"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

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Cal Tech Scientists Build Artificial Neural Network Using DNA: Test Tube DNA Brain Gets Quiz Questions Right

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Oldspeak: “We are on the threshold of an era in which the data processors of the human body may be manipulated or debilitated.” –Lt. Col. Timothy L. Thomas in U.S. Army War College Quarterly (1998) And just like that, with little to no fanfare…(As compared to the politically/religiously motivated controversy over stem cell research for curing disease) “Skynet” is born. “The Skynet Funding Bill is passed. The system goes on-line August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug…” –The Terminator in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. In this latest example of life imitating art we can only wonder if this seemingly benign scientific achievement will remain so for long. You can bet your ass some DARPA scientist has envisioned predator drones and other military hardware operating with highly sophisticated artificial brains. Extensive research in “Psychotronic” warfare and mind-c0ntrol/disruption has been going on for decades in relative obscurity Project Chatter, Project Bluebird, Project Artichoke, MK ULTRA, and Silent Sound Spread Spectrum technology for example. One has to wonder why untold billions has been spent to develop this mind manipulation technology, given the fact that technology developed for military use invariably is transferred to consumer/civilian applications.(Internet, GPS, Infrared, Radar, Lasers, Kevlar, Wireless, Predator Drones, etc, etc, etc….”The Mind Has No Firewall“.

By Marcus Woo @ Laboratory Journal:

Artificial intelligence has been the inspiration for countless books and movies, as well as the aspiration of countless scientists and engineers. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have now taken a major step toward creating artificial intelligence-not in a robot or a silicon chip, but in a test tube. The researchers are the first to have made an artificial neural network out of DNA, creating a circuit of interacting molecules that can recall memories based on incomplete patterns, just as a brain can.

“The brain is incredible,” says Lulu Qian, a Caltech senior postdoctoral scholar in bioengineering and lead author on the paper describing this work, published in the July 21 issue of the journal Nature. “It allows us to recognize patterns of events, form memories, make decisions, and take actions. So we asked, instead of having a physically connected network of neural cells, can a soup of interacting molecules exhibit brainlike behavior?”

The answer, as the researchers show, is yes.

Consisting of four artificial neurons made from 112 distinct DNA strands, the researchers’ neural network plays a mind-reading game in which it tries to identify a mystery scientist. The researchers “trained” the neural network to “know” four scientists, whose identities are each represented by a specific, unique set of answers to four yes-or-no questions, such as whether the scientist was British.

After thinking of a scientist, a human player provides an incomplete subset of answers that partially identifies the scientist. The player then conveys those clues to the network by dropping DNA strands that correspond to those answers into the test tube.

Communicating via fluorescent signals, the network then identifies which scientist the player has in mind. Or, the network can “say” that it has insufficient information to pick just one of the scientists in its memory or that the clues contradict what it has remembered. The researchers played this game with the network using 27 different ways of answering the questions (out of 81 total combinations), and it responded correctly each time.

This DNA-based neural network demonstrates the ability to take an incomplete pattern and figure out what it might represent-one of the brain’s unique features. “What we are good at is recognizing things,” says coauthor Jehoshua “Shuki” Bruck, the Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Computation and Neural Systems and Electrical Engineering. “We can recognize things based on looking only at a subset of features.” The DNA neural network does just that, albeit in a rudimentary way.

Biochemical systems with artificial intelligence-or at least some basic, decision-making capabilities-could have powerful applications in medicine, chemistry, and biological research, the researchers say. In the future, such systems could operate within cells, helping to answer fundamental biological questions or diagnose a disease. Biochemical processes that can intelligently respond to the presence of other molecules could allow engineers to produce increasingly complex chemicals or build new kinds of structures, molecule by molecule.

Read more in the original publication on how they realized their biochemical neural network:
Lulu Qian, Erik Winfree and Jehoshua Bruck: Neural network computation with DNA strand displacement cascadesNature 475, 368-372 (21 July 2011) doi:10.1038/nature10262

or at
http://media.caltech.edu/

Teaser picture: Credit: Caltech/Lulu Qian

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America Held Hostage To Two-Party System Failure: Government Of, By & For The Corporations

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2011 at 10:41 am

Oldspeak:There is no correlation between who drove the economic crisis and who is paying the price. The disparity of wealth is stark, as compensation at publicly traded Wall St. firms hit a record $135 billion in 2010. “Austerity” and “shared sacrifice” are Washington code for preserving tax advantages and privilege for the wealthiest, while transferring private debt and risk to the public, onto the backs of the working/middle class.” –Michelle Swenson.  The Peoples Budget, written by the Congressional Progressive Caucus is not even being considered even though it is the most sensible, would create a surplus in 10 years, eliminate the deficit sooner than the Obama or Ryan budget and reflects the will of most of the American people. “It would end the main budget deficit drivers – the Bush tax cuts and Middle East wars; restore progressive income and estate taxes; add negotiation of bulk drug rates to Medicare and preserve Medicare, Medicaid Social Security; eliminate tax subsidies for oil, gas and coal companies; close loopholes for multinational corporations; and tax speculative financial transactions“- Michelle Swenson. In other words, Oligarchy rules the day in the U.S.A.

By Michelle Swenson @ Truthout:

Washington rhetoric waxes Orwellian in proportion to inside-the-Beltway disconnect around cause and effect of the US economic crisis. Ranging from the Ryan Budget – “kill Medicare to save it” – and some Democrats – “cut Medicare and Social Security to save them” – to claims that deficit reduction (not jobs) is “what the people want,” to the “greed is good” creed that assigns entitlements in the form of taxpayer bailouts to wealthy financial institutions that take for granted the ability to shift risk for their liar’s loans and speculative transactions. “Austerity” and “shared sacrifice” are Washington code for preserving tax advantages and privilege for the wealthiest, while transferring private debt and risk to the public, onto the backs of the working/middle class.

Phil Angelides, chair of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, notes that 24 million Americans lack work and nearly $9 trillion in household wealth has vanished since the 2008 economic crisis. The commission’s January report detailed “the recklessness of the financial industry and the abject failures of policymakers and regulators that brought our economy to its knees in late 2008.”

Writes Angelides, there is “no correlation between who drove the crisis and who is paying the price.” The disparity of wealth is stark, as “compensation at publicly traded Wall St. firms hit a record $135 billion in 2010.” He notes that, in the face of overwhelming evidence of the causes of economic catastrophe, Wall Street and its allies are revising history, e.g., Republicans like Paul Ryan ignore the fact that “our federal budget deficit has ballooned more than $1 trillion annually since the financial collapse.” Instead of confronting the real causes of the deficit, budget shortfalls are conflated with “the long-term challenges of Medicare” as an excuse to shred the social safety net. Rather than rein in widespread lending abuses, Republicans seek to weaken the authority of the new consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Economist Joseph Stiglitz calls out the titans of finance, who continue to make mega bonuses for their companies’ mega losses, even after they set the global economy in a tailspin and shifted all risks for their unregulated credit default swaps onto taxpayers. He describes a nation of, by and for the 1 percent that enjoys 25 percent of economic benefits, largely purchased by Washington lobbyists. The Republican (Ryan) budget plan would cut $5.8 trillion from government spending over the next decade and reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, while increasing next year’s Pentagon budget by $17 billion. The highly touted Bowles-Simpson proposal for deficit reduction is a recipe for a weaker economy, warns Stiglitz, as it will decrease jobs, and in turn, decrease revenues. A primary means to decrease the deficit is to increase jobs, a goal that ultraconservatives wrongly equate with large tax breaks for the wealthy – so-called “job creators” – never mind that the Bush tax cuts failed to provide jobs over a decade.

It is easier to destroy than to build democracy. Concerted assaults on democracy over four decades serve the ends of those who deem it their right to rule and reign: Republican religious ideologues and acolytes of Milton Friedman economics. Disaster capitalists precipitate crises by running up huge deficits (during the Reagan and Bush one and two regimes), followed by demands for balanced budgets and deficit reduction, as a means of drastically cutting domestic spending and gutting public education, government jobs and public pensions and shifting all wealth upward.

