Is the U.S. a Force for Good in the World?

Eric Zuesse

First of all, in terms of popularity worldwide, the U.S. is a mixed picture. A Gallup International poll of 65 countries, issued on 30 December 2013, found that: 

“The US was the overwhelming choice (24% of respondents) for the country that represents the greatest threat to peace in the world today. This was followed by Pakistan (8%), China (6%), North Korea, Israel and Iran (5%). Respondents in Russia (54%), China (49%) and Bosnia (49%) were the most fearful of the US as a threat.”

(Some of the reasons why America is considered, by people throughout the world, to be the biggest threat to peace, will be documented below.)

More details in that poll were reported here. This poll also found some marginal advantages for America in the country’s reputation as a place to live. It found that: 

“The majority of people (38%) are in fact happy to live where they currently reside. This figure is matched by those in the Western Europe region where 38% would choose to live where they currently live, with 36% of the UK population opting to stay in the country and a substantial 66% of Australia respondents answering that they would not consider relocating. Overall, those in the MENA [Middle East North Africa region] (47%) and Americas (46%) regions are most likely to stay where they currently live. For those who would like to move, the survey highlights that the USA (9% of respondents) is the most desirable destination, with Canada and Australia jointly being second choice (7%) and Switzerland third (6%). Only 4% of the world’s population would like to live in the UK, a figure common to other European countries including Spain, France and Italy.”

In any case, the U.S. was a rather popular place to move to on account of its being the only nation that adjoins the much poorer country of Mexico to the south, and so the U.S. has long been a popular destination from those relatively poor and violently high-crime countries, especially (besides Mexico itself) El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. This does not necessarily mean that the U.S. is a force for good in the world, however.

That 2013 WIN/Gallup poll (which was from the Worldwide Independent Network of Gallup International) is the only comprehensive international poll that has been made at all public regarding the cardinal question of which country is “posing the greatest threat to peace” in the world. The poll itself was not made available online, but was instead only summarized in a press release by WIN/Gallup, perhaps because the answers on that particular question were so negative regarding the United States Government, which is a major financial backer of Gallup International’s polling. Although a subsequent “End of Year Survey 2014” was done, it reported nothing at all on the key question of “the greatest threat to peace in the world today.” Perhaps, if the U.S. Government sponsored the poll, it decided that in the year 2014, after President Obama’s violent Ukrainian coup in February followed by civil war and ethnic cleansing in Ukraine, and with other international conflicts in which the U.S. played an important part, yet another year of the U.S.’s topping Russia, by over four-to-one, as being a “threat to peace” in the world, would not be something that the U.S. Government would want to draw public attention to, yet again. So: they did not. 

Another way to look at the question of whether the U.S. is a force for good in the world is to consider America’s roles in the flaming civil and international wars that are going on around the world, particularly the issue of refugees (many of which refugees are now pouring into Europe, even in instances where the refugees are due to the U.S.).

IRAQ

In Iraq, after America’s 2003 invasion of that country and overthrow of its dictator Saddam Hussein, wikipedia says that, “Roughly 40% of Iraq’s middle class is believed to have fled.[15] [2] [16] Most are fleeing systematic persecution and have no desire to return.[15].”

LIBYA

In Libya, after America’s 2011 bombing campaign and the resultant killing of its dictator Muammar Gaddafi, wikipedia says that, 

“The Le Monde article of May 14, 2014 states ‘Estimates of their numbers vary between 600,000 and one million by the Tunisian Ministry of Interior. If we add those, many also settled in Egypt, they would be nearly two million Libyans today outside the borders of a total population estimated at just over six million inhabitants.’ [3].” 

On 15 April 2015, the Christian Science Monitor bannered, “How the fall of Qaddafi gave rise to Europe’s migrant crisis (+video),” and reported that:

“Libya’s chaos has once more made it a major way station for Africans seeking a better life, as the European Union grapples with the morality of cutting back on patrols to rescue migrants. The argument for doing less is that increasing the risk of crossing the Mediterranean would save lives. Word that there was no safety net would filter back to people, many of them fleeing persecution, and they’d stop coming.

“‘We do not support planned search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean,’ British Foreign Office Minister Joyce Anelay said last year. Rescues have  ‘an unintended ‘pull factor,’ encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths,’ she argued.

It clearly hasn’t worked out that way.”

SYRIA

In Syria, after the U.S. bombing there, which resulted from the campaign by America and its Islamist-backing dictatorial allies Qatar and Saudi Arabia to overthrow the dictator there, Bashar al-Assad, wikipedia says

“To escape the violence, more than three and a half million Syrian refugees have fled the country to neighboring Turkey,[31][32] Lebanon, Jordan,[33] and Iraq [34] while thousands also ended up in more distant countries of the Caucasus, the Persian Gulf and North Africa. As of February 2015, Turkey has become the world’s biggest refugee hosting country with 1.7 million Syrian refugees and had spent more than US$6 billion on direct assistance to refugees.[35][36].” 

Another wikipedia article says: 

“As of March 2015, Al-Jazeera estimates 10.9 million Syrians, or almost half the population, have been displaced.[612] 3.8 million have been made refugees.[612][613] As of 2013, 1 in 3 of Syrian refugees (about 667,000 people) sought safety in tiny Lebanon (normally 4.8 million population).[614] Others have fled to Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. Turkey has accepted +1.000.000 (2014) Syrian refugees, half of whom are spread around a cities and dozen camps placed under the direct authority of the Turkish Government. Satellite images confirmed that the first Syrian camps appeared in Turkey in July 2011, shortly after the towns of Deraa, Homs, and Hama were besieged.[615] In September 2014, the UN stated that the number of Syrian refugees had exceeded 3 million.[616]”

UKRAINE

In Ukraine, after the February 2014 U.S. coup there overthrowing the democratically elected but corrupt President Viktor Yanukovych, wikipedia, being a site that is constantly edited by the U.S. CIA which participated in that coup, has no article on the refugee crisis there, but the Irving-Kristol-founded far-right magazine National Interest said, with noteworthy honesty in its 4 February 2015 issue, under the headline “The Great Exodus: Ukraine’s Refugees Flee to Russia,” that, 

“According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as of December 2014, upwards of 430,000 Ukrainians had applied for refugee status or other forms of legal residency in Russia. The refugees who come unofficially, i.e. not registering with the FMS, make it difficult to count the total number of Ukrainian refugees in the country, however.” 

And, in addition, around another half-million refugees are estimated to have fled to elsewhere inside Ukraine itself. Furthermore, according to German intelligence, as reported in the Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung, on 2 August 2014, about half-way through the Ukrainian conflict thus far, the official figure of deaths from the civil war, 5,000, was then estimated to be ten times too low: it was more like 50,000 deaths, almost all of them civilians who had lived in the area that the U.S.-backed regime has been bombing. They’re officially called ’terrorists’ for having lived in the area of Ukraine that had voted 90+% for Yanukovych, the man whom Obama overthrew.

CONCLUSION

By a rough estimate, at least tens of millions of people in the MENA and eastern European regions are refugees from U.S. and U.S.-backed invasions; and this doesn’t count anything in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and other nations that have not even been mentioned here. (And the U.S. is taking in almost no refugees from any of the countries that are mentioned here. Instead, other nations do.)

