Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Divine WInd

Provided of course you worship the gods of chaos. Paul Krugman states the obvious for those who haven't been looking:

...ever since Reagan, the G.O.P. has been run by people who want a much smaller government. In the famous words of the activist Grover Norquist, conservatives want to get the government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

But there has always been a political problem with this agenda. Voters may say that they oppose big government, but the programs that actually dominate federal spending — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — are very popular. So how can the public be persuaded to accept large spending cuts?

The conservative answer, which evolved in the late 1970s, would be dubbed “starving the beast” during the Reagan years. The idea — propounded by many members of the conservative intelligentsia, from Alan Greenspan to Irving Kristol — was basically that sympathetic politicians should engage in a game of bait and switch. Rather than proposing unpopular spending cuts, Republicans would push through popular tax cuts, with the deliberate intention of worsening the government’s fiscal position. Spending cuts could then be sold as a necessity rather than a choice, the only way to eliminate an unsustainable budget deficit.

And the deficit came. True, more than half of this year’s budget deficit is the result of the Great Recession, which has both depressed revenues and required a temporary surge in spending to contain the damage. But even when the crisis is over, the budget will remain deeply in the red, largely as a result of Bush-era tax cuts (and Bush-era unfunded wars). And the combination of an aging population and rising medical costs will, unless something is done, lead to explosive debt growth after 2020.

So the beast is starving, as planned. It should be time, then, for conservatives to explain which parts of the beast they want to cut. And President Obama has, in effect, invited them to do just that, by calling for a bipartisan deficit commission.

Many progressives were deeply worried by this proposal, fearing that it would turn into a kind of Trojan horse — in particular, that the commission would end up reviving the long-standing Republican goal of gutting Social Security. But they needn’t have worried: Senate Republicans overwhelmingly voted against legislation that would have created a commission with some actual power, and it is unlikely that anything meaningful will come from the much weaker commission Mr. Obama established by executive order.

Why are Republicans reluctant to sit down and talk? Because they would then be forced to put up or shut up. Since they’re adamantly opposed to reducing the deficit with tax increases, they would have to explain what spending they want to cut. And guess what? After three decades of preparing the ground for this moment, they’re still not willing to do that.

In fact, conservatives have backed away from spending cuts they themselves proposed in the past. In the 1990s, for example, Republicans in Congress tried to force through sharp cuts in Medicare. But now they have made opposition to any effort to spend Medicare funds more wisely the core of their campaign against health care reform (death panels!). And presidential hopefuls say things like this, from Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota: “I don’t think anybody’s gonna go back now and say, Let’s abolish, or reduce, Medicare and Medicaid.”

What about Social Security? Five years ago the Bush administration proposed limiting future payments to upper- and middle-income workers, in effect means-testing retirement benefits. But in December, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page denounced any such means-testing, because “middle- and upper-middle-class (i.e., G.O.P.) voters would get less than they were promised in return for a lifetime of payroll taxes.” (Hmm. Since when do conservatives openly admit that the G.O.P. is the party of the affluent?)

At this point, then, Republicans insist that the deficit must be eliminated, but they’re not willing either to raise taxes or to support cuts in any major government programs. And they’re not willing to participate in serious bipartisan discussions, either, because that might force them to explain their plan — and there isn’t any plan, except to regain power.

But there is a kind of logic to the current Republican position: in effect, the party is doubling down on starve-the-beast. Depriving the government of revenue, it turns out, wasn’t enough to push politicians into dismantling the welfare state. So now the de facto strategy is to oppose any responsible action until we are in the midst of a fiscal catastrophe. You read it here first.

Well, Dr. Krugman, I actually didn't, and somehow I don't think you wrote it there first either.

But for the sort of people that get all their information from the opinion pages of The New York Pravda there it is.

When the beast gets hungry, it has no particular regard for whom it eats first.

Villagers, you should realize despite the promises you've been given, you will not be eaten last.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"...I thought the death of America would at least be interesting to watch...."

via The Well-Armed Lamb:

The Health Care Summit

Three Party System

Glen Greenwald doesn't go both ways, although the Village claims it does:

One of the strangest prongs of conventional Beltway wisdom is the lament that there is not enough bipartisanship. The opposite is true: many of the most damaging acts inflicted on the country by Washington are enacted on a fully bipartisan basis -- the most destructive political act of this generation, the invasion of Iraq, was fully bipartisan, as were most of the post-9/11 civil liberties abuses and other Bush-era initiatives-- and, at least in certain areas, the harmonious joining together of Republicans and Democrats continues unabated...

A mountain of evidence has emerged over the last several years documenting pervasive, systematic abuse of the Patriot Act powers. The proposed safeguards were extremely modest and would have provided minimal oversight on how those powers were exercised. Leading Democrats such as Dianne Feinstein spent all years ensuring that the proposed reforms were weakened to the point of virtual meaningless. But as weakened as they were, "some Republican senators objected" and might have called Democrats "soft on terror," so that was the end of that. The domestic surveillance law that Democrats spent years assailing as dangerously overbroad when out of power is renewed in full now that they are in power. That's the Beauty of Bipartisanship, and the last thing we need is more of it.

Lots of links I've barely touched on there you should check out.

The facts are that the Democrats and the Republicans are simply old boy (and girl) clubs that serve as the framework of the real Party that runs things. The Party of Money.

Friday, February 26, 2010

an aggregate band of competing privateers

There are a few real gems on this thread commenting on this post:

"America was a great idea, but you've spent nearly 40 years now killing it, and everybody knows it except maybe self-deluded morons..."

Priceless, that and the whole deconstruction before it.

"America is still a good idea. It just hasn't really been tried."

And finally regarding the dark side of the Force:

"In so far as rahm being gone, it will probably not happen except on his own terms. Why would he go anywhere else? He has more power now and more importance and more publicity than he ever had. He has replaced the dick as the real power in the WH."

I think the Cheney/ Emanuel comparison needs some scrutiny. Many people rant about the power of Israel and the Mossad in the government of the United States. I think this has it exactly backwards. I think Israel's policy is controlled by competing power cabals based in the United States. Some call it the CIA, but it's not that simple alas. Hence the term the Company: an aggregate band of competing privateers intent on grabbing as much power and booty as they can.

Cheney was forced out of power because his peers decided his power grab had the chance of destroying everything for everyone else. As long as Rahm keeps the river of money flowing to the right people, he is secure. He won't be forced from his unofficial position of power until his actions become unprofitable for those who would rule us.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Frack You

From Halliburton with love (of all the money they make off it).

Amy Goodman:

Mike Markham of Colorado has an explosive problem: His tap water catches fire. Markham demonstrates this in a new documentary, “Gasland,” which just won the Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize. Director Josh Fox films Markham as he runs his kitchen faucet, holding a cigarette lighter up to the running water. After a few seconds, a ball of fire erupts out of the sink, almost enveloping Markham’s head.

The source of the flammable water, and the subject of “Gasland,” is the mining process called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Fracking is used to access natural gas and oil reserves buried thousands of feet below the ground. Companies like Halliburton drill down vertically, then send the shaft horizontally, crossing many small, trapped veins of gas and oil. Explosive charges are then set off at various points in the drill shaft, causing what Fox calls “mini-earthquakes.” These fractures spread underground, allowing the gas to flow back into the shaft to be extracted. To force open the fractures, millions of gallons of liquid are forced into the shaft at very high pressure.

The high-pressure liquids are a combination of water, sand and a secret mix of chemicals. Each well requires between 1 million and 7 million gallons of the fluid every time gas is extracted. Drillers do not have to reveal the chemical cocktail, thanks to a slew of exemptions given to the industry, most notably in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which actually granted the fracking industry a specific exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. California Congressman Henry Waxman, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has just announced an investigation into the composition of the proprietary chemicals used in fracking. In a Feb. 18 letter, Waxman commented on the Safe Drinking Water Act exemption: “Many dubbed this provision the ‘Halliburton loophole’ because of Halliburton’s ties to then-Vice President Cheney and its role as one of the largest providers of hydraulic fracturing services.” Before he was vice president, Dick Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton.

In an earlier investigation, Waxman learned that Halliburton had violated a 2003 nonbinding agreement with the government in which the company promised not to use diesel fuel in the mix when extracting from certain wells. Halliburton pumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic, diesel-containing liquids into the ground, potentially contaminating drinking water.

...There is virtually no federal oversight of fracking, leaving the budget-strapped states to do the job with a patchwork of disparate regulations. They are no match for the major, multinational drilling and energy companies that are exploiting the political goal of “energy independence.” The nonprofit news website ProPublica.org found that, out of 31 states examined, 21 have no regulations specific to hydraulic fracturing, and none requires the companies to report the amount of the toxic fluid remaining underground.

Reports indicate that almost 600 different chemicals are used in fracking, including diesel fuel and the “BTEX” chemicals: benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes, which include known carcinogens...

