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Mr. and Mrs. McGregor’s
Russians Invade Afghanistan (Again!), Chinese Fight Iraq War (Again!)
What If It Weren’t Us?
By Tom Engelhardt, from tomdispatch.com
November 25, 2014
"Let’s play a game, the kind that makes no sense on this single-superpower planet of ours. For a moment, do your best to suspend disbelief and imagine that there’s another superpower, great power, or even regional power somewhere that, between 2001 and 2003, launched two major wars in the Greater Middle East. We’re talking about full-scale invasions, long-term occupations, and nation-building programs, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq.
In both countries, that power quickly succeeded in its stated objective of “regime change,” only to find itself mired in deadly conflicts with modestly armed minority insurgencies that it simply couldn’t win. In each country, to the tune of billions and billions of dollars, it built up a humongous army and allied “security” forces, poured money into “reconstruction” projects (most of which proved disasters of corruption and incompetence), and spent trillions of dollars of national treasure.
Having imagined that, ask yourself: How well did all of that turn out for this other power? In Afghanistan, a recent news story highlights something of what was accomplished. Though that country took slot 175 out of 177 on Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, though its security forces continue to suffer grievous casualties, and though parts of the country are falling to a strengthening Taliban insurgency, it has for some years proudly held a firm grip on one record: Afghanistan is the leading narco-state on planet Earth.
In 2013, it upped its opium poppy cultivation by 36%, its opium production by almost 50%, and drug profits soared. Preliminary figures for this year, recently released by the U.N., indicate that opium cultivation has risen by another 7% and opium production by 17%, both to historic highs, as Afghanistan itself has become “one of the world’s most addicted societies.”
Meanwhile, where there once was Iraq (171st on that index of kleptocracies), there is now a Shiite government in Baghdad defended by a collapsed army and sectarian militias, a de facto Kurdish state to the north, and, in the third of the country in-between, a newly proclaimed “caliphate” run by a terror movement so brutal it’s establishing records for pure bloodiness. It’s headed by men whose West Point was a military prison run by that same great power and its bloodthirstiness is funded in part by captured oil fields and refineries.
In other words, after 13 years of doing its damnedest, on one side of the Greater Middle East this power has somehow overseen the rise of the dominant narco-state on the planet with monopoly control over 80%-90% of the global opium supply and 75% of the heroin. On the other side of the region, it’s been complicit in the creation of the first terrorist mini-oil state in history, a post-al-Qaeda triumph of extreme jihadism..."
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Mike's Story, Part 71: The Beginning
by Jenna Orkin
The Last Gasp of American Democracy
By Chris Hedges, from TruthDig.com
January 5, 2014
"This is our last gasp as a democracy. The state’s wholesale intrusion into our lives and obliteration of privacy are now facts. And the challenge to us—one of the final ones, I suspect—is to rise up in outrage and halt this seizure of our rights to liberty and free expression. If we do not do so we will see ourselves become a nation of captives.
The public debates about the government’s measures to prevent terrorism, the character assassination of Edward Snowden and his supporters, the assurances by the powerful that no one is abusing the massive collection and storage of our electronic communications miss the point. Any state that has the capacity to monitor all its citizenry, any state that has the ability to snuff out factual public debate through control of information, any state that has the tools to instantly shut down all dissent is totalitarian. Our corporate state may not use this power today. But it will use it if it feels threatened by a population made restive by its corruption, ineptitude and mounting repression. The moment a popular movement arises—and one will arise—that truly confronts our corporate masters, our venal system of total surveillance will be thrust into overdrive.
The most radical evil, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, is the political system that effectively crushes its marginalized and harassed opponents and, through fear and the obliteration of privacy, incapacitates everyone else. Our system of mass surveillance is the machine by which this radical evil will be activated. If we do not immediately dismantle the security and surveillance apparatus, there will be no investigative journalism or judicial oversight to address abuse of power. There will be no organized dissent. There will be no independent thought. Criticisms, however tepid, will be treated as acts of subversion. And the security apparatus will blanket the body politic like black mold until even the banal and ridiculous become concerns of national security..."
