[looking puzzled]"...but we've always been at war with Eurasia..."
anyone who doesn't think all of this has anything to do with the Company and the price of oil can just frack off
Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.
...A new non-partisan group called US Uncut -- named after UK Uncut -- aims in part to challenge the tea party's push for lower corporate taxes. They instead want Congress stop letting wealthy corporations dodge their taxes.
"This is an issue that has been ignored for way too long," Carl Gibson, a US Uncut spokesman, told Raw Story. "Congress has been chipping away and chipping away at corporate responsibility to pay taxes."
"And now it's gotten to the point where the middle class is being sacrificed on the altar of deficit reduction, while big corporations are getting away with not paying any taxes at all..."
...The US protests will focus on the Bank of America, which was one of the biggest recipients of taxpayers' money in the bailout that followed the financial crisis.
According to US Uncut, nearly two-thirds of US corporations and 68% of foreign firms operating in the US pay no income tax. A study from the non-partisan US Government Accountability Office found that 83 of the top 100 publicly traded corporations in the US use corporate tax havens to minimise their tax bills.
"Bank of America paid no federal tax and we gave it $45bn in the bailout," said Alisa Harris, one of US Uncut's New York organisers. "People are tired of sitting at their computers and seething, they want to get out there and do something, It's not enough just to talk about it on Facebook."
...In recent weeks, Madison has been the scene of large demonstrations against the governor’s budget bill, which would deny collective-bargaining rights to public-sector workers. Gov. Scott Walker claims that he needs to pass his bill to deal with the state’s fiscal problems. But his attack on unions has nothing to do with the budget. In fact, those unions have already indicated their willingness to make substantial financial concessions — an offer the governor has rejected.
What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.
For example, the bill includes language that would allow officials appointed by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income families without having to go through the normal legislative process.
And then there’s this: “Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”
What’s that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”
If this sounds to you like a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering — remember those missing billions in Iraq? — you’re not alone...
...it is an emotional issue for American troops, who fear that their service and sacrifices could be squandered...
You can’t fight something with nothing. But as long as Democrats refuse to talk about the almost unprecedented buildup of income, wealth, and power at the top – and the refusal of the super-rich to pay their fair share of the nation’s bills – Republicans will convince people it’s all about government and unions.
Republicans claim to have a mandate from voters for the showdowns and shutdowns they’re launching. Governors say they’re not against unions but voters have told them to cut costs, and unions are in the way. House Republicans say they’re not seeking a government shutdown but standing on principle. “Republicans’ goal is to cut spending and reduce the size of government,” says House leader John Boehner, “not to shut it down.” But if a shutdown is necessary to achieve the goal, so be it.
The Republican message is bloated government is responsible for the lousy economy that most people continue to experience. Cut the bloat and jobs and wages will return.
Nothing could be further from the truth, but for some reason Obama and the Democrats aren’t responding with the truth. Their response is: We agree but you’re going too far. Government employees should give up some more wages and benefits but don’t take away their bargaining rights. Private-sector unionized workers should make more concessions but don’t bust the unions. Non-defense discretionary spending should be cut but don’t cut so much...
The truth that Obama and Democrats must tell is government spending has absolutely nothing to do with high unemployment, declining wages, falling home prices, and all the other horribles that continue to haunt most Americans.
Indeed, too little spending will prolong the horribles for years more because there’s not enough demand in the economy without it.
The truth is that while the proximate cause of America’s economic plunge was Wall Street’s excesses leading up to the crash of 2008, its underlying cause — and the reason the economy continues to be lousy for most Americans — is so much income and wealth have been going to the very top that the vast majority no longer has the purchasing power to lift the economy out of its doldrums. American’s aren’t buying cars (they bought 17 million new cars in 2005, just 12 million last year). They’re not buying homes (7.5 million in 2005, 4.6 million last year). They’re not going to the malls (high-end retailers are booming but Wal-Mart’s sales are down).
Only the richest 5 percent of Americans are back in the stores because their stock portfolios have soared. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has doubled from its crisis low. Wall Street pay is up to record levels. Total compensation and benefits at the 25 major Wall St firms had been $130 billion in 2007, before the crash; now it’s close to $140 billion.
But a strong recovery can’t be built on the purchases of the richest 5 percent.
The truth is if the super-rich paid their fair share of taxes, government wouldn’t be broke. If Governor Scott Walker hadn’t handed out tax breaks to corporations and the well-off, Wisconsin wouldn’t be in a budget crisis. If Washington hadn’t extended the Bush tax cuts for the rich, eviscerated the estate tax, and created loopholes for private-equity and hedge-fund managers, the federal budget wouldn’t look nearly as bad.
And if America had higher marginal tax rates and more tax brackets at the top – for those raking in $1 million, $5 million, $15 million a year – the budget would look even better. We wouldn’t be firing teachers or slashing Medicaid or hurting the most vulnerable members of our society. We wouldn’t be in a tizzy over Social Security. We’d slow the rise in healthcare costs but we wouldn’t cut Medicare. We’d cut defense spending and lop off subsidies to giant agribusinesses but we wouldn’t view the government as our national nemesis.
The final truth is as income and wealth have risen to the top, so has political power. The reason all of this is proving so difficult to get across is the super-rich, such as the Koch brothers, have been using their billions to corrupt politics, hoodwink the public, and enlarge and entrench their outsized fortunes. They’re bankrolling Republicans who are mounting showdowns and threatening shutdowns, and who want the public to believe government spending is the problem.
They are behind the Republican shakedown.
These are the truths that Democrats must start telling, and soon. Otherwise the Republican shakedown may well succeed.
GENEVA (Reuters) - CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is gearing up to resume full-speed particle collisions next month aimed at resolving key mysteries of the universe, scientists and engineers at the research center said on Monday.
They reported that the giant subterranean machine was in fine shape after a 10-week shutdown and that particle beams circulating in it again since the weekend would be boosted to top speed by the end of the day.
"Everything is going very well indeed. Progress has been extremely rapid since we switched the LHC on again late on Saturday," Mike Lamont, head of operations at the LHC control room just outside Geneva, told Reuters.
The LHC was closed down on December 6 for technical checks of its hugely complex apparatus after eight months of operations...
New Physics, the motto of the LHC, refers to knowledge that will take research beyond the "Standard Model" of how the universe works that emerged from the work of Albert Einstein and his 1905 Theory of Special Relativity.
"We will be focusing this year on super-symmetry, extra dimensions, how black holes are produced, and the Higgs boson. We expect some first results by the summer," said Buchmueller.
Super-symmetry, dubbed SUSY, is a theory allowing for the existence of unseen doubles of elementary particles and if proven correct would explain the mystery of dark matter, believed to make up nearly a quarter of the known universe.
It could also help back up the string theory concept which provides for extra dimensions other than the known four -- length, breadth, depth and time -- and for the existence of parallel universes.
