Wednesday, November 28, 2007
"On November 26, 2007 the Venezuelan government broadcast and circulated a confidential memo from the US embassy to the CIA which is devastatingly revealing of US clandestine operations ... The memo sent by an embassy official, Michael Middleton Steere, was addressed to the Director of Central Intelligence, Michael Hayden. The memo was entitled 'Advancing to the Last Phase of Operation Pincer' and updates the activity by a CIA unit with the acronym 'HUMINT' (Human Intelligence) which is engaged in clandestine action to destabilize the forth-coming referendum and coordinate the civil military overthrow of the elected Chavez government. The Embassy-CIA's polls concede that 57 per cent of the voters approved of the constitutional amendments proposed by Chavez..."
Looks like the CIA is not so busy with carrying on its murderous incompetence in Iraq and Iran that it cannot focus on what it calls "democracy promotion" in Venezuela as well. The CIA has always had strange bedfellows, but a tryst with a formerly Maoist group is new, as far as I know. And I love all the idealistic leftists in Venezuela who fight against the "authoritarian" Chavez; do they love fighting so much that they look forward to the day when they can fight against a pro-capitalist successor government, this time without the CIA's eager assistance?
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Have DU Will Travel - Iconoclast Interview With Leuren Moret by W. Leon Smith
"By firing radioactive ammunition, the U.S., U.K., and Israel may have triggered a nuclear holocaust in the Middle East that, over time, will prove deadlier than the U.S. atomic bombing of Japan.
So much ammunition containing depleted uranium(DU) has been fired, asserts nuclear authority Leuren Moret, 'The genetic future of the Iraqi people for the most part, is destroyed.'
'More than ten times the amount of radiation released during atmospheric testing (of nuclear bombs) has been released from depleted uranium weaponry since 1991,' Moret writes, including radioactive ammunition fired by Israeli troops in Palestine.
Moret is an independent U.S. scientist formerly employed for five years at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and also at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, both of California.
Adds Arthur Bernklau, of Veterans For Constitutional Law, 'The long-term effect of DU is a virtual death sentence. Iraq is a toxic wasteland. Anyone who is there stands a good chance of coming down with cancer and leukemia. In Iraq, the birth rate of mutations is totally out of control.'
Uranium is a heavy metal that enters the body via inhalation into the lung or via ingestion into the GI tract. It is excreted by the kidney, where, if the dose is high enough, it can induce renal failure or kidney cancer. It also lodges in the bones where it causes bone cancer and leukemia, and it is excreted in the semen, where it mutates genes in the sperm, leading to birth deformities.
Nuclear contamination is spreading around the world, [Dr. Helen] Caldicott adds, with heaviest concentrations in regions within a 1,000-mile radius of Baghdad and Afghanistan.
These are, notably, northern India, southern Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tibet, Pakistan, Kuwait, the Gulf emirates, and Jordan.
'Downwind from the radioactive devastation in Iraq, Israel is also suffering from large increases in breast cancer, leukemia and childhood diabetes,' Moret asserts."
"'...the military['s] job is to kill people and to destroy things. Depleted uranium is a very effective weapon. They are not responsible for anything that happens after that point. So they’re going to cover it up so that they can continue to use weapons that kill lots of people and destroy things. The U.S. government, the British government, the Australian government and countries that have used DU are violating international treaties. They are violating the Geneva and the Hague conventions. They’re violating the Geneva 1925 gas protocol that prohibits gas weapons that kill indiscriminately. We are violating our own federal laws. It meets the definition under U.S. federal code in two of three categories. It’s a weapon of mass destruction under our own federal law. It violates U.S. military law. What they’re really worried about is that they would be financially responsible for these terrible weapons and it would totally bankrupt any country. We can never clean up the Middle East or Central Asia. We can’t clean up the atmosphere. They poisoned our world.
Iraq, the former Yugoslovia, and Afghanastan are completely uninhabitable now. No one should be living there.'"
