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Thomas Paine

To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

31 Oct - Politics | What is Said vs. What is Done


U.S. Continues Quagmire-Building Effort In Afghanistan

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN— According to sources at the Pentagon, American quagmire-building efforts continued apace in Afghanistan this week, as the geographically rugged, politically unstable region remained ungovernable, death tolls continued to rise, and the grim military campaign persisted as hopelessly as ever.
In fact, many government officials now believe that the United States and its allies could be as little as six months away from their ultimate goal: the total quagmirification of Afghanistan.
"We've spent a lot of time and money fostering the turmoil and despair necessary to make this a sustaining quagmire, and we're not going to stop now," President Barack Obama said in a national address Monday night. "It won't be easy, but with enough tactical errors on the ground, shortsighted political strategies, and continued ignorance of our vast cultural differences, we could have a horrific, full-fledged quagmire by 2012."
Added Obama, "Together, we can make Afghanistan into a nightmarish hell-scape Americans will regret for generations to come."
The U.S. plan to build a lasting quagmire in Afghanistan calls for the loss of at least 5,000 coalition troops, nearly 1,500 of whom have already been killed, and a wasted investment of nearly $1 trillion, a quarter of which has thus far been spent.
With more than 80 percent of the country currently under Taliban control, Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued that U.S. nation-dismantling efforts are actually proceeding ahead of schedule.
"We've made a complete mess of local institutions, and moving forward this substantial lack of infrastructure will be the cornerstone of our strategy to ensure long-term chaos in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region," said Gates, gesturing to a complex, 6-foot-tall wall map of what were either newly established al-Qaeda bases in Waziristan, tribal trade routes over the Hindu Kush, or perhaps U.S. military outposts of some kind. "I couldn't be happier with our progress. This place is a complete clusterfuck."

( There's lots more - but you get the idea. The Onion - the only straight reporting available is disguised as satire. )

Ranking Terrorist Threats By Degree Of Separation 

This past year has been one of the FBI's busiest — at least when it comes to terrorism cases. In the first 10 months of 2009, there have been possible plots exposed in Denver; Springfield, Ill.; Dallas; Boston; and, just this week, Chicago.
With so many alleged plots, it's difficult to know how seriously to take any particular threat. So the intelligence community has an informal system for ranking them. The basic idea: The closer the link to al-Qaida, the more serious the plot.
Consider the case of Najibullah Zazi, the Denver-area shuttle bus driver who stands accused of plotting to blow up targets in New York City. Intelligence officials claim that the Zazi case is the most serious this country has faced since Sept. 11, 2001, because they believe Zazi had a direct link to senior al-Qaida leaders. Officials say that in addition to allegedly training in an al-Qaida camp, Zazi apparently called someone in Pakistan for instructions just before he was arrested.
That's seen as a red flag, because it suggests that al-Qaida was behind the plot in some way. And al-Qaida, as a general matter, likes its attacks to be big.
"In my view, these tend to be the most serious [cases], because, of course, the goal of them is to create a terrorist spectacular," says Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown professor who advises the U.S. government on terrorism. "They are looking to stage an enormous attack that will, as 9/11 did, change the game or change the calculation."
So that's the highest-level category — a plot connected directly to al-Qaida.

( One must accurately categorize drivel. Presumably that enhances credibility and utility...or at least furthers the cause of PYA.  )

Nine U.S. banks seized in largest one-day haul 

U.S. authorities seized nine failed banks on Friday, the most in a single day since the financial crisis began and the latest stark sign that substantial parts of the nation's banking industry are being crippled by bad loans.

The move brought the total number of failed banks in 2009 to 115 -- their highest annual level since 1992 -- with analysts expecting more to come. Among the lenders seized Friday was Los Angeles-based California National Bank, in what was the fourth-largest U.S. bank failure this year.
The largest institution to fail in the current financial crisis was Washington Mutual, which boasted $307 billion in assets when it was shuttered in September 2008.
U.S. Bancorp on Friday acquired the nine banks that had been held by FBOP Corp, picking up $18.4 billion in assets and $15.4 billion of deposits.

