Thursday, January 29, 2015

(It's Her Turn! (Cold Comfort))  Final Polish On the New Hillary Brand As the Forces Advance (CIA Trained the Moderates)

Veracruz Officials Say Abducted Journalist Found Dead

I'm listening to Dierks Bentley playing alongside the legendary Garth Hudson, Larry Campbell, and Jessi Alexander on "Chest Fever" in the 2012 tribute to Levon Helms (Love for Levon: A Benefit) on AXS tv. Jorma Kaukonen, John Prine, John Hiatt, Lucinda Williams. (Yes, Gregg Allman and Joe Walsh too!) And don't get me started on Marc Cohn's "Listening to Levon"and My Morning Jacket. Thank whatever spirits that may be for concerts on TV.

What a pleasure.

But, back to business.

The London Review of Books (LRB) has an en pointe essay which should be required reading for fans of the onrushing Hillary Armada.

Clinton’s hawkishness is a matter of moral and intellectual conviction. In Hard Choices, she tries to construct a coherent rationale for an interventionist foreign policy and to justify it with reference to her own decisions as secretary of state. The rationale is rickety:  the evidence unconvincing. Recent history becomes a series of rescue missions, staged opportunities for heroism worthy of Hollywood:  mobs of brown-skinned extras look up to see helicopters – we are saved! The Americans have arrived! Such are the dreams that hover unarticulated in our political unconscious, allowing our leaders to redefine war as humanitarian intervention.

Clinton’s outlook epitomises the bipartisan wisdom of the Washington foreign policy establishment, which claims to offer a pragmatic centrist alternative to the extremes of right and left. Yet the centrists turn out to be at least as ideologically driven as the zealots they deplore. The core of their ideology is the belief that the US has a uniquely necessary role to play in leading the world towards an inevitably democratic (and implicitly capitalist) future. The process is foreordained but can be helped along through neoliberal policy choices. This muddle of determinism and freedom is a secular residue of providentialist teleology, held with as much religious fervour and as little regard for contrary evidence as other dogmatic faiths derided by self-styled liberal pragmatists.

. . . For Clinton, the business-government partnership means promoting General Electric in Algeria and Boeing in Moscow as well as enabling direct communication between ambassadors and American businessmen who want to break into emerging markets. Amazon, she notes, has already opened a customer care centre in Cape Town with five hundred employees. If conditions at other Amazon facilities are any guide, these lucky few can look forward to being worked to death, or near it. These are the jobs on offer in the emerging neoliberal utopia.

. . . Clinton’s utopian faith depends on fantasies of a reified technology, unmoored from class and power relations and operating autonomously as a global force for good. . . .
She believed that tech CEOs could collaborate with State Department officials in offering carrots and sticks to Bashar Assad:  when he refused to co-operate, the State Department waived sanctions for Skype, allowing the company to operate in Syria in the hope that it could help bring the regime down.

The futility of that hope epitomised the general failure of 21st-century statecraft, at least when its practitioners tried to use technology to get round inequalities of power. The magic of social media did nothing to change the outcome of the Iranian elections; Skype didn’t bring down Assad. Technological panaceas proved inadequate elsewhere as well.

. . . In Congo, Cohen and Alec Ross, who headed Clinton’s ‘innovation team’, brought high-tech solutions to intractable bureaucratic problems:  a mobile app for the military’s muddled pay system, a text-message warning system for refugee camps threatened by militias. In both cases, as in Syria and Iran, fantasies about the power of technology proved unable to overcome existing structures of political, military and legal power. This would be a pattern in the Clinton State Department:  rhetoric would outstrip results.

Despite her supposed pragmatism, Clinton shows little concern for the actual consequences of ideas. Her indifference is most apparent in her attachment to the failed military policies of the recent past.

While she admits she ‘got it wrong’ in voting for the invasion of Iraq, she shows no sign of having learned from her mistake.

So National Amnesia is the plague of our day?

Beware of the Hillary Train ride to freedom.

Cause freedom means having (personally) nothing left to lose?

Clinton’s courtship of Petraeus reveals a deeper amnesia. Like most other Washington policymakers, she has forgotten the failure of counterinsurgency in Vietnam. She praises Petraeus’s strategy for its focus on ‘winning Iraqis’ “hearts and minds, ”’ but she does not seem to remember the history of that phrase. It entered American public discourse in Lyndon Johnson’s admonition that ‘the ultimate victory will depend upon the hearts and minds of the people who actually live out there,’ which he repeated many times.

The phrase was soon appropriated by the antiwar movement as an ironic shorthand for the futility and mendacity of US policy. Eventually the filmmaker Peter Davis used the phrase as the title for his 1974 documentary which exposed the American invaders’ casual brutality and indifference towards Asian lives. Clinton was involved, however tangentially, in the antiwar counterculture. Yet, like everyone else in Washington, she uses ‘hearts and minds’ to refer to the latest version of counterinsurgency. She assumes Petraeus’s ‘clear, hold and build’ operation was a success in Iraq and the model for a further success in Afghanistan. She cites no evidence.

Clinton’s admiration for Petraeus demonstrates the irrelevance of actual military achievements in the world of the Washington consensus. Petraeus was a powerful man still on the way up and Clinton needed his support.

If that meant ignoring the facts, judging his counterinsurgency strategy ‘successful’, so much the worse for the facts.

Indeed, Clinton’s aims at the State Department, as Allen and Parnes describe them, were more a matter of public relations than of public policy:  to rebuild morale at the department, to rebrand the US in the world and to ‘fortify her own brand’ so she could run for president.

Clinton’s exceptionalism promotes an implicit double standard that separates the US from the rest of the world. Consider the Asia Pivot:   according to Clinton, ‘we needed to send a message to Asia and the world that America was back’ in its ‘traditional leadership role in Asia’ – managing competition, fostering co-operation, maintaining stability. This was ‘forward-deployed diplomacy … borrowing a term from our military colleagues’. The Chinese perception, naturally enough, was that the US was determined to block its rise. Why China shouldn’t claim a ‘leadership role’ in its own part of the world, and the US should, is one of the mysteries of the exceptionalist faith.

Nothing could be more appropriate to an emerging multipolar world (the world we actually inhabit) than the idea that nations have a more legitimate interest in what happens near their borders than in events occurring half a world away. Yet exceptionalists dismiss the concept of spheres of influence as an obstacle to the global march of democracy.

This is a residue of the Cold War, when American policymakers insisted on seeing everything the Russians did as ideologically motivated. George Kennan spent years trying to convince various presidents that Stalin’s occupation of Eastern Europe was motivated less by ideology than by the desire to block invasion from the west, which had occurred three times over the previous century and a half. It didn’t excuse the Soviet occupation but did help explain it. Cold Warriors, rejecting the very idea of a Soviet sphere of influence, insisted that Stalin’s occupation of Eastern Europe was the beginning of a drive for world domination.

Clinton makes a similar mistake when she characterises Nato’s expansion as a bulwark against Putin’s aggression, rather than a provocation and a betrayal of a previous American pledge. The first Bush administration promised Gorbachev that Nato would not move ‘one inch to the east’, in the words of the then secretary of state, James Baker. But Bill Clinton ignored the Russians’ wish to keep a cordon sanitaire and his predecessor’s promise by pushing Nato expansion to the east – betraying a trust, in Russia’s view. The eastward march of Nato continues. One can only imagine the American response if the roles were reversed.

Hillary Clinton is just as intent as her husband (or her Republican rivals) on demonising Putin as a modern tsar who wants to reassert Russia’s imperial claims. Putin’s ambition is for her the only way to explain why he put pressure on Yanukovych not to form closer ties with the European Union and why, after Yanukovych’s government collapsed, he annexed Crimea.

