We just had another electoral earthquake in the Euro area: Podemos-backed candidates have won local elections in Madrid and Barcelona. And I hope that the IFKAT — the institutions formerly known as the troika — are paying attention.
. . . What I would urge everyone to do is ask what happens if Greece is in fact pushed out of the Euro. (Yes, Grexit — ugly word, but we’re stuck with it.)
It would surely be ugly in Greece, at least at first. Right now the core Euro countries believe that the rest of the Euro area can handle it, which might be true. Bear in mind, however, that the supposed firewall of ECB support has never actually been tested. If markets lose faith and the time for ECB purchases of Spanish or Italian bonds arises, will it really happen?
. . . what happens a year or two after Grexit, where the real risk to the Euro is not that Greece will fail but that it will succeed. Suppose that a greatly devalued new drachma brings a flood of British beer-drinkers to the Ionian Sea, and Greece starts to recover. This would greatly encourage challengers to Austerity and internal devaluation elsewhere.
Think about it. Just the other day the Very Serious Europeans were hailing Spain as a great success story, a vindication of the whole program. Evidently the Spanish people don’t agree. And if the anti-establishment forces have a recovering Greece to point to, the discrediting of the establishment will accelerate.
. . . So think about it, IFKATs: are you really sure you want to start going down this road?
Imagine Greece recovering after the last decade of Depression?
Bye bye Euro (German bankers).
And on the other shore . . .
Beyond a fringe, Muslims don’t regard al-Qaeda-ISIS as a legitimate form of resistance to imperialism.On the contrary, many see al-Qaeda-ISIS as the spawn of US–Saudi imperialism.
Because it is.
. . . The truth is not merely that Team USA’s violence is far greater than that of its enemies, or that the former triggers the latter, but that Western governments and their client states have actively empowered right-wing jihadist groups.
Western imperialists depict “Islamic terrorism” as a mysterious, indigenous virus in the way that neocons and their liberal allies blame “black culture” for problems caused by racism and longstanding oppression. There’s nothing ineffable in Islam that produces “terrorism.”
There is, however, a longstanding US effort to use specific facets of Muslim theology as weapons. This is part of a larger context that includes the European colonialism that preceded it and the American coups and wars that have sown chaos and sectarianism and undermined the self-determination of people in the region.
Milne offers a familiar take: the West inflicts enormous violence on people in the Middle East, and — as Ward Churchill once put it — “some people push back.” This is true. Many of those who’ve carried out attacks in Western capitals in the name of Islam — from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square bomber — cite the West’s violence as their motive. Their explanations jibe not only with common sense but with the research of University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape, who found that by far the most significant cause of suicide bombing across the world is foreign occupation.
Furthermore, only a tiny fraction of Muslims have joined right-wing jihadist groups. Attempting to bolster his claim that Islam is inherently violent, Bill Maher cites (selective) stats showing many Muslims hold retrograde views on women and gays, but this is a non-sequitur. Holding such views almost never translates into al-Qaeda–ISIS membership.
In his book The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists, Charles Kurzman reports that “well over 99 percent” have rejected the call. Despite the West’s routine killing of civilians, the vast majority of Muslims oppose retaliatory attacks on civilians, and even most of those who approve of the tactic are loath to sign on with a movement that kills mostly Muslims.
But the USA is an exceptional country.
As a college prof coming from the engineering/software fields who worked to increase participation of girls (and any boys who crossed my path) in STEM fields, I'm quite familiar with the problems attendant on maintaining US leadership roles in these professional capacities. I'm personally aware of the laying off of engineering/software professionals when the Cold War ended in the early 90's and their replacement by poorly trained, poorly paid "technical" replacements (who seemed to the non-technical management in charge that they were all that was necessary to keep the US abreast of technical change).
The USA has not recovered from this major management missep yet.
