Monday, May 29, 2017
Search

Obama - search results

If you're not happy with the results, please do another search

Rove Takes on the Tea Party, Maher Rips ‘Con Men’ Limbaugh and Beck, and...

Rove Takes on the Tea Party, Maher Rips ‘Con Men’ Limbaugh and Beck, and More

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share
Posted on Feb 3, 2013

Rove vs. the Tea Party: Karl Rove wants the GOP establishment to take back the Republican Party from the tea party, and he’s launching an initiative to do so. Rove and other organizers behind his super PAC American Crossroads are supporting a new super PAC called the Conservative Victory Project. The group’s goal is to defeat unelectable tea party candidates—such as Christine O’Donnell, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock—in GOP primaries and have more electable Republicans as the party’s candidates against Democrats. “There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected,” American Crossroads President Steven Law, who will run the new super PAC, said. “We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.” (Read more)

Krugman vs. the NRA: New York Times columnist Paul Krugman excoriated the National Rifle Association during a discussion on ABC’s “This Week,” calling the powerful gun lobby group “an insane organization.” The Nobel Prize-winning economist argued that the NRA’s “bizarre” approach to gun control is ultimately working against it. “Now the craziness of the extreme pro-gun lobby has been revealed, and that has got to move the debate and got to move the legislation at least to some degree,” Krugman said. (Read more)

Perry vs. the Boy Scouts: Unpopular Texas Gov. Rick Perry says he is not OK with the news that the Boy Scouts of America may be getting ready to end its bigoted and discriminatory policy of banning gays from joining the organization. Perry, an Eagle Scout, spoke at the Texas Scouts’ 64th annual Report to State, where he stated that the organization should not soften its policy of barring members because of their sexuality. “Hopefully the board will follow their historic position of keeping the Scouts strongly supportive of the values that make scouting this very important and impactful organization,” Perry said. (Read more)

McDonnell vs. Hybrid Owners: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell evidently doesn’t understand that the point of owning a hybrid or electric vehicle is to save money on gas. To wit: The GOP governor has proposed a $100 fee for alternative fuel vehicles to make up for losses on the federal gas tax. As one person protesting the plan noted, “We should be rewarding people for trying to do their part to stop the climate crisis and to lower pollution. We shouldn’t be punishing them with taxes.” (Read more)

Texas vs. Obama: Given that Texans already launched an effort on the White House’s We the People site to succeed from the U.S., the results of a new Public Policy Polling survey should come as no surprise—the number of people who support secession efforts has increased since President Obama’s re-election in November. According to the poll, 20 percent of Texas voters said they’d like the Lone Star State to leave the union, up from 14 percent in September 2011. Unfortunately for the secession supporters, most Texans don’t share those beliefs. Two-thirds of voters in the state support Texas staying in the U.S., according to the poll. (Read more)

Video of the Day: On the latest edition of “Real Time,” host Bill Maher said the left shouldn’t be gloating about Sarah Palin’s getting dropped by Fox News. Why? Because it frees her to go the way of influential conservative pundits and “con men” like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. “Con men, like Rush and Beck, are one reason the Republicans are in such dire straits today because they don’t care about winning elections; they care about separating rubes from their money,” Maher explained. “They’ve discovered there is a fortune to be made by keeping a small portion of America under the illusion that they are always under attack from Mexicans, ACORN, or Planned Parenthood, or gays, or takers, global warming hoaxers. It doesn’t matter. They don’t want a majority; they want a mailing list.”

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

More Below the Ad

Get truth delivered to
your inbox every week.

Previous item: Harry Reid Weighs In on Gun Control Debate



New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Iran’s Legal Right to Enrich Uranium Challenged

It's been that way for years. Iran fully complies with Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) provisions. Its nuclear program is peaceful. US intelligence says so. Annually it repeats earlier assessments.

Krugman: The Threat to the Recovery is Washington

(h/t Karoli for the video)

The threat to the recovery is Washington.

There is more truth in those seven words than in the entire 11.5 hours of Sunday news programming we monitor put together.

We were at the precipice of a global economic catastrophe, thanks directly to Republican policies, at the time that Barack Obama was inaugurated. While it's difficult to gauge success from the absence of devastation, there is no argument that the preemptory measures taken in the early days of the first Obama term did slowly turn the economy around. There's far to go still, especially when it come to jobs, but we're at least moving away from the cliff.

But...

If Republicans still take their marching orders from deep thinkers like Rush that could change. And Carly Fiorina shows the same fundamental understanding of the drivers of the economy that enabled her as a CEO to drive two major American corporations into the ground. For her, we have to keep cutting federal spending because...bureaucrats!

FIORINA: I think it's important to remember when we talk about the economy that a private-sector job and a public-sector job are not the same things. They're not equivalent. I'm not saying public-sector jobs aren't important, but a private sector job pays for itself. A private-sector job creates other jobs. A public-sector job is paid for by taxpayers.

The government does not spend and invest money as efficiently as the private sector. There's all kinds of data to support that. So it isn't simply a matter of saying, well, whatever job is created out there, if it's a bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., or a small-business owner hiring another employer, those are not equivalent thing.

(CROSSTALK)

KRUGMAN: ... when you say public-sector jobs, it is not a bureaucrat in Washington, D.C.

FIORINA: Oh, it is, actually.

KRUGMAN: When we talk about public-sector jobs, we look at the public-sector jobs that have been lost in large numbers in this, it's basically school teachers. Don't think about bureaucrats. It's school teachers. What we've laid off is hundreds of thousands of school teachers.

And we talk about the cuts in public spending that have happened, they are not, you know, some god-awful who-knows-what. It's actually public investment. It's largely fixing potholes and repairing bridges. So, you know, you have this image of these wasteful bureaucrats doing god knows what. What we've actually seen is an incredible drought of basic infrastructure...

FIORINA: And it is a fact...

KRUGMAN: ... and -- and laying off hundreds of thousands of school teachers.

FIORINA: It is a fact that virtually every department in every organization in Washington, D.C., has seen its budget increase for the last 40 years. That money is being paid to hire people. The number of people who are -- of course there are some teachers...

KRUGMAN: Almost -- almost no...

FIORINA: Of course there are some police officers. I'm not saying that.

KRUGMAN: ... the vast bulk of -- the vast bulk of public-sector employees are at the state and local level. They are largely school teachers, plus police officers, plus firefighters.

(CROSSTALK)

KRUGMAN: And your notion that it's all these bureaucrats, that's a myth that is used to...

(CROSSTALK)

FIORINA: It's a fact. It's not a myth. It's a fact.

Words have meanings. Fiorina needs to understand that the word "fact" has a specific definition which is not "partisan talking point" or "my opinion". There is little question that there is bloat in the bureacracies of federal offices. But that isn't where the cutting is happening.

A notable aspect of the July employment report is the decline in public-sector employment. In fact, public-sector employment (i.e. federal, state, and local government jobs) declined in 10 of the past 12 months, in sharp contrast to 29 consecutive months of private-sector job growth. Indeed, falling public employment has been among the largest contributors to unemployment in the United States since the end of the Great Recession.

In this month’s employment analysis, The Hamilton Project examines public-sector employment trends over the last three decades and finds that government employment contracted, both in absolute numbers and as a share of the population, during the Great Recession and throughout the current recovery.

Additionally, we report on the results of a new analysis that finds that the cuts in public school teachers are projected to reduce the future earnings of today’s students by more than five times as much as the current budget savings.[..]

Total government (i.e., the sum of state, local, and federal) employment has decreased by over 580,000 jobs since the end of the recession, the largest decrease in any sector since the recovery began in July 2009. State and local governments, faced with tough choices imposed by the confluence of balanced-budget requirements, falling tax revenues, and greater demand for public services, have been forced to lay off teachers, police officers, and other workers.

[..]In raw numbers, the largest cuts were to teachers, but of these occupations, the largest percentage decline was among emergency responders.

Transcripts below the fold:

STEPHANOPOULOS And, Paul Krugman, I want to come to you with this. We saw the Dow hit 14,000...

KRUGMAN: Right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... on Friday, capping just a torrid January, five straight weeks of gains. This comes on top of some encouraging news on jobs...

KRUGMAN: Right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... some encouraging news on housing and manufacturing, and I was struck by a line in the Washington Post that said the biggest threat now to the recovery may be Washington, D.C.

KRUGMAN: Well, that's been true all along. I mean, what we've actually been seeing is -- let's put it this way. We've seen falling government spending, particularly spending -- purchases of goods and services, actually government buying stuff, an unprecedented decline in that. And that's the biggest threat to the recovery.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And cause GDP slippage in the fourth quarter.

KRUGMAN: That's right, the GDP slippage in the fourth quarter was partly just statistical illusion, but partly defense spending, which for some reason had a big negative blip. But, you know, I've actually been doing some numbers on this. If spending had grown in this business cycle the way it did in the last one, under Bush, or under Reagan, we would probably have an unemployment rate that was not much above 6 percent right now.

So it's this Washington craziness, the -- and, of course, the threat of the sequester that is the biggest threat. This recovery is actually -- you know, it should be much, much faster. We still have more than 3 million people who've been out of work for more than a year. That's terrible. But we are, in fact, gaining momentum. Housing is recovering. The labor market is slowly recovering. Yeah, Washington may mess it up.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you agree?

FIORINA: I think it's important to remember when we talk about the economy that a private-sector job and a public-sector job are not the same things. They're not equivalent. I'm not saying public-sector jobs aren't important, but a private sector job pays for itself. A private-sector job creates other jobs. A public-sector job is paid for by taxpayers.

The government does not spend and invest money as efficiently as the private sector. There's all kinds of data to support that. So it isn't simply a matter of saying, well, whatever job is created out there, if it's a bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., or a small-business owner hiring another employer, those are not equivalent thing.

(CROSSTALK)

KRUGMAN: ... when you say public-sector jobs, it is not a bureaucrat in Washington, D.C.

FIORINA: Oh, it is, actually.

KRUGMAN: When we talk about public-sector jobs, we look at the public-sector jobs that have been lost in large numbers in this, it's basically school teachers. Don't think about bureaucrats. It's school teachers. What we've laid off is hundreds of thousands of school teachers.

And we talk about the cuts in public spending that have happened, they are not, you know, some god-awful who-knows-what. It's actually public investment. It's largely fixing potholes and repairing bridges. So, you know, you have this image of these wasteful bureaucrats doing god knows what. What we've actually seen is an incredible drought of basic infrastructure...

FIORINA: And it is a fact...

KRUGMAN: ... and -- and laying off hundreds of thousands of school teachers.

FIORINA: It is a fact that virtually every department in every organization in Washington, D.C., has seen its budget increase for the last 40 years. That money is being paid to hire people. The number of people who are -- of course there are some teachers...

KRUGMAN: Almost -- almost no...

FIORINA: Of course there are some police officers. I'm not saying that.

KRUGMAN: ... the vast bulk of -- the vast bulk of public-sector employees are at the state and local level. They are largely school teachers, plus police officers, plus firefighters.

(CROSSTALK)

KRUGMAN: And your notion that it's all these bureaucrats, that's a myth that is used to...

(CROSSTALK)

FIORINA: It's a fact. It's not a myth. It's a fact.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... clearly going to happen on March 1st now is this sequester.

FIORINA: It's not a myth. It's a fact. We don't have enough private-sector job creation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We heard from Harry Reid that he's hoping the sequester doesn't kick in, but, Congressman, I've noticed some top Republican leaders seem to be accepting the fact that we're going to have these across-the-board budget cuts on March 1st. Talking to White House officials, you get the sense that they are prepared to go through with it, as well, and that could be a big hit on the economy.

BARLETTA: I do believe that my sense is the sequester is going to go through. It was put in place to -- so we didn't get to this point, but it is, it's a law, and I believe we understand, it's not what we want on our side. I know the defense cuts are very hard for many of us to swallow. But at the end of the day, Washington needs to do something about its spending. We are spiraling out of control. This country can't survive. We can't sustain the spending that's going on.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Matthew, what's your sense of what the public reaction is going to be? Because it does appear that the sequester is going to hit for at least a period of time, these across-the-board budget cuts, maybe even a government shutdown the end of March.

DOWD: Well, I think the fundamental problem, I think, that exists today is long before all this is -- the public looks at Washington as completely out of sync with where they are in their life. They think Washington's totally dysfunctional. They don't trust anything that comes out of Washington.

Wherever they -- whether they're progressive or whether they're conservative, they do not trust Washington. And until that trust is rebuilt, part of it has to do with the fiscal mess, part of it has to do with the lack of leadership, but as they watch Washington, day in and day out, you look at the number of trust in Washington. FDR understood this. If you go back and look at FDR and you look at John F. Kennedy and all the folks -- John F. Kennedy, all the folks that basically said we want government to be even more involved, they understood that the people have to trust government before you get government more involved. And that's a huge part of the problem.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMOS: ... might lead to -- to another recession. I don't know. You know much more about that, but that's a problem.

KRUGMAN: There is an important thing to say here, though, that the sequester is not nearly as scary as the debt ceiling debate was.

FIORINA: Clearly.

KRUGMAN: If we fail to make payments on debt, even for a day, nobody knew what would happen. We thought the whole world financial system might collapse. If we go a month into the sequester, it's not a big deal. It's going to be painful; it's going to be a big debate; it'll slow growth in that quarter. But this is something where actually -- my understanding is the White House thinks that this -- they will win this, that if it happens, that, you know, everybody will look bad, but the Republicans will look worse, and in the end, they will fold.

Harry Reid Weighs In on Gun Control Debate

Harry Reid Weighs In on Gun Control Debate

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share
Posted on Feb 3, 2013
Harry Reid
wikipedia.org

Since President Obama put reducing gun violence high on his list of action items for his second term, members of Congress are obliged to make their own stances known on the contentious issue of gun control.

For his part, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is willing to push for more extensive background checks on would-be gun owners, but he’s maintaining a wait-and-see stance on banning assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, possibly aiming to follow the president’s lead without alienating gun-friendly Nevadans.

The Washington Post:

The Senate’s top Democrat offered fresh details Sunday about his position in the renewed debate over guns, as he endorsed expanding background checks on gun sales and promised to consider bans on assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

“Everyone acknowledges we should do something with background checks,” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in an interview on ABC News’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”

[...] “I didn’t vote for the assault weapons last time because it .?.?. didn’t make sense,” Reid said. Nonetheless, Reid said he plans to “take a look” at the latest proposal. And imposing new restrictions on high-capacity magazines is “something we definitely have to take a look at,” he said.

Read more

More Below the Ad


New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Harry Reid Weighs In on Gun Control Debate

Harry Reid Weighs In on Gun Control Debate

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share
Posted on Feb 3, 2013
Harry Reid
wikipedia.org

Since President Obama put reducing gun violence high on his list of action items for his second term, members of Congress are obliged to make their own stances known on the contentious issue of gun control.

For his part, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is willing to push for more extensive background checks on would-be gun owners, but he’s maintaining a wait-and-see stance on banning assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, possibly aiming to follow the president’s lead without alienating gun-friendly Nevadans.

The Washington Post:

The Senate’s top Democrat offered fresh details Sunday about his position in the renewed debate over guns, as he endorsed expanding background checks on gun sales and promised to consider bans on assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

“Everyone acknowledges we should do something with background checks,” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in an interview on ABC News’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”

[...] “I didn’t vote for the assault weapons last time because it .?.?. didn’t make sense,” Reid said. Nonetheless, Reid said he plans to “take a look” at the latest proposal. And imposing new restrictions on high-capacity magazines is “something we definitely have to take a look at,” he said.

Read more

More Below the Ad


New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Mehdi’s Morning Memo: Osborne The Bank Basher

The ten things you need to know on Monday 4 February 2013...

1) OSBORNE THE BANK BASHER

Having cut corporation tax and the top rate of income tax, dropped the bank bonus tax, opposed a financial transactions tax and repeatedly refused to countenance a break-up of the big banks, George Osborne, it seems, is now trying to re-invent himself as a bit of a bank basher - from the FT's splash:

"The chancellor will today warn banks they will be broken up unless they comply fully with rules to make the financial system safer - a threat that will provoke fury among some in the City of London.

"George Osborne has bowed to pressure, agreeing that the proposed ringfence around core retail activities, aimed at protecting the taxpayer from bank collapses, needs to be "electrified" with draconian sanctions. The Labour party claimed Mr Osborne had been forced into 'a partial climbdown', arguing that the chancellor and Vince Cable, business secretary, had not wanted to leave hanging over banks the threat of full separation of investment banking from high-street operations.

"... In a speech on the future of banking today, Mr Osborne will say: 'My message to the banks is clear: if a bank flouts the rules, the regulator and the Treasury will have the power to break it up altogether - full separation, not just a ringfence.'"

For once, I'm with Gideon. Talk, however, is cheap. Let's see what actually happens...

2) NOT-SO-FREE VOTE

There's a fair bit of pressure being applied to anti-gay-marriage Tory MPs by their party's high command ahead of tomorrow's 'free' vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

"Tory gay marriage rebels told: you’re out of touch" - that's the splash headline on the front of today's Times. The paper reports:

"The Prime Minister will speak out in favour of equal marriage in an effort to win over at least half his MPs before a landmark vote tomorrow evening. However, his personal intervention risks deepening Tory divisions over an issue that Mr Cameron was warned yesterday could cost him the next election. Last night Tory waverers were under mounting pressure to spare the Prime Minister the embarrassment of being deserted by more than 150 of his parliamentary party.

"Michael Fabricant, a Tory vice-chairman, said he was 'disturbed' to hear of ministerial aides warning backbenchers that their careers would be dented if they failed to support the Government even though Mr Cameron has given his troops a free vote. Another MP said undecided ministers were being pressed to back the Prime Minister."

But there's pressure being applied on those MPs from other directions, too - the Telegraph splashes on news that

"In his first official day as leader of the Church of England, the Rt Rev Justin Welby is expected to say that marriage should remain 'between a man and a woman'."

The PM versus the Archbishop of Canterbury. Who says Old Etonians all think alike?

On a side note, David Burrowes, one of the Tory 'rebels', has written a piece for HuffPost UK which is worth a read; he argues that this is "the first time in living memory that an issue raising such fundamental matters of moral, legal and constitutional significance has been pushed through by a government without an electoral mandate".

3) WRONG WAR, WRONG PLACE

If you had any doubt that the Afghan war and, in particular, Britain's presence in Helmand province, has been a disaster, listen to the latest opinions from 'our ally', Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan.

From the Guardian:

"The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has questioned whether western troops were 'fighting in the wrong place' during their decade-long mission in Afghanistan, saying security was better in southern Helmand province before the arrival of British forces.

"... 'They feel fulfilled with regard to the objective of fighting terrorism and weakening al-Qaida, or they feel that they were fighting in the wrong place in the first place, so they should discontinue doing that and leave,' Karzai said in an interview ahead of trilateral talks with David Cameron and the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari."

Meanwhile, the Times reports that "David Cameron has set himself the ambitious target of brokering a deal between Afghanistan and Pakistan to facilitate peace talks with the Taleban".

4) 'STITCHED UP'

Another 'Plebgate' scoop from Channel 4's DIspatches - reported by the Financial Times:

"Andrew Mitchell, the former Conservative chief whip who resigned last year after his "plebgate" row with police officers, will talk about his frustration with Downing Street's treatment of the scandal and argue that he was "stitched up", in a television interview due to be broadcast tonight.

"... The row embarrassed the Tories, and Mr Mitchell resigned in the autumn when he felt he had lost the support of party colleagues. 'I could tell I was being stitched up but I didn't know how it was being done or where it was coming from,' he will say in a Dispatches interview tonight."

5) HEY ED, WE'RE STILL HERE

Ed Miliband has repeatedly said that New Labour is the past. Tell that to, er, New Labour. The former home secretary, Alan Johnson, a card-carrying New Labour Blairite who briefly served as shadow chancellor under Ed M, has offered some 'advice' to the Labour leader in an interview with (the Blairite) Progress magazine.

From the Guardian:

"Ed Miliband needs to start setting out policies this year and has little option but to accept the spending levels set out by the coalition for 2015, Labour's Alan Johnson has said.

"... Asked whether Labour should commit to sticking to the government's spending limits for the first two years if elected – as it did in 1997 – Johnson said it was 'difficult to think what else you can do'.

"'We can't get away from the fact that the fiscal deficit has got to come down,' he said.

"'Now is a dangerous time. We can't get away with saying we are thinking about policy. That's perfectly acceptable for the first three years, but now we have got to start unveiling some policy and what Ed's going to need to do is to meet the expectations he himself has created.'"

Yesterday, Tony Blair, speaking on BBC1's Andrew Marr programme, said Labour would "later in this year... start to unveil its policies".

The clock is ticking, Ed...

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of a puppy dancing, trying to get attention...

6) HUHNE TRIAL KICKS OFF

The Telegraph reports:

"Chris Huhne, the former Energy Secretary, and his ex-wife will go on trial today over claims that she took speeding points for him nearly a decade ago.

"The Liberal Democrat MP and his former wife, Vicky Pryce, are accused of perverting the course of justice over a speeding offence dating from 2003.

"Mr Huhne resigned from the Cabinet last year after the Crown Prosecution Service announced that he had been charged over an allegation that he persuaded Miss Pryce to take his penalty points so he could avoid prosecution."

7) BIASED BOUNDARIES

From the Telegraph:

"Votes in Labour seats will be worth much more than votes in Tory seats because the Liberal Democrats rejected new Commons boundaries, the Conservatives have claimed.

"Labour and Lib Dem MPs last week voted to reject Conservative plans to redraw Commons boundaries and cut the House of Commons by 50 seats.

"Without those changes, votes in some seats will be worth half as much as those in others by the next election, according to research by the Tories. They say that the reforms would have stopped the current Commons map favouring Labour so much because sizes of constituencies would have been standardised."

Oh boo-hoo. Here's a tip for the Tories: if you're so worried about the (undoubted) unfairness and disproportionality of our antiquated voting system, why not campaign for full proportional representation? Where seats in parliament reflect votes in the country?

8) 'STOMPING' ON KIDS' GRAVES

Another PR victory for the Met - from the Guardian:

"Britain's largest police force stole the identities of an estimated 80 dead children and issued fake passports in their names for use by undercover police officers.

"The Metropolitan police secretly authorised the practice for covert officers infiltrating protest groups without consulting or informing the children's parents."

"... Two undercover officers have provided a detailed account of how they and others used the identities of dead children. One, who adopted the fake persona of Pete Black while undercover in anti-racist groups, said he felt he was 'stomping on the grave' of the four-year-old boy whose identity he used.

9) UNPAID NUCLEAR BILLS

Remember how we've run out of money? How the government can't afford to fund SureStart centres or disability benefits? Not quite (via the Mirror):

"The cost of decommissioning Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant has hit £67.5billion and is still rising, MPs have warned.

"The Commons Public Accounts Committee said the authority dealing with our radioactive legacy had not been able to show if it gave value for money.

"Around £1.6billion a year is spent on the site, due to close in 2018."

10) WANNA BE US AMBASSADOR TO LONDON? THAT'LL BE $2.3M PLEASE.

From the Times:

"Today, a former US diplomat to some of the world’s less glamorous berths provides the answer: do not expect to get the Court of St James’s if you raised less than $650,000 for the Obama campaign, and in this competitive year of ten big donors for every top position, it could take $2.3 million.

"Dennis Jett, who started his foreign career in Argentina in 1973, and served in Liberia during the civil war and Mozambique during a refugee crisis, teamed up with an economist to establish the probability of big political donors landing in fine world capitals.

"Their computer model concludes that the greater the campaign donation, the more likely a posting will be in Western Europe rather than those countries seen as 'obscure, dangerous, poor or of low interest to tourists'."

I guess that means Matthew Barzun (the ambassador to Sweden, who raised more than $2m for Obama) has a better chance of getting the London gig than Anna Wintour (he editor of American Vogue, who raised a mere $500,000 for Obama’s campaign).

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 41
Conservatives 34
Lib Dems 12
Ukip 8

That would give Labour a majority of 86.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

‏@Freeman_George Fitting that this week sees a new Archbishop and new Bank Governor. Never have we needed spiritual, moral and financial leadership so much.

@tobyhelm incredibly @toryeducation still listed as official @Conservatives site despite Gove's lot running it as a propaganda tool in breach of codes

@Mike_Fabricant Why is it when I tweet about Gay Marriage I get loads of replies, but no-one is interested when I tweet about my (4g) Dongle? Boo hooh.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Maria Miller, writing in the Times, says: "The State should not stop two people who love each other, gay or straight, getting married."

David Blanchflower, writing in the Independent, says: "Here’s a way to end our slump: give away money."

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, writing in the Guardian, says: "The Andrew Mitchell affair revealed our prejudices, and showed the police to be untrustworthy."


Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan ([email protected]) or Ned Simons ([email protected]). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

Life in the Shadows

Life in the Shadows

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share
Posted on Feb 3, 2013

David Fitzsimmons, Cagle Cartoons, The Arizona Star

Click to see more Truthdig Cartoons

Pemex Building Bombed in Mexico

Buffalo Wing Shortage

Drone Warfare

GOP Reaches Out

More Below the Ad


New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Life in the Shadows

Life in the Shadows

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share
Posted on Feb 3, 2013

David Fitzsimmons, Cagle Cartoons, The Arizona Star

Click to see more Truthdig Cartoons

Pemex Building Bombed in Mexico

Buffalo Wing Shortage

Drone Warfare

GOP Reaches Out

More Below the Ad


New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Life in the Shadows

Life in the Shadows

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share
Posted on Feb 3, 2013

David Fitzsimmons, Cagle Cartoons, The Arizona Star

Click to see more Truthdig Cartoons

Pemex Building Bombed in Mexico

Buffalo Wing Shortage

Drone Warfare

GOP Reaches Out

More Below the Ad


New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Reid: Immigration Reform Must Include Protections for Same-Sex Families

Regardless of their rhetoric and Harry Reid's optimism, I won't be surprised if Republicans find an excuse to block the bill, but we shall see. STEPHANOPOULOS: Hello again. President Obama says that our headliner has the toughest job in Washington. Top...

Drone Warfare

Drone Warfare

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share
Posted on Feb 3, 2013

Mike Keefe, Cagle Cartoons

Click to see more Truthdig Cartoons

Pemex Building Bombed in Mexico

Buffalo Wing Shortage

Life in the Shadows

GOP Reaches Out

More Below the Ad


New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Drone Warfare

Drone Warfare

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share
Posted on Feb 3, 2013

Mike Keefe, Cagle Cartoons

Click to see more Truthdig Cartoons

Pemex Building Bombed in Mexico

Buffalo Wing Shortage

Life in the Shadows

GOP Reaches Out

More Below the Ad


New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Drone Warfare

Drone Warfare

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share
Posted on Feb 3, 2013

Mike Keefe, Cagle Cartoons

Click to see more Truthdig Cartoons

Pemex Building Bombed in Mexico

Buffalo Wing Shortage

Life in the Shadows

GOP Reaches Out

More Below the Ad


New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

The ABCs Of The Super Bowl: Ads, Betting, And Consumption

It's that day again. Some will fast forward through the game and watch the commercials (Top 5 most viral Ads below); others will have a stadium-pal installed early and elasticated waist-bands; and many will win (or lose) a fortune based on any number ...

Fox Guest Likens ACA Contraception Mandate To Food Stamps

If you thought that the Obama administration's recent changes to the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act would quell the Fox News/right-wing fear mongering over religious liberty, think again. Fox & Friends Weekend this morning conducted an all-male discussion over the new guidelines in which their guest, Jim Towey, president of Ave Maria University, said that the contraception mandate is a “new federal entitlement, something like 'contraception stamps.'” It was very telling that he meant that as a slur, rather than a government safety net.

As Karoli described in an earlier post, the new rules allow religiously-affiliated organizations to avoid having to directly cover contraception yet still provide an opportunity for women employed by those organizations to get that coverage at no charge through a separate policy.

Think Progress has reported that a number of Catholic leaders have already come out in favor of the new regulations, including Bill Donahue of the Catholic League, normally a good pal of the Foxies. Think Progress also noted that “The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a statement to say they 'welcome' the new Obamacare regulations, and plan to comment further after a more thorough review of the rules.”

But the Friends held two discussions (this one and another with Father Jonathan Morris) about the new rules with two male, Catholic detractors without mentioning the support received elsewhere.

It wasn't clear to me whether Towey's Catholic university would qualify for the opt-out. Towey did, however, vow to continue fighting its lawsuit against the Obama administration, via the largesse of the Koch-supported Becket Fund.

But what host Mike Jerrick did make clear is what we should think about the new contraception compromise. Jerrick said, “They call it an accommodation. What do you call it?” But before Towey could answer, Jerrick added, “I mean other people say it's a gimmick.”

Speaking of gimmicks, Towey responded by characterizing the contraception mandate as some kind of welfare program. He called it “obviously” a “new federal entitlement, something like 'contraception stamps.' And so they've made this now available for free to all individuals, all women in the country and a lot of people are upset... If the federal government wants to do this kind of expansion, this kind of new entitlement, why involve religious organizations?”

It was also very telling that neither host objected to using food stamps to smear the mandate.

As Karoli emphasized in her earlier post, there's another question looming just behind all this self-righteous outrage: Why do the religious beliefs of employers who are out of step with mainstream American opinion, trump the beliefs of their employees? Especially when it's the employees who will or will not use the contraception coverage?

Yet this question was never asked, much less answered, in either of the segments.

In case you really, really missed the editorializing, Jerrick made it even more explicit as he wished Towey good luck with his lawsuit at the end of the discussion.

Mark Kelly Asks Wayne LaPierre to Listen to His Membership on Background Checks

Chris Wallace ended this interview with Mark Kelly by asking him if he had anything to say to NRA head Wayne LaPierre who was appearing on Fox News Sunday in the interview immediately following his and here's how he responded: Kelly Petitions LaPier...

Will Durst’s 2013 Political Animal Awards

It's awards season, so this seems the perfect time to weigh in with the barnacle on the belly of the awards ship: the 15th annual Will Durst Political Animal Awards.

February 3, 2013  |  

Like this article?

Join our email list:

Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.

Hey! You! Yes, you. Sorry. Just trying to get your attention to impart an important warning here. For the next couple weeks, it’s imperative all you good folks out there stay alert and keep your wits about you. Remove the earbuds, no texting while walking and you’d be well advised to brandish a stainless steel umbrella on the street because its awards season and golden-plated statuettes are being tossed about like manhole covers during an underground methane explosion. We’ve made it through the Golden Globes and the Screen Actor Guild Awards, with the Grammies and Oscars right around the corner, so this seems the perfect time to weigh in with the barnacle on the belly of the awards ship: the 15 th annual Will Durst Political Animal Awards.

THE BEST IMPRESSION OF REANIMATED HALLOWEEN PUMPKIN AWARD. And the winner is… oh, forgive me, that’s right, we’re all winners here. The award goes to Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell.

BEST DIRECTION OF A COMEDY. To Mitt Romney’s campaign manager, Matt Rhoades.

THE HE SHOULD SWITCH TO DECAF AND REALLY SOON AWARD: Vice President Joe Biden.

COLLATERAL DAMAGE AWARD: Still picking shrapnel out of his widow’s peak, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.

THE CLOCK IS TICKING LOUD ENOUGH TO PIERCE EARDRUMS ON A COUPLE DIFFERENT CONTINENTS AWARD. 3 way tie! Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro & Bashar Al- Assad.

THE YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN AWARD. To former Governor Sarah Palin, Fox News’ gain is Alaska’s loss.

HEART OF A PLUCKED CHICKEN AWARD. To Nevada Senator Harry Reid for avoiding the alteration of Senate filibuster rules given the opportunity. 

THE IT’S BETTER TO BE LUCKY THAN GOOD AWARD. For the 2 nd year in a row, POTUS Barack Obama.

THE YOUR FIFTEEN MINUTES WERE UP THIRTY MINUTES AGO AWARD. It’s a tie: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Lindsay Lohan.

THE WHY DOESN’T ANYBODY RETURN MY CALLS ANYMORE AWARD: Karl Rove, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

THE YOU CAN KEEP A GOOD MAN DOWN AWARD. Former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown.

THE TAKING SIBLING RIVALRY TO A BRAND NEW LEVEL AWARD. The Harbaugh boys.

THE H.G. WELLS DATING SERVICE AWARD. Manti Te’o.

THE HEAD IN THE SAND LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD. The coveted Ostrich goes to executive vice president of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre.

THE BEAT A DEAD HORSE UNTIL WE’RE ALL COVERED IN A FINE RED MIST AWARD. Another tie: Senators Lindsay Graham & John McCain who remain determined to get to the bottom of Chuck Hagel’s role in Benghazi.

THE GEORGE HAMILTON TANNING AWARD. For the 4 th consecutive year, Speaker of the House John Boehner.

POP GOES THE WEASEL AWARD. Lance Armstrong.

THE SISYPHUS AWARD. Marco Rubio, who has been handed sole responsibility for dragging the entire Republican Party across the immigration reform line.

THE OUT OF THE MOUTH OF BABES AWARD. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal for suggesting the GOP “stop being the stupid party.”

THE RIP VAN WINKLE AWARD. To Hillary Clinton for the well deserved two year nap she’s about to take.

And finally, THE CONTINENT OF ATLANTIS AWARD. For the fastest most complete disappearance in political history, Mitt Romney. They must have powered him down, folded him up and placed him back into the original packaging.

Will Durst is a political comic, syndicated columnist, AM radio talk show host and defense liability. His new e- book “Elect to Laugh!” published by Hyperink is now available at Redroom.com.

Mystery, Paranoia, Confusion: You Won’t Believe What’s Happening at Guantanamo

A mystery is unfolding that highlights the peculiarities of the military commission system.

February 3, 2013  |  

Like this article?

Join our email list:

Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.

Over the week of January 28-31 a great mystery played out at JTF-GTMO, the notorious military base and indefinite detention facility better known as Guantanamo Bay. The question at hand: who cut the media feed during a pre-trial hearing for Khalid Sheik Mohammed, self-proclaimed mastermind of 9/11, thus temporarily censoring the proceedings? Was there an unknown, outside force controlling the court? If so, who was it? What was intended to be a dry week of legal wrangling became a full-on whodunnit that was part Law & Order, part spy novel – if the final 50 pages had been blacked out.

On top of that, the week ended with defense attorneys openly questioning whether their conversations with clients were being secretly monitored. “We have significant reasons to believe we have been listened in [on],” David Nevin, defense attorney for KSM said at at press conference. “After this week,” said defense attorney James Connell, “the paranoia levels have kicked up a notch.”

If none of this sounds familiar, you can be forgiven. In the Obama era, news about GTMO (the military doesn't use the “i”) is either unwarrantedly optimistic – we're closing it, we swear – or, more frequently, totally ignored. And, quite tellingly, rather than close the prison, Obama has instead decided to close the office responsible for determining how to close the prison.

Last week the government held a round of what's called pre-trial motion hearings, which establish the specific rules of a trial. Given the almost complete lack of precedent in military commissions – more on that shortly – this process is even more important than it would be in a normal court.

The cast of characters in this would-be Agatha Christie play are numerous and colorful. At the center are Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his four co-defendants, all of whom stand accused of war crimes and face the death penalty. They've been detained at GTMO since 2006.

The attorneys representing the accused are an impressive posse of civilian and military lawyers given the difficult task of navigating a legal universe that, despite the government's claims to the contrary, often feels like it's being created before our very eyes.

Brig. Gen. Mark Martins is the lead prosecutor and the man most singularly tasked with defending the legitimacy of this young legal universe. Gen. Martins is the picture of the military's self-perception. Tall, disciplined, and by all accounts extremely intelligent, he's also stoic as a Brit. He once said, after being asked his feelings on a week's events, “I don't tend to experience highs and lows in litigation.”

Overseeing the endeavor is Army Colonel Judge James Pohl, a man with a self-deprecating sense of humor and a passing resemblance to Bill Murray.

The final character in this drama is the new legal universe itself. Military commissions, as GTMO trials are called, are a confusing mix of civilian court, which is overseen by the judicial branch, and courts martial, the justice system for members of the military, which is under the purview of the executive branch. Military commissions are similarly overseen by the executive branch, though Gen. Martins is quick to point out any similarity they share with civilian court. Congress created military commissions in 2006, and updated them in 2009.

Last week was supposed to be boring. But then lightning struck, the lights went out, and when they came back on there was a dead body in the middle of the room – metaphorically speaking, of course. The mystery had been set in motion.

Mystery

It's hard to imagine the week going any worse for the government. On the first day of proceedings, a previously unknown, outside entity reached into the courtroom like the hand of god and cut the audio/visual feed to the media – which is on a 40-second delay – apparently surprising even the judge. The judge and his assistant, a court security officer (CSO), have always had the authority to cut the feed, but they didn't hit the button. Neither had the CSO's assistants.

Mystery, Paranoia, Confusion: You Won’t Believe What’s Happening at Guantanamo

A mystery is unfolding that highlights the peculiarities of the military commission system.

February 3, 2013  |  

Like this article?

Join our email list:

Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.

Over the week of January 28-31 a great mystery played out at JTF-GTMO, the notorious military base and indefinite detention facility better known as Guantanamo Bay. The question at hand: who cut the media feed during a pre-trial hearing for Khalid Sheik Mohammed, self-proclaimed mastermind of 9/11, thus temporarily censoring the proceedings? Was there an unknown, outside force controlling the court? If so, who was it? What was intended to be a dry week of legal wrangling became a full-on whodunnit that was part Law & Order, part spy novel – if the final 50 pages had been blacked out.

On top of that, the week ended with defense attorneys openly questioning whether their conversations with clients were being secretly monitored. “We have significant reasons to believe we have been listened in [on],” David Nevin, defense attorney for KSM said at at press conference. “After this week,” said defense attorney James Connell, “the paranoia levels have kicked up a notch.”

If none of this sounds familiar, you can be forgiven. In the Obama era, news about GTMO (the military doesn't use the “i”) is either unwarrantedly optimistic – we're closing it, we swear – or, more frequently, totally ignored. And, quite tellingly, rather than close the prison, Obama has instead decided to close the office responsible for determining how to close the prison.

Last week the government held a round of what's called pre-trial motion hearings, which establish the specific rules of a trial. Given the almost complete lack of precedent in military commissions – more on that shortly – this process is even more important than it would be in a normal court.

The cast of characters in this would-be Agatha Christie play are numerous and colorful. At the center are Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his four co-defendants, all of whom stand accused of war crimes and face the death penalty. They've been detained at GTMO since 2006.

The attorneys representing the accused are an impressive posse of civilian and military lawyers given the difficult task of navigating a legal universe that, despite the government's claims to the contrary, often feels like it's being created before our very eyes.

Brig. Gen. Mark Martins is the lead prosecutor and the man most singularly tasked with defending the legitimacy of this young legal universe. Gen. Martins is the picture of the military's self-perception. Tall, disciplined, and by all accounts extremely intelligent, he's also stoic as a Brit. He once said, after being asked his feelings on a week's events, “I don't tend to experience highs and lows in litigation.”

Overseeing the endeavor is Army Colonel Judge James Pohl, a man with a self-deprecating sense of humor and a passing resemblance to Bill Murray.

The final character in this drama is the new legal universe itself. Military commissions, as GTMO trials are called, are a confusing mix of civilian court, which is overseen by the judicial branch, and courts martial, the justice system for members of the military, which is under the purview of the executive branch. Military commissions are similarly overseen by the executive branch, though Gen. Martins is quick to point out any similarity they share with civilian court. Congress created military commissions in 2006, and updated them in 2009.

Last week was supposed to be boring. But then lightning struck, the lights went out, and when they came back on there was a dead body in the middle of the room – metaphorically speaking, of course. The mystery had been set in motion.

Mystery

It's hard to imagine the week going any worse for the government. On the first day of proceedings, a previously unknown, outside entity reached into the courtroom like the hand of god and cut the audio/visual feed to the media – which is on a 40-second delay – apparently surprising even the judge. The judge and his assistant, a court security officer (CSO), have always had the authority to cut the feed, but they didn't hit the button. Neither had the CSO's assistants.

Millionaire Pundit Laura Ingraham Doesn’t Like Paying Americans a Living Wage

After complaining about the fact that the economic recovery in the United States hasn't been as robust as most people would like to see and of course blaming President Obama for the number of people who are still out of work, The O'Reilly Factor's guest host, Laura Ingraham, brought in Fox regular Gary B. Smith and Demos' David Callahan to discuss the topic. To no one's surprise, when Callahan suggested that the wealth being generated by our economy is going to the 1 percent and that stronger labor unions and a higher minimum wage might help to fix that problem, he was immediately pooh-poohed by Ingraham.

INGRAHAM: Stronger labor unions? How do we compete with China, Vietnam, South Korea, India, when we are going to have stronger labor unions that insure that we have more work place regulations, more ways that business has to pay more money to make ends meet? The two things don't add up.

Ingraham went on to complain that it's unfair to blame our obstructionist Congress for any of the problems with our economy. She then allowed Smith to make the claim that unionization doesn't work and that is why we have record low levels of unionization in the United States.

Sorry Gary, but record low numbers of union members is not because unions "don't work" or because people don't want to join unions. It's due to union busting and having the laws stacked against them. Unions have worked just fine for what they're supposed to do, which is collectively bargain for better working conditions and wages for their membership -- and we can thank unions for things like ending child labor, the 40 hour work week, overtime pay, and a long list of other protections for workers too long to list here.

I have a question for Laura Ingraham. If she would like a race to the bottom in the name of staying competitive, maybe she can volunteer to work for that same wage, instead of being paid millions to bloviate on the radio and Fox “News”. If below-minimum wage keeps us competitive with Asia, I say let's start with her salary. What do you think Laura? You ready to work for a few dollars an hour or less?

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Ingraham has a net worth of $45 million and is paid $15 million a year. There's nothing like listening to a millionaire telling the rest of us how horrible it is for business that someone is actually paid a living wage.

Even Fox News Thinks NRA Is Being ‘Ridiculous’

Even Fox News Thinks NRA Is Being ‘Ridiculous’

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share
Posted on Feb 3, 2013
Screenshot

Wayne LaPierre.

The National Rifle Association may want to consider adding conservative media outlet Fox News—or at least “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace—to its enemies list after Wallace took on NRA chief Wayne LaPierre during a tense interview Sunday morning.

In the course of the conversation, Wallace challenged LaPierre on a controversial ad the gun lobby recently released that accused President Obama of being an “elitist hypocrite” for wanting armed protection for his daughters, but not supporting the NRA’s proposal to put armed guards in every school.

The president’s children live under a “threat that most children do not face,” Wallace pointed out.

“Tell that to the people at Newtown,” LaPierre replied.

“Do you really think that the president’s children are the same kind of target as every schoolchild in America?” Wallace countered. “It’s ridiculous, and you know it, sir.”

Wallace also took on LaPierre for claiming that a universal gun registry is next, even though Obama hasn’t proposed such a measure.

“Forgive me, sir, but you take something that is here and you say it’s going to go all the way over there,” Wallace said. “There’s nothing that anyone in the administration has said that indicates they’re going to have a universal registry.”

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

Get truth delivered to
your inbox every week.

Previous item: Controlling the International Flow of Money



New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Even Fox News Thinks NRA Is Being ‘Ridiculous’

Even Fox News Thinks NRA Is Being ‘Ridiculous’

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share
Posted on Feb 3, 2013
Screenshot

Wayne LaPierre.

The National Rifle Association may want to consider adding conservative media outlet Fox News—or at least “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace—to its enemies list after Wallace took on NRA chief Wayne LaPierre during a tense interview Sunday morning.

In the course of the conversation, Wallace challenged LaPierre on a controversial ad the gun lobby recently released that accused President Obama of being an “elitist hypocrite” for wanting armed protection for his daughters, but not supporting the NRA’s proposal to put armed guards in every school.

The president’s children live under a “threat that most children do not face,” Wallace pointed out.

“Tell that to the people at Newtown,” LaPierre replied.

“Do you really think that the president’s children are the same kind of target as every schoolchild in America?” Wallace countered. “It’s ridiculous, and you know it, sir.”

Wallace also took on LaPierre for claiming that a universal gun registry is next, even though Obama hasn’t proposed such a measure.

“Forgive me, sir, but you take something that is here and you say it’s going to go all the way over there,” Wallace said. “There’s nothing that anyone in the administration has said that indicates they’re going to have a universal registry.”

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

Get truth delivered to
your inbox every week.

Previous item: Controlling the International Flow of Money



New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

By Printing Money Central Banks Have Already Begun the Next Stage of Warfare

Since the Financial Crisis erupted in 2007, the US Federal Reserve has engaged in dozens of interventions/ bailouts to try and prop up the financial system. Now, I realize that everyone knows the Fed is “printing money.” However, when you look at the list of bailouts/ money pumps it’s absolutely staggering how much money the Fed has thrown around.

Here’s a recap of some of the larger Fed moves during the Crisis:

  • Cutting interest rates from 5.25-0.25% (Sept ’07-today).
  • The Bear Stearns deal/ taking on $30 billion in junk mortgages (Mar ’08).
  • Opening various lending windows to investment banks (Mar ’08).
  • Hank Paulson spends $400 billion on Fannie/ Freddie (Sept ’08).
  • The Fed takes over insurance company AIG for $85 billion (Sept ’08).
  • The Fed doles out $25 billion for the automakers (Sept ’08)
  • The Fed kicks off the $700 billion TARP program (Oct ’08)
  • The Fed buys commercial paper from non-financial firms (Oct ’08)
  • The Fed offers $540 billion to backstop money market funds (Oct ’08)
  • The Fed agrees to back up to $280 billion of Citigroup’s liabilities (Oct ’08).
  • $40 billion more to AIG (Nov ’08)
  • The Fed backstops $140 billion of Bank of America’s liabilities (Jan ’09)
  • Obama’s $787 Billion Stimulus (Jan ’09)
  • QE 1 buys $1.25 trillion in Treasuries and mortgage debt (March ’09)
  • QE lite buys $200-300 billion of Treasuries and mortgage debt (Aug ’10)
  • QE 2 buys $600 billion in Treasuries (Nov ’10)
  • Operation Twist reshuffles $400 billion of the Fed’s portfolio (Oct ’11)
  • QE 3 buys $40 billion of Mortgage Backed Securities monthly (Sept ‘12)
  • QE 4 buys $45 billion worth of Treasuries monthly (Dec ’12)

The Fed is not the only one. Collectively, the world’s Central Banks have pumped over $10 trillion into the financial system since 2007. This money printing has resulted in a massive expansion of Central Bank balance sheets, spread inflation into the system, and done nothing to address the key solvency issues that lead up to the great crisis.

This competitive debasement has lead to increased tension between the world’s Central Banks. You will never hear their stated outright for the simple reason that the single most important responsibility of the Central Banks is to maintain confidence in the system.

However, underneath the veneer of goodwill and the occasional necessary coordinated intervention, tensions are rising between Central Banks. When the US debases the US Dollar it pushes the Euro higher. This hurts German exports which in turn angers the Bundesbank.

The Bundesbank fired a warning shot at the Fed last autumn when it announced it wanted to have its Gold reserves at the Fed audited. To be clear here: no one of major financial import has ever questioned the Fed’s trustworthiness before. However, at the time of this announcement Germany stated it had no intentions of actually moving its reserves.

Fast-forward to today and Germany has not only audited and checked its Gold reserves at the Fed but it is now moving them. In plain terms, Germany has told the world that A) it does not trust the Fed and B) it is through playing around.

This situation will likely be getting worse going forward. The fact that Germany will be removing all of its Gold reserves from France certainly doesn’t bode well for future German French relations if push ever comes to shove (it’s not as though Europe has a history of getting along well).

Look for increased tension to grow between the world’s Central Banks in the coming months and years. This tension will likely result in:

  1. Economic warfare (see the recent situation in Iran)
  2. Political infighting
  3. Key players being sacrificed

Given that the financial system and economic “recovery” have been built on a house of cards, these political developments will have major impacts on the financial markets.

Outside of internal dissent, the power players in the global economy (the US, China, Japan, and Germany) are showing increasing signs of tension both internal (China and the US) as well as external (China vs. Japan, Germany vs. the US, the US vs. China).

These tensions will lead to economic warfare and very likely physical warfare in the coming years.

We offer several FREE Special Reports to help investors navigate this risk and others in the financial system. They include:

Preparing Your Portfolio For Obama’s Economic Nightmare

How to Protect Yourself From Inflation

And last but not least…

Bullion 101: Everything You Need to Know About Investing in Gold and Silver Bullion…

You can pick up free copies of all of the above at:

http://gainspainscapital.com/

Best

Phoenix Capital Research

Your rating: None

Ten Myths Conservative Media Will Use Against Immigration Reform

Protesters along President Barack Obama's motorcade route as he heads to speak about immigration reform in Las Vegas, Jan. 29, 2013. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times) Protesters along President Barack Obama's motorcade route as he heads to speak about immigration reform in Las Vegas, Jan. 29, 2013. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times) As congressional leaders debate a framework for comprehensive immigration reform that will likely grant undocumented immigrants legal status, conservative media are engaged in promoting myths and falsehoods about what reform means for the country.

Is It True That 20 Million Undocumented Immigrants Would Gain Legal Status Under This Reform?

Why Can't We Just Deport Them All?

Wouldn't Legalizing Undocumented Immigrants Have A Negative Impact On The Economy?

So Immigrants Don't Take Jobs From Hard-Working Americans?

Won't Legalizing Immigrants Increase The "Welfare State"?

Do Undocumented Immigrants Pay Taxes?

Why Are There So Many Undocumented Immigrants? Are Immigration Laws Not Being Enforced?

If Illegal Border Crossings Are Such A Concern, Why Don't We Just Complete The Border Fence?

Wasn't Obama Responsible For Killing Immigration Reform In 2007?

In 1986, President Reagan Granted Amnesty To Millions Of Undocumented Immigrants. How Is This Proposal Different?

Is It True That 20 Million Undocumented Immigrants Would Gain Legal Status Under This Reform?

Fox News host Eric Bolling has claimed that as many as 20 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States would be legalized under the proposal. Is that true? [Fox News, Your World, 1/29/13]

About 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants Would Likely Be Affected

Pew Hispanic Center: Number Of Unauthorized Immigrants Stands At 11.1 Million. According to the Pew Research Center, there were 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States in 2011, down from a peak of 12 million in 2007.

 [Pew Hispanic Center, 1/29/13]

Census Bureau Estimates The Number To Be 11.1 Million. Latest numbers from the Census Bureau put the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States at "an estimated 11.1 million," which represented "a clear and sustained drop in illegal immigration, ending more than a decade of increases." [CBS News, 12/6/12]

Undocumented Immigrants Make Up Significantly Less Than 10 Percent Of U.S. Population, Workforce

Pew Hispanic Center: Unauthorized Immigrants Make Up 3.7 Percent Of U.S. Population. According to data from the Pew Research Center, undocumented immigrants represent 28 percent of the U.S. foreign-born population but 3.7 percent of the overall U.S. population. [Pew Hispanic Center, 12/1/11]

Pew Hispanic Center: Unauthorized Immigrants Are 5.2 Percent Share Of U.S. Labor Force. Pew has estimated that there were about 8 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. workforce in March 2010, which includes those who are employed and unemployed. They represented 5.2 percent of the U.S. labor force at the time -- which Pew noted is similar to their proportion for the past half-decade. [Pew Hispanic Center, 2/1/11]

Why Can't We Just Deport Them All?

Bolling, who holds one of Fox News' most hardline attitudes toward immigrants, has repeatedly argued that it would be "worth every penny" to deport all undocumented immigrants. He has claimed that if the United States removes them all, 11 million jobs would become available. [Media Matters, 8/23/12; 12/5/11]

Most Adult Undocumented Immigrants Have Lived Here For At Least 10 Years

Pew: Nearly Two-Thirds Of Unauthorized Adult Immigrants Have Lived In The United States For At Least 10 Years. An analysis by the Pew Research Center that examined 2010 population data found that "[n]early two-thirds" of the 10.2 million unauthorized adult immigrants living in the United States have been in the country for at least 10 years and that nearly half are parents of minor children. More than 1 in 3 have lived in the country for 15 years or more:

[Pew Hispanic Center, 12/1/11]

Department Of Homeland Security: 86 Percent Of Undocumented Immigrants Came Before 2005. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has further noted that 55 percent of unauthorized immigrants living in the United States in 2011 entered between 1995 and 2004. DHS added: "Entrants since 2005 accounted for only 14 percent of the total." [Department of Homeland Security, January 2011]

Reuters: Up To 2 Million Undocumented Immigrants Were Brought To The U.S. As Children. Reuters reported that there are "up to 2 million illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children and who remain in the country, according to immigration group estimates." [Reuters, 6/16/12]

Deportations Would Break Up Families, Impact Children's Long-Term Development

Pew Research Center: Nearly Half Of Undocumented Immigrants Live In Families With Children Under 18. According to data from the Pew Research Center, "About 5 million unauthorized adult immigrants -- 49% -- are in families with minor children. Along with the approximately 1 million unauthorized immigrants who are children, an additional 4.5 million people younger than 18 were born in the U.S. to at least one unauthorized immigrant parent." [Pew Hispanic Center, 12/1/11]

Pew Research Center: At Least 9 Million People In The U.S. Live in "Mixed-Status" Families. "Mixed-status" families are those that include at least one undocumented adult and at least one child who was born in the United States. According to Pew, at least 9 million people overall live in such families. [Pew Hispanic Center, 12/1/11]

Applied Research Center: "At Least 5,100 Children Whose Parents Are Detained Or Deported Are Currently In Foster Care." An investigation by the Applied Research Center "found that at least 5,100 children whose parents are detained or deported are currently in foster care around the United States":

In a yearlong investigation, the Applied Research Center, which publishes Colorlines.com, found that at least 5,100 children whose parents are detained or deported are currently in foster care around the United States. That number represents a conservative estimate of the total, based on extensive surveys of child welfare case workers and attorneys and analysis of national immigration and child welfare trends. Many of the kids may never see their parents again.

These children, many of whom should never have been separated from their parents in the first place, face often insurmountable obstacles to reunifying with their mothers and fathers. Though child welfare departments are required by federal law to reunify children with any parents who are able to provide for the basic safety of their children, detention makes this all but impossible. Then, once parents are deported, families are often separated for long periods. Ultimately, child welfare departments and juvenile courts too often move to terminate the parental rights of deportees and put children up for adoption, rather than attempt to unify the family as they would in other circumstances.

