Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Over 275,000 Federal Workers Are Tax Deadbeats

Over 276,000 federal workers and retirees owed more than $3 billion in back income taxes in 2008 (up from $2.7 billion owed in 2007).

The cabinet departments with the largest percentages of employee/retiree tax deadbeats are:

  1. Housing & Urban Development: 4.05%
  2. Veterans Affairs: 3.91%
  3. Health & Human Services: 3.86%
  4. Army: 3.76%
  5. Education: 3.60%
  6. Air Force: 3.25%
  7. Defense: 3.16%
  8. State: 3.14%
  9. Navy: 3.01%
  10. Commerce: 3.00%

The agencies and commissions with the largest percentages of employee/retiree tax deadbeats are:

  1. National Capital Planning Commission: 10.42%
  2. Advisory Council on Historic preservation: 9.26%
  3. U.S. Office of Special Counsel: 8.65%
  4. U.S. Election Assistance Commission: 8.51%
  5. Federal Labor Relations Authority: 7.20%
  6. U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: 7.14%
  7. Federal Mine Safety & Health Review Commission: 6.82%
  8. Government Printing Office: 6.29%
  9. Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board: 5.33%
  10. Court Services & Offender Supervisors: 5.23%

Other departments and agencies:

  • Federal Reserve Board: 4.32%
  • U.S. House of Representatives: 4.17%
  • U.S. Senate: 3.19%
  • SEC: 2.56%
  • U.S. Tax Court: 1.43%
  • Treasury Department: 0.98% (the lowest delinquency rate among cabinet departments)

Press and blogosphere coverage:

Why is Democracy Now shielding “war for oil” against reality?

In its headlines for December 14, Democracy Now followed the report on Blair’s confession about his committment to regime change in Iraq regardless of the absence of WMDs, with this:

Iraq Signs Oil Deals with 10 Foreign Companies

Blair’s comments come just as Iraq has signed a series of major oil deals. A two-day auction ended Saturday with ten foreign companies winning access to Iraq’s massive reserves. The oil giant Royal Dutch Shell won the rights to the Manjoon oilfield near Basra, one of the world’s largest. The US-based Exxon Mobil and Occidental Petroleum also submitted winning bids.

The wording is careful: it appears to suggest a connection between what Blair said and the Iraqi oil contracts. The war in other words was for oil. That is a remrkable conclusion to draw from news about an auction in which US companies were the big losers (hence DN’s careful choice of the words ‘foreign companies’). Unless Democracy Now is suggesting that the US waged a war for Russia, Norway and China — biggest winners in the auction — it is not clear why it continues to insist on the discredited “war for oil” argument? Why is it so difficult to admit who actually conceived the war?

But some could argue that this may be a mere reflection of the changing balance of power: that US oil majors are unable to secure contracts doesn’t necessarilty mean that the war wasn’t for oil.

Consider this excerpt from the news report about the auction:

The 10 deals the Iraqi Oil Ministry reached with foreign oil companies suggest that China, Russia, and European oil firms are poised to play a major role in refurbishing Iraq’s oil industry, crippled by decades of war and sanctions.

American companies walked away with stakes in just two of the 10 auctioned fields. Seven American companies had paid to participate in the second auction, which began Friday. The only one that submitted a bid lost. Two American companies reached deals for fields auctioned in June.

The meager representation of American oil giants in Iraq’s opening oil industry surprised analysts.

“Iraq finally opened its doors after six years of war, and instead of U.S. companies, you have Asians and Europeans leading the way,” said Ruba Husari, the editor of Iraq Oil Forum, an online news outlet. “It will be a long time before anything else will be on offer in Iraq.”

Concerns over security, underscored by massive coordinated bombings Tuesday, and political instability as the U.S. military withdraws, likely kept American oil companies from venturing more forcefully in Iraq, which has the world’s third-largest proven crude reserves, analysts said.

Now compare it to this piece by Anthony Sampson from December 2002:

While Washington hawks depict a war against Iraq as achieving security of oil supplies, Western oil companies are worried about the short-term danger and the supposed long-term benefits of intervention…

Oil companies dread having supplies interrupted by burning oilfields, saboteurs and chaotic conditions. And any attempt to redraw the frontiers could increase the dangers in both Iran and Iraq, as rivals seek to regain territory.

I hope you get my drift? So much for ‘war for oil’.


Government Employees - Well Overpaid

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Inconvenient Question to Al Gore

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美國‧Twitter 2009年最熱門話題‧伊朗大選排第一
































Caravaggio: scientists hope to find Italian artist's bones

Italian scientists have launched a high-tech hunt for the remains of Caravaggio, the Renaissance genius who was notorious for his hot temper, wild drinking and tavern brawls

Italian Baroque painter Caravaggio

A team of anthropologists hope to solve the 400-year-old mystery of where the hell-raising artist was laid to rest by using carbon dating, CAT scans and DNA analysis to identify his skull and bones.

They believe his remains are contained in an underground crypt in a cemetery in the small town of Porto Ercole, on the coast of Tuscany.