Americans are taught that the U.S. is a force for good in the world, but all dictatorial regimes say pretty much the same thing; so, what Americans are taught doesn’t mean anything. (Not even if it might have been true in the past; perhaps before 1953, when the first major U.S. imperialist coup was imposed, in Iran.) Outside the United States, America now has a profoundly different reputation than it used to have. The current U.S. President, who has done so much to warrant that reputation of an invading lying dictatorial regime, doesn’t share that different opinion, which the rest of the world holds about the U.S. To the contrary, he insists upon an outdated Statue-of-Liberty omage of today’s United States: he told graduating West Point cadets, on 28 May 2014, shortly after the massacre that his allies did to pro-Russian pamphleteers in Odessa Ukraine on 2 May of that year, which burnt them alive:

“America continues to attract striving immigrants. The values of our founding inspire leaders in parliaments and new movements in public squares around the globe. And when a typhoon hits the Philippines, or schoolgirls are kidnapped in Nigeria, or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine, it is America that the world looks to for help. (Applause.) So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come.

“But the world is changing with accelerating speed. This presents opportunity, but also new dangers. We know all too well, after 9/11, just how technology and globalization has put power once reserved for states in the hands of individuals, raising the capacity of terrorists to do harm. Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors. From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums. And even as developing nations embrace democracy and market economies, 24-hour news and social media makes it impossible to ignore the continuation of sectarian conflicts and failing states and popular uprisings that might have received only passing notice a generation ago.”

It is worth pointing out here that if the U.S. is “the one indispensable nation,” as Obama claims, then all other nations are “dispensable.” They notice that, even if Americans don’t. (And there’s not much coverage in the U.S. press of the hostile import of that often-repeated phrase by our President.) Not many foreigners will be favorably impressed by such arrogance. They will, instead, consider it to be singularly undeserved and unwarranted. And, apparently, they already do. Even if the American President doesn’t.

It’s also worth noting that, until America’s actions in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine, they all were nations friendly toward Russia.

PS: The sweet-talking pro-Wall-Street ‘Democratic’ President Obama is now finally repelling even Democrats in Congress, where almost all of his support comes from Republicans. On April 23rd, the U.S. Senate’s leading progressive, the Democrat Sherrod Brown, said, of President Obama’s attempts to ram through Congress mega-corporate international trade deals, which will extend even deeper the international-corporate race to the bottom on wages, consumer protections, and the environment:

“I think if you could get my colleagues to be honest, on the Democratic side, with you — and I think you can mostly — they will say they’ve been talked to, approached, lobbied and maybe cajoled by more cabinet members on this issue than any issue since Barack Obama’s been president.”

Obama cares more about this issue than he does about anything except, perhaps, destroying Russia. As he closes his Presidency, he is doing like did Bill Clinton (the man who started expanding NATO right up to Russia’s borders) at the end of his Presidency: giving away the house and everything, to the international corporate elite. But why are congressional Democrats waiting so late to call Obama on this, which he had evidenced, though not with such bare knuckles, even before he stepped inside the White House, specifically by trying to swing deals with Republicans on 16 January 2009. (Actually, when he appointed people like Timothy Geithner, Eric Holder, and Larry Summers, right after being elected in 2008, there was already strong reason to suspect him.) Why are congressional Democrats such slow learners, taking nearly seven years fo know what they should have recognized even back then — that he’s actually just a closeted Republican, a conservative Manchurian Candidate, a Trojan Horse from the CIA? (Also see here.)

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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, and of Feudalism, Fascism, Libertarianism and Economics.

Posted in Business / Economics, Energy / Environment, General, Politics / World News, Science / Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Death of the Republic

Guest post by Ellen Brown.

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.    — Article IV, Section 4, US Constitution

A republican form of government is one in which power resides in elected officials representing the citizens, and government leaders exercise power according to the rule of law. In The Federalist Papers, James Madison defined a republic as “a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people . . . .”

On April 22, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement that would override our republican form of government and hand judicial and legislative authority to a foreign three-person panel of corporate lawyers.

The secretive TPP is an agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries that affects 40% of global markets. Fast-track authority could now go to the full Senate for a vote as early as next week. Fast-track means Congress will be prohibited from amending the trade deal, which will be put to a simple up or down majority vote. Negotiating the TPP in secret and fast-tracking it through Congress is considered necessary to secure its passage, since if the public had time to review its onerous provisions, opposition would mount and defeat it.

Abdicating the Judicial Function to Corporate Lawyers

James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers:

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. . . . “Were the power of judging joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for the judge would then be the legislator. . . .”

And that, from what we now know of the TPP’s secret provisions, will be its dire effect.

The most controversial provision of the TPP is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) section, which strengthens existing ISDS  procedures. ISDS first appeared in a bilateral trade agreement in 1959. According to The Economist, ISDS gives foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever the government passes a law to do things that hurt corporate profits — such things as discouraging smoking, protecting the environment or preventing a nuclear catastrophe.

Arbitrators are paid $600-700 an hour, giving them little incentive to dismiss cases; and the secretive nature of the arbitration process and the lack of any requirement to consider precedent gives wide scope for creative judgments.

To date, the highest ISDS award has been for $2.3 billion to Occidental Oil Company against the government of Ecuador over its termination of an oil-concession contract, this although the termination was apparently legal. Still in arbitration is a demand by Vattenfall, a Swedish utility that operates two nuclear plants in Germany, for compensation of €3.7 billion ($4.7 billion) under the ISDS clause of a treaty on energy investments, after the German government decided to shut down its nuclear power industry following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.

Under the TPP, however, even larger judgments can be anticipated, since the sort of “investment” it protects includes not just “the commitment of capital or other resources” but “the expectation of gain or profit.” That means the rights of corporations in other countries extend not just to their factories and other “capital” but to the profits they expect to receive there.

In an article posted by Yves Smith, Joe Firestone poses some interesting hypotheticals:

Under the TPP, could the US government be sued and be held liable if it decided to stop issuing Treasury debt and financed deficit spending in some other way (perhaps by quantitative easing or by issuing trillion dollar coins)? Why not, since some private companies would lose profits as a result?

Under the TPP or the TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership under negotiation with the European Union), would the Federal Reserve be sued if it failed to bail out banks that were too big to fail?

Firestone notes that under the Netherlands-Czech trade agreement, the Czech Republic was sued in an investor-state dispute for failing to bail out an insolvent bank in which the complainant had an interest. The investor company was awarded $236 million in the dispute settlement. What might the damages be, asks Firestone, if the Fed decided to let the Bank of America fail, and a Saudi-based investment company decided to sue?

Abdicating the Legislative Function to Multinational Corporations

Just the threat of this sort of massive damage award could be enough to block prospective legislation. But the TPP goes further and takes on the legislative function directly, by forbidding specific forms of regulation.

Public Citizen observes that the TPP would provide big banks with a backdoor means of watering down efforts to re-regulate Wall Street, after deregulation triggered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression:

The TPP would forbid countries from banning particularly risky financial products, such as the toxic derivatives that led to the $183 billion government bailout of AIG. It would prohibit policies to prevent banks from becoming “too big to fail,” and threaten the use of “firewalls” to prevent banks that keep our savings accounts from taking hedge-fund-style bets.

The TPP would also restrict capital controls, an essential policy tool to counter destabilizing flows of speculative money. . . . And the deal would prohibit taxes on Wall Street speculation, such as the proposed Robin Hood Tax that would generate billions of dollars’ worth of revenue for social, health, or environmental causes.

