When $8.5 Trillion is Chump Change

Three cheers for Reuters pointing out that the Pentagon can’t explain what it did with $8.5 trillion that taxpayers gave it between 1996 and 2013.

Three trillion cheers for a blogger who is pointing out that this fact renders many other concerns ludicrous, and recommending that people bring it up at every opportunity:

“What’s that? Body cameras for all cops will be too expensive? How about we find 1/10,000th of the money we sent to the Pentagon.”

“Oh really? There’s 500 million in provable food stamp fraud going to poor people how about the $8.5 TRILLION the pentagon can’t account for?”

“Oh really? You think Obamacare is going to cost us almost a trillion dollars over 15 years? How about the 8.5 Trillion that just disappeared into the ether at the Pentagon? What’s your take on that?”

“Oh really, you’re concerned about deficit spending and the debt? Fully 1/3 of the national debt is money we sent the Pentagon and they can’t tell us where it went. It’s just gone.”

“College for everyone will cost too much? You must be really pissed at the 8.5 Trillion, with a ‘t’, dollars the pentagon’s spent and can’t tell us where it went.”

This is all very good as far as it goes, whether you like the body cameras or corporate health insurance or other items or not. We could add an unlimited number of items including some expressing our concern for the other 96% of humanity:

“You can end starvation and unclean water for tens of billions of dollars; what about that $8.5 trillion?”

Et cetera.

But here’s my real concern. The $8.5 trillion is just the bit that the Pentagon can’t account for. That’s far from all the money it was given. U.S. military spending, spread across several departments with the biggest chunk of it to the Department of so-called Defense, is upwards of $1 trillion every year. Over 17 years at the current rate, which rose sharply after 2001, that’s upwards of $17 trillion.

Imagine that the Pentagon accounted for every dime of that missing $8.5 trillion, named every profiteer, documented the life history of every man, woman, and child killed, and passed the strictest audit by an independent team of 1,000 accountants reporting to 35 Nobel Laureates — if that happened, I ask you, exactly what difference would it make?

Why is the $8.5 trillion that went to unknown purposes worse than the other trillions that went to known and named weapons and dictators and militants and recruitment campaigns? The documented and accounted for spending all went to evil purposes. Presumably the unaccounted for “waste” did the same. What’s the difference between the two?

As World Beyond War points out, war has a huge direct financial cost, the vast majority of which is in funds spent on the preparation for war — or what’s thought of as ordinary, non-war military spending. Very roughly, the world spends $2 trillion every year on militarism, of which the United States spends about half, or $1 trillion. This U.S. spending also accounts for roughly half of the U.S. government’s discretionary budget each year and is distributed through several departments and agencies. Much of the rest of world spending is by members of NATO and other allies of the United States, although China ranks second in the world.

Wars can cost even an aggressor nation that fights wars far from its shores twice as much in indirect expenses as in direct expenditures. The costs to the aggressor, enormous as they are, can be small in comparison to those of the nation attacked.

It is common to think that, because many people have jobs in the war industry, spending on war and preparations for war benefits an economy. In reality, spending those same dollars on peaceful industries, on education, on infrastructure, or even on tax cuts for working people would produce more jobs and in most cases better paying jobs — with enough savings to help everyone make the transition from war work to peace work.

Military spending diverts public funds into increasingly privatized industries through the least accountable public enterprise and one that is hugely profitable for the owners and directors of the corporations involved — thus concentrating wealth.

While war impoverishes the war making nation, can it nonetheless enrich that nation more substantially by facilitating the exploitation of other nations? Not in a manner that can be sustained.

Green energy and infrastructure would surpass their advocates’ wildest fantasies if the funds now invested in war were transferred there.

Posted in General | 7 Comments

The Latest Science on Global Warming

Eric Zuesse

Because of the prejudiced coverage of the global warming issue that’s common in much of the press, I have decided to present highlights from one of the most comprehensive articles that’s now being considered by one of the world’s top scientific journals on the topic: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. This is the latest scientific knowledge on the subject.

The paper is titled: “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 ◦C global warming is highly dangerous,” by J. Hansen et al. (You can read it there.)

Here is the article’s full team of authors: J. Hansen, M. Sato, P. Hearty, R. Ruedy, M. Kelley, V. Masson-Delmotte, G. Russell, G. Tselioudis, J. Cao, E. Rignot, I. Velicogna, E. Kandiano, K. von Schuckmann, P. Kharecha, A. N. Legrande, M. Bauer, and K.-W. Lo

Here are some highlights (the most easily comprehensible statements) from this research article:

——

Global CO2 emissions continue to increase as fossil fuels remain the primary energy source. The argument is made that it is economically and morally responsible to continue fossil fuel use for the sake of raising living standards, with expectation that humanity can adapt to climate change and find ways to minimize effects via advanced technologies. We suggest that this viewpoint fails to appreciate the nature of the threat posed by ice sheet instability and sea level rise. If the ocean continues to accumulate heat and increase melting of marine-terminating ice shelves of Antarctica and Greenland, a point will be reached at which it is impossible to avoid large scale ice sheet disintegration with sea level rise of at least several meters. The economic and social cost of losing functionality of all coastal cities is practically incalculable. We suggest that a strategic approach relying on adaptation to such consequences is unacceptable to most of humanity, so it is important to understand this threat as soon as possible.

We examine events late in the last interglacial period warmer than today. …

Our finding of global cooling from ice melt calls into question whether global temperature is the most fundamental metric for global climate in the 21st century. The first order requirement to stabilize climate is to remove Earth’s energy imbalance, which is now about +0.6Wm-2 [Watts per square meter] more energy coming in than going out. If other forcings are unchanged, removing this imbalance requires reducing atmospheric CO2 from 400 to 350 ppm (Hansen et al., 2008, 2013a). …

Humanity faces near certainty of eventual sea level rise of at least Eemian proportions, 5–9m [16-30 feet], if fossil fuel emissions continue on a business-as-usual course, e.g., IPCC scenario A1B that has CO2 700 ppm in 2100 (Fig. S21). It is unlikely that coastal cities or low-lying areas such as Bangladesh, European lowlands, and large portions of the United States eastern coast and northeast China plains (Fig. S22) could be protected against such large sea level rise. Rapid large sea level rise may begin sooner than generally assumed. …

We conclude that the 2 C [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit] global warming “guardrail”, armed in the Copenhagen Accord (2009), does not provide safety, as such warming would likely yield sea level rise of several meters along with numerous other severely disruptive consequences for human society and ecosystems. …

The message that the climate science delivers to policymakers, instead of defining a safe “guardrail”, is that fossil fuel CO2 emissions must be reduced as rapidly as practical [instead of being allowed to rise at all]. Hansen et al. (2013a) conclude that this implies a need for a rising carbon fee or tax [immediately], an approach that has the potential to be near-global, as opposed to national caps or goals for emission reductions. Although a carbon fee is the sine qua non for phasing out emissions [they’re rejecting cap-and-trade], the urgency of slowing emissions also implies other needs including widespread technical cooperation in clean energy technologies (Hansen et al., 2013a).

——

Here is the opening of a straightforward referee’s review of this paper; it’s by geophysicist D. Archer of the University of Chicago, and dated 27 July 2015: “This is another Hansen masterwork of scholarly synthesis, modeling virtuosity, and insight, with profound implications.” Dr. Archer’s closing sentence is: “I expect this paper will be widely read, but it will make its readers work for it.”

——

To simplify what the article itself says: Previous estimates of the coastal cities that will be flooded out of existence have been overly optimistic. The situation will likely be worse than has been projected. But measures can be taken that will probably succeed at preventing the outcome from being even worse than that.

——

What the paper does not cover: This paper does not deal with desertification and increased forest fires and increased deforestation, and with the destruction of (CO2-reducing) trees that will result from that spreading desertification; nor does it deal with refugees surging away from the equator, nor species-extinctions; it doesn’t deal with inland consequences of the global-warming problem. Nor does it deal with marine extinctions resulting from the increasingly acidic oceans. However, the policy-recommendations would reduce those issues, too, if carried out.

Bottom line: While the world dilly-dallies, so that fossil-fuels companies can continue to attract investors for discovering yet more oil, coal and gas (all of which new discoveries will be unburnable — a total waste, because this planet won’t tolerate even the burning of all of the oil, gas, and coal, that’s already been discovered and is now in those companies’ undeveloped reserves), the climatological findings become increasingly pessimistic. In other words: the consensus of climatologists is even bleaker now than it has been. This can be said of the recent findings, without even getting into predictions as to what the precise consequences of it will be.

This is simply the bleak current reality, which might be sinking in too slowly to avert runaway global warming (for example America’s President still obliviously encourages more oil and gas exploration in the arctic), but which nonetheless seems to be sinking in, despite all the sheer corruption, which could end up having terminated life on this planet, as a result of the corruption merely to-date, even if that corruption were to stop immediately and the value of undeveloped fossil-fuel reserves were to plunge immediately to zero, thus forcing governments fully to cost-in fossil-fuels’ harms.

In a separate news report, the head of the present research team writes on behalf of children who are suing the U.S. Government for its being, by its actions, inactions, and corruption, a curse to all their futures. James Hansen says there:

Sensible means exist to rapidly phase down CO2 emissions, to wit, a rising carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies with funds distributed to the public. Instead, our President proposes ineffectual actions, demonstrably short of what is needed, and persists in approving fossil fuel projects that will slam shut the narrowing window of opportunity to ensure a hospitable climate system. I aim to testify on behalf of young people. Their future hangs in the balance.

When scientists are compelled by circumstances, to recognize that the world is close to, if not already, terminally corrupt, their final resort is to become, themselves, activists, on behalf of future generations, whom our generation is murdering. Perhaps they’re voices in the wilderness. But now they are starting to shout. It’s their last hope. It’s also the last hope of future generations (if there still is, realistically, any hope at all, remaining).

—————

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, Energy / Environment, General, Media, Politics / World News, propaganda, Science / Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Jewish Leaders Support Iran Deal

26 Jewish leaders are running an ad in the New York Times today supporting the Iran deal:

  • S. Daniel Abraham, Chair, S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace
  • Michael M. Adler, President, Greater Miami Jewish Federation (2004-2006)
  • Robert Arnow, Chair, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Board of Governors (1983-1994)
  • Thomas A. Dine, Executive Director, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (1980-1993)
  • Stanley P. Gold, Chair, Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (2008-2009)
  • E. Robert Goodkind, President, American Jewish Committee (2004-2007)
  • Alan S. Jaffe, President, UJA-Federation of New York (1992-1995)
  • Marvin Lender, Chair, United Jewish Appeal (1990-1992)
  • Carl Levin, U.S. Senator, Michigan (1979-2015)
  • Jacqueline K. Levine, Chair, National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (1983-1986)
  • Mel Levine, Member of Congress, California (1983-1993)
  • Rabbi Brain Lurie, Chief Executive Officer, United Jewish Appeal (1991-1996)
  • Lynn Lyss, Chair, National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (1994-1996)
  • Theodore Mann, Chair, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (1978-1980)
  • Ambassador (ret.) Alfred H. Moses, President, American Jewish Committee (1991-1994)
  • Nancy Ratzan, Chair, National Council of Jewish Women (2008-2011)
  • Seymour D. Reich, Chair, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (1989-1990)
  • Robert S. Rifkind, President, American Jewish Committee (1994-1998)
  • Greg Rosenbaum, Chair, National Jewish Democratic Council (2014-present)
  • Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, Chancellor, Jewish Theological Seminary (1986-20006)
  • Ambassador (ret.) Alan Solomont, Chair, Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Great Boston (2003-2005)
  • Alan Solow, Chair, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (2009-2011)
  • Marc R. Stanley, Co-Chair, Foundation for Jewish Culture (2012-2014)
  • Robert Wexler, Member of Congress, Florida (1997-2010)
  • Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism (1996-2012)
  • Larry Zicklin, President, UJA-Federation of New York (2001-2004)

They join 340 U.S. rabbis, the majority of American Jews (and see this), and scores of U.S. military leaders and top Israeli generals and intelligence chiefs in supporting the deal.