Caravaggio's last resting place has never been established conclusively. He was wounded in a fight in a tavern in Naples in 1609 and died of a fever in July 1610.

Professor Maurizio Marini, an art historian and Caravaggio expert, believes that after fleeing Naples, he landed in Porto Ercole.

But the wounds he sustained in the brawl festered and his health deteriorated further when he contracted typhoid.

Prof Marini believes he was taken to a local hospital, Santa Maria Ausiliatrice, where he died. He was then probably buried in a nearby cemetery. It was closed in the 1950s and all the remains were transferred to Porto Ercole's cemetery.

Records found in the church list Caravaggio as having died in the parish in 1609, rather than 1610, but Prof Marini believes the discrepancy in dates is explained by the fact that the Gregorian calendar had not yet been introduced to some parts of Italy.
Anthropologists from the universities of Bologna and Ravenna, working with caving experts, have begun to study about 40 sets of bones which they have found in one of the cemetery's three crypts.

They will identify bones which belong to young men who died in the 17th century.

The remains will then be subjected to carbon-dating and CAT scan tests in Ravenna to establish exactly how old they are.

DNA samples will be taken and compared with the DNA of male descendants of Caravaggio's brother, who remarkably still live close to the artist's birthplace, near Milan.

Caravaggio, whose real name was Michelangelo Merisi, was best known for his mastery of the chiaroscuro (light and shade) painting technique.

Considered the greatest Italian painter of the 17th century, he was often involved in violent altercations and in 1606 stabbed a man to death during a quarrel over a game of racquets.

He moved between Naples, Malta and Sicily, finally receiving a papal pardon shortly before he died.

China starts building world's longest sea bridge

China has started construction of the world's longest sea bridge as part of a £6.5 billion plan to rejuvenate the Pearl River Delta, the manufacturing hub hit by a slump in demand for Chinese exports this year.

An artist's impression of the completed bridge

The 31-mile-long bridge will link Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland and the gambling centre of Macau in a giant Y-shape.

The project has been criticised as unnecessarily expensive, but officials said it was expected to create economic benefits of more than £3.5 billion during its first 20 years.

Due for completion in 2016, the bridge will be designed to withstand tropical typhoons with winds up to 125mph, with almost 22 miles of its length crossing the open sea.

It is hoped the construction will help transform the Pearl River Delta into a modern export and services hub as it seeks to move away from its traditional low-tech industries snapping together cheap products for Western consumers.

A blueprint for the region by Beijing's leading economic planning agency recently criticised the Delta's low overall level of competitiveness, but committed the region to becoming a world leader again by 2020.

"Through a more convenient and fast transport network, Hong Kong's financial, tourism, trade and logistics and professional services can become better integrated with the Pearl River Delta and the surrounding areas," said Donald Tsang, Hong Kong's Chief Executive, at a ceremony launching the project.

In a sign of the importance Beijing has attached to the project, the Chinese vice-premier Li Keqiang, the man widely tipped to succeed the prime minister Wen Jiabao in 2012, was on hand to inaugurate construction.

When completed, the six-lane expressway will link Hong Kong to Macau and the Pearl River Delta city of Zhuhai, cutting current road and ferry journey times from four-and-a-half hours to just 40 minutes.

According to projections more than 200 million vehicles a year will be using the bridge by 2020, carrying 170-220 million tons of freight.

The plan has faced objections from environmental groups, including the World Wide Fund for Nature, who say that it will further diminish the Delta's already battered marine ecosystems, imperilling endangered species including the crested kingfisher, mangrove water snake and rough-skinned floating frog.

Of particular concern is the effect on the Chinese white dolphin whose breeding patterns could be disturbed by the noise of the construction and dredging needed to sink the bridge's massive piles into the seabed.

Officials, however, have pledged to protect ocean ecology and fishery resources. "We will control the construction noises and turbidity of seawater, and prevent oil pollution," Zhu Yongling, an official in charge of construction, told China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

American fascism: Obama, "Justice" Dept., Supreme Court prevent prosecution of US torture

Orwellian Peace Prize winner President Obama is instructing his Department of Justice (DOJ) to block prosecution of torture. The Supreme Court is upholding this "defense."

Impeachment is the constitutional recourse against President Obama and civil officers for their criminal complicity after the fact in torture. Covering-up a crime is a crime. The fact that Congress has not impeached to enforce US law, Constitutional law, and international law is gradually overcoming Americans' blindness to the obvious admission of fact that the US government is a de facto fascist state; a constitutional republic in empty rhetoric only.

Americans should be outraged that their government openly tortures, won't prosecute, and rules in court there is no legal recourse when they torture. I recommend this summary from one of my favorite political and economic analysts, Washington's Blog.