Fracking righteous Cheney grins lopsidedly at us all again, daring anyone to take him or his cronies down. It will not be done. They control far too much, and what they do not control they have leverage on. It's the kind of leverage that comes in knowing where all the bodies are buried, because you helped everyone in power bury them.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Failures are the Plan

Bets by some of the same banks that helped Greece shroud its mounting debts may actually now be pushing the nation closer to the brink of financial ruin.

Echoing the kind of trades that nearly toppled the American International Group, the increasingly popular insurance against the risk of a Greek default is making it harder for Athens to raise the money it needs to pay its bills, according to traders and money managers.

These contracts, known as credit-default swaps, effectively let banks and hedge funds wager on the financial equivalent of a four-alarm fire: a default by a company or, in the case of Greece, an entire country. If Greece reneges on its debts, traders who own these swaps stand to profit.

“It’s like buying fire insurance on your neighbor’s house — you create an incentive to burn down the house,” said Philip Gisdakis, head of credit strategy at UniCredit in Munich.

As Greece’s financial condition has worsened, undermining the euro, the role of Goldman Sachs and other major banks in masking the true extent of the country’s problems has drawn criticism from European leaders. But even before that issue became apparent, a little-known company backed by Goldman, JP Morgan Chase and about a dozen other banks had created an index that enabled market players to bet on whether Greece and other European nations would go bust...

This is a special case of the general rule of χάος.

We are told there is a second tidal wave of bank closures coming as adjustable interest rates reset, people lose their homes, and banks are forced to close because of this.

So let's get this staight. In 2008 the burst of the housing bubble caused a wave of bank failures, and to save the strongest the feds were forced to bail them out, to the tune of several trillion dollars worth of loans. Which the banks promptly used to gobble up more banks, make more adjustable rate loans, and award themselves bonuses. Leading inevitably to another major peak of foreclosures, failures, takeovers, and bailouts of those too big to fail.

Nice scam, isn't it? It's unthinkable that we let the banks too big to fail go the way of the dinosaur. It's unthinkable that we adapt, and regulate how they lend the money we give them, or break their operations into separate corporate entities that can fail nicely without troubling the rest of us. It's unthinkable we help the people whose lives are plunged into chaos because they were led into the lion's den by a lender.

It's unthinkable we remedy the whole situation by changing the way the game is played.

James K Galbraith, in an opinion piece you're not likely to read in a 'Merikan newspaper:

"Now that the immediate crisis has passed," Policy Network asks for "long-term strategies to shape our post-recession economies" and "to promote economic growth".

But the immediate crisis hasn't passed. It is not over for the jobless. It is not over for those losing their homes. It is not over for Greece, Spain, Portugal, or Iceland, facing ruin in the capital markets.

Europe has no plan for jobs. In America, President Obama has recently sent a jobs programme and a call for investments in transportation, clean energy, and education to a Congress in stalemate. No country has a credible plan for effective homeowner debt relief. Central European countries appear to respond with folded arms to the plight of their near neighbours.

The right goal is not to shape "post-recession growth". Growth is not assured; it cannot be assumed; and it is not even the highest priority. The right task is to find a fair, effective, and sustainable path out of crisis.

People need work. We face the challenge of climate change. The broad outline of a programme is therefore plain. There is no mystery about it. In 1929, Keynes wrote, "there is work to do; there are men to do it. Why not bring them together?" Today as then, it is that simple.

Do we need to "rethink the relation between the market and the state"? A futile hope! Those who once thought the market could flourish without the state have either already "rethought", or they cannot think. They are our own Stanley Baldwins and when they discourse on this subject, "it not only is nonsense … but it looks like nonsense to any simpleminded person who considers it with a fresh, unprejudiced mind".

In the crisis, the financial sector collapsed. It hasn't recovered. The big banks remain open, but they make few new loans, take practically no commercial risks, and their old customers – households without wealth, businesses without hope – make no effort to obtain credit. In this situation, the state must act. It can act through the banking system by mandate, as it does in China and as it used to do in Japan and France. Or it can bypass the banks and go to work directly – as it did in America in the New Deal and as Keynes proposed for Britain in 1929...

The question facing world leaders today is not what to do. It is whether to do it. There are two goals to meet: full employment and sustainable energy. That's technically complex. But the complexities are complexities of engineering, organisation and politics. They are not complexities of economics or finance.

The question is posed as though it involved deep questions and high obstacles, whose true nature the uninitiated cannot be expected to grasp. Thus the hue and cry over public debt and deficits – projected to be unsustainable – for reasons never stated – in the long run. Our papers and our television speak of almost nothing else. But if they are right – as all the voices of Wall Street and the City say – then how come the long-term interest rate on the government bonds of the rich countries remains so low? In the US, the federal government can borrow for 20 years at less than 4.4%. And it can borrow short-term for practically nothing.

In truth, the deficit/debt uproar is a deliberate effort to sidetrack attention, to defeat the will of the electorates in the US, as well as Greece among others, who stubbornly insist on effective action, economic recovery and financial reform. Those behind the uproar never foresaw the financial crisis. They never warned against the dangers of excessive private debt. Their interest is plain: they profit from private debts. So it pays to make believe that private is productive and public is sterile, that private is stable and public is not, when the reality is the other way around...

Gates and the Pentagon huff that we, like Europe, are not spending enough on national security.

I'd say more Americans likely died of heart attacks last year because of the economic crises and the inability to afford decent health care than were killed in all the Wars on Terra in America, Iraq, or Afghanistan combined.

The pillaging of the nation and the world by the bank$ters and their Company is a national security crisis delivered to the American and European people by those who would rule us.

χάος is the plan.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

suppose they held a war and nobody came?

Or, if you insisted they come they had no guns to bring:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Europe has demilitarized too much since the end of the Cold War and its underfunded defense budgets are undermining shared security goals, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday.

Gates, addressing a NATO seminar in Washington, said too few helicopters and cargo aircraft for the NATO mission in Afghanistan were "directly impacting operations." NATO also needed more aerial refueling tankers and surveillance aircraft...

...The unwillingness of European countries to fund defense was part of a trend in which large parts of the public and the political class there "are averse to military force and the risks that go with it," Gates said...

One wonder why on earth the Europeans would feel that way.

..."Since the end of the Cold War, national defense budgets have fallen consistently -- even with unprecedented operations outside NATO's territory over the past five years," Gates said.

He said only five of 28 NATO allies met a defense spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product...

A target of 2% of the gross domestic product to make weapons "Merika can use that the chocolate makers refuse to meet.

It must be our freedom they don't like.

C'mon, the Pentagon and the Company work hard to create a global War on Terra. They even let you get involved in some civilian drone bombing action. The least you could do is share the obsession with blood and Empire.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Event Horizon

Spin it as they may, here's the real reason the bank$ters get away pretty much with what they want in either Bu$hie's or the Oborg 'Merika. Nathan A. Martin:

“The hollow words “deficits don’t matter” echo through my mind. They are spoken in the arrogant tone of supposedly educated people who continue to spread their debt backed manure. Of course they spread this manure knowing that it fertilizes their returns.”


All money in the United States, except coins, is created as someone’s debt. When our nation spends more than it takes in, a deficit is created and our government “borrows” the money mainly from commercial banks. As the debt builds, so does the interest. As the interest takes up a larger percentage of the budget, real programs get squeezed.

The latest example of the squeeze is Obama’s announcement cancelling future manned space flights. No more advancing the human race in space, it’s too expensive. NASA’s total annual budget? $18 billion. Amount spent on interest on just the current national debt? At the traditional rate of 5% it will total more than $700 Billion in 2010! But guess what? While the Treasury Department reports that “only” $383 billion was spent on interest last year…

Please let that sink in.

That’s right, this is no joke! Yes, that chart from the Treasury is completely misleading – as in deceptive. In fact, when all the money spent buying down interest rates is considered, we are actually spending ALL of our nation’s income, or more, just for the privilege of using our own money system!

Consider that by the end of 2010 we will have $14.3 Trillion just in current debt, just at the Federal level. “Deficits don’t matter,” right? Yet we are seeing debt driven events ripple around the globe. And since the end of 2008 through September of 2009, the U.S. Federal Reserve had committed $6.4 Trillion just aimed specifically at programs designed to keep interest rates low! And that is conservative, in fact it can be said that the purpose of nearly all the backstops and bailouts was to keep the cost of debt low! This would include backstops like the one given to the FDIC to prevent bank panic from spreading… is that not in effect buying down interest rates? Of course it is. Total commitments? More than $11 Trillion as of September 2009.

If that’s too much of a stretch for you, let’s be really conservative and only look at the amount of money actually invested by the Federal Reserve during that timeframe to buy down rates, about $1.5 Trillion! The largest section of this money went directly into buying up mortgage paper through the GSEs.

