Thursday, January 30, 2014

First Step: Republicans Win Food Stamp War - Nation Dies (Your Representatives Just Gave Your Winter Food Money To 'Thugs - Diaper Dave Vitter At the Helm) Thug Rule In NC Deepens? (SOTU Farce Called)

I will organize and vote against any politician who votes to hurt those at the bottom of the wealth pyramid, and especially against those who vote to cut food stamps, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

And you should too.

After all, that's the only way to counter the malicious damage being done to our country by the TeaThugs.


Conservative Dems Work With Republicans To Cut Food Stamps

Republicans Just Won the Food Stamp War

Congress is set to approve $9 billion in cuts to the food stamp program even as a record number of Americans live in poverty.

—By Erika Eichelberger

Jan. 29, 2014

On Wednesday morning, Republicans won a years-long battle over whether to slash or spare food stamps when the House passed the farm bill, a $500 billion piece of legislation that funds nutrition and agriculture programs for the next five years.

The farm bill has been delayed for more than two years because of a fight over cuts to the food stamp program, which is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Last June, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) forced a vote on a bill that would have cut $20 billion from SNAP. But conservatives said the cuts were not deep enough, Democrats said they were far too deep, and the bill failed, 234-195. That September, House Republicans drafted new legislation slashing $40 billion from the food stamp program. That bill passed the House with Republican votes only.

After months of negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Senate, which wanted much lower cuts of around $4 billion, the House finally passed a farm bill 251-166 Wednesday that contains a "compromise" $9 billion in reductions to the food stamp program.
Both the Senate and President Barack Obama are expected to approve the legislation.

Here's why the compromise level of cuts is a Republican win: In addition to the $9 billion in food stamp cuts in this five-year farm bill, another $11 billion will be slashed over three years as stimulus funding for the program expires. The first $5 billion of that stimulus money expired in October; the rest will disappear by 2016. In the months since the first $5 billion in stimulus funding was cut, food pantries have been struggling to provide enough food for the hungry. Poverty remains at record high levels, and three job applicants compete for every job opening.
And yet, despite the $5 billion in cuts that already happened and the guarantee of $6 billion more, Republicans succeeded in getting their Democratic peers to cut food stamps further. This is the first time in history that a Democratic Senate has even proposed cutting the program. Now the upper chamber is expected to pass cuts twice the level it approved last year.
"It's a net loss for Democrats," Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tells Mother Jones. "It's absolutely a GOP win," agrees a House Democratic aide.
How did the GOP do it? In November, Dems said that Boehner was interfering with House-Senate negotiations on the farm bill, rejecting proposed legislation that contained shallower food stamps cuts. (Boehner's office denies this.)
But Dems deserve much of the blame, the Democratic aide says. Last year, House liberals were scheming to get progressives to vote against any farm bill that contained SNAP cuts. The idea was that if enough progressives voted no along with the House conservatives who think the cuts are too low, Democrats could defeat the bill. In that case, food stamp funding would be preserved at current levels. A "$9 billion [cut] is too much…It hits in the gut," Rep. Gwen Moore (R-Wis.) told Mother Jones earlier this month.
When the final bill came up for a vote in the House, the Congressional Progressive Caucus advised its 76 members to vote against the bill. But not enough Dems voted to block the cuts. One hundred three Democrats voted against the farm bill, but 89 voted in favor. If 43 more Democrats had voted no, the farm bill would have failed. "Dems are . . . complicit in changing [the] law, when they could just [block the bill] and let that status quo continue," the Democratic aide says.
Democrats in the House and Senate agreed to cut nutrition aid for poor Americans because they "have shifted to the right on SNAP politically," the staffer adds. "If Dems were as absolutist as the tea party, this bill would be dead on arrival and SNAP would continue as is."
But the assault on the food stamp program "could have been much, much worse," argues Ross Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. Stacy Dean, the vice president for food assistance policy at the nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), agrees. Democrats succeeded in stripping many draconian GOP provisions from the bill. Republicans wanted to impose new work requirements on food stamp recipients; allow states to require drug testing for food stamps beneficiaries; ban ex-felons from ever receiving nutrition aid; and award states financial incentives to kick people off the program. None of those measures were in the final legislation, Dean notes.
The cuts to the food stamp program come from closing a loophole that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed needed to be addressed. A household's level of monthly food stamps benefits is determined by how much disposable income a family has after rent, utilities, and other expenses are deducted. Some states allow beneficiaries to deduct a standard utility charge from their income if they qualify for a federal heating aid program called the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, even if they only receive a few dollars per year in heating aid. The arrangement results in about 850,000 households getting a utility deduction that is much larger than their actual utility bill. Because the deduction makes these families' disposable income appear to be lower than it actually is, they get more food stamp money each month. The farm bill that passed the House on Wednesday saves $9 billion by closing that loophole.
The savings from closing the heating aid loophole could have been returned to the food stamp program. Instead, Republicans succeeded in prodding Dems to accept $9 billion in new cuts on top of the $11 billion in expiring stimulus funds. That extra $9 billion in cuts means that close to a million households will see their benefits slashed by about $90 a month—enough to pay for a week's worth of cheap groceries for a family of four.

Did you know the famous (or is that infamous?) Diaper David Vitter, the Cheater (no wonder those LA "Christians" didn't make him resign in disgrace if he'll do this for them), wants you to show ID before you can spend your now even tinier ration of food stamps? This is a particular hardship on the elderly poor. None of whom matter to these do-gooders.

You can't make this stuff up.

On Wednesday, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) introduced a bill that would force recipients of food stamps to show a valid photo ID to buy food. Anti-hunger advocates say that because many poor people cannot afford to purchase government IDs, the requirement would make it harder for low-income Americans to eat.
Vitter says the bill is designed to cut down on fraud. "Using a photo ID is standard in many day-to-day transactions, he said upon introducing the bill. "My bill will restore some accountability to the program so it's not ruined for people who use it appropriately."
But it's not that simple. Vitter's bill would also prevent many Americans from using the nutrition aid they're eligible for. "Many poor people do not have photo ID's, and it costs money they do not have to get them," Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the advocacy organization Coalition on Human Needs, told the Times-Picayune on Wednesday. "Senator Vitter's proposal will be especially tough on elderly and poor people who do not have the documents needed to get their photo ID, and who will struggle even to get to the necessary offices. They will wind up going without food."
This is just the latest assault in the long-running GOP war on the food stamp program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Last year, Vitter drafted an amendment to the Senate farm bill—the five-year legislation that funds nutrition and agriculture programs—that would ban those convicted of certain violent crimes from ever getting food stamps. The amendment, which the Senate approved, would have "strongly racially discriminatory effects," according to the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
In 2013, House Republicans passed a version of the farm bill that would cut $40 billion from the food stamps program. The House farm bill also contains GOP-backed provisions that would impose new work requirements on food stamp recipients, and that would give states financial incentives to kick people out of the program.

The final version of the farm bill, which is a compromise between the Senate and the House versions, is reported to contain $9 billion in cuts to SNAP.

North Carolina is not only at the mercy of the merciless Koch/Pope-funded ALEC troops who took over the NC General Assembly for the first time in 100 years due to the flood of Citizens United out-of-state campaign contributions, but one very slick Republican candidate (supported by Rand Paul) for the Senate race against Kay Hagen (D) is openly drawing the lines against the huge number of NC's poor people. And essentially asking the people of North Carolina to vote against their neighbors' health. Sick.

North Carolina Republican Senate candidate Greg Brannon has an interesting argument for eliminating food stamps: "slavery." In a videotaped interview with the North Carolina Tea Party in October, Brannon, a Rand Paul-endorsed doctor who is top contender for the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, cited James Madison in making the case for abolishing the Department of Agriculture — and with it, the $76 billion-a-year Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. Brannon has a real chance of winning:  A December poll from Public Policy Polling found the GOP primary field split but showed him leading Hagan, 45-43.

"We're taking our plunder, that's taken from us as individuals, [giving] it to the government, and the government is now keeping itself in power by giving these goodies away," Brannon said in the interview. "The answer is the Department of Agriculture should go away at the federal level. And now 80 percent of the farm bill was food stamps. That enslaves people. What you want to do, it's crazy but it's true, teach people to fish instead of giving them fish. When you're at the behest of somebody else, you are actually a slavery to them [sic]. That kind of charity does not make people freer."

It's something of a mixed metaphor, because Brannon is suggesting that people on food stamps are lazy, while also conflating them with a system of labor exploitation in which people were literally worked to death. (Also: Madison liked slavery.)
Food stamps aren't the only thing Brannon believes is subjecting Americans to the cruelties of the chattel system. At the RedState Gathering in November, an annual event organized by the influential conservative website, Brannon suggested that bipartisan compromises also "enslave" Americans.

Take yourselves on over to Karen's Sardonicky for a first-rate dissection of the SOTU dulcet-toned mishmash.

As soon as Obama mendaciously announced last night that fast track approval of the TransPacific Partnership* would help American entrepreneurs and small business owners create jobs for "folks," I tuned out.

Along with Noam Chomsky's advice to run for the hills whenever you hear a politician utter the word folks, I would also urge you to be wary of his bucket full of dreaded "common-sense approaches". This weasel phrase paradoxically always seems to bode ill for the commons - as in, common-sense deficit reduction, common-sense food stamp cuts, common-sense job-creating deregulation of fracking, and last night's promise of "common sense solutions to drone policy" - or if you insist on being blunt about it, the therapeutic assassinations of Muslim people by sane surgical hellfire missiles.

Barack Obama is simply using the old tried and true formula beloved of slick politicians since time immemorial. Check the polls, and determine what people are mad as hell about these days. (Hint: it's the failure of their government to protect them from the machinations of the pathologically wealthy.) Feel their pain for a minute. And then begin to oh-so-stealthily change the subject. Or, as the neoliberal elites say when they want to co-opt populist sentiment: "Shape their thinking" by changing the "terms of the debate."