Policy response:Gandhi and Martin Luther King advocated public understanding of the facts and non-cooperation with evil. I’m among hundreds who advocate:
  1. Understand the laws of war. These were legislated after WW2 and are crystal-clear that only self-defense, in a narrow legal meaning, can justify war. This investment of your time takes less than an hour and empowers you to legally stand for ending these Wars of Aggression.
  2. Communicate. Trust your unique, beautiful, and powerful self-expression to share powerful information as you feel appropriate. Understand that while many people are ready to embrace difficult facts, many are not. Anticipate your virtuous response to being attacked and give it in the spirit of competition, just as you do in other fields.
  3. Refuse and end all orders and acts associated with these unlawful wars and constant violation of treaties. Those involved with US military, government, and law enforcement have an oath to protect and defend the US Constitution. Unlawful acts only move forward with sufficient cooperation and public tolerance. Stop cooperating with the most vicious crime a nation can commit: war.
  4. Prosecute the war leaders for obvious violation of the letter and spirit of US war laws. You can only understand how these wars are specifically unlawful by investing the time to do so. Because the crimes are so broad and deep, I recommend Truth and Reconciliation (T&R) to exchange full truth and return of stolen US assets for non-prosecution. This is the most expeditious way to understand and end all unlawful and harmful acts. Those who reject T&R either by volunteering their name and/or responding when named are subject to prosecution after the window of T&R closes.
Please watch the articulate 6-minute interview of leading Constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley in his legal analysis.
For outstanding documentation on torture, I recommend, "Can Nobel Prize Winner Obama at LEAST Stop the Torture?" from Washington's Blog.
My articles on torture:

Boeing's Dreamliner in maiden flight

EVERETT, Washington (AFP) - Boeing's cutting-edge 787 Dreamliner has taken its milestone first flight that the US aerospace giant hopes will prove a "gamechanger" for the global aviation industry.

The Dreamliner's first flight, more than two years behind schedule, marked the beginning of a world-spanning flight test program expected to deliver the first airplane to Japanese launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA) in the fourth quarter of next year, the company said.

"Today is a great day for the Boeing Company," Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program, said at a news conference following the flight Tuesday.

"I assure you the 787 will be the gamechanger that it was meant to be," he said.

The mid-size, twin-aisle Dreamliner is Boeing's first new model in more than a decade. The company has based its revolutionary design on lightweight composite materials instead of aluminum to improve fuel efficiency and reduce maintenance costs. Facts: Boeing 787 Dreamliner

About half the Dreamliner is made of composite materials, such as carbon fiber-reinforced resin, compared with 12 percent for its predecessor, the Boeing 777, which made its first flight in 1994.

The Dreamliner will use 20 percent less fuel than today's airplanes of comparable size and provide airlines with up to 45 percent more cargo revenue capacity, the company said.

For passengers, the 787 means larger windows, better lighting, more storage space and cleaner, more humidified air than current airplanes, it said.

Boeing sees the 787 as the future for the industry, as well as for its commercial strategy. The 787 "will set the bar for years to come," Fancher said.

"We build things that fly so airlines can put people on board," Russ Young, a Boeing spokesman, told AFP.

The Dreamliner is an opportunity "to provide a superior flying experience at lower cost to them, which is good for their industry."

Boeing thinks the use of composites "will only grow," Young said. "It's a bold step on our part" but Boeing has done its homework and "we realize composites are ready for these kinds of applications."

Clad in Boeing test-flight blue livery, 787 emblazoned on its tail, the Dreamliner took off under overcast skies at 10:27 am (1827 GMT) at Paine Field near Boeing's Everett plant in Washington state and landed at 1:33 pm at Seattle's Boeing Field.

Chief Pilot Mike Carriker and Captain Randy Neville said they tested some of the airplane's systems and structures in the nearly three-hour flight, as on-board equipment recorded and transmitted real-time data to a flight-test team at Boeing Field.

"We smoked it," Carriker said at the news conference, calling the 787 "a great jet."

"It felt like I flew into the future of the Boeing Company."

Neville said the 787 had delivered "no surprises" and brought "back the joy of flying."

The pilots took the airplane to an altitude of 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and an air speed of 180 knots, or about 207 miles (333 kilometers) per hour, "customary on a first flight," the company said.

The first Boeing 787 will be joined in the flight test program in the coming weeks and months by five other 787s, the company said.

Chicago-based Boeing is vying with European rival Airbus for commercial supremacy. Airbus, a unit of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, is developing a new long-haul A350 plane aimed at competing with the Dreamliner which is expected to fly in mid-2013.

Boeing launched the Dreamliner program in April 2004 and initially had planned to deliver the first airplane to ANA in the first half of 2008, a delivery now set for fourth-quarter 2010 as production problems forced the company to announce a series of delays.

The delays contributed to a 1.6-billion-dollar loss in the third quarter and Boeing has slashed this year's earnings guidance by more than a third.

Boeing says it has 840 orders on its books from 55 customers for the cutting-edge plane, which it claims is the "fastest-selling all-new jetliner in aviation history."

United Airlines announced last week it would buy 25 Dreamliners, as well as 25 A350s, with the option to buy 50 more of each aircraft.

Asked if Boeing expects phones to ring off the hook with orders after the Dreamliner's first flight, a beaming Fancher said: "Everybody's going to want to have one."