While anecdotal reports have circulated about children lingering in foster care because of a parent's detention or deportation, our investigation provides the first evidence that the problem occurs on a large scale. If these cases continue mounting at the same pace over the next five years, 15,000 children of detained and deported mothers and fathers will likely be separated from their parents and languish in U.S. foster homes. [Colorlines.com, 11/2/11]

Urban Institute Study: "Separations Pose Serious Risks To Children's Immediate Safety, Economic Security, Well-Being, And Longer-Term Development." In a February 2010 study examining "the consequences of parental arrest, detention, and deportation on 190 children in 85 families," the Urban Institute found that parent-child separations pose "serious risks to children's immediate safety, economic security, well-being, and longer-term development." The study documented other negative effects, including housing instability, food hardship, and adverse behavioral changes in children. [Urban Institute, "Children in the Aftermath of Immigration Enforcement," 2/2/10]

Full Deportation Would Hurt U.S. Economy

Center For Global Trade Analysis Study: Deportation Of Undocumented Workers Would "Cause A Considerable Loss To The US Economy In Terms Of Real GDP." A 2009 study by the Center for Global Trade Analysis at Purdue University that examined the effects on the U.S. economy of three different scenarios -- full deportation, full legalization, and full legalization with increased border control -- found that mass deportation of undocumented Mexican workers would "cause a considerable loss to the US economy in terms of real GDP." Economists Angel Aguiar and Terrie Walmsley wrote:

The deportation of all undocumented Mexican workers causes a loss in real GDP of 0.61 percent. Legalization on the other hand, has a positive effect on real GDP regardless of border control. Although the extent to which the border remains porous, causes larger gains in real GDP, 0.53 percent as opposed to 0.17 percent in the border control scenario. [Research in Agricultural & Applied Economics, July 2009]

Center For American Progress: Full Deportation Would Drain $2.5 Trillion From U.S. Economy Over 10 Years. In a report examining how full deportation would impact the U.S. economy, the Center for American Progress (CAP) found that a full "deportation approach would have the cumulative effect of draining $2.5 trillion over 10 years from the U.S. economy." [Center for American Progress, March 2010]

Center For American Progress: Enforcement Costs In A Mass Deportation Strategy Would Total $285 Billion Over 5 Years. In the same report, CAP estimated that it would cost $200 billion (in 2008 dollars) to deport all undocumented immigrants in the United States. CAP further wrote:

That amount, however, does not include the annual recurring border and interior enforcement spending that will necessarily have to occur. It would cost taxpayers at least another $17 billion annually (in 2008 dollars) to maintain the status quo at the border and in the interior, or a total of nearly $85 billion over "five years. that means the total "five-year immigration enforcement cost under a mass deportation strategy would be approximately $285 billion. [Center for American Progress, March 2010]

Americans Support Legalizing Undocumented Immigrants

CBS News: Americans Think Undocumented Immigrants Working In The United States Should Be Allowed To Stay. CBS News reported that "most Americans think illegal immigrants currently working in the United States should be allowed to stay either as guest workers or with the opportunity to become U.S. citizens." According to polling data, 51 percent think undocumented immigrants should be able to apply for citizenship. [CBS News, 1/28/13]

Associated Press: "More Than 6 In 10 Americans" Favor Allowing Undocumented Immigrants To Eventually Become U.S. Citizens. An Associated Press poll about Americans' view of immigration reform found that "more than 6 in 10 Americans now favor allowing illegal immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens, a major increase in support." The poll also found that 55 percent of seniors and that 57 percent of Americans without a college degree support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. It added that "59 percent of whites now favor a way for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship, up from 44 percent in August 2010, and 41 percent in September 2009." [Associated Press, 1/22/13]

Associated Press: A Majority Of Republicans Support Path To Citizenship. The AP reported that a "majority in the GOP -- 53 percent -- now favor the change. That's up a striking 22 percentage points from 2010. Seventy-two percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents like the idea, similar to 2010." [Associated Press, 1/22/13]

Fox News Poll: 66 Percent Of Voters Favor Path To Citizenship. A Fox News poll found that 66 percent of voters "think there should be a path to citizenship, but only if the individual meets requirements such as paying back taxes, learning English and passing a background check." According to the poll, 56 percent of Republicans supported allowing undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship. [Fox News, 1/28/13]

Wouldn't Legalizing Undocumented Immigrants Have A Negative Impact On The Economy?

Fox Business host Charles Payne has said that though some immigration is good, it can become "a drag on the economy" when we legalize those "who aren't necessarily working that don't have the job skills that generate tax revenue." [Fox News, Your World, 1/28/13]

Economists Agree That Immigration Strengthens U.S. Economy

Immigration Expert: Passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform Would Add At Least $1.5 Trillion To The U.S. Economy Over 10 Years. In a 2012 report about the economic benefits of comprehensive immigration reform published by the Cato Institute, UCLA professor and immigration expert Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda found that passing immigration reform "would raise wages, increase consumption, create jobs, and generate additional tax revenue." He wrote:

The historical experience of legalization under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act indicates that comprehensive immigration reform would raise wages, increase consumption, create jobs, and generate additional tax revenue. Even though IRCA was implemented during a period that included a recession and high unemployment (1990-91), it still helped raise wages and spurred increases in educational, home, and small business investments by newly legalized immigrants. Taking the experience of IRCA as a starting point, we estimate that comprehensive immigration reform would yield at least $1.5 trillion in added U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) over 10 years. [Cato Institute, http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj32n1/cj32n1-12.pdf&;ei=ptwKUaiFLOzw0QG-44DIDg&usg=AFQjCNHPlrrj6x2F-BSlwN4u5TYOLzY3wg">Winter 2012]

Bush Administration Report Found That Immigration Adds $37 Billion To The U.S. Economy Annually. A report by the Bush-era White House Council of Economic Advisers found that immigrants increase gross domestic product "by roughly $37 billion each year because immigrants increase the size of the total labor force, complement the native-born workforce in terms of skills and education, and stimulate capital investment by adding workers to the labor pool." [Immigration Policy Center, 6/12]

Hinojosa-Ojeda: "Higher Earning Power Of Newly Legalized Workers" Would "Generate $4.5 To $5.4 Billion In Additional Net Tax Revenue Nationally." In his 2012 report, Hinojosa-Ojeda found that comprehensive immigration reform would "bring substantial economic gains even in the short run." Hinojosa-Ojeda explained that the "higher earning power of newly legalized workers translates into an increase in net personal income of $30 billion to $36 billion, which would generate $4.5 to $5.4 billion in additional net tax revenue nationally, enough to support 750,000 to 900,000 new jobs." [Cato Institute, http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj32n1/cj32n1-12.pdf&;ei=ptwKUaiFLOzw0QG-44DIDg&usg=AFQjCNHPlrrj6x2F-BSlwN4u5TYOLzY3wg">Winter 2012]

Immigrants Increase U.S. Economic Growth

Immigration Policy Center: "Immigrant Entrepreneurs Add Billions Of Dollars And Millions Of Jobs To The U.S. Economy." A fact sheet by the Immigration Policy Center said that 4.7 million people are employed by immigrant-owned small businesses and that 18 percent of all small business owners in the United States are immigrants (a figure disproportionate to their 13 percent share of the population). [Immigration Policy Center, 6/2012]

Wash. Post: Immigration "Increases Innovation." In an article about the effect of immigration on the U.S. economy, Washington Post writer Dylan Matthews noted that numerous studies show that foreign nationals living in the United States have accounted for at least a quarter of start-ups, including the majority in Silicon Valley, and patent applications in this country. Matthews further reported that "an expansion of high-skilled visas passed in 1998 increased revenue at affected companies by 15 percent." [The Washington Post, 1/29/13]

Bloomberg BusinessWeek: "By 2030, Nearly 70 Percent Of Latinos Who Came To The U.S. During The 1990s Are Expected To Own A Home." In a column arguing that increased immigration is key to U.S. economic growth, Charles Kenny, a fellow at the Center for Global Development and the New America Foundation, noted a study showing that by "2030, nearly 70 percent of Latinos who came to the U.S. during the 1990s are expected to own a home." Kenny added:

That's good news, the researchers point out, because the 78 million-strong baby-boom generation in the U.S. will be looking to downsize as their children leave home. Workers from Latin America were central to building the boomer housing stock, and they'll be central to ensure it is still worth something in 20 years. [Bloomberg BusinessWeek, 11/28/12]

Census: 65.4 Percent Of The Overall U.S. Population Are Homeowners. According to data from the U.S. Census bureau, 65.4 percent of the total U.S. population own their own homes. [U.S. Census Bureau, 1/29/13]

Pew Hispanic Center: More Than A Third Of Undocumented Immigrants Are Homeowners. Pew reported that "35% of all unauthorized immigrant households are homeowners" and that "45% of undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for a decade or more own their own homes." [Pew Hispanic Center, 4/14/09]

Higher Immigration Generally Leads To Lower Unemployment, Boost In Wages

WSJ: Labor Economist "Found That Higher Levels Of Immigration Coincided With Lower Levels Of Unemployment." The Wall Street Journal noted that labor economist Richard Vedder of Ohio University "looked at the relationship between immigration and U.S. unemployment throughout the 20th century and found that higher levels of immigration coincided with lower levels of unemployment." [The Wall Street Journal, 6/18/12]

Brookings Institution: "On Average, Immigrants Raise The Overall Standard Of Living Of American Workers." The Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project said in a 2010 report that the "most recent academic research suggests that, on average, immigrants raise the overall standard of living of American workers by boosting wages and lowering prices." It added that while economists are divided on whether immigrants lower wages for certain groups of workers, immigrants "enhance the purchasing power of Americans by lowering prices of 'immigrant-intensive' services like child care, gardening, and cleaning services." [Brookings Institution, The Hamilton Project, September 2010]

Study: Cities With Restrictive Immigration Laws Lower Local Employment By Nearly 20 Percent. In a study examining the economic effects of restrictive immigration laws, researchers at the Americas Society and the Council of the Americas determined that cities with restrictive immigration laws would reduce local employment by 0.18 percent. The AS/COA study further noted: "When compared to cities with non-restrictive ordinances, employment-related ones had a negative and statistically significant impact on cities' business environments." [Americas Society and the Council of the Americas, 10/20/11]

Migration Policy Institute: U.S. Immigration From 1990 To 2006 "Caused A 2.86 Percent Real Wage Increase For The Average US Worker." In a June 2010 Migration Policy Institute report, economist Giovanni Peri found that "total immigration to the United States over the period 1990-2006 ... caused a 2.86 percent real wage increase for the average US worker." [Migration Policy Institute, June 2010]

Low-Skilled Immigration Has Negligible Impact On Native Workers' Wages

NBER: Immigrants Have A Small Negative Impact On Wages Of Native-Born Workers Without H.S. Degrees. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the "impact of recent immigrant inflows on the relative wages of U.S. natives is small" and immigration "accounts for just a small share -- about 5 percent -- of the rise in overall U.S. wage inequality between 1980 and 2000." As The New York Times explained, immigrants "have had, at most, a small negative impact on the wages of Americans who compete with them most directly, those with a high school degree or less." [NBER, accessed 1/30/13; The New York Times, 10/19/12]

Economists Argue That "There Is Hardly Any Evidence That Immigrant Workers Have A Negative Effect On The Wages Of Native Workers." Economists Giovanni Peri and Francesco D'Amuri concluded in a 2010 paper that immigrants do not have a negative effect on the wages of native workers in the United States: "Despite popular belief, often based on anecdotes and bodged analysis, there is hardly any evidence that immigrant workers have a negative effect on the wages of native workers." [VoxEU.org, 10/31/10]

Economic Policy Institute: "Our Analysis Finds Little Evidence That Immigration Negatively Impacts Native-Born Workers." In an Economic Policy Institute study examining immigration's effect on wages using Current Population Survey data from 1994 to 2007, economist Heidi Shierholz found that there was little evidence to support the claim that immigration negatively impacts native-born workers. She found that in fact wages increased by at least $ 3.68 per week for workers overall and $1.58 for those with less than a high school education. The wages of male high school dropouts decreased .02 percent while those for female high school dropouts increased by 1.1 percent. [Economic Policy Institute, 2/4/10]

Wash. Post: "Consensus View" Among Economists Is That Even If Low-Skilled Immigration Has A Negative Effect On Wages, It Is "Negligible." In a Washington Post article summarizing what economists know about immigration, Matthews reported that while some economists "argue that low-skilled immigration very clearly reduces wages and employment for low-skilled American workers," the "consensus view among economists is that the effect, even if negative, is negligible." [The Washington Post, 1/29/13]

So Immigrants Don't Take Jobs From Hard-Working Americans?

Fox & Friends Sunday co-host Juliet Huddy has claimed that native-born workers could potentially have jobs "taken away" by undocumented workers. [Fox News, Fox & Friends Sunday, 6/17/12, via Media Matters]

Immigrants and Native-Born Americans Do Not Generally Compete For The Same Jobs

Immigration Policy Center: "Immigrants And Native-Born Workers Are Usually In Different Job Markets, So They Don't Compete." According to a report by the Immigration Policy Center, "Immigrants and native-born workers are usually in different job markets, so they don't compete." The top occupation for foreign-born workers in 2009 was construction and extraction, while the top job for native-born workers was office and administrative support. [Immigration Policy Center, January 2012]

Economists: "Immigrant Workers Do Not Compete Much With Natives." After examining a host of studies that looked at how immigration and offshoring affected U.S. employment, economists Gianmarco Ottaviano, Giovanni Peri, and Greg Wright concluded that evidence gleaned from the United States between 2000 and 2007 "shows that immigrant and native workers are more likely to compete against offshoring than against each other." They went on to write:

These empirical results together imply that immigrant workers do not compete much with natives, but rather compete for tasks that could be more easily performed by offshore workers. Since immigrants specialise in the most "manual-intensive" tasks, an increase in immigration is more likely to reduce the range of offshored tasks in an industry without affecting the employment level and type of tasks performed by natives. Offshore workers, on the other hand, specialise in tasks at an intermediate level of complexity and compete more directly with natives, thereby taking some of their jobs and pushing them toward more cognitive-intensive tasks. [VoxEU.org, 11/18/10]

Brookings Institution: "Immigrants And U.S.-Born Workers Generally Do Not Compete For The Same Jobs." The Brookings Institution has also reported that "immigrants and U.S.-born workers generally do not compete for the same jobs; instead many immigrants complement the work of U.S. employees and increase their productivity." [The Brookings Institution, September 2010]

San Francisco Fed Scholar: "There Is No Evidence That Immigrants Crowd Out U.S.-Born Workers In Either The Short Or Long Run." Examining the long-term effects of immigration on employment, Peri also found that "there is no evidence that immigrants crowd out U.S.-born workers in either the short or long run." [Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, 8/30/10]

Won't Legalizing Immigrants Increase The "Welfare State"?

Fox News' Bill O'Reilly has claimed that immigration reform would mean more immigrants "on the welfare entitlement train," and that before Congress passes immigration reform, "they have to deal with the welfare situation." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 1/28/13]

Newly Legalized Immigrants Will Not Have Access To Social Benefits

KABC: Undocumented Immigrants Who Gain Legal Status Would "Not Receive Federal Benefits Like Welfare Or Medicaid." ABC's Los Angeles affiliate, KABC, reported that undocumented immigrants who "gain legal status to live and work in the U.S." would "not receive federal benefits like welfare or Medicaid." [KABC-TV, 1/28/13]

Under Senate Framework, Current Benefit Restrictions For Non-Immigrants Will Remain In Place For Those Given Probationary Status. The bipartisan framework for immigration reform recently announced by a group of eight senators states: "Current restrictions preventing non-immigrants from accessing federal public benefits will also apply to lawful probationary immigrants." [The Washington Post, accessed 1/28/13]

Majority Of Undocumented Immigrants Are H.S. Graduates, Work

Pew Hispanic Center: 94 Percent Of Male Undocumented Immigrants Are In The Labor Force. In an analysis of data from the March 2008 Current Population Survey, Pew estimated that male undocumented immigrants "are more likely to be in the labor force than are men who are legal immigrants or who were born in the U.S." The Center wrote that among "men of working age, 94% of undocumented immigrants are in the labor force, compared with 85% of legal immigrant men and 83% of U.S.-born men." [Pew Hispanic Center, 4/14/09]

Pew Hispanic Center: Majority of Female Undocumented Immigrants Are In the Labor Force. Pew has estimated that 58 percent of working-age women who are undocumented immigrants are in the labor force, according to the 2008 survey. [Pew Hispanic Center, 4/14/09]

Pew Hispanic Center: 52 Percent Of Adult Undocumented Immigrants Have A H.S. Degree Or More. Pew concluded from the 2008 survey that 52 percent of undocumented immigrants aged 25-64 (52 percent) have graduated from high school, attended or have graduated from college.

[Pew Hispanic Center, 4/14/09]

Pew Hispanic Center: 54 Percent Of Younger Undocumented Immigrants Have A H.S. Degree Or More. Pew further found that 54 percent of younger undocumented immigrants, those aged 18-24, have graduated from high school, attended or have graduated college.

[Pew Hispanic Center, 4/14/09]

Brookings: "Skilled Immigrants A Growing Force In The U.S. Economy." A June 2011 study by the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program found that skilled immigrants are "a growing force in the U.S. economy." According to the study, the "share of working-age immigrants in the United States who have a bachelor's degree has risen considerably since 1980, and now exceeds the share without a high school diploma." [Brookings Institution, http://www.brookings.edu/%7E/media/research/files/papers/2011/6/immigrants-singer/06_immigrant_skills_media_memo.pdf&;ei=v0sJUcvEPOPV0gGZjICADQ&usg=AFQjCNGz5zWX4mcAhiepjyysJKqQwl2ryg">6/9/11, 6/9/11]

Do Undocumented Immigrants Pay Taxes?

Fox guest and radio host Mary Walter claimed that undocumented immigrants are "not paying taxes and enjoying all the benefits." [Fox News, Happening Now1/30/13]

Immigrants Pay Individual Income, Sales, And Property Taxes

CBO: "Immigrants Pay Individual Income, Sales, And Property Taxes." In a December 2007 report detailing the impact of undocumented immigrants on the budgets of local and state governments, the Congressional Budget Office found that "[a]ccording to available estimates," there were about "12 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States" at the time and "those immigrants pay individual income, sales, and property taxes." CBO further reported that "the IRS estimates that about 6 million unauthorized immigrants file individual income tax returns each year. Other researchers estimate that between 50 percent and 75 percent of unauthorized immigrants pay federal, state, and local taxes." [Congressional Budget Office, December 2007]

Immigration Policy Center: "At Least Half Of Unauthorized Immigrants Pay Income Taxes." According to the Immigration Policy Center, undocumented immigrants, "like everyone else in the United States, pay sales taxes. They also pay property taxes -- even if they rent.  At least half of unauthorized immigrants pay income taxes." [Immigration Policy Center, 4/18/11]

Even Anti-Immigrant Group Has Acknowledged That Undocumented Immigrants Pay Taxes. In a 2004 study, the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies found that "contrary to the perceptions that illegal aliens don't pay payroll taxes, we estimate that more than half of illegals work 'on the books.' On average, illegal households pay more than $4,200 a year in all forms of federal taxes."  [Center for Immigration Studies, August 2004]

NY Times' Brooks: "Over The Course Of Their Lives," Undocumented Immigrants "Pay More In Taxes Than They Receive In Benefits." New York Times columnist David Brooks noted that "over the course of their lives," undocumented immigrants "pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits." He added, "Furthermore, according to the Congressional Budget Office, giving the current illegals a path to citizenship would increase the taxes they pay by $48 billion and increase the cost of public services they use by $23 billion, thereby producing a surplus of $25 billion." [The New York Times1/31/13]

Why Are There So Many Undocumented Immigrants? Are Immigration Laws Not Being Enforced?

Rush Limbaugh has accused the administration of not enforcing immigration law, saying, "We're not enforcing existing law in a number of areas, particularly immigration." [RushLimbaugh.com, 1/15/13]

In Fact, Obama Administration Has Deported A Record Number Of Undocumented Immigrants

ICE Removed A "Record High" Number Of Individuals In 2012. In fiscal year 2012, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "removed 409,849 individuals. Ninety-six percent of these removals fell into one of ICE's enforcement priorities, a record high." [ICE.gov, accessed 1/30/13]

NPR: Obama Administration Has Increased Deportations Of Those Convicted Of A Crime. As NPR reported, the Obama administration has prioritized the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of a crime, with priority cases including "felons, repeat violators of immigration laws, people who have recently crossed U.S. borders illegally and those who pose a national security threat." According to the report, roughly "55 percent, or more than 225,000 people, deported in the past year were convicted of crimes such as drug offenses and driving under the influence."

[NPR, 12/24/12; America's Voice, October 2010]

Mother Jones: Obama Administration Removed More Than 1 Million Undocumented Immigrants In First Term. Mother Jones reported that "the Obama administration has been aggressive in pursuing deportations of unauthorized immigrants, removing more than a million since taking office." The report included a graph comparing the number of deportations under President George W. Bush to the number under President Obama:

[Mother Jones, 7/6/12]

Migration Policy Institute: The U.S. Spends More On Immigration Enforcement Than On All Other Agencies Combined. According to a recent report from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), in 2012, the U.S. spent nearly $18 billion on immigration enforcement. That spending funded ICE, Customs & Border Protection (CBP), and a program called US-Visit that helps states and localities identify undocumented immigrants. According to MPI, "this amount exceeds by approximately 24 percent total spending for the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Secret Service, US Marshals Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), which stood at $14.4 billion in FY 2012." The report included the following graph:

[Migration Policy Institute, January 2013]

AILA: "Operational Control" Sets "An Unrealistic  Expectation That The Border Can Be 100 Percent Sealed." In a report showing that the border security benchmarks set by previous immigration enforcement proposals have been met or exceeded, the American Immigration Lawyers Association argued that "operational control" of the border, as defined by the Secure Fence Act of 2006, "sets an unrealistic expectation that the border can be 100 percent sealed." The report continued:

The GAO, in its testimony before Congress, noted that "[r]esources that would be needed to absolutely prevent every single incursion would be something probably out of reasonable consideration." As of February 2011, the GAO reported that the southwest border is at 44 percent operational control, with nearly two-thirds of the remaining 56 percent at the "monitored" level, and the rest at "low-level monitored."

Achieving absolute border control, whereby no single individual crosses into a state without that state's authorization, is impossible. Commentators have noted, "the only nations that have come close to such control were totalitarian, with leaders who had no qualms about imposing border control with shoot-to-kill orders." [American Immigration Lawyers Association, 1/30/13]

Experts: Rigid Limits On Legal Entry Fuel Illegal Immigration

Cato Institute Fellow Stuart Anderson: "Few Legal Avenues Exist For Lesser-Skilled Workers To Enter America, Which Is A Prime Reason For Illegal Immigration." Stuart Anderson, Cato Institute adjunct fellow, wrote that "perhaps the most common myth" surrounding the U.S. immigration system "is that it's easy to immigrate to America." Anderson wrote that "it is particularly difficult to obtain a legal visa for lower-skilled jobs and that "few legal avenues exist for lesser-skilled workers to enter America, which is a prime reason for illegal immigration." [Cato Journal, Winter 2012]

Immigration Policy Center: "The Legal Immigration System Is Inadequate To Meet The Needs Of The U.S. In The 21st Century." In a March 2010 report, the Immigration Policy Center reported that the "legal immigration system is inadequate to meet the needs of the U.S. in the 21st century," and that "[i]nsufficient numbers of visas are made available to bring in either high-skilled or less-skilled workers at the levels needed to meet the changing needs of the U.S. economy and labor market." [Immigration Policy Center, March 2010]

National Immigration Forum: "There Is No Real Line For Unskilled Workers." A column in the Miami Herald has reported that, according to the National Immigration Forum, "[t]he U.S. labor market demands up to 500,000 low-skilled workers a year, while the current U.S. immigration system allows for only 5,000 permanent visas for that category." The column added:

[T]here would be nothing wrong with demanding that immigrants come to the United States legally if we allowed them to do so. But we don't -- they are coming through the back door to take jobs we offer them, because we don't allow them in through the front door. Legal immigration quotas were set more than 20 years ago, when the U.S. demand for unskilled and highly skilled workers was much smaller than today's. [The Miami Herald, 4/29/10]

Unless Immigrants Have "Extraordinary Ability," They May Wait Decades To Immigrate Legally

Huntsville Times: Entering The United States Legally "Can Take Decades And May Be Near Impossible" For Most People. A Huntsville Times article noted that in 2010, "1.38 million Mexican citizens were waiting in line for a United States work visa or an immigration visa through a family member. But there were only 26,000 visas made available for Mexico last year." While every country has a visa, wrote reporter Brian Lawson, Mexico has "by far the longest waiting list," and that "even for those with family here, it can take decades and may be near impossible to secure the paperwork to enter the United States legally." [The Huntsville Times, 7/21/11]

Wash. Post: Wait Times For Family-Based Visas Can Be As Long As 24 Years. The Washington Post reported that for people who want to immigrate to the United States but don't have advanced job skills, it can take decades for an application to be approved. The Post wrote: "As of November, there were 4.3 million people on the wait list for family-based visas and 113,058 waiting for employment-based visas." [The Washington Post, 1/31/13]

If Illegal Border Crossings Are Such A Concern, Why Don't We Just Complete The Border Fence?

On The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer claimed that border "fences have worked for 5,000 years and they work everywhere." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 1/29/13 via Nexis]

A Border Fence Is Not An Effective Solution

CBP Commissioner: A Fence Along The Entire U.S.-Mexico Border Is "One Of The Dumbest Ideas." Former U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner Ralph Basham said it is against common sense to build a border fence in an attempt to control illegal immigration, arguing that it is "one of the dumbest ideas" he heard when he was commissioner. [U.S. News & World Report, 10/25/11]

AZ Border Sheriff: The Border Fence Is Of "Little Or No Value." Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever told MSNBC in 2011 that "I think [the fence] is well intentioned, but you can build all the fence you want to build and unless it's the right kind of fence and unless you have the manpower to watch it, it's of very little or no value. The federal government has built a lot of fence and most of it has been inadequate in terms of actually stopping people from crossing." [MSNBC.com, 7/18/11]

President Reagan: The U.S.-Mexico Border Should Be "Something Other Than The Location For A Fence." Referring to a meeting he hoped to have with President Jose Lopez Portillo of Mexico in 1979, Reagan reportedly wrote in his private diaries that he wanted to discuss how the United States and Mexico could make the border "something other than the location for a fence." [NPR, 7/4/10]

U.S. Has Operational Control Of The Border

CRS: "Effective" Operational Control Defined As "The Ability To Detect, Respond, And Interdict Illegal Activity At The Border Or After Entry Into The" U.S. In a January 2012 report, the Congressional Research Service explained that the Department of Homeland Security has defined "effective" operational control as "the ability to detect, respond, and interdict illegal activity at the border or after entry into the United States." [Congressional Research Service, 1/6/12]

Wash. Post: Government Had 57 Percent Of Border Under "Effective Control." The Washington Post's Wonkblog reported that under the DHS' definition of "effective" operational control, "the government had 57 percent of the southern border under 'effective control,' up from 31 percent in 2007, due to the new border security measures that were implemented since then." [Wonkblog, The Washington Post, 1/29/13]

Illegal Border Crossings Have Decreased Sharply In Recent Years. In March 2012, The New York Times reported that the number of illegal border crossings has declined sharply in recent years. The Times wrote that the decrease in illegal crossings was "down to about 340,000 migrants apprehended in 2011 from a peak of 1.1 million in 2005." [The New York Times, 3/10/12]

Many Undocumented Immigrants Enter Country Legally But Overstay Visa

Pew Hispanic Center: Nearly Half Of All Undocumented Immigrants Came Here Legally. According to 2006 research from the Pew Hispanic Center, "Nearly half of all the unauthorized migrants now living in the United States entered the country legally through a port of entry such as an airport or a border crossing point where they were subject to inspection by immigration officials." Pew reported:

As much as 45% of the total unauthorized migrant population entered the country with visas that allowed them to visit or reside in the U.S. for a limited amount of time. Known as "overstayers," these migrants became part of the unauthorized population when they remained in the country after their visas had expired.

[...]

The Pew Hispanic Center has previously estimated that there are between 11.5 and 12 million unauthorized migrants in 2006. The calculations reported in this fact sheet suggest that roughly 4.5 to 6 million or 40 to 50% of the total entered the country legally through ports of entry. Of them, some 4 to 5.5 million entered with nonimmigrant visas, mostly as tourists or business visitors, and another 250,000 to 500,000 entered with Border Crossing Cards. [Pew Hispanic Center, 5/22/06]

PolitiFact: GAO Has Estimated The Overstay Population To Hover Between 20 And 60 Percent. In a fact-check debunking the claim that most undocumented immigrants came here legally and overstayed their visa, PolitiFact highlighted a 2004 report by the Government Accountability Office that estimated the overstay population to be between 27 and 57 percent, according to different data sources. PolitiFact added that "data on overstayers has been considered unreliable, in part because of the incomplete collection of those immigration forms when foreign visitors leave the country." [PolitiFact, 9/23/12]

Wasn't Obama Responsible For Killing Immigration Reform In 2007?

Fox & friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed that President Obama "effectively killed" comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 when he was a U.S. senator. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/29/13]

Obama Voted In Favor Of 2007 Immigration Bill

Wash. Post: 2007 Immigration Bill Included Similar Legalization And Enforcement Conditions, Plus A Guest Worker Program. A comprehensive immigration reform agreement introduced in the Senate in 2007 that was supported by President Bush would have granted temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants only after "implementation of tough new border controls." The bill would also have toughened requirements for family-based immigration:

The Bush administration and a bipartisan group of senators reached agreement yesterday on a sprawling overhaul of the nation's immigration laws that would bring an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants out of society's shadows while stiffening border protections and cracking down on employers of undocumented workers.

[...]

The Senate deal would grant temporary legal status to virtually all illegal immigrants in the country, while allowing them to apply for residence visas and eventual citizenship. A temporary-worker program would allow as many as 400,000 migrants into the country each ye

No Austerity Has Helped Any Economy

Men and women line up for a free meal at Saviour's Anglican Church in Riga's old town in Latvia, Dec. 15, 2012. Some experts are hailing the country's progress as proof of the healing properties of austerity measures - while the country still has 14% unemployment. (Photo: Andrea Bruce/The New York Times)Men and women line up for a free meal at Saviour's Anglican Church in Riga's old town in Latvia, Dec. 15, 2012. Some experts are hailing the country's progress as proof of the healing properties of austerity measures - while the country still has 14% unemployment. (Photo: Andrea Bruce/The New York Times)Paul Krugman’s recent column looks at the romance between the “austerians” — the promoters of austerity for economically troubled nations — and the need to inflict pain to get economic gain. His bottom line — no country that has tried austerity has seen a major economic benefit.

My bottom line — add “to its people” to the end of Krugman’s bottom line and you’ve got it exactly. There is an obvious economic benefit, but only for a few.

Let’s start with Krugman. He begins (my emphasis):

Looking for Mister Goodpain

Three years ago, a terrible thing happened to economic policy, both here and in Europe. Although the worst of the financial crisis was over, economies on both sides of the Atlantic remained deeply depressed, with very high unemployment. Yet the Western world’s policy elite somehow decided en masse that unemployment was no longer a crucial concern, and that reducing budget deficits should be the overriding priority.

That’s a familiar story, one we’ve detailed before. The answer to economic crisis is always budget cuts and austerity. Then he pivots to austerian attempts to find an example.

In recent columns, I’ve argued that worries about the deficit are, in fact, greatly exaggerated — and have documented the increasingly desperate efforts of the deficit scolds to keep fear alive. Today, however, I’d like to talk about a different but related kind of desperation: the frantic effort to find some example, somewhere, of austerity policies that succeeded. For the advocates of fiscal austerity — the austerians — made promises as well as threats: austerity, they claimed, would both avert crisis and lead to prosperity.

The column is interesting because it lays out that history. First the example was Ireland, which the head of the European Central Bank said in 2010 was “the role model for all of Europe’s debtor nations.” But events proved them wrong; Ireland is worse off today than it was back then. So then the U.K. became the touted model, until it wasn’t. Then little Latvia, which has recovered some, was pushed forward; but Latvia still has 14% unemployment. Hmm.

Krugman’s conclusion — nowhere in the world is there an example of austerity that works as the austerians said it would. The policy is “wrong on all fronts.” Yet they (Our Betters) still promote it.

Krugman stops there, but I’ll continue with the obvious question. Why do they still promote it? Krugman’s answer, from elsewhere, is the Beltway Bubble and its international equivalent:

my side of the debate is actually paying attention both to the numbers and to the arguments of the other side, while the Very Serious People only listen to each other.

In other words, the poor darlings are just deluded, bubbled, sealed from understanding.

Those whom he calls Very Serious People, I call Our Betters. This difference in language (between his and mine) is indicative of the difference in analysis between Krugman and people like me. The language “Very Serious People” speaks to their role as pundits, opinion-generators and insider-echoists. “Our Betters” speaks about their power role — the role these people play in running our lives (at the Obama and Robert Rubin level) or in serving those who run our lives (at the David Gregory and Joe Scarborough level).

In other words, it’s certainly true that the baronial class and its servants and administrators listen only to each other, and thus reinforce in each other the comforting cover story that they’re only doing what’s in our ultimate good.

But the baronial class is also the predator class and they know precisely where the benefit (for them) always lies. This is the predator class in operation:

Income disparity 1979-2007_CBPP

The Predator Class in action. If you added the Top .001% to this chart, it would have to be taller than you are.

If you added the Top .1%, the Top .01% and the Top .001% to that chart, you’d need a chart as tall as your room. What the chart calls the “Highest Fifth” includes what I call the “retainers” — administrators, enablers (that’s you, CNN producers) and professionals needed to keep the system working. Everyone else is workers, and look what their hard work got them.

All of the gains of worker productivity (the harder smarter computer-enabled work of the lowest four-fifths) have gone into the pockets of the highest fifth and especially the very top earners. Note that these are individual incomes, not corporate incomes; as I’ve argued elsewhere, the corporation is just the collection device, the force extender, for the CEO class that wholly controls it; shareholder-ownership is the comforting cover story.

This is what James Galbraith calls “the predatory state” — and he means that economically. The predatory state is a state that enables and is controlled by economic predators, extremely wealthy vampires who feed on their fellow citizens. Galbraith (my emphasis):

That the looming debt and deficit crisis is fake is something that, by now, even the most dim member of Congress must know. The combination of hysterical rhetoric, small armies of lobbyists and pundits, and the proliferation of billionaire-backed front groups with names like the “Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget” is not a novelty in Washington. It happens whenever Big Money wants something badly enough.

Big Money has been gunning for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for decades – since the beginning of Social Security in 1935. The motives are partly financial: As one scholar once put it to me, the payroll tax is the “Mississippi of cash flows.” Anything that diverts part of it into private funds and insurance premiums is a meal ticket for the elite of the predator state.

By “elite” of the predator state, Galbraith means “owners” of the predator state, the top predators themselves. It’s that predatory feeding that produces policies, promises and pronouncements like these that Krugman describes:

Not only have we been ruled by fear of nonexistent threats, we’ve been promised rewards that haven’t arrived and never will.

They’ll say and do anything to get at more dollars; they’ll destroy the planet’s ability to support life itself, all for more dollars. Look again at the chart above. They’ve been looting the country, the government, the schools, the pension plans, your wages, the equity in your home, everything they can get their hands on since Reagan Days. Their only goal — All your money are belong to us. These are true monomaniacs, in the clinical sense.

So yes, they’re self-deluded. But like every feral beast, they also know where the food is. That food is us unless we stop them. And stopping them starts (in my most humble opinion) with naming them and  shaming them.

An example of naming — does Obama serve the predators who finance his elections and his looming Legacy & Library Project or does he serve the people who elected him? Ask it loud and proud. The “debt ceiling–sequester” deal is his next chance to show us. As is Keystone, for those who are watching at home. But he can’t show us if we don’t ask him to, and in no uncertain terms.

My advice — dare to be bold, progressives. This game has a fourth quarter, and we’re in it. At some point, the predator will destroy all the prey and then die. Justice for the beast perhaps, but no fun for the already dead.

Washington OK’s Israeli Aggression on Syria

israelus

It shouldn’t surprise. Washington and Israel are longstanding imperial partners. Significant regional operations are jointly planned.

It’s done well in advance. It’s for strategic advantage. Operations are part of a greater regional agenda.

On February 1, TIME magazine headlined “The Fallout from the Air Raid on Syria: Why Israel is Concerned,” saying:

“Israeli warplanes struck several targets inside Syria overnight Tuesday, including a biological weapons research center that was reportedly flattened out of concern that it might fall into the hands of Islamist extremists fighting to topple the government of Syrian president Bashar Assad, Western intelligence officials tell TIME.”

“(O)nly two airstrikes” were widely reported. One alleged Israeli warplanes targeted a weapons and munitions convoy heading for Lebanon.

Previous articles discussed what happened. They asked why would Assad send vitally needed weapons and munitions to Lebanon? He needs all he can get.

If reports were accurate, evidence would have corroborated them. None was forthcoming.

What’s Israel up to? Is something else going on? Is it trying to provoke Syria to retaliate? Does it want to entrap it in all-out war? Doing so would mean Syria’s demise. Attacking Iran might follow. So could regional and global war potentially.

Mossad-connected DEBKAfile said Obama “green light(ed)” Israel to attack. Doing so had “three objectives.”

(1) The Jamraya research center serves “Syria, Hizballah and Iran.” DF said three targets were struck. Whether true or not isn’t known.

It claims they’re related chemical weapons storage, connected laboratories, a depot holding sophisticated weapons, and a truck fleet able to transport them “cross border.”

(2) The attack aimed to disrupt Syrian/Iranian/Hezbollah “cooperative military efforts.”

(3) Israel “took its first (overt) step into the Syrian conflict.” It’s been covertly involved for two years or longer. DF didn’t say.

It stopped of calling Syria Washington’s war. So far it’s with death squad proxies. Israel’s attack may precede something greater. The fullness of time will tell.

A Jerusalem Post (JP) editorial headlined “Syrian spillover,” saying:

Israel “has a right and an obligation to prevent the anarchy in Syria from spilling over to Lebanon and endangering Israelis.”

Fact check

Israel’s involved in Syria’s conflict. It’s been so since early 2011 uprisings. Potential spillover is its own doing. It’s got itself to blame.

JP suggests otherwise. “The time has passed,” it says, “for limited military measures designed to stabilize the situation such as the establishment of no-fly zones, safe areas, bombing campaigns and arming the opposition.”

JP barely stopped short of urging all-out war. Whatever Israel does is justified, it believes. National security is the usual pretext. It’s a canard. Israel’s only regional threats are ones it invents.

Stop NATO editor Rick Rozoff told Progressive Radio News Hour listeners that Israel dramatically escalated the conflict.

Syria’s a warmup for Iran. Israel committed naked aggression. Recriminations so far haven’t followed.

Washington said little. Ban Ki-moon disgracefully urged both sides to show restraint. Doing so shows which one he supports.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said:

“I’m not going to give any condemnation of Israel or rush into any criticism. There may be many things about it that we don’t know, or the Arab League or Russia don’t know.”

Israel got away with murder. It’s done so many times before. Surgical strikes may be prelude for greater conflict. The fullness of time will tell.

According to TIME, unnamed Western intelligence sources said “at least one to two additional targets were hit the same night, without offering details. Officials also said that Israel had a ‘green light’ from Washington to launch yet more such strikes.”

TIME claims Jamraya Research Center buildings destroyed were “warehouses stocked with equipment necessary for the deployment of chemical and biological weapons.”

No evidence corroborates it. TIME’s allegations are baseless.

Its source said Washington was “poised to carry out similar airstrikes around Aleppo if rebels threaten to take sites associated with weapons of mass destruction in that region.”

TIME hyped non-existent threats. Washington has longstanding ties to so-called “jihadists.” Hezbollah threatens no one. Nor does Iran, Hamas, other frequently named groups, or so-called “home-grown terrorists.”

TIME quoted former senior Mossad official Amnon Sofrin, saying:

“If we succeeded all these years to deter the Syrians and all the other surrounding countries that possess weapons of mass destruction (from using them), it’s because we knew how to deliver the message, that the price would be very high.”

In other words, invent threats. Conceal a greater agenda. Attack preemptively. Ignore international law. Sofrin suggested that Washington and Israel allied against Syria throughout the conflict.

Doing so has been more visible recently. When Israeli warplanes struck, IDF military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi was in Washington. He was visiting his Pentagon counterparts.

Perhaps something greater is planned. Ousting Assad is longterm policy.

Former Assistant Secretary of State James Dobbins directs RAND Corporation’s International Security and Defense Policy. After Israel bombed Syria in September 2007, he asked:

“Does this mean we are on the verge of another Middle East war?” Does Washington want it avoided or was Israel given “the green light” to proceed?

Israel “ha(d) a good case for bombing Syria.” Assad’s “helping to resupply Hezbollah.” At some point, they’ll “begin lobbing rockets at Israel.”

Israel and Syria “never lacked reasons” for war. Official circles knew about Israel’s intentions months in advance. Washington encouraged it. It supported Israel’s 2006 Lebanon war.

At the same time, Dobbins expressed concern about a region “literally in flames.” Things are much worse now than then. If greater war on Syria follows, everyone stands to lose.

Policy planners leave that issue unaddressed. So did TIME. Rhetoric instead points fingers the wrong way. The New York Times consistently turns truth on its head.

“Israel girds for attacks,” it hypes. Syria is “falling apart.” Chemical weapons threats are claimed. Israel has a right to act. It’s technically at war with Syria.

Conflict spilled cross border several times. Errant shells allegedly landed in Golan. It’s Syrian territory. Israel illegally occupies it.

Israeli tanks fired on Syrian artillery units. Allegedly it was in response to incoming mortar fire. Syria’s got all it can handle. The last thing it wants is war with Israel.

Netanyahu initiates provocations. Damascus shows restraint. Doing so may not prevent greater conflict. Assad is blamed for Western-generated crimes.

Israel’s very much involved. So are high stakes. Wider war threatens. Millions of lives are at risk. What follows bears close watching. Future articles will discuss more.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/washington-oks-israels-aggression-on-syria/

Mike’s Blog Round Up

Today is the Al Weisel/Jon Swift Memorial Blogroll Amnesty Day #6, and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo has all the deets. I also understand that there is some sort of sporting competition today? Thanks for letting me be part of your week, Crooks and Liars. 'Till next time! --Tengrain

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have something to say about women in combat.

Messaging Matters reminds us that all of the amendments—including the second—are not absolute rights.

Stonekettle Station is looking for a political equivalent for Jumping the Shark.

Bonus track: the Satirical Political Report sees an opportunity for quid pro quo for the Teabaggers.

Round-up by Tengrain of Mock, Paper, Scissors who also blogs at Dependable Renegade. Send tips to: mbru AT crooksandliars DOT com

‘Israel seeks to overthrow Assad Govt.’

A political analyst says the recent Israeli aerial assault on Syria reveals Tel Aviv’s agenda to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad for being against Israeli interests in the Middle East.

“Well, I think the Israelis want to see Assad out of power because it doesn’t benefit Israel to have Assad’s regime in place…,” New York-based freelance journalist and blogger Michael Santomauro said in an interview with Press TV.

Commenting on US support for the Israeli assault, the analyst said that the Israeli lobby in Washington has become so strong that maintaining support for Tel Aviv’s aggressions is a “domestic issue, it has nothing to do with foreign policy interests for the United States.”

“Sixty percent of the fund-raising for the Democratic Party, the Obama administration got their monies from Jewish pact organizations and that’s decisive decisions making that happen in the United States. It’s been happening that way since the 1960s,” he added.

Santomauro called on Washington to condemn Israel’s aggression on Syria for being against international law.


On Wednesday, the Syrian army said two people were killed and five others injured in an Israeli airstrike on a research center in Jamraya, near the capital, Damascus. Israel declined to comment on the issue.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of security personnel, have been killed in the violence.

The Syrian government says the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants fighting the Syrian government are foreign nationals.

PG/HGH/SL

Merkel’s Walking a Tightrope… If She Falls, the EU Could Implode

The single most important issue for Europe today remains Germany on both an economic and political front.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has walked a tightrope over the last few years of keeping the EU together without infuriating the German populace to the point of having to abandon ship.

To do this, Merkel has maintained a firm stance of “we’ll write the check provided conditions are met” much as a parent would give a child his or her allowance provided the child performed its chores satisfactorily. In the case of German, the “chores” are required conditions of austerity measures and budgetary requirements in exchange for bailout funds.

By doing this, Merkel is able to play hardball on an economic front (having failed to meet its German-required financial targets Greece had to wait an additional six months to receive another installment of its Second bailout) without appear too hard-nosed on a political front (she continually pushes to keep the Euro together, expressing a willingness to help other nations… as long as they meet her budgetary requirements).

The policy has thus far been a success with Merkel’s approval rating soaring to its highest level since 2009 (before her re-election bid). However, the latest state election in Germany might upset this situation.

Germany's center-left opposition won a wafer-thin victory over Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition in a major state election Sunday, dealing a setback as she seeks a third term at the helm of Europe's biggest economy later this year.

 

The opposition Social Democrats and Greens won a single-seat majority in the state legislature in Lower Saxony, ousting the coalition of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union and the pro-market Free Democrats that has run the northwestern region for 10 years. The same parties form the national government.

 

The 58-year-old Merkel will seek another four-year term in a national parliamentary election expected in September. She and her party are riding high in national polls, but the opposition hoped the Lower Saxony vote would show she is vulnerable.

 

The outcome could boost what so far has been a sputtering campaign by Merkel's Social Democratic challenger, Peer Steinbrueck.

 

"This evening gives us real tailwind for the national election," said Katrin Goering-Eckardt, a leader of Steinbrueck's allies, the Greens. "We can and will manage to replace the (center-right) coalition."

 

However, the close outcome also underscores the possibility of a messy result in September, with no clear winner.

 

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/merkel-risks-election-year-setback-state-vote

 

To understand the significance of this, you need to understand a key difference between the US and Europe. In the US, the economy often drives politics (often but not always). In Europe, politics drives everything.

You will never hear a discussion of “how involved should the Government be in the economy?” in most of Europe; it is just assumed that the Government should always be involved to a significant degree. The question is whether it should be a lot (the public sector accounts for 30% of jobs in Germany) or almost entirely (the public sector accounts for 56% of jobs in France).

With that in mind, Merkel is up for re-election in the fall of this year (likely in September). Her bid for re-election will be a major issue for the future of the EU and the Euro in 2013.

The other two candidates for the job are Peer Steinbrück, former Finance Minister to Merkel who has been extremely critical of Merkel’s handling of the EU Crisis and Rainer Brüderle who believes that Greece leaving the EU would not be a “calamity.”

Obviously whoever wins this election will change the political landscape for Europe significantly. As a result, the run up to this election will have a significant impact on the markets for 2013, much as the Obama-Romney Presidential campaigns had significant impacts on the US markets in 2012.

An important issue for this campaign will be the German economy. Germany is the second largest exporter of goods in the world behind China. And the German economy is getting slammed due to:

  1. The EU economy collapsing.
  2. The ECB’s interventions have pushed the Euro higher hurting export profits.

By most counts Europe is an economic disaster. Southern countries such as Spain and Greece have begun to resemble third world countries with commensurate poverty and malnutrition. However, even when we include stronger economies such as Germany, the EU as a whole is back in recession as of September 2012. With 71% of German exports going to the EU, this is a real problem for the German economy.

Regarding #2, every tick higher in the Euro means less profits for Germany. And the Euro has been rising dramatically since July when the ECB first hinted at providing unlimited bond buying to backstop the EU banking system.

As a result of this, the German economy is estimated to have shrunken 0.5% in the fourth quarter of 2012. If things continue to worsen here, Germany’s population will grow increasingly unhappy with the prospect of more EU bailouts. And with Merkel battling for re-election this year, this could potentially upset her high wire act of balancing German voter sentiment with a pro-EU agenda.

With that in mind, the recent state election loss is a bad omen for Merkel. True, the loss occurred by a razor thin margin. But as we mentioned before, politics is everything in Europe. The more energy Merkel has to devote to wooing German voters the less energy she will have to focus on maintaining her “we’ll backstop the EU” policy.

This will make for a very volatile year in European markets as the markets will be hinging on German officials’ statements throughout the campaign trail. With that in mind, the German economy will be an absolutely critical issue both for the German Federal elections and the solidarity of the EU as a whole in 2013.

We have produced a FREE Special Report available to all investors titled What Europe’s Collapse Means For You and Your Savings.

This report features ten pages of material outlining our independent analysis real debt situation in Europe (numbers far worse than is publicly admitted), the true nature of the EU banking system, and the systemic risks Europe poses to investors around the world.

It also outlines a number of investments to profit from this; investments that anyone can use to take advantage of the European Debt Crisis.

Best of all, this report is 100% FREE. You can pick up a copy today at:

http://gainspainscapital.com/eu-report/

Best

Phoenix Capital Research

Your rating: None Average: 1 (1 vote)

Do As We Say, Congress Says, Then Does What It Wants

congress

By Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica

When CBS News reported in 2011 that members of Congress weren't prohibited from insider trading, Congress moved swiftly.President Obama signed a law banning it within six months of the broadcast.

But Congress is still exempt from portions of a number of federal laws, including provisions that protect workers in the private sector but don't apply to the legislative branch's approximately 30,000 employees.

Here's our rundown of measures Congress exempts itself from:

  • Whistleblower Protections: Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Act in 1989, which protects workers in the executive branch from retaliation for reporting waste, mismanagement or lawbreaking. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act gives similar protections to private-sectors workers. But legislative-branch workers — a category that includes congressional staffers as well as employees of the Library of Congress, the Architect of the Capitol and other offices —don't get the same protections.
  • Subpoenas for Health and Safety Probes:  The Occupational Health and Safety Act empowers the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate health and safety violations in private-sector workplaces. If an employer doesn't cooperate, the agency can subpoena the records it needs. The Office of Compliance, the independent agency that investigates such violations in the legislative branch, doesn't have the power to issue those subpoenas.
  • Keeping Workplace Records: A number of workplace-rights laws — the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and others — require employers to retain personnel records for a certain period of time. But as a recent report on the congressional workplace notes, "Congress has exempted itself from all of these requirements." Congress is also exempt from keeping records of injuries and illness the way private-sector employers are.
  • Prosecution for Retaliating Against Employees: If a private-sector employer retaliates against a worker for reporting health or safety hazards, the Department of Labor can investigate and, if necessary, sue the employer. Congress' Office of Compliance doesn't have that power — legislative-branch employees must file suit personally and pay their own legal fees.
  • Posting Notices of Workers' Rights: Workplace-rights laws require employers to post notices of those rights, which often appear in office lunchrooms. Congress is exempt from this requirement, though this has little real-world impact. The Office of Compliance sends legislative employees the same information each year, formatted "in a manner suitable for posting."
  • Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Retaliation Training: The No Fear Act requires agencies in the executive branch to provide such training to employees, but the legislative branch is exempt.
  • The Freedom of Information Act: The public can request information from federal agencies, but Congress, the federal courts and some parts of the Executive Office of the President are exempt.

In addition to sparing itself from complying with measures it has made mandatory for others, Congress is violating of some of the laws that do apply to it, according to a recent report from the Office of Compliance. (The pint-sized agency, created by Congress in 1995, is responsible for enforcing a number of workplace-rights laws in the legislative branch.) The sidewalks surrounding the three House office buildings, the report noted, don't comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Neither do the restrooms in the House and Senate office buildings and the Library of Congress' James Madison Building.

The Office of Compliance cites certain congressional exemptions as particularly problematic. The agency's inability to subpoena information regarding some legislative workers' complaints about health and safety often means the office must negotiate with congressional offices to gather the facts it needs.  

"It can tie our hands sometimes," said Barbara J. Sapin, the office's executive director.

The Office of Compliance has urged Congress to apply the laws listed above to itself — except the Freedom of Information Act — with little result. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting delegate who represents the District of Columbia, introduced a bill in 2011 to do this, but it died in committee.

The number of complaints of discrimination and harassment filed by legislative-branch workers with the Office of Compliance has nearly doubled in the last two years, from 102 in the 2009 fiscal year to 196 in the 2011 fiscal year. Workers' complaints about retaliation or intimidation have risen even more sharply, from 36 in fiscal year 2009 to 108 in fiscal year 2011.

Even so, Debra Katz, a Washington lawyer who specializes in workplace-rights law, said some Capitol Hill employees might be holding back from filing complaints. House and Senate staffers, she said, are often reluctant to speak up about harassment or discrimination for fear of jeopardizing their careers.

"People are very loath to burn bridges by filing a complaint or going to the Office of Compliance," she said. "They don't want to go forward with bringing a claim, even when it's covered under the law."

‘Left, Right & Center’: Blah Jobs, Grilling Hagel and Immigration Reform

‘Left, Right & Center’: Blah Jobs, Grilling Hagel and Immigration Reform

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share
Posted on Feb 1, 2013
kcrw.com

Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer and the other “Left, Right & Center” panelists discuss the unemployment rates stalling at 7.9 percent while the economy added 335,000 more jobs than originally estimated. Also, Senate Republicans come down hard on Chuck Hagel, defense secretary nominee and former colleague.

They criticized Hagel for positions he had taken on Israel, the Iraq War and the nuclear threat from Iran. Is he too liberal for the Republicans? Obama pledges to put an immigration bill before lawmakers if they don’t come up with one themselves. Will immigration reform finally happen?

Joining Scheer and host Matt Miller is the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein on the right.

—Adapted from KCRW by Alexander Reed Kelly.

KCRW:

Get truth delivered to
your inbox every week.

Previous item: Ed Koch’s ‘Last Word’



New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

Peacemaking on Birth Control

Peacemaking on Birth Control

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share
Posted on Feb 1, 2013
Flickr/UC Irvine

By E.J. Dionne, Jr.

WASHINGTON—America’s Big Religious War ended Friday. Or at least it ought to.

A little more than a year ago, the Obama administration set off a bitter and unnecessary clash with the Roman Catholic Church over rules mandating broad contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The Department of Health and Human Services’ announcement of new regulations is a clear statement that President Obama never wanted this fight.

The decision ought to be taken by the nation’s Catholic bishops as a victory, because it is. Many in their ranks, including some of the country’s most prominent prelates, are inclined to do just that—even if the most conservative bishops seem to want to keep the battle raging.

But more importantly, the final HHS rules are the product of a genuine and heartfelt struggle over the meaning of religious liberty in a pluralistic society. The contraception dispute was difficult because legitimate claims and interests were in conflict.