The political right has laid waste to democratic principles by sabotaging elections and the economy and auctioning government to the highest bidder. Some rightists deem it a “citizen’s duty” to challenge the legitimacy of the “ruling regime” by refusing to obey the law – i.e., “destroy the nation to save it.” Certain issues should be advanced “for the purpose of prompting a constitutional crisis,” pronounced law professor Russell Hittinger. The 2000 Supreme Court majority selection of George W. Bush reset the bar for challenges to the constitution, as did Citizens United vs. FEC in 2010.

The 1994 Gingrich revolution ushered in the large-scale sell-off of government to corporate interest groups. Corporate lobbyists were invited to write legislation to eradicate regulations for worker safety, labor rights and environmental protections – the so-called “Project Relief” part of the Republican agenda. Simultaneously,Republican House Whip Tom DeLay (“The Hammer”) pressured corporate political action committees (PACs) to contribute solely to the GOP, reasoning, “People that are pro-free enterprise should support people who are pro-free enterprise.”

In 1995, then-GOP Conference Chair John Boehner handed out tobacco PAC money checks to Republicans on the floor of the House, even as Newt Gingrich warned lobbyists, “For anyone who’s not on board now it’s going to be the two coldest years in Washington.” Republican leaders in a private 1997 meeting with 200 top corporate executives of the Business Roundtable demanded that all contributions to Democrats cease, or corporations would forfeit access to the Republican Congressional majority. Grover Norquist, riding herd over the “K Street Project,” demanded that big business hire GOP-credentialed lobbyists and fire those with Democratic connections. By the 108th Congress, it fell to Sen. Rick Santorum to reward party loyalty by vetting the hiring decisions of major lobbyists. “If you want to play in our revolution, you have to live by our rules,” pronounced DeLay.

The “defund-the-left” campaign was abetted by Virginia Lamp Thomas, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, and a key staff member for then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who compiled a hit list of liberal groups and nonprofit groups. More recently, Virginia Thomas reportedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars from groups that had expressed direct interest in the outcome of cases that came before her husband, including Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which struck down any limitations on corporate contributions to elections, sealing the Republican deal to crush democracy.

In the ’90s, Democratic leadership, reinforced by such corporate-backed groups as the Democratic Leadership Council, turned increasingly to corporate money, away from working people. With both major parties in thrall to corporate money and influence, “we the people” has effectively become “the silenced majority,” discounted voices sought out only for votes during election years, an increasingly futile exercise as big money buys candidates and outcomes.

The majority (53 percent) of Americans who opposed the 2010 extension of the Bush tax cuts watched in dismay as President Obama started with compromise and met his Republican hostage-takers more than half way. Neither did majority popular support result in passage of strong financial regulation, importation of lower-cost drugs or government-payer universal health care.

The fatal flaw of Barack Obama’s presidency seems to be the compulsion to compromise with the likes of Norquist, bent on destroying democracy by “drowning government in a bathtub.” The deficit in public investment imperils us more than the budget deficit, observes former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, citing tax revenues that are less than 15 percent of the total economy, the lowest in 60 years. Large reductions in federal taxes affect state and local revenues, placing more locales on the brink of bankruptcy – thus fulfilling Norquist’s fondest wish for state bankruptcies and “bitter nastiness and partisanship” in state capitals.

The president’s failure to lead by using the bully pulpit to educate about the true nature of economic crisis and recovery has resulted in Democrats’ surrender to Republicans of the economic narrative around deficits, spending, taxes, health care etc. More than the Tea Party corporate shills, disingenuous rhetoric around the economy and the lack of any counter-narrative by the president discouraged voters from going to the polls in 2010 and will likely discourage them again in 2012.

In 1995, a highly secretive umbrella group of America’s right-wing leaders, the little known
Council for National Policy Action, circulated a confidential memo urging members to push for a governmental shutdown in order to force President Clinton to cave to their budget demands. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Indiana) was quoted: “This is our maximum point of leverage to insist that parts of the revolution are executed.” The brief government shutdown that followed failed to achieve their goals. Republicans have willingly upped the ante, holding the country hostage to the threat of economic catastrophe in order to achieve their long-time goal of gutting all New Deal and Great Society programs, while codifying tax cuts for the wealthy. Americans are again being held for ransom in a naked high-stakes grab for total wealth and power.

The majority of people are hungry for a truth teller/leader, like Sen. Bernie Sanders. Instead, corporate media reloops the one-note deficit propaganda of the right-wing sound machine, not seeing fit to even mention The People’s Budget, written by the Progressive Caucus. The People’s Budget would eliminate the deficit sooner than either the proposed Obama or Ryan Budgets and raise a $31 billion surplus in ten years. It would end the main budget deficit drivers – the Bush tax cuts and Middle East wars; restore progressive income and estate taxes; add negotiation of bulk drug rates to Medicare and preserve Medicare, Medicaid Social Security; eliminate tax subsidies for oil, gas and coal companies; close loopholes for multinational corporations; and tax speculative financial transactions. All are goals supported by the majority of people.

Likewise, Medicare-for-All would contribute substantially to economic recovery. Reich writes that expanding the Medicare risk pool to include all healthy young and sick elderly would save $58 billion to $400 billion annually and sharply reduce the budget crisis, while also permitting negotiation of lower rates with hospitals, doctors and pharmaceutical companies. Payment reform to reward quality not quantity care would provide additional savings.

Circular talk around the deficit short circuits meaningful action around the creation of jobs and financial and election reforms. Sorely needed to counter the corruption of money in elections are the Fair Campaigns Now Act, free media time for all serious candidates and other remedies such as instant runoff voting and reversing the notion of corporate “personhood.” Humboldt County, California, passed a county ordinance in 2006 to prohibit nonlocal corporate contributions to elections and also asserting that corporations cannot claim the First Amendment right to free speech. Counties nationwide should follow the lead of a number of counties that have drafted ordinances to deny corporate personhood.

The two main political parties are failing to serve the people, both locked in a dance of dysfunctional political posturing in service of power. In a candid moment this spring, speaking to Charlie Rose, some New York Times correspondentsacknowledged the sorry state of our politics: Tom Friedman remarked that we are trapped in a “corrupt duopoly.” Crony capitalism is the norm in Washington, lamented David Brooks. Both expressed the wish for a reputable third party to break the Washington gridlock.

Now is the moment for voices that have been willfully ignored in recent years to come together to form a true grassroots movement to advocate for progressive change. Sponsored by over 100 groups led by MoveOn.org, “Rebuild the American Dream” house meetings across the country convened starting July 16 and 17, providing the opportunity for participants to begin writing a “Contract for the American Dream” to serve the people.

The time is a now or never to restore the promise of democracy stolen by the oligarchs.


U.S. Debt Crisis Being Used To Implement Shock Doctrine To Steal More Money From The American People To Give To The Richest 1%

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Oldspeak: “As a progressive, I am absolutely TERRIFIED that President Obama, quoted RONALD REAGAN last night. That tells you all you need to know about how far to the right this man has moved in his thinking. While he tried to sell his deficit reduction proposal as “balanced” and a “fairly shared burden”, The details he didn’t “want to bore you with” are these: Public assets and lands (some oil and gas rich) would be sold to private entities, and potential government revenue will be lost to the private sector. A ‘tax holiday’ would be provided to corporations to continue to internalize their off-shored profits in the form of bonuses. The corporate tax rate will be reduced from 35% to a range of 23-29%. Loopholes which taxes income on wealth (stock and bond returns) at a lower rate than income on work (salaries and wages) will not be closed. That insures that the richest Americans pay a lower rate of taxes than their chauffeurs.”It will cut retirement deductions, the mortgage deduction and the tax benefits for employer-based health care. This is likely to hurt middle-class homeowners, and workers whose employers provide decent health care. It will add to unemployment in the short term, increase Gilded Age inequality, leave seniors more vulnerable, and shackle any possibility of rebuilding America. It puts the burden of deficit reduction on the elderly, the poor and the vulnerable, endangers jobs and growth.” –Robert Borosage. World Bank/IMF style austerity measures have come home to roost. Bottom line, the rich continue ‘winning’ and you continue to get fucked.”