And thus does the scourge and crime of unfettered capitalism and extreme wealth disparity become Obama's phony "ladders of opportunity" for increasingly desperate people to gain entry into Middle Class Nirvana. Save for retirement with your pennies. Play the trickle-down Promise Zone/charter school lottery. Work hard and play by their rules. Be afraid of terror. And above all, support the troops. Feel guilty about feeling your own sadness as the millionaires of Congress give a standing ovation to a maimed veteran who's suffered through a sadistic and unconscionable ten deployments to keep you safe and free and unquestioning. And don't forget pragmatic.

And if you do take it into your head to resist, a la Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and other government whistleblowers, along with thousands of Occupy protesters and anti-war activists, watch your dulcet-toned President turn into the Soup Nazi in a New York Minute. If you dare ask for bread to go along with your watered-down soup, you'll not only be refused. They'll raise the price even more before summarily kicking you to the curb.

nnenigma said...
Back when the corporate media was bashing the Occupy movement every night, saying it was leaderless and without a message, they suddenly changed their tune and decided it indeed did have a message which THEY had finally figured out: Income Inequality (not Corporatization and Globalization and the selling of our democracy).

Didn't we really suspect that Obama would co-opt that message and become the leader just in time for the 2014 Congressional elections? Didn't 'income inequality' sound just a little too politically palatable and useful? Never mind that Occupy was a global movement. Well he did tweak it a bit - it's now 'opportunity' but just for the middle class. Ha!Ha! though. Between then and now, Wikileaks and Michael Hastings (RIP) helped reveal some of the regime's dirty tricks at suppressing, infiltrating, and crushing the Occupy movement - and watering down the message.

Then Ed Snowden threw a bright spotlight on the NSA and the regime's surveillance of all Americans as well as the world. Poof! There went that nice convenient cohort of voters called Occupy. Poor Obama is now stuck hinting at an 'evolution' of his position on marijuana to entice the young people to get back on board. After learning more about the regime's actions against the Occupy movement, I don't think it was a fluke that Occupy protests changed in date and venue from the October Washington DC protest under activist Kevin Zeese to the September NYC version promoted with slick ads by the corporate AdBusters agency out of Vancouver, BC.

It worked out too well for the regime in so many ways - spotlight off politicians, confined and restricted spaces, heavily fortified by NYC's huge and well funded anti-terrorism police state, riffraff kept away from Obama, relieving him of having to interact personally in his own backyard, weather harsher, etc. I don't think the regime leaves anything to chance when they could do things to control it.

Good news though. Several online start-up media companies such as First Look Media will be online soon as competition not just to traditional media but to counter the propaganda fronts for the Intelligence Community. Government propaganda targeted specifically towards Americans in the United States has become legal as of July 2013, thanks to Obama signing the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, reversing a 64-year old ban on the government deploying propaganda against/on its own citizens.

We desperately need to break the hold that corporations, their politicians and government, and their media have over this country. Every voice counts - if we can get it heard. p.s. Karen, I agree. MyIRA is the privatized baby version of Social Security. They will let it mature a little before they kill off the elderly version.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rich 'Splaining? For Crazy Conservatives or Bilious Billionaires (Bromitic SOTU) Superbugs Rise: FDA Declines Stopping Antibiotic Use In Animal Feed/Even Increases It!

I've mentioned this type of rampant sociopathic behavior many times, but I can't top the words that come out of their mouths. And as far as their educational backgrounds, degrees or lack thereof? Just listen to their opinions.

You have presumably heard of Tom Perkins, though probably not before last Friday, despite the fact that he is one of the richest men in the country. It was on Friday that the Wall Street Journal published his remarkable letter to the editor, in which Perkins foresaw an anti-rich “Kristallnacht” on the near horizon. (The Kristallnacht comparison is especially odd considering that there are actual historical examples of state-sanctioned violence and destruction of property directed against elites. Predicting a progressive “Reign of Terror” would’ve been marginally less idiotic, if nearly as hyperbolic.)
Perkins, who once killed someone with his yacht, was invited to apologize for his insensitive comments in an interview with Bloomberg, a finance media company owned by and named for one of his fellow plutocrats, but he decided instead to wholly embrace the caricature of the paranoid rich kook.
When you remove the always ill-advised Nazi analogy, Perkins’ comments are indistinguishable from the sorts of things hedge fund managers and venture capitalists and executives say on CNBC literally every day.
As I, and as Josh Marshall and Joshua Green have written, the combination of the financial crash and the election of Barack Obama made a generation of billionaires lose their minds. The Perkins worldview — that the rich are under siege, that any and all government efforts to make “market outcomes” fairer represent tyranny and threaten to become actual atrocities, and that the modern Democratic Party is led not by well-off neoliberals but by frothing revolutionary leftists — is to America’s ultra-wealthy what birtherism is to rank-and-file right-wingers: a comforting paranoid fantasy that facts and reason cannot possibly hope to dispel.
One question raised by Matt Yglesias is why anyone bothers listening to deluded billionaires. People like Tom Perkins are quite good at making a lot of money, but not exactly experts in other fields. Indeed, the modern American plutocrat rarely wastes an opportunity to expose his ignorance of history, political science and even basic mainstream economics.

Numerous authors have become quite successful by making a living out of explaining science and world affairs to the executive class in language so simple that a child could grasp the basic points. Despite that ignorance, there is an entire industry built around soliciting the opinions of the wealthy on subjects unrelated to their wealth. (Some media companies see this as the prayed-for replacement for print subscriptions and advertising dollars, and have reoriented their business around conferences and similar rich-splaining events.)
But we listen to their opinions, no matter how stupid they are, because our elected officials listen to their opinions, and their jobs depend on not recognizing or acknowledging how stupid they are. It is impossible to get elected president without the backing of a cadre of multimillionaires. It is nearly impossible to get elected to the U.S. Senate without a couple in your corner. The multimillionaires and billionaires fund every effective political interest group in the country, from gun rights to gay rights groups.
What makes the wealthy persecution fantasy so risible is that our political class is responsive almost solely to the priorities and views of the rich, but the fantasy serves a purpose: It prevents Congress from actually acting to address economic inequity.
As long as the rich perceive even ineffectual social opprobrium as an existential threat, politicians will be too terrified to advance any actual redistributionist agenda. Our best hope for achieving anything on income inequality under this political system, in this climate, might be to somehow convince rich people that it’s their idea, and that we all love and admire them a great deal for coming up with it.
 — Alex Pareene

As for Obama's SOTU . . . I didn't watch it. After his action, or lack thereof, on all my personal issues (jobs exported overseas with no support for those suffering stateside, the attacks on women's issues, the health care nightmare for those without resources in states that refused to expand Medicaid coverage, etc.), I thought it the wiser course of action for my blood pressure.

Nick Gillespie at Constitutional Insurgent covers my thoughts on the Obama Wars:

The most emotionally powerful moment in Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was also its most morally dubious. The nation’s commander in chief drew attention to a wounded warrior while eliding any responsibility for placing the young man in harm’s way.

A record number of Americans – 60 percent – think the government is too powerful, says Gallup, which also finds a near record low percentage trusts the government “to do what is right.” Who can blame us? The government under Republican and Democratic presidents has spent virtually the entire 21st century sending young men and women to fight in ill-defined and unsuccessful elective wars. That’s bad enough, but then to use them as props in political speeches? That’s positively obscene.

After a typical laundry list of empty boasts (unemployment is down largely because labor force participation is tanking), fantasy policy prescriptions (“a new savings bond that encourages people to build a nest egg”?), and outright falsehoods (economic mobility has not declined), President Obama introduced America to Cory Remsburg, “a proud Army Ranger,” who “on his tenth deployment … was nearly killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan.”

Even more than economic meltdown, America’s 21st century has been defined by unfocused and ill-considered elective wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. While both were initially prosecuted in the name of preventing another 9/11 attack, 53 percent  of Americans considered Iraq a mistake by the war’s 10th anniversary and just 17 percent support the Afghanistan war. None of that seems to resonate with Obama, who unilaterally (and unconstitutionally) committed the U.S. to NATO bombing raids in Libya despite no clear national interest and was just days away from bombing Syria before public outrage and a small handful of elected officials forced him to back down last fall.

“Patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings,” Bob Dylan once sang, updating Samuel Johnson’s dark maxim. Obama’s gesture in the State of the Union will only accelerate the cynicism that already understandably dominates public opinion. There is no more serious decision that a government makes than to send its citizens (to) war. And there is nothing more disturbing than a president using soldiers’ sacrifices as a way of selling a grab-bag of domestic policy agenda items.

Nick Gillespie

Joan Walsh had a few thoughts that I felt empathy with about what I expected, what happened and what the news media reported.

Another SOTU leak revealed an internal split over whether Obama should stress “income inequality” or “opportunity,” and revealed that “opportunity” won because apparently income inequality is a big downer and sounds like class warfare. In the end, the president did mention income inequality while stressing “ladders of opportunity,” but the preliminary hype made me more sensitive to his disappointing storytelling: Obama blamed the decline of opportunity and the rise of inequality on “massive shifts in technology and global competition,” but left out the deliberate shift of wealth and power from the majority to the top 1 percent, and the deliberate dismantling of “ladders of opportunity” that began under Ronald Reagan and continue through today.
Overall, it was a well-delivered but tepid and still disappointingly cautious speech. He made a great joke about “Mad Men” policies toward women, but given the way Republicans have escalated the War on Women just this week thanks to Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul, he missed opportunities to highlight his party’s superiority, especially given the House voting for more restrictions on abortion just hours earlier.
Once again, though, as throughout his career, the president is blessed by having lame enemies. In her SOTU response, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers ironically decried government “controlling” our healthcare while of course ignoring her role in the earlier House vote on controlling women’s bodies.