Overthrow the Speculators
By Chris Hedges, from TruthDig.com
December 29, 2013
“Money, as Karl Marx lamented, plays the largest part in determining the course of history. Once speculators are able to concentrate wealth into their hands they have, throughout history, emasculated government, turned the press into lap dogs and courtiers, corrupted the courts and hollowed out public institutions, including universities, to justify their looting and greed. Today’s speculators have created grotesque financial mechanisms, from usurious interest rates on loans to legalized accounting fraud, to plunge the masses into crippling forms of debt peonage. They steal staggering sums of public funds, such as the $85 billion of mortgage-backed securities and bonds, many of them toxic, that they unload each month on the Federal Reserve in return for cash. And when the public attempts to finance public-works projects they extract billions of dollars through wildly inflated interest rates.
Speculators at megabanks or investment firms such as Goldman Sachs are not, in a strict sense, capitalists. They do not make money from the means of production. Rather, they ignore or rewrite the law—ostensibly put in place to protect the vulnerable from the powerful—to steal from everyone, including their shareholders. They are parasites. They feed off the carcass of industrial capitalism. They produce nothing. They make nothing. They just manipulate money. Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged.
We can wrest back control of our economy, and finally our political system, from corporate speculators only by building local movements that decentralize economic power through the creation of hundreds of publicly owned state, county and city banks..."
What Happens When The Oil Runs Out?
Authored by Professor Chris Rhodes via OilPrice.com,
Summary of a lecture by Professor Chris Rhodes to the Conway Hall Ethical Society, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London. 11.00 am, Sunday July 28th, 2013.
The world supply of crude oil isn’t going to run out any time soon, and we will be producing oil for decades to come.However, what we won’t be doing is producing crude oil – petroleum – at the present rate of around 30 billion barrels per year. For a global civilization that is based almost entirely on a plentiful supply of cheap, crude oil, this is going to present some considerable challenges. If we look over a 40 year period, from 1965 to 2005, we see that by the end of it, humanity was using two and a half times as much oil, twice as much coal and three times as much natural gas, as at the start, and overall, around three times as much energy: this for a population that had “only” doubled. Hence our individual average carbon footprint had increased substantially – not, of course, that this increase in the use of energy, and all else, was by any means equally distributed across the globe.
From the latest document that I can find – the B.P. Statistical Review – we see that the majority form of energy used by humans on earth is crude oil, accounting for 33% of our total, closely followed by coal at 30%: a figure that is rapidly catching up with oil, as coal is the principal and increasing source of energy in developing nations such as China and India. Natural gas follows in a close third place, at 24%; nuclear and hydroelectric power at 5-6% each; and the tiny fraction of our overall energy that comes from “renewables”, is just 1.6%. Thus, we are dependent on the fossil fuels for 87% of our energy. Now, such a comparison is almost misleading and naïve, because it tacitly presumes that if our oil supply becomes compromised, we can make a simple substitution for it using some other energy source.
However, this is not so readily done in practice, because oil is a particular and unique substance, having both a high energy content, and that it is readily refined into liquid fuels – effectively by distillation – to provide the petrol and diesel that runs practically all of the world’s transportation. Moreover, everything we depend upon - literally everything: food, materials, clothes, computers, mobile phones, pharmaceuticals etc. – for our daily existence is underpinned by a plentiful supply of cheap crude oil. So, the loss of this provision is going to have a profound, and shattering effect on human civilization.
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By John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke, Reuters; Commentary by Wesley T. Miller
August 5, 2013
WASHINGTON, Aug 5 (Reuters) - A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence - information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.
By Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg
July 29, 2013
Supporters of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan have been getting U.S. military contracts, and American officials are citing “due process rights” as a reason not to cancel the agreements, according to an independent agency monitoring spending.
The U.S. Army Suspension and Debarment Office has declined to act in 43 such cases, John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said today in a letter accompanying a quarterly report to Congress.
“I am deeply troubled that the U.S. military can pursue, attack, and even kill terrorists and their supporters, but that some in the U.S. government believe we cannot prevent these same people from receiving a government contract,” Sopko said.
