Saturday, April 30, 2011

NCIS Struck Early? Why and How Libyan Rebel Leader Spent Much of Past 20 Years in Suburban Virginia: What Happens When CIA/Military Intelligence Rules

I'd like to kick this essay off by quoting from a portion of today's Down With Tyranny:

Fascism is a rebellion or revolt by the elite to preserve their social economic status. This is the primary reason fascism begins during periods of economic turmoil. While the large number of followers of fascism such as Hitler's Brown Shirts came from the middle and lower classes, the elite of German society controlled the party. It was only after Hitler assured the prominent business leaders of his opposition to socialism and unions that he gained power. (From Glen Yeardon's and John Hawkin's book The Nazi Hydra In America about how fascism is a top-down revolution (just the way our teabagger commotion has been))
Paul Krugman underlines what is happening to the lower classes (most of the unemployed) who are no longer being served by their government:
. . . the Fed’s policy is to do nothing about unemployment because Ron Paul is now the chairman of the House subcommittee on monetary policy.

So much for the Fed’s independence. And so much for the future of America’s increasingly desperate jobless.

Ellen Brown puts an even finer point to the financial crisis which may have even been exacerbated by the Fed in its quest to solve the bankers' problems:
Bottom line: "If the Fed were actually a federal agency, the government could issue U.S. legal tender directly, avoiding an unnecessary interest-bearing debt to private middlemen who create the money out of thin air themselves. Among other benefits to the taxpayers. a truly "federal" Federal Reserve could lend the full faith and credit of the United States to state and local governments interest-free, cutting the cost of infrastructure in half, restoring the thriving local economies of earlier decades." . . .
When there are no rules in force anymore (not to mention, laws flouted), power does as it pleases.

The CIA (according to the statutory provision in its charter) was prohibited from engaging in law enforcement or internal security functions (50 U.S.C. 403-3(d)(1)), and although this was repeatedly violated (Operation CHAOS) by the Republican administrations in control of the government under Nixon and Ford, it was finally renewed by Congress after a fairly thorough investigation by the Church Committee in 1975, which was concerned about the dangers of the CIA operating a domestic secret police against which the prohibition of the charter sought to guard. No one even thinks about this charter today in light of the quick passage and later renewal of the suspect "terrorist-inspired" Patriot Act, which essentially rendered the original act's provisions moot. Today, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (DCI), head of the intelligence community, establishes the priorities for the collection and dissemination of intelligence information gathered in the U.S as well as other unknown activities. And this very powerful position is now destined to be occupied by the Bush-connected military General who ran losing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. (that were never declared by Congress) and never saw any intelligence information that he couldn't ignore if it pleased his superiors. And General Petreus' recent promotion to Director of the CIA has been brought to us by a "progressive" ("new" progressive, I might add) Democratic President. Who'd a thunk it then? Many books and articles have been written documenting that JFK was probably murdered (and it's not even a secret, folks) by a powerful group that detested his progressive policies and eventually decided they must stop him from investigating the CIA/FBI/Office of Naval Intelligence ties to the Bay of Pigs military fiasco (remember the pictures of Oswald that came out in the news initially (and then disappeared) with him in front of the known CIA headquarters in New Orleans (as well as his ties to the FBI, State Department, and Fair Play for Cuba propagandists)?), which had embarrassed JFK so thoroughly in his progressive foreign policy stewardship and infuriated the Pentagon when he couldn't be pressured into providing the air cover for the CIA-led group of "terrorists."

Libyan Rebel Leader Spent Much of Past 20 Years in Suburban Virginia Chris Adams McClatchy Newspapers

March 28, 2011 WASHINGTON - The new leader of Libya's opposition military spent the past two decades in suburban Virginia but felt compelled — even in his late-60s — to return to the battlefield in his homeland, according to people who know him. Khalifa Hifter was once a top military officer for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, but after a disastrous military adventure in Chad in the late 1980s, Hifter switched to the anti-Gadhafi opposition. In the early 1990s, he moved to suburban Virginia, where he established a life but maintained ties to anti-Gadhafi groups. Late last week, Hifter was appointed to lead the rebel army, which has been in chaos for weeks. He is the third such leader in less than a month, and rebels interviewed in Libya openly voiced distrust for the most recent leader, Abdel Fatah Younes, who had been at Gadhafi's side until just a month ago. At a news conference Thursday, the rebel's military spokesman said Younes will stay as Hifter's chief of staff, and added that the army — such as it is — would need "weeks" of training. According to Abdel Salam Badr of Richmond, Va., who said he has known Hifter all his life — including back in Libya — Hifter - whose name is sometimes spelled Haftar, Hefter or Huftur - was motivated by his intense anti-Gadhafi feelings. "Libyans — every single one of them — they hate that guy so much they will do whatever it takes," Badr said in an interview Saturday. "Khalifa has a personal grudge against Gadhafi... That was his purpose in life." According to Badr and another friend in the U.S., a Georgia-based Libyan activist named Salem alHasi, Hifter left for Libya two weeks ago. AlHasi, who said Hifter was once his superior in the opposition's military wing, said he and Hifter talked in mid-February about the possibility that Gadhafi would use force on protesters. "He made the decision he had to go inside Libya," alHasi said Saturday. "With his military experience, and with his strong relationship with officers on many levels of rank, he decided to go and see the possibility of participating in the military effort against Gadhafi." He added that Hifter is very popular among members of the Libyan army, "and he is the most experienced person in the whole Libyan army." He acted out of a sense of "national responsibility," alHasi said. "This responsibility no one can take care of but him," alHasi said. "I know very well that the Libyan army especially in the eastern part is in desperate need of his presence." Omar Elkeddi, a Libyan expatriate journalist based in Holland, said in an interview that the opposition forces are getting more organized than they were at the beginning up the uprising. Hifter, he said, is "very professional, very distinguished," and commands great respect. Since coming to the United States in the early 1990s, Hifter lived in suburban Virginia outside Washington, D.C. Badr said he was unsure exactly what Hifter did to support himself, and that Hifter primarily focused on helping his large family.

And once again, why Petreus, a Bush-made military guy at the CIA? Or did I stutter?