The Agonist

The Point Of A Stimulus Is?

The point of an economic stimulus package is to grow the economy. There is no question in my mind that the stimulus enacted by Obama and the Congress succeeded in doing that. I've been pretty clear in giving credit where credit is due on that front. But the problem is this: it was the wrong kind of stimulus--too many tax cuts and not enough money to the states. Cash-for-clunkers? A beefed up subsidy for first time home buyers? Lots of military Keynesianism? Wasn't it this kind of free-for-all in credit what got us here in the first place?
Meanwhile, the states are still in the red, bloody oozing red that it is. And business spending, that engine of economic growth and employment? Where's that? One could go on and on.
As Krugman says, "we’ve gotten the big boost, and it’s clearly far short of what we really need."
Do you feel stimulated? Or are you still personally retrenching?
To repeat: the stimulus was good, but it wasn't enough and was targeted correctly. And we'll see the results of a committee designed stimulus plan soon enough.

The New Zim Zam Optimistic Vision Protector

Yes folks, now YOU can have the new Zim Zam Optimistic Vision Protector:
Zim Zam helmets are immune to pessimism and are even safer than burying your head in the sand. Worried about another financial disaster? Peak oil? Climate change? The war in Afghanistan? ... Your Zim Zam helmet filters out everything but optimism; Read the Wall Street Journal and never have to worry about seeing an article quoting Nouriel Roubini. Pessimism is filtered out through a digital HTLS system.
Do you have a love one who is anxious or down because they read the Internet? Zim Zam has the equipment you need to turn their lives around. You can even rescue followers of Michael Rupert by slapping one of our helmets over them. In a matter of days the most pessimistic person will invest their remaining 401K or IRA in high risk securities.
Don't worry be happy, wear a Zim Zam.
Support our troops stickers extra.
yes, but does it come with batteries? ~eds.

Second Class Education For All

 Americans love to pay lip service to the idea of education. But let's face it, when the rubber hits the pedal to the metal (purposely mixed metaphor) Americans don't give a fuck. Exhibit one is here. And it ain't pretty. The story out of the New York Times magazine documents a public higher educational system that is rapidly being privatized in all but name. It also documents a system that has shifted it's focus to educating the children from lower income families to one that seeks out prosperous out of state students. It further describes a system that is raising prices almost as fast as healthcare and failing in its primary mission of providing an inexpensive education for all Americans. Lastly, it's clearly a system that the separate states have simply abandoned financially.
I'm an absolutist when it comes to education. Higher education should be subsidized, if not completely free to all those who qualify. I have a hard time getting exercised by just about anything these days, but when it comes to education I tend towards the apoplectic. Long the bedrock of our success as a nation education has now become just another overpriced commodity. One thing I don't understand is why students aren't in open rebellion at paying thousands of dollars in fees? Fees! What the hell is a fee at a university? Isn't that what the tuition is for?
As Ian might say, it's just another regressive tax on the middle class that they can no longer afford. Instead students are leveraged to the hilt by the time they graduate. The American dream is rapidly slipping out of reach for all except the wealthy in this country.
But I think the most odious aspect of this article is the description of how the University of Florida is now pushing students away from the flagship state school and steering them to a second class institution: the University of Central Florida. (Before an UCF grads get their panties in a wad please note I graduated from a second class university myself.) It's unreal.
Take Florida. The University of Central Florida, now the state’s largest university, serves roughly the same demographic the University of Florida did 15 years ago. That’s partly because the University of Florida accepts far fewer good students, sticking mostly to great ones. It is attracting students who also apply to Duke and Emory and other expensive private institutions.
The bottom line is that while Americans say education is a high priority it's not. It's not even in the top ten.

 Cannabis row drugs adviser sacked  


Professor David Nutt, head of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, criticised the decision to reclassify cannabis to Class B from C.