Posted in Politics / World News | 2 Comments

Americans Don’t Know that the Rest of the World Views U.S. as Biggest Danger, Rogue State

Noam Chomsky notes:

According to the leading western polling agencies (WIN/Gallup International), the prize for “greatest threat” is won by the United States.  The rest of the world regards it as the gravest threat to world peace by a large margin.  In second place, far below, is Pakistan, its ranking probably inflated by the Indian vote.  Iran is ranked below those two, along with China, Israel, North Korea, and Afghanistan.

***

Fifteen years ago, the prominent political analyst Samuel Huntington, professor of the science of government at Harvard, warned in the establishment journal Foreign Affairs that for much of the world the U.S. was “becoming the rogue superpower… the single greatest external threat to their societies.” Shortly after, his words were echoed by Robert Jervis, the president of the American Political Science Association: “In the eyes of much of the world, in fact, the prime rogue state today is the United States.” As we have seen, global opinion supports this judgment by a substantial margin.

But Americans don’t know any of that.  We assume the rest of the world loves and respects us, as we are spoon-fed the “World’s Greatest” and “Exceptional Country” pablum from the mainstream media.

Posted in Politics / World News | 19 Comments

Most Disgusting Game Ever

IMG_3703-v01No, I’m not referring to the U.S. election. I’m referring to “Bycatch.” The name refers not to fish accidentally caught and killed while trying to catch and kill other fish, but to humans murdered in a game in which the player hopes to murder certain other humans but knows that he or she stands a good chance of murdering some bycatch.

The Nazis never reached this height of banality in the general German public, but had they done so it would be a sinister feature of tens of thousands of Hollywood movies. If Russians sat around playing a board game that involved blowing up Ukrainian children, the Washington Post would have already published several front-page articles.

This is a game that puts you in the shoes of one particular human being, thus far, but imagines several engaging in the same activity in competition. In Bycatch you become Barack Obama going through his Tuesday murder list. But Bycatch imagines as many nations as people playing the game, each engaging in a drone murder spree against the others. Here’s an excerpt from the rules:

“How to strike

“Suspects hiding in other nations can be eliminated by means of a strike. You choose the opponent you wish to target and go through these steps:

“Discard two identical citizens who are not suspects from your hand.

“Remove three consecutive citizens from your chosen opponent’s hand.

“Show these cards to the other players.

“Place them face down in front of you.

“Failed Strike: If none of the eliminated citizens are suspects, they are all collateral damage.

“Successful Strike: If at least one eliminated citizen is a suspect, do the following:

  • Place the current intelligence card face 
down on top of the eliminated citizens.
  • Reveal a new intelligence card.

“The remaining citizens are collateral damage.”

IMG_3688-v01Thrilling! I wonder how one wins such a game of easy murder?

“Add 100 points for each suspect eliminated by a strike. Use the intelligence cards to identify eliminated suspects.

“Collateral Damage: Detract 10 points for each citizen in a strike who was not a suspect.”

So, if you casually murder three “wrong” people, you lose 30 points. But if you only murder two “wrong” people and murder one “right” person, you gain 80 points. I wonder what people will do?

This is a game to be played by well-off people who can afford to purchase such crap and to sit around playing with it. And it’s being marketed to them with a wink by people who know better. The game’s would-be profiteers have this to say about it:

“Appealing artwork helps you empathize with your citizens and the horrors of drone strikes and collateral damage.”

Right. Because tossing lives around on playing cards and making more points the more you murder is a well-established path to empathy.

I thought I couldn’t grow any more disgusted with the human race. I was wrong.<--break->

Posted in General | 10 Comments

One Word Defines This Era: Stagnation

Beneath the surface PR of progress, the operant dynamic of this era is stagnation. Cheerleaders of progress have a few unalloyed wins in the past 15 years–battles won against diseases, for example–and a general increase in living standards among the world’s poorest populations.

But much of what is sold as progress is an inch deep and a mile wide: the proliferation of smart phones and social media for example.

What the cheerleaders of progress don’t dare mention is the stagnation of quality, political choice, productivity and growth that isn’t dependent on the hyper-expansion of debt and financial speculation.

I addressed some aspects of the stagnation of quality in China and the Decline in Quality (and Soon in Profits), but this only scratches the surface.

In effect, rather than advance the quality of goods via increasing automation and competition based on quality, the West moved much of its manufacturing to China where the work involves hand-assembly of inferior quality materials and parts–a process in which every possible corner has been cut to lower costs.

How many of you can honestly claim that the services you get from government or global corporations are better now than they were in 2000, or 1985? Get real, people; more often than not, the service has declined or stagnated rather than improved.

Meanwhile, what services you do get cost a lot more. To get local streets repaved, now you have to approve a bond–in other words, the cost of repaving streets is being shoved onto our kids and grandkids.

If you call that progress, you are delusional.

In the political sphere, our choices have stagnated: can anyone claim politics has progressed when the same two dynasties of decline that have dominated the news cycle for decades (George Bush I from 1980 when he ran against Ronald Reagan in the Republican primaries and Billary Clinton since 1992) are still frolicking in the political sewers of the nation, 35 years and 23 years on?

If you call that progress, you are delusional.

I have read a number of essays by conventional economist cheerleaders claiming that American household incomes have risen by 50% in real (adjusted for inflation) terms since 1980 (the beginning of the age of financialization, by the way).

Ludicrously, these claims boil down to this: once government transfers and tax cuts are included in income calculations, magically, middle class household income soars.

In other words, once we count entitlements and social welfare from the federal government, household income isn’t so bad after all. Baldly stated: the middle class clings to “middle class” status thanks to payments from the government.

If you call that progress, you are delusional.

And how about the greatest example of progress, China? The cheerleaders never mention the real drivers of China’s boom:

1. An unparalleled expansion of debt and mal-investment.

2. The despoliation of China’s air, water and soil–environmental damage that will require hundreds of billions of dollars of remediation and clean-up.

3. The exploitation of tens of millions of poorly paid workers who face life-threatening chronic diseases as a result of the poisoning of their nation and the introduction of progress in the form of a diabesity-drenched Western diet.

If you call that progress, you are delusional.

Correspondent Mark G. summed up the reality of this era in one sentence:

I think historians and economists a century from now will regard this era as one of stagnation and steady decline rather than unalloyed progress.

If we call stagnation progress, what have we accomplished?

Posted in General | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

George Soros’s Fakery

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org

George Soros pretends to be a progressive, but he invests in and finances nazis. That’s not “Nazis” as in National Socialist Party of Germany, which was outlawed after WW II, and whose racist obsession was against Jews. Instead, it’s “nazis” as in any racist fascist ideology (any ideology of racist fascism, instead of a political Party), in any country, against any  ethnic group. But George Soros happens to support only nazis (racist fascists) whose passionate hatred is specifically against Russians. His entire biography in public life has actually been that.

People used to think that he opposed merely communism, and that he was aiming to end communism in the Soviet Union, but, after it did end there in 1991, he continued, now much more clearly than before, hating Russians instead of “communists,” and now doing everything he could to encourage NATO to increasingly surround that increasingly alone country, by its former Warsaw Pact allies, which would become, instead, NATO members, military bases for U.S. and other hostile forces, against Russia.

Then, building up toward the long-planned February 2014 coup in Ukraine, on Russia’s doorstep, he and the U.S. Government, and the Netherlands Government, poured money into a new TV station, Hromadske TV, to propagandize for what became the overthrow of Ukraine’s neutralist President Viktor Yanukovych, to replace his government with a rabidly anti-Russian government. Here is an interview on Hromadske TV in which their interviewed guest pontificates about the need to kill at least 1.5 million of the residents in Donbass, which is the area of Ukraine that had voted 90+% for Yanukovych (the highest voting-ratio for Yanukovych in all of Ukraine) (and those election results in 2010 were the last before the coup):

http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.com/2014/08/its-perfectly-simple-you-need-to-kill.html

You can see “International Renaissance Fund” mentioned at the bottom of that. It’s also called the International Renaissance Foundation, and it’s an extension of George Soros, just as his Open Society Foundations are. It’s shown there as being the third-biggest donor to Hromadske TV. Here is what the guest was saying:

“If we take, for example, just the Donetsk district, there are approximately 4 million inhabitants, at least 1.5 million of whom are superfluous. … Donbass must be exploited as a resource, which it is. … The most important thing that must be done — no matter how cruel it may sound — is that there is a certain category of people that must be exterminated.”

He said this in a country where people considered it acceptable to propagandize for exterminating Russians as “colorado beetles” (bugs having dark brown stripes on yellow) which are common agricultural pests at farms in Ukraine. Russians are commonly called there “Colorados” meaning “pests” in Ukrainian jargon. 

Here’s a public service ad on Ukrainian television during the summer of 2014, while the government was bombing throughout Donbass; it calls for exterminating these beetles:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfO7SmdwK2Y

This genocide-attempt was crude; Ukraine was only getting started on the attempt:

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=703_1406188532

But there were also firebombings in Donbass’s biggest city, Donetsk:

http://rinf.com/alt-news/editorials/brookings-wants-villages-firebombed-ukraines-anti-terrorist-operation/

This is about the Western world’s media-blackout on this attempted genocide:

http://smirkingchimp.com/thread/eric-zuesse/59560/media-blackout-as-u-s-sponsors-genocide-in-southeastern-ukraine

And here are articles by George Soros himself, arguing, originally, for $20 billion from taxpayers in the U.S. and Europe, and then for $50 billion from them, in order to purchase weapons so as to finish this job, of creating ‘democracy’ in Ukraine:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/nov/20/wake-up-europe/

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/feb/05/new-policy-rescue-ukraine

This money will never be paid back. He calls it an “investment,” in “democracy” (which is what he had actually helped to overthrow  there), but Ukraine is bankrupt, and increasingly poverty-striken, from not only the decades-long previous corruption, but the current demands by the IMF and other Western interests, to pour all of the money they lend, into the war-effort.  So, what George Soros and other Western aristocrats have produced in Ukraine (which until then was a country at peace) is a coup and then ethnic cleansing, which are financed by Western taxpayers (not by the few billionaires who aim to benefit from this via the resulting privatization of State assets, which the billionaires can then pick up dirt-cheap, in order that Ukraine may then pay off that soaring war-debt). The Western Alliance is doing this, but Soros is an important part of it.

Also, the Koch brothers, at the supposed opposite end of the U.S. aristocracy, are helping out, but only in minor ways.

Basically, the U.S. aristocracy is united on it. They disagree about things such as global warming; but, on policies to conquer Russia and grab its natural resources via privatizations, they’re remarkably united. It’s just that Soros seems to have a special hatred for Russians, just as the Kochs have a special hatred for progressives. Whereas Soros’s main motivation appears to be racist against Russians, the Kochs’ main motivation in this matter appears to be genuinely ideological, against progressives — the Kochs are supporting the operation primarily on a philosophical level.

Regarding ideology, Soros apparently doesn’t actually have any. His alleged philosohpy is only a front. For example, on 11 August 2011, the New York Times  bannered,  “George Soros, the Girlfriend and the Apartment,”  and reporter Susanne Craig described his messy legal conflict with a “former soap opera star in Brazil,” whom he broke up with after a several-years-long affair, in which he set her up in a fancy NYC apartment (she had selected it), and gave her to understand that “it is yours, I am only putting it in the name of a company for tax purposes as I want to avoid paying gift taxes.” But, then, he suddenly dumped her, and said, “I gave it to my girlfriend” (another mistress, she didn’t know of); he wanted her out of there, right after she had selected it and he had bought it for her. She was now in it, and planned on (and had every reason to expect) it to be hers, and so was now suing him for $50 million, citing especially her “emotional distress” from his deceit. But what’s significant about the case is that Soros, who pretended to be opposed to the long-ongoing (after 1960) tranference of the nation’s tax-burden from the upper class to the lower class, was now clearly, by his own actions, transferring yet more  of his own  tax-burden off onto the general public, which is the exact opposite of what he publicly favored. For example, on 11 December 2012, Forbes headlined, “Warren Buffett And George Soros Want Higher Estate Tax,” and reported:

According to a growing number of prominent billionaires, millionaires, and public figures, President Obama’s estate tax proposal, based on 2009 law, is not strong enough. Warren Buffett, George Soros, President Jimmy Carter, Bill Gates, Sr., and many others have signed a list of notable wealthy individuals who are calling on Congress and the President to raise more of the revenue needed in the fiscal slope negotiations through a stronger estate tax—a tax … the signers would ultimately pay [and the lower 99% wouldn’t pay at all].