Petreus, A Threat to CIA Analysis Ray McGovern April 28, 2011 The news that President Barack Obama has picked Gen. David Petraeus to be CIA director raises troubling questions, including whether the commander most associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will tolerate objective analysis of those two conflicts. What if CIA analysts assess the prospects of success in those two wars as dismal and conclude that the troop “surges” pushed so publicly by Petraeus wasted both the lives of American troops and many billions of taxpayer dollars? Will CIA Director Petraeus welcome such critical analysis or punish it? The Petraeus appointment also suggests that the President doesn’t value getting the straight scoop on these key war-related issues. If he did, why is he giving the CIA job to a general with a huge incentive to gild the lily regarding the “progress” made under his command? Petraeus already has a record as someone who looks at skeptical CIA analysts as gnats to be swatted away before they bite. That is why he relegated them to strap-hanger status during the key decision-making process in late 2009 on what to do about Afghanistan. When Obama expressed doubts about the value of a major escalation in Afghanistan, Petraeus assured him that he and his generals had it all figured out, that 33,000 additional troops would do the trick. CIA analysts weren’t even assigned to do a formal National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which normally is a de rigueur step before making any significant presidential decision like a large-scale escalation of a war. Remarkably, no NIE was prepared before the President’s decision to up U.S. troop levels to 100,000 in late 2009. To his credit, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, who became Director of National Intelligence in August 2010, insisted that two NIEs be prepared last fall — one on Afghanistan and one on Pakistan. The one on Afghanistan concluded that the U.S. could not prevail without a firm decision by Pakistan to interdict the Taliban along the border with Afghanistan. The one on Pakistan said, in the vernacular, there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that the Pakistanis would make such a decision. Ergo? The sobering conclusions of the NIEs were supported by a treasure trove of 92,000 documents written mostly by U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2009 and released by WikiLeaks on July 25, 2010. This more granular reporting laid bare the brutality and fecklessness of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan — particularly the forlorn hope that the Pakistanis will change their strategic outlook and help pull the U.S. chestnuts out of the Afghan fire. [For details, see’s “Afghan War Leaks Expose Costly Folly.”] Good Luck Persuading Pakistan Perhaps the most explosive revelations disclosed the double game being played by the Pakistani Directorate for Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI). Der Spiegel reported: “The documents clearly show that this Pakistani intelligence agency is the most important accomplice the Taliban has outside of Afghanistan.” The documents revealed that ISI envoys not only are present when insurgent commanders hold war councils, but also give specific orders to carry out assassinations — including, according to one report, an attempt on the life of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in August 2008. Former Pakistani intelligence chief, Gen. Hamid Gul, is depicted as an important source of aid to the Taliban and even, in another report, as a “leader” of the insurgents. The reports show Gul ordering suicide attacks and describe him as one of the most important suppliers of weaponry to the Taliban. Though the Pakistani government has angrily denied U.S. government complaints about Gul and the ISI regarding secret ties to the Taliban and even to al-Qaeda, the evidence certainly raises serious questions regarding what the Pakistanis have been doing with the billions of dollars that Washington has given them. No matter. In 2009, President Obama decided to bless Gen. Petraeus’s “counterinsurgency” campaign, with U.S. Special Forces kicking down Afghan doors at night, drones terrorizing alleged “militants,” and whole villages destroyed in order to “save” them from the Taliban – a truly strange way to go about winning hearts and minds. Back stateside, U.S. intelligence analysts looked on with dismay. Those with some gray in their hair were reminded of similar failed tactics and warped intelligence assessments of the U.S. military command in Vietnam. The Ghost of Westmoreland Past As I watched Petraeus perform, I often saw the ghost of Army Gen. William Westmoreland against whom charges of deliberate distortion and dishonesty were proven once intelligence analysts had their day in a post-Vietnam-War court of law — literally. Back in 1967, in order to demonstrate “progress” in the war, Westmoreland ordered his intelligence officers not to go higher than 299,000 for the total count of Communists under arms in South Vietnam. The fear was that if journalists did some basic arithmetic, the body counts and “war of attrition” would all be proven a sham. All the U.S. intelligence agencies except the Army’s agreed that the actual number was almost twice that, and were soon proven tragically right during the country-wide Tet offensive in late January to early February 1968. So, what is Petraeus’s actual estimate of the number of Taliban his forces face in Afghanistan? Is there no such estimate – or is it too secret or too embarrassing to reveal? As for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence does have an estimate of 50 to 100 — no, not thousand, just 50 to 100. Moreover, little serious thought seems to have been given to the daunting challenge of the resupply of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In Vietnam, resupply was a piece of cake compared to the challenge of getting supplies through Pakistan, over the Khyber Pass, and into Afghanistan. At home, Americans grouse about having to pay $4 a gallon for gasoline. It costs $400 to get a gallon into a U.S. Army or Marine vehicle inside Afghanistan. Aside from the obscene expense, the long supply lines are extremely vulnerable — not only to attack from folks who don’t want U.S. troops in their country, but also to the caprice of Pakistani officials who can choke off the supply routes at will. Last weekend, for example, a large crowd protesting U.S. drone strikes demanded that the attacks end in one month or demonstrators would cut off a key supply route for Western troops in Afghanistan. The two-day protest clogged up a major road used by trucks to ferry supplies across the border. "We will block NATO supplies from Karachi to Khyber everywhere if drone attacks are not stopped in one month," said Imran Khan, a former Pakistani cricket star-turned-politician, to the crowd of protesters. Progress in Afghanistan? But the core problem of Petraeus as CIA director is that his reputation is inextricably tied to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and whether they are judged successes or failures. Put differently, will CIA Director Petraeus demand that his analysts see the glass half full rather than half empty, just as he has as the commander of those conflicts? In March, Gen. Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee about the Afghan War, “While the security progress achieved over the past year is significant, it is also fragile and reversible.” Thus, he insisted, it would be unwise to abandon the mission. If the “fragile but reversible” formulation has a familiar ring, you may recall that Petraeus lifted it out of the cliché cabinet several times in early 2008 to characterize security progress in Iraq. The general clearly finds the line a convenient, one-size-fits-all sound bite. So far, Congress and the Fawning Corporate Media have let him get away with it. Are we to expect that once Petraeus takes the helm at CIA, the career analysts will still be able to call the war in Afghanistan a fool’s errand? If the new CIA director insists on seeing progress – however “fragile and reversible” – will vulnerable analysts risk his wrath by contradicting him? We’ll know, I suppose, as soon as we hear that sound bite showing up in the CIA's analytic assessments. For now, we already know that Petraeus’s professional optimism is not shared among rank-and-file analysts at CIA. And the grim statistics continue to build. Just this week, the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan passed the 6,000 mark, with 43,184 the official figure for the number wounded. An additional 54,592 have required medical evacuation from combat. Thus, about 104,000 U.S. troops — a conservative minimum not including the walking wounded, those with traumatic brain injury, attempted or successful suicides, and civilian contractors — are casualties of these long wars. Against this background, I find it hard to believe that President Obama would fritter away his best chance to get an unvarnished assessment — without fear or favor — from intelligence specialists with career protection for “telling it like it is,” the views of the boss notwithstanding. The conundrum is hardly unprecedented. Think back to the 1980s and the challenges faced by honest analysts trying to report on the Contra war in Nicaragua, even as it was being run by the boss, then-CIA Director William Casey. Finding ‘Intelligence’ on Iran Iran will continue to loom large as a target for intelligence analysis during Petraeus’s tenure at CIA. What is disconcerting on that front is that Petraeus has been eager to serve up “intelligence” to portray Iran in the worst light. One rather strange but instructive example comes to mind. It involves a studied, if disingenuous, effort to blame all the troubles in southern Iraq on the “malignant” influence of Iran. On April 25, 2008, Joint Chiefs Chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, told reporters that Gen. Petraeus in Baghdad would give a briefing “in the next couple of weeks” providing detailed evidence of “just how far Iran is reaching into Iraq to foment instability.” Petraeus’s staff alerted U.S. media to a major news event in which captured Iranian arms in Karbala would be displayed and then destroyed. Investigative reporter Gareth Porter noted at the time that the idea was to fill the airwaves with spectacular news framing Iran as the culprit in Iraq for several days, with the aim of “breaking down congressional and public resistance to the idea that Iranian bases supporting the meddling would have to be attacked.” There was a small problem, however. When American munitions experts went to Karbala to inspect the alleged cache of Iranian weapons, they found nothing that could be credibly linked to Iran. Adding to Washington’s chagrin, the Iraqis announced that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had formed his own Cabinet committee to investigate the U.S. claims and attempt to “find tangible information and not information based on speculation.” Ouch! The embarrassment for Petraeus might have been greater, but the U.S. media conveniently forgot the promised briefing. After all, the general has long been a darling of the FCM. U.S. media suppression of this episode was a telling reminder of how difficult it is to get unbiased and accurate information on touchy subjects like Iran. The NIE That Stopped a War Another key question is whether, as CIA director, Petraeus will be able to summon the integrity to face down the neocons and others who are determined to magnify the “threat” from Iran and increase pressure for military action to nip Iran’s nuclear program in the bud. There has been growing pressure to jettison the unanimous judgment, reached “with high confidence” by all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, that Iran had stopped the work on a nuclear weapon in mid-2003. Despite strong pressure from Washington’s influential neoconservatives to water down that key judgment, the leaders of the intelligence community have remained firm — so far — and reaffirmed that judgment earlier this year. In a section of his memoir, former President George W. Bush laments that the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran had tied his hands “on the military side.” Bush added this (apparently unedited) kicker: “But after the NIE, how could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?” Not even Vice President Dick Cheney could persuade Bush to continue driving the pro-war-on-Iran juggernaut forward with its tires punctured by the NIE. The avuncular Cheney has made it clear that he was disappointed in his protégé. On Aug. 30, 2009, Cheney told “Fox News Sunday” that he was isolated among Bush advisers in his enthusiasm for war with Iran.
And why would this be so? My guess is that at that point the CIA/Bush squad realized it needed further propaganda to neutralize the NIE. And it's getting it.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer in the 1960s and then a CIA analyst for 27 years. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
Please read the whole essay for more eye-openers about exactly what the choice of Petreus as CIA Director brings us. It's dinner time for me (but who can eat after that?). How about some of Ashley's baked flounder with asparagus? Yummy. ______________________

Friday, April 29, 2011

Reputation? Who Cares? No Consequences For Criminal Behavior: Who Owns The World? Goldman Sach No Longer Cares To Converse (They Know)

