of the most pernicious and cliché tropes long employed by liberal and right-wing racists to blame and pathologize people of color as being responsible for their own oppression and disadvantage.

“In both places, the innocent pay the price” for the supposed Black and Palestinian lust for violence, Wilkes claims. “The businesses destroyed in Ferguson belong to hard-working citizens who had nothing to do with the incident in which a policeman shot a robbery suspect in self-defense,” he says, justifying Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s August killing of Black youth Michael Brown.

But, Wilkes allows, “The Palestinians are, tragically, far more bloodthirsty.”

Wilkes ends his screed by praising the Israeli army and Missouri police for exercising restraint: “Authorities in both places have their hands tied by their high standards of human rights and reverence for the rule of law.” Of course this last point makes sense given that St. Louis-area police departments have received training from the Israeli security apparatus in recent years.

Tonight in America another grand jury issued another non-indictment on another police officer who killed another black man.

And so it goes.




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