He accused ministers of devaluing and distorting evidence and said drugs classification was being politicised.
Earlier this week Prof Nutt used a lecture at King's College, London, to attack what he called the "artificial" separation of alcohol and tobacco from illegal drugs.

The professor said smoking cannabis created only a "relatively small risk" of psychotic illness.

Phil Willis MP, chairman of the science and technology select committee, said he would write to the home secretary to ask for clarification as to why Prof David Nutt had been sacked "at a time when independent scientific advice to government is essential".

"It is disturbing if an independent scientist should be removed for reporting sound scientific advice," he said.
Prof Nutt said he was "disappointed" by the sentiments expressed by Mr Johnson.

He added: "Whilst I accept that there is a distinction between scientific advice and government policy there is clearly a degree of overlap.

"If scientists are not allowed to engage in the debate at this interface then you devalue their contribution to policy making and undermine a major source of carefully considered and evidence-based advice."

'Disgraceful' decision

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said the sacking had been "an inevitable decision" after Prof Nutt's "latest ill-judged contribution to the debate".

But Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said the decision to sack the adviser had been "disgraceful".

"What is the point of having independent scientific advice if as soon as you get some advice that you don't like, you sack the person who has given it to you?" he said.

Mr Huhne said if the government did not want to take expert scientific advice, it might as well have "a committee of tabloid newspaper editors to advise on drugs policy".

Similarly, Claudia Rubin from Release - a national centre of expertise on drugs and drugs law - said the expert should not have been penalised.

Cannabis reclassification

"It's a real shame and a real indictment of the government's refusal to take any proper advice on this subject," she said.

And Prof Colin Blakemore, professor of neuroscience at Oxford University and former chief executive of the Medical Research Council, said the government could not expect experts who serve on its independent committees not to voice their concern if the advice they give is rejected.

"I worry that the dismissal of Prof Nutt will discourage academic and clinical experts from offering their knowledge and time to help the government in the future," he said.

( Isn't it comforting to know that 'shooting the messenger' is an international effort : ditto not letting facts interfere with administration and policy. )

The Unfortunate Sex Life of the Banana

 The banana appears almost purpose-designed for efficient human consumption and distribution. It is difficult to conceive of a more fortuitous fruit.

The banana is a freakish and fragile genetic mutant; one that has survived through the centuries due to the sustained application of selective breeding by diligent humans. Indeed, the “miraculous” banana is far from being a no-strings-attached gift from nature. Its cheerful appearance hides a fatal flaw— one that threatens its proud place in the grocery basket. The banana’s problem can be summed up in a single word: sex.

The banana plant is a hybrid, originating from the mismatched pairing of two South Asian wild plant species: Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. Between these two products of nature, the former produces unpalatable fruit flesh, and the latter is far too seedy for enjoyable consumption. Nonetheless, these closely related plants occasionally cross-pollinate and spawn seedlings which grow into sterile, half-breed banana plants. Some ten thousand years ago, early human experimenters noted that some of these hybridized Musa bore unexpectedly tasty, seedless fruit with an unheard-of yellowness and inexplicably amusing shape. They also proved an excellent source of carbohydrates and other important nutrients.

 Stuck with the clunky, inefficient cloning of asexual reproduction, the sterile banana is at a serious disadvantage in the never-ending biological arms race between plant and pest. Indeed, it is a well-established fact that bananas are particularly prone to crop-consuming insects and diseases. A severe outbreak of banana disease could easily spread through the genetically uniform plantations, devastating economies and depriving our fruitbowls. Varieties grown for local consumption would also suffer, potentially causing mass starvation in tropical regions.

banana_bagBanana bunches in protective isolation.This scenario may seem preposterous, but researchers all over the world are earnestly exploring the possibility. The custodians of the beloved banana are all too aware of the potential for a banana apocalypse— because it has already happened in the fruit’s past. And the next time could be much worse.

