Archive for September, 2009

Monday September 28 to Tuesday October 6, 2009 – “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.” – John Wesley

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

One Year Later: Little Has Changed

Friday, Sep. 25, 2009

Ed Wallace
Special to the Star-Telegram

Much of the bailout money that has been distributed is being used against the public — to artificially raise the prices of everyday essentials. And why? Solely so that those who received the funds can show fast profits.

The intense concern and panic that swept the nation after Lehman Brothers collapsed last September has apparently subsided. Even our officials have cautiously said that the recession probably ended last month; in a moment of prudent honesty, they added that it might be a long time before employment numbers show improvement.

Many areas are taken into account for such assessments, including improvement in new car sales and positive signs in housing construction. Another sign was surely a resurgent stock market, which has returned $2 trillion of the money lost by people who held equities, either privately or in retirement plans prior to the crash.

But things aren’t always what they seem. In the past week the numbers coming out of Sacramento’s home market were more than disturbing. Foreclosures in that metropolitan area have now topped 42,000. From its peak in the summer of 2005, the average price of a home there has fallen by 53 percent, and the sales rate for homes is headed toward 1967’s figures.

This illustrates why we are fortunate to be in Texas during this economic downturn. In the last couple of months my neighbor across the street put her house on the market — the smallest house in the neighborhood, at 1,480 square feet — and sold it for $188,000 to the second person who looked at it. She pocketed a sizable amount of equity, which is not bad for the few years she was in the property.

Upbeat official pronouncements notwithstanding, however, much of what is happening elsewhere right now is artificial. And some is simply abuse of the very government policies designed to save and re-grow our economy after the events of 2007 – 2009.

None of This Is Natural

A quick review of the last 12 months: Washington stepped in and saved our banking system and our auto companies, put stimulus funding into the economy, and then offered rebates to housing and automobile buyers to spur sales. In turn a loud outcry arose from some sectors of our society. Citizens concerned about the country’s deficit spending– and especially about deepening the nation’s debt should any sort of health care reform be passed – made themselves heard in possibly the angriest and most passionate protests heard since the sixties.

Many Americans quietly share some of the protesters’ voiced concerns about the increasing spending and debt; still, you have to wonder where our country would be had the government stood back and did nothing when the crisis threatened to become overwhelming. The easy answer is that things would have been much worse and could possibly have become financially irreversible in the near to mid-term.

That being said, had these bailouts been more carefully thought out and intelligent rules put in place for the funds’ distribution, it’s also likely that we would already be many miles down the road toward complete recovery.

How’s that? Much of the bailout money that has been distributed is being used against the public — to artificially raise the prices of everyday essentials. And why? Solely so that those who received the funds can show fast profits.

Keep in mind that this is a period of income deflation; in 2008 the average household income fell to $50,300, down from $52,200 in 2007. And since more Americans have taken wage cuts this year, the average household income may have fallen well below $50,000, but those figures will not be available until this time next year.

Show Us the Money

Here’s how the bailout money distributed has been spent and how, in many cases, its impact on Americans has been negative.

Former Secretary Henry Paulson’s concept of saving the banks was to buy up their toxic assets, thereby improving the balance sheets of the most troubled financial firms. Once Congress passed the legislation, Paulson reversed his sales pitch – probably because in reality his first plan was unworkable in the short term – and simply threw massive amounts of money at these firms to restore their liquidity.

This was another way to stop the financial collapse … but.

While it became a big issue in Europe first, where the Central Banks likewise threw a trillion dollars into the liquidity of their troubled firms, it has been discovered that some of these monies were not used to restore and expand lending to move economies upward. Instead, like in Europe, many “too big to fail” U.S. banks apparently used some of those funds to purchase equities and commodities for short-term (and in some cases, massive) profits. In a nutshell, they went back to playing the exact same games that led us into this problem to begin with.

Now, it is true that the funds being poured into it by these financial firms helped the stock market rise. That’s why people whose personal stocks or 401K plans lost big have seen dramatic improvements in their net worth. But the cash-infused market’s new momentum is also the reason that oil jumped from $33 a barrel to well over $70 – in a year when worldwide trade and economies were not doing well and there was zero movement toward higher oil demand.

In practical terms, what that means is that the average family (two cars, both being driven 15,000 miles annually) has paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,400 more than it should have for gasoline over and above what the world’s economic reality would have justified.

Again, this was solely a function of TARP and cheap borrowed funds being used for speculation instead of restoring lending to expand the economy. In the two months since Germany’s Der Spiegel broke that story in Europe, investigative reporters have found the same scenario unfolding on Wall Street.

At the same time, many of these same lending institutions raised their interest rates on credit cards and home equity loans to the public. That’s despite the fact that those firms can now borrow money from the Fed at virtually no interest— actually, it’s negative interest when you factor in the last few months of non-core inflation.

What caused that non-core inflation? Well, higher prices at the pump for oil and gasoline for one.

Consider what is going on here. The inflation affecting the public at large was caused by lending institutions’ returning to the commodities market, while the average family has seen its income decline. And at the same time, just as the average American wants to reduce his or her personal indebtedness, those same lending institutions have raised their interest rates to maximize their profits. Not to mention new fees and overdraft charges on checking accounts.

The media reports that things must be getting better because of the quick return to massive profits being posted by these banks on Wall Street. Meanwhile, Citigroup had to apologize because its lead oil trader earned $100 million.

Create Artificial Demand?

Likewise, the government handed out and is still offering $8,000 for first-time homebuyers: Anyone is eligible who hasn’t purchased a home in the last three years and whose annual income is less than $150,000. In periods of deleveraging, like now, there should be home bargains galore for the asking – and in most metropolitan areas there are. But there would be even more exceptional home bargains to be had, without using “government” monies, if Washington had just decided to allow the foreclosures and forced them onto the market faster.

Keep in mind that most analysts believe that only a third of the financial firms’ toxic assets have been disposed of as of now (not including commercial properties). At the same time, changes in the mark-to-market rules allow banks to list properties on the books at far above their current market value. While these changes help banks’ current financial statements, they do nothing to clean up the mess in a timely fashion.

Moreover, because these moves don’t do that, house prices don’t fall to their natural levels; likely even more affordable for those with depreciated earnings, those prices would stimulate demand. Instead, the $8,000 home rebate is there to artificially create demand, thereby slowing the residential housing price fall-off.

The cash for clunkers program worked the same way. Although in many cases the government pitched in $3,500 for someone to trade to a more fuel-efficient automobile, those trade-ins were not worthless. In fact, many of those cars were worth $2,000 or more, so the government was simply giving someone an extra $1,500 or less to trade this summer. Certainly, some of the cars were junk – but many of the people who rushed to take the government funds found out their trade-ins were worth as much as or more than the government was offering.

To be fair, this type of massive government intervention has happened not just in America but worldwide. So, while many marched on Washington in anger, protesting the deficits or the potential for higher taxes in the future, they apparently overlooked how their paychecks are shrinking today, and how much higher prices for energy and interest rates are above what they should be, given the past two and one-half years’ economic conditions.

Ultimately, in spite of what I’ve written here, the government may not have had any choice in the matter. That’s the saddest statement of all.

Ed Wallace is a recipient of the Gerald R. Loeb Award for business journalism, given by the Anderson School of Business at UCLA, and is a member of the American Historical Association. He reviews new cars every Friday morning at 7:15 on Fox Four’s Good Day, contributes articles to BusinessWeek Online and hosts the top-rated talk show, Wheels, 8:00 to 1:00 Saturdays on 570 KLIF. E-mail:, Read all of Ed’s work at his web site,

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The Truth-O-Meter Says: Goldman Sachs was Barack Obama’s “No. 1 private contributor.”

Michael Moore on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 in an interview on “The Colbert Report”

Barack Obama got many campaign contributions from Goldman Sachs

Bookmark this story:

Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore has a new film coming out — Capitalism: A Love Story — and he appeared on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report to promote it.

The show’s ironically conservative host, Stephen Colbert, defended capitalism and the bailouts of late 2008, which led to a mock debate between them.

At first, Wall Street was actually angry about the bailouts, Colbert claimed. “because it might come with strings attached,” he explained. “But they forgave Obama when he didn’t add any. Now all is forgiven.”

“That’s why you like Obama so much now?” Moore asked.

“I don’t like Obama so much,” Colbert said. “On this, I do. And your film is helping me like Obama, because you’re a critic of his. You think he’s in the pocket of guys like Goldman Sachs.”

“I point out in the film that Goldman Sachs is his No. 1 private contributor,” Moore answered. “But I voted for the guy. I’m still hopeful that he’s going to do the right thing and side with us, and not Wall Street. But the jury’s out on that.”

We’ll let you draw your own conclusions on their debate. We wanted to check Moore’s statement about Obama’s contributors and the financial services firm Goldman Sachs.

Obama made a big deal during the election that he didn’t accept money from federal political action committees or lobbyists.

But laws require individuals to disclose their occupation and their employer when they donate to federal political candidates. We checked with the Center for Responsive Politics, a well-respected nonpartisan group that specializes in analyzing campaign data. Their numbers include contributions from employees and their immediate families.

Their analysis of the 2008 presidential campaign found that University of California employees were Obama’s top donor, giving a collective $1.6 million. That system is run by the state of California, and hence is a public employer.

No. 2 was Goldman Sachs. Goldman employees gave Obama $994,795.

Obama’s next biggest donors were the employees of Harvard University, Microsoft, Google, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Time Warner, the law firm Sidley Austin, and Stanford University. View Obama’s complete list and amounts here. Incidentally, Goldman Sachs ranked No.4 on John McCain’s list of employee contributions, at $230,095.

Moore said that Goldman Sachs is Obama’s “No. 1 private contributor.” The data shows that is correct. We rate his statement True.

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Why the Dow is Hitting 10,000 Even When Consumers Can’t Buy And Business Cries “Socialism”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

So how can the Dow Jones Industrial Average be flirting with 10,000 when consumers, who make up 70 percent of the economy, have had to cut way back on buying because they have no money? Jobs continue to disappear. One out of six Americans is either unemployed or underemployed. Homes can no longer function as piggy banks because they’re worth almost a third less than they were two years ago. And for the first time in more than a decade, Americans are now having to pay down their debts and start to save.

Even more curious, how can the Dow be so far up when every business and Wall Street executive I come across tells me government is crushing the economy with its huge deficits, and its supposed “takeover” of health care, autos, housing, energy, and finance? Their anguished cries of “socialism” are almost drowning out all their cheering over the surging Dow.

The explanation is simple. The great consumer retreat from the market is being offset by government’s advance into the market. Consumer debt is way down from its peak in 2006; government debt is way up. Consumer spending is down, government spending is up. Why have new housing starts begun? Because the Fed is buying up Fannie and Freddie’s paper, and government-owned Fannie and Freddie are now just about the only mortgage games remaining in play.

Why are health care stocks booming? Because the government is about to expand coverage to tens of millions more Americans, and the White House has assured Big Pharma and health insurers that their profits will soar. Why are auto sales up? Because the cash-for-clunkers program has been subsidizing new car sales. Why is the financial sector surging? Because the Fed is keeping interest rates near zero, and the rest of the government is still guaranteeing any bank too big to fail will be bailed out. Why are federal contractors doing so well? Because the stimulus has kicked in.

In other words, the Dow is up despite the biggest consumer retreat from the market since the Great Depression because of the very thing so many executives are complaining about, which is government’s expansion. And regardless of what you call it – Keynesianism, socialism, or just pragmatism – it’s doing wonders for business, especially big business and Wall Street. Consumer spending is falling back to 60 to 65 percent of the economy, as government spending expands to fill the gap.

The problem is, our newly expanded government isn’t doing much for average working Americans who continue to lose their jobs and whose belts continue to tighten, and who are getting almost nothing out of the rising Dow because they own few if any shares of stock. Despite the happy Dow and notwithstanding the upbeat corporate earnings, most corporations are still shedding workers and slashing payrolls. And the big banks still aren’t lending to Main Street.

Trickle-down economics didn’t work when the supply-siders were in charge. And it’s not working now, at a time when — despite all their cries of “socialism” — big business and Wall Street are more politically potent than ever.


Double Trouble

Volume XIV No. 39: September 25, 2009

One lesson Congress flunks over and over is the Economics 101 principle of sunk costs. Your mother knew it well: She always told you “don’t throw good money after bad.” Lawmakers will have another opportunity to get the answer right this fall when they decide whether to build a second engine for the Navy’s next-generation fighter plane. We’ll provide the cheat sheet on this one: Don’t do it.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has decreed the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft our military future in the skies. Thirteen years into Lockheed Martin’s contract, the $250 billion-dollar program is behind schedule, and Gates has cut back on other programs in the defense budget in order to invest in the F-35’s success.

One such program would develop a second engine for the plane in addition to the one Pratt & Whitney of Connecticut was originally contracted to build. Congress first allocated money for the alternate engine—a collaboration of General Electric of Ohio and Rolls Royce, which is based in the United Kingdom but operates a plant in Indianapolis—in 1996 on the argument that competition would drive contractors’ performance up and prices down.

But a number of studies commissioned from various agencies on whether or not a second F-35 engine program would save money found that cost savings would be negligible at best. Potential savings were greatly reduced when the high price of maintaining two separate production lines, supply chains and management teams was factored in. Plus, any cost savings would take at least a decade to realize because the second engine is so far behind developmentally.

Some proponents claim other potential benefits to a second engine, including industrial base sustainment, contracting accountability and convenience for our international partners. In a perfect world, perhaps these issues would be more important than cost. But fighting two wars in a desolate economic environment does not afford us the luxury of spending billions to address them all. And the termination of one contract, no matter how large, won’t cripple our industrial base: A $636 billion defense budget should provide plenty of projects for defense contractors in the foreseeable future.

The Defense Department has tried to stop funding for the alternate engine for three years now, but Congress keeps plugging money back into defense appropriations bills. The ante was upped this year when the Obama administration threatened to veto the 2010 defense bill if it contained provisions that could “disrupt” the program. “Expenditures on an alternate engine for the JSF are unnecessary and divert resources from the overall JSF program,” the administration said.

But lawmakers have shown they are willing to employ significant shenanigans to spread the $100 billion engine market around as many districts as possible. The House added $560 million for the program in their version of the bill this summer, but Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI)—who has historically supported the program—opted not to include the money in the Senate bill, deferring the debate until conference.

This appears engineered to allow Congressional boosters time to come up with a report on the program’s “sunk costs.” Since the $2.5 billion added to spending bills for the program over the past 12 years is public knowledge, we can only assume this report represents an attempt to inflate the number by adding associated costs. Sounds like lawmakers are betting that taxpayers haven’t learned their economic lessons either. But we can all understand mother’s lesson—don’t throw good money after bad.

Let us know what you think.

Going on at This Week

UPDATE: Fiscal Year 2010 Earmark Databases – Senate Defense Added (9/24)

House Approves 3-Month Highway Bill Extension

TCS Weighs in on Proposed Changes to the DOE Loan Guarantee Program

TCS Earmark Analysis and Proposal for Reform

Bailout Bank Bios

TCS Staff are compiling profiles of all financial institutions receiving funds under the 2008 Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. See all completed bios here.

TCS in the News

TCS was cited in dozens of stories this past week. Check them all out in the Headlines About TCS section of our redesigned website.

Notable Quote

“At this point… where a dollar added to one program takes away from another program that we think is more important, we feel strongly about the fact that there is not a need for a second engine.”

-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates commenting on the F-35. Appeared in London South East on August 31st, 2009.

the weekly wastebasket at


Big Brother “Fusion Centers” Part of US Domestic Intelligence and Surveillance Apparatus

Mammoth Budget: $75 Billion, 200,000 Operatives
By Tom Burghardt

Global Research, September 26, 2009
Antifascist Calling…

Fusion Centers Will Have Access to Classified Military Intelligence

Speaking at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club September 15, Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis C. Blair, disclosed that the current annual budget for the 16 agency U.S. “Intelligence Community” (IC) clocks-in at $75 billion and employs some 200,000 operatives world-wide, including private contractors.

In unveiling an unclassified version of the National Intelligence Strategy (NIS), Blair asserts he is seeking to break down “this old distinction between military and nonmilitary intelligence,” stating that the “traditional fault line” separating secretive military programs from overall intelligence activities “is no longer relevant.”

As if to emphasize the sweeping nature of Blair’s remarks, Federal Computer Week reported September 17 that “some non-federal officials with the necessary clearances who work at intelligence fusion centers around the country will soon have limited access to classified terrorism-related information that resides in the Defense Department’s classified network.” According to the publication:

Under the program, authorized state, local or tribal officials will be able to access pre-approved data on the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network. However, they won’t have the ability to upload data or edit existing content, officials said. They also will not have access to all classified information, only the information that federal officials make available to them.

The non-federal officials will get access via the Homeland Security department’s secret-level Homeland Security Data Network. That network is currently deployed at 27 of the more than 70 fusion centers located around the country, according to DHS. Officials from different levels of government share homeland security-related information through the fusion centers. (Ben Bain, “DOD opens some classified information to non-federal officials,” Federal Computer Week, September 17, 2009)

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the federal government has encouraged the explosive growth of fusion centers. As envisaged by securocrats, these hybrid institutions have expanded information collection and sharing practices from a wide variety of sources, including commercial databases, among state and local law enforcement agencies, the private sector and federal security agencies, including military intelligence.

But early on, fusion centers like the notorious “red squads” of the 1960s and ’70s, morphed into national security shopping malls where officials monitor not only alleged terrorists but also left-wing and environmental activists deemed threats to the existing corporate order.

