Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Peeling the Onion....,

Sharon Astyk does an excellent job of connecting our predicament to the shameless selfishness we've shown the world.
...new workers, and the lubrication they provide in the global money system are being systematically impoverished, and what money they do spend goes to an increasingly narrow band of companies - instead of spreading the money around, money goes for very basic things - mostly food, and mostly basic foods. And the farmers who make the basic foods mostly send that money back to a very small number of companies - the ones that produce oil and the ones that produce fertilizer - many of them located in the same countries and places.

What is reducing the amount of productive work accomplished, and moving the money increasingly only into a few pockets? It is the high price of food. And what is the root cause of the high price of food? Well, the single biggest factor, according to a number of studies, including the UN studies, has been the move to food based biofuels. So if we peel back the onion one more layer, what we find is that one of the major factors slowing the economy has been, well, oil. The rush to biofuels is a response to tightening oil supplies and rising costs, and the aggregate effect has been to push up food prices all over the world, while doing pretty much nothing to increase energy security, reduce greenhouse gases or do much of anything else useful.

I’m no economist, and I don’t pretend to be. But I wonder, when we peel back the layers of the onion later, and look at the history of this Depression, I wonder if we’ll see that in fact, what happened was that we squeezed out the lifeblood of the very thing we’d built our economy upon - new workers/consumers who could be counted on to grow the economy outwards and upwards. We could have foreseen this - but we chose not to - we chose, as we struggled to keep our lifestyle intact on the backs of the world’s poor, not to see that we stand on their backs, and it is people…all the way down. In killing them, we killed ourselves. It may be that besides the tragedy of starving millions of poor people, we may also have brought down our own system, simply because we did not see, did not realize that the poor matter more to us than we like to admit.
Just about every day I peel some onions. One layer is removed to reveal another and so on. When you get to the center of the onion, you find that the layers are the onion and that there is no center.

For you humans it is similar. After peeling away these layers you will come to know who you really are - at this point, however, it's too late to matter - nothing for you to do now but start crying.

"Credit crunch" focus as symptom of a dangerous mindset

Anthony Judge discerns the liminal - Credibility Crunch engendered by Hope-mongering;
As an indicative model of a future "credibility crunch", the "credit crunch" draws attention to consequences of a complete erosion of confidence and trust in the institutions and authorities that have been so complicit in the hope-mongering processes by which the crisis has been engendered. In this respect, the fact that both funds and markets have been "frozen" by the crisis is suggestive of how even non-financial and informational transactions would be "frozen" by any future more general crisis of confidence. The loss of "liquidity" now experienced in financial terms may then translate into a more dangerous loss of flexibility in both socio-economic and psycho-social systems -- with unpredictable consequences.

Recognition of dangerous underlying patterns: Beyond the financial crisis, it is therefore even more vital to identify other -- even more fundamental -- systemic processes that are also effectively based on "confidence". Are they vulnerable to a form of "subprime crisis" as a result of questionable "lending" -- through hope-mongering? A number of candidates for consideration are identified above. But the prime candidate, worthy of the most careful attention, is overpopulation -- in relation to the capacity of humanity to live within its planetary means, and especially in the light of the many analyses of "overshoot" and the manner in which such warning signals have been authoritatively considered to be of no significance

In whom should one have confidence when authorities have abused trust to such a degree -- and with a minimum of humility and self-criticism? The intellectual brilliance of the best and the brightest, and their supporting institutions, is now completed dissociated from the hopes that might otherwise be appropriately placed in them. It is their very "ingenuity" that engendered the crisis. It is in this sense that hope-mongerers need to be seen as operating like the mortage brokers that engendered the subprime crisis through "toxic loans". To what extent do "lobbyists" perform a similar function -- as "pushers" of the hope-drug in a drug-dependent culture?
Remember, you're only witnessing the doom of the financial world now; you have yet to see the collapse of the transport and food infrastructures, which are fluttering at the moment in sync with fluttering oil prices. When the inevitable and imminent decline in world oil production starts to bite hard again, all your apparent support structures of normalcy will really come unglued.

Monday, September 29, 2008

No Bailout Biatchez!!!!!

The Long War - Consequences and Costs (Part IV)

In Conclusion: what must your generation do?

First, on public policy:

Our country must bring itself back from the binge we have been on. We need to be more modest. One of the best Marine Corps commentator put it simply: “It used to be said that the side with the most guns won; today, the side with the most guns goes bankrupt.” That is roughly where we are today. In his usual succinct way, Colonel Andrew Bacevich put it well: “ America doesn’t need a bigger army. it needs a more modest foreign policy…Modesty implies giving up on the illusions of grandeur to which the end of the Cold War and 9/11 gave rise. It also means reining in the imperial presidents who expect the army to make good on those illusions.”

On the nuclear issue which I, from my intimate experience in the Cuban Missile Crisis, particularly worry about, we missed the opportunity to get a moratorium on nuclear weapons; instead we multiplied what we had to fantastic numbers, 30-40 thousand when a dozen would have blown up most of the world. The result was Russia set out to match us. China followed, then Israel working with South Africa , then India and Pakistan fearing one another, North Korea et al. Now we are on the brink of a new “surge.” We are again building bombs and upgrading those we already have instead of trying to curtail them. This is exactly the opposite of what we need to do. Every new country adds new risks. Several more countries are on the brink of deciding to “go nuclear.”

What we could do is to begin with ourselves and set an example for the world. From our (and the Russian) initiative, we should branch out. The most dangerous area is the Middle East so we should start there. We should push for a regional nuclear ban. Israel is the only nuclear power in the Middle East , and it will have to play the key role. Why should it? There are two obvious answers:

  • the first is that the value of nuclear weapons to Israel is psychological rather than strategic. They were not used in the 1967 or 1973 wars or in the Lebanese war of last year. Moreover, Israel doesn’t “need” them since it already has the most powerful army and air force in its neighborhood.
  • All that Israel ’s possession of nuclear weapons does is to ensure that some of its neighbors will get them; so nuclear weapons, far from being a source of security, are a source of insecurity. In a decade or so, no matter what happens in Iran , other Middle Eastern countries will acquire them. So it would be smart for the Israelis to take the leadership in removing them from the Middle East . We can help in various ways and should.
We must get serious about the environment. What we have done so far is little more than a PR happening. If we really care, we should organize the effort we put into the Manhattan Project to acquire nuclear weapons in World War II and the Apollo Program we put into landing a man on the Moon. If we act on the environment the way we did in those programs, we could save our planet. And it is, after all, the only one we have.

We must demand government transparency and accountability. Today, the non-partisan Congressional research organization has publicly admitted that it cannot find out how the Defense Department spends out money. Congress does not even demand that testifying officials take an oath to tell the truth, and all they get asked for are sound bites. The pathetic testimony of General David Petraeus is a good example. He never gave a clear answer to a single question on American overseas military actions, pathetic as the questions he was asked were.

