Monday, August 08, 2011

a secret war in 120 countries

TomDispatch | Somewhere on this planet an American commando is carrying out a mission. Now, say that 70 times and you’re done... for the day. Without the knowledge of the American public, a secret force within the U.S. military is undertaking operations in a majority of the world’s countries. This new Pentagon power elite is waging a global war whose size and scope has never been revealed, until now.

After a U.S. Navy SEAL put a bullet in Osama bin Laden’s chest and another in his head, one of the most secretive black-ops units in the American military suddenly found its mission in the public spotlight. It was atypical. While it’s well known that U.S. Special Operations forces are deployed in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it’s increasingly apparent that such units operate in murkier conflict zones like Yemen and Somalia, the full extent of their worldwide war has remained deeply in the shadows.

Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed in 75 countries, up from 60 at the end of the Bush presidency. By the end of this year, U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me, that number will likely reach 120. “We do a lot of traveling -- a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said recently. This global presence -- in about 60% of the world’s nations and far larger than previously acknowledged -- provides striking new evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.

The Rise of the Military’s Secret Military
Born of a failed 1980 raid to rescue American hostages in Iran, in which eight U.S. service members died, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was established in 1987. Having spent the post-Vietnam years distrusted and starved for money by the regular military, special operations forces suddenly had a single home, a stable budget, and a four-star commander as their advocate. Since then, SOCOM has grown into a combined force of startling proportions. Made up of units from all the service branches, including the Army’s “Green Berets” and Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force Air Commandos, and Marine Corps Special Operations teams, in addition to specialized helicopter crews, boat teams, civil affairs personnel, para-rescuemen, and even battlefield air-traffic controllers and special operations weathermen, SOCOM carries out the United States’ most specialized and secret missions. These include assassinations, counterterrorist raids, long-range reconnaissance, intelligence analysis, foreign troop training, and weapons of mass destruction counter-proliferation operations.

One of its key components is the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, a clandestine sub-command whose primary mission is tracking and killing suspected terrorists. Reporting to the president and acting under his authority, JSOC maintains a global hit list that includes American citizens. It has been operating an extra-legal “kill/capture” campaign that John Nagl, a past counterinsurgency adviser to four-star general and soon-to-be CIA Director David Petraeus, calls "an almost industrial-scale counterterrorism killing machine."

This assassination program has been carried out by commando units like the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force as well as via drone strikes as part of covert wars in which the CIA is also involved in countries like Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen. In addition, the command operates a network of secret prisons, perhaps as many as 20 black sites in Afghanistan alone, used for interrogating high-value targets.

Growth Industry
From a force of about 37,000 in the early 1990s, Special Operations Command personnel have grown to almost 60,000, about a third of whom are career members of SOCOM; the rest have other military occupational specialties, but periodically cycle through the command. Growth has been exponential since September 11, 2001, as SOCOM’s baseline budget almost tripled from $2.3 billion to $6.3 billion. If you add in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has actually more than quadrupled to $9.8 billion in these years. Not surprisingly, the number of its personnel deployed abroad has also jumped four-fold. Further increases, and expanded operations, are on the horizon.

wikileaks haiti: the aristide files

The Nation | US officials led a far-reaching international campaign aimed at keeping former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide exiled in South Africa, rendering him a virtual prisoner there for the last seven years, according to secret US State Department cables.

The cables show that high-level US and UN officials even discussed a politically motivated prosecution of Aristide to prevent him from “gaining more traction with the Haitian population and returning to Haiti.”

The secret cables, made available to the Haitian weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté by WikiLeaks, show how the political defeat of Aristide and his Lavalas movement has been the central pillar of US policy toward the Caribbean nation over the last two US administrations, even though—or perhaps because—US officials understood that he was the most popular political figure in Haiti.

They also reveal how US officials and their diplomatic counterparts from France, Canada, the UN and the Vatican tried to vilify and ostracize the Haitian political leader.

For the Vatican, Aristide was an “active proponent of voodoo.” For Washington, he was “dangerous to Haiti’s democratic consolidation,” according to the secret US cables.

Aristide was overthrown in a bloody February 2004 coup supported by Washington and fomented by right-wing paramilitary forces and the Haitian elite. In the aftermath of the coup, more than 3,000 people were killed and thousands of supporters of Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas political party were jailed.

The United States maintained publicly that Aristide resigned in the face of a ragtag force of former Haitian army soldiers rampaging in Haiti’s north. But Aristide called his escort by a US Navy SEAL team on his flight into exile “a modern-day kidnapping.”

Two months later, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was established, a 9,000-strong UN occupation force that still oversees Latin America’s first independent nation.

Aristide has spoken forcefully against the UN occupation, particularly in his 2010 year-end letter to the Haitian people. “We cannot forget the $5 billion which has already been spent for MINUSTAH over these past six years,” he wrote. “Anybody can see how many houses, hospitals, and schools that wasted money could have built for the victims” of the January 12, 2010, earthquake that destroyed much of Port-au-Prince and surrounding regions.

Such positions are major reasons Washington fought to get and keep Aristide out of Haiti, the cables make clear. “A premature departure of MINUSTAH would leave the [Haitian] government...vulnerable to...resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces—reversing gains of the last two years,” wrote US Ambassador Janet Sanderson in an October 1, 2008, cable. MINUSTAH “is an indispensable tool in realizing core USG [US government] policy interests in Haiti.”

At a high-level meeting five years ago, top US and UN officials discussed how the “Aristide Movement Must Be Stopped,” according to an August 2, 2006, cable. It described how former Guatemalan diplomat Edmond Mulet, then chief of MINUSTAH, “urged US legal action against Aristide to prevent the former president from gaining more traction with the Haitian population and returning to Haiti.”

At Mulet’s request, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki “to ensure that Aristide remained in South Africa.”

President Obama and Kofi Annan’s successor, Ban Ki-moon, also intervened to urge Pretoria to keep Aristide in South Africa. The secret cables report that Aristide’s return to Haiti would be a “disaster,” according to the Vatican, and “catastrophic,” according to the French.

the lil'sick men of europe commence to clowning...,

Video - Greek racism, fascism, nazism.
CTV | They descended by the hundreds -- black-shirted, bat-wielding youths chasing down dark-skinned immigrants through the streets of Athens and beating them senseless in an unprecedented show of force by Greece's far-right extremists.

In Greece, alarm is rising that the twin crises of financial meltdown and soaring illegal immigration are creating the conditions for a right-wing rise -- and the Norway massacre on Monday drove authorities to beef up security.

The move comes amid spiraling social unrest that has unleashed waves of rioting and vigilante thuggery on the streets of Athens. The U.N.'s refugee agency warns that some Athens neighborhoods have become zones where "fascist groups have established an odd lawless regime."

Greek police on Monday said they have increased security checks at Muslim prayer houses and other immigrant sites in response to the Norway shooting rampage that claimed 77 lives.

"There has been an increase in monitoring at these sites since the events occurred in Norway," said police spokesman Thanassis Kokkalakis.

Greece's fears are shared across Europe. Last week, EU counterterror officials held an emergency meeting in Brussels on ways to combat right-wing violence and rising Islamophobia, warning of a "major risk" of Norway copycats. The massacre by Anders Behring Breivik prompted continent-wide soul-searching about whether authorities have neglected the threat of right-wing extremists as they focus on jihadist terror.

Greece, however, may be particularly worrisome because of the intersection of extreme economic distress and rampant illegal immigration, which can create fertile ground for the rise of rightist movements. Immigrant scapegoating has been rife here as unemployment balloons amid economic catastrophe.

