Thursday, July 18, 2013

pope criminalizes leaks in the vatican..,



usatoday | Pope Francis overhauled the laws that govern the Vatican City state on Thursday, criminalizing leaks of Vatican information and specifically listing sexual violence, prostitution and possession of child pornography as crimes against children that can be punished by up to 12 years in prison.

The legislation covers clergy and lay people who live and work in Vatican City and is different from the canon law that covers the universal Catholic Church.

The bulk of the Vatican's penal code is based on the 1889 Italian code. Many of the new provisions were necessary to bring the city state's legal system up to date after the Holy See signed international treaties, such as the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Others were necessary to comply with international norms to fight money-laundering, part of the Vatican's push toward financial transparency.

One new crime stands out, though, as an obvious response to the leaks of papal documents last year that represented one of the gravest Vatican security breaches in recent times.

Paolo Gabriele, the butler for then-Pope Benedict XVI, was tried and convicted by a Vatican court of stealing Benedict's personal papers and giving them to an Italian journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi.

Using the documents, Nuzzi published a blockbuster book on the petty turf wars, bureaucratic dysfunction and allegations of corruption and homosexual liaisons that afflict the highest levels of Catholic Church governance.

Gabriele, who said he wanted to expose the "evil and corruption" that plagued the Holy See, was convicted of aggravated theft and sentenced to 18 months in the Vatican's police barracks. Benedict eventually pardoned him and he is now a free man.

But his crime devastated the Vatican, shattering the confidentiality that typically governs correspondence with the pope. Fist tap Dale.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

dead man's switch?

wired | The strategy employed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to discourage a CIA hit job has been likened to a tactic employed by the U.S. and Russian governments during the Cold War.

Snowden, a former systems administrator for the National Security Agency in Hawaii, took thousands of documents from the agency’s networks before fleeing to Hong Kong in late May, where he passed them to Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras. The journalists have handled them with great caution. A story in the German publication Der Spiegal, co-bylined by Poitras, claims the documents include information “that could endanger the lives of NSA workers,” and an Associated Press interview with Greenwald this last weekend asserts that they include blueprints for the NSA’s surveillance systems that “would allow somebody who read them to know exactly how the NSA does what it does, which would in turn allow them to evade that surveillance or replicate it.”

But Snowden also reportedly passed encrypted copies of his cache to a number of third parties who have a non-journalistic mission: If Snowden should suffer a mysterious, fatal accident, these parties will find themselves in possession of the decryption key, and they can publish the documents to the world.

“The U.S. government should be on its knees every day begging that nothing happen to Snowden,” Greenwald said in a recent interview with the Argentinean paper La Nacion, that was highlighted in a much-circulated Reuters story, “because if something does happen to him, all the information will be revealed and it could be its worst nightmare.”

u.s. repeals propaganda ban - gubmint-made news coming soon to a radio/teevee near you...,


foreignpolicy | For decades, a so-called anti-propaganda law prevented the U.S. government's mammoth broadcasting arm from delivering programming to American audiences. But on July 2, that came silently to an end with the implementation of a new reform passed in January. The result: an unleashing of thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs for domestic U.S. consumption in a reform initially criticized as a green light for U.S. domestic propaganda efforts. So what just happened? 

Until this month, a vast ocean of U.S. programming produced by the Broadcasting Board of Governors such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks could only be viewed or listened to at broadcast quality in foreign countries. The programming varies in tone and quality, but its breadth is vast: It's viewed in more than 100 countries in 61 languages. The topics covered include human rights abuses in Iran, self-immolation in Tibet, human trafficking across Asia, and on-the-ground reporting in Egypt and Iraq. 

The restriction of these broadcasts was due to the Smith-Mundt Act, a long-standing piece of legislation that has been amended numerous times over the years, perhaps most consequentially by Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. In the 1970s, Fulbright was no friend of VOA and Radio Free Europe, and moved to restrict them from domestic distribution, saying they "should be given the opportunity to take their rightful place in the graveyard of Cold War relics." Fulbright's amendment to Smith-Mundt was bolstered in 1985 by Nebraska Senator Edward Zorinsky, who argued that such "propaganda" should be kept out of America as to distinguish the U.S. "from the Soviet Union where domestic propaganda is a principal government activity." 

