Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Middle East Holocaust Coming?  (If You Were Russia and China, and You Knew That America Had a War Doctrine Permitting a Surprise Nuclear Attack, Would You Sit There Waiting While War Machine Cranks Up?)   SEC/NRC/NSA/TSA/MMS/DEA/CFTC/FBI/DOJ/Secret Service/Auditing/Fed Reserve/Treasury Corruption Rampant

. . . the human destruction of the oceans is yet more evidence of the ruinous nature of private capitalism. In capitalism there is no thought for the future of the planet and humanity, only for short-term profits and bonuses. Consequently, social costs are ignored.

Capitalism can work if social or external costs can be included in the costs of production. However, the powerful corporations are able to block a socially functioning capitalism with their political campaign contributions.

Consequently, capitalists themselves make the capitalist system dysfunctional. We may have reached the point where the external costs of production are larger than the value of capitalist output. Economist Herman Daly makes a convincing case that this is the fact.

After so many wars driven by American greed, who can doubt that more and worse ones are not already in process?

March 30, 2015

A Middle East Holocaust

Paul Craig Roberts

Foundations and corporations do not support truth-tellers. American foundations underwrite war and US imperialism. Foundations support subversion of countries that are not Washington’s puppet states. Your website has no foundation support, no corporate support; it only has your support.

I have been around for a long time and have experienced more than most. The current situation in my experience is the most dangerous time of all for humanity.

Nuclear weapons are no longer restrained by the Cold War MAD doctrine. Washington has released them into pre-emptive first strike form.

The targets of these pre-emptive strikes – Russia and China – know it, because Washington proudly proclaims its immorality in public documents describing its war doctrine.

The result is to maximize the chance of nuclear war. If you were Russia and China, and you knew that Washington had a war doctrine that permits a surprise nuclear attack, would you sit there waiting while Washington cranks up its anti-Russian and anti-Chinese propaganda machine, demonizing both countries as a threat to “freedom and democracy”?

The fools in Washington are playing with nuclear fire. Noam Chomsky points out that in a less dangerous time than currently exists, we came very close to nuclear war. https://philosophynow.org/issues/107/Noam_Chomsky_on_Institutional_Stupidity

Harold Pinter, one of the last Western intellects, understood the danger in Western arrogance. He denounced the West’s crimes and called for the crimes to be subject to established law before it is too late for humanity.

“We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it ‘bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East’. How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice.”
- Harold Pinter, 2005 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech.

“An Iraqi Holocaust” by Gideon Polya http://www.countercurrents.org/polya230315.htm and “Genocide In Iraq” http://www.countercurrents.org/polya150315.htm provide abundant evidence for convicting Bush and Blair.

Dr. Gideon Polya is a professor of science in one of Australia’s leading universities. He has a moral conscience, something increasingly rare in the Western world.

His articles are based largely on the just published by Clarity Press two-volume heavily documented Genocide in Iraq by Abdul-Haq Al-Ani and Tarik Al-Ani. Abdul-Haq Al-Ani is a British-educated lawyer with a Ph.D. in International Law and a Ph.D. in electronics engineering. Tarik Al-Ani, is an architect, translator, and researcher.

Currently I am reading the two-volume work and intended to review it. But Professor Polya’s articles suffice as an introduction to Genocide in Iraq. Washington has committed a terrible crime in our name. Washington not only murdered Iraq, Washington has murdered the Middle East. Washington and its despicable vassals – ”the Coalition of the Willing” – are responsible for a Middle East Holocaust.

For people in the Anglo-American world who have a moral conscience, the facts are soul-wrenching. The populations of the countries whose governments comprised “the Coalition of the Willing” are contaminated with war crimes committed by their governments in the Iraq Genocide. A progressive modern state was obliterated, and 2.7 million Iraqi people were murdered.

The crime was covered up with propaganda that demonized Saddam Hussein and created fear of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

The Iraqi genocide was based on a lie, and both Bush and Blair knew it. The two satanic leaders simply decided to destroy a people who they first demonized and marginalized.

Cheney and the neocons continue to justify the genocide and the illegal torture regime that they created in order to produce fake “terrorists” as a justification for their war crimes. The Western media, especially the "New York Times," is also complicit in the Iraqi Genocide as are the insouciant Western peoples themselves who stood by cheering while millions of people were destroyed on the basis of a blatant and transparent lie.

What does the West represent? Greed? Lies? War? Torture? War Crimes? Selfishness, Intolerance? Destruction of life on earth?

The “Christian” West is a master at propaganda and self-deception. Look at the evangelical churches. They support a criminal, inhumane regime while professing to be followers of Christ.

Look at American “conservatives.” They support the militarized police state. They support the routine police murders of dark-skinned American citizens. They support every war Washington dreams up and even more. Indeed, there are not enough wars for the satisfaction of Congressional Republicans who now want war with Russia and with Iran.

Look at the Republicans in Congress and in state governments. They hate the environment. They love polluters. They worship Israel and Israel’s destruction of the Palestinians and the ongoing theft of the Palestinians’ country, a 60-year old activity. Just look at the map of shrinking Palestine. More is stolen each day.

Washington has supported this theft of an entire country. Yet, Washington is able to masquerade as a great defender of human rights. Whose rights? Washington’s and Israel’s. No one else’s rights count.

How does the world survive the American-Israeli aggression? Probably it will not. The evil is now directed at Iran, Russia, and China. These countries cannot be bombed year after year after year with no consequences to the bombers.

Iran is limited in its destructive ability. But Iran could destroy Saudi Arabia and Israel. Russia and China can destroy the US and all of Washington’s vassal states. The intensity of Washington’s propaganda war is driving the world to destruction.

How can it be stopped when Putin himself says over and over that Washington continually ignores every thing that the Russian government says. Putin is the peacemaker. Every peace proposal he brings is ignored by Washington whose response is to beat the drums of war louder.

Unless European governments recognize the danger in Washington’s aggression and dissolve NATO, planet earth hasn’t long to live.

The American public needs to understand the consequences of Washington’s illegality and criminality. On the one hand it means that those subject to Washington’s aggression have to endure war crimes, but on the other hand it means a growing hatred for America. As Washington’s easy targets are used up, Washington engages countries that can reply to force with force.

Unless the neoconservatives are ejected from the Obama regime and banned from inclusion in any future American government, mushroom clouds will go up over Washington, New York, Boston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, Cleveland, Chicago. The American mid-west, which hosts the ICBM silos, will become uninhabitable except by cockroaches.

Americans, and the populations of the American puppet states, desperately need to understand that Washington is incapable of speaking the truth about anything. Washington is an evil force. Washington is Sauron. Washington is Satan.

Look at Iraq. Look at Afghanistan. Look at Libya. Look at Syria. Look at Somalia. Look at Ukraine. Nothing but destruction comes from Washington. Will life on earth be Washington’s next victim?

And all this uniquely American "goodness" in action comes down to porn watching?

Pay them enough and they will come.

Or let go of investigating financial and international chicanery.

Government Corruption Has Become Rampant

March 30, 2015 by WashingtonsBlog

The Cop Is On the Take

Government corruption has become rampant:

  • Senior SEC employees spent up to 8 hours a day surfing porn sites instead of cracking down on financial crimes
  • NSA spies pass around homemade sexual videos and pictures they’ve collected from spying on the American people
  • Investigators from the Treasury’s Office of the Inspector General found that some of the regulator’s employees surfed erotic websites, hired prostitutes and accepted gifts from bank executives … instead of actually working to help the economy
  • The Minerals Management Service – the regulator charged with overseeing BP and other oil companies to ensure that oil spills don’t occur – was riddled with “a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity”, which included “sex with industry contacts
  • Agents for the Drug Enforcement Agency had sex parties with prostitutes hired by the drug cartels they were supposed to stop
  • The former chief accountant for the SEC says that Bernanke and Paulson broke the law and should be prosecuted
  • The government knew about mortgage fraud a long time ago. For example, the FBI warned of an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud in 2004. However, the FBI, DOJ and other government agencies then stood down and did nothing. See this and this. For example, the Federal Reserve turned its cheek and allowed massive fraud, and the SEC has repeatedly ignored accounting fraud. Indeed, Alan Greenspan took the position that fraud could never happen
  • Paulson and Bernanke falsely stated that the big banks receiving TARP money were healthy, when they were not. The Treasury Secretary also falsely told Congress that the bailouts would be used to dispose of toxic assets … but then used the money for something else entirely
  • Warmongerers in the U.S. government knowingly and intentionally lied us into a war of aggression in Iraq.

