The Artists’ Road to Serfdom: The Commoditization of Creative Content

This is the net result of commoditization: there’s no premium for commoditized capital, labor, goods, services or content.

As I noted in Our New Robot Overlords & The Third Type of Capital, profits flow to whatever inputs are scarce. Unfortunately for musicians, writers, filmmakers and others producing creative content, creative content is no longer scarce: it’s been commoditized and is now available in unlimited quantities for $10/month.

The model is simple: unlimited content for a few bucks per month.This is the model of music services such as Spotify and Pandora (which offer advert-supported services for free) and iTunes Radio, Amazon Prime for borrowing Kindle ebooks and various film/video distribution services.

The model effectively commoditizes all creative content. Commoditization makes all inputs interchangeable. Global labor has been commoditized because it no longer matters which workers assemble the goods, global capital has been commoditized because it no longer matters where the capital comes from, and globally produced goods, services and resources have been commoditized because it no longer matters where they come from or who produces them.

Services that offer unlimited streaming/borrowing commoditize all content: the content is interchangeable to the buyer, and the creator of the content earns next to nothing when the content is streamed.

A recent article in the S.F. Chronicle (ITunes is in need of a tune-up to keep up with streaming) explains:

Digital music sales recently fell for the first time ever, with the number of digital songs purchased plummeting 13 percent to 594 million in the first half of 2014, compared with the same period a year ago, according to research firm Nielsen, which has tracked music sales since 1991. Meanwhile, the amount of music streamed online rose 50 percent, the firm said.

While streaming sites have helped big online music spenders save money, they have also cut into the money that musical artists make per song.

ITunes sells songs for 69 cents to $1.29 each. For a song that costs $1.29, Apple takes 30 percent of the sale and the rest goes to the record label and artist, Stewart said. If the artist is on a record label, they would get a royalty of about 20 cents for that track, she said.

That might not seem like a lot, but the money could be even less in streaming music for free with ads. In general, a song must be streamed 75 to 80 times in order for a music label to make the same amount of money as from a single online song purchase, according to MIDiA Research.

The unlimited-streaming/borrowing model is great for consumers and the companies collecting the fees every month, but it’s a rocky road to serfdom for content creators. 80 downloads are needed for the musicians to collect a lousy 20 cents for their creative efforts? Let’s be generous and note that self-produced/distributed artists could collect as much as 50 cents of an iTunes purchase, and presumably the same from 80 downloads.

So it only takes 8 million downloads to earn a median middle-class income of $50,000 a year. Musicians (those signed to labels) who receive 20 cents from 80 downloads would need 20 million downloads annually to earn $50,000–roughly the median household income in the U.S.

How many musicians get 20 million downloads?

The distribution of creative-content rewards tends to follow a power law, i.e. the Pareto Distribution, where the “vital few” (the very apex of the pyramid) reap most of the rewards.

So a handful of artists, writers and independent filmmakers collect most of the shrinking pool of money paid for creative content, and the vast majority earn chump-change.

As a writer with a number of Kindle ebooks available for purchase or borrowing by Amazon Prime members, I do a little better than the musicians whose songs have been commoditized; I earn about 25% of an ebook sale when someone borrows one of my Kindle ebooks.

Nonetheless, this is a 75% haircut in earnings from the everything’s been commoditizedmodel of unlimited access to content. And the sum I earn from borrowed ebooks changes, depending on the funds Amazon places in the pool and how many Prime customers borrowed ebooks.

Numerous articles promote work-arounds for the desertification of earnings wrought by commoditization of content: sell more T-shirts at your gigs, work the loyalty of your fans to encourage them to buy your stuff even though they could stream it for free, etc.

But the reality is the pool of money being distributed to content creators is shrinking. Work-arounds may work for the handful of people who master 24/7 marketing, but this is just another iteration of the power law: a tiny handful of content creators reap most of the profits from the full-court-press of marketing.

My friend Richard Metzger of the excellent Dangerous Minds website and I discussed this trend of artistic serfdom years ago, and the only thing that’s changed is the velocity of the decline in creators’ incomes.

This is the net result of commoditization: there’s no premium for commoditized capital, labor, goods, services or content. Those with the big idea of controlling the distribution of content are collecting an enormous premium for figuring out how to scale up this model, and the vast majority of content creators are left with the nickels and dimes that fall through the commoditizing blades of the distribution machine.

But hey, you might get famous on YouTube, and that might open a trickle of advert revenue. 

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

13% of Ebola Victims In West Africa Never Had a Fever

Some Ebola Patients Never Show a Fever

We’ve repeatedly pointed out that testing for temperature is NOT a bullet-proof way to screen for Ebola.

The Los Angeles Times reported last week:

The largest study of the current outbreak found that in nearly 13% of “confirmed and probable” cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and elsewhere, those infected did not have fevers.

The study, sponsored by the World Health Organization and published online late last month by the New England Journal of Medicine, analyzed data on 3,343 confirmed and 667 probable cases of Ebola.

***

U.S. health officials have repeatedly emphasized that fever is a reliable sign of infectiousness. As a defense against the spread of the virus to this country, the Obama administration has ordered that passengers arriving from West Africa at five U.S. airports be checked for fever.

***

Referring to those who had close contact with Duncan, [CDC director] Frieden said a week ago: “The only thing we need to ensure is that their temperature is monitored, and if they develop a fever, that they are immediately assessed, isolated and if found to be positive, then appropriately cared for.”

***

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is helping to shape the U.S. response to Ebola as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was asked by a CNN interviewer on Oct. 4 whether a person could be “contagious without having a fever.”

Fauci replied that “the answer to that is no.”

So far, the CDC and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease have been wrong about virtually everything concerning this Ebola outbreak.

Posted in Politics / World News, Science / Technology | Leave a comment

On Newsweek’s Finding that a Major US Ally Cuts Off More Heads than ISIS

Newsweek has an article out called “When It Comes to Beheadings, ISIS has Nothing on Saudi Arabia”.

The article accurately illustrates that Saudi Arabia is essentially an established version of ISIS; in fact it was established the same way, which is also how Britain established its colonies like the USA, how US/Israel was, and is being, established, how the Afghan Taliban was established in a joint venture with the USA that lasted until 2001, and so on.

Newsweek details how the Saudis behead more people than ISIS (not to mention Saudis are big supporters of ISIS, and, according to leaked 2009 US documents, are the world’s overall biggest supporters of Sunni terror groups such as the formerly US-backed Taliban.)

The Saudi theocracy doesn’t just behead people or crucify people.  They slice your head off in public then crucify you.  Newsweek:

…if you were accused of banditry or drug smuggling, like seven Yemenis who were beheaded last year, your corpse will also be crucified.

There are different methods of crucifying the headless … while the headless corpse is mounted, your head is placed in a plastic bag… Your head is then raised above your body and appears to be floating and detached. Your corpse might be kept in that position for up to four days, as a grotesque warning to others of what might happen if they stray outside the law.

The article documents how this is done to people accused of being “sorcerers”, adulterers, people who plead not guilty to crimes (and, the article suggests, are likely innocent), and political dissidents (though Israel has the most political prisoners in the region, and it should also be noted that the USA puts people in cages for the rest of their lives for pretty crimes like shoplifting, while almost no one else does this.)

Noam Chomsky pointed out in a talk this month that Saudi Arabia is the single most radical Islamic state, and makes Iran look moderate by comparison (even though Iran also executes people; the top three countries for executing their own people are always Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the USA.  China’s numbers are likely higher, but unknown.)  And Saudi Arabia, exactly unlike Iran, has been pursuing, and has in fact obtained access to, nuclear weapons, via a deal with nuclear Pakistan, another Islamic fundamentalist US ally and distant runner up to Obama’s USA for greatest threat to world peace at the start of 2014.