Zorinsky and Fulbright sold their amendments on sensible rhetoric: American taxpayers shouldn't be funding propaganda for American audiences. So did Congress just tear down the American public's last defense against domestic propaganda? 

BBG spokeswoman Lynne Weil insists BBG is not a propaganda outlet, and its flagship services such as VOA "present fair and accurate news."

nsa rejecting every foia request made by u.s. citizens...,


tikkun | Clayton Seymour, a 36-year-old IT specialist from Hilliard, Ohio, recently sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the NSA, curious as to whether any data about him was being collected.
What he received in response made his blood boil.

“I am a generally law abiding citizen with nothing I can think of that would require monitoring,” Seymour wrote to me, “but I wanted to know if I was having data collected about me and if so, what.”

So Seymour sent in an FOIA request. Weeks later, a letter from the NSA arrived explaining that he was not entitled to any information. “When I got the declined letter, I was furious,” he told me. “I feel betrayed.”
Seymour had decided to request his NSA file after coming across a recent post of mine instructing Americans on how to properly request such files from the FBI and NSA. A Navy vet and two-time Obama voter who supported the President’s platform of greater governmental transparency, Seymour was shocked by the letter he received.

The letter, which first acknowledges the media coverage surrounding its surveillance systems, quickly moves to justify why none of that data can be obtained by an American citizen in a standard FOIA request:

Seymour isn’t the only one who has recently had an FOIA request denied by the NSA – dozens of citizens have emailed me to say they’ve received a similar, if not identical, letter. And it’s clear from the exemption the NSA is using that every single American is having their FOIA requests similarly rejected.

Unjustly so.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

the case for abolishing welfare/wpa for another two million or so economically unproductive scrubs with security clearances...,


Bloomberg | On Friday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano resigned to take up a post running California’s university system. With her departure, there are now 15 vacant positions at the top of the department. That suggests it would be a particularly humane moment to shut the whole thing down. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was a panicked reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks. It owes its continued existence to a vastly exaggerated assessment of the threat of terrorism. The department is also responsible for some of the least cost-effective spending in the U.S. government. It’s time to admit that creating it was a mistake.

In 2002 the George W. Bush administration presented a budget request for massively increased spending on homeland security, at that point coordinated out of the Office of Homeland Security. “A new wave of terrorism, involving new weapons, looms in America’s future,” the White House said. “It is a challenge unlike any ever faced by our nation.” In proposing a new cabinet-level agency, Bush said, “The changing nature of the threats facing America requires a new government structure to protect against invisible enemies that can strike with a wide variety of weapons.” Because of “experience gained since Sept. 11 and new information we have learned about our enemies while fighting a war,” the president concluded that “our nation needs a more unified homeland security structure.”

More than a decade later, it’s increasingly clear that the danger to Americans posed by terrorism remains smaller than that of myriad other threats, from infectious disease to gun violence to drunk driving. Even in 2001, considerably more Americans died of drowning than from terror attacks. Since then, the odds of an American being killed in a terrorist attack in the U.S. or abroad have been about one in 20 million. The Boston marathon bombing was evil and tragic, but it’s worth comparing the three deaths in that attack to a list of the number of people in the U.S. killed by guns since the December 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn., which stood at 6,078 as of June.

This low risk isn’t evidence that homeland security spending has worked: It’s evidence that the terror threat was never as great as we thought. A rather pathetic Heritage Foundation list of 50 terrorist plots against the U.S. foiled since Sept. 11 includes such incidents as a plan to use a blowtorch to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge and “allegedly lying about attending a terrorist training center”—but nothing involving weapons of mass destruction. Further, these are alleged plots. The list of plausible plots, let alone actual crimes, is considerably smaller. From 2005 to 2010, federal attorneys declined (PDF) to bring any charges against 67 percent of alleged terrorism-related cases referred to them from law enforcement agencies.