Ron Paul On Squawk Box - Debating The Federal Reserve

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Peter Taylor presents Climate Change: The Alternative View

Peter Taylor is a renowned conservationist and research analyst. Among his many achievements, he has previously taken successful action in challenging the UN to alter it's stance and policy regarding dumping of hazardous materials into the ocean (in other words, he cares about the environment and his research is credible). In this presentation, made at the Alternative View Conference Totnes UK 2008, he explains the conclusions of his detailed studies which indicate man is not responsible for global warming/climate change, and many of the 'solutions' based on this lie are the real threat we are facing (he's not funded by oil companies). Peter Taylor's website is To order the DVD and others, visit Uploaded by the Christian Coalition for Halting the Agenda of the Nefarious Global Elite

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EU, IMF Revolt: Greece, Iceland, Latvia May Lead the Way

Total financial collapse, once a problem only for developing countries, has now come to Europe. The International Monetary Fund is imposing its "austerity measures" on the outer circle of the European Union, with Greece, Iceland and Latvia the hardest hit. But these are not your ordinary third world debtor supplicants. Historically, the Vikings of Iceland repeatedly repulsed British invaders; Latvian tribes repulsed even the Vikings; and the Greeks conquered the whole Persian empire. If anyone can stand up to the IMF, these stalwart European warriors can.

Dozens of countries have defaulted on their debts in recent decades, the most recent being Dubai, which declared a debt moratorium on November 26, 2009. If the once lavishly-rich Arab emirate can default, more desperate countries can; and when the alternative is to destroy the local economy, it is hard to argue that they shouldn't. That is particularly true when the creditors are largely responsible for the debtor's troubles, and there are good grounds for arguing the debts are not owed. Greece's troubles originated when low interest rates that were inappropriate for Greece were maintained to rescue Germany from an economic slump. And Iceland and Latvia have been saddled with responsibility for private obligations to which they were not parties.

The Dysfunctional EU: Where a Common Currency Fails

Greece may be the first in the EU outer circle to revolt. According to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in Sunday's Daily Telegraph, "Greece has become the first country on the distressed fringes of Europe's monetary union to defy Brussels and reject the Dark Age leech-cure of wage deflation." Prime Minister George Papandreou said on Friday:

Salaried workers will not pay for this situation: we will not proceed with wage freezes or cuts. We did not come to power to tear down the social state.

Notes Evans-Pritchard:

Mr Papandreou has good reason to throw the gauntlet at Europe's feet. Greece is being told to adopt an IMF-style austerity package, without the devaluation so central to IMF plans. The prescription is ruinous and patently self-defeating.

The currency cannot be devalued because the same Euro is used by all. That means that while the country's ability to repay is being crippled by austerity measures, there is no way to lower the cost of the debt. Evans-Pritchard concludes:

The deeper truth that few in Euroland are willing to discuss is that EMU is inherently dysfunctional - for Greece, for Germany, for everybody.

Which is all the more reason that Iceland, which is not yet a member of the EU, might want to reconsider its position. Iceland is being required as a condition of membership to endorse an agreement in which it would reimburse Dutch and British depositors who lost money in the collapse of IceSave, an offshore division of Iceland's leading private bank. Eva Joly, a Norwegian-French magistrate hired to investigate the Icelandic bank collapse, calls it blackmail. She warns that succumbing to the EU's demands will drain Iceland of its resources and its people, who are being forced to emigrate to find work.

Latvia is a member of the EU and is expected to adopt the Euro, but it has not yet reached that stage. Meanwhile, the EU and IMF have told the government to borrow foreign currency to stabilize the exchange rate of the local currency, in order to help borrowers pay mortgages taken out in foreign currencies from foreign banks. As a condition of IMF funding, the usual government cutbacks are also being required. Nils Muiznieks, head of the Advanced Social and Political Research Institute in Riga, Latvia, complained:

The rest of the world is implementing stimulus packages ranging from anywhere between one percent and ten percent of GDP but at the same time, Latvia has been asked to make deep cuts in spending - a total of about 38 percent this year in the public sector - and raise taxes to meet budget shortfalls.

In November, the Latvian government adopted its harshest budget of recent years, with cuts of nearly 11%. The government had already raised taxes, slashed public spending and government wages, and shut dozens of schools and hospitals. As a result, the national bank forecasts a 17.5% decline in the economy this year, just when it needs a productive economy to get back on its feet. In Iceland, the economy contracted by 7.2% during the third quarter, the biggest fall on record. As in other countries squeezed by neo-liberal tourniquets on productivity, employment and output are being crippled, bringing these economies to their knees.

The cynical view is that that may have been the intent. Instead of helping post-Soviet nations develop self-reliant economies, writes Marshall Auerback, "the West has viewed them as economic oysters to be broken up to indebt them in order to extract interest charges and capital gains, leaving them empty shells."

But the people are not submitting quietly to all this. In Latvia last week, while the Parliament debated what to do about the nation's debt, thousands of demonstrating students and teachers filled the streets, protesting the closing of a hundred schools and reductions in teacher salaries of up to 60%. Demonstrators held signs saying, "They have sold their souls to the devil" and "We are against poverty." In the Iceland Parliament, the IceSave debate had been going on for over 140 hours at last report, a new record; and a growing portion of the population opposes underwriting a debt they believe the government does not owe.