Clauses on dispute settlement in earlier free trade agreements have been invoked to challenge efforts to regulate big business. The fossil fuel industry is seeking to overturn Quebec’s ban on the ecologically destructive practice of fracking. Veolia, the French behemoth known for building a tram network to serve Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, is contesting increases in Egypt’s minimum wage. The tobacco maker Philip Morris is suing against anti-smoking initiatives in Uruguay and Australia.

The TPP would empower not just foreign manufacturers but foreign financial firms to attack financial policies in foreign tribunals, demanding taxpayer compensation for regulations that they claim frustrate their expectations and inhibit their profits.

Preempting Government Sovereignty

What is the justification for this encroachment on the sovereign rights of government? Allegedly, ISDS is necessary in order to increase foreign investment. But as noted in The Economist, investors can protect themselves by purchasing political-risk insurance. Moreover, Brazil continues to receive sizable foreign investment despite its long-standing refusal to sign any treaty with an ISDS mechanism. Other countries are beginning to follow Brazil’s lead.

In an April 22nd report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, gains from multilateral trade liberalization were shown to be very small, equal to only about 0.014% of consumption, or about $.43 per person per month. And that assumes that any benefits are distributed uniformly across the economic spectrum. In fact, transnational corporations get the bulk of the benefits, at the expense of most of the world’s population.

Something else besides attracting investment money and encouraging foreign trade seems to be going on. The TPP would destroy our republican form of government under the rule of law, by elevating the rights of investors – also called the rights of “capital” – above the rights of the citizens.

That means that TPP is blatantly unconstitutional. But as Joe Firestone observes, neo-liberalism and corporate contributions seem to have blinded the deal’s proponents so much that they cannot see they are selling out the sovereignty of the United States to foreign and multinational corporations.

For more information and to get involved, visit:

Flush the TPP

The Citizens Trade Campaign

Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

Eyes on Trade

__________________

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 300+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com.

Posted in Politics / World News | 5 Comments

TPP Would Destroy State, County and Local Government Power

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would take sovereignty away from the American government … and hand it to a bunch of giant corporations, many of them foreign.

It would also take sovereignty away from state, county and local governments …

The attorney general of the State of New York explains:

[TPP’s sovereignty-stripping provisions are] particularly worrisome to those of us in states, such as New York, with robust laws that protect the public welfare — laws that could be undermined by the TPP and its dispute settlement provision.

To put this in real terms, consider a foreign corporation, located in a country that has signed on to TPP, and which has an investment interest in the Indian Point nuclear power facility in New York’s Westchester County. Under TPP, that corporate investor could seek damages from the United States, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars or more, for actions by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Westchester County Board of Legislators or even the local Village Board that lead to a delay in the relicensing or an increase in the operating costs of the facility.

The very threat of having to face such a suit in the uncharted waters of an international tribunal could have a chilling effect on government policymakers and regulators.

Or consider the work my office has done to enforce the state of New York’s laws against wage theft, predatory lending and consumer fraud. Under TPP, certain foreign targets of enforcement actions, unable to prevail in domestic courts, could take their cases to TPP’s dispute resolution tribunals. Unbound by an established body of law or precedent, the tribunals would be able to simply sidestep domestic courts. And decisions by these tribunals cannot be appealed.

 

Posted in Politics / World News | 7 Comments

Obama Urges Saudi Dictator Abdulaziz to Keep Attacking Yemen

Obama expressed his desire for Saudi dictator Abdulaziz to continue his illegal assault on Yemen, “pushing for a continuation of the war” and announcing, mafia-like, that “the job is not done”.

The dictator has complied, carrying out further attacks on the impoverished and starved country, with a Saudi Prince announcing that he will reward the terrorists physically carrying out the bombings with Bentleys, a brand of ultra-luxury automobile.

Further, Moon of Alabama (often cited by Glenn Greenwald) has found evidence to suggest that Saudi Arabia is directly supplying al Qaeda in Yemen.  Al Qaeda has made unprecedented gains there due to the the US-assisted Saudi assault.  Moon notes that the terrorist group is not considered extreme by Saudi Arabia, which mandates, under pain of torture or death, a like ideology, and is already known for supporting al Qaeda.

Meanwhile, Obama yesterday executed seven innocent people in Yemen with one of his “Hell Fire” devices (innocent if “innocent until proven guilty” still matters to anyone).   Obama has been bombing Yemen throughout his time in power, one part of what the world’s most cited scholar, Noam Chomsky, has called “the most extreme campaign of terror of modern times”, Obama’s global execution-by-robot operation.

While US government and media continue to propagandize the population into passively accepting the US/Saudi/axis of dictators’ campaign against Yemen by dishonestly referring to the Houthis as an Iran “proxy”, US intelligence itself states unequivocally that the Houthis are not an Iran proxy (“It is wrong to think of the Houthis as a proxy force for Iran,” a U.S. intelligence official told The Huffington Post).

Indeed, Gellhorn Prize-winning journalist Gareth Porter re-confirms this, and documents that the Houthi are actually (as was pointed out this week at WB) “flush with American arms that may be worth as much as hundreds of millions of dollars”, which they took when they were able to hold, without contest, numerous military facilities that had, like much of the Middle East, been pumped full of US weaponry (the US is the world’s biggest arms dealer).

In reality, as Antiwar.com and others have noted, it is the Saudis who are a US proxy, illegally attacking an entirely domestic movement, as the US has done over and again around the world as it seeks to dominate.

@_DirtyTruths  

Posted in General, Politics / World News | 5 Comments

A Plot To Hold Down Oil Prices Or Just A Happy Coincidence?

The recent unprecedented surge in oil imports has again prompted a review of things here. In a prior story, we wrote that the lack of capacity to process light sweet crude at refineries produced via shale plays could be playing a role in the stock build. As mentioned previously, refineries over the next 24 months are expected to add 700,000 B/D in capacity to handle this type of crude. In the meantime, we have noticed an unusual amount of crude being imported, possibly as a result of this imbalance in refinery capacity. Or could it be that a more sinister plot is afoot?

To quantify the scale of the issue, we turn to Cornerstone Analytics’ work in uncovering the magnitude of the impact of imports on the rise in oil inventory stocks. We haven’t seen this level of import imbalance period since 2013, as the chart below demonstrates via Cornerstone. In the past 6 months, the level of imports relative to the requirement or need by refineries has jumped not once but twice. The 1M B/D “gap” goes a long way in explaining the oil inventory stock build which has been 5MB-10MB per week.

If adjusted, the builds over the past 6 months without such imports would not exist at all or at the very least be greatly reduced. So is this occurring as part of the inability of refineries to handle the mix of output domestically or is this part of some plot to build inventories to crash the prices of oil? Quite frankly we can’t say for sure but anomalies such as this must be exposed so that they can be debated given that there has been ample debate on Saudi motivations for holding down oil prices and the ongoing media cheerleading on lower oil prices.

Regardless, it is very clear that the source of the inventory build is not tied to US production but tied to actual imports, whatever the reason. Further investigation into this should be pursued and only the refineries themselves have the real answer. What is clear is that the level of imports will normalize and, when combined with lower US production, the oil imbalance seems very likely to correct in the near future.

CrudeImportsPeriod

By James Stafford Of Oilprice.com

Source: A Plot To Hold Down Oil Prices Or Just A Happy Coincidence?

Posted in General | 2 Comments

Are Leading Economists Corrupt, or Just Mind-Blowingly Ignorant?

Eric Zuesse

Conservative economists favor Republican candidates because it’s the way for them to rise in power themselves, but what about ‘progressive’ economists: are they psychopaths, too; or do they instead blindly favor ‘Democratic’ candidates because of a sincerely oblivious belief that the mere ‘Democratic’ Party-label indicates that the given politician is actually progressive?