That hasn’t stopped a bonanza of spending. Homeland security agencies got about $20 billion in the 2002 budget. That rose to about $60 billion (PDF) this year. Given that spending is motivated by such an elusive threat, it’s no surprise a lot is wasted. The grants made by DHS to states and cities to improve preparedness are notorious for being distributed with little attention to either risk or effectiveness. As an example, economist Veronique de Rugy has highlighted the $557,400 given to North Pole, Alaska, (population 1,570), for homeland security rescue and communications equipment. “If power companies invested in infrastructure the way DHS and Congress fight terrorism, a New Yorker wouldn’t be able to run a hair dryer, but everyone in Bozeman, Mont., could light up a stadium,” de Rugy complained.

Or take the U.S. Coast Guard—which recently got in hot water with the U.S. Government Accountability Office because it was 10 years into a 25-year, $24 billion overhaul to build or upgrade its 250 vessels, had spent $7 billion on the project, and had only two new ships in the water to show for it. Reassuringly, the head of the Coast Guard admitted, “We weren’t prepared to start spending this money and supervising a project this big.”

The DHS also runs the U.S. Secret Service, an agency that just spent an estimated $100 million guarding a weeklong presidential trip to Africa. That would be more than the entire economic output of Tanzania during Barack Obama’s visit. The Secret Service traveled around the continent with 56 vehicles, including three trucks full of bulletproof glass. The cancellation of a planned Obama family safari at least meant there was no need for the assault team armed with high-caliber rounds against the threat of Taliban-sympathizing cheetahs.

The problem with DHS is bigger than a bloated budget misspent. An overweight DHS gets a free pass to infringe civil liberties without a shred of economic justification. John Mueller, a political science professor at Ohio State University, notes that the agency has routinely refused to carry out cost-benefit analyses on expensive and burdensome new procedures, including scanning every inbound shipping container or installing full-body scanners in airports—despite being specifically asked to do so by the GAO. Again, it’s unsurprising that the result of a free hand in enforcement has been excessive and counterproductive security measures, as I’ve argued before: like TSA agents taking away a GI Joe doll’s four-inch plastic gun because it was “a replica,” and deterring so many passengers from airline travel that more than 100 people have died on the roads because they substituted a dangerous means of transportation (driving) for a safe one (flying). Fist tap Arnach.

hunger games usa



NYTimes | Something terrible has happened to the soul of the Republican Party. We’ve gone beyond bad economic doctrine. We’ve even gone beyond selfishness and special interests. At this point we’re talking about a state of mind that takes positive glee in inflicting further suffering on the already miserable. 

The occasion for these observations is, as you may have guessed, the monstrous farm bill the House passed last week. 

For decades, farm bills have had two major pieces. One piece offers subsidies to farmers; the other offers nutritional aid to Americans in distress, mainly in the form of food stamps (these days officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP). 

Long ago, when subsidies helped many poor farmers, you could defend the whole package as a form of support for those in need. Over the years, however, the two pieces diverged. Farm subsidies became a fraud-ridden program that mainly benefits corporations and wealthy individuals. Meanwhile food stamps became a crucial part of the social safety net.

So House Republicans voted to maintain farm subsidies — at a higher level than either the Senate or the White House proposed — while completely eliminating food stamps from the bill. 

To fully appreciate what just went down, listen to the rhetoric conservatives often use to justify eliminating safety-net programs. It goes something like this: “You’re personally free to help the poor. But the government has no right to take people’s money” — frequently, at this point, they add the words “at the point of a gun” — “and force them to give it to the poor.” 

It is, however, apparently perfectly O.K. to take people’s money at the point of a gun and force them to give it to agribusinesses and the wealthy. 

Now, some enemies of food stamps don’t quote libertarian philosophy; they quote the Bible instead. Representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, for example, cited the New Testament: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” Sure enough, it turns out that Mr. Fincher has personally received millions in farm subsidies

Given this awesome double standard — I don’t think the word “hypocrisy” does it justice — it seems almost anti-climactic to talk about facts and figures. But I guess we must.

McBudgeting...,


Monday, July 15, 2013

europe's old and rich will not be alone in facing an uprising...,


telegraph | Stephen King warned that the widening wealth gap and sense of “entitlement” between older generations and cash-strapped youths had echoes of the conditions which led to the 1381 uprising of British peasants against the aristocrats who ruled them. 