Newsweek likewise points out that Iran has “a far more democratic political process than Saudi Arabia.”  Iran, like the USA, China, and others, has a kind of fake democracy wherein candidates must be supported by religious authorities; in China, it is state authorities, and in the US, financial authorities, or oligarchs.

Newsweek then documents how the USA demonizes and criticizes not Saudi Arabia, but rather the more moderate and “democratic” country, Iran.  When US politicians visit Saudi Arabia, as Kerry, Obama, Hillary Clinton, and others regularly do, they “do not publicly condemn the country”; human rights violations are “not mentioned”.

Indeed, though the USA cages more women than any other country in the world, Saudi Arabia is the only country where women are not allowed to operate cars.

Newsweek then points out that this behavior – criticizing a relatively moderate country but not a far more extremist ally – reveals a blatant double-standard by the US.

However, Newsweek then asks “why” the USA has this double-standard, and doesn’t explore the question beyond offering a couple of incidental hints throughout the article.

Perhaps the Newsweek author doesn’t know, thinks the answer is unknowable, or has some other motive for not exploring the topic further, but it should be pursued and the article presents a good opportunity.

Again, the question is, why does the otherwise wonderful USA have this confusing and seemingly nonsensical “double standard”, wherein it criticizes countries (like Iran) that are moderate compared to US ally Saudi Arabia (not to mention scores of others)?

US Relationship with Saudi Arabia

“…starting in the 1930s, the Americans would come to displace the British as the chief ally of the Saudis, especially after the American-aided discovery of vast reserves of oil in Saudi lands. [Murray] Rothbard spelled out the military and crony connections involved:

The Rockefeller interest and other Western Big Oil companies have had intimate ties with the absolute royalties of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia ever since the 1930s. During that decade and World War II, King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia granted a monopoly concession on all oil under his domain to the Rockefeller-control-led Aramco, while the $30 million in royalty payments for the concession was paid by the U.S. taxpayer.

The Rockefeller-influenced U.S. Export-Import Bank obligingly paid another $25 million to Ibn Saud to construct a pleasure railroad from his main palace, and President Roosevelt made a secret appropriation out of war funds of $165 million to Aramco for pipeline construction across Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, the U.S. Army was obligingly assigned to build an airfield and military base at Dhahran, near the Aramco Oilfields, after which the multi-million dollar base was turned over, gratis, to Ibn Saud.”

(Dan Sanchez)

In the 1940s, US planners confirmed that the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, contained the greatest material prizes in world history, and set about ensuring that the US could control these resources (just as the US had previously worked to control the formerly most important resource, cotton, in order to bring Britain “to its knees”.  Britain then was holding profitable colonies and enticing lands that ambitious US slave-owning empire-builders were drooling over.)

In the 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower asked his staff, privately, the question asked again decades later, publicly, by Bush Jr.: Why do people in the Middle East seem to hate us?  His staff investigated and determined that it was because the USA prevented democracy and supported repressive regimes in the Middle East so the US could control the region’s energy resources, and that the US should continue doing that.

The cozy gift-based US relationship with Saudi Arabia continues up to today, under Obama, who brown-noses the Saudis by, for example, sending them the biggest shipment of lethal weapons in US history, which Obama did in 2013.  The shipment included internationally banned cluster bombs, one of the personal favorite toys of Obama, as well as the Boston Bombers.

Professor Chalmers Johnson concludes from his extensive research that if Saudi Arabia were to become too upset with the USA, stopped dealing its oil in dollars and switched to some other currency (as did Saddam prior to the US invasion, after which the US switched Iraq back to dollars), then the entire US empire would collapse.

So, quite clearly, the USA refrains from criticizing Saudi Arabia because it is a cornerstone of the extremely profitable (for people like the Rockefellers and Bushes) US empire, but that is only one reason.

Tradition of Excellence

Another reason, one that people go to astounding lengths to avoid saying or even thinking, but which is plain to those looking from outside, is that the USA™ is a vicious, extreme country.  Since its inception, it has killed, enslaved, conquered, raped and tortured uncountable millions of people, continuing up to this second and projected far into the future.  Countries don’t have to do that.  China, for example, sailed to Africa before any western country.  The difference was China didn’t then enslave the people it found living there.  China still has zero foreign military bases.  Switzerland, during the same period in which the USA has been taking innumerable lives, expanding its living-space, and putting the entire world under garrison with 1,000 or so terrorist training camps, has never entered one war.  Instead, the Swiss developed an actual, highly effective defense policy (which partly hinges on not going around killing, torturing, and repressing people), and invented the Red Cross.

Beheading people is obviously not good, and it’s bad that the USA participates in it by backing Saudi Arabia to the literal hilt, but, as Chomsky pointed out this month, smashing the bodies of children into unrecognizable pieces like a sadistic giant, as the USA and its friends do constantly, makes beheading look “kind of polite”.  And the act, mostly carried out by Bill Clinton, of knowingly killing (way) over 500,000 kids (and many innocent others) simply has no contemporary equivalent, and constitutes more murders than all people to have ever been slain by WMD in human history.

Of the US invasion of Vietnam to uphold Western colonial domination, “David Hackworth, a retired colonel and the most decorated officer in the Army, commented in 2003:”

”There were hundreds of My Lais. You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted.”

As a reminder, at My Lai, a bunch of US terrorists strolled into town and machine-gunned hundreds of women and kids.  US soldiers also collected Vietnamese ears, noses, virginity, and so on, as trophies during the invasion.

Here’s Jimmy Carter, considered to be the absolute extreme end of US “human rights advocacy”, speaking about the US invasion of Vietnam:

The destruction was mutual.

I don’t feel that we ought to apologize or castigate ourselves or to assume the status of culpability.

I guess that’s why, rather than paying reparations to Vietnam, the USA is, to this day, making Vietnam pay reparations to the USA.  That, or it’s just bully’s justice.

As for the destruction being “mutual”, I’m not really sure why Carter thinks Vietnam invaded the USA, raped and machine-gunned countless women and children, carried out massive chemical warfare and land-mining that’s mutating and killing swathes of US citizens right now, took people’s ears and noses as trophies, and so on, but, uh… okay…

Anyway, the Western tradition of barbarism is old.  Europe is so outstandingly brutal that it has taken over essentially the entire world at one time or another, and has dug in like ticks (ticks with ICBMs) in the places where it was able to exterminate most of the previous inhabitants: the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.  Those great nations, along with the homeland of Britain, have formed an illegal, global privacy-invasion, big-brother racket that creepily refers to itself as the “five eyes”, and is part of the ongoing domination expansion campaign of these groups.

For one specific example of traditional Western terrorism, British conquerors in India would slaughter people en masse and sew the skins of their Hindu and Muslim victims into the corpses of cows and pigs, as a form of religious humiliation, then fire them out of cannons!  This is how the Brits went about trying to convert people to Christianity.  It was a “convert or die and then get sewn into a sacred or forbidden animal and fired out of a cannon” kind of thing. ISIS makes people convert or die, but the Brits took it to another level of perversion.  Maybe it was the famous dry British sense of humor.

The Brits also beheaded people, but seemed to look happier about it (though maybe ISIS guys are smiling under their masks):

beheading

A British Royal Marine in April 1952 grins proudly as he displays the severed heads of a young man and woman who may have or may not have exercised their legal right to resist foreign occupation.

The classy Brits would also, a la Game of Thrones, line the roads with rotting corpses of people they had slaughtered, as a terror-warning to anyone thinking about resisting the Empire.  This is how the Brits were, as was often claimed in the West, establishing their global empire in a “fit of absent-mindedness.”  Just absent-mindedly displaying slaughtered corpses and sewing people into animals like in Silence of the Lambs.  Hm?  What’s that?  Sorry, I nodded off while I was doing my sewing.  So absent-minded.