Apparently, the answer is the latter, if one is to judge from assertions by the most-famous ‘progressive’ economists. Even so-called ‘progressive’ economists say that corrupt ‘Democratic’ candidates who have clear records of lying should be judged on the basis of what they say they will do, not on what their conservative record shows they’ve actually done and the interests they have actually been serving and paid by.

For example, Joseph Stiglitz is trumpeted by economists and by the newsmedia as being a ‘progressive’ economist, and he was recently asked in a Huffington Post interview, regarding Hillary Clinton, “Some people are skeptical as to whether she is really genuine, … whether or not this is a woman who is too cozy with Wall Street?” and he answered, “Well, she’s clearly much better than the Republican candidates,” and he cited as supposed evidence for that, not just what she is saying to him, but what she is saying to Democratic Party voters in a Democratic Party primary campaign to attract liberal voters and so to win the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination. He compares to that, such things as the Republican candidate Marco Rubio’s (who, of course, doesn’t consult with such ‘progressive’ economists) campaign statements, which are aimed to appeal to conservative voters and so to win the Republican nomination — as if the task for either candidate (Clinton or Rubio) at present is actually to win, instead, the general-election campaign and so to appeal to the entire electorate, both conservative and liberal. Is Stiglitz really that stupid? Of course not. He knows the difference between a primary campaign and a general-election campaign.

He simply ignored Hillary Clinton’s already established and lengthy record, which is that of a conservative in ‘Democratic’ rhetorical garb, just like Barack Obama (the continuer of George W. Bush’s Wall Street bailouts and most of his other substantive policies), or, for that matter, her own husband, Bill Clinton, who had ended the great Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s progressive legacy of the Glass-Steagall Act, which placed a firewall between, on the one hand, government taxpayer-insured bank-deposits and checking and savings accounts, versus, on the other hand, Wall Street’s risky gambles and bets to win high profits with proportionally higher risks — and, so, FDR basically blocked any continuation of Wall Street’s then-existing ability to gamble with Regular Joes’ money and so to leave the gambling losses to Regular Joes, while still reaping the outsized gambling profits, which then go to Wall Street’s banksters, alone. The ‘Democratic’ President Bill Clinton in 1999 helped Republicans ram through Congress the Gramm-Leach-Bliley, all-Republican, bill (which is one of the most corrupt laws in U.S. history), to terminate the Glass-Steagall Act in order retroactively to legalize Citibank’s takeover of Travelers Insurance; and his Treasury Secretary (Robert Rubin) was then hired by Citigroup to help to lead this very same Wall Street firm that had lobbied the hardest for this Republican law to legalize that merger, which violated FDR’s progressivism and violated the American public. If this action by Clinton wasn’t corrupt, then nothing is, except perhaps Wall Street’s continuing lavish spending on the Clinton Foundation and on Hillary Clinton’s political career, first as Wall Street’s junior U.S. Senator, and then as an aspiring U.S. President.

A good summary of the reality about Hillary Clinton was Ben White and Maggie Haberman’s Politico article, on 28 April 2014, “Wall Street Republicans’ dark secret: Hillary Clinton 2016,” which noted that, “The darkest secret in the big money world of the Republican coastal elite is that the most palatable alternative to a nominee such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas or Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky would be Clinton.” It’s not that the fundamentalist Cruz or the populist Paul would fail to treat Wall Street fairly; it’s instead that Hillary Clinton would be even more subservient to that big-money than either Cruz or Paul would be — that she’s more corrupt. And she is.

Here is the list of top career donors to Hillary Clinton:

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 10.17.40 AM

That’s Wall Street and the firms which serve it. The ‘feminist’ EMILY’s List is also included, of women who still vote for Hillary for the same reason that Blacks still vote for Obama (despite their being pounded the worst by his economic policies), which has to do with gender or racial identifications instead of any progressive (or even practical) ideology at all, but Hillary is almost entirely Wall Street’s property — bought and paid for, and committed to delivering to them what they have paid for (advantages to big international firms at the expense of small firms and at the expense of consumers and of workers and of the environment), which is the types of services that such ‘Democrats’ as she, and her husband, and Barack Obama, have privately promised to them, and delivered to them. (Actually, Obama is the very worst: During his Presidency, the top 1% income share has soared, and he has been President in the years following an economic crash, which is precisely the period in the economic cycle when the norm has instead been for economic inequality to decrease, not increase. In order for a President Hillary Clinton to outperform his lousy record on inequality, she’d need to reject his policies and turn radically against Wall Street, which has financed her own rise. What you’ve just now read is all documented right there, at that link; any intelligent voter will want to examine it.)

America has become a corrupt country in a corrupt world, nothing unusual in this regard. The first step to America’s becoming less corrupt would be for its voters to recognize that they have been and are fooled by the decades-long big-money indoctrination into “the free market” (actually crony capitalism), and that their top priority should thus be to vote against it — to vote against (i.e., in the exact opposite direction from) the advertisements and ‘news’ media that pump what the super-rich want to be pumped into politics and into government, and so pump the popular votes that enable it all to be legal and ‘democratic,’ no mere oligarchy that mocks America’s anti-aristocratic Founders.

Stiglitz wants to be part of the game that Hillary Clinton, as Obama’s Secretary of State, was playing: working for Wall Street while pretending to be their enemy. He wants to be on Hillary’s team, perhaps even inside the White House. (Like President Obama himself told the banksters in secret, at the start of his Presidency, on 27 March 2009: “My Administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks. … I’m not out there to go after you. I’m protecting you.” And, he fulfilled on that promise. But he doesn’t fulfill on the big ones to the contrary, that he makes in public, and to the public.)

If President Obama were sincere about his opposition to increasing economic inequality, he wouldn’t deceive people by saying that, as The New York Times summed up his propaganda in a headline on 3 February 2014, “In Talk of Economy, Obama Turns to ‘Opportunity’ Over ‘Inequality’.” He would instead acknowledge that equality of opportunity cannot increase while inequality of incomes is increasing, because opportunity depends very largely upon income: the bigger a person’s income is, the more economic opportunities that person tends to have. Instead of acknowledging this basic crucial economic fact, Obama, and the Clintons, and economists, hide it.

The lying permeates not only all of the Republican Party, but also the very top, the national, level of the Democratic Party. Democratic voters were especially deceived by Obama, and by Hillary, and by John Edwards, in the 2008 Democratic Presidential primaries, to think that their plan (it was all basically the same plan) for health insurance would produce “universal health care,” but all three knew that it couldn’t possibly deliver any such result. The percentage of Americans who had insurance then was 85.4% insured; 14.6% uninsured. Currently, it’s 87.1% insured, 12.9% uninsured. Their plan thus increased the insured rate by 87.1%/85.4%, or merely 2% above what it had been when they all started promising “universal coverage,” something which already exists in all other developed countries (100% of the population having health insurance). That’s how corrupt our country is. And they all promised also a public option, something which would enable anyone to opt out of the for-profit corporate model of provisioning healthcare services. But, Obama never really intended to deliver on that promise, either.

Leading economists are not mind-blowingly ignorant. 

Perhaps the main reason why the turnout of Democrats at the polls is so poor is that the Democratic Party has sold out so much to Republican Party values, so that the Democratic Party’s voters are giving up hope and giving up on the Party itself as representing them and their interests. The reality now in the United States, has become that there is, now, a choice only between two conservative parties, with the only differences between them being ethnic and gender preferences in order to keep up the fraud that there exists a real political choice and not just a one-party, actually fascist, government, decorated, around the edges, with differences about how deeply into conservatism this nation ought to go.