Then, the country had just been savaged by the plague, which robbed farmers of their workforces as well as their loved ones by killing an estimated 1.5m people. However, the wealthy ruling classes refused to modify their behaviour, leaving the poorer farm workers to bear the brunt of the economic downturn.
“In those days, public spending was about warfare … resources had been severely curtailed as a consequence of the Black Death,” said Mr King. “The nobility wanted to continue as they had done previously. They did not change their ways even though there had been this terrible disease come through … there was an attempt to try and clamp down on tax evasion which led to the Plantagenet equivalent of men with baseball bats coming along to raise funds.
“Those entitlements the Boomer generation are stuck to are imposing a significant cost to the younger generation … which over the long term is very disruptive to the performance of economies.”
He said the Occupy movement and the London riots two years ago were the beginnings of what could develop into more widespread protests by youths, who feel they have been short-changed.

“I am intrigued at the moment that the youth are quite peaceful, and I wonder whether that might change. It is very difficult to predict but youth movements might become more focused on their own rights rather than the economy [at large],” he said.

The economist, who has just released a new book about the end of Western affluence, When The Money Runs Out, called for a major overhaul of public spending in order to stave off this sort of unrest.

“There should be some kind of new deal which deals with the generational divide,” he said. “Decisions are increasingly influenced by the interests of the Baby Boomer generation and therefore there are lots of commitments to pensioners’ health care and so on … we need to get a reversal of that trend, to focus on protecting the interests of the young who are in minority.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

the truth in america today...,


 Been deeply impressed with Michelle Alexander for a minute....,

holding the line against moderation in the immigration debate..,


NYTimes | Over the past several months, Kris W. Kobach, Kansas’ staunchly conservative secretary of state, has seen numerous Republicans tack toward the center on immigration policy.

He watched a Senate debate that resulted in an immigration overhaul bill that largely ignored the strict enforcement measures he has spent a career championing across the country: denying utilities, housing and public education to illegal immigrants, and using local law enforcement to catch them.

Moderation on immigration, some Republicans say, is vital to the future of the party if it hopes to remain relevant in a country of shifting demographics. But even if public sentiment and electoral math on immigration might be bending away from his principles, Mr. Kobach is not budging.

“Any politician who thinks, ‘Oh, we just cast one vote, and then all of a sudden this demographic group comes flocking to us,’ they’re being superficial Washington idiots,” Mr. Kobach said.

In his third year as secretary of state, Mr. Kobach continues to make immigration a centerpiece of his work, even when it is far outside the boundaries of the office he was elected to. As the immigration debate moved last week to the more conservative House, he hoped to find a more receptive audience as he tried to insert his beliefs into the national dialogue.

His supporters say he is succeeding in such efforts; his detractors call him old news.

the act of killing and indonesian death squads..,


NYTimes | Early in “The Act of Killing,” Joshua Oppenheimer’s startling new documentary about mass murder and impunity in Indonesia, a death squad leader named Anwar Congo, dapper in white pants and a lime-green shirt, demonstrates how he strangled hundreds of people with wire. It was quicker and less messy than beating them to death, he explains matter-of-factly, then breaks into a dance routine, performing the cha cha cha for the camera. “The Act of Killing,” which opens on Friday, is crammed with unsettlingly bizarre moments like that, blending the horrific and the absurd in a disturbing cocktail. Time after time, the killers joke and brag about their deeds, which earns them applause on an Indonesian TV talk show, praise from officials in the government in power today and condemnation from the human rights groups that want to see them brought to justice.