24 May 2015
Exceptionalism: It's not even really a word, it's a mythology we tell ourselves, over and over like a meditative mantra. As with most naval gazing, we tend to believe our own inner press instead of examined facts and data. Self-myth is Linus's security blanket.
It traces back to Tocqueville, even though it's obvious we've retained the old world's sins: classism, racism, the ability and willingness to wage war.
"In recent years scholars from numerous disciplines, as well as politicians and commentators in the popular media, have debated the meaning and usefulness of the concept. Roberts and DeCuirci ask:
"Why has the myth of American exceptionalism, characterized by a belief in America’s highly distinctive features or unusual trajectory based in the abundance of its natural resources, its revolutionary origins and its protestant religious culture that anticipated God’s blessing of the nation — held such tremendous staying power, from its influence in popular culture to its critical role in foreign policy?" Wikipedia
However: of The 10 smartest countries based on math and science, America is exceptionally left out of the top ten...we tie with Italy at twenty-eighth.
What we're exceptional at is pseudoscience like creation science/museums and anti-vaxxers, the inane devotion to the testing industrial complex (making a killing on standardized tests in all 50 states) that Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Finland, Estonia, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Canada (the only one from the North American CONTINENT) have no relevant equivalent in this continued lunacy. As Ken Ham builds an ark and sues to only hire young Earth creationists - legalizing a patently discriminatory hiring practice; Bill Nye the Science Guy is crowd funding a solar sail. Go figure...
Mark Twain once famously remarked: "there are lies, damned lies and statistics," but this is not a lie, damnable or otherwise. Callously, politicians are telling people what they want to hear versus what they need to; making them comfortable to merely hold onto their positions for 20...30+ years and accomplish nothing.
There is still good work being done in high tech in this country. That good work is being done by engineers and scientists that are daily...getting older. They will eventually be pushed out (sadly), or retire. National prosperity is not the result of magical thinking.
To continue our leadership and advances in STEM fields, the current workforce will have to have replacements once they can no longer produce at the same level as they did when they were younger; when there was industry, commerce and manufacturing that demanded their brilliance.
Our university professors are in the same boat. They can only train students based on demand, and that demand cannot increase when our employment is freely traded across oceans to meet the bottom-line of "bean counters" oblivious to the real world between lattes.
We are exceptionally prone to conspiracy theories: false links to vaccines and autism; every shooting a "false flag" operation; the common nomenclature for military exercises - the exercise code name + YY (e.g. "15") - made into "the boogie man" in Texas by Alex Jones ditto head nincompoops that confuse the strict rules regarding research with disparate links of search engine results after an obvious drunken stupor.
As we advance in technology, there is a fear of it. Everyone has become Al Qaeda, The Tea Party, the Unabomber or ISIS: who all want us all in huts, cabins or caves; women covered head-to-toe, not driving or working, barefoot and pregnant (always) and living in some Shangri-La parallel to the voices loudly booming in their heads.
Hopefully, Robert De Niro's sage yet colorful advice to his co-laborers in the arts is not appropos to the rest of the nation. We're sliding down an incline, slowly...inexorably...sliding. Rock bottom will hurt unless we start back up the incline.
We know something about that in the USA.
Listen to our neolib brethren.
Here is a very clear statement of the Conservative view of poverty in this country. As is my habit, I will not link to it; and in this case, I will not even identify the author of this grotesque document. I hope you will trust me when I tell you that it really exists. I must warn you that my efforts to comment on it fall far short of the condemnation that it, its author, and the many people that believe such things, deserve.
"US suffering from massive equality of rich and poor
Propaganda is about telling a good story. So when the media wants to tell a story of how the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer, they ignore incovenient facts, such as the value of the various federal, state, and local transfer payments, as well as the value of charitable contributions from private groups such as soup kitchens."
Soup kitchens. Yes, when "the media" want to tell you how badly the poor have it, they ignore the contribution of soup kitchens to their standard of living. I mean, "are there no workhouses?," if you get where I'm coming from.