There is no obvious back-up variety waiting in the wings. So far, banana science has provided scant few approaches for improving disease resistance. One method involves the traditional techniques of selective breeding: although banana plants are clones, very occasionally they can be persuaded to produce seeds through a painstaking process of hand pollination. Only one fruit in three hundred will produce a seed, and of these seeds only one in three will have the correct chromosomal configuration to allow germination. The seeds are laboriously extracted by straining tons of mashed fruit through fine meshes. Research stations in commercial banana growing countries, such as Honduras, engage large squads of banana sex workers for such tasks, and to screen the new plant varieties for favourable characteristics.
Another fruit subject to such human-assisted reproduction is the ubiquitous navel orange. It, too, was the result of a serendipitous mutation, this one from an orange tree in Brazil in the mid-1800s. Each orange on this particular tree was found to have a tiny, underdeveloped twin sharing its skin, causing a navel-like formation opposite the stem. These strange siamese citruses were much sweeter than the fruit of their parent trees, and delightfully seedless. Since the new tree was unable to reproduce naturally, caretakers amputated some of its limbs and grafted them onto other citrus trees to produce more of the desirable fruit. Even today navel oranges are produced through such botanical surgery, and all of the navel oranges everywhere are direct descendants—essentially genetic clones—of those from that original tree.


Infections Now Resistant to Old Antibiotic

An old antibiotic, largely abandoned after causing kidney ailments some 50 years ago, has become the treatment of last resort for some drug-resistant infections. But now there are signs that bacteria are developing resistance to this antibiotic, called polymyxin B, as well.Polymyxin B is active against a variety of bacteria that cause respiratory and urinary tract infections.

 CNet News - Green Tech

Researchers ask how best to engineer the planet

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--A group of academics on Friday considered the ultimate engineering challenge: building machines to stabilize the earth's climate.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology convened a symposium here to discuss the potential benefits and pitfalls of geoengineering, also called climate engineering. Everything from shooting light-blocking particles into the atmosphere to "artificial trees" is being seriously studied, despite trepidation among researchers and opposition from others.

During talks Friday morning, academics said climate engineering techniques are not well understood and, because of the complexity of the global climate system, individual approaches are pockmarked with uncertainties.
Still, speakers at the event said it's time to step up research in geoengineering to sort out which approaches are worth serious consideration. But they cautioned against expecting easy fixes or abandoning efforts to ratchet down the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.
"At this point the fear is that if we talk about this, people will stop cutting emissions, which is a rational fear. But the idea that we shouldn't have a research program would be a real mistake," said David Keith, the director of the ISEEE Energy and Environmental Systems Group at the University of Calgary during his talk the symposium, which was called Engineering a Cooler Planet.
Speakers said each climate engineering approach needs to be viewed with an associated cost and risk. For example, one relatively inexpensive idea is to shoot particles, called aerosols, into the air in order to block the amount of heat from the sun that reaches the earth's surface.
The cooling effect from aerosols, such as sulfur dioxide, in the atmosphere is rapid--measured in days or years. But they also impact the planet's water cycle. Early models show that large-scale efforts to inject aerosols in the atmosphere would likely make certain areas drier and affect the monsoons in India and Asia, said Joyce Penner, a professor of atmosopheric sciences at the University of Michigan.
Even with the risks and uncertainties of climate engineering, speakers said that there is risk with the so-called business-as-usual scenario where the concentration of greenhouse emissions continues to increase at its current pace.
These heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere are forecast to raise average global temperatures, speakers said. But there are a number of regional impacts from global warming, which will likely spur more research in planet-level engineering, said Thomas Karl, the director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.
For example, higher temperatures directly affect water and agriculture. The productivity and ability to reproduce of common crops goes down after certain temperature levels, Karl noted. Pests have a longer time to populate and weeds grow better with more carbon dioxide, too, he said. The west of the U.S. is already feeling the impact of droughts, which will continue if mountain snowpack decreases.
"It's an important choice to make even if we don't do a thing--that's a choice itself," said Karl. "The consequences of not studying this are enormous--understanding the physical, ecosystem, and societal impacts."