So, we spent $1.5 Trillion, at least, buying down interest rates, the sole purpose of which is to mask the debt load. This is because debt saturation has occurred and at normal interest rates, the debt load cannot be supported by incomes. That is true on all levels.

If you combine the amount the Treasury spent directly on interest in 2009, $383 billion, and add it to the $1.5 Trillion used to keep rates low, then it can and should be said that the Treasury actually spent at least $1.88 Trillion on interest!


The stats get more and better. There are numerous charts, all of which look reasonably accurate. Something very large and dark slouches its way towards the bright and shining city on the hill, alrighty.

As you might guess, this original article links to a monetary reform party site. I am not sure they are Paulists, but the overall flavor is similar.

Once again, I have to say I admire and agree with a lot of what Ron Paul says. On the other hand, I know exactly where it leads as well. This is just another way to produce a post-industrial neo-feudal future, except with a different cadre than Poppy's in charge of a different new world order.

Cool Baiting the Hot Switch

Alexander Cockburn:

...Here on earth, the Gaian crowd are all devotees of the Man-Made Global Warming Cult, which this last week, in the world of the real, fulfilled its basic mission of smoothing the way for the renaissance of nuclear power, with Obama announcing last Tuesday, February 16, – see Karl Grossman’s useful piece on this site last week - that his administration is moving ahead on $8.3 billion in federal government loan guarantees to build new nuclear plants.

“My budget proposes tripling the loan guarantees we provide to help finance safe, clean nuclear facilities,” Obama proclaimed on Tuesday, referring to a DOE plan which would add $36 billion and bring the loan guarantee fund to $54.5. The $8.3 billion in loan guarantees is to go toward the Southern Company of Atlanta constructing two nuclear power reactors in Burke, Georgia. These are to be AP1000 nuclear power plants designed by the Westinghouse nuclear division (now owned by Toshiba) although in October the designs were rejected by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission as likely being unable to withstand events like tornadoes and earthquakes.

Yes, Obama did denounce the dangers of nuclear power on the campaign trail. And yes, he has always been in receipt of hefty campaign funds from the nuclear industry. The huge nuke corporation Exelon donated $200,000 to Obama's 2008 election campaign and his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and prime political advisor David Axelrod, have links to the company. And yes, on February 1, the Obama administration unveiled a budget in which both of the University of California’s s weapons labs would receive huge boosts in government funding. The proposed funding increase of 23 per cent at Los Alamos would be the facility's largest since 1944. Much of that funding is for a new factory to produce plutonium bomb cores, the explosive triggers of modern thermo-nuclear warheads, for the purpose of outfitting the first new nukes to be developed since the end of the Cold War.

You can trace the hand of the nuclear power lobby in the confection of the global warming scare as far back as the 1970s. It’s been a four-decade push which took a giant step towards fruition last Tuesday. A quarter of a century ago, nuclear power was dead in this country, so far as new plant construction as concerned. In the wake of Obama’s announcement last week, there were some bleats from the greens, some pro forma yaps from the big Green organizations, but nothing with real teeth. The executives at these big green outfits knew long ago that this was a “bait and switch” exercise. Watch Obama festoon the requests for the new nuke plant licenses with all manner of pleasing drapery about “cap and trade” and so forth. It’s meaningless.
The camel is in the tent and if you look down, there’s another camel’s nose coming through. On Thursday February 18, Obama formally signed into law the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, an admittedly non-binding presidential commission on entitlements and the deficit. The air is thick with Obamian self congratulation about Doing the Right Thing, whatever the political cost. The line from the Democratic strategists is that this is all mere positioning for the fall elections and in due course the Commission will fire off a couple of blanks and then quit the stage of history.

What does the president really think about cutting the social safety net? As I remarked last week, To ask which is the “real” Obama is to drift towards the illusion of thinking there is one – as opposed to an infinitely mutable organism, endlessly adapting to political circumstance, with an eye eternally cocked to the main chance. Nonetheless, everything Obama has done so far suggests that by philosophical disposition and political instinct he’s a neoliberal eager to please the elites and can thus be counted on, when the chips are down, to do the wrong thing. After the second camel’s nose could well come the unmistakable hump of a bipartisan compromise, eroding basic social protections and delighting Wall Street.

There’s a gift for the grandchildren! Retirement postponed to 72, and benefits slashed. Hunker down in your shanty next to the new nuclear power plant and spend your last remaining dollars on the mandatory health insurance policy. Thank you, President Obama...

When Cheney Jumped the Shark with Poppy

It's hard to pinpoint, one knows.

But one suspects pushing for a hot war with Russia contributed more than a little.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Borg make lousy houseguests

I like this comment on the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence:

I must admit that I find the original 1977 SETI Gold Disk message sent inside the Voyager Spacecraft for aliens to find, encouraging them to 'come on over to our place', laughable and irresponsible. The same goes for Active SETI (also known as METI = Messaging to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence).

It's like the Aztecs and the Incas getting together and placing messages in bottles that are then thrown into the Atlantic Ocean, which read:

If anybody picks this up, how about sailing over here to experience our highly evolved civilizations. You'd love our gold-lined temples. We have very few diseases. And we're very friendly.
Lots of love,
Montezuma & Atahualpa

PS. We have this really powerful weapon we call: the bow and arrow"

Physicist Stephen Hawking, in his book A Brief History of Time, suggests that we should not be so eager to alert extraterrestrials of our presence. Just in case... And recommends that we "lay low".

At least until we get a chance to scope things out, anyway.

While an extrasolar "listening post" might be a good idea, one should think carefully before trying to draw the neighbor's attentions.

Might is Right

Chris Floyd is just missing the big picture:

...on Friday, February 19, 2010, the administration of President Barack Obama declared that not only will it not prosecute the avowed and boastful perpetrators and accomplices of the capital crime of torture, it will not impose even the mildest of administrative or professional reprimands upon them. For the foulest of tortures, reaching even to murder, the government of the United States will do nothing: no investigation, no prosecution, no penalty...

Conyers is not happy. He should avoid small airplanes.

This has great implications, of course.

...This isn't just a matter of "being on the wrong side of history." This is changing sides more than 60 years after the fact, on the great issue of what constituted good and evil in World War II. Sure, we expect the sociopathic neocons to come down on the side of the Nazis, and clueless fratboy Bush to sign on with his signature, "Whatever." But Obama was supposed to be elected to clean up that mess. To restore us to constitutional rule, at the very least. Instead, he has given his impremature to reversing the judgment at Nuremberg...

...This is an act of pure evil. It doesn't get any evilier than this. You may think the act of torture is as evil as it gets. But sending the message that those who set torture in motion were just a bit careless, nothing more--that opens the way for a future descent into the abyss, in which acts of torture become the norm...

No longer on the Outside, Morgoth awakes. He'll have some stiff competition as R'lyeh continues to rise.

zombie MK-ULTRA loves the smell of brains in the morning

Nobody knows who wrote it, or who they work for.

Doubtless you will soon be able to google a manufactured identity, however.

Ah, there it is, already dug up for me:

...a graduate student in Security Studies at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service...

Nice Company degree, there. One wonders where she'll do her postdoctoral work.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Is that all?

"...The only thing at stake is the economic future of the United States. "

If Wall Street can't make a profit on it, and it doesn't help the Pentagon, it's deficit spending and thus not essential for National Security.

Helping the Economy as Usual

Just not the American economy. Barry O. is revealed as the consumate bait-and-switch artist:

WASHINGTON — The United Steelworkers union has complained that a government-backed plan to build two nuclear reactors in Georgia will create jobs overseas that should go to American workers...

...in a letter sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the international president of the union, Leo W. Gerard, said that he was concerned about “the potential foreign sourcing of components for these reactors,” which he said “limits our nation’s ability to address our unacceptably high unemployment rate.”

In the letter, Mr. Gerard also expressed concern that if the parts were manufactured in China, substandard quality might pose a safety issue. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversees the safety of nuclear reactors.

The reactor project will create thousands of construction jobs at the site, near Augusta, Ga. And Mr. Obama said that building the reactors would create about 800 permanent jobs.

But according to Westinghouse, the company that designed the reactors’ central components — including the reactor vessel and part of the giant heat exchangers called steam generators — can be obtained only from steel mills in Japan and South Korea, which are certified for the work...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Real 21st Century Truthiness

It really was a lone bugman.

This was not really an act of suicide terrorism.

Real terrorists don't deserve a fair trial.

Torture is really okay.

Republicans really care about your health.

Your President is a real liberal democrat.