"But if you look not at income but material wealth, the story gets worse, but in an opposite way. By examining material possessions we find that the gap between the rich and poor is actually alarmingly small. Let's look at a few categories:"
Let's not look at income, right? I mean, if a person has a cell phone, it's not a problem for them to live in constant fear of destitution, if they have a medical bill, or get in a car crash and can't get to work.
And we're told there's no money in the national Treasury to fund Social Security, Medicare and other needed social programs?
Where does the money for the national security state come from?
Turning America into a Battlefield: A Blueprint for Locking Down the Nation
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
—President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961
A standing army — something that propelled the early colonists into revolution — strips the American people of any vestige of freedom. How can there be any semblance of freedom when there are tanks in the streets, military encampments in cities, Blackhawk helicopters and armed drones patrolling overhead?
It was for this reason that those who established America vested control of the military in a civilian government, with a civilian commander-in-chief. They did not want a military government, ruled by force. Rather, they opted for a republic bound by the rule of law: the U.S. Constitution.
Unfortunately, with the Constitution under constant attack, the military’s power, influence and authority have grown dramatically. Even the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which makes it a crime for the government to use the military to carry out arrests, searches, seizure of evidence and other activities normally handled by a civilian police force, has been weakened by both Barack Obama and George W. Bush, who ushered in exemptions allowing troops to deploy domestically and arrest civilians in the wake of alleged terrorist acts.
Now we find ourselves struggling to retain some semblance of freedom in the face of police and law enforcement agencies that look and act like the military and have just as little regard for the Fourth Amendment, laws such as the NDAA that allow the military to arrest and indefinitely detain American citizens, and military drills that acclimate the American people to the sight of armored tanks in the streets, military encampments in cities, and combat aircraft patrolling overhead.
Making matters worse, we find out that the military plans to use southwestern states as staging grounds for guerilla warfare drills in which highly-trained military troops equipped with all manner of weapons turn American towns and cities in quasi-battlefields. Why? As they tell us, it’s so that special operations forces can get “realistic military training” in “hostile” territory.
They’ve even got a name for the exercise: Jade Helm 15.
Whether or not Americans have anything to fear from Jade Helm 15, a covert, multi-agency, multi-state, eight-week military training exercise set to take place this summer from July 15 through Sept. 15, remains to be seen.
Insisting that there’s nothing to be alarmed about, the Washington Post took great pains to point out that these military exercises on American soil are nothing new. For instance, there wasOperation Bold Alligator, in which in which thousands of Marines and sailors carried out amphibious exercises against “insurgent” forces in Georgia and Florida.Operation Robin Sage had Green Beret soldiers engaging in guerrilla warfare in North Carolina. And Operation Derna Bridge sends Marine special forces into parts of South Carolina and the National Forest.
Yet if Americans are uneasy about this summer’s planned Jade Helm 15 military exercises, they have every right to be. After all, haven’t we been urged time and time again to just “trust” the government to respect our rights and abide by the rule of law only to find that, in fact, our rights were being plundered and the Constitution disregarded at every turn?
Let’s assume, for the moment, that Jade Helm 15 is not a thinly veiled military plot to take over the country lifted straight out of director John Frankenheimer’s 1964 political thriller Seven Days in May, as some fear, but is merely a “routine” exercise for troops, albeit a blatantly intimidating flexing of the military’s muscles.
The problem arises when you start to add Jade Helm onto the list of other troubling developments that have taken place over the past 30 years or more: the expansion of the military industrial complex and its influence in Washington DC, the rampant surveillance, the corporate-funded elections and revolving door between lobbyists and elected officials, the militarized police, the loss of our freedoms, the injustice of the courts, the privatized prisons, the school lockdowns, the roadside strip searches, the military drills on domestic soil, the fusion centers and the simultaneous fusing of every branch of law enforcement (federal, state and local), the stockpiling of ammunition by various government agencies, the active shooter drills that are indistinguishable from actual crises, the economy flirting with near collapse, etc.