Even as Greece founders under mountains of debt, illegal immigrants have been streaming into the country across the Turkish border — turning Greece into the migrant world's gateway to Europe. Last year, Greece accounted for 90 percent of the bloc's detected illegal border crossings, compared to 75 percent in 2009.

The UNHCR and Muslim groups say hate crimes have risen sharply, although police do not have hard numbers.

The xenophobic rage exploded in May, when youths rampaged through a heavily immigrant neighborhood in broad daylight, knifing and beating foreigners. The attacks left at least 25 people hospitalized with stab wounds or severe beatings. Athens has since suffered a spate of hate attacks by far-rightists.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

houston chronicle doesn't mince words about london...,

HoustonChronicle | The riot that tore through parts of north London's deprived Tottenham neighborhood has cast a pall over Britain's capital, echoing an earlier era of racial unrest, while spreading malaise through a city preparing to host the Olympic Games.

Eight officers were hospitalized after a peaceful protest against the shooting death of a young man degenerated into a Saturday night rampage, with rioters torching a double-decker bus, destroying patrol cars and trashing a shopping mall.
Looters descended on the area around midnight, setting buildings alight, and piling stolen goods into cars and shopping carts. Sirens could be heard across the capital as authorities rushed reinforcements to the scene.

"This is just a glimpse into the abyss," former Metropolitan Police Commander John O'Connor told Sky News television Sunday. "Someone's pulled the clock back and you can look and see what's beneath the surface. And what with the Olympic Games coming up, this doesn't bode very well for London."

As residents of Tottenham and nearby Wood Green picked through the wreckage Sunday, O'Connor said the disturbance had echoes of Tottenham's 1985 Broadwater Farm riot, a deadly disturbance that led to the savage stabbing of a police officer and the wounding of nearly 60 others — brutally underscoring tensions between London's police and the capital's black community.

That riot was among one of the most violent in the country's history. It too was sparked by the death of a local resident after an encounter with the police.
Journalist and Tottenham resident Rizwana Hamid, who covered the 1985 riots, said Saturday night's violence was reminiscent of the earlier eruption in Tottenham, an ethnically mixed area which is home to one of London's largest black communities.
"The climate has changed, but very little of the issues have gone away," she told the BBC. She cited desperation, poverty and what she said was a lack of communication from police about the circumstances under which the man — 29-year-old Mark Duggan — was gunned down.

British media said that an officer involved in the shooting had a bullet lodged in his radio, suggesting a gunfight, but other details were scarce. Britain's police watchdog is investigating.

The Metropolitan Police, colloquially known as Scotland Yard, has struggled for years to cope with a 1999 inquiry into the death of a black British teenager that concluded that the force was "institutionally racist." In 2003, the Black Police Association even went as far as to call on ethnic minorities not to join Scotland Yard, saying discrimination was rife.

Although the force has made strides in its relationships with black communities, tensions linger.

the truth about global demand for food

Guardian | As it happens, FAO food balance sheets show that both direct and indirect demand for grain in China and India barely increased between 2000 and 2007, and cereal imports were actually lower. Why this has been happening, and why the economic growth has not translated into more aggregate demand for grain, is obviously a fascinating question on its own and one that deserves more study. It is likely that the worsening income distribution in both countries may have had something to do with it, so that increased demand from high-income groups is counterbalanced by reduced demand from poorer sections. But this needs to be explored further.

The relevant point is that it is not increased demand from China and India that is driving up grain prices. This does not mean that there are no other demand forces at work, however. Financial speculation in commodity markets is clearly significant, but it is also true that even such speculation must be based on some assessments of changing global balances. What could that be based on?

The report from the FAO has a convincing response to that as well: it notes that the biofuel boom has had a major impact on the evolution of world food demand for cereals and vegetable oils. According to page 32 of the report "there is a real acceleration of non-feed uses boosted by biofuel development. Excluding use for biofuel, the growth rate for non-feed use is stable compared with the 1990s and markedly inferior to its historical performance. Without biofuel, the growth rate of world cereal consumption is equal to 1.3% compared with 1.8% for biofuel".

This massively increased demand from biofuel is largely determined by the very large subsidies provided in many western countries, which have, ironically, been increasing their subsidisation of biofuel at the same time that they have reduced subsidies on food cultivation. Aside from a few producers, such as Brazil and Cuba, biofuel production in most locations would be completely unviable without these large subsidies.

The impact of these on diverting production and affecting price has been even more significant in the case of edible oils. The report shows that "the use of vegetable oils for food slowed down between the 1990s and the 2000s (from 4.4% a year to 3.3%), but industrial use of vegetable oil soared, pushed by the booming European biofuel industry. As a result, the share of industrial use in world consumption of vegetable oils jumped from 11% to 24% between 2000 and 2010".

The surprising conclusion from all this is that, leaving out the impact of the biofuel boom of the 2000s, global consumption of both cereals and edible oils is actually slowing down. All the more tragic, then, that speculative forces are still allowed to run amok in global commodity markets and global food prices are kept so high as to increase the deprivation of the millions of hungry people in the world.

twitter caused tottenham riot....,

themediablog | The Daily Mail this morning has suggested Twitter may be to blame for violent riots in Tottenham, North London, last night. I'll not link to the story - as they're no doubt hoping to drive traffic with such nonsense.

Predictably we're not told whose "fears" these are. I suspect it's a case of 'journalistic licence'. And presumably The Mail considers its own images of burning vehicles and those broadcast on rolling news channels to millions through the night to be less controversial than those posted and retweeted "more than 100 times" on Twitter.

Further down the article any doubts that Twitter's was a mere bit-part in the violence have vanished altogether as it is a declared a bull blown "Twitter riot" in one of the image captions

hood rioting over hood policing in london...,

Telegraph | 26 police officers were injured in the unrest and 42 people were arrested for offences including violent disorder, burglary and theft following overnight clashes.

Mr Lammy today said the area had had its "heart ripped out" by the rioting and said there may even be fatalities in the burned out buildings, he said.

He said: "A community that was already hurting has now had its heart ripped out.

"The post office, shops, news agents, mobile phone shops, council building that deal with customer complaints, smashed to pieces by mindless, mindless people last night - many of whom are not from Tottenham and had come from afar into this community intent on causing violence.

"What happened here raised huge questions and we need answers, but the response to that is not to loot, to rob.

i love how the arab spring sprung in israel...,

Reuters | Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scrambled on Sunday to try to quell escalating demonstrations for lower living costs after a quarter-million people marched in the biggest economy-related protests in Israel's history.

While Netanyahu's governing coalition faced no immediate threat, a summer of discontent in Israel has underscored the potential electoral impact of a burdened middle class rallying under a banner of "social justice" and rewriting a political agenda long dominated by security issues.

On the morning after Saturday's demonstrations in Tel Aviv, Israel's commercial capital, and other cities, Netanyahu -- a champion of free market reform -- announced at the weekly cabinet meeting the appointment of a committee of experts to propose social-economic reform.

"Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed a public protest that expresses real hardship," he said.

Holding out the prospect of "major change" -- while cautioning he would "not be able to satisfy everyone" -- Netanyahu said the committee, headed by Harvard-educated Israeli economist Manuel Trajtenberg, would hold "a broad dialogue with various sectors in the community."

In under a month, the popular protest movement has swollen from a cluster of student tent-squatters into a diffuse, countrywide mobilization of Israel's middle class.

Itzik Shmuli, a protest leader, welcomed Netanyahu's round-table initiative. But, he told Israel Radio: "I want to be sure ... we will not be given the runaround for three months, at the end of which we will not emerge with real solutions."


Israel projects growth of 4.8 percent this year at a time of economic stagnation in many Western countries, and has relatively low unemployment at 5.7 percent.