In a December 3 article in The Daily Mail titled "What Iceland Can Teach the Tories," Mary Ellen Synon wrote that ever since the Icelandic economy collapsed last year, "the empire builders of Brussels have been confident that the bankrupt and frightened Icelanders must finally be ready to exchange their independence for the 'stability' of EU membership." But last month, an opinion poll showed that 54 percent of all Icelanders oppose membership, with just 29 percent in favor. Synon wrote:

The Icelanders may have been scared out of their wits last year, but they are now climbing out from under the ruins of their prosperity and have decided that the most valuable thing they have left is their independence. They are not willing to trade it, not even for the possibility of a bail-out by the European Central Bank.

Iceland, Latvia and Greece are all in a position to call the bluff of the IMF and EU. In an October 1 article called "Latvia - the Insanity Continues," Marshall Auerback maintained that Latvia's debt problem could be fixed over a weekend, by a list of measures including (1) not answering the phone when foreign creditors call the government; (2) declaring the banks insolvent, converting their external debt to equity, and having them reopen with full deposit insurance guaranteed in local currency; and (3) offering "a local currency minimum wage job that includes healthcare to anyone willing and able to work as was done in Argentina after the Kirchner regime repudiated the IMF's toxic package of debt repayment."

Evans-Pritchard suggested a similar remedy for Greece, which he said could break out of its death loop by following the lead of Argentina. It could "restore its currency, devalue, pass a law switching internal euro debt into [the local currency], and 'restructure' foreign contracts."

The Road Less Traveled: Saying No to the IMF

Standing up to the IMF is not a well-worn path, but Argentina forged the trail. In the face of dire predictions that the economy would collapse without foreign credit, in 2001 it defied its creditors and simply walked away from its debts. By the fall of 2004, three years after a record default on a debt of more than $100 billion, the country was well on the road to recovery; and it achieved this feat without foreign help. The economy grew by 8 percent for 2 consecutive years. Exports increased, the currency was stable, investors were returning, and unemployment had eased. "This is a remarkable historical event, one that challenges 25 years of failed policies," said economist Mark Weisbrot in a 2004 interview quoted in The New York Times. "While other countries are just limping along, Argentina is experiencing very healthy growth with no sign that it is unsustainable, and they've done it without having to make any concessions to get foreign capital inflows."

Weisbrot is co-director of a Washington-based think tank called the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which put out a study in October 2009 of 41 IMF debtor countries. The study found that the austere policies imposed by the IMF, including cutting spending and tightening monetary policy, were more likely to damage than help those economies.

That was also the conclusion of a study released last February by Yonca Özdemir from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, comparing IMF assistance in Argentina and Turkey. Both emerging markets faced severe economic crises in 2001, but where Argentina broke ranks with the IMF, Turkey followed its advice at every turn. The end result was that Argentina bounced back, while Turkey is still in financial crisis. Argentina chose to direct its resources inward, developing its domestic economy.

To find the money for this development, Argentina did not need foreign investors. It issued its own money and credit through its own central bank. Earlier, when the national currency collapsed completely in 1995 and again after 2000, Argentine local governments issued local bonds that traded as currency. Provinces paid their employees with paper receipts called "Debt-Cancelling Bonds" that were in currency units equivalent to the Argentine Peso. The bonds canceled the provinces' debts to their employees and could be spent in the community. The provinces had actually "monetized" their debts, turning their bonds into legal tender.

Issuing and lending currency is the sovereign right of governments, and it is a right that small European countries lose when they join the EU. Argentina is a large country with more resources than Iceland, Latvia or Greece, but new technologies are now available that could make even small countries self-sufficient. See David Blume, Alcohol Can Be a Gas.

The Nobel War Prize

Obama didn’t apologize for being a wartime president receiving a peace prize in Oslo—he laid the groundwork for battle, and outdid Bush in arguing for American supremacy.

Much was made about the irony of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to a president overseeing one war while escalating another. But with breathtaking boldness, in his speech accepting the award, Barack Obama marched past the irony and into a declaration of war on much of the rest of the world.

Liberal pundits John Nichols of The Nation and Joe Klein of Time praised Obama’s speech for being “exceptionally well-reasoned and appropriately humble” and for its “intellectually rigorous and morally lucid” qualities. Writing for The Daily Beast, Peter Beinart offered a fuller commendation by arguing that it rejected what he calls the Bush administration’s “moral chauvinism” and “self-righteousness” in foreign relations. According to Beinart, while the previous foreign-policy makers believed that they were instructing “our moral inferiors on how to behave,” Obama in his speech declared “that we are not inherently better than anyone else.”