Suddenly, the overall picture seems that much more sinister. Clearly, as I point out in my new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, there’s a larger agenda at work here.
Seven years ago, the U.S. Army War College issued a report calling on the military to be prepared should they need to put down civil unrest within the country.
Summarizing the report, investigative journalist Chris Hedges declared, “The military must be prepared, the document warned, for a ‘violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States,’ which could be provoked by ‘unforeseen economic collapse,’ ‘purposeful domestic resistance,’ ‘pervasive public health emergencies’ or ‘loss of functioning political and legal order.’ The ‘widespread civil violence,’ the document said, ‘would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.’”
At what point will all of the government’s carefully drawn plans for dealing with civil unrest, “homegrown” terrorism and targeting pre-crime become a unified blueprint for locking down the nation?
For instance, what’s the rationale behind turning government agencies into military outposts? There has been a notable buildup in recent years of SWAT teams within non-security-related federal agencies such as Department of Agriculture, the Railroad Retirement Board, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Office of Personnel Management, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Education Department.
As of 2008, “73 federal law enforcement agencies… [employ] approximately 120,000 armed full-time on-duty officers with arrest authority.” Four-fifths of those officers are under the command of either the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the Department of Justice.
What’s with all of the government agencies stockpiling hollow point bullets? For example, why does the Department of Agriculture need .40 caliber semiautomatic submachine guns and 320,000 rounds of hollow point bullets? For that matter, why do its agents need ballistic vests and body armor?
Why does the Postal Service need “assorted small arms ammunition”? Why did the DHS purchase “1.6 billion rounds of hollow-point ammunition, along with 7,000 fully-automatic 5.56x45mm NATO ‘personal defense weapons’ plus a huge stash of 30-round high-capacity magazines”?
That’s in addition to the FBI’s request for 100 million hollow-point rounds. The Department of Education, IRS, the Social Security Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the National Weather Service, are also among the federal agencies which have taken to purchasing ammunition and weaponry in bulk.
Why is the federal government distributing obscene amounts of military equipment, weapons and ammunition to police departments around the country? And why is DHS acquiring more than 2,500 Mine-Resistant Armored Protection (MRAP) vehicles, only to pass them around to local police departments across the country? According to the "New York Times:"
[A]s President Obama ushers in the end of what he called America’s “long season of war,” the former tools of combat — M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers and more — are ending up in local police departments, often with little public notice. During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft. The equipment has been added to the armories of police departments that already look and act like military units.
Why is the military partnering with local police to conduct training drills around the country? And what exactly are they training for?
In Richland, South Carolina, for instance, U.S. army special forces participated in joint and secretive exercises and training with local deputies. The public was disallowed from obtaining any information about the purpose of the drills, other than being told that they might be loud and to not be alarmed. The Army and DHS also carried out similar drills and maneuvers involving Black Hawk helicopters in Texas, Florida, and other locations throughout the U.S., ostensibly in order to provide local police with “realistic” urban training.
What is being done to protect the American populace from the threat of military arms and forces, including unarmed drones, being used against them? Policy analysts point to Directive No. 3025.18, “Defense Support of Civil Authorities” (issued on Dec. 29, 2010), as justification for the government’s use of military force to put down civil unrest within the United States.
Why is FEMA stockpiling massive quantities of emergency supplies? On January 10, 2014, FEMA made a statement enlisting the service of contractors who could “supply medical biohazard disposal capabilities and 40 yard dumpsters to 1,000 tent hospitals across the United States; all required on 24-48 hour notice.” This coincides with other medical requests seeking massive amounts of supplies, such as “31,000,000 flu vaccinations,” “100,000 each of winter shirts and pants and the same for summer” and other goods and services requests as well like tarps, manufactured housing units, and beverages. And why does the TSA need $21,000 worth of potassium chlorate, a chemical compound often used in explosives?