It is currently unknown how many military intelligence analysts are stationed at fusion centers, what their roles are and whether or not they are engaged in domestic surveillance.

If past practices are an indication of where current moves by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) will lead, in breaking down the “traditional fault line” that prohibits the military from engaging in civilian policing, then another troubling step along the dark road of militarizing American society will have been taken.

U.S. Northern Command: Feeding the Domestic Surveillance Beast

Since its 2002 stand-up, U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and associated military intelligence outfits such as the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the now-defunct Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) have participated in widespread surveillance of antiwar and other activist groups, tapping into Pentagon and commercial databases in a quixotic search for “suspicious patterns.”

As they currently exist, fusion centers are largely unaccountable entities that function without proper oversight and have been involved in egregious civil rights violations such as the compilation of national security dossiers that have landed activists on various terrorist watch-lists.

Antifascist Calling reported last year on the strange case of Marine Gunnery Sgt. Gary Maziarz and Col. Larry Richards, Marine reservists stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. Maziarz, Richards, and a group of fellow Marines, including the cofounder of the Los Angeles County Terrorist Early Warning Center (LACTEW), stole secret files from the Strategic Technical Operations Center (STOC).

When they worked at STOC, the private spy ring absconded with hundreds of classified files, including those marked “Top Secret, Special Compartmentalized Information,” the highest U.S. Government classification. The files included surveillance dossiers on the Muslim community and antiwar activists in Southern California.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune which broke the story in 2007, before being run to ground Maziarz, Richards and reserve Navy Commander Lauren Martin, a civilian intelligence contractor at USNORTHCOM, acquired information illegally obtained from the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet). This is the same classified system which fusion centers will have access to under the DoD’s new proposal.

Claiming they were acting out of “patriotic motives,” the Marine spies shared this classified counterterrorism information with private contractors in the hope of obtaining future employment. Although they failed to land plush private sector counterterrorism jobs, one cannot rule out that less than scrupulous security firms might be willing to take in the bait in the future in order to have a leg up on the competition.

So far, only lower level conspirators have been charged. According to the Union-Tribune “Marine Cols. Larry Richards and David Litaker, Marine Maj. Mark Lowe and Navy Cmdr. Lauren Martin also have been mentioned in connection with the case, but none has been charged.” One codefendant’s attorney, Kevin McDermott, told the paper, “This is the classic situation that if you have more rank, the better your chance of not getting charged.”

Sound familiar? Call it standard operating procedure in post-constitutional America where high-level officials and senior officers walk away scott-free while grunts bear the burden, and do hard time, for the crimes of their superiors.

Fusion Centers and Military Intelligence: Best Friends Forever!

Another case which is emblematic of the close cooperation among fusion centers and military intelligence is the case of John J. Towery, a Ft. Lewis, Washington civilian contractor who worked for the Army’s Fort Lewis Force Protection Unit.

In July, The Olympian and Democracy Now! broke the story of how Towery had infiltrated and spied on the Olympia Port Militarization Resistance (OlyPMR), an antiwar group, and shared this information with police.

Since 2006, the group has staged protests at Washington ports and has sought to block military cargo from being shipped to Iraq. According to The Olympian:

OlyPMR member Brendan Maslauskas Dunn said in an interview Monday that he received a copy of the e-mail from the city of Olympia in response to a public records request asking for any information the city had about “anarchists, anarchy, anarchism, SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), or Industrial Workers of the World.” (Jeremy Pawloski, “Fort Lewis investigates claims employee infiltrated Olympia peace group,” The Olympian, July 27, 2009)

What Dunn discovered was highly disturbing to say the least. Towery, who posed as an anarchist under the name “John Jacob,” had infiltrated OlyPMR and was one of several listserv administrators that had control over the group’s electronic communications.

The civilian intelligence agent admitted to Dunn that he had spied on the group but claimed that no one paid him and that he didn’t report to the military; a statement that turned out to be false.

Joseph Piek, a Fort Lewis spokesperson confirmed to The Olympian that Towery was a contract employee and that the infiltrator “performs sensitive work within the installation law enforcement community,” but “it would not be appropriate for him to discuss his duties with the media.”

In September, The Olympian obtained thousands of pages of emails from the City of Olympia in response to that publication’s public-records requests. The newspaper revealed that the Washington Joint Analytical Center (WJAC), a fusion center, had copied messages to Towery on the activities of OlyPMR in the run-up to the group’s November 2007 port protests. According to the paper,

The WJAC is a clearinghouse of sorts of anti-terrorism information and sensitive intelligence that is gathered and disseminated to law enforcement agencies across the state. The WJAC receives money from the federal government.

The substance of nearly all of the WJAC’s e-mails to Olympia police officials had been blacked out in the copies provided to The Olympian. (Jeremy Pawloski, “Army e-mail sent to police and accused spy,” The Olympian, September 12, 2009)

Also in July, the whistleblowing web site Wikileaks published a 1525 page file on WJAC’s activities.

Housed at the Seattle Field Office of the FBI, one document described WJAC as an agency that “builds on existing intelligence efforts by local, regional, and federal agencies by organizing and disseminating threat information and other intelligence efforts to law enforcement agencies, first responders, and key decision makers throughout the state.”

Fusion centers are also lucrative cash cows for enterprising security grifters. Wikileaks investigations editor Julian Assange described the revolving-door that exists among Pentagon spy agencies and the private security firms who reap millions by placing interrogators and analysts inside outfits such as WJAC. Assange wrote,

There has been extensive political debate in the United States on how safe it would be to move Guantánamo’s detainees to US soil–but what about their interrogators?

One intelligence officer, Kia Grapham, is hawked by her contracting company to the Washington State Patrol. Grapham’s confidential resume boasts of assisting in over 100 interrogations of “high value human intelligence targets” at Guantánamo. She goes on, saying how she is trained and certified to employ Restricted Interrogation Technique: Separation as specified by FM 2-22.3 Appendix M.

Others, like, Neoma Syke, managed to repeatedly flip between the military and contractor intelligence work–without even leaving the building.

The file details the placement of six intelligence contractors inside the Washington Joint Analytical Center (WAJAC) on behalf of the Washington State Patrol at a cost of around $110,000 per year each.

Such intelligence “fusion” centers, which combine the military, the FBI, state police, and others, have been internally promoted by the US Army as means to avoid restrictions preventing the military from spying on the domestic population. (Julian Assange, “The spy who billed me twice,” Wikileaks, July 29, 2009)

The Wikileaks documents provide startling details on how firms such as Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), The Sytex Group and Operational Applications Inc. routinely place operatives within military intelligence and civilian fusion centers at a premium price.

Assange wonders whether these job placements are not simply evidence of corruption but rather, are “designed to evade a raft of hard won oversight laws which apply to the military and the police but not to contractors? Is it to keep selected personnel out of the Inspector General’s eye?” The available evidence strongly suggests that it is.

As the American Civil Liberties Union documented in their 2007 and 2008 reports on fusion center abuses, one motivation is precisely to subvert oversight laws which do not apply to private mercenary contractors.

The civil liberties’ watchdog characterized the rapid expansion of fusion centers as a threat to our constitutional rights and cited specific areas of concern: “their ambiguous lines of authority, the troubling role of private corporations, the participation of the military, the use of data mining and their excessive secrecy.”

And speaking of private security contractors outsourced to a gaggle on intelligence agencies, investigative journalist Tim Shorrock revealed in his essential book Spies For Hire, that since 9/11 “the Central Intelligence Agency has been spending 50 to 60 percent of its budget on for-profit contractors, or about $2.5 billion a year, and its number of contract employees now exceeds the agency’s full-time workforce of 17,500.”

Indeed, Shorrock learned that “no less than 70 percent of the nation’s intelligence budget was being spent on contracts.” However, the sharp spike in intelligence outsourcing to well-heeled security corporations comes with very little in the way of effective oversight.

The House Intelligence Committee reported in 2007 that the Bush, and now, the Obama administrations have failed to develop a “clear definition of what functions are ‘inherently governmental’;” meaning in practice, that much in the way of systematic abuses can be concealed behind veils of “proprietary commercial information.”

As we have seen when the Abu Ghraib torture scandal broke in 2004, and The New York Times belatedly blew the whistle on widespread illegal surveillance of the private electronic communications of Americans in 2005, cosy government relationships with security contractors, including those embedded within secretive fusion centers, will continue to serve as a “safe harbor” for concealing and facilitating state crimes against the American people.

After all, $75 billion buys a lot of silence.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an independent research and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and activists based in Montreal, his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press and the whistleblowing website Wikileaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press

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Research Counters Criticisms Of Canadian Health Care System

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[Sep 18, 2009]

Bloomberg reports that allegations that the Canadian health care system offers inferior treatment, rationing and long lines are wrong, according to wide-ranging and long-standing research. Bloomberg: “The allegations are wrong by almost every measure, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and other independent studies published during the past five years. While delays do occur for non-emergency procedures, data indicate that Canada’s system of universal health coverage provides care as good as in the U.S., at a cost 87 percent less for each person. … Canadians live two to three years longer than Americans and are as likely to survive heart attacks, childhood leukemia, and breast and cervical cancer, according to the OECD, the Paris- based coalition of 30 industrialized nations” (Wechsler,9/18).


Gray Matters: An ‘un-American’ Medicare recipient

by Saul Friedman

I must be un-American, and I may have placed my country in great peril from socialists, communists, fascists and I don’t know who else.

For health care, I participate in a dreaded “public option,” Medicare, and have done so for 15 years. Along with most of 45 million people, we have been dependent on and spoiled by Medicare.

And most of us like it better than private insurance and, at the risk of undermining our youth, they may like Medicare, too. I go to and trust doctors who participate in Medicare, and none has threatened to pull my plug.

Also, I was a beneficiary of “socialist” medical care during my two years in the U.S. Army, where doctors who were paid by Uncle Sam treated me for various ailments. And since then, I’ve gotten some free care from Veterans Affairs, where the doctors, nurses and janitors also work for the government.

In addition, I have participated in a “death panel,” but not one that Medicare paid for. I went to a lawyer, who charged my wife and me a bundle for drawing up a living will, an advance directive and a health care power of attorney giving a loved one permission to have doctors pull my plug, in case I couldn’t.

Because of my irresponsible behavior, I suffered a stroke six years ago. As a result, I cost Medicare, plus my secondary insurance, thousands of dollars in medical and rehabilitation bills, paid in part by taxpayers.

Four years ago, I was foolish enough to have a bout with a nasty cancer, for which Medicare and my secondary insurance paid tens of thousands of dollars more, despite my advanced years.

In contrast to what some members of Congress seem to be saying, Medicare didn’t seem to care how old I was. But it cost the taxpayers another bundle.

The doctors, nurses, radiation and chemo specialists who treated me and arrested my cancer worked for and were paid by a public, not-for-profit hospital. Not exactly the American way, but it worked for me. (This hospital, which may not be patriotic, won’t accept Medicare Advantage policies.)

To be fair, people whom I know as good Americans, like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), have gone to socialized government hospitals, such as the one in Bethesda, for surgeries.

Presidents have gone to Walter Reed. (I don’t know how much, if anything, they paid. They all have the same insurance President Barack Obama has proposed.)

If lawmakers get swine flu shots this year, they will be government-administered. I don’t know who will pay; mine will be paid for by Medicare. But all of us, lawmakers and ordinary people, Americans and un-Americans and even illegal immigrants, will depend on the government’s Centers for Disease Control to help us deal with this threat.

I also relied on government, namely the GI Bill, to get a college degree, while I was working as a cub reporter. The government didn’t seem to care what I studied. At least one of my philosophy professors was a liberal.

And the GI Bill gave me a VA loan, at ridiculously low interest rates, which must have cost the taxpayers plenty. But it enabled my wife and me to buy our first house in Houston, where the current governor wants the state to secede again from the United States. Would that mean the Bushes would no longer be Americans?

When my wife and I and our daughters went on our early vacations, using the new interstate highway system that that famous un-American Dwight Eisenhower (see the John Birch Society) had proposed, we visited San Antonio’s Alamo, where we learned it had been restored by the Works Progress Administration, which helped the Texas economy, despite the state’s secession in 1861.

But I digress. In addition to those dollars that the government has spent to get me educated, housed and healthy, I’ve spent some time as a reporter hearing that the federal government can’t do anything right, like General Motors, Lehman Brothers, Eastern Air Lines, Pan Am, TWA, Bear Stearns, American Motors, Enron and other icons of private enterprise.

The only things I could think of that the government has done reasonably well were the Manhattan Project, the FDIC, the FDA, Yellowstone and other National Parks, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials and the Washington Monument.

Last but not least, for 15 years or so, my wife and I have been paid modest but significant sums each month by Social Security. Many people who are real Americans consider this another example of an un-American, big government, socialist infringement on our freedoms that is bound to fail because it’s a Ponzi scheme.

You could ask Bernie Madoff. He could get Social Security if he weren’t in prison.



The destructive effects of the financial crisis may be waning, but your retirement account won’t soon forget. Savers lost 40% or more in the downturn — a collective $2.1 trillion disappeared from 401(k) and IRA assets in 2008 alone — and while the recent stock-market recovery may feel good, it’s done little to stem a mounting crisis in the retirement system in the U.S. So where does this leave our retirement plans? Consult our Retirements in Peril package


National Security Archive Update, September 23, 2009

New Facebook Page Features Archive’s Top Ten Declassified Documents

Washington D.C., September 23, 2009 – The National Security Archive today inaugurated a new Facebook page featuring an album of the “Top Ten” declassified documents obtained through the FOIA over more than two decades. Among the documents is a top-secret strategy paper for fighting al-Qaeda given to the Bush White House on January 25, 2001; a CIA report on using cats with surgically implanted listening devices to spy on Russian embassies; and records from the FBI interrogations of Saddam Hussein.

Become a fan of the National Security Archive on Facebook to keep up with all the key news and happenings in secrecy and open government. While visiting the Archive’s Facebook page, join our discussion about what secret documents you most want to see declassified.

The Archive is also on Twitter! Follow us on Twitter to learn about events and breaking news stories as Archive staff uncover new declassified documents and travel the world promoting open government.

The National Security Archive on facebook:

The National Security Archive on twitter:


Financial News for Independent Energy Companies, Second Quarter 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Today the Energy Information Administration released its latest report that reviews recent financial performance of independent U.S. energy companies. Data presented are for April through June 2009. Independent energy companies reported an 68-percent decrease in net income relative to the second quarter of 2008, driven by large losses for producers.

This resulted from the sharp fall in oil and natural gas prices, causing billion-dollar write-downs in the value of company reserves. The report uses a new, more visual format. The next update, for July through September, will be released in December 2009. The report can be found onthe EIA Web site at


Frack Fluid Spill in Dimock Contaminates Stream, Killing Fish

By Abrahm Lustgarten

Pennsylvania environment officials are racing to clean up as much as 8,000 gallons of dangerous drilling fluids after a series of spills at a natural gas production site near the town of Dimock late last week. The spills, which occurred at a well site run by Cabot Oil and Gas, involve a compound manufactured by Halliburton that is described as a “potential carcinogen” and is used in the drilling process of hydraulic fracturing, according to state officials. The contaminants have seeped into a nearby creek, where a fish kill was reported by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP also reported fish “swimming erratically”.

Read the full article.


Zurich Film Festival Offers Award to Osama bin Laden

Andy Borowitz

September 27, 2009

Zurich Film Festival Offers Award to Osama bin Laden

In a move that seems guaranteed to stir controversy, the Zurich Film Festival today offered an honorary lifetime achievement award to international terrorist Osama bin Laden.

In a statement released by the film festival, organizers said that they were recognizing Mr. bin Laden for his “body of work,” referring to the chilling terror tapes that the al-Qaeda kingpin has released over the past ten years.

A source close to Mr. bin Laden said that he was “seriously considering” leaving his secret hideaway to accept the award in Zurich.

“What could possible go wrong?” Mr. bin Laden reportedly said.

Follow Andy Borowitz on Twitter:


three thousand words

Elena Steier
Center for American Blogress
Sep 27, 2009

He Reaped What They Sowed

Tom Toles: Is anger-management covered?

Sunday September 27, 2009 – Faith means not wanting to know what is true. — Friedrich Nietzsche

Sunday, September 27th, 2009


By Adele M. Stan, AlterNet

The Tea Party movement has the juice as the religious right is on the wane. Survival may mean joining up, but that
presents an image problem for Christians.

Complete article at:



By Frank Schaeffer, AlterNet

The ugly side of Evangelical Christianity is very much to blame for the anti-Obama hyperventilating.

Complete article at:



By PZ Myers, Pharyngula

Scott Ray, chaplain for Liberty University’s men’s basketball team and the Director of Convocation, caught on

Complete article at:


Health Care in Canada: A Human Right


Sept. 16, 2009

Lately, Canadians have listened to a multitude of American distortions about our health care system. These have ranged from misinformation, through selectively quoted statistics, to outright lies and pure fantasy. In spite of an aversion to commenting on American affairs I must respond to this defamation. Our system is not perfect, but everyone who lives in Canada, whether in a mansion or under a bridge, has access to health care.

The central component of Canadian health care is the public health insurance system-nothing more, nothing less. Really, this system is very simple, once one has a fundamental understanding of Canada’s constitution as it applies to health care. Health care is a provincial responsibility. The federal government influences provincial health care systems through grants governed by the Canada Health Act (1984). This act encourages uniform national standards of “medically necessary” health care across Canada. It does not impose specific rules on the provinces, nor does it interfere in the doctor-patient relationship.