Honestly, folks. If you think the era of accountability isn't long over (and are not outraged about it), you just haven't been paying attention. What this lack of consequences means is that these people didn't do anything wrong (for the people whose personal interests they serve), they just got caught. This is essentially the meaning of our time in history. (Emphasis marks and some editing changes were inserted - Ed.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 Goldman Sachs's Reputation No Longer Matters It does not matter whether Goldman Sachs has a good reputation or a bad reputation, even when GS pays lip service to improving its management techniques. Steven M. Davidoff - DealBook, has interesting things to say about reputations and big companies. When a man's reputation receives a pounding because of ill-conceived actions, he is merely put in charge of another large company! Technology has helped create ever larger institutions which have become inhumane, without compassion or pity, not concerned with the people who suffered greatly because of the actions of banks like Goldman Sachs that led to the financial meltdown. As Wall St. Firms Grow, Their Reputations Are Dying Reputation is dead on Wall Street. This is not to say that financiers and financial institutions still do not commit foolish misdeeds. Rather, so long as the authorities do not find law-breaking, the penalties are few. The list of examples is long. Former directors of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns still serve on the boards of public companies, and one, Jerry A. Grundhofer, a former director of Lehman, is on the Citigroup board. Traders responsible for disastrous mortgage bets have easily found lucrative jobs in finance. Or take Daniel H. Mudd, who not long after being ousted as chief executive of Fannie Mae was named chief executive of the Fortress Investment Group. At Fortress, Mr. Mudd has been paid a salary and stock options worth more than $30 million in the last two years. This was despite the failure of Fannie Mae while he was at the helm, an event that wiped out almost all shareholder value and has cost the federal government more than $90 billion. And Wall Street itself seems to be bearing little pain. Sure, the banks have been flogged in Congress and are subject to the Dodd-Frank Act, but it does not seem that their financial clients are avoiding doing business with them. This includes Goldman Sachs, which has been pilloried for ostensibly taking short positions against its own clients. It was not always the case. During the Great Depression, Goldman Sachs was caught up in a scandal involving the Goldman Sachs Trading Corporation. The taint of the scandal drove away business for more than a decade and made the firm extremely focused on reputation. Today, both people and institutions seem to bear no penalty for their actions. They are rewarded. Why does reputation no longer matter? The reason is unfortunate and partly attributable to why we got into the financial crisis. People simply don’t matter as much on Wall Street as they used to. Instead size and technology carry the day. Today’s Wall Street is not the Wall Street of 1907 when J.P. Morgan single-handedly used his reputation and wallet to stem a running financial panic. Until the 1980s, as William J. Wilhelm Jr. and Alan D. Morrison document in their excellent book, “Investment Banking: Institutions, Politics, and Law” (Oxford University Press; 2007), Wall Street was made up of traditional partnerships. These were small groups of investment bankers who represented companies in offering and selling securities and occasionally acquisitions. These bankers put their individual reputations on the line, because there were so few of them. Morgan Stanley, for example, had only 31 partners in 1970 and fewer than 1,000 employees. But this began to change in the 1980s. Trading markets became much more sophisticated, and trading and brokerage became the investment banks’ primary business. This is a technology game. The better the technology, the better the trading and brokerage operation. Individuals became less important. The growth of more complex capital markets and a global economy also created much larger financial institutions. Morgan Stanley now has more than 62,000 employees. These banks could use their assets and position to compete in the market for finance and trading. Again, individuals were less important as size dominated. A client now trades or does business with a bank based on its positions or ability to make a market or loan. The executive at the bank executing the transaction is unimportant. These trends have become omnipresent in corporate America generally as it too has exponentially grown. And when these companies failed or otherwise committed a wrongdoing, their size allowed their reputation to be ignored. After all, it wasn’t the executive’s fault that the bad event happened. It was just the economy or other external factors. No doubt this plays a part in the vibrant market for chief executives who have been terminated. Bob Nardelli, for example, who as chief executive of Home Depot presided over a stagnant stock price but collected more than $200 million in pay and severance, soon found gainful employment at Chrysler, which later went into bankruptcy. He still works for the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. The clubby nature of the executive suite also contributes to reputation’s decline. Directors and officers socialize together, work together and are much more willing to disregard individual failures because, after all, they are friends. Mark Hurd’s quick hiring at Oracle after his firing at Hewlett-Packard is perhaps an example. This is all exacerbated by a perverse consequence of financial institution bigness. While individuals generally matter less, the enormous size of these companies makes the few people at the top appear to be of outsize importance. Think of Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan Chase. And because they are so important, any failings must be overlooked. All of this means that reputation is not much of a factor in corporate America. This creates problems. In the absence of reputation, the government and regulators act as substitutes to ensure appropriate conduct. The government becomes the enforcer through civil and criminal actions for law-breaking. So what you get is more law to cover for lost reputation. Those who criticize the Dodd-Frank Act for its 2,000-plus pages should realize that this is partly a consequence of the death of reputation on Wall Street. There not only needs to be more law, but also a will to prosecute. As has been noted by many, financial crisis prosecutions are few. But there may be no financial prosecutions because there is no law-breaking. It is here where reputation is still needed. Reputation is an important enforcement mechanism. Reputational sanctions ensure people act appropriately and fill the gap between poor or unethical conduct and law-breaking. It ensures that people are penalized for their mistakes and inappropriate behavior. It is the most important of oils that ensures that the capital markets work. But in the wake of the financial crisis, cynicism rules. Reputation is ignored, and we have a much diminished financial system as a consequence.

(Steven M. Davidoff, writing as The Deal Professor, is a commentator for DealBook on the world of mergers and acquisitions.)
Do these guys own the world? No, probably not, although they certainly act as if they do. The guys who own the world merely use them for fundraising (and money laundering). And they never get out of line. The guys who really own it (currently)? These guys have been in charge of an entirely new type of "modern" nation state for quite some time (since the early 80's) and will continue to own it if overwhelming military power and lack of insight by resident populations affects outcomes at all. Check it out. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)
The U.S. and its Western allies are sure to do whatever they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world. To understand why, it is only necessary to look at the studies of Arab opinion conducted by U.S. polling agencies. Though barely reported, they are certainly known to planners. They reveal that by overwhelming majorities, Arabs regard the U.S. and Israel as the major threats they face: the U.S. is so regarded by 90% of Egyptians, in the region generally by over 75%. Some Arabs regard Iran as a threat: 10%. Opposition to U.S. policy is so strong that a majority believes that security would be improved if Iran had nuclear weapons - in Egypt, 80%. Other figures are similar. If public opinion were to influence policy, the U.S. not only would not control the region, but would be expelled from it, along with its allies, undermining fundamental principles of global dominance.
Certainly some thoughts to entertain as we descend into the swamp.
Who Owns The World? The Contours of Global Order Noam Chomsky April 21, 2011 "Tom Dispatch" - The democracy uprising in the Arab world has been a spectacular display of courage, dedication, and commitment by popular forces - coinciding, fortuitously, with a remarkable uprising of tens of thousands in support of working people and democracy in Madison, Wisconsin, and other U.S. cities. If the trajectories of revolt in Cairo and Madison intersected, however, they were headed in opposite directions: in Cairo toward gaining elementary rights denied by the dictatorship, in Madison towards defending rights that had been won in long and hard struggles and are now under severe attack.

Each is a microcosm of tendencies in global society, following varied courses. There are sure to be far-reaching consequences of what is taking place both in the decaying industrial heartland of the richest and most powerful country in human history, and in what President Dwight Eisenhower called "the most strategically important area in the world" - "a stupendous source of strategic power" and "probably the richest economic prize in the world in the field of foreign investment," in the words of the State Department in the 1940s, a prize that the U.S. intended to keep for itself and its allies in the unfolding New World Order of that day. Despite all the changes since, there is every reason to suppose that today's policy-makers basically adhere to the judgment of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s influential advisor A.A. Berle that control of the incomparable energy reserves of the Middle East would yield "substantial control of the world." And correspondingly, that loss of control would threaten the project of global dominance that was clearly articulated during World War II, and that has been sustained in the face of major changes in world order since that day. From the outset of the war in 1939, Washington anticipated that it would end with the U.S. in a position of overwhelming power. High-level State Department officials and foreign policy specialists met through the wartime years to lay out plans for the postwar world. They delineated a "Grand Area" that the U.S. was to dominate, including the Western hemisphere, the Far East, and the former British empire, with its Middle East energy resources. As Russia began to grind down Nazi armies after Stalingrad, Grand Area goals extended to as much of Eurasia as possible, at least its economic core in Western Europe. Within the Grand Area, the U.S. would maintain "unquestioned power," with "military and economic supremacy," while ensuring the "limitation of any exercise of sovereignty" by states that might interfere with its global designs. The careful wartime plans were soon implemented.