The vast majority of Americans believe that health insurance should cover contraception. At the same time, the Catholic Church has a theological objection to contraception, even if most Catholics (including regular churchgoers) disagree with its position. The church insisted that its vast array of charitable, educational and medical institutions should be exempt from the contraception requirement.

The church made a mistake in arguing its case on the grounds of “religious liberty.” By inflating their legitimate desire for accommodation into a liberty claim, the bishops implied that the freedom not to pay for birth control rose to the same level, as say, the freedoms to worship or to preach the faith. This led to wild rhetorical excesses, including a comparison of Obama to Hitler and Stalin by one bishop, and an analogy between the president’s approach and the Soviet constitution by another.

But the church had good reason to object to the narrowness of the HHS’ original definition of what constituted a religious organization entitled to exemptions from the contraception requirement. If a religious organization did not have “the inculcation of religious values” as its purpose and did not primarily employ or serve those who shared the faith, it got no exclusion at all.

The problem is that the vast charitable work done by religious organizations to help millions, regardless of their faith, is manifestly inspired by religion. The church could not abide the implicit reduction of its role merely to private expressions of faith. Don’t most Americans devoutly wish that religious people will be moved by their beliefs to works of charity and justice?

The HHS rules announced Friday scrapped this offensive definition in favor of long-established language in the IRS code. In an interview, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius showed a becoming humility, and it would be nice if this encouraged the same among her critics. However defensible the original rules might have been, she said, “they really caused more anxiety and conflict than was appropriate.”

“What we’ve learned,” she said, “is that there are issues to balance in this area. There were issues of religious freedom on two sides of the ledger”—the freedom of the religious institutions and the freedom of their employees who might not share their objections to contraception.

This is where the other accommodation kicked in: Many Catholic institutions self-insure. While the administration wants hospital workers, teachers and others to have full access to contraception, it also seeks to keep religious organizations from having “to contract, arrange, pay or refer for any contraception coverage to which they object on religious grounds.”

Under the new rules, employees who want it will be able to get stand-alone coverage from a third party. Some of the costs will be covered by small offsets in the fees insurers will have to pay to participate in the new exchanges where their policies will be on sale. It’s an elegant fix.

There are two reasons for hope here, particularly for Catholic progressives. First, the administration recognized the problem it had created and resolved it. Vice President Biden, among others, kept lines of communication with the church open.

Second, many bishops have come to realize that the appearance of a state of war with Obama not only troubled many of the faithful—Obama, after all, narrowly carried the Catholic vote—but also threatened to cast a church with strong commitments to immigrants, social justice and nonviolence as a partisan, even right-wing organization.

This war has been bad for everyone involved. Obama has moved to end it. Here’s a prayer the bishops will also be instruments of peace.

E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is ejdionne(at)washpost.com.
   
© 2013, Washington Post Writers Group


New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

US energy secretary tenders resignation

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu has offered his resignation to President Barack Obama, becoming the latest member of the cabinet to leave office.

"While I will always remain dedicated to the missions of the Department, I informed the president of my decision a few days after the election,” the Nobel prize-winning scientist wrote in his resignation letter.

“I would like to return to an academic life of teaching and research, but will still work to advance the missions that we have been working on together for the last four years."

Obama issued a statement on Chu’s resignation on Friday, praising him for “his dedicated service on behalf of the American people.”

Chu who has served under president Obama since 2009, is the latest of the president’s cabinet members to resign, after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.


Last week, Obama named his former principal deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough as his new White House chief of staff, widely viewed as the closest advisor to the US president and “the gatekeeper to the Oval Office.”

On Tuesday, the US Senate approved Senator John Kerry as the next secretary of state by a wide majority. Former Republican Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel has also been nominated to replace Leon Panetta as the next US Defense Secretary.

TE/HMV

The US Economy in Crisis: Recovery is an Illusion

economy

Headlines flashed warning signs. Commentaries downplayed them. A Wall Street Journal editorial headlined “As Contractions Go….”

US Q IV GDP shrank, “but not to worry. The report is better than it sounds, the stock market is rocking, and (the Fed will) keep both feet pressed firmly on the monetary accelerator.”

The Financial Times headlined “US outlook still clear despite shower,” saying:

Predicting recession “based on (-0.1% GDP decline) “is a bit like expecting rain because somebody threw a bucket of water out the window.”

The wildcard is “if Congress decides to dump water out the window every month, via across-the-board ‘sequester’ cuts” expected soon.

According to Bloomberg, “R-Word For US Economy in 2013 is Rebound Not Recession.”

According to JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley economists, America’s economy “will bounce back in (Q I) after plunging defense spending and dwindling inventory growth” hurt Q IV.

Not according to economist John Williams. Recovery is illusory, he says. It’s fake. Phony government numbers conceal weakness. Growth hasn’t occurred since 2006/2007.

Earlier Williams said:

“Indeed, the ‘recovery’ is an illusion that has been created as a direct result of methodological changes in government inflation reporting of recent decades.”

They “resulted in an artificial lowering of official rates of inflation.  The faux growth problem is in the use of understated inflation estimates in deflating a number of economic series.”

“Major economic series that have no underlying pricing base – such as housing starts, payroll employment and consumer confidence – correspondingly do not require inflation adjustment to put them on a consistent theoretical basis with the concept of real (inflation-adjusted) GDP.”

“Those series confirm a history of business activity in recent years that shows a plunge in the economy from 2006/2007 into late-2008/mid-2009, followed by a period of protracted, low-level stagnation, or bottom-bouncing, instead of ‘recovery.’ ”

Williams expects double-dip recession in 2013. It likely began in 2012 Q II or III, he believes.

Last August, market analyst Marc Faber rated odds for global recession at 100%. Little or nothing ahead looks promising. Corporate profits will disappoint.

The Fed can do so much and no more. Money printing has limits. It’s not magic. On January 31, Faber repeated earlier warnings.

“When you print money,” he said, it “doesn’t flow evenly into an economy. It flows to some people or to sectors first, and in this case, it flowed into equities, and until about five months ago into bonds.”

“I believe that markets will punish central banks at some state through an accident.”

Stocks could hit bubble levels and pop. Rising interest rates could collapse bonds.

“For the first time in four years, since the lows in March 2009, I love this market because the higher it goes, the more likely we will have a nice crash, a big time crash.”

He thinks weak global growth and disappointing corporate profits will trigger trouble.

Fed governors are cautious. On January 3, FOMC minutes said:

“With regard to the possible costs and risks of purchases, a number of participants expressed the concern that additional purchases could complicate the Committee’s efforts to eventually withdraw monetary policy accommodation, for example, by potentially causing inflation expectations to rise or by impairing the future implementation of monetary policy.”

“Participants also discussed the implications of continued asset purchases for the size of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet. Depending on the path for the balance sheet and interest rates, the Federal Reserve’s net income and its remittances to the Treasury could be significantly affected during the period of policy normalization.”

“Participants noted that the Committee would need to continue to assess whether large purchases were having adverse effects on market functioning and financial stability.” ”

“They expressed a range of views on the appropriate pace of purchases, both now and as the outlook evolved. It was agreed that both the efficacy and the costs would need to be carefully monitored and taken into account in determining the size, pace, and composition of asset purchases.”

Governors are conflicted. They have reason to worry. They’re questioning excessive longterm money printing benefits. Artificial schemes don’t work. They cause more harm than good.

Eventually they end. What can’t go on forever won’t. They’ll have to decide when. Economic and market consequences will follow.

Newly released Q IV GDP data showed growth contracted 0.1%. Sequestered deficit cutting suggests further declines. Consumer confidence is low for good reason. Europe, China, Japan, and other major world economies show weakness.

Is America on track for double dip trouble? In Q IV, government and business inventory spending declined. Auto sales alone drove consumer spending gains. Deep discounts, near zero interest rates, and Hurricane Sandy affected purchases stimulated sales.

Exports were down. Weak global manufacturing and trade affected them. Healthcare spending slowed noticeably. US economic growth ground to a halt. Doing so suggests weakness going forward.

Artificial stimulus works only so long. Q III included record defense spending. It accounted for over a third of GDP growth. It followed two years of reduced government spending.

Q III data were released days before November elections. Good news benefited Obama.

True Q III GDP growth was misreported. It wasn’t 3%. When accurately adjusted, it was 1 – 1.5%. It’s been that way for two years. Day of reckoning signs appeared in Q IV.

Multiple quantitative easing rounds barely held economic growth above water. Money printing madness substituted for stimulative growth. Central bank intervention repeated what hasn’t before worked.

European economies are troubled. America shows weakness. Force-fed austerity doesn’t work. Decline replaces prosperity. Living standards deteriorate. Households have less to spend.

Production and consumption suffer. So does the real economy. Financial war helps speculators alone benefit. Eventually expect systemic crisis. It could take months or years to arrive.

Market manipulation delays day of reckoning time. It can’t prevent it. Q IV GDP suggests 2013 weakness. Headwinds may be stiffer than expected.

Payroll tax increases cuts $100 billion from GDP. It does so when stimulus is needed. Consumer sentiment and spending are weak.

Expect sequestered/largely discretionary $1.2 trillion cuts by end of March. Stiff 10 – 20% health insurance premium hikes impact healthcare spending.

Business spending spiked in Q IV. It did so ahead of expected tax law changes. Expect it to slow in Q I. Manufacturing is weak. Housing remains troubled. So is America’s economy. Odds favor double-dip trouble.

Five years after economic collapse, virtually zero growth was achieved. Wall Street was bailed out. Main Street was sold out. Ellen Brown does some of the best financial writing.

Last September, she said America’s economy needs “a good dose of ‘aggregate demand.’ ” It needs money put in people’s pockets.

QE for Wall Street won’t jumpstart the economy. It won’t “reduce unemployment.” It’s stuck at 23%. It’s the highest since Great Depression levels.

QE puts no “money in the pockets of consumers.” It doesn’t “reflate the money supply.”

“(S)ignificantly lower interest rates for homeowners” aren’t achieved. Other consumer purchases don’t benefit.

QE helps bankers, other speculators and investors. Ordinary people are harmed. Economic growth is taxed. It’s monetary poison. It’s harming the dollar.

Finance is a new form of warfare. Money printing madness is based on the wrong-headed notion that Fed-supplied liquidity encourages bank lending to stimulate growth.

Despite multi-trillions of dollars in free zero interest rate money, bank lending to small/medium sized businesses and households is too little to help.

No loans mean no investment, no hiring, and no money in people’s pockets. At the same time, US corporate giants hoard enormous amounts of cash. Estimates range up to $5 trillion.

Fed reports downplay what’s held. Their data include only domestic cash reserves, Treasuries, other bonds, and bank accounts.

Foreign holdings aren’t included. Global trillions aren’t invested. They’re used for salaries, huge bonuses, dividends, stock buybacks, and speculation.

At the same time, inflation-adjusted consumer disposable income declined for decades. Post-9/11, it’s been especially hard hit.

Spending growth is largely credit driven. Insufficient income retards it. Households are debt-entrapped. Eventually they’ll be unable to assume more.

Progressive Radio News Hour regular Jack Rasmus discusses America’s “epic recession.” For five years, its economy “bumped along the bottom.” Conditions ahead look worse, not better.

Fed gamesmanship puts international finance at risk. Economies haven’t been healed. They’ve been wrecked. QE is a zero sum game. It’s financial terrorism.

It sacrifices growth for Wall Street. It hangs ordinary people out to dry. It promises protracted hard times. It leaves growing millions on their own sink or swim.

Let-eat-cake economics doesn’t work. It never did. It doesn’t now. It sparks decline and revolutions, not growth and prosperity.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/us-economy-troubled-or-alls-well/

Five Possibilities for the Next Great Progressive Push

Obama’s second inaugural address opened some hope of a brighter progressive future, yet virtually all the critical economic and distributional issues were off the table—and the pain is likely to continue. Paradoxically, the failings of traditional politics—and the anger that is already building up—suggest strategic possibilities that focus on critical institutions, along with opportunities for the step by step “evolutionary reconstruction” of basic ownership of the economy at different levels.We must move beyond tired ideas of 'state capitalism' vs. 'state socialism,' say Alperovitz and Dubb, who advocate for new systemic ideas which are quite 'America in content' but imbued with radical and visionary thinking. (Image: BALLE)

1. People’s Banks

At the height of the financial crisis in early 2009, some kind of nationalization of the banks seemed possible. It was a moment, President Obama told banking CEOs, when his administration was “the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” When the next financial crisis occurs—as many experts think certain—a different resolution may well prove necessary. As Willem Buiter, the chief economist of Citigroup, argued: if the public underwrites the costs of bailouts, “banks should be in public ownership.”

The fact is America has had a large number of public banking institutions for some time, and more are likely. The federal government today operates 140 banks and quasi-banks that provide loans and loan guarantees for an extraordinary range of domestic and international economic activities. The Bank of North Dakota, a highly successful state-owned bank founded in 1919, returned $340 million in profits to the public purse between 1996 and 2008. Legislative proposals to establish banks patterned in whole or part on the North Dakota model have been already introduced in more than a dozen states in response to the growing economic pain.

2. State by State Moves to Universal Healthcare

Healthcare is projected to consume nearly 20% of GDP by 2019. It has long been clear that the only serious way to control costs is through some form of single-payer system.

A slow state-by-state build-up suggests that an evolutionary reconstruction of the healthcare system is already under way. In Vermont, Governor Peter Shumlin signed legislation in May 2011 creating “Green Mountain Care.” Universal coverage, dependent on a federal waiver, would begin in 2017 and possibly as early as 2014. In Connecticut, the legislature in 2011 authorized a “SustiNet” non-profit public health insurance program, which it aims to launch in 2014. In all, bills to create universal healthcare have been introduced in nearly 20 states.

3.  Building Community Wealth

There are now more than 10,000 businesses owned in whole or part by their employees; nearly 3 million more individuals are owners of these enterprises than are members of private sector unions. Another 130 million Americans are members of various urban, agricultural and credit union cooperatives. In many cities, “land trusts” are using an institutional form of nonprofit or municipal ownership that develops and maintains low- and moderate-income housing.

In Cleveland, Ohio, an integrated group of worker-owned companies has been developed, supported in part by the purchasing power of large hospitals and universities, and partly modeled on the 85,000-person Mondragón cooperative network, based in the Basque region of Spain. Linked by a community-serving non-profit corporation and a revolving fund, the companies return 10 percent of profits to finance additional firms. As traditional strategies falter, many other cities are now exploring efforts of this kind, including Atlanta; Pittsburgh; Amarillo, Texas; and Washington, DC.

4. Municipal Change

There is also municipal development. By maintaining ownership of areas surrounding transit station exits, public agencies in Washington, DC, Atlanta and elsewhere earn millions, capturing the increased land values their transit investments create. The town of Riverview, Michigan has been a national leader in trapping methane from its landfills and using it to generate electricity, thereby providing both revenue and jobs. There are roughly 500 similar projects nationwide. There are also nearly 2,000 publicly owned utilities that provide power (and often broadband) to more than 45 million Americans, generating $50 billion in annual revenue.

5:  Democratizing the Corporation

To deal with economic and ecological challenges, we must also come to terms with corporate power dynamics. Public corporations are subject to Wall Street’s first commandment: "Grow or die!” You can’t just wish or regulate that idea away.

We nationalized GM, AIG and implicitly Chrysler in the last big crisis. What will happen in the next? If some of the most important corporations have a massively disruptive and costly impact on the economy and environment—and if they are likely to subvert regulation and anti-trust laws—a public takeover becomes the only logical answer. This general argument was put forward most forcefully not by liberals, but by the founders of the Chicago School of economics! Henry C. Simons, Milton Friedman’s mentor, was quite clear that the state “should face the necessity of actually taking over, owning, and managing directly…industries in which it is impossible to maintain effectively competitive conditions.”

The Pre-History of the Next Progressive Direction

The slow buildup of democratizing strategies could well be laying groundwork for the pre-history of the next big progressive push—the critical developmental work needed to clarify new principles for larger scale application. As in the decades before the New Deal, state and local experiments suggest new larger scale approaches.

For decades, to many the only longer term choices have seemed to be state socialism or corporate capitalism. But new approaches may also begin to pose new systemic ideas for a longer term progressive structural change that is both quite American in content, and quite radical in its vision of a system beyond the traditional models.

Gar Alperovitz

Gar Alperovitz is the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland and co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative. His forthcoming book, What Then Must We Do?: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution, is now available for pre-ordering. Other recent books include America Beyond Capitalism and (with Lew Daly) Unjust Deserts: How the Rich Are Taking Our Common Inheritance and Why We Should Take It Back.

Steve Dubb

Steve Dubb is Research Director of the Democracy Collaborative.

With Keystone XL in Limelight, Enbridge Plans ‘Aggressive’ Pipeline Push

As Transcanada's Keystone XL pipeline project has become the subject of increasing protests and scrutiny, the Edmonton Journal reports that Enbridge has quietly amassed a comprehensive network of pipelines capable of moving more than one million barrels of toxic tar sands per day (bpd).

An Enbridge pipeline, which will soon be able to carry over 1 million barrels per day of toxic tar sands, snakes through pristine wilderness. (Photo: CBC) According to the reporting, Enbridge's total "combination of line expansions and new construction represents more capacity than TransCanada’s 830,000 bpd Keystone XL pipeline."

Thus far, environmentalists and critics of tar sands have primarily focused their efforts on the Keystone XL pipeline, with tentative success. Increasing protests and awareness of tar sands' calamitous effects have temporarily curtailed Transcanada's pipeline project and, according to an "unnamed US official," the Obama administration has further postponed the final decision "to sometime at the beginning of the summer."

According to Enbridge chief executive Al Monaco, the oil giant has been working "aggressively" to counter the resultant and growing bottleneck of tar sands by developing their own network of pipelines in an effort to move oil from Alberta, Montana and North Dakota to markets on the Gulf Coast and eastern seaboard.

“Over the next three years we’re investing $15 billion in three initiatives that can provide additional markets for about one million barrels of Alberta production. And that is in addition to all the regional pipeline development we’re undertaking in the oilsands and elsewhere.”

_____________________

Last week, representatives from over 25 US and Canadian First Nations tribes met on Yankton Sioux land in South Dakota to craft and sign a mutual-support treaty calling on governments to halt all pipeline projects and put an end Alberta tar sands development.

"Oil sands projects present unacceptable risks to the soil, the waters, the air, sacred sites, and our ways of life,” the treaty states. Signers pledged "mutual and collective opposition to the XL pipeline, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipelines through British Columbia, and the Kinder Morgan trans-mountain pipeline and tanker projects that are being reviewed by the Canadian government."

(Source: Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers)

Second Term: Immigration, Climate, Foreclosures

Immigration reform, climate change, the foreclosure crisis: with some disappointment over limited progress on these issues over the past four years, local activists hope more will be done in President Obama’s second term.

While support for comprehensive immigration reform has broadened noticeably since the November election, immigrant rights groups are concerned over dramatically stepped-up deportations under Obama, which reached 409,000 last year.

They’ll march on Inauguration Day (Monday, January 21, starting at 11 a.m. at the Daley Plaza and rallying at 12 noon at the Federal Plaza) calling on Obama to declare a moratorium on deporations.

A moratorium would be a first step toward comprehensive reform, said Eric Rodriguez, executive director of the Latino Union of Chicago.

“We want the president to be on the right side of history,” he said.  “His second term will define his legacy.  Will he be the president who deported more people than any other in history, or the president responsible for championing inclusion and equality?”

Immigration raids are a constant threat in Chicago communities today, said Tania Unzueta of the Immigant Youth Justice League; just last week scores of local residents were picked up in raids on a factory and two gathering places for day laborers.  IYJL is working to support several families who have members in detention, she said.

“Obama says he wants to do the right thing and keep families together, but we aren’t seeing it in our communities,” she said.

What should reform look like?  It should be comprehensive rather than piecemeal, and it should include a path to citizenship — not some kind of extended residency — that does not exclude large numbers of people, said Fred Tsao of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

“It needs to fix the current legal immigration system, so people aren’t waiting in line for ten or twenty years,” he said.  Reform should extend to enforcement policies, which have been cited for human rights violations, for impairing community safety, and most recently for exorbitant costs, with immigration enforcement spending outpacing the combined budgets of the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, and BATF.

Immigration reform should also include measures aimed at integrating immigrants, including English language education and citizenship training, Tsao said, pointing at Illinois’s New Americans Initiative as a model.

He adds that the support of Republican leaders in Springfield for a measure providing drivers licenses for undocumented residents during the recent veto sessions offers another model for politicians in Washington.

(For more, Colorlines has a guide to immigration reform.)

Chicagoans will be among thousands of protestors in Washington D.C. on February 17 for Forward on Climate, called by 350.org, the Sierra Club, and the Hip Hop Caucus, urging Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline as “the first step in putting our country on the path for addressing the climate crisis.”

After 15,000 protestors circled the White House a year ago, Obama postponed a decision of approval for the pipeline. Tar sands oil emits far more carbon than conventional oil, and a new study points out that the use of a refinery byproduct as a coal substitute – even more carbon-intensive than coal – will add dramatically to climate damage.

“We’re trying to start the new session of Congress and President Obama’s second term by showing that the public is beyond ready for serious action on climate and clean energy,” said Jack Darin, executive director of the Illinois Sierra Club.

On clean energy, “we need to level the playing field; it’s been titled toward fossil fuels for decades,” he said.  “If we give the market a clear signal we’re going to support and buy clean energy, it will respond.”

Darin praised departing EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and several initiatives in the administration’s first term, including raising mileage standards for cars — “the single largest reduction of pollution ever” – and regulations on toxic emissions from coal plants and on carbon emissions from new sources.  “The key now is finding ways to reduce carbon from existing sources,” he said.

Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy policy, which seeks development of renewable energy along with oil, coal, and natural gas, came in for criticism from Len Richart of the Eco-Justice Collaborative.

He points out that destructive new “extreme” technologies like fracking and tar sands extraction are making additional sources of fossil fuels available, adding to carbon emissions when we should be reducing them.

“We really need a transitional plan,” Richart said.  “We’re going to be dependent on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, but there’s a big difference if we agree on a transition to renewables.”

He’s particularly skeptical of the “clean coal” technology that Obama supports.  “They talk about it as if it’s up and running, and that’s not the case at all.”  In the meantime, he said, coal continues to be mined and burned, contributing a third of the nation’s carbon emissions.

Working with the Heartland Coalfield Alliance, EJC sends delegations of local activists to learn about the impact of coal mining in central and southern Illinois, which includes destruction of farmland, natural areas, and entire communities, and groundwater pollution from coal slurry and unlined pools of coal ash and sludge.

Like tar sands oil, much of Illinois’s high-sulfur coal is being exported to developing countries – which Richart argues should put to rest the argument that “all-of-the-above” development is needed for “energy independence.”

Housing advocates seem unanimous in their top priority for Obama’s second term: replacing Edward DeMarco as interim director of the Federal Housing Finance Authority.  “We need someone there who’s looking out for homeowners and communities and not the bottom lines of banks,” said Liz Ryan Murray, policy director for National Peoples Action.

DeMarco has blocked Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which FHFA regulates and which control a huge chunk of the nation’s mortgages, from carrying out loan modifications with principal reductions to reflect the collapse of housing prices.   That’s a key step if the foreclosure crisis is to be stemmed.

In the Chicago area, the foreclosure rate has been up and down, said Katie Buitrago of the Woodstock Institute.  Last year several poor communities where foreclosures had been dropping saw sharp increases: up 60 percent in West Pullman, 25 percent in Englewood, she said.

If the employment situation doesn’t improve – and if long-term unemployment benefits are cut – foreclosures could continue at high levels, she said.

Obama tried to replace DeMarco, a Bush administration holdover, two years ago, but the appointment was held up in Congress.  If Congress won’t approve a replacement, Obama should made a recess appointment, Murray said.

Principal reduction has been a key proposal for housing groups since the start of the crisis, when they pushed for bankruptcy reform, a proposal that Obama supported and then backed away from.

The administration’s early efforts at foreclosure prevention were largely ineffective, in part because they sought voluntary participation by banks.  Mortgage services seemed to lack both the capacity and the interest to address the crisis on their own.

Recent settlements by state attorney generals and federal regulators have improved the framework, though according to Murray, “legal aid attorneys say the on-the-ground experience hasn’t changed dramatically.”

New servicer regulations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may help, establishing strict timetables for servicers to act on modification requests and ending “dual tracking,” in which homeowners on trial modifications were simultaneously foreclosed on.

The future of Fannie and Freddie, now in government receivership after being bailed out, is under debate. The agencies should be reformed “in a way that maintains wealth building opportunities for the low-wealth communities of color that were targeted by predatory lending and really hurt by foreclosures,” Buitrago said.

“Completely privatizing the housing market and handing it all back to Wall Street couldn’t be a worse idea,” Murray said.  “We’ve already seen what that would mean.”

Harnessing Rebel Energy: Making Green a Threat Again

“The climate movement needs to have one hell of a comeback.”

–Naomi Klein

The energy was there. It was an overcast spring morning in April 2011 in the nation’s capita1. Thousands had shown up to take action on climate change. The earlier march led us to the Chamber of Commerce, BP’s Washington D.C. offices, the American Petroleum Institute and other office buildings associated with oil spills, coal mining, carbon emissions and more. We heard speakers. We saw street theater. It was all very tame and managed. It lacked confrontation.

It was almost a year to the day after the Gulf oil spill, yet offshore drilling continued as usual with little consequence for oil giant British Petroleum. Out west, the Obama administration had just opened up thousands of acres for coal mining in the Powder River Basin. Appalachia’s mountains were still under attack by the coal industry. Natural gas extraction, also known as “fracking,” was spreading like an epidemic through the countryside.

Over 15,000 youth, students and climate activists had gathered at Powershift for weekend of education, networking and keynote speakers. There were keynote speeches by Al Gore and Bill McKibben, yet little was offered in the way of taking action against Big Oil and Big Coal. We are faced with the greatest crisis in the history of the world, so we were told, yet the Beltway green groups had only produced failure in Copenhagen and Washington.

Globally, we had watched the Arab Spring throw out dictators; anti-austerity movements in Iceland and Greece rise up against corrupted regimes and massive protests in the Wisconsin state house fighting for labor rights. We were only a few months away from Occupy Wall Street.

Needless to say, the North American climate movements wanted in on the action.

As the morning march ended that day at Lafayette Park, the unofficial march, spearheaded by Rising Tide North America, formed and headed into the streets of Washington D.C. Tim DeChristopher of Salt Lake City, who had become something of a folk hero to climate activists after derailing a federal land auction and protecting thousands of acres of southern Utah wilderness, announced on the microphone that it was time for more drastic action. Anyone that wanted to take that step should join the Rising Tide march that was heading down 17th St NW to the Dept. of Interior.

The crowd quickly swelled to over a thousand, both singing “We Shall Overcome” and chanting “Keep It in the Ground” and “Our Climate is Under Attack, What’ll We Do? Act Up, Fight Back!”

As we approached the Dept. of Interior, the small group of twenty that had been pre-organized to occupy the lobby began to more towards the doors. Then to much our surprise and shock, a crowd of over 300 stormed in after them and joined the sit-in. As they sat in, they chanted “We’ve got power! We’ve got power!” It was scary. It was exhilarating. It was powerful.

Direct action is supposed to push a person’s comfort zone, but even veteran direct action organizers felt their comfort zones pushed when many in the march joined the occupation.

In the end, 21 were arrested as part of the sit-in. The Dept. of Interior action began a shift for the youth and grassroots activists with the North American climate movements. Soon, they would become a force to be reckoned with.

Corporations and Politicians Stall, Nature Doesn’t

The clock is ticking and the science is not just a theory, its science. Yet, corporate and political decision-makers continue to ignore these warnings for short term profit.

A new scientific report put out by the United Nations on the second day of the 18th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP18) in Doha this week reports that thawing of the Arctic permafrost will “significantly amplify global warming.” Permafrost emission spurred by rising global temperature will contribute up to 39% of global emissions. On the third day of COP18 negotiations, the World Meteorological Organization warned the delegates that the Arctic ice melt had reached an alarming rate and that “far-reaching changes” would from climate change would impact the Earth.

Despite these dire warnings from the scientific community, wealthy industrialized nations continue to stall any sort of climate progress in Doha. The top topic at COP18 has been an extension of the Kyoto Protocol –up for renewal this year—to 2020. The Associated Press reports, a number of wealthy nations including Japan, Russia and Canada have joined the ranks of the U.S. and “refused to endorse the extension.” The U.S. has never endorsed Kyoto and continues to block any progress on agreements to reduce global emissions or pass legislation to regulate its own emissions.

Not surprisingly, the fossil fuel holds a chokehold on the American political system. In 2012, oil and gas industries combined with Big Coal to spend over $150 million elections to both parties.

U.S. deputy climate envoy Jonathan Pershing told the media in Doha that the Obama administration plans to stick to its 2009 goal of reducing emissions by 17% by 2020. Pershing went on to say that U.S. efforts to curb emissions are “enormous.”

Yet, Obama recently signed into law a bipartisan bill to shield the U.S. airline industry from a European Union carbon tax. Furthermore, Obama’s top candidate to replace Hillary Clinton at the State Dept., UN Ambassador Susan Rice, has been revealed to be a major investor in companies developing Canadian tar sands and building the Keystone XL pipeline.

While the politicians in Doha and Washington stall, Mother Nature has thoughts of her own. Global warming is no longer an abstract notion. Rising temperatures and extreme weather are spreading at unprecedented levels. 11 of the past 12 years are among the hottest since 1850. This summer in Colorado, wildfires brought on by scorching heat, high winds and drought conditions killed four people, displaced thousands and destroyed hundreds of homes.

In late Oct., Hurricane Sandy battered the Atlantic seaboard from the Caribbean to New England. It took over 100 lives and cost tens of billions of dollars in damage. Millions were displaced while politicians scrambled for photo ops and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s finance network declared “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”

Harnessing Rebel Energy

Presented with these stark facts, it begs the question: Why haven’t governments and corporations been forced to act on climate change?

To begin with, the mainstream strategy, which controls large portions of resources to fight climate change, is too rooted in working within the existing political and economic system. In 2009, the environmental establishment comprised of small grouping of donors and environmental non-profits primarily based in Washington D.C. (aka the Beltway Greens) placed its faith in the Obama administration. They hoped that his ability to regulate emissions through the Environmental Protection Agency, combined with lobbing Congress to pass meaningful climate legislation in 2010 and pressuring world governments to secure a unilateral agreement on climate at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP15) in Copenhagen would turn the tide on global emissions. These strategies are fraught with compromise on a global crisis that pays no heed to politics as usual.

Second, the environmental establishment was completely unprepared for the power that Corporate America, particularly Big Oil and Big Coal, wielded in Washington D.C. In 2009, oil and gas companies spent $121 million to dispatch 745 lobbyists to Congress in 2009 to influence the climate bill. Before the 2010 election, Big Oil put $19,588,091 into the U.S. election cycle. Big Coal put in $10,423,347. The Beltway Greens were outgunned, outspent and outmatched.

Finally, turning the tide on the most powerful industry in history requires more than lobbyists and policy people. It requires rebel energy fueling people power and non-violent direct action. In the 1970’s when activists were doing battle to end the war in Vietnam and stop the proliferation of nuclear power, author and activist George Lakey wrote in the pamphlet “The Sword that Heals:”

“You can’t pull off powerful nonviolent direct action without rebel energy. You’ve run this campaign as a conventional lobbying operation and you can’t — at the last minute — switch gears and become a nonviolent protest movement!”

Political parties and non-profits did not drive the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia or Iceland; it was People Power that had been organized for decades. In Egypt, the established opposition groups only joined in after the masses took over the streets in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez calling for President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster. In North America, Corporate America, the political establishment and the media has convinced us that national politicians and well paid non-profit staff are the change agents we’ve been waiting for. Thus far, they’ve only delivered epic failures in Copenhagen and Washington D.C. We mustn’t let the priorities of big well-resourced institutions trump planetary or community survival.

The momentum to stop climate change is going to come from the rebel energy that challenges not only the established order, but the established opposition as well.

Know Your History

As daunting as it sounds, climate rebels wouldn’t be re-inventing the environmental movement’s wheel in building a grassroots mass climate movement. Far from it, in fact, greens have threatened corporate power with non-violent direct action and people power for decades.

During the 1970’s and early 1980’s, emerging from the anti-war and burgeoning environmental movement, the anti-nuclear, or “No Nukes,” movement rose up to challenge the Nixon administration’s plant to build 100 new nuclear power plants by the year 2000. In 1976 and 1977, thousands with the Clamshell Alliance used non-violent direct action to occupy the site of a proposed nuclear plant in Seabook, NH. Similar mass actions followed Seabrook. The Three Mile Island disaster was a watershed event that by the early 1980’s put millions into the streets against U.S. nuclear power. While Seabrook and few other plants were built, the vast majority of plants proposed remain halted.

Similarly, in the early 1980’s, a group of disgruntled redneck tree-huggers fed up with constant compromise on wilderness protection in western states by the Beltway Greens formed the radical ecological movement known as “Earth First!” Their politics of “No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth” manifested into the direct action tactics of road blockades and tree-sits that strengthened and emboldened the environmental movement. Their campaigns and tactics targeted corporate logging and development companies, but also created much needed political space for grassroots activists on environmental issues

Former Sierra Club director and Friends of the Earth founder David Brower remarked “I thank God for the arrival of Earth First!, they make me look moderate.”

A third movement that challenged corporate power for the betterment of the environment was the global justice movement. This grassroots street wing of anti-austerity, human rights and environmental movements emerged from the World Trade Organization (WTO) protests in Seattle in 1999. Rooted in direct action, direct democracy and anti-capitalism of movements both in the U.S. and abroad, the global justice movement undermined global trade talks set to privatize labor, environmental and human rights protections across the globe.

In the laboratory of resistance we call “social change,” the “No Nukes” movement, Earth First! and the global justice movement all had at least one strategy that set them apart from the establishment: they did their most important work out of Washington D.C. The anti-nuclear movement didn’t organize their massive rallies in Washington until they had built power on the highways and byways of the country. Likewise Earth First! and the organizers coming out of the WTO protests rejected Beltway politics as usual to build and embolden their own anti-establishment movements.

Hope & Climate Change

Fortunately, the rebel energy is alive and well in today’s climate movement. Outside of Washington D.C., grassroots activists, direct action organizers, smaller environmental, faith-based and student groups, rank and file Sierra Club members and environmental and climate justice groups have mobilized a very different climate movement from the air conditioned offices of the Beltway Greens.

Climate activists, the youth climate movement in particular, are fed up and hungry to make some real change and take real action. Just this summer, numerous actions from a mass civil disobedience in West Virginia at the Hobet Mine to a week of civil disobediences opposing the western coal exports in the Montana state capitol to community-led direct actions against fracking in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania have created space for groups to make meaningful progress both on their issues and internally within the movement. While this work has been complimentary and cumulative, it’s not always necessarily collaborative, nor should it be.

The fight over tar sands development and the Keystone XL pipeline has galvanized climate activists of all ages. Over the past year, we have witnessed people from the Lakota nation in South Dakota and from Moscow, Idaho putting their bodies in roads and highways blocking large transport trucks carrying oil refining equipment to develop further tar sands extraction.

In Texas a young marine veteran named Ben Kessler returned from the war in Afghanistan to witness oil and gas companies ravaging North and East Texas with fracking and the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. He got involved in environmental and climate organizing, and with friends, formed a student environmental group at the University of North Texas. In April 2011, some of them attended Powershift in Washington D.C. At the Dept. of Interior, Kessler took his first civil disobedience arrest. But more importantly the group went back to Denton, TX and transformed their group into an anchor for a grassroots direct action campaign called the Tar Sands Blockade. The Tar Sands Blockade joined with Texas landowners to form the Tar Sands Blockade which has organized dozens of actions and a two month old tree blockade to stop the construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.

People are hungry for climate action that does more than asks you to send emails to your climate denying congressperson or update your Facebook status with some clever message about fossil fuels. Now, a new anti-establishment movement has broken with Washington’s embedded elites and has energized a new generation to stand in front of the bulldozers and coal trucks and, in the words of Naomi Klein to make “one hell of a comeback.”

In UK’s Heated Debate Over Immigration, Ministers Avoid Using The A-Word

LONDON -- Will President Obama’s plans for "comprehensive immigration reform," centred on a "pathway" to “earned citizenship” for 11 million undocumented immigrants, inspire British politicians to unveil similar proposals here?

In the UK, the number of undocumented immigrants has been estimated to be anywhere between 500,000 and 1.1 million. The much-maligned UK Border Agency is attempting to clear a massive backlog of cases of some 320,000 people -- the equivalent of the population of Iceland.

Yet ministers studiously refuse to talk of reform, which has been criticized as "amnesty": to be seen as “soft” on immigration, illegal or otherwise, is considered the kiss of death in modern British politics.

Here, the debate over immigration reform revolves around devising new and ingenious ways of keeping people out of the country -- for example, the government’s "cap" on the number of immigrants allowed into the UK from outside the European Union, or the ongoing war on "bogus" foreign students from the Indian subcontinent –- rather than legalising the status of undocumented people who are inside the country (a process known as “regularisation”).

And Fortress Britain is, of course, part of Fortress Europe; across the continent, governments have erected an increasing number of hurdles and barriers to try and limit immigration into the EU from North Africa and the Middle East while far-right parties have exploited a growing fear of foreigners to make substantive electoral gains.

“Globally, European countries stand out as having a negative attitude towards immigration (and Britain especially so),” wrote Ben Page, chief executive of pollsters Ipsos MORI, earlier this year, “and this appears to be linked to economic stagnation, high unemployment and public-sector cuts providing a framework in which immigrants are likely to be seen as a drain on limited resources and a threat to limited opportunities.”

Nonetheless, there have been a few attempts to buck the trend. In December 2011, the Polish government announced a relief for an estimated 7,000 undocumented immigrants.

Here in the UK, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg –- prior to entering into coalition with the Conservatives and being elevated to deputy prime minister –- said he wanted to “regularise” the status of undocumented immigrants and bring them “out of the shadows”; his party’s 2010 manifesto pledged to “allow people who have been in Britain without the correct papers for ten years ... to earn their citizenship."

Influential Labour MP Jon Cruddas, now in charge of his party’s policy review, is also on record backing deportation relief for undocumented foreign workers who have been in the UK for a long time.

Remarkably, so too is the Conservative mayor of London, Boris Johnson. "If an immigrant has been here for a long time and there is no realistic prospect of returning them, then I do think that person's condition should be regularised so that they can pay taxes and join the rest of society," he has said in the past. (The capital is thought to be home to more than two-thirds of the country’s undocumented immigrants.)

But it would be a mistake to assume that relief for undocumented in the UK is around the corner. “In the U.S., ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ brings together a broad alliance of business and unions, human rights and race advocates and universities; and advocates have built an argument that two-thirds of Americans back by putting effective borders, a path to citizenship, and enforcement of labour market standards together,” says Sunder Katwala, founder and director of the British Future think tank. This contrasts with the UK, he explains, where “advocacy is fragmented.”

Reform is also deeply unpopular –- hence the reluctance of most mainstream politicians to utter the A-word. Poll after poll shows the public supports deportation of undocumented immigrants, no matter how expensive or impractical such measures may be, rather than "amnesties" or "regularisation." As Katwala observes, “The 2010 election, where the LibDems came under fire over amnesty, showed that there is a very long way to go to build public support and consent, and to offer credible reassurance that it would be a one-off to sort an effective system out, not the first in a series of amnesties seeming to create an open door policy for all.”

Few would pretend that there is anything resembling a "liberal" majority on immigration in the UK: A recent YouGov poll for the Sunday Times revealed that 67 percent of the public thinks immigration has been “a bad thing for Britain” and 80 percent support the Conservative-led coalition government’s pledge to reduce net immigration into the UK from the hundreds of thousands to the "tens of thousands."

Consider, however, the results of YouGov’s latest “issues” poll. When asked which two or three issues were the “most important ... facing the country at this time," the economy came first, cited by 79 percent of the public, while immigration was second, cited by 49 percent. But when asked to rank “the most important issues facing you and your family,” the economy still came first (67 percent) while immigration plummeted to sixth (14 percent), behind health (33 percent), pensions (31 percent) tax (27 percent) and family life (16 percent).

The YouGov poll, incidentally, backs the findings of a recent "State of the Nation" survey conducted by British Future, which found that 19 percent of the public picked immigration as their top local concern while 30 percent put immigration first when asked to think about the tensions facing “British society as a whole."

As YouGov chairman Peter Kellner points out, “there is a huge gulf between people’s perception of immigration as a national issue, and one that affects their own lives.”

It is this “gulf” that the advocates of deportation relief, and a less draconian approach to immigration as a whole, will have to try and turn to their advantage if they are to secure popular support in the near future. In the meantime, the UK's undocumented immigrants will continue to remain in the shadows, watching the unfolding debate across the Atlantic with envy.

“Redemption”: Oscar-Nominated Doc Follows the Working Poor Who Survive on Collecting Bottles and Cans

The HBO documentary Redemption examines New York City’s canners — the largely invisible people who survive by redeeming bottles and cans they collect from curbs, garbage cans and apartment complexes. Many have quietly slipped into poverty after losing their jobs, now living on the margins of society. The film has been nominated in the documentary shorts category at this year’s Academy Awards. We’re joined by co-directors Jon Alpert and Matt O’Neill, both of the Downtown Community Television Center, a community media center based in NYC’s Chinatown.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We end today’s show with a new documentary that looks at those who have quietly slipped into poverty and now live on the margins of society. The film is called Redemption, and it’s nominated for an Academy Award in the documentary shorts category this year. It’s about New York City’s canners, the largely invisible people who survive by redeeming bottles and cans they collect from curbs, garbage cans and apartment complexes. This is a clip from the film.

CANNER: I’m not against the rich; I’m against injustice, greed and injustice. That’s what I’m against. There are more people here than ever before. They’re all over the place, all over the place, trying to make a dollar, you know? This is like everybody is down on their luck, man, just about, you know?

AMY GOODMAN: A clip from the film Redemption.

Well, for more, we’re joined by the film’s directors, our colleagues, Jon Alpert and Matt O’Neill. In 2010, they were nominated for an Academy Award for their film China’s Unnatural Disaster. They won four Emmys for the 2006 film Baghdad ER and were on the Oscar short list last year for In Tahrir Square. They work together at Downtown Community Television Center; that’s DCTV, a community media center based in New York City’s Chinatown, where Democracy Now! used to broadcast. Jon Alpert is the founder and executive director of the organization, which has won 15 Emmys, three Columbia-duPont Awards and a Peabody Award, among many other accolades.

Jon Alpert and Matt O’Neill, both, welcome to Democracy Now! Tell us about Redemption, Jon.

JON ALPERT: Well, you live in New York City. I think we all tend to walk on the street, and the people who are going through our garbage sort of blend in, and we don’t look them in the eye, we don’t talk to them. And one day, Sheila Nevins of HBO was walking past her garbage and saw—really early in the morning, and saw somebody who was up earlier than she was, working harder than she was, and she wondered who these people were.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, you know, it is amazing, because where the Daily News used to be on 33rd Street, it’s almost like a—around 11th Avenue, is a Grand Central for the redeemers. They all get together. There’s huge numbers of people every day are there. And it’s—you’re right: Most New Yorkers never really pay much attention at all to the lives of the people involved or how they got there.

JON ALPERT: But it’s growing every day. I mean, it’s an army on our streets, because all the jobs that they used to have—remember when you were down in our firehouse, all the surrounding buildings in Chinatown were full of sweatshops, and people made things. All those factories are gone.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to one of the can collectors you feature in your film. Her name is Susan. She’s a former computer sales executive with a college degree. She explains how she was once one of IBM’s top salespeople. Well, that was in 1990.

SUSAN: I’m slow at this. When I first started, I hoped that nobody saw me that I knew.

Hey, how you doing?

In this area, there’s a lot of young people, young people with good jobs. They’re the guys with the money. I received a bachelor of science, and then I got into the computer industry. I’ve worked with Microsoft. I’ve worked with Compaq. I won what was considered the most prestigious award in the industry at the time. In 1990, I won the—I was one of the winners of the IBM Winner’s Circle, which was given to 20 of the top sales and marketing people in the country. And now I’m helping keep the city clean.

AMY GOODMAN: A clip from Redemption, an Oscar-nominated short documentary. Matt O’Neill, tell us where Susan is today and some of the other people you profile?

MATTHEW O’NEILL: Sure. Most of the redeemers are still working on the street collecting cans. Susan is lucky enough to be living in Atlantic City right now. She’s in housing down there. That was her goal. She just got priced out of New York, a New Yorker all her life. And without some sort of subsidy, she wasn’t able to afford to stay here.

You know, you earlier played a clip from President Obama saying, "Before we were "us," we were "them," and I think that’s something we have to pay attention to in this film, is recognizing that the men and women collecting bottles and cans are just like you and me. And they slip through the cracks. Juan, you said they were invisible. As we were making this film, and you see it, the men and women on the street who aren’t collecting cans never make eye contact with the men and women collecting cans, walk right by, time after time, in every shot. They never engage. And these are our fellow New Yorkers. These are our fellow citizens. And it’s not just happening here; it’s happening all around the country. And we have to pay attention to it.

AMY GOODMAN: And there are a lot of immigrants, as well, that you profile. Families are collecting bottles. And talk about the whole process, the stage, and also where people live.

MATTHEW O’NEILL: So, when I started this, I thought that it was mostly going to be homeless people who were working on the streets. And it turns out that most of our can collectors have homes. They are the working poor. So you have Nuve, who is supporting four kids in Sunnyside, Queens, with her can collecting. And she’s dropping the kids off at school before she heads out to collect cans, picking them up, and then spending the entire night sorting cans with her husband.

You have Lilly, who used to have a job in Chinatown. And Chinatown is still suffering from the effects of the World Trade Center. All those restaurant jobs are still gone. Lilly used to work in a restaurant. Now Lilly is on the street 20 hours a day working. I think that you couldn’t find a boss in this country who wouldn’t love to have an employee like Lilly who’s willing to put in that sort of work ethic and those sorts of hours. I mean, she never stops. She outran Jon and I consistently when we were trying to film her.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, it’s a science how you balance—how the bags of massive number, hundreds of cans, are balanced on shopping carts as they walk through the streets. And then, where do they bring them to, Jon?

JON ALPERT: Well, they bring them to recycling centers. Any place that sells a bottle is supposed to redeem them. But a lot of places aren’t happy to have lots of people dragging clinking, clanking bags through there while other people are trying to buy toothpaste, and so it’s very difficult for people to redeem. That’s actually the hardest part of their job. And the main redemption center in Chinatown got destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, and it’s really put a lot of pressure on these very marginal, vulnerable people, and some of them have become homeless as a result of it. They don’t have any place to bring their cans.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the—and their viewpoint of how the rest of the city treats them, especially the owners of these buildings, and when they go into—in front of private—it’s one thing, a public can, but when you go into the trash of a private building, sometimes you can end up with conflicts with the landowners or the supers.

JON ALPERT: You can, and so there’s a diplomatic aspect, too. They have to be very friendly, especially with the supers, because if you can basically score a big building and get access to that before the other canners can, that’s money in your pocket. So that’s also part of their job. It’s competitive, too. You have to protect your route. If they’re collecting cans from Democracy Now!, and they’re sick one day, somebody else is coming to take those cans away.

AMY GOODMAN: What were you most surprised about?

JON ALPERT: What was really surprising to me is that—as a documentary filmmaker, I’ve gone all over the world. And one of the first places—it’s almost a cliché—where we go and where reporters go is you head to the dump. And there’s the documentary, Garbage Dreams, that’s been made about the dump in Egypt; it’s a really great documentary. I went to Smokey Mountain in the Philippines, and those reports were part of the pushing of the Marcos regime out, because of inequities that they showed. And to see this in my own country shocked me, that we have an army of people who glean through the garbage. I still get chills when I think about them.

AMY GOODMAN: Jon Alpert and Matt O’Neill, we want to thank you very much for being with us, the award-winning directing duo. Their latest film, Redemption, is Academy Award-nominated in the documentary short division.

FCC Chairman’s Legacy: Ignoring Diversity

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski's plan to allow greater media consolidation in local markets could wipe out many of the remaining TV station owners of color left in the country.

According to the latest data, people of color own just over 3 percent of all full-power TV stations — just 43 of the nation's 1,348 stations — despite making up close to 40 percent of the U.S. population. African Americans own just five stations. That's only 0.4 percent of all commercial TV stations. And Latinos own 1.6 percent of all TV stations, despite making up close to 17 percent of the U.S. population.

But the FCC chairman doesn't plan to deal with this media inequality. Instead, he wants to adopt rules that will make things worse.

This situation didn't arise by accident. Decades ago, the FCC distributed our nation's first radio and TV licenses predominantly to white men or big corporations. And the agency has resisted efforts through the years to democratize our nation's media system or address its inequalities in any meaningful way. This has prevented people of color from being able to tell their own stories; instead, they've been marginalized in both news and entertainment programming.

Genachowski, a friend of President Obama from their days in law school, has shown no interest in ownership diversity. Indeed, Genachowski plans to adopt many of the same rules then-Sen. Obama and other Democratic congressional leaders voted to throw out when the Bush-era FCC tried to push them through in 2007.

For example, Genachowski wants to relax the TV-newspaper cross-ownership ban in the top 20 media markets. This would allow one company to own both the leading daily newspaper and a TV station ranked outside the top four in the same market. It's a change that would allow News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch to buy the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune in cities where he already owns Fox stations.

Nearly half of the 43 stations currently owned by people of color nationwide are located in the top 20 markets, and all of those are rated outside the top four. The rule change would make these stations prime targets for acquisition — meaning that the percentage of TV station owners of color could decline even further.

We're already moving in the wrong direction. According to Free Press' latest analysis:

• African Americans own three fewer TV stations than they did in October 2011. Overall there are now six fewer stations owned by people of color than there were in 2011.

• The percentage of African-American-owned TV stations has declined by 74 percent in just six years.

• The number of TV stations owned by people of color has declined by 20 percent since 2006.

• In the last six years, 26 full-power TV stations owned by people of color were sold to "non-minority" owners. All but one was sold under "financial distress."

This last point is critical. Media consolidation places tremendous financial pressure on broadcast owners of color in local markets because they have a hard time competing with larger corporations for advertising and programming.

The federal court that has twice in the past decade rejected the FCC's attempts to loosen ownership rules ordered the agency to study the impact of any rule changes on ownership diversity before adopting new rules.

But Genachowski has resisted such an effort, even as the abysmally low levels of broadcast ownership for women and people of color have gotten even worse during his tenure.

The chairman has also ignored calls from more than 60 members of Congress and all of the leading civil rights, public interest and media justice groups to shelve his plan until the FCC conducts such a study.

His refusal to deal with diversity is all the more inexplicable given that just a couple of months ago voters of color played a primary role in President Obama's re-election — an election that allowed Genachowski to keep his job.

Though perhaps the chairman is more concerned about his next job, as numerous press reports indicate Genachowski plans to leave the FCC soon.

But Genachowski does seem to care about his legacy: In recent interviews, the chairman has tried to convince reporters that his tenure was historic because he guided our nation through a transformative time in our communications industry.

But the FCC's broken policies and Genachowski's closed-door approach should really be relics of the past. And if Genachowski is remembered at all, it will be for consistently placing corporate interests ahead of the public interest and for failing to address the growing racial and ethnic disparities that deepen our nation's media inequality.

No matter how hard Genachowski tries to convince us that he's a transformative figure, he seems stuck on the wrong side of history.

Do as We Say, Congress Says, Then Does What It Wants

Don’t let the forces of regression dominate the media in 2013 - click here to support brave, independent reporting today by making a contribution to Truthout.

When CBS News reported in 2011 that members of Congress weren’t prohibited from insider trading, Congress moved swiftly.President Obama signed a law banning it within six months of the broadcast.

But Congress is still exempt from portions of a number of federal laws, including provisions that protect workers in the private sector but don’t apply to the legislative branch’s approximately 30,000 employees.

Here’s our rundown of measures Congress exempts itself from:

  • Whistleblower Protections: Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Act in 1989, which protects workers in the executive branch from retaliation for reporting waste, mismanagement or lawbreaking. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act gives similar protections to private-sectors workers. But legislative-branch workers — a category that includes congressional staffers as well as employees of the Library of Congress, the Architect of the Capitol and other offices —don’t get the same protections.
  • Subpoenas for Health and Safety Probes:  The Occupational Health and Safety Act empowers the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate health and safety violations in private-sector workplaces. If an employer doesn’t cooperate, the agency can subpoena the records it needs. The Office of Compliance, the independent agency that investigates such violations in the legislative branch, doesn’t have the power to issue those subpoenas.
  • Keeping Workplace Records: A number of workplace-rights laws — the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and others — require employers to retain personnel records for a certain period of time. But as arecent report on the congressional workplace notes, “Congress has exempted itself from all of these requirements.” Congress is also exempt from keeping records of injuries and illness the way private-sector employers are.
  • Prosecution for Retaliating Against Employees: If a private-sector employer retaliates against a worker for reporting health or safety hazards, the Department of Labor can investigate and, if necessary, sue the employer. Congress’ Office of Compliance doesn’t have that power — legislative-branch employees must file suit personally and pay their own legal fees.
  • Posting Notices of Workers’ Rights: Workplace-rights laws require employers to post notices of those rights, which often appear in office lunchrooms. Congress is exempt from this requirement, though this has little real-world impact. The Office of Compliance sends legislative employees the same information each year, formatted “in a manner suitable for posting.”
  • Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Retaliation Training: The No Fear Act requires agencies in the executive branch to provide such training to employees, but the legislative branch is exempt.
  • The Freedom of Information Act: The public can request information from federal agencies, but Congress, the federal courts and some parts of the Executive Office of the President are exempt.

In addition to sparing itself from complying with measures it has made mandatory for others, Congress is violating of some of the laws that do apply to it, according to a recent report from the Office of Compliance. (The pint-sized agency, created by Congress in 1995, is responsible for enforcing a number of workplace-rights laws in the legislative branch.) The sidewalks surrounding the three House office buildings, the report noted, don’t complywith the Americans with Disabilities Act. Neither do the restrooms in the House and Senate office buildings and the Library of Congress’ James Madison Building.

The Office of Compliance cites certain congressional exemptions as particularly problematic. The agency’s inability to subpoena information regarding some legislative workers’ complaints about health and safety often means the office must negotiate with congressional offices to gather the facts it needs.  

