Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Con of the Decade Part II

The con of the decade (Part II) involves sheltering the Power Elites' income while raising taxes on the debt-serfs to pay the interest owed the Power Elites.

The Con of the Decade (Part II) meshes neatly with the first Con of the Decade. Yesterday I described how the financial Plutocracy can transfer ownership of the Federal government's income stream via using the taxpayer's money to buy the debt that the taxpayers borrowed to bail out the Plutocracy.

In order for the con to work, however, the Power Elites and their politico toadies in Congress, the Treasury and the Fed must convince the peasantry that low tax rates on unearned income are not just "free market capitalism at its best" but that they are also "what the country needs to get moving again."

The first step of the con was successfully fobbed off on the peasantry in 2001: lower the taxes paid by the most productive peasants marginally while massively lowering the effective taxes paid by the financial Plutocracy.

One Year Later, No Sign of Improvement in America's Income Inequality Problem:

Income inequality has grown massively since 2000. According to Harvard Magazine, 66% of 2001-2007's income growth went to the top 1% of Americans, while the other 99% of the population got a measly 6% increase. How is this possible? One thing to consider is that in 2001, George W. Bush cut $1.3 trillion in taxes, and 32.6% of the cut went to the top 1%. Another factor is Bush's decision to increase the national debt from $5 trillion to $11 trillion. The combination of increased government spending and lower taxes helped the top 1% considerably.

The second part of the con is to mask much of the Power Elites' income streams behind tax shelters and other gaming-of-the-system so the advertised rate appears high to the peasantry but the effective rate paid on total income is much much lower.

The tax shelters are so numerous and so effective that it takes thousands of pages of tax codes and armies of toadies to pursue them all: family trusts, oil depletion allowances, tax-free bonds and of course special one-off tax breaks arranged by "captured" elected officials.

Step three is to convince the peasantry that $600 in unearned income (capital gains) should be taxed in the same way as $600 million. The entire key to the U.S. tax code is to tax earned income heavily but tax unearned income (the majority of the Plutocracy's income is of course unearned) not at all or very lightly.

In a system which rewarded productive work and provided disincentives to rampant speculation and fraud, the opposite would hold: unearned income would be taxed at much higher rates than earned income, which would be taxed lightly, especially at household incomes below $100,000.

If the goal were to encourage "investing" while reining in the sort of speculations which "earn" hedge fund managers $600 million each (no typo, that was the average of the top 10 hedgies' personal take of their funds gains), then all unearned income (interest, dividends, capital gains, rents from property, oil wells, etc.) up to $6,000 a year would be free--no tax. Unearned income between $6,000 and $60,000 would be taxed at 20%, roughly half the top rate for earned income. This would leave 95% of U.S. households properly encouraged to invest via low tax rates.

Above $60,000, then unearned income would be taxed the same as earned income, and above $1 million (the top 1/10 of 1% of households) then it would be taxed at 50%. Above $10 million, it would be taxed at 60%. Such a system would offer disincentives to the speculative hauls made by the top 1/10 of 1% while encouraging investing in the lower 99%.

Could such a system actually be passed into law and enforced by a captured, toady bureaucracy and Congress? Of course not. But it is still a worthy exercise to take apart the rationalizations being offered to justify rampant speculative looting, collusion, corruption and fraud.

The last step of the con is to raise taxes on the productive peasantry to provide the revenues needed to pay the Plutocracy its interest on Treasuries. If the "Bush tax cuts" are repealed, the actual effective rates paid on unearned income will remain half (20%) of the rates on earned income (wages, salaries, profits earned from small business, etc.) which are roughly 40% at higher income levels.

The financial Plutocracy will champion the need to rein in Federal debt, now that they have raised the debt via plundering the public coffers and extended ownership over that debt.

Now the con boils down to insuring the peasantry pay enough taxes to pay the interest on the Federal debt--interest which is sure to rise considerably. The 1% T-Bill rates were just part of the con to convince the peasantry that trillions of dollars could be borrowed "with no consequences." Those rates will steadily rise once the financial Power Elites own enough of the Treasury debt. Then the game plan will be to lock in handsome returns on long-term Treasuries, and command the toady politicos to support "austerity."

The austerity will not extend to the financial Elites, of course. That's the whole purpose of the con. "Some are more equal than others," indeed.

The Con of the Decade Part I

The con of the decade (Part I) involves the transfer of private debt to the public (the marks), who then pays interest forever to the con artists.

I've laid out the Con of the Decade (Part I) in outline form:

1. Enable trillions of dollars in mortgages guaranteed to default by packaging unlimited quantities of them into mortgage-backed securities (MBS), creating umlimited demand for fraudulently originated loans.