Black holes are collapsed stars, observed in many galaxies in the known universe, around which the force of gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape. But scientists want to know more about how they come about...
Tens of thousands of ordinary people pour into the streets in a desperate bid to stop yet another vicious assault on their human rights -- and their human dignity -- by an utterly corrupt political system run by callous, greedy elites. The factotums of the system -- the same kind of third-rate lackeys and shriveled-up souls found in the goon squads of governments since time immemorial -- mewl and bawl at the rabble's effrontery: how dare they challenge their "legitimate" rulers!
The goons spew the usual lies about the regrettable necessity of their repressive measures: there is, as always, a great crisis at hand which requires draconian sacrifices -- of liberty, opportunity, living standards -- from the common people. The elite, of course, are immune from such calls -- which is only fitting, for in this case, as in so many others, they have deliberately manufactured the "crisis" in the first place, in order to extend their dominance over society even further. They are deadly serious in this ambition; and thus the goons, despite the tender, paternalistic tones of their pronouncements, make it clear that they will bring in the military if the rabble continues to defy their masters' wishes. In the meantime, they bus in a handful of "supporters" who, despite being vastly outnumbered by the ranks of the protestors, are featured prominently in the reports of the elite-dominated national media.
These stirring scenes of mass dissent are not set in Egypt, Libya or Bahrain, but deep in the heart of the Homeland itself: Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker, one of more indecorous bagmen of the corporate elite, is using a "budget crisis" that he himself created with tax favors for the wealthy in a bid to destroy the collective bargaining rights of working people. The immediate target is the public sector unions, but the ultimate goal is the destruction of the very principle of collective bargaining in every sector, as Craig Unger makes clear at Forbes.com.
Walker's class war blitzkrieg is part of a long-running campaign by the gluttonous Koch Brothers and other bloated multi-billionaires to remove the last, fraying restraints on their total control of society. They disguise their apish lust for dominance in libertarian drag, claiming to stand up for the "individual" against the socialistic "collectivism" of union power. But what they want is a world where isolated, atomized, ordinary individuals can offer no resistance whatsoever to the impositions of the moneyed elite. What single employee could stand alone against the Koch Brothers' billions of dollars in any workplace conflict or salary negotiation? What our elites want -- and what they are increasingly getting -- is a people reduced to helotry, to wage slavery, to feudal dependence on unaccountable, uncontrollable overlords.
While it is indeed heartening to see, at last, even the slightest pushback against America's forced march into peonage, no one should be deceived about the thoroughly bipartisan nature of the feudalization process. Walker -- a third-rate, bought-off Republican hack for billionaire string-pullers -- makes an easy target, and has perhaps been too blatant in going about his sugar daddies' business. But his elite entanglements are dwarfed -- like a molehill to Everest -- by those of the progressive Democrat now in the White House. No president in history -- not George Bush II, not George Bush I, not Richard Nixon -- has been more servile to Big Money than Barack Obama. (Although Bill Clinton -- who greenlighted the regulatory gutting that led to the current economic meltdown -- might run him a close second.)
As Matt Taibbi details in yet another remarkable article on the monumental corruption of the American system, Obama has not only made extraordinary efforts to shield Wall Street's criminal class from the slightest accountability for their vastly destructive atrocities, he has put that same criminal class in charge of his economic policy -- and of his literally laughable regulatory "reforms" as well...
...this is the system -- the "utterly corrupt political system run by callous, greedy elites" -- that produced the egregious assault on our rights and liberties now roiling Wisconsin. And while you will always have factional infighting for the perks of power between various elite cliques, there is a seamless continuum running from the provincial twerp in Madison to the suave global statesman in Washington. They serve the same masters. They seek the same goals. May these first American ripples of the global surge of dissent against corrupt elites grow quickly into a flood.
...There have been proposals to slap limits on commodity trading to discourage speculative trading and reduce price volatility but the World Bank chief said "you counter volatility with better information" about the markets...
A growing, more affluent population competing for ever scarcer resources could make for an "unrecognizable" world by 2050, researchers warned at a major US science conference Sunday.
The United Nations has predicted the global population will reach seven billion this year, and climb to nine billion by 2050, "with almost all of the growth occurring in poor countries, particularly Africa and South Asia," said John Bongaarts of the non-profit Population Council.
To feed all those mouths, "we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000," said Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
"By 2050 we will not have a planet left that is recognizable" if current trends continue, Clay said.
The swelling population will exacerbate problems, such as resource depletion, said John Casterline, director of the Initiative in Population Research at Ohio State University.
But incomes are also expected to rise over the next 40 years -- tripling globally and quintupling in developing nations -- and add more strain to global food supplies.
People tend to move up the food chain as their incomes rise, consuming more meat than they might have when they made less money, the experts said...
...Budget deficits are a ruse, as we've seen in Wisconsin, where the Governor turned a surplus into a deficit by providing corporate tax breaks, and then used the deficit as a ploy to break the unions, not just in Wisconsin, but seeking to be the first domino in a nationwide conservative movement...
The Republican strategy is to split the vast middle and working class – pitting unionized workers against non-unionized, public-sector workers against non-public, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don’t believe these programs will be there for them, and the poor against the working middle class.
By splitting working America along these lines, Republicans want Americans to believe that we can no longer afford to do what we need to do as a nation. They hope to deflect attention from the increasing share of total income and wealth going to the richest 1 percent while the jobs and wages of everyone else languish.
Republicans would rather no one notice their campaign to shrink the pie even further with additional tax cuts for the rich – making the Bush tax cuts permanent, further reducing the estate tax, and allowing the wealthy to shift ever more of their income into capital gains taxed at 15 percent...
These three aspects of the Republican strategy – a federal budget battle to shrink government, focused on programs the vast middle class depends on; state efforts to undermine public employees, whom the middle class depends on; and a Supreme Court dedicated to bending the Constitution to enlarge and entrench the political power of the wealthy – fit perfectly together.
They pit average working Americans against one another, distract attention from the almost unprecedented concentration of wealth and power at the top, and conceal Republican plans to further enlarge and entrench that wealth and power.
What is the Democratic strategy to counter this and reclaim America for the rest of us?
These days, with Facebook and Twitter and social media galore, it can be increasingly hard to tell who your "friends" are.
But after this, Internet users would be well advised to ask another question entirely: Are my "friends" even real people?
In the continuing saga of data security firm HBGary, a new caveat has come to light: not only did they plot to help destroy secrets outlet WikiLeaks and discredit progressive bloggers, they also crafted detailed proposals for software that manages online "personas," allowing a single human to assume the identities of as many fake people as they'd like.
The revelation was among those contained in the company's emails, which were dumped onto bittorrent networks after hackers with cyber protest group "Anonymous" broke into their systems.
In another document unearthed by "Anonymous," one of HBGary's employees also mentioned gaming geolocation services to make it appear as though selected fake persons were at actual events.
"There are a variety of social media tricks we can use to add a level of realness to all fictitious personas," it said.