But business cartels and widening wage gaps have kept many citizens from feeling the benefit.

The conservative coalition government has vowed to free up more state-owned land for development, build more low-cost housing and improve public transport. It also wants to lower dairy prices with more imports and boost medical staff numbers to address demands by striking doctors.

Demands submitted by the National Union of Israeli Students go much further, calling for an expansion of free education and bigger government housing budgets.

The demonstrations have upstaged Netanyahu's standoff with the Palestinians ahead of their bid to lobby for U.N. recognition of statehood next month.

Protests also deflated his celebration of Israel's stability as popular uprisings rock surrounding Arab states across the Middle East and North Africa.

Social media also played a role in the Israeli protests, which began with a call on Facebook for a boycott of cottage cheese after the price of the Israeli staple hit a new high.

On one main Tel Aviv thoroughfare a throng of demonstrators stretched as far as the eye could see against a backdrop of soaring skyscrapers.

"A new country," read one banner newspaper headline, amid commentary cautioning Netanyahu that he could not afford to ignore the shifting focus in Israeli society.

Protests on such a scale in the country of 7.7 million have usually been over issues of war and peace.

Several rightist commentators have voiced fear the demonstrations signal the resurgence of Israel's left-wing after its voice was muted by Israeli-Palestinian violence over the past decade and flagging peace prospects.

"There has been nothing like this for decades -- all these people coming together, taking to the streets, demanding change. It's a revolution," said Baruch Oren, a 33-year-old protest leader.

interesting account of the exchange stabilization fund

Video - First of five videos discussing the exchange stabilization fund.

Marketskeptics | The video series about the ESF’s history is finally finished! I especially recommend watching the first (explains the basics about the ESF), fourth, and fifth videos (Part 4 and 5 really deal with the material that I have been “afraid to blog about”.)

Saturday, August 06, 2011

interesting comment about fukushima fallout...,

Lethal Levels of Radiation at Fukushima: What Are the Implications? from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

energynews | Japan has been discovering radiation all over the Island and yesterday TEPCO announced that the worse is yet to come – just as Arnie says in the above video. Most likely, in just a year from now, we will start seeing a cancer epidemic open up in Northeast Japan. Later on the epidemic will start appearing in several other places as well.

Below is an email I received from an America friend of mine currently working and living in Tokyo. He said that some of this email may just be rumors but some of it may actually be true as well. I don’t believe all of it but remember this come from a high-level, completely bilingual economic analyst working in a US finance firm that analyzes and reports all that is happening within the Japanese finance industry and several other industries on a daily basis:

“International firms are closing left and right as CEOs and leaders leave the country. Kan and other high-level government officials are rumored to have already left and they only make visits back to Japan when they have to. The electric power grid is quite stressed and workers who are willing to stay and live in this disastrous environment are becoming hard to find.”

“Japan makes 90% of America’s quality and proprietary IC chips, resistors, ceramic capacitors, electrolytic capacitors, transformers, transistors, and diodes. Every TV, PC, cell phone, radio, car made in America is loaded with these items. They hold the patents, and no nation wants them coming in to build new factories in this economy. The long of it, they wont be producing much more for much longer.

“The major USA companies cannot survive without these components. Ford, GM, Chrysler, Dell, Microsoft, Logitec, Apple, Motorola, Philips, GA, 3M,… ALL of them depend on Japanese products. For the US firms to tool up, infringe on Japanese patents, build factories, train people, just to pay them with minimum wages and food will never happen. The corrupt may be able to manipulate the markets, but they cannot when America’s largest producing companies WILL NOT HAVE A PRODUCT LINE FOR 2012.

“Once the masses learn of these there will be three major runs:




“…and the elite know this. They need to pull their investments and make it spendable as quickly as they can without anyone knowing about it. But that will never happen. They will try to drop gold and silver prices as they try to buy up as much as they can with what dollars they have left, but it will be short lived. $1000 silver and $10k gold are expected by many economic experts including myself.”

“Below a list of companies about to close down and leave Japan once and for all. Many were already planing to abandon Japan even before the disasters hit. Just think about all the American companies who are completely reliant on their products for production AND retail sales.”


“And hundreds and hundreds more. The Japanese government and other distinguished company execs will continue to play it all down, censor, deny reality and keep saying that everything is OK. Meanwhile working in collusion they will all short their own companies stocks and then head for the hills. This all may sound somewhat over the top, but believe me, this truth will soon come to be.”

japan drawing flies...,

Video - Soundgarden Drawing Flies

DailyYomiuri | Hordes of flies continue to plague areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake, some of them threatening survivors with serious disease.

Flies have thrived on the ample rotten fish and sludge that riddles the disaster-hit areas. Municipal and private exterminators kill them, only to see more emerge, and residents constantly in need of bug sprays and swatters are becoming increasingly irritated.

In mid-July, extermination companies nationwide were dispatched to an industrial complex in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture. The workers, who wear protective suits and masks, used about two tons of bug spray in the morning alone.

"This is an abnormal situation," one of the exterminators, Hideaki Yamanaka, 63, from Osaka Prefecture, said. "It's the first time in decades that I've used such a large amount of spray."

Flies are hatching from rotten fish carried out of destroyed processing facilities by the tsunami, and also sludge-filled drains. Local governments have been taking measures such as burying rotten fish underground and abandoning them at sea.

According to experts, flies are also residing in the styrofoam containers the fish were kept in. These containers have stayed afloat at sea, spreading the fly outbreak even further.

An Ofunato city government official said, "Even in commercial and residential areas without fisheries companies, we have received numerous requests to exterminate flies."

One problem is that flies are hatching from areas previously cleared by exterminators. Since April, the Tokyo-based Japan Pest Control Association, which includes harmful insect-exterminating companies and other entities, has dispatched a total of 4,000 workers to 14 municipalities, including Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, and Rikuzen-Takata, Iwate Prefecture.

Motokazu Hirao, 73, deputy head of the association, said, "Removal of debris has progressed and the peak of the [fly outbreak] has passed."

But he added, "Flies hatch every 10 to 20 days. We need to persistently exterminate them."

The Self-Defense Forces have taken the fly outbreak seriously, dispatching 10 teams of 15 members each for "epidemic prevention assistance" since mid-July. They have even deployed spraying vehicles and portable sprayers normally used to defend against biological and chemical weapons.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Duquesne? - betcha yingling is a tea partisan....,

CNN | Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré first gained national attention commanding the military's response to Hurricane Katrina. He's back in the spotlight again, arguing that members of the U.S. Congress lack a sense of "shared purpose." His solution is to send them to internment camps.

Here are some quotes from his opinion piece: "It's time to get draconian ... time to load our elected officials on troop planes and send them to Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

"Put them in tents with no air conditioning, have Army drill sergeants teach them teamwork and physical sacrifice. When they recognize their responsibility to the people of America, they can return to D.C., their upscale restaurants, and military plane trips, as though they were royalty."

Taken at face value, Gen. Honoré is advocating a coup d'etat. Neither the president nor the Army has the authority to intern people based on their political beliefs or behaviors, let alone members of Congress.

Honoré's "draconian" measures violate every conceivable constitutional principle, from due process to the separation of powers. While using the innocuous term "boot camp," Honoré is actually advocating interning members of Congress for the purpose of political re-education. "Boot camp," or basic training, has a distinct military purpose: to transform civilian volunteers into effective service members responsive to the lawful orders of a chain of command.

Honoré's re-education facility at Camp Shelby has no such military purpose. Instead, its purpose is to change the political beliefs and behaviors of popularly elected civilian officials. Honoré would release members of Congress from internment only when they "recognized their responsibility to America." Honoré does not specify who will make this judgment, but it certainly cannot be the voters. Perhaps Honoré expects the president to make this judgment, or perhaps it will be left to military officers. In either case, the moment that the U.S. military starts teaching Congress about "teamwork and physical sacrifice," the rule of law in America will have come to an end.