But Mr. Oppenheimer’s film, which counts Werner Herzog and Errol Morris as its executive producers and was made by a largely Indonesian crew, is also stirring controversy because of its unorthodox form. Re-enactments are always a source of disagreement in the documentary world, but Mr. Oppenheimer has taken that longstanding debate to a new level by encouraging the perpetrators of human rights abuses to restage their crimes, on film and for a global audience.
“I think it’s our obligation as filmmakers, as people investigating the world, to create the reality that is most insightful to the issues at hand,” Mr. Oppenheimer, 38, said in a recent interview. “Here are human beings, like us, boasting about atrocities that should be unimaginable. And the question is: Why are they doing this? For whom are they doing this? What does it mean to them? How do they want to be seen? How do they see themselves? And this method was a way of answering those questions.”
The events initially addressed in “The Act of Killing” are little known in the West: the slaughter of as many as a million people in Indonesia following the military’s seizure of power there in 1965. The victims were labeled Communists but included labor leaders, ethnic Chinese and intellectuals, with paramilitary groups carrying out the killings at the behest of the Indonesian Army and with the support of the United States and its allies, who worried that Indonesia, like Vietnam, would fall into Communist hands.
In Indonesia, the killings were “a kind of open secret, kept discreetly hidden so that if you wanted to, you could pretend it wasn’t happening,” said John Roosa, a scholar of Indonesian history at the University of British Columbia and the author of “Pretext for Mass Murder,” the leading book about the 1965 massacres. “So this film has become a provocation, an impetus for Indonesians to go back to the perpetrators and say, ‘Tell us exactly what happened.’ ”

indonesia's killing fields...,



aljazeera | It was one of the bloodiest massacres of the 20th century, well hidden from the outside world - the systematic killing of communists or alleged communists in Indonesia in 1965 and 1966. Researchers estimate that between one and three million people died.

Never before have the executioners spoken out in as much detail as in the recently-released documentary The Act of Killing. In this film, killers in North Sumatra give horrifying accounts of their executions, and even re-enact them.

The killers have always considered themselves heroes because their acts were supported by the government and large parts of society. Many executions were directly committed by the military.

In the years that followed, Indonesians were bombarded with anti-communist propaganda and, until today, most people do not know what really happened.

The film, and a recent report by the Indonesian national human rights commission that called the killings crimes against humanity, have launched a new debate on how the country should deal with this very traumatic past.

Mass graves have yet to be exhumed and victims are yet to see some kind of justice. In many villages, killers and victims' relatives are still living with the awkward reality that 'our neighbour has killed my father'.

Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen talks to former executioners and finds out why so many people - mostly Muslim youths - turned into cold-blooded killers, and why this dark episode in Indonesian history is still very sensitive and alive today.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

rotflmbao....,


RIP - insatiable curiosity...,


mit | Amar Bose ’51, SM ’52, ScD ’56, a former member of the MIT faculty and the founder of Bose Corporation, has died. He was 83.

Dr. Bose received his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate from MIT, all in electrical engineering. He was asked to join the faculty in 1956, and he accepted with the intention of teaching for no more than two years. He continued as a member of the MIT faculty until 2001.

During his long tenure at MIT, Dr. Bose made his mark both in research and in teaching. In 1956, he started a research program in physical acoustics and psychoacoustics: This led to his development of many patents in acoustics, electronics, nonlinear systems and communication theory.

Throughout his career, he was cited for excellent teaching. In a 1969 letter to the faculty, then-dean of the School of Engineering R. L. Bisplinghoff wrote, “Dr. Bose is known and respected as one of M.I.T.’s great teachers and for his imaginative and forceful research in the areas of acoustics, loudspeaker design, two-state amplifier-modulators, and nonlinear systems.”

Paul Penfield Jr., professor emeritus of electrical engineering, was a colleague of Dr. Bose, and he recalls what made Dr. Bose different. “Amar was personally creative,” he said, “but unlike so many other creative people, he was also introspective. He could understand and explain his own thinking processes and offer them as guides to others. I’ve seen him do this for several engineering and management problems. At some deep level, that is what teaching is really all about.  Perhaps that helps explain why he was such a beloved teacher.”

NASA eBooks



Friday, July 12, 2013

microshizzle: your privacy is our priority

 
Guardian | Skype worked with intelligence agencies last year to allow Prism to collect video and audio conversations. 

Microsoft has collaborated closely with US intelligence services to allow users' communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company's own encryption, according to top-secret documents obtained by the Guardian.