Yet Obama’s central argument was precisely that national, religious, and “tribal” cultures which do not uphold the values of Americans (and some Europeans) are not only inferior to ours but also must be transformed—by any means necessary. Obama audaciously rejected not only the pacifism of Gandhi and his own purported role model, Martin Luther King, Jr., but also the concept that war is justified only in self-defense. And though some commentators have praised Obama for what they see as his commitment to multilateralism, his speech was as strident a call for American primacy in international relations as anything delivered by his predecessor.

Obama scolded those who hold “a reflexive suspicion of America” and gave primary credit to the United States rather than “international institutions” for saving the world from communism, fascism, and economic crisis. In a line that could have been delivered by any member of the infamously unilateralist Bush foreign policy team, Obama admonished his European audience that “the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.”

Significantly, Obama defended his escalation in Afghanistan on “the recognized principle of self-defense” but then pledged to go “beyond self-defense”—with armed intervention when necessary—anywhere “the inherent rights and dignity of every individual” are denied. Establishing that a just use of military action “extends beyond self-defense or the defense of one nation against an aggressor,” Obama asserted his belief that “force can be justified on humanitarian grounds.”

The president then named several violators of “inherent rights”—Iran, Burma, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and The Democratic Republic of Congo—and warned that “there must be consequences” if diplomacy fails to reform them. Those rights, which include the freedom of speech and assembly, the right of people to “worship as they please,” and the right to democracy are, according to Obama, not only natural and God-given but also “universal aspirations.” Speaking for the seven billion inhabitants of the earth, he proclaimed that “we’re all basically seeking the same things.”

Obama dismissed the claim made in “some countries” that such statements are tantamount to cultural imperialism by calling it a “false suggestion that these are somehow Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation’s development.”

But where did those principles originate? Obama cited the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Yet representatives from only 48 of the world’s nearly 200 nations voted for the declaration, and it was written not by God or Mother Nature but by a Canadian law professor named Peter Humphrey.

More importantly, the rights enumerated in the Universal Declaration and the idea that they are inherent were invented in a particular time, in particular places, and by very particular human beings—specifically, during the 17th and 18th centuries, in Europe and America, by wealthy, powerful, white, male philosophers and politicians like John Locke and Thomas Jefferson. The idea that there are natural or God-given rights to speech, assembly, worship, and the vote simply did not exist before then. Moreover, were one to account for all the public statements and popular movements for the president’s idea of inherent rights over the last four centuries and even in recent decades, they would constitute only a tiny percentage of the earth’s population.

Polls taken in the contemporary Middle East, for example, show that an overwhelming majority reject at least one of Obama’s “universal aspirations.”

At the end of the speech the president went even farther in claiming grounds for military intervention, adding that “a just peace includes not only civil and political rights—it must encompass economic security and opportunity” as well as “swift and forceful action” against climate change. He ominously asserted that economic development “rarely takes root without security” and that “military leaders in my own country” believe that “our common security hangs in the balance” so long as climate change is not swiftly and forcefully addressed.

In a crowning irony, Obama attacked the believers of absolute, universal truth for “the murder of innocents.” No “Holy War”, he said, “can ever be a just war.” For “if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint—no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or the Red Cross worker, or even a person of one’s own faith.” Such total adherence to belief is “incompatible with the concept of peace.”

Given Obama’s orders as commander-in-chief, their deadly consequences for civilians and U.S. soldiers, and his justifications for them, one might say, indeed.

Thaddeus Russell has taught history, philosophy, and American Studies at Columbia University, Barnard College, Eugene Lang College, and the New School for Social Research.


Cap And Trade: The Money V 3.0

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The Great Global Warming Swindle, part 5 of 9

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Dairy, Meat Prices Will Spur Food Inflation, Wells Fargo Says

Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Rising milk, beef, pork and chicken prices will double the pace of U.S. food inflation next year as livestock supplies shrink and rebounding economies boost demand, said Michael Swanson, a senior economist at Wells Fargo & Co.

Food prices may jump as much as 6 percent in 2010, Swanson said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Nov. 25 forecast 3 percent to 4 percent food inflation next year, up from an estimated 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent in 2009.

Producers of cattle, hogs, dairy cows and poultry cut output after a jump in feed costs last year, reducing supplies as demand for meat is rising at home and abroad, Swanson said. Corn, the main source of animal feed, will rally next year because of record demand for grain to make ethanol, he said.

“Protein inflation is going to be much higher than people are anticipating,” Swanson said Dec. 9 in an interview from Minneapolis. “Corn is a proxy for feed costs, and right now the value of all meat and dairy output is below the price of feed on a long-term relative basis.”

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a Dec. 3 report that cattle futures will increase over the next year by the most since 1978, and hogs will gain the most in six years. Cattle futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange will reach $1.10 a pound by December 2010, Goldman said. That would be up 32 percent from 83.275 cents on Dec. 11. Hog futures will reach 80 cents a pound, the bank said, which would mean a 22 percent rally from last week’s close at 65.425 cents.

Sustainable Rally

“As we start a new decade with the global economy emerging from the worst recession of the postwar era, we expect the commodity supply-side constraints of the past decade to once again re-emerge, reinforcing the sustainability of higher long- term commodity prices,” Goldman analysts including Jeffrey Currie wrote in a note to investors. “Economic recovery suggests rising meat demand amid tighter supplies.”