We Canadians select our own doctors and referrals to specialists are not affected by any government agency. In fact, there is no such government agency. Doctors are independent business people. They are paid on a fee-for-service basis by the provincial health care insurance in their area.

There are no provincial or federal agencies that decide who will be treated or the type and extent of their treatment. Those decisions are entirely up to individuals and their doctors. Regardless of age, perceived value to society, or pre-existing health conditions, every legal Canadian resident is covered by our health insurance and receives medical treatment appropriate for providing the best quality of life possible.

The health insurance system is very simple. Health insurance “premiums” are included in our income tax. In some provinces, well-paid individuals pay a surcharge that goes directly to the health insurance system. In other words, we pay premiums in accordance with our ability to pay. If one’s income is low, one pays neither income tax nor health care surcharges. Yes, that means that the wealthy subsidize those with less money just as we subsidize other inalienable rights like public education.

In addition, one can acquire more health care benefits through private companies. These private policies may be expensive and do create a new layer of payment, but they dovetail with the provincial systems to fill in the gaps in the public system. These policies also include dental, optometrist and pharmaceutical support.

Some concerns about waiting times have been raised by Canadians. The average waiting time is, however, much lower than critics of the system claim. In any case, the problems are not caused by the public health insurance system, but by infrastructure and geographical realities that would exist with or without public insurance.

When someone goes to the doctor of one’s choice, the only input from the government is the payment for medical treatment. As far as the individual is concerned, that is the extent of government involvement. As I said, our system is not perfect, but few, if any, of the problems are related directly to the public insurance system.

Doug Thomas is an English teacher and novelist, an agnostic member of SOFREE (Society of Ontario Freethinkers), and an active member of the Humanist Association of Canada. He is also Managing Editor of Canadian Freethinker.

Complete article at:



By Rob Boston, Church & State Magazine

Will financial and sex scandals sink the hopes of middle-age culture warriors Ralph Reed and Randall Terry? Don’t count
them out just yet.

Complete article at:



By Bill Berkowitz, Talk To Action

As a number of older Religious Right leaders pass on or retire, their sons are stepping in to take their place.

Complete article at:


AU Press Release :: Religious Right Organization Misleads Clergy On Church-Based Politicking, Says AUFriday,

September 25, 2009

Religious Right Organization Misleads Clergy On Church-Based Politicking, Says Americans United

Watchdog Group Urges Pastors To Refrain From Using Tax-Exempt Church Resources To Endorse Or Oppose Candidates

September 25, 2009

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today urged religious leaders to steer clear of bad advice from a Religious Right legal group that seeks to politicize America’s pulpits.

The Alliance Defense Fund has announced that Sept. 27 will be “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” during which evangelical Christian pastors are asked to endorse or oppose candidates for public office in violation of federal tax law.

“It’s reckless and irresponsible for any organization to urge houses of worship to knowingly violate our nation’s tax laws,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Smart pastors know to keep far away from this misguided and partisan initiative.”

Read the full press release at

Americans United (AU) is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to preserving the constitutional principle of church-state separation as the only way to ensure religious freedom for all Americans.

Amercans United for Separation of Church and State


Group Urges Church Not to Make Sex Offender Minister And more …


Advocates for survivors of the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal are now asking a local church to reconsider ordaining a minister who is a registered sex …

Sex offender to be ordained this weekend, has help previous church …


Hourigan was arrested in late 1998, convicted of sexual abuse and ordered not to serve in leadership role in any church. But Hourigan, who is on the

Court approves $15M church sex-abuse deal

A Nova Scotia court has approved a $15-million settlement between a Roman Catholic diocese in the province and dozens of sexual abuse victims. …

Former Butler Co. Minister Charged With Sex Crime

HAMILTON, Ohio — Sheriff’s deputies arrested a former New Miami minister riday after he admitted to inappropriately touching an underage girl. …

Sex abuse cover-up by LA Archdiocese is alleged

Los Angeles Times

He has been called before a federal grand jury investigating how the rchdiocese handled priest abuse cases. Loomis is on leave from the rchdiocese after …

Lawsuit alleges church sex abuse

Berkshire Eagle

Graves, who has been named in numerous other sex abuse cases brought gainst the diocese, was barred from presenting himself as a priest during he 1990s …

Preacher Charged in Murder of Former Porn Star Girlfriend


Her boyfriend, Brian Lee Randone, 45, has been charged with murder and orture. He is being held in lieu of $2 million bail. Lee, 31, appeared in number …,0,1508792.story


three thousand words

Terry Wise
Ratland Ink Press
Aug 18, 2009

Mr. Fish: If I had a hammer

Matt Bors: Fetus Funding

Saturday September 26, 2009 – “Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.” – Laurence J. Peter

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

U.S. stock investors set to unload junk [LOL!]

By Chuck Mikolajczak – Analysis
24 Sep 2009

Just like the government’s “cash for clunkers” program, investors are ready to cash in junk stock holdings for sounder equities, analysts say. The stock market is up 57 percent since March 9, led by so-called junk stocks — or badly beaten names with hazy growth prospects.


From: CLG News


US-NATO Using Military Might To Control World Energy Resources

Pentagon’s Global Mission To Secure Oil And Gas Supplies
by Rick Rozoff

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s 2009 Year Book documented that international military expenditures for 2008 reached $1.464 trillion. The denomination in dollars is germane as the United States accounted for 41.5 percent of the world total.

Earlier this month the Congressional Research Service in the U.S. reported that American weapons sales abroad reached $37.8 billion, or 68.4 percent of all global arms transactions. The next largest weapons supplier was Italy at $3.7 billion, less than one-tenth the U.S. amount. Russia was third at $3.5 billion. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, however, asserted that Germany had superseded Britain and France and become the world’s third largest weapons exporter.

Western nations in general and the U.S. overwhelmingly among them dominate the global arms market.

21st century weaponry is daily more technologically advanced, more linked with computer networks and satellite communications, and progressively approaching a blurring of conventional and strategic, terrestrial and space-based capabilities.

And in the U.S. and allied nations the notion of so-called preemptive warfare has advanced precariously to include cyber and satellite attacks that can cripple a targeted nation’s communications, control and air defense centers, thus rendering it both helpless and toothless: Not able to fend off attacks and unable to retaliate against or even forestall them with a secure deterrent force.

The vast preponderance of American and other NATO states’ arms are sold to nations neither in North America and Europe nor on their peripheries.

They are sold to nations like Saudi Arabia, India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Egypt, Taiwan, South Korea, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Kuwait, the Philippines, Morocco and other Western client states and military outposts far removed from the much-vaunted Euro-Atlantic space.

The weapons along with the military technicians, trainers and advisers that inevitably accompany them are spread throughout nations in geostrategically vital areas of the world, near large oil and natural gas reserves and astride key shipping lanes and choke points. In many instances Western-fueled arms buildups are accelerating in nations bordering Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela. Geopolitics in its most transparent, cynical and brutal manifestation.

The growing sales of Western arms in the Persian Gulf, the South Caucasus, South America (Chile and Colombia most pronouncedly), Africa, Far East Asia and the South Pacific (Australia in the first instance) are an integral element of American and general Western plans to gain access to and domination over world energy resources.

The campaign is not limited to efforts to muscle into nations and regions rich in oil and natural gas (and uranium), nor to employing fair means or foul, peaceful or otherwise, to seize the commanding heights of the international energy market.

The overarching objective is to control the ownership, transport and consumption of energy worldwide. To determine who receives oil and natural gas, through which routes and at which prices. And to dictate what the political and military quid pro quo will be for being invited to join a U.S.-dominated international energy transportation and accessibility network.

Those who are allowed to exploit, sell and transit hydrocarbons to the Western and ultimately world market are levied for a handsome share of their energy-derived revenues for unprecedented acquisition of arms and for the stationing of U.S. and other NATO states’ military forces on their soil. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan and Georgia are salient examples. The last two-named nations have increased their military budgets by well over 1,000 percent in the first case and by over 3,000 percent in the second in the span of a few years.

A United Press International report of August 25, 2009 estimated that Middle Eastern nations would purchase $100 billion worth of arms over the next five years, with the lion’s share going to the oil-rich Western client states of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq.

There are six major areas in the world that the United States and its allies have targeted in history’s largest scramble for hydrocarbons and, it’s important to remember, against a recent backdrop of diminishing energy consumption, plunging prices and both the discovery and presumption of oil and natural gas reserves hitherto unexploited.

They are the Persian Gulf, the southern rim of the Caribbean Basin, the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of Western Africa, the Caspian Sea, the Arctic Circle, and the Antarctic Ocean and adjoining parts of the South Atlantic Ocean.

The first two were the private preserves of Washington and Western Europe until the Iranian revolution of 1979 in the first example and in the second the election of Hugo Chavez as president of Venezuela in 1998 and subsequent developments in that country and in nearby Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

South American oil and gas are no longer available to Washington on its own terms. Though Venezuelan and Ecuadoran officials have voiced the suspicion that the U.S. has recently acquired the use of seven new military bases in neighboring Colombia in part to seize the region’s energy resources.

The U.S. belatedly compensated for the loss of Iran after the overthrow of its proxy, Shah Reza Pahlavi, thirty years ago by invading neighboring Iraq in 2003.

The announcement of the Carter Doctrine in January of 1980, which bluntly affirmed that the U.S. would wage war for control of Persian Gulf energy resources and by extension those in other parts of the world, codified then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s threat five years earlier to go to war over oil after the Arab petroleum boycott of 1973-1974.

President Carter’s State of the Union address in 1980 included the following comments:

“This situation demands careful thought, steady nerves, and resolute action, not only for this year but for many years to come. It demands collective efforts to meet this new threat to security in the Persian Gulf and in Southwest Asia. It demands the participation of all those who rely on oil from the Middle East….Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

The reference to an outside force at the time was the Soviet Union, much nearer the Persian Gulf than the United States. It was later used against a nation in the Gulf, Iraq in 1991, and now is aimed at Iran, another Persian Gulf country.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union in the same year that the U.S. and its NATO and Gulf allies first applied the Carter Doctrine, 1991, areas that for several decades had been off limits to the West now became open frontiers for a new oil rush. The Black Sea and Caspian Sea regions most immediately.

The Gulf of Guinea, where America is planning to soon import 25 percent of all its oil – high-grade crude shipped straight across the Atlantic Ocean on tankers – is the center of plans going back to the beginning of this century for what is now Africa Command (AFRICOM), the U.S.’s first new regional command since Central Command (CENTCOM), which itself was set up in 1983 as an upgrade of the Carter administration’s Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force in the Middle East, and the NATO Response Force.

In addition to securing West African oil, U.S. and NATO military expansion in the region also aims at denying it to nations like China and Russia. The practice of acquiring oil wells abroad and of denying them to competitors played no small role in triggering the two world wars of the last century.

The Arctic oil and natural gas bonanza is arguably among the main world developments of the new millennium and an analogous situation obtains in the Antarctic and South Atlantic Oceans.

Three news reports of the past week, one American and two Russian, provide an idea of the magnitude of what is at stake.

On September 17 United Press International ran a feature called “Amid Africa’s oil boom, U.S. binds ties” which included these observations:

“Potentially major oil strikes announced by an American-led consortium and a British company in West Africa have bolstered the region’s reputation as the world’s hottest energy zone.

“It has also become the focus of the U.S. military’s global mission to protect America’s energy supplies….”

The “U.S. military’s global mission to protect America’s energy supplies” is a phrase that warrants being pondered deliberately and within historical perspective. Even the bellicose brusqueness of Kissinger’s war-for-oil advocacy and the Carter Doctrine pale in comparison to the strategic scope of what is now underway.

The same article added these details, pertaining to both ends of the African continent:

“The Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. said Wednesday its deepwater Venus 1B well off the coast of Sierra Leone had hit paydirt and formed one of two ‘bookends’ 700 miles apart across two prospective basins that extend into waters controlled by Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.

“These could each contain 150 million to 1 billion barrels of oil, according to Anadarko’s CEO Al Walker.

“One of Anadarko’s consortium partners, Tullow Oil of Britain, which has a vast array of licenses in Africa, recently announced a new potentially important discovery in its Ngassa field in Uganda.”

The United Press International report sums up the situation in a single effective sentence: “In the scramble for new oil reserves as the planet’s older fields become depleted, the U.S. military has become a predominant force in U.S.-African relations.”

A billion barrels of oil is not an insignificant figure, yet far more is being fought over in an area where there is a serious rival with one of the world’s two major nuclear arsenals and strategic nuclear triads.

The Voice of Russia on September 15 revealed that “British Petroleum, Europe’s second largest oil company, estimates that the Arctic Ocean may hold around 200 billion barrels of oil resources, about a half of the world’s prospective hydrocarbons. This is the main reason behind a sharp surge of interest in the Arctic ‘oil pie.’”

According to a recent estimate by the Oil and Gas Journal, the world’s largest petroleum exporter, Saudi Arabia, possesses approximately 267 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. The Arctic Ocean, whose reserves have yet to be explored in any thorough manner, may be home to even more.

In May the U.S. Geological Survey released the results of a study on the Arctic which estimated that 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas reserves and 13 percent of its oil may be in the Arctic Circle.

If the British Petroleum figure cited above is closer to the truth, the U.S. Geological Survey estimate is woefully conservative.

With the melting of the Arctic polar ice cap and the navigability of the Northwest Passage for the first time in recorded history opening up the area for energy exploitation, the U.S. released National Security Presidential Directive 66 on January 12, 2009, which contained these claims:

“The United States has broad and fundamental national security interests in the Arctic region and is prepared to operate either independently or in conjunction with other states to safeguard these interests. These interests include such matters as missile defense and early warning; deployment of sea and air systems for strategic sealift, strategic deterrence, maritime presence, and maritime security operations; and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight.”

Sixteen days later NATO abruptly convened a two-day Seminar on Security Prospects in the High North in Iceland and then Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer’s comments included:

“[T]he High North is going to require even more of the Alliance’s attention in the coming years.

“As the ice-cap decreases, the possibility increases of extracting the High North’s mineral wealth and energy deposits.

“At our Summit in Bucharest last year, we agreed a number of guiding principles for NATO’s role in energy security….”

Alluding to the fact that of the five formal claimants to Arctic territory – Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway – only the first is not a member of the bloc, Scheffer said, “NATO provides a forum where four of the Arctic coastal states can inform, discuss, and share, any concerns that they may have. And this leads me directly onto the next issue, which is military activity in the region.

“Clearly, the High North is a region that is of strategic interest to the Alliance.”

On September 16 the Voice of Russia featured an article on Antarctica which reported that “British geologists have discovered a wide array of oil and gas fields in the Falkland Islands….Edinburgh-based British Geological Survey Agency…experts insisted that as much as 60 billion barrels may be recoverable on the shelf. If these estimates prove right that may well rival the world’s oil-rich nations, not least Libya and Nigeria.

“The late 1970s saw breaking news about a spate of lucrative oil and gas fields in the Falkland Islands – deposits that experts insisted were 13 times as much as those in the North Sea at the time.

“Many believe that the 1982 war between Britain and Argentina with almost 1,000 servicemen killed in the hostilities was all about oil and gas fields in the South Atlantic.”

On May 11 of this year Britain submitted a claim to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf for one million square kilometers in the South Atlantic reaching into the Antarctic Ocean.

As early as October 23, 2007 The Scotsman reported that “the value of the oil under the sea in the region is understood to be immense. Seismic tests suggest there could be about 60 billion barrels of oil under the ocean floor.”

Britain is two hemispheres, the west and south, away from the Falklands/Malvinas Islands, which lie off the southeastern coast of Argentina.

The Russia source quoted earlier warned:

“Given London’s unwillingness to try to arrive at a political accommodation with Buenos Aires, a UN special commission will surely have tougher times ahead as far as its final decision on the continental shelf goes. And it is only to be hoped that Britain will be wise enough not to turn the Falkland Islands into another regional hot spot.”

In April of last year the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, through some combination of select compliance and procedural negligence if not complicity, granted Australia – Britain’s, the U.S.’s and increasingly NATO’s main outpost in the South Pacific – 2.5 million more square kilometers in the Antarctic Ocean so that the nation’s territory, in the words of Resources Minister Martin Ferguson as quoted by Agence France-Presse on April 21, 2008, “expanded by an area five times the size of France,” which could “potentially provide a ‘bonanza’ in underwater oil and gas reserves.”

The expansion of Australia’s seabed borders included the Kerguelen Plateau around the Heard and McDonald Islands, which extend southwards into Antarctica. As such Australia became the first nation to be granted exclusive property rights in the ocean.

In the Caspian Sea Basin and its neighborhood, which takes in the Afghanistan-Pakistan war theater and the turbulent and explosive Caucasus, Azerbaijan last week marked the fifteenth anniversary of what was called the Contract of the Century in 1994, engineered by the United States and Britain to open up the Caspian region to Western energy companies.

In the interim several oil and natural gas transit projects – the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan oil and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum and Nabucco natural gas pipelines – have been launched.

The intent of all of them is to prevent Iran from exporting hydrocarbons to Europe and to expel Russia entirely from its previous contracts to provide Europe with natural gas and Caspian oil. Russia currently supplies the European Union with 30 percent of its gas, but the West – the U.S. and its EU allies – is well on its way to replacing Russian oil and gas with supplies from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan via Azerbaijan and from Iraq and North Africa through Turkey where all of the three pipelines mentioned above end.

Plans for what has accurately been called a Peace Pipeline from Iran through Pakistan and to India and China were heavy-handedly quashed by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her successor.

Caspian energy supplies are only to flow west to Europe and east to Asia by routes under Western control if the U.S. and its partners have their way.