As the world’s overall most extreme and dangerous terrorist group, there is no reason the driving forces of the USA would want to criticize Saudi Arabia as long as it is acceptably cooperative.  Sure, some individuals within the USA (though not role models like Obama, Hillary) see reason to strongly criticize the Saudi practices; so do individuals in Saudi Arabia.  But the dominant barbarism of the USA prevails, and thus Saudi Arabia not only gets more US weapons in one 2013 shipment from Obama than any other country ever, but remains backed by Obama when it invades places like Bahrain to back up dictators who are carrying out repression by “systematically torturing children”, as documented by Amnesty.  The USA not only participates in what Saudi Arabia does to its own people, but goes far beyond that and slaughters millions of people thousands of miles from US shores.

So, to pick up where Newsweek left off with a question, it would certainly seem that the reasons for the USA’s apparent “double-standard” (which is really just a crude, very basic propaganda tactic) are that the US doesn’t care what allies do as long as they don’t present an obstacle to US government/corporate domination, and that US controllers are themselves the world’s leading extremists: If you don’t pay enough tribute or cooperate sufficiently, we’ll kill you slowly by cutting you off from the world, kill you quickly by detonating a million explosives in your cities, drench you with toxic chemicals, and send hundreds of thousands of impoverished US kids to kill you.

If Iran suddenly decided to give control of its resources and space back over to the USA, virtually all criticisms of Iran’s human rights issues emanating from the US would end, as in the case of Saudi Arabia, where they never began.  And if Saudi Arabia switched its oil-dealings to a non-US currency, the USA would, if it didn’t launch an outright terrorist invasion or proxy war, quickly start criticizing human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, just as the Bush regime used criticism of Israeli human rights abuses to make Israel cancel a weapons deal with China.

There are endless illustrations of this dynamic going back forever, but let’s look at one more crucial contemporary example:

Turkey

In August of last year, someone carried out a chemical weapons attack in Syria, intentionally killing room-fulls of kids, as well as innocent adults.

Obama intentionally lied and said Assad, president of Syria, did it because only he could have done it, and, based on that lie, stated that he was going to punish Assad, because such an attack warranted a punishment.  (That part is obviously true – such an attack certainly warrants punishment; legal punishment decided by an international tribunal, not ridiculous war criminal Barack Obama.)

Here, thanks to leaked information given to Seymour Hersh and reported in the London Review of Books, is what Obama determined was the correct punishment for the chemical attack:

Obama ordered the Pentagon to draw up targets for bombing. Early in the process, the former intelligence official said, ‘the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the joint chiefs of staff as being insufficiently “painful”…

The original targets included only military sites and nothing by way of civilian infrastructure. Under White House pressure, the US attack plan evolved into ‘a monster strike’: two wings of B-52 bombers … navy submarines and ships equipped with Tomahawk missiles … ‘Every day the target list was getting longer,’ …

…two B-52 air wings with two-thousand pound bombs were assigned to the mission. Then we’ll need standby search-and-rescue teams to recover downed pilots and drones for target selection. It became huge.’ The new target list was meant to ‘completely eradicate any military capabilities…’,

The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.

‘…a massive assault…’

That’s what Obama says is the necessary punishment for carrying out this chemical weapons attack against civilians.  Remember that.

Obama’s launch day came, but, seemingly inexplicably, Obama didn’t go through with his planned “massive assault”.  What happened?

It turned out the chemical attack was almost 100% certainly not carried out by Assad, and was almost 100% certainly carried out by major US ally and NATO member, Turkey:

‘We now know it was a covert action planned by [Turkish president] Erdoğan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’ – who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas – ‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey – that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.’ Much of the support for that assessment came from the Turks themselves, via intercepted conversations in the immediate aftermath of the attack. ‘Principal evidence came from the Turkish post-attack joy and back-slapping in numerous intercepts. Operations are always so super-secret in the planning but that all flies out the window when it comes to crowing afterwards. There is no greater vulnerability than in the perpetrators claiming credit for success.’ Erdoğan’s problems in Syria would soon be over: ‘Off goes the gas and Obama will say red line and America is going to attack Syria…

Obama’s staff began warning him not to attack Syria, though apparently without giving him this specific information (they self-censored since they were afraid to contradict Obama’s lies).

But after a while, the excuse no longer flies.  Certainly, once Hersh’s article was released and the whole world found out that it was Turkey who carried out the chemical terror attack, the NSA-expanding president could not credibly claim to be in the dark while the world is in the light.

The point is, look at what Obama did when he was saying that Assad was the one who carried out the attack: he went on TV and said we need to punish him with massive illegal violence.

But when it got out that Turkey was the one who carried out the attack, did Obama go on TV and say we need to teach the Turks a lesson by detonating tons of explosives in their cities?

No.  And now Obama is bombing Syria, anyway, just using a better propaganda pretext.

But why is he also not detonating explosives in Turkey?  The crime didn’t change.  Only the perpetrator changed.  How does that make a difference?

What kind of POS “global policeman” and “protector of the innocent” stops wanting to punish a gas attack intentionally targeting kids when he finds out his friends did it?

The evil, corrupt kind, that doesn’t care about terrorism, genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes at all, and in fact commits them constantly, because what he really cares about is maintaining and expanding a global profit racket, or empire.  It couldn’t be much more clear.

Which takes us back to the beginning: as the record illustrates, the US corporate state is not bombing ISIS for any reason (including killing US citizens, which the US doesn’t care about outside of the implications for expansionism) except to try to nurture its profits racket.  The USA is not a human rights organization - in fact it spies on human rights organizations, like Amnesty.  The US does not bomb people for humanitarian purposes, and its bombings are illegal and virtually always make things much worse, regardless.  If we buy that the US corporate state bombs for humanity (just like how Chevron dumps toxic waste into the Amazon for humanity), we are being duped into embodying the precise desired response to the propaganda of the world’s biggest and most extreme terrorist network, which tells us: “Think that we are doing this to help you (even though we can’t stand you), and pay no attention to our personal enrichment and your impoverishment, mutilation, and death.  Those are also for your good.  We just don’t subject ourselves or our families to those parts because… uh… uh… Look over there!”

Don’t like referring to the blood-soaked venom excreted by Obama and the USA as “propaganda”?  Check out this video game created and released by the US army, which it uses as a propaganda tool to try to radicalize US children into becoming militants who will die and kill people to secure profits for US companies:

America’s Army  

Virtually everyone you kill in the game is unshaven, and there is almost no blood, unlike every other one of these games.  This one is sanitized.  When you shoot someone, the person just falls down, lies still, and is no longer a “target”.

The US Army advertises this in gaming magazines so it can, like cigarette companies, target and hook children when they are young and impressionable.

In corporate news style (i.e. Fox’s “bomb them bomb them keep bombing them!” refrain) I’ll offer some ideas for what we can do, without using Fox’s suggested mass, illegal violence. 1) To stop crimes, stop being the world’s biggest perpetrator of crimes.  2) To achieve a more just and peaceful world than what he have now, let’s focus our efforts on balancing (otherwise known as “democratizing”)  the distribution of world power –  exactly what the USA and its integrated mega-corporations like Fox don’t want, and forcefully block and prevent, so you know it’s the right track.  Here’s why this would help.

(Note on Newsweek: In the late 80s, Newsweek referred to then senator John Kerry as a “randy conspiracy buff” for investigating what was a completely true allegation: that the USA was protecting cocaine dealers in the US so it could illegally finance an illegal US terrorist operation against Nicaragua, with staging grounds in Honduras.)