We know that Barack Obama, in his heart of hearts, truly wants Real Change. We can tell this by examining the furrows of his brow as he squints meaningfully into the middle distance, by carefully measuring the sincerity-per-pixel count of his campaign posters, by reflecting on the inspirational Martin Luther King quotes he delicately intones before carpet-bombing an Afghan village. But we also know that despite his best efforts, Barack Obama can't achieve Real Change, confounded as he is by such institutional barriers as Congress and the Pentagon and Barack Obama. We know, for example, that Barack Obama wants nothing less than a sweeping overhaul of America's health care system, but has been hopelessly blocked at every turn by conservative Democrats like Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman and Barack Obama. And we know that Barack Obama did everything he could to oppose a trillion-dollar no-strings-attached bailout of a corrupt finance industry, but was helpless to stop it, boosted as it was by notorious corporate whore Barack Obama. And we know that Nobel Laureate Barack Obama is a devout lover of peace, but has been powerless to prevent the American military's rampant bloodletting throughout the Muslim world, as the nation's armed forces remain in the hands of that bloodthirsty warmonger Barack Obama.

And we know that although Barack Obama is an idealist, representing the very best and brightest of American Liberalism, he's also a hard-nosed pragmatist, willing to compromise between extremes of Left and Right, between black and white, between war and more war. That's why when the Left wanted to close Guantanamo and the Right wanted to double Guantanamo, Obama doubled Bagram instead. That's why when the Left wanted to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 350 parts per million and the Right claimed global warming was an international Masonic conspiracy, Obama bombed a village in Pakistan. And that's why when the Left wanted universal health care and the Right wanted hundreds of billions of dollars for Wall Street, a capital gains tax cut and a domestic spending freeze, Obama gave them hundreds of billions of dollars for Wall Street, a capital gains tax cut and a domestic spending freeze.

And we know that as disappointed as we might be in Barack Obama - in his little failings, in his petty slights, in his odd betrayals, in his unseemly habit of dancing naked through the streets of Oslo smeared with the blood and entrails of Afghan children - we also know that the alternative would be far worse. Why, with a Republican president, we might be at war with Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and possibly Iran, or facing some hideously draconian corporatist scheme to compel poor people to buy private insurance they can't afford, with a government that not only excuses the torture regimes of the past but dramatically expands them while giving itself license to murder anyone it likes anywhere on the planet. With Barack Obama, on the other hand, we have all that plus a man who can sparkle wittily on late night television. Now, I think that has to be worth at least a couple thousand dead Muslims, don't you?

Not to mention all the dead Americans once the next World War kicks off in earnest.

As the Rude One says:

...truly, while they may be different in kind, in the specific grievances, are the things that drove Joe Stack to a suicide attack on the IRS different in tone from those that led Abdulmutallab onto his plane? A feeling of disempowerment that only great violence could overcome? A belief that the American way of life was debased? A hope that others will rise up through their sacrifice? Inspiration from groups and belief systems that advocate violence?

Why can we say Stack was driven insane, as if that abrogates the crime, but Mohammed Atta was not? If the Austin police had captured Stack, would they have discovered that he was inspired by websites that provoke retaliation against phantom enemies? Or by the recorded rantings of Glenn Beck, who said back in July 2009, "People don't trust the government, they go out and buy a gun"? (At this point, we need to be careful about Stack, for his beliefs straddle a line between teabagger jihadi and confused Marxist. Truly, you can expect the end of his suicide note to be quoted as a way of aligning him with liberals.)

There is violence here, in America. It is brewing, in many quarters, and it is fanned on by those who have no idea of its consequences and will not participate in its acts. But combine that urging forward with desperation, and it will end in more acts like Joe Stack's. Or Nidal Hasan's. Or Jim Adkisson's. Or Mohammed Atta's. The inarticulate rage of the deluded and despairing, fostered by those who benefit from the violence, is released in a barbaric yelp, an expression of the helpless hate that hate produces.

But they only speak when the Company's ready to make a fast one off their words.

The Feds don't call Stack a terrorist, perhaps in part because he was a CIA contractor?

co-operative venture

Chris Floyd:

In an astounding development, the brand-new director of the International Atomic Energy Agency -- who was narrowly elected to the post a few months ago with the strong, one might say insistent, backing of the United States -- has just issued his very first report on Iran's nuclear program. And guess what the new, American-backed director said? Go on, you'll never guess.

Give up? Well, hold on to your hats -- the American-backed director, Yukiya Amano, has "broken with the more cautious style of his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei" -- you know, the man who was right about Iraq's lack of a nuclear weapons program -- to suggest (sans proof, of course) that there might be "possible military dimensions" to Iran's nuclear program, which just happens to be the most internationally inspected and regulated nuclear power program in history.

That's right; coming just days after Hillary Clinton's fresh bout of fear-mongering about Iran, the American-backed Amano echoed the talking points of the Bush-Obama Administration. (Should we not finally just give the proper name to the "continuity" of our militarist-corporatist rulership?) The Bush-Obama regime has continually proclaimed its unshakable belief that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. So unshakable is this belief that nothing on earth can alter it -- not Iran's willingness to send its uranium to other countries for enrichment, and not the acknowledgment by the White House itself that Iran lacks the technical capability of enriching uranium even to a level far below that needed for weaponization...

What did you expect? It's a $election year, and even the blue dog DINOcrats are flagging. The Reptilians are still as unpopular as in 2008. The last thing the Company wants is some real reform-minded Democrats in Congress.

It's $election year, and that means ratcheting the War on Terra up another notch.

Hello, Iran!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Grudge

Why bye-gones aren't gone bye-bye, Mr. President.

[tip o'teh tinfoil to Lambert]

when peaceful change becomes impossible...

Ruling: No Court Can Hear Abuse and Wrongful Death Claims from Guantanamo

...some other kind of change that would get me labelled as supporting terra by the NSA to advocate becomes inevitable.

Avedon has another great set of links today.

Go read The Medium Lobster, too.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Might as Right is the Law

Robert Parry:

On Sunday, Cheney pronounced himself “a big supporter of waterboarding,” a near-drowning technique that has been regarded as torture back to the Spanish Inquisition and that has long been treated by U.S. authorities as a serious war crime, such as when Japanese commanders were prosecuted for using it on American prisoners during World War II.

Cheney was unrepentant about his support for the technique. He answered with an emphatic "yes" when asked if he had opposed the Bush administration’s decision to suspend the use of waterboarding – after it was employed against three “high-value detainees” sometimes in repetitive sequences. He added that waterboarding should still be “on the table” today.

Cheney then went further. Speaking with a sense of impunity, he casually negated a key line of defense that senior Bush officials had hidden behind for years – that the brutal interrogations were approved by independent Justice Department legal experts who thus gave the administration a legitimate reason to believe the actions were within the law.

However, on Sunday, Cheney acknowledged that the White House had told the Justice Department lawyers what legal opinions to render. In other words, the opinions amounted to ordered-up lawyering to permit the administration to do whatever it wanted...

Unlike his peers, Sith Lord Cheneyburton doesn't even pretend here. You live in his country only by his sufferance. This scandalizes many others, mostly Democrats, who never speak of such doing things out of the washroom.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


No less marvelous the hand, the mind, and the eye that could see them.

having the job done to them

"If these crackers are dumb enough to want to breathe tritium vapor to make
their mortgage payments on time,
why I'm callous enough to let 'em suck it up!"

WASHINGTON — President Obama told an enthusiastic audience of union officials on Tuesday that the Energy Department had approved a loan guarantee intended to underwrite construction of two nuclear reactors in Georgia, with taxpayers picking up much of the financial risk...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Classify this quickly

Sith Lord Cheneyburton doubtless would consider this a National Security issue and subject Ms. Goldenberg to extreme rendition:

The brains trust of the Pentagon says it is just months away from producing a jet fuel from algae for the same cost as its fossil-fuel equivalent.

The claim, which comes from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) that helped to develop the internet and satellite navigation systems, has taken industry insiders by surprise. A cheap, low-carbon fuel would not only help the US military, the nation's single largest consumer of energy, to wean itself off its oil addiction, but would also hold the promise of low-carbon driving and flying for all.

Darpa's research projects have already extracted oil from algal ponds at a cost of $2 per gallon. It is now on track to begin large-scale refining of that oil into jet fuel, at a cost of less than $3 a gallon, according to Barbara McQuiston, special assistant for energy at Darpa. That could turn a promising technology into a ­market-ready one. Researchers have cracked the problem of turning pond scum and seaweed into fuel, but finding a cost-effective method of mass production could be a game-changer. "Everyone is well aware that a lot of things were started in the military," McQuiston said.

The work is part of a broader Pentagon effort to reduce the military's thirst for oil, which runs at between 60 and 75 million barrels of oil a year. Much of that is used to keep the US Air Force in flight. Commercial airlines – such as Continental and Virgin Atlantic – have also been looking at the viability of an algae-based jet fuel, as has the Chinese government.

"Darpa has achieved the base goal to date," she said. "Oil from algae is projected at $2 per gallon, headed towards $1 per gallon."

McQuiston said a larger-scale refining operation, producing 50 million gallons a year, would come on line in 2011 and she was hopeful the costs would drop still further – ensuring that the algae-based fuel would be competitive with fossil fuels. She said the projects, run by private firms SAIC and General Atomics, expected to yield 1,000 gallons of oil per acre from the algal farm.