The impressive list of supporters was unveiled today at a national press conference featuring Robert Rubin, former Treasury Secretary and Co-Chairman of Goldman Sachs; John Bogle, founder and former CEO of The Vanguard Group; Abigail Disney, granddaughter of Roy Disney and a filmmaker and philanthropist; and Richard Rockefeller, MD, heir to Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller.

Now, what’s especially interesting about this is that gift taxes are integrated into (they are a part of) estate taxes, so that any change in estate taxes is a similar change in gift taxes. Soros here was publicly  on record as favoring higher, not lower, taxation of gifts. But, in his private  affairs, at the very same time, he was telling his then girlfriend that the reason he was placing her apartment — which she had selected, and which he had bought because she had told him that this was her dream apartment — into one of his corporations’ names instead of her name, was “to avoid paying gift taxes.” That hypocrisy on his part proves his alleged ideology to be merely a front. To judge by his actions, he has no actual ideology at all — only hatred, and greed.

—————

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, Energy / Environment, General, Media, Politics / World News, propaganda, Science / Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

U.S. Military Leaders Support Iran Deal

Scores of high-level American military leaders support the Iran deal.  For example, the following 35 military officials – from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps – signed a letter urging support for the deal:

  • General James “Hoss” Cartwright, U.S. Marine Corps
  • General Joseph P. Hoar, U.S. Marine Corps
  • General Merrill “Tony” McPeak, U.S. Air Force
  • General Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton, US. Air Force
  • Lieutenant General Robert G. Gard, Jr., U.S. Army
  • Lieutenant General Arlen D. Jameson, U.S. Air Force
  • Lieutenant General Frank Kearney, U.S. Army
  • Lieutenant General Claudia J. Kennedy, U.S. Army
  • Lieutenant General Donald L. Kerrick, U.S. Army
  • Lieutenant General Charles P. Otstott, U.S. Army
  • Lieutenant General Norman R. Seip, U.S. Air Force
  • Lieutenant General James M. Thompson, U.S. Army
  • Vice Admiral Kevin P. Green, U.S. Navy
  • Vice Admiral Lee F. Gunn, US. Navy
  • Major General George Buskirk, US Army
  • Major General Paul D. Eaton, U.S. Army
  • Major General Marcelite J. Harris, U.S. Air Force
  • Major General Frederick H. Lawson, U.S. Army Major General William L. Nash, U.S. Army
  • Major General Tony Taguba, U.S. Army
  • Rear Admiral John Hutson, U.S. Navy
  • Rear Admiral Malcolm MacKinnon HI, US. Navy
  • Rear Admiral Edward “Sonny” Masco, U.S. Navy
  • Rear Admiral Joseph Sestak, U.S. Navy
  • Rear Admiral Garland “Gar” P. Wright, US. Navy
  • Brigadier General John Adams, US. Air Force
  • Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Brigadier General Patricia “Pat” Foote, U.S. Army
  • Brigadier General Lawrence E. Gillespie, U.S. Army
  • Brigadier General John Johns, U.S. Army
  • Brigadier General David McGinnis, U.S. Army
  • Brigadier General Stephen Xenakis, U.S. Army
  • Rear Admiral James Arden “Jamie” Barnett, Jr., U.S. Navy
  • Rear Admiral Jay A. DeLoach, U.S. Navy
  • Rear Admiral Harold L. Robinson, U.S. Navy
  • Rear Admiral Alan Steinman, U.S. Coast Guard

General Martin Dempsey – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – agrees.

So does Admiral Cecil E.D. Haney, U.S. Navy, who is commander of the U.S. Strategic Command.

And Admiral Eric Olson, U.S. Navy, who was Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

So do:

  • Secretary of Defense William Perry
  • National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • National Security Advisor General Brent Scowcroft
  • National Security Advisor Samuel Berger
  • Secretary of State Madeline Albright
  • Assistant Secretary of Defense and Chairman National Intelligence Council Joseph Nye
  • Director for Iran, National Security Council and Deputy Coordinator for Sanctions Policy at the Department of State Richard Nephew
  • National Security Council Member for Iran and the Persian Gulf Gary Sick
  • Numerous additional high-level American defense, intelligence and diplomatic officials

Scores of top Israeli generals and intelligence chiefs endorse the deal as well.

So do 340 U.S. rabbis from across the political spectrum. And the majority of American Jews. And see this.

Posted in Politics / World News | 5 Comments

The Federal Reserve – Which CREATED Quantitative Easing – Admits QE Doesn’t Work

Even the Fed Admits QE Doesn’t Work

The Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis (Stephen Williamson)  writes in a new Fed white paper (as explained by Zero Hedge):

  • The theory behind Quantitative Easing (QE) is “not well-developed”
  • The evidence in support of Ben Bernanke’s views on the transmission mechanisms whereby asset purchases affect outcomes are “mixed at best”
  • “All of [the] research is problematic,” Williamson continues, as “there is no way to determine whether asset prices move in response to a QE announcement simply because of a signalling effect, whereby QE matters not because of the direct effects of the asset swaps, but because it provides information about future central bank actions with respect to the policy interest rate.” In other words, it could be that the market is just reading QE as a signal that rates will stay lower for longer and that read is what drives market behavior, not the actual bond purchases.
  • “There is no work, to my knowledge, that establishes a link from QE to the ultimate goals of the Fed inflation and real economic activity. Indeed, casual evidence suggests that QE has been ineffective in increasing inflation. [Background.] For example, in spite of massive central bank asset purchases in the U.S., the Fed is currently falling short of its 2% inflation target. Further, Switzerland and Japan, which have balance sheets that are much larger than that of the U.S., relative to GDP, have been experiencing very low inflation or deflation.”
  • “A Taylor-rule central banker may be convinced that lowering the central bank’s nominal interest rate target will increase inflation. This can lead to a situation in which the central banker becomes permanently trapped in ZIRP. With the nominal interest rate at zero for a long period of time, inflation is low, and the central banker reasons that maintaining ZIRP will eventually increase the inflation rate. But this never happens and, as long as the central banker adheres to a sufficiently aggressive Taylor rule, ZIRP will continue forever, and the central bank will fall short of its inflation target indefinitely. This idea seems to fit nicely with the recent observed behavior of the world’s central banks.” [Background.]
  • “Thus, the Fed’s forward guidance experiments after the Great Recession would seem to have done more to sow confusion than to clarify the Fed’s policy rule.”

This is not the first time that high-level Fed officials and economists have blasted QE …

The former long-term head of the Federal Reserve (Alan Greenspan) says that QE has failed to help the economy.

A high-level Federal Reserve official says QE is “the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time”.

Ed Yardeni – a former Federal Reserve economist who held positions at the Fed’s Board of Governors and the Treasury Department, who served as Chief Investment Strategist for Deutsche Bank, and was Chief Economist for C.J. Lawrence, Prudential Securities, and E.F. Hutton – notes that economists including Ben Bernanke have known for 20 years that there is no transmission mechanism by which QE stimulates the real economy.

Several Federal Reserve also say that QE causes deflation:

Narayana Kocherlakota, the Minneapolis Fed chief, suggested as far back as 2011 that zero rates and QE may perversely be the cause of deflation, not the cure that everybody thought. This caused consternation, and he quickly retreated.  Stephen Williamson, from the St Louis Fed [the guy quoted up top], picked up the refrain last November in a paper entitled “Liquidity Premia and the Monetary Policy Trap”, arguing that that the Fed’s actions are pulling down the “liquidity premium” on government bonds (by buying so many). This in turn is pulling down inflation. The more the policy fails – he argues – the more the Fed doubles down, thinking it must do more. That too caused a storm.

Background.

Other Central Bankers Agree

The former head of the Bank of England – Mervyn King – said that more QE will not help the economy:

We have had the biggest monetary stimulus that the world must have ever seen, and we still have not solved the problem of weak demand. The idea that monetary stimulus after six years … is the answer doesn’t seem (right) to me.

William White – the brilliant economist who called the 2008 crisis well ahead of time, who is head of the OECD’s Review Committee and former chief economist for BIS (the central banks’ central bank) slammed QE:

QE is not going to help at all. Europe has far greater reliance than the US on small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) and they get their money from banks, not from the bond market.

***

Even after the stress tests the banks are still in ‘hunkering down mode’. They are not lending to small firms for a variety of reasons. The interest rate differential is still going up.

***

Mr White said QE is a disguised form of competitive devaluation. “The Japanese are now doing it as well but nobody can complain because the US started it,” he said.

“There is a significant risk that this is going to end badly because the Bank of Japan is funding 40pc of all government spending. This could end in high inflation, perhaps even hyperinflation.

“The emerging markets got on the bandwagon by resisting upward pressure on their currencies and building up enormous foreign exchange reserves. The wrinkle this time is that corporations in these countries – especially in Asia and Latin America – have borrowed $6 trillion in US dollars, often through offshore centres. That is going to create a huge currency mismatch problem as US rates rise and the dollar goes back up.”

***

He deplores the rush to QE as an “unthinking fashion”. Those who argue that the US and the UK are growing faster than Europe because they carried out QE early are confusing “correlation with causality”. The Anglo-Saxon pioneers have yet to pay the price. “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings. There are serious side-effects building up and we don’t know what will happen when they try to reverse what they have done.”

The painful irony is that central banks may have brought about exactly what they most feared by trying to keep growth buoyant at all costs, he argues, and not allowing productivity gains to drive down prices gently as occurred in episodes of the 19th century. “They have created so much debt that they may have turned a good deflation into a bad deflation after all.”

The original inventor of QE says that QE has failed to help the economy.

Numerous academic studies confirm this. And see this.

Many high-level economists – including  the main architect of Japan’s QE program – now say that QE may cause deflation and harms the economy in the long run.

Economists also note that QE helps the rich … but hurts the little guy. QE is one of the main causes of inequality (and see this and this). And economists now admit that runaway inequality cripples the economy. So QE indirectly hurts the economy by fueling runaway inequality.

And the “Godfather” of Japan’s monetary policy admits that it “is a Ponzi game”.

Other than that, the $4.5 trillion program has been great …

Posted in Business / Economics, Politics / World News | 9 Comments

China and the Decline in Quality (and Soon in Profits)

The general decline in the quality of tools and consumer goods predates the emergence of China as the workshop of the world, but the decline has gathered momentum with China’s dominance of manufacturing.

Young people have little to no experience of tools and consumer goods that function for decades; today, everything that isn’t disposable is expected to fail/break within a few years. Whatever doesn’t break must be upgraded or tossed as uncool.

This is partly the result of planned obsolescence: designing the device or appliance to fail or become obsolete within a few years so the consumer has to replace it.

But planned obsolescence is not the entire problem; the quality of goods has declined dramatically due to shoddy manufacturing, poor quality control and low-quality materials. This trend has accelerated as production moved to China.

A few decades ago, things built in the U.S.A. and elsewhere were built to last:not just tools and appliances, but electronics: My 31-Year Old Apple Mac Started Up Fine After 15 Years in a Box (February 28, 2015)

Correspondent Mark G. has been sharing his experience with machine tools that were made in the U.S.A. 60 or 70 years ago that are still going strong.

By his reckoning, table saws sold in the U.S. in the early 1960s–tools that are still working today–were only 10% to 15% more than current table saws (when adjusted for inflation) that are made of plastic and inferior components that won’t last a decade, never mind 60 years.