No, this is not from The Onion. It's from Bloomberg. Keep reading... - Wes
Nuclear Decommissioning Surge Is Investor Guessing Game
By Stefan Nicola & Julie Johnsson, Bloomberg
June 17, 2013
"Nuclear utilities thrust into the spotlight after the Fukushima meltdowns have ordered 20 reactors shut, the most in a three-year span since Chernobyl’s aftermath, saddling the industry with a possible $26 billion in costs.
EON SE and RWE AG (RWE) are leading the biggest decommissioning project by European utilities ever, an effort to tear down 12 reactors in Germany over two decades. Edison International (EIX) said June 7 it will never restart its idled two-unit San Onofre Generating Station outside Los Angeles, bringing the number of U.S. reactors permanently closed in a year to a record four.
The global utility industry faces its biggest test to prove enough money was saved for shutdowns, having undergone numerous cost-overruns building atomic plants. A cautionary tale can be seen with government-owned facilities. In Britain, where taxpayers are on the hook to retire the Sellafield complex’s seven reactors and fuel-reprocessing stations on the Irish Sea during the next 100 years, the U.K. government this year doubled its estimate for the work to 67.5 billion pounds ($106 billion)."
So, nuclear decommissioning is going to cost a lot of money, is it? Big surprise to those who thought nuclear-generated electricity was going to be "too cheap to meter." Far from starting a renaissance, nuclear power is already turning into a catastrophic bust, and the party is just getting started. Because no one will have enough money to properly manage reactors and their deadly wastes, this junk will just accumulate and be left largely unattended. It'll be an unmitigated environmental and ecological disaster. Chernobyl and Fukushima are nothing compared to what's coming...
From OilPrice.com, commentary by Wesley T. Miller
June 12, 2013
“Hydraulic fracking has been studied with a published paper showing the energy return on investment (aka EROI) with a total input energy compared with the energy in natural gas expected to be made available to end users is similar to or better than coal...
...The analysis indicates that the EROI ratio of a typical well is likely between 64:1 and 112:1, with a mean of approximately 85:1. This range assumes an estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) of 3.0 billion cubic feet per well. This is similar but significantly higher to the EUR of coal, which falls between 50:1 and 85:1.
Obviously the coal folks are less than thrilled, too. For now though over 75% of our current electricity needs come from a mix of gas and coal, and 83% of our homes are heated by gas. Luckily they are the low cost leaders except for nuclear."
If the energy return is really that fantastically high, gas fracking should be making money hand over fist. Instead, investors are still subsidizing it. Since money stands for energy, you've got to wonder how the EROI was calculated. – RF
By Tyler Durdan, Zerohedge.com
May 10, 2013
The short but profitable tale of how 483,000 private individual have "top secret" access to the nation's most non-public information begins in 2001. "After 9/11, intelligence budgets were increased, new people needed to be hired, it was a lot easier to go to the private sector and get people off the shelf," and sure enough firms like Booz Allen Hamilton - still two-thirds owned by the deeply-tied-to-international-governments investment firm The Carlyle Group - took full advantage of Congress' desire to shrink federal agencies and their budgets by enabling outside consultants (already primed with their $4,000 cost 'security clearances') to fulfill the needs of an ever-more-encroaching-on-privacy administration.
Booz Allen (and other security consultant providing firms) trade publicly with a cloak of admitted opacity due to the secrecy of their government contracts ("you may not have important information concerning our business, which will limit your insight into a substantial portion of our business") but the actions of Diane Feinstein who promptly denounced "treasonous" Edward Snowden, "have muddied the waters," for the stunning 1.1 million (or 21% of the total) private consultants with access to "confidential and secret" government information.
Perhaps the situation of gross government over-spend and under-oversight is summed up best, "it's very difficult to know what contractors are doing and what they are billing for the work — or even whether they should be performing the work at all."
From Reuters/CNBC, commentary by Wesley T. Miller
June 12, 2013
“Private-equity firm Carlyle Group is preparing to launch a U.S. real estate fund and hopes to raise as much as $4 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.