By Washington’s Blog:

noted in 2008:

The powers-that-be have used the “Shock Doctrine” to pass anti-American, fascist legislation while the public was in a state of shock.

This applies to economic shocks, as well as physical attacks like 9/11.

Indeed, right now, Paulson and Bernanke are using the shock doctrine to try to ram through legislation that would help out the fat cats at the expense of taxpayers, and give the government control over the free market.

But there is some resistance. For example, Senator Leahy and the New York Times are questioning Paulson’s use of shock and awe:

  • Senator Leahy said “If we learned anything from 9/11, the biggest mistake is to pass anything they ask for just because it’s an emergency”
  • The New York Times wrote:

    “The rescue is being sold as a must-have emergency measure by an administration with a controversial record when it comes to asking Congress for special authority in time of duress.”
    ***

    Mr. Paulson has argued that the powers he seeks are necessary to chase away the wolf howling at the door: a potentially swift shredding of the American financial system. That would be catastrophic for everyone, he argues, not only banks, but also ordinary Americans who depend on their finances to buy homes and cars, and to pay for college.

    Some are suspicious of Mr. Paulson’s characterizations, finding in his warnings and demands for extraordinary powers a parallel with the way the Bush administration gained authority for the war in Iraq. Then, the White House suggested that mushroom clouds could accompany Congress’s failure to act. This time, it is financial Armageddon supposedly on the doorstep.

    “This is scare tactics to try to do something that’s in the private but not the public interest,” said Allan Meltzer, a former economic adviser to President Reagan, and an expert on monetary policy at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business. “It’s terrible.”

The Tarp bailouts were passed using apocalyptic – and false – threats. For example, as I’ve previously reported

The New York Times wrote last year:

In retrospect, Congress felt bullied by Mr. Paulson last year. Many of them fervently believed they should not prop up the banks that had led us to this crisis — yet they were pushed by Mr. Paulson and Mr. Bernanke into passing the $700 billion TARP, which was then used to bail out those very banks.

Indeed, Congressmen Brad Sherman and Paul Kanjorski and Senator James Inhofe all say that the government warned of martial law if Tarp wasn’t passed. That is especially interesting given that the financial crisis had actually been going on for a long time, but – instead of dealing with it – Paulson and the rest of the crew tried to cover it up and pretend it was “contained”, and that it was obvious to world leaders months earlier that it was not a liquidity crisis, but a solvency crisis (and see this).

Bait And Switch

The Tarp Inspector General has said that Paulson misrepresented the big banks’ health in the run-up to passage of TARP. This is no small matter, as the American public would have not been very excited about giving money to insolvent institutions.

And Paulson himself has said:

During the two weeks that Congress considered the [Tarp] legislation, market conditions worsened considerably. It was clear to me by the time the bill was signed on October 3rd that we needed to act quickly and forcefully, and that purchasing troubled assets—our initial focus—would take time to implement and would not be sufficient given the severity of the problem. In consultation with the Federal Reserve, I determined that the most timely, effective step to improve credit market conditions was to strengthen bank balance sheets quickly through direct purchases of equity in banks.

So Paulson knew “by the time the bill was signed” that it wouldn’t be used for its advertised purpose – disposing of toxic assets – and would instead be used to give money directly to the big banks?Senator McCain also says that Paulson pulled a bait-and-switch:

Sen. John McCain of Arizona … says he was misled by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. McCain said the pair assured him that the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program would focus on what was seen as the cause of the financial crisis, the housing meltdown.

“Obviously, that didn’t happen,” McCain said in a meeting Thursday withThe Republic‘s Editorial Board, recounting his decision-making during the critical initial days of the fiscal crisis. “They decided to stabilize the Wall Street institutions, bail out (insurance giant) AIG, bail out Chrysler, bail out General Motors. . . . What they figured was that if they stabilized Wall Street – I guess it was trickle-down economics – that therefore Main Street would be fine.”

Even the New York Times called Paulson a liar in 2008:

“First [Paulson’s Department of Treasury] says it has to have $700 billion to buy back toxic mortgage-backed securities. Then, as Mr. Paulson divulged to The Times this week, it turns out that even before the bill passed the House, he told his staff to start drawing up a plan for capital injections. Fearing Congress’s reaction, he didn’t tell the Hill about his change of heart.

Now, he’s shifted gears again, and is directing Treasury to use the money to force bank acquisitions. Sneaking in the tax break isn’t exactly confidence-inspiring, either.”

What tax breaks is the Times talking about? The article explains:

A new tax break [pushed by Treasury], worth billions to the banking industry, that has only one purpose: to encourage bank mergers. As a tax expert, Robert Willens, put it: “It couldn’t be clearer if they had taken out an ad.”

Indeed, all of the other “emergency” economic and monetary measures – like quantitative easing – didn’t help the American people, but just helped the richest 1%. And most of the bailout and “easy” money went to foreign banks (and see thisthis and this).

The Same Thing Is Happening With the Debt Ceiling

The same thing is now happening with the debt ceiling debate.

We know that the productive actions which would reduce the debt and fix the economy arenot being discussed. See thisthisthisthisthis and this.

What is being discussed would just steal more money from the American people and give it to the richest 1%. For example, Congress is planning on selling off “unused federal property”. Selling off and privatizing public assets and resources is a core tactic in shock doctrine schemes.

As Matt Taibbi shows, another tax holiday for big corporations is one of the main focuses of discussion in D.C.

MSN Money reports

The plan proposes three [tax brackets] (we now have six) and would lower the top rate — and the corporate tax rate — from 35% to a range of 23% to 29%. That would be great news for rich folks. “That could provide a windfall for wealthy taxpayers because the 35% tax bracket currently applies to taxable income above $379,150,” said The Associated Press.

 There are numerous other giveaways to the biggest fatcats, which will be paid for by slashing social security and otherwise fleecing the elderly.

Robert Borsage notes that the proposed debt agreement:

Would add to unemployment in the short term, increase Gilded Age inequality, leave seniors more vulnerable, and shackle any possibility of rebuilding America. It puts the burden of deficit reduction on the elderly, the poor and the vulnerable, endangers jobs and growth, and lards even more tax breaks on the rich.

The Nation writes:

The [proposed debt ceiling agreement] proposal shafts those who have already borne so much of the burden of the financial crisis and its fallout—lost pensions, lost homes, lost wealth—while the very people who brought the economy to its knees through their recklessness make out like banksters and bandits. In fact, at a time of inequality akin to that of the Gilded Age, the top marginal tax rate would be lowered—lowered!—to 23 to 29 percent, while there would be massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR),notes that JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein would save approximately $2 million to $3 million on their tax bills. But in twenty years, a 90-year-old living on a Social Security income of $15,000 would lose more than $1,200 a year in benefits.

How’s that a “bargain” for this nation and who exactly finds it “grand”?

All along, the alternatives that reflect the popular idea of shared sacrifice have been marginalized—by the political establishment (and, tragically, the Democratic leadership) and the corporate media.

***

This is not about left and right. This is about right and wrong. And that’s something the political and media establishment just don’t seem to get. 

And Senator Sanders points out today that there is no shared sacrifice by the top 1%, but that the government may take from the poor and middle class in numerous ways for years to come:

There will be major cuts in Social Security … Medicare … Medicaid and other health care programs … education … nutrition program[s] … environmental protection.
***
There are very, very clear provisions making sure that we are going to make massive cuts in programs for working families, for the elderly, for the children. Those cuts are written in black and white. What about the revenue? Well, it’s kind of vague. The projection is that we would rise over a 10-year period $100 billion in revenue. Where is that going to come? Is it necessarily going to come from the wealthiest people in this economy? Is it going to come from large corporations who are enjoying huge tax breaks? That is not clear at all. I want middle-class families to understand that when we talk about increased revenues, do you know where that comes from? It may come from cutbacks in the home mortgage interest deduction program, which is so very important to millions and millions of families. It may mean that if you have a health care program today, that health care program may be taxed. That’s a way to raise revenue. It may be that there will be increased taxes on your retirement programs, your I.R.A.’s, your 401(k)’s.