Robert Barsocchini is a researcher focusing on global force dynamics.  He also writes professionally for the film industry.  Here is his blog.  Also see his free e-book, Whatever it Takes – Hillary Clinton’s Record of Support for War and other Depravities.  Click here to follow Robert and his UK-based colleague, Dean Robinson, on Twitter.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

CIA Warned Obama that Funding Rebels Doesn’t Work … But Obama Decided to Fund Syrian Rebels ANYWAY For Cynical Political Gain

Painting by Anthony Freda.

Obama Knew Arming Rebels Was Useless,  But Did It Anyway

We’ve pointed out for years that arming the Syrian and Libyan rebels to topple leaders we don’t like is a really stupid idea.

It turns out that the CIA agrees with us.

The New York Times reports:

The Central Intelligence Agency has run guns to insurgencies across the world during its 67-year history — from Angola to Nicaragua to Cuba [to Syria].

***

An internal C.I.A. study has found that it rarely works.

The still-classified review, one of several C.I.A. studies commissioned in 2012 and 2013 in the midst of the Obama administration’s protracted debate about whether to wade into the Syrian civil war, concluded that many past attempts by the agency to arm foreign forces covertly had a minimal impact on the long-term outcome of a conflict. They were even less effective, the report found, when the militias fought without any direct American support on the ground.

***

The findings of the study, described in recent weeks by current and former American government officials, were presented in the White House Situation Room and led to deep skepticism among some senior Obama administration officials about the wisdom of arming and training members of a fractured Syrian opposition.

***

One of the things that Obama wanted to know was: Did this ever work?” said one former senior administration official who participated in the debate and spoke anonymously because he was discussing a classified report. The C.I.A. report, he said, “was pretty dour in its conclusions.

***

Mr. Obama made a veiled reference to the C.I.A. study in an interview with The New Yorker published this year. Speaking about the dispute over whether he should have armed the rebels earlier, Mr. Obama told the magazine: “Very early in this process, I actually asked the C.I.A. to analyze examples of America financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn’t come up with much.”

***

Last month, Mr. Obama said he would redouble American efforts by having the Pentagon participate in arming and training rebel forces.

Dan Froomkin – an investigative journalist with the Washington Post, HuffPost and now First Look (and a Democrat) – slams Obama for deciding to arm Syrian rebels even after the CIA told him it wouldn’t work, in an article entitled “Obama Knew Arming Rebels Was Useless,  But Did It Anyway“:

He knew better, but he did it anyway.

***

Bush at least thought the war in Iraq would do some good.

He was incredibly wrong, mind you. He was both delusional — and actively manipulated by neocons like Dick Cheney (who believe the application of American power is always and inherently a good thing). He intentionally misled the public about his real reasons for going to war (the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were an excuse, not a reason; there were no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction). His eventual goal was both unachievable (a sudden flowering of pro-Western democracy in the Middle East) and perverse (American control of Iraqi oil fields). His methods (firing all the Baathists; trying to install a corrupt puppet) were spectacularly misguided. Much of the rest of his presidency was consumed with sectarian warfare in Iraq and new lies to  cover up the old ones at home. And the end result was a massive human rights catastrophe, including torture of U.S. detainees, a refugee crisis, mass casualties, social disorder and – finally – the Islamic State.

Bush also certainly saw – and exploited — the political upside of being a war president.

But [at least Bush] didn’t let loose the dogs of war simply because his political operatives told him it would poll well.

In response to embarrassment caused by the revelation that Obama agreed to arm the Syrian rebels after the CIA warned him it wouldn’t do any good, the U.S. military is now saying they won’t work with the Syrian rebels.

Specifically, General Allen – the head of America’s anti-ISIS campaign – now says that the administration now has no plans to ever coordinate with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) or any other of the existing rebel factions. He says they’ll only work with a new coalition of “moderate” rebels.

Sadly, there aren’t any moderate rebels in Syria (and see this).

Virtually all of the arms – and humanitarian aid – end up in the hands of the most brutal terrorists.

Posted in General, Politics / World News | Leave a comment

A Promising Ebola Treatment

This Substance Can Break Down Ebola’s Protective Shell … So Our Immune System Can Kill It

One off the most important substances our bodies produce to fight disease is a type of protein called a “mannose-binding lectin”.

As the Journal of Infectious Diseases notes:

Circulating mannose-binding lectin (MBL) is a first-line host defense against a wide range of viral and other pathogens.

***

MBL preferentially recognizes glycosylated viruses including influenza virus, human immunodeficiency virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronovirus (SARS-CoV), Ebola virus, and Marburg virus. It also recognizes many glycosylated gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.

Due to genetics, different people produce different amounts of MBL:

As a result of common genetic variants, MBL serum levels in humans range from 0 to 10,000 ng/mL. Thirty percent of the human population has levels <500 ng/mL, which are associated with increased susceptibility to infections in children and immunocompromised individuals.

MBLs are not only produced by our own bodies, but also by certain plants and algae.

MBLs have shown tremendous promise in fighting SARS, RSV, HIV, Hepatitis C, general immunodeficiency, and other diseases.

Including Ebola.

Specifically, it is well-documented that MBLs bind to the outside of the Ebola virus, breaking it down so that the body’s immune system can kill it.

Certain types of blue-green and red algae contain MBLs:

Numerous flowering plants contain MBLs. For example, a Scottish study showed that the common plants with the highest level of MBLs were lilies and Amaryllidaceae. Indeed, many higher plants contain MBLs which preferentially seek specific sugars.

Some foods contain MBLs, as well:

  • Bananas have an MBL called BanLec, which has been shown to attack viruses such as HIV
  • Lentils contain an MBL called LCH.  Several labs sell LCH on the web
  • Jerusalem Artichoke contains an MBL called Heltuba

So should we stuff our faces with algae, flowers, Jerusalem Artichoke, jack beans, bananas and rice?

Not so fast …

Some MBLs can be deadly … like ricin.  Consumption of food with high lectin content may lead to diarrhea, nausea, bloating or vomiting.

So MBLs aren’t a harmless silver bullet.

But with some further testing and tweaking, MBLs may end up being one of the most promising and quickest routes to treating Ebola.

Posted in Politics / World News, Science / Technology | Leave a comment

If Republicans Win Control of the Senate in November, Nuclear War with Russia Will Be More Likely. Here’s Why.

Eric Zuesse

Senate Bill S. 2277 is sponsored by 26 Republicans and no Democrats, and it would give President Obama the virtually unlimited authority to take U.S. to war against Russia in defense of the Ukrainian Government that Obama’s February 2014 coup established in Ukraine, the government that’s controlled by a coalition of one fascist party and two nazi (or racist-fascist) parties in northwest Ukraine. (Southeast Ukraine isn’t represented in the coalition; southeast Ukraine had voted overwhelmingly — and you can see the exact percentages here – for the President that Obama’s coup toppled in February 2014.)

Paul Roderick Gregory headlined at the Forbes site on October 10th, “A Republican Senate Can Help Send U.S. Weapons to Ukraine,” and he condemned Obama for backing off on Ukraine, and said:

 

“I recently gave five compelling reasons for U.S. lethal aid to Ukraine, and I explained why inaction on Ukraine threatens the destruction of NATO as we know it. The American establishment elite have increasingly concluded the same: that we must give Ukraine the means to defend itself against Russian aggression. Add former defense secretary and CIA head, Leon Panetta, to a long list of diplomats (Mike McFaul, Strobe Talbot), generals (Martin Dempsey, Philip Breedlove et al.), congressmen and senators (Ben Nelson, Sander Levin, Jim Gerlach, Gerland Connoly, Robert Menendez, Bob Corker, to name just a few) who disagree with the president on Ukraine.”