    The former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – the highest ranking military officer in the United States – said that the Iraq war was “based on a series of lies. The same is true in Libya and other wars
  • The Bush White House worked hard to smear CIA officersbloggers and anyone else who criticized the Iraq war
The biggest companies own the D.C. politicians. Indeed, the head of the economics department at George Mason University has pointed out that it is unfair to call politicians “prostitutes”.  They are in fact pimps … selling out the American people for a price.

Government regulators have become so corrupted and “captured” by those they regulate that Americans know that the cop is on the take.   Institutional corruption is killing people’s trust in our government and our institutions.
Indeed, America is no longer a democracy or republic … it’s officially an oligarchy.
The allowance of unlimited campaign spending allows the oligarchs to purchase politicians more directly than ever.    Moreover, there are two systems of justice in Americaone for the big banks and other fatcats, and one for everyone else.

But the private sector is no better … for example, the big banks have turned into criminal syndicates.

Liberals and conservatives tend to blame our country’s problems on different factors … but they are all connected.

The real problem is the malignant, symbiotic relationship between big corporations and big government.

Monday, March 30, 2015

(Social Costs Of Capitalism Are Destroying Earth’s Ability To Support Life)  In Which the Would-Be Enforcement Official Cravenly Compliments the Industry He Supposedly Polices and Then Jokingly Puts Forward His Own Son As a Candidate for Job in Private Equity (Financial Feudalism Explained)

What’s Wrong with the Economy — and with Economics?

Wait, you mean the gutting and deading of extreme capitalism has had a few downside social costs?

And WTF are social costs? (And who cares anymore anyway?)

Aren't we the noveau Richie Riches now? (It's good to be king.)

. . . the external cost imposed on the climate by fossil-fuel use is the source of the life-threatening crisis that humanity confronts. Capitalists make money by exploiting labor and by externalizing the costs of the wastes produced by the productive process by imposing the wastes on the environment. It is the short-term time horizon of production organized by selfish private interests focused on quarterly profits that is destroying the livability of the earth.The Social Costs Of Capitalism Are Destroying Earth’s Ability To Support Life

Regulatory Capture, Captured on Video

By Matt Taibbi, "Rolling Stone"

27 March 15

SEC official slobbers over private equity titans, suggests his son might want a job in the field
his is courtesy of Yves Smith over at "Naked Capitalism," who's been following the strange story of SEC Examination chief Andrew Bowden's evolving position on financial corruption for a while.

That story blew up recently in a remarkable public appearance by Bowden, in which the would-be enforcement official cravenly compliments the industry he supposedly polices and then — get this — jokingly puts forward his own son as a candidate for a job in private equity. On video. You won't see a more brazen example of regulatory capture anywhere.

Some brief backstory. Just a little under a year ago, Bowden, the SEC's Director of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, gave a speech that was remarkably, unusually critical of the Private Equity field. Bowden had conducted a study of the Private Equity buSsiness and found that over half of the companies they looked at were guilty of ripping off their clients:

By far, the most common observation our examiners have made when examining private equity firms has to do with the adviser's collection of fees and allocation of expenses. When we have examined how fees and expenses are handled by advisers to private equity funds, we have identified what we believe are violations of law or material weaknesses in controls over 50 percent of the time.

To fully explain what Bowden is talking about here would require a much longer article, but the basics go something like this.

Private Equity reptiles like Mitt Romney make their living borrowing huge sums of money, millions and billions, from investors called "limited partners." They then take that borrowed money and acquire companies with that cash, sometimes with the company's consent, sometimes without it.

The ostensible object of the exercise (at least, this is the way folks in the Private Equity business would describe it) is to make money for the limited partners by acquiring flawed firms, turning them around, and channeling the profits from the reborn target firm back to the investors.

However, from another point of view, the more immediate object of the exercise is to make money for the Private Equity firm. This can be achieved in virtually countless ways once these takeover parasite-pirates have latched on to their target. But the most reliable way of making cash is to soak the acquired company for huge masses of fees, both legit and not.

The always-excellent Gretchen Morgensen brought up a great example last year, in a piece about a company called Biomet that had been taken over by a consortium of PE partnerships. She wrote that Biomet will be forced to keep paying about $30 million in "monitoring fees" through 2017, which as Morgensen notes is two years after the deal closes.

In other words, she wrote, "Blackstone, Goldman Sachs, K.K.R. and TPG will be paid for two years of services that Biomet isn't receiving."

Anyway, last year, Andrew Bowden at the SEC found that over half of the PE/LBO firms he looked at were doing something wrong with fees.

One of the most common scams involves the use of something called "Operating Partners." In essence, the PE firm forces the target company to hire their people as independent contracting consultants.

As Bowden put it, these "Operating Partners" are typically Wall Street hotshots whose services "the portfolio companies could not independently afford."

The scam here, as Yves Smith points out, is that the investors think that the Private Equity firm is paying for these managers, while in fact they're being paid for by the acquired company. As Smith says, this scheme essentially robs the investors:

From an economic perspective, every dollar that comes out of a portfolio company this way is effectively stolen from the limited partner investors, since they would otherwise have the first claim on the portfolio companies' cash flows.

All of which is a complicated way of saying the following: Takeover Artist Jerks use hidden fees to rip investors off.

Last May, Bowden, a senior SEC official, described this problem as almost epidemic. The SEC looked at 150 companies and over half were guilty of something.

A year later? They're not so worried.

It raised some eyebrows over the course of last summer and fall when the SEC did not follow up on Bowden's remarks.

Even some Private Equity trade publications began to wonder aloud where the beef was, noting that "there hasn't been much additional commentary" from the SEC since Bowden's aggressive speech last May.

Bowden himself seemed to walk back some of his comments in an interview last September. "Anecdotally," he said, "I would say there have been some changes in the behavior on the part of funds and investors and that's all for the good."

Anecdotally? It is a very odd thing to hear a regulator in the middle of a granular, industry-wide examination say that he's heard that things are getting better.

Regulation by

rumor is not your typical enforcement MO.

By this month, Bowden had achieved a complete 180, telling a conference of PE professionals that their business was just "the greatest."

This is Bowden on March 5th, on a panel for PE and Venture Capital issues at Stanford. Check out how he pooh-poohs the fact that his SEC has seen "some misconduct," before he goes on to grovel before his audience:

Like what, who else out there is in a business that's that good? And I reckon, it's sort of interesting for me for private equity in terms of all we've seen, and what we have seen, where we have seen some misconduct and things like that, 'cause I always think like, to my simple mind, that the people in private equity, they're the greatest, they're actually adding value to their clients, they're getting paid really really well, you know...

Not the usual posture you'd expect from an enforcement official. He likes the Private Equity business! They make a lot of money! They help people! And that thing about half of those businesses committing fee abuses, that's just "some misconduct" we found last year. No big deal!

It got worse, though:

Bowden: And so my view on the small ones is, I still think this is one of…I tell my son, I have a teenaged son, I tell him, “Cole, you want to be in private equity. That's where to go, that's a great business, that's a really good business. That'll be good for you.”

So for me personally, as we share our opinions…

Questioner [interrupting] I'd love to hire your son, by the way. That's a deal.

Bowden's comments certainly raised a few eyebrows. The LA Times wrote quite critically about them, as did a few other outlets.

There are some people who will say it's easy to overreact to something like this. If you listen to the tape, Bowden makes his comments in a joking manner, and everyone laughs. It's not like he brought his son onstage and had him hand out resumes after the speech.

But no government regulator with his or her head screwed on correctly would ever go near a joke like that in public. Even if it's not what it very much appears to be, it sounds incredibly bad.

And, worse, it reveals an attitude that's absolutely poisonous among regulators, this fawning worship of people on Wall Street who maybe break a few rules, but that's okay, because they make tons of money! Can you imagine Elliott Ness giving a speech gushing over what nice cars Al Capone drives? It's revolting.