It was always recognized that Europe might choose to follow an independent course. NATO was partially intended to counter this threat. As soon as the official pretext for NATO dissolved in 1989, NATO was expanded to the East in violation of verbal pledges to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It has since become a U.S.-run intervention force, with far-ranging scope, spelled out by NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who informed a NATO conference that "NATO troops have to guard pipelines that transport oil and gas that is directed for the West," and more generally to protect sea routes used by tankers and other "crucial infrastructure" of the energy system.

Grand Area doctrines clearly license military intervention at will. That conclusion was articulated clearly by the Clinton administration, which declared that the U.S. has the right to use military force to ensure "uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources," and must maintain huge military forces "forward deployed" in Europe and Asia "in order to shape people's opinions about us" and "to shape events that will affect our livelihood and our security."

The same principles governed the invasion of Iraq. As the U.S. failure to impose its will in Iraq was becoming unmistakable, the actual goals of the invasion could no longer be concealed behind pretty rhetoric. In November 2007, the White House issued a Declaration of Principles demanding that U.S. forces must remain indefinitely in Iraq and committing Iraq to privilege American investors. Two months later, President Bush informed Congress that he would reject legislation that might limit the permanent stationing of U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq or "United States control of the oil resources of Iraq" - demands that the U.S. had to abandon shortly after in the face of Iraqi resistance.

In Tunisia and Egypt, the recent popular uprisings have won impressive victories, but as the Carnegie Endowment reported, while names have changed, the regimes remain: "A change in ruling elites and system of governance is still a distant goal." The report discusses internal barriers to democracy, but ignores the external ones, which as always are significant.

The U.S. and its Western allies are sure to do whatever they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world. To understand why, it is only necessary to look at the studies of Arab opinion conducted by U.S. polling agencies. Though barely reported, they are certainly known to planners. They reveal that by overwhelming majorities, Arabs regard the U.S. and Israel as the major threats they face: the U.S. is so regarded by 90% of Egyptians, in the region generally by over 75%. Some Arabs regard Iran as a threat: 10%. Opposition to U.S. policy is so strong that a majority believes that security would be improved if Iran had nuclear weapons - in Egypt, 80%. Other figures are similar. If public opinion were to influence policy, the U.S. not only would not control the region, but would be expelled from it, along with its allies, undermining fundamental principles of global dominance.

The Invisible Hand of Power

Support for democracy is the province of ideologists and propagandists. In the real world, elite dislike of democracy is the norm. The evidence is overwhelming that democracy is supported insofar as it contributes to social and economic objectives, a conclusion reluctantly conceded by the more serious scholarship.

Elite contempt for democracy was revealed dramatically in the reaction to the WikiLeaks exposures. Those that received most attention, with euphoric commentary, were cables reporting that Arabs support the U.S. stand on Iran. The reference was to the ruling dictators. The attitudes of the public were unmentioned. The guiding principle was articulated clearly by Carnegie Endowment Middle East specialist Marwan Muasher, formerly a high official of the Jordanian government: "There is nothing wrong, everything is under control." In short, if the dictators support us, what else could matter?

The Muasher doctrine is rational and venerable. To mention just one case that is highly relevant today, in internal discussion in 1958, president Eisenhower expressed concern about "the campaign of hatred" against us in the Arab world, not by governments, but by the people. The National Security Council (NSC) explained that there is a perception in the Arab world that the U.S. supports dictatorships and blocks democracy and development so as to ensure control over the resources of the region. Furthermore, the perception is basically accurate, the NSC concluded, and that is what we should be doing, relying on the Muasher doctrine. Pentagon studies conducted after 9/11 confirmed that the same holds today.

It is normal for the victors to consign history to the trash can, and for victims to take it seriously. Perhaps a few brief observations on this important matter may be useful. Today is not the first occasion when Egypt and the U.S. are facing similar problems, and moving in opposite directions. That was also true in the early nineteenth century.

Economic historians have argued that Egypt was well-placed to undertake rapid economic development at the same time that the U.S. was. Both had rich agriculture, including cotton, the fuel of the early industrial revolution - though unlike Egypt, the U.S. had to develop cotton production and a work force by conquest, extermination, and slavery, with consequences that are evident right now in the reservations for the survivors and the prisons that have rapidly expanded since the Reagan years to house the superfluous population left by deindustrialization.

One fundamental difference was that the U.S. had gained independence and was therefore free to ignore the prescriptions of economic theory, delivered at the time by Adam Smith in terms rather like those preached to developing societies today. Smith urged the liberated colonies to produce primary products for export and to import superior British manufactures, and certainly not to attempt to monopolize crucial goods, particularly cotton. Any other path, Smith warned, "would retard instead of accelerating the further increase in the value of their annual produce, and would obstruct instead of promoting the progress of their country towards real wealth and greatness."

Having gained their independence, the colonies were free to ignore his advice and to follow England's course of independent state-guided development, with high tariffs to protect industry from British exports, first textiles, later steel and others, and to adopt numerous other devices to accelerate industrial development. The independent Republic also sought to gain a monopoly of cotton so as to "place all other nations at our feet," particularly the British enemy, as the Jacksonian presidents announced when conquering Texas and half of Mexico.

For Egypt, a comparable course was barred by British power. Lord Palmerston declared that "no ideas of fairness [toward Egypt] ought to stand in the way of such great and paramount interests" of Britain as preserving its economic and political hegemony, expressing his "hate" for the "ignorant barbarian" Muhammed Ali who dared to seek an independent course, and deploying Britain's fleet and financial power to terminate Egypt's quest for independence and economic development.

After World War II, when the U.S. displaced Britain as global hegemon, Washington adopted the same stand, making it clear that the U.S. would provide no aid to Egypt unless it adhered to the standard rules for the weak - which the U.S. continued to violate, imposing high tariffs to bar Egyptian cotton and causing a debilitating dollar shortage. The usual interpretation of market principles.

It is small wonder that the "campaign of hatred" against the U.S. that concerned Eisenhower was based on the recognition that the U.S. supports dictators and blocks democracy and development, as do its allies.

In Adam Smith's defense, it should be added that he recognized what would happen if Britain followed the rules of sound economics, now called "neoliberalism." He warned that if British manufacturers, merchants, and investors turned abroad, they might profit but England would suffer. But he felt that they would be guided by a home bias, so as if by an invisible hand England would be spared the ravages of economic rationality.

The passage is hard to miss. It is the one occurrence of the famous phrase "invisible hand" in The Wealth of Nations. The other leading founder of classical economics, David Ricardo, drew similar conclusions, hoping that home bias would lead men of property to "be satisfied with the low rate of profits in their own country, rather than seek a more advantageous employment for their wealth in foreign nations," feelings that, he added, "I should be sorry to see weakened." Their predictions aside, the instincts of the classical economists were sound.

. . . Grand Area doctrines continue to apply to contemporary crises and confrontations. In Western policy-making circles and political commentary the Iranian threat is considered to pose the greatest danger to world order and hence must be the primary focus of U.S. foreign policy, with Europe trailing along politely.

What exactly is the Iranian threat? An authoritative answer is provided by the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence. Reporting on global security last year, they make it clear that the threat is not military. Iran's military spending is "relatively low compared to the rest of the region," they conclude. Its military doctrine is strictly "defensive, designed to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities." Iran has only "a limited capability to project force beyond its borders." With regard to the nuclear option, "Iran's nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy." All quotes.

The brutal clerical regime is doubtless a threat to its own people, though it hardly outranks U.S. allies in that regard. But the threat lies elsewhere, and is ominous indeed. One element is Iran's potential deterrent capacity, an illegitimate exercise of sovereignty that might interfere with U.S. freedom of action in the region. It is glaringly obvious why Iran would seek a deterrent capacity; a look at the military bases and nuclear forces in the region suffices to explain.

Seven years ago, Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld wrote that "The world has witnessed how the United States attacked Iraq for, as it turned out, no reason at all. Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy," particularly when they are under constant threat of attack in violation of the UN Charter. Whether they are doing so remains an open question, but perhaps so.