Israel, the hope of the Muslim world by Spengler*
In this editorial - you can get the gist from its name - someone writing under the pseudonym of Spengler wrote: "Buddhism in many forms teaches divine [sic] humility, but the Zen variety prevalent in Japan adapted itself well to the requirements of the samurai caste, which knew loyalty and submission, but not humility." This is a worthy perspective to take - this lens directs one's gaze past the religion as propounded by its theologians or apologists, and examines religion as practiced. Shame Spengler only used it to examine Japanese Zen Buddhism. Had he looked this way at Western Christianity, he may have realized that despite the humility propounded by its apologists to be at the core of Christianity, Western Christianity as practiced could hardly be said to be an instantiation of humility, or the protection of "the weakest and most despised" that he supposes emanates from humility. Ask an African slave, an American Indian, or even the masses of poor United Statesians throughout the centuries how their rulers, in their Christian humility, protected and cared for them.
"I am so terrified, America,
Of the iron click of your human contact.
And after this
The winding-sheet of your selfless ideal love.
Like a poison gas.”
- DH Lawrence, “The Evening Land”
In building his case that Islam does not have a positive view of humility, and therefore does not protect "the weakest and most despised", Spengler's gaze - so sharp when examining Japanese Zen Buddhism - is so blurry that he overlooks the third pillar of Islam, the zakat or tithe: 2.5% of one's savings or business revenue, and 5-10% of one's harvest, to be given to the destitute, the working poor, stranded travelers and others in need. This is a legal obligation peculiar to Islam.
* From what I've read of him, I think it is safe to say that Asia Times Online's Spengler is most likely a Catholic - a believer in Catholicism. Which is, in James Joyce's words, "an absurdity that is logical and coherent." Sometimes the logic and coherence in a Catholic's mind overcome the abundant absurdity, if only briefly. Check out Spengler on female sexuality:
"According to tradition across all cultures, the female sex drive vastly exceeds that of men. The Greek seer Tiresias, who had been both male and female, told the Roman gods (in Ovid's Metamorphoses) that women enjoy sex far more than men. In The Arabian Nights, the Persian Shah Shahryar observes his new bride comporting with a whole troop of slaves. Giovanni Boccaccio famously stated in The Decameron, 'While farmers generally allow one rooster for 10 hens, 10 men are scarcely sufficient to service one woman.' The matriarch Sarah's first reaction to the angelic annunciation of the birth of Isaac was, 'After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?'
Across ages and cultures, women universally are said to be more libidinous than men. I can find no report to the contrary. Women get most of the pain in the propagation of the species, so they should get most of the pleasure."
Sunday, November 18, 2007
"A single change Sunday to the text of the final communique at an OPEC heads of state summit [in Riyadh] appears to have met pressure from Iran, Venezuela and their allies in the oil-producer group to focus attention on the anemic dollar.
Coinciding with calls by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries should start to flex its political muscles, ministers have agreed to create a committee to study how a currency basket for crude, currently priced in dollars, might work....
'The U.S. dollar has no economic value,' Mr. Ahmadinejad said at a news conference, claiming that Mr. Bush's policies are resulting in inflation in other countries.
His oil minister, Gholam Hussein Nozari, told Dow Jones Newswires: 'We have agreed to set up a committee consisting of oil and finance ministers from OPEC countries to study the impact of the dollar on oil prices.'
Iraq's Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani told reporters: 'The committee is to submit to OPEC its recommendation on a basket of currencies that OPEC members will deal with.'
Iran had teamed up with Venezuela to push for a debate on the dollar and to insert a paragraph on it into the final communique.
The communique doesn't contain an explicit mention of the dollar, but, reading from it, Secretary General Abdalla Salem el-Badri said OPEC sought to 'study ways and means of enhancing financial cooperation among OPEC ... including proposals by some of the heads of state and governments in their statements to the summit.'