A more plausible explanation is that the general didn't mean what he said. Relying on the colorful bombast that made him a media darling during the Katrina debacle, Honoré may be speaking apocryphally. He doesn't really intend to force members of Congress to live in tents in Camp Shelby. Instead, he's lamenting the partisan rancor in Washington when compared with the discipline of America's military forces.

Still, it's clear that Honoré misunderstands the ideas that underpin the U.S. Constitution. James Madison, rightly called "Father of the U.S. Constitution," did not expect members of Congress to embrace Honoré's "shared purpose." Instead, he expected vigorous debate on the very topics under discussion in Washington today.

Madison and the other founders knew that Americans held different views on the proper size, scope and purposes of government. They anticipated the formation of factions organized around these views and developed mechanisms to cope with the resulting disagreements.

operation shady RAT

NYTimes | An American cybersecurity company issued a report on Wednesday saying that it had identified a single perpetrator of cyberattacks that lasted up to five years on a wide range of governments, American corporations and even United Nations groups, and that the pattern of targets suggested the attacker was a “state actor.”

However, as with a number of other alarming recent reports on computer spying, the study offered few details that would allow independent verification, and it was difficult to immediately assess the damage done. It did not identify the location of the attacking computer system, say what kinds of documents or information were stolen, or offer any direct evidence of a state’s involvement.

The company, McAfee, said it had identified 72 targets — 49 of them American, including 14 federal, state and county agencies and 11 defense contractors — and also informed law enforcement agencies, which it said were investigating.

The White House referred questions to the Department of Homeland Security. At a news conference on other matters, that department’s secretary, Janet Napolitano, said: “We became aware of the McAfee report, I think, today, which is when it was released to the press, as well. We obviously will evaluate it, look at it and pursue what needs to be pursued in terms of its contents.”

One of the few named organizations, the World Anti-Doping Agency, cast doubt on the report’s assertion that the agency had been subject to a 14-month attack that began in August 2009. In a statement, the director general, David Howman, acknowledged that the agency had experienced an e-mail breach in February 2008, but that “at this stage, W.A.D.A. has no evidence from its security experts of the intrusions as listed by McAfee and the agency has yet to be convinced that they took place.”

McAfee, which was recently acquired by Intel, said it released the report to coincide with the start on Wednesday of the annual Black Hat technical security conference in Las Vegas. Briefings were scheduled to be delivered at the conference. Details of the study were first published on the Web site of Vanity Fair.

Asked why McAfee decided not to identify most of the corporations that were targets in the attacks, the company said that the corporations were worried about being identified and alarming shareholders or customers.

Cybersecurity is now a major international concern, with hackers gaining access to sensitive corporate and military secrets, including intellectual property. The report comes after high-profile computer network attacks aimed at the International Monetary Fund, Sony and the Lockheed Martin Corporation, America’s largest military contractor.

Concern over attacks being carried out by nation-states is rising sharply, particularly after Google said last year that Chinese hackers stole some of the company’s source code. Many security experts say the Chinese government has built up a sophisticated cyberwarfare unit and that the government might be partnering with professional hackers. But the list of entities, government or private, suspected of hacking campaigns, is a long one.

army's giant fake silver nutsack lightning bolt shooter

Wired | There was a time, not all that long ago, when the Pentagon sank tens of millions of dollars into remote-controlled lightning guns that it hoped would fry insurgent bombs before they killed any more troops. Now, disassembled parts from the one-time wonder-weapons are being sold on eBay. At least one buyer snatched up the gear, hoping to use it in his latest art project for Burning Man.

All of which would make for a funny little story, if that buyer didn’t discover that the multimillion dollar “Joint Improvised Explosive Device Neutralizers,” or JINs, were kluged together from third-rate commercial electronics, and controlled by open Wi-Fi signals. In other words, the Pentagon didn’t just overpay for a flawed weapon. On the off-chance the JIN ever worked, the insurgents could control it, too.

“This is the hack of all hacks,” says Cody Oliver, a freelance technologist in San Francisco. “And this is what they were selling to the government? Holy shit.”

OK, that story is kind of funny, too. In it’s own dark way.

It started one day last April, Oliver says. He was brainstorming with sometime-employer, Elon Musk, about their next project for Burning Man. For the last three years, Oliver had built for Musk “art cars” — tricked-out jalopies — in the shape of rocket ships that Musk then drove around the festival. (Musk is the founder of the rocket-maker SpaceX, among other firms.) This year, Oliver suggested something different — a remote-controlled art car. Musk liked the idea. So Oliver started trolling eBay for robotic control systems.

He figured he’d get something industrial grade, that already had all the safety and interference issues sorted out. Oliver quickly found a pair of Omnitech Robotics NGCM1 controllers — the kind of high-end electronics that ordinarily sold for tens, if not, hundreds of thousands of dollars. Oliver bought a pair for a thousand bucks. He sent his dad down to a nondescript warehouse in Tucson, Arizona to pick the stuff up.

Oliver knew there was something different about these controllers almost as soon as he took them out of the crate. The steering wheel was outfitted with black buttons labeled “Enable Weapon” and “Weapon On.” In the center was a big red button marked, “STOP!”

Things got more curious when he started poking around the software. There was no password on the gear that was supposed to be outfitted on the robot, so he was able to type “root,” and get right in. Then he checked out the operator’s equipment, which ran a Java app on Windows XP. He decompiled it, and found a string in the code: “IONPaysBills=true.”

ION was the stock market symbol for Ionatron, the company that managed to convince Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Defense Secretary during the early years of the George W. Bush administration, to give the firm $30 million for its bomb-zappers. Shaped like golf carts, the remote-controlled JINs were supposed to use short-pulse lasers to carve conductive channels in the air. Electricity could then be sent down those channels, frying bombs from a safe distance. A company press release quoted Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel, head of the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Task Force as saying, “The Ionatron system was just the type of out of the box, new technology solution we’re looking for.”

But the JINs never quite lived up to their overheated claims. In early 2006, the Washington Post recounts, two JINs were flown to Afghanistan. At one point, “the kill switch failed and the device continued to fire bolts of electricity. Steep mountain terrain and poor roads also proved difficult; one JIN rolled downhill and flipped over.”

Eventually, the Pentagon soured on the JINs. Ionatron lost most of its cash, changed its name, and got wrapped up in a series of shareholder lawsuits and insider trading scandals. A couple of years ago, the broken firm reached out to Tuscon’s Southwest Liquidators, who helped clear the Ionatron warehouse of its useless inventory of electronics. “We took it all,” says Southwest’s Keith Tearne. Then they put it on eBay.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

putin tells young nashis u.s. is like a "parasite"

Reuters | Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the United States Monday of living beyond its means "like a parasite" on the global economy and said dollar dominance was a threat to the financial markets.

"They are living beyond their means and shifting a part of the weight of their problems to the world economy," Putin told the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi while touring its lakeside summer camp some five hours drive north of Moscow.

"They are living like parasites off the global economy and their monopoly of the dollar," Putin said at the open-air meeting with admiring young Russians in what looked like early campaigning before parliamentary and presidential polls.

US President Barack Obama earlier announced a last-ditch deal to cut about $2.4 trillion from the U.S. deficit over a decade, avoid a crushing debt default and stave off the risk that the nation's AAA credit rating would be downgraded.

The deal initially soothed anxieties and led Russian stocks to jump to three-month highs, but jitters remained over the possibility of a credit downgrade.