 Note: As usual, it’s not liberal-versus-conservative, but the top 1% versus the rest of the country, and you versus the giant corporations. See thisthisthisthisthisthisthisthisthisthis and this.

And – no – the top 1% are not using the money to create more jobs. It’s being used for prostitutes and other hanky panky.

The Terrorist Threat The U.S. Is Ignoring At Its Peril: Imported Consumer Tech Contains Hidden Hacker Attack Tools

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Oldspeak: “Behold! More bitter and toxic fruits of globalization,”free-trade”, de-industrialization, job-offshoring and insatiable corporate thirst for cheap non-union labor. A top Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official has admitted on the record that electronics sold in the U.S. are being preloaded with spyware, malware, and security-compromising components by unknown foreign parties. “The corporate media and political Establishment avoid discussing these issues not because they are insignificant, but because the corporations that own the media and buy the politicians also profit off a regulation- and tariff-free trade policy that helps companies cut costs by moving production to low-wage countries. Not surprisingly, then, a discussion of the downsides of those trade policies has become a victim of a form of self-censorship that presents free trade as an exclusively economic (and positive) policy.” –David Sirota. While Americans are whipped in to fearful frenzy over largely phantom threats from Arabs and Arab states, there is very little discussion of the clear and present danger presented by foreign produced technology that has thoroughly penetrated every nook and cranny of the society for the reasons stated above. The U.S. government  has devoted billions to “Cybersecurity” initiatives, again focusing on the outcomes and not dealing with the root causes: Grossly unfavorable trade imbalances, and decimated home-grown technology production capacity. If Americans built these electronics in America, this would not be an issue. Sensitive White House, and Defense Department networks have already been breached on numerous occasions, no industry is immune to this threat, yet these conditions persist. But given the fact government has been captured by the Corporatocracy, these conditions are allowed to persist, to the benefit of cost externalizing corporations and the detriment of Americans and their national security.  Profit is Paramount.”

By David Sirota @ Truthdig:

According to the U.S. government, the list of known bogeymen working to compromise American national security is long, and getting longer by the day. By my back-of-the-envelope count, we have shoe bombers, underwear bombers, dirty bombers and car bombers. Now, we are being told to fear “implant bombers” who will surgically attach explosives to their innards.

All of these threats are indeed scary. But the fear of individual attacks has diverted attention from a more systemic threat of terrorists or foreign governments exploiting our economy’s penchant for job-offshoring. How? By using our corresponding reliance on imports to stitch security-compromising technology into our society’s central IT nervous system.

Sounds far-fetched, right? That’s what I thought, until I read a recent article in Fast Company. Covering a little-noticed congressional hearing, the magazine reported that a top Department of Homeland Security official “admitted on the record that electronics sold in the U.S. are being preloaded with spyware, malware, and security-compromising components.”

The process through which this happens is straightforward—and its connection to our current trade policies is obvious. First, an American company or governmental agency orders computer hardware or software from a tech company. Then, because the “free” trade era has incentivized that company to move its production facilities to low-wage countries, much of that order is actually fulfilled at foreign factories where security standards may be lacking.

If this still sounds far-fetched, remember that in the offshoring age, one of the major high-tech exporters is China. That is, the country which has been turning computers into stealth weapons of the police state (for proof, Google the terms “Great Firewall” or “Green Dam”).

Sadly, this threat is about way more than new glitches in Angry Birds. At a time when missiles are remotely fired via keystrokes, supply-chain vulnerabilities in high-tech products are a genuine security problem.

What might those vulnerabilities mean in practice? As the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission reported, they could mean “kill switches” secretly implanted in Pentagon systems that control our arsenal. Or they could mean new backdoors that allow Chinese military hackers to again breach Defense Department computer networks, as they did in 2007.

The possibilities are, unfortunately, endless. And yet this threat has been largely ignored for two reasons.

First, the threat is invisible, and therefore doesn’t make for good television. Instead, much of the media promotes stories involving sensational images of naked-body scanners and ignores less telegenic monsters lurking within circuits, algorithms and code.

Second, an examination of supply chain vulnerabilities would force us to question free-trade theologies that powerful interests don’t want challenged.

For decades, trade-related reporting has mostly focused on jobs. Left almost completely unmentioned are other concerns that free-trade critics have raised—concerns about the environment, human rights and, yes, national security.

The media and political Establishment avoid discussing these issues not because they are insignificant, but because the corporations that own the media and buy the politicians also profit off a regulation- and tariff-free trade policy that helps companies cut costs by moving production to low-wage countries. Not surprisingly, then, a discussion of the downsides of those trade policies has become a victim of a form of self-censorship that presents free trade as an exclusively economic (and positive) policy.

Appreciating the power of that self-censorship is simply to behold the reticence surrounding the supply chain problem. In a money-dominated media and political system that otherwise loves a good scare, the silence suggests that free-trade orthodoxy trumps all—even major national security threats.

David Sirota is the best-selling author of the new book “Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now.” He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at http://www.davidsirota.com.

Obama’s Compromising On Democratic Legacy Programs Stirs Talk of Democratic Primary Challenge In 2012

In Uncategorized on July 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Oldspeak:”I think there are millions of Americans who are deeply disappointed in the president, who believe that with regard to Social Security and other things, he said one thing as a candidate and is doing something very much else as a president—who cannot believe how weak he has been for whatever reason in negotiating with Republicans, and there’s deep disappointment. So my suggestion is: I think one of the reasons the president has made the move so far to the right is that there is no primary opposition to him and I think it would do this country a good deal of service if people started thinking about candidates out there to begin contrasting a progressive agenda as opposed to what Obama believes he’s doing.”-Sen. Bernie Sanders “Obama’s approval rating among liberals has dropped to the lowest point in his presidency, and roughly one in four Americans who disapprove of him say they feel that way because he has not been liberal enough, a new high for that measure.”-Keating Holland. Whew. Glad to know I’m not the only one not pleased with Obama’s moonwalk to the right. What remains to be seen is who will step up. Given the fact that most democrats are bought and paid for just like Obama, I’m not holding my breath. Add to that the fact you have to raise be a billion dollars to even mount a credible presidential run. But Alas, should we really be surprised that Obama is more of the same? This is what Democratic presidents do. Campaign on a progressive platform,  govern conservative right. Carter Did it. Clinton did it. And now Obama is doing it. Moral of the story? The Corporatocracy rules.

By John Nichols @ The Nation:

President Obama and his political counselors do not appear to recognize or respect the depth of the disenchantment among Democrats who fear he is preparing to abandon the commitments made by Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and generations of Democratic leaders to not just preserve but expand Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

At a recent gathering with liberal Democrats and progressive independents in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Obama’s home state of Illinois, I have been struck by the extent of the frustration with the president is growing. There has always been a good deal of griping about Obama’s maintenance of the Bush administration’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—and his decision to launch a new fight with Libya—as well as compromises on issues ranging from health-care reform to regulation of Wall Street, but this is different. As Obama has seemed to abandon a commitment to preserve Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, anger with the president has become dramatically more widespread.

A new CNN/ORC International Poll confirms the phenomenon. The number of Americans who say they disapprove of the president’s performance because he is not liberal enough has doubled since May. “Drill down into that number and you’ll see signs of a stirring discontent on the left,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland, who explains that, “Obama’s approval rating among liberals has dropped to the lowest point in his presidency, and roughly one in four Americans who disapprove of him say they feel that way because he has not been liberal enough, a new high for that measure.”

The number of Democrats who say Obama should face a primary challenge in 2012 is growing, with almost a quarter of party backers surveyed by CNN refusing to say they thought the president should be renominated.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, gave voice to that sentiment Friday during a regular appearance onThom Hartmann’s popular national radio show. When a caller who expressed frustration with Obama’s apparent willingness to accept cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Sanders said: “Discouragement is not an option. I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition.”