You can deplore that invasion without ignoring (as Clinton does) the complexity of the history behind it:  the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea, the long-standing Russian desire to keep the region in friendly hands.
She also ignores the US role in undermining the corrupt but democratically elected Yanukovych government, treating its disintegration as the work of ordinary Ukrainians who ‘dreamed of living in a prosperous European democracy’ – a formula that overlooks the right-wing nationalists among the rebels and the draconian austerity programme demanded by the EU. Putin’s Eurasian Union, she believes, was an attempt to ‘re-Sovietise’ Russia’s periphery, rather than a means of bailing out the sputtering Ukrainian economy. Ultimately, she concludes, ‘strength and resolve were the only language Putin would understand.’
Not everyone accepts the casting of Putin as ‘bad guy’, in the adolescent male idiom favoured by American journalists. Among the dissenters is Henry Kissinger, whose realism is more reliable in a European setting than in Latin American or Asian ones.
For the West, the demonisation of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one,’ he wrote last year. ‘Putin is a serious strategist – on the premises of Russian history. Understanding US values and psychology are not his strong suits. Nor has understanding Russian history and psychology been a strong point among US policymakers.’ Clinton seems likely to continue that tradition.
Putin fills the bad guy role vacated by Osama bin Laden, whose assassination by American Special Forces occupies an honoured place in Hard Choices. To State Department colleagues worried about offending Pakistan’s national honour by circumventing its law-enforcement procedures, Clinton replied ‘in exasperation’:  ‘What about our national honour?’ Once Bin Laden has been killed and the euphoria has dissipated, she reflects that ‘violent extremism is bound up with nearly all of today’s complex global problems …That is an argument for America to be engaged in the hardest places with the toughest challenges around the world.’ The war on terror may be officially over but the pursuit of ‘violent extremism’ provides an open-ended excuse for global military intervention.
The tendency to view the Middle East through the lens of ‘violent extremism’ has predictable consequences with respect to Israel, Palestine and Iran. Careful to acknowledge that Palestinians deserve ‘the self-determination that Americans take for granted’, Clinton nevertheless blithely defends the Israeli air war on Gaza:  ‘Every country has the right to defend itself.’ You cannot negotiate with Hamas or other terrorists ‘because you will never be pure enough’.
So force is the only option. Clinton’s ‘staunchly pro-Israel’ stance apparently also means being anti-Iran – ‘Israel’s mortal enemy’, as Allen and Parnes call it, giving the consensus view. Despite Obama’s stated intention to initiate diplomacy with Iran, Clinton continued to fuel the fears that an Iranian nuclear weapons programme would ‘threaten Israel, their neighbours and the world’, and warned the Iranians that if they launched a nuclear strike on Israel, ‘we would be able to totally obliterate them’.
Lacking an excuse to obliterate Iran, she settled for ‘crippling sanctions’ against the country. Netanyahu ‘told me he liked the phrase so much that he had adopted it as his own,’ she writes. The key aim of the sanctions, according to her aide Jim Steinberg, was to make Iran ‘feel that it had no champions, no place to turn, no out’. In this view, sanctions are a means of solitary confinement for rogue nations, which undercuts the claim that they are a humane alternative to violence.
Sickness, starvation and social disintegration are their legitimate offspring. Even Clinton acknowledges the suffering sanctions inflicted, though she blames the Iranian ‘leaders’ choice to continue defying the international community’. To placate ‘pro-Israel voters’, Allen and Parnes write, she would have liked the sanctions to be even tougher.
When it comes to opportunities to demonstrate toughness, nothing sets Clinton’s pulse racing like a good humanitarian intervention. She supported US involvement in Nato operations in Libya, sharing the enthusiasm of Sarkozy, who was eager to reassert French imperial prerogatives in North Africa.
The Franco-American friendship began with a mishap. Walking up the stairs of the Elysée palace, Clinton stepped out of her shoe; Sarkozy ‘gracefully took my hand and helped me regain my footing’. She sent him a photo of the incident inscribed, ‘I may not be Cinderella but you’ll always be my Prince Charming.’ Like this event, the intervention in Libya had a fairy-tale quality – the troll-like dictator Gaddafi; the West, once more into the breach, led by fantastic figures like the action intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy, who rode into Libya from the Egyptian border on a vegetable truck.
Clinton describes this ubiquitous poseur as ‘a dramatic and stylish figure, with long wavy hair and his shirt open practically down to his navel’. Here was a man who embodied the Hollywood fantasies of heroism that so often energise military intervention. It was all very exciting, but not everyone was convinced that American military involvement was a good idea. The secretary of defense Robert Gates, the vice president Joseph Biden and the former Nato commander Wesley Clark were all opposed, while Clinton, the UN ambassador Susan Rice and national security council aide Samantha Power urged action. Obama was typically reluctant to commit either way.
There were good reasons for caution. The biggest problem was the ambiguity of the mission:   was it the maintenance of a no-fly zone to protect civilians, as its proponents initially claimed? Or was it the toppling of Gaddafi, which is what actually happened? Clinton slides from the first rationale to the second without explaining or justifying the transition.
But she does raise the unavoidable question for advocates of ‘regime change’:  ‘who were these rebels we would be aiding, and were they prepared to lead Libya if Gaddafi fell?’ The question soon became more urgent. By the late summer of 2011, the rebels had captured Tripoli, and Gaddafi and his family had fled. When Gaddafi was killed, Clinton was jubilant. ‘“We came, we saw, he died,” she crowed, laughing as she clapped her hands,’ Allen and Parnes report.
‘Libya’s liberation, for better and worse, was Hillary’s War.’
Clinton is more circumspect, in retrospect, than her journalist courtiers – there are no unseemly celebrations over Gaddafi’s death in Hard Choices. ‘The revolution had succeeded, and the hard work of building a new country could begin,’ she writes, acknowledging that ‘law and order remained a real problem.’ This may be the blandest understatement in a relentlessly bland book.
Libya quickly descended into civil war; the country’s infrastructure collapsed; thousands of noncombatants were left homeless, maimed or dead. The chaos was the precondition for the burning of the American compound in Benghazi when four American diplomats were killed.
The upheaval in Libya made the entire Middle East more unstable. The freeing of Gaddafi’s stockpiled munitions fostered a flourishing arms trade south to Mali, west to Algeria, and east to Egypt and Syria, intensifying tensions between Islamist and secular groups throughout the region.
As early as October 2013, international observers had officially dubbed Libya a ‘failed state’.
Clinton has nothing to say about this. Her reflections on Benghazi are some of the strangest passages in her book. She says she appointed Chris Stevens as ambassador to the Libyan rebels’ new government because he knew that the most dangerous places in the world were ‘the places where American interests and values were most at stake’ and seasoned diplomats were most needed.
This assertion deserves some attention. Are the most dangerous places really the most crucial to US national interests merely by virtue of the danger? ‘When America is absent, extremism takes root, our interests suffer, and our security at home is threatened,’ she writes.
It would be possible to rewrite the same sentence, substituting ‘present’ for ‘absent’.
Syria was the next testing ground for Clinton’s creed. She makes clear that she was behind the rebellion against Assad from the beginning, trying to unite the ‘international community, including Russia and China … behind a political transition that would go to a democratic future’. Unlike Gaddafi, Assad wasn’t a pushover. He was more deeply entrenched, and had more powerful allies.
But how could the Syrian people go back to dictatorship after ‘a taste of freedom’, Clinton wonders. The exceptionalist teleology was starting to click into place:   democracy was inevitable; we needed to be on the right side of history. But the situation was complicated:  many of Assad’s opponents were jihadists – democrats maybe, but not the sort we wanted to take power.
So the question was how to keep the wrong rebels from winning.
In 2012, Clinton started exploring ‘what it would take to stand up a carefully vetted and trained force of moderate Syrian rebels who could be trusted with American weapons’. She enlisted Petraeus, by then head of the CIA, in her campaign:  encouraging the right sort of rebels, they argued, would get us in the game so we could be more effective in isolating the militants and empowering the moderates.
The moderates were (or would be) mainly a creation of the CIA.
The plan to arm them resembled the search for a mythic Third Force between communism and capitalism, the dream that animated Graham Greene’s Quiet American in Vietnam in the 1950s, and that has inspired counterinsurgency fantasists ever since.
Obama was unpersuaded. He asked for ‘examples of instances when the US had backed an insurgency that could be considered a success’, Clinton recalls. She didn’t have an answer and Obama stood firm.
It was one of the high points of his presidency:  for once a pragmatic concern for consequences shaped policy.
But last August Obama finally yielded to interventionist demands amid the hysteria over Isis, leaving us with the incoherent policy of opposing both the Assad regime and its main challengers (though the administration now seems to be inching towards tacit tolerance of Assad).
Clinton can claim that she was urging this muddle on Obama long before he finally and reluctantly accepted it. That is cold comfort for anyone envisioning her in the White House.
The exceptionalist faith transcends evidence. We can be sure that during the run-up to the 2016 election, democracy will continue its inexorable forward march, in the rhetoric of Democrats and Republicans if not in the world at large. Among the current crop of candidates, the only challenges to exceptionalism come from Rand Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky, and Jim Webb, a former Democratic senator from Virginia.
Paul has defended civil liberties more outspokenly than any other congressman in either party; he is a consistent libertarian, as opposed to the warfare state as to the welfare state. He is a loose cannon, with many repellent views on domestic policy. Still, it would be good for democratic debate to see him take on Clinton’s foreign policy.
It will be even better to see Webb, who has already announced his candidacy, take her on.
Webb is a Vietnam veteran and was secretary of the navy under Reagan; no one can tag him with the ‘isolationist’ label so often used to dismiss anti-imperialists. He was also an architect of the Asia Pivot. But he has been a forceful and consistent critic of reckless military intervention abroad.
Unlike Clinton, he warned that the Iraq War was unwinnable, a ‘strategic blunder’ unmatched in recent military history.
‘There is no such thing,’ he said more recently, as ‘humanitarian war’ – the vague and self-contradictory concept promoted by Clinton, Rice, and Power.
If terrorists are a direct threat, we should fight them, but only on carefully chosen terrain, never by occupying foreign territory and never by entering ‘a five-sided argument’ like the one currently raging in Syria.
Webb’s scepticism is a refreshing alternative to the sanitised abstractions of the Washington consensus. He has troubling idiosyncrasies, among them a tendency to defend Reagan and an Arlington apartment packed with military artefacts. Still, he remains a rare contemporary example of the pragmatic realist tradition, a worthy successor to Fulbright and Kennan (who also had troubling idiosyncrasies). 
But Webb is also a white male, with no capital to invest in the identities market. 
The most likely nominee remains Hillary Clinton, whose success would embody the failure of the American political imagination and the tragedy of identity politics. But after all, it’s her turn.

And Roger Waters raises the red cap he received from Levon after the Berlin Wall fell.

These concert videos are so much more entertaining.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

(Middle Class Terminated (Finally!))  Goldman-Sacked, Trojan-Hearsed Greece Ready To Rise or Die In Euro Chains? (Sleeper Cells Historical Lies)

Mr. Union-Buster Goes to Washington? Scott Walker Forms Committee for 2016 Run

Wisconsin governor makes first big step toward seeking the presidency. Why his chances may be better than you think

And now ex-Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, joins ex-Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Paul Craig Roberts, as a truth-teller (a truthie?) about the power games being played on American citizens by those connected to great newly-created sources of non-regulated, undeserved wealth.

It's been a pretty simple plan for them.

Some say the plan (the one in place since the initial financial deregulatory moves by the Reagan Contras in the early '80s) has been to rid the rich of the nuisance of having a U.S. middle class that was prosperous enough to "steal" a lot of their wealth through the sins of having reliable jobs (read that union-driven) with good pay and guaranteed benefits/retirements.

Whether this is true enough in retrospect or not, it's worth considering when we see the Koch-type moves ensuring that the middle class will never again be as strong as it was in the 60's and 70's (and why the unions will never ever again be allowed to thrive by those in charge).

It's good having these guys on our team.

Maybe it's a movement.

For us.

The Movement to Save America?

Jan 28, 2015 04:45 AM EST

Wall Street Is Choking the Middle Class

The former secretary of labor reflects on the single biggest threat to the continued health of the U.S. economy

This originally appeared on Robert Reich's blog.