Eerie as that may be, more perplexing, however, is a federal contract from the 6th Contracting Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, located south of Tampa, Florida, that solicits providers of "persona management software."
While there are certainly legitimate applications for such software, such as managing multiple "official" social media accounts from a single input, the more nefarious potential is clear.
Unfortunately, the Air Force's contract description doesn't help dispel suspicions. As the text explains, the software would require licenses for 50 users with 10 personas each, for a total of 500. These personas would have to be "replete with background , history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographacilly consistent."
It continues, noting the need for secure virtual private networks that randomize the operator's Internet protocol (IP) address, making it impossible to detect that it's a single person orchestrating all these posts. Another entry calls for static IP address management for each persona, making it appear as though each fake person was consistently accessing from the same computer each time.
The contract also sought methods to anonymously establish virtual private servers with private hosting firms in specific geographic locations. This would allow that server's "geosite" to be integrated with their social media profiles, effectively gaming geolocation services.
The Air Force added that the "place of performance" for the contract would be at MacDill Air Force Base, along with Kabul, Afghanistan and Baghdad. The contract was offered on June 22, 2010...
Though many questions remain about how the military would apply such technology, the reasonable fear should be perfectly clear. "Persona management software" can be used to manipulate public opinion on key information, such as news reports. An unlimited number of virtual "people" could be marshaled by only a few real individuals, empowering them to create the illusion of consensus.
You could call it a virtual flash mob, or a digital "Brooks Brothers Riot," so to speak: compelling, but not nearly as spontaneous as it appears.
That's precisely what got DailyKos blogger Happy Rockefeller in a snit: the potential for military-run armies of fake people manipulating and, in some cases, even manufacturing the appearance of public opinion...
Other e-mails circulated by HBGary's CEO illuminate highly personal data about critics of the US Chamber of Commerce, including detailed information about their spouses and children, as well as their locations and professional links. The firm, it was revealed, was just one part of a group called "Team Themis," tasked by the Chamber to come up with strategies for responding to progressive bloggers and others.
"Team Themis" also included a proposal to use malware hacks against progressive organizations, and the submission of fake documents in an effort to discredit established groups.
HBGary was also behind a plot by Bank of America to destroy WikiLeaks' technology platform, other emails revealed. The company was humiliated by members of "Anonymous" after CEO Aaron Barr bragged that he'd "infiltrated" the group...
...Reagan's success in winning and keeping the office of the presidency owed a great deal to a fawning press that pretended that saying, "There you go again," was some sort of brilliant zinger, and spent eight years dismissing and ignoring the Alzheimer's Reagan plainly evidenced (on camera) in his very first months in office.
And that was an early warning of a process we have come to recognize from, among other things, the Bush/Cheney Iraq Lie campaign, of critics pointing out the obvious and being silenced and derided - until the facts are officially recognized and suddenly that isn't worth discussing, either. Compare and contrast the treatment of the rumors about Reagan's Alzhiemer's and Bill Clinton's "slickness" - the latter of which turned out to be false, though it generated an impeachment hearing - as well as Bill Clinton's sluttiness, which may have been true but was hardly as frightening as the prospect that the president of the United States had symptoms of Alzheimer's that were visible to the public even in his most carefully controlled public appearances.
From the moment Reagan was elected in 1980, all criticism of him, his policies, and especially his mental incompetence were off the table. Everything Reagan did seemed to be wonderful, majestic. And until that moment, most of us who were journalists or had an interest in journalism were unaware of just how much the news-sorting process had turned into a way to protect a specific species of powerful people. But when a respected journalist was attacked and derided for asking Reagan about a report that was on his desk that morning and thereby allowed the nation to see that Reagan couldn't even remember what he'd seen by lunchtime, it was obvious to all of us...
A most dastardly deed occurred last Friday when the Obama administration issued a 29-page policy statement totally abandoning the federal government’s time-honored role in helping Americans achieve the goal of homeownership. Instead of punishing the banks that sabotaged the American ideal of a nation of stakeholders by “securitizing” our homesteads into poker chips to be gambled away in the Wall Street casino, Barack Obama now proposes to turn over the entire mortgage industry to those same banks.
The proposal, originated by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, involves nothing less than a total “winding down” of the 80-year-old federal housing program, setting instead a new goal of a two-tiered America in which the masses are content to be mere renters of the American Dream. Such a deal for a country where, as the report concedes, “Half of all renters spend more than a third of their income on housing, and a quarter spend more than half.”
This is the same Geithner who during his tenure in the Clinton Treasury Department championed the total deregulation of the then-emerging market in collateralized debt obligations that sliced and diced people’s home mortgages into the toxic securities that created what his new report calls the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Later, as president of the New York Fed, he cheered on the banks as they went hog-wild, conning folks into buying homes they couldn’t afford and stuffing them into the incomprehensible securities that form the rot at the core of our bankrupt economy.
This is a made-in-the-U.S. nightmare that we inflicted on the world, thanks to an explosion in those toxic securities brought on by the deregulation that most of the Obama economic brain trust supported when they worked for President Bill Clinton and during the ensuing bubble years when they enriched themselves. As the report admits: “The U.S. is … the only high income country in which securitization plays a major role in housing finance.” Yet instead of ending that practice Obama now calls for more of the same: “The Administration believes the securitization market should continue to play a key role in housing finance.” Indeed, the plan’s goal of eliminating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will dry up the alternative public funding that has provided a source of mortgage support ever since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt launched Fannie Mae to check the power of the banks over mortgages. Now Obama proposes to eliminate that check and leave would-be homeowners to the tender mercy of the banking giants.
Of course Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also bear responsibility for the meltdown. They had morphed into for-profit enterprises and, just as with the Wall Street firms, the massive bonuses paid out to their top executives were contingent on the value of their stock prices, which in turn were fattened by the sale of those same toxic assets. As the Obama report puts it, “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s profit-maximizing structure undermined their public mission.” What the administration should have proposed is to return the government-sponsored housing agencies to their original function as nonprofit entities supplementing, rather than aping, the practices of greedy bankers...
...It wasn’t meant to end this way, and key Democrats, quite a few of them Clinton alums now in the Obama administration, bear the responsibility for the sad fate of Roosevelt’s dream. As the Obama proposal concedes: “Improving how housing was financed was an important part of these broader Depression-era reforms. In the 1930s, following severe mortgage market disruptions, widespread foreclosures, and sinking homeownership rates, the government created the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Fannie Mae, the Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLBs) and several decades later, Freddie Mac to help promote secure and sustainable homeownership for future generations of Americans. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac held true to their original mission for many years.” What the report then neglects to discuss is the demise of Roosevelt’s grand experiment at the hands of Democratic Party hustlers who turned the agencies away from their “original mission” and into their personal piggy banks while getting Democrats in Congress to approve regulations enabling their greed.