“It can tie our hands sometimes,” said Barbara J. Sapin, the office’s executive director.

The Office of Compliance has urged Congress to apply the laws listed above to itself — except the Freedom of Information Act — with little result. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting delegate who represents the District of Columbia, introduced a bill in 2011 to do this, but it died in committee.

The number of complaints of discrimination and harassment filed by legislative-branch workers with the Office of Compliance has nearly doubled in the last two years, from 102 in the 2009 fiscal year to 196 in the 2011 fiscal year. Workers’ complaints about retaliation or intimidation have risen even more sharply, from 36 in fiscal year 2009 to 108 in fiscal year 2011.

Even so, Debra Katz, a Washington lawyer who specializes in workplace-rights law, said some Capitol Hill employees might be holding back from filing complaints. House and Senate staffers, she said, are often reluctant to speak up about harassment or discrimination for fear of jeopardizing their careers.

“People are very loath to burn bridges by filing a complaint or going to the Office of Compliance,” she said. “They don’t want to go forward with bringing a claim, even when it’s covered under the law.”

Americans see US govt. as threat: Poll

This file photo shows Occupy Wall Street members staging a protest march near Wall Street in New York, October 12, 2011.

Results of a recent survey suggest that more than half of the Americans consider the US government a threat to their personal rights and freedoms.

According to a poll released by Pew Research on Thursday, 53 percent of the respondents cited their sense of threat and nearly three-quarters of Americans said they only sometimes or never trust the federal government to do the right thing.

This is the first time that a majority of respondents have described the US government as a threat against their freedoms since Pew began polling on the question in 1995.


The survey was conducted on 1,502 adults, who also identified their political affiliations in telephone interviews between January 9 and 13, 2013.

Three-quarters of Conservative Republicans said the government was a threat during President Barack Obama's time in office, which shows an increase from 62 percent in 2010.

Democrats did not change their views much compared to the 2010 poll, with 38 percent considering the government a threat.

Gun-owning family members are more likely to see the government as a threat, but the gap between them and those living in non-gun owner households has remained constant over the past three years.

According to Pew, anger and frustration continue to spike among Liberal Democrats and more recently among Conservative Republicans.

A recent Gallup survey also showed that Americans’ satisfaction with how things are going in their country has been low over the past seven years, with levels below the historical average.

TE/HMV

The Hagel Hearings

Context: As yet there are no context links for this item.

Transcript

NAT -

THE QUESTION I WOULD ASK SEN. HAGEL IS WHY TEH FOREIGN MINSTER OF IRAN IS IN FAVOR OF YOUR NOMINATIONI WOULD BE HAPPY TO RESPOND FURTHER FOR THE RECORDJessica Desvarieux:THAT WAS THE START OF THE EIGHT HOUR PLUS CONFIRMATION HEARING FOR FORMER NEBRASKA SENATOR CHUCK HAGEL. THE REPUBLICAN SENATOR WAS NOMINATED BY PRESIDENT OBAMA TO BE THE COUNTRY'S NEXT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE. HAGEL HAS COME UNDER FIRE FROM HIS FELLOW REPUBLICANS. AND IN THIS JANUARY 31ST SESSION SENATE HEARING, REPUBLICANS QUESTIONED HAGEL ABOUT ISSUES RANGING FROM IRAN POLICY TO CEASING NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION.THERE WAS ONE PARTICULARLY CONTENTIOUS BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN HAGEL AND REPUBLICAN ARIZONA SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THE TROOP SURGE IN IRAQ WAS THE RIGHT DECISION.THE REAL NEWS SPOKE WITH INTER-PRESS SERVICE WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF JIM LOBE TO GET HIS TAKE ON THE HEARING.Jim Lobe, Washington Bureau Chief - IPS: Hagel came to see early on int eh invasion of Iraq that this was a catastrophic mistake.... It did reduce the violence but it didnt' national SOUTH CAROLINA SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM ALSO QUESTIONED HAGEL ABOUT HIS COMMENTS WHERE HE REFERRED TO JEWISH LOBBY HAVING STRONG INFLUENCE ON CAPITOL HILL.HAGEL SAID IN 2008 “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator. This pressure makes us do dumb things at times."Lindsay Graham: Name one person who is intimidated by the Israeli lobbyHagel: Yes, I do. I've already said thatLobe: I think Lindsay Graham is a perfect example of the pressure of the Israel lobby. He is often a sponsor of whatever Netanyahu believes what US policy - if not identical to Israel.. therefore it's un-American that something Prime Minister Netanyanhu wants us to do. That sentiment prevails in the US Congress. That's why you hav e99 - to nothin votes or 100- votes that adopt that are contray to Obama administrations influence. They give money to the Republican party, also to the Democratic party - campaign money will be rewarded to the most powerful institution. IRAN CAME UP SEVERAL TIMES DURING THE HEARING. HAGEL WAS IN STRONG SUPPORT OF CONTINUING SANCTIONS AND MADE CLEAR THAT A MILITARY OPTION WOULD BE THE LAST OPTION.BUT JIM LOBE SAYS THAT DURING AN INTERVIEW WITH HAGEL HE ASKED HIM IF THERE WERE TO BE AN AN ATTACK ON IRAN WHAT IS THE LIKELIHOOD YOU WILL HAVE TO PUT TROOPS ON TEH GROUND.He said that it was a good question The other point that he was making at there's too much loose talk of war when it comes to Iran - if you're going to talk - all option on are on the table - you can YOu wil have the obligation to really think through the consequences. Jessica Desvarieux, Capitol Hill Correspondent: DURING SENATOR HAGEL'S CONFIRMATION HEARING, THE BACK AND FORTH FOCUSED ON THE MIDDLE EAST MOSTLY. BUT FOR ALL THAT WAS SAID, THERE WAS MUCH THAT WAS LEFT UNSAID, SPECIFICALLY LOOKING AT PRESIDENT OBAMA'S DEFENSE STRATEGY IN ASIA KNOWN AS THE ASIA PIVOT.Lobe: I think the Aisa region you thought - this hearing is abotu his psitions in Middle East - they want to talk ... I just don't think that it's something that has concerned him as muchTHROUGHOUT THE HEARING, DEMOCRATS EXPRESSED GRATITUDE TO SENATOR HAGEL FOR HIS SERVICE IN VIETNAM. HE WOUDL BE THE FIRST COMBAT VETERAN TO OCCUPY THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE IF HE WINS CONFIRMATION. WITH 55 SENATE DEMOCRATS ALL APPEARING TO BE IN CONSENSUS WITH THE NOMINATION, HAGEL SHOULD HAVE ENOUGH SUPPORT TO WIN APPROVAL.REPUBLICANS COULD FILIBUSTER HIS NOMINATION - A MOVE THAT WOULD BE HISTORICALLY UNPRECEDENTED FOR A CABINET NOMINEE.THE SENATE IS EXPECTED TO VOTE ON HAGEL'S NOMINATION NEXT WEEK.


Comments

Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at [email protected]

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

The Extermination of Truth

Today American citizens, once a free people protected by law, can be assassinated and detained in prison indefinitely without any evidence.

US Economy: Troubled or All’s Well?

Is America on track for double dip trouble? In Q IV, government and business inventory spending declined. Auto sales alone drove consumer spending gains. Deep discounts, near zero interest rates, and Hurricane Sandy affected purchases stimulated sales.

Hagel-ography and the Tired, Destructive Thinking of Washington, DC

Former senator Chuck Hagel, Obama's pick to be the next defense chief, faced many of his old senate colleagues Thursday. (Photo: Reuters)Think of it as the Great Obama Shuffle.  When U.N. ambassador Susan Rice went down in flames as the president’s nominee for secretary of state, he turned to ally, former presidential candidate, and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry (who had essentially been traveling the world as a second secretary of state during Obama’s first term). Next, he nominated his counterterrorism “tsar” and right-hand man in the White House-directed drone wars to be the next head of the CIA, which dominates those drone wars.  Then he picked White House chief of staff (and former Citigroup exec) Jack Lew to head the Treasury Department.  Meanwhile, he tapped his key foreign policy advisor and West Wing aide Denis McDonough to replace Lew as chief of staff.

He also renominated Richard Cordray, whose recess appointment as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was recently endangered by a federal appeals court, to the same position, and picked B. Todd Jones, the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, as the man to reinvigorate that agency.  Otherwise, Tom Donilon will remain his national security advisor and James Clapper, his director of national intelligence.  And so it goes in Obama’s Washington where new faces and fresh air are evidently not an operative concept.

In such an atmosphere, the nomination of retired Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, the co-chairman of the president’s Intelligence Advisory Board, as secretary of defense was the equivalent of a thunderbolt from the blue.  Republicans, in particular, reacted as if the president had just picked Noam Chomsky to run the Pentagon, as if, that is, Hagel were the outsider’s outsider.  When it comes to military and foreign policy, the former Nebraska senator remains the sole breath of fresh air in today’s Washington.  That’s because he has expressed the most modest of doubts about the U.S.-Israeli relationship, as well as the efficacy of the U.S. sanctions program against Iran and a possible attack on that country’s nuclear facilities, and because he has spoken, again in mild terms, of “paring” a Pentagon budget that has experienced year after year of what he's called "bloat."

Of course, what little fresh space might exist between the Obama I and Obama II years (not to speak of the George W. Bush II years) has been rapidly closed.  Hagel was soon forced to mouth the pieties of present-day Washington, offering an ever friendlier take on Israel and an ever-tougher set of positions on Iran, while assuring everyone in sight that his previous positions had been sorely misunderstood.  This should be a healthy reminder that, at least when it comes to war and national security policy, debate in Washington can be fierce and bitter (as over the Benghazi affair), even as what Andrew Bacevich calls “the Washington Rules” ensure that not a genuine new thought, nor a genuinely different position, can be tolerated, no less seriously discussed in that town.

Barack Obama arrived in Washington in 2009 buoyed by the slogan “change we can believe in.”  The bitter Hagel hearings will be a fierce reminder that, when it comes to foreign policy, old is new, and the words “change” and “Washington” don’t belong in the same sentence.  It remains something of an irony that, whether it’s John Kerry or Chuck Hagel, what little breathing room exists in the corridors of power can be credited to a now-ancient war whose realities, as Nick Turse, author of the new book, Kill Anything that Moves, reminds us in his latest piece, most Americans -- Chuck Hagel evidently among them -- could never truly face or take in.

© 2012 TomDispatch.com

Tom Engelhardt

Joe Biden To Meet David Cameron At Downing Street On Tuesday

Mr. President U.S. President Barack Obama waves as the presidential inaugural parade winds through the nation's capital January 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) Mr. Vice President U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his...

Frontrunning: February 1

  • 'London Whale' Sounded an Alarm on Risky Bets (WSJ)
  • Deadly Blast Strikes U.S. Embassy in Turkey (WSJ)
  • Abe Shortens List for BOJ Chief as Japan Faces Monetary Overhaul (BBG)
  • Endowment Returns Fail to Keep Pace with College Spending (BBG) - More student loans
  • Mexico rescue workers search for survivors after Pemex blast kills 25 (Reuters)
  • Lingering Bad Debts Stifle Europe Recovery (WSJ)
  • Peregrine Founder Hit With 50 Years (WSJ) - there is hope Corzine will get pardoned yet
  • Deutsche Bank to Limit Immediate Bonuses to 300,000 Euros
  • France's Hollande to visit Mali Saturday (Reuters)
  • France, Africa face tough Sahara phase of Mali war (Reuters)
  • Barclays CEO refuses bonus (Barclays)
  • Edward Koch, Brash New York Mayor During 1980s Boom, Dies at 88 (BBG)
  • Samsung Doubles Tablet PC Market Share Amid Apple’s Lead (BBG)
  • Hagel Endures Republican Criticism as Levin Sees Approval (BBG)
  • U.S. sues to stop beer deal to unite Bud and Corona (Reuters)

Overnight Media Digest

WSJ

* The JP Morgan Chase & Co trader known as the "London whale" tried to alert others at the bank to mounting risks months before his bets ballooned into more than $6 billion in losses, according to people familiar with emails reviewed by J.P. Morgan and a U.S. Senate panel.

* The U.S. government filed suit to block Anheuser-Busch InBev's $20.1 billion deal to buy the rest of Grupo Modelo, saying it would reduce competition.

* Chinese hackers believed to have government links have been conducting wide-ranging electronic surveillance of media companies including The Wall Street Journal, apparently to spy on reporters covering China and other issues, people familiar with incidents said.

* President Barack Obama let his jobs council disband Thursday as its two-year charter expired, sparking criticism among Republicans and conservative economists that the group had provided more show than substantive policy.

* Morgan Stanley said it would increase the salaries of Chairman and Chief Executive James Gorman and other top executives to make their pay more competitive.

* AirAsia Bhd's chief executive hopes to list the group's Indonesia arm on the Jakarta stock exchange in the third quarter as the budget carrier seeks to expand its foothold in Southeast Asia's largest air travel market.

* Roomy Khan, one of the first cooperating witnesses who helped build the U.S. government's case against convicted hedge-fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, was sentenced to one year in prison Thursday.

* Animal-medicine maker Zoetis Inc, which is being carved into a standalone company by drug maker Pfizer Inc, raised about $2.2 billion in an initial public offering, a strong showing for the largest IPO deal from a U.S. company since Facebook Inc debuted last May.

* Best Buy Co is closing 15 of its 75 big-box stores in Canada as its new chief executive tries to stem slumping sales and profits at the consumer electronics chain.

FT

BARCLAYS IN QATAR LOAN PROBE - UK authorities are looking into an allegation that Barclays lent Qatar money to invest in the bank during the height of the 2008 financial crisis, allowing it to avoid a government bailout, according to unnamed sources cited by the newspaper.

SEYMOUR PIERCE'S FUTURE UP IN THE AIR - The board of Seymour Pierce held talks on Thursday night over the future of the stockbroker, with an unnamed source saying this has come about due to the FSA previously blocking funding from Ukrainian backers.

AB INBEV'S 20 BILLION DOLLAR DEAL THREATENED BY US SUIT - The United States moved to block Anheuser-Busch InBev in its 20 billion dollar acquisition of Grupo Modelo , the Mexican brewer, saying it would lead to an increase in prices and deter competition.

BERTELSMANN SEEKS BUYER FOR TWO BILLION EURO RTL STAKE - German media group Bertelsmann said it intends to sell a stake in broadcasting subsidiary RTL, aiming to raise up to 2 billion euros

LAWSON URGES FULL NATIONALISATION OF RBS - Former Conservative finance minister, Nigel Lawson said the UK government should nationalise RBS and there was a case for no bonuses to paid this year.

DEUTSCHE BANK RISES ON CAPITAL STRENGTH - The bank offered good news to investors reporting a capital base above expectations, bolstering its share price.

CHINA'S WORKERS ENDURE UNHAPPY NEW YEAR - An austerity drive by the new Chinese leadership of Xi Jinping has led government departments and state-owned enterprises to cut back or cancel new year festivities.

US BANKS SQUEEZED AS MORTGAGE PROFITS HIT - Bonanza profits at US banks from mortgages are being squeezed, raising doubts about earnings at lenders such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America and others.

WASENDORF GETS 50 YEARS JAIL FOR FRAUD - A federal court in the United States sentenced the ex head of collapsed future broker Peregrine Financial Group, Russell Wasendorf Sr., to 50 years in prison.

NYT

* The Justice Department has sued to block Anheuser-Busch InBev's proposed $20.1 billion deal to buy control of Grupo Modelo, the first major roadblock in a decade of consolidation by brewers around the world.

* A bankruptcy court judge approved a broad settlement deal on Thursday that paves the way for MF Global customers to recover much of the $1.6 billion that disappeared when the brokerage firm blew up in 2011.

* European antitrust officials on Thursday accused drug giants Johnson & Johnson and Novartis of colluding to delay the availability of a less expensive generic version of a powerful medication often used to ease severe pain in cancer patients.

* James Gorman, chief executive of Morgan Stanley, will receive a huge raise in his base salary this year, but his overall pay package for 2012 was down from 2011, according to a regulatory filing.

* Pfizer Inc's animal health unit, known as Zoetis, raised $2.2 billion in its initial public offering on Thursday, exceeding expectations by pricing its stock at $26 a share, above the expected range of $22 to $25 a share. The sale values the company at about $13 billion.

* Roomy Khan, a central figure in the investigation that led to the conviction of hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam, was sentenced to one year in prison on Thursday for illegally passing inside information and obstructing justice.

* Fabrice Tourre, the Goldman Sachs trader accused of misleading clients over a controversial mortgage deal, is no longer working at the firm.

Canada

THE GLOBE AND MAIL

* Canada will begin a two-year stint at the helm of the eight-nation Arctic Council amid a clamor of competing calls for leadership, as the ice recedes and the race heats up to extract resource riches while protecting a fragile and now-exposed environment.

* Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is publicly at odds with a key member of his team again, this time in a he-said, she-said spat with the Toronto Transit Commission chair.

The verbal tussle over the approval last week by the transit commission of a 15-year sole-source contract is the latest example of Ford's difficulty seeing eye to eye with even fiscal conservatives on council.

Reports in the business section:

* The Canadian economy expanded at its fastest pace in more than half a year, but the bigger picture is still one of slow growth. The country's gross domestic product rose 0.3 percent in November, Statistics Canada said Thursday, its strongest showing in seven months as auto makers and oil firms ramped up activity.

NATIONAL POST

* Prime Minister Stephen Harper says while some of his Conservative Members of Parliament may not agree, abortion is legal in Canada. Harper made the comments while under questioning in the House of Commons over a letter written by three Tory MPs who want the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to investigate hundreds of abortions as possible homicides.

FINANCIAL POST

* Two of Canada's biggest retailers, Best Buy Canada and Sears Canada Inc, announced layoffs Thursday in what is shaping up to be a turbulent and competitive year for the country's retail sector.

China

PEOPLE'S DAILY

-- Premier Wen Jiabao pledged that China would continue its opening up policy during a meeting with foreign experts on Monday.

SHANGHAI SECURITIES NEWS

-- The People's Bank of China (PBOC) drained a net 300 billion yuan ($48 billion) via reverse bond repurchase agreements in its open market operations in January as the country's interbank market was flooded with cash.

-- The recent serious pollution in Beijing has given rise to suspicion of the quality of China's fuel and gasoline.

CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL

-- Sources say Chinese authorities have suspended a plan to expand an experimental property tax now levied in a few cities including Shanghai and Chongqing.

-- A monthly index issued by China's national fund for protecting stock investors shows that in January, investor confidence in the domestic equity market reached its highest since April 2011 as the main Shanghai Composite Index began a sharp rebound since early December.

CHINA BUSINESS NEWS

-- High costs and bureaucracy have made 78 percent of Chinese firms feel it is difficult to operate in the European Union, according to a survey by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.

CHINA DAILY (www.chinadaily.com.cn)

-- In a move aimed at strengthening personal data protection, companies will be instructed to delete customer information after use, according to new guidelines implemented on Friday.

Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot

ANALYST RESEARCH

Upgrades

AB InBev (BUD) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Bernstein
Arthur J. Gallagher (AJG) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at William Blair
Audience (ADNC) upgraded to Hold from Sell at Deutsche Bank
Chubb (CB) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank
Deutsche Bank (DB) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
Ericsson (ERIC) upgraded to Neutral from Underperform at Credit Suisse
GameStop (GME) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray
Greenway Medical (GWAY) upgraded to Strong Buy from Market Perform at Raymond James
Neutral Tandem (IQNT) upgraded to Market Perform from Underperform at Raymond James
Oracle (ORCL) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital
PACCAR (PCAR) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Wells Fargo
Verizon (VZ) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray
W. R. Berkley (WRB) upgraded to Hold from Sell at Deutsche Bank
WMS Industries (WMS) upgraded to Neutral from Sell at Goldman
Wynn Resorts (WYNN) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Janney Capital

Downgrades

AB InBev (BUD) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Societe Generale
ARMOUR Residential (ARR) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Alkermes (ALKS) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Amerseco (AMRC) downgraded to Perform from Outperform at Oppenheimer
Bob Evans (BOBE) downgraded to Hold from Buy at KeyBanc
Brightcove (BCOV) downgraded to Outperform from Top Pick at RBC Capital
Colfax (CFX) downgraded to Hold from Buy at KeyBanc
Constellation Brands (STZ) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Constellation Brands (STZ) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman
Copart (CPRT) downgraded to Hold from Buy at BB&T
Edison International (EIX) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at SunTrust
HSBC (HBC) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Harris Teeter (HTSI) downgraded to Hold from Buy at BB&T
Harris Teeter (HTSI) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital
HealthSouth (HLS) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank
Hologic (HOLX) downgraded to Reduce from Neutral at SunTrust
Life Time Fitness (LTM) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at William Blair
MasterCard (MA) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
Quiksilver (ZQK) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at RW Baird
Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Time Warner Cable (TWC) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank
Time Warner Cable (TWC) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
UPS (UPS) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Viacom (VIAB) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at Piper Jaffray
Whirlpool (WHR) downgraded to Outperform from Strong Buy at Raymond James

Initiations

Blue Nile (NILE) initiated with an Outperform at Wells Fargo
Edwards Lifesciences (EW) initiated with a Buy at Janney Capital
Helmerich & Payne (HP) initiated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
NCI Building Systems (NCS) initiated with a Buy at BB&T
Nabors Industries (NBR) initiated with an Underperform at Credit Suisse
National Oilwell (NOV) initiated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
Oceaneering (OII) initiated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
Oil States (OIS) initiated with an Outperform at Credit Suisse
Patterson-UTI Energy (PTEN) initiated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
Precision Drilling (PDS) initiated with a Neutral at Credit Suisse
Shutterfly (SFLY) initiated with a Market Perform at Wells Fargo
Sunshine Heart (SSH) initiated with an Overweight at Piper Jaffray
Zoetis (ZTS) initiated with a Buy at ISI Group

HOT STOCKS

Sprint (S): DISH (DISH) proposal for Clearwire (CLWR) is “illusory”
Moody's said DOJ suit is credit negative for AB InBev (BUD) but doesn’t change rating
Barrick (ABX) considering sale of Barrick Energy unit, other assets, Bloomberg reports
Chubb (CB) announced new $1.3B share repurchase plan
Sees FY13 net written premiums up 2% to 4%
Goodyear Tire (GT) to exit farm tire business in Europe, Middle East and Africa region
OCZ Technology (OCZ) sees 20%-30% company growth year-over-year
Brink's (BCO) to divest cash-in-transit operations in Germany
Said will be “very difficult” to match 2012 earnings
Viad (VVI) sees FY13 revenue decreasing “at a low to mid single-digit rate”
Newell Rubbermaid (NWL) sees FY13 net sales up 1% to 3%

EARNINGS

Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Viad (VVI), Chubb (CB), C.R. Bard (BCR), Fortune Brands (FBHS), Bally Technologies (BYI), Affymetrix (AFFX), Principal Financial (PFG)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Brink's (BCO), Consolidated Edison (ED), McKesson (MCK), Wynn Resorts (WYNN), bebe stores (BEBE)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Eastman Chemical (EMN), Reinsurance Group (RGA), PerkinElmer (PKI)

NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES

The JPMorgan Chase (JPM) trader known as the "London whale"--Bruno Iksil--tried to alert others at the bank to mounting risks months before his bets ballooned into more than $6B in losses, sources say, the Wall Street Journal reports
Asian manufacturing data today suggested the region's economic recovery is continuing. HSBC's China PMI reached a two-year high of 52.3 from December's 51.5, while the official PFLP number fell to 50.4 from December's 50.6, the Wall Street Journal reports
Dell (DELL) is close to an agreement to sell itself to a buyout consortium led by its founder and CEO Michael Dell and private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, with a deal coming as soon as Monday, sources say, Reuters reports
Airbus (EADSY) studied alternatives to lithium-ion batteries for its next jet, the A350, and has time to adapt to any rule changes prompted by the problems that have grounded Boeing’s (BA) 787 Dreamliner, says CEO Fabrice Bregier, Reuters reports
Anheuser-Bush InBev (BUD) may have to give up more control of U.S. beer distribution or sell a brewery to settle an antitrust lawsuit by the U.S. to block its $20.1B takeover of the rest of Grupo Modelo SAB (GPMCF), Bloomberg reports
Equity funds attracted six times the money that went into bonds in the week ended January 30, according to a Citigroup (C) report that cited EPFR Global data. Stock funds drew $18.8B, exceeding the $3B that went into bonds, as 58% of the equity inflows went into North American funds, with exchange-traded funds being the largest beneficiaries, the analysts wrote, Bloomberg reports

SYNDICATE

Bonanza Creek (BCEI) 11.5M share Secondary priced at $29.50
Chesapeake Lodging (CHSP) files to sell 6.25M shares of common stock
Echo Therapeutics (ECTE) 13.33M share Spot Secondary priced at 75c
Navios Maritime Partners (NMM) files to sell 4.25M shares of common stock
Penn National (PENN) files to sell convertible preferreds and stock for REIT structure
United Insurance (UIHC) files to sell 717K shares of common stock for holders
Zoetis (ZTS) 86.1M share IPO priced at $26.00

Your rating: None

The End of the Farm Bill? And the Beginning of Better Food System

“There is absolutely no way to explain this other than agriculture is just not a priority,” said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow on the Senate Floor on New Year’s Day.(Photo: Justin Russell/Flickr)

She was describing the bare-bones Farm Bill extension agreed to as part of the stop-gap budget deal.

Most astonishing was how Congress and the White House seemed to ignore the longstanding importance of this legislation when they failed to provide mandatory funding for a whole host of programs in the absence of its full renewal.

The Farm Bill is the nation’s largest piece of agricultural legislation. It’s the usual vehicle for far-reaching programs to boost crop production, protect farmers, advance rural development, conserve energy, provide for international food aid, and, notably, run nutrition assistance programs. And it’s in limbo.

This stripped-down extension came just after the House allowed the Farm Bill to expire, never even calling for a vote. House Speaker John Boehner simply didn’t bother. He clearly didn’t pay any political cost for that — he was overwhelmingly reelected as House Speaker shortly thereafter.

Is this the end of the Farm Bill? Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, seems to think so.

The Minnesota lawmaker has written House leadership asking for an agreement to bring a Farm Bill to a vote if it comes out of committee — otherwise, he just won’t bother writing one. As importantly, he asks whether their plan is simply to renew the Farm Bill (rather than actually writing the traditional five-year bill) and look for ways to scale back the bill each year.

The reality is that this key legislation has drifted a long way from its original form passed during the Great Depression. Back then, it was called the Agricultural Adjustment Act. Originally, it was designed to address the oversupply of agricultural commodities while ensuring that the marketplace paid farmers a fair price.

Now, managing supply and stabilizing prices for farmers and consumers — despite evidence of enormous taxpayer savings — isn’t a priority in Washington. The modern-day Farm Bill, while having many good programs, virtually ignores the biggest and most pressing challenges in agriculture: wild market volatility that threatens financial stability for farmers and access for consumers, climate-induced droughts and floods, and the increasing monopoly power of corporations. Nor does it address major problems of the food system as a whole, such as the health crisis associated with childhood obesity or the exploitation of workers all along the food chain.

Instead of acting as a vehicle for real reform, Congress has made it clear that the Farm Bill will be, in essence, a step down from the status quo. The skeletal structure stays in place as it’s bled by a thousand budget cuts.

It’s time we pay attention to the messages Congress is sending and begin to look beyond the Farm Bill to build a new policy framework for a fair, sustainable, and healthy food system.

We need policies — many of which are starting to appear at the community and state level, rather than out of the bumbling federal framework — that get to the heart of the challenges farmers face. We need fair and transparent pricing, adequate insurance programs, financing options for farmers or food business operators, and fair competition in the marketplace. We need our labor laws to catch up with the challenges of farm workers, food processing workers, and those working in restaurants and supermarkets.

In the short term, we can’t forget the important programs the Farm Bill funds. But real change will require a new approach that values the needs of farmers and society as a whole over the demands of corporations.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Jim Harkness

It’s Good to Be a Goldman

Here’s a get-out-of-jail-free card, and while we’re at it, take this obscenely huge bonus for having wrecked the economy. As the inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program pointed out in a devastating report this week, “excessive” compensation was approved by the Treasury Department for the executives of the three companies that required the largest taxpayer bailouts to survive. Goldman Sachs chairman and chief executive officer Lloyd Blankfein testifies before the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations hearing on Wall Street investment banks and the financial crisis. (Photo: AP/Charles Dharapak)

In a stinging rebuke of Timothy Geithner’s Treasury Department, the report “found that once again, in 2012, Treasury failed to rein in excessive pay.” Whopping pay packages of $5 million or more were allowed by the Treasury Department for a quarter of the top executives at AIG, General Motors and Ally Financial, the former financial arm of GM.

But that’s nothing compared with the $21 million for last year’s work garnered by Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, which is now free of TARP supervision. In addition to his paltry $2 million in salary, Blankfein received a $19 million bonus for his efforts. Not quite the $67.9 million bonus he got in 2007 before the market crash that his firm did so much to engineer, but times are still hard.

Goldman was the training ground for Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson, the two Treasury secretaries who did their best to grease the skids for Wall Street hustlers. It was Rubin under President Bill Clinton who pushed to get the law changed to allow investment banks like Goldman to become commercial banks, and it was Paulson under President George W. Bush who permitted Goldman to take advantage of that loophole and partake in the low interest Fed money available to the commercial banks. Throw in the AIG bailout that allowed the passage of billions of dollars to Goldman, and you get the picture.

What you may not know, and file this in the gallery of the terminally shameless, is the role of James A. Johnson, the longest serving director of Goldman Sachs and chairman of its compensation committee that awarded Blankfein his outrageous bonuses. Before being named a director at Goldman, Johnson served as the CEO of Fannie Mae when the once public-spirited federal housing agency joined forces with Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo and other mortgage scam artists in initiating the great housing bubble.

Back in 1996, Johnson had named Mozilo to be chair of Fannie Mae’s National Advisory Council, and together they cooked up a deal in which Fannie Mae came to rely on Countrywide’s proprietary CLUES software for short-circuiting the mortgage qualification process. Thus was born the housing mortgage debacle that to this day has haunted the economy. 

Countrywide announced its “Strategic Agreement with Fannie Mae” in a press release that all but predicted the subsequent housing crisis: “The objective is to expand markets to accommodate more customers and streamline loan processing in order to reduce the upfront cost of homeownership. This entails increased acceptance of Countrywide’s proprietary CLUES underwriting technology, greater usage of short form appraisals, expansion of streamlined loan products, flow sales for expanded criteria loans, and guideline waivers.”

That history became inconvenient back in 2008, when Democratic candidate Barack Obama picked Johnson, a lifelong Democrat, to head the search for a vice presidential candidate. Turns out Johnson was one of the beneficiaries of the new streamlined loan processing system, being what was known inside Countrywide as a “friend of Angelo,” entitled to fast-track approval on loans. As a result, Obama had to drop him, but not so Goldman Sachs, where Johnson had landed as a director and remains today as the chairman of the firm’s compensation committee.

They do flock together, and so it makes perfect sense that Johnson would approve the enormous bonus for Blankfein. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether these folks are Democrats or Republicans, nor whether they are operating at the highest levels of government or banking—they take care of their own. It is the new model of crony capitalism that must have Adam Smith turning in his grave, for it has nothing to do with free-market performance.

The invisible hand of that primitive and pure free market so celebrated in the folklore of capitalism as the essence of efficiency and productivity has been replaced by the all too visible hand of the fixer, who can combine government power and corporate profits to game the system. Yes, visible. Just observe how easily folks such as Rubin, Paulson and Johnson move through the revolving door between corporate and government power undeterred by critical media notice. And now it is Geithner’s turn.

© 2012 TruthDig.com

Robert Scheer

Robert Scheer is editor of Truthdig.com and a regular columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.

Fox News Gang Clings To That ‘Torture A-Go-Go’ Dream

Fox & Friends welcomed author Howard Wasdin as the latest in their series of pre-emptive strikes against a Hillary Clinton candidacy – in this case, to argue that Benghazi is Clinton's “Black Hawk Down.” Of course, the attack on an American outpost in Benghazi was nothing like the mission in Somalia that led to the Black Hawk Down incident. Still, it made for a neat way of tying Hillary to Bill and tarring them both in one segment. But the Curvy Couch Crew got more than it bargained for when Wasdin began preaching the benefits of "two to the body, one to the head."

Wasdin said it looked like Hillary Clinton “took a page from her husband's playbook, which is not to give what's asked for.” Nobody pointed out that Hillary Clinton has recently testified before Congress that she never saw the request for increased security in Benghazi, nor that she said, “Obviously, it's something we're fixing.”

Meanwhile, a banner reading "A CASE OF DEJA VU: IS BENGHAZI THIS PRESIDENT'S BLACK HAWK DOWN?" hit the screen.

But Wasdin wasn't about to let his 15 minutes go by without holding forth on the evils of the liberal media and President Obama, too.

I watched appallingly on 60 Minutes the other day and found out that we live in a dangerous and complicated world. But what the Clintons or the Obamas will never understand is, my dangerous, complicated world is different from theirs.

Wasdin did make a point, which is that he, his friends and his family know what it's like to be "in harm's way," unlike most of the leaders who send them there. But Presidents Obama and Clinton have been a lot more cautious and measured about putting troops in harm's way than the chickenhawks in the Bush administration who started these wars. Not that any of the “fair and balanced” hosts brought that up.

Wasdin continued:

Why the American people, why CNN, why the mainstream media is not picking up on this, why they're not asking the tough questions really surprises me because here's something you won't hear in the mainstream media. Here's how you defeat terrorism, America: you take a hard stance on it. If you're not killed by Americans, you will be brought here – not given three hots and a cot, not given an attorney, not allowed to lawyer up.

You'll be brought here and somebody like me WILL waterboard you. And I'm gonna get the information and I'm gonna defeat you at your grassroots so that you can't recruit. Becaues it's a lot less appealing to the people being recruited if they know they got somebody like me that's waiting for 'em when they get to America. Otherwise, they're gonna be recruited because you've got a president saying we need to retake our moral high ground. Here's what I say: two to the body, one to the head and then if you do survive, we're gonna torture you – I'm sorry, 'enhanced interrogate' you – until we get our answers. That's how you defeat terrorism.

Doocy responded, “Well put, Howard.”

Fox liked this so much, they repeated the rant later in the show.

Don’t Be Fooled, Real 4Q12 GDP Was Even Worse Than 0.14%

A few weeks ago we commented that the Great Global Rig of 2012 was ending. Yesterday’s GDP print confirms this.

We noted in the second half of 2012 that the US Federal Government was engaging in a massive rig to make the economy look better than it really was in order to help the Obama re-election campaign. This showed up in the jobs data as well as the 3Q12 GDP print.

Now the election is over and we’re stuck with the hangover. The mainstream media likes to claim that the fourth quarter GDP number is the result of the Government cutting spending, but the truth is that Government outlays increased 12% in 4Q12. 

Indeed, the sad truth is that the US economy is actually in far worse shape than the official data indicates. As we’ve noted before, the Feds dramatically understate inflation to make GDP growth look better.

Case in point, the GDP deflator today is a mere 0.6% when real inflation is closer to 8%. So even the -0.14% print is in fact overstating real growth dramatically. If you account for the real increases in the cost of living in the US, GDP shrank well over 1% in 4Q12.

The impact of this will be huge. Remember that the Fed only just announced QE 3 and QE 4 in the second half of 2012. The fact that we’ve got this terrible GDP print in spite of this doesn’t do much for the Fed’s claim that QE will stimulate growth.

As we noted in yesterday’s article, the Fed is already splintering on the benefits of QE. For the US to print such an ugly GDP number right after QE 3 and QE 4 were announced doesn’t bode well for more aggressive policy from the Fed. But then again, we are talking about the Fed here, so they could very easily claim that the bad GDP print is because QE 3 and QE 4 are not big enough.

Regardless of this, it’s clear the market is peaking out. The Russell 2000 has begun to diverge from the Dow and S&P 500. Former leaders like Apple and RIMM are tanking, while companies that are losing business rapidly (Amazon) continue to rally.

This is precisely the sort of action we saw going into the Tech top and the 2007 top. The Fed has managed to create a bubble in stocks and housing again… right as the US economy collapses (just like in 2000 and 2007).  We all know what came next.

For more market commentary and investment insight as well as several FREE Special Reports outlining some of the biggest risks in the financial system today, visit us at www.gainspainscapital.com

Best Regards

Phoenix Capital Research

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

The Art of War: The Reconquest of Africa

Hillary missionnaire en Afrique

At the very moment when the Democratic Party President Barack Obama reiterated in his inaugural address that the United States “must be a source of hope for the poor” and will “support democracy from Asia to Africa,” giant U.S. C-17 aircraft were carrying French troops into Mali, where Washington a year before had put in power Captain Sanogo, trained in the U.S. by the Pentagon and CIA, exacerbating Mali’s internal conflicts.

The speed with which France launched the operation, ostensibly to protect the Mali from the advance of Islamic rebels, shows that it had long since been planned by France’s Socialist Party President Francois Hollande. The immediate cooperation of the United States and the European Union, which also decided to send military specialists to Mali to carry out training and command functions, shows that it was planned jointly with Washington, Paris, London and other capitals.

The Western powers, whose multinational corporations vie with each other to grab markets and sources of raw materials, come together when their common interests are at stake, such as those in Africa endangered by popular uprisings and Chinese competition.

Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world (with a per capita income one-sixtieth of Italy’s, and with more than half of the population below the poverty line), is rich in raw materials. Mali exports gold and Coltan, the proceeds of which, however, ends in the pockets of multinational corporations and the local elite.

The same is true in neighboring Niger, which is even poorer (with a per capita income less than one-one-hundredth Italy’s) despite being one of the richest countries in uranium, whose extraction and export is in the hands of the French multinational Areva. Not surprisingly, at the same time as the operation in Mali, Paris has sent special forces into Niger.

A similar situation exists in Chad, whose rich oil deposits are exploited by the U.S. ExxonMobil and other corporations (but Chinese companies are also coming): what remains of the proceeds go into the pockets of the local elite. For criticizing such a mechanism, Bishop Comboni Michele Russo was expelled from Chad last October.

At the same time, Niger and Chad are providing thousands of soldiers who, under French command, have been sent to Mali to open a second front. The invasion launched in Mali with French forces as spearhead is therefore one of vast range, extending from the Sahel extends to West and East Africa. It is joined to the one in North Africa that began with the destruction of the Libyan state and maneuvers to stifle, in Egypt and elsewhere, the popular rebellions.

This is a long-term operation that is part of the strategic plan aimed at putting the whole continent under the military control of the “great democracies,” which are returning to Africa with their colonial pith helmets painted in the colors of peace.

Article in Italian :

Hillary missionnaire en Afrique

L’arte della guerra : La riconquista dell’Africa Il Manifesto, January 29, 2013

Translation: John Catalinotto

Report points to US space ambition

Experts at Spacecom communications company have said in a report that the US would have upgraded its military power to a high level in space by 2020.

In 2009 and for the first time, the Pentagon demanded allocation of budget for boosting the country’s military power in space, eliciting reaction from China that warned that militarization of the space would constitute a violation of international conventions.

When US President Barack Obama announced in 2010 Washington’s space arms-control initiative, Russia noted that the world stability would be threatened.

Russia believes that the US development of non-atomic strategic arms and anti-missile system as well as attempts to deploy weapons in the space would negatively affect the world stability.

Military rivalry in the space has set the stage for the US, Chinese, and Russian armies to enter a new phase of international muscle-flexing.

The unmanned spacecraft OTV-2 (Orbital Test Vehicle) which was launched into space on March 5, 2011 spent 469 days of its mission in the earth orbit. The main objectives behind this launch still remain hidden.

The Pentagon set up the US Space Command to help institutionalize the use of space. The command is tasked with coordinating the use of Army, Naval, and Air Force Space Forces.

In 1996, US Space Command then-commander-in-chief General Joseph Ashy said the US was on the way to fight in space.

“We're going to fight from space and we're going to fight into space…That's why the US has development programs in directed energy and hit-to-kill mechanisms,” he said at the time.

KA/HN

Meet the Contractors Turning America’s Police Into a Paramilitary Force

The national security state has an annual budget of around $1 trillion. Of that huge pile of money, large amounts go to private companies the federal government awards contracts to. Some, like Lockheed Martin or Boeing, are household names, but many of the contractors fly just under the public's radar. What follows are three companies you should know about (because some of them can learn a lot about you with their spy technologies).

L3 Communications

L3 is everywhere. Those night-vision goggles the JSOC team in Zero Dark Thirty uses? That's L3. The new machines that are replacing the naked scanners at the airport? That's L3. Torture at Abu Ghraib? A former subsidiary of L3 was recently ordered to pay $5.28 million to 71 Iraqis who had been held in the awful prison.

Oh, and drones? L3 is on it. Reprieve, a UK-based human rights organization, earlier this month wrote on its Web site:

“L-3 Communications is one of the main subcontractors involved with production of the US’s lethal Predator since the inception of the programme. Predators are used by the CIA to kill ‘suspected militants’ and terrorise entire populations in Pakistan and Yemen. Drone strikes have escalated under the Obama administration and 2013 has already seen six strikes in the two countries.”

Unsurprisingly, L3 Communications is well connected beyond the national security community. Its chief financial officer recently spoke at Goldman Sachs, at what the financial titan hilariously refers to as a “fireside chat.”

L3 also supplies local law enforcement with its night-vision products and makes a license-plate recognition (LPR) device, a machine with disturbing implications. LPR can be mounted on cop cruisers or statically positioned at busy intersections and can run potentially thousands of license plates through law enforcement databases in a matter of hours. In some parts of the country LPR readers can track your location for miles. As the Wall Street Journal noted, surveillance of even “mundane” activities of people not accused of any crime is now “the default rather than the exception.”

L3 Communications embodies the totality of the national security and surveillance state. There is only minimal distinction between its military products and police products. Its night-vision line is sold to both military and law enforcement. Its participation in the drone program is now, as far as we know, limited to countries in the Middle East and North Africa. But in the words of the New York Times editorial board, “[i]t is not a question of whether drones will appear in the skies above the United States but how soon.” The NYT estimates the domestic drone market at $5 billion, likely a conservative estimate, and contractors will vie for that money in the public and private sphere. L3's venture into airports, the border of where domestic policy meets foreign policy in the name of national security, is therefore significant both symbolically and materially.

In many ways, that is the most important story of the post-9/11 United States: the complete evaporation of the separation of foreign and domestic polices. Whether we're talking about paramilitarized police, warrantless wiretapping, inhumane prison conditions, or drone surveillance, there exist few differences between a United States perpetually at war and a United States determined to police and imprison its people in unacceptable ways and at unacceptable rates.

Harris Corporation: Stingray “IMSI catcher”

Harris Corp. is a huge provider of national security and communications technology to federal and local law enforcement agencies. Though many people have never heard of it, Harris is a major player in the beltway National Security community. President and CEO William M. Brown was recently appointed to the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, and in 2009 the Secret Service offered Harris a contract to train its agents in the use of Harris' Stingray line. The Secret Service awarded the company additional contracts in 2012.

If you've heard of Harris at all, it's likely been because its controversial Stingray product has been getting attention as an information-gathering tool with major privacy implications. The Stingray allows law enforcement to cast a kilometers' wide digital net over an area to determine the location of a single cell phone signal – and in the process collect cell data on potentially hundreds of people who aren't suspected of any crimes. EFF claims the device is a modern version of British soldiers canvassing the pre-Revolutionary colonies, searching people's homes without probable cause – exactly what the Fourth Amendment was created to prevent. EFF describes the process this way:

“A Stingray works by masquerading as a cell phone tower—to which your mobile phone sends signals to every 7 to 15 seconds whether you are on a call or not— and tricks your phone into connecting to it. As a result, the government can figure out who, when and to where you are calling, the precise location of every device within the range, and with some devices, even capture the content of your conversations.”

According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC),the FBI has been using similar technology since 1995. But a recent federal case, United States v. Rigmaiden, has raised Fourth Amendment questions regarding whether law enforcement officials need to obtain a warrant before employing a Stingray. The judge in that case determined that the government hadn't provided enough information about how the devices work, and ordered that the information collected in Rigmaiden couldn't be used in court.

What's especially troubling about Stingrays is that the government either won't say, or doesn't understand, how the technology works. The WSJ reported that the US Attorney making the requests “seemed to have trouble explaining the technology.”

And it's not just the federal government that uses Stingrays. As Slate notes,referencing FOIA documents recently obtained by EPIC, “the feds have procedures in place for loaning electronic surveillance devices (like the Stingray) to state police. This suggests the technology may have been used in cases across the United States, in line with a stellar investigation by LA Weekly last year, which reported that state cops in California, Florida, Texas, and Arizona had obtained Stingrays.”

Harris has been tightlipped about the Rigmaiden case, but expect to be hearing a lot about Stingrays in the future.

BI2 Technologies

BI2 makes a fine pitch. Its iris-scanning technology can be made to sound very appealing. Iris scans are relatively non-invasive, there's no touching involved so the likelihood of spreading disease is reduced, and as B12 states on its Web site, "there are no lasers, strong lights or any kind of harmful beams.” It also claims that iris scanning is "strictly opt-in," and that a “user" (who in most cases would be better described as an “arrestee”) “must consciously elect to participate” in the scanning. (When I was arrested by the NYPD while covering a protest, the scan was voluntary -- though the NYPD didn't tell me that, a protester did. But if I refused to submit to it I could have been punished with an extra night in jail.)

Reuters reported that BI2's iPhone-based iris scanner -- called MORIS -- is capable of taking an accurate scan from four feet away, “potentially without the person being aware of it.” MORIS has drawn harsh condemnation from the ACLU. The primary concern from privacy advocates is that law enforcement will deploy this technology in an overly broad way. ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley told Reuters that he didn't want the police “using them routinely on the general public, collecting biometric information on innocent people.”

MORIS isn't just for irises; it also scans faces. In 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported that the sheriff's office in Pinellas County, Florida, “uses digital cameras to take pictures of people, download the pictures to laptops, then use facial-recognition technologies to search for matching faces.” New database technology like Trapwire, a data mining system that analyzes “suspicious behavior” in purported attempts to predict terrorist behavior, makes face scanning potentially more worrisome. Trapwire uses at least “CCTV, license-plate readers, and open-source databases” as input sources, and although it doesn't employ facial-recognition software, the incentives to combine these types of technology is clear.

Beginning in 2014, BI2 will manage a national iris-scan database for the FBI, called Next-Generation Identification (NGI).Lockheed Martin is also involved in building the database.Much of BI2's iris data comes from inmates in 47 states, and despite BI2's claims that iris scanning can't be gamed, that is not the case. Experts showed last summer that the iris can be “reverse-engineered” to fool the scanners, which are generally thought to be more accurate than fingerprinting.

The usual suspects lamented in 2011 that iris scanning isn't used at airports or borders, but security creep is difficult to combat, especially once “national security” is invoked. Just days ago it was reported that the FBI is teaming with the Department of Homeland Security to ramp up iris scanning at US borders. AlterNet has previously reported that the Department of Defense scans the irises of people arriving at and departing from Afghanistan.

The story of BI2 is important because the initial technology is superficially appealing. The company's first projects were called the Child Project, designed to help locate missing children; and Senior Safety Net, developed to identify missing seniors suffering from Alzheimer's. According to B12's Web site, sheriffs' departments in 47 states use the BI2 iris-scanning device and database, which makes it easy to mobilize support to facilitate the safe return of children and seniors.

While the desire to find missing children and seniors is perfectly legitimate, the collection of biometric data is a pandora's box. Once it's opened, it's proven difficult if not impossible to limit.

Warning: Austerity Hysteria Endangers Your Job

The U.S. economy shrank unexpectedly in the last three months of 2012, ending over 30 months of economic growth.  Exports lagged, reflecting, in House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., touts his 2012 federal budget. (Photo:J. Scott Applewhite/AP) part, declining markets in Europe, now suffering a costly recession inflicted by misguided austerity policies.  But the greatest cause of the decline was unexpectedly large cuts in government spending, particularly in the military.

Yes, Virginia, cutting government spending in a weak economy costs jobs.

A three-month downturn is a caution, not a catastrophe.  But Washington seems too wrapped in its deficit delusions to pay attention to the flashing yellow lights.   Here’s a cautionary guide.

1. Austerity costs jobs.

This economy is still sputtering.  More than 20 million people are in need of full-time work.  While corporate profits are at record heights as a percentage of the economy, wages are at record lows and falling. An alarmed Federal Reserve has kept interest rates close to zero.  Housing prices have started to come back, but companies are still looking for customers before they do much expanding.

In these circumstances cuts in government spending and hikes in taxes on working people cost jobs.  Government workers and contractors get laid off.  Small businesses feel the pinch as the afflicted tighten their belts.  Interest rates can’t go lower; business doesn’t get any more confident.  And as the last three months showed, it doesn’t take much to push a slow-growth economy into decline.

2. More austerity is already being inflicted.

Last quarter’s decline took place before the tax hikes agreed to in December’s “fiscal cliff” deal.  The increase of tax rates on the top 1 percent will have little effect on demand, since someone making over $400,000 can afford the hit.  But the end of the payroll tax holiday cost the typical family 2 percent of their income, with the change visible in their January paychecks.  For a family earning $50,000, that represents a $1,000 loss of income – and will be felt.

3. Even more austerity will soon come.

House Republicans devoted their retreat to reordering the fiscal hostage crises they have planned for the next five months. The etiquette of hostage taking, they determined, required beginning with the threat of deep automatic cuts of military and domestic spending – the sequester – on March 1, then moving to the threat to shut down the government by the end of March, and finally to the threat to default on the debt and bring down the global financial system in mid-May.

This reordering, they believe, will give them greater leverage to extort deep and unpopular cuts in spending, particularly Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  The mainstream media hailed this as a sign of their new maturity.

Republican leaders have already begun threatening to let the full sequester take place on March 1 – $85 billion in across the board spending cuts from the military and domestic spending.  This represents over 7 percent of annual spending on the military and 5 percent on domestic governance.

To achieve those cuts with half of the fiscal year already behind us will require massive layoffs – furloughs without pay – of workers.  Fifteen to 20 percent of food and drug inspectors, air traffic controllers, park rangers and Social Security administrators will be thrown out of work. Across-the-board cuts means that the vital gets slashed at the same rate at the wasteful.   Cuts in housing vouchers will leave millions homeless.  But overseas tax dodges will remain in place.  In a weak economy, already in decline in the last three months, this is worse than reckless; it is lunacy.

Democrats have succumbed to the austerity fixation as well, if in less virulent form.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid supports cutbacks, but wants the deep sequester cuts replaced “in short increments” with packages of spending cuts and revenues like repealing oil and gas subsidies.  The president wants a “balanced” plan that combines spending cuts and revenue from loophole closings, shutting down overseas tax havens and the like.  This allows a more rational policy of cutting waste and loopholes rather than essential services and military preparedness.  But it still will cost jobs. More austerity is on the way.

4.  The deficit hawks are delusional.

Serial hostage-taking is a truly inane way to run a government.  Even more striking, however, are the purblind delusions about deficits.  We’re forced to take these measures, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan says, because deficits are out of control and will soon, eventually, sometime lead to America becoming Greece, with the dollar losing all value.

It is a testament to the depths of his delusion that Ryan has been saying this for years, undeterred by all evidence to the contrary.

The reality is the reverse.  Ryan prides himself on his Ayn Rand devotion to free markets, but he’s ignoring what the markets are saying.  Out-of-control inflation hasn’t broken out.  Investors are not panicked.  They are still willing to park their money in U.S. bonds for essentially no real return.  Investors are saying America isn’t Greece; it’s the rock of Gibraltar.

One reason is that the deficit isn’t out of control.  As the Congressional Budget Office reports, the annual deficit is down by 25 percent since 2009.    It is coming down faster than any time since the demobilization at the end of World War II.   Our mid-term debt is essentially stabilized as a percent of gross domestic product.  Our long-term debt projections are completely a question of fixing our broken health care system.

The pace of the decline of annual deficits already exceeds prudent speed limits. It is contributing to faltering and inadequate jobs growth, leaving Americans struggling with mass unemployment, increased insecurity and declining wages.  The only thing that can interfere with the continued decline in the deficit is if the economy stalls and goes back into recession.  And that is exactly the warning that is flashing from the last quarter’s decline.

5. Stop the austerity hysteria.

The unexpected bad news from last quarter is a stark warning.  Americans cannot afford the deficit delusions afflicting Washington.  Republicans can only do damage if they continue to hold the economy hostage to force cuts in vital security programs like Social Security and Medicare.  Democrats should stop paying tribute to the austerity lobby.

We need a return to sensible governance.  Repeal the sequester – deep across-the-board cuts are idiotic.  Promise to pay the debts already incurred and stop threatening a default that would shake global finances.  Fund the government while working on a budget reflecting new priorities.

Commit to growing our way out of the hole we are in. Invest in areas vital to our economy and to our people.  Pay for those commitments in ways that makes sense.  Put people back to work and watch the deficits come down.

That means launching a major five-year initiative to rebuild America – modernizing our decrepit infrastructure to make it a competitive advantage while creating jobs.  Make the investments needed to provide every child with a world-class education – from universal pre-school to skilled teachers to affordable college.  Invest in research and development and sustain America as the global hotbed of innovation.

Pay for these and other vital priorities by ending the war in Afghanistan and reducing our empire of bases.  Crack down on overseas tax dodges.  Raise taxes on millionaires and tax the income of investors at the same rate as that of workers.  End the obscene subsidies to Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Agra.

This isn’t rocket science.  It is common sense.  Yet, at this point, it can’t be heard above the bedlam of a Washington afflicted with deficit delusions and austerity hysteria.

© 2013 Campaign for America's Future

Robert Borosage

Robert L. Borosage is the founder and president of the Institute for America’s Future and co-director of its sister organization, the Campaign for America’s Future.

Warning: Austerity Hysteria Endangers Your Job

The U.S. economy shrank unexpectedly in the last three months of 2012, ending over 30 months of economic growth.  Exports lagged, reflecting, in House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., touts his 2012 federal budget. (Photo:J. Scott Applewhite/AP) part, declining markets in Europe, now suffering a costly recession inflicted by misguided austerity policies.  But the greatest cause of the decline was unexpectedly large cuts in government spending, particularly in the military.

Yes, Virginia, cutting government spending in a weak economy costs jobs.

A three-month downturn is a caution, not a catastrophe.  But Washington seems too wrapped in its deficit delusions to pay attention to the flashing yellow lights.   Here’s a cautionary guide.