"Thank god," Putin said, "that they had enough common sense and responsibility to make a balanced decision."

But Putin, who has often criticized the United States' foreign exchange policy, noted that Russia holds a large amount of U.S. bonds and treasuries.

"If over there (in America) there is a systemic malfunction,

this will affect everyone," Putin told the young Russians.

"Countries like Russia and China hold a significant part of their reserves in American securities ... There should be other reserve currencies."

U.S.-Russian ties soured during Putin's 2000-2008 presidency but have warmed significantly since his protégé and successor President Dmitry Medvedev responded to Obama's stated desire for a "reset" in bilateral relations.

you bishes know what you have to do now....,

Guardian | Anarchists should be reported, advises Westminster anti-terror police, Islamist terrorists also mentioned in briefing, as anarchists complain of being criminalised for their beliefs.

What should you do if you discover an anarchist living next door? Dust off your old Sex Pistols albums and hang out a black and red flag to make them feel at home? Invite them round to debate the merits of Peter Kropotkin's anarchist communism versus the individualist anarchism of Emile Armand? No – the answer, according to an official counter-terrorism notice circulated in London last week, is that you must report them to police immediately.

This was the surprising injunction from the Metropolitan Police issued to businesses and members of the public in Westminster last week. There was no warning about other political groups, but next to an image of the anarchist emblem, the City of Westminster police's "counter terrorist focus desk" called for anti-anarchist whistleblowers stating: "Anarchism is a political philosophy which considers the state undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, and instead promotes a stateless society, or anarchy. Any information relating to anarchists should be reported to your local police."

The move angered some anarchists who complained that being an anarchist should not imply criminal behaviour. They said they feel unfairly criminalised for holding a set of political beliefs.

The feeling of disproportion was compounded by the briefing note author making a similar request about Islamist terrorists a few lines further down. Under an image of flag with a gold dot beneath some Arabic script it added: "Often seen used by al-Qaida in Iraq. Any sightings of these images should be reported to your local police."

"It unfairly implies that anyone involved in anarchism should be known to the police and is involved in an dangerous activity," said Jason Sands, an anarchist from South London. "There is nothing inherently criminal about political philosophy whatever it is. The police work under the convention on human rights which disallows discrimination against people because of their political beliefs and even the request for information would seem to be in breach of that. It also seems to be a bit useless as a way of gathering intelligence. It isn't focused on anything specific and they are just asking for general information. Imagine calling up and saying 'there's an anarchist in my building. What should I do?' It doesn't make sense."

15 reasons to avoid college student loan debt...,

Video - RT u.s. students drowning in student loan debt.

endoftheamericandream | America has created a student loan debt bubble that is inflating at a staggering pace and that is destroying hundreds of thousands of lives. For the first time in U.S. history, Americans owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards. Millions more young people are getting sucked in to the student loan debt trap each year. They are told that "an education" is the key to achieving the American Dream and that they won't be able to get a good job without going to college. They are told that they should get into the best school that they can and that they will surely get a good enough job to easily pay off their student loans. In fact, most American high school students don't have anyone warning them about the dangers of the student loans that they are about to commit to paying off. But they should, because the system of higher education in the United States has become a money making scam. Those who get sucked into the student loan debt trap often end up regretting it for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if there were plenty of good jobs available for college graduates and if the education our college students were receiving was of a decent quality.

But unfortunately, most colleges in the United States are a total joke. I know. I have three degrees. I have an undergraduate degree, a law degree and another degree on top of that. I went to what would be considered "good" schools.

But the education that I received (and that millions of other young Americans are receiving) is of such poor quality that it is almost unimaginable.

Most college students spend two to four hours a day in the classroom and maybe an hour or two outside the classroom studying. The rest of the time they are out drinking beer, partying, chasing after sex partners, going to sporting events, playing video games, hanging out with friends, chatting on Facebook or getting into trouble.

For most Americans, the most free time that they will ever have is when they are in college.

On top of that, the actual "education" that goes on inside college classrooms is absolutely and totally pathetic. Take it from someone who spent close to a decade in those classrooms - even a trained monkey could pass most of those courses.

Today, going to college is all about having a good time and getting that piece of paper that says you are a college graduate so that you can put it on your resume.

Shockingly little actual learning goes on inside America's college classrooms in 2010.

Meanwhile, big financial institutions are making an absolute killing on the massive amount of student loan debt that Americans keep piling up.

The following are 15 reasons why young Americans should do whatever they can to avoid getting sucked into the student loan debt trap....

you stay where america lets you stay...,

WCAX | You might never know it but when you drive along the Williston Road interchange there are homeless camps all around you.

That's where we found Artie Hill-- a former diesel mechanic who now is on disability.

Reporter Gina Bullard: So what are you doing out here?

Artie Hill: I'm having a drink and smoking my whatever but I'm not homeless.

Hill was homeless for years until an advocate helped him find housing. He now comes back out to where he once lived and reflects.

"For one thing it's my church," he said. "But I come back here because I love nature and it reminds me of what I went through."

He was the only one in this patch of woods in South Burlington, but in a camp just across the street it's a whole different world. There are driveways and paths leading to tents and even more advanced structures with windows. They even have their own landfill.

"People are prepared for winters. They have tents, heat and depending on how bad the winter is people can survive it pretty well," said Matt Young, an advocate for the homeless.

For an outsider coming in it was almost like organized chaos or a commune.

"Many people are very discreet when living in the woods," Young said.

Young is a community outreach leader working for the HowardCenter. Part of his job is to reduce the reliance on the police when it comes to the homeless population. He was on Church Street in Burlington checking on a homeless man he had received calls about.

"Some people are not interested in staying out of trouble, getting jobs, being housed. So we see if we can meet people halfway," Young said.

Bill, who didn't want to give his last name, has been homeless and on the move for 20 years.

Bullard: Where do you stay?

Bill: Every night's different. It's where America lets you stay, not where you want to stay.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

sustainable civilization from the grassroots up

Video - Creating a new model and making the old one obsolete.

OilCrash | Our predominant industry, political, and personal paradigms developed in an era of cheap abundant energy, expanding population, and what seemed to be unlimited resources. We have gone forth and multiplied (well beyond sustainable numbers) and subdued (perhaps fatally) the Earth. Our ability to operate our infrastructure is ending. Belief in or dedication to a particular ideology may alter individual perceptions, but not physical facts. We need to re-think our civilization from the grass roots up, not bumble blindly on.

We need to set aside the rigid mindset that separates and sees our infrastructure as distinct aspects of biological, structures and other engineering, and information and intellect. It all needs to work together.

There are many treatises with theories on how many people could live on the Earth based on some minimum life support per person. I propose though we ask also, what is the minimum for new healthy generations, maintaining community, and the benefits of an educated technical and developing civilization, with an eye toward providing the best living conditions per person and opportunities for continued advancement of civilization, while reducing our impact on such as remains of nature.


As we enter a new millennium, human civilization faces numerous challenges. Much of our present infrastructure and processes are not sustainable. Much of what we do threatens not only us, but all life on the planet.

* Industry pollutes with enduring toxins that not only kill but alter our DNA.
* Fission reactors provide power for a few decades, all the while “threatening” to release a radioactive cloud, then require storage of the dismantled parts for perhaps a hundred thousand years.
* We arguably divert one half of the renewable resources of the planet to human uses.
* We use non-renewable resources in manners that destroy them.
* The apparent abundance of hybrid crops is dependent on non-renewable resources.
* The farming and food infrastructure depletes the groundwater, mineral, and biological base essential for soil to grow healthy natural food.
* Easy to mine metals and mineral resources are already "on the table".
* The economy of many nations is based not on actual capability and production of the nation, but on borrowing and inflation of currency.