This is a change from the original draft of the communique, reviewed by Dow Jones Newswires Friday, which read that the group sought to 'encourage great economic and financial cooperation among member countries.'
Friday, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal Friday advised ministers from OPEC not to mention the dollar in their final communique, saying it could further weaken the already-battered currency.
In comments broadcast by mistake on a live television feed from a closed-session meeting of foreign, oil and finance ministers from OPEC member countries, Prince Faisal said: 'We shouldn't mention the dollar because that would only endanger it more and aid its collapse.'
Prince Faisal changed his tune Sunday, saying at a press conference that OPEC wants to maximize its oil revenues and study the implications of 'the economic developments in the global economy today'.
The dollar further weakened Friday on slowing U.S. industrial production. The dollar, which recently hit a 26-year low versus sterling and an all-time low against the euro, has declined in recent months as the U.S. economy has gotten hit by housing and subprime woes.
Ecuador's President Correa said of OPEC's crude: 'We have to trade in a strong currency,' arguing that to stick with the dollar means oil-producing countries are handing off value to richer countries....
[Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that] OPEC is 'stronger than it's ever been in its history' and it must 'become a stronger player in the geopolitical domains' and play a role in battling poverty and assisting development.
Mr. Correa said; 'I agree completely ... OPEC needs a political vision to manage a strategic resource.
With its near-9 million barrels a day of production, the organization's linchpin, Saudi Arabia, holds enormous sway in the group, but King Abdullah may have sensed a shift in the group's center of gravity....
[Voicing his disagreement with Messrs. Correa and Chavez, and without any apparent sense of irony, U.S.-ally Abdullah said] 'Oil shouldn't be a tool for conflict; it should be a tool for development.'
...is that this guy, and others, haven't been overthrown in CIA-sponsored coups. (Not for lack of trying, you could say.) Chavez warns US at Opec summit
"Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, told the session: 'My fear is that any mention that Opec makes of studying the issue of the dollar will in itself have an impact.'
A microphone mistakenly left on meant that the comments of al-Faisal were accidentally broadcast to journalists on Saturday.
He rejected the proposal by Iran and Venezuela who wanted the meeting to discuss the weak dollar, saying: 'There are media people outside waiting to catch this point and they will add to it [exaggerate] and we may find that the dollar collapses.'"
Bill Hicks said about drugs: "George Bush says 'we are losing the war on drugs'. Well you know what that implies? There's a war going on, and people on drugs are winning it! Well what does that tell you about drugs? Some smart, creative motherfuckers on that side."
Support the Writers' Guild strike.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Ignore the dates in this one, just focus on the sound advice: the best way to weather the current market storm is to start off incredibly rich. After all, the pie may be shrinking, but the wealthiest 2% of the country still own over half of it.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Leading Democrats: “Expropriate the Expropriators” by Paul Street
"Wearing a red bandana and a Che Guevera T-Shirt autographed by Hugo Chavez, Clinton introduced her 'fellow-travelers on the road to American and world socialism.' Her new “comrades” and fellow Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama (sporting a new black beret and dashiki), John Edwards (wearing a vintage Soviet Red Army jacket purchased from a Russian clothier), Bill Richardson (dressed as Fidel Castro and sporting a Cuban cigar), Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd joined her on the stage of a high school auditorium to unveil a new 10-point plan 'to overthrow private ownership in the means of production and distribution' and to establish 'workers’ control.'
'I’m a realist,' Obama said. 'Let’s get real about solving poverty, inequality, and environmental collapse and putting meaning back into democracy at home and abroad. Let’s admit a basic truth: none of these problems are going to be fixed – none of these things are going to happen under capitalism.'
'I’m not opposed to all social systems,' Obama added. 'What I do oppose are dumb, destructive, oppressive, and exploitive social systems based on class, race, and gender hierarchy and the rule of the privileged few.'”