We are now fated for three more years to live in a state of stasis between the rule (and care) of those who want to hurt us (for our own good, of course) and those who want to trade policies away that will help us for a small bounty of goodwill for themselves.

I rest my case.

There are other cases that will not be arrested so easily.

The ABX Files

Documents reveal that the FDA allows antibiotics in animal feed despite its own studies showing risk to human health.

  @bittelmethis • January 27, 2014

Thousands of pages of internal documents obtained from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration show that the agency has continued to allow dozens of antibiotics to be used in animal feed over the past decade — even after its own internal studies confirmed that the practice could pose a serious threat to human health.
Public health advocates have been pushing the FDA to crack down on the practice of feeding antibiotics (or ABX) to livestock, which factory farms do in large numbers in order to promote growth and keep their animals from dying in cramped, fetid conditions. The overuse of antibiotics on the farm is connected to the rise of drug-resistant superbugs, which can pass from animals to humans.
Yet the FDA has been slow to take action, and now, the documents obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council (which publishes OnEarth) show that the agency has been even more reckless than previously believed.
From 2001 to 2010, the FDA tested 30 kinds of antibiotics that have been approved for us in animal feed for decades. The products feature varieties of penicillin and tetracycline — antibiotics that are also used in human medicine. Of the 30 products, the agency found that not a single one would pass the standards it requires for approval of new additives today.
Furthermore, 18 of the products the agency tested have a “high risk” of encouraging the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the documents show. Humans can become exposed to these superbugs through vegetable or meat products, as well as through the air, water, dirt, manure, and wildlife. The risk level of the remaining 12 additives is unknown, since the drug manufacturers failed to supply enough information for the FDA investigation.
So, in light of these startling findings, what has the FDA done? Not a damn thing.
The FDA documents, which NRDC obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, come as a stark reminder of the risks associated with feeding antibiotics to livestock.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 23,000 people die each year as a result of infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. If that’s not scary enough, the continued overuse of antibiotics could render some medicines ineffective at staving off infections, making everyday illnesses and surgeries more dangerous.
And boy, are we overusing these drugs. Approximately 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States are administered to farm animals, most of which aren’t sick. (This is what’s called “nontherapeutic use” of antibiotics.) The result is an ideal setting for a strain of bacteria to evolve and become immune to an antibiotic.
The FDA has known about the risks of antibiotics in livestock since studies were first published in the 1970s, but it has declined to take action—even in the face of a lawsuit from NRDC and court rulings in the group’s favor. At this point, the agency’s only action has been to ask drug manufacturers to voluntarily stop selling them to promote the growth of livestock.
“[The FDA’s] charge is to withdraw approval from drugs that are not shown to be safe, and I think we have a good sense that these drugs are not shown to be safe at this point,” says Avinash Kar, an NRDC staff attorney.
Many countries in Europe have already responded to the emerging health crisis by banning penicillin and tetracycline for use in livestock. The European Union prohibits administering antibiotics to food animals for the purpose of encouraging growth. The FDA, though, has failed to follow its lead.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria survive the onslaught of drugs we throw at them because they are capable of rapid change. Perhaps it’s time the FDA takes a page out of the superbugs' playbook.

Like this article? Donate to NRDC to support nonprofit journalism & receive our quarterly magazine.
(OnEarth news blogger Jason Bittel contributes to Slate and serves up science for picky eaters on his website, Bittel Me This. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and two tiny wolves. (Note: wolves may be Pomeranians.) MORE STORIES )

You may have noticed there was nothing about this in the fr**king SOTU.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

(Pete Seegar Joins Band of Fascist Killers) Dr. Strangelove Proved Out? Dot-Com-Redux Aborning and GE Crops Lead To Increased Not Decreased Pesticide Use

The last of the troubadours has joined that glorious band in the ether. May they play on.

Every time I saw Pete Seegar perform or performed one of his glory songs, I felt a tear in my soul for the joyous, courageous life he pursued and his undeflectable joie de vivre (even when Dylan went "electric"). It's hard to imagine anyone following in those footsteps today, but thousands (millions?) have been moved to try.

Buoyed by his characteristically soaring spirit, the surging crowd around him and a pair of canes, Pete Seeger walked through the streets of Manhattan leading an Occupy Wall Street protest in 2011.

Though he would later admit the attention embarrassed him, the moment brought back many feelings and memories as he instructed yet another generation of young people how to effect change through song and determination - as he had done over the last seven decades as a history-sifting singer and ever-so-gentle rabble-rouser.

"Be wary of great leaders," he told The Associated Press two days after the march. "Hope that there are many, many small leaders."

The banjo-picking troubadour who sang for migrant workers, college students and star-struck presidents in a career that introduced generations of Americans to their folk music heritage died Monday at the age of 94.

. . . He learned the five-string banjo, an instrument he rescued from obscurity and played the rest of his life in a long-necked version of his own design. On the skin of Seeger's banjo was the phrase, "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender" - a nod to his old pal Guthrie, who emblazoned his guitar with "This machine kills fascists."

. . . He and Guthrie also toured migrant camps and union halls. He sang on overseas radio broadcasts for the Office of War Information early in World War II. In the Army, he spent 3 1/2 years in Special Services, entertaining soldiers in the South Pacific, and made corporal.

. . . "The sociology professor said, 'Don't think that you can change the world. The only thing you can do is study it,'" Seeger said in October 2011.

. . . "Can't prove a damn thing, but I look upon myself as old grandpa," Seeger told the AP in 2008 when asked to reflect on his legacy. "There's not dozens of people now doing what I try to do, not hundreds, but literally thousands. ... The idea of using music to try to get the world together is now all over the place."

Hello to the Pete Seegar millions.

Let's start singing!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

I know I must sound like that "been there, done that" cliché sometimes, but I just have to mention that I showed the video of Dr. Strangelove to my class in Business Administration several months after 9/11/01 because I wanted them to be aware of the history of what could go wrong in war as the U.S. prepared to invade Afghanistan (and later Iraq) and how the hubris of political leaders and the military had been depicted in movies, most brilliantly by Stanley Kubrick and Terry Southern with Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, James Earl Jones and Slim Pickens, riding that missile! I was a figure of some controversy because of my unpopular seminar-of-40-students teaching style, but I thought it was important to make that statement at that time and in that way. It wasn't my only way of urging my students to think for themselves.

I still think it was a pretty good choice.

Almost Everything in "Dr. Strangelove" Was True

By Eric Schlosser

The New Yorker

25 January 14

Despite public assurances that everything was fully under control, in the winter of 1964, while "Dr. Strangelove" was playing in theatres and being condemned as Soviet propaganda, there was nothing to prevent an American bomber crew or missile launch crew from using their weapons against the Soviets. Kubrick had researched the subject for years, consulted experts, and worked closely with a former R.A.F. pilot, Peter George, on the screenplay of the film. George's novel about the risk of accidental nuclear war, "Red Alert," was the source for most of "Strangelove" 's plot.

Unbeknownst to both Kubrick and George, a top official at the Department of Defense had already sent a copy of "Red Alert" to every member of the Pentagon's Scientific Advisory Committee for Ballistic Missiles. At the Pentagon, the book was taken seriously as a cautionary tale about what might go wrong. Even Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara privately worried that an accident, a mistake, or a rogue American officer could start a nuclear war.

Coded switches to prevent the unauthorized use of nuclear weapons were finally added to the control systems of American missiles and bombers in the early nineteen-seventies. The Air Force was not pleased, and considered the new security measures to be an insult, a lack of confidence in its personnel. Although the Air Force now denies this claim, according to more than one source I contacted, the code necessary to launch a missile was set to be the same at every Minuteman site: 00000000.

. . . The security measures now used to control America's nuclear weapons are a vast improvement over those of 1964. But, like all human endeavors, they are inherently flawed. The Department of Defense's Personnel Reliability Program is supposed to keep people with serious emotional or psychological issues away from nuclear weapons - and yet two of the nation's top nuclear commanders were recently removed from their posts. Neither appears to be the sort of calm, stable person you want with a finger on the button. In fact, their misbehavior seems straight out of "Strangelove."

Vice Admiral Tim Giardina, the second-highest-ranking officer at the U.S. Strategic Command-the organization responsible for all of America's nuclear forces--was investigated last summer for allegedly using counterfeit gambling chips at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa. According to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, "a significant monetary amount" of counterfeit chips was involved. Giardina was relieved of his command on October 3, 2013.

A few days later, Major General Michael Carey, the Air Force commander in charge of America's intercontinental ballistic missiles, was fired for conduct "unbecoming an officer and a gentleman." According to a report by the Inspector General of the Air Force, Carey had consumed too much alcohol during an official trip to Russia, behaved rudely toward Russian officers, spent time with "suspect" young foreign women in Moscow, loudly discussed sensitive information in a public hotel lounge there, and drunkenly pleaded to get onstage and sing with a Beatles cover band at La Cantina, a Mexican restaurant near Red Square. Despite his requests, the band wouldn't let Carey onstage to sing or to play the guitar.

While drinking beer in the executive lounge at Moscow's Marriott Aurora during that visit, General Carey made an admission with serious public-policy implications. He off-handedly told a delegation of U.S. national-security officials that his missile-launch officers have the "worst morale in the Air Force." Recent events suggest that may be true. In the spring of 2013, nineteen launch officers at Minot Air Force base in North Dakota were decertified for violating safety rules and poor discipline. In August, 2013, the entire missile wing at Malmstrom Air Force base in Montana failed its safety inspection.