The files provided by Edward Snowden illustrate the scale of co-operation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence agencies over the last three years. They also shed new light on the workings of the top-secret Prism program, which was disclosed by the Guardian and the Washington Post last month.
The documents show that:

  • Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal;
  • The agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail;
  • The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide;
  • Microsoft also worked with the FBI's Data Intercept Unit to "understand" potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases;
  • In July last year, nine months after Microsoft bought Skype, the NSA boasted that a new capability had tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through Prism;
  • Material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a "team sport".
The latest NSA revelations further expose the tensions between Silicon Valley and the Obama administration. All the major tech firms are lobbying the government to allow them to disclose more fully the extent and nature of their co-operation with the NSA to meet their customers' privacy concerns. Privately, tech executives are at pains to distance themselves from claims of collaboration and teamwork given by the NSA documents, and insist the process is driven by legal compulsion.

In a statement, Microsoft said: "When we upgrade or update products we aren't absolved from the need to comply with existing or future lawful demands." The company reiterated its argument that it provides customer data "only in response to government demands and we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers".

In June, the Guardian revealed that the NSA claimed to have "direct access" through the Prism program to the systems of many major internet companies, including Microsoft, Skype, Apple, Google, Facebook and Yahoo.

Blanket orders from the secret surveillance court allow these communications to be collected without an individual warrant if the NSA operative has a 51% belief that the target is not a US citizen and is not on US soil at the time. Targeting US citizens does require an individual warrant, but the NSA is able to collect Americans' communications without a warrant if the target is a foreign national located overseas.

Since Prism's existence became public, Microsoft and the other companies listed on the NSA documents as providers have denied all knowledge of the program and insisted that the intelligence agencies do not have back doors into their systems.

Microsoft's latest marketing campaign, launched in April, emphasizes its commitment to privacy with the slogan: "Your privacy is our priority."

all in the family...,



Reuters | Microsoft Corp launched its biggest internal overhaul in five years to streamline the development of products from Windows to tablets, hoping to catch nimbler rivals in mobile and cloud computing.

Lack of coordination and infighting have hurt innovation within the $74 billion revenue, 98,000-employee organization, which hopes to accelerate the design of products that appeal to a new generation of users more accustomed to smartphones and tablets than laptops or desktop PCs.

Some analysts see Thursday's moves, which include centralizing business-oriented functions such as marketing and research expenses under separate units, as helping shore up Ballmer's control over the sprawling corporation.

Removing major responsibilities for profit and revenue accounting allows the main divisions to focus on innovative products and eliminates the fiefdoms - Windows, Office for instance - that may have encouraged infighting in recent years, analysts said.

"You don't do a major reorganization like this unless you have some serious problems," BGC analyst Colin Gillis said. "It consolidates power around the CEO."

Development of Windows will now be folded into one group headed by Terry Myerson. He had previously focused only on Windows Phone and now has responsibility for tailoring the flagship operating software for devices ranging from the traditional PC to tablets and gaming consoles.

Julie Larson-Green, previously co-chief of the main Windows division, will oversee a new division charged with all hardware devices, from the Surface tablet to the Xbox.

Nearly all of the most senior managers have a new role after the reorganization, which did not include any major new hires.

The moves realign the company that helped revolutionize the personal computing industry in the 1980s into what Chief Executive Steve Ballmer calls a "devices and services" corporation - a nod to Apple Inc, which has surpassed it in profit and market value in recent years.

It is also an implicit rejection of "software", the business which Microsoft helped pioneer and drove the worldwide adoption of personal computing, but in which it faces stiff competition from new rivals that have popularized Internet-based services.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

american political science: kochs play chess, not checkers...,


newyorker | When President Obama unveiled his program to tackle climate change last month, he deliberately sidestepped Congress as a hopeless bastion of obstruction, relying completely on changes that could be imposed by regulatory agencies. A two-year study by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, released today, illustrates what might be one of the reasons why he had to take this circuitous route. Fossil fuel magnates Charles and David Koch have, through Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group they back, succeeded in persuading many members of Congress to sign a little-known pledge in which they have promised to vote against legislation relating to climate change unless it is accompanied by an equivalent amount of tax cuts. Since most solutions to the problem of greenhouse-gas emissions require costs to the polluters and the public, the pledge essentially commits those who sign to it to vote against nearly any meaningful bill regarding global warning, and acts as yet another roadblock to action.