The folks around President Obama know this sad tale well because some of them were principal actors in the housing agencies’ betrayal of the public trust. Just take the case of Tom Donilon, whom Obama recently appointed to the highly sensitive position of national security adviser. It was Donilon who was the top legal counsel and lobbyist for Fannie Mae from 1999 to 2005, a period when the agency went off the tracks in backing Countrywide and other private-sector bandits in their irresponsible rip-off scams. “He was in charge of the lobbyists. … That process involved using the Hill to rein in the regulators,” noted Stephen Blumenthal, who, as director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, was hindered by Donilon’s lobbying. As the report concedes without mentioning Donilon’s role, “Over the years, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s aggressive lobbying efforts had successfully defeated efforts to bring them under closer supervision.”
Donilon, who received $10 million in the three years leading up to the scandal of 2004, when Fannie Mae was fined $400 million for juggling its books to enhance executive bonuses, will never have any trouble financing a home purchase. Not so the tens of millions of Americans who have lost their homes because of his reprehensible actions and the many more in the future who will be denied government support in trying to get a place of their own.
"Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind. The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere."
Colin Powell, the US secretary of state at the time of the Iraq invasion, has called on the CIA and Pentagon to explain why they failed to alert him to the unreliability of a key source behind claims of Saddam Hussein's bio-weapons capability.
Responding to the Guardian's revelation that the source, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi or "Curveball" as his US and German handlers called him, admitted fabricating evidence of Iraq's secret biological weapons programme, Powell said that questions should be put to the US agencies involved in compiling the case for war. In particular he singled out the CIA and the Defence Intelligence Agency – the Pentagon's military intelligence arm. Janabi, an Iraqi defector, was used as the primary source by the Bush administration to justify invading Iraq in March 2003. Doubts about his credibility circulated before the war and have been confirmed by his admission this week that he lied.
Powell said that both the CIA and DIA should face questions about why they failed to sound the alarm about Janabi. He demanded to know why it had not been made clear to him that Curveball was totally unreliable before false information was put into the key intelligence assessment, or NIE, put before Congress, into the president's state of the union address two months before the war and into his own speech to the UN...
'You think you know what Arab rage looks like," claimed an article in Time magazine last week. "Wild-eyed young men shouting bellicose verses from the Qur'an as they hurl themselves against authority, armed with anything from rocks to bomb vests."
But after some time witnessing Egypt's uprising the author had a revelation. Arabs had humanity and a range of attributes to go with it: humour, subtlety, sophistication, conviviality and, yes, anger – the full complement. "So who were these impostors gathered in Tahrir Square?" he asked, seeing his prejudice confronted by reality. "They were smiling and laughing, waving witty banners." Though he didn't mention them, many women were present too. And most of the weaponry on display, from teargas to tanks, was either made in, sponsored or subsidised by America.
The events of the last month in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere have challenged the way the west thinks of the Arab world (and how the Arab world thinks of itself). What remains to be seen is the extent to which these ongoing events confront the way in which western powers view themselves and their relationship to the Middle East.
Over the last decade in particular, the Arab world has increasingly been depicted in the west as a region in desperate need of being tamed so that it can be civilised. It has been portrayed as an area rooted in religious fervour, where freedom was a foreign concept and democracy a hostile imposition. Violence and terrorism was what they celebrated, and all they would ever understand. Liberty, our leaders insisted, would have to be forced on them through the barrel of a gun for they were not like us. The effect was to infantilise the Arab world in order to justify our active, or at least complicit, role in its brutalisation.
While this view has been intensified by the 9/11 terror attacks, the war on terror and the invasion of Iraq, it was not created by them. "There are westerners and there are Orientals," explained the late Edward Said, as he laid out the western establishment's prevailing attitude to the region at the turn of the last century, in his landmark work . "The former dominate, the latter must be dominated, which usually means having their land occupied, their internal affairs rigidly controlled, their blood and treasure put at the disposal of one or another western power."
So the sight of peaceful, pluralist, secular Arabs mobilising for freedom and democracy in ever greater numbers against a western-backed dictator forces a reckoning with the "clash of civilisations" narrative that has sought to overwhelm the past decade. It turns out there is a means of supporting democracy in this part of the world that does not involve invading, occupying, bombing, torturing and humiliating. Who knew?
Evidence of this dislocation between expectation and reality went way beyond the pages of Time magazine. Where the west predicted chaos in the aftermath of Hosni Mubarak's departure, protesters came to sweep up the rubbish in Tahrir Square. When women in headscarves (those supposedly submissive victims whom the French government pledges to rescue from themselves) were embroiled in physical confrontations with the Tunisian state, France sided with the state.
In the crude Manichean struggle between political Islam and democracy invented by a wrongheaded strand of western liberalism, it was the Muslim Brotherhood that marched for freedom while the self-appointed defenders of the Enlightenment prevaricated for tyranny.
Last week Tony Blair said Mubarak was "immensely courageous and a force for good". On Sunday he said Mubarak's departure could be a "pivotal moment for democracy in the Middle East". The man charged by the major world powers with bringing peace to the region can't make up his mind whether he is for despotism or democracy from one week to the next.
Such are just some of the contradictions, hypocrisies, tensions and inconsistencies of the west's policies towards the region over the last month.
Where the west's self-image is concerned the principal casualty has been the insistence that it is an honest broker seeking to expand democracy, peace and freedom in the region and anxious to avoid meddling in any nation's internal affairs. This was never true. "We are in Egypt not merely for the sake of the Egyptians," the former British prime minister Arthur Balfour told the House of Commons in 1910. "Though we are there for their sake, we are there also for the sake of Europe at large." But in the postcolonial era it was repeated often enough on both sides of the Atlantic that western leaders started to believe it themselves.
So the truth is that the west was already involved. It is simply not credible to arm a dictator for 30 years and then claim neutrality when opposition mounts against him.
The west supports democracy when democracy supports the west. But Egypt further proves that, for the west, freedom is a question of strategy not principle. That's why, while most of the world looked on at the throngs in Cairo with awe and admiration, western leaders eyed them with fear and suspicion. They know that if the Arab world gets to choose its own leaders, those leaders would be less supportive of everything from rendition and Iran to Iraq and the blockade of Gaza. The west's foreign policy in the region has not simply tolerated a lack of democracy, it has been actively dependent on dictatorship.
Moreover, it became apparent that while the west has been deeply complicit in what has happened in the region, it was not even remotely in control of what would happen next. Indeed, it was barely relevant. The protesters saw the US neither as the primary problem nor the solution. Washington's preferred option of replacing Mubarak with Omar Suleiman in return for the promise of democracy at some unspecified future date revealed how little it understood what was happening in Egypt. This would have been the equivalent of a huge US social movement ousting Bush only to find him replaced by Dick Cheney.
But nor apparently did the US fully understand the tenacity of the monster it had created. Mubarak's final national address was not just a rebuff to the demonstrators but also to the White House, which apparently had no idea what he was going to say until he'd said it. The problem wasn't that Washington had no horse in the race, but that its horse was lame – and when it bolted, it dragged the US into a ditch.