'Iceman of Ladakh' Helps Mankind In Fight Against Glacial Melting
Chewang is going great guns in creating glaciers (by now he has already created 12) and is all set to create five more. The only fear is that he is already 76 and may not be able to cope up for many more years against his age. That is why he is creating CDs for training purposes so that more Icemen can be created by passing the knowledge.

( In Water - Wealth and Power is a note about International Rivers. They have a PDF on Dam Building in the Himalayas which serves to worsen matters. )

World's leading protector of the oceans? President Bush

The environmental legacy of the Bush administration is a matter of some dispute but by designating three more marine monuments in the Pacific today, George W. Bush has entered the annals of history as the protector of 335,000 square miles of ocean. In fact, environmentalists and Bush himself likened the action to President Theodore Roosevelt's creation of the national parks more than a century ago.

 Pollution Trips Up Female Marathon Runners
October 30, 2009 -- Female marathon runners take heed: If you want to run your best race, you'd be advised to look at pollution levels before you choose your course.
Higher levels of coarse particle pollution appear to slow marathon times for women, according to research presented today by Linsey Marr of Virginia Tech.
Marr and colleague Matthew Ely of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine considered marathon times in seven cities -- Boston, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Sacramento, Los Angeles and Duluth, Minn. -- over the years 1980 to 2007.
They calculated how much slower the average of the top three finishers' times was compared to the course record. The researchers then weighed those times against levels of several pollutants on the day of the marathon.

 Discovery Channel

Superstitious Beliefs Cemented Before Birth

The propensity to believe in paranormal phenomena and superstitions appears to arise in the womb, suggests new research.

The findings, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, further indicate that a reduced ability for analytical thinking may correspond with increased intuitive thinking, which has been associated with a belief in extrasensory perception (ESP), ghosts, telepathy and other paranormal phenomena.
Author Martin Voracek claims his new study's determinations "suggest (there are) biologically based, prenatally programmed influences on paranormal and superstitious beliefs."
"Or, paraphrasing the probably best-known slogan from the defining X-Files television series: It may well be that some of the truth is in the womb, rather than out there," added Voracek, a University of Vienna psychologist.

 Scientific American

TED MED: The Power of the Mind over the Body

 TED MED[www.tedmed.com] wrapped up with compelling personal stories that celebrated the power of the human mind to help the body endure or to reach physical achievements. The sold-out meeting in San Diego, held for the first time in five years, had during the past four days covered a spectrum of themes, including research on engineering life to create cures and regenerative medicine, the need to collect information about a patient’s environment, the personalization of healthcare, the quest to slow aging, and technologies, such as robots, to make it more practical for the elderly to extend their years at home.

  The Existentialist Cowboy

Saturday, October 31, 2009

How Foreign Lobbies and Elites 'Bought' the US

FASCISM is a radical and authoritarian nationalist political ideology defined by a corporatist economic ideology enforced by a dictatorial regime which, in turn, is supported by a symbiotic business/corporate community.