Here are Mark’s comments on comparing table saws made in the early 1960s and those sold today:

Comparing tablesaws is problematic. The reason is even consumer level American made table saws in 1960 used heavy machined iron castings, structural steel, sheet steel and ZAMAC die castings in all parts. My Magna 10″ table saw is a classic example of that era. Far lower grade plastic and stamped metal contraptions are sold now. Devices of that low a grade simply weren’t on the market before.

Regarding Do-it-yourself: Popular Mechanics had run a 1950s article on building a Delta Unisaw style table saw from plywood and parts machined on a metal lathe. The classified ads of Popular Science and Popular Mechanics were full of DIY shop tool plan sets for $5 or so.

The key take-away is that tools and appliances of the current low quality simply weren’t available in the Made-in-USA era. In a competitive market, i.e. one that isn’t dominated by cartels and quasi-monopolies, competition would drive out low-quality goods designed to fail or made to fail by default.

But with virtually everything made in China now, competition is no longer about quality–it’s only about price. Where’s the competition in quality when everything is made in China? There isn’t any. the quality is low regardless of the brand on the device, tool or appliance.

The life-cycle costs in cash and wasted resources for poor-quality goods are horrendous. What is the total life-cycle costs of low-quality goods that soon end up at the dump? If a table saw (for example) costs 10% less than a table saw in 1965, but the new tool fails in 10 years while the one made in 1965 is still working fine, what is the total cost of having a functioning table saw for 50 years?

Five new table saws at 90% of the original cost equals 450% higher life-cycle costs for the poorly made modern tool.

The profits from fabricating low-quality goods flow to the Western owners and buyers, not the Chinese workers. If you watch China Blue, a documentary on a clothing manufacturer in China, you will see a Western buyer squeezing the factory owner to wholesale blue jeans for $4 each that the Western buyer will retail for $40 each. Meanwhile, the factory workers (mostly teenage girls) go months without pay and are penalized if they can’t work crushing slave-labor hours.

The horrendous human costs of working distant factory jobs for low pay is explored in the documentary Last Train Home.

I have explored the dependence of U.S. corporate profits on cheap goods made in China many times: Trade and “Trade War” with China: Who Benefits? (October 5, 2010)

Mark G. compared the modest price reductions in shoddy goods made today and asked where the savings end up. Here is his answer:

It is crystal clear the slight cost reductions were obtained by reducing the material specifications and much corner cutting in the manufacturing processes. Where then did the large additional costs saved by the labor and regulatory arbitrage of the China Trade go? We both know the answer to this. See soaring income inequality.

A key observation is the Chinese import retail prices are not as cheap as they should be. Equally clearly, improvements in manufacturing technology and automation since the late 1950s should have enabled such production to stay onshore with production cost cuts and a retention or even increase in quality and specifications. In many instances the 1950s production was coming out of line shaft powered factories. Instead of manufacturing process modernization the movement to China and offshore has been accompanied by process stagnation and even a reversion to more labor intensive hand work methods.

The rise of cheap automation and robotics dooms mass human labor in China and everywhere else. This poses an insurmountable obstacle to China’s full employment and spells the end of Corporate America’s vast skimming operation based on low wages and zero-regulatory costs in China.

China Builds City’s First All-Robot Factory Replacing Human Workers

The era of reaping stupendous profits from low-quality goods produced by low-cost labor in a lax anything-goes regulatory system are ending, not as a result of policy changes but as a result of far deeper structural changes. Anyone thinking China, Inc. and Corporate America will emerge unscathed is living in Fantasyland.

Posted in General | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

340 Rabbis, Scores of Israeli Generals and Military Chiefs, and Most American Jews Support Iran Deal

The Jerusalem Post reports that 340 U.S. rabbis – from across the political spectrum – endorsed the Iran deal.

Scores of top Israeli generals and intelligence chiefs endorse the deal as well.

As do American Jews. And see this.

Posted in Politics / World News | 4 Comments

No, Bernanke … Defense Spending Does NOT Help the Economy!

http://ourgovernmentisbroke.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Uncle-Sam-11-e1370881400909.jpgImage courtesy of Steve Hess

Debunking a Myth

Preface: Many Americans – including influential economists and talking heads still wrongly assume that war is good for the economy. For example, former Federal Reserve boss Ben Bernanke just claimed that cutting defense spending would harm the economy.

And extremely influential economists like Paul Krugman and Martin Feldstein promote the myth that war is good for the economy.

Many congressmen assume that cutting pork-barrel military spending would hurt their constituents’ jobs. And talking heads like senior Washington Post political columnist David Broder parrot this idea.

As demonstrated below, it isn’t true.

Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says that war is bad for the economy:

Stiglitz wrote in 2003:

War is widely thought to be linked to economic good times. The second world war is often said to have brought the world out of depression, and war has since enhanced its reputation as a spur to economic growth. Some even suggest that capitalism needs wars, that without them, recession would always lurk on the horizon. Today, we know that this is nonsense. The 1990s boom showed that peace is economically far better than war. The Gulf war of 1991 demonstrated that wars can actually be bad for an economy.

Stiglitz has also said that this decade’s Iraq war has been very bad for the economy. See this, this and this.

Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan also said in that war is bad for the economy. In 1991, Greenspan said that a prolonged conflict in the Middle East would hurt the economy. And he made this point again in 1999:

Societies need to buy as much military insurance as they need, but to spend more than that is to squander money that could go toward improving the productivity of the economy as a whole: with more efficient transportation systems, a better educated citizenry, and so on. This is the point that retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) learned back in 1999 in a House Banking Committee hearing with then-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Frank asked what factors were producing our then-strong economic performance. On Greenspan’s list: “The freeing up of resources previously employed to produce military products that was brought about by the end of the Cold War.” Are you saying, Frank asked, “that dollar for dollar, military products are there as insurance … and to the extent you could put those dollars into other areas, maybe education and job trainings, maybe into transportation … that is going to have a good economic effect?” Greenspan agreed.

Economist Dean Baker notes:

It is often believed that wars and military spending increases are good for the economy. In fact, most economic models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment.

Professor Emeritus of International Relations at the American University Joshua Goldstein notes:

Recurring war has drained wealth, disrupted markets, and depressed economic growth.

***

War generally impedes economic development and undermines prosperity.

And David R. Henderson – associate professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California and previously a senior economist with President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers – writes:

Is military conflict really good for the economy of the country that engages in it? Basic economics answers a resounding “no.”

The Proof Is In the Pudding

Mike Lofgren notes:

Military spending may at one time have been a genuine job creator when weapons were compatible with converted civilian production lines, but the days of Rosie the Riveter are long gone. [Indeed, WWII was different from current wars in many ways, and so its economic effects are not comparable to those of today’s wars.] Most weapons projects now require relatively little touch labor. Instead, a disproportionate share is siphoned into high-cost R&D (from which the civilian economy benefits little), exorbitant management expenditures, high overhead, and out-and-out padding, including money that flows back into political campaigns. A dollar appropriated for highway construction, health care, or education will likely create more jobs than a dollar for Pentagon weapons procurement.

***

During the decade of the 2000s, DOD budgets, including funds spent on the war, doubled in our nation’s longest sustained post-World War II defense increase. Yet during the same decade, jobs were created at the slowest rate since the Hoover administration. If defense helped the economy, it is not evident. And just the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan added over $1.4 trillion to deficits, according to the Congressional Research Service. Whether the wars were “worth it” or merely stirred up a hornet’s nest abroad is a policy discussion for another time; what is clear is that whether you are a Keynesian or a deficit hawk, war and associated military spending are no economic panacea.

The Washington Post noted in 2008:

A recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes that countries with high military expenditures during World War II showed strong economic growth following the war, but says this growth can be credited more to population growth than war spending. The paper finds that war spending had only minimal effects on per-capita economic activity.

***

A historical survey of the U.S. economy from the U.S. State Department reports the Vietnam War had a mixed economic impact. The first Gulf War typically meets criticism for having pushed the United States toward a 1991 recession.

The Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) shows that any boost from war is temporary at best. For example, while WWII provided a temporary bump in GDP, GDP then fell back to the baseline trend. After the Korean War, GDP fell below the baseline trend:

IEP notes:

By examining the state of the economy at each of the major conflict periods since World War II, it can be seen that the positive effects of increased military spending were outweighed by longer term unintended negative macroeconomic consequences. While the stimulatory effect of military outlays is evidently associated with boosts in economic growth, adverse effects show up either immediately or soon after, through higher inflation, budget deficits, high taxes and reductions in consumption or investment. Rectifying these effects has required subsequent painful adjustments which are neither efficient nor desirable. When an economy has excess capacity and unemployment, it is possible that increasing military spending can provide an important stimulus. However, if there are budget constraints, as there are in the U.S. currently, then excessive military spending can displace more productive non-military outlays in other areas such as investments in high-tech industries, education, or infrastructure. The crowding-out effects of disproportionate government spending on military functions can affect service delivery or infrastructure development, ultimately affecting long-term growth rates.

***

Analysis of the macroeconomic components of GDP during World War II and in subsequent conflicts show heightened military spending had several adverse macroeconomic effects. These occurred as a direct consequence of the funding requirements of increased military spending. The U.S. has paid for its wars either through debt (World War II, Cold War, Afghanistan/Iraq), taxation (Korean War) or inflation (Vietnam). In each case, taxpayers have been burdened, and private sector consumption and investment have been constrained as a result. Other negative effects include larger budget deficits, higher taxes, and growth above trend leading to inflation pressure. These effects can run concurrent with major conflict or via lagging effects into the future. Regardless of the way a war is financed, the overall macroeconomic effect on the economy tends to be negative. For each of the periods after World War II, we need to ask, what would have happened in economic terms if these wars did not happen? On the specific evidence provided, it can be reasonably said, it is likely taxes would have been lower, inflation would have been lower, there would have been higher consumption and investment and certainly lower budget deficits. Some wars are necessary to fight and the negative effects of not fighting these wars can far outweigh the costs of fighting. However if there are other options, then it is prudent to exhaust them first as once wars do start, the outcome, duration and economic consequences are difficult to predict.

We noted in 2011:

This is a no-brainer, if you think about it. We’ve been in Afghanistan for almost twice as long as World War II. We’ve been in Iraq for years longer than WWII. We’ve been involved in 7 or 8 wars in the last decade. And yet [the economy is still unstable]. If wars really helped the economy, don’t you think things would have improved by now? Indeed, the Iraq war alone could end up costing more than World War II. And given the other wars we’ve been involved in this decade, I believe that the total price tag for the so-called “War on Terror” will definitely support that of the “Greatest War”.

Let’s look at the adverse effects of war in more detail …

War Spending Diverts Stimulus Away from the Real Civilian Economy

IEP notes that – even though the government spending soared – consumption and investment were flat during the Vietnam war:

The New Republic noted in 2009:

Conservative Harvard economist Robert Barro has argued that increased military spending during WWII actually depressed other parts of the economy.

(New Republic also points out that conservative economist Robert Higgs and liberal economists Larry Summers and Brad Delong have all shown that any stimulation to the economy from World War II has been greatly exaggerated.)

How could war actually hurt the economy, when so many say that it stimulates the economy?

Because of what economists call the “broken window fallacy”.

Specifically, if a window in a store is broken, it means that the window-maker gets paid to make a new window, and he, in turn, has money to pay others. However, economists long ago showed that – if the window hadn’t been broken – the shop-owner would have spent that money on other things, such as food, clothing, health care, consumer electronics or recreation, which would have helped the economy as much or more.

If the shop-owner hadn’t had to replace his window, he might have taken his family out to dinner, which would have circulated more money to the restaurant, and from there to other sectors of the economy. Similarly, the money spent on the war effort is money that cannot be spent on other sectors of the economy. Indeed, all of the military spending has just created military jobs, at the expense of the civilian economy.

Professor Henderson writes:

Money not spent on the military could be spent elsewhere.This also applies to human resources. The more than 200,000 U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan could be doing something valuable at home.