It's not necessary for regulators to hate the greedy bottom-liners who go around toying with peoples' jobs and livelihoods using borrowed money.

It's not even necessary for regulators to hate those same rich takeover artists for paying half the taxes of most ordinary people, because our bought-off government refuses to close the loophole that allows Mitt Romney to call the money he makes "carried interest" instead of income.

We don't need regulators to be out to get anyone. But is a healthy indifference too much to ask? Do we really need for even the regulators to slobber over these people?


+19 # PCPrincess 2015-03-27 09:38
I am now quite certain that the portion of human beings that do not possess a large level of empathy (a vast majority) are not capable of self-regulation . Hence, capitalism is NOT possible in any form or sense. My only hope for human-kind are the empathy-bearing progressives. May we find the strength and will to fight even though the oligarchs have ensured we are stressed to the limit just making ends meet.
+10 # wrknight 2015-03-27 10:14
The most important and hardest job of a president is the selection of qualified personnel to carry out the day to day functions of his administration. As a president, Obama has been the greatest disappointment I could ever imagine. His one great achievement was the passing of Obamacare which accomplished only half what he promised. But his greatest failure was in the selection of his staff and cabinet, many of whom were hold-overs from the worst administration ever. How any president, who was fully aware of the sins of his predecessor, could retain those subordinates who were most guilty of executing those sins is simply beyond me. While he may be a great orator, he has been a complete failure as an administrator. Bowden is just one of many examples.

+6 # Edwina 2015-03-27 10:29
The WSJ today states that Elliot Spitzer did untold damage in his attempts to regulate Wall Street. While I am not sophisticated about the ins-and-outs of the SEC and Wall Street, it seems to me that the WSJ is becoming openly propagandistic, rather subtly representing its "natural" interests.
+2 # wrknight 2015-03-27 10:34
Quoting Edwina: 
The WSJ today states that Elliot Spitzer did untold damage in his attempts to regulate Wall Street. While I am not sophisticated about the ins-and-outs of the SEC and Wall Street, it seems to me that the WSJ is becoming openly propagandistic, rather subtly representing its "natural" interests.

When has it not been?
0 # Floridatexan 2015-03-27 11:38
Before Rupert Murdoch bought it.
+3 # BuzzDavis 2015-03-27 10:39
Thank you Matt & Yves Smith. Enforcement of laws at the Fed. level is extreemly had to follow for citizens. We expect that the thousands of workers hired to conduct enforcement do just that. But the bureaucracy has always put gatekeepers in control. The success in enforcement work is to be able to circumvent the gatekeepers. Bowden is an example of how slime politicians put gatekeepers at the head of almost all enforcement so the politicians are in control of the enforcement not the professionals. Without reporting like this the slime forever wins!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wherein, we learn from incredibly prosaic sources the truth:   that the move of big business to shale oil, tar sands, the mining of the earth for black gold (not to mention the melting of the glaciers) for the last bit of big profit was the end game.

For us all.

March 24, 2015

Financial Feudalism

Once upon a time — and a fairly long time it was — most of the thickly settled parts of the world had something called feudalism. It was a way of organizing society hierarchically. Typically, at the very top there was a sovereign (king, prince, emperor, pharaoh, along with some high priests). Below the sovereign were several ranks of noblemen, with hereditary titles. Below the noblemen were commoners, who likewise inherited their stations in life, be it by being bound to a piece of land upon which they toiled, or by being granted the right to engage in a certain type of production or trade, in case of craftsmen and merchants. Everybody was locked into position through permanent relationships of allegiance, tribute and customary duties:  tribute and customary duties flowed up through the ranks, while favors, privileges and protection flowed down.

It was a remarkably resilient, self-perpetuating system, based largely on the use of land and other renewable resources, all ultimately powered by sunlight. Wealth was primarily derived from land and the various uses of land. Here is a simplified org chart showing the pecking order of a medieval society.

Feudalism was essentially a steady-state system. Population pressures were relieved primarily through emigration, war, pestilence and, failing all of the above, periodic famine. Wars of conquest sometimes opened up temporary new venues for economic growth, but since land and sunlight are finite, this amounted to a zero-sum game.

But all of that changed when feudalism was replaced with capitalism. What made the change possible was the exploitation of nonrenewable resources, the most important of which was energy from burning fossilized hydrocarbons:  first peat and coal, then oil and natural gas. Suddenly, productive capacity was decoupled from the availability of land and sunlight, and could be ramped up almost, but not quite, ad infinitum, simply by burning more hydrocarbons.
Energy use, industry and population all started going up exponentially. A new system of economic relations was brought into being, based on money that could be generated at will, in the form of debt, which could be repaid with interest using the products of ever-increasing future production.
Compared with the previous, steady-state system, the change amounted to a new assumption:  that the future will always be bigger and richer — rich enough to afford to pay back both principal and interest.

With this new, capitalistic arrangement, the old, feudal relationships and customs fell into disuse, replaced by a new system in which the ever-richer owners of capital squared off against increasingly dispossessed labor. The trade union movement and collective bargaining allowed labor to hold its own for a while, but eventually a number of factors, such as automation and globalization, undermined the labor movement, leaving the owners of capital with all the leverage they could want over a demoralized surplus population of former industrial workers.
In the meantime, the owners of capital formed their own pseudo-aristocracy, but without the titles or the hereditary duties and privileges. Their new pecking order was predicated on just one thing:  net worth. How many dollar signs people have next to their name is all that's necessary to determine their position in society.

But eventually almost all the good, local sources of hydrocarbon-based energy became depleted, and had to be replaced using lower-quality, more remote, harder-to-produce, more expensive ones.
This took a big bite out of economic growth, because with each passing year more and more of it had to be plowed right back into producing the energy needed to simply sustain, never mind grow, the system.
At the same time, industry produced a lot of unpleasant byproducts: environmental pollution and degradation, climate destabilization and other externalities. Eventually these started showing up as high insurance premiums and remediation costs for natural and man-made disasters, and these too put a damper on economic growth.

Population growth has its penalties too. You see, bigger populations translate to bigger population centers, and research results show that the bigger the city, the higher is its energy use per capita. Unlike biological organisms, where the larger the animal, the slower is its metabolism, the intensity of activity needed to sustain a population center increases along with population. Observe that in big cities people talk faster, walk faster, and generally have to live more intensely and operate on a tighter schedule just to stay alive.
All of this hectic activity takes energy away from constructing a bigger, richer future. Yes, the future may be ever more populous (for now) but the fastest-growing form of human settlement on the planet is the urban slum—lacking in social services, sanitation, rife with crime and generally unsafe.

What all of this means is that growth is self-limiting. Next, observe that we have already reached these limits, and have in some cases gone far beyond them. The currently failing fad of hydraulic fracturing of shale deposits and steaming oil out of tar sands is indicative of the advanced state of depletion of fossil fuel sources.
Climate destabilization is producing ever more violent storms, ever more severe droughts (California now has just a year's worth of water left) and is predicted to wipe out entire countries because of rising ocean levels, failing monsoon seasons and dwindling irrigation water from glacial melt.
Pollution has likewise reached its limits in many areas:  urban smog, be it in Paris, Beijing, Moscow or Teheran, has become so bad that industrial activities are being curtailed simply so that people can breathe. Radioactivity from the melted-down nuclear reactors at Fukushima in Japan is showing up in fish caught on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

All of these problems are causing a very strange thing to happen to money. In the previous, growth phase of capitalism, money was borrowed into existence in order to bring consumption forward and by so doing to stimulate economic growth.
But a few years ago a threshold was reached in the US, which was at the time still the epicenter of global economic activity (since eclipsed by China), where a unit of new debt produced less than one unit of economic growth. This made borrowing from the future with interest no longer possible.

Whereas before money was borrowed in order to produce growth, now it had to be borrowed, in ever-larger amounts, simply to prevent financial and industrial collapse. Consequently, interest rates on new debt were reduced all the way to zero, in something that came to be known as ZIRP, for Zero Interest Rate Policy. To make it even sweeter, central banks accepted the money they loaned out at 0% interest as deposits, which earned a tiny bit of interest, allowing banks to make a profit by doing absolutely nothing.