In pre-war Germany, Hitler held a meeting with his corporate backers. He cut them all a 'deal' and, in turn, was rewarded with their enduring support and they by his LUCRATIVE DEFENSE CONTRACTS. It was I.G. Farben which manufactured Zyklon 'B' used to murder Jews, gypsies and non-Nazis in concentrations camps.In the US just one percent of the nation's population has benefited from GOP (right wing) tax cuts. I have charged that the 'tax cuts' are, rather, an elaborate money laundering scheme in which the 'ruling elite' is paid a return on its investment, that is, the purchase of the US government by way of its pimps on K-Street. Read the US govt stats re: income inequalities. Income inequalities in the US are instructive, the result of an ongoing auction of the US government to domestic and foreign lobbies. Glaring correlations not accidental: terrorism is worse under GOP regimes and --at the same time --income disparities increase. US tax policy, for example, favors the rich and, of late, just one percent of the US population which is enriched by those policies.
The area around K Street in Washington, D.C., abounds with lobbyists, many of whom represent foreign governments or entities. Although some major foreign governments continue to work mainly through their embassies in Washington, nearly one hundred countries rely on lobbyists to protect and promote their interests. The subculture of public relations and law firms that do this kind of work reflects a steady decline and privatization of diplomacy -- with an increasing impact on how the United States conducts its own foreign policy.The strongest lobbies promoting foreign interests are driven by cohesive ethnic population groups in the United States, such as Armenia, China, Greece, India, Israel, Taiwan, Ukraine, and, historically, Ireland. Even countries that have strong bilateral relations with the United States, such as Australia, Japan, and Norway, need lobbyists as well as embassies. Lobbyists can operate within the system in ways that experienced diplomats cannot. A lobbying group can identify with a domestic ethnic bloc even though it is paid by a foreign government. Ethnic politics can trump corporate interests and, more important, influence what agencies within the U.S. government may see as the national interest.Illustration by Ib OhlssonThe United States is a nation of immigrants -- a strength that has also created vulnerabilities. Although ethnic population groups have at times offset isolationist tendencies in the United States, they also can find themselves conflicted on issues that could divide the motherland from the adopted country, the United States. In other cases, these so-called hyphenated groups unhesitatingly side with the United States and, in effect, become more royalist than the king.--Diplomacy Inc., The Influence of Lobbies on U.S. Foreign Policy
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy - Video

Al Giordano
US officials and commercial media organizations are popping champagne corks prematurely over a reported US-brokered “deal” to return Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to (limited) power, but the two sides that reportedly signed the agreement already disagree over what exactly it says.
Micheletti’s claim that a Congressional vote to restore Zelaya would require Supreme Court authorization is a flat out lie, according to a source with Zelaya inside his Brazilian Embassy refuge in Tegucigalpa: “That is what the golpistas have put out, but that is NOT the accord… The Supreme Court gives its non-binding opinion to the Congress, but the key is that all of this takes time, time that the golpistas want to keep taking.”
The real problem could be the authoritarian Supreme Court. Micheletti’s invention of a non-existent clause in the agreement, one that requires the court’s approval of it, points to where the stalling tactic will come from. This is the same Supreme Court that carried out the coup d’etat on June 28 and has micro-managed the regime’s affairs all summer and fall on a level that would not be appropriate or legal in most countries. Because Honduras’ 1982 Constitution is such a self-conflicted document with many articles that contradict each other, the court has been cherry-picking which laws to discard and which to interpret, often badly.

Deportation could leave Gaza student without degree

 July 11, 2008

Worse Than Apartheid

Gideon Levy in Haaretz:
This week, 21 human rights activists from South Africa visited Israel. Among them were members of Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress; at least one of them took part in the armed struggle and at least two were jailed. There were two South African Supreme Court judges, a former deputy minister, members of Parliament, attorneys, writers and journalists. Blacks and whites, about half of them Jews who today are in conflict with attitudes of the conservative Jewish community in their country.
[...] They spent most of their time in the occupied areas, where hardly any official guests go …
[...] Madlala-Routledge speaks. “It is hard for me to describe what I am feeling. What I see here is worse than what we experienced. But I am encouraged to find that there are courageous people here. We want to support you in your struggle, by every possible means. There are quite a few Jews in our delegation, and we are very proud that they are the ones who brought us here. They are demonstrating their commitment to support you. In our country we were able to unite all the forces behind one struggle, and there were courageous whites, including Jews, who joined the struggle. I hope we will see more Israeli Jews joining your struggle.”
She was deputy defense minister from 1999 to 2004; in 1987 she served time in prison. Later, I asked her in what ways the situation here is worse than apartheid. “The absolute control of people’s lives, the lack of freedom of movement, the army presence everywhere, the total separation and the extensive destruction we saw.”
Madlala-Routledge thinks that the struggle against the occupation is not succeeding here because of U.S. support for Israel – not the case with apartheid, which international sanctions helped destroy. Here, the racist ideology is also reinforced by religion, which was not the case in South Africa. “Talk about the ‘promised land’ and the ‘chosen people’ adds a religious dimension to racism which we did not have.”
Equally harsh are the remarks of the editor-in-chief of the Sunday Times of South Africa, Mondli Makhanya, 38. “When you observe from afar you know that things are bad, but you do not know how bad. Nothing can prepare you for the evil we have seen here. In a certain sense, it is worse, worse, worse than everything we endured. The level of the apartheid, the racism and the brutality are worse than the worst period of apartheid.
It’s worth looking up Ronnie Kasrils, who has said this sort of things many times.
(Via JSF — which used the title: “We call Israel an Apartheid State because we are trying to be polite”).