Last week, the Air Force revealed that thirty-four launch officers at Malmstrom had been decertified for cheating on proficiency exams - and that at least three launch officers are being investigated for illegal drug use. The findings of a report by the RAND Corporation, leaked to the A.P., were equally disturbing. The study found that the rates of spousal abuse and court martials among Air Force personnel with nuclear responsibilities are much higher than those among people with other jobs in the Air Force. "We don't care if things go properly," a launch officer told RAND. "We just don't want to get in trouble."

The most unlikely and absurd plot element in "Strangelove" is the existence of a Soviet "Doomsday Machine." The device would trigger itself, automatically, if the Soviet Union were attacked with nuclear weapons. It was meant to be the ultimate deterrent, a threat to destroy the world in order to prevent an American nuclear strike. But the failure of the Soviets to tell the United States about the contraption defeats its purpose and, at the end of the film, inadvertently causes a nuclear Armageddon. "The whole point of the Doomsday Machine is lost," Dr. Strangelove, the President's science adviser, explains to the Soviet Ambassador, "if you keep it a secret!"

A decade after the release of "Strangelove," the Soviet Union began work on the Perimeter system--a network of sensors and computers that could allow junior military officials to launch missiles without oversight from the Soviet leadership. Perhaps nobody at the Kremlin had seen the film. Completed in 1985, the system was known as the Dead Hand. Once it was activated, Perimeter would order the launch of long-range missiles at the United States if it detected nuclear detonations on Soviet soil and Soviet leaders couldn't be reached. Like the Doomsday Machine in "Strangelove," Perimeter was kept secret from the United States; its existence was not revealed until years after the Cold War ended.

In retrospect, Kubrick's black comedy provided a far more accurate description of the dangers inherent in nuclear command-and-control systems than the ones that the American people got from the White House, the Pentagon, and the mainstream media.

"This is absolute madness, Ambassador," President Merkin Muffley says in the film, after being told about the Soviets' automated retaliatory system. "Why should you build such a thing?" Fifty years later, that question remains unanswered, and "Strangelove" seems all the more brilliant, bleak, and terrifyingly on the mark.

Ready for another Dot-Com-Bazomb?

Me neither.

This month marks the 17th anniversary of Alan Greenspan’s first mention of “irrational exuberance.” It was Dec. 5, 1996. Greenspan was then enthroned as the paterfamilias of our economy, delivering a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Those words, “irrational exuberance,” were meant as a warning to investors, who, at the time (thanks in part to the Internet), were playing day trader with the family savings account. Greenspan, prone to coining neologisms for phenomena in the equities markets, would later mint the wondrously descriptive metaphor “froth in the market.” But that wasn’t until the shit had finally hit the fan.
Where are we now? Barely a decade removed from the dot-com crash, and there are signs that the froth has returned. Have we learned any lessons?
There is a new bubble enlarging before our eyes. You don’t have to take my word for it. “Back East, the Wall Street money is starting to worry that it feels like 1999 all over again. Money-losing technology companies are going public at you’ve-got-to-be-joking prices,” wrote the New York TimesNick Bilton before Thanksgiving. “The founders of Snapchat are getting multibillion-dollar offers — and turning them down. Is this time different? Out in Silicon Valley, many insist it is. But for the average investor, there are reasons for caution.”
Beware of this new bubble; it casts a long cultural shadow, unimaginable in the dot-com heyday. You see, the Web in 1999 was still in its infancy. Abroad in Spain, its availability was sporadic, unreliable. Applications were abstractions. Covering tech back then was the drudge work of scribing pieces on infrastructure investments in esoteric things like 3G spectrums. Hardly sexy, especially to a 24-year-old reporter trying to make his mark. So when sexy came, I was all too willing to lionize my share of companies and their market-making potential.
Web entrepreneurs today now enjoy the sine qua non of Internet infrastructure and mobile connectivity that their predecessors from ’99 could only dream of. Investment in the “pipes” of the Internet — combined with the arrival of devices that expedite and encourage access to it (iPhones, iPads) — paved the way for porn to play effortlessly on flip phones, and aided our digital fetishes of all varieties. Want to know the weather? There’s an app. Want a taxi? There’s Uber. Want a doctor? Soon there will be an app for that too.
Still don’t buy it? Imagine spending $3 billion on a Tibetan sand mandala: Buddhist  monks construct  intricate designs from colored sand – and destroy them once finished, a flourish to underscore the life’s impermanence. Now, in Snapchat, there’s an app for that. (From a Stanford grad, of course.) Once viewed, a message in Snapchat will disappear, much like the drawings in Tibet. Any image, no matter how scandalous it might be, vanishes forever.
This unicorn, Snapchat — which Facebook tried to buy last fall for $3 billion – is all the rage among millennials and punch-drunk techno-hedonists, having grown at a feverish pace. However, despite its exploding user base, the company still doesn’t have  an especially compelling answer to one very basic question: How will you make money? Meanwhile, tech reports expound on the “warrior mentality” of its young founder. Hmm …
* * *
As a graduate of the media class of the original dot-com crash, I feel much like T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock, who declares, “I am Lazarus, come from the dead, come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all.”
Well, I want to tell you all that we remain etherized, because our technology today is so enameled in “cool.” We love, of course, the Valley’s Bauhaus aesthetics, clever apps and manifest destiny expansionism. The technology industry is churning out these remarkable inventions at such a torrid pace that Silicon Valley is a de facto appellation that confers automatic cool and prestige.
These days, however, the products are not the end of the story. Newly minted millennial billionaires are willing to deploy their fortunes for activism – political and moral – a theme George Packer examined so well in the New Yorker last spring. And the media, much as in 1999, is more than willing to chronicle their fervor, and their “change the world or bust” coda. Today’s techno-visionaries have another tailwind  at their backs that their dot-com predecessors did not: cyber-topians.
Many in today’s financial press are doing a fine job as present-day pasticheurs of dot-com era vanity. But why? Why their reluctance to deliver real, incisive business journalism? Why give a free ride to the Mark Zuckerbergs and Marissa Mayers of the Valley? Well, to put it simply: For these journalists, it’s simply more fun to write “features” rather than do the hard work of writing hard news.
I could, if necessary, refer to the Vogue spread on Mayer in August; the juicy bits about how she made excel sheets to document her favorite cupcake recipes, or how she slips quietly upstairs mid-party, her “CEO exit”; the 3-foot tall frog statues in her backyard (“sprinkled,” the piece goes, with Mozart concertos).

Of course, Vogue could have nested this trivia within a candid portrait of  Mayer’s  Yahoo tenure, major accomplishments being: redesigning the corporate logo; overseeing the development of what Vogue calls “a gorgeous new weather App”; and the $1 billion acquisition of Tumblr — yet another Web platform without a revenue stream and a vaporous business model, which, in Yahoo’s earnings statements, was revealed to have been valued at around $750 million in goodwill. (In other words: Mayer assessed its potential value at nearly $1 billion.) Unfortunately, goodwill does not sustain jobs. Then again, bad press does not sell fashion magazines.
I could likewise refer to Forbes’ feature on Elon Musk last spring. An ideal way to ensure that you gain entrée for future interview requests with a billionaire is to do a piece that fawns like so:

I ask Musk if he has a dog. Yes, he says, two. But no dish, leashes, or chew toys are in sight.
As he drives to work—his Montblanc aviators, retrieved from the floor of the Lotus-bodied coupe, perched on his nose — we talk about his favorite drives (he favors Highway 1, unsurprisingly), his favorite music (when not rocking to Robbie Williams, he’s more a Beatles-and–Pink Floyd classic-rock man), and his favorite cars (the 1967 Jag E-Type is “like a bad girlfriend — very dysfunctional”).
We remain, nevertheless, tantalized by the tinsel of our time’s toys, our neighbor’s new Tesla, by apple-cheeked boy wonders.
Like Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire’s “Candide,” some claim that we live in the “best of all possible worlds.” We live, it’s true, amid a period of perpetual and  impressive disruption that will effect a great many advancements. The nanolennials who will eventually spring from the loins of millennials (will there be enough quinoa and chai left in the world for them?) will have some big shoes to fill if we go  on applying Moore’s law to humanity, believing we can ascend Maslow’s pyramid of needs with every new app or software update. To think that with technology we can render the pain from life is folly.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, however, has devoted his entire professional career to disintermediating humankind from inconvenience, the last painful pangs of the analog era. “If you go back in time 18 years, I was driving the packages to the post office myself, and we were very primitive,” said Bezos to Charlie Rose. Soon, our Amazon orders shall arrive by drone.
Yet, having lived through the mad rush to technologize once before, having chronicled that era’s astounding failures, I would now rather we live with the buffer of those painful, precious, uncharted 18 minutes – to ponder, to imagine, to think. Free time, however, being the archenemy, Bezos, I’m guessing, would have us spend those 18 minutes some other way, someplace less taxing on our spirits, hypnotically shopping online, so that we do not have to remember this verse from the Book of Wisdom:

What has been will be again,
What has been done will be done again;
There is nothing new under the sun.

The new world is upcoming.

Stay connected?

Genetic Engineering Actually INCREASES Pesticide Use, DECREASES Crop Yield, And May Be Dangerous to Your Health

Posted on January 27, 2014


Genetic Engineering Companies Promised Reduced Pesticide Use … But GE Crops Have Led to a 25% Increase In Herbicide Use

One of the main selling points for genetically engineered crops is that they would use substantially less pesticides than conventional crops.

Because of that, and other, promises regarding GE crops, they have taken over much of the food crops in America. For example:

  • The USDA reports that 93% of all soy and 85% of all corn grown in the U.S. is an herbicide-resistant GE variety
  • Similarly, around 93% of all cottonseed oil and more than 90% of all canola oil produced in the U.S. is herbicide-resistant GE
However, it turns out that GE crops need a lot more herbicides than conventional ones.