Sanders explained: “Let me just suggest this: I think there are millions of Americans who are deeply disappointed in the president, who believe that with regard to Social Security and other things, he said one thing as a candidate and is doing something very much else as a president—who cannot believe how weak he has been for whatever reason in negotiating with Republicans, and there’s deep disappointment. So my suggestion is: I think one of the reasons the president has made the move so far to the right is that there is no primary opposition to him and I think it would do this country a good deal of service if people started thinking about candidates out there to begin contrasting a progressive agenda as opposed to what Obama believes he’s doing.”

Sanders says Obama’s weak approach to negotiations with Republicans with regard to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and tax cuts for the rich has caused him to “give thought” to encouraging a progressive Democrat to mount such a challenge.

That led to immediate talk about the prospect that Sanders might mount a primary challenge. That won’t happen. Sanders is not a Democrat. Besides, he is busy running for reelection in Vermont in 2012.

When Sanders said in March that “if a progressive Democrat wants to run, I think it would enliven the debate, raise some issues,” he explained that: “I’ve been asked whether I am going to do that. I’m not. I don’t know who is, but in a democracy, it’s not a bad idea to have different voices out there.”

No other “name” Democrat has, so far, engaged in a public discussion about making a primary run against the president.

There is some organizing on the ground among Democrats who would, at the very least, like to use Democratic caucuses and primaries to send a message to Obama.Antiwar Democrats in Iowa have talked up the prospect of a challenge in the state where the Democratic nominating process begins with caucuses that attract the party’s most activist base. There have also been stirrings in the District of Columbia, where resentment over Obama’s failure to defend the interests of the nation’s capitol is running high.

But those initiatives aim more toward getting the president’s attention and shaking up a complacent national party, perhaps by asking caucus and primary voters to send uncommitted delegates—as opposed to committed Obama backers—to next year’s Democratic National Convention. Uncommitted delegates, at the least, could generate platform fights and pressure the president’s team on particular issues.

Even this project could be a tough one, however, as the nominating process is largely controlled by Obama operatives, who have already been working the schedule and putting in place structural supports for the president’s reelection run. Obama’s team is looking at the caucuses and primaries as tools to build enthusiasm for the president’s fall reelection campaign against the Republican nominee.

But if they are serious about that fall campaign, they are going to need to recognize and respond to the disenchantment among Democratic activists whose enthusiasm level will decide the fate of Obama’s 2012 campaign. Even if there is no primary challenge, Obama must reconnect with liberal Democrats and progressive independents if he hopes to be reelected. And he will not do so by cutting a deal with Republicans to cut Democratic “legacy programs” such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.


Who Owns America’s Debt? Hint: It’s Not China.

In Uncategorized on July 25, 2011 at 10:02 am

Oldspeak:”Howsabout them apples. Turns out foreign nations don’t own the majority of U.S. debt, Americans do. ‘America owes foreigners about $4.5 trillion in debt. But America owes America $9.8 trillion.’ –Thomas Mucha. With the largest amount owed to…Wait for ittttt….. the Social Security Trust Fund! Yes, the big bad scary drain on the U.S. economy that according to politricians needs to be cut and privatized owns 19 percent of U.S. debt. Curious then isn’t it that Politricians want to cut payments to the entitlement program for elderly and disabled people the U.S. Government owes the most money to.  Puts the U.S. ‘Debt Talks’ Charade in a little different perspective don’t it? No mention of this in Corporate Media. O_0

By Thomas Mucha @ Global Post:
Truth is elusive.  But it’s a good thing we have math.

Our friends at Business Insider know this, and put those two principles to work today in this excellent and highly informative little slideshow, made even more timely by the ongoing talks in Washington, D.C. aimed at staving off a U.S. debt default.

Here’s the big idea:

Many people — politicians and pundits alike — prattle on that China and, to a lesser extent Japan, own most of America’s $14.3 trillion in government debt.

But there’s one little problem with that conventional wisdom: it’s just not true. While the Chinese, Japanese and plenty of other foreigners own substantial amounts, it’s really Americans who hold most of America’s debt.

Here’s a quick and fascinating breakdown by total amount held and percentage of total U.S. debt, according to Business Insider:

  • The U.S. Treasury / Federal Reserve: $1.63 trillion (11.3 percent)
  • Hong Kong: $121.9 billion (0.9 percent)
  • Caribbean banking centers: $148.3 (1 percent)
  • Taiwan: $153.4 billion (1.1 percent)
  • Brazil: $211.4 billion (1.5 percent)
  • Oil exporting countries: $229.8 billion (1.6 percent)
  • Mutual funds: $300.5 billion (2 percent)
  • Commercial banks: $301.8 billion (2.1 percent)
  • State, local and federal retirement funds: $320.9 billion (2.2 percent)
  • Money market mutual funds: $337.7 billion (2.4 percent)
  • United Kingdom: $346.5 billion (2.4 percent)
  • Private pension funds: $504.7 billion (3.5 percent)
  • State and local governments: $506.1 billion (3.5 percent)
  • Japan: $912.4 billion (6.4 percent)
  • U.S. households: $959.4 billion (6.6 percent)
  • China: $1.16 trillion (8 percent)
  • Social Security trust fund: $2.67 trillion (19 percent)

So America owes foreigners about $4.5 trillion in debt. But America owes America $9.8 trillion.

For a smart take on how President Obama and House Republicans should end gridlock over debt and deficits, see our new GlobalPost series The Negotiator, which features Wharton’s negotiation guru Stuart Diamond.

And to bone up on China’s debt — another potentially big global economic headache — check out this interview with brainy-yet-coherent Northwestern University economist Victor Shih, who spoke with GlobalPost’s David Case.

Horn Of Africa Famine: Millions At Risk In Deadly Cocktail Of War, Climate Change, Neoliberalism

In Uncategorized on July 24, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Two-year-old Aden Salaad looks up toward his mother as she bathes him in a tub at a Doctors Without Borders hospital, where Aden is receiving treatment for malnutrition, in Dagahaley Camp, outside Dadaab, Kenya Picture: AP/Rebecca Blackwell

Oldspeak:”Militarism, globalization, resource extraction/exploitation, rampant unregulated financial speculation on food, historical & current pollution by the global north, support for ruthless dictators who serve foreign interests instead of native ones, obstructionist stances to climate and environmental policies that will help the global south adapt technologically and socially to climate change though not necessarily benefit financially the global north have spawned the epic disaster we see unfolding in the Motherland. And the disaster capitalist in agribusiness are licking their chops. This tragedy provides them with the perfect opportunity to foist their genetically modified frankenfood on weakened and desperate people, ostensibly benevolent, offering its seeds for ‘free’. At the same time legally absolving themselves of all liability for their products’ less desirable effects. The same script was drawn up in Haiti after their most recent disaster, but they rejected it, choosing instead to retain what little sovereignty they have left over their food supply. Hopefully North African farmers will do the same by echoing this sentiment: “We reject Monsanto and their GMOs. GMOs would be the extermination of our people.” –Doudou Pierre, national coordinating committee member of the National Haitian Network for Food Sovereignty and Food Security (RENHASSA),

By Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez @ Democracy Now:

Guests:

Kiki Gbeho, country head in Somalia for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. She is based in Nairobi and returned from Somalia last week.
Christian Parenti, is contributing editor at The Nation magazine and an award-winning author of several books, most recently Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. He visited the Horn of Africa for research on the book.

JUAN GONZALEZ: The United Nations has called an emergency meeting to discuss the Horn of Africa drought, which it says has already claimed tens of thousands of lives. Famine was declared in two regions of Somalia on Wednesday, where 3.7 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Another eight million people need food assistance in neighboring countries, including Kenya and Ethiopia.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls the situation a “catastrophic combination of conflict, high food prices and drought” and has appealed for immediate aid. Writing in the Los Angeles Times today, he said, quote, “To save the lives of the people at risk—the vast majority of them women and children—we need about $1.6 billion in aid. So far, international donors have given only half that amount. To turn the tide, to offer hope in the name of our common humanity, we must mobilize worldwide.”