Why is this hard to understand? The first reason is a point 19th-century French economic journalist Frederic Bastiat made in his essay, “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen.” Everyone can see that soldiers are employed. But we cannot see the jobs and the other creative pursuits they could be engaged in were they not in the military.

The second reason is that when economic times are tough and unemployment is high, it’s easy to assume that other jobs could not exist. But they can. This gets to an argument Bastiat made in discussing demobilization of French soldiers after Napoleon’s downfall. He pointed out that when government cuts the size of the military, it frees up not only manpower but also money. The money that would have gone to pay soldiers can instead be used to hire them as civilian workers. That can happen in three ways, either individually or in combination: (1) a tax cut; (2) a reduction in the deficit; or (3) an increase in other government spending.

***

Most people still believe that World War II ended the Great Depression …. But look deeper.

***

The government-spending component of GNP went for guns, trucks, airplanes, tanks, gasoline, ships, uniforms, parachutes, and labor. What do these things have in common? Almost all of them were destroyed. Not just these goods but also the military’s billions of labor hours were used up without creating value to consumers. Much of the capital and labor used to make the hundreds of thousands of trucks and jeeps and the tens of thousands of tanks and airplanes would otherwise have been producing cars and trucks for the domestic economy. The assembly lines in Detroit, which had churned out 3.6 million cars in 1941, were retooled to produce the vehicles of war. From late 1942 to 1945, production of civilian cars was essentially shut down.

And that’s just one example. Women went without nylon stockings so that factories could produce parachutes. Civilians faced tight rationing of gasoline so that U.S. bombers could fly over Germany. People went without meat so that U.S. soldiers could be fed. And so on.

These resources helped win the war—no small issue. But the war was not a stimulus program, either in its intentions or in its effects, and it was not necessary for pulling the U.S. out of the Great Depression. Had World War II never taken place, millions of cars would have been produced; people would have been able to travel much more widely; and there would have been no rationing. In short, by the standard measures, Americans would have been much more prosperous.

Today, the vast majority of us are richer than even the most affluent people back then. But despite this prosperity, one thing has not changed: war is bad for our economy. The $150 billion that the government spends annually on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and, increasingly, Pakistan) could instead be used to cut taxes or cut the deficit. By ending its ongoing warsthe U.S. governmentwould be developing a more prosperous economy.

Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises points:

That is the essence of so-called war prosperity; it enriches some by what it takes from others. It is not rising wealth but a shifting of wealth and income.

We noted in 2010:

You know about America’s unemployment problem. You may have even heard that the U.S. may very well have suffered a permanent destruction of jobs.

But did you know that the defense employment sector is booming?

[P]ublic sector spending – and mainly defense spending – has accounted for virtually all of the new job creation in the past 10 years:

The U.S. has largely been financing job creation for ten years. Specifically, as the chief economist for BusinessWeek, Michael Mandel, points out, public spending has accounted for virtually all new job creation in the past 1o years:

Private sector job growth was almost non-existent over the past ten years. Take a look at this horrifying chart:

longjobs1 The Military Industrial Complex is Ruining the Economy

Between May 1999 and May 2009, employment in the private sector sector only rose by 1.1%, by far the lowest 10-year increase in the post-depression period.

It’s impossible to overstate how bad this is. Basically speaking, the private sector job machine has almost completely stalled over the past ten years. Take a look at this chart:

longjobs2 The Military Industrial Complex is Ruining the Economy

Over the past 10 years, the private sector has generated roughly 1.1 million additional jobs, or about 100K per year. The public sector created about 2.4 million jobs.

But even that gives the private sector too much credit. Remember that the private sector includes health care, social assistance, and education, all areas which receive a lot of government support.

***

Most of the industries which had positive job growth over the past ten years were in the HealthEdGov sector. In fact, financial job growth was nearly nonexistent once we take out the health insurers.

Let me finish with a final chart.

longjobs4 The Military Industrial Complex is Ruining the Economy

Without a decade of growing government support from rising health and education spending and soaring budget deficits, the labor market would have been flat on its back. [120]

***

So most of the job creation has been by the public sector. But because the job creation has been financed with loans from China and private banks, trillions in unnecessary interest charges have been incurred by the U.S.

And this shows military versus non-military durable goods shipments: us collapse 18 11 The Military Industrial Complex is Ruining the Economy [Click here to view full image.]

So we’re running up our debt (which will eventually decrease economic growth), but the only jobs we’re creating are military and other public sector jobs.

PhD economist Dean Baker points out that America’s massive military spending on unnecessary and unpopular wars lowers economic growth and increases unemployment:

Defense spending means that the government is pulling away resources from the uses determined by the market and instead using them to buy weapons and supplies and to pay for soldiers and other military personnel. In standard economic models, defense spending is a direct drain on the economy, reducing efficiency, slowing growth and costing jobs.

A few years ago, the Center for Economic and Policy Research commissioned Global Insight, one of the leading economic modeling firms, to project the impact of a sustained increase in defense spending equal to 1.0 percentage point of GDP. This was roughly equal to the cost of the Iraq War.

Global Insight’s model projected that after 20 years the economy would be about 0.6 percentage points smaller as a result of the additional defense spending. Slower growth would imply a loss of almost 700,000 jobs compared to a situation in which defense spending had not been increased. Construction and manufacturing were especially big job losers in the projections, losing 210,000 and 90,000 jobs, respectively.

The scenario we asked Global Insight [recognized as the most consistently accurate forecasting company in the world] to model turned out to have vastly underestimated the increase in defense spending associated with current policy. In the most recent quarter, defense spending was equal to 5.6 percent of GDP. By comparison, before the September 11th attacks, the Congressional Budget Office projected that defense spending in 2009 would be equal to just 2.4 percent of GDP. Our post-September 11th build-up was equal to 3.2 percentage points of GDP compared to the pre-attack baseline. This means that the Global Insight projections of job loss are far too low…

The projected job loss from this increase in defense spending would be close to 2 million. In other words, the standard economic models that project job loss from efforts to stem global warming also project that the increase in defense spending since 2000 will cost the economy close to 2 million jobs in the long run.

The Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst has also shown that non-military spending creates more jobs than military spending.

So we’re running up our debt – which will eventually decrease economic growth – and creating many fewer jobs than if we spent the money on non-military purposes.

High Military Spending Drains Innovation, Investment and Manufacturing Strength from the Civilian Economy

Chalmers Johnson notes that high military spending diverts innovation and manufacturing capacity from the economy:

By the 1960s it was becoming apparent that turning over the nation’s largest manufacturing enterprises to the Department of Defense and producing goods without any investment or consumption value was starting to crowd out civilian economic activities. The historian Thomas E Woods Jr observes that, during the 1950s and 1960s, between one-third and two-thirds of all US research talent was siphoned off into the military sector. It is, of course, impossible to know what innovations never appeared as a result of this diversion of resources and brainpower into the service of the military, but it was during the 1960s that we first began to notice Japan was outpacing us in the design and quality of a range of consumer goods, including household electronics and automobiles.

***

Woods writes: “According to the US Department of Defense, during the four decades from 1947 through 1987 it used (in 1982 dollars) $7.62 trillion in capital resources. In 1985, the Department of Commerce estimated the value of the nation’s plant and equipment, and infrastructure, at just over $7.29 trillion… The amount spent over that period could have doubled the American capital stock or modernized and replaced its existing stock”.

The fact that we did not modernise or replace our capital assets is one of the main reasons why, by the turn of the 21st century, our manufacturing base had all but evaporated. Machine tools, an industry on which Melman was an authority, are a particularly important symptom. In November 1968, a five-year inventory disclosed “that 64% of the metalworking machine tools used in US industry were 10 years old or older. The age of this industrial equipment (drills, lathes, etc.) marks the United States’ machine tool stock as the oldest among all major industrial nations, and it marks the continuation of a deterioration process that began with the end of the second world war. This deterioration at the base of the industrial system certifies to the continuous debilitating and depleting effect that the military use of capital and research and development talent has had on American industry.”

Economist Robert Higgs makes the same point about World War II:

Yes, officially measured GDP soared during the war. Examination of that increased output shows, however, that it consisted entirely of military goods and services. Real civilian consumption and private investment both fell after 1941, and they did not recover fully until 1946. The privately owned capital stock actually shrank during the war. Some prosperity. (My article in the peer-reviewed Journal of Economic History, March 1992, presents many of the relevant details.)

It is high time that we come to appreciate the distinction between the government spending, especially the war spending, that bulks up official GDP figures and the kinds of production that create genuine economic prosperity. As Ludwig von Mises wrote in the aftermath of World War I, “war prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or a plague brings.”

War Causes Inflation … Which Keynes and Bernanke Admit Taxes Consumers

As we noted in 2010, war causes inflation … which hurts consumers:

Liberal economist James Galbraith wrote in 2004:

Inflation applies the law of the jungle to war finance. Prices and profits rise, wages and their purchasing power fall. Thugs, profiteers and the well connected get rich. Working people and the poor make out as they can. Savings erode, through the unseen mechanism of the “inflation tax” — meaning that the government runs a big deficit in nominal terms, but a smaller one when inflation is factored in.

***

There is profiteering. Firms with monopoly power usually keep some in reserve. In wartime, if the climate is permissive, they bring it out and use it. Gas prices can go up when refining capacity becomes short — due partly to too many mergers. More generally, when sales to consumers are slow, businesses ought to cut prices — but many of them don’t. Instead, they raise prices to meet their income targets and hope that the market won’t collapse.

Ron Paul agreed in 2007:

Congress and the Federal Reserve Bank have a cozy, unspoken arrangement that makes war easier to finance. Congress has an insatiable appetite for new spending, but raising taxes is politically unpopular. The Federal Reserve, however, is happy to accommodate deficit spending by creating new money through the Treasury Department. In exchange, Congress leaves the Fed alone to operate free of pesky oversight and free of political scrutiny. Monetary policy is utterly ignored in Washington, even though the Federal Reserve system is a creation of Congress.

The result of this arrangement is inflation. And inflation finances war.

Blanchard Economic Research pointed out in 2001:

War has a profound effect on the economy, our government and its fiscal and monetary policies. These effects have consistently led to high inflation.

***

David Hackett Fischer is a Professor of History and Economic History at Brandeis. [H]is book, The Great Wave, Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History … finds that … periods of high inflation are caused by, and cause, a breakdown in order and a loss of faith in political institutions. He also finds that war is a triggering influence on inflation, political disorder, social conflict and economic disruption.

***

Other economists agree with Professor Fischer’s link between inflation and war.

James Grant, the respected editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, supplies us with the most timely perspective on the effect of war on inflation in the September 14 issue of his newsletter:

“War is inflationary. It is always wasteful no matter how just the cause. It is cost without income, destruction financed (more often than not) by credit creation. It is the essence of inflation.”

Libertarian economics writer Lew Rockwell noted in 2008:

You can line up 100 professional war historians and political scientists to talk about the 20th century, and not one is likely to mention the role of the Fed in funding US militarism. And yet it is true: the Fed is the institution that has created the money to fund the wars. In this role, it has solved a major problem that the state has confronted for all of human history. A state without money or a state that must tax its citizens to raise money for its wars is necessarily limited in its imperial ambitions. Keep in mind that this is only a problem for the state. It is not a problem for the people. The inability of the state to fund its unlimited ambitions is worth more for the people than every kind of legal check and balance. It is more valuable than all the constitutions every devised.

***

Reflecting on the calamity of this war, Ludwig von Mises wrote in 1919

One can say without exaggeration that inflation is an indispensable means of militarism. Without it, the repercussions of war on welfare become obvious much more quickly and penetratingly; war weariness would set in much earlier.***

 

In the entire run-up to war, George Bush just assumed as a matter of policy that it was his decision alone whether to invade Iraq. The objections by Ron Paul and some other members of Congress and vast numbers of the American population were reduced to little more than white noise in the background. Imagine if he had to raise the money for the war through taxes. It never would have happened. But he didn’t have to. He knew the money would be there. So despite a $200 billion deficit, a $9 trillion debt, $5 trillion in outstanding debt instruments held by the public, a federal budget of $3 trillion, and falling tax receipts in 2001, Bush contemplated a war that has cost $525 billion dollars — or $4,681 per household. Imagine if he had gone to the American people to request that. What would have happened? I think we know the answer to that question. And those are government figures; the actual cost of this war will be far higher — perhaps $20,000 per household.