Close your eyes for a moment, and imagine you are traveling on a multi-generation spacecraft, powered by energy radiated from a fusion reactor.

You have only the biological diversity and resources put on board by the builders. Awhile back people found accumulations of long-stored complex molecular feedstock that work as convenient fuel, and can help certain crops grow more abundant. The burning strains the air recycling system, but people love the extra food, products and services it allows.

The dramatic but obviously temporarily increase in the growth of food is met by expanded numbers until even these sources are strained, and continue to increase the population even in the face of facts that the food surplus cannot last the natural lifespan of the present population.

It’s where we are today.

For the moment, our farms still grow sufficient food to feed everyone. But each new belly to fill, and each less gallon of fertilizer and pesticide, moves us closer to “peak food”. From that point on, the food infrastructure becomes less and less productive. Without reliable food, such veneer of civilization as holds back the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" could easily crumble.

The world may appear large, but it is finite. We can calculate the available land, water, and other resources, even incoming solar energy. We know the minimum calorie and nutrition required per person, and can calculate the area to grow food based on plant selection and growing conditions.

We can calculate the area required to grow industrial materials and fuel, and the tradeoff in food area. We have calculated that we are already diverting to human use one-half of the productive life of the Earth. When you have estimated some basic footprint area per person, multiplying by 6 billion provides a sobering comparison to the available renewable resources of the Earth.

The concept of determining the "footprint", or area of naturally recycled resources required to provide for the uses of a person, city, nation, or the global population shows that in almost every defined area whether political or physical, we are beyond a sustainable population [1]. Eliminate all human resource use that is not "life-support" for a fixed population, and you still find sustainability is at best questionable. The present infrastructure is producing food beyond that which is calculable for the sustainable input. In general, it would take several additional planets to provide for humanities present resource use rate.

How is this possible? How are we providing for 6+ billion people? Our infrastructure is dependent on non-renewable input. The timeframe when the first non-renewable yet essential input fails to meet demand is the lifespan of our present civilized infrastructure.

Since the fossil fuel era really began, the global human population has increased six fold, now standing at more than six billion. We have a deadline and the clock is ticking. Business as usual is suicide. But those who see the problem and speak of it are maligned. Nevertheless those who can be awoken must be. To make the best decisions and implement the best courses of action we need the best minds at work. It will take time and significant effort to implement change.

the light bulb conspiracy

Video - The Lightbulb Conspiracy 2010 documentary on planned obsolescence.
Fist tap Umbrarchist.

orthodox spirituality compared and contrasted with other religious traditions

Video - Cash Rules Everything Around Me CREAM Wu Tang Clan

The stronger and more powerful have always preyed on the weaker, from the earliest African tribes to the banksters of today. It's human nature and you cannot change that. It's a jungle out there, always has been, always will be. Nice guys finish last...Big Don
Strannik | To best understand why there are these vitally important differences and what they mean, let us follow the Fathers of the Church, according to whom, there are the following possible three states of human existence, of the soul, and all its faculties. These three states are:

  1. the sub-natural or contra-natural state, also known as the “contrary to nature” state, and fallen subsistence,
  2. the natural state, also known as the “according to nature” state, and life as created in the Image, and
  3. the supra-natural state, also known as the “beyond nature” or “according to grace” state of ascending participation in the Uncreated Energies, and deified eternal life after the Likeness.

There are two things to point out about these states. First, originally, we were created in the natural state in the divine Image but were meant to grow in synergy with the Uncreated Energies into the deified Likeness of God.

Second, we are in the contra-natural state. So, of course, it is the better known state. The natural and supra-natural states are less well known, even to the Fathers of the Church. Accordingly, there is more agreement between all three traditions, not surprisingly, about the nature and problems of the contra-natural state than there is about the natural state or about our ultimate supra-natural destiny. As a result, while there is much agreement about the nature and problems of the beginning stages of the spiritual life from the contra-natural state to the natural state, this consensus rapidly disappears. Despite the alleged superficial and deceptive similarities of the peak of the spiritual life that has been created by those who engage in highly selective quoting and juxtapositioning of bits and pieces of texts from various mystical traditions in an effort to support the view that all religions are one at the top, what we actually find is that both the nature and purpose of the more advanced phases of the spiritual life are topics where there is an increasing divergence of opinion. But as we can see with the Fathers, particularly in how the Cappadocians treat and weigh what is true and of value in Greek philosophy, and following their lead, especially with the Syrian Fathers dealing with what was true and what was error in Buddhist practice (as represented inBactria), even the agreement about the nature of the contra-natural state is more limited than is apparent at first sight. This is because you can only fully agree about exactly how the contra-natural state is contra-natural only if there is shared knowledge of what the original design plan of purpose of human life intended us to be.

Differing conceptions of the ultimate nature and purpose of human life provide differing cures for the contra-natural disease we all suffer from. But as the meaning of the Greek word “phármakon” reveals in ancient Greek medicine, depending on the exact nature of the disease as diagnosed in terms of some exact conception of health, the very same substance or treatment can either serve as a medicine (phármakon) or poison (pharmákion). To be a medicine, a substance or treatment has to be given in the right amount, at the right time, and under the right conditions for a correctly diagnosed disease in order to have the right effect. The same holds true for spiritual treatments, techniques, and cures. We need to understand the vastly different purposes, serving different diagnoses of what is wrong, based upon different views of what human life is supposed to be, that similar, or even, exactly the same spiritual techniques are made to serve. It is not similar techniques that we need to look at but their purpose, their actual function within a larger operational context, and thus, their intended effect.

Distinctive Characteristics of Orthodox Christianity

It is to these purposes we will turn to examine in order to reveal the very real differences in function and outcome behind the apparent similarities of even the same spiritual techniques. But in order to do that, we first need to note two very distinctive characteristics about Orthodox Christianity that determine the fundamental purposes, functions, and outcomes of any spiritual techniques that may make the Hesychast tradition superficially appear similar to Buddhism or Yoga.

The first characteristic of Orthodoxy is the emphatically important truth for spirituality that God is Trinity. The spiritually relevant meaning and implication of this fact, for our purposes, is that reality is ultimately and inescapably interpersonal communion.

Intimately stemming from the fact that God is Trinity is the second distinctive characteristic of Orthodox Christianity. Christianity is not a religion; it is a Church - the Church, the Kingdom come, God’s people called out of the world unto Him, and the Communion of Saints. That is, Christianity is not my personal and private salvation through Jesus. As the Body of Christ, it is a deifying process of becoming a communion of persons mutually participating in the Uncreated Energies of the Life of the Trinity and increasingly after its Likeness.

Plato sought the ideal polis. Aristotle defined the human creature as intrinsically the social and political animal. In Judaism, a relationship to God is to be called and chosen, ex nihilo fashion, out of nothing, out of Ur of the Chaldeans, out of Egypt, out of the world, as a people covenanted to God. The people, the Church, the Body of Christ (through whom all things were made, in whom all things have their being, and will find their fulfillment) - that is, the covenant - is the inner purpose of creation. Creation is the outer staging. The Church is the fruit from which the tree that bore it was born first, as the Syrian Church is fond of reciting, for what shall be last is the very realization of what was first ordained. This is simultaneously a cosmological and inward truth. Those who inwardly shall be last spiritually participate in that fruit from which the tree that bore it was itself born.