Unsurprisingly, doing absolutely nothing proved to be rather ineffective, and around the world economies started to shrink. Many countries resorted to forging their statistics to paint a rosier picture, but one statistic that doesn't lie is energy consumption.
It is indicative of the overall level of economic activity, and it is down across the entire world. A glut of oil, and a much lower oil price, is what we are currently witnessing as a result. Another indicator that doesn't lie is the Baltic Dry Index, which tracks the level of shipping activity, and it has plummeted too.

And so ZIRP set the stage for the latest, most queer development:  interest rates have started to go negative, both on loans and deposits. Good bye, ZIRP, hello, NIRP!
Central banks around the world are starting to make loans at small negative rates of interest. That's right, certain central banks now pay certain financial institutions to borrow money! In the meantime, interest rates on bank deposits have gone negative as well: keeping your money in the bank is now a privilege, for which one must pay.

But interest rates are certainly not negative for everyone. Access to free money is a privilege, and those who are privileged are the bankers, and the industrialists they fund.
Those who have to borrow to finance housing are less privileged; those who borrow to pay for education even less so. Those not privileged at all are those who are forced to buy food using credit cards, or take out payday loans to pay rent.

The functions which borrowing once played in capitalist economies have been all but abandoned. Once upon a time, the idea was that access to capital could be obtained based on a good business plan, and that this allowed entrepreneurship to flourish and many new businesses to be formed. Since anybody, and not just the privileged, could take out a loan and start a business, this meant that economic success depended, at least to some extent, on merit.
But now business formation has gone in reverse, with many more enterprises going out of business than are being formed, and social mobility has become largely a thing of the past.
What is left is a rigidly stratified society, with privileges dispensed based on hereditary wealth:   those at the top get paid to borrow, and get to surf on a wave of free money, while those at the bottom are driven ever further into debt servitude and destitution.

Can NIRP underpin a new feudalism? It certainly cannot reverse the downward slide, because the factors that are putting limits on growth are not amenable to financial manipulation, being physical in nature.
You see, no amount of free money can make new natural resources spring into existence. What it can do, however, is freeze the social hierarchy among the owners of capital — for a while, but not forever.

Everywhere you care to look, the ever-shrinking economy eventually results in populist revolt, war and national bankruptcy, and these cause money to stop working in a number of ways.
There is usually devaluation, bank failures, inability to finance imports, and the demise of pensions and of the public sector. The desire to survive causes people to focus on getting direct access to physical resources, distributing them among friends and family.

In turn, this causes market mechanisms to become extremely opaque and distorted, and often to stop functioning altogether. Under these circumstances, how many dollar signs someone has next to their name becomes rather a moot point, and we should expect the social hierarchy among the owners of capital to become unstable and capsize.
A few among them have the talents to become warlords, and these few fleece the rest out of existence. But overall, in a situation where financial institutions have failed, where factories and other enterprises are no longer functioning, and where real estate holdings have been overrun by marauding mobs and/or invaded by squatters, one's net worth becomes rather difficult to compute. And so we should expect the org chart of the post-capitalist society, in spreadsheet terms, to look like this. (“#REF!” is what Excel displays when it encounters an invalid cell reference in a formula.)

A good, precise term for this state of affairs is “anarchy.” Once a new, low level of steady-state subsistence is reached, the process of aristocratic formation can begin anew. But unless a new source of cheap fossil fuels is somehow magically discovered, this process would have to proceed along the traditional, feudal lines.

John Stuart Mill may well be the most important liberal thinker of the nineteenth century. In countless respects, his once-revolutionary arguments have become familiar, even part of the conventional wisdom. Certainly this is so for his great 1869 essay The Subjection of Women, which offered a systematic argument for sex equality at a time when the inferior status of women was widely taken for granted. It is also true for On Liberty, published in 1859, which famously argued that unless there is harm to others, people should have the freedom to do as they like. A strong advocate for freedom of speech, Mill offered enduring arguments against censorship. He also had a great deal to say about, and on behalf of, representative government.

Friedrich Hayek was the twentieth century’s greatest critic of socialism, and he won the Nobel Prize in economics. A lifelong defender of individual liberty, he argued that central planning is bound to fail, even if the planners are well motivated, because they cannot possibly assemble the information that is ultimately incorporated in the price system. Hayek described that system as a “marvel,” because it registers the knowledge, the preferences, and the values of countless people. Hayek used this insight as the foundation for a series of works on freedom and liberalism. Committed to free markets and deeply skeptical of the idea of “social justice,” he is a far more polarizing figure than Mill, beloved on the political right but regarded with ambivalence by many others. Nonetheless, Hayek belongs on any list of the most important liberal thinkers of the twentieth century.

Mill and Hayek help to define the liberal tradition, but in both temperament and orientation, they could not be further apart. Mill was a progressive, a social reformer, an optimist about change, in some ways a radical. He believed that, properly understood, liberalism calls for significant revisions in the existing economic order, which he saw as palpably unjust: “The most powerful of all the determining circumstances is birth. The great majority are what they were born to be.” Hayek was not exactly a conservative—in fact he was sharply critical of conservatism on the ground that it was largely oppositional and did not offer an affirmative position—but he generally venerated traditions and long-standing practices, seeing them as embodying the views and knowledge of countless people over long periods. Hayek admired Edmund Burke, who attacked the idea that self-styled reformers, equipped with an abstract theory, should feel free to override social practices that had stood the test of time. Mill had an abstract theory, one based on a conception of liberty from both government and oppressive social customs, and he thought that society could be evaluated by reference to it.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The State Is Spying On US All the Time - Where Is the Outrage?  (Rounding US Up?)  TPPed On Enough Yet? ( Wikileaks Publishes Controversial Investment Trade Chapter)  Be Sure To Benefit In-Crowd When You Leak  (Is Greening Enough?)

For our liberty to survive in this fearful post-9/11 world, the government’s lawless behavior must be rejected not just by the words of dead people, but by the deeds of we the living. When the president violates the Constitution and the Congress and courts do nothing to stop him, we have effectively amended the Constitution with a wink and a nod — by consent, if you will.*

(Catch Ralph Nader's "Unstoppable" on "The Emerging Left-Right Alliance" on LINK TV at 8:00 and 11:00 PM EDST on Saturday (today), and "Capitalism and Socio-Pathology:  Earth at Risk" on LINK TV at 9:30 PM EDST on Saturday and at 12:30 AM EDST on Sunday. See also "White Like Me:  White Privilege" at 2:00 AM EDST on LINK TV Sunday, and "Confronting Misogyny:  Earth at Risk" at 3:30 AM EDST on Sunday at LINK TV if you get a chance. It's terrific TV for the knowledgeable viewer.)

Like how the Obama Cabinet picks all seem to end up working and making millions for themselves and those they were supposed to regulate? Yeah. I'm thrilled with their continuing "private" performance since they have served US so well publicly. (/snark) And they do keep on keeping on.

Two weeks after a former Obama administration official who helped engineer the bailout of General Motors sought a seat on GM’s Board of Directors to force an $8 billion share buyback to benefit hedge funds, General Motors joined the also bailed out Ford Motor Company to announce the intention to add yet one lower paid tier to the existing two-tiered wage structure. Citing overseas ‘competition,’ General Motors executives are using $8 billion in retained earnings to raise the value of company shares owned by hedge funds and to benefit themselves directly. The role of the Obama administration in retaining the two-tiered wage structure when bailing out General Motors and in sending one of its former members to ‘harvest’ the residual should raise fundamental questions about the intersection of politics and economics.

This intersection is supported by the economic theology of neoliberalism now some decades embedded into the major institutions of the West. Through its reduction of the breadth of human experience to the dull economism of market relations, neoliberalism most closely resembles economic pornography. A defining characteristic is de-contextualization for re-contextualization, removal from the breadth and depth of human relations to posit family, friends, neighbors and community as consumers to be conned, scammed and exploited.

And to provide the punchline at the outset:  there is nothing brilliant or insightful about the political success of neoliberalism. History is replete with totalizing ideologies that support an existing status quo until their limitations force reclamation of broader possibility.
Read the entire essay here.

When they cross over for money, they do cross over, don't they?