While the west has been wrongfooted, its ability to influence events has not been extinguished. Mubarak's departure was a massive achievement. However, revolution demands not only the upending of the old order but the establishment of a new one. Removing a man is one thing; transforming a system is quite another.
"Kings were put to death long before 21 January 1793," wrote Albert Camus, referring to Louis XVI's execution after the French revolution. "But regicides of earlier times and their followers were interested in attacking the person, not the principle of the king. They wanted another king, and that was all. It never occurred to them that the throne could remain empty for ever."
The west's credibility in the region has been terminally damaged. But while it lacks influence, it still has power. The king has fled. But the kingmakers still wait in the wings.
...The Obama administration’s 2012 budget proposal will include a request for money to help develop small “modular” reactors that would be owned by a utility and would supply electricity to a government lab, people involved in the effort say...
...The reactors would be built almost entirely in a factory and trucked to a site like modular homes.
In promoting the reactor, the administration’s immediate goal is to help the Energy Department meet a federal target for reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by relying more on clean energy and less on gas and coal. Like other federal agencies, the department is required by an executive order to reduce its carbon footprint by 28 percent by 2020.
Yet the longer-term goal is to foster assembly-line production of the small reactors at a far lower cost than construction of conventional reactors. The reactors could even replace old coal-fired power plants that are threatened by new federal emissions rules and sit on sites that already have grid connections and cooling water.
The costs of construction would range from a few hundred million dollars to $2 billion, as opposed to the current price tag of up to $10 billion for a twin-unit nuclear complex, which has an output 20 times larger than that expected for a modular reactor...
...While millions of ordinary Americans are struggling with unemployment and declining standards of living, the levers of real power have been all but completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite. It doesn’t really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the tune, and the politicians dance.
So what we get in this democracy of ours are astounding and increasingly obscene tax breaks and other windfall benefits for the wealthiest, while the bought-and-paid-for politicians hack away at essential public services and the social safety net, saying we can’t afford them. One state after another is reporting that it cannot pay its bills. Public employees across the country are walking the plank by the tens of thousands. Camden, N.J., a stricken city with a serious crime problem, laid off nearly half of its police force. Medicaid, the program that provides health benefits to the poor, is under savage assault from nearly all quarters.
The poor, who are suffering from an all-out depression, are never heard from. In terms of their clout, they might as well not exist. The Obama forces reportedly want to raise a billion dollars or more for the president’s re-election bid. Politicians in search of that kind of cash won’t be talking much about the wants and needs of the poor. They’ll be genuflecting before the very rich.
In an Op-Ed article in The Times at the end of January, Senator John Kerry said that the Egyptian people “have made clear they will settle for nothing less than greater democracy and more economic opportunities.” Americans are being asked to swallow exactly the opposite. In the mad rush to privatization over the past few decades, democracy itself was put up for sale, and the rich were the only ones who could afford it.
The corporate and financial elites threw astounding sums of money into campaign contributions and high-priced lobbyists and think tanks and media buys and anything else they could think of. They wined and dined powerful leaders of both parties. They flew them on private jets and wooed them with golf outings and lavish vacations and gave them high-paying jobs as lobbyists the moment they left the government. All that money was well spent. The investments paid off big time.
As Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson wrote in their book, “Winner-Take-All Politics”: “Step by step and debate by debate, America’s public officials have rewritten the rules of American politics and the American economy in ways that have benefited the few at the expense of the many.”
As if the corporate stranglehold on American democracy were not tight enough, the Supreme Court strengthened it immeasurably with its Citizens United decision, which greatly enhanced the already overwhelming power of corporate money in politics. Ordinary Americans have no real access to the corridors of power, but you can bet your last Lotto ticket that your elected officials are listening when the corporate money speaks.
When the game is rigged in your favor, you win. So despite the worst economic downturn since the Depression, the big corporations are sitting on mountains of cash, the stock markets are up and all is well among the plutocrats. The endlessly egregious Koch brothers, David and Charles, are worth an estimated $35 billion. Yet they seem to feel as though society has treated them unfairly.
As Jane Mayer pointed out in her celebrated New Yorker article, “The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry — especially environmental regulation.” (A good hard look at their air-pollution record would make you sick.)
It’s a perversion of democracy, indeed, when individuals like the Kochs have so much clout while the many millions of ordinary Americans have so little. What the Kochs want is coming to pass. Extend the tax cuts for the rich? No problem. Cut services to the poor, the sick, the young and the disabled? Check. Can we get you anything else, gentlemen?
The Egyptians want to establish a viable democracy, and that’s a long, hard road. Americans are in the mind-bogglingly self-destructive process of letting a real democracy slip away.
...Last week, Aaron Barr, a top executive at computer security firm HB Gary, boasted to the Financial Times that his firm had infiltrated and begun to expose Anonymous, the group of pro-WikiLeaks hackers that had launched cyber attacks on companies terminating services to the whistleblowing site (such as Paypal, MasterCard, Visa, Amazon and others). In retaliation, Anonymous hacked into the email accounts of HB Gary, published 50,000 of their emails online, and also hacked Barr's Twitter and other online accounts.
Among the emails that were published was a report prepared by HB Gary -- in conjunction with several other top online security firms, including Palantir Technologies -- on how to destroy WikiLeaks. The emails indicated the report was part of a proposal to be submitted to Bank of America through its outside law firm, Hunton & Williams. News reports have indicated that WikiLeaks is planning to publish highly incriminating documents showing possible corruption and fraud at that bank, and The New York Times detailed last month how seriously top bank officials are taking that threat. The NYT article described that the bank's "counterespionage work" against WikiLeaks entailed constant briefings for top executives on the whistle-blower site, along with the hiring of "several top law firms" and Booz Allen (the long-time firm of former Bush DNI Adm. Michael McConnell and numerous other top intelligence and defense officials). The report prepared by these firms was designed to be part of the Bank of America's highly funded anti-WikiLeaks campaign.
The leaked report suggested numerous ways to destroy WikiLeaks, some of them likely illegal -- including planting fake documents with the group and then attacking them when published; "creat[ing] concern over the security" of the site; "cyber attacks against the infrastructure to get data on document submitters"; and a "media campaign to push the radical and reckless nature of wikileaks activities." Many of those proposals were also featured prongs of a secret 2008 Pentagon plan to destroy WikiLeaks.
One section of the leaked report focused on attacking WikiLeaks' supporters and it featured a discussion of me. A graph purporting to be an "organizational chart" identified several other targets, including former New York Times reporter Jennifer 8 Lee, Guardian reporter James Ball, and Manning supporter David House. The report claimed I was "critical" to WikiLeaks' public support after its website was removed by Amazon and that "it is this level of support that needs to be disrupted"; absurdly speculated that "without the support of people like Glenn, WikiLeaks would fold"; and darkly suggested that "these are established professionals that have a liberal bent, but ultimately most of them if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause." As The Tech Herald noted, "earlier drafts of the proposal and an email from Aaron Barr used the word 'attacked' over 'disrupted' when discussing the level of support."..