But Iran's threat goes beyond deterrence. It is also seeking to expand its influence in neighboring countries, the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence emphasize, and in this way to "destabilize" the region (in the technical terms of foreign policy discourse). The U.S. invasion and military occupation of Iran's neighbors is "stabilization." Iran's efforts to extend its influence to them are "destabilization," hence plainly illegitimate.

Such usage is routine. Thus the prominent foreign policy analyst James Chace was properly using the term "stability" in its technical sense when he explained that in order to achieve "stability" in Chile it was necessary to "destabilize" the country (by overthrowing the elected government of Salvador Allende and installing the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet). Other concerns about Iran are equally interesting to explore, but perhaps this is enough to reveal the guiding principles and their status in imperial culture. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s planners emphasized at the dawn of the contemporary world system, the U.S. cannot tolerate "any exercise of sovereignty" that interferes with its global designs.

(Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. He is the author of numerous best-selling political works. His latest books are a new edition of Power and Terror, The Essential Chomsky (edited by Anthony Arnove), a collection of his writings on politics and on language from the 1950s to the present, Gaza in Crisis, with Ilan Pappé, and Hopes and Prospects, also available as an audiobook. This piece is adapted from a talk given in Amsterdam in March.)

Please read on for the rest of the story. What's for brunch? How about Ashley's Italian Torte?

I'm hungry!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Financiers Switch to GOP: Hedge-Fund Titans Who Backed Democrats Open Their Wallets for Republicans

How about some published-publicly, outright extortion, folks? I'd say that this article is pretty good for shining a bright light on the problem of the money of the powerful being able to buy the type of government that benefits them only, and is devastating the lower classes of the good ole U-S-A! Straight from The Wall Street Journal, and you know they wouldn't try to mislead us.

APRIL 26, 2011

Financiers Switch to GOP

Hedge-Fund Titans Who Backed Democrats Open Their Wallets for Republicans

Hedge-fund managers made a big bet on Barack Obama and other Democrats in 2008. Now, with the 2012 contest gearing up, some prominent fund managers have turned their backs on the party and are actively supporting Republicans.

Daniel Loeb, founder of Third Point LLC, was one of the biggest Obama fund-raisers in 2008, rounding up $200,000 for him, according to campaign-finance records. In the decade prior, Mr. Loeb and his wife donated $250,000 to Democrats and less than $10,000 to Republicans.

Hedging Their Bets

See donations from hedge-fund managers and their spouses and employees, 2000-10.

But since Mr. Obama's inauguration, Mr. Loeb has given $468,000 to Republican candidates and the GOP, and just $8,000 to Democrats. Hedge-fund kings have feelings, too, and the president appears to have hurt them.

"I am sure, if we are really nice and stay quiet, everything will be alright and the president will become more centrist and that all his tough talk is just words," Mr. Loeb wrote in an email about four months ago expressing frustration with the president's posture toward Wall Street. "I mean, he really loves us and when he beats us, he doesn't mean it." The email, sent to eight friends, was widely circulated on Wall Street.

Mr. Loeb is part of a shift in political allegiance within the world of hedge funds that also includes such big names as Steven Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors and Kenneth Griffin's Citadel Investment Group. Managers and employees of hedge funds directed a majority of their contributions to the GOP in the 2009-2010 election season, a pattern not seen since 1996, when the industry was much smaller.

Managers of hedge funds — private investment partnerships that cater to institutions and wealthy people — are reacting to what some criticize as Mr. Obama's populist attacks on Wall Street, as well as to Democrat-led efforts to raise their tax bills. They had hoped to be protected from such a tax move by their relationships with prominent Democratic members of Congress. "Hedge funds bankrolled the Democrats in the 2006 and 2008 elections, and the very people they helped put in power turned around and screwed them," said Sam Geduldig, a former Republican congressional staffer who is a Wall Street lobbyist.

A spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, Hari Sevugan, said Mr. Obama "campaigned on and took action to reform the industry because he knew it was the right thing to do...which is why he enjoyed broad support in 2008 and continues to do so today."

The shift toward Republicans is by no means universal. "I'm still a huge supporter" of Mr. Obama and planning to raise money for him, said Marc Lasry, CEO of Avenue Capital Group. He said one reason some of his peers are moving away from Mr. Obama is that they "disagree with his philosophy regarding the deficit," but "the going to try to reduce the deficit." Mr. Lasry added: "When you really break it down, he has actually done a pretty good job."

Wall Street ranks alongside the legal profession and Hollywood as a plank in almost any presidential candidate's fund-raising. After lawyers, the investment sector was the largest source of donations for Mr. Obama's 2008 presidential campaign among industry sectors tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics. And hedge-fund money is the fastest-growing segment of contributions from that industry, more than doubling every four years. Investors are pouring money into hedge funds again, after souring on them during the financial crisis.

Mr. Obama blew away the field in presidential fund-raising in 2008, setting a record by collecting $750 million in contributions, with most of the donations small ones. Some political strategists speculate he could top $1 billion for his re-election bid.

The defection by some hedge-fund managers is among forces that could make that lofty figure hard to attain. Mr. Obama has also disheartened some labor unions, environmentalists and liberal activists by not moving as aggressively as they would like on their priorities. For the 2012 presidential race, it is too early to gauge with any precision how he or potential GOP candidates are doing in fund-raising.

Overall in the 2008 congressional and presidential elections, Democrats outdrew Republicans, $1.9 billion to $1.3 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Democrats received the biggest share of donations from hedge-fund managers for most of the past two decades. From 1990 through 2008, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, fund managers and their employees contributed about $40 million to candidates for Congress and the presidency. About two-thirds went to Democrats.

But 53% went to Republicans in the 2010 election cycle, when hedge-fund managers' and employees' donations totaled $11 million. GOP strategists credit a core group of fund managers for helping Republicans win control of the House, make inroads in the Senate and drive Mr. Obama toward the political center.

A half-dozen fund managers donated a total of $6 million to the Republican Governors Association in the weeks before the 2010 election and spent millions more to finance a blitz of ads for Republicans running for Congress.

The shift started near the end of the 2008 campaign, when Mr. Obama began blaming hedge funds for some of the country's economic problems.

In April 2009, when talks about saving Chrysler through a bankruptcy filing bogged down, the president faulted bond-holding hedge funds for the delay. "They were hoping that everybody else would make sacrifices, and they would have to make none." Mr. Obama said. "I don't stand with them."

That amounted to "bullying," one prominent fund manager, Cliff Asness of AQR Capital Management, wrote on his personal web page.

In the past, Mr. Asness had donated to Republicans, while employees of his fund gave chiefly to Democrats. But in the 2010 midterm campaign, Mr. Asness ramped up his Republican giving, while his employees all but stopped their donating to Democrats. Combined, he and the employees contributed $550,000 to Republicans and only about $3,000 to Democrats. Mr. Asness, like most of the fund managers, declined to comment.

Hedge funds' biggest complaint involved a tax bill. Shortly after Mr. Obama's inauguration, he and some congressional Democrats were pushing a plan to block managers of hedge funds and private-equity funds from paying a low 15% capital-gains tax rate on part of their income.

"No longer should we allow investment managers to have a better tax rate than teachers or doctors or firefighters," said a leading advocate of the change, Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, during Senate debate.

Fund managers largely were willing to accept such a change; most of their share of fund profits didn't qualify for treatment as long-term capital gains anyway, because they traded so rapidly. But they drew the line at another proposed change.

The tax bill's writers worried that hedge-fund managers could avoid the highest tax rates by simply leaving their income in the fund, collecting it only when they eventually sold the fund itself. At that point, it clearly would qualify for the capital-gains rate, as profit on a sale of a long-held business. So, the tax bill's writers added a provision saying any profit from the sale of a hedge fund, a private-equity firm or other investment partnership would be taxed at the higher rates that apply to ordinary income.

Fund managers despised that idea. "If you founded a hedge fund, when you sold it you were treated worse than if you owned a peep-show business," said John Raffaelli, a Democratic fund-raiser and lobbyist for the hedge-fund industry.

Senate Democrats to whom fund managers had ties were hesitant to block the tax initiative, because it meshed with voter anti-Wall Street sentiment. Also, it could also mean as much as $2 billion of annual revenue.

The tax initiative ultimately failed when a broader measure that it was part of didn't pass, and now it is essentially dead because of GOP control of the House. Before it failed, the tax measure won support from New York Democratic Sen. Charles Mr. Schumer, following an amendment he made in it.