According to EcoWatch, Moore was an early member of Greenpeace before becoming a consultant for “the polluting companies that Greenpeace works to change:  Big Oil, pesticides and GMO agribusiness, forestry, nuclear power … anyone who puts up the money for truth-benders who appear to carry scientific and environmental authority.”

GMWatch noted that Moore has also recently used social media to cast doubt on the World Health Organisation’s conclusion that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.

Lobbyist Claims Pesticide Safe to Drink; Bolts When Offered a Glass

By David Edwards, Raw Story

27 March 15

ALSO SEE:  WHO Finds Roundup Causes Cancer; Monsanto Demands They Retract Report
Monsanto's Roundup. (photo: The Hive)
Monsanto's Roundup. (photo: The Hive)

controversial lobbyist who claimed that the chemical in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer was safe for humans refused to drink his own words when a French television journalist offered him a glass.

In a preview of an upcoming documentary on French TV, Dr. Patrick Moore tells a Canal+ interviewer that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide, was not increasing the rate of cancer in Argentina.

You can drink a whole quart of it and it won’t hurt you,” Moore insists.

“You want to drink some?” the interviewer asks. “We have some here.”

I’d be happy to, actually,” Moore replies, adding, “Not really. But I know it wouldn’t hurt me.”

“If you say so, I have some,” the interviewer presses.

I’m not stupid,” Moore declares.

“So, it’s dangerous?” the interviewer concludes.

But Moore claims that Roundup is so safe that “people try to commit suicide” by drinking it, and they “fail regularly.”

“Tell the truth, it’s dangerous,” the interviewer says.

It’s not dangerous to humans,” Moore remarks. “No, it’s not.”

“So, are you ready to drink one glass?” the interviewer continues to press.

No, I’m not an idiot,” Moore says defiantly. “Interview me about golden rice, that’s what I’m talking about.”

At that point, Moore declares that the “interview is finished.”

“That’s a good way to solve things,” the interviewer quips.
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We know that the NSA can listen to all we say if we are near enough to a device it can turn on. (Quick:  How close are you as you read this to an electronic device that the NSA can access and use as a listening device?) And we also know that the feds gave secret roadside listening devices to about 50 local police departments, which acquired them generally without the public consent of elected officials in return for oaths not to reveal the source of the hardware. It came from the secret budget of the CIA, which is prohibited by law from spying in the U.S.

What’s going on here?

What’s going on here is government’s fixation on spying and lying.

Think about it:   The Israeli Mossad was spying on Kerry while the CIA was spying on the Mossad. Hillary Clinton thought she could destroy her emails just because she is Hillary Clinton, yet she forgot that the administration of which she was an integral part dispatched the NSA to spy on everyone, including her. And though it might not voluntarily release the emails she thought she destroyed, the NSA surely has them. The police have no hesitation about engaging in the same warrantless surveillance as the feds. And when Hayden revealed a cat-like smile on his face when challenged about the feds in our bedrooms, and the 10,000 folks in the audience did not reveal outrage, you know that government spying is so endemic today that it is almost the new normal.

The State Is Spying On You Right Now. Where’s The Outrage?

Here is a short pop quiz:  When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress earlier this month about the parameters of the secret negotiations between the United States and Iran over nuclear weapons and economic sanctions, how did he know what the negotiators were considering? Israel is not a party to those negotiations, yet the prime minister presented them in detail.

When Hillary Clinton learned that a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives had subpoenaed her emails as secretary of state and she promptly destroyed half of them — about 33,000 — how did she know she could get away with it? Destruction of evidence, particularly government records, constitutes the crime of obstruction of justice.

When Gen. Michael Hayden, the director of both the CIA and the NSA in the George W. Bush administration and the architect of the government’s massive suspicionless spying program, was recently publicly challenged to deny that the feds have the ability to turn on your computer, cellphone, or mobile device in your home and elsewhere, and use your own devices to spy on you, why did he remain silent? The audience at the venue where he was challenged rationally concluded that his silence was his consent.

And when two judges were recently confronted with transcripts of conversations between known drug dealers — transcripts obtained without search warrants — and they asked the police who obtained them to explain their sources, how is it that the cops could refuse to answer? The government has the same obligation to tell the truth in a courtroom as any litigant, and in a criminal case, the government must establish that its acquisition of all of its evidence was lawful.

The common themes here are government spying and lawlessness. We now know that the Israelis spied on Secretary of State John Kerry, and so Netanyahu knew of what he spoke. We know that the Clintons believe there is a set of laws for them and another for the rest of us, and so Mrs. Clinton could credibly believe that her deception and destruction would go unpunished.

We know that the NSA can listen to all we say if we are near enough to a device it can turn on. (Quick:  How close are you as you read this to an electronic device that the NSA can access and use as a listening device?) And we also know that the feds gave secret roadside listening devices to about 50 local police departments, which acquired them generally without the public consent of elected officials in return for oaths not to reveal the source of the hardware. It came from the secret budget of the CIA, which is prohibited by law from spying in the U.S.

What’s going on here?

What’s going on here is government’s fixation on spying and lying. Think about it:  The Israeli Mossad was spying on Kerry while the CIA was spying on the Mossad. Hillary Clinton thought she could destroy her emails just because she is Hillary Clinton, yet she forgot that the administration of which she was an integral part dispatched the NSA to spy on everyone, including her.

And though it might not voluntarily release the emails she thought she destroyed, the NSA surely has them. The police have no hesitation about engaging in the same warrantless surveillance as the feds. And when Hayden revealed a cat-like smile on his face when challenged about the feds in our bedrooms, and the 10,000 folks in the audience did not reveal outrage, you know that government spying is so endemic today that it is almost the new normal.

Yet government spying is not normal to the Constitution. Its essence — government fishing nets, the indiscriminate deployment of government resources to see what they can bring in, government interference with personal privacy without suspicion or probable cause — was rejected by the Framers and remains expressly rejected by the Fourth Amendment today.

*For our liberty to survive in this fearful post-9/11 world, the government’s lawless behavior must be rejected not just by the words of dead people, but by the deeds of we the living. When the president violates the Constitution and the Congress and courts do nothing to stop him, we have effectively amended the Constitution with a wink and a nod — by consent, if you will. Its guarantees of liberty are only guarantees if the people in whose hands we repose it for safekeeping honor them as guarantees and believe and behave as such because the Constitution means what it says.

Where is the outrage? If you knew the feds were virtually present in your bedroom or your automobile, and your representatives in Congress did nothing about it, would you buy the nonsense that you should have nothing to hide? Would you send those weaklings back to Congress? Or would you say to a lawless government, as the Founders did to the British, “Thou shalt not enter here”? Does the Constitution mean what it says in bad times as well as in good times?

These are not academic questions. They address the most important issue of our day. For nothing will destroy our personal liberties more effectively than the government refusing to honor them and Americans sheepishly accepting that. And without freedom, what are we?
- Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey.

I've always wondered about what Obama learned during his "community organizing" days. Probably the type of organizing that has led US to the TPP Trade agreement.

He is well paid for it.

So, there's that.

But will any of the rest of US be?

"WikiLeaks" Releases Classified Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Proposal

By Jonathan Weisman, The "New York Times"

27 March 15

n ambitious 12-nation trade accord pushed by President Obama would allow foreign corporations to sue the United States government for actions that undermine their investment “expectations” and hurt their business, according to a classified document.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership — a cornerstone of Mr. Obama’s remaining economic agenda — would grant broad powers to multinational companies operating in North America, South America and Asia. Under the accord, still under negotiation but nearing completion, companies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings — federal, state or local — before tribunals organized under the World Bank or the United Nations. 

Backers of the emerging trade accord, which is supported by a wide variety of business groups and favored by most Republicans, say that it is in line with previous agreements that contain similar provisions. But critics, including many Democrats in Congress, argue that the planned deal widens the opening for multinationals to sue in the United States and elsewhere, giving greater priority to protecting corporate interests than promoting free trade and competition that benefits consumers.



# nice2bgreat 2015-03-27 11:06
These are the same "Free Market" bullshit artists who want EASY MONEY, GUARANTEED FOR THEMSELVES -- certainly not THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.

The same bullshit artists who "know" economics, but crashed the economy.