If successful, the fund would be one of the largest new property funds any firm has raised since the financial crisis, the Journal said.
Rivals Blackstone Group, TPG Capital Management, and KKR already have funds to tap into the real estate market. Blackstone has more than $54 billion of property assets under management.”
We learned a little about this from our Vegas experience last year, though John Paulson's group was in the spotlight there.
Here is the real road to “The Ownership Society” as delivered by W. Bush, Barry O., and all their Bankster cronies:
1) Create the biggest real estate bubble in history giving liar loans to millions of unqualified borrowers, paying off appraisers for ridiculously high appraisals, and driving up real estate prices far beyond any rational expectation of repayment, all while making a bundle in loan commissions;"
by Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras in Hong Kong, The Guardian
June 9, 2013
“The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.
The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," he said.
Snowden will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world's most secretive organisations – the NSA.
In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions," but "I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant."
by John Cusack, from HuffingtonPost.com
June 14, 2013
"At the heart of Edward Snowden's decision to expose the NSA's massive phone and Internet spying programs was a fundamental belief in the people's right-to-know. "My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them," he said in an interview with the Guardian.
From the State's point of view, he's committed a crime. From his point of view, and the view of many others, he has sacrificed for the greater good because he knows people have the right to know what the government is doing in their name. And legal, or not, he saw what the government was doing as a crime against the people and our rights.
For the sake of argument -- This should be called The Snowden Principle.
When The Snowden Principle is invoked and revelations of this magnitude are revealed; it is always met with predictable establishment blowback from the red and blue elites of state power. Those in charge are prone to hysteria and engage in character assassination, as are many in the establishment press that have been co-opted by government access . When The Snowden Principle is evoked the fix is always in and instead of looking at the wrongdoing exposed, they parrot the government position no matter what the facts
The Snowden Principle just cannot be tolerated...
Is the Government Also Monitoring the CONTENT of Our Phone Calls?
By George Washington, from Zerohedge.com
June 6, 2013
The Obama administration has been caught spying on the Verizon phone calls of tens of millions of Americans.
But the government has sought to “reassure” us that it is only tracking “metadata” such as the time and place of the calls, and not the actual content of the calls.
That claim is patently absurd.
The American government is in fact collecting and storing virtually every phone call, purchases, email, text message, internet searches, social media communications, health information, employment history, travel and student records, and virtually all other information of every American.
All U.S. intelligence agencies – including the CIA and NSA – are going to spy on Americans’ finances. The IRS will be spying on Americans’ shopping records, travel, social interactions, health records and files from other government investigators…
By Wesley T. Miller, CollapseNet.com
June 7, 2013
We, the People of the United States of America, DO NOT CONSENT to having our lives monitored, recorded, indexed and stored by this government or any other, all in complete contravention of the letter and spirit of our fundamental Fourth Amendment protections against exactly this type of tyranny!
President Obama, we are tired of your empty platitudes. You speak with a forked tongue, showing us with deeds the exact opposite of your words. You have no credibility left and your Attorney General is viewed with the respect level of Baghdad Bob. Congress' "consent" to these crimes is absolutely NO EXCUSE for you personally, Barack Obama. YOU promised this nation the exact opposite of what you have delivered. Instead of ending the horrible legacy of the Bush years, you've expanded and enshrined that legacy across the board. Instead of being the most transparent administration, you have become Nixonian in your secrecy and vendettas against the truth-tellers, shredding the Constitution as it pleases you in their persecution.
This is now a mortal test of our Constitution and the future of this Nation. Government clearly refuses to reign itself in and abide by that Constitution. The true state of our situation is that now corporate interests control our increasingly authoritarian government that rules by might and popular opinion, and not the rule of law. Just like Germany a few decades back. I am not calling Obama "Hitler", but what happens after Obama? The freedoms earned and enjoyed in this country cannot be left open to interpretation by various political personalities as they cycle through office, or it is quickly doomed.