McQuiston's projections took several industry insiders by surprise. "It's a little farther out in time," said Mary Rosenthal, director of the Algal Biomass Association. "I am not saying it is going to happen in the next three months, but it could happen in the next two years."

But the possibilities have set off a scramble to discover the cheapest way of mass-producing an algae-based fuel. Even Exxon – which once notoriously dismissed biofuels as moonshine – invested $600m in research last July.

Unlike corn-based ethanol, algal farms do not threaten food supplies. Some strains are being grown on household waste and in brackish water. Algae draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere when growing; when the derived fuel is burned, the same CO2 is released, making the fuel theoretically zero-carbon, although processing and transporting the fuel requires some energy.

The industry received a further boost earlier this month, when the Environmental Protection Agency declared that algae-based diesel reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50% compared with conventional diesel. The Obama administration had earlier awarded $80m in research grants to a new generation of algae and biomass fuels.

For Darpa, the support for algae is part of a broader mission for the US military to obtain half of its fuel from renewable energy sources by 2016. That time line meant that the Pentagon needed to develop technologies to make its hardware "fuel agnostic", capable that is of running on any energy source including methane and propane.

The US Air Force wants its entire fleet of jet fighters and transport aircraft to test-fly a 50-50 blend of petroleum-based fuel and other sources – including algae – by next year.

The switch is partly driven by cost, but military commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq are also anxious to create a lighter, more fuel-efficient force that is less dependent on supply convoys, which are vulnerable to attack from insurgents. Give the military the capability of creating jet fuel in the field, and you would eliminate that danger, McQuiston said. "In Afghanistan, if you could be able to create jet fuel from indigenous sources and rely on that, you'd not only be able to source energy for the military, but you'd also be able to leave an infrastructure that would be more sustainable."

McQuiston said the agency was also looking at how to make dramatic improvements in the photo-voltaic cells that collect solar energy. She said making PV 50% more efficient would create a future when even the smallest devices, such as mobile phones, would be ­powered by their own solar cells.

Maybe the Praetorians are simply uneasy about what Team Xinhua has already figured out and deployed among its own armed forces.

One would have thought those who would rule us would allow the release of these kinds of technologies only after the right sort of people had created their global neo feudal $tate.

But perhaps we're behind the curve and things are already past any chance of real recovery and the time is now.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Joe Biden Hearts the Tell

This guy is almost as good as Dubya for providing moments of unintentional clarity.

In his current sparring with Sith Lord Cheneyburton:

...Mr. Biden said that some of the Obama administration efforts that have been criticized by Mr. Cheney were similar to decisions made during the Bush administration. The vice president declared that Mr. Cheney’s fight seems to be with his own administration. “That’s Dick Cheney,” Mr. Biden said, appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Thank God the last administration didn’t listen to him at the end...”

Wherein the Oborg admit they have been assimilated into Poppy's collective.

If by thanking God you mean the Godfather in Kennebunkport who installed Robert Gates, that's precisely who sacked Cheneyburton, and afterwards McCain and Palin.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Your tax dollars at work

The troubled American private ­security company Blackwater faced fresh ­controversy today when two former employees accused it of defrauding the US government for years, including ­billing for a Filipina prostitute on its payroll in Afghanistan.

According to Melan Davis, a former employee, Blackwater listed the woman for payment under the "morale welfare recreation" category.

The company, which allegedly employed her in Kabul, billed the ­government for her plane tickets and monthly salary, Davis said...

But we can't end the role of private contractors in our War on Terra, can we?

"no civilian casualties had been reported"

Anyone who could call the casualities civilians was of course shot on site as an insurgent.

Because, you know, when you advertise to the Taliban you're coming armed for bear, they're bound to surround themselves with mines to cut off any ability to retreat and wait there as your armada is airlifted in over the mines.

Instead of rounding up all the civilians who wouldn't support them, and surrounding them with the mines at the precise spot where you've previously announced you're attacking.

The better to allow you to commit a war crime.

Of course the Obama Surge, like the Bu$h Surge, will be a great successful media event. How else could you have Petreus Caesar and Jebbie Bu$h in 2012?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy"

The Obama D.o'J..

You have a cell phone? They know where you are.

[tip o'teh tinfoil to DCblogger]


Man, fuck it. I’m now officially on the Palin 2012 bandwagon. Because if this country’s going to crash, I want it to crash hard and fast so we can just start over.

You don't get it. That's why McCain/ Palin and or Cheneyburton had no chance. The bank$ters have to have something to rule.

Kounter Kulture Konspiracy Theory

Tom Tomorrow for your Invisible Empire:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor

Short answer, Dr. Krugman: No, it is not possible:

...how is it possible, at this late date, for Obama to be this clueless?

The lead story on Bloomberg right now contains excerpts from an interview with Business Week which tells us:

President Barack Obama said he doesn’t “begrudge” the $17 million bonus awarded to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon or the $9 million issued to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein, noting that some athletes take home more pay.

The president, speaking in an interview, said in response to a question that while $17 million is “an extraordinary amount of money” for Main Street, “there are some baseball players who are making more than that and don’t get to the World Series either, so I’m shocked by that as well.”

“I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen,” Obama said in the interview yesterday in the Oval Office with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free- market system.”

Obama sought to combat perceptions that his administration is anti-business and trumpeted the influence corporate leaders have had on his economic policies. He plans to reiterate that message when he speaks to the Business Roundtable, which represents the heads of many of the biggest U.S. companies, on Feb. 24 in Washington.

Oh. My. God.

First of all, to my knowledge, irresponsible behavior by baseball players hasn’t brought the world economy to the brink of collapse and cost millions of innocent Americans their jobs and/or houses.

And more specifically, not only has the financial industry has been bailed out with taxpayer commitments; it continues to rely on a taxpayer backstop for its stability. Don’t take it from me, take it from the rating agencies:

The planned overhaul of US financial rules prompted Standard & Poor’s to warn on Tuesday it might downgrade the credit ratings of Citigroup and Bank of America on concerns that the shake-up would make it less likely that the banks would be bailed out by US taxpayers if they ran into trouble again.

The point is that these bank executives are not free agents who are earning big bucks in fair competition; they run companies that are essentially wards of the state. There’s good reason to feel outraged at the growing appearance that we’re running a system of lemon socialism, in which losses are public but gains are private. And at the very least, you would think that Obama would understand the importance of acknowledging public anger over what’s happening.

But no. If the Bloomberg story is to be believed, Obama thinks his key to electoral success is to trumpet “the influence corporate leaders have had on his economic policies.”

The main$tream dialog has it, however, that the nation is pissed because Obama is too liberal. In reality, everyone from the left-wing people teh Rahmmer so charmingly calls "retarded" to the right wing Tea Party is pissed. But, it is because Obama is continuing the Bu$hCo policy of giving the bank$ters the keys to the Treasury and the Pentagon everything else.

But being on the outside of beltway liberals and conservatives does give perspective to those that can see:

That's Noam Chomsky saying the Tea Party has legitimate grievances.

The Democratic apparatchik who admire Wall Street and flush their supporters down the toilet are just like Republican operatives banning Tea Partiers who slam the bank$ters for stealing the wealth of the nation.

The wisest on either side see what we all have in common: victimization and polarization by those who would rule everyone.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

that could never happen here...

Chris Hedges:

The conviction of the Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui in New York last week of trying to kill American military officers and FBI agents illustrates that the greatest danger to our security does not come from al-Qaida but the thousands of shadowy mercenaries, kidnappers, killers and torturers our government employs around the globe.

The bizarre story surrounding Siddiqui, 37, who received an undergraduate degree from MIT and a doctorate in neuroscience from Brandeis University, often defies belief. Siddiqui, who could spend 50 years in prison on seven charges when she is sentenced in May, was by her own account abducted in 2003 from her hometown of Karachi, Pakistan, with her three children—two of whom remain missing—and spirited to a secret U.S. prison where she was allegedly tortured and mistreated for five years. The American government has no comment, either about the alleged clandestine detention or the missing children.

Siddiqui was discovered in 2008 disoriented and apparently aggressive and hostile, in Ghazni, Afghanistan, with her oldest son. She allegedly was carrying plans to make explosives, lists of New York landmarks and notes referring to “mass-casualty attacks.” But despite these claims the government prosecutors chose not to charge her with terrorism or links to al-Qaida—the reason for her original appearance on the FBI’s most-wanted list six years ago. Her supporters suggest that the papers she allegedly had in her possession when she was found in Afghanistan, rather than detail coherent plans for terrorist attacks, expose her severe mental deterioration, perhaps the result of years of imprisonment and abuse. This argument was bolstered by some of the pages of the documents shown briefly to the court, including a crude sketch of a gun that was described as a “match gun” that operates by lighting a match.