They want that lazy-black-man, free-government handout, food stamp money; except, instead of food stamps, the "TRADING PARTNERS" want billions of dollars... ... CASH... or likely even credit, as long as it is in the billions ... or trillions.

They want government money without the stigma of being labeled lazy niggers.

So they "negotiate" secretly.

They have learned that nickels and dimes do add up. And if you stick to the right circles, there is no shame with the like-minded, the sychophantic, and the blind.

And now that they are caught, they will continue undaunted in broad daylight.

What they are negotiating is the freedom to exploit -- likely with:  reduced environmental obstacles, oversight, regulation, etc. -- without being pursued as criminals or burdened with the penalties and difficulties of being caught polluting, stealing, corrupting, etc.

This is the new era of pre-emption

Won't likely be a lot of black fellers at these shindigs, 'cep'in' the right kind.

# tapsearcher 2015-03-27 12:42 
The free trader globalists are going for it all now even though free trade economics has failed. This was validated by President Obama having to bail out the process. He bailed out the big money interests who were responsible for the failure and put them back in charge.

We do not need any conspiracy theories to know free trade has been driven by powerful forces outside the will of the people & global entities like the WTO were created outside of any democratic process.

It is obvious if free trade was subject to a popular vote it would have never passed.

Free trade economics is about making production portable and moving it anywhere in the world for the sake of cheaper labor costs. It separates investments from production for the sake of profit at the expense of the value of workers and labor.

The value of workers and labor has been discounted and deflated
. Along with the trade deficit this represents trillions of dollars in value lost forever. With the bail out costing trillions of more dollars, free trade economics is a very bad concept. It is now an economic cancer that spreading across the globe.

President Obama use the term the "new world order" more than once
at international money conferences without ever defining what it meant.

The first question to ask is this... Who said we had to compete like this with one another for the same jobs in a global economic arena

http://tapsearch.com/free-trade-economics http://tapsearch.com/flat-world
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I've thought from the first glimpse that Hillary was secretly smirking every time she got caught in a self-serving lie.

I hope all her supporters enjoy being smirked at.

Leaking Government Secrets Is Fine - As Long as It Benefits Politicians

By Trevor Timm, Guardian UK

27 March 15

It is hypocritical that some leaks will land you in jail, while others just lead to a slap on the wrist

hen it comes to classified information, some leaks are more equal than others. If you are a whistleblower like Edward Snowden, who tells the press about illegal, immoral or embarrassing government actions, you will face jail time. But it’s often another story for US government officials leaking information for their own political benefit.

Two stories this week perfectly illustrate this hypocrisy and how, despite their unprecedented crackdown on sources and whistleblowers, the Obama administration - like every administration before it - loves to use leaks, if and when it suits them.

Consider a government leak that ran in the "New York Times" on Monday. The article was about 300 of Hillary Clinton’s now notorious State Department emails, which had been hidden away on her private server for years and were turned over to Congress as part of the never-ending Benghazi investigation. “Four senior government officials” described the content of her emails to "New York Times" journalists in minute detail “on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to jeopardize their access to secret information”.

Surely the Obama administration will promptly root out and prosecute those leakers, right? After all, the emails haven’t gone through a security review and the chances of them discussing classified information are extremely high. (Even if they don’t, the Espionage Act doesn’t require the information to be classified anyways, only that information leaked be “related to national defense”.) But those emails supposedly clear Clinton of any wrongdoing in the Benghazi affair, which likely makes the leak in the administration’s interest.

But that disclosure was nothing compared to what appeared in the "Wall Street Journal" a day later, in the wake of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s underhanded attempts to derail a nuclear deal with Iran. The "Journal" reported on Tuesday that not only did Israel spy on Americans negotiating with Iran, but they gave that information to Republicans in Congress, in an attempt to scuttle the deal.

How does the US know this? Well, according to the "Journal" and its government sources, the US itself intercepted communications between Israeli officials that discussed information that could have only come from the US-Iran talks. The disclosure of this fact sounds exactly like the vaunted “sources and methods” - i.e. how the US conducts surveillance and gets intelligence - that the government continually claims is the most sensitive information they have. It’s why they claim Edward Snowden belongs in jail for decades. So while it’s apparently unacceptable to leak details about surveillance that affects ordinary citizens’ privacy, its OK for officials to do so for their own political benefit - and no one raises an eyebrow.

We can be quite certain that no one will be prosecuted for the leaks given that they benefitted the administration’s powerful former Secretary of State, and bolsters its position in its public dust-up with Israel.
. . .

When it comes to leaks, the powerful play by different rules than everyone else - despite the fact that they’ve violated the same law they’ve accused so many other leakers of breaking. That’s why David Petraeus was given a sweetheart plea deal with no jail time after leaking highly classified information to his biographer and lover. (He’s apparently already back advising the White House, despite leaking and then lying to the FBI about the identities of countless covert officers).

It’s also the same reason why investigations into a leak suspected to have involved General Cartwright, once known as “Obama’s favorite general”, have stalled. As the "Washington Post" reported:  the defense “might try to put the White House’s relationship with reporters and the use of authorized leaks on display, creating a potentially embarrassing distraction for the administration”.

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling faces sentencing next month after being found guilty of leaking information to New York Times reporter James Risen. Sterling’s problem is that he leaked information showing a spectacular and embarrassing failure on the CIA’s part - which did not help a powerful politician score points. He is also not a general.

As a result, he faces decades in jail.

"WikiLeaks" Publishes Controversial Investment Trade Chapter

Wikileaks The Truth Will Always Win

Note:  Below is the press release from "WikiLeaks" describing the controversial Investment Chapter of the TPP. The "New York Times" also had an article about the chapter, Trans-Pacific Partnership Seen as Door for Foreign Suits Against U.S., which predicted that the leak would “kindle opposition from both the political left and the right.” The "Times" describes tens of thousands of corporations that would be able to sue for expected profits and a very broad definition of investment making it easy for them to sue. "Public Citizen" has also put out a press release, TPP Leak Reveals Extraordinary New Powers for Thousands of Foreign Firms to Challenge U.S. Policies and Demand Taxpayer Compensation.

Classified Chapter that Gives Corporations the Right to Sue Governments Was Supposed to be Kept Secret for Four Years After TPP Became Law

"WikiLeaks" releases today the “Investment Chapter” from the secret negotiations of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) agreement. The document adds to the previous "WikiLeaks" publications of the chapters for Intellectual Property Rights (November 2013) and the Environment (January 2014).

The TPP Investment Chapter, published today, is dated 20 January 2015. The document is classified and supposed to be kept secret for four years after the entry into force of the TPP agreement or, if no agreement is reached, for four years from the close of the negotiations.

Julian Assange, "WikiLeaks" editor said:  “The TPP has developed in secret an unaccountable supranational court for multinationals to sue states. This system is a challenge to parliamentary and judicial sovereignty. Similar tribunals have already been shown to chill the adoption of sane environmental protection, public health and public transport policies.”

Current TPP negotiation member states are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei. The TPP is the largest economic treaty in history, including countries that represent more than 40 per cent of the world´s GDP.

The Investment Chapter highlights the intent of the TPP negotiating parties, led by the United States, to increase the power of global corporations by creating a supra-national court, or tribunal, where foreign firms can “sue” states and obtain taxpayer compensation for “expected future profits”. These investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals are designed to overrule the national court systems. ISDS tribunals introduce a mechanism by which multinational corporations can force governments to pay compensation if the tribunal states that a country’s laws or policies affect the company’s claimed future profits. In return, states hope that multinationals will invest more.

Similar mechanisms have already been used. For example, US tobacco company Phillip Morris used one such tribunal to sue Australia (June 2011 – ongoing) for mandating plain packaging of tobacco products on public health grounds; and by the oil giant Chevron against Ecuador in an attempt to evade a multi-billion-dollar compensation ruling for polluting the environment. The threat of future lawsuits chilled environmental and other legislation in Canada after it was sued by pesticide companies in 2008/9. ISDS tribunals are often held in secret, have no appeal mechanism, do not subordinate themselves to human rights laws or the public interest, and have few means by which other affected parties can make representations.