By Michael Kelley, from BusinessInsider.com
“Thanks to AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein and NSA whistleblowers William Binney and Thomas Drake, we know that the NSA has been perpetually amassing not only phone records but virtually all electronic records and communications.
As an AT&T engineer, Klein discovered that a special NSA network actively "vacuumed up Internet and phone-call data from ordinary Americans with the cooperation of AT&T," emphasizing that "much of the data sent through AT&T to the NSA was purely domestic."
Jame Bamford of Wired subsequently reported that the NSA had hired secretive contractors with extensive ties to Israeli intelligence to establish 10 to 20 wiretapping rooms at key telecommunication points throughout the country.
Binney — one of the best mathematicians and code breakers in NSA history — worked for the Defense Department's foreign signals intelligence agency for 32 years before resigning in late 2001 because he "could not stay after the NSA began purposefully violating the Constitution."
By George Washington, from Zerohedge.com
June 7, 2013
Offensive cyber operations are not only occurring overseas…
The Department of Defense has long waged cyber-war against Americans by censoring and manipulating social media and other websites. More proof here and here.
This is not entirely surprising, given that:
By Jason Leopold, Truthout
April 22, 2013
"By late August 2002, I found that of the initial 742 detainees that had arrived at Guantánamo, the majority of them had never seen a US soldier in the process of their initial detention and their captivity had not been subjected to any meaningful review," Wilkerson's declaration says. "Secretary Powell was also trying to bring pressure to bear regarding a number of specific detentions because children as young as 12 and 13 and elderly as old as 92 or 93 had been shipped to Guantánamo. By that time, I also understood that the deliberate choice to send detainees to Guantánamo was an attempt to place them outside the jurisdiction of the US legal system."
He added that it became "more and more clear many of the men were innocent, or at a minimum their guilt was impossible to determine let alone prove in any court of law, civilian or military.""
Robert Hirsch, from OilPrice.com
April 16, 2013 22:00
"I was fortunate to be among the few westerners invited to attend and speak at this first-of-its kind “peak oil” (PO) conference in a Middle East. The fact that a major Middle East oil exporter would hold such a conference on what has long been a verboten subject was quite remarkable and a dramatic change from decades of PO denial. The two and a half day meeting was well attended by people from the GCC as well as other regional countries.
The going-in assumption was that “peak oil” will occur in the near future. The timing of the impending onset of world oil decline was not an issue at the conference, rather the main focus was what the GCC countries should do soon to ensure a prosperous, long-term future. To many of us who have long suffered the vociferous denial of PO by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and OPEC countries, this conference represented a major change. In the words of Kjell Aleklett (Professor of Physics at Uppsala University, Sweden), who summarized highlights of the conference, the meeting was “an historic event.””
It's time to have the uncomfortable conversation...
By Wesley T. Miller, CollapseNet.com
Jan. 17, 2013
Everything I have to say on this topic comes from a place of knowledge, experience, and as I hope you’ll see, wisdom. I am going to cut through the crap on all sides, speak from the heart and tell it like it is. Feelings may get hurt and beliefs will be challenged, but it is necessary. This is a search for truth.
There are over 300 million guns in the United States including millions of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. The horse has left the barn. Anybody with sufficient money and Will can acquire virtually any kind of guns in any amounts with as much ammunition as they desire within a short period of time. That is the status quo. No new gun restrictions will change that fact, at least not in the short term.
But does that mean that sensible gun laws should not be put in place at all? Absolutely not. It is time to reverse the senseless drive toward more arms with more devastating effects destroying more lives in less time.
It is time to seek peace, at all levels of our society.
By Matt Spetalnick and Jane Sutton, Reuters
“An independent task force issued a damning review of Bush-era interrogation practices on Tuesday, saying the highest U.S. officials bore ultimate responsibility for the "indisputable" use of torture, and it urged President Barack Obama to close the Guantanamo detention camp by the end of 2014.
In one of the most comprehensive studies of U.S. treatment of terrorism suspects, the panel concluded that never before had there been "the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody."
"It is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture," the 11-member task force, assembled by the nonpartisan Constitution Project think tank, said in their 577-page report.”
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