 

The regime that Obama imposed on Ukraine, after his coup, is heavily racist-fascist, or nazi. Here are the Obama-coup-regime’s supporters, and you can see their nazi symbols and Hitlerite militarism, which is based upon the pro-Nazi movement in Ukraine during World War II, the movement that had supported the Babi Yar massacre of Jews and that is even more passionately hostile toward ethnic Russians than toward Jews. And here you see these people proudly mass-murdering ethnic Russians, whom they hate — just trying to kill as many of the residents there as they can. Obama needs that done because the people in this region, southeastern Ukraine, had (as that map shows) voted over 90% for the man whom Obama’s mercenaries had overthrown on 22 February 2014. If they remain alive, and inside Ukraine, then Obama’s imposed leaders won’t survive any election that’s held throughout all regions of Ukraine. This is why the Obama regime in Ukraine has been massacring the residents in the ethnic-Russian areas in Ukraine’s southeast. The United States has sponsored this ethnic-cleansing operation in order to mass-murder the residents in Ukraine’s southeast, precisely so as to get rid of them. This statement is not hyperbole: Barack Obama is the very first President in U.S. history who has installed, in any foreign nation, a nazi, or racist-fascist, regime. As you can see, their most devoted battalions don’t even try to hide it: some of them proudly display their pictures of Hitler, even though they are Ukrainians, not Germans, themselves. These are the most devoted troops in Ukraine, on Obama’s side in the civil war that Obama caused. But congressional Republicans want him to give the matter even higher priority, and more resources, than he now is.

Furthermore, NATO has been gearing up for a nuclear war, a pre-emptive nuclear attack against Russia, supposedly to defend this new regime. But, actually, one of the main reasons for the overthrow was to establish in Ukraine a missile-base against Russia — it was to help prepare for our nuclear attack. Republicans in the Senate support our bringing Ukraine into NATO, which is the reason for this Republican bill, which is currently bottled up in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but will become passed into law and signed by the President if Republicans win back control of the Senate in this year’s elections.

Although no Democrat has officially co-sponsored this bill, the leader of the Committee that is considering it is Democrat Robert Menendez, and he has very actively spoken and written in support of it; he just doesn’t have the guts publicly to come out as a Republican. He’s like Obama: he built his following among Democrats and cannot afford to go public with his extreme conservatism.

I have written a lot about Obama’s strategy, here and here and here, but a recent report at Global Research, by Professor Michael Chossudovsky, is even more alarming: “Dangerous Crossroads: US-NATO to Deploy Troops, Conduct Large Scale Naval Exercises against ‘Unnamed Enemy.’” He quotes the veteran writer on nuclear war, Steven Starr as saying, “Any US-Russian war is likely to quickly escalate into a nuclear war,” and Starr explains why this is a far more dangerous situation than any that existed during the Cold War, except possibly the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Ironically, the only way that Obama can be restrained on this planned attack would be if the U.S. Senate remains under Democratic control, because Obama is pursuing here a longstanding Republican foreign policy, of asserting “nuclear supremacy,” to win  a nuclear conflict against Russia (originally against the Soviet Union).

At present, this bill is considered extremely unlikely to pass in the Senate, but if Republicans take the Senate, then it almost certainly will pass next year, because both houses of Congress will then be controlled by the Republican Party.

Right now, President Obama wants to cool things in his Ukrainian civil war, because of the more-pressing and far more real threat to U.S. national security in the Middle East. But this lull in the Ukrainian conflict could turn out to be temporary if things become stabilized regarding ISIS.

So, if the Republicans win control of the U.S. Senate this November, then we’ll quite possibly have a nuclear war against Russia, because Republicans certainly want it, and so does Obama (and Senator Menendez), and Obama will therefore have the congressional funding to prepare the attack that both he and Republicans, and even at least one other ‘Democrat’ than Obama, apparently want and have been preparing.

———-

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

Posted in Business / Economics, General, Politics / World News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Our New Robot Overlords & The Third Type of Capital

Fortune will instead favor a third group: those who can innovate and create new products, services, and business models.

A recent issue of Foreign Affairs sported a catchy cover teaser: Our New Robot Overlords. This brings to mind various sci-fi scenarios, but the actual article title is academic to the point of obscurity: Labor, Capital and Ideas in the Power Law Economy.

Rather than rehash the usual failed Keynesian Cargo Cult economics, the authors describe three powerful ideas that resonate very strongly with my own work:

1. Digital technologies (networked software, automation and robotics) are radically reducing the need for human labor and the leverage of traditional capital (land, fixed assets and cash) globally.

2. Premiums flow to whatever inputs are scarce. Labor and traditional capital are no longer scarce; what’s scarce is innovative, practical ideas. Ideas (for new models, products, services, processes, etc.) are a third form of capital that will accrue most of the rewards.

3. This distribution of premiums/rewards follows a power law, i.e. the Pareto Distribution where the “vital few” with the 3rd type of capital (good ideas) reap most of the rewards.

This is of course a generalized simplification, and there are plenty of parts of the economy that still depend on labor and conventional capital. But the point here is that thanks to globalization and overcapacity, most inputs are no longer scarce, and so the premium (high wages and/or profit margins) that the owners of labor and capital can charge is trending down in every tradable sector.

This mirrors the analysis of socio-economist Immanuel Wallerstein, which I have covered in some depth:

Is This the Terminal Phase of Global Capitalism 1.0? (February 8, 2013)

How the Middle Class Lifestyle Became Unaffordable (May 7, 2014)

Is There Capitalism After Cronyism? (August 30, 2014)

One systemic source of rising inequality is crony-capitalism/crony socialism: the vast array of insider deals, collusion, winners being picked by the central state, too big to fail banks bailed out with taxpayer money, etc. People are increasingly aware the Status Quo is rigged, and the playing field is tilted to favor the few inside the crony-capitalist castle (what I call the New Nobility in a Neofeudal economy).

The authors of this essay are pointing out that the leverage of digital technologies rewards the most talented to an extreme degree. In an economy where the premium on labor and ordinary capital is falling (i.e. the yield on ordinary capital is near-zero, and wages are declining in real terms), those who can leverage ideas digitally can reap the premium reserved for what’s scarce.

“This means that the real winners of the future will not be the providers of cheap labor or the owners of ordinary capital, both of whom will be increasingly squeezed by automation. Fortune will instead favor a third group: those who can innovate and create new products, services, and business models.

The distribution of income for this creative class typically takes the form of a power law, with a small number of winners capturing most of the rewards and a long tail consisting of the rest of the participants. So in the future, ideas will be the real scarce inputs in the world — scarcer than both labor and capital — and the few who provide good ideas will reap huge rewards.”

Should the digital revolution continue to be as powerful in the future as it has been in recent years, the structure of the modern economy and the role of work itself may need to be rethought.”

For individuals, this means being able to solve problems and create value in ways that can’t be automated: this is the core message of my book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy. The way to leverage one’s ideas is to network, network, network and acquire multiple skills that can be applied in innovative, practical ways to a wide spectrum of problems.

As a society, we will have to deal with the reality that the nature of work is fundamentally changing, and wages are no longer an adequate means of distributing the surplus of an economy.

In my view, the answer is to broaden the scope of work beyond the state (i.e. working for the government) or private sector companies which must make a profit or perish, to what I call the community economy.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Shadow Facts About Shadow Government

Tom Engelhardt keeps churning out great books by collecting his posts from TomDispatch.com. His latest book, Shadow Government, is essential reading. Of the ten essays included, eight are on basically the same topic, resulting in some repetition and even some contradiction. But when things that need repeating are repeated this well, one mostly wants other people to read them — or perhaps to have them involuntarily spoken aloud by everybody’s iPhones.

We live in an age in which the most important facts are not seriously disputed and also not seriously known or responded to.