Wholesale-pork prices in the U.S. are up 27 percent this year, heading for the first annual gain since 2004. Farmers, hurt by two straight years of losses, are cutting the domestic breeding herd to the smallest level since the USDA started collecting the data in 1964. Chicken output is sliding in the U.S., where the number of eggs placed into incubators each week is headed to the lowest quarterly average since 2002.

Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s largest hog producer, has had four straight quarterly losses. Last week, the company reported a loss of $26.4 million loss in the three months ended Nov. 1.

The Smithfield, Virginia-based processor has reduced the size of its breeding herd by 13 percent, or 130,000 sows, which will cut the number of market hogs it raises by more than 2.2 million annually, Larry Pope, the chief executive officer, said Dec. 10 during a conference calls with analysts.

Beef Herd

The U.S. beef-breeding herd on July 1 totaled 32.2 million head, down 1.4 percent from 32.65 million a year earlier, and was the smallest since the government started collecting data in 1971, the USDA said July 24. The number of dairy cows fell 2.4 percent to 9.098 million head at the end of October from a year earlier, reaching the smallest monthly total since December 2005, the USDA said last month.

Retail-food costs by December 2010 will be up 4 percent to 5 percent, marking the highest rate of increase since the 26- year high of 5.8 percent in 2008, said Bill Lapp, the principal of commodities research firm Advanced Economic Solutions LLC in Omaha, Nebraska.

Dairy Rally

Dairy prices will rise as much as 20 percent, leading the increase in food costs, Lapp said in an interview on Dec. 11. Chicken and vegetable-oil prices will rise 7 percent to 9 percent in 2010, he said.

The accelerated pace of food inflation has been set in motion by last year’s grain rally and this year’s drop in livestock herds and poultry flocks, Lapp said. Rising energy costs also will contribute to the gains, he said.

“Next year will be just the beginning,” Lapp said. “Food manufacturers and restaurants will be hurt the hardest. They will have to find a way to manage the price increases by either cutting costs or passing along higher prices.”

Wall Street Paying Back Bailouts with Bailouts. Total Bailout Package Ceiling of $14 Trillion Yet Focus Only on TARP Repayments in the tens of Billio

In the last few weeks the corporatocracy has gone on a massive Madison Avenue public relations tour touting the great job banks are doing and how they are paying back the taxpayer for the generous gift of life. Instead of working with small business or lowering credit card rates banks have taken it upon their shoulders to issue record breaking bonuses. It is true that banks are paying back TARP handouts yet few are focusing on how the banks have made profits in the last 9 months since those dismal days of March. There is also this convenient avoidance of fact that some $14 trillion in bailouts have been made to banks and Wall Street. The TARP repayments amount to a few hundred billion, no small amount, but a fraction of the real cost to the American taxpayer. The average American has benefitted very little from the corporatocracy handout to their banking colleagues.

As the Federal Reserve comes under attack, they are attempting to play it calm and collected while telling the American public that there is nothing to see behind their mythical curtain. That is the furthest thing from the truth since the Federal Reserve has been the biggest player in the $14 trillion bailout:


Source: It Takes a Pillage

Do you ever wonder how in the world the American banking system can continue to make 30 year fixed mortgages at historically low interest rates even though the FDIC and other banking arms are virtually insolvent? Well first, banks don’t hold onto the mortgages anymore since the entire game is now backed by government loans. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA insured loans are all the rage now. And the market has no appetite for these loans. The Federal Reserve through one of the mechanisms above, has bought $1.25 trillion in mortgage backed securities to keep mortgage rates artificially low. In other words, banks are merely passing through government paper to consumers which begs the question, why do we even need the bank in the first place? Why not borrow directly from the government and cut out the middleman?

Of course, that is merely one play on the bailout PR lie machine. Next, you have credit card rates spiking through the roof while banks, the same players in the mortgage game borrow near zero percent from the Fed and U.S. Treasury and then turn around gouging customers on rates and even going as far as entering the realm of the absurd with 79.9 percent rates. You want to know how banks made their money since March? They went to the Fed and U.S. Treasury and borrowed money for free and basically charged high premiums on customers (aka, taxpayers who saved them from implosion) and also used this interest free money to gamble on Wall Street. Since we are now operating in a mode of “nothing will fail” especially if you are a bank, these institutions took it upon themselves to gamble it up on Wall Street. If things went down, they had the taxpayer to eat the bet. If things went up as they did they pay off their TARP handcuffs and it is back to record bonuses for the corporatocracy.

How much did the average American get in direct help from the bailouts?


This is how lopsided the game has become. The gap between the extremely rich and the poor has never been this big except for the Roaring 20s. We all know what followed. The notion that these banks are earning profits in some sort of free market capitalism is the biggest joke going around. This isn’t capitalism. This is a market that is run by the best money can buy. And for the past 30 years Wall Street and D.C. have built a bond that now ignores for the most part the plight of the average American. Wall Street is so disconnected from Main Street that they don’t even realize foreclosures are still near their peak! They seem to ignore the fact that unemployment and underemployment is up over 17 percent. These are simply erasable facts.