...it turns out that the firms involved here are large, legitimate and serious, and do substantial amounts of work for both the U.S. Government and the nation's largest private corporations (as but one example, see this email from a Stanford computer science student about Palantir). Moreover, these kinds of smear campaigns are far from unusual; in other leaked HB Gary emails, ThinkProgress discovered that similar proposals were prepared for the Chamber of Commerce to attack progressive groups and other activists (including ThinkProgress). And perhaps most disturbing of all, Hunton & Williams was recommended to Bank of America's General Counsel by the Justice Department -- meaning the U.S. Government is aiding Bank of America in its defense against/attacks on WikiLeaks...
...the real issue highlighted by this episode is just how lawless and unrestrained is the unified axis of government and corporate power. I've written many times about this issue -- the full-scale merger between public and private spheres -- because it's easily one of the most critical yet under-discussed political topics. Especially (though by no means only) in the worlds of the Surveillance and National Security State, the powers of the state have become largely privatized. There is very little separation between government power and corporate power. Those who wield the latter intrinsically wield the former. The revolving door between the highest levels of government and corporate offices rotates so fast and continuously that it has basically flown off its track and no longer provides even the minimal barrier it once did. It's not merely that corporate power is unrestrained; it's worse than that: corporations actively exploit the power of the state to further entrench and enhance their power.
That's what this anti-WikiLeaks campaign is generally: it's a concerted, unified effort between government and the most powerful entities in the private sector (Bank of America is the largest bank in the nation). The firms the Bank has hired (such as Booz Allen) are suffused with the highest level former defense and intelligence officials, while these other outside firms (including Hunton & Williams and Palantir) are extremely well-connected to the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government's obsession with destroying WikiLeaks has been well-documented. And because the U.S. Government is free to break the law without any constraints, oversight or accountability, so, too, are its "private partners" able to act lawlessly. That was the lesson of the Congressional vesting of full retroactive immunity on lawbreaking telecoms, of the refusal to prosecute any of the important Wall Street criminals who caused the 2008 financial crisis, and of the instinctive efforts of the political class to protect defrauding mortgage banks.
The exemption from the rule of law has been fully transferred from the highest level political elites to their counterparts in the private sector. "Law" is something used to restrain ordinary Americans and especially those who oppose this consortium of government and corporate power, but it manifestly does not apply to restrain these elites...
...President Obama is scheduled to unveil his budget on Monday, and already he seems willing to feed the bottomless Republican hunger for cuts rather than fight them. An ominous early sign is his proposal to cut the low-income heating assistance program nearly in half to $2.57 billion. Administration officials say that energy prices have fallen, but, as Democratic lawmakers from the frostbitten Northeast have pointed out to him, there are many more unemployed people now...
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned on Sunday that removing President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt too hastily could threaten the country’s transition to democracy.
...Citing the Egyptian Constitution, Mrs. Clinton said that if Mr. Mubarak stepped down now, Egypt would have to hold elections for a new president in 60 days — too little time for the government or the opposition to organize a credible vote...
...The US fears that Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude oil exporter, may not have enough reserves to prevent oil prices escalating, confidential cables from its embassy in Riyadh show.
The cables, released by WikiLeaks, urge Washington to take seriously a warning from a senior Saudi government oil executive that the kingdom's crude oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 300bn barrels – nearly 40%.
The revelation comes as the oil price has soared in recent weeks to more than $100 a barrel on global demand and tensions in the Middle East. Many analysts expect that the Saudis and their Opec cartel partners would pump more oil if rising prices threatened to choke off demand.
However, Sadad al-Husseini, a geologist and former head of exploration at the Saudi oil monopoly Aramco, met the US consul general in Riyadh in November 2007 and told the US diplomat that Aramco's 12.5m barrel-a-day capacity needed to keep a lid on prices could not be reached.
According to the cables, which date between 2007-09, Husseini said Saudi Arabia might reach an output of 12m barrels a day in 10 years but before then – possibly as early as 2012 – global oil production would have hit its highest point. This crunch point is known as "peak oil".
Husseini said that at that point Aramco would not be able to stop the rise of global oil prices because the Saudi energy industry had overstated its recoverable reserves to spur foreign investment. He argued that Aramco had badly underestimated the time needed to bring new oil on tap.
One cable said: "According to al-Husseini, the crux of the issue is twofold. First, it is possible that Saudi reserves are not as bountiful as sometimes described, and the timeline for their production not as unrestrained as Aramco and energy optimists would like to portray."
It went on: "In a presentation, Abdallah al-Saif, current Aramco senior vice-president for exploration, reported that Aramco has 716bn barrels of total reserves, of which 51% are recoverable, and that in 20 years Aramco will have 900bn barrels of reserves.
"Al-Husseini disagrees with this analysis, believing Aramco's reserves are overstated by as much as 300bn barrels. In his view once 50% of original proven reserves has been reached … a steady output in decline will ensue and no amount of effort will be able to stop it. He believes that what will result is a plateau in total output that will last approximately 15 years followed by decreasing output."
The US consul then told Washington: "While al-Husseini fundamentally contradicts the Aramco company line, he is no doomsday theorist. His pedigree, experience and outlook demand that his predictions be thoughtfully considered."
Seven months later, the US embassy in Riyadh went further in two more cables. "Our mission now questions how much the Saudis can now substantively influence the crude markets over the long term. Clearly they can drive prices up, but we question whether they any longer have the power to drive prices down for a prolonged period."
A fourth cable, in October 2009, claimed that escalating electricity demand by Saudi Arabia may further constrain Saudi oil exports. "Demand [for electricity] is expected to grow 10% a year over the next decade as a result of population and economic growth. As a result it will need to double its generation capacity to 68,000MW in 2018," it said.
It also reported major project delays and accidents as "evidence that the Saudi Aramco is having to run harder to stay in place – to replace the decline in existing production." While fears of premature "peak oil" and Saudi production problems had been expressed before, no US official has come close to saying this in public.
In the last two years, other senior energy analysts have backed Husseini. Fatih Birol, chief economist to the International Energy Agency, told the Guardian last year that conventional crude output could plateau in 2020, a development that was "not good news" for a world still heavily dependent on petroleum.
Jeremy Leggett, convenor of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security, said: "We are asleep at the wheel here: choosing to ignore a threat to the global economy that is quite as bad as the credit crunch, quite possibly worse."
...The bottom line is this: there is one morality for masters and one for slaves. Your lords and masters, who have made you or are making you into a wage or debt slave, have one morality and you have another. The masters don’t just walk away from bad debts, they force other people to pay the master’s debts off or they change the laws so that the masters debts don’t count.