The Trend News Agency of Azerbaijan on September 16 reproduced parts of a letter from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose husband had begun the process with the Contract of the Century, to President Ilham Aliyev from which the following is excerpted:

“The development of the Azeri-Chiraq-Gunashli offshore oilfields, and the
subsequent formation of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC), was a landmark event in international oil and gas development, as well as a great success for international energy diplomacy.

“Promotion of international energy security remains critical for the Eurasia region. In this regard, the July 13 signing of the Nabucco inter-governmental agreement was a major milestone in our joint efforts to open the Southern Corridor, which will bring Caspian gas to Europe.

“We hope that Azerbaijan, Turkey, and other interested countries will be able to build on this momentum and agree on those remaining issues needed to make the southern corridor [Nabucco] a reality.

“Azerbaijan is on the threshold of a new and even more promising phase of energy development, and we look forward to continuing to work with you and other leaders in the region to develop new oil and gas resources and new routes to bring those resources to market.”

New routes mean any other than Russian ones.

The Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan oil pipeline is to branch out through Ukraine – where the reverse flow of Russian oil has been cut off – and from there to Poland and the Baltic Sea city of Gdansk.

The Russian South Stream project to transport natural gas from Russia to Greece and the Balkans and then to Central Europe is being undermined by the Nabucco pipeline. The Nord Stream pipeline planned to deliver Russian gas to Germany through the Baltic Sea is also under assault, with pro-Western figures in Poland, the Baltic States and Finland accusing it of being a security and even a military threat.

Never before in history have all parts of the world been so intensely fought over simultaneously as they are currently.

Nothing less than uncontested, irreversible global domination is what is being sought by the West – the United States and its NATO, Asia-Pacific and Middle Eastern allies and clients.

Possession of energy supplies and control of their destinations and transit routes are an essential part of that strategy and will be enforced through a military machine that has penetrated most of the world and is still expanding.

Complete article at:

Rick Rozoff is a frequent contributor to Global Research.


Humana’s Medicare Scare Called Out

Source: Huffington Post, September 21, 2009

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is taking a closer look at insurance giant Humana. Humana sent alarming mass mailings to people enrolled in one or more of its plans. The Humana letters claim that health care reform proposals under consideration by Congress could hurt “millions of seniors and disabled individuals [who] could lose many of the important benefits and services that make Medicare advantage health plans so valuable.” CMS demanded that Humana cease “immediately all such mailings to Medicare plan members and to remove any related materials directed to Medicare enrollees from your website.” CMS also warned companies offering Medicare-related plans that official mailings on plan benefits must be reviewed by CMS, and that communications “claim[ing] to convey legitimate Medicare program information … but instead offer[ing] misleading and/or confusing opinion and conjecture” are likely violations of federal rules. Earlier this year, the public relations firm Dewey Square Group sent fake letters to the editor in seniors’ names, arguing against funding cuts for the private Medicare Advantage plan. Dewey Square was working for America’s Health Insurance Plans.


Federal Agencies Can’t Agree on Who is a Terrorist

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The federal government remains baffled by the question of who should be prosecuted as a terrorist and who should not.

The continuing confusion on this key point — eight years after the 9/11 attacks — has at the same time weakened national security and undermined civil liberties.

Evidence that federal agencies can’t agree emerged from an extensive analysis by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of many thousands of terrorism case-by-case records obtained from the Federal Courts and two agencies in the Justice Department.

One part of TRAC’s study found that three highly authoritative lists of alleged terrorists prosecuted by the federal government since FY 2004 — each of which was independently compiled by separate federal institutions — had surprisingly few names in common. The report includes maps giving locations along with case-by-case details of those prosecuted, including names, charges, and outcomes.

A different kind of evidence documenting the government’s lack of any clear focus emerged from TRAC’s analysis of the data showing that during the last five years U.S. Attorneys refused to file criminal charges against two out of three (67%) of the thousands of terrorism matters that the investigative agencies had recommended for prosecutions, and that this turndown rate has been rising.

Release of this first-of-its-kind report is set for Monday, September 28. Reporters desiring immediate access to the report before the end of the embargo should go to

This report was developed with the support of Syracuse University and the Rockefeller Family Fund. It builds on extensive research and numerous previous studies about the FBI, the DHS and the investigation and prosecution of terrorism matters in the United States that were funded by earlier grants from the Rockefeller Family Fund and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

David Burnham and Susan B. Long, co-directors
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
Syracuse University
Suite 360, Newhouse II
Syracuse, NY 13244-2100


National Security Archive Update, September 22, 2009

JOE-1:U.S. Intelligence and the Detection of the First Soviet Nuclear Test, September 1949

For more information contact:
William Burr [National Security Archive] – 202/994-7000

Washington D.C., September 22, 2009 – Sixty years ago tomorrow, on 23 September 1949, President Harry Truman made headlines when he announced that the Soviet Union had secretly tested a nuclear weapon several weeks earlier. Truman did not explain how the United States had detected the test, which had occurred on 29 August 1949 at Semipalatinsk, a site in northeastern Kazakhstan. Using declassified material, much of which has never been published, this briefing book documents how the U.S. Air Force, the Atomic Energy Commission, and U.S. scientific intelligence worked together to detect a nuclear test that intelligence analysts, still unaware of the extent to which the Soviets had penetrated the Manhattan Project, did not expect so soon.

Stalin and the Soviet Politburo were probably stunned by Truman’s announcement; they did not know that Washington had a surveillance system for detecting the tell-tale signs of a nuclear test and they wanted secrecy to avoid giving the United States an incentive to accelerate its nuclear weapons activities. (Note 1) Joe-1 (as U.S. intelligence designated it) was also a jolt for U.S. intelligence analysis, which for several years had asserted that the Soviets were unlikely to have the bomb before mid-1953, although mid-1950 was also possible. A few weeks after the test, CIA director Roscoe Hillenkoetter argued that “I don’t think we were taken by surprise” because of an error of only a “few months,” but not all of his Congressional masters accepted that.


September 2009 Monthly Energy Review publication has been released

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Monthly Energy Review (09/24/2009)

EIA’s primary report of recent energy statistics: total energy production, consumption, and trade; energy prices; overviews of petroleum, natural gas, coal, electricity, nuclear energy, renewable energy, and international petroleum; carbon dioxide emissions; and data unit conversions. In preliminary statistics, total energy production in the United States during the first half of 2009 compared with the first half of 2008 was up slightly, total energy net imports were down 8%, and total energy consumption was down 6%. See What’s New in the Monthly Energy Review for a record of changes in this report.


New articles at Iraq Oil Report

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Iraq Oil Report has posted new articles.

DNO’s Iraq operations suspended

KRG threatens to make shut-down permanent, says name is tarnished in dispute between the Norwegian oil firm and its home regulator.

New articles at Iraq Oil Report

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Iraq Oil Report has posted new articles.

Iraqi forces step up oil protection

Recent attacks highlight decreasing vulnerability of oil and gas infrastructure and increasing ability of Iraq’s security forces to respond.

New articles at Iraq Oil Report

Friday, September 25, 2009

Iraq Oil Report has posted new articles.

Q&A: Security Snapshot

Michael Knights of security firm Olive Groups explains the security trends in Iraq, with an eye on the energy sector.


In Dairyland, Pollan’s ‘Food’ book sparks debate

Washington Post
By Ryan J. Foley, The Associated Press

September 23, 2009

Madison, Wis. — One best-selling book advocating fresh, local foods is shaking up America’s Dairyland.

Students across University of Wisconsin-Madison’s campus, organic grocers, scientists, and dairy farmers large and small have jumped into the debate on how food is produced and eaten. The discussions started last month when the university began giving MICHAEL POLLAN’s book, “In Defense of Food,” free to all incoming freshmen and school officials urged professors to use it in class.

“I have not seen the students this excited about something in years,” Irwin Goodman, a horticulture professor who is vice dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences said of the buzz on campus about Pollan’s field-to-table philosophies….

Pollan’s work has been used on college campuses from the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-BERKELEY, WHERE HE IS A JOURNALISM PROFESSOR, to Columbia University in New York City for courses ranging from science journalism to environmental politics. But the program at UW-Madison is unique because the book and related topics are being discussed everywhere from French and political science courses to an exhibit on the history of food. And Pollan is to speak at the 17,000-seat Kohl Center Thursday in the liberal college town….

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto ~ Michael Pollan
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto ~ Michael Pollan


low: Beck and right-wing media minions fearmongering about kids to attack progressives

Glenn Beck and other right-wing media figures have recently fearmongered about how President Obama and progressive policies will harm children; among other things, Beck and these other media figures have repeatedly accused Obama of “indoctrinating” school children, aired unauthorized videos of children singing Obama’s praises, and attacked Obama’s “school saftey czar.” On his September 25 television show, Beck plans to continue the trend by hosting 9-12 Project mothers, along with their children, who are “concerned” about “their kids’ futures.”

Read More


And now for the important news ….

By Argus Hamilton

The Senate Finance Committee opened the health care bill to amendments Tuesday after support for public coverage collapsed. The bill drew five hundred amendments. An Alaska senator proposed covering an Operation to Nowhere, but the war funding bill already does that.


three thousand words

Jimmy Margulies
The Record
Sep 25, 2009

Tom Toles: dramatic pause

Daryl Cagle: fox news target audience

Friday September 25, 2009 – I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think. – Socrates

Friday, September 25th, 2009

The Death of a Top Indonesian Militant

By Scott Stewart
September 23, 2009

On Saturday, Sept. 19, the Indonesian National Police announced that a DNA test has positively identified a man killed Sept. 17 as Noordin Mohammad Top. Top was killed in a raid on a safe-house in the outskirts of Solo, Central Java, that resulted in a prolonged firefight between Indonesian authorities and militants. Police said four militants were killed in the incident and three more were taken into custody. (Two of them were arrested before the raid.) Authorities also recovered a large quantity of explosives during the raid that they believe the militant group was preparing to use in an attack on Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Indonesian National Police had reported Sept. 17 that the dead man’s fingerprints matched Top’s. But given several inaccurate reports of Top’s demise in the past, combined with reports that the body believed to be Top’s was headless — perhaps due to the explosion of a suicide belt — most observers were waiting for DNA confirmation before removing Top’s name from the pinnacle of the organizational chart of Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad.

Now that Top’s name officially has been scratched off the list, big questions emerge: Can Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad continue without him? Can the group be effective as a militant organization? And who will step up to fill the void left by Top?

The Importance of Leadership

All three of these questions touch on the issue of leadership. Without leadership, militant groups wither and/or disintegrate. Without skilled leadership, militant groups lose their ability to conduct effective attacks. Quite simply, leadership, skill and professionalism make the difference between a militant group wanting to attack something — i.e., possessing intent — and the group’s ability to successfully carry out its intended attack — i.e., its capability.

Although on the surface it might seem like a simple task to find a leader for a militant group, in practice, effective militant leaders are hard to come by. This is because militant leadership requires a rather broad skill set. In addition to personal attributes such as ruthlessness, aggressiveness and fearlessness, militant leaders also must be charismatic, intuitive, clever and inspiring. This last attribute is especially important in an organization that seeks to recruit operatives to conduct suicide attacks. Additionally, an effective militant leader must be able to recruit and train operatives, enforce operational security, raise funds, plan operations, and then methodically execute the plan while avoiding the security forces constantly hunting the militants down.

The importance of leadership to a militant organization has been wonderfully illustrated by the trajectory of al Qaeda’s franchise in Saudi Arabia. Under the leadership of Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin the Saudi al Qaeda franchise was extremely busy in 2003 and 2004. It carried out a number of high-profile attacks inside the kingdom and put everyone from the Saudi monarchy to multinational oil companies in a general state of panic. With bombings, ambushes and beheadings, it seemed as if Saudi Arabia was on its way to becoming the next Iraq. Following the June 2004 death of al-Muqrin, however, the organization began to flounder. The succession of leaders appointed to replace al-Muqrin lacked his operational savvy, and each one proved ineffective at best. (Saudi security forces quickly killed several of them.) Following the February 2006 attack against the oil facility at Abqaiq, the group atrophied even further, succeeding in carrying out one more attack, an amateurish small-arms assault in February 2007 against a group of French tourists.

The disorganized remaining jihadist militants in Saudi Arabia ultimately grew frustrated at their inability to operate on their own. Many of them traveled to places like Iraq or Pakistan to train and fight. In January 2009, many of the militants who remained in the Arabian Peninsula joined with al Qaeda’s franchise in Yemen to form a new group called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) under the leadership of Nasir al-Wahayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen who served under Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan before being arrested in Iran. Al-Wahayshi was returned to Yemen in 2003 through an extradition deal between the Yemeni and Iranian governments and subsequently escaped from a high-security prison outside Sanaa in 2006.

Al Qaeda in Yemen’s operational capability improved under al-Wahayshi’s leadership, and its operational tempo increased (even though those operations were not terribly effective.) In the wake of this momentum, it is not surprising that the frustrated members of the all-but-defunct Saudi franchise agreed to swear loyalty to him. The first real fruit of this merger was seen inside Saudi Arabia in the Aug. 28 attempted assassination of Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. That the plot had to be planned and launched from Yemen reveals AQAP’s weakness inside the kingdom, and the plot’s failure demonstrates that, overall, AQAP is far from an effective organization.

Like the Saudi node, the fortunes of other al Qaeda regional franchises have risen or fallen based upon the ability of the franchise’s leadership. For example, in August 2006 al Qaeda announced with great fanfare that a splinter of the Egyptian jihadist group Gamaah al-Islamiyah had become al Qaeda’s franchise in Egypt. Likewise, in November 2007 al Qaeda announced that the Libyan Islamic Fighting group (LIFG) had joined its constellation of regional groups.

But neither of these new franchise groups ever really got off the ground. While a great degree of the groups’ lack of success may have resulted from the oppressive natures of the Egyptian and Libyan governments — and the aggressive efforts those governments undertook to control the new al Qaeda franchises following the announcements of their creation — we believe the groups’ near total lack of success also stems in large part from the lack of dynamic leadership. Recently, LIFG leaders have issued statements speaking out against al Qaeda’s operational principles and general methodology.

Dynamic leaders are indeed hard to find. Even though Indonesia has an estimated population of more than 240 million, Top — considered the most dangerous and most wanted man in Indonesia before his death — hailed from Malaysia, not Indonesia. He was an outsider like the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who brought al Qaeda in Iraq into the global spotlight.

Of course, not every leadership change is disastrous to a militant group. Sometimes a new leader breathes new life and energy into a group (like al-Wahayshi in Yemen), or the group has competent lieutenants able to continue to operate effectively after the death of the leader (like al Qaeda in Iraq after the death of al-Zarqawi). Top’s replacement, and how the leadership transition affects the group, must therefore be closely monitored.

Topping Top

Top was an accomplished operational commander. He was responsible for a number of terrorist attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, the 2003 JW Marriott bombing in Jakarta, the 2004 attack on the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, and most recently, the July 17 bombings of the JW Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton in Jakarta.

Because of these attacks, Top and his militant colleagues were under extreme pressure from the Indonesian authorities, who were aided by the Australian and American intelligence services. Many of Top’s closest associates, like Ridhwan Isam al-Deen al-Hanbali and Azahari bin Husin, were arrested or killed, and operations launched by Indonesian authorities thwarted several of the group’s planned attacks between 2005 and 2009.

But external pressure was not the only challenge facing Top. He was also forced to deal with mounting ideological opposition to high-profile terror attacks from within Jemaah Islamiyah itself, a difference of opinion that led to Top’s split with Jemaah Islamiyah and his decision to form the new group Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad in early 2006.

Yet in spite of all this external and internal pressure, Top was still able to recruit new operatives, secure funding and maintain tight operational security. Top’s penchant for security even sparked rumors that he had some sort of mystical protection, rumors fanned by the many false reports of his capture or death. The ability to operate under such trying circumstances is the mark of a seasoned leader.

In a further challenge to Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad, two of Top’s key lieutenants also died in the Sept. 17 operation. These were Maruto Jati Sulistyo, thought to have been one of Top’s main bombmakers; and Bagus Budi Pranoto, who had previously served a three-and-one-half-year prison sentence for hiding Top and Azahari. (Pranoto, aka Urwah, was thought to have been a polished recruiter.)

Despite the deaths of Maruto and Pranoto, there are a number of potential successors to Top. Among these are Reno, aka Teddy, the reported deputy of Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad; Saifuddin Jaelani, who reportedly recruited the suicide bombers responsible for the July hotel attacks in Jakarta; and Jaleni’s brother, Muhammad Syahrir. Of course, someone outside Top’s immediate circle could take up the fallen militant leader’s mantle. Scores of Jemmah Islamiyah militants have been released from prison in recent years, and several skilled militants like Dulmatin and Umar Patek, who have fled to the Philippines, could return. And senior Jemmah Islamiyah militants like Zulkarnaen, who enjoy respect within the group, also remain at large.

No matter who replaces Top, the follow-on investigation to the operation that resulted in the death of Top will surely prove challenging to the future leadership of Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad. Operations like the one that resulted in Top’s death offer not only the opportunity for capturing or killing militants but also the potential for a huge harvest of intelligence. Indonesian authorities (aided by their allies) are surely attempting to exploit any information gained in the raid in an effort to locate other operatives, safe-houses and weapons caches. Indeed, Top himself was found due to intelligence gathered from the arrest of an associate named Rohmat on the same day as the raid in which Top died. Because of this intelligence windfall, we can anticipate a string of raids by the Indonesian government in the following days and weeks.

And while Top was able to weather such operations in the past, now that he is gone, it remains to be seen if his replacement is capable of withstanding the pressure and keeping the group together and operationally effective.