We must reform the electoral system. Our country is literally up for sale. A typical representative spends at least half of his effective time raising money, that is, to put it bluntly, renting himself out to lobbyists. He turns over to his staff the chores of reading reports and books. So, the level of ignorance and corruption in the House of Representatives must be witnessed to be believed. To put it bluntly, Congress has become a whorehouse. Everyone is on the take. There are an average of 5 lobbyists for each congressman and money is the main topic of conversation. Few representatives of the people get beyond it.

We must reform our educational system. By any standard it is appalling. Test scores of our students rank below most “ Third World ” countries. Studies by such organizations as The National Geographic show that few students even know where other countries are, much less who lives in them, what they think, what they want, how they earn their livings, etc. What passes in many universities as “education” is, in fact, merely job training. We pay our teachers poorly and get what we pay for. We do not apply standards to students – for many, the educational experience is merely a sort of enjoyable holding station between childhood and going out into the “real” world. As Thomas Jefferson warned us, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free…it expects what never was and never will be.”

Second, your individual tasks as citizens:

First, you must inform yourselves. Be curious. Be skeptical. Demand facts. Don’t settle for sound bytes. This is not easy. Governments since the time of the Roman Empire lulled their citizens with bread and circuses. Today, a government doesn’t even need to do what Rome did. We lap up the pap put out by the pop stars of TV “news” programs as though it were gospel and allow ourselves to be guided by ignorant commentators. Hopefully you are getting in your education the ability to differentiate real value from trash, real substance from pap. If you are not, you are wasting your time.

Informing oneself is not easy. But it can be done. Everyone who has access to a computer can sample newspapers here, in Europe and Asia free just by typing in a few words. Anyone can sign on to a number of provocative and wide-ranging websites. And anyone can ask his Congressman for government reports, most of which are reliable and readable, on all aspects of public policy.

Refuse to be marginalized. America has a long tradition of deprecating knowledge and distrusting excellence. But, the country has invested a great deal in educating you. You are national assets. And you owe the country the best you have. Do your jobs as citizens. Demand that your candidates tell you the truth and move with intelligence. Don’t be a dummy. Be active. And don’t just wait for the vote. Go out the carry your thoughts to our citizens and our candidates. Again, that powerful tool, the internet, can be used as a giant lever for democracy.

Participate. You cannot afford to sit back and do nothing. If you do, you are almost certain to pay for your laziness. A democracy is not a holding company to be run by a board of directors. You are stockholders. Your life and your well-being are at stake. If you care about them, protect them. After you inform yourself, make your voice heard and put your actions where your mouth is. Be a leader. Get your generation into action. Together you are strong.

Our future is in your hands. This is your country, your world, your time. Make it the first day of the rest of your lives.

The Long War - Consequences and Costs (Part III)

Third, Where we are going:

The Neoconservatives, who have set the foreign policy of the Bush administration, have called for what they call The Long War. They expect it to last about half a century, that is for most of your lives.

What is it? What will it do to our position in the world? What will it do to our laws and our concept of civil liberties? What effect will it have on our society and economy? What will it cost in terms of money?

  • The core idea of neoconservatism is that America , alone among world powers, has the strength, the wisdom and the right to impose its will upon all the nations of the world, in effect to remake them not in the American image, as we would define it, but as subordinate states within a new American security system. These concepts have been spelled out in numerous articles and speeches by prominent neoconservatives within and outside of government. The most important have also been embedded in the 2005 “National Defense Strategy of the United States of America ” which baldly states that “ America is a nation at war [which] At the direction of the President…will defeat adversaries at the time, place, and in the manner of our choosing.” That is, to engage in preemptive military strikes. Adversaries are variously described, but among the descriptions are those who seek to “limit our global freedom to act” and “dominate key regions” or “develop and use breakthrough technologies to negate current U.S. advantages in key operational domains.” Broadly speaking, “Our role in the world depends on effectively projecting and sustaining our forces in distant environments where adversaries may seek to deny us access.” In short, the official doctrine of America is world domination.
  • Attempting to implement this doctrine now has us engaged in wars in Iraq , Afghanistan and Somalia . Inevitably, these military actions spill over into neighboring countries. Fighting in Afghanistan has caused in the last week to attack targets in Pakistan (infuriating not only the pro-American government and causing it to close down our supply route to Afghanistan but causing great popular anger while doing little or nothing to improve our position in Afghanistan ). We can be sure that wherever we try to implement the neoconservative doctrine, we will lose allies and friends while entrenching and embittering those we attack.
  • The effect on the American society is already pernicious. Our government has acquired the habit of lying to us (as it did on the Iraq war), of withholding information even from the Congress (as it has done on the Department of Defense expenditures), of setting aside the Constitution (as it has done on incarceration and torture of prisoners of war and on invasion of privacy of our own citizens by wiretaps in violation of the law) and in numerous other ways that would have shocked our ancestors. In short we have taken several steps toward the ghastly world described by George Orwell in his novel 1984.
  • It has polarized our society to a degree that makes intelligent debate on public policy nearly impossible and often dangerous and has so skewed our economy that, as I have pointed out, we spend more on military power than the rest of the world combined and more than we spend on all other public programs combined. Doing so, and refusing the admit the costs, have caused us to go deeply into debt, to allow our cities and schools to degrade and kept us from addressing the ultimate security issue of any free society, the health of our citizens.
  • The cost we can project to implement the neoconservative program is literally staggering. Some estimates, which are probably underestimates, run to about double our gross national product, upwards of $20 trillion.
Is this just a fantasy? A pipedream of a bunch of unbalanced, angry and frustrated neoconservatives?

I wish I could tell you that it is. Sadly, it is much more. For example, we now have nearly 1,000 U.S. military bases in other countries. We have the troops and weapons in place to act anywhere in the world. The Bush administration maintains publicly that it has the authority to do so. The previously operative law, the War Powers Resolution (P.L 93-148 of 1973), which was passed by Congress over the veto of President Nixon, limits the president’s authority to commit American troops into hostile situations and requires him “in every possible circumstance” to consult with the Congress before so doing. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush convinced the Congress to grant him full authority (P.L. 102-1 of September 18, 2001) to “use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.” President Bush has taken the position that this resolution gives him even wider authority over anywhere he deems a threat to exist. With this in mind, the Department of Defense, under Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, created a special secret force, said to number 55,000 men with a budget of about $80 billion, which does not have to report to Congress or even to civilian representatives of the Government, the ambassadors, but is authorized to carry out assassinations and even to overthrow governments. Members of this force were active in the Somalia invasion and are already said to be involved in covert activities in Iran . We learned on September 11, 2008 that some of them had been sent into Pakistan despite the refusal of its government to allow them.

It is, of course, possible to encourage proxies to act without committing American troops. This seems to have been the case in the recent crisis over Georgia .