1. Austerity costs jobs.

This economy is still sputtering.  More than 20 million people are in need of full-time work.  While corporate profits are at record heights as a percentage of the economy, wages are at record lows and falling. An alarmed Federal Reserve has kept interest rates close to zero.  Housing prices have started to come back, but companies are still looking for customers before they do much expanding.

In these circumstances cuts in government spending and hikes in taxes on working people cost jobs.  Government workers and contractors get laid off.  Small businesses feel the pinch as the afflicted tighten their belts.  Interest rates can’t go lower; business doesn’t get any more confident.  And as the last three months showed, it doesn’t take much to push a slow-growth economy into decline.

2. More austerity is already being inflicted.

Last quarter’s decline took place before the tax hikes agreed to in December’s “fiscal cliff” deal.  The increase of tax rates on the top 1 percent will have little effect on demand, since someone making over $400,000 can afford the hit.  But the end of the payroll tax holiday cost the typical family 2 percent of their income, with the change visible in their January paychecks.  For a family earning $50,000, that represents a $1,000 loss of income – and will be felt.

3. Even more austerity will soon come.

House Republicans devoted their retreat to reordering the fiscal hostage crises they have planned for the next five months. The etiquette of hostage taking, they determined, required beginning with the threat of deep automatic cuts of military and domestic spending – the sequester – on March 1, then moving to the threat to shut down the government by the end of March, and finally to the threat to default on the debt and bring down the global financial system in mid-May.

This reordering, they believe, will give them greater leverage to extort deep and unpopular cuts in spending, particularly Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  The mainstream media hailed this as a sign of their new maturity.

Republican leaders have already begun threatening to let the full sequester take place on March 1 – $85 billion in across the board spending cuts from the military and domestic spending.  This represents over 7 percent of annual spending on the military and 5 percent on domestic governance.

To achieve those cuts with half of the fiscal year already behind us will require massive layoffs – furloughs without pay – of workers.  Fifteen to 20 percent of food and drug inspectors, air traffic controllers, park rangers and Social Security administrators will be thrown out of work. Across-the-board cuts means that the vital gets slashed at the same rate at the wasteful.   Cuts in housing vouchers will leave millions homeless.  But overseas tax dodges will remain in place.  In a weak economy, already in decline in the last three months, this is worse than reckless; it is lunacy.

Democrats have succumbed to the austerity fixation as well, if in less virulent form.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid supports cutbacks, but wants the deep sequester cuts replaced “in short increments” with packages of spending cuts and revenues like repealing oil and gas subsidies.  The president wants a “balanced” plan that combines spending cuts and revenue from loophole closings, shutting down overseas tax havens and the like.  This allows a more rational policy of cutting waste and loopholes rather than essential services and military preparedness.  But it still will cost jobs. More austerity is on the way.

4.  The deficit hawks are delusional.

Serial hostage-taking is a truly inane way to run a government.  Even more striking, however, are the purblind delusions about deficits.  We’re forced to take these measures, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan says, because deficits are out of control and will soon, eventually, sometime lead to America becoming Greece, with the dollar losing all value.

It is a testament to the depths of his delusion that Ryan has been saying this for years, undeterred by all evidence to the contrary.

The reality is the reverse.  Ryan prides himself on his Ayn Rand devotion to free markets, but he’s ignoring what the markets are saying.  Out-of-control inflation hasn’t broken out.  Investors are not panicked.  They are still willing to park their money in U.S. bonds for essentially no real return.  Investors are saying America isn’t Greece; it’s the rock of Gibraltar.

One reason is that the deficit isn’t out of control.  As the Congressional Budget Office reports, the annual deficit is down by 25 percent since 2009.    It is coming down faster than any time since the demobilization at the end of World War II.   Our mid-term debt is essentially stabilized as a percent of gross domestic product.  Our long-term debt projections are completely a question of fixing our broken health care system.

The pace of the decline of annual deficits already exceeds prudent speed limits. It is contributing to faltering and inadequate jobs growth, leaving Americans struggling with mass unemployment, increased insecurity and declining wages.  The only thing that can interfere with the continued decline in the deficit is if the economy stalls and goes back into recession.  And that is exactly the warning that is flashing from the last quarter’s decline.

5. Stop the austerity hysteria.

The unexpected bad news from last quarter is a stark warning.  Americans cannot afford the deficit delusions afflicting Washington.  Republicans can only do damage if they continue to hold the economy hostage to force cuts in vital security programs like Social Security and Medicare.  Democrats should stop paying tribute to the austerity lobby.

We need a return to sensible governance.  Repeal the sequester – deep across-the-board cuts are idiotic.  Promise to pay the debts already incurred and stop threatening a default that would shake global finances.  Fund the government while working on a budget reflecting new priorities.

Commit to growing our way out of the hole we are in. Invest in areas vital to our economy and to our people.  Pay for those commitments in ways that makes sense.  Put people back to work and watch the deficits come down.

That means launching a major five-year initiative to rebuild America – modernizing our decrepit infrastructure to make it a competitive advantage while creating jobs.  Make the investments needed to provide every child with a world-class education – from universal pre-school to skilled teachers to affordable college.  Invest in research and development and sustain America as the global hotbed of innovation.

Pay for these and other vital priorities by ending the war in Afghanistan and reducing our empire of bases.  Crack down on overseas tax dodges.  Raise taxes on millionaires and tax the income of investors at the same rate as that of workers.  End the obscene subsidies to Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Agra.

This isn’t rocket science.  It is common sense.  Yet, at this point, it can’t be heard above the bedlam of a Washington afflicted with deficit delusions and austerity hysteria.

© 2013 Campaign for America's Future

Robert Borosage

Robert L. Borosage is the founder and president of the Institute for America’s Future and co-director of its sister organization, the Campaign for America’s Future.

CCR Issues Questions for Hagel on Guantánamo

WASHINGTON - January 31 - In light of confirmation hearings beginning today for Senator Chuck Hagel to be President Obama’s next Secretary of Defense, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement:

In 2005, Senator Hagel publicly opposed the prison at Guantánamo, stating that it was one reason why the United States was “losing the image war around the world.” As the next Defense Secretary, he will be directly responsible for overseeing Guantanamo’s closure and will have the opportunity to fulfill the promise President Obama made to citizens here and abroad, to end this shameful chapter in our history. The Senate Armed Services Committee should seize this occasion to press Senator Hagel to reaffirm his commitment to shutter the prison once and for all. The Committee should ask Senator Hagel:

- How he will implement the closure of Guantánamo under the mechanisms set forth in the National Defense Authorization Act,

- How he will facilitate the transfer of all detainees whom the Administration has no intention of charging, and

- Whether he will continue to pursue the irredeemably flawed military commissions process rather than provide men with fair trials through a tested and established system of justice.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for the last 11 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country, ensuring that nearly all the men detained at Guantánamo have had the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts. In addition, CCR has been working through diplomatic channels to resettle men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.

US: Injustices Filling the Prisons

WASHINGTON - January 31 -  The enormous prison population in the United States partly reflects harsh sentencing practices contrary to international law, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2013. The sentencing practices include disproportionately long prison terms, mandatory sentencing without parole, and treating youth offenders as adults. The US maintains the world’s largest incarcerated population, at 1.6 million, and its highest per capita incarceration rate.

Human Rights Watch research in 2012 found that the massive overincarceration includes a growing number of elderly people whom prisons are ill-equipped to handle, and an estimated 93,000 youth under age 18 in adult jails and another 2,200 in adult prisons. Hundreds of children are subjected to solitary confinement. Racial and ethnic minorities remain disproportionately represented in the prison population.

"The United States has shown little interest in tackling abusive practices that have contributed to the country’s huge prison population,” said Maria McFarland, deputy US program director at Human Rights Watch. "Unfortunately, it is society’s most vulnerable – racial and ethnic minorities, low-income people, immigrants, children, and the elderly – who are most likely to suffer from injustices in the criminal justice system."

In its 665-page report, Human Rights Watch assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including an analysis of the aftermath of the Arab Spring. The willingness of new governments to respect rights will determine whether the Arab Spring gives birth to genuine democracy or simply spawns authoritarianism in new clothes, Human Rights Watch said.

The World Report chapter on the United States covers human rights developments related to US criminal justice and immigration, as well as issues related to health, labor, and the rights of women, children, people with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. It also addresses abuses related to the United States’ deeply flawed counterterrorism policies.

Human rights developments within the United States over the past year include:

• Connecticut joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia in abolishing the death penalty. However, 33 states continue to allow it;

• In May, the US Department of Justice issued final standards under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to detect, prevent, and punish prison rape. The standards are immediately binding on all Justice Department facilities;

• In fiscal year 2012, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported a record 396,906 non-citizens. A dramatic increase in federal prosecutions of immigration violations, and in the number of immigrants in detention, has fed a nationwide detention system that includes more than 250 facilities;

• Illegal re-entry into the US has become the most prosecuted federal crime. In 2011, prosecutions for illegal entry and re-entry into the US surpassed 34,000 and 37,000 respectively. Many of those prosecuted for these crimes have minor or no criminal history and have substantial ties to the US;

• The US Senate, in December, failed to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Sixty-one of the 100 Senators voted in favor, but 66 votes were needed for passage. Several senators have promised to make another attempt to ratify the treaty in early 2013;

• In April, the Labor Department withdrew new regulations proposed in 2011 that would have updated, for the first time in decades, the list of hazardous agricultural tasks prohibited for children under age 16;

• Congress failed to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the primary federal law providing legal protection and services to victims of domestic and sexual violence. Sexual assaults remained underreported and poorly investigated in many jurisdictions. Certain groups, such as unauthorized migrant farmworkers, face particular challenges to seeking justice;

• In June, the US Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, which significantly expands many citizens’ access to health insurance and medical care;

• HIV infections continued to disproportionately affect minority communities, men who have sex with men, and transgender women. Many states have failed to protect HIV-positive people from discrimination or to provide adequate funds for HIV prevention and care; and

• For the first time anywhere, popular votes in two states and the District of Columbia legalized same-sex marriage. However, federal law continued to bar recognition of same-sex marriage while offering no protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Both the Obama administration and Congress supported abusive counterterrorism laws and policies, including detention without charge at Guantanamo Bay, restrictions on the transfer of detainees held there, and prosecutions in a fundamentally flawed military commission system.

Attacks by US aerial drones were carried out in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere, with important legal questions about the attacks remaining unanswered.

The administration has taken no steps toward accountability for torture and other abuses committed by US officials in the so-called “war on terror,” and a Justice Department criminal investigation into detainee abuse concluded without recommending any charges. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence completed a more than 6,000-page report detailing the CIA’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program, but has yet to seek the report’s declassification so it can be released to the public.

“The Obama administration has a chance in its second term to develop with Congress a real plan for closing Guantanamo and definitively ending abusive counterterrorism practices,” McFarland said. “A failure to do so puts Obama at risk of going down in history as the president who made indefinite detention without trial a permanent part of US law.”

Gold Buying Spree: All that Pivots is Gold

gold_bars_7_200

To quote the immortal line in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, as filmed by John Huston, “Let’s talk about the black bird” – let’s talk about a mysterious bird made out of gold. Oh yes, because this is a film noir worthy of Dashiell Hammett – involving the Pentagon, Beijing, shadow wars, pivoting and a lot of gold.

Let’s start with Beijing’s official position; “We don’t have enough gold”. That leads to China’s current, frenetic buying spree – which particularly in Hong Kong anyone can follow live, in real time. China is already the top gold producing and the top gold importing nation in the world.

Gold accounts for roughly 70% of reserves held by the US and Germany – and more or less the same for France and Italy. Russia – also  on a buying spree – is slightly over 10%. But China’s percentage of gold among its whopping US$3.2 trillion reserves is only 2%.

Beijing is carefully following the current shenanigans of the New York Federal Reserve, which, asked by the German Bundesbank to return the German gold it is holding, replied it would take at least seven years.

German financial journalist Lars Schall has been following the story since the beginning, and virtually alone has made the crucial connection between gold, paper money, energy resources and the abyss facing the petrodollar.

Whenever Beijing says it needs more gold, this is justified as a hedge “against risks in foreign reserves” – aka US dollar fluctuation – but especially to “promote yuan globalization”. As in, suavely, having the yuan compete with the US dollar and the euro “fairly” in the “international market”.

And here’s the (elusive) heart of the matter. What Beijing actually wants is to get rid of the US dollar peg. For that to happen, it needs vast gold reserves. So here’s Beijing pivoting from the US dollar to the yuan – and trying to sway vast swathes of the global economy to follow the path. This golden rule is Beijing’s Maltese Falcon: “The stuff dreams are made of”.

Have drone, will travel

Qatar also does pivoting – but of the MENA (Middle East-Northern Africa) kind. Doha has been financing Wahhabis and Salafis – and even Salafi-jihadis – as in North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) rebels in Libya, Free Syrian Army gangs in Syria, and the pan-Islamic gang that took over northern Mali.

The State Department – and later the Pentagon – may have woken up to it, as in the arrangement brokered by Doha and Washington together to spawn a new, more palatable Syria “coalition”. But still very potent are those dangerous liaisons between the francophile Emir of Qatar and the Quai d’Orsay in Paris – which gathered plenty of steam already during the reign of King Sarko, aka former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Every informed geopolitical observer has tracked leak after leak by former French intelligence operatives to the deliciously wicked satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine, detailing Qatar’s modus operandi. It’s a no-brainer. Qatar’s foreign policy reads as Muslim Brotherhood Here, There and Everywhere (but not inside the neo-feudal emirate); this is Qatar’s Maltese Falcon. At the same time Doha – to the delight of French elites – is an avid practitioner of hardcore neoliberalism, and a top investor in France’s economy.

So their interests may coalesce in promoting disaster capitalism – successfully – in Libya and then – still unsuccessfully – in Syria. Yet Mali is something else; classic blowback – and that’s where the interests of Doha and Paris diverge (not to mention Doha and Washington; at least if one does not assume that Mali has been the perfect pretext for a renewed AFRICOM drive.)

Algerian media is awash in outrage, questioning Qatar’s agenda (in French). Yet the pretext – as predicted – worked perfectly.

AFRICOM – surprise! – is on a roll, as the Pentagon gets ready to set up a drone base in Niger. That’s the practical result of a visit by AFRICOM’s commander, General Carter Ham, to Niger’s capital Niamey only a few days ago.

Forget about those outdated PC-12 turbo props that have been spying on Mali and Western Africa for years. Now it’s Predator time. Translation: chief-in-waiting John Brennan plans a Central Intelligence Agency shadow war all across the Sahara-Sahel. With permission from Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, it’s time to start humming a remixed hit: “I see a grey drone/ and I want it painted black”.

AFRICOM does Niger is indeed sweeter than cherry pie. Northwest Niger is the site of all those uranium mines supplying the French nuclear industry. And it’s very close to Mali’s gold reserves. Imagine all that gold in an “unstable” area falling into the hands of … Chinese companies. Beijing’s Maltese Falcon moment of finally having enough gold to dump the US dollar peg would be at hand.

The Pentagon even got permission for all its surveillance gear to refuel in – of all places – crucial Agadez. The French legion may have been doing the hard work on the ground in Mali, but it’s AFRICOM which will ultimately reap the profits all across the Sahara-Sahel.

Don’t you know about the (Asian) bird?

And that brings us to that famous pivoting to Asia – which was supposed to be the number one geopolitical theme of the Obama 2.0 administration. It may well be. But certainly alongside AFRICOM pivoting all over the Sahara/Sahel in drone mode, to Beijing’s growing irritation; and Doha-Washington pivoting in their support of the former “terrorist” turned “freedom fighter”, and vice-versa.

And we did not even mention the non-pivoting involved in this noir plot; the Obama 2.0 administration keeping its appalling embrace of the medieval House of Saud and “stability in the Arabian peninsula”, as recommended by an usual suspect, a mediocre – yet influential – “veteran intelligence official“.

Play it again, Sam. In that outstanding Maltese Falcon scene at the start of our plot between Humphrey Bogart (let’s say he plays the Pentagon) and Sydney Greenstreet (let’s say he plays Beijing), the official is the goon, the third guy in the picture. The pivoting to Asia is essentially a product of Andrew Marshall, an allegedly Yoda-like totem of US national security.

Marshall has been behind the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) – all of you Donald Rumsfeld freaks know about it – failed Shock and Awe (which only served to destroy Iraq almost beyond repair, even with disaster capitalism involved); and now the concept called Air Sea Battle.

Air Sea Battle’s premise is that Beijing will attack US forces in the Pacific, which is, frankly, ridiculous (even with help from a monster false-flag operation). The US would then retaliate via a “blinding campaign” – the naval equivalent of Shock and Awe. Both the US Air Force and the US Navy loved the concept because it implies a lot of hardware spending to be stationed in plenty of sophisticated Pacific bases, and in the high seas.

So even as David Petraeus-style counterinsurgency has pivoted to John Brennan’s CIA shadow wars, the real deal is the pivoting to Asia; a pseudo-strategy, concocted to keep the Pentagon budget at exorbitant levels, promoting a new cold war with China. “They will never amass enough gold to impose their evil plans”, one could hear Marshall say about China (without Bogart or Greenstreet’s aplomb, of course). Hammett would be appalled; Marshall’s Maltese Falcon is the stuff (war) dreams are made of.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2008). He may be reached at [email protected]

Major Cuts Needed to $1.2 Trillion National Security Budget

Truthout is able to confront the forces of greed and regression only because we don’t take corporate funding. Support us in this fight: make a tax-deductible donation today by clicking here.

Lawrence Wilkerson: Pressure from arms manufactures and politicians protecting jobs make it difficult to have a rational approach to US military budget

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to this week's edition of The Wilkerson Report with Larry Wilkerson, who joins us now from William & Mary College, where he is the adjunct professor of government. He is also the former chief of staff for U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Thanks very much for joining us, Larry.

LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FMR. CHIEF OF STAFF TO COLIN POWELL: Thanks for having me, Paul.

JAY: So what have you been working on, thinking about this week?

WILKERSON: Reducing the Pentagon budget, which really boils down to reducing the national security budget.

JAY: And what conclusions did you come to? I once heard a speech you made at the Samuel Adams awards, and you said that what United States governing powers have to come to terms with is, one way or the other, the American empire is going to weaken and be less or wither away, and it can either be managed reasonably or it can be fought kicking and screaming. So what does that mean in terms of military budgets?

WILKERSON: This is a huge component of that, Paul. If you can't take money away from the security component, the national security component, and either use that money in more advantageous ways for the country, then you're trapped, I mean, you're really trapped into the national security state, and your discretionary spending is extremely little and growing less as your interest payments on your debt grow larger and larger.

So if you look at the national security budget across its entire [li], that is to say, holistically, you see a number of different accounts. You see, of course, the soft power account, which is the 150 account at the State Department, the international affairs account. You see the Homeland Security account. You see the Veterans Administration account. You see the nuclear weapons account buried in the Department of Energy. You also see the account that now is, I think, approaching if not over $100 billion for this massive intelligence structure we've set up since 9/11.

So if you look at all of those accounts, you're talking about spending not as the military people say all the time, including myself, 3, 4, 4.5 percent of GDP; you're spending 7 or 8 percent of GDP. You're spending, for example, in FY 2010 $1.2 trillion. At that really impacts your discretionary spending. You hardly have any spending for anything else.

So we've got to do something about this. And I think the time, very opportunistic time, convergence of Tea Party interests, Democratic interests, Republican interests, progressive interests, and real interests of this republic are to reduce this spending across the board. And I think we can do that.

JAY: What would it look like?

WILKERSON: It would like like, I think, a ten-year program, adjusted wisely—not the way sequestration's going to do it, like a hammer, but adjusted wisely for the different threats that we think we envision and the different capabilities we think we need over about the next decade. I do think you could reduce spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 to $100 billion each of the years of that decade. Now, in one year you might reduce it by only $45 billion; in another decade you might reduce by $80 billion. But it's got to be in consonance with the way we perceive the threats, developing and otherwise, and the way we perceive the capabilities we need to counter those threats.

JAY: Now, you're talking about actual cuts, not just slowing down growth, because some of the things that have—I know President Obama has said they've already made some cuts, but if I understand it correctly, a lot of that is really just slowing down growth.

WILKERSON: That's absolutely right, Paul. I mean, let's face it. We are last year still in a spending spree. We're spending more than we spent at the height of the Cold War. Our expenditures are phenomenal in that respect, particularly when you look out and see no existential threats, and the threats you do see are very different from the past. We need to reshape our capabilities to accommodate those threats, and at the same time to save enormous amounts of money by this reshaping.

For example, drones don't cost nearly as much as F-22 fighters. Submarines don't cost nearly as much as aircraft carriers. And, incidentally, submarines are the most invulnerable weapons platform in the world and need to be augmented and need to be retained and need to be made even more sophisticated than they are now. You want to bring a nation to its knees, a nation, for example, like China, then you impact its commerce with submarines.

So we need to think hard about how we reshape our capabilities, saving money in the process, working out inefficiencies—and waste and fraud and abuse, too, of course—and at the same time look at the management of our Armed Forces. For example, we have more general and flag officers, general officers, admirals and generals, on active duty today with a much less force than we had when we had 16 million men under arms in World War II. That's crazy. We need to get rid of some of these generals and admirals.

So there are all manner of ways you can do this, but it's basically reshaping your capabilities to meet the threats you think you're going to meet in the next 25 to 30 years.

JAY: But isn't it also about rethinking what you want to accomplish with the military? I mean, it's one thing about defending your own country. It's another thing to want, to quote you, bring a nation to its knees. I mean, why be in a position to have to or be capable of bringing a nation to its knees? Why not just be in a position to defend the country?

WILKERSON: Excellent point. And what I mean when I say you need to look at the national security budget holistically is just that. We need to rebalance that budget. For example, we need to put a lot more money into soft power. And the dominant element there is the 150 account at State, the international affairs account. We need to hire more foreign service officers. We need to empower them. We need to let them take risks. We need to use them for intelligence gatherers. And their intelligence, by the way, Paul, will be infinitely better than this billion-dollar complex we've created to gather intelligence, which has done nothing but fail catastrophically over the last 30 years.

So we need to shift the balance in that national security set of accounts to favor soft power. And what you do when you do that is you create situations in the world that are not going to require military force. So you reduce the need for the military. I'm not saying you reduce it to zero, but I am saying you can reduce it dramatically if you apply diplomacy, political and economic power, and so forth more adroitly, more smartly, more wisely over the next 25 to 30 years.

JAY: Now, I mean, there's lots of ways you could approach this rationally, either from the point—even if you want to maintain the American empire—I mean, I would argue it'd be a good thing not to, but either way there's a lot more rational approaches that could be taken than the current one, which begs the question, then, how much of military policy and expenditure, military budget, is really the result of lobbying by arms manufacturer, the military-industrial complex. I mean, is it possible to have change? And you've been in on the inside. How big a pressure is that, coming from those places?

WILKERSON: It's enormous. Take the NRA for example. The NRA's not in business to protect the Second Amendment or individual gun owners. It's in business to protect those who sell arms. It's that clear. It's that simple. Anybody who thinks differently is smoking something. By the same token, Lockheed Martin is in business to sell arms. So is Ratheon. So is [groUn]. So you've got enormous influences that will tend to want to keep the military-industrial complex as big as it is, even grow it, expand it, and want to keep the jobs and everything associated with it. So this is not going to be an easy task.

As I was talking at this recent conference, I talked about Norfolk, for example, Norfolk, Virginia, my home state. This is real jobs, this is real economic might to people in Virginia. So if you talk about cutting the complex over at Norfolk and the environs surrounding and you talk about cutting the jobs and so forth, you're going to have two Virginia senators and some representatives and a governor and everybody else in your face.

So this is not going to be easy, but it's time to do it. And it's time to do it not just for the satisfaction of reducing the security budget, but for the benefit of this country. And if you want to maintain an empire, make it a commercial empire, make it an empire of things we do best, arguably (used to be, at least) better than anybody else in the world. The Chinese are giving us some competition. The Japanese did previously. But it's healthy competition, though. Let's make it a commercial empire and let's maintain that empire in terms of commerce and not in terms of killing people, killing people for oil or killing people for human rights. I think both are just as bad as the other.

JAY: Alright. Thanks for joining us, Larry.

WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Paul.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

Fox Paid Sarah Palin $15.85 a Word During Her Three-Year Contract

A 100-word string of Palin proclamations cost as much as an ounce of gold (in the eyes of Fox).

January 31, 2013  |  

Like this article?

Join our email list:

Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.

If a photograph,  such as this one, is worth 1,000 words, then how much are words themselves worth? If you’re a freelance writer these days, a decent rate is about 10 cents per. But if you’re Sarah Palin, each utterance comes in just under $16.

Palin’s $1 million-a-year contract with Fox News just expired, and a professor at the University of Minnesota took the time (probably on a salary of about $16 an hour) to calculate exactly how that money was spent.

According to his calculations, Palin spoke exactly 189,221 words over the course of her three-year tenure at Fox, equaling an average rate of $15.85 per utterance. That means that a 100-word string of Palin proclamations is roughly worth (at least in the eyes of Fox) an ounce of gold.

She appeared on the network television station approximately once a week between 2010 and 2012 to speak these valuable phrases, most often frequenting the shows of Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren.

And while professor Eric Ostermeier didn’t provide us with a complete transcript (thank God), he does give us some nuggets.

Over the three years, Fox spent $158.50 for Palin to say “Right on!” and $1,759.35 for her to say “Amen.” It also spent $729.10 for her to utter the almost swear words of “darn,” “hell,” “damn,” and (most often) “heck!”

The network spent by far the most money paying for Palin’s thoughts on the sitting president: Fox dished out a staggering $24,916.20 (an entire annual salary for millions of working Americans) for her to say the two words “President Obama” over her three-year contract. 

None of this money, however, was able to imbue these words with one iota of intrinsic value--yet another example of the widening gap between a commodity’s market rate and its real value to society. 

Laura Gottesdiener is a freelance journalist and activist in New York City.

Pay Still High at Bailed-Out Companies, Report Says

The report comes from the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the bank bailout law passed at the end of the George W. Bush administration. The watchdog, commonly called Sigtarp, found that 68 out of 69 executives at Ally Financial, the American International Group and General Motors received annual compensation of $1 million or more, with the Treasury’s signoff.

All but one of the top executives at the failed insurer A.I.G. — which required more than $180 billion in emergency taxpayer financing — received pay packages worth more than $2 million. And 16 top executives at the three firms earned combined pay of more than $100 million.

“In 2012, these three TARP companies convinced Treasury to roll back its guidelines by approving multimillion-dollar pay packages, high cash salaries, huge pay raises and removing compensation tied to meeting performance metrics,” Christy Romero, the special inspector general, said in a statement. “Treasury cannot look out for taxpayers’ interests if it continues to rely to a great extent on the pay proposed by companies that have historically pushed back on pay limits.”

The report charges that Treasury has failed to rein in excessive pay at the three firms. It found that Treasury approved all pay raises requested for A.I.G., Ally and General Motors executives last year, with individual compensation increases of $30,000 to $1 million. It also faults the Treasury overseer for allowing pay packages above what comparable executives at other firms receive.

The report also accuses Treasury of failing to follow up earlier recommendations made by the special inspector general. A report issued a year ago made many similar criticisms, arguing that the Treasury officials “could not effectively rein in excessive compensation” because the most “important goal was to get the companies to repay” the government.

“Treasury made no meaningful reform to its processes,” it said in this year’s report. “Lacking criteria and an effective decision-making process, Treasury risks continuing to award executives of bailed-out companies excessive cash compensation without good cause.”

In a response letter included in the report, Patricia Geoghegan, acting special master for TARP executive compensation, disputed several of its assertions. For one, the compensation packages for A.I.G. and General Motors executives were comparable to those received by executives at other firms, Treasury said. Pay packages at Ally were higher than the median because of “unique circumstances,” it said.

Treasury also noted that the Obama administration had cut pay for executives at bailed-out firms and required that the companies pay top employees with more stock and less cash. Treasury “continues to fulfill its regulatory requirements,” the letter said. It has “limited executive compensation while at the same time keeping compensation at levels that enable the ‘exceptional assistance’ recipients to remain competitive and repay Tarp assistance.”

The Treasury is selling off its remaining shares of General Motors. In December, Treasury sold its final shares in A.I.G., bringing its and the Federal Reserve’s total profit on its investment in the company to nearly $23 billion.

Nonprofit Spends Big on Politics Despite IRS Limitation: American Future Fund Has Conservative Roots

Last fall, a cadre of wealthy business executives and conservative groups tried to sell California voters on new campaign finance reforms.

Couched in lofty rhetoric about the importance of cutting off money from special interests to politicians and other regulations favored by reformers, their proposal sought to ban the practice of using payroll deductions for political expenditures — a popular method of union fundraising.

Once alerted to the true nature of Proposition 32, the unions and political left rose up against it.

An innocuously named nonprofit, the Iowa-based American Future Fund, proved to be one of the biggest backers of the initiative, sinking more than $4 million into the ballot measure that voters ultimately rejected.

As a “social welfare” organization, the American Future Fund is not required to publicly disclose its donors. But to maintain its tax-exempt status under Sec. 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code, influencing elections cannot be its primary purpose.

The American Future Fund’s investment in California was part of a nationwide, political advertising spree in 2012 that exceeded $29 million, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of state and federal records.

That amount included more than $19 million on efforts designed to oust President Barack Obama, as well as millions more to oppose Democratic candidates for Congress and even two state attorneys general. Now the group is funding adsopposing Obama’s nomination of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska for defense secretary.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens Uniteddecision in 2010, nonprofits such as the American Future Fund have played a more prominent role in electoral contests — all while giving their supporters the ability to keep their identities hidden. During the 2010 midterm elections, politically active nonprofits outspent super PACs, which exist to fund political advertisements, by a 3-to-2 margin.

The American Future Fund ranked third among “social welfare” nonprofits in spending in the 2012 federal election,according to the Center for Responsive Politics, trailing only the Karl Rove-affiliated Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

There are also Democratic-aligned nonprofits, but their spending was well below that of their conservative counterparts. The top left-leaning nonprofit was the League of Conservation Voters, which reported spending about $11 million in the 2012 election opposing or supporting candidates.

The American Future Fund’s spending “raises some serious questions” and “evades any form of meaningful disclosure,” said Adam Rappaport, senior counsel with watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Numerous officials with the American Future Fund did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Advocating for ‘free-market ideas’

The American Future Fund’s mission is to “educate and advocate for conservative and free-market ideas,” according to its annual filing with the Internal Revenue Service.

Despite asserting that it isn’t primarily focused on elections, the nonprofit’s DNA is decidedly political.

Conservative political operative Nick Ryan, a longtime adviser to former GOP Rep. Jim Nussle of Iowa, founded it in 2007. Over the years, the group has paid Ryan’s firm, Concordia Enterprises, hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for consulting services.

In 2010, the New York Times reported that Iowa businessman Bruce Rastetter provided an unspecified amount of “seed money” for the organization. Ryan once represented four of Rastetter’s companies as a lobbyist, including Hawkeye Energy Holdings, one of the country’s largest ethanol producers.

The nonprofit’s first president was Nicole Schlinger, the former finance director of Iowa’s Republican Party. Its current president is veteran Republican state Sen. Sandra Greiner, who served for 14 years as the Iowa chairwoman of the pro-business American Legislative Exchange Council.

Ryan and Greiner did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2008, when the American Future Fund was seeking — and ultimately garnered — tax-exempt status from the IRS, it pledged to abstain from electoral politics, saying it would spend 70 percent of its time doing work to “educate the public on policy issues” and 30 percent engaging in efforts to “influence legislation through grassroots advocacy.”

When asked on its application if the group had any plans to spend money to “influence the selection, nomination, election or appointment” of anyone seeking public office, it answered “no.” It also vowed to stay out of the presidential race.

When the IRS subsequently inquired why the group’s advertisements “appear to be more partisan than nonpartisan,” the group’s attorney, Karen Blackistone, wrote that the efforts were “strictly issued-based and nonpartisan.”

The group takes a position on issues and encourages the public to contact their representative, she wrote in a 2008 response to the IRS.

“AFF’s advertisements have never commented on a candidate’s character, qualifications or fitness for office,” she stated.

Big money tied to post office box

The American Future Fund has raised more than $60 million, with spikes in contributions coming in election years.

Much of that money has come from another conservative “social welfare” nonprofit that doesn’t disclose its donors by name — the Arizona-based Center to Protect Patient Rights.

The nonprofit has no website and lists its address as a post office box in Phoenix. It was launched in 2009 by Republican operative Sean Noble, who has extensive ties to the vast political network underwritten by the Koch brothers.

Noble, a former chief of staff for former Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

For three years running, Noble’s organization has reported making substantial grants to the American Future Fund for “general support,” according to IRS filings. The nonprofit contributed more than $14 million to the American Future Fund between 2009 and 2011, or 51 percent of funds the group raised over the three-year period.

The Center to Protect Patient Rights has also given millions of dollars to a network of conservative groups, including the Koch-backed nonprofit Americans for Prosperity, as was first reported by the Center for Responsive Politics.

In addition to Noble, there is another Koch connection.

In 2008, Trent Sebits, the former manager of public and government affairs for the Kochs’ Wichita-based refining giant, Koch Industries, registered with the state of Kansas to lobby on behalf of the American Future Fund and Americans for Prosperity. Sebits did not respond to a request for comment.

The American Justice Partnership, another “social welfare” nonprofit, gave $50,000 to the American Future Fund in 2011 and $2.4 million in 2010, according to IRS filings. The group supports free enterprise and is often at odds with trial lawyers.

Dan Pero, its president, said in an emailed statement that the organization supported the American Future Fund to help “promote free enterprise and improve the fairness and predictability of the legal environment.”

Like super PACs, “social welfare” nonprofits are allowed to accept unlimited donations from individuals, corporations, unions and other organizations. The only funders whose names they are required to publicly disclose are those that make contributions earmarked for political purposes.

That’s as it should be, according to attorney Dan Backer, who is not affiliated the American Future Fund but does work with other conservative groups.

“A nonprofit makes its decisions by a board or other management structure, which is distinct from its donors,” Backer said.

Increasingly political

In 2010, the American Future Fund became far more politically active, reporting $8.6 million in political expenditures as well as millions more for “media services,” “telecommunications” and “mail service/production.” It told the Federal Election Commission that it spent $9.1 million on political advertisements.

Marcus Owens, former chief of the IRS’s nonprofits division, said it is “difficult to conjure up a situation where a particular expenditure would be reportable to the FEC but would not constitute political campaign intervention under tax law.”

Nevertheless, Owens said the organization could make a “straight-faced argument” that its orientation had simply changed over time to become more overtly political.

Of the $25 million that the American Future Fund reported spending to the FEC last year, more than 90 percent fueled ads that urged voters to support or reject candidates.

The group also sought the FEC’s advice on whether mentioning the White House or “the administration” in negative ads ahead of Election Day would be seen as referring to a “clearly identified candidate for federal office.”

Such a designation would have required the group to disclose information about its donors. (The commission deadlocked, 3-3, in a vote along party lines.)

In addition to the presidential race, the American Future Fund spent money in 20 congressional elections in 2012, including California’s 26th Congressional District, where it spent $500,000 attacking Democrat Julia Brownley, who, as a state legislator, had authored legislation to bolster disclosure for political advertisements.

She won anyway, but told the Center for Public Integrity that she is “deeply concerned” about the activities of non-disclosing groups in the wake of Citizens United and hopes to “take immediate action” to strengthen federal disclosure laws.

The American Future Fund also spent more than $542,000 to aid West Virginia Republican Patrick Morrisey in his successful quest to win the race for attorney general, records indicate, and more than $620,000 in a failed effort to sink Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat.

Complaints about the American Future Fund’s political activities have followed it since its creation.

In 2008, the Democratic Party in Minnesota contended that the group needed to register as a political committee after paying for ads that praised then-U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn. The FEC disagreed.

Two years later, in October 2010, consumer group Public Citizen and two other organizations alleged that the American Future Fund’s “huge expenditures” to aid candidates in the midterm election should have triggered requirements that the group register as a political committee and disclose its donors. That complaint is still being considered by the FEC, which often takes years to fully resolve such matters.

CREW, the watchdog organization, filed a complaint against the American Future Fund with the IRS in February 2011 that challenged whether its primary purpose was something other than influencing elections. The group has dismissed the complaint as “baseless” and contends that CREW “only targets government officials and organizations who have a differing or conservative point of view.

Carbon Capture Technologies that Could Help Fight Climate Change

Don’t let the forces of regression dominate the media in 2013 - click here to support brave, independent reporting today by making a contribution to Truthout.

In the wake of the hottest and driest summer in memory throughout much of North America, and Super-storm Sandy that flooded cities and ravaged large swaths of the Mid-Atlantic coast, many now recognize that the climate change isn’t just real, but that it is already at our doorstep.

As this realization continues to sink in, the political will may ripen to take more aggressive action to put a brake CO2 emissions. Already, President Obama, who had remained mostly silent on the issue during his reelection campaign, has made it clear that tackling climate change will be among his top second-term priorities.

But the fact remains that even if the entire world switched magically to 100 percent solar and other non-polluting power sources tomorrow, it’s too late to  roll back some of the impacts of climate change.  The current level of carbon dioxide in the air is already well beyond what scientists regard as the safe threshold. If we remain on our present course, scientists say, CO2 levels will continue to rise — sharply— for years to come.

Climatologists tell us that the climate change train has long since left the station, but perhaps it is not yet too late to prevent it from accelerating beyond our capacity to cope. There are technologies now being developed which could cut the rate of increase of greenhouse gases, even potentially return Earth’s atmosphere to preindustrial levels of CO2. Better yet, the price tag for implementing them may not be all that great — especially when compared to the mounting costs of continuing down our present course. Best of all, say two scientists who are making these astonishing claims, we don’t have to cut out fossil fuels entirely to accomplish it.

I met with Dr Klaus Lackner and Allen Wright at Columbia University’s Earth Institute where they are working on a new “carbon capture” project which involves literally sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The duo conduct their research in a room less than half the size of most high school chemistry labs, but teeming with vials, beakers, meters, gas canisters and other devices unnameable by a social science major like myself.

One of the tables held an array of cream-colored plastic doodads that looked  like miniature shag rugs, scrub brushes and cylindrical Christmas ornaments. A smiling Lackner handed me an object shaped like the tuft of needles at the end of a pine branch. Only instead of needles, they were thin streamers impregnated with sodium carbonate which chemically “mops up” CO2 from the air.

What I was holding in the palm of my hand was a miniature prototype for an “artificial tree.” Real trees, as we learn in biology class, breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. The artificial tree developed by Lackner and Wright will also stand passively in the wind like a tree. But it will remove CO2 from the air faster and at far higher levels than natural photosynthesis can accomplish. The team envisions creating “forests” of these carbon-capturing trees to remove carbon from the atmosphere. The CO2 can then be released by a gentle flow of water, either to be used industrially or sequestered safely underground.

These units, Lackner says, will be roughly the size and production cost of a car, and collect about 1 ton a day of carbon from the air — the equivalent of the greenhouse gases produced by 36 motor vehicles in a day. Ten million of these artificial trees, he estimates, would sop up 12 percent of the CO2 that humans add to the atmosphere each year.

There are already methods for scrubbing carbon dioxide emitted by stationary sources like power plant smokestacks, although this technology remains expensive and little used. Power plants account for 41 percent of manmade carbon emissions, much of the rest is produced by mobile sources — cars, trucks and airplanes. Lackner’s technology is one of the first that will have the capacity to remove vehicular carbon emissions from the air.

His approach has little in common with controversial geo-engineering schemes to cool the earth, such as injecting vast quantities of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere to deflect solar radiation, says Lackner. Geo-engineering, he says, “actively interferes with the dynamics of a system which you do not understand. ... It is an emergency standby which may get us through a rough decade or two, but it’s something that I’m hoping we won’t ever need to try.”

Carbon capture, by contrast, is simply cleaning up after ourselves. “We are already putting carbon dioxide into the system,” Lackner argues. “All that I am really saying is take it back.”

To environmentalists who worry that even talk of technological fixes for global warming will discourage us from the hard work of actually cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, he responds that it is indeed crucial to shift toward clean alternative energies. But we won’t get there overnight. Lackner cited the recent International Energy Agency report which says that by 2020 the US will produce more petroleum than Saudi Arabia. In the face of this impending glut of cheap oil, he said, it is unrealistic to think that we won’t use at least some of it.

“Fossil fuels are not going to go away,” Lackner told me. “When they criticize carbon capture, it is a bit like the fiscal cliff, they are basically saying we don’t want you to have a solution and we’d rather go over the cliff. They are telling me to fight the problem with one hand tied behind my back. ... We really need all of the pieces. We will certainly need technologies to compensate for the fossil fuels that we are likely to use.”

Lackner credits his daughter, Claire, with inspiring his current line of research. As an eighth grader, Claire successfully used an aquarium pump and a solution of sodium hydroxide to take carbon dioxide out of the air, winning a first prize in the science fair.

The principle is not new. Similar technologies have been used in the enclosed spaces of submarines and space shuttles to scrub the air of excess CO2. What is novel in Lackner and Wright’s approach is mainly their outsized ambition, and the knotty technological problems which implementing it globally would entail. They are still trying to find a cost-effective way to further purify the CO2 after it comes off the plastic leaves, and to securely bury the gas in underground or below the ocean floor.

Their biggest challenge, however, is not technical but economic: How to manufacture and market the artificial trees cheaply enough and in sufficient quantities to begin to make a real dent on global warming. In order for this to happen, there needs to be equal economic incentives for taking CO2 out of the atmosphere as there currently are for putting it in through the combustion of fossil fuels.

One commercial application that Kilimanjaro Energy, a San Francisco-based startup founded by the Columbia team to exploit their new technology, is already exploring selling units to greenhouse owners whose plant growth would be stimulated by high levels of CO2. But even if this succeeds, the greenhouse market would be relatively small.

For carbon capture to scale up to the point where it will be meaningful, Lackner says, government will have to step in and create viable mechanisms for paying for it. He envisions a variant on the carbon-trading idea, where energy companies would be required to purchase a “certificate of sequestration” for every ton of fossil fuel they extracted. which would pay for the equivalent in CO2remediation. “If you pump it out of the ground,” Lackner says, “you will need to take it out of the air.”

The advantage of this approach is that all green technologies like solar, wind, and carbon capture would compete on a level playing field to create carbon remediation at the lowest possible cost. The best methods would be insured a healthy profit that would fund further research and development to make them even cheaper and more efficient.

But are there ways to make carbon capture profitable that don’t depend on prior government action?

Graciela Chichilnisky thinks so. The Columbia mathematical economist was the original architect of the carbon market idea, a cornerstone of the Kyoto protocol, which became international law in 2005. She was also the lead author of the Nobel Prize winning 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I met her at the brownstone offices of Global Thermostat, a company that she helped set up with Peter Eisenberger, a physicist at Columbia who founded the Earth Institute.

Chichilnisky told me that carbon capture has to be made into a moneymaking proposition in its own right. This is possible, she says, because captured CO2 can be sold to industries for a variety of commercial uses, including most spectacularly reconversion into relatively clean-burning carbon-based fuels, either by feeding it to oil-extruding algae, or by combining it with the hydrogen from water by electrolysis to make methanol. Chichilnisky foresees the day when oil will be manufactured in gas stations rather than transported from well-to-refinery-to-consumer as it is now.  

At the moment, synthesizing fuels from CO2 would be a “marginally profitable” enterprise, Chichilnisky says, but she predicts that further research and development will continue to cut costs and eventually make them fully competitive with geological extraction. Other uses like carbonating beverages, synthesizing industrial-grade formic acid, producing dry ice, and a process calledenhanced oil recovery (EOR) in which carbon dioxide is pumped into old oil wells as a solvent to scour lingering hard-to-get oil from the ground, are already up to speed.

EOR currently boosts US oil output by 10 percent a year. Chichilnisky predicts that the EOR market will rise to over $800 billion over the course of the next decade, creating a hugely enhanced demand for captured CO2. The US government estimates that state-of-the-art EOR with carbon dioxide could add 89 billion barrels of oil to the nation’s recoverable oil resources. That’s more than four times the country’s proven reserves.

With demand for CO2, even at present levels far outstripping supply, and companies willing to pay $100 a ton to get a hold of it, the business prospects for carbon capture look bright.

Some companies have already begun investing in this carbon capture technology.  The California-based Global Thermostat, for instance, has set up a demonstration carbon capture plant at the Stamford Research Institute in Menlo Park. The honeycomb structure that stands over 30 feet tall and captures over 2 tons of a day from power plant flue air which is pushed through it with giant fans. The system requires relatively low levels of heat to release the captured CO2 from the sorbent, which it chemically bonds with. This is a great advantage, according to Chichilnisky, because it means that the units can be located in places like power plants, aluminum smelters and other industrial facilities that produce large amounts of residual process-heat.

A power plant equipped with a carbon capture unit could potentially become “carbon negative,” she says. That is to say, it could take more than twice the carbon out of the air that it puts in using only the heat that the plant itself creates. Not only would it take the CO2 out of the flue gases in the plant’s smokestack, but it would remove the gas from the ambient air as well. “This reverses the paradigm that links fossil-fuel power production with carbon emissions,” Chichilnisky says. And because of the efficiency of the process that uses waste energy, the cost of CO2 production could be as low as $10 to $20 a ton, she estimates. (Compare this to what the big beverage manufacturers like Coca Cola and Pepsi currently pay — about $200 a ton for the fizzy gas.)

Another place where the carbon capture units might be a boon is on oilfields that employ EOR. Producing the needed CO2 in situ would eliminate the high cost of transporting the gas via pipeline.

Professor Chichilnisky prophecies that this evolving technology is primed to “turn the world economy on its head,” making cleaning the air more profitable than fouling it.

The challenge now has to do with figuring out how to ramp up carbon capture to levels where it would begin to put a brake on human-created climate change. “We will need to build thousands of such plants each one capturing millions of tons of CO2 per year,” Chichilnisky says. “We have to accelerate the technology because this is the moment of truth, possibly the moment-of-no-return if we don’t act now.”

While she sees market forces driving much of the growth of carbon capture, Chichilnisky says that it must be “enhanced, facilitated, speeded up by the carbon market” in which industries are required to pay for their carbon emissions by funding equivalent efforts dedicated to remediation. The carrot of profits from innovative carbon capture technologies together with the stick of penalties for fouling the air will convince companies that they need to clean up their act.

How long will this take? Ten to 20 years minimum, says Chichilnisky. “Our solution is not going to be here tomorrow morning,” she says. “But we expect to succeed beautifully because the carbon market is spreading, and even before you apply the carbon market, our technology is profitable, and it works. ... And all of the carbon capture technology that we are talking about is in the US. It is almost a contradiction, the US politically is resistant to change, my God, there are people who don’t even believe in evolution. But the big scientists are here, and the most advanced innovation is here. We are in the right place at the right time and we just have to make it happen.”

The Hagel Hearings: The Last Best Chance for the Truth About a Lost War...

Don’t let the forces of regression dominate the media in 2013 - click here to support brave, independent reporting today by making a contribution to Truthout.

He’s been battered by big-money conservative groups looking to derail his bid for secretary of defense.  Critics say he wants to end America’s nuclear program.  They claim he’s anti-Israel and soft on Iran.  So you can expect intense questioning -- if only for theatrical effect -- about all of the above (and undoubtedly then some) as Chuck Hagel faces his Senate confirmation hearings today.  

You can be sure of one other thing: Hagel’s military service in Vietnam will be mentioned -- and praised. It’s likely, however, to be in a separate and distinct category, unrelated to the pointed questions about current issues like defense priorities, his beliefs on the use of force abroad, or the Defense Department’s role in counterterrorism operations.  You can also be sure of this: no senator will ask Chuck Hagel about his presence during the machine-gunning of an orphanage in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta or the lessons he might have drawn from that incident.

Nor is any senator apt to ask what Hagel might do if allegations about similar acts by American troops emerge in Afghanistan or elsewhere.  Nor will some senator question him on the possible parallels between the CIA-run Phoenix Program, a joint U.S.-Vietnamese venture focused on identifying and killing civilians associated with South Vietnam’s revolutionary shadow government, and the CIA’s current targeted-killing-by-drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal borderlands.  Nor, for that matter, is he likely to be asked about the lessons he learned fighting a war in a foreign land among a civilian population where innocents and enemies were often hard to tell apart.  If, however, Hagel’s military experience is to be touted as a key qualification for his becoming secretary of defense, shouldn’t the American people have some idea of just what that experience was really like and how it shaped his thinking in regard to today’s wars?

Chuck Hagel on Murder in Vietnam

"In Chuck Hagel our troops see a decorated combat veteran of character and strength -- they see him as one of their own," President Obama said as he nominated the former Republican senator from Nebraska to become the first former enlisted service member and first Vietnam veteran to serve as secretary of defense.  He went on to call him “the leader that our troops deserve.”

Chuck Hagel and his younger brother, Tom, fought together in Vietnam in 1968. The two are believed to be the only brothers to have served in the same infantry squad in that war and even more remarkably, each ended up saving the other's life.  “With Chuck, our troops will always know, just as Sergeant Hagel was there for his own brother, Secretary Hagel will be there for you,” the president said. 

Largely unnoted was the falling out the brothers had over the conflict.  After returning home, Tom began protesting the war, while Chuck defended it.  Eventually, the Hagel brothers reconciled and even returned to Vietnam together in 1999.  Years before, however, the two sat down with journalist and historian Myra MacPherson and talked about the war.  Although their interpretations of what they had been through differed, it’s hard not to come away with the sense that both witnessed U.S. atrocities, and that Chuck Hagel’s vision of the war is far more brutal than most Americans imagine.  That his experience of Vietnam would include such incidents should hardly be surprising, especially given the fact that Hagel served in the 9th Infantry Division under one of the most notorious U.S. commanders, Julian Ewell, known more colorfully as “the Butcher of the Delta.”

The Hagel brothers, MacPherson recounts in her moving and important history Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation, argued over whether American troops were “murdering” people.  Chuck disagreed at first, pointing instead to the depredations of Vietnamese revolutionary forces.  Tom reminded his brother of the CIA’s Phoenix Program which, with an estimated body count of more than 20,000 Vietnamese, too often turned murderous and was no less regularly used by corrupt Vietnamese government officials to settle personal grudges.  “There was some of that,” Chuck finally granted.

Tom then raised an example that hit closer to home -- the time, after an enemy attack, when a sergeant from their unit took out his frustrations on a nearby orphanage.  “Remember the orphanage, Chuck… That sergeant was so drunk and so pissed off that he crawled up on that track [armored personnel carrier] and opened up on that orphanage with a fifty-caliber machine gun,” Tom said.

When Chuck started to object, MacPherson writes, his brother was insistent.  “Chuck, you were there!  Down at the bottom of the sandhill.”  Skeptically, Chuck asked his brother if he was saying the sergeant had “slaughtered children in the orphanage.”  Tom granted that he didn’t know for sure, “because none of us went in to check.”  Chuck responded, “In any war you can take any isolated incident…”

But the war Tom Hagel detailed to MacPherson wasn’t one punctuated by a few isolated “incidents.”  He would talk about officers ordering the mutilation of enemy dead and soldiers shooting up and burning down a village, about how helicopter gunships and napalm decimated large areas of the countryside, about the lethality of indiscriminate weapons fire and about coming upon the bodies of women and children when firefights were over.  He also recounted, in detail, a July 1968 assault on a “hardcore” enemy village in which their unit took part.  After the battle had ended, he said, a lieutenant shot and killed a civilian in cold blood.  “We’re collecting all the NVA [North Vietnamese Army] bodies and this woman walks out of a hootch.  He just shot her dead,” Tom recalled.

The Hagel Hearings: America’s Last Best Chance for the Truth

Recently, MacPherson wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in support of Chuck Hagel’s bid to serve as Secretary of Defense: “His experience has taught him the physical and mental toll of combat.  He would surely think twice before sending young men and women into unnecessary, stupid, or unwinnable conflicts... One thing I know: Chuck Hagel will stand up to whatever is thrown at him.” 

Tom Hagel has recently talked about his brother in similarly glowing terms.  “He’s going to do a great job, he’ll be totally committed to it,” he told Politico. “I think he will bring special sensitivity for enlisted personnel to the job, because, of course, of his experiences as an enlisted person in Nam.”    

While he ultimately voted to authorize the war in Iraq -- despite grave misgivings -- there is a perception that, in the future, Hagel would be reticent to plunge the United States into yet more reckless wars and a strong belief exists among his supporters that he will stand up for America’s sons and daughters in uniform.  On one subject, however, Hagel’s Vietnam experience shows him in a lesser light: sensitivity to the plight of the men and women who live in America’s war zones.  In this area, his seeming unwillingness to face up to, no less tell the whole truth about, the Vietnam War he saw should raise serious questions.  Unfortunately, it’s a blind spot not just for him, but for official Washington generally, and probably much of the country as well. 

It’s worth noting that the Hagel brothers left Vietnam just as their commanding general, Julian Ewell, launched a six-month operation in the Mekong Delta code-named Speedy Express.  One whistleblowing veteran who served in that operation told the Army’s top generals that Ewell’s use of heavy firepower on the countryside resulted in a “My Lai each month” (a reference, of course, to the one massacre most Americans know about, in which U.S. troops slaughtered more than 500 civilians, most of them women, children, and elderly men).  That veteran’s shocking allegations were kept secret and a nascent inquiry into them was suppressed by the Pentagon.

A later Newsweek investigation would conclude that as many as 5,000 civilians were killed during Speedy Express.  A secret internal military report, commissioned after Newsweek published its account, suggested that the magazine had offered a low-end estimate.  The document, kept secret and then buried for decades, concluded:

“While there appears to be no means of determining the precise number of civilian casualties incurred by US forces during Operation Speedy Express, it would appear that the extent of these casualties was in fact substantial, and that a fairly solid case can be constructed to show that civilian casualties may have amounted to several thousand (between 5,000 and 7,000).”

During the war, efforts by U.S. senators to look into Speedy Express were thwarted by Pentagon officials.  More than four decades later, no senator is ever going to launch an investigation into what actually happened or the Pentagon cover-up that kept the American people in the dark for decades.  Theoretically, the Hagel hearings do offer the Senate a belated chance to ask a few pertinent questions about the Vietnam War and the real lessons it holds for today’s era of continuous conflict and for the civilians in distant lands who suffer from it.  But any such hope is, we know, sure to die a quick death in that Senate hearing room.