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Friday, October 30, 2009

30 Oct - Wars and Politics

Stick in the mudImage by janusz l via Flick
The United States wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have proven to be beyond stupid and cruel. The motives behind each war have been clear for some time. Iraq may possess the largest oil reserves on the planet after Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan must be a key player in a long planned, complex Central Asian pipeline network for oil and natural gas as well. The massive oil corporations fully intend to extend the Age of Oil as long as possible, regardless of the consequences to the planet’s economy and ecology. Talk aside, we see nothing but cooperation and collaboration from the major sovereign states of the world for whom the question is not ‘If’ but ‘How’.

AFGHANISTAN: U.S., NATO Forces Rely on Warlords for Security
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal has acknowledged that U.S. and NATO ties with warlords have been a cause of popular Afghan alienation from foreign military forces. But the policy is not likely to be reversed anytime soon, because U.S. and NATO officials still have no alternative to the security services the warlords provide.

A report published by the Center on International Cooperation at New York University in September notes that U.S. and NATO contingents have frequently hired security providers that are covertly owned by warlords who have "ready-made" private militias which compete with state institutions for power.

The report cites examples of major warlords or their relatives or allies who have been contracted for security services in four provinces.  

Scheer: Obama's Meaningless War

There is no indication that any of the contending forces in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, are interested in bringing Al Qaeda back.

Meaningless is the right term for the Afghanistan war, too, because our bloody attempt to conquer this foreign land has nothing to do with its stated purpose of enhancing our national security. Just as the government of Vietnam was never a puppet of Communist China or the Soviet Union, the Taliban is not a surrogate for Al Qaeda. Involved in both instances was an American intrusion into a civil war whose passions and parameters we never fully grasped and could not control militarily.
There is no serious evidence that the Taliban instigated the 9/11 attacks or even knew about them in advance. Taliban members were not agents of Al Qaeda; on the contrary, the only three governments that financed and diplomatically recognized the Taliban--Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan--all were targets of bin Laden's group. 

POLITICS-US: Pro-Israel Group's Money Trail Veers Hard Right

WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (IPS) - StandWithUs - an "organization that ensures that Israel's side of the story is told" - has become increasingly aggressive in challenging the "pro-Israel" credentials of moderate Jewish-American groups, going so far as to suggest that receiving money from Arab donors and supporters of Human Rights Watch undermines a group's commitment to Israel and peace.
But an IPS investigation into the tax records of the donors to StandWithUs, which professes to be ideologically neutral, found a web of funders who support organisations that have been accused of anti-Muslim propaganda and encouraging a militant Israeli and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

Some of these organisations have tied the origins of Palestinian nationalism to Nazi ideology, and suggested that a vast Muslim conspiracy - in a similar vein to the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion - is mobilising to undermine the U.S. constitution and impose Sharia law.

StandWithUs, known in its tax filings as the "Israel Emergency Alliance", unleashed a flurry of faxes to 160 lawmakers on Oct. 16 expressing concern over their plans to attend the J Street conference, "Driving Change, Securing Peace", in Washington from Oct. 25-28. 

Reality's Pro-Obama Bias, Continued...

  RIGHTS: Karen Fear Military Offensive Near Planned Dam in Burma
With the annual monsoon rains ending, there is a growing fear among the Karen ethnic minority living along military-ruled Burma’s eastern border of a dry season offensive. The most vulnerable are villagers residing in the vicinity of the controversial Hat Gyi dam.