The TPP negotiations have been ongoing in secrecy for five years and are now in their final stages. In the United States the Obama administration plans to “fast-track” the treaty through Congress without the ability of elected officials to discuss or vote on individual measures. This has met growing opposition as a result of increased public scrutiny following "WikiLeaks"’ earlier releases of documents from the negotiations.

The TPP is set to be the forerunner to an equally secret agreement between the US and EU, the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).

Negotiations for the TTIP were initiated by the Obama administration in January 2013. Combined, the TPP and TTIP will cover more than 60 per cent of global GDP. The third treaty of the same kind, also negotiated in secrecy is TISA, on trade in services, including the financial and health sectors. It covers 50 countries, including the US and all EU countries. "WikiLeaks" released the secret draft text of the TISA’s financial annex in June 2014.

All these agreements on so-called “free trade” are negotiated outside the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) framework. Conspicuously absent from the countries involved in these agreements are the BRICs countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Read the Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) – Investment chapter

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March 17, 2015

This Changes Some Things

How do we imagine the climate changing?

Some scenarios involve techno-fixes like cloud-seeding or new kinds of carbon sinks. Cool tech, usually backed by even cooler entrepreneurs, saves the day -- Iron Man plus Al Gore plus Steve Jobs. In green.

Other scenarios are apocalyptic:  blizzards, floods, tsunamis, and droughts; crashing planes; millions of migrants moving from south to north only to be shot at armed borders. The poor fight and starve; the rich enclave themselves in shining domed cities as they document the extinction of charismatic species and convince themselves they aren't next.

And there is climate change as unconscious:  the stuff of stress, inconvenience, anxiety, and repression; the relief at not having to manage anymore; the enjoyment of change, destruction, and punishment. There will be a last judgment after all. Here those of us who follow the reports of emissions, temperature increases, and political failure get to enjoy being in the know, being those with access to the truth. We can't do anything about it, but we can judge everyone else for their blind, consumerist pleasures. We can name our new era, marking our impact as the Anthropocene (hey, we have changed the world after all.) Anticipatory Cassandras, we can watch from within our melancholic "pre-loss," to use Naomi Klein's term, comforted at least by the fantasy of our future capacity to say we knew it all along. We told you so.

The hardest thing is doing something about it. Coming together. Fighting against the multiple centrifugal forces that have produced us as individuals preoccupied with our particular freedoms, preferences, conveniences, and choices. It's no wonder in this setting that market approaches to climate change have appeared as popular options. They affirm the selves we've become and promise to solve the problems all in one new light-bulb or electronic car.

Some of our present difficulty comes from the challenge of imagining a better future. Does it involve a kind of re-peasantization? The elimination of all industry, of all the advantages accrued to some of us under late capitalism? Or is it closer to what we have now, but with windmills and bicycles, the Dutchification of everything? Or is it really not that big a deal at all, a few tweaks here and there so that society looks pretty much like it did in the 70s ("Taxi Driver?" New York told to drop dead?).

Naomi Klein's bold attempt in This Changes Everything is to take up the challenge of creating an alternative to the grim inequalities of our present trajectory by using climate change as a frame for galvanizing left politics. What the economic crises of the seventies and eighties were for the right (opportunities to deepen and extend neoliberalism), climate change can be for the left (an opportunity to "pull huge swaths of humanity out of poverty"). If the left fails to take this opportunity, that is, if we don't take advantage of the "existential urgency" that climate change provides to develop a more focused left strategy, we are doomed to "climate-change-fueled disaster capitalism--profiteering disguised as emission reduction, privatized hyper-militarized borders" etc (154). What we need, she tells us, is a "People's Shock."

Rejecting narrow market-based approaches like cap and trade, Klein argues that climate change

could be the best argument progressives have ever had to demand the rebuilding and reviving of local economies; to reclaim our democracies from corrosive corporate influence; to block harmful new free trade deal and rewrite old ones; to invest in starving public infrastructure like mass transit and affordable housing; to take back ownership of essential services like energy and water; to remake our sick agricultural system into something much healthier; to open borders to migrants whose displacement is linked to climate impacts; to finally respect Indigenous land rights -- all of which would help to end grotesque levels of inequality within our nations and between them. (7)
Just as Marx and Engels linked communism to the workers movement, making communism the mission of the working class, so does Klein link a vision of a progressive future to the climate movement. If the only way to eliminate the exploitation of the workers is the abolition of capitalism, the only to eliminate the exploitation of the planet is .... multiple, dispersed activities combined within a diffuse policy framework oriented toward long-term planning and inspired by an essentialist, overly romantic vision of locality, indigeneity, and democracy (that is to say, populism).

Klein's attempt to make climate change the basis for a stronger left politics is a crucial political move. But she weakens it. She fails to see it through. At the site of this failure is a red hole, a missing communism that distorts her vision. She invokes radical politics, but ultimately pulls back into the formula of the alter-globalization movement:  in a movement of movements, multiple communities can solve their problems democratically.

Klein presents the "core problem" preventing adequate response to climate change as "the stranglehold of market logic" and "unfettered corporate power." She says that "our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life." (21) We are in the midst of a battle between capitalism and the planet. If capitalism wins, and at this point it is winning, extremely dangerous warming will lock-in, threatening the habitability of the planet. What is to be done? We have to change everything.

Everything rides on how we understand "everything." Klein seems to understand it in terms of neoliberalism, where neoliberalism involves privatization, deregulation of the corporate sphere, lowering of taxes within a broader setting of global trade. By rendering the problem in terms of neoliberalism, she doesn't have to advocate the abolition of capitalism, even when her arguments tend in that direction. So her solution is a kind of global Green Keynesianism, a step back into the time before neoliberalism dismantled the welfare state. It is hard to say exactly what Klein has in mind, though, since she offers so many options in a giant menu of change. It's like she thinks "everything" should be on the table and we (each "community") should be able to pick what we want (perhaps in a truer, more democratic market).

Klein's sense of "everything" is limited by the absence of a communist alternative. For example, even as she criticizes market fundamentalism, she sometimes seems fully ensconced in it. She wants to "buy time for clean energy sources to increase their market share and to be seen as more viable alternatives, weakening the power of the fossil fuel lobby" (349). But if we have to change everything, why not just nationalize the fossil fuel industries and undertake a 5-10 year process of dismantling them? Or why not nationally fund clean energy and inject so many taxes and regulations into the carbon economy that it withers away? It's like Klein feels so fully trapped within the economic system we have that she can't break free even as she insists we must break free. There has been and still is a name for this break -- communism.

Some of the components of Klein's new Green Keynesianism would likely include:  a carefully planned economy; basic annual income; big public sector expenditures; higher taxes on the rich; and tougher business regulations. The Green justification for the higher taxes on the rich is that they are the ones who need to curb their consumption. The big expenditures would include better public transit, energy efficient housing, and changes in land use to encourage local agriculture. Klein also favors doing a lot with taxes, following the "polluter pays" principle applied to corporations and the rich. It was never clear to me who or what was engaged in the long-term planning she advocates and what sort of force these plans would have. I expect that planning would occur on multiple levels. Given Klein's insistence on local, decentralized communities, it also isn't clear to me how the plans would be integrated.

Klein opposes the nationalization of energy. She advocates instead the model of democratically run, community-based utilities -- let a thousand renewable energy providers bloom! She treats this as a project of the commons (her models are Germany and Denmark). Governments provide a national framework within which decentralized, small-scale, local providers supply renewable energy.

Accompanying the core problem of market fundamentalism is a cultural narrative regarding human domination of the earth. This narrative, Klein argues, underlies much of the left as well as the capitalist right. The former Soviet Union, Mao's China, and contemporary extractivist left-wing governments in Latin America are clear examples, but so are trade unions fighting for "dirty" jobs instead of clean ones, and so are any left Keynesians who continue to think in developmentalist terms. In place of this narrative of domination, Klein's Green Keynesianism would emphasize regeneration, "relationships of reciprocity and interconnection with the natural world" (182).

How, then, can we make the change we want to see? Not with big Green:  "the 'market-based' climate solutions favored by so many foundations and adopted by many greens have provided an invaluable service to the fossil fuel sector as a whole" (199). These include consumer-based solutions (buy Green!) as well as carbon trading schemes, and fracking as a clean energy bridge to renewables. In addition to having done little to nothing to lower emissions over the last twenty years, these approaches, she argues, make the problem worse by failing to challenge the hegemony of the market.