Contrary to the (schismatic, Roman Catholic derived) Protestant sensibilities that are dominant in our culture and affect too many Orthodox, the spiritual life and our salvation have everything to do with Church membership. The Church is God’s ideal polis. To say, in contrast to the nature deities of paganism, that our God is the God of history who intervenes in human affairs is also to say he is the supreme politician. God’s economia of salvation is God’s career in politics in history. God’s politics is the outward missionary expansion of his Church and the inner building-up of his Church into a perfected Communion of Saints after the Likeness of the trinitarian communion of divine persons. Syneidesis or conscience is naturally the innate prefiguration of the Church as that which ought to be, but which is faded in our contra-natural condition. For Orthodox Christianity, conscience is our innate inward call to become part of the Body of Christ.

While these two distinctive characteristics of Orthodox Christianity may appear to be abstractions that are apparently remote from our daily lives or the life of the spirit, they immediately determine the differences in purpose, function, and outcome of similar or or even the same spiritual techniques that may be found in the Hesychast tradition, in Buddhism, and Hindu Yoga. The main difference between Hesychasm and the other two traditions is now before us waiting to be spelled out. We turn now to examine the status of ethics in these traditions.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

sustainability excludes growth...,

ecoglobe | "Sustainability" is a state of societal organisation that can be maintained unchanged for a very long time, thousands of years.

This working definition differs from soft definitions of Sustainable Development, such as "forms of progress that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs" in line with the Brundtland report of 1982.

Sustainability excludes growth. Any development that entails growth is not sustainable, cannot be carried on for a long time. Humanity has lived sustainably for some 200000 years till the invention of agriculture, i.e. for 8000 generations.

Modernity started with the invention of the steam engine, leading to modern technology, allowing population to grown tenfold in only 12 generations of 25 years each. Humanity has now overshot the planet's carrying capacity by far, one can arguably say some 400 times overshoot: population 10 times, GDP per capita 40 times, since 1712.

All development means physical growth and thus an increase in the use of renewable and non-renewable resources. Non-material growths are fictions only, including the acclaimed transition to a services society. Many services are very resource intensive. At the end of the day growth is counted in GDP figures, which represent material resources.

No argument can justify further expansion (GDP and population growth) on a planet that is already hugely overloaded by hyperactive people. Environmental scientists as well as the media are reporting year after year on the increasing depletion and destruction of our habitats, nature, and resources. There is no need to get into details. We all know.

The acclaimed need of the poor countries to develop must be put within the environmental boundaries of resource availabilities and damage done to the lands.

Given the undeniable facts that humanity's burden on the planet is far too high, any development in poorer areas (NOT countries!) must be offset by contraction and frugalisation in the overdeveloped areas.

It goes without saying that growth is a suicidal policy for humanity on a planet that is not flat and not limitless. No Hope, nor Optimism nor Technology can counter these facts. Technology will not be able to revive extinct species, restore deforested areas, replenish spent aquifers, repair a spoiled climate, clean chemically polluted environments, or replenish depleted resource stocks, and so on and so forth.

A World Trade Organisation that works to increase trade and to maintain economic growth, but without considering these environmental facts and trends, has no future at all. Its old buildings on Geneva's lakeside and the extension under construction in the same public park will become void and useless when resource scarcities start to bite in the overdeveloped world as well. This time is not far off.

We are at peak oil, since 2003, as the International Energy Agency finally admitted, in their 2010 World Energy Outlook.
(Cf. ).

Since there is no equivalent replacement for fossil fuels, not in quantity and not in quality, the post peak oil era, probably starting within the next few years, will lead to a decline in agricultural and industrial production, as well as the rolling back of globalistation.

Renewable energies are mainly electricity, all subsidized by fossil fuel for the generation plant, equipment, infrastructure, and human labour. We cannot eat electricity, nor use it as raw material for a host of modern products and fertilisers.

Even IF we had alternative energies, this would only confirm the false believes that we could continue our exuberant lifestyles and depletion of the world. The UNEP's "Green Economy", the WBCSD's "Vision 2050", The Swiss "CleanTech" so-called "Master Plan", and many more projects are all based on the belief in HOT, especially Technology, to save our modern souls. This HOT world cannot survive, because of physical resource realities.

The post peak oil era will entail a decline of the usefulness of the WTO for Business As Usual, i.e. furthering growth, because the physical resources will be lacking. The trade functionaries will be repatriated on the last flights that are then still possible with some remaining kerosene. Mr Pascal Lamy will be forced to retire in France. Geneva will have to try and survive with locally grown potatoes and heat its homes - with what exactly?

Remember that HOT - Hope Optimism Technology - cannot change physical facts and that we can only work with the ideas and techniques to live, with the means that we do have now. Tomorrow can not feed us today.
So, rather than worry about DOHA, BAU, and our jobs in whatever organisation, we should think of the effect of our work on the immediate future of our family, our children who have their eyes scared of environmental destruction.
Compare the eyes painted by a child, taken from a UNEP brochure.

These eyes of our own children should help us sit back, think for a while, and to refocus on those things that matter most to us.

why are banks bulldozing foreclosures?

The Atlantic | If you can't sell 'em, demolish 'em. This appears to be a new strategy adopted by some big banks struggling with a glut of foreclosed homes on their books. A new report indicates that some houses are being leveled by bulldozers, rather than revitalized and sold. Is this really a smart strategy?

Lindsey Rupp from Bloomberg reports on the phenomenon. The idea is that a bank donates a foreclosed home and possibly even pays for its demolition. One recent example is Bank of America donating 100 foreclosed homes to a Cleveland-area agency that will revitalize the property for other uses. From the article:

"There is way too much supply," said Gus Frangos, president of the Cleveland-based Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., which works with lenders, government officials and homeowners to salvage vacant homes. "The best thing we can do to stabilize the market is to get the garbage off."

Bank of America had 40,000 foreclosures in the first quarter, saddling the Charlotte, North Carolina-based lender with taxes and maintenance costs. The bank announced the Cleveland program last month, has committed as many as 100 properties in Detroit and 150 in Chicago, and may add as many as nine cities by the end of the year, said Rick Simon, a company spokesman.

The lender will pay as much as $7,500 for demolition or $3,500 in areas eligible to receive funds through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Uses for the land include development, open space and urban farming, according to the statement. Simon declined to say how many foreclosed properties Bank of America holds.

Other servicers involved in such initiatives include other big names like Wells Fargo, JPMorgan, Citigroup, and even Fannie Mae. That's right: the government is indirectly bulldozing foreclosures.

The motivation here is pretty straightforward. They get out of ongoing maintenance costs and taxes that they would have to pay as long as the property remains on the market. But the even better news is that the banks can often write-off these properties as a result. An accounting analyst the article refers to says that in some cases, banks can deduct as much as the homes' fair market value from their income taxes.

From the real estate market's standpoint this strategy is also positive. With less supply, prices will stabilize more quickly. Disposing of these foreclosures will make the market clear sooner.

And yet, the idea of bulldozing homes does seem rather unsavory, does it not? Perhaps some of these homes are condemned and/or beyond repair. In those cases, it might turn out to be more expensive to try to get them back up to code than it would be to knock them down and start over. But does this really describe all of the cases? This is reportedly happening to thousands of homes across the U.S.

My concern is that banks are using this as an easy out to minimize their loss with little concern about what's best for the U.S. economy. If some of these homes could be converted to perfectly adequate rental properties at minimal additional cost at some point in the future, for example, then this would make a lot more sense than knocking them down and building new homes from scratch.

Unfortunately, if banks are better off bulldozing than attempting to sell these homes, then that's their prerogative. After all, they own the homes and can do as they like with them. It's just pretty incredible that the market has come to this.

new data shows sharp slowdown in growth rate

NYTimes | The economy slowed to a snail’s pace in the first half of 2011, underscoring a growing risk that the recovery itself may hang in the balance with budget and debt decisions in Washington.