Washington State University Charles Benbrook – former Executive Director of the Board on Agriculture at the National Academy of Sciences and, before that, Executive Director of the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Research, and Foreign Agriculture, U.S. House of Representatives – published a study showing:

Contrary to often-repeated claims that today’s genetically-engineered crops have, and are reducing pesticide use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied. If new genetically engineered forms of corn and soybeans tolerant of 2,4-D are approved, the volume of 2,4-D sprayed [background] could drive herbicide usage upward by another approximate 50%.

Largely because of the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds, HR crop technology has led to a 239 million kg (527 million pound) increase in herbicide use across the three major GE-HR crops, compared to what herbicide use would likely have been in the absence of HR crops.

Washington State University explains:

Herbicide-tolerant crops worked extremely well in the first few years of use, but over-reliance led to shifts in weed communities and the emergence of resistant weeds that have, together, forced farmers to incrementally –

  • Increase herbicide application rates (especially glyphosate),
  • Spray more often, and
  • Add new herbicides that work through an alternate mode-of-action into their spray programs.
Each of these responses has, and will continue to contribute to the steady rise in the volume of herbicides applied per acre of HT corn, cotton, and soybeans.

HT crops have increased herbicide use by 527 million pounds over the 16-year period (1996-2011). The incremental increase per year has grown steadily from 1.5 million pounds in 1999, to 18 million five years later in 2003, and 79 million pounds in 2009. In 2011, about 90 million more pounds of herbicides were applied than likely in the absence of HT, or about 24% of total herbicide use on the three crops in 2011.

Today’s major GE crops have increased overall pesticide use by 404 million pounds from 1996 through 2011 (527 million pound increase in herbicides, minus the 123 million pound decrease in insecticides). Overall pesticide use in 2011 was about 20% higher on each acre planted to a GE crop, compared to pesticide use on acres not planted to GE crops.

There are now two-dozen weeds resistant to glyphosate, the major herbicide used on HT crops, and many of these are spreading rapidly. Millions of acres are infested with more than one glyphosate-resistant weed. The presence of resistant weeds drives up herbicide use by 25% to 50%, and increases farmer-weed control costs by at least as much.

The biotechnology-seed-pesticide industry’s primary response to the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds is development of new HT varieties resistant to multiple herbicides, including 2,4-D and dicamba. These older phenoxy herbicides pose markedly greater human health and environmental risks per acre treated than glyphosate. Approval of corn tolerant of 2,4-D is pending, and could lead to an additional 50% increase in herbicide use per acre on 2,4-D HT corn.
Science Daily notes:

“Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and they are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent,” Benbrook said.
Forbes points out:

A new study released by Food & Water Watch yesterday finds the goal of reduced chemical use has not panned out as planned.  In fact, according to the USDA and EPA data used in the report, the quick adoption of genetically engineered crops by farmers has increased herbicide use over the past 9 years in the U.S.  The report follows on the heels of another such study  by Washington State University research professor Charles Benbrook just last year.

Both reports focus on “superweeds.” It turns out that spraying a pesticide repeatedly selects for weeds which also resist the chemical.  Ever more resistant weeds are then  bred, able to withstand increasing amounts – and often different forms – of herbicide.

GE Crops Have Reduced Crop Productivity

GE food manufacturers also promised an increase in crop productivity.  Indeed, that was a giant selling point for GE foods.

That claim has been debunked as well …

The Independent noted in 2008:

Genetic modification actually cuts the productivity of crops, an authoritative new study shows, undermining repeated claims that a switch to the controversial technology is needed to solve the growing world food crisis.

The study – carried out over the past three years at the University of Kansas in the US grain belt – has found that GM soya produces about 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent, contradicting assertions by advocates of the technology that it increases yields

Professor Barney Gordon, of the university’s department of agronomy, said he started the research – reported in the journal Better Crops – because many farmers who had changed over to the GM crop had “noticed that yields are not as high as expected even under optimal conditions”. He added: “People were asking the question ‘how come I don’t get as high a yield as I used to?’”


The new study confirms earlier research at the University of Nebraska, which found that another Monsanto GM soya produced 6 per cent less than its closest conventional relative, and 11 per cent less than the best non-GM soya available.

A similar situation seems to have happened with GM cotton in the US, where the total US crop declined even as GM technology took over.

Last week the biggest study of its kind ever conducted – the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development – concluded that GM was not the answer to world hunger.

Professor Bob Watson, the director of the study and chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, when asked if GM could solve world hunger, said: “The simple answer is no.”
Scientific American reported in 2009:

Proponents argue that GM crops  can help feed the world. And given ever increasing demands for food, animal feed, fiber and now even biofuels, the world needs all the help it can get.

Unfortunately, it looks like GM corn and soybeans won’t help, after all.
The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote the same year:

For years the biotechnology industry has trumpeted that it will feed the world, promising that its genetically engineered crops will produce higher yields.

That promise has proven to be empty …. [A UCS report] reviewed two dozen academic studies of corn and soybeans, the two primary genetically engineered food and feed crops grown in the United States. Based on those studies, the UCS report concludes that genetically engineering herbicide-tolerant soybeans and herbicide-tolerant corn has not increased yields. Insect-resistant corn, meanwhile, has improved yields only marginally. The increase in yields for both crops over the last 13 years, the report finds, was largely due to traditional breeding or improvements in agricultural practices.

The report does not discount the possibility of genetic engineering eventually contributing to increase crop yields. It does, however, suggest that it makes little sense to support genetic engineering at the expense of  technologies that have proven to substantially increase yields, especially in many developing countries. In addition, recent studies have shown that organic and similar farming methods that minimize the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers can more than double crop yields at little cost to poor farmers in such developing regions as Sub-Saharan Africa.

The report recommends that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state agricultural agencies, and universities increase research and development for proven approaches to boost crop yields. Those approaches should include modern conventional plant breeding methods, sustainable and organic farming, and other sophisticated farming practices that do not require farmers to pay significant upfront costs. The report also recommends that U.S. food aid organizations make these more promising and affordable alternatives available to farmers in developing countries.

“If we are going to make headway in combating hunger due to overpopulation and climate change, we will need to increase crop yields,” said Gurian-Sherman. “Traditional breeding outperforms genetic engineering hands down.”
And Mother Jones pointed out:

In a new paper (PDF) funded by the US Department of Agriculture, University of Wisconsin researchers have essentially negated the “more food” argument as well. The researchers looked at data from UW test plots that compared crop yields from various varieties of hybrid corn, some genetically modified and some not, between 1990 and 2010. While some GM varieties delivered small yield gains, others did not. Several even showed lower yields than non-GM counterparts. With the exception of one commonly used trait—a Bt type designed to kill the European corn borer—the authors conclude, “we were surprised not to find strongly positive transgenic yield effects.” Both the glyphosate-tolerant (Roundup Ready) and the Bt trait for corn rootworm caused yields to drop.

Then there’s the question of so-called “stacked-trait” crops—that is, say, corn engineered to contain multiple added genes—for example, Monsanto’s “Smart Stax” product, which contains both herbicide-tolerant and pesticide-expressing genes. The authors detected what they call “gene interaction” in these crops—genes inserted into them interact with each other in ways that affect yield, often negatively. If multiple genes added to a variety didn’t interact, “the [yield] effect of stacked genes would be equal to the sum of the corresponding single gene effects,” the authors write. Instead, the stacked-trait crops were all over the map. “We found strong evidence of gene interactions among transgenic traits when they are stacked,” they write. Most of those effects were negative—i.e., yield was reduced.

Overall, the report uncovers evidence of what is known as “yield drag”—the idea that manipulating the genome of a plant variety causes unintended changes in the way it grows, causing it to be less productive.

Here’s how the authors of a major paper published in Nature  [one of the world's leading science journals] last year put it:

Soils managed with organic methods have shown better water-holding capacity and water infiltration rates and have produced higher yields than conventional systems under drought conditions and excessive rainfall.

Potential Health Effects of GE Foods

Monsanto and other GE producers claim GE foods are safe.

But genetically engineered foods have been linked to obesity, cancer, liver failure, infertility and all sorts of other diseases (brief, must-watch videos here and here).

And genetically-engineered meat isn’t even tested for human safety.

But government agencies like the FDA go to great lengths to cover up the potential health damage from genetically modified foods, and to keep the consumer in the dark about what they’re really eating.  (Indeed, the largest German newspaper – Süddeutsche Zeitung – alleges that the U.S. government helped Monsanto attack the computers of activists opposed to genetically modified food.)

The EPA recently raised the allowable amount of a glyphosate – the main ingredient in Monsanto’s toxic Roundup – by 3,000% … pretending that it won’t have adverse health effects.

And – as noted above – the EPA is leaning towards approving corn specially engineered to tolerate the highly-toxic herbicide 2,4-D.   Ironically, Monsanto has proposed this new “Agent Orange corn” to combat the superweeds caused by the use of Monsanto’s Roundup-ready GE crops.
What could possibly go wrong?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

(Davos Disaster?) Koch Plot Thickens/Global Economic Meltdown Coming (Fukushima Secrecy Syndrome Pervades World, The FBI Out-CIA's the CIA (The FBI as Outlier - The New Untouchables))


HSBC Bank on Verge of Collapse: Second Major Banking Crash Imminent

Do the Kochs need more victories?

Are they still feeling a little bit left out?

Still not enough control of all the world's resources?

Do we really need an answer?

f the Koch brothers' political operation seemed ambitious in 2010 or 2012, wait for what's in store for 2014 and beyond.

The billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch are convening some of the country's richest Republican donors on Sunday at a resort near Palm Springs, Calif., to raise millions of dollars for efforts to shape the political landscape for years to come.