What they want you to focus on is the bailout paybacks:


Source: It Takes a Pillage

Keep focusing on these diversions. It is also the case that many of these banks are trying to payback TARP as quickly as possible so they can go back into their black boxes and gamble as much as they can without any kind of oversight. This is the kind of deregulation that led us into this mess and we have yet to see any sensible market restraints come into the arena. What is it going to take to have some serious legislation? Are we going to need to go Mad Max style before something changes? The politicians certainly don’t reflect the views of the public. The majority want to audit the Fed but Congress on both sides of the aisle is bought and only listens to their contributors. Is it any wonder why so much money is being used to circumvent any kind of audit? If there is nothing to hide then why even worry about it?

The financial engineers, those paper pushers who caused this mess, want you to believe that somehow they have the solution to the crisis. To them this recent economic collapse is simply a road bump in their path to perpetual greed that sucks the life out of the productive economy. Banking needs to go back to being a utility like water or electric. Boring, stale, and there to provide a service to the real economy. Deregulation has failed miserably because people ignore the inherent behavior of mankind. It really is no surprise that Wall Street is fleecing the American people for all they got, even the lint in their pocket lining. As they borrow for near zero, they then go out and lend it for 5.5 percent on mortgages if they are even to hold the note or give out credit cards with 28.9 percent variable rates. With that kind of margin is it any wonder they are making money? Last time I checked my mortgage wasn’t at zero percent. I’m starring at a credit card bill right now and I can tell you that the rate is not even close to zero. But of course banks need to charge this margin because of the risk in the lending process even though they can’t fail because of the nanny banking state. Then why not just have the government lend to the American people directly? Because then, we reveal that the wizard behind the curtain is nothing more than a money vortex for the middle class.

Americans are feeling furious. These TARP paybacks are absurd. We even hear the Treasury Secretary talk about the “profit” we made. This is such nonsense for the above reasons. This isn’t like banks went out and created new products and sold them on the market for a benefit to society. What they did is they went back to the casino and made gigantic bets that paid off. The problem of course is those bets were financed by the American taxpayer. Trillions in bailouts still remain outstanding. A few trillion sit on the books of the Fed. What have they taken for collateral? They don’t want to open up their books because what we will find will horrify the public. Toxic mortgages, questionable loans, and other securitized junk that was exchanged for U.S. Treasuries.

Is it any wonder why the dollar is being pummeled? We are slowly being robbed by Wall Street and the Federal Reserve. Who needs conspiracy theories or back room talks when they are doing it right in front of our eyes?

'Cheap' watch worn by Barack Obama becomes best-seller

A relatively inexpensive watch has become an overnight best-seller after it emerged that President Barack Obama wears the same model

The Jorg Gray commemorative edition watch.

With a price tag of around £260, the Jorg Gray 6500 is far cheaper than what most people would expect the world’s most powerful man to be sporting on his arm.

Mr Obama had previously worn a pricier TAG Heuer, and when enthusiasts first spotted him with the simple new time piece at several high-profile appearances, they assumed he must have upgraded.

However, after a frenzy of speculation among watch experts as to the maker of the simple black design, it was revealed that the president had acquired a Jorg Gray.

Following the disclosure, the US firm witnessed a sharp increase in sales and is now actively promoting its goods on the back of Mr Obama’s apparent endorsement.

Jorg Gray now offers a commemorative edition version of the same battery-powered watch worn by the president, engraved with the date of his inauguration.

Its website also lists various official engagements at which Mr Obama has been seen wearing the leather-strapped watch.

A statement on the site reads: “This sophisticated time piece has fast become a highly sought after and valuable collector’s item.”

It has been disclosed that Mr Obama was given the watch as a 46th birthday present by one of his security team in 2007. The Jorg Gray 6500 was originally designed for members of the US Secret Service.

The mystery surrounding the watch’s maker was solved by Jeff Stein, a civil lawyer from Atlanta, who contacted the firm to break the news.

Trevor Gnesin, the president of Jorg Gray, said: “I got a call from a contact in Germany and he said, ‘Do you know that the future president of the US is wearing your watch?’ I thought he was joking.

“Then I got a call from Jeff Stein. The Jorg Gray logo is very small on the Secret Service version and he found out what it was only after studying many different photos of the president.”

He told US News: "We have seen tremendous growth in 2009 with global interest in the 6500 and our other styles as the president continues to wear his Jorg Gray."

The model is now one of the best selling in the US, with hundreds of orders being received from overseas as well.

However, watch experts have shown little enthusiasm for the time piece, which has three on-face timers, including a stopwatch.

James Gurney, editor of the watch magazine QP, told The Times: “It’s a cheap and totally unexceptional watch from a brand no one’s heard of.

“I’ve no doubt it’s good value, but the difference between this and a fine watch is the difference between a perfectly decent off-the-peg suit from M&S and a made-to-measure one from Savile Row, where every stitch has been perfectly placed.”