Chuck Hagel’s views on the Vietnam War underwent a fundamental shift following the release of audio tapes of President Lyndon Johnson admitting, in 1964, that the war was unwinnable.  That "cold political calculation" caused Hagel to vow that he would "never, ever remain silent when that kind of thinking put more American lives at risk in any conflict." 

But what about lives other than those of Americans?  What about children in shot-up orphanages or women who survive a murderous crossfire only to be gunned down in cold blood?  Chuck Hagel may well be, as Mr. Obama contends, “the leader that our troops deserve.”  But don’t the American people deserve a little honesty from that leader about the war that shaped him?  In these few days, the senators considering his nomination have an opportunity, perhaps the last one available, to get some answers about a war whose realities, never quite faced here, continue to dog us so many decades later.  It’s a shame that they are sure to pass it up in favor of the usual political theater.

Frontrunning: January 31

  • Risky Student Debt Is Starting to Sour (WSJ)
  • Political scandal in Spain as PP secret accounts revealed (El Pais)
  • New York Times claims Chinese hackers hijacked its systems (NYT)
  • Spain's Rajoy, ruling party deny secret payment scheme (Reuters)
  • Iran crude oil exports rise to highest since EU sanctions (Reuters)
  • BlackBerry 10’s Debut Fizzles as U.S. Buyers Left Waiting (BBG)
  • Costs drag Deutsche Bank to €2.2bn loss  (FT)
  • And the gaming of RWA continues - Deutsche Bank Beats Capital Goal as Jain Shrugs Off Loss (BBG)
  • More fun out of London - Barclays, RBS May Pay Billions Over Improper Derivatives Sales (BBG)
  • Hagel to face grilling by Senate panel on Mideast, budget (Reuters)

Overnight Media Digest

WSJ

* Israel bombed a suspected shipment of anti-aircraft missiles in Syria on Wednesday, according to regional and U.S. officials, in its most ambitious strike inside its neighbor's territory in nearly two chaotic years of civil war there.

* Research in Motion Ltd executives excused more than a year of delays by saying they wanted the next BlackBerrys to be just right. But the smartphones that took more than two years to develop won't be available for the key U.S. market until mid-March, when carriers are expected to complete their tests.

* The U.S. economy shrank for the first time in more than three years in the fourth quarter, underscoring the halting nature of the recovery. But the strength of consumer spending and business investment suggested that the economy will grow, albeit slowly, this year.

* The U.S. Treasury for the first time auctioned holdings in U.S. banks that had missed a series of dividend payments, allowing the government to close out financial-crisis era investments only at steep discounts.

* Facebook reported a 40 percent fourth-quarter revenue jump as it ramped up its mobile business and offered new tools to advertisers, but the firm's shares slipped in after-hours trading.

* Boeing Co executives said it was business as usual despite the crisis surrounding its 787 Dreamliner, though airlines worldwide made preparations for an extended grounding of the aircraft.

* Illinois took the rare step Wednesday of postponing a bond auction just hours before it was expected to launch, as concerns grew among investors over the state's deep pension hole.

FT

FLEE 'SAFE' SOVEREIGN DEBT, SAYS HASENSTAB - The man who oversees 175 billion dollars in bonds for Californian asset manager, Franklin Templeton, says its time to get out of government debt now before it is too late.

UNION REQUESTS IAG MEETING ON IBERIA - The chief executive of International Airlines Group, Willie Walsh will reject a request from a pilots' union to discuss the restructuring of Iberia.

MPS ATTACK BARCLAYS OVER BONUS CULTURE - The parliamentary commission on banking standards accused Barclays of empty rhetoric, tearing into the bank's remuneration committee.

FACEBOOK MOBILE AD GROWTH DRIVES SALES - An aggressive advertising drive by the Facebook during the U.S. presidential elections and shopping season saw the website post its first quarterly revenue growth since going public.

DEUTSCHE BANK CHIEFS MAINTAIN COURSE - To the dismay of analysts and some investors, Deutsche Bank's Anshu Jain and Jurgen Fitschen are firmly rejecting the need for the bank to raise more capital.

RIMLESS BLACKBERRY HOPES TO REGAIN TOUCH - The struggling handset maker Blackberry is taking a gamble by launching two touchscreen smartphones in a direct challenge to Apple and Samsung.

ÇUKUROVA WINS RIGHT TO CONTROL TURKCELL - A court decision by the UK Privy Council will allow one of Turkey's richest men, Mehmet Karamehmet, the chance to regain control of the country's biggest mobile phone operator, Turkcell.

NYT

* For the last four months, Chinese hackers have persistently attacked The New York Times, infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees.

* Research in Motion Ltd introduced a new operating system and a new generation of phones, along with a new corporate name, with the hope of restoring its products' status as a symbol of executive cool.

* The U.S. government played a role in slowing the economic recovery as cuts in military spending and other factors overwhelmed the Federal Reserve's expanded campaign to spur growth.

* Despite two serious safety failures and new questions about the reliability of its lithium-ion batteries, Boeing Co's chief executive said Wednesday that he saw no reason to retreat from using the new but volatile technology on its 787 jets.

* Chrysler, the smallest of the American automakers, on Wednesday reported a big increase in 2012 earnings that helped its Italian parent company, Fiat SpA, become profitable for the year as well.

* Time Inc joined the many news organizations trying to tighten their belts in a tough advertising climate by announcing layoffs and offering employees buyout packages on Wednesday.

* In a legal dispute that had been closely watched by multinational companies and environmental organizations, a Dutch court dismissed most of the claims brought by Nigerian farmers seeking to hold Royal Dutch Shell accountable for damage by oil spilled from its pipelines.

China

CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL

-- Livzon Pharmaceutical Group Inc said in a statement it will become the third company to move its dollar-denominated B shares to the Hong Kong H-share market.

-- Metallurgical Corporation of China Ltd said it expected to book a loss of 7.2 billion yuan ($1.16 billion) in 2012.

21st CENTURY BUSINESS HERALD

-- Galaxy Securities could give up its plan for a dual listing of yuan-denominated shares in Shanghai and Hong Kong, but it still expects to list H-shares in May.

CHINA DAILY (www.chinadaily.com.cn)

-- The State Council, China's cabinet, has approved an energy consumption target as part of efforts to correct overuse and foster greener growth. The government aims to keep total energy consumption below 4 billion metric tonnes of standard coal equivalent by 2015, with electricity consumption below 6.15 trillion kwh.

-- Domestic and foreign inbound mergers and acquisition deals by strategic investors fell to a five-year low last year, but activity will rebound in 2013, a report by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers said.

Corp Fin

* Germany plans a modest reform of its banking sector that would put a cap on risky activities but not lead to the breakup of banks or significantly impair big institutions like flagship lender Deutsche Bank, according to a draft law seen by Reuters.

* Prosecutors are investigating the former management of Italy's troubled Monte dei Paschi bank for bribery and fraud, judicial sources said on Wednesday, as pressure grew on the Bank of Italy and bourse watchdog Consob.

* Endo Health Solutions Inc has held talks in recent weeks with drugmakers potentially interested in buying the maker of pain relief medication, people familiar with the matter said.

* Russian state technology firm Rusnano is planning to sell through a private placing of 10 percent of its shares between March and June, its chief executive Anatoly Chubais said in an interview with the Interfax news agency.

* Quintiles Transnational Corp, the largest provider of testing services to drugmakers, has chosen Morgan Stanley, Barclays Plc and JPMorgan Chase & Co as joint bookrunners for a planned initial public offering, people familiar with the matter said.

* Germany's second-biggest lender Commerzbank by 2015 plans to shed half of the workforce at its mortgage unit Hypothekenbank Frankfurt, formerly known as Eurohypo, according to an internal paper obtained by Reuters

Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot

ANALYST RESEARCH

Upgrades

Arthur J. Gallagher (AJG) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Arthur J. Gallagher (AJG) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette
AudioCodes (AUDC) upgraded to Outperform from Perform at Oppenheimer
Citrix Systems (CTXS) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Core Laboratories (CLB) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at FBR Capital
MB Financial (MBFI) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette
Vale (VALE) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at BofA/Merrill

Downgrades

Comerica (CMA) downgraded to Underperform from Market Perform at Bernstein
Endo Health (ENDP) downgraded to Perform from Outperform at Oppenheimer
Facebook (FB) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Stifel Nicolaus
Facebook (FB) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital
Facebook (FB) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Fusion-io (FIO) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse
Fusion-io (FIO) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan
Fusion-io (FIO) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at Piper Jaffray
KeyCorp (KEY) downgraded to Underperform from Market Perform at Bernstein
Netgear (NTGR) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Barclays
Regions Financial (RF) downgraded to Underperform from Market Perform at Bernstein
Seagate (STX) downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Barclays
Velti (VELT) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
Zions Bancorp (ZION) downgraded to Underperform from Market Perform at Bernstein

Initiations

Cubist (CBST) initiated with a Buy at Janney Capital
Depomed (DEPO) initiated with a Buy at Janney Capital
Forest Labs (FRX) initiated with a Buy at Janney Capital
NPS Pharmaceuticals (NPSP) initiated with a Buy at Janney Capital
Salix (SLXP) initiated with a Buy at Janney Capital
Santarus (SNTS) initiated with an Outperform at Leerink

HOT STOCKS

Apollo (APO), Metropoulos acquired majority of Hostess snack cake business for $410M
Annaly Capital (NLY) to acquire CreXus (CXS) for $872M
ACI Worldwide (ACIW) acquired Online Resources (ORCC) for $3.85 per share or $263M in cash
Facebook (FB) said mobile driving greater engagement
Said search could be “meaningful” business in the future
Said more clients using the site for “new launches”
Capital Southwest (CSWC) sold Heelys for $2.25 per share to Sequential Brands
Las Vegas Sands (LVS) said U.S. market saturated or near saturated
Cabot (CBT) remains cautious in near-term, cited mixed results across portfolio
Lucas Energy (LEI) cut staff by 40%, to cut 2013 expenses by 40% vs. 2012
Cardinal Health (CAH) reorganizing medical segment organization
AstraZeneca (AZN) said no share repurchases will take place in 2013

EARNINGS

Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Dunkin' Brands (DNKN), Time Warner Cable (TWC), Whirlpool (WHR), AstraZeneca (AZN), ConocoPhillips (COP), Ameriprise (AMP), Silicon Graphics (SGI), Quantum (QTM),  Owens-Illinois (OI), Facebook (FB), Qualcomm (QCOM), Electronic Arts (EA)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Destination Maternity (DEST), Aetna (AET), Regis (RGS), Ball Corp. (BLL), Murphy Oil (MUR), Cabot (CBT), Las Vegas Sands (LVS)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Callaway Golf (ELY), Knight Transportation (KNX)

NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES

  • Investors in Chesapeake Energy (CHK) cheered when it announced that CEO Aubrey McClendon will leave, but its problems won’t end there. Chesapeake cannot count on rising natural prices to help bail it out, and the company still needs to sell at least $4B in assets in 2013 to keep afloat, the Wall Street Journal reports
  • The yen's recent drop is giving hard-hit corporate Japan its biggest break in years, raising hopes of a long-awaited earnings recovery. Daiwa Securities estimates that profit growth at the top 200 Japanese companies will nearly double to 13% for the fiscal year through March, reversing a 16% decline in the previous year, assuming exchange rates remain roughly at current levels for two months, the Wall Street Journal reports
  • Glencore (GLNCY) is becoming a Russian oil trade leader from an outsider by mending fences in just one year with Rosneft, and is extending its grip to a sector where it played second fiddle to companies such as rival trader Vitol or Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A), Reuters reports
  • Citigroup (C) is looking to pull out of consumer banking in more countries in an effort to lower costs and boost profits, sources say, Reuters reports
  • Diminishing rubber supplies and record car sales are extending a five-month bull market that’s poised to raise costs for tire makers (GT, BRDCY, CTB), Bloomberg reports
  • Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) President Andrew Ekdahl told jurors the company recalled 93,000 all-metal hip implants because they “did not meet the clinical needs for the product” and not because they were unsafe, Bloomberg reports

SYNDICATE

Adecogro (AGRO) 13.9M share Spot Secondary priced at $8.00
AmeriGas (APU) files to sell 29.57M common units for holders
Fleetmatics (FLTX) 7M share Secondary priced at $25.00
Golar LNG Partners (GMLP) announces offering of 3.9M common units
Idera Pharmaceuticals (IDRA) files to sell 9.08M shares of common stock for holders
Keryx (KERX) 6.58M share Spot Secondary priced at $8.49
TRI Pointe Homes (TPH) 13.689M share IPO priced at $17.00
Towerstream (TWER) to offer common stock
Vanguard Natural (VNR) commences offering of 8M common units

Your rating: None

Policy U-turn? Secretary of Defense nominee ups war rhetoric against Iran

Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama's nominee for Defense Secretary. (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama's nominee for Defense Secretary. (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense told Congress he will ensure the US can strike Iran, if necessary. Former Senator Chuck Hagel, who was criticized for his dovish stance on Iran, has made an apparent U-turn by saber-rattling towards Tehran.

Hagel addressed Congress ahead of his confirmation hearing on Thursday, stressing that although there is “time and space” for negotiation with Iran, “the window is closing” on a diplomatic solution.

"If confirmed, I will focus intently on ensuring that [the] US military is in fact prepared for any contingency," Hagel said in a write-up of questions and answers for the confirmation hearing obtained by Reuters.

He also wrote that Iran needs to show signs that it is ready to negotiate seriously: “If Iran continues to flout its international obligations, it should continue to face severe and growing consequences.” However, Hagel warned that the US must be “cautious and certain” before taking action.

Hagel also outlined his “unshakable” commitment to maintaining the longstanding US alliance with Israel. Previously, Hagel was an outspoken critic of what he called the “Jewish lobby” in Washington, which he deemed the main barrier to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

He has also questioned the efficacy of sanctions on Iran meant to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, arguing that sanctions enacted alongside international partners would be more effective.

Hagel’s stance on Iran had previously drawn criticism from Republicans in Washington, who regarded his position as too soft.

Hagel’s about-face on his Iran policy has prompted some confusion in Washington over his outlook on the Middle East.

"There's a lot of misleading information out there about the senator's views on Middle East policy. Senators are going to want to hear from Chuck Hagel directly on what his view is and what is the administration's view," said Mark Jacobson, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund and a former staffer on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Hagel is expected to be grilled by Republicans over his proposed policies later on Thursday during the hearing. Six Republicans have already pledged to oppose Hagel’s nomination, dismissing his candidacy as “too philosophically opposed” on issues such as the Middle East and atomic weapons.

Hagel’s turn towards more aggressive rhetoric in the run up to the confirmation hearing seems to be pandering to his critics by offering a more aggressive position on Iran and supporting Israel.

Last year, President Obama repeatedly urged Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to desist in his calls for a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Obama stressed that the financial sanctions on Tehran were a preferred method to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. However, he did note that no options would be taken off the table to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

RT’s Gayane Chichakyan suggested that the nomination of Hagel might be a way of toning down the war rhetoric in Washington. However, the possibility of a less aggressive strategy has angered some in Washington.

“Since the beginning of the attack campaign against Chuck Hagel over these two months or so, many of the attackers have withdrawn their objections,” said Chichakyan, suggesting that maybe they received confirmation behind closed doors that Hagel would not do anything drastic upon assuming the post of secretary of defense.

Domestic Fair Trade: A Plea to UNFI and Whole Foods for Justice

“The union is like having herpes. It doesn't kill you, but it's unpleasant and inconvenient, and it stops a lot of people from becoming your lover."John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market (WFM) CEO John Mackey has done a brilliant job of creating the illusion that his empire is all about abundance, bounty and the good life. But there’s nothing bountiful or good about the way the second-largest non-unionized food retailer exploits workers.Whole Foods Market Inc. signage is displayed at a store in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. (Victor J. Blue / Bloomberg)

United Natural Foods Incorporated (UNFI), the largest multi-billion dollar wholesale distributor of organic and “natural” foods in the U.S., is currently under investigation for 45 violations of federal labor law, including physically threatening immigrant workers in California who were trying to form a union.

The company recently fired its underpaid and overworked unionized workers at its Auburn, Wash., distribution center for going on strike, and illegally hired non-union replacement workers.

What happens when companies like WFM and UNFI, which have carefully cultivated their public progressive images, start acting like Walmart? When union-busting and labor exploitation are accepted as “business-as-usual” in the green economy, it makes us all look bad. It discredits organics and Fair Trade by creating the impression that consumers don’t really care how their healthy organic food was produced. That the entire industry cares only about profits. Ethics and workers be damned.

When flagship organic companies take a Walmart approach to workers’ rights, it sends negative and conflicting signals to core organic consumers, making it look like leaders in the organic community are concerned about the plight of endangered species and Third World coffee growers or cacao producers, but oblivious to the economic pain and stresses of working class Americans or hardworking immigrants who plant and harvest our organic fruits and vegetables and then pack and deliver them to our neighborhood coops and natural food markets.

Isn’t it time we ask the same of WFM and UNFI that we demand of ourselves: that they walk their talk, prioritize organic food and products, practice Fair Trade and social justice, and wake up to the fact that "business as usual" is a bitter recipe for injustice?

The demand for organic and fairly traded food, apparel and body care products has grown exponentially over the past two decades. Millions of consumers are demanding products that not only are organic and healthy, but also embody Fair Trade principles, whereby the workers involved in producing these products are treated fairly and paid equitably.

Under the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), organic products are certified by third-party certifiers and regulated under federal law. But no such federal standards exist for Fair Trade labor practices, including the right of workers, especially in large businesses, to form trade unions and engage in collective bargaining with their employers.  As a consequence many consumers look for the “Fair Trade” label on imported goods, but pay little attention to the domestic supply chain.  Here in the U.S., most consumers naively believe that organics and Fair Trade practices go hand in hand. They are surprised to learn that most family farmers and farm workers, as well as many supply chain workers, struggle to make a living. But the truth is, labor exploitation is rampant in the fields, factories and warehouses where organic products are grown, processed and housed. And this is especially true when small, alternative businesses are bought out by corporate investors.

WFM is one of the biggest offenders in the U.S. The company’s Whole Trade Guarantee, through a third-party verified program, supposedly ensures that producers and laborers in developing countries get an equitable price for their goods in a safe and healthy working environment. But here in the U.S., WFM. the second largest union-free food retailer behind Walmart, has taken the position that unions are not valid. The company even gives its workers a pamphlet titled "Beyond Unions." In the company’s 27-year history, only one of its stores, in Madison, Wis., successfully unionized. The chain has also fended off unionizing attempts in Berkeley, Calif.; St. Paul, Minn.; and Falls Church, Va.

As for UNFI, the company’s recent record on workers’ rights is abysmal. The National Labor Relations Board investigation includes allegations that UNFI engaged in worker surveillance, intimidation and retaliation; that it refused to bargain in good faith; and that it illegally reassigned bargaining unit work. UNFI workers and drivers at UNFI’s Auburn, Wash., distribution center went on strike for better pay and better working conditions Dec. 10, after rejecting UNFI’s latest contract offer. In retaliation UNFI fired them and illegally hired non-union replacement workers.

WFM and UNFI like to brag about how their workers are part of their “family,” and how well management treats them. But what about the thousands of non-unionized and exploited farm workers in California, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Latin America and Asia who supply many of their premium-priced products? What about the immigrant feedlot workers across the country? What about the truck drivers, food processing workers and warehouse staff who are threatened and intimidated whenever they try to organize themselves for collective bargaining? Are we all one family?

It’s time for WFM and UNFI to publicly acknowledge that Fair Trade principles and practices need to be implemented as part of their entire US/North American/global supply chain for food and organic and natural products, not just for the minority of products produced overseas and certified as Fair Trade. And of course, supporting domestic Fair Trade means that WFM and UNFI must stop their union busting and start recognizing the rights of workers, especially workers in large for-profit corporations, to freely organize themselves into unions for collective bargaining.

Until they do, as conscientious consumers we have to pressure UNFI and its largest customer, WFM. In response to UNFI’s actions in Washington State, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has called for a boycott of UNFI’s brand name products, Woodstock Foods and Blue Marble, until the company rehires its fired workers in Auburn, stops harassing and intimidating workers and drivers who want to form a union, and sits down to sign a fair contract.  We’re also asking organic food stores to look for alternative wholesalers to supply their stores, as a number of coops in Seattle and Olympia Washington, have already begun to do.   

In addition to boycotting UNFI’s Woodstock Foods and Blue Marble products, we encourage consumers to:

Sign the online petition in support of the striking workers at UNFI.

Call UNFI Manager Hank Heatherly at (253) 333-6769. Tell him to rehire the fired workers and return to the bargaining table immediately.

If you live in Washington State, and are willing to join in informational leafleting at Whole Foods Markets, sign up here.

Ronnie Cummins

Ronnie Cummins is a veteran activist, author, and organizer. He is the International Director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica. http://www.organicconsumers.org; http://www.viaorganica.org

Dave Murphy

Dave Murphy is the founder of Food Democracy Now!, a sixth generation Iowan, and an advocate for sustainable agriculture. Founded after the election of President Obama, Food Democracy Now! is a community of more than 250,000 farmers and citizens that works to create a more sustainable future for family farmers, rural communities and American consumers.

Toothless sanctions? Iranian oil trade booming, China top buyer

An Iranian man works on an oil production platform. (Reuters)

An Iranian man works on an oil production platform. (Reuters)

Iran has quickly found ways to circumvent the EU sanctions imposed on its oil trade in July. After dipping sharply in summer of 2012, Iranian crude oil exports rose again by the end of the year.

­So far, Iran’s December crude oil sales were the highest recorded since the sanctions were first imposed. Iran exported 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in December, compared to less than 900,000 bpd in September. Pre-sanctions oil exports stood at 2.2 million bpd in late 2011.

EU sanctions, introduced in January 2012 and put into effect in July, aimed to curb Iran's ambitious nuclear program, which Tehran has insisted is only for peaceful purposes. The Iranian economy is heavily dependent on oil sales – the cuts in production lead to billions of dollars in lost revenue and a plunge in the value of the national currency.

Analysts believe that sales to Asia and the expansion of Iran’s tanker helped the Islamic Republic circumvent the sanctions. In countries like China, India and Japan, Iranian oil constitutes more than 10 percent of the total crude supply – and demand from Asia is only growing.

"China is saying let's up the numbers because no-one is doing anything about it and it looks like Obama has made a political decision not to go to war with Iran," a senior source at a large independent trading house told Reuters.

Iran is also improving its delivery channels, despite the numerous bans and restrictions imposed by the international community.

"Iran bought a number of tankers from China and can now do more deliveries. It's taken some pressure off Iran and facilitated tanker traffic and we are seeing higher exports to China," analyst Salar Moradi at oil and gas consulting firm FGE told Reuters.

Meanwhile, a fresh round of US sanctions looms for Iran. Starting on February 6, US law will prevent the Islamic republic from repatriating earnings from its oil export trade. The ban is in addition to the already-existing restrictions, including the country's removal from the SWIFT global financial service and an indefinite international asset freeze.

The new sanctions are expected to reduce export volumes to around 1 million barrels per day, the International Energy Agency predicted. However, analysts believe that further sanctions will not stop Iran from selling oil or pursuing its nuclear goals.

"What we have seen is that when Iran is pushed to a do or die situation, they have looked for creative solutions to get around sanctions," oil and gas analyst Elena McGovern of Business Monitor International told Reuters. "The system will always find a way to cope."

The international community has been failing to engage in constructive dialogue with Iran on its nuclear program. The so-called ‘sixtet’ of ‘5+1’ states – Britain, China, France, Russia, the US and Germany – met three times last year with little to no results. The next round of talks has been stalled until a venue for the meeting is agreed upon.

"Some of our partners in the six powers and the Iranian side cannot come to an agreement about where to meet, behaving like little children," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. He stressed that Russian mediators “are willing to meet at any location.” 

While the West has demanded that Iran abandon its nuclear aspirations, Iran refuses to back down: Tehran has seized every opportunity to advance its nuclear capabilities. On Thursday, Iranian officials informed the UN nuclear agency of its plan to use more modern centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant.

U.S. Secret Prisons and the Guantanamo Trials, Systematic Torture

WAR CRIMES AND TORTURE: Guantánamo and back: an interview with Moazzam Begg

According to UN investigations in 2010 there are more than 27,000 prisoners held by the U.S. in more than 100 secret prisons around the world and on 17 ships as floating prisons. These are almost entirely Muslim prisoners.

According to Center for Constitutional Rights 92% of the prisoners held just at Guantanamo are not “Al-Qaeda fighters” by the U.S. government’s own records and 22 were under 18 years of age when captured.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed one of the 5 now on trial at Guantanamo was subjected to water board torture 183 times. He wore a camouflaged vest to court to make the point that he was once part of the U.S. armed and paid mujahideen force in Afghanistan in 1980s and U.S. proxy army in Bosnia in 1990s.  The U.S. can be expected to treat its proxy army in Syria and Libya in the same way.

U.S. government targeted kidnappings and assassinations are today continued through daily drone attacks with Hellfire missiles in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Mali and as far as the Philippines. Again thousands of civilians, including youth and women are among the victims.

President Obama had promised to close Guantanamo Prison as one of his first acts as president in 2009. Yesterday it was decided instead to close the office and eliminate the special envoy Daniel Fried whose role was to close the prison at Guantanamo. Daniel Fried’s role will now be to intensify the sanctions on Iran and Syria.

Close Guantanamo and ALL U.S. secret prisons! End the drone wars! End the Sanctions!

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article. The Center of Research on Globalization grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author's copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: [email protected]

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of "fair use" in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than "fair use" you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: [email protected]

Copyright © Sara Flounders, RT, 2013

Would African-Americans Have Been Better Off If Hillary Were Elected?

It might have been easier to press her for change than it has been with Obama, say some observers.

January 30, 2013  |  

Like this article?

Join our email list:

Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.

The same day that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made headlines for their first joint interview, on  60 Minutes, NAACP President Ben Jealous delighted conservatives with his headline-making interview on another Sunday news program. Appearing on  Meet the Press, Jealous said, "Right now when you look at joblessness in this country -- the country is pretty much back to where it was when this president started. White people are doing a bit better.  Black folks are doing a full point worse."

Also on  Meet the Press, onetime vice presidential candidate, and current member of the House,  Paul Ryan offered this theory regarding the current economic battles facing our country: "Look, if we had a [Hillary] Clinton presidency, if we had Erskine Bowles as chief of staff of the White House or president of the United States, I think we would have fixed this fiscal mess by now," Ryan said. "[But] that's not the kind of presidency we're dealing with right now."

Both pronouncements raise questions that have been pondered by some political watchers since the conclusion of the 2008 presidential election: Would African Americans have fared better under a Hillary Clinton presidency than under Obama (and will they if she runs and wins in 2016)?

Does President Obama Get a Pass?

Jealous' remarks illustrate a reality that has disappointed some African Americans, who were hopeful that a black presidency would lead to an improvement in conditions for black America. However, addressing that disappointment has been tricky, particularly for black lawmakers.

In a  previous interview with The Root, the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), said, "Well, I'm supposed to say he doesn't get a pass, but I'm not going to say that. Look, as the chair of the Black Caucus, I've got to tell you, we are always hesitant to criticize the president. With  14 percent [black] unemployment [pdf], if we had a white president, we'd be marching around the White House."

Cleaver added, "The president knows we are going to act in deference to him in a way we wouldn't to someone white." Cleaver's point, that African Americans would be tougher on a white president regarding the dismal unemployment numbers that have plagued the black community, lends credence to the notion that black Americans might actually have fared better under Clinton -- if you accept the premise that a politician will address the needs of a constituency that holds him or her accountable.

In an interview with  The Root, African-American radio host Mark Thompson, the host of Sirius Radio's  Make It Plain, described the difference between a Hillary Clinton presidency and Barack Obama's this way: "If she had won, I think that the African-American community would have held her to a higher level of accountability and would have even demanded more and probably would have been more willing to agitate ... for its needs. "

He continued: "The current scenario is politically, the first African-American president doesn't want to appear to show favoritism towards African Americans, and African Americans in turn don't want to harm and confront the first African-American president -- so we've pretty much neutralized each other."

African-American Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) once  made a similar argument, saying that many black members of Congress were worried that their constituents would be displeased if they were perceived as being too tough on the first black president. Adding to the complexity Thompson speaks of, Obama has faced endless, unfounded criticism for allegedly being biased toward African Americans since taking office. One poll found that  31 percent of Republicans believe the president is "a racist who hates white people." Former Fox News host  Glenn Beck famously called the president a racist "who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture."

Gun Control Agenda Is Launching White Paranoid Extremists to Prepare for Armed Revolution

Peel back the code words of "defending" America and you have a treasonous movement in the works.

January 30, 2013  |  

Like this article?

Join our email list:

Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.

The battle over gun control has exposed a truth the mainstream media is apparently too shy to mention: A bunch of far-right, white, mostly Southern, paranoid extremists are preparing for armed revolution and apocalypse. They speak treason: literally.

They are preparing to "defend" America from America with arsenals of weapons and stockpiles of ammunition. Their "enemy" is everyone in America not like them.

They think the world is ending and/or that the government is out to get them. That doesn’t mean it will happen. But expect violence and assassinations. Their ideology is made up of equal parts racism, evangelical Christian fascination with the “end times,” hatred of President Obama, resentment of the “Old “South” variety and a Fox News/Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh version of world history.

As the New Yorker noted:

“Every demographic and political trend that helped to reëlect Barack Obama runs counter to the [South’s] self-definition:…The Solid South speaks less and less for America and more and more for itself alone… Solidity has always been the South’s strength, and its weakness. The same Southern lock that once held the Democratic Party now divides the Republican Party from the socially liberal, fiscally moderate tendencies of the rest of America… The South’s vices—‘violence, intolerance, aversion and suspicion toward new ideas’—grow particularly acute during periods when it is marginalized and left behind. An estrangement between the South and the rest of the country would bring out the worst in both—dangerous insularity in the first, smug self-deception in the second.”

The Republican/white/Southern extremists make reasonable gun control impossible. Their cataclysmic irrationality risks taking the debate into the twilight zone, and that “zone” is a zone of violence: call it the civil war continued by other means.

Some “leaders” in the pro-gun lobby have literally said they will kill to protect their right to arm themselves with arsenals that are fit for nothing but murder and war. These delusional Americans are a vocal minority, and they have extreme fears — gun confiscation, civil instability, a tyrannical government, a “takeover” of the US by the UN and that Obama is a communist.

If you pay attention to the rhetoric, you hear code words calling out to the types of people who called January 19 and Martin Luther King’s birthday “Gun Appreciation Day." The event chairman, Larry Ward, said in the press release, “The Obama administration has shown that it is more than willing to trample the Constitution to impose its dictates upon the American people.” Andrew P. Napolitano, a Fox News analyst, said in a video posted on the network’s GretaWire: “Here’s the dirty little secret about the Second Amendment, the Second Amendment was not written in order to protect your right to shoot deer, it was written to protect your right to shoot tyrants if they take over the government.”

Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association, delivered a rebuttal to President Obama's inaugural address. He accused the president of reducing the U.S. Constitution to "a blank slate for anyone's graffiti." LaPierre said the president "doesn't understand you. He doesn't agree with the freedoms you cherish."

In a piece in the Washington Times, Napolitano said that the Second Amendment “protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively.” By definition these “tyrants” are those who “don’t agree with the freedoms you cherish.” In other words they are the government representing most Americans who are not insane gun-collecting survivalists, Southern white males afraid of the world, and assorted Fox News watchers.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center notes, the number of so-called patriot groups surged after President Obama was first elected president. “The swelling of the Patriot movement since that time has been astounding,” the report said. “From 149 groups in 2008, the number of Patriot organizations skyrocketed to 512 in 2009, shot up again in 2010 to 824, and then, last year, jumped to 1,274.”

Hagel Nomination and Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

WASHINGTON - January 30 - President Obama has nominated Sen. Chuck Hagel to head the Pentagon; hearings are scheduled for Thursday. Some Senators have attacked Hagel for supporting the group Global Zero. The group has released a statement: “Setting the Record Straight on Chuck Hagel’s Global Zero Position on Nuclear Weapons.”

ALICE SLATER, [email]
Slater is the New York director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and is on the coordinating committee of Abolition 2000, a nuclear disarmament network. She said today: “By signing the Global Zero declaration calling for a verified approach to the elimination of nuclear weapons by 2030, Chuck Hagel opened up a space to begin the heretofore taboo conversation about abolishing nuclear weapons. He is following in the footsteps of four rusty cold warriors, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William Perry and George Shultz who raised the issue in a stunning 2009 Wall Street Journal op-ed and have been back-tracking ever since in a series of subsequent articles.

“Nevertheless, the unspoken agreement not to discuss banning the bomb has been breached and the abolition word has been mentioned. In his Prague speech, Obama followed up on Kissinger and company, calling for a nuclear free world which ‘may not happen in my lifetime.’ Hillary Clinton misquoted him by stating he had said it may not happen ‘in our lifetime or successive lifetimes.’ Not to be outdone, Kerry, in his confirmation hearing, has reduced the call for nuclear abolition as a goal ‘worth aspiring to’ which might take ‘many centuries to achieve.’

“Despite these disclaimers, the military-industrial-academic-congressional complex is fighting back to preserve their crumbling nuclear ‘deterrent’ as more countries join the nuclear club or aspire to keep a bomb in the basement through the use of so-called ‘peaceful’ nuclear power. The best thing about the Hagel controversy, is that nuclear abolition is finally being discussed. Numerous Commissions and studies have found that the longer we hang on to our nuclear bombs, in violation of our treaty obligations in the Non-Proliferation Treaty to get rid of them, the more countries will acquire them, creating ever greater national insecurity. Next month Norway will convene a meeting of nations to discuss the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war, which will add more heft to this conversation.

“The world has banned mustard gas, chemical and biological weapons, landmines and cluster bombs. There is no good reason to cling to our nuclear ‘deterrent’ which is incapable of protecting us against the real threats we face in the world from non-state actors and ‘suicide bombers’ who cannot be deterred. We know how to verify and monitor nuclear disarmament. We would be much less vulnerable if we proceeded to do so with the cooperation of other nuclear weapons states. Since there are 20,000 nuclear weapons on the planet and 19,000 of them are in the U.S. and Russia, it’s up to our two nations to begin. And Russia won’t discuss this until the U.S. is ready to give up its plans to plant missiles on Russia’s borders and to dominate the earth from space. I don’t think Hagel’s Global Zero position addresses this provocative U.S. policy which is essential if we are to have the cooperation we need from Russia and China to finally ban the bomb.”

Washington Urged to Stress Diplomacy in Mali

WASHINGTON - As Washington broadens its military “footprint” in the Sahel region of Africa, U.S. analysts are urging the administration of President Barack Obama to devote more effort to diplomacy, especially in Mali.

A U.S. soldier looks on as French soldiers exit a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane in Bamako January 22, 2013. The United States has started transporting French soldiers and equipment to Mali as part of its logistical aid to French forces fighting Islamist militants in the north of the country, a U.S. official said on Tuesday. (Photo: Reuters/Eric Gaillard) In particular, they are calling for Washington to press for a swift transfer of power to a democratically elected government in Bamako which can then reach out to rebel Tuareg forces in hopes of driving a wedge between them and Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) and other armed Islamist groups that, until this week, controlled northern Mali for most of the past year.

And they insist that the U.S.-backed French-led offensive that drove AQIM and its allies out of three key towns in northeastern Mali over the past 10 days will not be sufficient to secure the France-sized region indefinitely without some kind of settlement between Bamako and the Tuaregs.

“Clearly there has to be a political solution at some point,” according to David Shinn, an Africa specialist at George Washington University and former ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia.

"What the latest military activity is not doing is dealing with the Tuareg problem which has to be addressed seriously,” he told IPS.

Since the French-Malian offensive against the AQIM and its allies was launched Jan. 11, Washington has taken a series of steps both to support the offensive and to broaden its own military involvement in the larger Sahel region.

The Pentagon confirmed Tuesday that it had concluded a new military accord with the government of Niger to set up a base for Predator drones to carry out surveillance missions over the region’s vast desert areas.

U.S. officials have not ruled the possibility that the drones could eventually be deployed to carry out strikes against suspected AQIM militants, much as they have been used against the group’s ideological counterparts in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

The base announcement followed Washington’s initially halting agreement to Paris’s requests for intelligence, logistical, and aerial-refuelling support during the French offensive, which reached the storied oasis town of Timbuktu earlier in the week.

“We will review further requests from the French,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said Tuesday. “We strongly support French operations in Mali; this is a key effort. AQIM and other terrorist groups have threatened to establish a safe haven in Mali, and the French have done absolutely the right thing.”

But those steps may be just the beginning of an expanded U.S. military presence in the region through its six-year-old Africa Command (AFRICOM), which has long been seeking a more-active role on the continent, particularly in conducting training missions and joint exercises with the region’s militaries.

Noting the continuing problems with renegade militias in Libya, AQIM’s advances in Mali, as well as the deadly siege by one of its factions at a gas facility in southern Algeria earlier this month, outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Congressional hearing last week, “We are going to see more and more demands on AFRICOM.”

Despite their public praise for the French campaign in Mali, U.S. officials, as well as independent analysts here, have voiced concern about what happens next.

France, which has so far deployed about 2,500 troops, has said it hopes to quickly reduce its role by transferring control of the towns it has taken to the Malian army and a U.N.-backed African Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) that could number as many as 6,000, mainly West African troops.

But the Malian army, which ousted the democratically elected civilian government last March, is notoriously undisciplined. The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights, among other groups, has reported numerous abuses of human rights committed by Malian soldiers during the offensive, notably against Tuaregs, a lighter-skinned, nomadic people who have long sought independence from Bamako, and some of whose armed factions allied themselves with AQIM last year.

Because of last year’s coup, the U.S. has been barred by law from providing military aid to Mali until a democratically elected government takes power, a factor in Washington’s initially hesitant response to Paris’ requests to aid the military campaign.

A transitional regime, which, however, appears subordinate to a military junta headed by a U.S.-trained officer, Amadou Sanogo, has scheduled elections for July.

As for AFISMA, small contingents of which have only just begun arriving in Mali, international donors Tuesday pledged nearly 456 million dollars – including 96 million dollars from Washington – to support its operations.

But the original plan called for AFISMA to undergo training and other preparation for several months before deploying to Mali. France’s sudden intervention, which it defended as necessary to prevent a key air base from falling to the rebels, upended the process, calling into question precisely how the West African force will operate.

“The French intervention not only short-circuited the transitional political process in Bamako, but it also short-circuited the (AFISMA’s) preparation,” noted J. Peter Pham, head of African studies at the Atlantic Council here.

“These troops are now being thrown in to an unfamiliar setting without any training. They’ve never operated together; they literally don’t speak the same language.

“And in about eight weeks, the rains will come to Mali, which will render much of the country impassable until September, so they’ll be doing garrison duty in towns surrounded by a vast territory that the enemy knows much better.”

Instead of putting up stiff resistance to the French-led offensive, AQIM and its allies appear to have dispersed into desert hideouts in the region from which analysts fear they will be able to carry out hit-and-run attacks against the Malian and AFISMA forces.

“What’s clear is that they will strike and will continue to strike,” said Nicolas Van de Walle, a Maghreb expert at Cornell University. “We know from experience that they’re really hard to get rid of in strictly military terms.”

Pham agreed, noting that France’s unilateralism in undertaking its offensive has put Washington, which is determined avoid putting U.S. “boots on the ground”, in a bind.

“The quandary is that we have a long-standing ally who has now stretched itself out, and we can’t leave them dangling there, as gratifying as that might be. On the other hand, what they’re doing is not sustainable. They’ve now managed to secure two or three towns in northern Mali, but they’re certainly inadequate to securing any of the countryside.”

To both Pham and Van de Welle, the key now lies with applying pressure on Bamako to create a legitimate government that can persuade the Tuaregs to cut their ties to AQIM.

“The government in Bamako is still a military junta by another name,” said Pham, “and no Tuaregs are going to make any deal with that kind of regime.”

That may also mean pressing France itself to coordinate more closely with Washington on the political front, he added, noting that Paris has just convinced the European Commission to release 92 million Euros to Mali that it had withheld since the coup d’etat.

“That’s 92 million reasons for the regime not to give up power and restore the constitutional order,” he warned.

“The U.S. should be forcing a political settlement in Bamako,” Van de Walle told IPS. “Before the coup, Mali had a reasonable democracy, so they should be able to move pretty quickly toward elections.

“That’s the start of any political settlement. It’s possible to peel off the Tuaregs from their alliance with AQIM, and that would make a big difference because you could make at least the northeastern part of Mali secure.

“But there has to be a credible deal with Bamako, and the U.S. can’t broker that militarily,” he added.

© 2013 IPS North America

Let’s End All Gun Deaths, Not Just Mass Killings

In 1995, Chicago resident Shirley Chambers lost her first child to gun violence. Her 18-year-old son, Carlos, was shot and killed by a 16-year-old high school classmate. Five years later, her 15-year-old daughter, Latoya, was killed by a 13-year-old boy. Only two months after his sister was gunned down, Shirley Chambers’s son Jerome was shot and killed outside of the Cabrini-Green housing projects in which they lived. He was 23-years-old. Jerome’s death left Shirley with one surviving child, Ronnie. “I’d pray for God to protect Ronnie and keep him safe day and night,” she told the Chicago Sun-Times. She was speaking to them on the occasion of Ronnie’s death, shot and killed this past Sunday at the age of 34.Edwina Grant who lost her son to gun violence holds his picture as she demonstrates with CeaseFirePa at a rally in the Pennsylvania Capital building Wednesday, January 23, 2013, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Ronnie is one of seven killed and six wounded in Chicago over the weekend. He is one of forty homicides in the city during the month of January. He will be his mother’s last. Over the course of eighteen years, Shirley Chambers has had to bury all four of her children as a result of gun violence.

On Monday, President Obama met with police chiefs from Newtown, Connecticut; Oak Creek, Wisconsin; Aurora, Colorado; and Tucson, Arizona to discuss how to prevent the types of mass shootings these cities experienced recently. Because for all the talk about gun control as of late, the goal has really been fewer mass shootings. It says as much in the press release that preceded the president’s press conference on January 16, where he signed twenty-three executive orders and introduced his proposals for congressional legislation on gun control—the intent behind these measures is “to better protect our children and our communities from tragic mass shootings like those in Newtown, Aurora, Oak Creek, and Tucson.” There is no national conversation on how to end gun deaths like those of Shirley Chambers’s children, or the more than 500 in Chicago last year or the thousands more just like them across the country. Spoken or not, the sentiment appears to be that gun violence is more acceptable in certain places among certain people than it is in others.

It may be that addressing this type of violence is better handled by local governments, as opposed to on a federal level, so legislation can be crafted to the specific needs of each city. To that end, Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing for new ordinances that would, according to the Sun-Times, “broaden the requirement for reporting the loss, theft, sale or transfer of firearms to all gun owners in all of Cook County and double the jail time for an array of gun violations.” This new requirement of reporting lost, stolen, destroyed, or sold firearms would extend to all gun owners, not just those with city firearms permits, as currently constituted. It would also extend to Cook County, which includes the areas immediately surrounding Chicago, a move that is constitutionally questionable, but has the support of County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. The hope is that this will stop the flow of illegal guns into Chicago and the hands of gang members.

But whether it’s Chicago, Oak Creek, Detroit, New York or Tucson, the problem is the same: guns. There are too many of them and they are too easy to get. There should be less of them and they should be much harder to get… for everyone. As I’ve said here before, the idea that keeping guns out of the hands of “bad” or “dangerous” people will solve the problem of gun violence rests on the fallacy that “good” people never do the wrong thing. It’s not the people that make guns dangerous, but the other way around.

In 2000, then Newark, New Jersey city councilman Cory Booker said in a C-SPAN interview that in his urban environment he saw “little to no need for guns at all” and that “if I had the power to do so,” he would ban all guns. As mayor of Newark, Booker, according to the Star-Ledger, said, “My experience over the last seven years as mayor has given me a very practical, nuanced, data-driven and experienced view as to what policy works to help empower people and advance our city.”

The problem is, thus far, “practical” hasn’t worked. “Practical” has only lessened the epidemic. “Practical” has Shirley Chambers carrying extra flowers when she goes to visit her children at the cemetery. “Practical” is damn lethal.

We are a nation of the Second Amendment and guns. But we don’t have to be.

© 2012 The Nation

Mychal Denzel Smith

Mychal Denzel Smith is a freelance writer and social commentator. His work on race, politics, social justice, pop culture, hip hop, mental health, feminism and black male identity has appeared in various publications, including The Guardian, Ebony, theGrio, the Root, Huffington Post and GOOD.

The Question No One Is Asking About Keystone XL

Combat the epidemic of misinformation that plagues the corporate media! Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout and keep independent journalism strong.

Right now in Texas, a foreign corporation, TransCanada, is using our government's 5th Amendment right of eminent domain to confiscate private land belonging to Americans, to build a massive oil pipeline so TransCanada can ship oil from the Gulf of Mexico to non-Americans around the world. Oil, by the way, that will accelerate our planet’s plunge into global warming-induced catastrophe.

So the question is, “Why?”

Last year, President Obama approved the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, which will transport deadly Canadian tar-sands oil from Oklahoma down to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas where it will be refined and then promptly placed on oil rigs to be sold in South America, Europe, and Asia. They get the oil; we get the poison coming out of the refinery smokestacks.

Odds are little of oil from the Keystone XL pipeline will make it into American markets. According to TransCanada itself, this project will NOT reduce the price of gas in the United States (it will actually increase gas prices in the Midwest). It will not reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It will create only a few thousand temporary jobs. And it will put our land and underground aquifers at risk of oil contamination, while presenting to terrorists a sweet little thousand-mile-long target they can take out with a bit of dynamite.

And rather than slowing climate change, this pipeline will take us over the tipping point. Environmentalists like Bill McKibbin call it a “ticking time bomb” for the environment. And NASA scientist James Hansen calls completion of the pipeline “game over for the planet.”  

So, again, why is construction of this pipeline allowed to continue?

Why would a foreign corporation push so hard that people like 78-year-old great grandmother Eleanor Fairchild was arrested last October for trespassing on her own property as she tried to stop TransCanada’s bulldozers from ripping a hole through her 300-acre ranch?

Why is the state of Texas allowing a foreign corporation to seize land through eminent domain to build an oil pipeline, when in 2002 the state transportation department forbid the use of eminent domain to build new roads across Texas?  

And why is it that we’ve allowed this foreign corporation, TransCanada, to launch numerous SLAPP lawsuits against peaceful activists and property owners, threatening them with “losing their homes and life’s savings” if they continue protesting further construction of the pipeline?

And, most importantly, why, residing on a rapidly warming planet, are we doubling-down on 19th Century dirty energy sources like fossil fuels, when we should be focusing on 21st century clean energy sources like solar and wind?

Consider this: 

Last week in Chattanooga, Tennessee a massive solar power facility comprising of over 33,600 individual solar modules capable of producing 13.1 gigawatt hours of electricity every year was turned on. It’s big enough to power 1,200 homes, but will be used to power a Volkswagen manufacturing plant. And it’s the biggest solar installation ever built in the state of Tennessee.  

This solar farm was built by an American company, Silicon Ranch. No Canadian tar oil necessary. 

So, instead of letting foreign companies build terrorist-target oil pipelines across our entire country, shouldn’t we be supporting homegrown companies that could make America the worldwide leader in renewable energy?

Another "for-example": Did you know that the United States just passed Germany as the number-two country in the world when it comes to producing wind power? Did you know that the largest wind farm in the world, the Alta Wind Energy Center, is located right here in the United States in Kern County, California?

The Department of Energy estimates that 20 percent of our national energy could be produced by wind come 2030. But that’s only if our government embraces wind power with the same enthusiasm that we embrace Canada’s tar sands oil.

It’s a no-brainer. And it’s what the rest of the world is doing, too.

The world is rushing toward clean energy, from the 1.3 million solar power systems currently online in Germany producing 28 billion kilowatts of energy annually, to the London Array off-shore wind farm (the largest of its kind),  producing 630 enough electricity to power more than 470,000 homes.

So given all of this, tell me again why we're building the Keystone XL pipeline? Why, with all this potential for clean and renewable energy, are we arresting Americans for trespassing on their own property?  It sure looks like it's just so a foreign corporation can get rid of their toxic oil, and a handful of billionaires in Texas can make big profits refining and exporting it.

Our clean energy success stories are hidden from the news media, and our lawmakers are doing the bidding of Big Oil, turning our nation into the place where foreign corporations can do the dirty work of fossil fuel refining far, far away from their own populations. The President spoke about climate change in his Second Inaugural. But he’ll have a chance to do something more than give a good speech come March when the rest of the Keystone XL pipeline is set to be approved.

So, let’s keep the pressure on our lawmakers and our news media. All around the world, and right here at home, we see the potential for clean energy use on a massive scale. We have 21st Century energy solutions that work now, today; we don’t need another 19th Century oil pipeline.

On the News With Thom Hartmann: The Senate Tackled the Issue of Gun Control...

We need your help to sustain grassroots, groundbreaking journalism. Make a tax-deductible contribution to Truthout now by clicking here.

In today's On the News segment: The Senate tackled the issue of gun control today; Keystone XL pipeline builder TransCanada filed a series of SLAPP suits against organizations and 19 individual protesters that stand in its way of building the pipeline; Republicans in Mississippi want to re-fight the Civil War; and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news...

You need to know this. For the first time since 2009, the U.S. economy shrank last quarter. New numbers out of the Commerce Department, show that the economy shrank in the fourth quarter of 2012 by point-1 percent. That's a complete reversal from the robust 3.1% growth rate, which we saw in the third quarter of 2012. What's behind the sudden drop? Conservative austerity spending cuts. Federal spending was down 15% in the fourth quarter, after rising 9.5% in the third quarter. And as we're seeing in the UK, which is on the verge of entering a triple-dip recession – Greece, which is on the verge of total collapse – and Spain, which has the highest unemployment rate in Europe – austerity kills economies. But thanks to Republican hostage-taking, and demands for more and more spending cuts – the United States is about to enter this same austerity death spiral in 2013. Already – the US is scheduled to enact austerity measures totaling 2.1% of GDP – which is more austerity than the U.K., France, and Spain have enacted thus far. And with even bigger spending cuts looming in a few months, it's only going to get worse. We need pro-growth policies, that put money back in the hands of working people. Spending cuts don't do that. And no nation, in the history of the world, has ever cut its way to prosperity.

In screwed news...a foreign corporation is building a toxic pipeline across our country – and also has threatened to ruin the lives of anyone who stands in opposition to the project. Numerous organizations and demonstrations have confronted the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which is being built by the Canadian company TransCanada. In response, TransCanada filed a series of SLAPP suits against these organizations and 19 individual protesters who, according to Tar Sands Blockade, "were threatened with losing their homes and life's savings if the lawsuit went forward." One of those targeted with a SLAPP suit, Ramsey Sprague, responded by saying, "TransCanada is dead wrong if they think a civil lawsuit against a handful of Texans is going to stop a grassroots, civil-disobedience movement...This is nothing more than another example, of TransCanada repressing dissent, and bullying Texans who are defending their homes, and futures from toxic tar sands." However, TransCanada did succeed in getting a settlement in the lawsuit, which stipulates that activists can no longer trespass on, or cause damage to, Keystone XL property. But they can still let their voices be heard – and so can all of us. Getting people organized is the only way to defeat this toxic, ticking time-bomb for our environment.

In the best of the rest of the news...

The Senate tackled the issue of gun control today. In the first Senate judiciary Committee hearing of the 113th Congress, the issue was new gun control legislation, introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein last week. Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, herself a victim of gun violence, gave an opening statement at the hearing calling on Senators to take action to reduce gun violence. Also at the hearing, was the NRA's Wayne LaPierre, who's been a very loud critic of any new gun control legislation, including universal background checks for all gun purchases. At the hearing, LaPierre again bashed the idea of background checks, saying they won't work. But as the ThinkProgress blog points out – the NRA's stance on this issue is wildly unpopular. In fact – according to a new Gallup poll – only 8% of the nation agrees with the NRA on opposing universal background checks. To put that in perspective, more people approve of Congress, polygamy, and human cloning than agree with the NRA on this issue. It's time to stop being afraid of how powerful the NRA is. It's an organization that's been taken over by out-of-touch, radical gun industry shills, who lost nearly every election they invested in, back in 2012.

The Republicans' election rigging schemes have hit another setback. On Tuesday, the Virginia state Senate's Privileges and Elections Committee voted down a bill, which would have changed how the state awards its Electoral College votes. All Democrats on the committee voted against the bill – as did four of eight Republicans – officially putting an end to the election rigging effort in that state. Meanwhile in Michigan, where Republicans were considering a similar scheme, Governor Rick Snyder slammed the idea saying he doesn't think it's "the appropriate time to look at it." He also said, "I'm very skeptical of the idea...I really view it as a question of you don't want to change the playing field so it's an unfair advantage to someone." Then again, Snyder was the same Governor who said he wasn't interested in passing Right-to-Work-for-less legislation in Michigan last year – and then immediately turned around and passed a Right-to-Work-for-less law anyway. But at least for now, it appears the Republican election rigging effort is on hold. Now it's time for progressives to get active, and push for a national popular vote, to make sure Republicans can't get away with these antics in the future.

And finally...Republicans in Mississippi want to re-fight the Civil War. After President Obama unveiled new gun control executive orders – a group of Tea Party lawmakers in Mississippi introduced legislation to create a permanent committee in the state, which would be dedicated to nullifying – or overturning – federal laws that Mississippi Tea Partiers don't like. The Constitution is very clear on this issue – the federal government has supremacy over the states. But several red states disagree – and are using the same tactics today, that proponents of Jim Crow segregation used after the Civil War. Tea Party lawmakers are not the ones to determine if federal laws are unconstitutional. That's the job of the courts – which is another problem in itself. But the point is – we've seen what happens when states think they can ignore basic federal laws to improve the lives of people in those states. It's basically why the Civil War was fought. Clearly, the Tea Party has not learned the lessons of history.

And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, January 30, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.

Yemeni leader urges end to US strikes

The leader of Yemen’s Houthi group has called on Yemenis to adopt a unified stance and put an end to the military presence of the United States in the Arab country.

Abdul-malek al-Houthi made the remarks in a speech on the birthday celebrations of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in the northwestern Yemeni province of Sa’ada.

He criticized the Yemeni government’s close relationship with the US, which he said has robbed the nation of its independence and sovereignty.