What happened in Georgia may be almost as much a lesson for America as what is happening in Iraq , Afghanistan and Somalia . The major difference is that an attack on Russia would cause a nuclear world war. Russia, under the Tsars, the Communists and Vladimir Putin, naturally was sensitive to what happened on its frontier – just as America, under the Monroe Doctrine, has always been in Latin America. Recognizing this strategic reality, James Baker, the first President Bush’s secretary of state, promised the Russians that we would not move NATO ahead “even one inch.” We have now moved it right into Russia ’s immediately neighborhood. I agree with Mr. Baker that this was not a wise move. But worse was to follow. You would have to read the press very carefully to learn that it was Georgia that attacked South Ossetia (whose citizens have Russian passports and which has been essentially independent for about 20 years). On August 7, Georgian President President Mikheil Saakashvili ordered the attack when, he claims, he was given a “green light” by the Bush administration. Anticipating the move, the Russians reacted in their usual heavy-handed fashion. So we were furious. Vice President Dick Cheney rushed to Georgia to promise them a billion dollars in aid and after considerable diplomatic arm twisting a NATO delegation rushed in to commiserate. But then, of course, nothing happened. We would not go to war with Russia to protect South Ossetia . Nor would NATO. So we created a crisis where none existed and both Georgians and inhabitants paid the bill in suffering.

Now look at what lies ahead in Iran

Two issues have dominated discussion of Iran – its alleged attempts to acquire nuclear weapons and its supposed intervention in Iraq . Of course, also, many people, particularly women, dislike its regressive social policies toward women. But, on the nuclear issue bear in mind two things:

  • first, it was America that got Iran started toward nuclear weapons. As Jonathan Power wrote, “Lost somewhere in the mists of history is the knowledge that it was the pro-American Shah of Iran who initiated Iran ’s quest to build a nuclear bomb. And it was the anti-American revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini that initially suspended work on the bomb.” Also our most authoritative estimators of facts in foreign affairs, our 16 intelligence agencies, found unanimously last November that they had “high confidence” that Iran had no nuclear weapons and had no plans to attempt to build them.

I obviously do not have access to all of the data available to intelligence community, but I have learned in my foreign affairs experience that to understand any other country’s policies one must put himself, as it were, on the other side of the table, in the chair occupied by its leader. So what would I do if I were Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or President Mahmoud Ahmadi Najad? I would see that President Bush singled out three countries which he called “the Axis of Evil.” Then he threatened them with “regime change.” The Iranian leader would know that regime change is a euphemism for overthrowing their governments and killing their leaders. So what did America do? Iraq , which did not have nuclear weapons, was destroyed while North Korea , which did have nuclear weapons and so could not be safely attacked, was offered an aid program, money and food supplies. That leaves Iran . What would a rational, patriotic, practical Iranian leader do? No doubt he would try to acquire this ultimate defense tool as quickly and as secretly as he could. Even blowing up all the identified nuclear-related sites and killing all the nuclear-related technicians will simply delay the process and guarantee that Iran will eventually get the bomb.

  • second, the Bush administration has charged that Iran was playing a significant role in thwarting our operations in Iraq – that is acting as we expected in our 2005 National Security Strategy. But the US intelligence experts found that these charges were exaggerated or unproven.
Again, if I were an Iranian policy planner, I would urge that my government do what it could to make American lives there difficult. As an Iranian, I would react as an American would if a foreign power, which proclaims itself our enemy, were occupying Mexico . Imagine our reaction to that! In fact, we don’t have to imagine. We just have to remember the Bay of Pigs operation against Cuba .

We are not yet in a full-scale war against Iran , but if we attack Iran with nuclear weapons, the estimates are that we will kill upwards of 3 million Iranians but then we will be in a guerrilla war that will make Iraq look like a picnic. Iran has 150 thousand national guardsmen, already organized and fully equipped for guerrilla warfare – in 2003 Iraq had none at all – and Iran has a fleet of fast, highly maneuverable and lethal speed boats that will attack our fleet and above all oil tankers. On attacking Iran , the “free world” is not with us. Public opinion polls tell us that whereas at least the western Europeans used to regard us as the world’s leader toward stability, many now think of us as a rogue nation. Americans would not use that term, but the latest polls in April this year show that 81% of us think that “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.” In my meetings with conservative business leaders, I find that practically all think that an attack on Iran would be insane. Many think that our brief role as the world’s leader is nearly ended, that if the 20th century was the American century, the 21st will not be. Now, for the first time, we are even being turned down for further borrowing by the great sovereign wealth funds. They have come to regard us the way a bank does a customer whose assets are pledged, who is spending too much and who does not seem to be acting rationally.

The Long War - Consequences and Costs (Part II)

Second, Where we are:

To discuss where we are, I am going to have to use a number few of us – that is those of us not studying astronomy--ever heard before: trillion. When I was a student in the 1940s, I got more or less used to hearing the number million. Then when I went into the government, I had only just got used to billion. As I returned to academic life, I was astonished when trillion came along. It is still difficult for me to imagine a trillion dollars. You can think of it as a pile. If you stack up dollar bills, a trillion dollars will be miles high. But I would like to think of it in another way: a trillion dollars would provide health care for the 47 million Americans without it plus giving quality pre-school education to every American child and make college feasible for every American student. Just the interest on a trillion dollars (according to the World Bank) would eliminate starvation and malnutrition or provide primary education for every child on earth.

That speaks about our government’s priorities. What about us. How do we treat our economy?

First of all, we do not save. Privately and governmentally, we just borrow. We borrow from each other. Our National debt went up 70% under the Bush administration; we also borrow from foreigners. We had borrowed about $3 trillion as of a year ago; now our foreign debt is much more. Our projected government deficit for this year is $410 billion. Our children and grandchildren will inherit the debt of this last 8 years.

But you will hear, we are earning enough to cover it. Unfortunately that is unlikely. According to the chief of our Central Bank, the Federal Reserve, economic growth will stagnate or even fall; over 6 out of each hundred Americans who are trying to find jobs are out of work. About that many more have given up trying. Americans are losing their houses in record numbers. About one in each five owe more money on mortgages than their houses are worth. That is over ten million homeowners have lost their investments in their houses and foreclosures went up nearly 60 percent last year.

What has caused all this?

Partly it is our individual fault – visit the malls to see one part of the answer. The British were once derided as a nation of shopkeepers; we are a nation of consumers. We are real “junkies” in our shopping for things we don’t need.

But a part of the answer to our growing debt is our militarism: Our current Military budget is $541 billion. That is 58 cents of every dollar spent by US Government and it is more than combined defense budgets of all other countries and more than our combined spending on education, environment protection, justice administration, veterans benefits, housing assistance, transportation, job training, agricultural support, energy and economic development assistance.

We are told we need to spend this huge amount because our National Defense Strategy lays out our determination and “right” to make pre-emptive warfare, indeed to attack any country whose dominance even of its own neighborhood thwarts us. Coming into office in 2001 the Bush administration leaked information that it was ready to “target” up to 60 other countries. Is this just posturing? Look at the sequence: the war in Afghanistan led to Iraq which led for the second time to Somalia and now has us attacking the territory of Pakistan and planning an attack on Iran . Are these necessary for our safety? Are we gaining or losing security by our involvement in them? I will briefly review them:

Consider, first, Afghanistan:

If anyone still thinks in historical terms, we should remember that the Afghans inflicted the worst defeat on the British empire it suffered in the 19th century and they virtually wrecked the Soviet empire in the 20th. Are we more “successful?” With our overwhelming firepower, we have killed about as many Afghans as the Russians did, about one million and have far fewer soldiers. So far about 500 dead. Our invasion shattered what the Russians did not destroy of the Afghan economy. So the only remaining industry is the drug trade of which Afghanistan furnishes about 90% of the world’s market. Our enemies, the Taliban, had banned it, but now they need the income they derive from it to fight us. And, sober observers report that the Taliban are returning both to favor and to geographical control. They are now not far from Kabul . Meanwhile, the warlords, whom the Taliban chased away and whom we have either supported or tolerated are again on the decline.