The World Food Programme’s director spoke about the conditions in southern Somalia and also called for urgent assistance.

JOSETTE SHEERAN: I’ve met here today people from all over southern Somalia. And there’s no food where they are. And what we’ve heard from them—I just heard from one woman who’s lost three of her children. And so, we’re calling on the world to really back operations to scale up very quickly to reach those in the epicenter, in the famine conditions in southern Somalia. It’s very dangerous and risky, but we have to reach people. They’re not making it all the way here to Mogadishu. These are the ones lucky enough to make it here. And even these feeding centers are overrun.

JUAN GONZALEZ: That’s World Food Programme director Josette Sheeran.

Meanwhile, the U.N. says that pastoralist communities in Kenya and Somalia have also lost millions of their livestock. Carcasses lie all over Kenya’s North Eastern Province as the worst drought in decades continues to ravage the region.

MOHAMED HADJI: [translated] To say the truth, for the past six to seven years, we have not had any rain here. The population was around 6,000 to 7,000. But since the drought became serious, the population has drastically reduced, and it is just a few of us remaining. The others have left and have gone to look for water in pastures elsewhere.

AMY GOODMAN: To discuss the situation in the Horn of Africa, we’re joined on the phone from Nairobi by Kiki Gbeho, the country head for Somalia of the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. She has just returned from Somalia.

We’re also joined in our New York studio by Christian Parenti, author of Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence. He visited the Horn of Africa as he researched his book.

Kiki, let’s go to you first in Nairobi. Explain the scope of the problem.

Kiki Gbeho—

KIKI GBEHO: [inaudible] recently in Somalia in two locations—Mogadishu, the capital, and a location called Dolo. In both places, we met people who had walked for weeks in search of food. Some people say that they buried children along the way. And what was most disturbing about what I saw and what I heard was that the people I met said they were the better off. They had a limited amount of resources left, and so were able to move. They said they fear for those who they had left behind. The situation is dire.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you feel needs to be done?

KIKI GBEHO: Well, we need to scale up to respond to the need immediately. At the moment, even though we have received some funding from donors, it is insufficient to meet the needs. When famine was announced on Wednesday, we said we needed $300 million in the next two months to scale up response. So, one of the key issues for us right now is resources to be able to respond.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And why do you think that Somalia has been so particularly hard hit in the Horn of Africa?

KIKI GBEHO: Well, it’s a deadly cocktail. We have the ongoing conflict. We’ve had several consecutive seasons of drought. And then we’ve had severe price hikes. Prices have risen in the last year by almost 300 percent. So, even though there is some food available on the market, it is simply out of the reach of the common person on the ground. So when you mix these factors together, you get what we have in Somalia at the moment. We have been talking about this since last year, so we can’t say that we are surprised. But we need to do—we need to take urgent action now, because tens of thousands of people have already died, but it is possible to save lives if we act now.

AMY GOODMAN: How did it get to this point, Kiki Gbeho? The warnings had been coming out for quite some time.

KIKI GBEHO: As I said, I think it is a deadly cocktail. It’s an ongoing conflict. We have challenges with access, so we don’t have, as you would see in other aid operations, large numbers of international agencies working on the ground. And then the global crisis, we see price hikes all over the world. The whole Horn is affected by the drought. And you end up where we are now.

I think that the good news in all of this is that we still do have the possibility to save lives. When we talk to the technical people on the ground who assess for us, they tell us, if we act now, if we take advantage of the upcoming raining seasons and plant, if we manage to get food into the country, if we manage to put cash in the hands of people, and if we manage to scale up our health interventions, we could prevent the situation from deteriorating further. At the moment, only two regions have been declared as being in drought, but if we don’t do something, we can see the remainder of the regions in the south quickly roll into the same situation.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, Christian Parenti, you’ve been to the Horn of Africa, and in your recent book you dealt with the effects of climate change and the situation that’s occurring in countries like Somalia. Talk about your sense of what’s happening.

CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Well, yeah, this was predicted long ago by people on the ground. We could see it coming. And the other guest is correct: it’s a combination of war, climate change and very bad policy, particularly an embrace of free market—radical free market policies by regional governments that mean the withdrawal of support for pastoralists, the type of people you saw with their dead cattle. There are no programs from the government of Kenya, for example, to help them drill new wells, to help them with veterinary services for their ill animals, to help introduce new forms of livestock such as camels.

And then, on a broader international stage, there’s the tolerance for really rank speculation by firms like Glencore and Cargill, which have a lot to answer for in terms of this famine. One of the key events that has driven up food prices was climate change last year—worst drought in a hundred years in the Black Sea region of Russia, major flooding in U.S. and Canada. That helped drive up grain prices by almost 100 percent. But it wasn’t just that, because Russia then imposed an export ban. Glencore actually publicly lobbied for Russia to ban exports, much of which went to the World Food Programme. For example, 95 percent of the World Food Programme’s wheat comes from these Russian contracts. So, these speculators, Glencore, encouraged the Russians to impose this ban. They do that. Prices go up. Glencore then has a $60 billion IPO. So there are these—even far from the field, there are these factors that help exacerbate this emergency situation.

Then there’s the deeper structural thing of undermining state capacity and also military support, historically and presently, for wars that have helped produce failed states like Somalia. I mean, Somalia failed in part because the U.S. supported it in a decade-long war against Ethiopia, which led to its collapse.

AMY GOODMAN: We just read in headlines, Kiki Gbeho, about the al-Shabab announcing that the ban on foreign aid groups remains in effect in their area. How does that affect the United Nations and all of the aid groups coming in?

KIKI GBEHO: Well, aid agencies have worked throughout. We say the situation is difficult, but not impossible. How they operate is they work with local communities, district by district. And in dialogue with these communities, they agree on targeting communities and providing assistance. Our only interest in Somalia at this moment is to save lives, nothing else. We welcome the previous statement by al-Shabab, welcoming humanitarian agencies to resume operations in areas under their control. And I think we will continue to reiterate that the need is to increase assistance to populations in acute distress. Our only interest in Somalia at this moment is to save lives, nothing else.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Kiki, what about this issue, as you mentioned, the 300 percent increase in food prices, and Christian was mentioning? Has there been any approach made to the suppliers of these grains about bringing their prices down, especially in these countries that are so hard hit?

KIKI GBEHO: Well, I think that it’s difficult. Partly, the previous speaker mentioned the fact that there is a failed state in Somalia. We do not have a government that controls the whole country and can therefore regulate. We believe that if we were able to get food into the country, and if we were able to put cash in the hands of individuals, it could work with—we could influence the market. But the price—the high prices are not something that’s seen only in Somalia. I believe it’s in the the whole Horn. And in fact, it is global. There are global factors at play here.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring in what happened this week at the U.N. Security Council, discussing the effect of climate change on peace and security. Security Council members debated whether the most powerful U.N. body should address climate change as a security matter. Speaking at the meeting, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, insisted it should.

SUSAN RICE: We have dozens of countries in this body and in this very room whose very existence is threatened. They have asked this Council to demonstrate our understanding that their security is profoundly threatened. Instead, because of the refusal of a few to accept our responsibility, this Council is saying, by its silence, in effect, tough luck. This is more than disappointing. It’s pathetic, it’s short-sighted, and frankly, it’s a dereliction of duty.

AMY GOODMAN: Christian Parenti, is this a shift in policy for the U.S.? What’s the significance of what Susan Rice said at the U.N. Security Council? We don’t usually think of the United States taking proactive stances on climate change. They were quite obstructionist, for example, at the Copenhagen climate change conference.

CHRISTIAN PARENTI: It’s not really a shift. I mean, it’s tricky when you first look at it. But really what’s going on is the Security Council, dominated by the U.S., France, and the U.K., with Russia and China as other permanent members, and then rotating members, is essentially making a move to impose itself and sort of, some would say, hijack the discussion around climate change within the U.N. process. Now remember, there’s also another U.N. process in which the U.S. is not demanding that there be action, but is stalling, and that is theUNFCCC negotiations for a successor agreement to Kyoto, and the U.S. has played a very destructive role in that.