The United States’ biggest public program of the past 75 years, now outstripping the rest of the world combined, is war preparations. The routine “base” military spending, not counting spending on particular wars, is at least 10 times the war spending, or enough to totally transform the world for the better. Instead it’s used to kill huge numbers of people, to make the United States less safe, and to prepare for wars that are — without exception — lost disastrously. Since the justification of the Soviet Union vanished, U.S. militarism has only increased. Its enemies are small, yet it does its best to enlarge them. U.S. Special Operations forces are actively, if “secretly,” engaged in war or war preparations in over two-thirds of the nations on earth. U.S. troops are openly stationed in 90 percent of the nations on earth, and 100 percent of the oceans. A majority of the people in most nations on earth consider the United States the greatest threat to world peace.

The U.S. military has brought death, terror, destruction, and lasting damage to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya — and spilling out of Libya into Mali, sparked a Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq that has spread to Syria, rendered Pakistan and Yemen more violent and insecure with drone strikes, and fueled violence in Somalia that has spilled across borders.

These facts are well-established, yet virtually incomprehensible to a typical U.S. news consumer. So, if they can be repeated brilliantly and convincingly, I say: the more times the better.

We’re rendering the earth uninhabitable, and the October 27, 2014, issue of Time magazine includes a section headlined “Why the Price of Oil Is Falling — And What It Means for the World.” In reality, of course, it means devastation for the world. In Time it means a happy American oil boom, more sales for Saudi Arabia, and a good reason for Russia to rein in its military. Yes, the same Russia that spends 7% of what the United States does on its military. To get a sense of how Russia could rein in that military, here is a video of a Pentagon official claiming that Russia has physically moved closer to NATO (and put little green men into Ukraine).

Years ago I wrote an article for TomDispatch called “Bush’s Third Term.” Now of course we’re into Bush’s fourth term, or Clinton’s sixth. The point is that presidential power abuses and war-making expand when a president gets away with them, not when a particular party or individual wins an election. Engelhardt explains how Dick Cheney’s 1 percent doctrine (justifying war when anything that has a 1% chance of being a danger) has now become a zero percent doctrine (no justification is needed). Along with war today comes secrecy, which encompasses complete removal of your privacy, but also — Engelhardt notes — the abandonment of actual secrecy for “covert” operations that the government wants to have known but not to have held to any legal standard.

The White House went to the New York Times prior to President Obama’s reelection and promoted the story that Obama personally goes through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays and carefully picks which ones to have murdered. There’s no evidence that this hurt Obama’s reelection.

The Bush White House went to the New York Times and censored until after Bush’s reelection, the story that the government was massively and illegally spying on Americans.  The Obama White House has pursued a vendetta against whistleblower Edward Snowden for making public the global extent of the spying. While Engelhardt tells this story with the usual suggestion that Snowden let us in on a big secret, I always assumed the U.S. government was doing what people now know it is. Engelhardt points out that these revelations have moved European and Latin American governments against the U.S. and put the fear of major financial losses into Silicon Valley companies known to be involved in the spying.

Engelhardt writes that with the NSA and gang having eliminated our privacy, we can now eliminate theirs by publicizing leaked information. At the same time, Engelhardt writes that dozens of Snowdens would be needed for us to begin to find out what the U.S. war machine is doing. Perhaps the point is that the dozens of Snowdens are inevitable. I hope so, although Engelhardt explicitly says that the shadow government is an “irreversible way of life.” I certainly hope not, or what’s the point of opposing it?

Engelhardt notes that the U.S. government has turned against massive ground wars, but not against wars, so that we will be entering an era of “tiny wars.” But the tiny wars may kill in significant numbers compared with wars of centuries gone by, and may spark wars by others that rage on indefinitely. Or, I would add, we might choose to stop every war as we stopped the Syrian missile crisis of 2013.

Engelhardt pinpoints a moment when a turning point almost came. On July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter proposed a massive investment in renewable energy. The media denounced his speech as “the malaise speech.” “In the end, the president’s energy proposals were essentially laughed out of the room and ignored for decades.” Six months later, on January 23, 1980, Carter announced that “an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” The media took this speech quite seriously and respectfully, labeling it the Carter Doctrine. We’ve been having increasing trouble with people whose sand lies over our oil ever since.

Posted in General | 2 Comments

Public Health Expert Explains How to Prevent a Panic About Ebola: Tell the Truth!

Happy Talk Does NOT Reassure the Public … It Only Makes Things WORSE

The head of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota – Dr. Michael Osterholm – is one of the world’s top infectious disease experts and a prominent public health scientist.

Dr. Osterholm just gave a talk shown on C-Span, explaining how to prevent the public from panicking about Ebola:

I categorically reject the idea that you can’t tell people you “don’t know” … because you’re afraid you’ll scare them.

There is a complete [scientific] literature on risk communications that says people are never frightened if you tell them you don’t know, but “this is what I’m doing to learn”.  Or [if you tell them] “this is something, and it might be very scary.”

The literature shows – over and over again – there are 2 things that will turn them to be very concerned … if not scared.

One is if you tell them with certainty “A”, and then you tell them with certainty “B”, and then A and B don’t happen … or they happen in a way you didn’t tell them.  Then they wonder about your credibility.

The second thing is if you get dueling banjos.  If you get one one person saying A, and another person saying “oh, you’re going to scare people, don’t say that” … because it’s not true. The literature supports that’s when people get concerned.

***

One of the worst enemies we can have today is dogma. Dogma should be, at the first instance, the thing we jettison immediately Do not fall into the trap of dogma. I see far too many today doing that for the fact that they want to reassure the public about A,B or C … and that is a dangerous path.

And see this.

Dr. Osterholm gives an example: the medical community is trying to downplay the fact that some people with Ebola never have a fever … right up until the time they die. The failure to talk openly about this fact will only end up shaking people’s confidence:

(And temperature screening is easily fooled, even when an Ebola carrier does have a fever.)

One of our recurring themes is that happy talk doesn’t fix anything.

Giving false assurances only backfires … instead making people lose trust in their governments and institutions, and increasing their fear.

Posted in Politics / World News, Science / Technology | 4 Comments

Top Ebola Experts: This Strain Is Much Worse Than We’ve Ever Seen Before (Video)

A More Dangerous Strain

The head of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota – Dr. Michael Osterholm – is a prominent public health scientist and a nationally recognized biosecurity expert.

Dr. Osterholm just gave a talk shown on C-Span explaining that a top Ebola virologist – the Head of Special Pathogens at Canada’s health agency, Gary Kobinger – has found that the current strain of Ebola appears to be much worse than any strain seen before … and that the current virus may be more likely to spread through aerosols than strains which scientists have previously encountered.

Watch this minute-long clip:

Another top Ebola expert – chief scientist at the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and discoverer of the Reston strain of Ebola (Dr. Peter Jahrling) – said last week that this strain of Ebola appears to be more virulent than other strains we’ve seen, producing a much higher viral load than other strains.

Posted in Politics / World News, Science / Technology | 17 Comments

Why Nations (and organizations) Fail: Self-Serving Elites

For those who doubt that America is ruled by a narrow elite: three charts.

The book Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty neatly summarizes why nations fail in a few lines:

(A nation) is poor precisely because it has been ruled by a narrow elite that has organized society for their own benefit at the expense of the vast mass of people. Political power has been narrowly concentrated, and has been used to create great wealth for those who possess it.

Sound like any countries you know?Perhaps we should flip this question around and ask: how many nations don’tfit this profile?

I submit that this dynamic of failure–the concentrated power and wealth of self-serving elites– is scale-invariant, meaning that it is equally true of communities, towns, cities, states, nations and empires alike: all fail when they’re run for the benefit of a narrow elite.