If you repost this article on a website, include a link to


The Economy Is A Lie, Too

by Paul Craig Roberts
Global Research, September 22, 2009
Information Clearing House – 2009-09-21

Americans cannot get any truth out of their government about anything, the economy included. Americans are being driven into the ground economically, with one million school children now homeless, while Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke announces that the recession is over.

The spin that masquerades as news is becoming more delusional. Consumer spending is 70% of the US economy. It is the driving force, and it has been shut down. Except for the super rich, there has been no growth in consumer incomes in the 21st century. Statistician John Williams of reports that real household income has never recovered its pre-2001 peak.

The US economy has been kept going by substituting growth in consumer debt for growth in consumer income. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan encouraged consumer debt with low interest rates. The low interest rates pushed up home prices, enabling Americans to refinance their homes and spend the equity. Credit cards were maxed out in expectations of rising real estate and equity values to pay the accumulated debt. The binge was halted when the real estate and equity bubbles burst.

As consumers no longer can expand their indebtedness and their incomes are not rising, there is no basis for a growing consumer economy. Indeed, statistics indicate that consumers are paying down debt in their efforts to survive financially. In an economy in which the consumer is the driving force, that is bad news.

The banks, now investment banks thanks to greed-driven deregulation that repealed the learned lessons of the past, were even more reckless than consumers and took speculative leverage to new heights. At the urging of Larry Summers and Goldman Sachs’ CEO Henry Paulson, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Bush administration went along with removing restrictions on debt leverage.

When the bubble burst, the extraordinary leverage threatened the financial system with collapse. The US Treasury and the Federal Reserve stepped forward with no one knows how many trillions of dollars to “save the financial system,” which, of course, meant to save the greed-driven financial institutions that had caused the economic crisis that dispossessed ordinary Americans of half of their life savings.

The consumer has been chastened, but not the banks. Refreshed with the TARP $700 billion and the Federal Reserve’s expanded balance sheet, banks are again behaving like hedge funds. Leveraged speculation is producing another bubble with the current stock market rally, which is not a sign of economic recovery but is the final savaging of Americans’ wealth by a few investment banks and their Washington friends. Goldman Sachs, rolling in profits, announced six figure bonuses to employees.

The rest of America is suffering terribly.

The unemployment rate, as reported, is a fiction and has been since the Clinton administration. The unemployment rate does not include jobless Americans who have been unemployed for more than a year and have given up on finding work. The reported 10% unemployment rate is understated by the millions of Americans who are suffering long-term unemployment and are no longer counted as unemployed. As each month passes, unemployed Americans drop off the unemployment role due to nothing except the passing of time.

The inflation rate, especially “core inflation,” is another fiction. “Core inflation” does not include food and energy, two of Americans’ biggest budget items. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) assumes, ever since the Boskin Commission during the Clinton administration, that if prices of items go up consumers substitute cheaper items. This is certainly the case, but this way of measuring inflation means that the CPI is no longer comparable to past years, because the basket of goods in the index is variable.

The Boskin Commission’s CPI, by lowering the measured rate of inflation, raises the real GDP growth rate. The result of the statistical manipulation is an understated inflation rate, thus eroding the real value of Social Security income, and an overstated growth rate. Statistical manipulation cloaks a declining standard of living.

In bygone days of American prosperity, American incomes rose with productivity. It was the real growth in American incomes that propelled the US economy.

In today’s America, the only incomes that rise are in the financial sector that risks the country’s future on excessive leverage and in the corporate world that substitutes foreign for American labor. Under the compensation rules and emphasis on shareholder earnings that hold sway in the US today, corporate executives maximize earnings and their compensation by minimizing the employment of Americans.

Try to find some acknowledgement of this in the “mainstream media,” or among economists, who suck up to the offshoring corporations for grants.

The worst part of the decline is yet to come. Bank failures and home foreclosures are yet to peak. The commercial real estate bust is yet to hit. The dollar crisis is building.

When it hits, interest rates will rise dramatically as the US struggles to finance its massive budget and trade deficits while the rest of the world tries to escape a depreciating dollar.

Since the spring of this year, the value of the US dollar has collapsed against every currency except those pegged to it. The Swiss franc has risen 14% against the dollar. Every hard currency from the Canadian dollar to the Euro and UK pound has risen at least 13 % against the US dollar since April 2009. The Japanese yen is not far behind, and the Brazilian real has risen 25% against the almighty US dollar. Even the Russian ruble has risen 13% against the US dollar.

What sort of recovery is it when the safest investment is to bet against the US dollar?

The American household of my day, in which the husband worked and the wife provided household services and raised the children, scarcely exists today. Most, if not all, members of a household have to work in order to pay the bills. However, the jobs are disappearing, even the part-time ones.

If measured according to the methodology used when I was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, the unemployment rate today in the US is above 20%. Moreover, there is no obvious way of reducing it. There are no factories, with work forces temporarily laid off by high interest rates, waiting for a lower interest rate policy to call their workforces back into production.

The work has been moved abroad. In the bygone days of American prosperity, CEOs were inculcated with the view that they had equal responsibilities to customers, employees, and shareholders. This view has been exterminated. Pushed by Wall Street and the threat of takeovers promising “enhanced shareholder value,” and incentivized by “performance pay,” CEOs use every means to substitute cheaper foreign employees for Americans .

Despite 20% unemployment and cum laude engineering graduates who cannot find jobs or even job interviews, Congress continues to support 65,000 annual H-1B work visas for foreigners.

In the midst of the highest unemployment since the Great Depression what kind of a fool do you need to be to think that there is a shortage of qualified US workers?

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. His new book, War of the Worlds: How the Economy Was Lost, will be published next month by AK Press/CounterPunch. He can be reached at:

Complete article at:

Book by Paul Craig Roberts
The War of the Worlds: How the Economy Was Lost ~ Paul Craig Roberts


Marketplace Op-Ed: What good does the Dow rising do?


Robert Reich

September 23, 2009

…So how can the Dow be flirting with 10,000 when consumers, who make up 70 percent of the economy, have had to cut way back on buying because they have no money? Jobs continue to disappear. Houses can no longer function as piggy banks because they’re worth far less. And Americans are compelled to pay off their debts and start to save, for the first time in a decade.

Even more curious, how can the Dow be so far up when every business and Wall Street executive I come across tells me government is crushing the economy with its huge deficits, and its supposed “takeover” of health care, autos, housing, energy, and finance? Their anguished cries of “socialism” are almost drowning out all their cheers over the surging Dow.

The explanation is simple. The great consumer retreat from the market is being offset by government’s advance into the market. Consumer debt is way down from its peak in 2006, government debt is way up. Consumer spending is down, government spending is up. Why have housing prices stopped falling and new housing starts begun? Because the Fed is keeping mortgage rates low by buying up Fannie and Freddie’s paper….

Book by Robert B. Reich
Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life (Vintage) ~ Robert B. Reich


Gallagher: The G20 must wake America up

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Guardian published the following opinion article by Kevin P. Gallagher today, Thursday 24 September:

The G20 must wake America up

We haven’t done enough to fix the global financial crisis – or prevent the next one. The US has been asleep at the wheel

Kevin Gallagher,
Thursday 24 September 2009 18.00 BST

When President Barack Obama hosts the G20 summit in Pittsburgh today, world leaders should send the United States a wake-up call to re-invigorate its stimulus efforts, get serious about financial reform and pass climate change legislation.

In London in April the G20 agreed to co-ordinate fiscal stimulus packages, support the world’s poorest economies, reform global finance and avoid depression-style protectionism. On top of all that, they promised not to be diverted by such tasks when it came to putting together a serious global climate change treaty by year’s end.

On many of these fronts the US is asleep at the wheel.

On the bright side, the US did pass a significant fiscal stimulus package. Despite lots of fear mongering to the contrary, the US also avoided anything close to Smoot-Hawley era trade protections. For all the commotion over tires and “Buy America” provisions, such measures are miniscule relative to the 50% increase on thousands of tariff lines during the depression. And for the most part these moves have been within the bounds set by our trade treaties.

Such efforts by the US and other G20 nations seem to be working. The IMF estimates that fiscal stimulus from the G20 is close to 2% of global GDP in 2009 and will be 1.6% in 2010. And despite minor and necessary deviations from “free” trade, the IMF saysglobal growth will contract by 1.4% in 2009 but expand by 2.5% in 2010 if the world doesn’t begin exiting from their stimulus packages.

That’s the good news. Alarming is that most stimulus packages don’t include provisions that will benefit the world’s poor. A new report by the International Labour Organisation estimates that approximately 222 million workers across the globe could slide into extreme poverty (living on less than $1.25 per day) if poorer nations aren’t included in the global response to the crisis.

The G20 did commit to granting the IMF $500bn in capital for lending to those in need. However, the IMF’s draconian conditions have kept all but the most desperate nations from opting for the funds. The World Bank pledged $100bn but has delivered less than one-third of those commitments, says a G20 scorecard by Jubilee USA, a development group.

The UN commission of experts on the financial crisis called for 1% of stimulus funds to be earmarked toward poorer countries this June. This goal should be enshrined in Pittsburgh .

Just as important is seeing to it that a crisis like this doesn’t happen again. It has now become clear that unregulated financial markets are inherently unstable. When the economy seems to be in good shape, market participants and regulators tend to enter a dream world where they take on ever more risk – more risk than underlying assets can cover. That leaves us prone to panics that can quickly turn into crises.

Despite this recognition, little real regulation has materialised. And as we turn over in the night, Wall Street has re-instituted mortgage-backed securities and begun mimicking such instruments for life insurance policies and patents.

At the global level, the US won’t seriously discuss the fact that reliance on the currency of a dominant power that borrows too much wreaks havoc on the world. Since little has been done, developing nations still have the incentive to accumulate reserves and thus accentuate global imbalances where the global poor loan to the rich.

On climate change, Jubilee’s G20 assessment puts the amount of carbon-friendly stimulus dollars at $180bn. This is welcome, but without real action by the US and China – who account for 46% of global carbon dioxide emissions – such funds will go wasted.

China won’t act unless the US does, and the Obama administration can’t act if Congress doesn’t. Congress must be on board before the administration goes off to Copenhagen to negotiate a global climate treaty, less they suffer the same fate as the Clinton administration in 1997 when it negotiated the Kyoto protocol without the advice and consent of Congress. That blunder lead to no deal at home and little action globally.

If G20 leaders help the US wake up and smell the coffee on the hard realities of the global economic crisis, they can help shame the US into getting back on a more sustainable course. We’re dreaming if we think we’ve done enough to fix this crisis and prevent the others that loom.

Visit The Guardian and see other Gallagher columns:


Does Glenn Beck support the slave trade or is he just an “idiot”?

In a chapter in his new book purporting to explain to “idiots” what “our Founding Fathers really intended,” Glenn Beck praises an obsolete provision of the U.S. Constitution that prohibited Congress from outlawing the slave trade before 1808 and capped taxes on the slave trade at $10 per slave. In his explanation of the provision, Beck does not mention slavery, saying instead that the provision means that the Founders apparently “felt like there was a value to being able to live here” and lamenting: “Not anymore. These days we can’t ask anything of immigrants — including that they abide by our laws.”

Read More


Squeeze From The Right For House Republicans

CQ Politics
By Alan K. Ota, CQ Staff

September 22, 2009

The passions of conservative activists could be reshaping the Republican Party and complicating some 2010 re-election campaigns.

Indiana’s Mark Souder is among four House Republicans likely to face primary opponents drawing strength from the “tea party” movement and its fervent opposition to anything that might trigger higher taxes or bigger government….

Republican pollster Whit Ayres said the “tea party movement” has given Republicans in Congress new reasons to stick to their guns as the opposition party.

“It’s helping to create an atmosphere where all the incentives for Republican members of Congress are to oppose Obama,” agreed ERIC SCHICKLER, A POLITICAL SCIENTIST AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT BERKELEY….


Borowitz Report – Have you seen this escaped mental patient?

September 24, 2009

Mental Patient Breaks into U.N., Gives Ninety-minute Speech
Breach of Security Under Review

An escaped mental patient broke into the United Nations yesterday, getting all the way to the General Assembly and delivering a ninety-minute speech.

A day after the stunning security breach, U.N. officials were still attempting to sort out how it was allowed to happen.

“We’re trying not to play the blame game here,” said U.N. spokesperson Carol Foyler. “The simple fact is, a legally insane man somehow got all the way to the podium, so how do we keep that from happening again?”

Theories abound as to how the mental patient made it to the U.N., with some suggesting that he may have escaped during a field trip to a county fair.

Reacting to the rambling and incoherent ninety-minute rant, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton echoed the feelings of many: “I was like, where’s Kanye when you need him?”

Upcoming Events

October 24, 2009 at 11:30AM

St. Petersburg!
Andy performs at the St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading and signs copies of his new book, Who Moved My Soap? The CEO’s Guide to Surviving in Prison: Bernie Madoff Edition.

140 Seventh Avenue South – at Bayboro Harbor
For tickets go to St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading


three thousand words

Mike Keefe
Denver Post
Sep 24, 2009

Bill Schorr: amateur

All Hat, No Cattle: The GOP Health Care Plan

Thursday September 24, 2009 – “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Misguided Revolution: Anti-Government Extremists Mistake Their Enemy

For OpEdNews: Jon Faulkner – Writer
September 21, 2009

In February of 2003 a Florida Appeals Court ruled “there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.” A lawsuit had been brought against Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News by two reporters who, after being ordered to falsify their findings and refusing, were fired by an affiliate of Murdoch’s Fox News. Honesty, in today’s media, is a low priority for broadcasters if their advertisers wish to falsify a story. That is merely free market capitalism one must suppose. Using the public’s airwaves to broadcast lies, slander and duplicitous information, all with the sanction of law, should send a chilling message to all Americans.

If the truth will set you free then it follows that Rupert Murdoch’s stable full of lying bastards will, given time, enslave us all. Murdoch is a nasty piece of work who slithered into the U.S. for no other purpose than expanding his media empire, and he doesn’t care how it’s done as long as its profitable to him. Murdoch is a naturalized American citizen who desperately needs his citizenship rescinded. He then needs to be declared persona non grata, and never allowed into the U.S. again. If a visitor came to your home and was accepted as family, one would expect such a visitor to refrain from defecating on the living room carpet, and strewing garbage throughout your home. Murdoch’s politically equivalent behavior is a moral and criminal outrage after being welcomed here as a U.S. citizen.

He is the head of a snake that needs its head sliced off. Getting rid of the grotesque Murdoch would be a significant step in returning sanity and a collective sense of purpose to Americans. The slightest hint, real or imagined, that threatens to restrain Murdoch’s Fox News from its lies, its misrepresentations and its slanderous attacks, are met with deafening howls of outrage from right wing media claiming violations of First Amendment Rights.

The English philosopher, political theorist and economist, John Stuart Mill, wrote that individual freedom was crucial in opposing totalitarian control. Mill also wrote that a free people, to remain free, must test the truth. It would seem that white extremists and militia groups should pay more attention to Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, who gleefully celebrated his victory when a Florida Court ruled, “there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.” A liar, of necessity, must be contemptuous of his audience, and Murdoch‘s contempt for Americans knows no bounds. What fools he must believe his viewers are.

First Amendments Rights were not meant for the likes of Murdoch to corrupt public thinking. His broadcasts frequently invoke that First Amendment test – is it OK to falsely shout “fire” in a crowded theatre? No reasonable person thinks so. But the political equivalent of shouting fire is Murdoch’s way to profit, and he uses his First Amendment rights to benefit himself to the detriment of all Americans. He’s the lowest form of parasite. He feeds from the fear, the suspicions and the paranoiac anxieties that exist within his audience share. Such fears and anxieties are coaxed forth by lies, exaggerations and the omission of clarifying information. He is the worst kind of blood sucker.

In 1969 the U.S. Supreme Court, in Brandenburg vs. Ohio, decided the First Amendment does not give license to speech that is deliberately used to incite imminent violence and unlawful behavior. Fifty years earlier Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes eloquently argued that a free society must be committed to the search for truth.

How have Americans, who are a people who once prized the truth, arrived at such a said impasse that major media is permitted to lie with complete abandonment of any moral or ethical consideration? Why are Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, those religious icons of morality, so silent when the media is sanctioned by a court that decides “there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.” And where are all those loud Conservative Republican Congressmen who are ever vigilant of the slightest departure of liberal democrats from God’s straight and narrow trail? Anti-government extremists need to ask themselves these questions before they attack the president because of his skin color.

Americans bring their children up with firm instruction that truth, above all, is vital if a family, a community, if a nation, is to survive and flourish. Any American citizen can be arrested for lying to the police during the course of an investigation. Millions of Americans have sworn in the nation’s civil and criminal courts, hand on Bible, to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, under penalty of perjury. Advertising laws are aimed at protecting consumers from false or misleading claims about the products they buy. Why then, the militias, the white supremacists, the anti-government fanatics might wonder, should Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and other right wing demagogic jackasses, be allowed to lie and slander with complete impunity?

As right wing media lies ricochet through American society like stray bullets, where are the militia and the moral majorities that purport to love the truth? The irony is palpable, that the Iron Curtain came down, only to be rebuilt in the U.S. with the collusion of a right wing media machine that is gradually weakening elective representation through the use of a corporate owned media that has absolutely no allegiance or feelings of patriotism. Beck, Limbaugh, Coulter and other right wing droolers, in consideration for their bloated salaries, go along with whichever lies and slanders will best serve their corporate master’s current purposes.