It's the cash that can possibly kick Democrats out of the Senate majority this fall and shape the philosophy and agenda of the GOP conference - not to mention the 2016 presidential field.

The Koch political operation has become among the most dominant forces in American politics, rivaling even the official Republican Party in its ability to shape policy debates and elections. But it's mostly taken a piecemeal approach, sticking to its sweet spots, while leaving other tasks to outsiders, or ad hoc coalitions of allies.

That's changing. This year, the Kochs' close allies are rolling out a new, more integrated approach to politics. That includes wading into Republican primaries for the first time to ensure their ideal candidates end up on the ticket, and also centralizing control of their network to limit headache-inducing freelancing by affiliated operatives.

Billionaires think you are not understanding their actions correctly.

So stop it.

Or they'll get you (and your little job).

And no matter what anyone says, these greedocraps are hardly oblivious to the anger directed at them as even the wealthiest are more than likely to strike out at the poor who dare to question their ownership.

The world looks different from (the) rarified altitude of a billionaire. Especially if you’re one of the 85 richest who control more wealth than the 3.5 billion poorest.

. . . You guys already own half the planet. Keep up the good work, getting richer, by the end of this century your family could be one of the world’s 11 trillionaires predicted in the new Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report. Capitalism is the ticket to owning everything.

Cruising at 51,000 feet, Mach 0.85 in your $40 million Gulfstream jet, you know the world belongs to you. A few days at the World Economic Forum in historic Davos, Europe’s highest city, high in the Swiss Alps, and your world seemed even bigger. Roots in the Higher Middle Ages. Fabulous ski resort.

. . . But bottom line: for 1,500 business and financial types at Davos, many whose firms are permanent members, just one new contact can justify the quarter million often spent belonging to the exclusive Davos Forum. Yes, up at their altitude, the world really does looks different.

Billionaires aren’t ‘Curious Capitalists,’ they just want to make more money.

The truth is, for 43 years Davos has been a private club for capitalists that has had more to do with increasing economic inequality than any other global organization.

We know Pope Francis has already made global inequality and the end of free-market, trickle-down capitalism the rock upon which his papacy stands as the leader of the 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. He has stated unequivocally that “inequality is the root of social ills” and will only be resolved by “rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation.”

He warned that “no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems” until capitalism is rejected.

Worse, violence, war and revolution follow as capitalism has increased inequality repressing many, says Al Jazeera News. Quoting from an Oxram global report: “Disparities in wealth and income result from ‘political capture,’ in which the wealthy use their economic power to make sure the rules bend to favor the rich, often to the detriment of everyone else. The consequences include the erosion of democratic governance, the pulling apart of social cohesion, and the vanishing of equal opportunities for all.”

Inequality is also emerging as a political force in America, echoing the growing power of a new collective conscience against capitalism.

. . . The Davos Forums were founded in 1971. An earlier feel-good mantra: “Committed to improving the state of the world.” This year’s mantra: “Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business.” The WEF is a neutral zone, observing “profound political, economic, social and, above all, technological forces are transforming our lives, communities and institutions.” Yes, typical Swiss neutrality in the midst of war, and profiting from it.

Paradoxically, global inequality has gotten worse in the years since WEF was founded. Why? Because it exists as a club for capitalists. A few years ago we warned that WEF is “failing. In 40 years the Haves got richer. Have-nots got shafted. Something’s terribly wrong. When it comes to global economics, Davos really is a disaster. Their economics a disaster. Capitalism a disaster. The Davos’ world view is a disaster.”

That was 2011: And unfortunately, “the Super Rich cannot see this reality as they metaphorically cruise along at 50,000 feet or hobnob with world leaders and celebs searching for another deal. They can’t even see the risks at Davos.

Today’s billionaires, tomorrow’s trillionaires, all live in a culture that breeds blindness, a culture with a collective brain brilliantly explained by a 30-year-old former Wall Street hedge fund trader in his recent New York Times piece. His last bonus was only $3.6 million and he “was angry because it wasn’t big enough.” He was in it to become a billionaire.

His description of Wall Street’s addictive brain is classic. Tells you why capitalism can’t stop, will eventually self-destruct and take the world with it: “Not only was I not helping to fix any problems in the world, but I was profiting from them. During the market crash in 2008, I’d made a ton of money by shorting the derivatives of risky companies. As the world crumbled, I profited. I’d seen the crash coming, but instead of trying to help the people it would hurt the most, people who didn’t have a million dollars in the bank, I’d made money off it.”

“In the end, it was actually my absurdly wealthy bosses who helped me see the limitations of unlimited wealth. I was in a meeting with one of them, and a few other traders, and they were talking about the new hedge-fund regulations. Most everyone on Wall Street thought they were a bad idea. ‘But isn’t it better for the system as a whole?’ I asked. The room went quiet, and my boss shot me a withering look. I remember his saying, ‘I don’t have the brain capacity to think about the system as a whole. All I’m concerned with is how this affects our company.’ Myopic, greedy narcissists.

As long as this addictive mind-set controls the collective brain of global capitalism, the war between capitalism and inequality will get more and more intense, exploding into violence and revolutions against the Super Rich.

I'm thinking that we all should have been at Davos as the money-making opportunities elsewhere have been very slight, and according to the latest data, they are getting to be nonexistent. Because of Davos and its offshoots.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

"20 Early Warning Signs That We Are Approaching A Global Economic Meltdown"

by Michael Snyder, The Economic Collapse Blog

"Have you been paying attention to what has been happening in Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Ukraine, Turkey and China?  If you are like most Americans, you have not been.  Most Americans don't seem to really care too much about what is happening in the rest of the world, but they should.  In major cities all over the globe right now, there is looting, violence, shortages of basic supplies, and runs on the banks.  We are not at a "global crisis" stage yet, but things are getting worse with each passing day.  For a while, I have felt that 2014 would turn out to be a major "turning point" for the global economy, and so far that is exactly what it is turning out to be.  The following are 20 early warning signs that we are rapidly approaching a global economic meltdown . . .

And I have not even mentioned the extreme drought that has caused the U.S. cattle herd to drop to a 61 year low or the nuclear radiation from Fukushima that is washing up on the west coast.

In light of everything above, is there anyone out there that still wants to claim that "everything is going to be okay" for the global economy?

Sadly, most Americans are not even aware of most of these things. All over the country today, the number one news headline is about Justin Bieber.  The mainstream media is absolutely obsessed with celebrity scandals, and so is a very large percentage of the U.S. population. A great economic storm is rapidly approaching, and most people don't even seem to notice the storm clouds that are gathering on the horizon. In the end, perhaps we will get what we deserve as a nation.”

Far-Right Phony Intellectualism: The Secret of Dinesh D’Souza’s Success

Wingnuts obsessed with the culture war will always have a place (and credit card) for hucksters like Dinesh D'Souza

As bad as this latest news is for D’Souza, the unfortunate reality for the former Reagan administration policy analyst is that this entanglement with law enforcement is merely the latest in a long line of recent public failures. After spending much of the 1990s enjoying the financial and social benefits of being embraced by America’s right-wing ecosystem — writing in conservative magazines, speaking at conservative events, taking positions within conservative think tanks, and selling lots of books about conservatism (and the evils of liberalism) to conservative audiences — D’Souza’s had a rougher go of it in the aughts.

He was never a mainstream figure, even during his ’90s heyday, but sometime around the the latter-half of the 21st century’s first decade, D’Souza receded further and further toward the far-right fringe. If there was a single tipping point, it was probably the release of his execrable 2007 book, “The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11,” whose title tells you pretty much all you need to know. (It did give us this D’Souza interview with Colbert, though, for which we can be grateful.) That was an argument so hostile and unreasonable, so suffused with a neurotic and tribalist hatred, that it more or less negated itself with its own silliness.

D’Souza’s trip to rock bottom wasn’t a straight line, however. It’s true that he went from being a right-wing pundit with a whiff of intellectual seriousness about him to becoming just another run-of-the-mill far-right demagogue, albeit with a larger vocabulary than most. But as Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh could tell you, if you hit your marks and balance seething resentment with a carnival barker’s flair, you can make good money on the far-right fringes. A lot of it, in fact.

Best Buy exemplifies what is happening to our economy right now. And there's a very good reason.

No one has money for toys now. Or much of anything else.

If you go to a Best Buy these days, you get an odd sensation. One actually has personal space, lots of space. It used to be that massive amounts of people were hunkering down on the shopping floor.

Back then, it was also nearly impossible to get advice or ask a question of a sales clerk.

That is still a problem — even though it should be much easier now to hunt down a sales associate, since there are very few customers in the stores. The reason why this remains a frustrating problem is that, along with fewer customers, there are ever fewer sales associates on the shopping floor. That is a clear sign of the deep crisis the company is in.

A closer look at who is still frequenting the stores reveals that it is mostly young people and Latinos. Advertising hype notwithstanding, neither of those groups is known for its vast spending powers in the consumer electronics market.

This, then, is the brave new American shopping world: Those who are equipped with spending power are much more likely to frequent an Apple store when — and if — they still need something. But by and large, the baby boomers are simply shopped out. They have all the flat screen TVs, ovens, dishwashers, etc. etc. that they can imagine buying. With real product innovation slowing down in most product categories, there is little reason to buy.

Another factor is that consumer credit remains generally tight. No matter how much retail industry analysts in their cheery comments to the news media want to convince consumers otherwise, ample credit is available only to those who already have everything they need. And credit remains restricted for income groups that still have pent-up demand.

In the eternal race to squeeze out costs, it is now the former vampires — the big-box stores — that get sucked dry. In their prime, big-box stores took down many a smaller retailer, with their then superior cost structure.

They turned employees into sales associates, paid them on an hourly basis, usually with very low, if any benefits. They squeezed manufacturers with their constant demand for lower prices.