Why is the Pentagon continuing to purchase mass amounts of ammunition while at the same time preparing to destroy more than $1 billion worth of bullets and missiles that are still viable?
Moreover, what is really being done to hold the Pentagon accountable for its doctored ledgers, fraud, waste and mismanagement, which has cost the taxpayer trillions of dollars?
According to "Reuters," “The Pentagon is the only federal agency that has not complied with a law that requires annual audits of all government departments. That means that the $8.5 trillion in taxpayer money doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996, the first year it was supposed to be audited, has never been accounted for. That sum exceeds the value of China's economic output.”
Given the similarities between the government’s Live Active Shooter Drill training exercises, carried out at schools, in shopping malls, and on public transit, which can and do fool law enforcement officials, students, teachers and bystanders into thinking it’s a real crisis, how much of what is being passed off as real is, in fact, being staged by DHS for the “benefit” of training law enforcement, leaving us none the wiser? These training exercises come complete with their own set of professionally trained Crisis Actors playing the parts of shooters, bystanders and victims in order to help schools and first responders create realistic drills, full-scale exercises, high-fidelity simulations, and interactive 3D films.
Given that Americans are 110 times more likely to die of foodborne illness than in a terrorist attack, why is the government spending trillions of dollars on “national security”? How exactly is the $75 billion given to various intelligence agencies annually to keep us “safe” being spent? And why is the DHS giving away millions of dollars’ worth of federal security grants to states that federal intelligence agencies ruled have “no specific foreign or domestic terrorism threat”? Why is the government amassing names and information on Americans considered to be threats to the nation, and what criteria is the government using for this database?
Keep in mind that this personal information is being acquired and kept without warrant or court order. It’s been suggested that in the event of nuclear war, the destruction of the U.S. Government, and the declaration of martial law, this Main Core database, which as of 2008 contained some 8 million names of Americans, would be used by military officials to locate and round up Americans seen as threats to national security, a program to be carried about by the Army and FEMA.
Taken individually, these questions are alarming enough. But put them together and they add up to the kind of trouble that the American founding fathers not only warned against but from which they fought to free themselves.
Indeed, when viewed collectively, they leave one wondering what exactly the U.S. government is preparing for and whether American citizens shouldn’t be preparing, as well, for that eventuality when our so-called “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is no longer answerable to “we the people.”
Loving those SCOTUS decisions affecting your ability to vote?
How about the ones influenced by that most highly placed (now) Justice Clarence Thomas?
Beware (be aware) of your friends' judgments as well as your enemies'.
From Corey Robin:
Fight Racism. Confirm Clarence Thomas.
I’ve been reading Jill Abramson’s and Jane Mayer’s Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas," the definitive account of Thomas’s confirmation battle, which came out in 1994. Here are eight things I’ve learned from it. Among the many surprises of the book is how men and women who were connected to the confirmation battle, or to Thomas and/or Anita Hill, and who were little known at the time, would go on to become fixtures of and issues in our contemporary politics and culture.
1. Edward P. Jones, author of The Known World, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004, was Clarence Thomas’s classmate at Holy Cross. They had long conversations.
2. Clarence Thomas was head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for eight years. When Bush nominated him to the Supreme Court, Strom Thurmond proudly declared, “I’ve known Clarence since he was head of the Unemployment Commission.”
3. Gary Bauer and Bill Kristol vacationed together at the beach each summer, along with their families. In the summer of 1991, at the Delaware shore, they planned the Christian right’s campaign to get Thomas confirmed to the Supreme Court.
4. "Citizens United" was formed by Floyd Brown in 1988 in the wake of the failed effort to get Robert Bork onto the Supreme Court. Brown helped make the Willie Horton ad. Getting Clarence Thomas confirmed by the Senate was one of the organization’s first missions. In 2010, Thomas was part of the slim majority that ruled in favor of "Citizens United" in "Citizens United v. FEC." Though several arguments for his recusal in the case were brought up at the time, no one mentioned "Citizens United"’s contributions to his confirmation.