There is a bitter irony in the ease with which American pundits discern this dynamic in developing-world kleptocracies while ignoring the same dynamic in America. One would imagine it would be easier to see the elites-inevitably-cause-failure in one’s home country, but the pundits by and large are members of the Clerisy Upper Caste, well-paid functionaries, apparatchiks, lackeys, factotums, toadies, sycophants and apologists for the very elites that are leading America down the path of systemic failure as the ontological consequence of their self-serving consolidation of wealth and power.

For those who doubt that America is ruled by a narrow elite: I don’t have charts for standard-issue third-world kleptocracies, but I doubt the concentration of wealth and political power is much more extreme than in America:

In a simulacrum democracy where the highest bidders control the state, who do you think can readily buy political power?

And the policies of the elites have really spread the prosperity around in the past few years (sarcasm-off):

What’s truly interesting about the authors’ exhaustive survey of the inevitability of failure in elite-dominated nations is how cities dominated by narrow elites fail, states controlled by narrow elites fail, and indeed, any organization that serves the interests of a few at the expense of the many fails for the same reasons. 

Posted in General | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Americans Are Much More Concerned about Ebola than Terrorists or War

ISIS, Terrorism and War Have Been Upstaged By Ebola

This chart from Google Trends shows that Americans are much more concerned about Ebola than ISIS or any other terrorists (Ebola is the graph in blue):

Americans are so concerned about Ebola that the second hottest search term today – behind only the trade of football star Percy Harvin – is Obama’s appointment of an  “Ebola Czar”, Ron Klain:

I scrolled through pages of Google trends search results, and didn’t find any interest by the American people in ISIS, the war in Syria, Iraq, the civil war in Ukraine, or conflicts anywhere in the world in which our military or intelligence services are involved.

Americans are sick and tired of war.  And even ISIS didn’t hold the attention of the American public for very long, especially when faced with something of which they are much more afraid,  and which is occurring much closer to home.

Posted in Politics / World News | 2 Comments

Meanwhile, Back At Fukushima …

Even With Ebola, ISIS, Ukraine and Wild Stock Market Swings … Fukushima Still Ranks As Imporant World News

Nothing has been fixed at Fukushima.

After typhoon Phanfone dumped a bunch of water on Fukushima earlier this month, radioactive tritium levels jumped tenfold.

After typhoon Vongfong dumped a bunch more water on the plant, radioactive cesium and strontium levels soared.

Radiation levels in the water are at all-time highs.

Officials said there’s nothing they can do to stop it, and they have no idea how much radiation is running into the ocean.

The reactors didn’t just suffer a melt down, or even a China syndrome type melt-through, but a series of melt outs. Scientists have no idea where the cores of the nuclear reactors are. Well actually, maybe they have found them … scattered all over kingdom come.

The Japanese have dumped their plan to build an “ice wall” around the plant to contain the radiation. Indeed, they don’t have much of a plan to stabilize the reactors or contain the radiation. Their plan seems to be to dump it all in the ocean.

And Fukushima radiation is approaching the West Coast of North America …

As the Statesman Journal reports:

Radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster is approaching the West Coast, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is reporting.

A sample taken Aug. 2 about 1,200 kilometers west of Vancouver, B.C. tested positive for Cesium 134, the Fukushima “fingerprint” of Fukushima.

It also showed higher-than-background levels of Cesium 137, another Fukushima isotope that already is present in the world’s oceans from nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s.

***

“There is definitely offshore Fukushima cesium now,” Buesseler said. “It’s not on the beaches, but it’s offshore.”

Massive amounts of contaminated water were released from Fukushima following a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Radioactive water has continued to leak and be released from the complex.

No state or federal agency is testing Pacific waters for radiation from the crippled Japanese nuclear plant.

Posted in Politics / World News, Science / Technology | 17 Comments

Instead of Appointing a Medical Expert, Obama Appoints a LOBBYIST as Ebola Czar

What’s He Going To Do … Lobby To Convince Congress That Ebola Is Not That Big A Risk?

Obama has appointed Ron Klain as the Ebola Czar.

Klain has no medical or healthcare background whatsoever.

Instead, he’s a high-powered lobbyist. He helped the corrupt Fannie Mae to overcome “regulatory issues” in 2004. Wikipedia notes:

Klain [helped in] convincing Congress and Fannie Mae’s regulators that Fannie Mae wasn’t doing anything dangerous, and wasn’t exposing taxpayers to risk. In other words, Ron Klain got paid to help fuel the housing bubble up until a couple of years before it popped.

Klain also:

Represented a company facing asbestos-exposure lawsuits, the embattled drugmaker ImClone and two companies trying to win support for large mergers.

What’s he going to do … lobby to convince Congress that Ebola is not that big a risk?

Klain is also a major Democratic operative, serving as Chief of Staff for Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden.  As such, it is not unlikely that he will be motivated to cover up for any missteps by Obama and CDC chair Tom Frieden.

Matt Stoller – a Democrat who knows as much about D.C. politics as anyone – notes:

Ron Klain is a fixer who is well-connected and knows his way around the exec branch. His skill is fixing PR problems, not logistics.

He’s not a doctor … just a spin doctor.

Posted in General | 14 Comments

YOU’RE EITHER THE BUTCHER OR YOU’RE THE CATTLE

I know many people have no interest in watching the boob tube because 99% of the programming is either mindless drivel or government sanctioned propaganda. It’s the 1% that reflects the deeper themes and moods engulfing our society. Television shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead reflect the darkening mood of this intensifying Fourth Turning. I wrote one of my more pessimistic articles called Welcome to Terminus in April regarding the season four finale of the Walking Dead series. I essentially argued we are approaching the end of the line and the world is going to get real nasty.

twd-s04e16-06

In the six short months since I wrote that depressing article, we’ve seen men beheaded on Youtube videos by terrorists no one had ever heard of at the beginning of this year. Somehow a ragtag band of 30,000 Muslim terrorists, using American military equipment supplied to fight Assad in Syria and taken from the Iraqi Army when they turned tail and ran away, have been able to defeat 600,000 Iraqi and Kurd fighters with air support from the vaunted U.S. Air Force. Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan descend into never ending religious based warfare. We’ve even had passenger planes mysteriously disappear in Asia with no trace.

Crimea seceded from Ukraine and rejoined Russia, initiating a plan to punish Russia by the western powers. America supported and planned the overthrow of a democratically elected government in the Ukraine, with a predictable push back response by Russia, leading to a bloody civil war in the Eastern Ukraine. We’ve had a false flag shooting down of an airliner over the Ukraine by the Ukrainian government, blamed on Russia and Putin by Obama and his EU co-conspirators. The American corporate media mouthpieces have ignored the cover-up of missing controller transmissions, black box recordings, and physical evidence regarding the murder of hundreds of innocent people by western politicians. Israel and Hezbollah resumed their endless religious war in Gaza, with thousands of casualties and destruction.

UK fear mongering and financial threats barely averted the secession of Scotland from the UK. Cantalonia continues to push for a secession vote to leave Spain. Violent protests have broken out in Spain, Italy, France and even Sweden. Turmoil, protests and riots in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico have been driven by anger at political corruption, high inflation, and general economic dysfunction. Saber rattling between China and Japan has increased and young people in Hong Kong have been protesting the lack of democratic elections being permitted by China. The world economy, undergoing central bank monetary stimulus withdraw, is headed back into recession as Germany, China and the U.S. join the rest of the world in economic decline. And now the Western Africa outbreak of ebola has gone worldwide, with predictions of an epidemic potentially causing worldwide economic chaos.