“Justice was not served,” Tina Foster, executive director of the International Justice Network and the spokesperson for Aafia Siddiqui’s family, told me. “The U.S. government made a decision to label this woman a terrorist, but instead of putting her on trial for the alleged terrorist activity she was put on trial for something else. They tried to convict her of that something else, not with evidence, but because she was a terrorist. She was selectively prosecuted for something that would allow them to only tell their side of the story...”

This isn't America anymore.

But it seems like it never really was.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Well, someday, anyway- chances are we borrowed money from Team Xinhua to pay for this:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- There are more private security contractors from Xe, formerly Blackwater, operating in Islamabad than capital police, a religious leader said.

Maulana Fazal-ur-Rahman, the leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a Deobandi political party in Pakistan, said there were as many as 9,000 Xe contractors working in Islamabad, compared with just 7,000 capital police, Pakistan's News International reports.

The Pakistani Taliban last week said attacks in the Lower Dir District of Pakistan's North-West Frontier province killed U.S. personnel, claiming the attack was an act of revenge against Xe contractors operating in the region.

Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, confirmed the deaths were U.S. military personnel but described the Taliban claims as propaganda.

Their deaths are the first known U.S. military fatalities in Pakistan.

Fazal blamed foreign contractors for instability in the country, saying they undermined an already weak democratic government. He equated Xe contractors with the insurgent Taliban...

It's all propaganda, baby, especially that feeling private contractors are doing more to wreck the budget than Social Security ever has.

We can trash the Geneva Conventions, but this treaty must abide

Via George Washington, the Other reason that the US is not regulating Wall Street:

On March 1, 1999, countries accounting for more than 90 per cent of the global financial services market signed onto the World Trade Organization's Financial Services Agreement (FSA). By signing the FSA, they committed to deregulate their financial markets.

For example, by signing the FSA, the U.S. agreed not to break up too big to fails. The U.S. also promised to repeal Glass-Steagall, and did so 8 months after signing the FSA.

Indeed, in signing the FSA and other WTO agreements, the U.S. has legally bound itself as follows:

• No new regulation: The United States agreed to a “standstill provision” that requires that we not create new regulations (or reverse liberalization) for the list of financial services bound to comply with WTO rules. Given that the United States has made broad WTO financial services commitments – and thus is forbidden by this provision from imposing new regulations in these many areas – this provision seriously limits the policy [options] available to address the current crisis.

• Removal of regulation: The United States even agreed to try to even eliminate domestic financial service regulatory policies that meet GATS [i.e. General Agreement on Trade in Services] rules, but that may still “adversely affect the ability of financial service suppliers of any other (WTO) Member to operate, compete, or enter” the market.

• No bans on new financial service “products”: The United States is also bound to ensure that foreign financial service suppliers are permitted “to offer in its territory any new financial service,” a direct conflict with the various proposals to limit various risky investment instruments, such as certain types of derivatives.

• Certain forms of regulation banned outright: The United States agreed that it would not set limits on the size, corporate form or other characteristics of foreign firms in the broad array of financial services it signed up to WTO strictures ...

• Treating foreign and domestic firms alike is not sufficient: The GATS market-access limits on U.S. domestic regulation apply in absolute terms; that is to say, even if a policy applies to domestic and foreign firms alike, if it goes beyond what WTO rules permit, it is forbidden. And, forms of regulation not outright banned by the market-access requirements must not inadvertently “modify the conditions of competition in favor of services or service suppliers” of the United States, even if they apply identically to foreign and domestic firms.

In other words, the problem isn't just that Congress and the White House have sold out to the Wall Street giants.

The problem is also that the U.S. has signed WTO agreements that have given the keys to the too big to fails, and have neutered their regulators. Even if some politicians tried to stand up to Wall Street - or even if we "throw out all of the bums" currently in political roles - the U.S. would still be locked into the WTO's scheme for helping the financial giants to grow ever bigger and to take ever-bigger and ever-riskier gambles.

Indeed, the financial giants are pushing hard for further deregulation, demanding that the WTO's "Doha round" of agreements be signed...

Where's all this heading, you ask? George Washington is among writers I agree with:

As highly-regarded economist (Michael Hudson, Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, who has advised the U.S., Canadian, Mexican and Latvian governments as well as the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, and who is a former Wall Street economist at Chase Manhattan Bank who helped establish the world’s first sovereign debt fund) said:

"You have to realize that what they’re trying to do is to roll back the Enlightenment, roll back the moral philosophy and social values of classical political economy and its culmination in Progressive Era legislation, as well as the New Deal institutions. They’re not trying to make the economy more equal, and they’re not trying to share power. Their greed is (as Aristotle noted) infinite. So what you find to be a violation of traditional values is a re-assertion of pre-industrial, feudal values. The economy is being set back on the road to debt peonage. The Road to Serfdom is not government sponsorship of economic progress and rising living standards, it’s the dismantling of government, the dissolution of regulatory agencies, to create a new feudal-type elite."

And Foreign Policy magazine ran an article entitled "The Next Big Thing: Neomedievalism", arguing that the power of nations is declining, and being replaced by corporations, wealthy individuals, the sovereign wealth funds of monarchs, and city-regions.

We either stand up, or we slip back into a darker age.

No One Could Have Predicted That

File this alongside with Kindasleezy Rice's statement about 9-11, or the inane statements that the meltdown of 2008 was an "act of god".

It takes a special kind of gullibility to believe some things...

WASHINGTON — If the Democratic Party has a stronghold on Wall Street, it is JPMorgan Chase.

Its chief executive, Jamie Dimon, is a friend of President Obama’s from Chicago, a frequent White House guest and a big Democratic donor. Its vice chairman, William M. Daley, a former Clinton administration cabinet official and Obama transition adviser, comes from Chicago’s Democratic dynasty.

But this year Chase’s political action committee is sending the Democrats a pointed message. While it has contributed to some individual Democrats and state organizations, it has rebuffed solicitations from the national Democratic House and Senate campaign committees. Instead, it gave $30,000 to their Republican counterparts...

The bank$ters stepped behind Obama and the DINOcrats for one reason only. The bank$ters were scared spitless of Cheney, and by extension Palin. Global thermonuclear apocalypse is not good for business.

On the other hand, global financial apocalypse is if the Right Sort of People end up with all the oil, gold, and guns. Just ask Poppy and Babs.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Because the Truth will get you killed

David Michael Green gets only half of it:

...Ronald Reagan not only began the era of "America, The Movie", he personified it as president like no one else ever has. Why worry about national problems when you can have yellow ribbons, poignant sunrises, and kick-ass wars against mortal enemies like Grenada instead? America has never quite recovered from this turn to the fantastical, this Hollywood spectacle of a government. Indeed, so deeply rooted has it become that, in order to help hold onto our comforting delusions, we now have a tenacious mythology which has arisen around the Great Mythologizer himself. The mythmaker has become myth too. New lies promulgated to prop up the old ones.

Whatever. My guess is that if we can ever have a serious discussion of Reagan in the future, one of the great crimes that will be attributed to his presidency will be the same supposed virtue that our lame punditocracy ascribes to it now. They say it was a revival of the American spirit and a restoration of our national confidence. In fact, what it was instead was a grand journey of self-delusion taken by an entire country, and at great cost, much of which we continue to pay to this day.

...Barack Obama has been hard at work for a year now, crashing an enormously promising presidency that just happens to also have his name attached to it, and the way forward has always seemed to me so transparently clear. Regressives in Congress (some from his own party), representing parasitical special interests, are sucking the blood from the American polity, even as the corpse begins to stiffen in rigor mortis. Maybe I'm just a sucker for that old fashioned democracy gospel, but I still believe that many times good policy can also be good politics. How much greater public fury at banks and other corporate predators does there need to be before the president realizes that actually taking on the malefactors of great wealth in this society also happens to be the best thing that could happen to him politically? How many times does he have to lose public support because of the astounding fabrications people are promulgating about him before he decides to stop playing nice and call the liars liars?

...Indeed, the single thing most utterly astonishing to me about the Obama presidency is how such a politically astute candidate could turn out to be such an absolutely lame, slow-to-get-it, president. And I'm not even talking about the guy's policies or ideology, much of which I abhor, since they frequently amount quite literally to warmed-over Bushism.

...Never has a president failed so dramatically to employ his best weapon - the bully pulpit - to market his proposals for the country. Never has a president gotten so little from such favorable conditions for presidential success as Obama did this last year.

All of which begs the question of what American politics might look like if we had a president who was out there swinging for the fence, telling big truths, and mobilizing the public behind some new, healthy, and not even necessarily so hard-to-swallow national choices? The results could be astonishing.