Mr. Schumer, who declined to comment, has remained a big recipient of hedge-fund contributions despite his vote, raising $500,000 from fund managers and their employees in the 2010 election cycle.

But the senator got a taste of hedge funds' frustrations with Democrats in February 2009, during a phone conversation with SAC Capital's Mr. Cohen. "I can't support the Democrats," Mr. Cohen said, according to a person familiar with the discussion. "There is no way I can support what they are doing."

Mr. Cohen had previously been a big Democratic supporter, regularly giving the maximum allowable to Democratic legislators in his home state of Connecticut. In 2008, he, his wife and SAC Capital employees donated more than $500,000 to Democrats, triple what they gave Republicans.

Last August, Mr. Cohen invited a small group of fund managers to a strategy session in his 32,000-square-foot Greenwich home. The gathering included Republican stalwarts such as Paul Singer of Elliott Management and Dan Senor of Rosemont Capital, but also some more recent Republican donors such as Bruce Kovner of Caxton Associates. The group decided to direct contributions to GOP campaign coffers and to pro-Republican groups that could raise and spend unlimited amounts.

Campaign reports show Mr. Cohen contributed $1.5 million in 2010 to one such group, the Republican Governors Association. The gifts put him among the top four individual donors to the association in a decade, ahead of mega-Republican donor David Koch of Koch Industries. Mr. Cohen contributed to only one Democrat for the 2010 midterm elections, giving $2,400 to Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Mr. Cohen's political shift was driven in part by his concern about increases in government spending and deficits, said a person close to him.

Mr. Kovner of Caxton Associates hadn't dabbled very much in politics before the August meeting. In 2008, he gave $4,600 to two Republican candidates. After the meeting, he donated $615,000 to the GOP, including $500,000 to the Republican Governors Association. Mr. Kovner, along with most others at the meeting, declined to comment.

John Paulson and employees of his Paulson & Co., famed for a lucrative bet against the housing market and mortgage bonds before their collapse, had given about equally to the two parties in 2008. But in 2010, he and his employees gave three times as much to the GOP as to Democrats. Mr. Paulson himself gave about $410,000 to Republican campaign causes.

Citadel's Mr. Griffin and his wife, Anne Dias Griffin, who runs her own hedge fund, also had split their donations between the parties in 2008, but in 2010 they donated $1.8 million to Republicans and just $2,400 to Democrats.

A shift was also evident at Renaissance Technologies LLC. In 2008, its manager, Robert Mercer, and employees donated much more heavily to Democrats than to Republicans—$620,000 versus $95,000. In 2010, they gave $527,000 for Democrats but $782,000 to Republicans.

With the 2012 money race under way, Democrats are reaching out to mend fences. Mr. Schumer has held a series of dinners and chats with hedge-fund managers. Mr. Obama traveled to New York in late March for an event with fund-raisers from Wall Street and the fund industry.

Still, about 6,600 donations to the Democratic National Committee in March appear to include only a handful from hedge-fund people—fewer than from veterinarians or librarians.

Democrats say Mr. Obama is making moves to appeal to the fund industry and has time to win it back. "Whatever the numbers show…at the margins there has been a material shift in support for the president," said Orin Kramer, general partner of hedge fund Boston Provident and an Obama supporter.

Bet you had no idea that Obama had to do something for all that schweeet Wall Street funding. (And I know. He had no choice against the barbarian alternatives.) Not much of a progressive meal though. And for dessert, how about about some of my favorite chef's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie? She's probably the best pastry chef anywhere. I know she is in Greensboro. Thanks, Ashley! __________________

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

American Radical(s)

[Congratulations, 18,000th Visitor (Bel Air, Maryland)! (Is that you, John?) Please, everyone, keep in mind that this blog runs solely (financially) on contributions from kind readers. And "Thank you, gentlepeople!"]

From my buddy, Tom, at Who Hijacked Our Country on what the scions of the rich, powerful and corrupt who ruined our country are doing now (hint: Tea Bagger leaders):

The two main “everyday citizens” in charge of Dodd Frank Exposed are Gary Marx — vice president of Ralph Reed’s lobbying firm, Century Strategies — and Robert Bork, Jr. (no comment).

The above-mentioned apple that didn’t fall far from the tree has made a career out of coordinating front groups on behalf of corporate conglomerates. And his favorite clients are corporations that are responsible for huge environmental or financial disasters. Bork comes up with a folksy spin, portraying the corporation as a “good citizen” who wants to do the right thing, and/or a “victim.”

In a memo to a group of corporate attorneys, Little Bork wrote:“A carefully designed communication strategy that includes third parties has the potential to persuade key audiences. It gives you credibility and increases your chances of success.

”OK teabaggers — gather up your misspelled signs and get ready for some more of them spontaneous demonstrations.

Talk about American Radicals. They aren't on the left, folks. And the real story of the Fake Budget Battle (if you were wondering how they're getting ready to cut all your benefits without touching the Defense (ha ha) budget and actually increasing tax cuts to the top .01% (again))? Wonder no more (emphasis marks added - Ed.):
Our Phony Budget Battles Are All Smoke and Mirrors Weeks of highly publicized debates - some in Congress, more in the mass media - brought Republicans and Democrats to a budget deal. To maximize public attention, they threatened a possible government shutdown. Both parties said that large government deficits and accumulated debt were "serious problems." They agreed that solving them required only spending cuts, not revenue increases. In unison, they repeated, "we" must "learn to live within our means." In fact, both sides never actually engaged the deficit and the debt. They limited themselves to purely cosmetic, symbol-laden cuts (Republicans) and refusals to cut (Democrats). Aiming at the 2012 election, both parties used the deficit and budget debates purely to impress their voters. Basic numbers tell the true story. The current (Fiscal Year 2011) budget spends about $3.5 trillion while receiving $2.0 trillion in tax revenues. The difference of $1.5 trillion (the equivalent of $1,500 billion) is this year's deficit. The US Treasury must borrow that from whoever will lend to the US government. After much hot air, Republicans and Democrats reached a "historic compromise," namely a spending cut of $38 billion. That will reduce this year's deficit from $1,500 billion to $1,462 billion, an economically insignificant sum. The sound and fury of Washington's debates signified nothing was to be done about the actual deficit. Republicans pretend to be deeply troubled by huge government deficits run up in recent years. They conveniently forget why those deficits soared: (1) capitalism's crisis increased unemployment, and so, cut income tax receipts, and (2) Washington response was to borrow trillions and spend them on bailing out banks and credit and stock markets. Republicans revive their old mantra: reduce deficits by cutting "wasteful spending" and "government mismanagement," which turns out to mean the social programs they don't like. Republicans hope to cash in politically on popular upset over the crisis' costs and the government's unfair and ineffective response. Democrats pretend to be as troubled by deficits as Republicans. They parrot Republicans in denouncing wasteful government spending and mismanagement. However, they champion fewer spending cuts than Republicans, hoping thereby to cash in politically on popular support for helpful government programs needed especially in hard times. Democrats are also loudly oppositional where that might appeal to their voters (e.g. saving Planned Parenthood from cuts). Democrats and Republicans did not even discuss, let alone agree on, tax increases on the wealthy or on corporations as ways to cut deficits. At the same time, their proposals for cutting spending were economically insignificant. In short, the two parties' deficit-reduction campaigns were fakes.