***

If the state has the power and is asked to choose between doing good and waging war, what will it choose? Certainly in the American context, the choice has always been for war.

And progressive economics writer Chris Martenson explains as part of his “Crash Course” on economics:

If we look at the entire sweep of history, we can make an utterly obvious claim: All wars are inflationary. Period. No exceptions.

***

So if anybody tries to tell you that you haven’t sacrificed for the war, let them know you sacrificed a large portion of your savings and your paycheck to the effort, thank you very much.

The bottom line is that war always causes inflation, at least when it is funded through money-printing instead of a pay-as-you-go system of taxes and/or bonds. It might be great for a handful of defense contractors, but war is bad for Main Street, stealing wealth from people by making their dollars worth less.

Given that John Maynard Keynes and former Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke both say that inflation is a tax on the American people, war-induced inflation is a theft of our wealth.

IEP gives a graphic example – the Vietnam war helping to push inflation through the roof:

War Causes Runaway Debt

We noted in 2010:

All of the spending on unnecessary wars adds up.

The U.S. is adding trillions to its debt burden to finance its multiple wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, etc.

Indeed, IEP – commenting on the war in Afghanistan and Iraq – notes:

This was also the first time in U.S. history where taxes were cut during a war which then resulted in both wars completely financed by deficit spending. A loose monetary policy was also implemented while interest rates were kept low and banking regulations were relaxed to stimulate the economy. All of these factors have contributed to the U.S. having severe unsustainable structural imbalances in its government finances.

We also pointed out in 2010:

It is ironic that America’s huge military spending is what made us an empire … but our huge military is what is bankrupting us … thus destroying our status as an empire.

Economist Michel Chossudovsky told Washington’s Blog:

War always causes recession. Well, if it is a very short war, then it may stimulate the economy in the short-run. But if there is not a quick victory and it drags on, then wars always put the nation waging war into a recession and hurt its economy.

Indeed, we’ve known for 2,500 years that prolonged war bankrupts an economy (and remember Greenspan’s comment.)

It’s not just civilians saying this …

The former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – Admiral Mullen – agrees:

The Pentagon needs to cut back on spending.

“We’re going to have to do that if it’s going to survive at all,” Mullen said, “and do it in a way that is predictable.”

Indeed, Mullen said:

For industry and adequate defense funding to survive … the two must work together. Otherwise, he added, “this wave of debt” will carry over from year to year, and eventually, the defense budget will be cut just to facilitate the debt.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates agrees as well. As David Ignatius wrote in the Washington Post in 2010:

After a decade of war and financial crisis, America has run up debts that pose a national security problem, not just an economic one.

***

One of the strongest voices arguing for fiscal responsibility as a national security issue has been Defense Secretary Bob Gates. He gave a landmark speech in Kansas on May 8, invoking President Dwight Eisenhower’s warnings about the dangers of an imbalanced military-industrial state.

“Eisenhower was wary of seeing his beloved republic turn into a muscle-bound, garrison state — militarily strong, but economically stagnant and strategically insolvent,” Gates said. He warned that America was in a “parlous fiscal condition” and that the “gusher” of military spending that followed Sept. 11, 2001, must be capped. “We can’t have a strong military if we have a weak economy,” Gates told reporters who covered the Kansas speech.

On Thursday the defense secretary reiterated his pitch that Congress must stop shoveling money at the military, telling Pentagon reporters: “The defense budget process should no longer be characterized by ‘business as usual’ within this building — or outside of it.”

While war might make a handful in the military-industrial complex and big banks rich, America’s top military leaders and economists say that would be a very bad idea for the American people.

Indeed, military strategists have known for 2,500 years that prolonged wars are disastrous for the nation.

War Increases Terrorism … And Terrorism Hurts the Economy

Security experts – conservative hawks and liberal doves alike – agree that waging war in the Middle East weakens national security and increases terrorism. See this, this, this, this, this, this and this.

Terrorism – in turn – terrorism is bad for the economy. Specifically, a study by Harvard and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) points out:

From an economic standpoint, terrorism has been described to have four main effects (see, e.g., US Congress, Joint Economic Committee, 2002). First, the capital stock (human and physical) of a country is reduced as a result of terrorist attacks. Second, the terrorist threat induces higher levels of uncertainty. Third, terrorism promotes increases in counter-terrorism expenditures, drawing resources from productive sectors for use in security. Fourth, terrorism is known to affect negatively specific industries such as tourism.

The Harvard/NBER concludes:

In accordance with the predictions of the model, higher levels of terrorist risks are associated with lower levels of net foreign direct investment positions, even after controlling for other types of country risks. On average, a standard deviation increase in the terrorist risk is associated with a fall in the net foreign direct investment position of about 5 percent of GDP.

So the more unnecessary wars American launches and the more innocent civilians we kill, the less foreign investment in America, the more destruction to our capital stock, the higher the level of uncertainty, the more counter-terrorism expenditures and the less expenditures in more productive sectors, and the greater the hit to tourism and some other industries. Moreover:

Terrorism has contributed to a decline in the global economy (for example, European Commission, 2001).

So military adventurism increases terrorism which hurts the world economy. And see this.

Posted in Business / Economics, Politics / World News | 22 Comments

Is the New U.S. ‘Law of War Manual’ Actually ‘Hitlerian’?

Eric Zuesse

The Obama U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has quietly issued its important Law of War Manual, and, unlike its predecessor, the 1956 U.S. Army Field Manual, which was not designed to approve of the worst practices by both the United States and its enemies in World War II, or after 9/11, this new document has been alleged specifically to do just that: to allow such attacks as the United States did on Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, and in Iraq, and elsewhere. 

First here will be a summary of previous news reports about this historically important document; then, extensive quotations from the actual document itself will be provided, relating to the allegations in those previous news reports. Finally will be conclusions regarding whether, or the extent to which, those earlier news reports about it were true.


EARLIER REPORTS ABOUT THE MANUAL:

The document was first reported by DoD in a curt press release on June 12th, with a short-lived link to the source-document, and headlined, “DoD Announces New Law of War Manual.” This press release was published and discussed only in a few military newsmedia, not in the general press.

The document was then anonymously reported on June 25th, at the non-military site, 

http://respect-discussion.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-usa-writes-their-own-version-of.html,

under the headline, “The USA writes their own version of ‘International Law’: Pentagon Rewrites ‘Law of War’ Declaring ‘Belligerent’ Journalists as Legitimate Targets.”

That news article attracted some attention from journalists, but no link was provided to the actual document, which the U.S. DoD removed promptly after issuing it.

A professor of journalism was quoted there as being opposed to the document’s allegedly allowing America’s embedded war journalists to kill the other side’s journalists. He said: “It gives them license to attack or even murder journalists that they don’t particularly like but aren’t on the other side.” 

Patrick Martin at the World Socialist Web Site, then headlined on August 11th, “Pentagon manual justifies war crimes and press censorship,” and he reported that the Committee to Protect Journalists was obsessed with the document’s implications regarding journalists. A link was provided to the document, but the link is dead.

Then, Sherwood Ross headlined at opednews on August 13th, “Boyle: New Pentagon War Manual Reduces Us to ‘Level of Nazis’,” and he interviewed the famous expert on international law, Francis Boyle, about it, who had read the report. Ross opened: “The Pentagon’s new Law of War Manual(LOWM) sanctioning nuclear attacks and the killing of civilians, ‘reads like it was written by Hitler’s Ministry of War,’ says international law authority Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois at Champaign.” Ross continued: “Boyle points out the new manual is designed to supplant the 1956 U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 written by Richard Baxter, the world’s leading authority on the Laws of War. Baxter was the Manley O. Hudson Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and a Judge on the International Court of Justice. Boyle was his top student.”

Ross did not link to the actual document. The only new information he provided about it consisted of Boyle’s opinions about it.

Though the DoD removed the document, someone had fortunately already copied it into the Web Archive, and I have linked to it there, at the top of the present article, to make the source-document easily accessible to the general public. The document is 1,204 pages. So, finally, the general public can see the document and make their own judgments about it. What follows will concern specifically the claims about it that were made in those prior news articles, and will compare those claims with the relevant actual statements in the document itself. Reading what the document says is worthwhile, because its predecessor, the Army Field Manual, became central in the news coverage about torture and other Bush Administration war-crimes.

THE DOCUMENT:

First of all, regarding “journalists,” the document, in Chapter 4, says: “4.24.2 Journalists and other media representatives are regarded as civilians;471 i.e., journalism does not constitute taking a direct part in hostilities such that such a person would be deprived of protection from being made the object of attack.472.” Consequently, the journalism professor’s remark is dubious, at best, but probably can be considered to be outright false.

The charge by the international lawyer, Professor Boyle, is a different matter altogether.

This document says, in Chapter 5: “5.3.1 Responsibility of the Party Controlling Civilian 5.3.1 Persons and Objects. The party controlling civilians and civilian objects has the primary responsibility for the protection of civilians and civilian objects.13[13 See  J. Fred Buzhardt, DoD General Counsel, Letter to Senator Edward Kennedy, Sept. 22, 1972. …] The party controlling the civilian population generally has the greater opportunity to minimize risk to civilians.14[14  FINAL  REPORT ON  THE PERSIAN  GULF  WAR  614. …] Civilians also may share in the responsibility to take precautions for their own protection.15[15 U.S. Comments on the International Committee of the Red Cross’s Memorandum on the Applicability of International Humanitarian Law in the Gulf Region, Jan. 11, 1991. …]” This is directly counter to what Professor Boyle was alleged to have charged about the document.

The document continues: “5.3.2 Essentially Negative Duties to Respect Civilians and to Refrain From Directing Military Operations Against Them. In general, military operations must not be directed against enemy civilians.16 In particular:

• Civilians must not be made the object of attack;17

• Military objectives may not be attacked when the expected incidental loss of life and injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage expected to be gained;18

• Civilians must not be used as shields or as hostages;19 and

• Measures of intimidation or terrorism against the civilian population are prohibited, including acts or threats of violence, the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population.20″

Furthermore: “5.3.3 Affirmative Duties to Take Feasible Precautions for the Protection of Civilians and Other Protected Persons and Objects. Parties to a conflict must take feasible precautions to reduce the risk of harm to the civilian population and other protected persons and objects.27 Feasible precautions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian objects must be taken when planning and conducting attacks.28”

Moreover: “5.5.2 Parties to a conflict must conduct attacks in accordance with the principles of distinction and proportionality. In particular, the following rules must be observed:

• Combatants may make military objectives the object of attack, but may not direct attacks against civilians, civilian objects, or other protected persons and objects.66

• Combatants must refrain from attacks in which the expected loss of life or injury to civilians, and damage to civilian objects incidental to the attack, would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage expected to be gained.67

• Combatants must take feasible precautions in conducting attacks to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and other protected persons and objects.68

• In conducting attacks, combatants must assess in good faith the information that is available to them.69

• Combatants may not kill or wound the enemy by resort to perfidy.70

• Specific rules apply to the use of certain types of weapons.71”

In addition: “5.5.3.2 AP I Presumptions in Favor of Civilian Status in Conducting Attacks. In the context of conducting attacks, certain provisions of AP I reflect a presumption in favor of civilian status in cases of doubt. Article 52(3) of AP I provides that ‘[i]n case of doubt whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house or other dwelling or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military actions, it shall be presumed not to be so used.’76 Article 50(1) of AP I provides that ‘[i]n case of doubt whether a person is a civilian, that person shall be considered to be a civilian.’”

Then, there is this: “5.15 UNDEFENDED CITIES, TOWNS, AND VILLAGES. Attack, by whatever means, of a village, town, or city that is undefended is prohibited.360 Undefended villages, towns, or cities may, however, be captured.”