And so, many countries in the General Assembly were saying, “Hey, you know, we’re already dealing with climate change. Yes, it is a security problem, but that doesn’t mean it should have a primarily military response, because that doesn’t work, ultimately. In the short term, maybe it works; in the long term, it leads to failed states. What we need is to deal with creating an international fund, which is part of these negotiations, which can transfer capital and technology to the Global South. It needs to be done within the context of the General Assembly.” And there are these ongoing negotiations that the U.S. has essentially almost sabotaged. And now the U.S. wants to appear proactive and use the discourse and methods that it dominates, which are military methods and control this through the Security Council.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And is that why Russia and China sought to block this effort? Or were there other reasons—

CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Yes.

JUAN GONZALEZ: —some of the stuff you were mentioning about Russia before in terms of food supply?

CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Yeah, yes and no. I think that there’s an element of those two countries, as emerging economies, wanting to push back against the OECD countries on the Security Council, but then there’s also the fact that, I mean, the Security Council is made up of historical polluters and current polluters. I mean, Russia is a major oil exporter. China is a major consumer of fossil fuels. So I think there were those issues, as well, that they’re hesitant to be brought to account on those issues.

AMY GOODMAN: And then you have the Republican-led House Foreign Affairs Committee that voted yesterday to ban funding in next year’s budget for Obama’s initiative to support poor nations in adapting to climate change or pursuing clean energy. That doesn’t mean it has passed through the Senate, but it was voted.

CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Yeah, and that’s one of—that’s a sort of domestic analog to one of the key issues in these international debates, which is setting up $100 million—or $100 billion fund to help with adaptation and mitigation in the Global South. So, I mean, in the Horn of Africa, there is no state capacity, there is no money, for helping people to adapt to this extreme climate—i.e. bringing in new livestock, developing water-harvesting techniques, because it does rain in the Horn of Africa, but it usually comes down, due to climate change these days, as sudden deluges. So there needs to be technological and social adaptation to that.

This fund that will be part of the successor agreement to Kyoto is essential in that, and so the Republicans are signaling that they won’t have anything of it. And we should recall that, of course, the preceding agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, was signed by Clinton but not ratified by the Senate, so it never became force of law here in the U.S. And it had, as a result, very minimal impact internationally in terms of reducing carbon emissions.

AMY GOODMAN: Money that goes into the military versus into this kind of aid?

CHRISTIAN PARENTI: At first, it looks very proactive and necessary. There’s all this instability. But if you look historically at the role of U.S. military aid, it undermines stability. I mean, look at the U.S. role in Somalia. It supported Siad Barre until he collapsed, and there hasn’t been a military state—

AMY GOODMAN: The long-reigning dictator there.

CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Yeah, who started a war in ’77 against Ethiopia. Look at Pakistan—not the same region, but one of the most water-stressed countries in the country, just suffered a major drought. The U.S. has poured $20 billion in military aid into that country. It becomes less and less stable every year, and I would argue, as a result of flooding it with cheap weapons, developing these asymmetrical assets, and, you know, neglecting land reform and social justice. And that’s a country that is prime for, you know, relative state failure, state failure in some parts.

AMY GOODMAN: Christian Parenti, we want to thank you for being with us, contributing editor at Nation magazine, author of a number of books, including his most recent, just out, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence_. His violence”>first chapter is on our website at democracynow.org. And thanks so much to our guest in Nairobi, to Kiki Gbeho, head of the Somalia Office of U.N. Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Thanks so much for being with us.

U.S. Federal Reserve Audit Reveals $16 TRILLION In Secret Loans To Bailout U.S. And Foreign Bankers

In Uncategorized on July 22, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Oldspeak:” Hmm.  Maybe this is why there’s no money for paying teachers, cops, nurses, sanitation, and government workers. Maybe this is why the U.S. Government is on the verge of default. Maybe this is why we’re pretending not to notice more and more homeless people. Tens of trillions of U.S. dollars have gone to bankers. An audit of the Fed reveals why the establishment resisted an audit for so long.  In “a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re-on-your-own individualism for everyone else “, the audit revealed widespread corruption, collusion, conflicts of interest, double dealing and profiteering among the individuals who facilitated this monumental transfer of wealth to the people responsible for crashing the global economic system with their reckless, unregulated speculative gambling with people’s savings, homes, jobs, food, health, and well being. Why is there money to bailout banks in South Korea and Scotland, but none for Main Street, the working poor, and homeless? The rich have the best government money can buy, that’s why. Socialism is here America! It’s just that’s it’s not for you. Just the unfathomably wealthy.”

By Newsroom @ Sen. Bernie Sanders

The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about how the U.S. provided a whopping $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. An amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders to the Wall Street reform law passed one year ago this week directed the Government Accountability Office to conduct the study. “As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world,” said Sanders. “This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re-on-your-own individualism for everyone else.”

Among the investigation’s key findings is that the Fed unilaterally provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations from South Korea to Scotland, according to the GAO report. “No agency of the United States government should be allowed to bailout a foreign bank or corporation without the direct approval of Congress and the president,” Sanders said.

The non-partisan, investigative arm of Congress also determined that the Fed lacks a comprehensive system to deal with conflicts of interest, despite the serious potential for abuse.  In fact, according to the report, the Fed provided conflict of interest waivers to employees and private contractors so they could keep investments in the same financial institutions and corporations that were given emergency loans.

For example, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase served on the New York Fed’s board of directors at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed.  Moreover, JP Morgan Chase served as one of the clearing banks for the Fed’s emergency lending programs.

In another disturbing finding, the GAO said that on Sept. 19, 2008, William Dudley, who is now the New York Fed president, was granted a waiver to let him keep investments in AIG and General Electric at the same time AIG and GE were given bailout funds.  One reason the Fed did not make Dudley sell his holdings, according to the audit, was that it might have created the appearance of a conflict of interest.

To Sanders, the conclusion is simple. “No one who works for a firm receiving direct financial assistance from the Fed should be allowed to sit on the Fed’s board of directors or be employed by the Fed,” he said.

The investigation also revealed that the Fed outsourced most of its emergency lending programs to private contractors, many of which also were recipients of extremely low-interest and then-secret loans.

The Fed outsourced virtually all of the operations of their emergency lending programs to private contractors like JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo.  The same firms also received trillions of dollars in Fed loans at near-zero interest rates. Altogether some two-thirds of the contracts that the Fed awarded to manage its emergency lending programs were no-bid contracts. Morgan Stanley was given the largest no-bid contract worth $108.4 million to help manage the Fed bailout of AIG.

A more detailed GAO investigation into potential conflicts of interest at the Fed is due on Oct. 18, but Sanders said one thing already is abundantly clear. “The Federal Reserve must be reformed to serve the needs of working families, not just CEOs on Wall Street.”

To read the GAO report, click here

Pentagon Looks To Social Media As New Battlefield

In Uncategorized on July 22, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Oldspeak:” ‘Events of strategic as well as tactical importance to our Armed Forces are increasingly taking place in social media space…‘ -DARPA (The US military’s high-tech research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) The hyper-militarization of the U.S. continues into Cyberspace. Your ability to organize dissent, protest, uprising and exposure of government lies and true objectives (i.e. Wikileaks) using the internet against a government working against you is being viewed as a military threat that needs to be countered and neutralized. The  The powers that be don’t want what happened in Wisconsin metastasizing and your tax dollars are being used to that end. More definitive evidence of clandestine surveillance of online social media with the expressed purpose controlling and shaping outcomes in the real world. Next to no mention of this in domestic corporate media. Social control, surveillance and propaganda, as American as apple pie. ‘Big Brother is watching you

Related Story

Pentagon Wants a Social Media Propaganda Machine

By The American Foreign Press:

The Pentagon is asking scientists to figure out how to detect and counter propaganda on social media networks in the aftermath of Arab uprisings driven by Twitter and Facebook.