It is, for them, a cold clear business decision. They do what is best for them, no matter what the cost to anyone else. When dealing with the master class, you should operate in the same cold clear fashion: you do what’s best for you and if it hurts a corporation or a rich person, that’s their look out.
Trust me, that’s the way they do it. The cost of the financial crisis is a millions of destroyed lives, including many many deaths. You don’t see any of the people who caused it having moral crises over the fact that they caused a depression, do you?
As the sociopaths on Wall Street like to say, they eat what they kill. What they don’t say is that what they kill, is you. If you’ve lost your house, if you can’t afford your medicine, if your interest rates or the cost of your food has gone up, if someone you know has died due to poor or not health care, odds are high that’s because they made that choice, because that suffering pays for their bonuses, for their foie gras, vacations in the Hamptoms and so on.
It’s you or them, baby, and they’re determined it’s going to be you. So keep acting like slaves, so they can dine off your suffering, misery and death.
...The working class simply doesn’t seem able or willing to comprehend the truly enormous discrepancy in wealth. I mean, they understand “they’re rich, we’re not,” but they don’t seem to understand in a real way what it means that some scumbag on Wall Street earns two BILLION dollars a year for playing computerized gambling with everyone’s money. The numbers are so big, they defy comprehension, but also there seems to be an unwillingness to try, an emotional resistance to even attempt to understand that one person, someplace, is stealing the wealth generated by hundreds of thousands of other people. Easier, instead, to gripe about welfare queens with Cadillacs, or illegal immigrants ‘stealing’ a $4/hour job – those numbers, at least, are comprehensible.
I try to communicate this to people who appear to listen, but they don’t seem to be able to get it. I tell them “The wealthy have stolen SO MUCH wealth from America, that EVERYONE IN AMERICA IS BROKE. The reason you earn less than your father did for the same work is because the wealthy have TAKEN it, and they’re keeping it. The reason that we can’t repair roads and can’t pay for schools, and we can’t keep cops on the street and firefighters on the job is because the ultra-wealthy have TAKEN all the money for that and put it in their overseas bank.”
It falls on deaf ears. It’s like denial is a safer place than facing the fact that we’re being ripped off and doing something about it...
...it is a category error to say that what we have now is capitalism. It is not. In capitalism bankrupt businesses go out of business.
...The most dangerous thing about the sociopaths at the top is not that they’re mean — because they’re not. They are sociopaths — THEY DON’T CARE. And that is what makes them most dangerous. They aren’t enemies, because enemies can be defeated, can be converted, can become allies, can be assimilated.
But sociopaths, and the sociopathic system they have created cannot be co-opted in any way, shape or form. They, and the system, are parasites, doomed to destroy utterly the system they live off of. Now most people would think, “That’s irrational!” And they’d be right, it IS irrational. But why do you think we have the “fairy tale” of the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg?
The clearest indication of their sociopathy is not the destruction they rain down upon people, but the fact that they (the elites) are ALWAYS completely shocked when the masses of the poor and starving and oppressed suddenly rise up and start looting and killing. They never expect it, because they simply don’t see the people beneath them as actual living beings, and neither does the system they work in.
They aren’t “mean” any more than a tapeworm is “mean”. And neither are they immoral, any more than a tapeworm is immoral. We have to look at them as they are: dangerous, inflexible, uncaring, spoiled, cossetted, amoral children...
As the United States and leading European nations threw their weight behind the Egyptian vice president’s attempt to defuse a popular uprising, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood said it would meet with him for the first time on Sunday in what seemed a significant departure in the nation’s uprising and political history...
...They were expecting something on the order of 150,000 new jobs to have been created in January. That would have been a lousy number, but they were fully prepared to spin it as being pretty good. They thought the official jobless rate might hop up a tick to 9.5 percent.
Instead, the economy created just 36,000 jobs in January, an absolutely dreadful number. But the unemployment rate fell like a stone from 9.4 percent to 9.0 percent...
No matter how they arranged them, they made no sense. Nothing even close to enough jobs were being created to bring the unemployment rate down, but for two successive months it had dropped sharply. (It dived from 9.8 percent to 9.4 in December.)
A baffled commentator on CNBC said, “I think there is an improvement in the economy, though you can’t see it in today’s payroll survey.”
Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics, who is frequently very good at this stuff, said: “I think these numbers are meaningless. I don’t think they mean anything.”
What data zealots need to do is leave their hermetically sealed rooms and step outside, take a walk among the millions of Americans who are hurting to the bone. They should talk with families that are suffering, losing their homes, doubling up, checking into homeless shelters...
...The policy makers who rely on the data zealots are just as detached from the real world of real people. They’re always promising in the most earnest tones imaginable to do something about employment, to ease the awful squeeze on the middle class (policy makers never talk about the poor), to reform education, and so on.
They say those things because they have to. But they are far more obsessed with the numbers than they are with the struggles and suffering of real people. You won’t hear policy makers acknowledging that the unemployment numbers would be much worse if not for the millions of people who have left the work force over the past few years. What happened to those folks? How are they and their families faring?
The policy makers don’t tell us that most of the new jobs being created in such meager numbers are, in fact, poor ones, with lousy pay and few or no benefits. What we hear is what the data zealots pump out week after week, that the market is up, retail sales are strong, Wall Street salaries and bonuses are streaking, as always, to the moon, and that businesses are sitting on mountains of cash. So all must be right with the world.
Jobs? Well, the less said the better.
What’s really happening, of course, is the same thing that’s been happening in this country for the longest time — the folks at the top are doing fabulously well and they are not interested in the least in spreading the wealth around.
The people running the country — the ones with the real clout, whether Democrats or Republicans — are all part of this power elite. Ordinary people may be struggling, but both the Obama administration and the Republican Party leadership are down on their knees slavishly kissing the rings of the financial and corporate kingpins.
...I love when the wackos call President Obama a socialist. Wasn’t it his budget director, Peter Orszag, who moved effortlessly from his job in the administration to a hotshot post at Citigroup, beneficiary of tons of government largess? And didn’t the president’s new chief of staff, William Daley, arrive in his powerful new post fresh from the executive suite of JPMorgan Chase? And isn’t the incoming chairman of Mr. Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness very conveniently the chairman and chief executive of General Electric, Jeffrey Immelt?
...Maybe the data zealots have stumbled on a solution. They’ve created a model in which a radically insufficient number of jobs has resulted in a sharp decline in the official gauge of unemployment. If that trend can be sustained, we’ll eventually get the jobless rate down to zero. People will still be suffering, but full employment will have finally been achieved.
...to some observers the WikiLeaks "documents should create a comforting feeling among the American public that officials aren't asleep at the switch" – indeed, that the cables are so supportive of US policies that it is almost as if Obama is leaking them himself...
"America should give Assange a medal," says a headline in the Financial Times, where Gideon Rachman writes: "America's foreign policy comes across as principled, intelligent and pragmatic … the public position taken by the US on any given issue is usually the private position as well."