And, so: what can be expected of the Democratic Party’s economists, except the hope that their next career-move will be upward, instead of downward?

———-

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, and of Feudalism, Fascism, Libertarianism and Economics.

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Stopping TPP: a Matter of National Security

Trans Pacific Partnership Would Make U.S. Vulnerable to Terrorism and Blackmail

The United States Trade Representative – the federal agency responsible for negotiating trade treaties – has said that the details of the TPP are classified due to “national security”.

The Trade Representative is a spy crony.  The NSA shares information gained from mass surveillance with the Trade Representative.

But those national security powers aren’t being used to protect America …

A very credible inside source – with a proven track record of access, accuracy, intelligence and dedication to working for our country – tells Washington’s Blog that TPP contains provisions which would severely harm America’s national security.

Specifically, like some previous, ill-conceived treaties, TPP would allow foreign companies to buy sensitive American assets which could subject us to terror attacks or economic blackmail.

So – in addition to all of the other ways in which TPP is a horrible treaty which would destroy America –  stopping TPP is a matter of national security.

Posted in Politics / World News | 5 Comments

The Old Models of Work Are Broken

The only sustainable way to avoid being commoditized is to learn to create value in ways that cannot be commoditized.

Though we are still in the early stages of web-enabled automation, it’s already evident that the old models of work are broken–though few are willing to admit it.The primary model of work is being an employee in a hierarchy–Corporate America or the state (government) or a government-funded industry (defense, higher education, R&D, Medicare, etc.)

The foundation of employee financial security is the paycheck, which is earned for 1) showing up and 2) following orders.

In the employee model, ownership is generally limited to those with stock options. Those working for start-ups that successfully go public can cash in their options for extraordinary profits; those working for start-ups that fizzle can use their expired options as bathroom wallpaper.

The conventional employee gets no ownership of their work, and this disconnect between the employee and the value created by the employee’s labor is the source of Marx’s definition of alienation: the worker is alienated from the output of his/her labor, which is owned by others.

In the new model of work, the worker has ownership of his/her work and human capital. Security in the new model flows not from dependence on an employer but onownership of the entire process of value creation which includes the social and human capital of skills, collaboration, accountability and creativity.

I explain this process in my book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

As Gordon Long and I discuss in this program on the changing nature of work, in the new model:

 

  • Each participant creates the work and owns the value proposition
  • Innovation and collaboration are paramount

 

Innovation, blah, blah, blah, right? Yes, the word is terribly over-used, but the point is to avoid commodification. Whatever tasks can be reduced to input, processes and output can be automated or done anywhere, i.e. the task is a commodity that can be performed by interchangeable workers.

If the work can be performed by interchangeable workers, why pay a premium for labor in the U.S. Japan and Europe?

The only sustainable way to avoid being commoditized is to learn to create value in ways that cannot be commoditized. That’s the point of collaboration, accountability and innovation: software and robots are superb at repeating specified processes. Figuring out human emotions and markets and combining insights from different fields–not so much. Those still require human learning, communication, collaboration and ingenuity.

Try programming a robot to navigate a flower bed on uneven ground, remove the rotten boards in a staircase and replace them with the appropriate type of lumber.Perhaps a robot will be able to do this cheaper than a human some day, but that day is not yet here. Being able to apply a variety of skills to ambiguous real-world problems is another set of skills that cannot be commoditized.

It’s tempting to pine for the days when just showing up and doing routine work was enough to earn a middle-class paycheck, but that’s no different than sighing wistfully for the days when making buggy whips and shoveling horse manure off the streets were common jobs: those days are gone.

Any employer who pays humans to do work that can be automated or performed elsewhere for a fraction of the cost will soon go broke as competitors eat his/her lunch. Employers that want to survive recessions and competition can only pay for the value their employees create in the marketplace. Consumers don’t pay for blue sky, and so neither can employers.

The government is currently immune to such pressures, but since the state is itself dependent on taxes skimmed from profits and wages, the erosion of the old model means the state’s revenues are doomed to shrink right along with profits and wages.

No sector will be immune to the changing nature of work and value creation.

There is much more on the topic in the video program (31:55):

view it on YouTube

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Gradual Injustice

Chris Woods’ excellent new book is called Sudden Justice: America’s Secret Drone Wars. The title comes from a claim that then-President George W. Bush made for drone wars. The book actually tells a story of gradual injustice. The path from a U.S. government that condemned as criminal the type of murder that drones are used for to one that treats such killings as perfectly legal and routine has been a very gradual and completely extra-legal process.

Drone murders started in October 2001 and, typically enough, the first strike murdered the wrong people. The blame game involved a struggle for control among the Air Force, CENTCOM, and the CIA. The absurdity of the struggle might be brought out by modifying the “Imagine you’re a deer” speech in the movie My Cousin Vinny: Imagine you’re an Iraqi. You’re walking along, you get thirsty, you stop for a drink of cool clear water… BAM! A fuckin missile rips you to shreds. Your brains are hanging on a tree in little bloody pieces! Now I ask ya. Would you give a fuck which agency the son of a bitch who shot you was working for?

Yet much more attention has gone into which agency does what than into how best to pretend it’s all legal. CIA team leaders began getting orders to kill rather than capture, and so they did. As of course did the Air Force and the Army. This was novel when it came to the murder of specific, named individuals as opposed to large numbers of unnamed enemies. According to Paul Pillar, deputy chief of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center in the late 1990s, “There was a sense that the White House did not want to put clearly on paper anything that would be seen as authorization to assassinate, but instead preferred more of a wink-and-nod to killing bin Laden.”

In the early months of Bush-Cheney, the Air Force and CIA were each struggling to impose the drone murder program on the other. Neither wanted to end up in a heap of trouble for something so illegal. After September 11, Bush told Tenet the CIA could go ahead and murder people without asking for his permission each time. One model for this was Israel’s targeted murder program, which the U.S. government denounced as illegal up until 9-11-2001. Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell was the lead author of an April 2001 U.S. government report that said Israel should cease and desist, and criticized its operation as failing to distinguish protests from terrorism.

How did the U.S. government get from there to a “Homeland Security Department” that trains local police to consider protesters to be terrorists? The answer is: gradually and fundamentally through a change in behavior and culture rather than through legislation or court ruling. By late 2002, the U.S. State Department was being questioned in a press conference as to why it condemned Israeli murders but not similar U.S. murders. Why the double standard? The State Department had no answer whatsoever, and simply stopped criticizing Israel. The U.S. government kept quiet for years, however, about the fact that some of the people it was murdering were U.S. citizens. The groundwork had not yet been prepared sufficiently for the public to swallow that.

Some three-quarters of U.S. drone strikes have been in supposed battlefields. As one weapon among many in an existing war, armed drones have been deemed legal by lawyers and human rights groups across the full spectrum of the tiny percentage of humanity whose governments are engaged in the drone murders — plus the “United Nations” that serves those governments. What makes the wars legal is never explained, but this sleight of hand was a foot in the door for the acceptance of drone murders. It was only when the drones killed people in other countries where there was no war underway, that any lawyers — including some of the 750 who’ve recently signed a petition in support of allowing Harold Koh (who justified drone murders for the State Department) to teach so-called human rights law at New York University — saw any need to concoct justifications. The UN never authorized the wars on Afghanistan or Iraq or Libya, not that it actually could do so under the Kellogg Briand Pact, and yet the illegal wars were taken as legalizing the bulk of the drone murders. From there, just a little liberal sophistry could “legalize” the rest.