Surprised? You shouldn't be as we should be used to being pawns in a whole different game than is televised. Read the entire essay for more stomach-turning facts. And here's another chiller. Just in from Al Jazeera:

The Trials of Jewish-American Political Scientist Norman Finkelstein. (Click here for video) Every single member of my family on both sides was exterminated. Both of my parents were in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. And it is precisely and exactly because of the lessons my parents taught me and my two siblings that I will not be silent when Israel commits its crimes against the Palestinians." - Norman Finkelstein American Radical is the probing, definitive documentary about Jewish-American political scientist Norman Finkelstein. A devoted son of holocaust survivors, an ardent critic of Israel and US Middle East policy, Finkelstein has been steadfast at the centre of many intractable controversies, including his denial of tenure at DePaul University. Called a lunatic and self-hating Jew by some and an inspirational street-fighting revolutionary by others, Finkelstein is a deeply polarising figure. From Beirut to Kyoto, the filmmakers follow Finkelstein around the world as he attempts to negotiate a voice among both supporters and critics.
Paul Krugman defines another "American Radical" (and the "radical" media that purposely misreports just about everything important to the citizens' lives):
the insincerity of many if not most self-proclaimed deficit hawks
Throwing the Country Away?
Let’s Take a Hike Paul Krugman April 24, 2011 When I listen to current discussions of the federal budget, the message I hear sounds like this: We’re in crisis! We must take drastic action immediately! And we must keep taxes low, if not actually cut them further! You have to wonder: If things are tat serious, shouldn’t we be raising taxes, not cutting them? My description of the budget debate is in no way an exaggeration. Consider the Ryan budget proposal, which all the Very Serious People assured us was courageous and important. That proposal begins by warning that “a major debt crisis is inevitable” unless we confront the deficit. It then calls, not for tax increases, but for tax cuts, with taxes on the wealthy falling to their lowest level since 1931. And because of those large tax cuts, the only way the Ryan proposal can even claim to reduce the deficit is through savage cuts in spending, mainly falling on the poor and vulnerable. (A realistic assessment suggests that the proposal would actually increase the deficit.) President Obama’s proposal is a lot better. At least it calls for raising taxes on high incomes back to Clinton-era levels. But it preserves the rest of the Bush tax cuts — cuts that were originally sold as a way to dispose of a large budget surplus. And, as a result, it still relies heavily on spending cuts, even as it falls short of actually balancing the budget. So why isn’t someone offering a proposal reflecting the reality that the Bush tax cuts were a huge mistake, and suggesting that increased revenue play a major role in deficit reduction? Actually, someone is — and I’ll get to that in a moment. First, though, let’s talk about the current state of American taxes. From the tone of much budget discussion, you might think that we were groaning under crushing, unprecedented levels of taxation. The reality is that effective federal tax rates at every level of income have fallen significantly over the past 30 years, especially at the top. And, over all, U.S. taxes are much lower as a percentage of national income than taxes in most other wealthy nations. em>The point is that we aren’t that heavily taxed, either by historical standards or in comparison with other nations. So if you’re truly horrified by the budget deficit, why not propose tax increases as part of the solution? Wait, there’s more. The core of the Ryan proposal is a plan to privatize and defund Medicare. Yet this would do nothing to reduce the deficit over the next 10 years, which is why all the near-term deficit reduction comes from brutal reductions in aid to the needy and unspecified cuts in discretionary spending. Tax increases, by contrast, can be fast-acting remedies for red ink. And that’s why the only major budget proposal out there offering a plausible path to balancing the budget is the one that includes significant tax increases: the “People’s Budget” from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which — unlike the Ryan plan, which was just right-wing orthodoxy with an added dose of magical thinking — is genuinely courageous because it calls for shared sacrifice. True, it increases revenue partly by imposing substantially higher taxes on the wealthy, which is popular everywhere except inside the Beltway. But it also calls for a rise in the Social Security cap, significantly raising taxes on around 6 percent of workers. And, by rescinding many of the Bush tax cuts, not just those affecting top incomes, it would modestly raise taxes even on middle-income families. All of this, combined with spending cuts mostly focused on defense, is projected to yield a balanced budget by 2021. And the proposal achieves this without dismantling the legacy of the New Deal, which gave us Social Security, and the Great Society, which gave us Medicare and Medicaid. But if the progressive proposal has all these virtues, why isn’t it getting anywhere near as much attention as the much less serious Ryan proposal? It’s true that it has no chance of becoming law anytime soon. But that’s equally true of the Ryan proposal. The answer, I’m sorry to say, is the insincerity of many if not most self-proclaimed deficit hawks. To the extent that they care about the deficit at all, it takes second place to their desire to do precisely what the People’s Budget avoids doing, namely, tear up our current social contract, turning the clock back 80 years under the guise of necessity. They don’t want to be told that such a radical turn to the right is not, in fact, necessary. But, it isn’t, as the progressive budget proposal shows. We do need to bring the deficit down, although we aren’t facing an immediate crisis. How we go about stemming the tide of red ink is, however, a choice — and by making tax increases part of the solution, we can avoid savaging the poor and undermining the security of the middle class.

And can stop the middle class from leaving the country. From the wise head(s) at Bildungblog: Outing the Villains
Despite the fact that the corporation he oversees has lost approximately $1 billion over the past 15 months, Gerard Arpey, Chairman and CEO of AMR, the parent company of American Airlines, received over $5 million in total compensation in 2010, which was 11% more than he received the year before. See how this works: company makes money, you get a raise; company loses money, you get a raise. That old Invisible Hand is such a clever prestidigitator! But it's not hard to feel its effects.
I gave $5.00 to Russ Feingold's initial efforts to fund Progressives United (and I don't have any money at all to spare - but it's that important (yes, I must have robbed a bank!). What have you done to end this fiasco brought to us by the Rethugs and their enablers, No-Friends-Of-Good-Government? By the by: Welcome to Pottersville2 got a nice mention at the Democratic Underground yesterday. Thank you, friends! ___________________

Monday, April 25, 2011

"Old White Men" (Now These Are Terror Attacks) They Lied About BP Oil Blitz (Corexit Explodes!) & About Fukushima (Where Are "They" Going to Hide?)

(Sitting and Thinking on a Bench at Price Park Library - Greensboro, NC)
Thinking less and less of Obama? I am sad about this too. But we've got to organize and get the word out! In self defense, at least! (I wish this tape were "doctored.")
"Huge oil" content "within the tissues of the seafood." - Wilma Subra Environmental Scientist/Study Author "Chemicals" from the sprayed-on seafood "showing up in people's blood samples."
Bet you didn't know that. Seafood lover!
"What BP has done to the Gulf amounts to a carpet bombing with dangerous chemicals."
Information is power, folks. Use it.
Impact of Gulf Spill Persists By Robert Redford 23 April 11 In New Film, Residents of the Gulf Say Impact of Spill Persists In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon blowout last year, BP repeatedly misled the public about how much oil was spewing into the Gulf of Mexico. Now, as we mark the one-year anniversary of the blowout, company executives would like us to believe that the spill has been cleaned up and the Gulf of Mexico is back to normal.

The people who actually live along the Gulf Coast tell us something different. In a powerful new documentary airing on Saturday on Planet Green called 'Stories From the Gulf,' residents make it clear they are still suffering the aftermath of the largest oil spill in American history. The movie is based on interviews produced by NRDC and Bridge the Gulf and recorded by Story Corps. I had the opportunity to provide the opening narration for the film, but most of the voices come right out of the Gulf. Finally, the people whose voices were so often drowned out by BP's multimillion dollar PR machine have a chance to speak for themselves. They describe the struggle to feed their families after fishing grounds were closed and tourism dried up. Captain Darla Rooks talks about the persistent rashes, headaches, and other illnesses she's experienced after coming into contact with oil and dispersants. Rosina Philippe laments the dead porpoises and star fish she still sees washing ashore. Eric Tiser says, "I've been in the bayou my whole life, and ain't never seen so much dead stuff in the last six months." These Gulf Coast residents also worry what the spill will do to the future health of marine life. "My community is a fishing community," says Wendy Billiot. "And we're concerned about the long-reaching effects that the dispersants are going to have on the seafood. Are the fish going to continue to follow their life cycles? Are they going to grow past the larval stage? How much of all of these natural resources are going to be affected long-term? I think it's a lot of question marks." Uncertainty weighs heavily on most of the people in the film. "I never thought at the time that it would impact us the way it has," says Ryan Lambert. "After 30 years of building the largest guide business on the Gulf Coast, here we are down 90-something percent, we're going to have to rebrand and put the perception that everything is fine. But how do you do that if you don't know that it's fine?" Listening to people describe how much the bayou means to them, you realize how painful it must be not to know if their way of life can survive. But to know that the damage was wrought not by the caprice of a hurricane but by the greed and negligence of oil companies is just plain infuriating. Numerous investigations, including President Obama's National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, found that while BP, Halliburton, and Transocean made many reckless decisions before the blowout, the entire oil and gas industry lacks a culture of safety and risk assessment. The federal government, in turn, lacks the power and capacity to oversee offshore drilling. The oil industry, the government, and Congress must take steps to strengthen the safeguards that protect workers and the Gulf environment. America, meanwhile, must reduce the addiction to oil that drives companies into ever riskier conditions, like the deepwater. But even as we put these changes in place, we must not disregard the people on the frontlines of this spill. We must not minimize their struggle or the sense of loss and sorrow that persists to this day. Instead, we should listen to what they have to say. Don't miss 'Stories From the Gulf': tune in Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on Planet Green. Find Planet Green on your TV. Stories From the Gulf (official trailer):