That formula worked well for a long time. But now the vampires have turned into dinosaurs. They are “so yesterday,” because they foolishly held on to the concept of physical stores and having a sales force, both major cost factors due to rent, utilities and personnel costs.

For their continuing courage to populate the local sales scene, the big-box stores actually get penalized by having to impose on their customers a surcharge in the form of the sales tax. In most U.S. states, sales tax is still not charged for online sales — even though that self-destructive trend may now be changing.

All of this pretty much adds up to the good old adage of three strikes and you are out. The key question that needs to be addressed, though, is not the commercial fate of an individual company. That is a concern mostly for its shareholders — and the remaining employees (correction: “associates”).

And how goes all the secrecy surrounding the continuing Fukushima drama?

The Fukushima Secrecy Syndrome

Ralph Nader

This handout picture taken by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on November 27, 2013 shows review mission members of the IAEA inspecting the crippled Tokyo Electric Power CO. (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in the town of Okuma in Fukushima prefecture. (photo: AFP/IAEA)

This handout picture taken by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on November 27, 2013 shows review mission members of the IAEA inspecting the crippled Tokyo Electric Power CO. (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in the town of Okuma in Fukushima prefecture. (photo: AFP/IAEA)

"Last month, the ruling Japanese coalition parties quickly rammed through Parliament a state secrets law. We Americans better take notice. Under its provisions the government alone decides what are state secrets and any civil servants who divulge any 'secrets' can be jailed for up to 10 years. Journalists caught in the web of this vaguely defined law can be jailed for up to 5 years."

Government officials have been upset at the constant disclosures of their laxity by regulatory officials before and after the Fukushima nuclear power disaster in 2011, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

Week after week, reports appear in the press revealing the seriousness of the contaminated water flow, the inaccessible radioactive material deep inside these reactors and the need to stop these leaking sites from further poisoning the land, food and ocean. Officials now estimate that it could take up to 40 years to clean up and decommission the reactors.

Other factors are also feeding this sure sign of a democratic setback. Militarism is raising its democracy-menacing head, prompted by friction with China over the South China Sea. Dismayingly, U.S. militarists are pushing for a larger Japanese military budget. China is the latest national security justification for our "pivot to East Asia" provoked in part by our military-industrial complex.

Draconian secrecy in government and fast-tracking bills through legislative bodies are bad omens for freedom of the Japanese press and freedom to dissent by the Japanese people. Freedom of information and robust debate (the latter cut off sharply by Japan's parliament in December 5, 2013) are the currencies of democracy.

There is good reason why the New York Times continues to cover the deteriorating conditions in the desolate, evacuated Fukushima area. Our country has licensed many reactors here with the same designs and many of the same inadequate safety and inspection standards. Some reactors here are near earthquake faults with surrounding populations which cannot be safely evacuated in case of serious damage to the electric plant. The two Indian Point aging reactors that are 30 miles north of New York City are a case in point.

The less we are able to know about the past and present conditions of Fukushima, the less we will learn about atomic reactors in our own country.


# reiverpacific 2014-01-25 11:48

The whole Nuke industry is riddled with corruption.

I think I've mentioned this before but it still bears repeating as Fukushima roils and bubbles away across the Pacific, that I worked for a while on a Civil Engineering project with a former nuclear engineering inspector who was warned, then fired by his employer Westinghouse for repeatedly pointing out huge discrepancies in the plans and specs on a plant, and contractors take shortcuts in the construction process constantly.

Yet we keep entrusting these so-called highly-qualified and well-paid "specialists" with not only we and our children's safety but the future of life on the planet.

Japan has never been the most transparent nation in it's affairs, is plagued with government corruption and seems to be mostly conformist-centric, will do almost anything to "save face", so the continual whitewashing of it's disastrous nuclear menace and now this punitive secrecy blanket is further proof that "All governments lie but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out" as Izzy Stone put it.

They must be chokin' on their own stoner-smoke by now, like the NSA over here!

These are the REAL criminals - not Snowden, Assange and Manning.

# DeadlyClear

Too bad the LA Times hasn't the journalistic integrity that NY Times is reporting - because the west coast is being bombarded with dead sea life animals and it really suspicious... However, there are no reports issued, no CDC or DOH hotlines - nada, no nothing. Best thing the west coast and Pacific islanders can do is get Canary 100 and test for radiation and start reporting it.

# Mermaid19

I am not clear on why all the secrecy. Does greed take over human life, the life of our children, the life of future generations. Seems like the whole globe needs to be focused on this one. Are we truly on the road to self-destructio n. Guess the ones who are stopping the progress have a one way ticket to Mars and the hell with the rest of us. Very confusing to me that more people are not speaking up and why our President and our Media is so silent around this. This is a VERRRRRY SERIOUS ISSUE for all of us.

# Vardoz

We know that Fukushima is spreading radiation across the US. It is clear that mankind is unable to manage this industry and make sure we are safe. We have met our enemy and it is us. Radiation kills for generations. it travels everywhere into our air, food and water - Already fetus' are getting cancer in the womb as reported by Children's Hospital in Boston. And the stupid GOP is up in arms about abortion. They are the abortion! This is really bad this is why their is so much silence. Go to to see what you are being esposed to. Get a geiger counter. This is a catastrophie beyond words and the international community is not taking action to contain it. We are all living with this horrible contamination and as one doctor just told me we will all eventually die of cancer. This is the result of exposer to constant contact to radioactive emissions. I wish God could help us but God is the one that ignores you when you really need help. i have called my reps over and over but the deed is done and we can only hope we can live to a fairly old age and our children can too and species can also live on.

# Charles3000

Fukushima is a full melt down that has been discussed as a possibility since since these plants were first built. The fuel core has melted through all the en-casements into the earth. No one understands what will happen, only that it will happen over a very long time, years, maybe decades. This story will be there for a long time and we will eventually learn (the hard way) the results of a nuclear melt down.

# oakes721

It is the silence of shame. Deepest denial plagues the race that allows these festering toothaches to rule and ruin this Earth. We are witnessing the loss of Paradise ~ and they can only think of ways to shut up our voices and blind the eyes that see them for what they are.

And all the questions about the integrity of the FBI?

Interview with Criminologist on the FBI: The New Untouchables

By David J. Krajicek

Jan. 17, 2014
If the FBI has figured out how and why one or more of its agents shot and killed a key witness to the Boston Marathon bombing during an interrogation last May 22, it isn’t rushing to tell anyone. As of this writing, the Bureau has been investigating itself for 237 days. FBI officials boasted to The New York Times that the Bureau’s “shooting incident review team” employed “an effective, time-tested process” to investigate the use of lethal force by agents. But don’t expect this FBI probe to call into question its own actions. According to the Times, in more than 150 consecutive shootings dating back to 1993 the FBI has never once found an agent at fault.

Turning a Blind Eye

In fact, the Bureau’s reports systematically omit a key piece of evidence about shootings involving its agents: “Such reports typically do not include whether an agent had been involved in any previous shootings, because they focus only on the episode in question,“ FBI officials told the Times.
What does this astonishing admission mean for the FBI’s investigation of the slaying of Ibragim Todashev in Orlando last May?

Samuel Walker, a criminologist and nationally recognized expert in police accountability, tells WhoWhatWhy that the FBI’s blind eye toward shooting patterns by its agents is “just crazy.”  Identifying such patterns is the first step toward flagging bad cops—or agents with “problems.”
The FBI’s failure to do this runs counter not only to common sense but also to “best-practice” protocols now used in police departments coast to coast. It also challenges the Bureau’s reputation as a model law enforcement agency.
FBI: We Are the Best
Forty years after J. Edgar Hoover’s mendacious tenure as FBI director ended, the Bureau continues to hold itself in the highest regard. Its website declares:

The FBI has developed a suite of capabilities that is unmatched in any other single national security agency in the world. At the same time, one common thread for the FBI through the years has been its penchant for lifting all boats in the global law enforcement and intelligence communities. Its rising tide has been a slew of institutionalized training programs and specialized courses.
But the FBI hardly needs to toot its own horn. Media toadies have been doing that for generations. Here’s an example from the New York Times in 1965:

The FBI, which has been built in Hoover’s own image, is generally acknowledged to be the finest police and investigative force in the world. It has greatly advanced the concept of law enforcement by introducing scientific methods and professional disciplines that have filtered down to precinct station houses in hundreds of cities across the country.
Could the FBI’s stonewalling on its “time-tested” investigation of the Todashev case be a tipping point? Perhaps. The Bureau’s image is being scuffed by some of its old media friends. On Jan. 7, the Boston Globe published a searing editorial – “Where’s the Explanation? – demanding that the FBI tell what it knows about the agent’s slaying of Todashev:

FBI director James B. Comey needs to understand that his agency’s credibility is on the line in its investigation into the killing of Ibragim Todashev…The FBI, which has a long track record of exonerating itself in internal inquiries into shootings by agents, has had ample time to investigate Todashev’s death. It’s unclear now what the agency is waiting for. It’s time Comey provided an explanation.
Reforming Law Enforcement
In an exclusive Q&A, we asked criminologist Walker about the basis of the FBI’s increasingly imperiled reputation.
Walker, a professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, has been studying police accountability and oversight of police agencies and officers since the mid-1970s, including major research projects funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.
He was an expert witness in the Center for Constitutional Rights’ successful federal class-action lawsuit against the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk strategy. Many of Judge Shira Scheindlin’s remedies in her recent ruling against the NYPD, including the appointment of an independent monitor, were drawn from Walker’s testimony.
Walker holds a unique position in the traditionally hidebound world of law enforcement. He is a flinty police critic who is nonetheless called upon by police departments to guide reforms. He is also a hero to those who advocate for civilian oversight of police departments.
“I’m very proud of the fact that I can speak to both sides,” says Walker, who first ventured into advocacy as a volunteer in the black voter registration drive during Mississippi’s Freedom Summer of 1964. “I think I’ve established my credibility. There’s a new generation of police commanders who understand there are things they need to do and should do, and they respect that.”
The Evolution of Policing
WhoWhatWhy: So you’re saying that police are evolving?
Walker: There are a lot of good things going on in terms of police accountability at the local level. I think the FBI is out of that. They’re not part of that world. They’re insulated.
WhoWhatWhy: What sort of “good things” are happening with municipal police?
Walker: They are becoming learning organizations. That means they learn from their own mistakes and learn from other incidents elsewhere. So for example, in the case of officer-involved shootings, one important development is that there are now two parallel investigations. One focuses on liability and discipline. Did the officer do something wrong, violate the law or violate department policy, and should discipline be the result? The second is really a policy review. Were there ways in which the shooting could have been prevented? Do we need to change our policies or possibly our training and supervision so that we can prevent these things from happening in the future?
WhoWhatWhy: So the two-track investigation has become a “best practices” model?
Walker: Yes, increasingly. And that really gets to the culture of a police department. Do they really ask tough questions about what the officer did, and are they really prepared to raise critical questions and draw conclusions that are critical of the officer and the department? That’s tough, but that’s what really needs to happen if you want to look at an incident from a policy standpoint.
WhoWhatWhy: Other trends?
Walker: Another important development is the use of early intervention systems to flag officers with problems. These systems are based on a computerized database of officer performance – instances of use of force, citizen complaints, arrest data, all of their stop data, their disciplinary record…You run the numbers and, sure enough, there’s always a small group of officers at the far end who have a higher-than-average number of problematic incidents.
WhoWhatWhy: Do you find that commanders use this information to deal with problem cops?
Walker:  Many do. Early intervention systems are really now the gold standard. They’re a powerful tool for identifying problem officers.
Learning from History
WhoWhatWhy: Let’s turn to the FBI’s remarkable record of clearing agents who shoot people. You called it suspicious that the FBI pretty much never faults an agent who shoots someone. And what about the Bureau’s assertion that the shooting history of an agent is irrelevant?
Walker: That’s a fundamental question: You look at the full record of the officer. Has the officer been involved in other questionable shootings or other questionable incidents? Those things are red flags. In that [Times] article, the FBI pointedly said that it doesn’t inquire into the agent’s record. That’s wrong. That’s just crazy.
WhoWhatWhy: The story quoted a spokesman touting the Bureau’s “effective, time-tested process” for internal investigations of agent-involved shootings, like that of Todashev last May. From what you know of the FBI’s shooting investigations, do they follow “best practices?”
Walker: They are halfway there, but I think they’re not all the way there. They have a shooting incident review team and they look at all of the action for lessons learned. But there’s a cultural issue here. Are the people on that review team really going to ask the tough questions? I’m not really sure of that. I’m a little skeptical of the FBI just because of its cultural history, its rather legendary history of not being that critical of itself. And again, their failure to look at an officer’s record I think is wrong. I think in general that the FBI could be much more open and transparent.
WhoWhatWhy: How do they rationalize their failure to review an agent’s total record, especially if that is the “best practices” gold standard?
Walker: I don’t know how they could rationalize it. You would want to know very early on whether this officer has a record of questionable incidents. In a municipal police department, the other cops know. The other cops know that this guy has a control problem, a temper problem, or is quick to draw a weapon. Now with the FBI, just given their assignment patterns (with more agent mobility than most local police departments), I’m not sure that kind of knowledge is there on the street.
WhoWhatWhy: Or it’s buried by others on the job?
Who the Bad Cops Are
Walker: This gets to a pretty important issue, where early intervention is relevant. The dirty little secret of policing has always been that other officers in the department know who the bad cops are. Police departments are like little villages…And they’ve always failed, historically, to deal with problem officers that they knew they had. Again, that’s this cultural thing. But I’m seeing a new world of police accountability. Early intervention systems empower managers and give them a tool to identify the facts that underlie these reputations.
WhoWhatWhy: Are there other initiatives in preventing officer-involved shootings?
Walker: One important issue being addressed more often is the myth of the split-second decision. The public rhetoric about policing goes like this: “Oh, they’re out there on the street and they have to make these split-second, life and death decisions.” But many, many incidents are scenarios that unfold over time, and officers make a series of tactical decisions.
WhoWhatWhy: And so it’s about making the right decisions?
Walker: Right. According to the split-second-decision construct, it often seems the officer had no choice: Some guy suddenly jumped out with a gun, and the officer had to shoot. There’s no time to think. But that’s not true. These things unfold over time. The officer makes a series of decisions…Shooting scenarios in many cases are manageable incidents. You can have your officers choose to do this rather than that. And if they choose this, it will reduce the likelihood of having to use deadly force.
WhoWhatWhy: For example, backing away rather than pressing forward aggressively to defuse a confrontation?
Walker: This plays out particularly with police dealing with people who are mentally disturbed. There are ways to manage that incident to help to defuse it. Now if an officer is going to start crowding him, the chance of having to use deadly force really escalates if you bark at him, if you give him orders. When a person’s having a psychotic breakdown, that’s the last thing you do. You give him space, you give him time. So the key lesson is that police use of firearms is a manageable problem. And we’ve made a lot of progress over the years, and I believe we’ve learned some things in recent years. We can reduce that even further.
WhoWhatWhy: You said the FBI somehow manages to stand apart from the world of law enforcement accountability. How?
Insular and Arrogant
Walker: Well, the FBI has a long history of being insular, being arrogant. They really think they have nothing to learn from local police, which is a mistake because a lot of local police departments have made significant progress. Police departments are really much more in the public eye because they patrol, they’re out there in the streets, and people see them in patrol cars. And so they’ve been subject to public criticism and have been forced to respond to those criticisms much more than the FBI has. The FBI is this remote federal agency.
WhoWhatWhy: Is that because the Bureau is buffered from accountability to the voting public? In a city, the dynamic of electoral politics is such that the mayor catches hell from voters who then holds his police chief accountable. The FBI is not subject to the same immediate electoral dynamic.
Walker: Right. And that scenario is playing out right now in New York City, in exactly the way it should play out in a democracy. New York has a new mayor who was dissatisfied with police policy regarding stop-and-frisk and other programs, and he’s going to change it.
Changing the FBI
WhoWhatWhy: Is the FBI due for some fundamental procedural changes?
Walker: My hunch would be that a thorough audit would find they’re not up to speed with the best municipal police departments. They think they’re the best, and they’re not. First I would look at this cultural issue and see if they’re asking the tough questions in their investigations and whether they’re looking at officers’ records. I suspect they have a lot to learn….I would look at in-service training. Are they training themselves, or do they bring in other agencies? I’d bet some good money that they do not bring in people from local police departments who have really moved to the fore in this area.
WhoWhatWhy: How has the FBI maintained its untouchable reputation for so long?
Walker: I think it’s true of all organizations that sort of go off track by reading their own press clippings and lose the ability to be self-critical…For decades, the Los Angeles Police Department had a similar kind of culture, with a tremendous emphasis on public relations and creating or manipulating their image.
WhoWhatWhy: You say that you haven’t followed closely the FBI agent’s killing of Todashev, the Boston Bombing witness. Well, we have been following it closely, and we’re struck by the opaque nature of the FBI’s role. For example, we still don’t even know the name of the agent who killed Todashev.
Walker: I’m not entirely sure the names in an unresolved action like that should be released. But any past disciplinary action against him should be released….
WhoWhatWhy: But the FBI says it doesn’t look at an agent’s past shooting incidents for patterns. We have to assume that is the case in the Todashev shooting. So if the FBI won’t look for patterns in its investigation – using the “best practices” models you outlined – shouldn’t the press be able to do so?
Walker: I understand your point. I would like to know whether the FBI has some version of early intervention systems – a list of the top 10 agents who have been involved in firearms incidents, for example. That ought to be readily available to the director of the FBI.
WhoWhatWhy: It’s hard to conceive that the FBI doesn’t believe that that is pertinent information. Isn’t that why criminal histories are collected, to identify patterns? Isn’t that the idea behind three-strike sentences, however flawed: to identify repeat offenders?
Civilian Review of the FBI Unlikely
Walker: Yes, it’s exactly that. It’s just like criminals and juvenile delinquents. At the far end of the scale, you’ve got your hard-core group that is repeatedly in trouble. It’s true of drunk drivers. A lot of people drink and drive, but there is a very small group of repeat offenders at the far end. It’s true of every single area of life. But it would not surprise me if the FBI does not have the equivalent of an early intervention system. I think their attitude is that the FBI has nothing to learn from local police departments.
WhoWhatWhy: You are an expert in the police civilian review process. Not applicable to the FBI?
Walker: The FBI has none of that. Should they? I think it might build trust. It would take some serious thought to craft the right process since you’re talking about a national agency. But it could be done, maybe with an ombudsman or regional review boards. But at least you’d have a process where people could lodge their complaint, and where someone who’s out of the chain of command would consider those complaints.
WhoWhatWhy: Could you foresee such a thing?
Protected By Congress?
Walker: I’m not optimistic. The Bureau would fight it tooth and nail. They have a lot of allies in Congress. The way these things play out at the local level, it usually takes some terrible event involving police to help create a local review board. It could be done. It should be done. But I’m not optimistic that it’s about to be done.
WhoWhatWhy: If you were consulting the FBI about accountability, what advice would you give?
Walker: I’d ask if they have an early intervention system. I’d ask if they had a citizens’ complaint process. But I probably would start with this business of failing to look at records of agents involved in shootings, for god’s sake. I’d throw that New York Times story at them and say, is this really true?