Furthermore: “5.17 SEIZURE AND DESTRUCTION OF ENEMY PROPERTY. Outside the context of attacks, certain rules apply to the seizure and destruction of enemy property:

• Enemy property may not be seized or destroyed unless imperatively demanded by the necessities of war.”

These features too are not in accord with the phrase ‘reads like it was written by Hitler’s Ministry of War.’

However, then, there is also this in Chapter 6, under “6.5 Lawful Weapons”:

“6.5.1 Certain types of weapons, however, are subject to specific rules that apply to their use by the U.S. armed forces. These rules may reflect U.S. obligations under international law or national policy. These weapons include:

• mines, booby-traps, and other devices (except certain specific classes of prohibited mines, booby-traps, and other devices);38

• cluster munitions;39

• incendiary weapons;40

• laser weapons (except blinding lasers);41

• riot control agents;42

• herbicides;43

• nuclear weapons; 44 and

• explosive ordnance.45

6.5.2 Other Examples of Lawful Weapons. In particular, aside from the rules prohibiting weapons calculated to cause superfluous injury and inherently indiscriminate weapons,46 there are no law of war rules specifically prohibiting or restricting the following types of weapons by the U.S. armed forces: …

• depleted uranium munitions;51”

Mines, cluster munitions, incendiary weapons, herbicides, nuclear weapons, and depleted uranium munitions, are all almost uncontrollably violative of the restrictions that were set forth in Chapter 5, preceding.

There are also passages like this:

“6.5.4.4 Expanding Bullets. The law of war does not prohibit the use of bullets that expand or flatten easily in the human body. Like other weapons, such bullets are only prohibited if they are calculated to cause superfluous injury.74 The U.S. armed forces have used expanding bullets in various counterterrorism and hostage rescue operations, some of which have been conducted in the context of armed conflict.

The 1899 Declaration on Expanding Bullets prohibits the use of expanding bullets in armed conflicts in which all States that are parties to the conflict are also Party to the 1899 Declaration on Expanding Bullets.75 The United States is not a Party to the 1899 Declaration on Expanding Bullets, in part because evidence was not presented at the diplomatic conference that expanding bullets produced unnecessarily severe or cruel wounds.76”

The United States still has not gone as far as the 1899 Declaration on Expanding Bullets. The U.S. presumption is instead that expanding bullets have not “produced unnecessarily severe or cruel wounds.” This is like George W. Bush saying that waterboarding, etc., aren’t “torture.” The document goes on to explain that, “expanding bullets are widely used by law enforcement agencies today, which also supports the conclusion that States do not regard such bullets are inherently inhumane or needlessly cruel.81” And, of course, the Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court do not think that the death penalty is either “cruel” or “unusual” punishment. Perhaps Obama is a closeted Republican himself.

The use of depleted uranium was justified by an American Ambassador’s statement asserting that, “The environmental and long-term health effects of the use of depleted uranium munitions have been thoroughly investigated by the World Health Organization, the United Nations Environmental Program, the International Atomic Energy Agency, NATO, the Centres for Disease Control, the European Commission, and others. None of these inquiries has documented long-term environmental or health effects attributable to use of these munitions.”

However, according to Al Jazeera’s Dahr Jamail, on 15 March 2013: “Official Iraqi government statistics show that, prior to the outbreak of the First Gulf War in 1991, the rate of cancer cases in Iraq was 40 out of 100,000 people. By 1995, it had increased to 800 out of 100,000 people, and, by 2005, it had doubled to at least 1,600 out of 100,000 people. Current estimates show the increasing trend continuing. As shocking as these statistics are, due to a lack of adequate documentation, research, and reporting of cases, the actual rate of cancer and other diseases is likely to be much higher than even these figures suggest.” If those figures are accurate, then the reasonable presumption would be that depleted uranium should have been banned long ago. Continuing to assert that it’s not as dangerous a material as people think it is, seems likely to be based on cover-up, rather than on science. Until there is proof that it’s not that toxic, the presumption should be that it must be outlawed.

Finally, though the press reports on this document have not generally focused on the issue of torture, it’s worth pointing out what the document does say, about that:

“5.26.2 Information Gathering. The employment of measures necessary for obtaining information about the enemy and their country is considered permissible.727

Information gathering measures, however, may not violate specific law of war rules.728

For example, it would be unlawful, of course, to use torture or abuse to interrogate detainees for purposes of gathering information.”

And: “9.8.1 Humane Treatment During Interrogation. Interrogation must be carried out in a manner consistent with the requirements for humane treatment, including the prohibition against acts of violence or intimidation, and insults.153

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on POWs to secure from them information of any kind whatever.154 POWs who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.155

Prohibited means include imposing inhumane conditions,156 denial of medical treatment, or the use of mind-altering chemicals.157”

Those provisions would eliminate George W. Bush’s ‘justification’ for the use of tortures such as waterboarding, and humiliation.

Furthermore: “8.2.1 Protection Against Violence, Torture, and Cruel Treatment. Detainees must be protected against violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment, torture, and any form of corporal punishment.29” 

Therefore, even if Bush’s approved forms of torture were otherwise allowable under Obama’s new legal regime, some of those forms, such as waterboarding, and even “insults,” would be excluded by this provision.

Moreover: “8.2.4 Threats to Commit Inhumane Treatment. Threats to commit the unlawful acts described above (i.e., violence against detainees, or humiliating or degrading treatment, or biological or medical experiments) are also prohibited.37”

And: “8.14.4.1 U.S. Policy Prohibiting Transfers in Cases in Which Detainees Would Likely Be Tortured. U.S. policy provides that no person shall be transferred to another State if it is more likely than not that the person would be tortured in the receiving country.”

Therefore, specifically as regards torture, the Obama system emphatically and clearly excludes what the Bush interpretation of the U.S. Army Field Manual  allowed.

CONCLUSIONS:

What seems undeniable about the Law of War Manual, is that there are self-contradictions within it. To assert that it “reads like it was written by Hitler’s Ministry of War,” is going too far. But, to say that it’s hypocritical (except, perhaps, on torture, where it’s clearly a repudiation of GWB’s practices), seems safely true.

This being so, Obama’s Law of War Manual  should ultimately be judged by Obama’s actions as the U.S. Commander in Chief, and not merely by the document’s words. Actions speak truer than words, even if they don’t speak louder than words (and plenty of people still think that Obama isn’t a Republican in ‘Democratic’ verbal garb: they’re not tone-deaf, but they surely are action-deaf; lots of people judge by words not actions). For example: it was Obama himself who arranged the bloody coup in Ukraine and the resulting necessary ethnic cleansing there in order to exterminate or else drive out the residents in the area of Ukraine that had voted 90+% for the Ukrainian President whom Obama’s people (via their Ukrainian agents) had overthrown. Cluster bombs, firebombs, and other such munitions have been used by their stooges for this purpose, that ethnic cleansing: against the residents there. Obama has spoken publicly many times defending what they are doing, but using euphemisms to refer to it. He is certainly behind the coup and its follow-through in the ethnic cleansing, and none of it would be happening if he did not approve of it. Judging the mere words of Obama’s Law of War Manual  by Obama’s actions (such as in Ukraine, but also Syria, and Libya) is judging it by how he actually interprets it, and this technique of interpreting the document provides the answer to the document’s real meaning. It answers the question whenever there are contradictions within the document (as there indeed are).

Consequently, what Francis Boyle was reported to have said is, in the final analysis, true, at least in practical terms — which is all that really counts — except on torture, where his allegation is simply false.

Obama’s intent, like that of anyone, must be drawn from his actions, his decisons, not from his words, whenever the words and the actions don’t jibe, don’t match. When his Administration produced its Law of War Manual, it should be interpreted to mean what his Administration has done and is doing, not by its words, wherever there is a contradiction between those two.

This also means that no matter how much one reads the document itself, some of what one is reading is deception if it’s not being interpreted by, and in the light of, an even more careful reading of Obama’s relevant actions regarding the matters to which the document pertains.

Otherwise, the document is being read in a way that confuses its policy statements with its propaganda statements.

Parts of the document are propaganda. The purpose isn’t to fool the public, who won’t read the document (and Obama apparently doesn’t want them to). The purpose of the propaganda is to enable future presidents to say, “But if you will look at this part of the Manual, you will see that what we are doing is perfectly legal.” Those mutually contradictory passages are there in order to provide answers which will satisfy both  the ‘hawks’ and  the ‘doves.’

—————

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 General, Media, Politics / World News, propaganda, Science / Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Crimes Against Humanity: .01% poverty-murder over 400 million people since 1995, more than all wars in recorded history

“Crimes against humanity” include any of the following acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:

  • murder;
  • extermination;
  • enslavement;…
  • the crime of apartheid;
  • other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious bodily or mental injury.

International Criminal Court (ICC)

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (1), the hunger-ending organizations RESULTS (2), and Bread for the World (3) estimate that 15 million people die each year from preventable poverty, of whom 11 million are children under the age of five. Jeffrey Sachs says the total deaths are closer to 8 million (4). Either way, poverty causes more human destruction every year than those claimed in the Holocaust.

The total deaths from poverty in the last 15 years is conservatively greater than from all wars, revolutions, murders, accidents, and suicides in the 20th century (5). In the past 20 years, the total deaths from poverty probably eclipse all the above categories of death in all known human history; ~400 million (6).

Make sure you get this: in your lifetime, human beings have allowed other people in poverty, mostly helpless children under the age of five, to die before our eyes in slow, gruesome, painful death in numbers greater than all of the catastrophic events in all recorded human history. To put this number in one perspective that I provide for my students: since I graduated from high school in 1978, preventable poverty has killed ~ 500 million people, one-half a billion; which equals the entire population of the United States plus five additional Californias.

Crucial to the case to prove Crimes against Humanity as intentional policy is the fact of ongoing “Developed Nations’” reneged promises to end poverty since 1969 (and here) (7). For 18 years I was a volunteer leader for RESULTS, and participated in education for Congress and heads of state on solutions for ending poverty that are technically so easy and affordable that all counter-arguments were ended, both academically and politically. We championed two UN Summits for heads of state: the 1990 World Summit for Children (largest meeting of heads of state in world history) and the 1997 Microcredit Summit (topic of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize). All “Developed Nation” leaders attended, smiled for the cameras, and agreed to end poverty without expressed doubt, counter-argument, or concern. Full documentation of all poverty facts is here; main points regarding solutions:

  • The developed nations promised a mere 0.7% of their income to end all aspects of global poverty. The US typically underfunds this promise by ~400% (providing just 1/4th the promise).
  • The American public believe we give 25% of our budget to foreign aid, and are willing to give 10% (~$380 billion for 2015). The amount invested is actually ~$30 billion/year. The US spends over $600 billion/year on the military. The total amount to end poverty is ~$100 billion combined from all the developed nations a year for ten years. In contrast to the policy we receive, the .01% oligarchs “legally” hide $20 to $30 trillion in offshore tax havens in a rigged-casino economy designed for “peak inequality.” This .01% parasitic loot is twenty to thirty times the amount to end global poverty forever.
  • Ending poverty reduces population growth rates in every historical case, reduces strains on resources, and according to the CIA is the best way to end global terrorism.

This is ongoing Crimes against Humanity because it’s systemic premeditated attack that rejects world summit promises to end poverty, and instead willfully chooses these humans’ murder, extermination, and inhumane great suffering, the most serious bodily harm, and crippling mental injury. These Crimes against Humanity are highlighted by the .01%’s chosen policies that renege not only from promise, but from law:

The choices to kill in lie-began unlawful wars, ensnare the world in escalating and unpayable debt, then allow the debt-burdened and war victimized to die in the hundreds of millions with ongoing lies by officials and corporate media are Emperor’s New Clothes-obvious Crimes against Humanity.

Please read the above paragraph twice, and verify its objective and independently verifiable factual background.

The US Declaration of Independence is honored for asserting unalienable rights of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” for each and every human being. The most cruel violation of these cherished ideals is intentional sadistic policy for ~20,000 children to die from preventable poverty each and every day while engaging in unlawful wars, piling-on debt as criminal fraud by calling it “money”, and the opposite of representative government by Orwellian constant lies to the public.