The investigative study tracks the political influence wielded by the billionaire Koch brothers, who have harnessed part of the fortune generated by their company, Koch Industries, the second largest private corporation in the country, to further their conservative libertarian activism. Charles Lewis, the Executive Editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop explained that the I.R.W., a non-profit news organization attached to American University, spent two years focussing on Koch Industries because, “There is no other
corporation in the U.S. today, in my view, that is as unabashedly, bare-knuckle aggressive across the board about its own self-interest, in the political process, in the nonprofit-policy-advocacy realm, even increasingly in academia and the broader public marketplace of ideas.” Formerly head of the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, Lewis has focussed for years on the way money affects American politics. “The Kochs’ influence, without a doubt, is growing,” he believes. A spokeswoman for the Kochs declined to comment.

In its multi-part report, “The Koch Club,” written by Lewis, Eric Holmberg, Alexia Campbell, and Lydia Beyoud, the Workshop found that between 2007 and 2011 the Kochs donated $41.2 million to ninety tax-exempt organizations promoting the ultra-libertarian policies that the brothers favor—policies that are often highly advantageous to their corporate interests. In addition, during this same period they gave $30.5 million to two hundred and twenty-one colleges and universities, often to fund academic programs advocating their worldview. Among the positions embraced by the Kochs are fewer government regulations on business, lower taxes, and skepticism about the causes and impact of climate change. Fist tap Arnach.

koch going 1% viral...,


investigativereportingworkshop | Koch Industries, one of the largest privately held corporations in the world and principally owned by billionaires Charles and David Koch, has developed what may be the best funded, multifaceted, public policy, political and educational presence in the nation today.

From direct political influence and robust lobbying to nonprofit policy research and advocacy, and even increasingly in academia and the broader public “marketplace of ideas,” this extensive, cross-sector Koch club or network appears to be unprecedented in size, scope and funding. And the relationship between these for-profit and nonprofit entities is often mutually reinforcing to the direct financial and political interests of the behemoth corporation — broadly characterized as deregulation, limited government and free markets.
The cumulative cost to Koch Industries and Charles and David Koch for this extraordinary alchemy of political and lobbying influence, nonprofit public policy underwriting and educational institutional support was $134 million over a recent five-year period. The global conglomerate has 60,000 employees and annual revenue of $115 billion and estimated pretax profit margins of 10 percent, according to Forbes.

An analysis by the Investigative Reporting Workshop found that from 2007 through 2011, Koch private foundations gave $41.2 million to 89 nonprofit organizations and an annual libertarian conference. Koch Industries and Charles and David Koch contributed $8.7 million to candidates and the Republican Party in the three election cycles between 2007 through 2012. In addition, Koch private foundations contributed $30.5 million to 221 U.S. colleges and universities and $46.3 million to the arts and other more traditionally charitable purposes during this period.

And while Koch Industries’ lobbyists were spending $53.9 million to further the giant corporation’s federal and state policy agenda, the nonprofits it funded were simultaneously “educating” the public and lawmakers about energy, the environment and other issues in public testimony on Capitol Hill.  Fist taps Arnach and Dale.

skewing emphasis to obscure a key index for measuring global contraction (search the blog for "baltic dry index")


stratfor | The global shipping industry is oversupplied. Because supply far exceeds demand, shipping rates have plummeted, as have the prices of ships. Some shipping companies have sought to capitalize on this trend by purchasing newer, larger ships at lower prices so that they can remain price competitive. But unless demand rebounds by the time these ships become operational, the industry's oversupply problem will only worsen.

It is unclear whether the global shipping industry will normalize before these new ships enter the market. Demand could rise as the global economy recovers, or the supply of ships could somehow fall. But the economy's recovery could just as well be slower than anticipated. Several factors could prevent the industry from righting itself, not the least of which are inaccurate forecasts of future market behavior. In fact, the current state of global shipping was caused in part by incorrect predictions of continued growth prior to the 2008 financial crisis. In any case, continued poor performance and a sluggish global economy could eventually force the shipping industry to restructure.