Presidential aspirants in both parties are talking about saving the middle class. But the middle class can’t be saved unless Wall Street is tamed.

The Street’s excesses pose a continuing danger to average Americans. And its ongoing use of confidential corporate information is defrauding millions of middle-class investors.

Yet most presidential aspirants don’t want to talk about taming the Street because Wall Street is one of their largest sources of campaign money.

Do we really need reminding about what happened six years ago? The financial collapse crippled the middle class and poor — consuming the savings of millions of average Americans, and causing 23 million to lose their jobs, 9.3 million to lose their health insurance, and some 1 million to lose their homes.

A repeat performance is not unlikely. Wall Street’s biggest banks are much larger now than they were then. Five of them hold about 45 percent of America’s banking assets. In 2000, they held 25 percent.

And money is cheaper than ever. The Fed continues to hold the prime interest rate near zero.

This has fueled the Street’s eagerness to borrow money at rock-bottom rates and use it to make risky bets that will pay off big if they succeed, but will cause big problems if they go bad.

We learned last week that Goldman Sachs has been on a shopping binge, buying cheap real estate stretching from Utah to Spain, and a variety of companies.

If not technically a violation of the new Dodd-Frank banking law, Goldman’s binge surely violates its spirit.

Meanwhile, the Street’s lobbyists have gotten Congress to repeal a provision of Dodd-Frank curbing excessive speculation by the big banks.

The language was drafted by Citigroup and personally pushed by Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase.

Not incidentally, Dimon recently complained of being “under assault” by bank regulators.

Last year JPMorgan’s board voted to boost Dimon’s pay to $20 million, despite the bank paying out more than $20 billion to settle various legal problems going back to financial crisis.

The American middle class needs stronger bank regulations, not weaker ones.

Last summer, bank regulators told the big banks their plans for orderly bankruptcies were “unrealistic.” In other words, if the banks collapsed, they’d bring the economy down with them.

Dodd-Frank doesn’t even cover bank bets on foreign exchanges. Yet recent turbulence in the foreign exchange market has caused huge losses at hedge funds and brokerages.

This comes on top of revelations of widespread manipulation by the big banks of the foreign-exchange market.

Wall Street is also awash in inside information unavailable to average investors.

Just weeks ago a three- judge panel of the U.S. court of appeals that oversees Wall Street reversed an insider-trading conviction, saying guilt requires proof a trader knows the tip was leaked in exchange for some “personal benefit” that’s “of some consequence.”

Meaning that if a CEO tells his Wall Street golfing buddy about a pending merger, the buddy and his friends can make a bundle — to the detriment of small, typically middle-class, investors.

That three-judge panel was composed entirely of appointees of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

But both parties have been drinking at the Wall Street trough.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, the financial sector ranked fourth among all industry groups giving to then candidate Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee. In fact, Obama reaped far more in contributions from the Street than did his Republican opponent.

Wall Street also supplies both administrations with key economic officials. The treasury secretaries under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush – Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson, respectfully, had both chaired Goldman Sachs before coming to Washington.

And before becoming Obama’s treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner had been handpicked by Rubin to become president of Federal Reserve Bank of New York. (Geithner is now back on the Street as president of the private-equity firm Warburg Pincus.)

It’s nice that presidential aspirants are talking about rebuilding America’s middle class.

But to be credible, he (or she) has to take clear aim at the Street.

That means proposing to limit the size of the biggest Wall Street banks;  resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act (which used to separate investment from commercial banking); define insider trading the way most other countries do – using information any reasonable person would know is unavailable to most investors; and close the revolving door between the Street and the U.S. Treasury.

It also means not depending on the Street to finance their campaigns.

(Robert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including his latest best-seller, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future; The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; and his newest, an e-book, Beyond Outrage. His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the "American Prospect" magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His new movie "Inequality for All" is in theaters. His widely-read blog can be found at

It seems that a country is not dead economically (to the "financiers" anyway) until the last rich person in the country is dead.

Then the money will start to flow (again).


Trojan Hearse:
Greek Elections and the Euro Leper Colony

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

By Greg Palast for το χωνί (Greece)

[updated January 26, 2015]

Europe is stunned, and bankers aghast, that the new party of the Left, Syriza, won Sunday's parliamentary elections in Greece.

Syriza won on the promise that it will cure Greece of leprosy.

Oddly, Syriza also promises that it will remain in the leper colony. That is, Syriza wants to rid Greece of the cruelty of austerity imposed by the European Central Bank but insists on staying in the euro zone.

The problem is, austerity run wild is merely a symptom of an illness. The underlying disease is the euro itself.

For the last five years, Greeks have been told that, if you cure your disease — that is, if you dump the euro — the sky will fall.  I guess Greeks haven’t noticed, the sky has fallen already.  With unemployment at 25%, with doctors and teachers eating out of garbage cans, there is no further to fall.

In 2010, when unemployment was a terrible 10%, a year into the crisis, the “Troika” (the European Central Bank, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund) told the Greeks that brutal austerity measures would restore their economy by 2012.

Ask yourself, Was the Troika right?

There is a saying in America:  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

Can Greece survive without the euro?  Greece is already dead, but the Germans won’t even bother to bury the corpse.  Greeks are told that if they leave the euro and renounce its debts, the nation will not be able to access world capital markets.  The reality is, Greece can’t access world markets now:  no one lends to a corpse.

There’s a way back across the River Styx.  But it’s not by paddling on a euro.

There’s Life after Euro

Many nations do quite well without the euro.  Sweden, Denmark and India do just fine without the euro — and so does Turkey, which had the luck to be excluded from the euro-zone.  As long as Turks stick to the lira, even Turkey’s brain-damaged Islamo-fascist President Tayyip Erdoğan cannot destroy their economy.

Can Greece just dump the euro?  They have happy precedents to follow.

Argentina was once pegged to the US dollar much as Greece is tied to the euro today. In 2000, Argentines, hungry and angry, revolted. Argentina ultimately overthrew the dollar dictatorship, the IMF diktats and the threats of creditors, and defaulted on its dollar bonds. Free at last!

In the decade since, the Argentine economy soared.  Yes, today, Argentina is under attack by financial vultures, but that is only because the nation became so temptingly wealthy.

I was in Brazil when its President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva told the IMF to go to hell — and rejected privatization of the state banks and the state oil company, rejected cutting pensions and thumbed his nose at the rest of the austerity nonsense.

Instead, Lula created the bolsa familia, a massive pay-out to the nation’s poor.  The result:  Brazil not only survived but thrived during the 2008-10 world financial crisis. Despite pressure, Brazil never ceded control of its currency. (It is a sad irony that Brazil is only now faltering.  That’s the fault entirely of Lula’s successor, President Dilma Rousseff,  who is beginning to dance the austerity samba.)

Austerity:  Religion, Not Economics

The euro is simply the deutschmark with little stars on it. Greece cannot adopt Germany’s currency without adopting Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, as its own.

And Schäuble has determined that Greece must be punished. As my homey Paul Krugman points out, there is no credible economic theory that says that austerity — that is, cutting government spending, cutting wages, cutting consumer demand — can in any way help a nation in recession, in deflation. That’s why, in 2009, Obama ordered up stimulus, not a sleeping pill.

But austerity has nothing to do with economics.  It is religion:  the belief by the stern Lutheran Germans that Greeks have had too much fun, spent too much money, and spent too much lazy time in the sun — and now Greeks must pay a price for their sins.

Oddly, I hear this self-flagellating nonsense from Greeks themselves:  we are lazy.  We deserve our punishment.  Nonsense.  The average Greek works more hours in a year than any other worker in the 34 nations of the OECD; Germans the least.

The Euro’s Father Describes his Little Bastard

Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, would like to pretend that austerity and the euro are two different things, that you can marry the pretty girl but not invite her ugly sister to the wedding.

Apparently, the Syriza chief is blissfully ignorant of the history of the euro. The horror of austerity is not the consequence of Greek profligacy:  it was designed into the euro’s plan from the beginning.

This was explained to me by the father of the euro himself, economist Robert Mundell of Columbia University.  (I studied economics with Mundell’s buddy, Milton Friedman.)  Mundell not only invented the euro, he also fathered the misery-making policies of Thatcher and Reagan, known as “supply-side economics” – or, as George Bush Sr. called it, “voodoo economics.”

Supply-side voodoo is the long-discredited belief that if a nation demolishes the power of unions, cuts business taxes, eliminates government regulation and public ownership of utilities, economic prosperity will follow.

The euro is simply the other side of the supply-side coin. As Mundell explained it, the euro is the way in which congresses and parliaments can be stripped of all power over monetary and fiscal policy. Bothersome democracy is removed from the economic system.

“Without fiscal policy,” Mundell told me, “the only way nations can keep jobs is by the competitive reduction of rules on business.”

Greece, to survive in a euro economy, can only revive employment by reducing wages. Indeed, the recent tiny reduction in unemployment is the sign that Greeks are slowly accepting a permanent future of low wages serving piña coladas to Germans on holiday cruises.

It is argued that Greece owes Germany, the IMF and the European Central Bank for bail-out-billions. Nonsense.  None of the billions in bail-out funds went into Greek pockets.  It all went to bail out Deutsche Bank and other foreign creditors.

The EU treasuries swallowed 90% of its private bankers’ bonds.  Germany bailed out Germany, not Greece.

Nevertheless, Greece must pay Germany back, Mr. Tsipras, if you want to continue to use Germany’s currency, that is.

Greece:  Goldman Sacked

Greece’s ruin began with secret, fraudulent currency swaps, designed a decade ago by Goldman Sachs, to conceal Greek deficits that exceeded the euro zone’s 3%-of-GDP limit.

In 2009, when the truth came out, Greek debt holders realized they had been cheated.

These debt buyers then demanded usurious levels of interest (or, if you prefer, a high “spread”) to insure themselves against future fraud.