Al-Houthi also said that the Yemeni government offered his apologies to US President Barack Obama after Yemeni protesters stormed the US embassy in Sana’a in protest at a blasphemous US-made movie, however it has so far failed to apologize for the war against people in north and south Yemen.

He called on people to continue the revolution against the former regime to end the US military operation in the country.

The US has increased the number of drone strikes dramatically, with 53 taking place in 2012. This figure is three times higher than the figure for a year before.

The US regularly carries out assassination drone attacks in Yemen, which is located on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula and among the poorest in the region.

Washington uses its assassination drones in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia, claiming that they target the terrorists. The attacks, however, have mostly led to massive civilian casualties.

The United Nations has censured the US drone attacks as targeted killings, stressing that the raids flout international law. Reports, however, say that the CIA is seeking to expand its covert drone attacks in Yemen.

Yemenis have held several anti-US rallies across the country over the past months and have called on their government to cut all ties with Washington over the deadly airstrikes.

SAB/JR

Austerity Is Dead: Can Someone Please Tell Paul Ryan and His Deluded GOP Cohorts?

Republicans cling to a policy that pretty much everyone agrees is a total disaster.

January 30, 2013  |  

Like this article?

Join our email list:

Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.

Most of the recent economic data out of Europe has been exceedingly grim. A record high number of workers across the Eurozone are unemployed. Economies are shrinking. Debts are rising.

The anecdotes, though, are even worse. Hospitals are asking patients to supply their own syringes due to lack of funds. Trees on public land are being cut down by workers desperate for firewood to warm their homes. An entire generation of young workers is going to experience lower wages for the rest of their lives, due to years of being unemployed while in their 20s.

At this point, it’s safe to say that Europe’s response to the financial crisis of 2008 and its ensuing recession has failed. Austerity packages that were meant to jumpstart business investment and reduce what were viewed as unsustainable debt loads have instead crippled growth and caused untold amounts of human misery.

America, meanwhile, eschewed austerity for stimulus in the wake of the ’08 crisis. The result has been a return to slow, steady, if not overwhelming growth. But for Republicans in Congress, who constantly warn about the menace of the European social safety net, European austerity is a model to be emulated. And their insistence on cutting government spending no matter its effect on growth is bad news for the fragile economic recovery.

Here Comes Ryan, Again

With the so-called fiscal "cliff" firmly behind them and debt ceiling sufficiently punted away for a few months, House Republicans are turning their attention back to the federal budget process. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), fresh off his failed run for the vice-presidency, plans to release a budget that will balance in 10 years. Such a move, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, will require cutting one-sixth to one-third of most of the federal government, depending on how Ryan structures it.

But in the shorter term, congressional Republicans are planning to use a few pending deadlines to secure deep cuts in government spending. For instance, the current round of funding for the federal government expires in March, giving Republicans leverage to push for reductions. “The CR [Continuing Resolution]– it’s one of the areas where there is indeed an absolute deadline. Washington and Congress respond to crises and deadlines, and we need to address the spending side of the equation,” said Rep. Tom Price (R-GA).

Ryan himself has also said that the $1.2 billion in spending cuts known as the “sequester” are going to go into effect that same month. “I think the sequester’s going to happen, because that $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, we can’t lose those spending cuts,” Ryan said. The sequester will knock 0.7 percent off of economic growth in 2013, according to MacroEconomic Advisers.

The GOP is also agitating for $69 billion in new discretionary spending cuts that it hopes to trade for cuts to entitlements and the social safety net. All of this would be in addition to the $1.5 trillion in spending cuts ($2.5 trillion in total deficit reduction) to which President Obama has already agreed since Republicans took back the House in 2010.

What Austerity Hath Wrought

To see the effect such austerity can have, the GOP (and some Democrats) only needs to gaze across the Atlantic. Austerity measures have run the gamut in Europe, from mass public sector layoffs to increases in the retirement age, and of course, billions of dollars in spending cuts and tax increases. So what has Europe received for its efforts?

According to the latest data from Eurostat, Europe’s official statistics office, 18.8 million workers in the Eurozone and 26 million across the European continent are out of work. Spain leads the pack with a 27 percent unemployment rate and 6 million jobless workers. Youth unemployment in Spain is a whopping 55 percent. In Italy, 11 percent of workers are unemployed, including 38 percent of young workers. The story is the same across most of the continent.

Poor David Brooks Prays For The Return Of The Moderate G.O.P.


Wrong again, David Brooks!

I'm thinking about starting a weekly post on the stupid writing of David Brooks. We talk about how Conservatives love rewriting history, but I think Brooks even tops that with his latest screed, titled "A Second G.O.P.".

Basically, he misses the moderate Republican wing of the G.O.P. and longs for their return:

It’s probably futile to try to change current Republicans. It’s smarter to build a new wing of the Republican Party, one that can compete in the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic states, in the upper Midwest and along the West Coast. It’s smarter to build a new division that is different the way the Westin is different than the Sheraton. The second G.O.P. wouldn’t be based on the Encroachment Story. It would be based on the idea that America is being hit simultaneously by two crises, which you might call the Mancur Olson crisis and the Charles Murray crisis.

Olson argued that nations decline because their aging institutions get bloated and sclerotic and retard national dynamism. Murray argues that America is coming apart, dividing into two nations — one with high education levels, stable families and good opportunities and the other with low education levels, unstable families and bad opportunities.

The second G.O.P. would tackle both problems at once. It would be filled with people who recoiled at President Obama’s second Inaugural Address because of its excessive faith in centralized power, but who don’t share the absolute antigovernment story of the current G.O.P. Would a coastal and Midwestern G.O.P. sit easily with the Southern and Western one? No, but majority parties are usually coalitions of the incompatible. This is really the only chance Republicans have. The question is: Who’s going to build a second G.O.P.?

He promote the theories of the "Bell Curve's" insane Charles Murray, who he has fawned over for a long time. But aside from that, isn't Brooks missing something that is kind of important?

His conservative allies purged the G.O.P. of any moderates that were still lingering in the party during the 2010 House bloodletting by the Tea Party. They're gone, David, and you know it. And the anti-government message is never going away from the GOP.

It appears there's a new reality show taking form: "Who Will Write The Stupidest F*&king Op-Ed of the Year?" Every week, conservative columnists compete to capture the judges' glee and the liberals' ire.

I told Ryan Seacrest today that Brooks was a shoo-in to win.

The Fed is Splintering… Here’s What Comes Next

The Fed is growing increasingly splintered as an organization.

The media hasn’t really picked up on this issue yet. But once they do things could become quite problematic for the Fed.

Remember, the primary force that has held the financial system together since the Crash of 2008 was the view that the Fed could backstop everything.

However, dissent is now growing at the Fed… which means it will be harder for it to move forward in a unified fashion. 

Consider its recent FOMC minutes released on January 3 2013.

With regard to the possible costs and risks of purchases, a number of participants expressed the concern that additional purchases could complicate the Committee's efforts to eventually withdraw monetary policy accommodation, for example, by potentially causing inflation expectations to rise or by impairing the future implementation of monetary policy. Participants also discussed the implications of continued asset purchases for the size of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet. Depending on the path for the balance sheet and interest rates, the Federal Reserve's net income and its remittances to the Treasury could be significantly affected during the period of policy normalization. Participants noted that the Committee would need to continue to assess whether large purchases were having adverse effects on market functioning and financial stability. They expressed a range of views on the appropriate pace of purchases, both now and as the outlook evolved. It was agreed that both the efficacy and the costs would need to be carefully monitored and taken into account in determining the size, pace, and composition of asset purchases.

            Source: Fed FOMC minutes

Remember, the Fed only just announced QE 3 in September 2012 and QE 4 in December 2012. At the time of these announcements, the media heralded these moves as indicating that the Fed would act aggressively forever.

And yet, today we find that the Fed was actually conflicted about announcing QE 4 and was questioning the benefits of QE the very day that QE 4 was announced. As we noted in last issue The Great Global Rig of 2012 is Ending, the schemes and policies implemented to hold the system together (including QE) are beginning to lose their effect on the system.

On that note, let us turn our attention to the Fed’s actual activity.

Since September 2011, the US Federal Reserve has announced Operation Twist (extending this beyond its original deadline) as well as QE 3 and QE 4. And yet, in spite of these numerous programs, until January 10 2013 the Fed’s balance sheet was actually smaller than it was the year before (the blue line below).

Throughout this period, the S&P 500 (the red line below) began to disconnect from the Fed’s actual activity. Note how the market continued to rally even when the Fed’s balance sheet was contracting throughout most of 2012.

Why is this?

Because, starting in late 2011 and continuing to the present, the Fed has discovered that verbal intervention has the same impact as actual monetary intervention. Why actually spend the money when you can simply state on TV that you will act if needed and the markets react the same way as if you had announced a new program?

Between the end of QE 2 in June 2011 and the start of QE 3 in September 2012, the Fed resorted time and again to implying it stood ready to act at any time. Despite over eight FOMC meetings in which the Fed didn’t announce QE the markets continued to general push higher on hype and hope of more QE.

Between this, the Fed’s most recent FOMC minutes in which multiple Fed members expressed concern about the efficacy of QE, and the fact that the Fed balance sheet only just eclipsed its previous year levels on January 10 2013 (despite QE 3 and 4 being announced in the second half of 2012), we can draw some very strong conclusions:

  1. The Fed is growing splintered on how to proceed from a policy standpoint.
  2. This splintering will have political implications (Bernanke will likely step down at the end of his term in early 2014, if not before)
  3. This splintering will have major financial implications for every asset class  particularly stocks which have become completely disconnected from economic realities.

We offer several FREE Special Reports to help investors navigate this risk and others in the financial system. They include:

Preparing Your Portfolio For Obama’s Economic Nightmare

How to Protect Yourself From Inflation

And last but not least…

Bullion 101: Everything You Need to Know About Investing in Gold and Silver Bullion…

You can pick up free copies of all of the above at:

http://gainspainscapital.com/

Best

Phoenix Capital Research

Your rating: None

Rush To Safety: Americans Buy Nearly Half a Billion Dollars Of Gold and Silver...

While public officials may be ignoring the continued deterioration of our economy, job losses to the tune of hundreds of thousands of people weekly, and the unprecedented demand for government emergency support services like unemployment insurance and food assistance, Americans who sense uncertainty in the air are flocking to the safety of physical resources.

Our first point of interest is a recent report from the Federal Reserve that indicates some $114 billion dollars in cash was withdrawn from the nation’s largest banks in the last thirty days. Those holding their money at bailed out financial institutions are understandably concerned because the government’s $250,000 deposit insurance guarantee program, originally implemented to restore confidence in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, expired at the end of 2012. That and the US fiscal situation has never been worse, with one Obama official recently having said the solution to the country’s woes is to simply kill the dollar.

This suggests investors and cash savers are no longer confident in the purported safety of the country’s “too-big-to-fail” institutions.

The next obvious question then is, “where did this money go?”

Part of the mystery may have been unraveled when the US Mint released its latest sales and inventory report.

According to the mint, investors purchased nearly half a billion dollars in gold and silver in the last 30 days. There was, in fact, so much money shifting into physical precious metals in January that the mint was actually forced to cease operations because they couldn’t meet demand.

massive 7.4 million Silver Eagles were purchased from the U.S. Mint in January, considerably higher than the previous record from early 2011.

After halting Silver coin production/sales for over a week, the Mint re-opened yesterday and demand once again surged.

Having almost doubled from the first week in January, there remains two more days before the book is closed on January’s sales.

At 140,000 ounces, the Mint has also sold the most ounces of gold in January in almost three years, suggesting the rising ‘currency wars’ are stoking people’s ongoing rotation from paper-to-physical assets as their ‘wealth’ slowing loses its value.

With a Silver Eagle trading at around $31 per ounce and the gold spot price at near all time highs of $1650, the US Mint saw some $460 million dollars shift into precious metals in the month of January alone.

What’s equally as interesting, and perhaps a harbinger of the coming chaos, is that the People’s Republic of China is also shifting a large amount of its cash reserves into physical resource based investments that include agriculture, energy, and precious metals, a move that has caused confusion among experts at the United Nations.

With the political situation in this country rapidly dwindling because of government interference on all levels, a recession for 2013 already baked into the cake, and a global economy on the brink of collapse, there is one primary motivating factor driving money into gold and silver.

Uncertainty.

As we’ve seen recently with shortages in emergency food rations and supplies, firearms and magazines, and now gold and silver, Americans are no longer confident in the stability of the system as a whole, and they are diversifying their assets into physical resources that will retain value should the global financial, economic, monetary, and geo-political systems come unhinged.

Gay Bishop Comes Up With the Worst Argument to Support Same-Sex Marriage

An atheist says Bishop Gene Robinson's new book, "God Believes in Love" has some major flaws.

Photo Credit: © Lisa F. Young/ Shutterstock.com

January 30, 2013  |  

Like this article?

Join our email list:

Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.

How do we convince religious believers to accept same-sex marriage?

The opposition to LGBT rights in general, and to same-sex marriage in particular, overwhelmingly comes from conservative religion, founded in the religious belief that gay sex makes baby Jesus cry. So if same-sex marriage proponents want to persuade religious believers to support same-sex marriage... how can we do that? Should we keep our argument entirely secular, and stay away from the whole question of religious belief? Or should we try to persuade them that God is on our side?

Lots of people make the second argument. Bishop Gene Robinson is one of them. And Bishop Robinson is a man to be taken seriously. The first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, Bishop Robinson has been active in progressive political activism for many years: he is a fellow at the Center for American Progress, is co-author of three AIDS education curricula for youth and adults, has done AIDS work in the United States and in Africa, and famously delivered the invocation at President Obama's opening inaugural ceremonies in 2009. He's recently written a book, published by Knopf and widely reviewed and well-received: God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage. Aimed at religious believers who oppose same-sex marriage or are on the fence about it, the book makes a Christian case for same-sex marriage: "a commonsense, reasoned, religious argument made by someone who holds the religious text of the Bible to be holy and sacred and the ensuing two millennia of church history to be relevant to the discussion."

And I think this is a terrible, terrible idea.

I am an ardent supporter of same-sex marriage. What with being married to a woman and all. I agree fervently that same-sex marriage deserves fully equal legal and social recognition with opposite-sex marriage, and I am very glad to see Bishop Robinson, and anyone else, advocating for it in the public arena.

But the argument he makes in his new book, God Believes in Love, disturbs me greatly. I am deeply disturbed by the idea that God, or any sort of religious or spiritual belief, should have anything to do with the question of same-sex marriage. I am deeply disturbed by the idea that any decision about politics, law, public policy, or morality should ever be based on what's supposedly going on in God's head. I agree completely with Bishop Robinson's conclusion about same-sex marriage -- but I am passionately opposed to the method by which he's reached it, and the arguments he's making to advance it.

I should say right now: I'm an atheist. But before anyone dismisses my argument on that basis, let me be very clear: My objections are relevant to everyone. The things that trouble me about religion being injected into public debate... they should trouble everyone. Yes, my objections are strongly informed by my atheism.

But my problem is not, "God doesn't exist, therefore 'what God wants' is a ridiculous thing to worry about." My problem is this: When we base our political/legal/moral decisions on what we think God wants, we have no way of knowing if we're right. When we base our decisions on what we think God wants, we have no basis for resolving our differences. Religion is based on faith -- and faith, by definition, is uniquely resistant to evidence. Even at its best, faith ultimately comes down to, "I feel it in my heart." And if someone else feels something entirely different in their heart about God's intentions, we have no means of persuading them that they're mistaken. For that matter, we have no means of being persuaded ourselves if we're mistaken. When we base our decisions on what we think God wants, it's ultimately no different from basing our decisions on what we want... reinforced and amplified by the conviction that our wishes dovetail with God's, and made more stubbornly resistant to change by the fundamental irrationality of religious faith.

US slips back into recession

Port of Los Angeles.(AFP Photo / Robyn Beck)

Port of Los Angeles.(AFP Photo / Robyn Beck)

The US economy unexpectedly took its biggest plunge in more than three years last quarter, contracting at an annual rate of 0.1 percent and indicating a new level of vulnerability for the economy.

The plummet marks the first time the economy contracted since the Great Recession ended and is causing concern that the US could be headed further downhill. The economy shrank from October through December, which economists attribute to a large cut in spending, fewer exports and lagging growth in company stockpiles.

Defense spending contracted at a 22 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter and saw its biggest cut in 40 years, while business inventories sharply declined, indicating that businesses will need to buy more goods in the next quarter to restock their shelves. The Hurricane Sandy recovery effort also cut about 0.5 percentage points off of fourth-quarter growth.

Gross domestic product fell at a 0.1 percent annual rate, which is a dramatic decrease from the economy’s 3.1 percent growth rate in the third quarter, the Commerce Department reported. The US economy had not plummeted this deeply since the second quarter of 2009, when the Great Recession was in its final stages.

Alan Krueger, head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, attributes the deep decline to the upcoming sequestration deadline.

“A likely explanation for the sharp decline in federal defense spending is uncertainty concerning the automatic spending cuts that were scheduled to take effect in January, and are currently scheduled to take effect on March 1st,” Krueger wrote in a White House blog post.

But uncertainty still exists as lawmakers have once again delayed a potential US default without coming up with a long-term budget plan. The new sequestration deadline could continue to harm the economy.

While a number of economists are hopeful that the deep contraction was a one-time event and the economy will spring back to life in the first quarter of 2013, the plummet should instead give policymakers a sense of urgency to deal with their outstanding budget issues. No economists predicted the contraction and they might also fail to predict any future declines.

Even though the fourth quarter’s deceleration may have been partially due to temporary factors, like the effects of Hurricane Sandy, it caused 2013 to begin with no momentum, and raises concern over a further decline in wake of another congressional budget battle and a looming sequestration deadline.

Fears over the effects of a fiscal cliff kept businesses from stocking up on inventories, but the fears of a US default could return in three months.

“Think of it as a giant hand holding down the economy,” Tim Hopper, chief economist at TIAA-CRED told the Wall Street Journal about the uncertainty over the long-term budget. And with a recession still holding down parts of Europe, US exports could continue to lag.

“The economy has less momentum going into 2013 than initially thought, making it vulnerable to external shocks,” said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group.

Economists failed to predict the most recent contraction and if the economy continues to decline, then they will have also failed to predict the next US recession.

Parents, Teachers Slam Department of Education Over Mass School Closures

Over 200 activists, community organizers, parents and students from cities across the U.S. gathered in Washington Tuesday to tell U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that Obama's signature 'Race to the Top' education policy—which has lead to widespread public school closures—is wreaking havoc on public education.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (AP Photo) "The voices of the people directly impacted can no longer be ignored," said Jitu Brown, an organizer from the South Side of Chicago at the meeting that included both Duncan and Obama education adviser Roberto Rodriguez. The groups urged that the the Education Department's School Improvement Grant, among other programs, increases unnecessary school closures. The grant program awards school districts with grant money, but only to those who enforce cut-backs and "shake-ups" including mass school closures—leaving many communities without neighborhood schools.

Brown called the policies "a violation of our human rights."

The activists, who belong to the group Journey for Justice Movement, argued that such policies specifically hurt minority students. The group has filed multiple Title VI civil rights complaints with the Education Department Office of Civil Rights, the Huffington Post reports.

Duncan left the meeting after only 45 minutes, reportedly due to his schedule. The activists promptly responded by chanting: "Where is Duncan? Where is Duncan?"

On the widespread school closures proposed in Philadelphia, Helen Gym, co-founder of Parents United for Public Education, recently stated:

Whatever your opinion may be of [charter schools], there’s no question that the District has failed to explain its inconsistent approach of allowing charter expansion without regard to expense or academic quality while insisting on draconian and widespread sacrifice among District schools. This despite the fact that many of the District schools targeted for closure outperform some of the charters that the SRC renewed and expanded last spring.

Among the cities most affected by such policies, Philadelphia is slated to close 37 schools by June.

Meanwhile, at a Public Schools hearing in Chicago Monday parents and teachers expressed outrage over recent steps towards mass closings within the city. Shouts and chants from the nearly 200 attendees drowned out school officials who attempted to pitch "under-used" school closures.

The Education Department is currently probing complaints that school closings in six cities — D.C., Newark, Philadelphia, Detroit, New York City and Chicago — violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The National Schools Board Association criticized the Obama administration’s education policies, in a statement released Tuesday, saying Duncan has pushed “unnecessary and counter-productive federal intrusion” onto local school districts, and urged members of Congress to co-sponsor legislation, developed by NSBA, to protect local school district governance from over-reaching federal policies.

Meet the Contractors Turning America’s Police Into a Paramilitary Force

You should know about them because they may already know about you.

January 30, 2013  |  

Like this article?

Join our email list:

Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.

The national security state has an annual budget of around $1 trillion. Of that huge pile of money, large amounts go to private companies the federal government awards contracts to. Some, like Lockheed Martin or Boeing, are household names, but many of the contractors fly just under the public's radar. What follows are three companies you should know about (because some of them can learn a lot about you with their spy technologies).

L3 Communications

L3 is everywhere. Those night-vision goggles the JSOC team in Zero Dark Thirty uses?  That's L3. The new machines that are replacing the naked scanners at the airport?  That's L3. Torture at Abu Ghraib? A former subsidiary of L3 was recently ordered to pay $ 5.28 million to 71 Iraqis who had been held in the awful prison. 

Oh, and drones? L3 is on it. Reprieve, a UK-based human rights organization, earlier this month  wrote on its Web site:

“L-3 Communications is one of the main subcontractors involved with production of the US’s lethal Predator since the inception of the programme. Predators are used by the CIA to kill ‘suspected militants’ and terrorise entire populations in Pakistan and Yemen. Drone strikes have escalated under the Obama administration and 2013 has already seen six strikes in the two countries.”

Unsurprisingly, L3 Communications is well connected beyond the national security community. Its chief financial officer recently spoke at  Goldman Sachs, at what the financial titan hilariously refers to as a “fireside chat.”

L3 also supplies local law enforcement with its night-vision products and makes a license-plate recognition  (LPR) device, a machine with disturbing implications. LPR can be mounted on cop cruisers or statically positioned at busy intersections and can run potentially thousands of license plates through law enforcement databases in a matter of hours. In some parts of the country LPR readers can track your location for miles. As the Wall Street Journal noted, surveillance of even “mundane” activities of people not accused of any crime is now “the default rather than the exception.”

L3 Communications embodies the totality of the national security and surveillance state. There is only minimal distinction between its military products and police products. Its night-vision line is sold to both military and law enforcement. Its participation in the drone program is now, as far as we know, limited to countries in the Middle East and North Africa. But in the words of the  New York Times editorial board, “[i]t is not a question of whether drones will appear in the skies above the United States but how soon.” The NYT estimates the domestic drone market at $5 billion, likely a conservative estimate, and contractors will vie for that money in the public and private sphere. L3's venture into airports, the border of where domestic policy meets foreign policy in the name of national security, is therefore significant both symbolically and materially.

In many ways, that is the most important story of the post-9/11 United States: the complete evaporation of the separation of foreign and domestic polices. Whether we're talking about paramilitarized police, warrantless wiretapping, inhumane prison conditions, or drone surveillance, there exist few differences between a United States perpetually at war and a United States determined to police and imprison its people in unacceptable ways and at unacceptable rates.

Harris Corporation: Stingray “IMSI catcher”

Harris Corp. is a huge provider of national security and communications technology to federal and local law enforcement agencies. Though many people have never heard of it, Harris is a major player in the beltway National Security community. President and CEO William M. Brown was recently appointed to the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, and in 2009 the Secret Service offered Harris a contract to train its agents in the use of Harris' Stingray line. The Secret Service awarded the company additional contracts in 2012.

In Walmart and Fast Food, Unions Scaling Up a Strike-First Strategy

We need your help to sustain grassroots, groundbreaking journalism. Make a tax-deductible contribution to Truthout now by clicking here.

Small but highly publicized strikes by Walmart retail and warehouse workers last fall set the labor movement abuzz and gained new respect for organizing methods once regarded skeptically.

“The labor movement is all about results,” says Dan Schlademan, who directs the Making Change at Walmart project of the Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). “The results are creating the energy.”

Walmart is a particularly rich target because the company is so large that it sets wages and prices among suppliers and competitors.

What’s the strategy behind the latest surprising wave of activism?

Like most new organizing in the private sector, decades of attempts to unionize Walmart stores in the U.S. and Canada have been met with firings, outsourcing, and even closings.

So retail workers who staff the stores, warehouse workers who move Walmart’s goods, and even guest workers who peel crawfish for a supplier are ignoring the path laid out by U.S. labor law, in which workers sign a petition asking to vote on a union.

Instead, they’re exercising their rights to redress grievances together, whether a majority can be rallied to support the effort or not.

One-day strikes in dozens of stores last October and November protested illegal retaliation against those who had spoken up at their workplaces and joined the Organization United for Respect at Walmart. Several had been fired and many experienced threats and cuts in hours for their participation.

“We have a way to respond to illegal actions,” Schlademan said: “the power of the strike.”

SPREAD TO FAST FOOD

Last summer, following the OUR Walmart model, the Service Employees (SEIU) started funding an effort to organize fast food workers in New York, Chicago, and other cities.

Inspired by the Walmart warehouse and store strikes, workers launched one-day strikes in New York City a week after Black Friday. Workers marched back in with clergy, elected officials, and press, shaming managers who had hoped to retaliate, and reinstating one Wendy’s striker when her manager fired her for participating.

But the next steps are far from certain. “Are you trying to have a union like we have now? If so I would say forget it, don’t do it,” said Rick Smith, who was involved in a 2005 pilot project to organize Walmart in Florida. Instead, he advised activists to “figure it out as you go along.”

That’s pretty much the attitude of organizers who are making interesting things happen in warehouses, retail, restaurants, fast food, and along Walmart’s supply chain from the ports to the stores.

Their efforts are part “non-majority” organizing on the job site, part strategic besmirching of their employers’ brands, part community-labor coalescing—and several parts chutzpah.

BORN OF DESPERATION

“The labor movement has tried a range of strategies over the last 20 years,” said Mark Meinster, who’s organizing Walmart warehouse workers in Illinois. “Comprehensive campaigns, neutrality agreements, NLRB organizing—and while we’ve learned a lot through those strategies, none of it has reversed the decline.

“So now we’re at a point where there’s openness to new strategies. There’s an understanding that we won’t get labor law reform soon, that employers will continue to take a more aggressive stance toward workers and their unions, and so unions are looking at ways to impact those employers economically.”

Meinster also praised the skills labor has learned in its decades of operating from weakness: research, using the law, capital strategies, international work. The trick now, he said, is to combine those staff skills with building leaders in the workplaces and a willingness to use pre-majority organizing and, if workers so choose, strikes.

“I don’t know how to grasp corporate attention,” said Martha Sellers, a cashier in Paramount, California, who struck on Black Friday. “I expect we get to them through their paycheck.”

INTERESTINGLY QUIET

Despite Walmart’s fearsome reputation, the Black Friday strikes did not produce additional firings. “We’re not assuming a new reality inside the company, but it’s interestingly quiet,” said Schlademan.

The walkouts involved some 500 workers in dozens of stores. In some stores as few as two workers struck; in others half the shift walked out.

Around 13 walked out of the Walmart in Paramount. “We were all scared, but we did it,” said Sellers. Though the store is now more understaffed than ever, managers have not taken action against the strikers, she said, and are “being very careful about what they say.”

That calm may be because the public eye is on Walmart. The actions at 1,000 stores held by community supporters, ranging from small informational pickets outside to musical flash mobs inside, gained plenty of media glare.

Walmart also wants to protect its image because it’s trying to convince city councils to let it build in urban areas that have thus far rejected the big box, markets like New York City and Seattle. Having paved rural and suburban America with its stores, Walmart is desperate to grow in cities.

Nick Allen of Warehouse Workers United believes Walmart cares about “reputational harm” that can’t be quantified, like the hit the company took when 112 apparel workers at a supplier were burned to death in Bangladesh. “When you’re the biggest employer it puts a level of scrutiny on you,” he said.

But even with Walmart on its best behavior for now, it’s unclear—even to organizers—how to take today’s retail effort to the next level. Many worker complaints, such as those about health care or pay, hit the heart of Walmart’s low-road business model and solutions can’t be extracted from local store managers.

For example, workers want regular shifts. But managers get bonuses (and preserve their jobs) by keeping labor costs down using a hated just-in-time scheduling system, said Nelson Lichtenstein, a historian who writes about Walmart.

Still, “Walmart will accommodate various kinds of pressures,” said Lichtenstein, as long as it doesn’t mean recognizing a union. The penny-pinching corporation contradicted its own forecasts and raised wages in 700 of its stores in 2006, according to recently revealed company communications. The increase was likely a result of vigorous non-majority organizing in 2005 and 2006 (see sidebar).

And on January 15 there was a sign the strikes have made top management defensive about scheduling. Walmart CEO Bill Simon announced vague intentions to change the company’s scheduling practices, which elicited a skeptical response from OUR Walmart: “We need these words to translate into real action.”

RAISING PAY

If the current effort ends up raising Walmart pay substantially, it will be good news for retail and grocery workers around the country—another reason for organizers to target the company.

Walmart employs nearly one out of every 100 U.S. workers. It also sells more groceries than any of the largest U.S. grocery chains and undermines wages for grocery and other retail workers, many of them UFCW members. Walmart’s poor standards are used to justify low pay and unpredictable schedules everywhere from big box Target to New York boutiques.

OUR Walmart’s demands include $13 an hour, and fast food workers in New York and Chicago recently united under the banner of “Fight for $15.” Politicians are limping behind. In January, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested that the state’s minimum wage should increase by $1.50 to $8.75, still miserably low. Nationally, the average Walmart worker makes around $8.81.

Trying to pit workers against customers, naysayers claim that higher wages will increase Walmart’s prices. But a recent study by the think tank Demos calculated that if all big low-wage retailers raised store workers to $12.25 a hour, it would lift three quarters of a million Americans above the poverty line—and cost customers only 15 cents per shopping trip.

Meanwhile, those same customers’ own wages have been dragged down by the Walmartized economy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the Walton family controls $100 billion, more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined.

‘OPEN SOURCE’ ORGANIZING

Walmart has more than 4,000 stores and 1.4 million employees in the U.S., so OUR Walmart has just scratched the surface. Hoping to grow quickly, organizers describe the group as “open source,” meaning that workers can stumble upon it, talk to existing activists, and then organize themselves. The group boasts thousands of members, up from 100 in early 2011, in 43 states.

Members pay dues of $5 a month. UFCW has put in considerable resources and is “in it for the long haul,” said Schlademan.

Walmart managers are spreading the word, too. As Black Friday protests approached, workers around the country reported meetings warning them not to participate.

There is a spontaneous quality to the group. OUR Walmart’s Facebook page bustles with discussions of goings-on at the stores. Workers compare their quarterly profit-sharing bonuses (measly), tell stories about crazy managers (one in Alabama recently held a 30-minute meeting in the freezer to punish staff), compare their hours (dropping since Christmas), and write in to ask for help.

“I work at the Walmart in Moultrie, Georgia,” wrote Michael Brady on December 30. “Managers use their power to fire people just because they don’t like you… I heard about this group from a friend and we really need some help here.”

Others are frustrated at work but express skepticism about organizing. “There will never be respect for us, we just work, that’s all we do… The ones that bitch get fired, so good luck with your little deal here,” wrote Travis Ratajcyzk, an unloader in Covina, California.

OUR Walmart activists in other stores reassured him they had been active for over a year and had not been fired.

It’s possible the current composition of the National Labor Relations Board is helping forestall retaliatory firings. In 2000, Walmart faced board charges for retaliation against store employees across the country. Forty-one were fired for concerted activity between 1998 and 2003, says UFCW.

The union hoped to win a broad injunction against the company, which might have given workers nationwide breathing room to organize. But, according to Lichtenstein, Walmart made a call to the White House, and the incoming Bush administration promptly fired sympathetic NLRB General Counsel Leonard Page. The complaint went nowhere.

Under President Obama, the board and general counsel have been more sympathetic to worker organizing and have even sought injunctions against anti-union activity at other companies.

The board could be helpful if the company returns to its “fire first, deal with the legal problems later” attitude.

“We’re assuming the worst and hoping for the best,” said Schlademan of the company’s recent behavior. “Walmart is good at being patient and waiting until the spotlight is off of them.”

In preparation, the union and OUR Walmart have been trying out adopt-a-store ideas, so community members can immediately raise a fuss if workers are fired. They’ve also been developing an electronic rapid-response system and connecting with sympathetic local clergy and elected leaders. And they plan more strikes.

Reprinted with permission from Labor Notes.

New from Labor Notes: The Steward's Toolbox is a how-to resource guide that gives labor activists the skills and orientation they need. Pick up a copy today!

Verbal Tics vs Political Routines: Distorting Concepts, Turning Realities Up Side Down

mind

A lot of what we say and do becomes habit-forming. Groundhog Day 2013 could serve as a reminder that some political habits should be kicked. Here are a few:

**  “Defense budget

No, it’s not a defense budget. It’s a military budget.

But countless people and organizations keep saying they want to cut “the defense budget” or reduce “defense spending.”

Anyone who wants to challenge the warfare state should dispense with this misnomer. We don’t object to “defense” — what we do oppose, vehemently, is military spending that has nothing to do with real defense and everything to do with killing people, enforcing geopolitical control and making vast profits for military contractors. And no, they’re not “defense contractors.”

President Eisenhower’s farewell address didn’t warn against a “defense-industrial complex.”

The fact that there’s something officially called the Department of Defense — formerly the Department of War, until 1947 — doesn’t make its huge budget a “defense budget,” any more than renaming the Bureau of Prisons “the Bureau of Love” would mean we should talk about wanting to cut the “love budget.”

**  “Pro-life”

Last week, midway through a heated debate on the PBS “NewsHour,” the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America said that some politicians get elected while hiding their extreme anti-abortion positions — but would be rejected at the ballot box “if they ran on their pro-life values.”

“Pro-life” values? Not a label that abortion-rights advocates should use for opponents of a woman’s right to choose an abortion. One of the main reasons those opponents keep calling themselves “pro-life” is they want to imply that supporters of abortion rights are anti-life. Why help?

**  “Globalization”

In many realms, globalization can be positive, even essential. For instance, wonderful results flow from globalizing solidarity among workers around the world. Likewise, the planetary spread of awareness and cooperation among people taking action to protect the environment, stop human-rights abuses and end war.

Corporate globalization is another matter. Its destructive effects are lashing every continent with voracious commercialization along with exploitive races to the bottom for cheap labor, extraction of raw materials, privatization, flattening of protective tariffs, overriding of national laws that protect workers and replacement of democratic possibilities with the rule of big money.

Putting “corporate” before “globalization” may seem cumbersome, but it’s worth another three syllables. There’s a world of difference between globalization for human cooperation and corporate globalization. Blurring it all together misses the chance to clarify the distinct possibilities.

**  “Moderates”

Fifty-five years ago, in his book “The Causes of World War Three,” sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote about what he called “crackpot realism” — policy nostrums widely touted by mass media outlets and other powerful institutions as wisely reasonable, yet actually disastrous.

In a similar groove, these days, we hear about how certain elected officials are “moderates.” And we might refer to them that way ourselves. But the grim results of crackpot moderation — climate change and environmental degradation, incessant warfare, more poverty, widening economic inequities, abuse of civil liberties and so much more — are all around us. So-called “moderates” fuel the infernos of catastrophe.

What’s moderate about the extreme injustices and destructiveness of the status quo?

**  Skimming the headlines

We all do it sometimes — glancing at headlines and scarcely reading the stories — one of the reasons why, all too often, what we think we know actually isn’t so.

Case in point: a headline at the top of the New York Times front page days ago, no doubt leaving many quick readers with the belief that President Obama is getting tough on Wall Street.

Well, that’s what the headline conveyed. “SIGNAL TO STREET IN OBAMA’S PICK FOR REGULATORS,” it began, followed by an elaboration in big type just below: “A Renewed Resolve to Hold Financial Firms Accountable.”

Mostly focusing on the appointment of Mary Jo White to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission, the article offered a fleeting indication in its eighth paragraph that the “renewed resolve” might actually be wobbly. “While Ms. White is best known as an aggressive prosecutor,” the article noted, “she also built a lucrative legal practice defending Wall Street executives, a potential concern for consumer advocates.”

The basis for that potential concern, however, did not gain any further elucidation until the article’s twenty-sixth paragraph, which provided the other mention of why consumer advocates might be concerned: “Ms. White could face additional questions about her career, a revolving door in and out of government. In private practice, she defended some of Wall Street’s biggest names, including Kenneth D. Lewis, a former chief of Bank of America. As the head of litigation at Debevoise & Plimpton, she also represented JPMorgan Chase and the board of Morgan Stanley.”

So much for headlines.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He writes the Political Culture 2013 column.

CIA Nominee John Brennan’s Worry Over Torture Ended with Who Might Get Blamed

As John Brennan readies for confirmation hearings as CIA director, re-surfaced episodes of how the spy operative and national security adviser dealt with knowledge about the torture program under the Bush administration shows that his reticence about ...

New leaf or old news? Sen. John Kerry confirmed as US secretary of state

US senators have voted overwhelmingly in favor of John Kerry’s appointment as secretary of state. Kerry’s anti-war past has sparked hopes he will encourage more diplomacy in Washington, while critics suspect he will adopt the imperialist foreign policy

The vote was almost unanimous, with three senators voting against Kerry’s appointment and 94 voting in favor. Three senators abstained from the vote.

The 69-year-old was expected to win handily after President Barack Obama nominated him for the role in December of last year. Kerry accepted the post amid applause, and said he was honored by the appointment.

"What a privilege to work with you and now to work with you in a different way. I thank you very, very much," Kerry said to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He called for “fresh thinking” in US policy, and stressed that "American foreign policy is not defined by drones and deployments alone."

Kerry earned his reputation as an anti-war politician following his stint as a spokesperson for peace group Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Additionally, in 1991 he voted against US involvement in the first Gulf War. However, over time Kerry’s image as an anti-war advocate morphed into that of a mainstream politician, RT’s Gayane Chichakyan said, referring to the senator’s support of the 2002 Iraq invasion.

And during a 2004 interview in which he was asked whether or not he would have gone to war if the US had known from the start that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, he replied that he would have approved the invasion.

“His record shows when the tide turns – and that tide can turn very quickly – and the drums of war start beating loud and clear again, John Kerry would probably jump on that tide,” Chichakyan said.

­

Skin-deep

Iraq war veteran Michael Prysner voiced doubts over whether Kerry’s appointment as secretary of state would herald significant changes in US foreign policy.

“We can’t say for sure that there will be no change in US policy with a new secretary of state coming into office,” Prysner explained, adding that minor changes could be expected since Kerry will likely bring his own staff to the administration.

“Any changes that do happen will be completely within this unchanging overarching strategic frame work which is to dominate the world’s resources and economies, the entire earth for the US banks and corporation at the expensive of everyone else,” Prysner told RT.

In a similar vein, Brian Drolet from Deep Dish television said that changes would be purely superficial: “There may be some change in style and tone, but there won’t be a change in substance between Kerry and Clinton.”

Drolet described the role of the secretary of state, for all intents and purposes, as having very little influence over US foreign policy given the absence of any significant changes over the last two decades.

“What has really changed? First-strike wars in Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan and now they’re positioning so-called missile defense on the Turkish-Russian border which is essentially a first-strike weapon,” Drolet told RT.

Kerry will face some significant challenges upon assuming the post of secretary of state. Namely, the unresolved US conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, including the terrorist attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi last September that killed a US ambassador. The Syrian conflict also remains unresolved, as various attempts at brokering pace through diplomatic channels have failed to yield results.

Towards a World War III Scenario? The Role of Israel in Triggering an Attack...

Towards a World War III Scenario? The Role of Israel in Triggering an Attack on Iran

This article was first published in August 2010.

For further details consult Michel Chossudovsky’s book, 

Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War 

available in hardcover or pdf from Global Research.

The stockpiling and deployment of advanced weapons systems directed against Iran started in the immediate wake of the 2003 bombing and invasion of Iraq. From the outset, these war plans were led by the US, in liaison with NATO and Israel.

Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration identified Iran and Syria as the next stage of “the road map to war”. US military sources intimated that an aerial attack on Iran could involve a large scale deployment comparable to the US “shock and awe” bombing raids on Iraq in March 2003:

“American air strikes on Iran would vastly exceed the scope of the 1981 Israeli attack on the Osiraq nuclear center in Iraq, and would more resemble the opening days of the 2003 air campaign against Iraq.(See Globalsecurity )

“Theater Iran Near Term”

Code named by US military planners as TIRANNT, “Theater Iran Near Term”, simulations of an attack on Iran were initiated in May 2003 “when modelers and intelligence specialists pulled together the data needed for theater-level (meaning large-scale) scenario analysis for Iran.” ( (William Arkin, Washington Post, 16 April 2006).

The scenarios identified several thousand targets inside Iran as part of a “Shock and Awe” Blitzkrieg:

“The analysis, called TIRANNT, for “Theater Iran Near Term,” was coupled with a mock scenario for a Marine Corps invasion and a simulation of the Iranian missile force. U.S. and British planners conducted a Caspian Sea war game around the same time. And Bush directed the U.S. Strategic Command to draw up a global strike war plan for an attack against Iranian weapons of mass destruction. All of this will ultimately feed into a new war plan for “major combat operations” against Iran that military sources confirm now [April 2006] exists in draft form.

… Under TIRANNT, Army and U.S. Central Command planners have been examining both near-term and out-year scenarios for war with Iran, including all aspects of a major combat operation, from mobilization and deployment of forces through postwar stability operations after regime change.” (William Arkin, Washington Post, 16 April 2006)

Different “theater scenarios” for an all out attack on Iran had been contemplated:  “The US army, navy, air force and marines have all prepared battle plans and spent four years building bases and training for “Operation Iranian Freedom”. Admiral Fallon, the new head of US Central Command, has inherited computerized plans under the name TIRANNT (Theatre Iran Near Term).” (New Statesman, February 19, 2007)

In 2004, drawing upon the initial war scenarios under TIRANNT,  Vice President Dick Cheney instructed USSTRATCOM to draw up a “contingency plan” of a large scale military operation directed against Iran “to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States” on the presumption that the government in Tehran would be behind the terrorist plot. The plan included the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state:

“The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing—that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack—but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.” (Philip Giraldi, Deep Background,The American Conservative  August 2005)

The Military Road Map: “First Iraq, then Iran”

The decision to target Iran under TIRANNT was part of the broader process of military planning and sequencing of military operations. Already under the Clinton administration, US Central Command (USCENTCOM) had formulated  “in war theater plans” to invade first Iraq and then Iran. Access to Middle East oil was the stated strategic objective:

“The broad national security interests and objectives expressed in the President’s National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Chairman’s National Military Strategy (NMS) form the foundation of the United States Central Command’s theater strategy. The NSS directs implementation of a strategy of dual containment of the rogue states of Iraq and Iran as long as those states pose a threat to U.S. interests, to other states in the region, and to their own citizens. Dual containment is designed to maintain the balance of power in the region without depending on either Iraq or Iran. USCENTCOM’s theater strategy is interest-based and threat-focused. The purpose of U.S. engagement, as espoused in the NSS, is to protect the United States’ vital interest in the region – uninterrupted, secure U.S./Allied access to Gulf oil.” (USCENTCOM, http://www.milnet.com/milnet/pentagon/centcom/chap1/stratgic.htm#USPolicy, link no longer active, archived at http://tinyurl.com/37gafu9)

The war on Iran was viewed as part of a succession of military operations.  According to (former) NATO Commander General Wesley Clark, the Pentagon’s military road-map consisted of a sequence of countries: “[The] Five-year campaign plan [includes]… a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.”  In “Winning Modern Wars” (page 130) General Clark states the following:

“As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan. (See Secret 2001 Pentagon Plan to Attack Lebanon, Global Research, July 23, 2006)

The Role of Israel

There has been much debate regarding the role of Israel in initiating an attack against Iran.

Israel is part of a military alliance. Tel Aviv is not a prime mover. It does not have a separate and distinct military agenda.

Israel is integrated into the “war plan for major combat operations” against Iran formulated in 2006 by US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). In the context of large scale military operations, an uncoordinated unilateral military action by one coalition partner, namely Israel, is from a military and strategic point almost an impossibility. Israel is a de facto member of NATO. Any action by Israel would require a “green light” from Washington.

An attack by Israel could, however, be used as “the trigger mechanism” which would unleash an all out war against Iran, as well retaliation by Iran directed against Israel.

In this regard, there are indications that Washington might envisage the option of an initial (US backed) attack by Israel  rather than an outright US-led military operation directed against Iran. The Israeli attack –although led in close liaison with the Pentagon and NATO– would be presented to public opinion as a unilateral decision by Tel Aviv. It would then be used by Washington to justify, in the eyes of World opinion, a military intervention of the US and NATO with a view to “defending Israel”, rather than attacking Iran. Under existing military cooperation agreements, both the US and NATO would be “obligated” to “defend Israel” against Iran and Syria.

It is worth noting, in this regard, that at the outset of Bush’s second term, (former) Vice President Dick Cheney hinted, in no uncertain terms, that Iran was “right at the top of the list” of the “rogue enemies” of America, and that Israel would, so to speak, “be doing the bombing for us”, without US military involvement and without us putting pressure on them “to do it” (See Michel Chossudovsky, Planned US-Israeli Attack on Iran, Global Research, May 1, 2005): According to Cheney:

“One of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked… Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards,” (Dick Cheney, quoted from an MSNBC Interview, January 2005)

Commenting the Vice President’s assertion, former National Security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski in an interview on PBS, confirmed with some apprehension, yes: Cheney wants Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to act on America’s behalf and “do it” for us:

“Iran I think is more ambiguous. And there the issue is certainly not tyranny; it’s nuclear weapons. And the vice president today in a kind of a strange parallel statement to this declaration of freedom hinted that the Israelis may do it and in fact used language which sounds like a justification or even an encouragement for the Israelis to do it.”

What we are dealing with is a joint US-NATO-Israel  military operation to bomb Iran, which has been in the active planning stage since 2004. Officials in the Defense Department, under Bush and Obama, have been working assiduously with their Israeli military and intelligence counterparts, carefully identifying targets inside Iran. In practical military terms, any action by Israel would have to be planned and coordinated at the highest levels of the US led coalition.

An attack by Israel would also require coordinated US-NATO logistical support, particularly with regard to Israel’s air defense system, which since January 2009 is fully integrated into that of the US and NATO. (See Michel Chossudovsky,  Unusually Large U.S. Weapons Shipment to Israel: Are the US and Israel Planning a Broader Middle East War?  Global Research, January 11,2009)

Israel’s X band radar system established in early 2009 with US technical support has “integrate[d] Israel’s missile defenses with the U.S. global missile [Space-based] detection network, which includes satellites, Aegis ships on the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf and Red Sea, and land-based Patriot radars and interceptors.” (Defense Talk.com, January 6, 2009,)

What this means is that Washington ultimately calls the shots. The US rather than Israel controls the air defense system: ”’This is and will remain a U.S. radar system,’ Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said. ‘So this is not something we are giving or selling to the Israelis and it is something that will likely require U.S. personnel on-site to operate.’” (Quoted in Israel National News, January 9, 2009).

The US military oversees Israel’s Air Defense system, which is integrated into the Pentagon’s global system. In other words, Israel cannot launch a war against Iran without Washington’s consent. Hence the importance of the so-called “Green Light” legislation in the US Congress sponsored by the Republican party under House Resolution 1553, which explicitly supports an Israeli attakc on Iran:

“The measure, introduced by Texas Republican Louie Gohmert and 46 of his colleagues, endorses Israel’s use of “all means necessary” against Iran “including the use of military force.” … “We’ve got to get this done. We need to show our support for Israel. We need to quit playing games with this critical ally in such a difficult area.”’ (See Webster Tarpley, Fidel Castro Warns of Imminent Nuclear War; Admiral Mullen Threatens Iran; US-Israel Vs. Iran-Hezbollah Confrontation Builds On, Global Research, August 10, 2010)

In practice, the proposed legislation is a “Green Light” to the White House and the Pentagon rather than to Israel. It constitutes a rubber stamp to a US sponsored war on Iran which uses Israel as a convenient military launch pad. It also serves as a justification to wage war with a view to defending Israel.

In this context, Israel could indeed provide the pretext to wage war, in response to alleged Hamas or Hezbollah attacks and/or the triggering of hostilities on the border of Israel with Lebanon. What is crucial to understand is that a minor ”incident” could be used as a pretext to spark off a major military operation against Iran.

Known to US military planners, Israel (rather than the USA) would be the first target of military retaliation by Iran. Broadly speaking, Israelis would be the victims of the machinations of both Washington and their own government. It is, in this regard, absolutely crucial that Israelis forcefully oppose any action by the Netanyahu government to attack Iran.

Global Warfare: The Role of US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM)

Global military operations are coordinated out of US Strategic Command Headquarters (USSTRATCOM) at the Offutt Air Force base in Nebraska, in liaison with the regional commands of the unified combatant commands (e.g.. US Central Command  in Florida, which is responsible for the Middle East-Central Asian region, See map below)  as well as coalition command units in Israel, Turkey, the Persian Gulf and the Diego Garcia military base in the Indian Ocean.  Military planning and decision making at a country level by individual allies of US-NATO as well as “partner nations” is integrated into a global military design including the weaponization of space.

Under its new mandate, USSTRATCOM has a responsibility for “overseeing a global strike plan” consisting of both conventional and nuclear weapons. In military jargon, it is slated to play the role of “a global integrator charged with the missions of Space Operations; Information Operations; Integrated Missile Defense; Global Command & Control; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; Global Strike; and Strategic Deterrence…. ”

USSTRATCOM’s responsibilities include: “leading, planning, & executing strategic deterrence operations” at a global level, “synchronizing global missile defense plans and operations”, “synchronizing regional combat plans”, etc. USSTRATCOM is the lead agency in the coordination of modern warfare.

In January 2005, at the outset of the military deployment and build-up directed against Iran, USSTRATCOM was identified as “the lead Combatant Command for integration and synchronization of DoD-wide efforts in combating weapons of mass destruction.” (Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, Global Research, January 3, 2006).

What this means is that the coordination of a large scale attack on Iran, including the various scenarios of escalation in and beyond the broader Middle East Central Asian region would be coordinated by USSTRATCOM.

Map: US Central Command’s Area of Jurisdiction

Tactical Nuclear Weapons directed against Iran

Confirmed by military documents as well as official statements, both the US and Israel contemplate the use of nuclear weapons directed against Iran. In 2006, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) announced it had achieved an operational capability for rapidly striking targets around the globe using nuclear or conventional weapons. This announcement was made after the conduct of military simulations pertaining to a US led nuclear attack against a fictional country. (David Ruppe, Preemptive Nuclear War in a State of Readiness: U.S. Command Declares Global Strike Capability, Global Security Newswire, December 2, 2005)

Continuity in relation to the Bush-Cheney era:  President Obama has largely endorsed the doctrine of pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons formulated by the previous administration. Under the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the Obama administration confirmed  “that it is reserving the right to use nuclear weapons against Iran” for its non-compliance with US demands regarding its alleged (nonexistent) nuclear weapons program. (U.S. Nuclear Option on Iran Linked to Israeli Attack Threat – IPS ipsnews.net, April 23, 2010). The Obama administration has also intimated that it would use nukes in the case of an Iranian response to an Israeli attack on Iran. (Ibid). Israel  has also drawn up its own “secret plans” to bomb Iran with tactical nuclear weapons:

“Israeli military commanders believe conventional strikes may no longer be enough to annihilate increasingly well-defended enrichment facilities. Several have been built beneath at least 70ft of concrete and rock. However, the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene, senior sources said.”(Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran – Times Online, January 7, 2007)

Obama’s statements on the use of nuclear weapons against Iran and North Korea are consistent with post 9/11 US nuclear weapons doctrine, which allows for the use of tactical nuclear weapons in the conventional war theater.

Through a propaganda campaign which has enlisted the support of “authoritative” nuclear scientists, mini-nukes are upheld as an instrument of peace, namely a means to combating “Islamic terrorism” and instating Western style “democracy” in Iran. The low-yield nukes have been cleared for “battlefield use”. They are slated to be used against Iran and Syria in the next stage of America’s “war on Terrorism” alongside conventional weapons.

“Administration officials argue that low-yield nuclear weapons are needed as a credible deterrent against rogue states. [Iran, Syria, North Korea] Their logic is that existing nuclear weapons are too destructive to be used except in a full-scale nuclear war. Potential enemies realize this, thus they do not consider the threat of nuclear retaliation to be credible. However, low-yield nuclear weapons are less destructive, thus might conceivably be used. That would make them more effective as a deterrent.” (Opponents Surprised By Elimination of Nuke Research Funds Defense News November 29, 2004)

The preferred nuclear weapon to be used against Iran are tactical nuclear weapons (Made in America), namely bunker buster bombs with nuclear warheads (e.g. B61.11), with an explosive capacity between one third to six times a Hiroshima bomb. The B61-11 is the “nuclear version” of the “conventional”  BLU 113. or Guided Bomb Unit GBU-28. It can be delivered in much same way as the conventional bunker buster bomb. (See Michel Chossudovsky, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO112C.html, see also http://www.thebulletin.org/article_nn.php?art_ofn=jf03norris) . While the US does not contemplate the use of strategic thermonuclear weapons against Iran, Israel’s nuclear arsenal is largely composed of thermonuclear bombs which are deployed and could be used in a war with Iran. Under Israel’s Jericho‐III missile system with a range between 4,800 km to 6,500 km, all Iran would be within reach.


Conventional bunker buster Guided Bomb Unit GBU-27


B61 bunker buster bomb

Radiactive Fallout

The issue of radioactive fallout and contamination, while casually dismissed  by US-NATO military analysts, would be devastating, potentially affecting a large area of  the broader Middle East (including Israel) and Central Asian region.

In an utterly twisted logic, nuclear weapons are presented as a means to building peace and preventing “collateral damage”.  Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons are a threat to global security, whereas those of the US  and Israel are instruments of peace” harmless to the surrounding civilian population“.

“The Mother of All Bombs” (MOAB) Slated to be Used against Iran

Of military significance within the US conventional weapons arsenal is the 21,500-pound “monster weapon” nicknamed the “mother of all bombs” The GBU-43/B or Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb (MOAB) was categorized “as the most powerful non-nuclear weapon ever designed” with the the largest yield in the US conventional arsenal. The MOAB was tested in early March 2003 before being deployed to the Iraq war theater. According to US military sources, The Joint Chiefs of Staff  had advised the government of  Saddam Hussein prior to launching the 2003 that the “mother of all bombs” was to be used against Iraq. (There were unconfirmed reports that it had been used in Iraq).