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Democracy and climate change: a story of failure by David Shearman
"If governments can recognise a cyclical financial emergency and in an instant move heaven and earth (and billions of dollars, pounds sterling and euros) to contain it, why can they not do the same in response to a global environmental emergency? [The answer comprises] institutional, ideological, and interest-laden factors together with the issue of who controls the public argument. [emphasis added]
It can be argued that all these factors have a common denominator: the fundamental flaws in liberal democracy. The market economy, now the linchpin of western culture, is fused with liberal democracy, such that each is dependent upon the other for survival. Together they have developed a liberty for the individual that has environmentally destructive consequences. The liberty to negate these consequences is constrained.
This article discusses some of the psychological aspects of this situation and introduces the idea of authoritarian action led by experts to address the ecological emergency."
The idea of democracy as the most desirable form of government has been remarkably successful throughout the world (at least until recently, when "democracy" began to be associated by some with what the U.S. did to Iraq). It is a compelling argument indeed that a government's legitimacy derives from the consent and approval it receives from the governed. Of course, every government is legitimate, since "legitimacy" means lawfulness and governments create the law; but the essential idea of democracy is that regardless of any particular government's claim to legitimacy, the only proper, ultimately "legitimate" source of law is the people themselves.
Democracy is rule by the people - the people, meaning by all of the people equally, not by some people disproportionally - and requires that the people create law, or at least that they choose a few people to create law for them. This latter form of democracy, representative democracy, is thought to be untroublesome in that it does not betray the essence of the concept; in fact, democracy is thought to be unwieldy and incapable of implementation without it. The problem with this form of democracy - actually-existing democracy - is that it requires perfect information, meaning that the people know perfectly well what laws their representatives are creating. Furthermore, they must know what their interests are, and have an informed opinion on what means are best to attain the fulfillment of their interests.
Ghandi once said that "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." One could also say that "I like your idea of democracy, but I do not like your democracies. Your democracies are so unlike your idea of democracy." The work that economist Joseph Stiglitz is best known for is his Information Economics, which overturned the traditional neoclassical assumption that free market systems feature perfect information, and demonstrated that due to the highly imperfect access market participants have to information, free markets are actually highly inefficient. This shortcoming of neoclassical economics is shared by democratic theory, and this is why our democracies are so unlike our idea of democracy. The people in a democracy do not have perfect access to information about the people campaigning to represent them or even about the various policy choices theoretically at their disposal. No serious analyst of the U.S. media, for instance, can argue that it actually provides the essential public service of informing the public about politicians, their country, the world around them or the various policies that the people might choose to implement.
"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty" is a phrase ascribed to Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Paine, abolitionist Wendell Phillips and others. Vigilance is not merely a state of mind; it requires information. Without an informed populace, democracy is an utter sham and liberty is unattainable. There is no liberty and no rule by the people where the people are un- or mis-informed; there is only rule by whichever group of people can best fool the people into voting them into power. This is illustrated in graphic detail in the United States today, where the people are ruled by the people who best use the vast propaganda apparatus of the media. The best campaigners truly serve only those upon whom they depend for their political success - those who pay for their multi-million dollar use of the media. The people do not rule, because they are not well-informed, and consequently cannot be vigilant. They cannot pay the price for liberty, and so do not enjoy it.
Because most Unitedstatesians are perfectly ignorant of socialist thought, they have not the slightest idea why someone like Che Guevara would be against "freedom of speech" or "freedom of the press" - other than that he must have been a despotic, power-hungry madman. (Actually, his experience in Guatemala, where an elected democratic socialist leader was overthrown by the CIA's use of force and propaganda, was formative.) A painting by Cuban avant-garde artist Carlos Enríquez Gómez, entitled "Campesinos Felices" (Happy Peasants) brilliantly explains why. In the foreground one sees a skeletal family, the embodiment of poverty and living death. In the background (along with a skeletal dog you can't see in this tiny pic) one sees a flier on a post holding up the pathetic family's hovel. The flier features a pig in a fancy suit and top hat, with one word below - "Vote".