The compounding of this interest premium brought the Greek nation to its knees. In other words, the crimes committed to join and stay in the euro, not Greek profligacy, caused the crisis.

The USA, Brazil and China escaped from depression by increasing their money supply and government spending and taking control of currency exchange rates — crucial tools Greece gave up in return for the euro.

Worse, once the Trojan hearse of the euro entered Athens, tourism, Greece’s main industry, drained to Turkey where hotels and souvenirs are priced in cheap lira.

This allowed Dr. Mundell’s remorseless wage-lowering machine, the euro, to do its work, to force Greece to strip all its workers of pensions and power.

Greece fell to its knees, with no choice but to beg Germany for mercy.

But there is no mercy. As Germany’s Schäuble insists, democracy, this week’s vote, means nothing. "New elections change nothing in the accords struck with the Greek government,” he says.  “[Greeks] have no alternative.”

Ah, but they do, Mr. Schäuble.  They can tell you to take your euro and shove it up your Merkel.
*    *    *    *    *    *

Investigative reporter Greg Palast's book, Vultures' Picnic, with the no-BS inside story of the financial collapse, will soon be released in a Greek edition by Livanis.

Support the Palast Investigative fund with a tax-deductible donation and get a signed copy Vultures' Picnic or or simply make a tax-deductible contribution to keep our work alive!

Greg Palast is also the author of several "New York Times" bestsellers including The Best Democracy Money Can Buy andBillionaires & Ballot Bandits.

Palast is a Puffin Foundation Fellow for Investigative Reporting.

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Sleeper cells?

Oh boy. Do we have a really secret sleeper cell in the U.S.

I remember one of my first "WTF" moments occurring (and I had no idea that that's what they would come to be known as) when Richard Rehnquist, lawyer to under-fire Attorney General John Mitchell, was named to the SCOTUS by Richard Milhaus (Watergate-fearing) Nixon in 1971, and then again when incredibly, unexpectedly elevated to the position of Chief Justice of the SCOTUS by Ronald Reagan.

Those weren't the days.

And they still aren't.

From our keeping-it-real source, The Green Eagle, we learn:

January 27, 2015

Sleeper Cell

The notion of the "sleeper cell," a group of subversives planted in a country with orders to live anonymously like normal citizens until called on to do their damage, really grew into a popular idea during the cold war, promoted by the same sort of people who now talk about Sharia law in the United States, and Al Qaida troops coming across the Mexican border, to sow fear and panic among the American people.

We've heard such utterly unsubstantiated talk a lot, the last few years, about Muslims in the United States and Europe. But curiously enough, the most malignant sleeper cell in the country, which has done damage so immense to the American people that Al Qaida or ISIS could never dream of such accomplishments, continues on its course of destruction with essentially no opposition.

This sleeper cell consists of the five corrupt "Conservative" Justices, carefully implanted on the Supreme Court by a concerted Republican campaign going back to Nixon's elevation of William Rehnquist to the Court.

The appointment of George W. Bush to the Presidency in defiance of the real national vote was the first major blow to our country from the Conservative bloc of justices. It succeeded in devastating our economy and our standing in the world through aggressive war and economic collapse, all the product of a patently fallacious and unjustified decision.

The second blow to the United States was the infamous Citizens United decision, again decided by the five Conservative Justices on the basis of clearly fallacious reasoning.

We were assured by these Justices (among other falsehoods) that their decision was fine because it could never lead to any sort of abuse of our democratic system by the rich.

Well, here is the result:  it is now the intent of two people - of course, the Koch Brothers - to spend nine hundred million dollars in the next campaign. To understand what that means, look at this chart, cribbed from "Mother Jones:"

What you can see here is that, thanks to the Citizens United decision, we have the phenomenon that two rich brothers can now spend more on a Presidential campaign than both parties combined spent on any Presidential campaign in our nation's entire history before 2008.

I'm not going to go on to rail about the destructive effects of such a cancerous growth in the political power of the super-rich; we all can see that.  But I will say that, if this is not stopped, this single Supreme Court decision, made by five corrupt Justices, will destroy this country in short order. That's all it will have taken:  no armies, no nuclear weapons, no suicide bombers, just five corrupt people put into the right place at the right time, by a party that has run off the tracks and now cares nothing for the fate of our nation.

America’s Billion-Dollar Mess:  How Koch Bros Are Trying To Buy a Right-Wing Future

Monday, January 26, 2015

(Lying About Leftism)  The Truth About the Progressive Dim Plutocrats' TPP Love   (Germany Reduces Bond Yield to Zero - Bad Times Ahead)   Billionaires Shocked So Poor  (Oceans On Verge of Mass Extinction)  Training for Pax Americana

Really bad times coming?

Much worse it seems than the U.S.-media-numbed might have been led to expect:

"World Running Out of Positive-Yield Bonds" -  In the wake of ECB's €60 billion a month QE madness, one might be wondering what it may do to European bond yields. Since September of 2013, yield on the German 10-year bond has plunged from around 2% to 0.367%. With €720 billion annual asset purchases, a huge portion of the bonds the ECB buys will be German.  Bloomberg explains ECB Risks German Bonds Mismatch Exceeding 100 Billion Euros. [Of the 60 billion monthly asset purchases], about 45 billion euros probably would be sovereign debt, according to a central bank official, equating to more than 100 billion euros of German securities this year, based on purchases being conducted in proportion to euro-zone members’ contributions to the ECB’s capital. That would shrink the tradable market for German bonds in a year when the debt agency already planned to reduce the amount of conventional bonds outstanding by 8 billion euros. “It’s going to cause a huge shock to the supply-demand balance in the European government-debt market” .

We might not be too far off the German bund market looking like the Swiss one, with a negative yield out to 10 years. It’s pretty crazy.” The difficulty for the ECB may be flushing out sellers and getting them to buy other assets instead. Banks and insurers need Germany’s AAA securities to bolster their balance sheets and pension funds mop up bunds to match their liabilities. In a low-growth environment with scant inflation, investors are sticking with bonds, particularly when the ECB is levying charges on its overnight deposit facility.

Germany to offer no return on its five-year bonds — Germany is preparing to offer investors a return of nothing to buy its five-year bonds, for the first time on record.

The country’s central bank said Tuesday it would auction €5 billion ($5.79 billion) of five-year government bonds  Wednesday with an annual coupon of 0%.

The willingness of investors to buy ultrasafe German bonds on such terms is another sign of how markets are bracing for the European Central Bank’s likely announcement Thursday of a mass government bond-buying program, also known as quantitative easing. (See:  What happens if the ECB pulls a Swiss-style surprise.)

It's just a game, folks.

And we're losing bigtime.

Forever, it seems.

My trusted correspondent RJ Sigmund just sent me the above newsy item as well as a few below in his latest highlighted lowdown on the state of our (and others') economy.

Looks like it's finally worthwhile digging that fall-out shelter (if you missed the 60's rush).

The Key to $10 Billion in U.S. Human Smuggling:   Big Banks - Dionisio Diaz takes a seat inside the Evangelical Christian Assembly Church at an office park in Doraville, an Atlanta suburb. It’s been another six-day week working for a landscaping crew, mowing lawns and pruning shrubs. The 37-year-old undocumented immigrant from Guatemala clutches a Bible and joins dozens of worshipers belting out a hymn in Spanish.  Diaz has also been helped on his journey to the U.S. by more earthly powers:  He hired a gang of human smugglers, or coyotes, who got him across the U.S. border to a stash house in Mesa, Arizona, and then on to Georgia, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its February issue.

Diaz paid for part of the trip using one of America’s biggest banks, Wells Fargo & Co. It’s a story repeated over and over as waves of illegal immigrants stream into the U.S. from Latin America. Gangs reap $10 billion a year from about 3 million illegal border crossings from Mexico, according to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.

Major banks, including Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo, have been used as financial conduits for the smuggling industry, according to evidence in a federal criminal case against a gang of 15 human smugglers and warrants from prosecutors in Arizona, Maryland and Texas.

Billionaires Shocked To Learn They Only Control Half The World's Wealth - A new Oxfam report indicating that the wealthiest one per cent possesses about half of the world’s wealth has left the richest people in the world “reeling with disappointment,” a leading billionaire said on Tuesday.  Speaking to reporters in Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum, the hedge-find owner Harland Dorrinson said, “I think I speak for a lot of my fellow billionaires when I say I thought we were doing a good deal better than that.” Calling the Oxfam findings “sobering,” he said that he hoped they would serve “as a wake-up call to billionaires everywhere that it’s time to up our game.”

“Quite frankly, a lot of us thought that by buying politicians, rewriting tax laws, and hiding money overseas, we were getting it done,” said Dorrinson, who owns the hedge fund Garrote Capital. “If, at the end of the day, all we control is a measly half of the world’s wealth, clearly we need to do more — much more.” In Davos, Dorrinson is huddling with other billionaires in the hopes of setting an ambitious goal for the top one per cent:  to own the other half of the world’s wealth by 2025.

“Getting that other half is not going to be a walk in the park,” he said. “But ten years from now, when Oxfam says that the top one per cent owns everything in the world, it’ll all have been worth it.”

 A Billionaire Lectures Serfs In Davos: "America's Lifestyle Expectations Are Far Too High" - Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it has. Enter billionaire Jeff Greene, who(se) comments at Davos make Sam Zell look enlightened.

From "Bloomberg":  Billionaire Jeff Greene, who amassed a multibillion dollar fortune betting against subprime mortgage securities, says the U.S. faces a jobs crisis that will cause social unrest and radical politics.

America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence,” Greene said in an interview today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We need to reinvent our whole system of life.”

Wait a minute, “we” need to reinvent our whole system of life? I’m curious, Mr. Greene, how specifically will YOU be adjusting your lifestyle expectations? I didn’t think so. Kindly shut the fuck up.

Greene, who flew his wife, children and two nannies on a private jet plane to Davos for the week, said he’s planning a conference in Palm Beach, Florida, at the Tideline Hotel called “Closing the Gap.” The event, which he said is scheduled for December, will feature speakers such as economist Nouriel Roubini.