In this view, WikiLeaks undermines "conspiracy theorists" who question the noble motives Washington proclaims...
It's not radical Islam that worries the US – it's independence
The nature of any regime it backs in the Arab world is secondary to control. Subjects are ignored until they break their chains...
...to some observers the WikiLeaks "documents should create a comforting feeling among the American public that officials aren't asleep at the switch" – indeed, that the cables are so supportive of US policies that it is almost as if Obama is leaking them himself (or so Jacob Heilbrunn writes in The National Interest.)
"America should give Assange a medal," says a headline in the Financial Times, where Gideon Rachman writes: "America's foreign policy comes across as principled, intelligent and pragmatic … the public position taken by the US on any given issue is usually the private position as well."
In this view, WikiLeaks undermines "conspiracy theorists" who question the noble motives Washington proclaims...
Godec's cable supports these judgments – at least if we look no further. If we do,, as foreign policy analyst Stephen Zunes reports in Foreign Policy in Focus, we find that, with Godec's information in hand, Washington provided $12m in military aid to Tunisia. As it happens, Tunisia was one of only five foreign beneficiaries: Israel (routinely); the two Middle East dictatorships Egypt and Jordan; and Colombia, which has long had the worst human-rights record and the most US military aid in the hemisphere.
Heilbrunn's exhibit A is Arab support for US policies targeting Iran, revealed by leaked cables. Rachman too seizes on this example, as did the media generally, hailing these encouraging revelations. The reactions illustrate how profound is the contempt for democracy in the educated culture.
Unmentioned is what the population thinks – easily discovered. According to polls released by the Brookings Institution in August, some Arabs agree with Washington and western commentators that Iran is a threat: 10%. In contrast, they regard the US and Israel as the major threats (77%; 88%).
Arab opinion is so hostile to Washington's policies that a majority (57%) think regional security would be enhanced if Iran had nuclear weapons. Still, "there is nothing wrong, everything is under control" (as Muasher describes the prevailing fantasy). The dictators support us. Their subjects can be ignored – unless they break their chains, and then policy must be adjusted.
Other leaks also appear to lend support to the enthusiastic judgments about Washington's nobility. In July 2009, Hugo Llorens, U.S. ambassador to Honduras, informed Washington of an embassy investigation of "legal and constitutional issues surrounding the 28 June forced removal of President Manuel 'Mel' Zelaya."
The embassy concluded that "there is no doubt that the military, supreme court and national congress conspired on 28 June in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the executive branch". Very admirable, except that President Obama proceeded to break with almost all of Latin America and Europe by supporting the coup regime and dismissing subsequent atrocities.
Perhaps the most remarkable WikiLeaks revelations have to do with Pakistan, reviewed by foreign policy analyst Fred Branfman in Truthdig.
The cables reveal that the US embassy is well aware that Washington's war in Afghanistan and Pakistan not only intensifies rampant anti-Americanism but also "risks destabilising the Pakistani state" and even raises a threat of the ultimate nightmare: that nuclear weapons might fall into the hands of Islamic terrorists.
Again, the revelations "should create a comforting feeling … that officials are not asleep at the switch" (Heilbrunn's words) – while Washington marches stalwartly toward disaster.
...The Obama administration has spoken cautiously about the future role of the Brotherhood, which has long been banned by Mr. Mubarak’s government, saying only that all parties must renounce violence and accept democracy...
Underlying the sudden, volatile uprising in Egypt and Tunisia is a growing global crisis sparked by soaring food prices and unemployment. The Associated Press reports that roughly 40 percent of Egyptians struggle along at the World Bank-set poverty level of under $2 per day. Analysts estimate that food price inflation in Egypt is currently at an unsustainable 17 percent yearly. In poorer countries, as much as 60 to 80 percent of people's incomes go for food, compared to just 10 to 20 percent in industrial countries. An increase of a dollar or so in the cost of a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread for Americans can mean starvation for people in Egypt and other poor countries.
The cause of the recent jump in global food prices remains a matter of debate. Some analysts blame the Federal Reserve's "quantitative easing" program (increasing the money supply with credit created with accounting entries), which they warn is sparking hyperinflation. Too much money chasing too few goods is the classic explanation for rising prices.
The problem with that theory is that the global money supply has actually shrunk since 2006, when food prices began their dramatic rise. Virtually all money today is created on the books of banks as "credit" or "debt," and overall lending has shrunk. This has occurred in an accelerating process of deleveraging (paying down or writing off loans and not making new ones), as the subprime housing market has collapsed and bank capital requirements have been raised. Although it seems counterintuitive, the more debt there is, the more money there is in the system. As debt shrinks, the money supply shrinks in tandem.
That is why government debt today is not actually the bugaboo it is being made out to be by the deficit terrorists. The flipside of debt is credit, and businesses run on it. When credit collapses, trade collapses. When private debt shrinks, public debt must therefore step in to replace it. The "good" credit or debt is the kind used for building infrastructure and other productive capacity, increasing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and wages; and this is the kind governments are in a position to employ. The parasitic forms of credit or debt are the gamblers' money-making-money schemes, which add nothing to GDP.
Prices have been driven up by too much money chasing too few goods, but the money is chasing only certain selected goods. Food and fuel prices are up, but housing prices are down. The net result is that overall price inflation remains low...
Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak has bowed to pressure and appointed a vice-president; in reality, a successor to take his place after his departure, which may come within a matter of days, if not hours.
But the pressure that led to Mubarak's decision came not from the revolution erupting in Egypt -- at least, not directly. No, it almost certainly came from his imperial patrons and paymasters in Washington. Even the third-rate poltroons on the Potomac can see that Mubarak is a now a decidedly dead duck, destined to end his days in luxurious exile in Saudi Arabia or some other friendly tyranny. So they are now scrambling to put Egypt under the control of the proverbial "safe pair of hands" -- someone whose main concern will be "continuity" in advancing the interests of the American power structure.
Why, that sounds like someone else we know -- a guy who took over from one of the most despised presidents in American history ... and promptly began replicating his most heinous policies.
In like fashion, Mubarak has now appointed his spymaster, Omar Suleiman, who has been at the center of the regime's brutal power structure for 20 years, as vice-president of the country. He has also named a retired military man, Ahmed Shafik, as prime minister. Perhaps not coincidentally, the New York Times published a revealing story on Saturday detailing the remarkably close interconnections between the American and Egyptian military-security complexes, going back several decades -- a relationship that has been worth billions of dollars to war profiteers, bagmen and baksheesh-peddlers in both countries, for generations.
It seems painfully obvious that the Continuer-in-Chief and the imperial militarists along the Potomac are seeking desperately to keep this golden applecart on the road. Installing a longtime chief of intelligence like Suleiman fits the bill nicely. Mubarak had better start packing his bags. For as always, whenever the American Power Structuralists find that a foreign puppet no longer serves their purposes, they are quick to toss him aside...