Ignorance makes for fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of radical, right wing extremism, and the corporate owned media makes clever use of its stooges in exploiting those Americans who find it far more entertaining and rewarding to hate rather than arrive at constructive solutions to the nation’s problems. When that Florida Appeals Court ruled “there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States” the nation took a significant and further step towards totalitarian rule.

Murdoch’s, Fox News, enjoys one of the highest network ratings of all. Millions of Americans eagerly tune in to Fox to hear the latest duplicitous lies, slanders and deceptions. When Fox reported on the strange and adulterous behavior of the Governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, Fox put a “D” after his name so viewers would think he’s a democrat. These kinds of distortions are standard for Fox.

Conditions are ripe for anti-government violence. And it is the Glenn Beck’s Limbaugh’s and Rupert Murdoch’s, all prominent Right Wing howlers, who are given mainstream platforms to incite radical extremists. After another police officer is killed, or the extremists move on to bigger game and assassinate a Congressman, the Beck’s and Limbaugh’s, showered with vast quantities of cash rewards for their duplicity, will smugly celebrate the blood letting they so assiduously encouraged.

Earlier this year a report was aired by all major media outlets, with the exception of Murdoch’s, Fox News. The Department of Homeland Security warned that right-wing extremists groups are being significantly strengthened by a flood of new recruits. The recruitment is being driven by fears about the economy, and the election of a black president. Militia groups, white supremacists and antigovernment extremists were recruiting many new members. Murdoch’s Fox News, Beck and other hysterical Right Wing Media figures are driving the recruitments to the extent that the Department of Homeland Security issued a “warning of increased activity” right wing militia and other terrorist, extremist groups.

“Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.” “.. Blaise Pascal

Jon Faulkner is a licensed Master Mariner. He lives in northern Maine. In his teens he was horrified to learn his parents were considering joining the John Birch Society! Knowing his parents idolized Richard Nixon, Jon became a lifelong political Jon became a lifelong political junkie.

Complete article at:


CHAMBER CHAT: Loss of Hanesbrands a blow locally And more …

The Sanford Herald

Our community was rocked by news of another plant closing this week with the announcement that Hanesbrands would permanently close their yarn …

Albertville’s Bowater mill closing

Sand Mountain Reporter
By Jonathan Stinson

The Abitibi Bowater mill in Albertville will be closing its doors for good on Nov. 15, according to John Stodghill, the mill’s human …

Neff closing Marysville plant, cutting 88 jobs

Greenville-based Neff Motivation in a filing with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said the closing of the 639 Clymer Road plant, …

82 workers to be laid off in Kansas plant closing


Plant manager Roy Pepper confirmed the closing, but declined further comment. Skyline has been in Halstead for about 30 years.

Company plans closing of NE Ind. chemical factory

Chicago Tribune

Chemtura said in its court filing that closing the factory about 30 miles north of Fort Wayne would be complete within nine months. …,0,191139.story

Georgia Gulf closing Nevada profile extrusion plant

Plastics News

Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada said they could not comment on the plant closure due to confidentiality agreements. …

El Dorado promise leader pleased with early results

Arkansas News
By rdepriest

Kohler closing Searcy plant. The Kohler Co. will close its stainless steel sink manufacturing plant in Searcy by the end of November and move production to a newer plant in Mexico. The move will leave 57 local workers without jobs. …


This Week in Petroleum (TWIP)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This Week in Petroleum (TWIP) has been updated to the EIA website:


Media conservatives denounce Glenn Beck’s “hatred”

On September 22, conservative MSNBC host Joe Scarborough announced an “honor roll” for conservatives who are willing to denounce Glenn Beck’s “hatred,” making specific reference to Beck’s statement that President Obama is “a racist” with a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” Several media conservatives in addition to Scarborough have denounced Beck’s rhetoric as “harmful” and “race-baiting.”

Read More


“Non-Lethal Weapons”: An Instrument of Social Control

By Tom Burghardt
Global Research, September 20, 2009
Antifascist Calling…

Although so-called non-lethal weapons (NLWs) have been around for decades and range from CS gas to pepper spray and from the low-tech water cannon to the Taser, their use by military and police agencies world-wide are designed to ensure compliance from hostile “natives.”

And with ever-more devilish torture tools being dreamed up by the likes of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program (JNLWP), it’s a safe bet that migration from the military to civilian law enforcement agencies will continue at its current break-neck pace.

In this context, San Diego’s East County Magazine and progressive Liberty One Radio reported, ironically enough on September 11, that the San Diego Sheriff’s Department stationed a Long-Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) during recent town hall forums.

Manufactured by American Technology Corporation (ATC), the firm’s LRAD 500-x is a dual-purpose device: a powerful hailer and a non-lethal weapon capable of producing ear-shattering sounds highly-damaging to their human targets.

ATC’s technology has been deployed in Iraq as an “anti-insurgent weapon” and off the coast of Somalia to fight off desperate “pirates,” that is, former Somali fishermen whose livelihood has been destroyed by over-fishing by foreign factory fleets and toxic dumping, including nuclear waste, by Western polluters.

No matter, time to break out the sonic blasters!

Developed for the U.S. Navy in the wake of the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole, cruise ship Captain Michael Groves “successfully repelled pirates off the Somali coast using non-lethal weapons including an LRAD. Groves has since filed suit against Carnival Cruise Line, claiming he suffered permanent hearing loss as a result,” East County Magazine reports.

The BBC noted in 2005 that the “shrill sound of an LRAD at its loudest sounds something like a domestic smoke alarm, ATC says, but at 150 decibels, it is the aural equivalent to standing 30m away from a roaring jet engine and can cause major hearing damage if misused.”

According to ATC’s web site, “LRAD resolves uncertain situations and potentially saves lives on both sides of the device by combining powerful voice commands and deterrent tones with focused acoustic output to clearly transmit highly intelligible instructions and warnings well beyond 500 meters.”

While the defense establishment and their civilian counterparts dismiss concerns that acoustic weapons pose a danger to their targets, the Bradford Non-Lethal Weapons Research Project noted in 2006:

Juergen Altmann, who is conducting an independent scientific assessment of acoustic weapons, has warned that there is risk of hearing damage to people exposed to the beam at ranges of up to 100m. … An added difficulty with ensuring no permanent damage is that some people are more susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss than others and hearing damage can occur at levels below the threshold for ear pain. A report from the US Army’s 361st Psychological Operations Company gives an idea of the powerful effects of the LRAD: ‘During distance tests at 100 meters, the sound was painful to listeners, even with hands held over the ears and ear plugs in’.” (Neil Davison, Nick Lewer, Bradford Non-Lethal Weapons Research Project, Research Report No. 8, March 2006, pp. 33-34)

Far from being employed as a means to “reduce casualties,” its actual use lends itself to the opposite effect. In Iraq, for example the U.S. Army’s 361st Psychological Operations Company noted that “The LRAD has proven useful for clearing streets and rooftops during cordon and search, for disseminating command information, and for drawing out enemy snipers who are subsequently destroyed by our own snipers.”

In a civilian setting, one can easily envisage groups of “rioters” being sonically blasted prior to street clearing operations by heavily-armed SWAT teams. Kevin Keenan, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union told East County Magazine:

“It’s very concerning. It is fine for the Sheriff’s Department to have new less-than-lethal weapons, but for their interactions with individuals these still-dangerous weapons need to be used only as substitutes for firearms. They can’t be used as just another tool on the tool belt. As we’ve seen with tasers and pepper spray, these types of weapons are being used to subdue people even though they pose the risk of serious physical harm.”

He added, “Even more concerning is having these weapons for public order policing. I can imagine no situation, or am not aware of any situation that’s ever happened in San Diego County or is likely to happen that would justify using these weapons for public order policing to control a crowd. The main effect of having those weapons at public events is to chill people and chill free speech and free association.” (Miriam Raftery, “Sonic Weapons Used in Iraq Positioned at Congressional Town Hall Meetings in San Diego County,” East County Magazine, September 11, 2009)

I would add however, the purpose of these weapons is precisely to “chill free speech and free association,” thus ensuring compliance to the whims of our capitalist masters.

Research into more “effective” low-cost acoustic NLWs are gathering steam. Wired reported September 1 that a “Tennessee lab primarily responsible for building components for nuclear weapons is branching off into the nonlethal weapons business.”

Called the Banshee II, the weapon emits a piercing 144-decibel sound that is designed to be more than just annoying. “It also has a frequency-switching system that pumps your ear drums, so it sounds like there’s a drum beating there,” the inventor tells “You physically feel it in your ear drum.” (Sharon Weinberger, “Nuke Lab Builds ‘Beating Drum’ Sonic Blaster, Wired, September 1, 2009)

While such devices never caught on with the military its inventor, so-called nuke “gadget guru” Fariborz Bzorgi who works at the Y-12 nuclear plant in Tennessee “hopes the Banshee II could have broader applications for law enforcement.”

No doubt they will. As Neil Davison, the author of the recently published “Non-Lethal” Weapons points out, military and police moves towards “effects-based” NLWs are consistent with requirements “for weapons with greater range, more precise delivery, and rheostatic effects from ‘non-lethal’ to ‘lethal’.”

Davison cites the LRAD and other acoustic devices as “the only new technologies that have emerged” in the last several years and pointedly notes that “all these weapons have emerged from the private sector.”

That they have should hardly come as a surprise.

After all as Homeland Security Weekly reported in 2007, “homeland security spending is a massive and highly lucrative new market.” With an expected growth rate between “eight and ten percent annually over the next five years” the publication claims that “the addressable U.S. market over the next five years will be in the range of approximately $140 billion, a 21 percent increase over our five-year estimate made in 2004.”

As the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed, heimat grifting and massive waste go hand in hand:

• Cities and agencies bought things with grant money that would not make California a safer place. One county tried to use anti-terrorism funds for a lawnmower but it was blocked at the last minute. Another county succeeded in buying a big-screen television.

• Dozens of cities and agencies failed to keep adequate records on how they spent the money. In some cases, the poor record keeping resulted in thousands of dollars worth of overpayments to local agencies. In other cases, agencies were unable to find where they stored their own equipment.

• Communities repeatedly bought large and small-ticket items without seeking competitive bids. Federal procurement rules designed to protect the taxpayer weren’t used on millions of dollars in new communications systems, night-vision goggles and bomb-disposal robots. (G.W. Schulz, “Homeland Security Marked by Waste, Lack of Oversight,” Center for Investigative Reporting, September 11, 2009)

While schools go unfunded, infrastructure collapses and affordable health care for all is an unattainable pipe dream, police and intelligence agencies are having a field day–at our expense. Call it part of the “counterterrorism stimulus” package that our corporate security masters are hell-bent on shoving down our throats.

However you slice it, there’s a lot of boodle to be had by enterprising defense and security grifters. Alongside current multibillion dollar outlays for “biodefense” and counterterrorism initiatives by a multitude of state and federal agencies, the development of ever more dubious “non-lethal” weapons, implements for compliance and control during the capitalist meltdown, will enjoy a steady growth curve long into the future.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an independent research and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and activists based in Montreal, his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press and the whistleblowing website Wikileaks . He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press.

Complete article at:

URL of this article:

‘Non-Lethal’ Weapons (Global Issues) ~ Neil Davison


DOD COMISAF Initial Assessment (Unclassified)

“The Department of Defense on Sunday evening released a declassified version of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s [Commander - NATO International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan U.S. Forces, Afghanistan] assessment of the war in Afghanistan. The Post agreed to publish this version [searchable], which includes minor deletions of material that officials said could compromise future operations, rather than a copy of the document marked “confidential.”
•”The situation in Afghanistan is serious; neither success nor failure can be taken for granted. Although considerable effort and sacrifice have resulted in some progress, many indicators suggest the overall situation is deteriorating. We face not only a resilient and growing insurgency; there is also a crisis of confidence among Afghans — in both their government and the international community – that undermines our credibility and emboldens the insurgents. Further, a perception that our resolve is uncertain makes Afghans reluctant to align with us against the insurgents. Success is achievable, but it will not be attained simply by trying harder or “doubling down” on the previous strategy. Additional resources are required, but focusing on force or resource requirements misses the point entirely. The key take away from this assessment is the urgent need for a significant change to our strategy and the way that we think and operate.”

Complete article at:

Assessing McChrystal and Afghanistan

September 23, 2009


Porter recently wrote the piece “U.S. Afghan Campaign Plan Says Key Groups Back Taliban.”

He is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy and author of the book “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam.”

Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam ~ Gareth Porter


Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor ~ Matthew Latimer

Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor ~ Matthew Latimer


From a top speechwriter to President George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, this may be the most deliciously candid memoir ever written about official Washington—a laugh-out-loud cri de coeur that shows what can happen to idealism in a town driven by self-interest.

Despite being raised by reliably liberal parents, Matt Latimer is, from an early age, lured by the upbeat themes of the Reagan Revolution and, in the tradition of Mary Tyler Moore, sets off from the Midwest for the big city, determined to “make it after all.” In Matt’s glory-filled daydreams, he will champion smaller government and greater self-sufficiency, lower taxes and stronger defense—and, by the force of his youthful passion, eradicate do-nothing boondoggleism and lead America to new heights of greatness.

But first he has to find a job.

Like an inside-the-Beltway Dante, Matt chronicles his descent into Washington, D.C., hell, as he snares a series of increasingly lofty—but unsatisfying—jobs with powerful figures on Capitol Hill. One boss can’t remember basic facts. Another appears to hide from his own staff, barricading himself in his office. When Fate offers Matt a job as chief speechwriter for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Matt finds he actually admires the man (causing his liberal friends to shake their heads in dismay), his youthful passion is renewed. But Rummy soon becomes a piñata for the press, and the Department of Defense is revealed as alarmingly dysfunctional.

Eventually, Matt lands at the White House, his heart aflutter with the hope that, here at last, he can fulfill his dream of penning words that will become part of history—and maybe pick up some cool souvenirs. But reality intrudes once again. More like The Office than The West Wing, the nation’s most storied office building is a place where the staffers who run the country are in way over their heads, and almost everything the public has been told about the major players—Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Rove—is wrong.

Both a rare behind-the-scenes account that boldly names the fools and scoundrels, and a poignant lament for the principled conservatism that disappeared during the Bush presidency, Speech-less will forever change the public’s view of our nation’s capital and the people who joust daily for its power.

Complete article at:



By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden , Germany IN EXILE
September 21, 2009

Well, I’m sitting at my computer in Germany with my wife about 15,000 kilometers away in the Philippines .

On Democracy Now, I’m listening to the wife of Daniel Ellsburg, Patricia Ellsburg, speak of how U.S. government officials had spoke in terms of torture in terms of bombing whole populations in Laos and South East Asia in the late 1960s. She learned this all just a few days before her husband, Daniel Ellsburg sent the Pentagon Papers to many American newspapers.

Today, Amy Goodman was interviewing Patricia Ellsburg on her memories. Mrs. Ellsburg responded“it really struck—the pivotal moment, perhaps, in my adult life was the time when Daniel said, I think that I want you to read the papers.’ He had protected me, because it was top secret. He didn’t want my fingerprints on the copies. And I’m considering putting out the papers,because he knew that Nixon was going to expand the war and that the peace—the peace plan was not going to work. So this is our first year of marriage, first few months of marriage. And I was thirty-two, and I had spent a lot of years looking for Mr. Right. I had not been married before. And I’m reading documents that are horrifying to me.


Mrs. Ellsburg stated, as she read through these documents, “Amy, I saw something that Dan hadn’t seen, that in the language that was being used by the leaders of our country, they were using words like one more turn of the screw, ratchet up the water-drip technique, and much phrasing, much, much language of torturers. And I was horrified at the indifference to human suffering of both Americans and Vietnamese, their indifference to Congress, to the American public, the manipulations. And so, Dan said, Should I put these out? And I said, with tears in my eyes, These have to get out to the American public, knowing that my beloved husband, who I still love after forty years—he’s still my hero—might go to prison for the rest of his life. And I look back at that, and I am really proud. I’m really proud of—I was not groomed to be chopping top secrets off documents as we were about to publish—to copy them so that they could be given out to more newspapers.”

Daniel and Patricia Ellsburg are out doing interviews at this time, 40 years after the release of the famous Pentagon Papers, because they see a big ferocious repeat of what they witnessed in misguided war-making in Afghanistan today. Moreover, a new film about their lives in the times of the Nixon-Johnson-Kennedy-Eisenhower cover-ups is coming out soon. The film is called, “THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA”.

On Democracy Now, Daniel Ellsburg said, “I look at this film, and I watch the bombs falling, and all I can see in my mind are the bombs, the same bombs, falling over Afghanistan , or Vietnamistan, and Iraq right now. And we’re really facing, at this moment, a crisis of decision that’s just like the one that’s in the film, which I failed at the time, where the President is doing something that I feel will be a disaster, and I kept my mouth shut about it, the change from 70,000 men in the spring of ’65 to an open-ended commitment, starting with another 50,000, which I knew was on the way to hundreds of thousands. I didn’t tell about that, and nor did anyone else. There was a lot of dissent in the administration about that, but we were overruled. We saluted Clark Clifford, Vice President Humphrey. Again, we have a vice president who apparently is against the application, another parallel. James Jones, the military man, can see what I can see and anybody can see, who has memories of Vietnam : there is no success at the end of this tunnel. There is only a stalemate, which could persist indefinitely.”

In short, after 40 years of mediocrity, the city of Washington DC needs to see that whistleblowers are needed more than ever, right now, Americans!

Daniel Ellsburg said he wished the film was out in the theaters of Washington , D.C. already. “We need people to put out, to tell the truth, and to do it, not the way I did, not after the escalation, not after the bombs have fallen, but right now. Right now. And for the Congress to hold the hearings that will entertain those people.”