The lists of areas where honest political discourse combined with presidential leadership could produce huge effects is fairly endless, though there is of course the danger of overload and distraction with too many initiatives at once. Just the same, here's my top ten:

* Start with campaign finance reform: No other single domain has more potential to unleash more necessary change in America. The simple truth is that American government is for sale, and about eight or nine tenths of what ails the country is attributable to these daily acts of treason, in which government officials sell out the national interest in favor of their own, and that of their political benefactors. This problem will never be solved by Congress. It requires a president who lays it out, pounds the drum incessantly in public, and humiliates the legislative branch into action. However, that would, of course, require telling a whole bunch of truth.

* America is in fiscal crisis right now, and the president's current solution is to pretend to seriously cut spending, and to locate all those cuts in the domain of domestic spending, just as some folks argued long ago was the real conspiracy behind Reagan's massive deficits. What astonishes me almost daily is that there is not a single serious actor in American politics who is talking about slashing ‘defense' spending. The United States today drops twice what the entire rest of the world combined spends on their militaries, and there is not a single state actor anywhere in the world who does or could threaten us. There is no Nazi Germany or expansionary Soviet Union. And yet we spend like we're in a great power death match, despite the fact that we are bleeding red ink in order to do so. Couldn't somebody speak honestly about this, especially since our finances are in a meltdown, or must we all continue to tip-toe around the drunkard in the family, pretending not to notice all the damage?

* Deregulation has produced the all too predictable results almost everywhere it has been applied, but especially in the financial sector. There's a reason we have jails and courts and police and laws against robbery, rape and murder, you know. There's also a reason why, following the debacle of the Great Depression, we regulated banks and Wall Street. The reason for both is the same. If you make it easy for people to commit crimes (especially by no longer making the acts in question crimes at all), they will. How many times do we have to go down this path before we learn that greedy bastards will kill us all if we let them? And yet, even today, when there is so much anger at Wall Street, no prominent voices are seriously talking about the paradigm shift that is necessary to protect the society and indeed the world against these predatory sociopaths.

* The health care fiasco has (once again) been just that. But even if the administration had gotten its bill through Congress, it would have only been a fiasco of another sort. Democrats on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue looked like circus freak contortionists, trying to write a bill that brought positive change to the country's massively broken system, but doing so without going anywhere near the systemic, fundamental source of the breakage. No one can quite come out and say the truth here, as simple as it is: Introducing private insurers into health care provision adds nothing in terms of care, and dramatically degrades the system in every respect, from cost to complexity to coverage to care. We don't require people to buy insurance - or have a job which provides it - if they want national security from the military or home security from the fire and police departments. So why should we do health care that way? The short answer is because nobody with a platform has the guts to tell that truth.

* Education is another area with fundamental issues that nobody dares speak about. There are lots, actually, including the stupidity of making a college education increasingly out of reach for current and future generations. How brilliant is that, even if all you care about is global competitiveness or national security? There's plenty more where that particular lunacy comes from, but the one that is the most sickening of all, and that most betrays our supposed commitment to equality of opportunity, is local funding of schools. While dollars spent don't directly equate to quality of education, they sure do matter, especially in their absence. It is a national crime that kids growing up in one neighborhood get vastly greater educational resources than the (probably darker-skinned) kids from just down the street. It seems to me that a little public education, pardon the pun, on this issue might go a long way toward shaming America into living up to its professed values.

* Global warming is another area where an astounding vacuum in pedagogical leadership from our political class has created a planetary suicide pact in place of what should be a plethora of prudence preventing post-apocalyptic peril. It's one thing to allow the tail of narrow interests like pharmaceutical, health insurance, sugar, tobacco or weapons industries to wag the dog of public policy and murder tens of thousands of people every year. It's quite another to allow the short-term stock price of Exxon-Mobil to take out an entire planet. Where is the political leadership educating the country on the nature and imminence of this threat?

* It might be nice if we could have an honest conversation about some of our recent foreign policy crimes, too, especially now that other countries like the Netherlands and Britain are at least cracking that door open. There is already so much evidence out there proving the magnitude of lies we were told about Iraq and torture and 9/11 and more. Would it be too much to ask for a little bit of truth to come out? We spend countless hours and unending rolls of yellow ribbon trying to convince ourselves how much we care about our military personnel. In fact, by continuing to allow them to die for lies, we hide from ourselves how little we actually care.

* We could be a lot more honest about our foreign policies in general, as well, especially when it comes to the Middle East, where some pretty whopping ongoing lies cost us dearly, every day. Americans not only get just one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict represented in their media, they even get just one side of the debate within Israel. There's a greater range of dialogue inside Israel about that country's policies than there is in America. Supporting the paranoid Likud version of reality is not the same as supporting American interests in the world. Indeed, it's not even the same as supporting Israel's interests, truth be told. But how could most Americans ever figure that out, when they are limited to only one side, of one side, of the story?

* The United States has a sickening approach to world governance, as well. Whether it comes to land mines or the rights of children or global warming or family planning or just about any treaty, norm or initiative you could name, we are right there alongside Somalia and Libya as the outliers in international morality. Our attitude toward the United Nations and other global institutions is similarly self-reverential. These organizations are seen to exist for the purpose of supporting American interests (and those, worse yet, as defined in corporate boardrooms), and are ignored, defunded or otherwise trampled upon whenever they do not. How refreshing would it be if our political class might reeducate the country to start acting like we're the five percent of the world's population we actually are, rather than ninety-five percent?

* And while we're at it, we could really make some profound changes to our attitudes about governance at home, as well. For thirty years now, regressives have been teaching Americans that it's well and proper to hate their own government. Never mind that those same right-wingers most often have been the government over the last three decades. And never mind what it means to hate a government in a democracy, where the people doing the hating have chosen that government. The effects of this massively destructive impulse have been profound, and go a long way toward explaining the unraveling of American society and political culture we're now living through and living with. Governments do some truly horrid things sometimes, it's true, along with some pretty wonderful things as well. But policies, and the vehicle for those policies, are not the same thing. It's time that we had some leadership who reminded Americans that government, for all its flaws, is not inherently evil. Indeed, it can profoundly impact people's lives for the better, including protecting people from predators of all sorts. Which is precisely why the purveyors of unmitigated greed in America so badly want us to hate it...

I dunno. Why won't someone in the White House give us a little truth? Ask JFK.

But be prepared to wait for an answer.

Licking the Third Rail

Timmeh is $erious with your moneh.

GEITHNER: The president's view, and this is a view shared by many Republicans, and it builds on what we've seen with effective commissions in the past, like the Greenspan commission that President Reagan established to help restore the financial footing of Social Security, is that for this to work, you've got to bring people together to step back from politics, day-to-day politics, and to bring fresh ideas to solve these kind of problems.

That's the only way to do it, we think. And we're committed to doing that. We've got to do it on a bipartisan basis, and we're deeply serious about doing this.

Yes, Obama was $elected because it was a stated priority and promise of his to privatize Social Security.

It's just he never bothered telling the America people of this priority nor to whom he had promised it.

Nice network you have here- be a pity to lose it

Teh NSA helps Google.

It's worse than you think

Cryptogon on surveillance:

...URL retention is an absurd red herring when placed in the context of what is already known to be in place at the carrier level, and almost certainly much closer to endusers as well...

Lots of links, very well documented.

But I have to disagree about one major point. Control and the ability to round up the dissidents at a whim is just a juicy fringe benefit of this system. In fact, it's unlikely the designers ever want things to reach such an extreme. After all, it would be a real pain in the ass to do, some of the most productive and creative workers in the country are constantly doing things that would get them redlisted.

After all, if Hitler had incorporated the Jews into his dream of German global domination instead of scapegoating and cutting them out, Einstein and crew would have assuredly stayed where the money and fame and power was, Moscow and London would be radioactive ruins today, and you and I would be sprechen die Sprache des Vaterlandes right now.

No, look at how the various companies that make up the Company interact.

The first goal of all this is the money. So is the second, third, and fourth. Watching where you roast your toasties isn't anywhere near the top of the list. They have better ways of harnessing the dissidents.

Because it sez so on the label

Any $erious movement opposing what Obama is doing must be conservative ergo Republican, right?

...Organizers said that anyone “looking too crazy” would have been tossed out...

Right. But stupid? That fit in perfectly.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Infallibility by Fiat

Greenwald has a good time with big Leon and his Company boys today:

If I had the power to have one statement of fact be universally recognized in our political discussions, it would be this one:

The fact that the Government labels Person X a "Terrorist" is not proof that Person X is, in fact, a Terrorist.

That proposition should be intrinsically understood by any American who completed sixth grade civics and was thus taught that a central prong of our political system is that government officials often abuse their power and/or err and therefore must prove accusations to be true (with tested evidence) before they're assumed to be true and the person punished accordingly. In particular, the fact that the U.S. Government, over and over, has falsely accused numerous people of being Terrorists -- only for it to turn out that they did nothing wrong -- by itself should compel a recognition of this truth. But it doesn't.