What’s happening in the real world makes the dystopian zombie world of Walking Dead seem almost quaint. The writers of this show brilliant use of symbolism and imagery captures the violent, chaotic, inhumane, darkening, brutal world we inhabit as the Fourth Turning crisis period we entered in 2008 deepens on a daily basis. There is a good reason why the first episode of their fifth season drew the biggest cable TV audience in history. The show is clearly tapping into the mood of the masses. Early in the latest episode you realize Terminus has become a processing center run by cannibals. The line between victim and criminal, killer and prey, good and evil, madness and sanity, and moral and immoral is blurred. Everything is relative in the post-pandemic world of the Walking Dead.

ee1feb20-143c-11e4-9c67-b1d71d17fcff_comic-con-2014-the-walking-dead-season-5-trailer-_0021_Layer-17

Seeing Wall Street cannibals walk away unscathed after devouring the worldwide economic system in 2008 with their fraudulent financial schemes, corrupt politicians enriched by throwing taxpayers under the bus, militarized police forces trampling the Fourth Amendment, the NSA spying on every American, a private central bank enriching their owners by funneling trillions into their bank vaults, a president trampling on the Constitution by issuing executive orders to bypass the other branches of government, and billions of welfare and tax fraud from the urban ghettos to the penthouse suites in NYC, has convinced a large swath of Americans that everything is relative and nothing matters in our warped dystopian world. Right and wrong no longer matter. Morality is an antiquated concept. Adhering to the Constitution is an outmoded notion. Our society celebrates and condones our dog eat dog economic paradigm. Or zombie eats anything world in the case of Walking Dead.

The Terminus complex is reminiscent of the concentration camp in Schindler’s List. It is complete with railroad cars to hold the prisoners, gates with barbed wire, armed guards, and extermination facilities to “process” the prisoners. Thick black smoke belches into the air. There is a room stacked full of booty, teddy bears, watches, clothes – everything except the gold fillings.The Nazi like precision and attention to detail is reflected in the almost business-like method in which the Terminus administrators go about gutting their prey. The bone chilling efficiency and antiseptic processing facility evoke memories of the holocaust gas chambers. The opening sequence when Rick, Daryl, Glenn and Bob are among a group of men lined up to be gutted like pigs over a trough in place to collect their spilled blood, might have been the most brutal scene ever put on non-premium cable TV.

The callous and dispassionate way in which the prisoners (cattle) are lined up in front of a stainless steel trough is disconcerting and bone chilling. The victims are hit with a baseball bat and then their throats are slit over the trough by men in protective suits. They have become nothing but cattle to be butchered and consumed by the Terminus cannibals. You see another part of the processing plant where human remains are hanging from hooks like sides of beef. Gareth, the leader of Terminus, supervises the operation like a CEO, berating the butchers for not meeting quotas and following standard operating procedures. Not much different than how our mega-corporations are run today.

thewalkingdead_season5_trailer

The other fascinating similarity between the dystopian “nightmare of want” setting of Terminus and our modern day dystopian “empire of excess” is the use of false advertising and propaganda to lure “customers” into their web. Their version of billboard advertising was plywood with the hand written messages of “Sanctuary for All”, “Community for All”, and “Those Who Arrive Survive”. The Terminus cannibals would have fit in well on Madison Avenue with the highly paid spin artists, propagandists, and whores for the corporate oligarchs.

The signs along train tracks and radio transmissions from a call center like facility showed the calculated business-like efficiency of the cannibals in systematically and methodically luring victims to their slaughterhouse. It is the same techniques used by the apostles of Edward Bernays to consciously and intelligently manipulate the habits, opinions, tastes, ideas and actions of the masses, in order to control and influence their buying habits, voting decisions, and support of their rulers. The unseen men who constitute the “invisible government” use these techniques to keep the cattle docile, fed, and ignorant, as they are led to slaughter.

The government and lack thereof is always lurking in the murky background of how and why the United States has devolved into an infected world of the walking dead. This episode provided some clues about government labs producing viruses as weapons to be used against some unexplained enemy. The insinuation is that the government somehow lost control of the virus and the ensuing pandemic destroyed our modern world and left the survivors to battle the biters and each other for the remaining scraps. The Federal government caused the societal collapse and is nowhere to be found in rebuilding the nation.

It is unclear how the apocalypse went down, but you can assume it began with fear, which led to panic, chaos, economic collapse, violent upheaval, war, and total breakdown of governmental authority and control. It is ironic that today fear of a worldwide ebola pandemic is coinciding with an inevitable economic implosion, wars raging in the Middle East, violent protests raging around the globe, and trust in governmental authority plunging to all-time lows. The Walking Dead has wittingly or unwittingly captured the ambiance of our turbulent times.

When you are faced with desperate circumstances you can either do whatever you need to survive or you can submissively accept your fate and die. Gareth and his cannibalistic cohorts had been in the same situation as Rick and his posse, but they had somehow turned the tables on their captors. Gareth’s survival of the fittest creed was “either you’re the butcher or you’re the cattle”. Human beings react to intense pressure and life threatening situations in different ways. Some people snap and turn into monsters, like Gareth. Some people snap and lose their minds. Others, like Rick and Carol, summon an inner strength to do whatever it takes to survive while barely maintaining their humanity. Others turn into blind followers of a strong forceful leader, not questioning the morality, legality or humanity of what they are ordered to do. The line between right and wrong, necessary versus unnecessary, vengeance versus justice, and butcher versus cattle is blurred in a world without rules, government or accepted norms.

I believe the “butcher or cattle” analogy is sadly a valid meme for the world we currently inhabit. In the Walking Dead world, individuals must choose to be butcher or cattle. It’s a Darwinian world of kill or be killed. Like minded individuals with common values and goals form communities to protect themselves, provide for themselves, and attempt to bring a semblance of order in a chaotic world. The community of Westbury, led by the governor and the community of Terminus, led by Gareth, are founded upon a foundation of evil and ultimately destroyed. Rick’s community of liberty minded freedom fighters do whatever is necessary to survive, but retain their humanity, decency and desire to create a better world.

Our present day world may not be as brutish as the Walking Dead world, though the line between reality and fiction is often indistinguishable when you turn on the news, but the distinction between butchers and cattle is clear. The elected and non-elected rulers of the deep state are the butchers, sending young men off to die for oil companies and arms dealers, impoverishing the masses through inflation and their control of the currency, and enriching themselves through their complete control of the political, financial, judicial, and economic systems. This establishment, or invisible government as Bernays described, is committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. Its scope, financial resources, and global reach put it in a predator class all by itself.

The common people are the cattle being led to slaughter. We are kept docile with incessant propaganda from the mainstream media; marketing messages to consume from Madison Avenue; filtered, adjusted, manipulated economic data fed to us by government agencies; an endless supply of iGadgets and other electronic distractions; government education designed to keep us ignorant; 24/7 reality TV on six hundred stations to keep us entertained; corporate toxic processed food to keep us obese and tame; and an endless supply of Wall Street supplied debt to keep us caged in our pens with no hope of escape. The butchers of the deep state have maintained control for decades, but we’re entering a new era.

Fourth Turnings result in the tables being turned on the butchers. Some cattle are awakening from their stupor. They can see the bloody writing on the slaughterhouse wall. Anyone who isn’t sensing a dramatic mood change in this country is either a mindless zombie or a functionary of the deep state. The financial shenanigans of the ruling class are again being revealed as nothing but a Ponzi scheme built on a foundation of debt and propped up by delusions and ignorance. When the house of cards collapses in the near future, the tables will turn. When people have nothing left to lose, they will lose it. The butchers will become the cattle. There will be no sanctuary for these evil men. Their reign of terror will be swept away in a whirlwind of retribution, death and destruction. It might even make the Walking Dead look like a walk in the park.

Posted in General | 10 Comments