The US Department of Defence has confirmed in October 2009 that it intends to use the “Mother of All Bombs” (MOAB) against Iran. The MOAB is said to be  ”ideally suited to hit deeply buried nuclear facilities such as Natanz or Qom in Iran” (Jonathan Karl, Is the U.S. Preparing to Bomb Iran? ABC News, October 9, 2009). The truth of the matter is that the MOAB, given its explosive capacity, would result in extremely large civilian casualties. It is a conventional “killing machine” with a nuclear type mushroom cloud.

The procurement of four MOABs was commissioned in October 2009 at the hefty cost of $58.4 million, ($14.6 million for each bomb). This amount  includes the costs of development and testing as well as integration of the MOAB bombs onto B-2 stealth bombers.(Ibid). This procurement is directly linked to war preparations in relation to Iran. The notification was contained in a 93-page “reprogramming memo” which included the following instructions:

“The Department has an Urgent Operational Need (UON) for the capability to strike hard and deeply buried targets in high threat environments. The MOP [Mother of All Bombs] is the weapon of choice to meet the requirements of the UON [Urgent Operational Need].” It further states that the request is endorsed by Pacific Command (which has responsibility over North Korea) and Central Command (which has responsibility over Iran).” (ABC News,  op cit, emphasis added). To consult the reprogramming request (pdf) click here

The Pentagon is planning on a process of extensive destruction of Iran’s infrastructure and mass civilian casualties through the combined use of tactical nukes and monster conventional mushroom cloud bombs, including the MOAB and the larger GBU-57A/B or Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), which surpasses the MOAB in terms of explosive capacity.

The MOP is described as “a powerful new bomb aimed squarely at the underground nuclear facilities of Iran and North Korea. The gargantuan bomb—longer than 11 persons standing shoulder-to-shoulder [see image below] or more than 20 feet base to nose” (See Edwin Black, “Super Bunker-Buster Bombs Fast-Tracked for Possible Use Against Iran and North Korea Nuclear Programs”, Cutting Edge, September 21 2009)

These are WMDs in the true sense of the word. The not so hidden objective of the MOAB and MOP, including the American nickname used to casually describe the MOAB (“mother of all bombs’), is “mass destruction” and mass civilian casualties with a view to instilling fear and despair.


“Mother of All Bombs” (MOAB)

GBU-57A/B Mass Ordnance Penetrator (MOP)


MOAB: screen shots of test: explosion and mushroom cloud

State of the Art Weaponry: “War Made Possible Through New Technologies”

The process of US military decision making in relation to Iran is supported by Star Wars, the militarization of outer space and the revolution in communications and information systems. Given the advances in military technology and the development of new weapons systems, an attack on Iran could be significantly different in terms of the mix of weapons systems, when compared to the March 2003 Blitzkrieg launched against Iraq. The Iran operation is slated to use the most advanced weapons systems in support of its aerial attacks. In all likelihood, new weapons systems will be tested.

The 2000 Project of the New American Century (PNAC) document entitled Rebuilding American Defenses, outlined the mandate of the US military in terms of large scale theater wars, to be waged simultaneously in different regions of the World:

“Fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars”. 

This formulation is tantamount to a global war of conquest by a single imperial superpower. The PNAC document also called for the transformation of  U.S. forces to exploit the “revolution in military affairs”, namely the implementation of  “war made possible through new technologies”. (See Project for a New American Century, Rebuilding Americas Defenses  Washington DC, September 2000, pdf).  The latter consists in developing and perfecting a state of the art global killing machine based on an arsenal of sophisticated new weaponry, which would eventually replace the existing paradigms.

“Thus, it can be foreseen that the process of transformation will in fact be a two-stage process: first of transition, then of more thoroughgoing transformation. The breakpoint will come when a preponderance of new weapons systems begins to enter service, perhaps when, for example, unmanned aerial vehicles begin to be as numerous as manned aircraft. In this regard, the Pentagon should be very wary of making large investments in new programs – tanks, planes, aircraft carriers, for example – that would commit U.S. forces to current paradigms of warfare for many decades to come. (Ibid, emphasis added)

The war on Iran could indeed mark this crucial breakpoint, with new space-based weapons systems being applied with a view to disabling an enemy which has significant conventional military capabilities including more than half a million ground forces.

Electromagnetic Weapons

Electromagnetic weapons could be used to destabilize Iran’s communications systems, disable electric power generation, undermine and destabilize command and control, government infrastructure, transportation, energy, etc.  Within the same family of weapons, environmental modifications techniques (ENMOD) (weather warfare) developed under the HAARP programme could also be applied. (See Michel Chossudovsky, “Owning the Weather” for Military Use, Global Research, September 27, 2004). These weapons systems are fully operational. In this context, te US Air Force document AF 2025 explicitly acknowledgedthe military applications of weather modification technologies:

“Weather modification will become a part of domestic and international security and could be done unilaterally… It could have offensive and defensive applications and even be used for deterrence purposes. The ability to generate precipitation, fog, and storms on earth or to modify space weather, improve communications through ionospheric modification (the use of ionospheric mirrors), and the production of artificial weather all are a part of an integrated set of technologies which can provide substantial increase in US, or degraded capability in an adversary, to achieve global awareness, reach, and power.” (Air Force 2025 Final Report, See also US Air Force: Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025, AF2025 v3c15-1 | Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning… | (Ch 1) at www.fas.org).

Electromagnetic radiation enabling “remote health impairment” might also be envisaged in the war theater. (See Mojmir Babacek, Electromagnetic and Informational Weapons:, Global Research, August 6, 2004). In turn, new uses of biological weapons by the US military might also be envisaged as suggested by the PNAC: “[A]dvanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.” (PNAC, op cit., p. 60).

Iran’s Military Capabilities: Medium and Long Range Missiles

Iran has advanced military capabilities, including medium and long range missiles capable of reaching targets in Israel and the Gulf States. Hence the emphasis by the US-NATO Israel alliance on the use of nuclear weapons, which are slated to be used either pr-emptively or in response to an Iranian retaliatory missile attack.


Range of Iran’s Shahab Missiles. Copyright Washington Post

In November 2006, Iran tests of surface missiles 2 were marked by precise planning in a carefully staged operation. According to a senior American missile expert (quoted by Debka),  “the Iranians demonstrated up-to-date missile-launching technology which the West had not known them to possess.” (See Michel Chossudovsky, Iran’s “Power of Deterrence”  Global Research, November 5, 2006) Israel acknowledged that “the Shehab-3, whose 2,000-km range brings Israel, the Middle East and Europe within reach” (Debka, November 5, 2006)

According to Uzi Rubin, former head of Israel’s anti-ballistic missile program, “the intensity of the military exercise was unprecedented… It was meant to make an impression — and it made an impression.” (www.cnsnews.com 3 November 2006)

The 2006 exercises, while  creating a political stir in the US and Israel, did not in any way modify US-NATO-Israeli resolve to wage on Iran.

Tehran has confirmed in several statements that it will respond if it is attacked. Israel would be the immediate object of Iranian missile attacks as confirmed by the Iranian government. The issue of Israel’s air defense system is therefore crucial. US and allied military facilities in the Gulf states, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iraq could also be targeted by Iran.

Iran’s Ground Forces

While Iran is encircled by US and allied military bases, the Islamic Republic has significant military capabilities. (See maps below) What is important to acknowledge is the sheer size of Iranian forces in terms of personnel (army, navy, air force) when compared to US and NATO forces serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Confronted with a well organized insurgency, coalition forces are already overstretched in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Would these forces be able to cope if Iranian ground forces were to enter the existing battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan? The potential of the Resistance movement to US and allied occupation would inevitably be affected.

Iranian ground forces are of the order of 700,000 of which 130,000 are professional soldiers, 220,000 are conscripts and 350,000 are reservists. (See  Islamic Republic of Iran Army – Wikipedia). There are 18,000 personnel in Iran’s Navy and 52,000 in the air force. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, “the Revolutionary Guards has an estimated 125,000 personnel in five branches: Its own Navy, Air Force, and Ground Forces; and the Quds Force (Special Forces).” According to the CISS, Iran’s Basij paramilitary volunteer force controlled by the Revolutionary Guards “has an estimated 90,000 active-duty full-time uniformed members, 300,000 reservists, and a total of 11 million men that can be mobilized if need be” (Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran – Wikipedia), In other words, Iran can mobilize up to half a million regular troops and several million militia. Its Quds special forces are already operating inside Iraq.


US Military and Allied Facilties Surrounding Iran

For several years now Iran has been conducting its own war drills and exercises. While its Air force has weaknesses, its intermediate and long-range missiles are fully operational. Iran’s military is in a state of readiness. Iranian troop concentrations are currently within a few kilometers of the Iraqi and Afghan borders, and within proximity of Kuwait. The Iranian Navy is deployed in the Persian Gulf within proximity of US and allied military facilities in the United Arab Emirates.

It is worth noting that in response to Iran’s military build-up, the US has been transferring large amounts of weapons to its non-NATO allies in the Persian Gulf including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

While Iran’s advanced weapons do not measure up to those of the US and NATO, Iranian forces would be in a position to inflict substantial losses to coalition forces in  a conventional war theater, on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan. Iranian ground troops and tanks in December 2009 crossed the border into Iraq without being confronted or challenged by allied forces and occupied a disputed territory in the East Maysan oil field.

Even in the event of an effective Blitzkrieg, which targets Iran’s military facilities, its communications systems, etc. through massive aerial bombing, using cruise missiles, conventional bunker buster bombs and tactical nuclear weapons, a war with Iran, once initiated, could eventually lead into a ground war. This is something which US military planners have no doubt contemplated in their simulated war scenarios.

An operation of this nature would result in significant military and civilian casualties, particularly if nuclear weapons are used.

The expanded budget for the war in Afghanistan currently debated in the US Congress is also intended to be used in the eventuality of an attack on Iran.

Within a scenario of escalation, Iranian troops could cross the border into Iraq and Afghanistan.

In turn, military escalation using nuclear weapons could lead us into a World War III scenario, extending beyond the Middle East Central Asian region.

In a very real sense, this military project, which has been on the Pentagon’s drawing board for more than five years, threatens the future of humanity.

Our focus in this essay has been on war preparations. The fact that war preparations are in an advanced state of readiness does not imply that these war plans will be carried out.

original

The US-NATO-Israel alliance realizes that the enemy has significant capabilities to respond and retaliate. This factor in itself has been crucial over the last five years in the decision by the US and its allies to postpone an attack on Iran.

Another crucial factor is the structure of military alliances. Whereas NATO has become a formidable force, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which constitutes an alliance between Russia and China and a number of former Soviet republics has been significantly weakened.

The ongoing US military threats directed  against China and Russia are intended to weaken the SCO and discourage any form of military action on the part of Iran’s allies in the case of a US NATO Israeli attack.

What are the countervailing forces which might prevent this war from occurring? There are numerous ongoing forces at work within the US State apparatus, the US Congress, the Pentagon and NATO.

The central force in preventing a war from occurring ultimately comes from the base of society, requiring forceful antiwar action by hundred of millions of people across the land, nationally and internationally.

People must mobilize not only against this diabolical military agenda, the authority of the State and its officials must be also be challenged.

This war can be prevented if people forcefully confront their governments, pressure their elected representatives, organize at the local level in towns, villages and municipalities, spread the word, inform their fellow citizens as to the implications of a nuclear war, initiate debate and discussion within the armed forces. 

The holding of mass demonstrations and antiwar protests is not enough. What is required is the development of a broad and well organized grassroots antiwar network which challenges the structures of power and authority. 

What is required is a mass movement of people which forcefully challenges the legitimacy of war, a global people’s movement which criminalizes war.

Michel Chossudovsky is an award-winning author, Professor of Economics (Emeritus) at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal. He is the author of The Globalization of Poverty and The New World Order (2003) and America’s “War on Terrorism” (2005). He is also a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. His writings have been published in more than twenty languages. he can be reached at the globalresearch.ca website


Author’s note:
Dear Global Research Readers, kindly forward this text far and wide to friends and family, on internet forums, within the workplace, in your neighborhood, nationally and internationally, with a view to reversing the tide of war.  Spread the Word!  

To consult Part I of this essay click below

Preparing for World War III, Targeting Iran
Part I: Global Warfare 

- by Michel Chossudovsky – 2010-08-01


Related articles

Targeting Iran: Is the US Administration Planning a Nuclear Holocaust?
- by Michel Chossudovsky – 2010-08-09

Preparing for World War III, Targeting Iran
- by Michel Chossudovsky – 2010-08-01

Global Military Agenda: U.S. Expands Asian NATO To Contain And Confront China
- by Rick Rozoff – 2010-08-07

Israel’s Insane War on Iran Must Be Prevented

- by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach – 2010-07-31


original

Michel Chossudovsky

Can be ordered online directly from Global Research

Can We Admit It Now? Harry Reid Is An Enabler

The famous definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over -- and expecting a different result. What Senator Harry Reid did with his idea of filibuster reform fits that definition. The filibuster (in case you didn't know) is a process th...

US Imperialism, International Law and the United Nations

liberty statue gun

The broad principles underlying the United Nations (UN) are noble and peaceful. They have unfortunately been perverted from the UN’s inception.

The UN is currently being used as an instrument of domination by several permanent member States of the UN Security Council.

According to the Charter’s Preamble the UN was established:

“to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war [...] to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained [...]” (Charter of the United Nations)

The UN General Assembly (GA) is democratic. One country, one vote. Unfortunately, even if it represents all 193 member states and passes very important resolutions, its members often follow the diktats of the powerful nations on which they depend financially.

The GA has no power. The latter lies in the self-given authority of the five permanent members of the Security Council (U.S.,UK, France, Russia, China), the only ones in possession of the very arbitrary and very powerful veto.

The astonishing number of resolutions passed by the GA regarding Israel have had no effect whatsoever and have invariably been blocked by the US at the Security Council (SC).

In his historic speech at the UN in 2009, which the New York Times unfairly qualified as “rambling”, the late Muammar Gaddafi rightfully and virulently criticized the unjust and contradictory nature of the UN:

The Preamble is very appealing, and no one objects to it, but all the provisions that follow it completely contradict the Preamble. We reject such provisions, and we will never uphold them; they ended with the Second World War. The Preamble says that all nations, small or large, are equal. Are we equal when it comes to the permanent seats? No, we are not equal.

[…] Do we have the right of veto? Are we equal? The Preamble says that we have equal rights, whether we are large or small.

That is what is stated and what we agreed in the Preamble. So the veto contradicts the Charter. The permanent seats contradict the Charter. We neither accept nor recognize the veto.

The Preamble of the Charter states that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest. That is the Preamble that we agreed to and signed, and we joined the United Nations because we wanted the Charter to reflect that. It says that armed force shall only be used in the common interest of all nations, but what has happened since then? Sixty-five wars have broken out since the establishment of the United Nations and the Security Council — 65 since their creation, with millions more victims than in the Second World War. Are those wars, and the aggression and force that were used in those 65 wars, in the common interest of us all? No, they were in the interest of one or three or four countries, but not of all nations. (Muammar Gaddafi cited in Who is Muammar Al-Qadhafi: Read his Speech to the UN General Assembly, Global Research, March 23, 2011)

It is worth noting that the Libyan leader was killed during the 2012 NATO military invasion, which had been been approved by the Security Council. Three of the SC”s permanent members namely the U.S., the UK and France, participated in this NATO led invasion.

According to Mahmoud Jibril, Libya’s interim Prime Minister during the Western-backed armed insurrection in 2011, Gaddafi was killed by a French intelligence operative “acting under direct instructions of the French government”.

French President “Sarkozy was eager to prevent the possibility of Gaddafi standing trial, particularly after the Libyan leader had threatened to expose his alleged financial dealings with the French President”. (Joseph Fitsanakis, Did French intelligence agent kill Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi?, intelNews.org, October 2, 2012.)

These allegations are not surprising since France played a leading role in the invasion of Libya.

Was the war on Libya, like the other wars Gaddafi mentioned, “in the common interest of us all” or “in the interest of one or three or four countries”?

Libya was invaded and its leader killed for many reasons, all of which were of financial and geostrategic nature. Mahdi Nazemroaya explains how only a few nations, most of all the U.S., control the UN:

The manipulation of the United Nations for imperialist interests, […] goes back a long way. From its inception, the United Nations was meant to facilitate the global influence of the US after the Second World War. [...]

The UN was used as a tool to control most these former Western European and American colonies of the Third World. At first the US and its post-war allies maintained their domination over the newly formed UN and the former colonies through their numbers and then through a Western Bloc monopoly over the structures of the United Nations. Hereto this monopoly includes control over the agencies and permanent veto-wielding chairs of the fifteen-member Security Council of the United Nations.

The Security Council above all has been used by the US as a means of protecting its interests. The purpose of the Security Council veto is to reject any international resolutions and consensuses against the national interests (or more precisely the interests of the ruling elites) of the US and the other major post-World War II powers [...]

As the Western Bloc began to lose its numerical advantage, control over the Secretariat would be maintained through the Security Council. The UN Security Council does this by filtering all the candidates for the top UN post in the Secretariat. Secretaries-general of the UN are appointed by the UN General Assembly based on the recommendation of the UN Security Council. Thus, the US and other permanent members of the Security Council have vetoes that can eliminate any candidates that would be hostile to their interests. (Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, America’s Takeover of the United Nations, Press TV 3 September 2012.)

The selection process of the UN Secretary-General reveals why those in office espouse concepts such as the so-called “responsibility to protect” (R2P), which actually refers to “military invasion”, and why they fail to act as “spokesm[e]n for the interests of the world’s peoples, in particular the poor and vulnerable among them”, as their position requires. If R2P had been drafted with genuine intent, it would have been invoked to protect Palestinians against the permanent Israeli aggression. Under Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretariat has rather endorsed Israeli agressions and approved the illegal blockade of Gaza. Kofi Annan was “an enabler of ‘responsibility to protect’” and Ban Ki-moon its “executioner”, Nazemroaya argues.

In regards to both Libya and Syria, Ban Ki-moon has followed the US and NATO script for R2P and regime change. When a major propaganda effort was launched against Syria following the Houla Massacre, Ban Ki-moon and other UN officials quickly followed the US line and condemned Damascus at a special session of the UN General Assembly in New York City. (Ibid.)

Ronda Hauben details the “mysterious process” by which the Security Council was able to influence the way the UN investigation on the Houla massacre was conducted and how a one-sided version of the events supporting the Western propaganda prevailed:

By a rather mysterious process, the Security Council’s request that an investigation of the Houla massacre, which was to be carried out with the involvement of UNSMIS, was shifted to a significantly different process that was carried out by the Human Rights Council and the Commission of Inquiry it created, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (hereafter CoI). How this shift happened and the significance of this change, merit serious consideration by those who are concerned about the role the UN is playing in the conflict in Syria [...]

Major-General Robert Mood, head of UNSMIS, [...] said that UNSMIS had been to Houla with an investigating team [...] They interviewed locals who told one story. They interviewed locals who told another story. But the circumstances leading up to Houla, the detailed circumstances, the facts related to the incident still remained unclear to the UNSMIS investigators. This led General Mood to say that if there was a decision to support a more extensive on the ground investigation, UNSMIS could help to facilitate it.

In his June 15 press briefing, General Mood said the UNSMIS Report on Houla included statements and interviews with locals with one story and statements and interviews with locals with another story. The August Report of the CoI tells only one story and claims that they either do not have other information or that any other information they know of is inconsistent, so that they have accepted that there is only one story. The Reports that the CoI produced had no on-site interviews or statements, but only telephone or Skype interviews with insurgents or those supporting the account of Houla presented by the armed insurgents. (Ronda Hauben, US-NATO Sponsored Crimes against Humanity in Syria. Coverup by UN Human Rights Council, taz.de,November 28, 2012)

Of all 297 UNSMIS international unarmed military observers on the groundto monitor a cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties“, none were from the US. The conditions of the UNSMIS mandate were set by the Security Council, which decided on July 20, 2012 it would allow the mission to be extended only if it confirmed “the cessation of the use of heavy weapons and a reduction in the level of violence sufficient by all sides”. The US must have known those conditions would be impossible to meet since it had itself been providing the rebels with heavy weaponry and contributing to the violence. Even The New York Times ran a story on the CIA arming Syrian rebels on June 21. The UNSMIS mandate was ended on August 19. If the US was not part of the UNSMIS, it was and still is, on the other hand, a member the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The US possibly used its influent position at the Security Council to request that the HRC takes over the Houla massacre investigation, where it could play a part in its findings and align them with its war agenda.

[T]he US was elected to a second three-year term on the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC). President Bush boycotted the HRC for criticizing Israel too much, but Obama joined in 2010 to ‘improve’ it. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice welcomed Washington’s re-election this week, saying that the HRC “has delivered real results”, citing its criticism of Syria, though she criticized the rights council’s continued “excessive and unbalanced focus on Israel”. (Eric Walberg, Human Rights: the People vs the UN, November 18, 2012.)

While it should be the guardian and promoter of international law, the UN has shown several times it acts on behalf of the powerful against the powerless. NATO has been manipulating the UN to legitimize its brutal neo-colonial designs and international law is being used in a very selective manner by imperial powers. James Petras explains:

Imperial law supersedes international law simply because imperial law is backed by brute force; it possesses imperial/colonial air, ground and naval armed forces to ensure the supremacy of imperial law.  In contrast, international law lacks an effective enforcement mechanism.

Moreover, international law, to the extent that it is effective, is applied only to the weaker powers and to regimes designated by the imperial powers as ‘violators’. [T]he application and jurisdiction of international law is selective and subject to constraints imposed by the configurations of imperial and national power [...]

To counter the claims and judgments pertaining to international law, especially in the area of theGenevaprotocols such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, imperial legal experts, scholars and judges have elaborated a legal framework to justify or exempt imperial-state activity [...]

This does not imply that imperial rulers totally discard international law: they just apply it selectively to their adversaries, especially against independent nations and rulers, in order to justify imperial intervention and aggression – Hence the ‘legal bases’ for dismantlingYugoslaviaor invadingIraqand assassinating its rulers [...]

Imperial legal doctrine has played a central role in justifying and providing a basis for the exercise of international terrorism.  Executives, such as US Presidents Bush and Obama, have been provided with the legal power to undertake cross-national ‘targeted’ assassinations of opponents using predator drones and ordering military intervention, in clear violation of international law and national sovereignty.  Imperial law, above all else, ‘legalizes’ aggression and economic pillage and undermines the laws of targeted countries, creating lawlessness and chaos among its victims. (James Petras“Legal Imperialism” and International Law: Legal Foundations for War Crimes, Debt Collection and Colonization,December 03, 2012)

On behalf of four men, Canadian and American lawyers recently filed a complaint against Canada with the United Nations Committee against Torture, because the Canadian authorities failed to prosecute George W. Bush during his visit to the country. Considering its strong economic, diplomatic and military ties to the U.S, such a move was not expected from Canada and its inaction demonstrates yet again how the U.S.’ imperial law overcomes international law.

As a signatory to the Convention against Torture, Canada has an obligation to investigate and prosecute a torture suspect on its soil. This is the first time a complaint concerning torture allegations against a high-level U.S. official has been filed with the U.N. Committee. The Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) and the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed the complaint on the men’s behalf.

“Canada has the jurisdiction and the obligation to prosecute a torture suspect present in Canada, including a former head of state, and even one from a powerful country,” said Matt Eisenbrandt, CCIJ’s Legal Director. “Canada’s failure to conduct a criminal investigation and prosecution against Mr. Bush when there was overwhelming evidence against him constitutes a clear violation of its international obligations and its own policy not to be a safe haven for torturers.” (Lawyers against the War, Survivors File U.N. Complaint Against Canada for Failing to Prosecute George W. Bush for Torture The Canadian Centre for International Justice, November 14, 2012.)

Global Research offers its readers a list of selected articles on this very important issue. For more in-depth analysis, visit our archives United Nations and Law and Justice.

Global Research has been committed to peace and justice and over the years has provided its readers with insightful analyses pertaining to the UN, international law and illegal wars. We need your help to continue to fight the brutal domination of a ruling elite willing to send young men and women fight unjust wars of aggression to remain in power through destruction and exploitation. You find our articles useful? Make a donation or become a Global Research member!

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online. _______________________________________________________________________________

SELECTED ARTICLES

Who is Muammar Al-Qadhafi: Read his Speech to the UN General Assembly, March 23, 2011

America’s Takeover of the United Nations, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya,  September 3, 2012

US-NATO Sponsored Crimes against Humanity in Syria. Coverup by UN Human Rights Council, Ronda Hauben, November 28, 2012

Human Rights: the People vs the UN, Eric Walberg, November 18, 2012

“Legal Imperialism” and International Law: Legal Foundations for War Crimes, Debt Collection and Colonization, James Petras, December 03, 2012

Survivors File U.N. Complaint Against Canada for Failing to Prosecute George W. Bush for Torture, Lawyers against the War,  November 14, 2012

Hamas Shouldn’t Fire Rockets … But Israel Has Violated HUNDREDS of UN Resolutions, Washington’s Blog, November 20, 2012 

UN General Assembly Vote On Syria: World Gone Unipolar – And Mad, Rick Rozoff, August 06, 2012

Canada’s Vote Opposing UN Recognition of Palestine. Quebec’s Motion to Recognize Palestine Statehood, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, December 05, 2012

UN Vote on Palestine, Stephen Lendman, December 01, 2012

UNESCO Human Rights Conference Honoring Israel’s President Shimon Peres. Four of Five Speakers Pull Out, Ali Abunimah, October 24, 2012

Boycott and Chaos at the United Nations in Geneva: Who Committed War Crimes in Iraq? Dirk Adriaensens, October 03, 2012

The UN and General Mood’s “Missing Report” on Conflicting Accounts of Houla Massacre, Ronda Hauben, September 11, 2012

UN Envoy Brahimi bears Poison Chalice to Syria, Finian Cunningham, September 10, 2012

NAM Summit: Ban Ki-Moon in disgraceful show of US puppetry, Finian Cunningham, August 30, 2012

Can the US and its Allies arbitrarily Violate International Law?, Rick Rozoff and John Robles, August 17, 2012

Terrorism as an Instrument of US Foreign Policy: UN-Backed Rogue States Plan Syria’s Slaughter, Felicity Arbuthnot, August 11, 2012

The Largest Carbon Bomb on the Planet

Despite President Obama's recent remarks on climate change during his inaugural address, the "fuse to the largest carbon bomb" on the planet - the Keystone XL pipeline - continues to move forward.

That's why young people across the country are putting themselves on the line to take direct action to shut down this calamitous project. And that's why Truthout needs your help to continue providing climate justice organizers with the kind of information they can use, and to continue reporting on their actions without corporate bias. 

During my time at Truthout I've watched many of these young people - some of them my close friends - get arrested, harassed or worse while fighting to slow the rising tides which threaten my generation's future. I'm proud to see that many of those same activists share Truthout stories on social media and use our independent reporting to stay informed.

Truthout urgently needs to raise more than $30,000 by Thursday: Will you chip in and make a tax-deductible donation today?

Click here to donate.
Click here to donate.
(Truthout is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. EIN: 20-0031641)

You can also donate by check, made payable to:
Truthout, P.O. Box 276414, Sacramento, CA 95827
(Please include your email address on your check.)

Thank you for helping to make Truthout's mission a reality!

Sincerely,
Candice Bernd, Social Media Fellow

Poverty versus Progress: Comparing the US and Venezuela

If we are to take the traditional definition of the term, then “Third World” refers to those (non-white) countries that struggle to attain high levels of economic development and which, for the most part, are reduced to the periphery of the global economy.

However, since the onset of the economic crisis beginning in 2007-2008, many of the economic problems of those traditionally poor countries have become ever more apparent in the so-called developed world. Socio-economic maladies such as extreme poverty, hunger, and unemployment have skyrocketed in advanced capitalist countries like the United States, while politicians and the media continue to trumpet the mirage of an economic recovery.

Naturally, one must ask for whom this is a recovery…for the poor or for Wall St? Moreover, it has forced the world to examine what progress looks like. One way of doing so is to analyze what the statistics tell us about the United States versus Venezuela. In so doing, one begins to get a much clearer picture, free from the distortions of media and politicians alike, of just how much progress has been made in the Bolivarian Revolution while the situation of the poor and working classes in the US continues to deteriorate.

Venezuela-President

What Is Poverty?

Before one can reach any definitive conclusions about poverty in the US and Venezuela, it is essential to first establish the stark difference in the way in which poverty is measured in the two countries. With respect to the US, poverty is measured purely by household income, with a certain threshold known as the “poverty line” determined by the Census Bureau. This measurement, based on a purely arbitrary delineation between poverty and “non-poverty”, is the one by which many make determinations about the state of the poor in the US. As should be self-evident, this system of analyzing poverty ignores the obvious fact that there is little tangible difference between the lives of those slightly over and slightly under the poverty line in that both live in a constant state of privation. Moreover, as increasing inflation, decreasing wages and other factors continue to impact the purchasing power and actual lives of the poor, the poverty line becomes even more problematic.

In contrast, the Venezuelan government has a distinctly different set of measurements to determine true poverty including: access to education, access to clean drinking water, access to adequate housing, and other factors.[i]

Essentially then, in Venezuela, poverty is not a measure of income, but of quality of life. By measuring poverty in this way, the Venezuelan government provides a far more comprehensive picture of the socio-economic situation in the country. It is important to note also that, unlike in the United States, poverty statistics in Venezuela are one of the primary driving forces behind the formation of government policy. While in the US, poverty has become a dirty word (as evidenced by the subject’s total absence from last year’s presidential debates), Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution have made it the centerpiece of public policy in all aspects.

What the Numbers Show

When one examines the statistical data compiled by the Census Bureau in the United States, many very troubling facts emerge. First, it’s critical to note that, in 2012, the poverty line for a typical family of four was at a combined gross income of $23,050.[ii] Note that this indicator is derived from gross income as opposed to net income, so it doesn’t even reflect the gravity of the situation faced by these families.

Anyone who has even a rudimentary understanding of the current costs of living in the United States can immediately surmise that the “poverty line” is a cruel joke. This level of income means abject poverty, it means a lack of basic necessities for human life. So, in essence then, we’re not talking about “the poor”, but those on the verge of death with problems such as malnutrition, serious illness from treatable conditions, and countless other hindrances to basic existence. In addition, it should be noted that median family income (for all families, not just those in poverty) continues to decline dramatically, with a decrease of 8.1% since 2007.[iii] Therefore, it becomes apparent that, not only is poverty widespread, it is growing.

California, long touted as the most economically vibrant state in the US, is now known as more than just the home of Silicon Valley and beautiful coastline, it is also home to the highest levels of poverty in the United States. According to the Supplemental Poverty Measure of the US Census Bureau, California boasts a 23.5% poverty rate[iv] which, if included with those who do not technically fit the poverty measure but who still live very much on the economic margins, shows that poverty is fast becoming an epidemic in California.

As University of Wisconsin Madison economist Timothy Smeeding explained, “As a whole, the safety net is holding many people up, while California is struggling more because it’s relatively harder there to qualify for food stamps and other benefits.”[v] Essentially then we see that, in the nation’s most populous and, arguably most economically important state, the situation of the poor is a dire one as more and more people become dependent on government programs just for survival. This is, of course, against the backdrop of austerity or so-called “entitlement reform” championed by both Republicans and Democrats, which would cut these same programs which are becoming ever more critical for millions of Americans.

Income cannot and should not be seen as the only indicator of poverty and economic status. Indeed, there are many other factors including access to proper nutrition, particularly important for children growing up in situations of poverty. In fact, the most recent data from the USDA suggests that at least 18 million households in the US were food insecure as of 2011.[vi] This is merely the tip of the iceberg when one considers that there are millions of households who are not categorized as “food insecure” but who cannot afford high quality food and the still more families who are only food secure because of government programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly known as food stamps. Lack of access to highly nutritious foods is characteristic of poor, urban neighborhoods where primarily people of color struggle to feed their children with something other than fast food or low quality food purchased at the corner store.

What becomes apparent in even a cursory examination of this information is that food security and poverty are not merely indicators of economic hardship, they are class designations. The United States is home to an ever-expanding underclass, one that is encompassing more and more formerly working class people and white people, but which still afflicts communities of color most acutely. In every major city and more and more formerly affluent white suburbs, poverty has become an ever-present reality, one that remains hidden as Americans engage in the collective self-deception of “economic recovery.”

The Venezuelan Model

In contrast to the United States, Venezuela continues to make tremendous strides in eradicating poverty from a nation that, for decades, had been one of the poorest and most exploited in the Americas. Despite vast oil wealth and abundant resources, Venezuela was characterized by extreme poverty, particularly among the indigenous and peasant populations. This was the product of the colonial and post-colonial system wherein a small, light-skinned elite dominated the country and kept the rest of the people in abject poverty. This situation began to change with the ascendance of Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution. Immediately Chavez, already a hero to poor Venezuelans, set about implementing his socialist model that would make the fight against poverty the centerpiece of his public policy. Indeed, this is precisely what has happened in the fourteen years since he took office.

As mentioned previously, Venezuela uses a comprehensive set of criteria to measure poverty including access to education, clean drinking water, adequate housing, households with more than three people living in a room, and households where the head of the household had less than three years of education. Using this rubric, known as the Unsatisfied Basic Needs system (NBI), the statistics are intriguing. In the last ten years, the number of Venezuelans living in extreme poverty (those who experience two of the five indicators of poverty) has decreased from 11.36% to 6.97%, a reduction of almost one half. At the same time, life expectancy and total population have increased significantly, showing the impact of better and more comprehensive health care services. One particularly important piece of data has to do with indigenous people, the group most marginalized historically. In the last ten years, their numbers have grown significantly as well, now making up almost 3% of the population.[vii] This shows that, not only have the quality of health programs and related services increased, but access to them has grown as well, particularly for those traditionally disenfranchised segments of the population.

It should be noted that one of the centerpieces of the anti-poverty programs of the Chavez Bolivarian government has been the exponential increase in construction of public housing and affordable units. President Chavez announced the Great Housing Mission (GMVV)[viii] in 2011 to combat the extreme poverty that so many Venezuelan families faced as they lived in inadequate or unsafe homes. As of September 2012, more than 250,000 homes had been constructed and given to poor Venezuelan families.[ix] This number is surely set to increase in the coming year as the program continues to expand and housing becomes ever more accessible and plentiful.

In the midst of a worldwide economic crisis, the Chavez government continues to expand spending on anti-poverty programs such as housing construction and health care while much of the so-called developed world engages in the mass hysteria of austerity. The Bolivarian Revolution set before itself the task of reducing and ultimately eradicating poverty in a country where poverty was a historical tradition and a seemingly immutable reality. The post-colonial era of Venezuelan history is one fraught with domination and oppression by the United States and subjugation to multinational corporations while the poor and working classes lived in wretched conditions. Chavez’s commitment to reversing that legacy is what has, more than anything else, enshrined his legacy in the hearts and minds of Venezuelans.

Conversely, the advanced capitalist economies of North America and Europe are desperately trying to maintain their hegemony and economic survival by means of austerity programs which shift the burden of the depression from the wealthy financiers and speculators who created it to the poor and working class who must pay for it. Draconian cuts to necessary social services upon which millions of Americans depend for their very survival serve to illustrate this point further. Unlike in Venezuela, the Western imperial powers seek to destroy the social safety net and drive their populations into further destitution and desperation. This is, to put it another way, the crisis of advanced, post-industrial capitalism – an economic system which must expand the divide between rich and poor, create extremes of wealth and poverty and generally perpetuate itself on the misery and poverty of the lower classes. Seen in this way, Republicans and Democrats, President Obama and House Speaker Boehner alike are culpable for the massive suffering and despair of the poor in the US who can look to Venezuela and the Bolivarian Revolution as a model for a truly progressive vision of the future.

Notes

Immigration Reform Must Include Workers’ Rights

At this moment, various plans to reform America's broken immigration system are working their way through Congressional debate. On Monday, a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers unveiled a plan that includes what they call a "tough but fair" path to ci...

Keep Dirty Oil Out of New England

Protesters gathered in downtown Portland, Maine, on Saturday and then marched to the city’s waterfront to protest against a possible proposal to pipe tar sands oil from Canada through Northern New England. (Photo: Gregory Rec via AP)From north to south and east to west, people across the United States and Canada are increasingly coming together to fight against the expansion of the Alberta tar sands and efforts to move the highly toxic bitumen — tar sands “oil” — through pipelines to the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. From US ports the bitumen would be shipped primarily to China.

Why do I care? Even before I learned that ExxonMobile is gearing up to try to send tar sands oil east through Vermont — my home state — and New Hampshire to a shipping port in Portland, Maine through decades old pipelines, I was opposed to tar sands expansion and pipeline projects.

Global warming and the obvious changes to our weather patterns cannot sustain more exploitation of fossil fuels. And tar sands expansion is among the worst threats. After the oil fields of Saudia Arabia, the full development of Alberta tar sands will create the world’s second largest potential source of global warming gases. I saw for myself the impact of the tar sands on the environment and people of Western Canada.

Last October I led a delegation of women from the United States and Canada to the tar sands of Alberta. We began in Ft McMurray, and then traveled along the proposed route of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline that will carry tar sands oil from Prince George, in beautiful northern British Columbia, all the way to the sea at Kitimat on the Douglas Channel.

While in Canada, I met with and listened to the concerns of over 200 women in 13 communities — women nursing babies, women in wheelchairs, some women representing environmental and community organizations, many from First Nation groups. They spoke passionately about how the massive expansion of the oil sands and pipeline and tanker projects will impact on their communities, forests, rivers, oceans, and air. Some told us of powerful court challenges they are mounting against the tar sands, others described their very real fears about oil spills and what this will do to their livelihoods and way of life. The tar sands oil is the dirty, and they don’t want it their backyard.

And I don’t want it in mine.

Along with most Americans, I am deeply disturbed by the rapid pace of climate change and want our leaders to take meaningful action. Last year I wrote last year to President Obama, together with nine other Nobel Peace laureates, urging him to lead the transition away from our dependence on oil, coal and gas and instead increase investments in renewable energies and energy efficiency. I also joined tens of thousands in demonstrating at the White House to urge him to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, which will carry tar sands oil from Canada through six states to reach the Gulf of Mexico. But that is still not enough.

What I heard in Western Canada echoes what I am hearing across the continent. Many people are moved to action by changing weather patterns, and their fears for the future of their families. Warmer temperatures are hitting Northern British Columbia’s forestry industry hard. Closer to home, last year was the hottest on record in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, by more than one degree — as it was for the entire continental United States. A record 11 wildfires, droughts and storms in 2012 exceeded $1 billion in damages, and of course Superstorm Sandy late last year devastated the lives of many communities in New Jersey and New York.

Yet, through it all, our leaders in the US and Canada continue to collude with the oil industry for a rapid expansion of the tar sands. This kind of leadership is taking us in the opposite direction of where we need to go. Production of tar sands oil needs to be capped, and we need to start investing in other energy sources.

Like thousands resisting the pipelines in Canada and the Keystone XL, we here in New England will say no to tar sands.

We will be united in telling leaders of both nations to stop the madness. Listen up Prime Minister Harper: Canada’s National Energy Board must hear the will of the people and deny approval of this pipeline plan. And our message to President Obama, as he starts his second term, is clear: Become a climate leader. Keep tar sands out of New England by refusing to issue this pipeline a new presidential permit.

As a Vermonter, an American, a global citizen, I am proud to join this call.

© 2012 The Boston Globe

Jody Williams

Jody Williams, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

Can the Rising Progressive Tide Lift All Ships?

The growing progressive coalition that helped elect President Obama has emerged at the end of a failed and exhausted (Photo: xtine burrough)conservative era. The media now chronicle the flailings of Republican leaders slowly awakening to the weaknesses of a stale, pale and predominantly male party in today’s America.

But the central challenge to this progressive coalition is not dispatching the old but rather defining what comes next. Will it be able to address the central challenge facing America at this time and reclaim the American Dream from an extreme and corrosive economic inequality?

In his inaugural address, President Obama spoke powerfully to this rising American electorate — single women, minorities, the young — by summarizing the progressive contribution to building a more perfect union from “Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall.” He reminded all that greater social equality in America has been driven by independent movements, willing to confront the lies and limits of the conventional consensus.

Over decades, those civilizing movements have helped to free the slaves and extend greater opportunity to minorities, to women, to immigrants and now to gays and lesbians. But today, the progressive coalition must address the challenge faced by the original progressive movement, at the dawn of the last century — of extreme economic inequality, which is turning the American dream into a bygone memory.

Who can fail to see that this rising American electorate is sinking economically? More than 20 million people are in need of full-time work — and single women, minorities and the young have fared the worst. Wages are sinking. The top 1 percent captured fully 93 percent of the nation’s income growth coming out of the Great Recession in 2010. The young find good jobs scarce, even as they carry record student loan debts, now higher than credit card debt.

U.S. politics seems impervious to this reality. Republicans in Congress are intent on holding the economy hostage repeatedly through May to dismantle ever more public capacity. Right-wing governors in the states continue to rig the rules to crush unions and “fix” elections. Even liberal reformers like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) are comfortable espousing socially liberal but economically centrist politics that assume an economic recovery is underway.

In reality, the old economy is coming back. Corporate profits are up; wages are falling. Good jobs are being shipped abroad, with trade deficits back over $1 billion a day. The big banks, more concentrated than ever, are reopening the casino. Making this economy work once more for working people will require a new strategy for growth — and a confrontation with the current complacency and its entrenched interests and exhausted ideas.

The president was right when he said this is the defining moment for the middle class, and for those who aspire to join it. But it will take bold citizen mobilization to challenge the current limits of the debate. This is the test of democracy.

We have witnessed extreme inequality and political corruption before, in the Gilded Age at the dawn of industrial America at the turn of the last century. But hundreds of thousands of farmers created a people’s movement for a new monetary policy. Workers organized unions in the face of police billyclubs. Muckrakers exposed the tentacles of the trusts, the miseries inflicted on working people. It took years — and a Great Depression and a world war — but we built the first broad middle class the world had known.

A 21st-century movement for economic justice will find Americans receptive. It is striking how far ahead of Washington the majority of people is. Majorities support raising taxes on the wealthy while protecting Medicare, Medicaid and programs for the poor. They want to invest in America, not wage war in the far corners of the earth. They want to close corporate loopholes and shut down overseas tax dodges. They want the minimum wage lifted, and big banks broken up. They worry about deficits in part because they want Social Security protected, not put at risk. They want a trade strategy that ships goods, not jobs abroad.

But just as at Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall, it will take people’s movements to spark the change. We’ve already seen the potential when the Occupy movement challenged Wall Street and transformed the national debate. That independent mobilization contributed directly to Obama’s victory, helping him to find his own voice to fend off the challenge of Mitt Romney, a champion of the 1 percent. As history has shown, the central question is whether citizens of conscience will mobilize and march and make business as usual impossible. Will the rising American electorate continue to sink together? Or will its members help fuel the movement that revives the American dream? We shall see.

© 2013 The Washington Post

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation.

Crusader Limbaugh Goes To War With Immigration Reform


[h/t Media Matters]

This makes me happy in a weird, off-kilter kind of way. Boss Rush is all over comprehensive immigration reform, declaring that "it's up to [him] and Fox News" to stop immigration reform, before it's too late. It makes me happy because anything that makes Fox News look worse to people who don't pay much attention is a good thing --and plenty of Fox viewers aren't in love with Rushbo.

It also makes me happy because for once, we're on offense instead of defense. Between the president's gun control proposals, comprehensive immigration reform, climate change and tax reform, Rush is going to exhaust his audience trying to keep them outraged over it all. That means we might actually get some things out of the Congress that we wouldn't if they all had to focus on one thing, like they did with the Affordable Care Act.

Perhaps Rush can co-opt Tea Party Nation to carry his message. I loved what they sent out today. Keep in mind that Judson Phillips routinely calls Democrats the "party of treason," while saying little about Republicans. Unfortunately, they now have a name from him, too:

Does the Party of Stupid ever learn?

In 1986, we went through this. Ronald Reagan, in one of the worst mistakes of his Presidency agreed to amnesty for three million illegals. The deal was the illegals would get amnesty and then the border would be secured.

The illegals got their amnesty but 26 years later, the border is still not secured.

The Republican members of the so-called “Gang of eight” have sold America out for the promise of the border being secured.

Twenty-five years from now, the border will not be anymore secured than it is today.

Someone needs to tell the GOP to buy a clue. Creating 15 to 20 million new Democrat voters is not going to get more Republican voters.

Democrats are once again laughing as the Republicans hand them victory.

Oh, and he trashed Saint Ronnie in the process. Perish the thought!

Phillips and his group have the unique distinction of a listing on the SPLC's list of hate groups, mostly because Judson Phillips is one of the nastiest people ever to grace the internet with his presence. He spams inboxes daily with end-of-the-world claims about the budget, guns, treason, and how much he loathes Barack Obama.

The truth is, Rush and Judson both need someone to hate in order to be relevant. They're about to discover that when it comes to immigration reform, that may not even be enough. The surest path to irrelevance for the Republican party isn't passage of immigration reform, it's dredging up all of the old hate themes against anyone who isn't white.

The real unanswered question is whether Republican politicians are sufficiently committed to ensuring the future of their party rather than by permanently alienating Hispanics and African-Americans. The outcome of immigration reform may well hinge on that decision.

But hey, Rushbo. You keep flogging that dead horse right alongside your pal Judson. Flog it, and yourself, into irrelevance.

L’arte della guerra : La riconquista dell’Africa

Hillary missionnaire en Afrique

Nel momento stesso in cui il presidente democratico Obama ribadiva nel discorso inaugurale che gli Stati uniti, «fonte di speranza per i poveri, sostengono la democrazia in Africa», giganteschi aerei Usa C-17 trasportavano truppe francesi in Mali, dove Washington ha insediato l’anno scorso al potere il capitano Sanogo, addestrato negli Usa dal Pentagono e dalla Cia, acuendo i conflitti interni. La rapidità con cui è stata lanciata l’operazione, ufficialmente per proteggere  il Mali dall’avanzata dei ribelli islamici, dimostra che essa era stata da tempo pianificata dal socialista Hollande. L’immediata collaborazione degli Stati uniti e dell’Unione europea, che ha deciso di inviare in Mali specialisti della guerra con funzioni di addestramento e comando, dimostra che essa era stata pianificata congiuntamente a Washington, Parigi, Londra e in altre capitali.  Le potenze occidentali, i cui gruppi multinazionali rivaleggiano l’uno con l’altro per accaparrarsi mercati e fonti di materie prime, si compattano quando sono in gioco i loro interessi comuni. Come quelli che in Africa sono messi in pericolo dalle sollevazioni popolari e dalla concorrenza cinese. Il Mali, uno dei paesi più poveri del mondo (con un reddito procapite 60 volte inferiore a quello italiano e oltre la metà della popolazione sotto la soglia di povertà), è ricchissimo di materie prime: esporta oro e coltan, il cui ricavato finisce però nelle tasche delle multinazionali e dell’élite locale. Lo stesso nel vicino Niger, ancora più povero (con un reddito procapite 100 volte inferiore a quello italiano) nonostante sia uno dei paesi più ricchi di uranio, la cui estrazione ed esportazione è in mano alla multinazionale francese Areva. Non a caso, contemporaneamente all’operazione in Mali, Parigi ha inviato forze speciali in Niger. Analoga situazione in Ciad, i cui ricchi giacimenti petroliferi sono sfruttati dalla statunitense ExxonMobil e altre multinazionali (ma stanno arrivando anche compagnie cinesi): ciò che resta dei proventi va nelle tasche dell’élite locale. Per aver criticato tale meccanismo, il vescovo comboniano Michele Russo è stato espulso dal Ciad lo scorso ottobre. Niger e Ciad forniscono allo stesso tempo migliaia di soldati, che sotto comando francese, vengono inviati in Mali per aprire un secondo fronte. Quella lanciata in Mali, con la forza francese come punta di lancia, è dunque un’operazione a vasto raggio, che dal Sahel si estende all’Africa occidentale e orientale.  Essa si salda a quella iniziata in Nordafrica con la distruzione dello stato libico e le manovre per soffocare, in Egitto e altrove,  le ribellioni popolari. Un’operazione a lungo termine, che fa parte del piano strategico mirante a mettere l’intero continente sotto il controllo militare delle «grandi democrazie», che tornano in Africa col casco coloniale dipinto dei colori della pace.

Manlio Dinucci

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article. The Center of Research on Globalization grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author's copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: [email protected]

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of "fair use" in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than "fair use" you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: [email protected]

Copyright © Manlio Dinucci, ilmanifesto.it, 2013

Maddow: ‘Liberal’ Group Running Anti-Hagel Ads Probable Fake

Monday night Rachel Maddow expanded on her Friday report about the weird ad running in opposition to Chuck Hagel's nomination. The group running the ad calls themselves "Use Your Mandate" and claims to be a group of liberals -- gay liberals, even -- who are afraid to come out into the light for fear of White House retribution.

Because this White House has been so bitterly retributive, don't you know? When I first heard about it I thought it was bull too, because liberals tend to oppose nominations loudly and without any guise of secrecy. In fact, I can't think of a time where any liberal group I've had contact with has been secretive about who they are and why they're running an ad. That seems to be the province of the US Chamber of Commerce and Koch-funded front groups..

Rachel's instinct seems to be right on the money. As she reports, "Use Your Mandate" used a media buyer in San Diego to place the ad by the name of Del Cielo Media, LLC*. Del Cielo Media is the company name for Sarah Linden, who is the west coast media director for Smart Media Group.

On Smart Media Group's resumé: Official media buyers for the McCain-Palin campaign, Republican National Committee, NRSC, and the US Chamber of Commerce, among others.

DelCielo Media's website is a splash page and a link to a map now, but as Rachel reports, one of Linden's clients is the Emergency Committee for Israel, a relatively new neocon group whose directors include Bill Kristol, Gary Bauer, and Michael Goldfarb. Michael Goldfarb is an advisor to Liz Cheney's neocon message machine, Keep America Safe, where Kristol also serves as a director.

The other firm Rachel mentions is Tusk Strategies. Michael Tusk was Michael Bloomberg's campaign director in 2009 and now has his own New York PR firm. Tusk's client list boasts of relationships with Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst and Education Reform Now, two groups which call themselves liberal but which are not, by any stretch of the imagination, liberal.

Tusk also served as deputy governor of Illinois from 2003-2006, during Rod Blagojevich's term, and testified against him about Blago's attempted shakedown of Rahm Emanuel.

All of the objections to Chuck Hagel's nomination seem to emanate from the fact that he isn't interested in blowing up the world on Israel's behalf. They word them in different ways, but that's the gist of things.

You be the jury. Based on Rachel's report and the information here, I'd say the odds of the anti-Hagel ad coming from a liberal group shaking in their boots over Obama's reprisals is the same as that of being struck by lightning three times in the same day.

Here are the other groups opposing Hagel's nomination, according to ABC News and the New York Times:

  • American Future Fund: American Future Fund is the Iowa astroturf organization, funded in part by the Wellspring Committee.
  • Americans For a Strong Defense: This is a new front group. According to their website, two of their board members are Brian Hook and Mauricio Claver-Carone. Hook is a Bushie who served in the White House from 2003-2008, dealing with matters of Homeland Security, and then went to the Department of State to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs from October, 2008 to January 20, 2009 when Barack Obama took over. Claver-Carone is an ardent anti-Castro advocate who sits on the board of Cuba Democracy Advocates, a non-profit organization which shares the goal of spreading democracy around the world, and in particular, to Cuba. It appears to be aligned philosophically with neocon goals.
  • AIPAC: Well, not directly as far as anyone knows. But as this writer points out, they've got a former lobbyist roaming at large who is free to undertake whatever campaigns someone might want to finance. Bibi Netanyahu isn't pleased, I'm sure, with the Hagel nomination. According to that article, AIPAC is fond of using "cutouts" (what we would call astroturf) to advance Bibi's particular agenda wherever necessary.

Opposition to Chuck Hagel's nomination is unprecedented. I believe that it is as likely to come from the US Chamber of Commerce as it is AIPAC, given that Hagel's nomination will spell the beginning of the end of corporate defense complex dominance in favor of other industries. It shifts the center of thought around defense and its role from one of aggressor to one where the United States stops throwing its weight around the world and starts tending to other business. This does not please those who profit from perpetual war.

What I can say with a high degree of certainty, however, is that "Use Your Mandate" is neither liberal nor gay.

*Del Cielo is the name of Ronald Reagan's Santa Barbara ranch.

Smart Talk on the Next Austerity Disaster

The United States is in the midst of the most protracted unemployment crisis in modern history, and for vast segments of the population, the recession has never ended. Wages are still sinking; more than 20 million people are in need of full-time work. Yet, the national debate is fixated on fixing the debt rather than fixing the economy.

This is “austerity” economics, which demands cuts in government spending in the belief that this will reduce government deficits, even as it costs jobs and imposes hardships on people.

Mass unemployment, declining wages, and faltering growth suggests the United States has already suffered too much austerity, too soon. And yet the political debate is focused on how much more to impose. Washington imposed $1.5 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years in the 2011 “debt ceiling” deal. Washington stumbled past the year-end “fiscal cliff” with a deal that featured about $600 billion in tax hikes over ten years, including returning rates for the richest Americans back to Clinton era levels, and ending the payroll tax holiday, adding 2 percent to every working family’s payroll tax rate.

Now Congress has created an even more precarious fiscal peril to extort even greater cuts. Between now and the middle of May, we’ll hit the debt ceiling again, the automatic cut (sequester) of military and domestic budgets for the remainder of the year will kick in, and the temporary appropriations for government will expire. This sets up a new negotiation to forestall these ruinous calamities, now with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid directly targeted.

The leaders of both parties suggest that more deficit reduction is needed and that it would help the economy. Not surprisingly, polls suggest that most Americans believe that cutting spending will help the economy, not harm the recovery. The reality is that spending is not out of control, the deficit is already plummeting, and we should be focused on fixing the economy to make it work for working people, not on austerity driven by wrong-headed deficit hysteria.

Here’s how we can make the case against it.

Start with the struggles families are facing. The budget debate now underway in Washington, focused on “fixing the debt,” misses the point. Americans are still suffering record levels of long-term unemployment. Poverty has risen to a level unseen in generations. Inequality is at new extremes. Wages are at the lowest percentage of the economy on record, while