Consider, second, Iraq:

One and a half million Americans soldiers have served in Iraq . We now have about 140,000 men and women there. In addition, which few Americans have even heard about, we have there some 180,000 private contractors at a cost so far of $85 billion. Over all, the Iraq war has cost us through the end of this fiscal year $922 billion spent in direct (that is, in Congressionally-appropriated) outlays and perhaps $3 trillion in costs to our economy at home. These costs have been disguised from us by government borrowing from us (our national debt has risen 70%) and from foreigners (our government has borrowed from them more than $3 trillion).

But these are the trivial costs. The tragic costs are measured in blood and misery. We have now lost over 4,100 dead. Then there are the wounded. The Bush administration admits to about 25,000 wounded but that is wildly, even ridiculously, wrong: this year alone some 300,000 servicemen and –women are in treatment. The real total of wounded is probably at least 500,000 of whom over half have severe brain damage – concussions -- which will cause memory loss, severe headaches and confused thinking, for the rest of many of their lives. They will be a burden on their families and communities. 22,000 of them tried to commit suicide this year. No one knows – yet – about the number of cases of cancer that will develop from the use of depleted uranium bombs and shells, but the numbers could be very high. In addition to the impact of these events on wives and children, just consider the cost of treating the wounded. The best guess is that, over their lifetimes, it will consume $1 trillion.

If you find these figures hard to believe, consider that from the effects of the 1991 Gulf War, which lasted only 100 hours, 300,000 men and women are claiming disability payments.

Then consider the Iraqis: According to a study made by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, we or Iraqis in the conditions we have created have killed at least 600,000 as of two years ago. The figure today is perhaps over a million and we have made or helped to make about 3 million into refugees. The physical damage is literally beyond count but could be several hundred billion dollars.

More important is the “collateral” damage: we have shattered the cultural heritage of the world’s oldest civilization, watching and doing nothing while its great antiquities museum was gutted and the national library trashed.

Worse we have destroyed the social contract between the people and authorities. Let me dwell on this intangible issue: if any American city lost its social contract – a concept that our founding fathers and other 18th century philosophers well understood – the entire American army could not keep a semblance of order. That is what has happened in Baghdad . And we cannot control it with the world’s most powerful army. The Neoconservatives advised our government that, by invading Iraq , we would create democracy. Instead, Iraq is a destroyed society.

We are told also that we are “winning” -- whatever that might mean – and that the “surge” is working: But the fact is that while violence has died down somewhat -- only 654 Iraqis were killed in May this year, making Iraq still the most dangerous country in the world – it is not more troops or a new strategy that have reduced casualties. It is the fact that neighborhoods have already been ethnically cleansed (so Iraqis are fighting less among themselves), we have built huge concrete barriers between them and we have drawn our troops back into secure bases from which they sally mainly in aircraft or tanks. These are tactical accommodations but do not lead to long-term solutions. In fact they lead in the opposite direction.

As even our former proconsul and current ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad secretly wrote to President Bush, “the proposal to send more U.S. forces to Iraq would not produce a long-term solution and would make our policy less, not more, sustainable.” Mao Tse-Tung, Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap could have explained why: we have provided more targets and angered more natives. Our much vaunted counterinsurgency (“CI” in the military acronym) is just a replay of what we did when we lost the Vietnam war; even the sales pitch is the same.

Consider, Third, Somalia:

Somalia had less to destroy than Iraq . It is a small country. Few of us have even heard of it except in the film “Black Hawk Down.” There we were shown our decent young men trying to free the Somalis from a bunch of murderous, raping thugs, the warlords. We failed and President Clinton pulled the plug. We got out. The warlords came back. Then the Somalis did a remarkable thing: they got rid of the warlords themselves without our help. But we didn’t like the way they did it. Like most Africans and Asians, they had given up on Marxism and had fallen back on religion. Their Islamic fundamentalism had some of the ugly features we have seen in Afghanistan . But we didn’t care about that. What bothered us was that we feared that their Islam would be hospitable to the al-Qaida people. So we sicked our Ethiopian friends, whose government is Christian and who have long wished to dominate Somalia , on them. Actually we didn’t just urge them to attack their neighbor; we joined in on the attack, not only with money and arms but also with our own aircraft, ships and troops. So we destroyed the Afghan Muslim government, the “Union of Islamic Courts.” Back to "Black Hawk Down": on the heels of our forces and the Ethiopians came the same murderous, raping warlords, now more or less our allies. So Somalia today is a crippled society, but one that bitterly hates us. So bitter is their feeling against all foreigners that even aid workers are now targets. Somalia too is a destroyed society with a shredded social contract as a result of our actions. We did not create terrorism in Somalia – the warlords did that – but Somalis’ hatred of them has now been redirected toward us.

Lastly, reflect on Terrorism:

Americans are obsessed by terrorism as a result of the September 11 attacks. There is, of course, reason to fear terrorism because of its unpredictability and randomness. But let us try to analyze it. Consider these facts:

  • more Americans were killed by lightening and very many more by traffic accidents in the year of the attacks than by 9/11;
  • we have never been opposed to “terrorism” as such. Our ancestors won the Revolution against the British using terrorism as a major instrument and we aided and abetted Afghan terrorism against the Russians in the 1980s. Then we renamed terrorists “freedom fighters” and, most important; and
  • terrorism is a tactic used by the weak when they have no other recourse.
When a country is invaded and crushed, we should know from history, patriots take up arms. Regard the action of the Greeks and French in World War II, the Algerians against the French in the 1960s and our ancestors in the Revolution. Since they were unable to defeat heavily armed military units, they resorted to hit and run tactics against the foreigners and terrorism against the waverers or Quislings in their own societies. Invaders nearly always face – and are usually defeated by – this fact. As the noted English expert on the Middle East, Patrick Seale, wrote: “Al-Qaeda did not exist in Iraq before America ’s criminally misconceived war. It was America ’s invasion and its continued occupation which gave Al-Qaeda the chance to plant itself in Iraq . Only when the U.S. finally withdraws from Iraq can Al-Qaeda be defeated there….it is only in opposition to Western aggression that it gains popularity.” Echo that for Afghanistan and Somalia and let it be a portent for Iran .

The Long War - Consequences and Costs (Part I)

Veteran foreign policy consultant, author, and former professor of history and politics, William R. Polk spoke at Bennington College, 7:00 pm, Monday, September 15, in the Deane Carriage Barn. His lecture, “The Long War: Consequences and Cost,” examined the assumptions and perceptions underlying the Bush administration’s “war on terror” and analyzed the United States’ military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan with reference to the record of counterinsurgency warfare in the 20th century. Presented in four parts is the transcript of Polk's talk.