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Asma Jahangir declared non-war drone murders to be murder at the end of 2002. UN investigator (and law partner of Tony Blair’s wife) Ben Emmerson noted that in the U.S. view, war could now travel around the world to wherever bad guys went, thus making drone murders anywhere only as illegal as other wars, the legality of which nobody gave a damn about. In fact, the CIA’s view, as explained to Congress by CIA General Counsel Caroline Krass in 2013, was that treaties and customary international law could be violated at will, while only domestic U.S. law need be complied with. (And, of course, domestic U.S. laws against murder in the United States might resemble domestic Pakistani or Yemeni laws against murder in Pakistan or Yemen, but resemblance is not identity, and only the U.S. laws matter.)

The growing acceptance of drone murders among Western imperialist lawyers led to all the usual attempts to tweak the crime around the edges: proportionality, careful targeting, etc. But “proportionality” is always in the eye of the killer. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed, along with various innocent people, when Stanley McChrystal declared it “proportionate” to blow up a whole house to murder one man. Was it? Was it not? There is no actual answer. Declaring murders “proportionate” is just rhetoric that lawyers have told politicians and generals to apply to human slaughter. In one drone strike in 2006, the CIA killed some 80 innocent people, most of them children. Ben Emmerson expressed mild displeasure. But the question of “proportionality” wasn’t raised, because it wasn’t helpful rhetoric in that case. During the occupation of Iraq, U.S. commanders could plan operations in which they expected to kill up to 30 innocent people, but if they expected 31 they needed to get Donald Rumsfeld to sign off on it. That’s the sort of legal standard that drone murders fit into just fine, especially once any “military aged male” was redefined as an enemy. The CIA even counts innocent women and children as enemies, according to the New York Times.

As drone murders rapidly spread during the Bush-Cheney years (later to absolutely explode during the Obama years) the rank and file enjoyed sharing the videos around. Commanders tried to halt the practice. Then they began releasing select videos while keeping all the others strictly hidden.

As the practice of murdering people with drones in nations where mass-murder hadn’t been somehow sanctioned by the banner of “war” became routine, human rights groups like Amnesty International began stating clearly that the United States was violating the law. But over the years, that clear language faded, replaced by doubt and uncertainty. Nowadays, human rights groups document numerous cases of drone murders of innocents and then declare them possibly illegal depending on whether or not they are part of a war, with the question of whether murders in a given country are part of a war having been opened up as a possibility, and with the answer resting at the discretion of the government launching the drones.

By the end of the Bush-Cheney years, the CIA’s rules were supposedly changed from launching murderous drone strikes whenever they had a 90% chance of “success” to whenever they had a 50% chance. And how was this measured? It was in fact eliminated by the practice of “signature strikes” in which people are murdered without actually knowing who they are at all. Britain, for its part, cleared the way for murdering its citizens by stripping them of their citizenship as needed.

All of this went on in official secrecy, meaning it was known to anyone who cared to know, but it wasn’t supposed to be talked about. The longest serving member of Germany’s oversight committee admitted that Western governments were depending largely on the media to find out what their spies and militaries were doing.

The arrival of Captain Peace Prize in the White House took drone murders to a whole new level, destabilizing nations like Yemen, and targeting innocents in new ways, including by targeting the rescuers just arrived at the bloody scene of an earlier strike. Blow back against the U.S. picked up, as well as blow back against local populations by groups claiming to be acting in retaliation for U.S. drone murders. The damage drones did in places like Libya during the 2011 U.S.-NATO overthrow was not seen as a reason to step back, but as grounds for yet more drone killing. Growing chaos in Yemen, predicted by observers pointing to the counterproductive effects of the drones strikes, was claimed as a success by Obama. Drone pilots were now committing suicide and suffering moral stress in large numbers, but there was no turning back. A 90% majority in Yemen’s National Dialogue wanted armed drones criminalized, but the U.S. State Department wanted the world’s nations to buy drones too.

Rather than ending or scaling back the drone-murder program, the Obama White House began publicly defending it and advertising the President’s role in authorizing the murders. Or at least that was the course after Harold Koh and gang figured out how exactly they wanted to pretend to “legalize” murder. Even Ben Emmerson says it took them so long because they hadn’t yet figured out what excuses to use. Will the dozens of nations now acquiring armed drones need any excuse at all?<--break->

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TPTB Are Trying to Kill Off What’s Left of America RIGHT NOW

Most of the America of our fathers has been destroyed.

The little shred of right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is – right now – under massive attack by the powers-that-be.  It’s literally the last stand for America.

These two stories provide details:

More news from the battlefield:

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Bad Guys Pushing THIS WEEK to Promote Global Tyranny Run By Corporations

Here’s How to STOP Them

The powers-that-be are pushing this week to fast track a horrible treaty which would destroy America.

The treaty is called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The U.S. Trade Representative – the federal agency responsible for negotiating trade treaties – has said that the details of the TPP are classified due to “national security”.

Parts of the TPP won’t be declassified for four years … even if it’s passed:

The TPP Investment Chapter … is classified and supposed to be kept secret for four years after the entry into force of the TPP agreement or, if no agreement is reached, for four years from the close of the negotiations.

(See this, this and this.)

Why’s the deal being kept secret? Because it would be impossible to pass if the public knew what was really in it:

Ron Kirk, until recently Mr. Obama’s top trade official, was remarkably candid about why he opposed making the text public: doing so, he suggested to Reuters, would raise such opposition that it could make the deal impossible to sign.

Senator Elizabeth Warren notes:

Supporters of the deal say to me, “They have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed.”

But it’s not only being hidden from the American people … it’s being hidden even from most U.S. Congress members.

A Congressman who has seen the text of the treaty says:

There is no national security purpose in keeping this text secret … this agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.

It would also allow foreign corporations to challenge U.S. laws.  It will literally override American law.  As the New York Times headlines  in Trans-Pacific Partnership Seen as Door for Foreign Suits Against U.S.:

Companies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings — federal, state or local — before tribunals organized under the World Bank or the United Nations.

Ron Paul says that the TPP would erode national sovereignty:

While it’s falsely called a “trade agreement”, only 5 out of 29 of TPP’s chapters have anything to do with trade.  And conservatives point out that even the 5 chapters on trade do not promote free trade. Bloomberg calls TPP a “corporatist power grab”, “as democratic and transparent as a one-party state,” and shrouded in “Big Brother-like secrecy”.

TPP would increase the cost of consumer loansmake prescription drugs more expensive, destroy privacy, harm food safetylet Wall Street run amok, make it illegal to favor local businesses, and – yes –  literally act to destroy the sovereignty of the U.S. and the other nations which sign the bill.

A very credible inside source – with a proven track record of access, accuracy, intelligence and dedication to working for our country – tells Washington’s Blog that TPP contains provisions which would severely harm America’s national security. Specifically, like some previous, ill-conceived treaties, TPP would allow foreign companies to buy sensitive American assets which could subject us to terror attacks or economic blackmail.

Huffington Post quotes the New York Times and Wikileaks to explain how the dispute provisions would gut the American legal system:

The WikiLeaks analysis explains that this lets firms “sue” governments to obtain taxpayer compensation for loss of “expected future profits.”