All throughout the Bush years, no matter what one objected to -- illegal eavesdropping, torture, rendition, indefinite detention, denial of civilian trials -- the response from Bush followers was the same: "But these are Terrorists, and Terrorists have no rights, so who cares what is done to them?" What they actually meant was: "the Government has claimed they are Terrorists," but in their minds, that was the same thing as: "they are Terrorists." They recognized no distinction between "a government accusation" and "unchallengeable truth"; in the authoritarian's mind, by definition, those are synonymous. The whole point of the Bush-era controversies was that -- away from an actual battlefield and where the Constitution applies (on U.S. soil and/or towards American citizens wherever they are) -- the Government should have to demonstrate someone's guilt before it's assumed (e.g., they should have to show probable cause to a court and obtain warrants before eavesdropping; they should have to offer evidence that a person engaged in Terrorism before locking them in a cage, etc.). But to someone who equates unproven government accusations with proof, those processes are entirely unnecessary. Even in the absence of those processes, they already know that these persons are Terrorists. How do they know that? Because the Government said so. Even when it comes to their fellow citizens, that's all the "proof" that is needed.

That authoritarian mentality is stronger than ever now. Why? Because unlike during the Bush years, when it was primarily Republicans willing to blindly trust Government accusations, many Democrats are now willing to do so as well...

But they never make mistakes, >do they?

..."If there's ever an example of justice delayed, justice denied, this is it," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R.-Mich., ranking minority member of the House Intelligence Committee. "The [intelligence] community's performance in terms of accountability has been unacceptable. These were Americans that were killed with the help of their government, the community covered it up, they delayed investigating."

On April 20, 2001, Jim and Veronica "Roni" Bowers and their two children, six-year-old son Cory and infant daughter Charity, were returning to their home in Peru from a trip to Brazil in a small airplane piloted by Kevin Donaldson.

The Bowers' worked as Christian missionaries along a stretch of the Amazon River near Iquitos, Peru, a remote jungle region near the Brazilian and Colombian borders heavily traveled by drug traffickers.

Obviously, Rep. Hoekstra is aiding and abetting the Terra.

Jurrassic Cylons

I don't see how this could go wrong:

...Darpa is looking to re-write the laws of evolution to the military’s advantage, creating “synthetic organisms” that can live forever — or can be killed with the flick of a molecular switch.

As part of its budget for the next year, Darpa is investing $6 million into a project called BioDesign, with the goal of eliminating “the randomness of natural evolutionary advancement.” The plan would assemble the latest bio-tech knowledge to come up with living, breathing creatures that are genetically engineered to “produce the intended biological effect.” Darpa wants the organisms to be fortified with molecules that bolster cell resistance to death, so that the lab-monsters can “ultimately be programmed to live indefinitely.”

Of course, Darpa’s got to prevent the super-species from being swayed to do enemy work — so they’ll encode loyalty right into DNA, by developing genetically programmed locks to create “tamper proof” cells. Plus, the synthetic organism will be traceable, using some kind of DNA manipulation, “similar to a serial number on a handgun.” And if that doesn’t work, don’t worry. In case Darpa’s plan somehow goes horribly awry, they’re also tossing in a last-resort, genetically-coded kill switch:

Develop strategies to create a synthetic organism “self-destruct” option to be implemented upon nefarious removal of organism.

The project comes as Darpa also plans to throw $20 million into a new synthetic biology program, and $7.5 million into “increasing by several decades the speed with which we sequence, analyze and functionally edit cellular genomes.”

Of course, Darpa’s up against some vexing, fundamental laws of nature — not to mention bioethics — as they embark on the lab beast program. First, they might want to rethink the idea of evolution as a random series of events, says NYU biology professor David Fitch. “Evolution by selection is not a random process at all, and is actually a hugely efficient design algorithm used extensively in computation and engineering...”

...Even expert molecular geneticists don’t know what to make of the project. Either that, or they’re scared Darpa might sic a bio-bot on them. “I would love to comment, but unfortunately Darpa has installed a kill switch in me...”

The real product of this research would likely be proscribed and illegal bioweapons intrinsically resistant to vaccines or antibiotics that could be stopped by a chemical command from the military.

But you can bet if they're asking for $30 million, their black budget- the money they don't tell anyone about and Congress never even sees- is already more like half a billion.

No New New Deal For You!

Dr. Krugman notices the latest drumbeat in the Village:

These days it’s hard to pick up a newspaper or turn on a news program without encountering stern warnings about the federal budget deficit. The deficit threatens economic recovery, we’re told; it puts American economic stability at risk; it will undermine our influence in the world. These claims generally aren’t stated as opinions, as views held by some analysts but disputed by others. Instead, they’re reported as if they were facts, plain and simple.

Yet they aren’t facts. Many economists take a much calmer view of budget deficits than anything you’ll see on TV. Nor do investors seem unduly concerned: U.S. government bonds continue to find ready buyers, even at historically low interest rates. The long-run budget outlook is problematic, but short-term deficits aren’t — and even the long-term outlook is much less frightening than the public is being led to believe.

So why the sudden ubiquity of deficit scare stories? It isn’t being driven by any actual news. It has been obvious for at least a year that the U.S. government would face an extended period of large deficits, and projections of those deficits haven’t changed much since last summer. Yet the drumbeat of dire fiscal warnings has grown vastly louder.

To me — and I’m not alone in this — the sudden outbreak of deficit hysteria brings back memories of the groupthink that took hold during the run-up to the Iraq war...

Ah, the ideas that are the consensus everbody knows, the underlying facts the entire dialog is based on, the Matrix we all live in but must feed. You know, the propaganda. Recession, repression, it's all the same thing.

...Now, as then, dubious allegations, not backed by hard evidence, are being reported as if they have been established beyond a shadow of a doubt. Now, as then, much of the political and media establishments have bought into the notion that we must take drastic action quickly, even though there hasn’t been any new information to justify this sudden urgency. Now, as then, those who challenge the prevailing narrative, no matter how strong their case and no matter how solid their background, are being marginalized.

And fear-mongering on the deficit may end up doing as much harm as the fear-mongering on weapons of mass destruction.

Let’s talk for a moment about budget reality. Contrary to what you often hear, the large deficit the federal government is running right now isn’t the result of runaway spending growth. Instead, well more than half of the deficit was caused by the ongoing economic crisis, which has led to a plunge in tax receipts, required federal bailouts of financial institutions, and been met — appropriately — with temporary measures to stimulate growth and support employment.

The point is that running big deficits in the face of the worst economic slump since the 1930s is actually the right thing to do. If anything, deficits should be bigger than they are because the government should be doing more than it is to create jobs.

True, there is a longer-term budget problem. Even a full economic recovery wouldn’t balance the budget, and it probably wouldn’t even reduce the deficit to a permanently sustainable level. So once the economic crisis is past, the U.S. government will have to increase its revenue and control its costs. And in the long run there’s no way to make the budget math work unless something is done about health care costs.

But there’s no reason to panic about budget prospects for the next few years, or even for the next decade. Consider, for example, what the latest budget proposal from the Obama administration says about interest payments on federal debt; according to the projections, a decade from now they’ll have risen to 3.5 percent of G.D.P. How scary is that? It’s about the same as interest costs under the first President Bush.

Why, then, all the hysteria? The answer is politics.

The main difference between last summer, when we were mostly (and appropriately) taking deficits in stride, and the current sense of panic is that deficit fear-mongering has become a key part of Republican political strategy, doing double duty: it damages President Obama’s image even as it cripples his policy agenda. And if the hypocrisy is breathtaking — politicians who voted for budget-busting tax cuts posing as apostles of fiscal rectitude, politicians demonizing attempts to rein in Medicare costs one day (death panels!), then denouncing excessive government spending the next — well, what else is new?

The trouble, however, is that it’s apparently hard for many people to tell the difference between cynical posturing and serious economic argument. And that is having tragic consequences.

For the fact is that thanks to deficit hysteria, Washington now has its priorities all wrong: all the talk is about how to shave a few billion dollars off government spending, while there’s hardly any willingness to tackle mass unemployment. Policy is headed in the wrong direction — and millions of Americans will pay the price.

Some, more than others.

Once again, a bonus at Goldman Sachs has all of Wall Street talking — only this time, over how small it is.

After weeks of intense speculation, Goldman Sachs disclosed late Friday that its chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein, would receive an annual bonus valued at $9 million, a figure that, to the surprise of many, put him in the middle of the pay scale for the nation’s banking chiefs.

While most people can only dream of such a reward, the news was widely seen on Wall Street as a show of restraint...

Such nobility. Somewhere, I am touched. Nine million dollars is a small sum to award such a Mover and Shaker who is doubtless also concerned about the rash spending everywhere except where the government has spent, is spending, and will continue to spend the most money. On the trillions it will take to keep Mr. Blankfein's and Mr. Dimon's plundering business going.

Chaos continues to be the plan.