The US military’s high-tech research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has put out a request for experts to look at “a new science of social networks” that would attempt to get ahead of the curve of events unfolding on new media.

The program’s goal was to track “purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation” in social networks and to pursue “counter messaging of detected adversary influence operations,” according to DARPA’s request for proposals issued on July 14.

The project echoes concerns among top military officers about the lightning pace of change in the Middle East, where social networks have served as an engine for protest against some longtime US allies.

Some senior officers have spoken privately of the need to better track unrest revealed in social networks and to look for ways to shape outcomes in the Arab world through Twitter, Facebook or YouTube.

“Events of strategic as well as tactical importance to our Armed Forces are increasingly taking place in social media space,” the DARPA announcement said.

“We must, therefore, be aware of these events as they are happening and be in a position to defend ourselves within that space against adverse outcomes,” it said.

DARPA predicted that social networks would have a groundbreaking effect on warfare.

“Changes to the nature of conflict resulting from the use of social media are likely to be as profound as those resulting from previous communications revolutions,” it said.

Under the proposal, researchers would be expected to unearth and classify the “formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes)” in social media.

The document cited a case in which authorities employed social media to head off a potential crisis, but did not specify details of the incident.

“For example, in one case rumors about the location of a certain individual began to spread in social media space and calls for storming the rumored location reached a fever pitch,” it said.

“By chance, responsible authorities were monitoring the social media, detected the crisis building, sent out effective messaging to dispel the rumors and averted a physical attack on the rumored location.”

DARPA planned to spend $42 million on the Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program, with prospective contractors asked to test algorithms through “experiments” with social media, it said.

One possible experiment could involve a “closed social media network” of two to five thousand volunteers or an online role playing game with tens of thousands of players.

Why The Wealthiest Americans Are the Real ‘Job-Killers’

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Train Chartering & Private Rail Cars

OLDSPEAK: ‘”It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.’ –Syme (1984). Doublethink par excellence. ‘That the wealthy are “job creators,” and therefore have interests that must be defended by the public at large, is a talking-point that, however facile, is so popular it slips effortlessly from the lips of conservatives every day…It’s also complete nonsense; the opposite of the truth. Sure, the wealthy create a few jobs – people who offer exclusive services or sell them high-end goods. But the overwhelming majority of jobs in this country are “created” by ordinary Americans when they spend their paychecks.” -Joshua Holand. What a sad society it is where truth has so little sway in the course of its affairs. In this backward economic system, less consumption is seen as undesirable , even if it’s been established that perpetual ‘growth’ and ever-increasing consumption is unsustainable and life threatening our planet and everything on it. In this reality controlled society America’s bought and paid for ‘public servants’ are allowed to so brazenly propagate their overseer’s baseless propaganda and pass laws that benefit the few, with no challenge from its corporate consolidated and controlled journalists and news outlets. “Freedom is Slavery”

By Joshua Holand @ AlterNet:

That the wealthy are “job creators,” and therefore have interests that must be defended by the public at large, is a talking-point that, however facile, is so popular it slips effortlessly from the lips of conservatives every day.

It can be deployed for any purpose – not only in calling for more tax breaks for the rich, but also when opposing public interest regulation, consumer litigation and worker protections. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, even used it to deflect attention from the “gay rehabilitation” services her clinic allegedly offers. When asked about it by ABC News, Bachmann merely acknowledged, “we do have a business that deals with job creation.” When pressed, she stuck with it: “As I said, again, we’re very proud of our business and we’re proud of all job creators in the United States.”

It’s also complete nonsense; the opposite of the truth. Sure, the wealthy create a few jobs – people who offer exclusive services or sell them high-end goods. But the overwhelming majority of jobs in this country are “created” by ordinary Americans when they spend their paychecks.

Consumer demand accounts for around 70 percent of our economic output. And with so much wealth having been redistributed upward through a 40-year class-war from above, American consumers are too tapped out to spend as they once did. This remains the core issue in this sluggish, largely jobless recovery. The wealthy, in their voracious appetite for a bigger piece of the national pie, are the real job-killers in this economic climate.

Don’t take my word for it. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that “the main reason U.S. companies are reluctant to step up hiring is scant demand, rather than uncertainty over government policies, according to a majority of economists” the paper surveyed. That jibes with what business owners themselves are saying. Last week, the National Federation of Independent Businesses released a survey of small businessmen and women that found widespread “pessimism about future business conditions and expected real sales gains.”

New York Times reporter David Leonhardt wrote this week that “We are living through a tremendous bust. It isn’t simply a housing bust. It’s a fizzling of the great consumer bubble that was decades in the making.”

The auto industry is on pace to sell 28 percent fewer new vehicles this year than it did 10 years ago — and 10 years ago was 2001, when the country was in recession. Sales of ovens and stoves are on pace to be at their lowest level since 1992. Home sales over the past year have fallen back to their lowest point since the crisis began. And big-ticket items are hardly the only problem.

Leonhardt cites worse-than-expected retail sales and a study conducted by the New York Federal Reserve Bank that found “discretionary service spending” – which excludes housing, food and health care – to have dropped 7 percent, more than twice the decline we saw during previous recessions.

“If you’re looking for one overarching explanation for the still-terrible job market,” Leonhardt concludes, “it is this great consumer bust. Business executives are only rational to hold back on hiring if they do not know when their customers will fully return. Consumers, for their part, are coping with a sharp loss of wealth and an uncertain future (and many have discovered that they don’t need to buy a new car or stove every few years).”

Average American households’ economic malaise started long before the current downturn, as those at the top started grabbing an ever-increasing share of the pie in the 1970s. These graphs, courtesy of Mother Jones, tell the tale:

(click for larger version)Discounting those in the top 20 percent of the pile – according to economists Emanuel Saez and Thomas Picketty it’s actually the top 10 percent – Americans haven’t seen their real incomes rise in the past 30 years.

Paul Buchheit, a professor with City Colleges of Chicago, crunched some numbers using IRS data and found that “if middle- and upper-middle-class families had maintained the same share of American productivity that they held in 1980, they would be making an average of $12,500 more per year.” In other words, because the share of income going to the top has increased so dramatically, ordinary people have $12,500 less in their wallets today. Studies have shown that when wealthy people grab more post-tax income they’re more likely to bank it than to spend it, so much of that $12,500 also represents lost demand, and hence less jobs. Wealthy Americans’ avarice is a job-killer.

American households compensated for their flat incomes first by sending millions of women into the workforce – the single-earner household is largely a relic of the past – and then by running up lots of debt. In the 1970s, Americans socked away between 8-12 percent in case hard times hit, but the national savings rate declined precipitously as the top earners started grabbing an outsized share of the nation’s income.

As a result, we were among the least prepared citizens in the developed world to handle the crash – we didn’t have a rainy-day fund put away.

 

 

(click for larger version)

Then came the Great Recession. The federal Reserve did a study in 2009 in which it went back and surveyed the same households that had been examined in a 2007 snapshot of consumer finances to see how they were faring during the recession. The study found that between 2007 and 2009, median family net worth fell 23 percent, from $125,400 to only $96,000.

Like income, that continued a longer trend that began as those at the top of the pile began grabbing an ever-greater share of the nation’s wealth. As Edward Wolff, an economist at NYU, noted, between 1983 and 2007, only those in the top 5 percent of the income distribution added to their households’ net worth (PDF). The rest of us tread water. Economists talk about a “wealth effect,” which simply means that when you have more wealth you tend to spend more freely. So, this concentration of wealth has also impacted demand.

None of this is particularly complex. In 1978, the top 1 percent of the ladder took in just under 9 percent of the nation’s income, leaving a bit more than 91 percent for the rest of us. In 2007, the year before the crash, they took in 23.5 percent, leaving just 76.5 percent for the rest of the population to split up.

They banked most of that income, whereas we would have spent it. The fact that we’re broke means that businesses are facing less demand for their goods and services than they otherwise would, and have less need to hire a bunch of employees. And that dynamic explains why it’s the wealthiest Americans who are the real “job killers.”