Let that sink in for a moment: “[C]ompanies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings — federal, state or local — before tribunals….” And they can collect not just for lost property or seized assets; they can collect if laws or regulations interfere with these giant companies’ ability to collect what they claim are “expected future profits.”

The Times‘ report explains that this clause also “giv[es] greater priority to protecting corporate interests than promoting free trade and competition that benefits consumers.”

The tribunals that adjudicate these cases will be made up of private-sector (i.e., corporate) attorneys. These attorneys will rotate between serving on the tribunals and representing corporations that bring cases to be heard by the tribunals. This is a conflict of interest because the attorneys serving on the tribunals will have tremendous incentive to rule for the corporations if they want to continue to get lucrative corporate business.

***

This ISDS mechanism [“Investor-State Dispute Settlement” tribunals created by TPP] originates from a time when investors in wealthy, developed countries wanted to invest in projects in unstable “third-world,” “banana-republic”-style countries but worried that dictators or revolutionary governments could decide to seize their property — a refinery, railroad or factory — leaving them with no recourse. So before investing, the target country agrees that in the case of disputes, a tribunal is set up outside and beyond the reach of the country’s justice system (courts where the judge is a brother or other crony of the dictator, for example), providing recourse in the event of unjust seizure of property. This would make investment less risky.

However, under agreements like the TPP, these provisions apply to and override the laws of modern, stable, developed countries with democratic governance and fair court systems. The corporate representatives negotiating modern trade agreements see such democratically run governments as “burdensome” and chaotic, introducing “uncertainties” and “interfering” or “meddling” with the corporate order. As one supporter of these ISDS provisions put it, they protect corporations from “the waves of madness that occasionally flit through the population.”

To give an idea of what would happen to American law if TPP passes, just look at Equador …   Its courts awarded billions against Chevron for trashing huge swaths of rainforest.  But then a private arbitration panel simply ignored the country’s court system. If TPP passes, we’ll be treated like a third world country, and our American laws and courts will be ignored as well.

(Those opposed to a “one world government” or a “new world order” should oppose TPP as the big fight.  Conservatives might want to read read this.  Remember that one of the best definitions of fascism – the one used by Mussolini – is the “merger of state and corporate power”.  TPP a giant step in that direction.)

The backers of TPP – including Obama and many in Congress – are trying to approve a “fast track” procedure this week that would prevent Congress from having any real input into the agreement, or to even have the opportunity to debate what should be in the agreement.

But the treaty is so bad, that if we just defeat the attempt to fast-track it, it will die a natural death as soon as it’s made public … and Congress has to engage in serious debate on the horrible agreement, and answer to its angry constituents.

The American people are already strongly opposed to TPP, and are disgusted by the proposed fast-tracking of the TPP vote. But we have to let our Congress members’ know how we feel on this.

We’ve stopped other bad trade bills … and we can stop this one.

Make your voice heard and tell Congress NO to TPP!

Postscript: Find your House member here, and your Senator here.

Posted in Business / Economics, Energy / Environment, General, Politics / World News, Science / Technology | 54 Comments

Wedges and Triangles: Big Move Ahead?

The central bank high is euphoric, the crash and burn equally epic.

Just out of curiosity, I called up a few charts of key markets: stocks (the S&P 500), volatility (VIX), gold and the U.S. dollar (UUP, an exchange-traded fund for the dollar). Interestingly, all of these charts displayed some version of a wedge/triangle.

In a wedge/triangle (a formation with many variations such as pennants), price traces out a pattern of higher lows and lower highs, compressing price action into the apex of a triangle as buyers and sellers reach an increasingly unstable equilibrium.

As price gets squeezed into a narrowing band, the likelihood increases that price will break out of the triangle, either up or down, in a major move.

So which way will these markets break–up or down? One thing is fairly certain: the S&P 500 (SPX) and the VIX (volatility) are on a see-saw–both don’t soar at the same time. If the VIX soars, stocks are plummeting as fear takes hold. If the VIX stumbles along the bottom of its range, market players are complacent and stocks loft higher.

Many observers see the same inverse relationship in gold and the U.S. dollar–when one is going up, the other is weakening.

I tested this widely accepted truism by aligning the charts of both the U.S. dollar and gold, and found that there were lengthy periods during which gold and the U.S. dollar rose in tandem:About That Supposed Correlation of the U.S. Dollar and Gold…. (July 8, 2013)

My conclusion: each is influenced by a number of factors, some shared, some unique to each asset. As a result of this complex confluence, at times both go up together and at times there is a negative correlation (see-saw effect), and during other periods, there is little correlation, i.e. they act entirely independent of the other.

Let’s look at the charts. Nothing fancy here–just clear wedges/triangles and declining MACD indicators.

Interestingly, gold rose when the VIX was elevated–that is, when market participants were nervous or fearful. If volatility breaks to the upside, stocks will fall and perhaps gold will move up as the flight to safety/fear trade replaces central-bank administered complacency that stocks can loft higher regardless of fundamentals.

Since the dollar also tends to strengthen when the herd is stampeding in a flight to safety, perhaps we can look to the VIX as the bellwether for what will likely happen to stocks, gold and the dollar.

If the risk-on central bank monetary cocaine trade continues, stocks may loft higher and the VIX, gold and the dollar may all drift lower as volatility and lower-risk assets are avoided in the quickening chase for yield in a negative-interest world.

If the risk-on trade evaporates and risk-off trades gain favor, stocks will be sold off hard, volatility will rocket higher (something we’ve almost forgotten can happen) and gold and the U.S. dollar will benefit from the flight to safety/central bank cocaine crash trade.

The central bank high is euphoric, the crash and burn equally epic. Be careful what monkey you invite to latch onto your back….

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The 13 Words You CAN’T Say About Hillary Clinton

The Washington Post notes that there are 13 words you can’t write about Hillary Clinton.

Oops

DeleteArtwork by Anthony Freda

Posted in Politics / World News | 5 Comments

Battlefield America: The War on the American People

By John Whitehead. Constitutional and civil rights attorney, and founder of the Rutherford Institute.

“A government which will turn its tanks upon its people, for any reason, is a government with a taste of blood and a thirst for power and must either be smartly rebuked, or blindly obeyed in deadly fear.”—John Salter

We have entered into a particularly dismal chapter in the American narrative, one that shifts us from a swashbuckling tale of adventure into a bone-chilling horror story.

As I document in my new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, “we the people” have now come full circle, from being held captive by the British police state to being held captive by the American police state. In between, we have charted a course from revolutionaries fighting for our independence and a free people establishing a new nation to pioneers and explorers, braving the wilderness and expanding into new territories.

Where we went wrong, however, was in allowing ourselves to become enthralled with and then held hostage by a military empire in bondage to a corporate state (the very definition of fascism). No longer would America hold the moral high ground as a champion of freedom and human rights. Instead, in the pursuit of profit, our overlords succumbed to greed, took pleasure in inflicting pain, exported torture, and imported the machinery of war, transforming the American landscape into a battlefield, complete with military personnel, tactics and weaponry.

To our dismay, we now find ourselves scrambling for a foothold as our once rock-solid constitutional foundation crumbles beneath us. And no longer can we rely on the president, Congress, the courts, or the police to protect us from wrongdoing.

Indeed, they have come to embody all that is wrong with America.

For instance, how does a man who is relatively healthy when taken into custody by police lapse into a coma and die while under their supervision? What kind of twisted logic allows a police officer to use a police car to run down an American citizen and justifies it in the name of permissible deadly force? And what country are we living in where the police can beat, shoot, choke, taser and tackle American citizens, all with the protection of the courts?