Apologies, it appears when it comes to Jeff Greene, he is adjusting his expectations in the opposite direction, upward.

From Karen Garcia, one of the finest reporters I read regularly, comes the following brilliant dissection of where we live now.

January 24, 2015

Progressive Plutocrats, Inc.

Whether you're a Godzillionaire or just a Godzillionaire's toady, whether you're spewing your monster fire at Davos and or whether you're enviously live-chatting the annual capitalist prom from afar, the talk of the global town these days is the corporate coup known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

And since it's been such a hard sell - what with such awfulness as trying to establish corporate sovereignty over national governments and judiciaries, and keeping life-saving drugs out of the reach of the poorest countries on earth -- the neoliberal marketers of "free trade" are out in full force, with all the gaslighting techniques they can muster.

The message is that if you're against global fascism, then there is something mentally wrong with you. Or, as President Obama told it to the plutocrats-errant of the Business Roundtable recently, opponents of TPP are "barking up the wrong tree" and quixotically trying to fight the "last battle" (over NAFTA), which is silly, because globalization is already a fait accompli anyway.

So what better way to herd the recalcitrants into the veal pen than to propagandize the job-killing, environment-polluting TPP as a "progressive" initiative -- and then recruit man o' the people/ "New York Times" columnist Joe Nocera to peddle it as such to the liberal readership?

Nocera quotes a so-called expert from a "left-leaning" think tank called "Progressive Economy" as saying that the American job losses of the late 20th century had nothing to do with the passage of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement).

He wants us to believe that globalization is just a natural phenomenon, not the work of greedy men. The passage of NAFTA was all just a serendipitous coincidence, Nocera claims, as he snidely portrays New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter as a "well-meaning" (subtext: aging and therefore somewhat ditzy) dame for opposing the TPP. He slyly gets her to admit that even though the Rochester Kodak factory closed and jobs went to Mexico, a new breed of entrepreneurs is now taking over those abandoned spaces as part of the New Normal Economy! And isn't that what globalization is all about?

To answer that Godzillion-dollar question, he shamelessly quotes experts without even bothering to inform his readers that they are lobbyists:

Edward Gresser, the executive director of Progressive Economy, a left-leaning think tank, noted that other factors were taking place at the same time as Nafta:  the growth of container ships, the lowering cost of communications, the rise of global industries. With or without trade deals, globalization is an unstoppable force. What Nafta really is, Gresser told me, is a proxy for globalization.
That's just what Obama told his confab of plutocrats at the BRT. It's the talking point of the Democratic Leadership Council, the right-of-center think tank co-founded by none other than Mister NAFTA himself, Bill Clinton. (It is now more popularly known as the New Democrat Coalition.)

Edward Gresser comes to his current stint as "scholar in residence" (TPP marketer) direct from the DLC, as a matter of fact. Nocera doesn't share this detail, either because he doesn't know, he doesn't want to know, or he knows but doesn't care.

But wait. It gets even worse. The "Progressive Economy" front group, it turns out, is a wholly-owned lobbying subsidiary of yet another lobby shop called the "GlobalWorks Foundation," itself the front group for the Fontheim International multinational lobbying enterprise.

There is nothing even remotely left-leaning about this Big Fat GlobalWorks Foundation Daddy, given that its executive director is National Association of Manufacturers consultant Wayne Palmer. The NAM is notorious as one of the most powerful anti-regulatory lobbyists in Washington.

And why not? It's heavily funded by the Koch Brothers, who'd love the TPP to pass so they can spread their pollution at no cost to themselves and for much obscene profit.

Before that, Palmer lobbied for Astra Zeneca. Before that, he was chief of staff to former GOP Senator Rick Santorum, one of the more notorious right wing politicians of the American oligarchy.

Of course, you wouldn't know about Palmer's ulterior motives by casually glancing at his website, which vaguely gushes that:

Our work supports the elimination of poverty through support for practical policies and innovative programs addressing conditions related to globalization. Since 2001, GlobalWorks has been bringing together leaders from nongovernmental organizations and educational institutions, governments, the business community, and grassroots organizations to identify and promote such policies and initiatives.
Note the carefully worded neoliberal dog whistle, replete with such standard buzzwords as "practical" and "innovative." Translation of this mission statement would go something like this:   Our plunder supports the elimination of poverty by eliminating poor people from the equation. Since 9/11, we've used fear and terror to get rich beyond our wildest dreams. Government and corporations transformed the world into their own militarized public-private partnership with a vested interest in identifying everybody and every thing ripe for extraction, at their cost and for our profit.

A look at the Board of Directors of GlobalWorks is interesting, to say the least. In charge of public relations is its co-founder, corporate reputation-salvager Claude Fontheim, a former State Department trade negotiator and another DLC Clinton alum.

Among the services provided to his oligarchic clients are a parade of Thought Leaders - neoliberal-speak for tycoons posing as social service concern trolls at Clinton Global Initiative and Davos confabs, as well as columnists and other self-proclaimed experts willing to shill for trade deals. I imagine he's got Tom Friedman all lined up for another friendly "New York Times" column in the very near future.

Except for their Republican executive director, Wayne Palmer, the other board members are all Clintonistas - and all are affiliated with Fontheim International. Ben Kobren, chief counsel at Fontheim, worked for Hillary Clinton both at State and as her press secretary in the Senate.

As Joe Nocera might say, what a coincidence. As Joe Nocera does say, since the TPP is bipartisan, then it's got to be good and naysayers like Bernie Sanders have to be marginalized. And we can't ever forget that this is good for Obama's legacy, and especially good for the legacies of his heirs and heiresses.

If you want to know the truth, Public Citizen is one of the best places to go for factual info on the TPP. It's the perfect antidote for capitalism on crack.

Speaking of the unplanned but rapidly approaching end-point (End Times) of our physical world, compliments of the neoliberal entrepreneurial devastators . . . .

The Oceans Are On the Verge of Mass Extinction. Here's How to Avoid It.

By Tom Philpott

Jan. 23, 2015

We land-based creatures live in the midst of a massive extinction crisis, just the sixth one over the past half billion years. What about the oceans? A much-discussed, wide-ranging recent Science study (paywalled) has good news: Sea critters are currently faring much better than their land counterparts, which are going extinct at a rate 36 times higher. (That number is likely exaggerated, the authors note, because scientists have done a much better job of cataloging land critters than sea critters.)

Tackling the over-fishing problem will be no mean feat, given the expected rise of the human population to 9 billion by 2050, but it's probably doable.

But the report also brings horrible news: Between over-fishing and habitat destruction (think acidification, coastal development, warming, coral destruction, dead zones from fertilizer runoff, etc.), the oceans may be on the brink of their own extinction catastrophe. (The "New York Times"' Carl Zimmer has more details here; Vox's Brad Plumer has a good analysis here.) Today's marine extinction rates look eerily similar to the "moderate" land-based ones just before the Industrial Revolution, the authors warn. "Rates of extinction on land increased dramatically after this period, and we may now be sitting at the precipice of a similar extinction transition in the oceans."

What to do? Tackling the over-fishing problem will be no mean feat, given the expected rise of the human population to 9 billion by 2050, but it's probably doable. One place to start is smarter fish farming. Globally, about half of seafood consumed comes from farms, but much of it actually harms the oceans. Salmon farms, for example, rely on sucking up mass quantities of wild fish for feed—it takes at least three pounds of anchovies, sardines, menhaden, and other "forage fish" to deliver a pound of farmed salmon (not to mention the waste problem created when you confine thousands of big fish loose together).

And Asian shrimp farms—source of nearly 90 percent of the shrimp consumed in the US — have been plunked down atop what had been highly productive coastal ecosystems called mangrove forests. According to the United Nations, as much as a third of the globe's mangroves have been destroyed since 1980 — and shrimp and other forms of aquaculture account for more than half that loss.

But there are ways to improve fish farming. Filter-feeding species like oysters and clams — which get their nutrients by filtering out plankton and other stuff suspended in the water — require no feed and can enhance coastal ecosystems. And there are farming systems (both ancient and new-fangled) that combine several species and even land-based crops to generate lots of high-quality food with few inputs and little waste. Finally, my colleagues Maddie Oatman and Brent Brownell have documented a successful effort to farm top-quality trout — normally a fish-eating fish — with vegetarian feed made mainly of (non-gross) food waste. Maddie's article here.

Then there's that oft-repeated, little-heeded advice to choose seafood low on the trophic scare — that is, fish and other sea critters that eat plants and plankton, not other fish. Oysters, clams, and mussels are all good examples. And instead of choosing farmed salmon, go with the little fish that gets fed to them. To that end, here are two recipes for sardines—trust me, they're delicious.

Now, as tricky as it will be to cut back on overfishing by convincing fish farmers to mend their ways and consumers to change their habits, the even bigger challenge will be to stop trashing the place all of these critters call home. Habitat degradation, according to the Science authors, is the main trigger for the extinction wave we're now seeing on land, and is probably the biggest threat to cause a similar catastrophe at sea.

"If you cranked up the aquarium heater and dumped some acid in the water, your fish would not be very happy," Malin L. Pinsky, a marine biologist at Rutgers University and an author of the report, told "The Times"' Zimmer. "In effect, that's what we’re doing to the oceans." Of course, both warming and acidification are the direct result of our fossil fuel habit — the same force that's generating potentially catastrophic climate change up here on land. There's no saving the oceans without solving that problem.

Tom Philpott

Food and Ag Correspondent Tom Philpott is the food and ag correspondent for "Mother Jones." For more of his stories, click here.

American Snipers Bravura?

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to watch stupid Hollywood movies about it.

“Thus the white men and Native Americans were able, through the spirit of goodwill and compromise, to reach the first in what would become a long series of mutually beneficial, breached agreements that enabled the two cultures to coexist peacefully for stretches of twenty and sometimes even thirty days, after which it was usually necessary to negotiate new agreements that would be even more mutual and beneficial, until eventually the Native Americans were able to perceive the vast mutual benefits of living in rock-strewn sectors of South Dakota.”