Klein has more confidence in the "movement of many movements" that she calls "Blockadia." These include anti-fracking, anti-extractive industry, and pipeline protests all over the world. Klein rightly emphasizes how the contemporary resistance movement is more than a NIMBY struggle. Across multiple sites, activists share the conviction that fossil fuels must remain in the ground. They use local issues (health, safety, livelihood) as instruments for getting at the global problem of climate change.

The struggles of Blockadia are the flip side of the extreme energy boom going on for the last decade (the one with Sarah Palin's tagline, "drill, baby, drill!"). In the US and Canada, this boom has made more visible the war that the fossil fuel industry has long tried to hide, namely, that the carbon economy--and the capitalist economy more generally--relies on sacrifice zones. Klein writes:

for a very long time, sacrifice zones all shared a few elements in common. They were poor places. Out-of-the-way places. Places where residents lacks political power, usually having to do with some combination of race, language, and class (310).
With the "extreme energy frenzy," the sacrifice zone has expanded. More people--and more people in the north and west, in areas formerly privileged enough to think they were entitled to turn their heads--are now in the zone of allowable sacrifice. From the vast reach of the Bakken, Marcellus, and Utica shale plays, to the Alberta tar sands, to the continent crossing pipelines, to deep-water oil rigs, to the exploding bomb trains, the intensification of the carbon economy has extended the range of expendable people and places.

Although Klein doesn't use these terms, climate change makes clear the scale of expropriation underpinning the carbon economy. The surplus value captured by the top-- by the owners, shareholders, and executives of the fossil fuel industry -- is expropriated not just from the workers in the industry (which it is), and not just from those living nearby (which it is), but from those living hundreds and thousands of miles away (which is a characteristic also of nuclear power). "Sacrifice zone" has the capacity to be a key concept for knitting together anti-capitalist and climate struggles.

It's correlative concept could then be the "commons." For example, we would want to eliminate sacrifice zones and treat the entire planet as a commons. Having disallowed communism, Klein can't get us to this point. More specifically, in the place in her argument where Klein could -- and should -- point to an internationalist egalitarian vision such as that championed by communists she appeals to a vague notion of democracy understood as multiplicity combined with a romantic vision of indigenous people. This combination embeds unresolved tensions in her argument.

The first problem is the equation of the Blockadia movements with a struggle for democracy. Klein writes:  this emergent network of resistance is "driven by a desire for a deeper form of democracy, one that provides communities with real control over those resources that are most critical to collective survival--the health of the water, air, and soil" (295) and "the fight against violent resource extraction and the fight for greater community control, democracy, and sovereignty are two sides of the same coin" (309). Klein displaces particular struggles (pipeline, fracking, climate) into the political field rather than seeing how the struggles themselves change the field by contesting its terms. Most of the time, activist groups aren't majorities. They are small groups trying to force a position and bring more people over to their side -- as well they should!

Additionally, Klein implies that communities are somehow unified and that they encounter an external force (state or corporation) that is violently extracting resources from them. But division goes all the way through communities. The communities themselves are divided. The deadlocked political system that we have is both a cause and an effect of this division.

Marxists refer to this division as class conflict (which works well enough if we have a loose understanding of 'class'). By omitting the constitutive place of division, Klein can suggest that community sovereignty is a goal, again, as if the community were united against fossil fuels -- but the fact that we are not united is precisely the problem the book, and the movement, encounters.

To use a local example, in the battle against the expansion of methane gas storage and LPG storage in the fragile salt caverns adjacent to Seneca Lake, the Town of Reading -- where the facility is located -- endorses the gas storage plan.  Schuyler County -- where the facility is located -- also supports the plan, although the vote came down to 1 person in their local board and the community is clearly divided. All the other counties surrounding the lake oppose the plan, but most of this opposition came from votes by city or county boards after petitions from activists. The state is considering the issues, and will make a decision.

The federal government has already agreed to let the methane storage proceed, but might reconsider. Which level counts as the community? Why? And what sense does this make in a global setting?  No one involved has said that the process has not been democratic. This is what democracy looks like. We just don't think it has yielded the right outcome.

The second problem is Klein's association of communities with indigeneity and land. Klein writes, "communities with strong ties to the land have always, and will always, defend themselves against businesses that threaten their ways of life" (309). Here again she denies division, as if everyone in a community agreed on what constituted a threat, as if they were all similarly situated against a threat, as if they were never too deluded, tired, or exploited to defend themselves, as if they could never themselves constitute a threat to themselves.

Cities, towns, states, and regions make bad decisions all the time; they stimulate industries that destroy them. Klein, though, has something else in mind, "a ferocious love" that "no amount of money can extinguish." She associates this love "with an identity, a culture, a beloved place that people are determined to pass on to their grandchildren, and that their ancestors may have paid for with great sacrifice." She continues, "And though this kind of connection to place is surely strongest in Indigenous communities where the ties to the land go back thousands of years, it is in fact Blockadia's defining feature" (342).

Participants in my seminar found this description racist or fascist. Even though this is not Klein's intent, her rhetoric deploys a set of myths regarding nature, and some people's relation to nature, that make some people closer to nature (and further from civilization) than others. It also justifies an intense defense of blood and soil on the part of one group's attachment to a place such that others  become foreign, invaders, rightly excluded as threats to our way of life, our cultural identity. Given that climate change is already leading to increased migration and immigration and that the US and Europe are already responding by militarizing borders, a language of cultural defense and ties to the land is exactly what we don't need in a global movement for climate justice.

Klein's argument, though, gets worse as it juxtaposes indigenous people's love of place with the "extreme rootlessness" of the fossil fuel workforce. These "highly mobile" pipefitters, miners, engineers, and big rig drivers produce a culture of transience, even when they "may stay for decades and raise their kids" in a place. The language of rootless echoes with descriptions of cosmopolitan Jews, intellectuals, and communists. Some are always foreign elements threatening our way of life.

In contrast, I imagine climate politics as breaking the link between place and identity. To address climate change, we have to treat the world itself as a commons and build institutions adequate to the task of managing it. I don't have a clear idea as to what these institutions would look like. But the idea that no one is entitled to any place seems better to me as an ethos for a red-green coalition. It requires us to be accountable to every place.

I should wrap this up. The final tension I want to address comes in Klein's conclusion, as she emphasizes mass social movements. Invoking the abolition movement, Klein is inspiring, properly crediting Chris Hayes for his influential Nation article linking climate change and the emancipation of the slaves in the US. Nonetheless, her argument is strange. She calls for societal transformation but refuses the term "revolution." Throughout the book, she has said that we are running out of time to stop a warming trend so severe as to destroy civilization as we know it if not eliminate the human species altogether. She invokes Brad Werner's famous paper announcing that earth is basically fucked. But she writes:

And let's take it for granted that we want to do these radical things democratically and without a bloodbath, so violent, vanguardist revolutions don't have much to offer in the way of roadmaps (450).
This lets her completely discount the revolutionary movements of the 19th and 20th centuries, as if there is nothing to learn from any of the large scale organizing undertaken by communists, socialists, wobblies, and unionists. Her model for the left thus relies on extracting from the left a central component of our history. Frankly, at the level of tactics alone, this is a bad call:  why sign on to a political project premised on the rejection of working class achievements (a move which repeats a ubiquitous gesture of erasure since 1989).

Wouldn't incorporating these achievements be fundamental to any effort to reinvent "the very idea of the collective, the communal, the commons, the civil, and the civic after so many decades of attack and neglect" (460)? Klein is trying to open up a collective desire for collectivity, but without communism.

It is also without revolution, which Klein dismisses as vanguardist, as if her Blockadians weren't themselves at the vanguard of climate struggle. But what does it mean to reject revolution? If the movements are mobilized as she suggests, what will stop them? What would block or hinder the people after they are moving? Perhaps the state, since Klein hasn't said anything about seizing it. Perhaps each other, since she thinks of us as divided into local communities. Perhaps the capitalist system, since she hasn't called for its abolition. Or perhaps this isn't the worry, since we are unlikely to be mobilized enough in time at all -- and for enough of us in the north, that will be okay, at least for a while.