Good luck America , you need more and better whistle blowers who can turn the country around.

Author’s Website:
Author’s Bio:

KEVIN STODA has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades. He sees himself as a peace educator and have been a promoter of good economic and social development–making him an enemy of my homelands humongous spending and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global issues.

“I am from Kansas so I also use the pseudonym ‘Kansas’ when I write and publish. I keep two blogs–one with blogger and one with GNN. My writings range from reviews to editorials or to travel observations. I also make recommendations related to policy–having both a strong background in teaching foreign languages and degrees in teaching in history and the social sciences. As a midwesterner, I also write on religion and living out ones faith whether it be as a Christian, Muslim or Buddhist perspective.”

Complete article at:


And now for the important news ….

By Argus Hamilton

The Dallas Cowboys drew a hundred thousand fans for their stadium opening game with the N.Y. Giants Sunday. Everyone described the stadium’s atmosphere as being just like college. No one wanted to leave because they knew there are no jobs waiting for them.


three thousand words

Steve Artley
Sep 23, 2009

Tom Tomorrow: Our awesome post-racial society

Joel Pett: The Southern Gentleman?

Wednesday September 23, 2009 – “Most people, sometime in their lives, stumble across truth. Most jump up, brush themselves off, and hurry on about their business as if nothing had happened.” – - Sir Winston Churchill

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

United States.

Poland and the Czech Republic responded with a sense of U.S. betrayal, while Russia expressed its satisfaction with the decision. Russian envoy to NATO Dmitri Rogozin said Moscow welcomes the decision and sees it as an appropriate response to Russia’s offer to allow U.S. supplies to flow into Afghanistan through Russia. Later, the Russians added another reward: They tentatively announced the cancellation of plans to deploy short-range ballistic missiles in Kaliningrad, which they previously had planned as a response to the components of the U.S. BMD system planned for Poland and the Czech Republic.

Polish Despair and Russian Delight

Polish despair (and Warsaw seemed far more upset than Prague) and Russian satisfaction must be explained to begin to understand the global implications. To do this, we must begin with an odd fact: The planned BMD system did not in and of itself enhance Polish national security in any way even if missiles had actually targeted Warsaw, since the long-range interceptors in Poland were positioned there to protect the continental United States; missiles falling on Poland would likely be outside the engagement envelope of the original Ground-based Midcourse Defense interceptors. The system was designed to handle very few missiles originating from the Middle East, and the Russians obviously have more than a few missiles.

Given that even small numbers of missiles easily could overwhelm the system, the BMD system in no way directly affected Russian national security: The Russian strike capability — against both Poland and the continental United States — was not affected at all. Indeed, placing the system on ships is no less threatening than placing them on land. So, if it was the BMD system the Russians were upset with, they should be no less upset by the redeployment at sea. Yet Moscow is pleased by what has happened — which means the BMD system was not really the issue.

For Poland, the BMD system was of little importance. What was important was that in placing the system in Poland, the United States obviously was prepared to defend the system from all threats. Since the system could not be protected without also protecting Poland, the BMD installation — and the troops and defensive systems that would accompany it — was seen as a U.S. guarantee on Polish national security even though the system itself was irrelevant to Polish security.

The Russians took the same view. They cared little about the BMD system itself; what they objected to was the presence of a U.S. strategic capability in Poland because this represented an American assertion that Poland was actively under the defense of the United States. Of particular note from the Russian point of view was that such a guarantee would be independent of NATO. The NATO alliance has seen better days, and the Russians (and Poles) perceive an implicit American security guarantee as more threatening than an explicit one from NATO.

This whole chain of events was an exercise in the workings of the Post-Post-Cold War World, in which Russia is a strong regional power seeking to protect its influence in the former Soviet Union (FSU) and to guarantee its frontiers as well — something that in the West has often been misinterpreted as a neurotic need for respect. Poland is the traditional route through which Russia is invaded, and the Russian view is that governments and intentions change but capabilities do not. Whatever Washington intends now, it is asserting dominance in a region that has been the route for three invasions over the last two centuries. By the Russian logic, if the United States has no interest in participating in such an invasion, it should not be interested in Poland. If the United States chooses Poland of all places to deploy its BMD when so many other locations were willing and possible, the Russians are not prepared to regard this choice as merely coincidence.

Overall, the Russians desire a new map of the region, one with two layers. First, Russia must be recognized as the dominant power in the former Soviet Union. The United States and Europe must shape bilateral relations with other former Soviet states within the framework of this understanding. Second, Central Europe — and particularly Poland — must not become a base for U.S. power. The United States and Europe must accept that Russia has no aggressive intent, but more to the point, Poland in particular must become a neutral buffer zone between Russia and Germany. It can sign whatever treaties it wants, attend whatever meetings it wishes and so forth, but major military formations of other great powers must remain out of Poland. Russia sees the BMD system as the first step in militarizing Poland, and the Russians have acted accordingly.

From the standpoint of the Bush administration and the Obama administration early on, the Russian claims to great power status, rights in the former Soviet Union and interests in Poland represented a massive overreach. The perception of both administrations derived from an image developed in the 1990s of Russia as crippled. The idea of Russia as a robust regional power, albeit with significant economic problems, simply didn’t register. There were two generations at work. The older Cold War generation did not trust Russian intentions and wanted to create a cordon around Russia — including countries like Georgia, Ukraine and, most important, Poland — because Russia could become a global threat again. The newer post-Cold War generation — which cut its teeth in the 1990s — wanted to ignore Russia and do what it wished both in Central Europe and the former Soviet Union because Russia was no longer a significant power, and the generation saw the need to develop a new system of relationships. In the end, all this congealed in the deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic.

For Russia, Poland mattered in ways the United States could not grasp given its analytic framework. But the United States had its own strategic obsession: Iran.

Iran: The U.S. Strategic Obsession

The Islamic world has been the focus of the United States since 9/11. In this context, the development of an Iranian nuclear capability was seen as a fundamental threat to U.S. national interests. The obvious response was a military strike to destroy Iranian power, but both the Bush and Obama administrations hesitated to take the step.

First, a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be no one-day affair. Intelligence on precise locations had uncertainty built into it, and any strike would consist of multiple phases: destroying Iran’s air force and navy, destroying Iran’s anti-aircraft capability to guarantee total command of the skies, the attacks on the nuclear facilities themselves, analysis of the damage, perhaps a second wave, and of course additional attacks to deal with any attempted Iranian retaliation. The target set would be considerable, and would extend well beyond the targets directly related to the nuclear program, making such an operation no simple matter.

Second, Iran has the ability to respond in a number of ways. One is unleashing terrorist attacks worldwide via Hezbollah. But the most significant response would be blocking the Strait of Hormuz using either anti-ship missiles or naval mines. The latter are more threatening largely because the clearing operation could take a considerable period and it would be difficult to know when you had cleared all of the mines. Tankers and their loads are worth about $170 million at current prices, and that uncertainty could cause owners to refuse the trip. Oil exports could fall dramatically, and the effect on the global economy — particularly now amid the global financial crisis — could be absolutely devastating. Attacking Iran would be an air-sea battle, and could even include limited ground forces inserted to ensure that the nuclear facilities were destroyed.

The country most concerned with all of this is Israel. The Iranians had given every indication that they plan to build a nuclear capability and use it against Israel. Israel’s vulnerability to such a strike is enormous, and there are serious questions about Israel’s ability to use the threat of a counterstrike as a deterrent to such a strike. In our view, Iran is merely creating a system to guarantee regime survival, but given the tenor of Tehran’s statements, Israel cannot afford to take this view complacently.

Israel could unilaterally draw the United States into an airstrike on Iran. Were Israel to strike Iran by any means, it most likely would lack the ability to conduct an extended air campaign. And the United States could not suffer the consequences of airstrikes without the benefits of taking out Iran’s nuclear program. Apart from the political consequences, the U.S. Navy would be drawn into the suppression of Iranian naval capabilities in the Persian Gulf whether it wanted to or not simply to keep the Strait of Hormuz open. Even if Iran didn’t act to close off the strait, Washington would have to assume that it might, an eventuality it could not afford. So an Israeli attack would likely draw in the United States against Iran one way or another. The United States has had no appetite for such an eventuality, particularly since it considers a deliverable Iranian nuclear weapon a ways off. The U.S. alternative — in both administrations — was diplomatic.

Israel and Complications to the Diplomatic Alternative

Washington wanted to create a coalition of powers able to impose sanctions on Iran. At meetings over the summer, the Obama administration appears to have promised Israel “crippling” sanctions to prevent any unilateral Israel action. At an April G-8 meeting, it was decided that Iran must engage in serious negotiations on its nuclear program prior to the next G-8 meeting — on Sept. 24 — or face these sanctions.

The crippling sanctions foreseen were some sort of interruption of the flow of gasoline into Iran, which imports 40 percent of its supply despite being a net exporter of crude. Obviously, in order for this to work, all of the G-8 nations (and others) must participate, particularly Russia. Russia has the capacity to produce and transport all of Iran’s needs, not just its import requirements. If the Russians don’t participate, there are no sanctions.

The Russians announced weeks ago that they opposed new sanctions on Iran and would not participate in them. Moreover, they seemed to flout the ineffectiveness of any U.S. sanctions. With that, the diplomatic option on Iran was off the table. Russia is not eager to see Iran develop nuclear weapons, but it sees the United States as the greater threat at the moment. Moscow’s fundamental fear is that the United States — and Israel — will dramatically strengthen Ukraine, Georgia and other states in the FSU and on its periphery, and that Russia’s strategic goal of national security through pre-eminence in the region will be lost.

From the Russian point of view, the U.S. desire for Russian help with Iran is incompatible with the U.S. desire to pursue its own course in the FSU and countries like Poland. From the U.S. point of view, these were two entirely different matters that should be handled in a different venue. But Washington didn’t get to choose in this matter. This was a Russian decision. The Russians faced what they saw as an existential threat, believing that the U.S. strategy threatened the long-term survival of the Russian Federation. The Russians were not prepared to support a U.S. solution for Iran without American support on Russian concerns. The Americans ultimately did not understand that the Russians had shifted out of the era in which the United States could simply dictate to them. Now, the United States had to negotiate with the Russians on terms Moscow set, or the United States would have to become more directly threatening to Russia. Becoming more threatening was not an option with U.S. forces scattered all over the Middle East. Therefore, the United States had to decide what it wanted.

American attention in the run-up to the Oct. 1 talks with Iran was focused by Israel. The Obama administration had adopted an interesting two-tier position on Israel. On the one hand, it was confronting Israel on halting settlement activity in the West Bank; on the other hand, it was making promises to Israel on Iran. The sense in Israel was that the Obama administration was altering Washington’s traditional support for Israel. Since Iran was a critical threat to Israel, and since Israel might not have a better chance to strike than now, the Obama administration began to realize that its diplomatic option had failed, and that the decision on war and peace with Iran was not in its hands but in Israel’s, since Israel was prepared to act unilaterally and draw the United States into a war. Given that the Obama diplomatic initiative had failed and that the administration’s pressure on Israel had created a sense of isolation in Israel, the situation could now well spiral out of control.

Although all of these things operated in different bureaucratic silos in Washington, and participants in each silo could suffer under the illusion that the issues were unrelated, the matters converged hurriedly last week. Uncertain what leverage it had over Israel, the United States decided to reach out to the Russians. Washington sought a way to indicate to the Russians that it was prepared to deal with Russia in a different way while simultaneously giving away as little as possible. That little was the redeployment of BMD components originally planned for Poland and the Czech Republic to ships. (Money already has been allocated to upgrade additional Atlantic-based Aegis warships to BMD capability.) Whatever the military and engineering issues involved, whatever the desire not to conflate U.S. strategic relations with Israel with pressure on the settlement issue, whatever the desire to “reset” relations without actually giving the Russians anything, the silos collapsed and a gesture was made.

From the Russian point of view, the gesture is welcome but insufficient. They are not going to solve a major strategic problem for the United States simply in return for moving the BMD. For that, the United States got access to Afghanistan through Russia if desired, and the removal of missiles in Kaliningrad. The Americans also got a different atmosphere at meetings between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev at the United Nations next week. But the sine qua non for Russian help on Iran is Russia’s sphere of influence in the FSU. The public relations aspect of how this sphere is announced is not critical. That the U.S. agrees to it is.

This is the foreign policy test all U.S. presidents face. Obama now has three choices.

He can make the deal with Russia. But every day that passes, Russia is creating the reality of domination in the FSU, so its price for a deal will continue to rise from simply recognizing their sphere of influence to extending it to neutralizing Poland.

He can select the military option of an air campaign against Iran. But this means accepting the risk to maritime traffic in the Persian Gulf and the potentially devastating impact on the global economy if oil exports through the Strait of Hormuz are impacted significantly.

He can wait to see how things unfold, and place overwhelming pressure on Israel not to attack. But this means finding a way to place the pressure: Israel in 2009 does not have the dependence on the United States it had in 1973.

The Importance of Poland

Ultimately, the question of Iran is secondary. The question of U.S.-Russian relations is now paramount. And ultimately, policymakers don’t really have as much freedom to make choices as they would like. Under any of these scenarios, the United States doesn’t have the power to stop Russian dominance in the FSU, but it does have the ability to block further Russian expansion on the North European Plain. Preventing an amalgamation between Russia and Europe is a fundamental interest to the United States; neutralizing Poland and depending on Germany as the Russian-European frontier is not inviting — especially as Germany has no interest in reprising the role it played from 1945 to 1991.

The United States has an Iran crisis, but it is not its fundamental geopolitical problem. Interestingly, the Iran crisis is highlighting the real issue, which is Russia. It is Russia that is blocking a solution to Iran because Russian and American interests have profoundly diverged. What is emerging from Iran is the issue of Russia. And obviously, when Russia becomes an issue, so does Poland. If the United States acts to limit Russia, it will act in Poland, and not with BMD systems.

The Obama administration’s decision to withdraw BMD is insufficient to entice Russia into assisting with Iran. An agreement to respect Russian rights in the FSU would be sufficient (and in a way would merely recognize what is already in place). Obama might quietly give that assurance. But if he does, the United States will not add Poland to the pile of concessions. The greater the concessions in the FSU, the more important Poland becomes. The idea of conceding both Russian hegemony in the FSU and the neutralization of Poland in exchange for Russian pressure on Iran is utterly disproportionate.

The United States has already completed delivery of 48 late-model F-16C/Ds with advanced offensive capabilities to Poland. That matters far more to Polish national security than BMD. In the U.S. tradition with allies — particularly allies with strong lobbies in the United States, where the Polish lobby is immense — disappointment on one weapon system usually results in generosity with other, more important systems (something the Poles must learn).

As the United States has a strong military option in Iran, redrawing the map of Europe to avoid using that option — regardless of Polish fears at the moment — is unlikely. Moreover, Washington also could decide to live with an Iranian nuclear capability without redrawing the map of Europe. Ultimately, the United States has made a gesture with little content and great symbolic meaning. It is hoping that the Russians are overwhelmed by the symbolism. They won’t be.

For their part, the Russians are hoping the Americans panic over Iran. The fact is that while Russia is a great regional power, it is not that great, and its region is not that critical. The Russians may be betting that Obama will fold. They made the same bet on John F. Kennedy. Obama reads the same reports that we do about how the Russians believe him to be weak and indecisive. And that is a formula for decisive — if imprudent — action.

If you repost this article on a website, include a link to

By George Friedman
The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century ~ George Friedman



A book published this year in Brazil on “The Physics of Nuclear Explosives” prompted concerns at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it revealed classified nuclear weapons design information and that it might signify a renewed interest by Brazil in developing such weapons. The U.S. Government also requested further details on the matter, the Brazilian press reported.

According to the Jornal do Brasil, which first disclosed the controversy on September 6, the IAEA “wanted the book to be recalled” and demanded more information on the author’s work. The government of Brazil refused to censor the book and rejected what it described as IAEA interference.

“The Physics of Nuclear Explosives” (“A Física dos Explosivos Nucleares”) by Dalton E.G. Barroso provides a rather comprehensive account of the physical principles involved in nuclear detonations, including both fission and fusion weapons. There are chapters on reactor physics, radiation hydrodynamics, dynamic compression of solids, inertial confinement fusion, and more. Most of this information is already freely available to those who care to search for it. But the author has broken new ground in presenting the results of his numerical simulations of nuclear detonations and characterizations of particular weapons, such as the W-87 warhead.

“One presumes that many of the specific results presented here have never been published in the open scientific literature,” he wrote in the Preface to the book. “However, such results are based on well-known physical and mathematical models.”

Far from implying that Brazil may have a clandestine nuclear weapons program, Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim said that the absence of official secrecy surrounding the book demonstrated that the opposite was the case. “The mere possibility of publishing this work in Brazil, and the material’s free circulation, serve as eloquent proof of the non-existence of an unauthorized nuclear program in the country.”

Dr. Barroso made the same point to Secrecy News. “My research is academic and has only scientific interest, for if it is not so, how could my book be published?”

“I think the IAEA reaction was premature and exaggerated,” he said by email. “There are no data in the book that were obtained in any kind of experiments or that were passed to me in secret.”

“A Física dos Explosivos Nucleares” by Dalton E.G. Barroso, now in its second edition, was published by Livraria da Física (439 pages, 2009, in Portuguese).

Complete article at:

Secrecy News — 09/21/09

SECRECY NEWS from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2009, Issue No. 75
September 21, 2009


Brazil’s nuclear energy research programs and facilities are described in two recent publications of the DNI Open Source Center. These documents have not been approved for public release, but copies were obtained by Secrecy News.