Dave Barry, Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States

US Army Trains World Army To Fight the War for “Pax America”

Posted on January 25, 2015


–The Pentagon Trains the World Armies To Fight the Phantom Threats

–Which we create.


ukraine trainingUS Trainers To Deploy To Ukraine

Also Will Begin Shipment of US-funded Armored Vehicles


U.S. Army Africa sponsors African Deployment Partnership Training in Benin

(Jan. 15, 2015) Marine Maj. Christopher Ross, an infantry officer with the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, looks on as Iraqi army soldiers practice maneuver techniques at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. Ross is working with Iraq Army officers and noncommisioned officers to develop advanced training for Iraqi army recruits. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William White) 

U.S. Troops headed to Syria to aid fight against ISIS

97814 full

US military returns to Iraq 3 years after withdrawing

brits training peshmerga 

British Army Training The Peshmerga In Northern Iraq

Sweden is home to some 100,000 Kurdish immigrants

Sweden to send military trainers to Kurdistan

Saturday, January 24, 2015

(American Dumb Snipers?) Shaming the Democrats   (Has the NSA Blackmailed Its Overseers In Washington?)

How the CIA Made Google:  Inside the Secret Network Behind Mass Surveillance, Endless War, and Skynet

INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a new crowd-funded investigative journalism project, breaks the exclusive story of how the United States intelligence community funded, nurtured and incubated Google as part of a drive to dominate the world through control of information. Seed-funded by the NSA and CIA, Google was merely the first among a plethora of private sector start-ups co-opted by US intelligence to retain ‘information superiority.’

The origins of this ingenious strategy trace back to a secret Pentagon-sponsored group, that for the last two decades has functioned as a bridge between the US government and elites across the business, industry, finance, corporate, and media sectors. The group has allowed some of the most powerful special interests in corporate America to systematically circumvent democratic accountability and the rule of law to influence government policies, as well as public opinion in the US and around the world. The results have been catastrophic: NSA mass surveillance, a permanent state of global war, and a new initiative to transform the US military into Skynet.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, western governments are moving fast to legitimize expanded powers of mass surveillance and controls on the internet, all in the name of fighting terrorism.

US and European politicians have called to protect NSA-style snooping, and to advance the capacity to intrude on internet privacy by outlawing encryption. One idea is to establish a telecoms partnership that would unilaterally delete content deemed to “fuel hatred and violence” in situations considered “appropriate.” Heated discussions are going on at government and parliamentary level to explore cracking down on lawyer-client confidentiality.

What any of this would have done to prevent the Charlie Hebdo attacks remains a mystery, especially given that we already know the terrorists were on the radar of French intelligence for up to a decade.

There is little new in this story. The 9/11 atrocity was the first of many terrorist attacks, each succeeded by the dramatic extension of draconian state powers at the expense of civil liberties, backed up with the projection of military force in regions identified as hotspots harbouring terrorists. Yet there is little indication that this tried and tested formula has done anything to reduce the danger. If anything, we appear to be locked into a deepening cycle of violence with no clear end in sight.

As our governments push to increase their powers, INSURGE INTELLIGENCE can now reveal the vast extent to which the US intelligence community is implicated in nurturing the web platforms we know today, for the precise purpose of utilizing the technology as a mechanism to fight global ‘information war’  —  a war to legitimize the power of the few over the rest of us. The lynchpin of this story is the corporation that in many ways defines the 21st century with its unobtrusive omnipresence:  Google.

Google styles itself as a friendly, funky, user-friendly tech firm that rose to prominence through a combination of skill, luck, and genuine innovation. This is true. But it is a mere fragment of the story. In reality, Google is a smokescreen behind which lurks the US military-industrial complex.

The inside story of Google’s rise, revealed here for the first time, opens a can of worms that goes far beyond Google, unexpectedly shining a light on the existence of a parasitical network driving the evolution of the US national security apparatus, and profiting obscenely from its operation.

Poor Mitters Misses Weekend Koch Kampus Klavern!

Comprised of some 300 well-heeled business leaders and often their spouses, the Koch donor network has become one of the most influential forces in politics today, marshaling hundreds of millions of dollars to advance free-market causes, elect Republicans, and defeat Democrats, chief among them President Obama.

The network is not monolithic, but by and large, the organizations it bankrolled stayed out of the 2012 GOP presidential primary, directing resources instead at Obama, congressional races, and policy debates. But as the New York Times recently reported, the Koch network's donors are mulling whether to get more involved in GOP nomination battle, with the possibility that one of the Koch brothers or their lieutenants throws his or her weight behind a handpicked candidate.

Romney, despite earning David Koch's endorsement in 2008, has never been beloved by the Kochs and their allies. In fact, donors who travel in the Kochs' circles singled out Romney for blame after his 2012 defeat at the hands of an unpopular sitting president. Judging by the reception to Romney's flirtation with a 2016 race, Kochworld is unlikely to embrace Romney should he run again—and may actively work to oppose him.

In the 2012 presidential race, the Kochs and their allies threw their weight behind Romney once he'd clinched the nomination, but he didn’t always appear to be their first choice. In September 2011, months after Romney had announced his candidacy, David Koch, who is an executive vice president and board member at Koch Industries, joined a group of other business titans to urge New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to get into the race. At the time, the businessmen were dubbed the Draft Christie committee.

Earlier that summer, Christie had scored an invitation to the Kochs' summer donor retreat at the Ritz-Carlton in Vail, Colorado. The audio of Christie's closely guarded speech, first reported by Mother Jones, included David Koch introducing Christie before the governor's remarks to donors as "my kind of guy."

The SOTU reviews are in.

The Rude Pundit leads the way (with a few choice words for the sniper fantasm):

It's not the film that tells us it's nothing. We know it was for nothing. We know that one of the great crimes of the new century is the invasion of Iraq for absolutely no rational, demonstrable reason. We know that all those "savages," as Kyle calls the Iraqis, that we killed were for nothing. We know that all those Americans who died lost their lives for nothing. Our military was protecting us from nothing. Our freedoms weren't at risk from Iraq.

And the lie many soldiers from Iraq cling to and the lie we tell ourselves, and the lie that so many have worked so hard to maintain, is that as long as we don't discuss that it was for nothing, as long as we pretend that the fact that soldiers fought when they were told to fight and, mostly, did so nobly, we don't have to face the truly gut-wrenching reality of our national complicity in the crime.

American Sniper exists, then, to play to that lie, to silence anyone who would point it out. Shit, once Kyle goes to war, the movie is so devoid of any rationale for being in Iraq that no one mentions Saddam Hussein or weapons of mass destruction. Even George W. Bush isn't mentioned. The film fails, too, because all it's really saying is that, if you put some soldiers somewhere and tell them to do something, they will defend each other and do the job. The fact that the leaders of their country betrayed them in the most elemental way possible never enters the equation. So all we're left with is killing Iraqis because Iraqis are trying to kill us, fuck if we care whose house it is.

William Pitt has his own perspective.

And it's one I completely agree with.

"Fine speech," said Steven. "Now what do we do?"


You see, apparently we've "turned the page" on the economic wasteland created by our Neo-Con/Neo-Liberal brain trust in Washington. The shadow of crisis has passed, and we're on a new foundation.

How many people do you know who actually feel that way?

Just about everyone I know is economically scared to death, and most of them are living paycheck to paycheck...and brothers and sisters, I know a whole hell of a lot of people, in all fifty states and most of the territories. I ain't Pew or Gallup, so take this with as many grains of salt you need to choke it down, but here's the hard truth: No pages have been turned, and the new foundation is just as porous as the old one...because it's the same old God damned foundation. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The President of the United States gave a speech on Tuesday night that would, in parts, have gone over like gangbusters at any Occupy rally in the country, and then he turned on a dime to brag about our massively impressive oil and gas production, i.e. fracking and maybe the Keystone XL pipeline, and then went on further to give an impassioned aria about climate change, at which point my brain crawled out of my ear and slithered into the bathroom, where it wept piteously into the cold porcelain truth of the base of the toilet.

Stephen King, in several of his books, deployed a line I've never forgotten: "So full of shit you squeak going into a turn." Between his cheerleading for fracking and his full-court press for the Trans-Pacific Partnership - which he championed again on Tuesday night out of the other side of his mouth - I honestly don't know how the president sleeps at night, especially after coughing up so many demonstrably phony hairballs about protecting the environment.

It was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function," but gods be good, this is a bridge too far.

And then it got worse.

"Now America thrived in the 20th century," said the president on Tuesday night, "because we made high school free, sent a generation of G.I.s to college, trained the best workforce in the world. We were ahead of the curve. But other countries caught on."

Caught on?

Caught on? To what? To this nation's deliberate defenestration of its manufacturing infrastructure and loyal Union work force, all in the name of a quick buck? Never mind the implication that other nations are incapable of their own innovations, but have to "catch on" to what we do. Yeah, that's exactly how we wound up in this ditch.

No, you serial apologist, we signed on to trade pacts like the TPP you're begging for and sold our economic strengths to the lowest bidder. We gave away the best of what we were to serve the people paying your bills and cut our guts out in the process, and you don't have the courage to tell it like it really is.

It was a fine show on Tuesday night, a masterful performance, and a comprehensive waste of time. Leaving aside everything I've said, there is the stone-cold fact that absolutely none of the progressive ideas President Obama proposed on Tuesday night have the vaguest chance of seeing daylight in this new GOP-dominated congress . . . which begs the question:

Why did he wait until now - when everything he proposed was demonstrably doomed before the words even passed his teeth - to uncork the kind of rhetoric so many of his voters have been waiting for? Was it to poke a stick in the eye of this new assemblage? Perhaps to lay some rhetorical groundwork for the 2016 presidential race?

Or did he never mean any of it in the first place, and said it on Tuesday night secure in the fact that none of it would ever come to pass?