The Burmese military will use its proxy force, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), to target the area along the Salween River that is essential to the Hat Gyi dam, environmentalists and human rights activists told IPS.

Besides driving out the unarmed Karen civilians, the offensive will also target the fifth brigade of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), currently camped along the Salween River, which flows past the border that Burma shares with Thailand, they added.

The KNLA is the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU), which has been waging Asia’s longest separatist struggle—since 1949—to carve out an independent state for the Karen minority in Burma, also known as Myanmar. The DKBA is a breakaway group, splitting from the KNU in 1995 and joining forces with Burma’s oppressive regime.

"The attacks in the fifth brigade area to defeat the KNU and clear the area for the dam will result in thousands of Karen fleeing across the Thai border as refugee," said David Thakerbaw, vice president of the KNU. "It will lead to more human rights violations, adding more suffering to what the people have already endured."

Truth to Power

An Unconstitutional Nobel
Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution, the emolument clause, clearly stipulates: "And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State."
The five-member Nobel commission is elected by the Storting, the parliament of Norway. Thus the award of the peace prize is made by a body representing the legislature of a sovereign foreign state.

Too Big to Fail: Why The Big Banks Should Be Broken Up, But Why The White House and Congress Don't Want To
The right idea is to break up the giant banks. I don't often agree with Alan Greenspan but he was right when he said last week that "[i]f they're too big to fail, they're too big." Greenspan noted that the government broke up Standard Oil in 1911, and what happened? "The individual parts became more valuable than the whole. Maybe that's what we need to do." (Historic footnote: Had Greenspan not supported in 1999 Congress's repeal of the Glass Stagall Act, which separated investment from commercial banking, we wouldn't be in the soup we're in to begin with.)

"I watched the last several elections in the United States very closely. I tend to watch mainly American news, because I don't like to watch Canadian news and hear what Allan (Gregg) and everybody else is saying about me. So my hobby is to watch politics elsewhere,"

5 BIG Lies...In No Particular Order

1. WE CANNOT AFFORD ANOTHER WAR. Sure we can. Our President understands that raising tax revenues is key to the economic and political survival of his regime. The best way to get people to fork over their money is to convince them that it's the patriotic thing to do. War with Iran? War in Pakistan??? Sure!! "Party on Wayne. Party on Garth."

2. THE ECONOMY IS GROWING. No it's not. The Fed is borrowing and printing enough $$$ in the short term so as to present the illusion of growth. Truth is, the trench is growing. The economy is dying. "You're in the pit of despair. Don't even think about trying to escape."

3. THE RECESSION IS OVER. Ya, because the actual and true measure of government expenditure - ummmm, debt - has gone from roughly 20% of GDP in 2007 to over 50% in 2009. You can run from the truth, but you cannot hide. "Badges!!? We don't need no stinking badges!!"

4. WE LIVE IN A DEMOCRACY. Tell me another. We may elect our political officials, but our system is anything but democratic. Our supposed political democracy hides this reality. All states that employ irredeemable currencies by governmental fiat are by their very nature undemocratic. Why? Because the political leadership of the nation is able to control the population through serial manipulations of the money supply. The public has no check on the state's power because the state in essence controls access to money - and access to food and shelter and energy, etc. Democracy??? Not so much. "We are men of action. Lies don't become us."

5. WE WILL RECOVER EVENTUALLY. Nope. It's this simple. Virtually all of our economic "growth" over the past two decades has been funded by debt. Growth as we have come to know it is done. There's simply too much debt in the system. Productive capacity - and consumptive capacity - are maxed. They're beyond maxed. And yet in order to maintain global political and economic stability, we need growth. Massive growth. 4-5% per annum growth in the USA, 8+% growth in China and India. But there is nowhere left to grow. The laws of physics and mathematics - and capacity - all demand contraction. And of course contraction means an explosion of global poverty, unemployment and unrest. Recovery??? Sorry. "I'm going to have to rely on the kindness of strangers!"

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