Certainly, the Constitution’s safeguards against police abuse means nothing when government agents can crash through your door, terrorize your children, shoot your dogs, and jail you on any number of trumped of charges, and you have little say in the matter. For instance, San Diego police, responding to a domestic disturbance call on a Sunday morning, showed up at the wrong address, only to shoot the homeowner’s 6-year-old service dog in the head.

Rubbing salt in the wound, it’s often the unlucky victim of excessive police force who ends up being charged with wrongdoing. Although 16-year-old Thai Gurule was charged with resisting arrest and strangling and assaulting police officers, a circuit judge found that it was actually the three officers who unlawfully stopped, tackled, punched, kneed, tasered and yanked his hair who were at fault. Thankfully, bystander cell phone videos undermined police accounts, which were described as “works of fiction.”

Not even our children are being spared the blowback from a growing police presence. As one juvenile court judge noted in testimony to Congress, although having police on public school campuses did not make the schools any safer, it did result in large numbers of students being arrested for misdemeanors such as school fights and disorderly conduct. One 11-year-old autistic Virginia student was charged with disorderly conduct and felony assault after kicking a trashcan and resisting a police officer’s attempt to handcuff him. A 14-year-old student was tasered by police, suspended and charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and trespassing after he failed to obey a teacher’s order to be the last student to exit the classroom.

There is no end to the government’s unmitigated gall in riding roughshod over the rights of the citizenry, whether in matters of excessive police powers, militarized police, domestic training drills, SWAT team raids, surveillance, property rights, overcriminalization, roadside strip searches, profit-driven fines and prison sentences, etc.

The president can now direct the military to detain, arrest and secretly execute American citizens. These are the powers of an imperial dictator, not an elected official bound by the rule of law. For the time being, Barack Obama wears the executioner’s robe, but you can rest assured that this mantle will be worn by whomever occupies the Oval Office in the future.

A representative government means nothing when the average citizen has little to no access to their elected officials, while corporate lobbyists enjoy a revolving door relationship with everyone from the President on down. Indeed, while members of Congress hardly work for the taxpayer, they work hard at being wooed by corporations, which spend more to lobby our elected representatives than we spend on their collective salaries. For that matter, getting elected is no longer the high point it used to be. As one congressman noted, for many elected officials, “Congress is no longer a destination but a journey… [to a] more lucrative job as a K Street lobbyist… It’s become routine to see members of Congress drop their seat in Congress like a hot rock when a particularly lush vacancy opens up.”

As for the courts, they have long since ceased being courts of justice. Instead, they have become courts of order, largely marching in lockstep with the government’s dictates, all the while helping to increase the largesse of government coffers. It’s called for-profit justice, and it runs the gamut of all manner of financial incentives in which the courts become cash cows for communities looking to make an extra buck. As journalist Chris Albin-Lackey details, “They deploy a crushing array of fines, court costs, and other fees to harvest revenues from minor offenders that these communities cannot or do not want to raise through taxation.” In this way, says Albin-Lackey, “A resident of Montgomery, Alabama who commits a simple noise violation faces only a $20 fine—but also a whopping $257 in court costs and user fees should they seek to have their day in court.”

As for the rest—the schools, the churches, private businesses, service providers, nonprofits and your fellow citizens—many are also marching in lockstep with the police state. This is what is commonly referred to as community policing. After all, the police can’t be everywhere. So how do you police a nation when your population outnumbers your army of soldiers? How do you carry out surveillance on a nation when there aren’t enough cameras, let alone viewers, to monitor every square inch of the country 24/7? How do you not only track but analyze the transactions, interactions and movements of every person within the United States? The answer is simpler than it seems: You persuade the citizenry to be your eyes and ears.

It’s a brilliant ploy, with the added bonus that while the citizenry remains focused on and distrustful of each other, they’re incapable of focusing on more definable threats that fall closer to home—namely, the government and its militarized police. In this way, we’re seeing a rise in the incidence of Americans being reported for growing vegetables in their front yard, keeping chickens in their back yard, letting their kids walk to the playground alone, and voicing anti-government sentiments. For example, after Shona Banda’s son defended the use of medical marijuana during a presentation at school, school officials alerted the police and social services, and the 11-year-old was interrogated, taken into custody by social workers, had his home raided by police and his mother arrested.

Now it may be that we have nothing to worry about. Perhaps the government really does have our best interests at heart. Perhaps covert domestic military training drills such as Jade Helm really are just benign exercises to make sure our military is prepared for any contingency. As the Washington Post describes the operation:

The mission is vast both geographically and strategically: Elite service members from all four branches of the U.S. military will launch an operation this summer in which they will operate covertly among the U.S. public and travel from state to state in military aircraft. Texas, Utah and a section of southern California are labeled as hostile territory, and New Mexico isn’t much friendlier.

Now I don’t believe in worrying over nothing, but it’s safe to say that the government has not exactly shown itself to be friendly in recent years, nor have its agents shown themselves to be cognizant of the fact that they are civilians who answer to the citizenry, rather than the other way around.

Whether or not the government plans to impose some form of martial law in the future remains to be seen, but there can be no denying that we’re being accustomed to life in a military state. The malls may be open for business, the baseball stadiums may be packed, and the news anchors may be twittering nonsense about the latest celebrity foofa, but those are just distractions from what is really taking place: the transformation of America into a war zone.

Trust me, if it looks like a battlefield (armored tanks on the streets, militarized police in metro stations, surveillance cameras everywhere), sounds like a battlefield (SWAT team raids nightly, sound cannons to break up large assemblies of citizens), and acts like a battlefield (police shooting first and asking questions later, intimidation tactics, and involuntary detentions), it’s a battlefield.

Indeed, what happened in Ocala, Florida, is a good metaphor for what’s happening across the country: Sheriff’s deputies, dressed in special ops uniforms and riding in an armored tank on a public road, pulled a 23-year-old man over and issued a warning violation to him after he gave them the finger. The man, Lucas Jewell, defended his actions as a free speech expression of his distaste for militarized police.

Translation: “We the people” are being hijacked on the highway by government agents with little knowledge of or regard for the Constitution, who are hyped up on the power of their badge, outfitted for war, eager for combat, and taking a joy ride—on taxpayer time and money—in a military tank that has no business being on American soil.

Rest assured, unless we slam on the brakes, this runaway tank will soon be charting a new course through terrain that bears no resemblance to land of our forefathers, where freedom meant more than just the freedom to exist and consume what the corporate powers dish out.

Rod Serling, one of my longtime heroes and the creator of The Twilight Zone, understood all too well the danger of turning a blind eye to evil in our midst, the “things that scream for a response.” As Serling warned, “if we don’t listen to that scream – and if we don’t respond to it – we may well wind up sitting amidst our own rubble, looking for the truck that hit us – or the bomb that pulverized us. Get the license number of whatever it was that destroyed the dream. And I think we will find that the vehicle was registered in our own name.”

If you haven’t managed to read the writing on the wall yet, the war has begun.

Posted in Politics / World News | 12 Comments

Congress About to Pass All The Horrible Spying/Anti-Internet Bills We Defeated Before

After we the people – web users and just plain folks – killed SOPA and CISPA, Congress has just renamed them and is about to pass them under the radar …

Wake up, Internet … THERE’S STILL TIME TO STOP THIS FASCIST MOVE!

Posted in Politics / World News, Science / Technology | 7 Comments