And speaking of the "newsworthy" Don (the type of "news" I make it a point never to waste time on here), my friend over at the Regressive Antidote has a few choice (very!) words (emphasis marks added - Ed.):
From his perspective, of course, this is the height of cynicism. Trump no more cares about minor provisions of the Constitution than he does about fighting poverty. But what does it say about the tens of millions of Americans who like what they’re hearing from this guy, and what does it say about this country that such a segment of our society is so powerful, and probably about to get a lot more so? It says that this is an empire in steep decline. It says that some of us – particularly those who are older, whiter and maler than the general population – liked it better the way things used to be. And it says that that group is willing to cling on to any seeming handrail they can grasp – even those that look suspiciously like the drowning bodies of other peopleas the earth trembles below their feet. These are the same people for whom racism and sexism have traditionally served a similar function, that of distraction, that of dividing and conquering a potentially angry underclass. These are the folks for whom providing the perverse psychological satisfaction of a false sense of social superiority is more than adequate to facilitate their own looting. Of course, the great irony here is that they remain among the most privileged of Americans, yet they are by far and away the most likely to bitch about their condition. Nobody is better off as a group than older white males, and nobody foams at the mouth more about how screwed up the country is. Nobody gets more assistance from government programs than those who receive Social Security and Medicare benefits, and nobody races faster to the front of the barricades to rant about the evils of socialism. Nobody receives more in transfers of wealth than deeply red states like Alaska and those of the Bible Belt, and nobody complains more about having government on their backs. Enough, already. Y’know, as somebody who pays for that evil and oppressive government, I’d be quite happy to make an exception to my rigid socialist tendencies and volunteer to remove my tax dollars from off of their backs (not to mention their very distended fronts), and stick that money back into my pocket. Hey, how about this for a new motto?: “From those according to their ability, to those according to their needs, skip those according to their ingratitude”. . . . People are dumber now, certainly about politics. That’s the reason why the notion of “President Reagan” was a laugh-out-loud joke in 1975 but a source of reverence in 2005. That’s why George W. Bush is regarded as a basically benign-but-not-so-brilliant president, as opposed to a walking crime against humanity. That’s why people continue to vote for politicians who will assist them in their own looting, and who have successfully carried out the greatest transfer of wealth in all of human history, while pretending to serve the public interest instead. And that’s the reason why a Donald Trump kind of buffoon could actually lead in the polls for the presidential nomination of one of the country’s two major parties. It isn’t so much a core civics education that is missing, though reading poll data on the public’s comprehension of the most basic facts regarding their supposedly revered system of governance will positively singe your eyeballs. (What, senators have six-year terms? No! The Bill of Rights applies to us? Get outta here!) It’s more of a kind of street smarts that’s missing. More of a sense that people don’t any longer have the ability to recognize their enemiesincluding, all too often, themselves. . . . To choose just the most obvious example, we live in a world in which unregulated private sector actors, greedily pursuing their boundlessly rapacious instincts, have crashed an entire global economy around our – not their – heads, then turned to governments in order to bail them out.

And even though the whole notion of the capitalist system they so vehemently espouse is rooted in the idea of risk, they in fact came to believe retrospectively that they should take none, receiving in many cases full coverage for their obligations from the governments they so often and so vociferously deride, when their bets went south. Keep that in mind as I ask you to ponder when was the last time your heard anyone in American politics say, “Businesses should be run more like the government!”? Wouldn’t that make a whole lot of sense, given the very recent history just chronicled? I mean who screwed up royally and who didn’t? Who got bailed out and who did the bailing?

Oh by the way, in case you forgot over the weekend: IT'S SERIOUS! Paul Farrell (an economist of note) at Marketwatch warns us that it's a very serious class war. And we are losing (emphasis marks added - Ed.).
Reaganomics, “Shock Doctrine” and disaster capitalism all define the same ideology that’s been driving the GOP for over a generation, an ideology gaining even more power now as they accelerate their battle plans, increasing efforts to gain total power over our government, economy and culture, a strategy that will ultimately destroy everything. Klein’s recent interview with Maddow exposed the GOP’s charade: Now we know with certainty that the budget crises in the 50 states were “created on Wall Street then moved to Main Street, deepened by the policy decisions to bail out banks instead of bailing out homeowners, instead of bailing out workers. And that means your tax base collapses.” We know Wall Street greed was the fuel igniting America’s current economic problems. And now, unfortunately, average Americans have “to pay for the crisis again. First, with a bailout. And now, people are paying with it again, with budget cuts.” And underneath all is the GOP’s free-market Reaganomics ideology. Wake up America, you’re losing the new Civil War to a rich class that’s lost its moral compass. Bottom line, Klein warns: “What this fight is really about is not unions versus taxpayers … It’s a fight about who’s going to pay for the crisis that was created by the wealthiest elite in this country.” Actually, it’s even worse. Because while we averted total collapse, it was only delayed, destined to return soon and finally overwhelm America. Remember Uncle Warren’s battle cry: “The rich class is winning.”
From the Tom Dispatch we learn anew (CIA taxpayer-funded activities, anyone?) (emphasis marks added - Ed.):
Imperial powers hedge their bets. The most striking recent example we have of this is in Egypt. While the Pentagon was pouring money into the Egyptian military (approximately $40 billion since 1979), it turns out - thank you, WikiLeaks! - that the U.S. government was shuttling far smaller amounts (millions, not billions) to various “American government-financed organizations” loosely connected with Congress or with the Democratic and Republican parties. Some of that money, in turn, was being invested in “democracy-building campaigns” aimed at teaching young Egyptian activists how to organize a movement against their autocratic ruler, how to make the best use of social networking sites, and so on. In other words, in Egypt (and elsewhere in the Middle East), Washington was funding both the autocrats and the young activists who opposed them and who, in Egypt, would be crucial players in the Tahrir Square movement that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak. As one of those activists told the New York Times, “While we appreciated the training we received through the NGOs sponsored by the U.S. government, and it did help us in our struggles, we are also aware that the same government also trained the state security investigative service, which was responsible for the harassment and jailing of many of us.” Meanwhile, thanks to other State Department documents WikiLeaks recently released, we know that, in at least one Middle Eastern country where Washington did not enthusiastically support the local autocrat - Syria - the State Department was channeling significant sums of money into “secretly financ[ing] . . . political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country.“ It was, in other words, preparing a new elite for a “regime change” future. Think of it as a kind of grim irony that a significant part of the Egyptian military’s high command was in northern Virginia, attending an annual U.S.-Egypt Military Cooperation Committee meeting in late January, when all hell broke loose in Tahrir Square, thanks to those Egyptian activists, some trained with Washington’s money. The creation or support of elites has, as Alfred McCoy and Brett Reilly write, always been crucial to running global empires. And yet client elites are one of those subjects seldom given much thought, even though Great Britain, for instance, ruled its Indian Raj with striking, if oppressive, efficiency for endless decades with surprisingly few personnel from England. How else, after all, could a global empire continue? And yet, as a great power’s strength and influence wane, those bets - like the one Washington placed in Egypt -- begin to go awry, from an imperial point of view.
Ya like the way they've been the real candidates of "change?"
Our "Brother Joe" Tony Sutton Editor, Joe Bageant was my brother. Not in a literal sense, of course: we came from different countries, although with similar rural backgrounds, he from Virginia, I from Lincolnshire in England. Nor do I have any need for a surrogate brother, having five real ones, including a twin. Joe was my intellectual brother: we cared about the same things, shared the same, socialist dreams and loved to articulate the thoughts that most men keep to themselves. The rhetoric did, occasionally, drift into the fanciful, such as the time he confided his plans for the future to my wife Jools and I over a well-liquored dinner at his home in Winchester, Virginia. At the time Joe was splitting his life between there and Belize, but the latter haven was becoming too small for him. “I’m off to India,” he said, “to talk to the wise and holy men in the mountains and on the plains. And, in a few years, when I die, I’m going to be cremated in a blazing barge on the Ganges.” Me? I’d be happy for my remains to be packed in a refuse bag and dumped on a wooded slope back home in England, I replied.
Me too. ______________________