Only a fool could suggest that Cuban peasants would be better off today if they had endured fifty more years of representative democracy and capitalism, and would not be, economically and socially, on par with their neighbors in Haiti, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. This is because economic elites can use their wealth to control the public argument. By putting up insurmountable roadblocks to perfect information, economic elites prevent actually-existing, representative democracies from embodying the essence of democracy: rule by the people.
Hence the reason why our democracies are proving incapable of effectively dealing with climate change - and have proven incapable of addressing poverty - is that the people do not have the information that is a prerequisite to self-rule.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Supermodel Spurns the Dollar - Dollar's Fall Collapses the American Empire; Bring Those 737 Overseas Military Bases Home! by Paul Craig Roberts
This from an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, and former Associate Editor of The Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review:
"The US dollar is still officially the world's reserve currency, but it cannot purchase the services of Brazilian super model Gisele Bundchen. Gisele required the $30 million she earned during the first half of this year to be paid in euros.
The macho super patriots who support the Bush regime still haven't caught on that US superpower status rests on the dollar being the reserve currency, not on a military unable to occupy Baghdad. If the dollar were not the world currency, the US would have to earn enough foreign currencies to pay for its 737 oversees bases [for starters; there are many other components of the military-industrial complex, which accounts for over half of discretionary spending by the U.S. government - J.F.], an impossibility considering America's $800 billion trade deficit.
When the dollar ceases to be the reserve currency, foreigners will cease to finance the US trade and budget deficits, and the American Empire along with its wars will disappear overnight. Perhaps Bush will be able to get a World Bank loan, or maybe one from the 'Chavez bank,' to bring the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Foreign leaders, observing that offshoring and war are accelerating America's relative economic decline, no longer treat the US with the deference to which Washington is accustomed. Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, recently refused Washington's demand to renew the lease on the Manta air base in Ecuador. He told Washington that the US could have a base in Ecuador if Ecuador could have a military base in the US.
In his state of the nation message last year, Russian president Vladimir Putin said that Bush's blathering about democracy was nothing but a cloak for the pursuit of American self-interests at the expense of other peoples. 'We are aware what is going on in the world. Comrade wolf knows whom to eat, and he eats without listening, and he's clearly not going to listen to anyone.' In May 2007, Putin criticized the neocon regime in Washington for 'disrespect for human life' and 'claims to global exclusiveness, just as it was in the time of the Third Reich.'
Even America's British allies regard President Bush as a threat to world peace and the second most dangerous man alive. Bush is edged out in polls by Osama bin Laden, but is regarded as more dangerous than Iran's demonized president and North Korea's Kim Jong-il.
President Bush has achieved his dismal world standing despite spending $1.6 billion of hard-pressed Americans' tax money on public relations between 2003 and 2006.
Even as Gisele throws off the dollar's hegemony, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Columbia are declaring independence of the IMF and World Bank, instruments of US financial hegemony, by creating their own development bank, thus bringing to an end US suzerainty over South America.
An empire that has lost its backyard is finished."
The Enemy Within: Finding American Backs to Stab by William J. Astore
"The world's finest military launches a highly coordinated shock-and-awe attack that shows enormous initial progress. There's talk of the victorious troops being home for Christmas. But the war unexpectedly drags on. As fighting persists into a third, and then a fourth year, voices are heard calling for negotiations, even "peace without victory." Dismissing such peaceniks and critics as defeatists, a conservative and expansionist regime -- led by a figurehead who often resorts to simplistic slogans and his Machiavellian sidekick who is considered the brains behind the throne -- calls for one last surge to victory. Unbeknownst to the people on the home front, however, this duo has already prepared a seductive and self-exculpatory myth in case the surge fails.