I want to talk with you today for just an hour. To bring order into my remarks, I will divide what I have to say into four categories: where we are coming from; where we now are; where we are going; and what you can do about the conditions that will shape your lives.


First, Where we are coming from:

At the end of the Second World War, Americans had cause to be euphoric and we were. Most of us believed that the future was ours. Ours was the American Century.

The Cold War changed the world for both America and Russia . We like to think that we “won” the Cold War, but the history of events since it ended shows that we both really lost it. This is because of its impact on both Russian and American societies and economies. To match one another, we both were turned into militaristic states and our economies suffered. In America , we can trace our transformation -- perhaps uniquely in history – to a single piece of paper. Paul Nitze’s National Security Council Paper, “NSC 68” convinced President Harry Truman that we could sustain our economic growth and ensure full employment by applying John Maynard Keynes’ emphasis on the role of government in the economy but apply it in the military or “security” sphere. President Truman signed it as a basic U.S. policy doctrine on September 30, 1950. This was a program that the wise American specialist on national policy, Chalmers Johnson, has termed “military Keynesianism.” (His “blowback” trilogy should be required reading in every American college.)

Following the new strategy, the government used the power of the purse to divert our then efficient and productive civilian economy to the military. So profound was this change that by 1960s we were no longer competitive in manufacturing and distributing most civilian goods. Our civilian industrial plant was allowed to become obsolescent or even to deteriorate. Worse, our managerial skills, on which we had prided ourselves, atrophied. The new American business ethos no longer emphasized competition because military contracts were often awarded without bid and were frequently awarded at cost-plus.

While our industrial plant and managerial skills began to decay. Japan forged ahead. From Japan we bought TV sets, our cameras, our computers, our cars. We were no long competitive in the world market. It is now estimated by the American Society for Civil Engineers that it would take $1.6 trillion just to bring our industrial plant and our supporting infrastructure back up to world standards . This was graphically demonstrated last week. As you probably read the automobile companies’ executives have said that without massive government help they could no longer compete in the world market.

What happened was that we turned our skills and investments to military production: in the 1950s and 1960s, we were superb in weapons and space-related production but could no longer compete on civilian goods. We stopped trying to make many things our people wanted and were buying. Even those things we put out under American labels, like TV sets, were often just American wrappers on Asian components.

I watched this happen. I visited Japan in 1962 as a guest of the Japanese government. While there, I was taken on a tour of the Canon and Toshiba plants. I expected to see how cheap Asian labor was making possible the Japanese boom. What I saw was quite different. Labor was cheaper, it is true, but what really made the difference was automation, skilled technique, able management and intelligence.

Our companies didn’t need these things: their market was increasingly our government. So why bother with making cameras or washing machines when you could make jet bombers or rockets. The profits were larger and distribution was no problem. Management could afford to be lax since mistakes could be repaired by overruns.

Even our universities fell into this trap. Getting government contracts was such an easy way to raise money. It was far easier than soliciting private support and it allowed expansion into new fields. Look at the budgets of even the private universities: Harvard, MIT, Chicago and many “ came to rely on government subsidies for a large part of their expenditures and in return spent much of their intellectual energy on “security”-related studies. We even created new universities and dozens of research institutes for these activities. America was becoming a very different place than it was in 1945.

And the world began to see America in this new light. The America of 1945 was almost universally beloved -- that is not too strong a term. When, as a young student, traveling through Asia and Africa, I was often in danger: everyone in a village would come nearly to blows to determine who could entertain me. Today, America is feared and hated in much of the world. Now, if I went back to those same villages, I would risk being shot.

Blueprint for Modern Warsocialism

NSC-68 or National Security Council Report 68 was a 58 page classified report issued in the United States on April 14, 1950 during the presidency of Harry S. Truman. Written in the formative stages of the Cold War, it has become one of the classic historical documents of the Cold War. NSC-68 would shape government actions in the Cold War for the next 20 years and has subsequently been labeled its "blueprint." Truman officially signed NSC-68 on September 30, 1950. It was declassified in 1975.

The document outlined the de facto national security strategy of the United States for that time (though it was not an official NSS in the form we know today) and analyzed the capabilities of the Soviet Union and of the United States of America from military, economic, political, and psychological standpoints.

This document is critical to an understanding of the Cold War, its legacy on similar national security documents, such as the National Security Strategy March 2005, also provides insight on current US foreign policy. The implementation of NSC-68, although the proposal was initially refused, shows to what extent it marked a 'shift' in US policy not only towards the USSR but indeed all other communist governments. The signing of the document showed the clear defined and coherent US policy that to some extent did not exist until 1950 under the Truman administration. Furthermore, it can be argued that this document proposed by the security council solved Truman's problem from attack from the American right just after the 'reds in the beds' scare and the Alger Hiss case. Although not made public, it did show up on the surface as an increase in both conventional and nuclear capabilities of the USA, and indeed provided the USA with a greater financial burden.

Original document here.

He Tried to Tell You....,

Politically assassinated former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer tried to break it down for you last February. See what it got him?

Predatory Lenders' Partner in Crime - How the Bush Administration Stopped the States From Stepping In to Help Consumers - By Eliot Spitzer
Thursday, February 14, 2008; Page A25
Several years ago, state attorneys general and others involved in consumer protection began to notice a marked increase in a range of predatory lending practices by mortgage lenders. Some were misrepresenting the terms of loans, making loans without regard to consumers' ability to repay, making loans with deceptive "teaser" rates that later ballooned astronomically, packing loans with undisclosed charges and fees, or even paying illegal kickbacks. These and other practices, we noticed, were having a devastating effect on home buyers. In addition, the widespread nature of these practices, if left unchecked, threatened our financial markets.

Even though predatory lending was becoming a national problem, the Bush administration looked the other way and did nothing to protect American homeowners. In fact, the government chose instead to align itself with the banks that were victimizing consumers.

Predatory lending was widely understood to present a looming national crisis. This threat was so clear that as New York attorney general, I joined with colleagues in the other 49 states in attempting to fill the void left by the federal government. Individually, and together, state attorneys general of both parties brought litigation or entered into settlements with many subprime lenders that were engaged in predatory lending practices. Several state legislatures, including New York's, enacted laws aimed at curbing such practices.
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What did the Bush administration do in response? Did it reverse course and decide to take action to halt this burgeoning scourge? As Americans are now painfully aware, with hundreds of thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure and our markets reeling, the answer is a resounding no.

Not only did the Bush administration do nothing to protect consumers, it embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented campaign to prevent states from protecting their residents from the very problems to which the federal government was turning a blind eye.

Let me explain: The administration accomplished this feat through an obscure federal agency called the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The OCC has been in existence since the Civil War. Its mission is to ensure the fiscal soundness of national banks. For 140 years, the OCC examined the books of national banks to make sure they were balanced, an important but uncontroversial function. But a few years ago, for the first time in its history, the OCC was used as a tool against consumers.
Are there any questions as to why Eliot Spitzer had to be clipped before he morphed into a full on Elliot Ness? Short memories and even shorter attention spans can be counted on not to put two and two together......,

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The People Will Demand Blood.....,

We humbly yield the floor to the Hypertiger who now spells out what will next transpire.