“Brazil — Survey of Nuclear Agencies, Facilities,” February 9, 2009:

PDF: www.fas.org

“Brazil — Websites, Online Publications Seek to Inform Public on Nuclear Activities,” August 5, 2009:

PDF: www.fas.org


Three Years Later, So-Called “Secure Border Initiative” Remains a Bad Idea, Poorly Executed

by Maurice Belanger, National Immigration Forum on September 21, 2009

On September 17, the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism held a hearing, “The Secure Border Initiative: SBInet Three Years Later.” The Secure Border Initiative is a combination of surveillance technologies and physical infrastructure meant to deter illegal border crossing.

The technological element, SBInet — a system of cameras, radars and sensors–is seven years behind schedule on a three-year project. The “tactical infrastructure” includes 661 miles of vehicle and pedestrian barriers. In total, more than $3.5 billion have been spent on the Secure Border initiative. The border fences and walls have cost $2.4 billion. The tab for the construction and maintenance of the fence over the next 20 years will come to a little under $500,000 per mile per year.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, discussed in the hearing on the 17th, which was critical — to say the least — of the Secure Border Initiative. Deployment of the technology is years behind schedule. The fences/walls/barriers are nearly complete, but effectiveness of the border fencing has not been measured.

The GAO report, and news reports about the hearing, gave the impression that the Secure Border Initiative has been very effective in draining the Treasury, but its effectiveness in preventing illegal immigration is yet to be determined.


Today’s Gasoline Prices

Monday, September 21, 2009

RETAIL GASOLINE: (Self Service Prices per Gallon, Including Taxes) This report contains price estimates for gasoline sold in ozone non-attainment areas which require the sale of reformulated gasoline (RFG) as designated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and Conventional areas which includes both attainment areas and carbon monoxide non-attainment areas.

Mogas web site url


No Big Fix for Global Finance

New regulations will be tepid—and will leave the global financial system, and taxpayers, at risk

By Theo Francis and Peter Coy
New Business
September 9, 2009

World leaders are talking bravely about fixing the global financial system. As the Group of Twenty heads toward an important summit in Pittsburgh on Sept. 24-25, they are vowing to bang out a regulatory structure that will keep rich, careless bankers from once again driving their firms to ruin and then getting bailed out by taxpayers. Finance ministers and central bankers who met in London earlier this month reported “substantial progress in delivering our ambitious plan.”

But their plan is far less ambitious than what some voices were advocating as recently as last spring. Bank lobbyists have fought back hard, and recent improvements in the global economy and financial markets have robbed momentum from the reformers. What’s more, truly ensuring change on a global scale would probably require a single international regulator with power to intervene in local affairs. Yet there is little appetite for that among the G-20, which includes the major industrialized countries as well as China, Brazil, and other developing powers.

The likely result? A package of worthy but lukewarm reforms that leave the global financial system—and taxpayers—exposed to another costly bust some years down the road. “We’re not going to have a revolution,” says Edwin M. Truman, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics who advised Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner before G-20 meetings last spring. “The question is to what extent you’re going to have, over the next year, a substantial evolution.”

International and U.S. proposals on the table target the hot topics: increasing capital requirements, corralling the “shadow banking system” of nonbank lenders, and otherwise trying to ensure that risk doesn’t balloon out of control. But in most cases they rely on the kinds of tools that failed the last time around, when supervisors proved less than vigilant, turf squabbles impeded regulation, and fears of foreign competition led governments to yield to industry demands for a lighter touch.

Cushions of Capital

In the chaotic months following the bankruptcy filing of Lehman Brothers on Sept. 15, 2008, few ideas seemed too extreme for consideration. Break up the giant banks. Regulate the survivors like utilities. Ban casino-like bets on the possibility of default by corporate borrowers. Prohibit credit-rating agencies from being paid by the agencies they rate. Above all, build a mechanism so that even huge multinational banks could fail without jeopardizing other firms and national economies.

The G-20 plan doesn’t do any of that. It focuses on bolstering the cushions of capital that financial firms must hold, making sure they have the liquidity to survive a cash squeeze, and strengthening the supervision over them. By the end of this year global regulators are supposed to come up with a plan for banks to build up capital buffers in good times that they can draw down in bad ones. That would discourage banks from overlending in booms and choking off credit in busts, as they tend to do. Unfortunately, experience shows that banks are good at getting around tougher capital standards or persuading regulators to ease them.

The G-20 nations aren’t even seeking fundamental restructuring. Banking firms could continue collecting government-insured deposits with one hand and, in other subsidiaries, make risky bets on the market—though the cost of doing so could rise.

To succeed, rules also must be applied consistently around the world, but gaps are appearing in European and U.S. officials’ united front. European regulators want to establish explicit boundaries for bankers’ pay and tie capital requirements to the risk of an institution’s underlying assets. U.S. officials, on the other hand, are resistant to strict pay limits and are focused on the capital requirements of the biggest and most important institutions.

Stumbling Blocks

Scariest of all, there is still no procedure for countries to share responsibility for the takeover and resolution of a failing multinational financial firm like Lehman or insurer American International Group (AIG). Another uncontrolled failure today could set off a global domino chain of failures. Says Raghuram G. Rajan, the former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund who currently teaches at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business: “The difficulty of international dialogue means [establishing a procedure] will take forever, by which time people will have forgotten and something much more diluted will have come out.”

International coordination isn’t the only stumbling block. The U.S. is moving gingerly even on purely domestic issues. For example, regulating insurance conglomerates like AIG is proving tricky. Under the reorg plan being pushed by Geithner, U.S. insurers would continue to operate under a patchwork of state regulation, though the largest would get additional scrutiny from the Federal Reserve or a committee of federal regulators.

Officials in the Obama Administration also considered consolidating the Securities & Exchange Commission, which oversees the securities market, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which polices futures and commodity markets. But they concluded it would take too much political capital to buck the congressional agriculture and financial committees that split responsibility for the agencies—and that enjoy the campaign contributions that follow the oversight. Now the proposal calls for just one of more than a half-dozen federal financial regulators to disappear.

The Administration’s goal of consolidating all financial consumer protection in a single agency—perhaps its boldest proposal—is running into a buzz saw of bureaucratic infighting and industry lobbying. “Our strategy is to kill it,” says one lobbyist for the financial-services industry.

Furthermore, banks selling complex derivatives—essentially financial bets—would be free to continue writing “custom” contracts under the Geithner plan. That would sidestep many of the protective mechanisms built into the brand-new exchanges and clearinghouses designed to temper the risk of such instruments.

Praise for Some Reforms

It’s not just bank-hating liberals who are concerned. R. Glenn Hubbard, who was President George W. Bush’s chief economic adviser from 2001 to 2003 and is now dean of Columbia University’s business school, is generally reluctant to interfere in the markets more than necessary. Yet he says he’s disturbed by what he sees now. Hubbard favors stronger measures to improve the security and transparency of derivatives trading. “Ironically, the Obama Administration is less tough on Wall Street than many market participants and academics who have recommended reform,” Hubbard says.

To be sure, the plans in the works are better than nothing. One clever idea proposed in the Treasury documents is to require financial firms to sell a big issue of bonds that would automatically convert to equity if money were tight. Such securities would relieve the firms of their debt payments and replenish their capital even in panicked markets. Another idea Geithner favors is to force big firms to draw up plans that regulators could use to dismantle the institutions. (One reason Lehman Brothers was so hard to shut down was that it had more than 600 subsidiaries.) And the new capital rules may dissuade banks from collecting deposits while participating in risky trading activities. They would have “no choice” but to separate into “specialized entities,” Karen Shaw Petrou, co-founder of consultancy Federal Financial Analytics, predicted in a Sept. 4 report. Douglas J. Elliott, a former JPMorgan Chase (JPM) banker now at the Brookings Institution, generally praises the reforms: “If you believe the single biggest problem was that everyone got careless, then you’ll be happier because everyone will have to be more careful.”

Trouble is, the reforms are weaker than expected, and they’re likely to be watered down even more by the time they’re passed. As markets recover, lobbying for laxer regulation will intensify. Already financial engineers are at work on an array of insurance, derivative, and other products designed to exploit loopholes in the new regulatory regimes. Meanwhile, the biggest financial firms have only gotten bigger and harder to control. The Economic Policy Institute notes that the four biggest U.S. banks have about 45% of industry assets, up from around 27% in 2003.

Reform? Yes. Fundamental change? Not by a long shot.

Robert Litan, a former budget official in the Clinton Administration, takes a hard look at President Obama’s proposed financial reforms in a recent issue of Lombard Street, a new online newsletter that covers regulation. His assessment: “On the proverbial 1-10 scale, I give the plan an 8.”

To read the full commentary, go

Francis is a correspondent in BusinessWeek’s Washington bureau. Coy is BusinessWeek’s Economics editor.


Congressman Paul’s Texas Straight Talk

Monday, September 21, 2009

GOV Trade Wars and Protectionism are not Free Trade

“Two weeks ago, both the administration and the Fed announced with straight faces that the recession was over and the signs of economic recovery were clear. Then last week, the president made a stunning decision that signals the administration’s determination to repeat the mistakes of the Great Depression. Much like the Smoot-Hawley Tariffs that set off a global trade war and effectively doomed us to ten more years of economic misery, Obama’s decision to enact steep tariffs on Chinese imported tires could spark a trade war with the single most important trading partner we have. Not only does China manufacture a whole host of products that end up on American store shelves, they are also still buying our Treasury debt…”

Click here to read the full article:



By Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post

“Michael goes directly to the beating heart of the economic crisis … The knot in your stomach starts to tighten — and the outrage starts to build.”

Complete article at:


Landmark Decision: Massive Relief for Homeowners and Trouble for the Banks

By Ellen Brown
Global Research
September 21, 2009
Web of Debt

A landmark ruling in a recent Kansas Supreme Court case may have given millions of distressed homeowners the legal wedge they need to avoid foreclosure. In Landmark National Bank v. Kesler, 2009 Kan. LEXIS 834, the Kansas Supreme Court held that a nominee company called MERS has no right or standing to bring an action for foreclosure. MERS is an acronym for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, a private company that registers mortgages electronically and tracks changes in ownership. The significance of the holding is that if MERS has no standing to foreclose, then nobody has standing to foreclose – on 60 million mortgages. That is the number of American mortgages currently reported to be held by MERS. Over half of all new U.S. residential mortgage loans are registered with MERS and recorded in its name. Holdings of the Kansas Supreme Court are not binding on the rest of the country, but they are dicta of which other courts take note; and the reasoning behind the decision is sound.

Eliminating the “Straw Man” Shielding Lenders and Investors from Liability

The development of “electronic” mortgages managed by MERS went hand in hand with the “securitization” of mortgage loans – chopping them into pieces and selling them off to investors. In the heyday of mortgage securitizations, before investors got wise to their risks, lenders would slice up loans, bundle them into “financial products” called “collateralized debt obligations” (CDOs), ostensibly insure them against default by wrapping them in derivatives called “credit default swaps,” and sell them to pension funds, municipal funds, foreign investment funds, and so forth. There were many secured parties, and the pieces kept changing hands; but MERS supposedly kept track of all these changes electronically. MERS would register and record mortgage loans in its name, and it would bring foreclosure actions in its name. MERS not only facilitated the rapid turnover of mortgages and mortgage-backed securities, but it has served as a sort of “corporate shield” that protects investors from claims by borrowers concerning predatory lending practices. California attorney Timothy McCandless describes the problem like this:

“[MERS] has reduced transparency in the mortgage market in two ways. First, consumers and their counsel can no longer turn to the public recording systems to learn the identity of the holder of their note. Today, county recording systems are increasingly full of one meaningless name, MERS, repeated over and over again. But more importantly, all across the country, MERS now brings foreclosure proceedings in its own name – even though it is not the financial party in interest. This is problematic because MERS is not prepared for or equipped to provide responses to consumers’ discovery requests with respect to predatory lending claims and defenses. In effect, the securitization conduit attempts to use a faceless and seemingly innocent proxy with no knowledge of predatory origination or servicing behavior to do the dirty work of seizing the consumer’s home. . . . So imposing is this opaque corporate wall, that in a “vast” number of foreclosures, MERS actually succeeds in foreclosing without producing the original note – the legal sine qua non of foreclosure – much less documentation that could support predatory lending defenses.”

The real parties in interest concealed behind MERS have been made so faceless, however, that there is now no party with standing to foreclose. The Kansas Supreme Court stated that MERS’ relationship “is more akin to that of a straw man than to a party possessing all the rights given a buyer.” The court opined:

“By statute, assignment of the mortgage carries with it the assignment of the debt. . . . Indeed, in the event that a mortgage loan somehow separates interests of the note and the deed of trust, with the deed of trust lying with some independent entity, the mortgage may become unenforceable. The practical effect of splitting the deed of trust from the promissory note is to make it impossible for the holder of the note to foreclose, unless the holder of the deed of trust is the agent of the holder of the note. Without the agency relationship, the person holding only the note lacks the power to foreclose in the event of default. The person holding only the deed of trust will never experience default because only the holder of the note is entitled to payment of the underlying obligation. The mortgage loan becomes ineffectual when the note holder did not also hold the deed of trust.” [Citations omitted; emphasis added.]

MERS as straw man lacks standing to foreclose, but so does original lender, although it was a signatory to the deal. The lender lacks standing because title had to pass to the secured parties for the arrangement to legally qualify as a “security.” The lender has been paid in full and has no further legal interest in the claim. Only the securities holders have skin in the game; but they have no standing to foreclose, because they were not signatories to the original agreement. They cannot satisfy the basic requirement of contract law that a plaintiff suing on a written contract must produce a signed contract proving he is entitled to relief.

The Potential Impact of 60 Million Fatally Flawed Mortgages

The banks arranging these mortgage-backed securities have typically served as trustees for the investors. When the trustees could not present timely written proof of ownership entitling them to foreclose, they would in the past file “lost-note affidavits” with the court; and judges usually let these foreclosures proceed without objection. But in October 2007, an intrepid federal judge in Cleveland put a halt to the practice. U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Boyko ruled that Deutsche Bank had not filed the proper paperwork to establish its right to foreclose on fourteen homes it was suing to repossess as trustee. Judges in many other states then came out with similar rulings.

Following the Boyko decision, in December 2007 attorney Sean Olender suggested in an article in The San Francisco Chronicle that the real reason for the bailout schemes being proposed by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was not to keep strapped borrowers in their homes so much as to stave off a spate of lawsuits against the banks. Olender wrote:

“The sole goal of the [bailout schemes] is to prevent owners of mortgage-backed securities, many of them foreigners, from suing U.S. banks and forcing them to buy back worthless mortgage securities at face value – right now almost 10 times their market worth. The ticking time bomb in the U.S. banking system is not resetting subprime mortgage rates. The real problem is the contractual ability of investors in mortgage bonds to require banks to buy back the loans at face value if there was fraud in the origination process.

“. . . The catastrophic consequences of bond investors forcing originators to buy back loans at face value are beyond the current media discussion. The loans at issue dwarf the capital available at the largest U.S. banks combined, and investor lawsuits would raise stunning liability sufficient to cause even the largest U.S. banks to fail, resulting in massive taxpayer-funded bailouts of Fannie and Freddie, and even FDIC . . . .

“What would be prudent and logical is for the banks that sold this toxic waste to buy it back and for a lot of people to go to prison. If they knew about the fraud, they should have to buy the bonds back.”

Needless to say, however, the banks did not buy back their toxic waste, and no bank officials went to jail. As Olender predicted, in the fall of 2008, massive taxpayer-funded bailouts of Fannie and Freddie were pushed through by Henry Paulson, whose former firm Goldman Sachs was an active player in creating CDOs when he was at its helm as CEO. Paulson also hastily engineered the $85 billion bailout of insurer American International Group (AIG), a major counterparty to Goldmans’ massive holdings of CDOs. The insolvency of AIG was a huge crisis for Goldman, a principal beneficiary of the AIG bailout.

In a December 2007 New York Times article titled “The Long and Short of It at Goldman Sachs,” Ben Stein wrote:

“For decades now, . . . I have been receiving letters [warning] me about the dangers of a secret government running the world . . . . [T]he closest I have recently seen to such a world-running body would have to be a certain large investment bank, whose alums are routinely Treasury secretaries, high advisers to presidents, and occasionally a governor or United States senator.”

The pirates seem to have captured the ship, and until now there has been no one to stop them. But 60 million mortgages with fatal defects in title could give aggrieved homeowners and securities holders the crowbar they need to exert some serious leverage on Congress – serious enough perhaps even to pry the legislature loose from the powerful banking lobbies that now hold it in thrall.

Ellen Brown developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In Web of Debt, her latest book, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. Her earlier books focused on the pharmaceutical cartel that gets its power from “the money trust.” Her eleven books include Forbidden Medicine, Nature’s Pharmacy (co-authored with Dr. Lynne Walker), and The Key to Ultimate Health (co-authored with Dr. Richard Hansen). Her websites are and

Complete article at:

Book by Ellen Brown
Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free ~ Ellen Hodgson Brown


And now for the important news ….

By Argus Hamilton

Mexican Independence Day was celebrated Wednesday a month after Mexico legalized pot, heroin and cocaine for personal use. It would never work here. The Medellin cartel would never fill out all the paperwork necessary to become a Medicare provider.


three thousand words

Rob Rogers
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Sep 22, 2009

David Horsey: so, has this mess that you made taught you anything?

Ted Rall: why they fight