The United States in 2007? No[*], Wilhelmine Germany in 1917 and 1918, as its military dictators, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and his loyal second, General Erich Ludendorff, pushed Germany toward defeat and revolution in a relentless pursuit of victory in World War I. Having failed with their surge strategy on the Western Front in 1918, they nevertheless succeeded in deploying a stab-in-the-back myth, or Dolchstoßlegende, that shifted blame for defeat from themselves and Rightist politicians to Social Democrats and others allegedly responsible for losing the war by their failure to support the troops at home."
*...but of course it is also the United States in 2007.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
A moral audit of the British empire by Piers Brendon
"The history of the Raj was punctuated by further famines, which caused tens of millions of deaths. These were not, as Mike Davis claims, colonial 'holocausts'. But the British failed lamentably in India, as they did in Ireland, in their duty of care."
I don't know Piers, but if one defines a holocaust as a great destruction of human life, it is hard for me to understand why the Indian famines Mike Davis describes in his "Late Victorian Holocausts" do not so qualify. By forcibly drawing Indian agriculture into world markets under British dominion and thereby eviscerating traditional safeguards against drought-induced famine, the Raj "caused tens of millions of deaths". In India as in Ireland, food was shipped by rail away from famine-ravaged regions for sale on world markets (and British soldiers used lethal force to keep stores of grain from being eaten by starving Indians). Tens of millions of deaths resulted. How is this not a great destruction of human life, caused of course by drought but also by the crucial intervention of human agency - the British imperial system - and therefore, unequivocally, a "colonial holocaust"?
What's bad for the U.S. economy is not necessarily bad for the rest of the world. The current international economic structure is so unjust as to be absurd. Working people throughout the world slaving away to produce throwaway products for United Statesians, who produce little in return, while their central banks bankroll United Statesian deficits largely comprising military spending on wars and an international network of bases that the rest of the world hates and resents? The invisible hand, and its lesser known counterpart the visible hand of powerful governments, must surely be attached to an imbecile. If only it were time for the few who profit from this state of affairs to open the window and hop over the ledge.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Next came the fall of several hundred points in the Sensex. That is, barely a couple of days later. It took minutes for the top guns to swing into action. Fingers were in every dyke... What stood out, of course, was the swiftness of both government and media response to each twitch in the index.
No Minister came forward to calm the nation when India hit the 94th rank in the Global Hunger Index. That's out of 118 countries."
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Feeling the Effects of a Housing Bust (in NYC) by Andrew Beveridge
Also, if financial firms keep getting hammered, there could be a repeat of 1987, when the NYC housing market fell along with the stock market, but took eight years longer to recover. The 1929 crash is unlikely to happen again, since the ideology of believing in the perfection of free market capitalism died a few years after; and although it largely resurrected itself in the 80s, it is now understood by all but the most zealous that socialism has to be used to rescue capitalists whenever they stumble into one of their inevitable bouts of financial self-destruction.
Friday, November 02, 2007
"Take the current Republican party candidates for their party’s presidential nomination. The level of intelligence, emotional and intellectual maturity, and simple information about the subjects on which they discourse, would disqualify them from mainstream political rank in any other major democracy.
This is seriously distressing – although in principle a soluble problem, since there are plenty of intelligent people in the United States, as well as great universities and a rich culture. But elected U.S. government has been so debased by the national willingness to submit elections to the values and habits of a medium of entertainment, television, and to the corruptions of money, that it is hard to see that such a nation can indefinitely maintain representative government."
Worst EU Lobbying Awards 2007
Vote for the worst EU Lobbies! Celebrate freedom! As our wise Supreme Court says, propaganda is constitutionally-protected
Thursday, November 01, 2007
How Argentina Jump-Started Its Economy by Mark Weisbrot
I'm posting this in response to Monday's op-ed by The Wall Street Journal's Resident Latin America Hack, Mary Anastasia O'Grady, in which she wrote "the Kirchner government has made a mess of the economy." As opposed to the prior administration, which made a catastrophe ending in default and riots that we are to suppose was... well-organized?