First the bailout
Momentary appearance of economic reprieve
An act of war
Bailout appears to be subverted
World War III begins in earnest.
War is great cover for the collapse of the global trade system...Sorry people we must accept these austerity measures...

maybe they need the 700 billion to put the finishing touches on the scapegoat...

It's like this...spread some money around which will cause a very short term prosperity fooling people into thinking the bailout worked and that the economy is onto the road to recovery...then all you need to do is cause the war before the prosperity ends...

Then say dang...everything was going great...but then (Insert name of culprit here) caused (insert incident) and the economy is imploding...and we have to institute all these austerity measuries...what a rip...

The population will fall for it and demand blood...basically a replay of the solution to the 1929-1933 collapse of the global trade system.
I've not previously encountered a more neat, reat, and complete tying up of all the prevailing political and economic narratives. Not only do we have the historical precedent upon which to draw, but also all the world's pressing problems that can be resolved by only one means currently and clearly at TPTB's disposal.

Bailout Blues....,

Richard Heinberg at the Post Carbon Institute writes;
King Henry waltzes in, announces that the bankers have gotten themselves into a bit of a bind as a result of their own greed and stupidity, and insists that each American taxpayer immediately take out a loan for over $2,500 so that he can distribute the funds secretly, with no oversight, to a bunch of financial wizards who typically make several thousand a minute in salaries and bonuses--wizards who introduced us to the wonders of derivatives and adjustable-rate mortgages.

Sounds like a great plan to me. Why would anyone balk? Just think of the futility of spending a few billion of that treasure on things like building bridges or railroads, projects that might actually hire real workers, when we can instead buy up mountains of toxic debt from a bunch of bankrupt hucksters. Now that’s a real investment in our future!

Sorry for the sarcasm. It’s hard to resist. I’ll try to ratchet it down as I explain just what $700 billion means in terms of our nation’s energy infrastructure. America has about 130 million private homes, so that’s about $5,400 per home—not quite enough to put a one-kilowatt photovoltaic system on every roof. I use that as a standard, because that’s what my wife and I have on our own house, and it basically zeros out our electricity bill for the year.

Of course, that wouldn’t be the most practical energy use of the money: not every house is appropriate for solar. So throw in a few hundred wind turbines instead, along with a few billion dollars for research into energy storage technologies. One way or another, the country would be well on its way toward ending its dependence on fossil fuels.

Realistically, another few trillion would be needed to finish the job by rebuilding the grid (which desperately needs it) as well as the transport infrastructure. But most or all of that larger installment would come from industry, given the appropriate incentives and regulatory structures.

Everyone who understands energy, who grasps that oil is in its final days and that other fossil fuels are dribbling away too, who sees the vital necessity of ending carbon emissions given the climate cataclysm we face, or who worries about the ongoing geopolitical turmoil generated by competition for access to increasingly expensive oil and gas, agrees that the energy transition away from fossil fuels is the highest survival priority for our species at this moment in our history. But evidently there are those who see a greater need elsewhere.

Oh well, it’s only money.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Palin’s American Exception

Roger Cohen writing in the NYTimes;
Behind Palinism lies anger. It’s been growing as America’s relative decline has become more manifest in falling incomes, imploding markets, massive debt and rising new centers of wealth and power from Shanghai to Dubai.

The damn-the-world, God-chose-us rage of that America has sharpened as U.S. exceptionalism has become harder to square with the 21st-century world’s interconnectedness. How exceptional can you be when every major problem you face, from terrorism to nuclear proliferation to gas prices, requires joint action?

Very exceptional, insists Palin, and so does John McCain by choosing her. (He has said: “I do believe in American exceptionalism. We are the only nation I know that really is deeply concerned about adhering to the principle that all of us are created equal.”)

America is distinct. Its habits and attitudes with respect to religion, patriotism, voting and the death penalty, for example, differ from much of the rest of the developed world. It is more ideological than other countries, believing still in its manifest destiny. At its noblest, it inspires still.

But, let’s face it, from Baghdad to Bear Stearns the last eight years have been a lesson in the price of exceptionalism run amok.

To persist with a philosophy grounded in America’s separateness, rather than its connectedness, would be devastating at a time when the country faces two wars, a financial collapse unseen since 1929, commodity inflation, a huge transfer of resources to the Middle East, and the imperative to develop new sources of energy.

Enough is enough.

Multicultural ideal 'terrible' for UK - Tories

In today's UK Guardian Shadow minister issues controversial warning;
In the name of trying to prepare people for some new multicultural society we've encouraged people, particularly the sort of long-term inhabitants, to say 'well your cultural background isn't really very important'." He adds: "In this vacuum the BNP rise and Hizb ut-Tahrir rises. They're two very similar phenomena of people who are experiencing a form of cultural despair about themselves, their identity. And it's terribly easy to latch on to confrontational and aggressive variants of their cultural background as being the only way to sort of reassure themselves that they can survive and have an identity."

The shadow home secretary said multiculturalism was inspired by the "understandable" desire to make people feel comfortable. But he added: "The idea behind it was [to] create the melting pot. But the melting pot needs the ingredients of people's confidence in themselves as they come together. And if it isn't there I think we've done ourselves huge damage."

He also raises fears that "fundamental Islam" is restricting debate. "Our country has adapted because people have been tolerant which has often required a lot of forbearance and acceptance of things they didn't like. We all have to accept things we don't like. That is how Britain has evolved. When I go and address an Islamic audience I always point this out."

An Anglican, Grieve praises the contribution all the major religions have made to Britain. But he says that people should not forget Britain's Christian heritage. "The role of Christianity is really rather important. It can't just be magicked out of the script. It colours many of the fundamental viewpoints of British people, including many who've never been in a church."

Gas shortage may crimp weekend fun

The Atlanta Journal Constitution:
With all that’s going on this weekend within what ordinarily would be easy driving range, Georgia’s gas shortage could complicate many people’s plans.

The University of Georgia home game against Top-10 rival Alabama. The 20th anniversary of the Atlanta Football Classic. The North Georgia State Fair in Marietta. The PGA Tour Championship. Auburn at home versus Tennessee.

These are just a few of the major events within a day’s drive of metro Atlanta planned for today through Sunday. But with North Georgia gas supplies spotty, will everyone be able to get where they’re going?

The gas shortage extends beyond the metro area, but has hit hardest in Atlanta, Nashville, Tenn., and the Carolinas, including the Charlotte area and the mountain towns to the west. For days it has closed civic offices, cut short workdays and even canceled community college classes.

The result is that many who initially intended to visit Atlanta this weekend have changed their plans.

“I didn’t want to come down there and be dealing with the same problems in an area I’m not that familiar with,” said Spencer Rawlings, a Nashville resident who regularly makes the four-hour drive for the Atlanta Football Classic.