It was horseshit.
Somebody should ask him if he could explain, in detail, how the TPP would affect all those ideas regarding minimum wage raises, paid holidays and sick leave.

  • I heard it during the 2008 campaign, the 2012 campaign, many sotu speeches yet we have no justice, TPP, drill baby drill, No arrests on wall street, i was taken in and voted and worked to get him elected. I will not fall again. He is a wall street rep. In dem/ progressive clothes. He is a liar.

  • We should all by now be quite familiar with the discrepancy between Obama´s glib rhetoric and the reality of his dirty deeds. The Pres. appears as a total economic illerate, listens apparently to his mainstream economic advisors. The United States, and Europe to are in a deep and most likely irreversable economic state of recessionary stagnation. And the root of this is the power of the financial oligarcy.

    With financialization of the economy money flows upward to the financiers, not downward to the working population enabling production of goods and services in the “real economy” to expand and consumers to purchase the products produced. The main source of economic stagnation and the crisis of accumulation is the steady decline of the real wages of the working population, workers and sectors of middle class employees, such that there is insufficient demand for the goods and services produced, or potentially produced, by a willing and needy labor force.

    With real wages in decline, workers and middle class employees sent more family members into the labor force and turned to borrowing money on home equities and credit cards as a means to maintain their standards of material existence and social status. The Banksters took advantage of this to the extent that debt levels became unsustainable and the financial system collapsed. The trend toward greater and greater inequalities in the distribution of income in the United States is striking, a trend also evidenced in Europe.

    The distribution of wealth is even more lopsided. The share of global wealth garnered by the Center´s 1% increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, and Oxfam at the 2015 World Economic Forum, forecasts that the 1% assets will be 50% by 2016. The bottom 80% held only 5.5% of assets in 2014, a mere $3,851 average. Obviously, the totally lop-side distribution of income and wealth is a major factor in the stagnation of the U.S. economy and in Europe as well. If most of the 90% are more and more hard pressed economically, their ability to purchase the goods and services they produce is reduced.

    In the terms used by Keynesian economists reduced real income depresses effective demand, and most of the 90% no longer have sufficient assets to draw upon. This in turn causes recession to deepen and extend for a longer period. Keynesian solutions in the Great Depression and since have involved government stimulus measures, tax reductions to spur consumer spending, public works projects, greater government involvement with giving direction to the economy… but the programs of very limited scope applied by the Obama administration proved ineffective and Republican intransigence prevented serious measures. The European Union had even less stimulous, only forced austerity policies that particularly effected Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy, and Spain.

  • The Fed´s monetary policies freed up funds that have in the main resulted in speculative investment in stocks pushing up indices; commodity futures spiraling prices for minerals, grains, and oil (until December 2014 when the Saudi´s asserted their oil power); foreign short-term speculations appreciating foreign currencies in relation to the dollar; and other activities that do not have much impact on the productive investment needed to stimulate growth and employment.

    Today, 46 million of the American population materially exist below the official poverty line. 

  • Right - Obama's best campaign speech (as the media recognized) was the one he gave the day after the election. The Ds deliberately threw the election to the Rs - that is the role they play, what they are paid to do. Anyone who thinks that the Ds do anything but play the script they are paid by plutocrats to act out is living in a fantasy world. The D's are there to fool the people who can tolerate the cognitive dissonance between what they hear from people like Obama and what their lying eyes tell them he actually does. R's are for people who don't have enough cognition to have dissonance.

    Obama has fully succeeded in turning that ship around which was steaming fast away from any R in 2008 The current Act IV is where Obama passes the Republican agenda as "bipartisan reform," with the D's out of the way for a couple years to re-polish their tarnished, fake image as an alternative to plutocracy. Obama and the Rs will set up the policy/legal platform for the Rs in 2016, just like Clinton did most of his real damage in the second half of his second term.

    This speech by O was nothing but window dressing of his "good intentions" to disguise the clearly bad actions that have already started with the CRomnibus. For a blow by blow account of his role and that of the Senate Ds in reopening Wall St's casino in exchange for enormous new campaign contributions from plutocrats check out this article:

Robert Kuttner was only a little more generous to the Obamic oracle.

In his speech, the president unveiled a litany of what he calls "fourth-quarter initiatives." Some of these can be accomplished by executive order; most will require legislation.

The measures that can be achieved by presidential order include reducing the down-payment or interest on federally insured mortgages to stimulate home ownership. Obama has already used his executive power to suspend deportation of some 5 million undocumented Dreamers and in some cases their parents. He has required federal contractors to pay something closer to a living wage. He recently ordered federal agencies to give new parents up to six weeks paid leave.

Among the measures requiring legislation is a tax plan that would increase taxes on the wealthiest in order to finance the tuition help for community college students and more generous child tax credits for working families. Obama also wants an excise tax on large banks and he is calling on Congress to pass a law giving all workers seven days of annual sick leave.

All this amounts to a salutary whiff of class warfare, of the sort that identifies the president with most Americans, against the one percent. And there will probably be a few more surprises in the actual address that have not yet been leaked.

These initiatives are welcome. It probably sounds churlish to say that measures such as these should have come much earlier in his presidency, and could have been a lot stronger. Late in the game, when there is no risk that his proposals will be enacted, Obama is belatedly pursuing policies that seek to underscore the differences between Democrats and Republicans in terms of the practical situation of regular people.

The Republican version of tax reform, for instance, is more tax breaks for corporations and the rich, and a puny expansion of the child tax credit, but at the cost of cuts in social spending. Republicans have already said that Obama's community college initiative is dead on arrival, citing states rights. If Republicans want to oppose paid sick leave, let's have that debate; it's one that can remind ordinary people who is on which side.

The time to have fought for such policies was when Obama still had a majority in Congress. But back then, in 2010, he was promoting deficit reduction.

And there are two deeper problems. None of Obama's proposals will fundamentally change the distribution of wealth and power in America. None addresses the structural erosion of decent payroll jobs.

With one hand, the administration proposes some useful, if marginal, help to working families. With the other, it is promoting trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), both of which will increase the power of corporations to weaken health, safety, labor and environmental regulations and increase the outsourcing of jobs.

Obama also insulted regular working people when he tried to appoint a Wall Street deal-maker, Antonio Weiss, to the top Treasury job in charge of financing the national debt. The problem was not only that Weiss had been a key figure in arranging strategies for U.S. corporations to avoid paying taxes. He had no background to qualify him for his proposed job at Treasury. He was a deal-maker, not an expert in the government bond market.

When key Senate Democrats objected to Weiss's appointment, the Treasury orchestrated a maneuver in which Weiss "withdrew" from consideration to be undersecretary in charge of domestic finance, and instead was appointed counselor to the Treasury secretary—a made-up job that does not require Senate confirmation. This was the administration's way of thumbing its nose at progressive critics, and signaling reassurance to its Wall Street allies.

Meanwhile, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act is slowly being eviscerated, by the administration's glacial pace of issuing regulations, now compounded by the Republican strategy of dismantling the financial reform law through successive amendments to must-pass legislation. Wall Street profits are more lucrative than ever, too-big-to-fail banks are even bigger, and there is no fundamental change to the business model that further enriches the one percent and that crashed the economy in 2008.

The White House policy of business-as-usual for Wall Street plus marginally increased help for working families calls to mind a very useful British expression—"horse and rabbit stew," a supposedly equal ragout made from one horse and one rabbit.

When you add it all up, it still amounts to Rubinism, the ideology associated with America's most influential Wall Street Democrat, Robert Rubin. The former Goldman Sachs co-chair, later chair of the executive committee of Citigroup—with a stint as Clinton economic policy czar and later treasury secretary in between—had a neat formula for serving the interests of Wall Street while signaling concern for America's struggling working families.

The policy was one part financial deregulation and trade deals crafted to enable banks and corporations to outrun the constraints of domestic law. The other part was small-bore initiatives to signal help for ordinary working families. Such proposals are unobjectionable, except for the fact that they don't fundamentally change the political economy of American inequality.

If Hillary Clinton should be the next president, we run the risk of having Rubinism as the dominant Democratic economic ideology for three successive Democratic presidencies—and we will keep wondering why working people increasingly give up on Democrats and on government itself. (While Obama is cautiously proposing some modest spending initiatives, Bill Clinton keeps on showing up at events sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, sounding the alarms about the federal deficit.)

Thanks to the historic accident of the date of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birth, MLK Day will forever be on the eve of the president's State of the Union address. Dr. King's courage in fighting not just for racial inclusion but for economic justice should shame Democrats who invoke King's words but not his sense of mission and struggle.

This will continue.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

I think it's nice that someone hasn't forgotten the city from which the original Bush money originated. At least the most important of them according to legend.

Would you be shocked to learn that the FBI apparently knew that some organization, perhaps even a law enforcement agency or private security outfit, had contingency plans to assassinate peaceful protestors in a major American city — and did nothing to intervene?

Would you be surprised to learn that this intelligence comes not from a shadowy whistle-blower but from the FBI itself – specifically, from a document obtained from Houston FBI office last December, as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Washington, DC-based Partnership for Civil Justice Fund?

To repeat:  this comes from the FBI itself. The question, then, is:  What did the FBI do about it?

The Plot

Remember the Occupy Movement? The peaceful crowds that camped out in the center of a number of cities in the fall of 2011, calling for some recognition by local, state and federal authorities that our democratic system was out of whack, controlled by corporate interests, and in need of immediate repair?

That movement swept the US beginning in mid-September 2011. When, in early October, the movement came to Houston, Texas, law enforcement officials and the city’s banking and oil industry executives freaked out  perhaps even more so than they did in some other cities. The push-back took the form of violent assaults by police on Occupy activists, federal and local surveillance of people seen as organizers, infiltration by police provocateurs — and, as crazy as it sounds, some kind of plot to assassinate the “leaders” of this non-violent and leaderless movement.