5. One of the ads pushing for Thomas’s Senate confirmation to the Court featured a photo of Thomas with the headline “To the Back of the Bus!” The copy read:
As the left strives to keep Judge Clarence Thomas from his seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s like forcing blacks to take a seat in the back of the bus. Fight racism. Call your U.S. Senators and urge them to confirm Judge Clarence Thomas.
6. Angela Wright, one of Thomas’s accusers whose testimony was buried by the Senate Judiciary Committee, worked for Charlie Rose(,) a Democratic congressman from North Carolina.
7. Kimberlé Crenshaw was part of the legal team advising Anita Hill.
8. Thomas liked to say that his favorite character in Star Wars was Darth Vader.
9. One of the charges levied against Thomas in the hearings was that he had once spoken favorably about the views of Steve Macedo, the Princeton political theorist, who was at the time a conservative (and a professor at Harvard). There was an extended colloquy during the hearings between then Senator Joseph Biden, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Thomas — Utah Republican Orren Hatch also got in on it at one point — about whether and why Thomas was attracted to Macedo’s views on natural law and property rights.
10. Along with Kimberlé Crenshaw, Janet Napolitano, Obama’s former Homeland Security Secretary, was also part of the legal team advising Anita Hill. Now she is the President of the University of California, where Crenshaw is a professor.
11. One of the leitmotifs of Mayer’s and Abramson’s book is how much Biden botched the Thomas/Hill hearings. From beginning — when Hill’s allegations first came to light — to end, when the Senate voted to approve Thomas, Biden got played, was cowed, caved into pressure from the White House and the Republicans, or simply didn’t care or understand enough of the issue to push for a fuller and fairer investigation of the facts.
12. When Howard Metzenbaum, also on the Judiciary Committee, found out the specifics of Anita Hill’s allegations about Thomas, the Ohio senator said, “If that’s sexual harassment, half the senators on Capitol Hill could be accused.”
Click the subject link for the whole story.
CIA Trying to Link Conspiracy Theorists with Osama bin Laden
A new government report revealing a list of books allegedly seized by US special forces when they raided Osama bin Laden's compound and killed him in 2011 is “ludicrous” and a “complete fabrication,” an American scholar says.
The CIA is trying to create a connection between so-called conspiracy theorists who are in fact critics of the US government and Bin Laden, said James Henry Fetzer, a retired professor in Madison, Wisconsin.
The US government labels its critics as conspiracy theorists in order to dismiss them in the eyes of the public, Fetzer told Press TV on Friday.
Independent analysts, dubbed by the mainstream US media as conspiracy theorists, have always maintained that the September 11, 2001 attacks have been covered-up by the FBI and senior US officials because it was the “mother of all false flag” operations.
“The fact of the matter is [that] Osama had nothing to with 9/11,” Fetzer said. “This is another desperate attempt by the government to suppress information about 9/11, about Osama bin Laden and about US complicity in the events of 9/11, all of which is attempting to do with this single, simply completely ridiculous story about Osama bin Laden's reading list which is a complete fabrication.”
On Wednesday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an extensive list of materials which they said were collected by US Navy SEALs during the 2011 raid that supposedly killed Bin Laden.
The agency, which oversees US intelligence agencies, unveiled the contents of Bin Laden's library from his compound at Abbottabad, Pakistan, in an effort to increase "transparency."
The release comes four years (after) a reported US military mission that allegedly killed Bin Laden and allowed commandos to seize letters, books and other intelligence on the al-Qaeda terrorist network he founded.
Washington announced on May 2, 2011 that Bin Laden was killed in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, by US special forces and CIA operatives.
Osama was the founder of al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization that allegedly claimed responsibility for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
The September 11 attacks, also known as the 9/11 attacks, were a series of strikes in the US which killed nearly 3,000 people and caused about $10 billion worth of property and infrastructure damage.
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