“In Atlanta on a weekend like this, you’ll be sitting around in traffic, only burning up gas. I’ll eat the cost of my ticket.”
Dopamine and lack of gasoline can't, don't, and won't mix....,

Friday, September 26, 2008

Her Weakness...,

Russia and 580 Billion Arctic Barrels...,

In Pravda;

Russia is determined to make decisive and successive decisions to anchor its rights for the oil and gas-rich water area of the Arctic Ocean. The secretary of the Russian Security Council, the former director of the Federal Security Bureau, Nikolai Patrushev, said yesterday that President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the government to develop a detailed plan of Russia’s state policy in the Arctic region before December 1, 2008.

“We must ensure Russia’s national interests in the Arctic region for a long-term perspective,” Medvedev said at the meeting of the council. “Our first and fundamental goal is to turn the Arctic into Russia’s resource base of the 21st century.

“We must defend our interests, although we realize that Arctic states – Canada , Norway, Denmark and the USA – will also be defending their interests,” Mr. Patrushev said.

“First and foremost, Russia must designate the borderline in the Arctic south. We name the number of 18 percent of our territory and say that 20,000 kilometers is the state border in this region,” the Secretary of the Security Council said.

“There are many problems here. It is not about coming to the Arctic to find natural resources there only,” the President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Yuri Osipov said. “All these resources will be very hard to extract. The traditions of Russia ’s presence in the Arctic zone were formed long ago, so the future development of the territory must have the scientific platform involved,” he added.

Russian polar explorers give the government credit for its interest in the problems of the northern region. However, many of them have serious questions to ask.

“Judging upon the experience of our expeditions, I know that the protection of the Russian state borders leaves much to be desired,” the chief of the Marine Arctic Complex Expedition, Pyotr Boyarsky told The Vremya Novostei newspaper. The scientist and his colleagues believe that Russia should create a ring of specially protected territories in the Arctic, which will help Russia defend its rights on the Arctic .

“The international community treats the status of such territories with great respect. Their appearance in the Russian Arctic sector will be a much more important argument than political or economic claims, Mr. Boyarsky said.

German daily Die Zeit wrote that the struggle for the Arctic may become the zone, where world’s leading superpowers will collide.

WaMu Is Seized, Sold Off

Wall Street Journal this morning;
In what is by far the largest bank failure in U.S. history, federal regulators seized Washington Mutual Inc. and struck a deal to sell the bulk of its operations to J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. The collapse of the Seattle thrift, which was triggered by a wave of deposit withdrawals, marks a new low point in the country's financial crisis. But the deal, as constructed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., could hold some glimmers of hope for the beleaguered banking system because it averts any hit to the bank-insurance fund.

Instead, J.P. Morgan agreed to pay $1.9 billion to the government for WaMu's banking operations and will assume the loan portfolio of the thrift, which has $307 billion in assets. The full cost to J.P. Morgan will be much higher, because it plans to write down about $31 billion of the bad loans and raise $8 billion in new capital. All WaMu depositors will have access to their cash, but holders of more than $30 billion in debt and preferred stock will likely see little if any recovery. The deal will vault J.P. Morgan into first place in nationwide deposits and greatly expand its franchise.

The seizure was another watershed event in a frenetic period for the U.S. banking system, and came while members of Congress wrangled over the Bush administration's proposed $700 billion bailout package. The tally of U.S. financial giants that have either been seized by the government or sold themselves off to stronger firms in recent weeks includes mortgage titans Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, insurer American International Group Inc., and Wall Street firms Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co.

The failure of WaMu eclipsed what had long been America's largest bank bust on record, the 1984 collapse of Continental Illinois, which had $40 billion in assets.

The fact that no bank was willing to buy WaMu until it failed shows how badly confidence has eroded in a banking system awash with record profits just a few years ago.

China banks told to halt lending to US banks

BEIJING, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Chinese regulators have told domestic banks to stop interbank lending to U.S. financial institutions to prevent possible losses during the financial crisis, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.

The Hong Kong newspaper cited unidentified industry sources as saying the instruction from the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) applied to interbank lending of all currencies to U.S. banks but not to banks from other countries.

"The decree appears to be Beijing's first attempt to erect defences against the deepening U.S. financial meltdown after the mainland's major lenders reported billions of U.S. dollars in exposure to the credit crisis," the SCMP said.

The methane time bomb

In the Independent;
The first evidence that millions of tons of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed has been discovered by scientists.

The Independent has been passed details of preliminary findings suggesting that massive deposits of sub-sea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats.

Underground stores of methane are important because scientists believe their sudden release has in the past been responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species. Scientists aboard a research ship that has sailed the entire length of Russia's northern coast have discovered intense concentrations of methane – sometimes at up to 100 times background levels – over several areas covering thousands of square miles of the Siberian continental shelf.

In the past few days, the researchers have seen areas of sea foaming with gas bubbling up through "methane chimneys" rising from the sea floor. They believe that the sub-sea layer of permafrost, which has acted like a "lid" to prevent the gas from escaping, has melted away to allow methane to rise from underground deposits formed before the last ice age.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Irrational Exuberance


The euphoria Wall Street displayed upon the announcement by the Bush Administration that the government’s balance sheet would be used to park illiquid securities was spectacular. On Thursday and Friday, the Dow gained approximately 780 points, after losing as much in the beginning of the week on the news Lehman Brothers was insolvent and Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs were seeking suitors/mergers.

The rally over the last two trading days of the week can be appropriately characterized as irrational exuberance, a term coined by the chief architect of this credit bubble we are experiencing. To explain this position, it is essential that we ask three questions: 1) What measures are being taken; 2) What are the intended consequences; and 3) How do we protect ourselves from the failure of another rescue effort by a compromised and beleaguered Administration? Let’s address these questions seriatim. Lloyd Wynn breaks it down and provides crucial advice you should heed in today's issue of BlackCommentator.

McCain's Chicken Comes Home to Roost

The deregulation of the financial industry is the primary cause of the latest Wall Street crash, an economic debacle that has befallen not only our nation, but European and Asian markets as well.

John McCain bears grave responsibility for the financial anarchy of our times. For twenty-seven years, through debt-producing Reagonomics - especially deregulation - he promoted corporate permissiveness, a culture that included risky speculation, debt-financed mergers, leveraged buy-outs, export of American jobs, quick profit-taking, and the inevitable cry from Wall Street for public bailouts when the casino goes broke.

From the beginning of his political career as an orthodox Republican, McCain has denigrated the wise teachings of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: that unregulated free markets are inherently rapacious and unstable, that war ultimately means higher taxes, and that excessive unpaid debt becomes a balloon so inflated it eventually explodes.

The unfettered free market - the economic Frankenstein that stalks our land today - was conceived in the test tube of Reaganomics in the early ‘80s. John McCain helped to destroy one of the greatest economic achievements in American history, the savings and loan system established during the New Deal. Paul Rockwell recounts McCain's direct involvement in the breakdown of the American economy in today's Black Commentator.

Understanding the Georgia Invasion

Speaking of oil pipelines, here's a timely opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post;
Georgia, located next to powerful Russia, committed a grave mistake in its foreign policy this August. Tbilisi ignored the main virtue advocated by the great practitioners of international relations from Niccolo Machiavelli to Henry Kissinger - prudence - by attempting to regain military control of a seceding region which was supported by Moscow.