The broadest measure of the economy, known as the gross domestic product, grew at an annual rate of less than 1 percent in the first half of 2011, the Commerce Department reported on Friday. The figures for the first quarter and the second quarter, 0.4 percent and 1.3 percent respectively, were well below what economists were expecting, and signified a sharp slowdown from the early months of the recovery.

The government also revised data going all the way back to 2003 that showed the recession was deeper, and the recovery weaker, than initially believed.

“There’s nothing that you can look at here that is signaling some revival in growth in the second half of the year, and in fact we may see another catastrophically weak quarter next quarter if things go wrong next week,” said Nigel Gault, chief United States economist at IHS Global Insight, referring to the debt ceiling talks.

With so little growth, the economy can hardly withstand further shocks from home or abroad, and worrisome signals continue to emanate from heavily indebted European countries.

If the domestic economy were to contract, any new recession would originate on President Obama’s watch — unlike the last one, which began a year before he was elected.

If Congress leaves existing budget plans intact, some of the government’s economic assistance, like the payroll tax cut, will phase out and thereby act as a drag on growth.

And by many economists’ thinking, whatever additional budget cuts Congress eventually agrees to (or does not) will weaken the economy even further.

Monday, August 01, 2011

overture to america's sea of silent peasants

Video - Sissi I belong to me.

Benjaminsmess | In “Sissi,” the richest .0001 percent of the people in the empire have no physical or social contact with the subjects they’re supposed to be in charge of, except for a handful of blank-faced servants who rush off-camera as quickly as their legs can carry them.

Were there poor people in Austro-Hungary in the19th century? Was there hunger? Was almost everyone illiterate? Was there injustice? Did as many as half of newborns die before reaching the age of three? Did the royal family of Franz-Joseph tax the poor, and squeeze tradesmen, to underwrite their masked balls, their boar hunts and their psychosomatic ailments? Was Austro-Hungary the corrupt relic of Europe’s parasitic feudal past? Was Austro-Hungary, in fact, the reactionary cesspool of incestuous aristocracy and lese majesté that triggered World War I, annihilating a generation of young men and spawning the bad seed that became Adolf Hitler?

Well, probably. But who knows? From this movie, you couldn’t get a clue that there was carbon-based life anywhere in Austro-Hungary outside the castle — where every room was pretty and everyone was happy. And why shouldn’t they be happy? These folks had so much money and power that they never had to think about money. They were so high up the mountain, in the upper rooms of the tallest building in the empire that, even if they looked out and saw ordinary people, those people seemed like ants.

As I watched director Ernst Marischka’s idyll of good-old-days Austro-Hungary, it occurred to me that my very own countrymen have been working tirelessly, over the past 30 years, to turn America into the same movie. Indeed, Republican progress toward re-creating the court of Franz-Joseph in the land of the free is outright awesome. Although the U.S. has never really been a model of financial equality, we are now the second least-equal democracy on earth, just behind Switzerland. We stand on the brink of creating our very own crowned and castled upper crust, suitable for filming.

In the last 30 years, tax policy and spending priorities have made America a little more Austro-Hungarian every day. Our median household wealth, for instance, has dropped 36 percent just since 2007. In other words, most of us have lost a third of what we had just four years ago! Sixty percent of American households earn less than they earned in 1979, the year before Ronald Reagan (the Franz-Joseph of the GOP) told us it was “morning in America.” Today, more than 24 percent of U.S. households have no marketable assets. In other words, a quarter of us own, literally, nothing. This is the highest percentage ever recorded. Three decades of upward wealth redistribution, promoted by Republicans and enabled by Democrats, is creating a sea of silent peasants. We wash up against but never disturb the sound stage where Romy Schneider floats from ballroom to throne-room in organdy and petticoats, and has babies who magically appear without requiring her to even drop her lace knickers or suffer through childbirth.

Of course, if the future consigns most of us to peasanthood, a few of us will have to be the Romy Schneiders. So far, this is working out real good, too. Between 2006 and 2007, average income for the 400 richest Americans soared 31 percent — in one year! — from $263 million to $345 million. This was before Congress extended the Bush tax cuts for the aristocracy and showered them with even more welfare.

mass socialist unrest in the garrison state?

972Mag | Huge protests in cities across Israel signal they are a growing political force

The housing and social protests tonight reached a huge crescendo, with throngs flooding streets in over 10 cities across the country Israel. Haaretz is reporting roughly 150,000 people around the country in Hebrew (most conservative estimate in the morning papers belongs to the pro-Netanyahu free paper, Israel Hayom: 100,000 protesters).

Compared to the estimated 20,000 to 30,000 who demonstrated last week, the number of protesters around the country may have more than quadrupled.

In Tel Aviv, the roar of frenzied euphoria mixed with anger preceded the crowd as the parade rounded a major intersection on its way to the Tel Aviv museum. Screams of “revolution” were echoed all over the country. Estimates speak of 10,000 in Jerusalem, similar numbers in Haifa and Beer Sheva, along with demonstrations in Kiryat Shmona, Nazareth, Ashdod several other locations.

Like last week, the Tel Aviv demonstration ended with a large and loud sit-in at a major traffic intersection (Dizengoff and Kaplan streets); police formed human chains to block streets, mounted police appeared, and eventually called to break up the protesters. Eight were arrested and released in the following morning.

At first glance, it appeared that the crowd’s demands were not significantly different from last week. The main rallying cry was still: “The people! Want! Social justice!” with a generous dose of “Bibi go home,” as well as anti-capitalism, pro-welfare state slogans, all laced with dripping sarcasm along the lines of: “The market is free, but we’re slaves.”

Over the last two weeks, the protests have been criticized as unfocused and lacking concrete demands. Tonight there were new signs of a plan taking shape. In the final speeches, after a lineup that included celebrity musicians, the organizers wrapped up with several quite specific demands. In what sounded very much like an ultimatum, they said that Netanyahu has until Wednesday, the day the Knesset goes on recess, to do two things: Withdraw the pending law for national housing committees – which they consider deeply damaging - and prevent the privatization of the Israel Lands Administration, which holds the vast majority of land in Israel.

On Sunday, Netanyahu has announced that a team of ministers would meet the representatives of the protest movement. The director of Israel’s finance ministry has resigned in the morning following the protest, citing the protest among his reasons.

And if the demands are not met? In a not very subtle innuendo, the organizers asked people to take note of the symbols starting to appear – a triangle with the letter “bet” inside it, hinting their intention to form or to join a political party, or at least to the attempt to bring down the government .

sharia law zones in british cities?

DailyMail | Islamic extremists have launched a poster campaign across the UK proclaiming areas where Sharia law enforcement zones have been set up.

Communities have been bombarded with the posters, which read: ‘You are entering a Sharia-controlled zone – Islamic rules enforced.’

The bright yellow messages daubed on bus stops and street lamps have already been seen across certain boroughs in London and order that in the ‘zone’ there should be ‘no gambling’, ‘no music or concerts’, ‘no porn or prostitution’, ‘no drugs or smoking’ and ‘no alcohol’.

Hate preacher Anjem Choudary has claimed responsibility for the scheme, saying he plans to flood specific Muslim and non-Muslim communities around the UK and ‘put the seeds down for an Islamic Emirate in the long term’.

In the past week, dozens of streets in the London boroughs of Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets and Newham have been targeted, raising fears that local residents may be intimidated or threatened for flouting ‘Islamic rules’.

Choudary, who runs the banned militant group Islam4UK, warned: ‘We now have hundreds if not thousands of people up and down the country willing to go out and patrol the streets for us and a print run of between 10,000 and 50,000 stickers ready for distribution.

‘There are 25 areas around the country which the Government has earmarked as areas where violent extremism is a problem.