What is a solution?

I continue to assert a proven, obvious, and legal method:

We know for certain that until these .01% “leaders” are stopped, all we’ll have is ongoing lies, crimes, and immense suffering.

The arrests will happen from:

  1. Growing demand for arrests from those of us sufficiently educated that the facts prove obvious crimes. This is as easy as being the person in the Emperor’s New Clothes pointing-to and stating what anyone can see who looks.
  2. Law enforcement and military’s organic responses to honor their Oaths to arrest .01% literal criminal psychopaths (and here) who ongoingly commit the worst crimes possible for nations.

None of us has the power to make this happen on our own, AND all of us have the power for honest full self-expression in good-faith effort.

6-minute artistic expression for our futures from PuppetGov:

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endnotes:

  1. UNICEF. State of the World’s Children Report 2006: Excluded and Invisible: http://www.unicef.org/sowc06/pdfs/sowc06_chap1.pdf
  2. RESULTS. Child Survival: https://web.archive.org/web/20080527011602/http://www.results.org/website/article.asp?id=241
  3. Bread for the World. Hunger Facts: International: http://www.bread.org/learn/hunger-basics/hunger-facts-international.html .
  4. The UN Millennium Project. The End of Poverty: http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/documents/TimeMagazineMar142005-TheEndofPovertysmall1.pdf
  5. Assuming 15 years of poverty deaths totaling 300 million and 20 years at 400 million (poverty deaths have decreased over the past 20 years) compared to the estimates from Scaruffi, P. “Wars and Genocides of the 20th Century.” http://www.scaruffi.com/politics/massacre.html  (along with the relatively smaller numbers for murders, accidents, and suicides) and from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_and_disasters_by_death_toll .
  6. A safe estimate given the population growth rate of the 20th century and a global population of ~1.6 billion in 1900.
  7. OECD. History of the 0.7% ODA Target: http://www.oecd.org/dac/aidstatistics/45539274.pdf . DAC Journal 2002, Vol 3 No 4, pages III-9 – III-11, revised June 2010. Millennium Project. The 0.7% target: an in-depth look: http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/press/07.htm .

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Note: I make all factual assertions as a National Board Certified Teacher of US Government, Economics, and History, with all economics factual claims receiving zero refutation since I began writing in 2008 among Advanced Placement Macroeconomics teachers on our discussion board, public audiences of these articles, and international conferences. I invite readers to empower their civic voices with the strongest comprehensive facts most important to building a brighter future. I challenge professionals, academics, and citizens to add their voices for the benefit of all Earth’s inhabitants.

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Carl Herman is a National Board Certified Teacher of US Government, Economics, and History; also credentialed in Mathematics. He worked with both US political parties over 18 years and two UN Summits with the citizen’s lobby, RESULTS, for US domestic and foreign policy to end poverty. He can be reached at Carl_Herman@post.harvard.edu

Note: Examiner.com has blocked public access to my articles on their site (and from other whistleblowers), so some links in my previous work are blocked. If you’d like to search for those articles other sites may have republished, use words from the article title within the blocked link. Or, go to http://archive.org/web/, paste the expired link into the box, click “Browse history,” then click onto the screenshots of that page for each time it was screen-shot and uploaded to webarchive. I’ll update as “hobby time” allows; including my earliest work from 2009 to 2011 (blocked author pages: here, here).

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Posted in General | 4 Comments

Will Japan Win the Darwin Award?

Japan Re-Starts Nuclear Plan Near Active Volcano

We reported last October:

Scientists warned that an earthquake could take out Fukushima. The Japanese ignored the warning … and even tore down the natural seawall which protected Fukushima from tidal waves.

Fukushima is getting worse. And see this and this.

Have the Japanese learned their lesson? Are they decommissioning nuclear plants which are built in dangerous environments?

Of course not!

Instead, they’re re-starting a nuclear plant near a volcano which is about to blow …

A month ago, there was an eruption at Mt. Ontake:

Ontake2
Screenshot from Youtube Video shot on September 29th of Mount erupting. 57 hikers were killed by the explosion

Embedded image permalink

But – as Newsweek reports – a nuclear plant only 40 miles away will be re-started anyway:

Local officials have voted to reopen a nuclear plant in Japan, despite warnings of increased volcanic activity in the region from scientists.

The decision comes despite a warning on Friday that Japan’s Seismological Agency had documented an increase of activity in the Ioyama volcano, located 40 miles away from the power station.

***

Sendai will become the first Japanese nuclear plant to reopen in since 2011.

However the decision comes as scientific authorities warned of increased seismic activity on the island. Volcanologists have warned that the 2011 earthquake, which measured 9.0 on the Richter scale, may have increased the likelihood of volcanic activity throughout the region. [Background.]

***

The Sendai plant is also situated only 31 miles from Mount Sakurajima, an extremely active volcano which erupts on a regular basis.

The documentation of new activity comes barely a month after the eruption of Mount Ontake, when 57 hikers were killed on its slopes. There were no accompanying signs of seismic activity prior to the eruption which might have alerted Japanese authorities to the impending disaster.

The vote has been seen as an attempt to resurrect the country’s nuclear industry, which the Japanese government hopes to restart despite public opposition to nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

***

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) approved Sendai’s safety features in September, but the plant must still pass operational safety checks before it will be able to reopen.

What could possibly go wrong?

Here’s a hint:

A cauldron eruption at one of several volcanoes surrounding the Sendai nuclear power plant could hit the reactors and cause a nationwide disaster, said Toshitsugu Fujii, head of a government-commissioned panel on volcanic eruption prediction.

Ene News explains:

Wall St Journal, Oct. 23, 2014 (emphasis added): One major volcanic eruption could make Japanextinct,” a study by experts at Kobe University warns… “We should be aware… It wouldn’t be a surprise if such gigantic eruption were to take place at any moment.”

Japan Times, Oct. 24, 2014: Colossal volcanic eruption could destroy Japan at any time: study — Japan could be nearly destroyed by a volcanic eruption over the next century that would put nearly all of its population of 127 million people at risk… “It is not an overstatement to say that a colossal volcanic eruption would leave Japan extinct as a country,” Kobe University earth sciences professor Yoshiyuki Tatsumi and associate professor Keiko Suzuki said… A disaster on Kyushu… would see an area with 7 million people buried by flows of lava and molten rock in just two hours [and] making nearly the entire country “unlivable”… It would be “hopeless” trying to save about 120 million

Japan Times, Oct. 24, 2014: Volcano near Sendai nuclear plant is shaking and may eruptAuthorities warned on Friday that a volcano a few dozen kilometers from the Sendai nuclear plant may erupt. It warned people to stay away… Ioyama [shows] signs of rising volcanic activity recently, including a tremor lasting as long as seven minutes… the Meteorological Agency’s volcano division said… [T]he area around the crater is dangerous, he added… On Friday, the warning level for the Sakurajima volcano was at 3, which means people should not approach the peak… Experts warn [the] earthquake in March 2011 may have increased the risk of volcanic activity throughout the nation

Japan Times, Oct 18, 2014: Sendai reactors vulnerable to eruptions [and] could cause a nationwide disaster, said Toshitsugu Fujii, University of Tokyo professor emeritus who heads a government-commissioned panel… [R]egulators ruled out a major eruption… [Fujii] said at best an eruption can be predicted only a matter of hours or days. Studies have shown that pyroclastic flow… at one of the volcanos near the Sendai plant… reached as far as 145 kilometers away, Fujii said. He said a pyroclastic flow from Mount Sakurajima… could easily hit the nuclear plant, which is only 40 kilometers away. Heavy ash falling from an eruption would make it impossible to reach the plant… he said. Many nuclear power plants could be affected

Asahi Shimbun, May 12, 2014: Now is the time to rethink the risk of operating nuclear power plants… it is the first time that Japan has seriously evaluated… the danger posed by volcanoes… Nuclear power plantswould suffer devastating damage from catastrophic eruptions… radioactive materials will continue to be scattered throughout the world

University of Tokyo professor Toshitsugu Fujii, head of government panel on eruption prediction: “Scientifically, they’re not safe… If [reactors] still need to be restarted… it’s for political reasons, not because they’re safe, and you should be honest about that.”

Surely, though, we’re overreacting, and things aren’t that dangerous, right?

After all, Japan Times noted last week:

The utility and the [Japanese] Nuclear Regulation Authority have also decided there is little chance of a major volcanic eruption in the next several decades.

And Reuters notes today:

Japanese utility Kyushu Electric Power said on Monday that it was monitoring activity at a volcano near its Sendai nuclear plant, but did not need to take any special precautions after authorities warned of the risk of a larger-than-usual eruption.

***

“We are not currently taking any particular response,” Kyushu Electric spokesman Tomomitsu Sakata said by phone.

“There is no impact in particular to the operations” of the Sendai plant, Sakata said.

See … no problem!

Meanwhile, back in reality, EneNews rounds up reports of the risk:

The Independent, Aug 16, 2015 (emphasis added): Japan’s weather agency issued a warning… that the likelihood of the eruption of [Sakurajima] was extremely high… after it detected a spike in seismic activity… They have warned an evacuation of the city of just over 600,000 people may be necessary. [JMA] said: “The possibility for a large-scale eruption has become extremely high for Sakurajima.”… It comes as a nuclear reactor 50 kilometres (31 miles) away was switched back on.

Mainichi, Aug 17, 2015: On Aug. 15 alone, there were 1,023 volcanic earthquakes… the JMA has pointed out that crustal changes that indicate mountain swell as a result of a magma rise are still continuing… Kazuya Kokubo [with JMA said] “underground pressure hasn’t been relieved. An eruption could occur at any time.”

Asahi Shimbun, Aug 16, 2015: … the mountain [is] expanding… [officials] estimate that a large volume of magma continues to accumulate.

Reuters/Kyodo, Aug 15, 2015: The agency also said it had raised the warning level … to an unprecedented 4.

Jiji Press, Aug 17, 2015: [Japan] remained alert for signs of a major eruption… [An official] called on the public to act calmlya major eruption could be imminent. Level 4 is the highest ever for Sakurajima… “I have lived in Sakurajima for more than 50 years but have not imagined we would have to evacuate,” said Emiko Miyashita, 80… crustal movement was also observed [and there’s] signs indicating magma has risen to near the volcanic vent… “It would be no surprise if it were to erupt at any moment,” an agency official said.

Wall St Journal, Aug 17, 2015: [Japan] remained on high alert for a major eruption at Mount Sakurajima… Seismic activity began increasing dramatically Saturday morning and data showed swelling of the mountain, the agency said.

Asahi Shimbun, Aug 15, 2015: [JMA] said a major eruption of volcanic Mount Sakurajima could be imminent… signs of sudden crustal movement were also observed… Agency officials said there were indications a much larger eruption was in the offing.

Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug 15, 2015: A major eruption is highly likely to occur, the agency said… There is a possibility that magma has risen to the shallow part of the volcano

***

Bloomberg, Aug 15, 2015: Volcanic rock and ash could cut off transport routes and prompt workers at Sendai to flee the nuclear site in the event of an eruptionengineering consultant John Large wrote.

The Times, Aug 11, 2015: Environmentalists complain that the company has paid insufficient attention to the effect of heavy ash fall on the plant’s machinery.

Jiji Press, Aug 12, 2015: Sendai nuclear power plant… has not designated a site for relocating nuclear fuel in the event of a massive volcanic eruption, claiming that warning signs would give Kepco enough time to prepare and transfer the fuel… In the event of a major eruption, however, pyroclastic flows could reach the plant and disable cooling functions… which could trigger massive radioactive emissions… The sheer volume [of spent fuel] makes it hard to find a relocation site big enough to take them… Toshitsugu Fujii, a member of the panel [advising the gov’t] said that the panel’s opinion is not necessarily consistent with that of the NRA.

Do they have a death wish?

Posted in Energy / Environment, Politics / World News | 9 Comments