Russia exploited the Georgian miscalculation to strike back and to remind everybody that Russia will flex its military muscles in areas considered to be its backyard. Moscow views with trepidation the expansion of NATO, of which it is not a member, toward its borders. Georgian accession to NATO is simply unbearable from a Russian perspective. Russia is threatened by the Western security architecture and will oppose encroachment on areas once Russian-controlled.

Yet this understandable aspect of Russian behavior hides a more ambitious foreign policy goal of controlling the global energy sector, and using such leverage to challenge America in world affairs. The immediate goal of Moscow's military intervention in Georgia was to intimidate the energy-producing countries once part of the Soviet Union, such as Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, to return to the Russian sphere of influence. The Finlandization of the Caucasus and Central Asia will allow Russia, a great oil producer itself, greater influence over the world's energy.

Oil and gas constitute a strategic commodity that is different from coffee or refrigerators. Control of this commodity bestows considerable political influence. The Russians understand that such leverage can be effective against the energy-hungry European states who are already dependent to various degrees on Russian energy. By its actions in August, Russia decided to challenge America. Vladimir Putin seeks to create a wedge between the US and Europe by further increasing the European dependency upon Russian-controlled oil.

GEORGIA IN itself does not produce oil, but hosts several pipelines transferring oil from Azerbaijan in the Caspian Basin. The Georgian territory helps bypass Russian land and prevents Russia from having a greater handle on moving oil from the Caspian to the West. Therefore, following the invasion, Russian troops took control of the Baku-Supsa pipeline (ending on the Black Sea), which runs close to present Russian military lines. The Russians also threatened control of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (ending on the Turkish Mediterranean shore) by attacking its vicinity from the air. If the Russians remain in Georgia, they maintain control over great amounts of oil slated for the West that hitherto were unaffected by Russian preferences.

Gasoline Shortages

Where is our gasoline and diesel supply headed? Even before Ike hit, quite a few areas of the US were starting to see gasoline shortages. The impact of Ike could only make shortages worse. Most likely, it will take refineries at least a week or two to get production back to normal levels after a storm of this type, considering the impacts of electrical outages and flooding. In this article, I will examine some of the issues that seem to be involved. Based on my analysis, fuel supply shortages are likely to last well into October, and are likely to get considerably worse before they get better.
Until Colonial pipeline is back to carrying full capacity of gasoline, diesel, and other refined products, there are likely to be shortages along the gulf coast and the Southeast. The Northeast may also begin to see shortages.

Other major outages have also been reported. Explorer pipeline, carrying 700,000 barrels a day of petroleum products from Texas/LA to Indiana, is completely shut down. Plantation pipeline, carrying 600,000 barrels a day of petroleum products from Louisiana to Virginia, is operating at reduced rates. Implications of a ten day refinery outage.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Resist Wall Street's Shock Doctrine

It would be a grave mistake to underestimate the right's ability to use this crisis -- created by deregulation and privatization -- to demand more of the same. Don't forget that Newt Gingrich's 527 organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future, is still riding the wave of success from its offshore drilling campaign, "Drill Here, Drill Now!" Just four months ago, offshore drilling was not even on the political radar and now the U.S. House of Representatives has passed supportive legislation. Gingrich is holding an event this Saturday, September 27 that will be broadcast on satellite television to shore up public support for these controversial policies.

What Gingrich's wish list tells us is that the dumping of private debt into the public coffers is only stage one of the current shock. The second comes when the debt crisis currently being created by this bailout becomes the excuse to privatize social security, lower corporate taxes and cut spending on the poor. A President McCain would embrace these policies willingly. A President Obama would come under huge pressure from the think tanks and the corporate media to abandon his campaign promises and embrace austerity and "free-market stimulus."

We have seen this many times before, in this country and around the world. But here's the thing: these opportunistic tactics can only work if we let them. They work when we respond to crisis by regressing, wanting to believe in "strong leaders" -- even if they are the same strong leaders who used the September 11 attacks to push through the Patriot Act and launch the illegal war in Iraq.

So let's be absolutely clear: there are no saviors who are going to look out for us in this crisis. Certainly not Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, one of the companies that will benefit most from his proposed bailout (which is actually a stick up). The only hope of preventing another dose of shock politics is loud, organized grassroots pressure on all political parties: they have to know right now that after seven years of Bush, Americans are becoming shock resistant.

Naomi Klein - Now is the time to resist Wall St.'s shock doctrine.

The Iraq war cost US its financial system

The US government last weekend decided it could no longer risk taxpayers’ money by supporting Lehman Brothers and on Monday that bank filed for bankruptcy. In assessing the wisdom or otherwise of this decision one fact should be kept in mind: the International Monetary Fund estimates that the total cost to banks of losses stemming from the subprime crisis will amount to $1,000bn; the cost of the war in Iraq, according to other estimates, particularly one by Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz, will come to $3,000bn.

The US has shot its financial bolt in Iraq, which may cost the country its financial system. It quite simply no longer has the money to stop a run on banks. Seen in this light, the war in Iraq brings to mind the ruinous decision on the part of the French ancien rĂ©gime to finance Lafayette’s campaign during the American revolution.

John M. Coates, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Office Space Redux....,

Corporate India is in shock after a mob of workers bludgeoned to death the chief executive who sacked them from a factory in a suburb of Delhi.

Lalit Kishore Choudhary, 47, the head of the Indian operations of Graziano Transmissioni, a manufacturer of car parts that has its headquarters in Italy, died of severe head wounds on Monday after being attacked by scores of laid-off employees, police said. The incident, in Greater Noida, followed a long-running dispute between the factory’s management and workers demanding better pay and permanent contracts.

It is understood that Mr Choudhary, who was married with one son, had called a meeting with more than a hundred former employees who had been dismissed after an earlier outbreak of violence at the plant. He wanted to discuss a possible reinstatement deal.

A police spokesman said: “Only a few people were called inside. About 150 people were waiting outside when they heard someone from inside shout for help. They rushed in and the two sides clashed. The company staff were heavily outnumbered.”

In the Times Online - CEO murdered by mob of sacked Indian workers

Solar Panels are Vanishing...,

Solar power, with its promise of emissions-free renewable energy, boasts a growing number of fans. Some of them, it turns out, are thieves.

Just ask Glenda Hoffman, whose fury has not abated since 16 solar panels vanished from her roof in this sun-baked town in three separate burglaries in May, sometimes as she slept. She is ready if the criminals turn up again.

“I have a shotgun right next to the bed and a .22 under my pillow,” Ms. Hoffman said.

Police departments in California — the biggest market for solar power, with more than 33,000 installations — are seeing a rash of such burglaries, though nobody compiles overall statistics.

Investigators do not believe the thieves are acting out of concern for their carbon footprints. Rather, authorities assume that many panels make their way to unwitting homeowners, sometimes via the Internet. In the NYTimes - Solar Panels Are Vanishing, Only to Reappear on the Internet