But don’t take our word for it. Here’s what the document obtained from the Houston FBI, said:

An identified [DELETED] as of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protestors (sic) in Houston, Texas if deemed necessary. An identified [DELETED] had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. [DELETED] planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles. (Note:  protests continued throughout the weekend with approximately 6000 persons in NYC. ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests have spread to about half of all states in the US, over a dozen European and Asian cities, including protests in Cleveland (10/6-8/11) at Willard Park which was initially attended by hundreds of protesters.)

Occupiers Astounded — But Not Entirely

Paul Kennedy, the National Lawyers Guild attorney in Houston who represented a number of Occupy Houston activists arrested during the protests, had not heard of the sniper plot, but said, “I find it hard to believe that such information would have been known to the FBI and that we would not have been told about it.”  He then added darkly, “If it had been some right-wing group plotting such an action, something would have been done. But if it is something law enforcement was planning, then nothing would have been done. It might seem hard to believe that a law enforcement agency would do such a thing, but I wouldn’t put it past them.”

He adds, “The use of the phrase ‘if deemed necessary,’ sounds like it was some kind of official organization that was doing the planning.” In other words, the “identified [DELETED]” mentioned in the Houston FBI document may have been some other agency with jurisdiction in the area, which was calculatedly making plans to kill Occupy activists.

Kennedy knows first-hand the extent to which combined federal-state-local law enforcement forces in Houston were focused on disrupting and breaking up the Occupy action in that city

He represented seven people who were charged with felonies for a protest that attempted to block the operation of Houston’s port facility. That case fell apart when in the course of discovery, the prosecution disclosed that the Occupiers had been infiltrated by three undercover officers from the Austin Police department, who came up with the idea of using a device called a “sleeping dragon” — actually chains inside of PVC pipe — which are devilishly hard to cut through, for chaining protesters together blocking port access. The police provocateurs, Kennedy says, actually purchased the materials and constructed the “criminal instruments” themselves, supplying them to the protesters. As a result of this discovery, the judge tossed out the felony charges.

FBI Response

WhoWhatWhy contacted FBI headquarters in Washington, and asked about this document—which, despite its stunning revelation and despite PCFJ press releases, was (notwithstanding a few online mentions) generally ignored by mainstream and “alternative” press alike.

The agency confirmed that it is genuine and that it originated in the Houston FBI office. (The plot is also referenced in a second document obtained in PCJF’s FOIA response, in this case from the FBI’s Gainesville, Fla., office, which cites the Houston FBI as the source.)  That second document actually suggests that the assassination plot, which never was activated, might still be operative should Occupy decisively re-emerge in the area. It states:

On 13 October 20111, writer sent via email an excerpt from the daily [DELETED] regarding FBI Houston’s [DELETED] to all IAs, SSRAs and SSA [DELETED] This [DELETED] identified the exploitation of the Occupy Movement by [LENGTHY DELETION] interested in developing a long-term plan to kill local Occupy leaders via sniper fire.

Asked why solid information about an assassination plot against American citizens exercising their Constitutional right to free speech and assembly never led to exposure of the plotters’ identity or an arrest—as happened with so many other terrorist schemes the agency has publicized — Paul Bresson, head of the FBI media office, offered a typically elliptical response:

The FOIA documents that you reference are redacted in several places pursuant to FOIA and privacy laws that govern the release of such information so therefore I am unable to help fill in the blanks that you are seeking.  Exemptions are cited in each place where a redaction is made.  As far as the question about the murder plot, I am unable to comment further, but rest assured if the FBI was aware of credible and specific information involving a murder plot, law enforcement would have responded with appropriate action.

Note that the privacy being “protected” in this instance (by a government that we now know has so little respect for our privacy) was of someone or some organization that was actively contemplating violating other people’s Constitutional rights— by murdering them. That should leave us less than confident about Bresson’s assertion that law enforcement would have responded appropriately to a “credible” threat.

Houston Cops Not Warned?

The Houston FBI office stonewalled our requests for information about the sniper-rifle assassination plot and why nobody was ever arrested for planning to kill demonstrators. Meanwhile, the Houston Police, who had the job of controlling the demonstrations, and of maintaining order and public safety, displayed remarkably little interest in the plot:  “We haven’t heard about it,” said Keith Smith, a public affairs officer for the department, who told us he inquired about the matter with senior department officials.

Asked whether he was concerned that, if what he was saying was correct, it meant the FBI had not warned local police about a possible terrorist act being planned in his city, he said, 

“No. You’d have to ask the Houston FBI about that.”

Craft International Again

Sniper action by law enforcement officials in Texas would not be anything new. Last October, a border patrol officer with the Texas Department of Public Safety, riding in a helicopter, used a sniper rifle to fire at a fast-moving pickup truck carrying nine illegal immigrants into the state from Mexico, killing two and wounding a third, and causing the vehicle to crash and overturn. It turns out that Border Patrol agents, like a number of Texas law enforcement organizations, had been receiving special sniper training from a Dallas-based mercenary-for-hire organization called Craft International LLC.  It seems likely that Houston Police have also received such training, possibly from Craft, which has a contract for such law-enforcement training funded by the US Department of Homeland Security.

Efforts to obtain comment from Craft International have been unsuccessful, but the company’s website features photos of Craft instructors training law enforcement officers in sniper rifle use (the company was founded in 2009 by Chris Kyle, a celebrated Navy SEAL sniper who last year was slain by a combat veteran he had accompanied to a shooting range). A number of men wearing Craft-issued clothing and gear, and bearing the company’s distinctive skull logo, were spotted around the finish line of the April Boston Marathon, both before and after the bombing. Some were wearing large black backpacks with markings resembling what was seen on an exploded backpack image released by the FBI.(For more on the backpacks that allegedly contained the bombs, see this piece we did in May.)

An Activist Responds

Remington Alessi, an Occupy Houston activist who played a prominent role during the Occupy events, was one of the seven defendants whose felony charge was dropped because of police entrapment. He says of the sniper plot information, which first came to light last December as one of hundreds of pages of FBI files obtained by PCJF, “We have speculated heavily about it. The ‘if deemed necessary’ phrase seems to indicate it was an organization. It could have been the police or a private security group.”

Alessi, who hails from a law-enforcement family and who ran last year for sheriff of Houston’s Harris County on the Texas Green Party ticket, garnering 22,000 votes, agrees with attorney Kennedy that the plotters were not from some right-wing organization. “If it had been that, the FBI would have acted on it,” he agrees. “I believe the sniper attack was one strategy being discussed for dealing with the occupation.” He adds:

I assume I would have been one of the targets, because I led a few of the protest actions, and I hosted an Occupy show on KPFT.  I wish I could say I’m surprised that this was seriously discussed, but remember, this is the same federal government that murdered (Black Panther Party leader) Fred Hampton. We have a government that traditionally murders people who are threats. I guess being a target is sort of an honor.

There, Alessi is referring to evidence made public in the Church Committee hearings of the 1970s which revealed that the FBI was orchestrating local police attacks (in Chicago, San Francisco and New York) on Panther leaders. (For more on that, see this, starting at p. 185, esp. pp. 220-223; also see this .)

Alessi suspects that the assassination plot cited in the FBI memo was probably developed in the Houston Fusion Center (where federal, state and local intelligence people work hand-in-glove). During our trial we learned that they were all over our stuff, tracking Twitter feeds etc.  It seems to me that based on the access they were getting they were using what we now know as the NSA’s PRISM program.

He notes, correctly, that in documents obtained from the FBI and Homeland Security by the PCJF’s FOIA search, the Occupy Movement is classed as a “terrorist” activity.

Ironically, while the Occupy Movement was actually peaceful, the FBI, at best, was simply standing aside while some organization plotted to assassinate the movement’s prominent activists.

The FBI’s stonewalling response to inquiries about this story, and the agency’s evident failure to take any action regarding a known deadly threat to Occupy protesters in Houston, will likely make protesters at future demonstrations look differently at the sniper-rifle equipped law-enforcement personnel often seen on rooftops during such events. What are they there for? Who are the threats they are looking for and potentially targeting? Who are they protecting?  And are they using “suppressed” sniper rifles?  Would this indicate they have no plans to take responsibility for any shots silently fired?  Or that they plan to frame someone else?


FBI Documents (click on each to enlarge)



Tell us, Dianne.

Who are the spooks?

Is the NSA Blackmailing Its Overseers In Washington?

Posted on


During the Vietnam war, the NSA spied on two prominent politicians – Senators Frank Church and Howard Baker – as well as critics of government policy Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King, and a Washington Post humorist.

A recently declassified history written by the NSA itself called the effort “disreputable if not outright illegal.”

The main whistleblower who revealed the Vietnam-era spying was Christopher H. Pyle. Pyle told Rob Kall of OpEdNews:

They targeted Sen. Frank Church and Sen. Howard Baker. It could mean they were trying to get information or dirt on senators involved in the Church committee and Watergate committee investigations respectively — either to learn something about their investigations or to discredit them.


We still need more information about what happened then. But more critically, we need more information about what’s happening now. These revelations raise the obvious question:  If the NSA was targeting people like Sen. Frank Church, who were in a position to oversee the NSA — is that happening now? That is, are people like intelligence committee chairs Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and other congressional leaders — who are supposed to be providing oversight themselves — compromised in some way by the NSA? If so, as seems quite certain from the recent Edward Snowden revelations, then how can they conduct genuine oversight of the NSA with their committees?”

If I were a member of congress, I would be terrified that NSA would do to them what J. Edgar Hoover did to members back during his time.
Sound paranoid?

Maybe. But remember:

  • The NSA has been tracking people’s porn in order to discredit them. The New York Times reports that this type of behavior has been going on for a long time: “J. Edgar Hoover compiled secret dossiers on the sexual peccadillos and private misbehavior of those he labeled as enemies — really dangerous people like … President John F. Kennedy, for example”.
  • Another very high-level NSA whistleblower – the head of the NSA’s global intelligence gathering operation – says that the NSA targeted CIA chief Petraeus
Postscript: Of course, there’s always the carrot