2. Sell these MBS as "safe" to credulous investors, institutions, town councils in Norway, etc., i.e. "the bezzle" on a global scale.

3. Make huge "side bets" against these doomed mortgages so when they default then the short-side bets generate billions in profits.

4. Leverage each $1 of actual capital into $100 of high-risk bets.

5. Hide the utterly fraudulent bets offshore and/or off-balance sheet (not that the regulators you had muzzled would have noticed anyway).

6. When the longside bets go bad, transfer hundreds of billions of dollars in Federal guarantees, bailouts and backstops into the private hands which made the risky bets, either via direct payments or via proxies like AIG. Enable these private Power Elites to borrow hundreds of billions more from the Treasury/Fed at zero interest.

7. Deposit these funds at the Federal Reserve, where they earn 3-4%. Reap billions in guaranteed income by borrowing Federal money for free and getting paid interest by the Fed.

8. As profits pile up, start buying boatloads of short-term U.S. Treasuries. Now the taxpayers who absorbed the trillions in private losses and who transferred trillions in subsidies, backstops, guarantees, bailouts and loans to private banks and corporations, are now paying interest on the Treasuries their own money purchased for the banks/corporations.

9. Slowly acquire trillions of dollars in Treasuries--not difficult to do as the Federal government is borrowing $1.5 trillion a year.

10. Stop buying Treasuries and dump a boatload onto the market, forcing interest rates to rise as supply of new T-Bills exceeds demand (at least temporarily). Repeat as necessary to double and then triple interest rates paid on Treasuries.

11. Buy hundreds of billions in long-term Treasuries at high rates of interest. As interest rates rise, interest payments dwarf all other Federal spending, forcing extreme cuts in all other government spending.

12. Enjoy the hundreds of billions of dollars in interest payments being paid by taxpayers on Treasuries that were purchased with their money but which are safely in private hands.

Since the Federal government could potentially inflate away these trillions in Treasuries, buy enough elected officials to force austerity so inflation remains tame. In essence, these private banks and corporations now own the revenue stream of the Federal government and its taxpayers. Neat con, and the marks will never understand how "saving our financial system" led to their servitude to the very interests they bailed out.

The circle is now complete: in "saving our financial system," the public borrowed trillions and transferred the money to private Power Elites, who then buy the public debt with the money swindled out of the taxpayer. Then the taxpayers transfer more wealth every year to the Power Elites/Plutocracy in the form of interest on the Treasury debt. The Power Elites will own the debt that was taken on to bail them out of bad private bets: this is the culmination of privatized gains, socialized risk.

In effect, it's a Third World/colonial scam on a gigantic scale: plunder the public treasury, then buy the debt which was borrowed and transferred to your pockets. You are buying the country with money you borrowed from its taxpayers. No despot could do better.

This is a Racism Test

Do you like him any less now?


No? Then you're not a racist.

We also ask, do you like him any more now? Yes to either answer makes you racist.

I seriously doubt so many liberals would have been tripping over themselves to support and crying with tears of joy, had Obama been a white guy with the same policies they THOUGHT he had. I say that confidently because there was a white guy with the policies they projected on to Obama. There were three actually. The people who loved him wrongly assumed he was anti-war and against corporate America. There were however a few guys who really like that, Gravel, Kucinich, and Paul. But they weren't minority enough. How about Hilary, what if she had been a man? Policy-wise she'd be McCain or come to think of it Obama. For all three of them had the same policies on every major issue. What was sold in the election campaigns were image and demographic associations. It had nothing to do with substance. People pickd and image first and filled in the blank with whatever substance they wished for regardless of whether or not it actually matched reality. That's a real psychological problem. You'll see that in religion or sport fanatics too they pick a conclusion "my team/god/whatever is the best" and rationalize everything else to fit that, no matter what reality is they've got excuses for it.

A must read or a place to send Obama-ites who don't believe you to be crushed by overwhelming number of sources to back up what I'm saying

The following are all videos about the BS left vs Right paradigm focusing most on how an antiwar left voted for a pro-war Obama. It's all image and false hope. Hating republicans was more important than hating what they were doing. The same crap under a new ass hole is perfectly fine with them.

I even explained things in a cartoon that a 9 year old could understand. But see based purely on ideology they are blind. They support IMAGE not substance. And I think Nader summed it up best here

The US Treasury and the Federal Reserve are Manipulating the Gold Market

Recently we were again witness to three gold market takedowns. The first was engineered just prior to and into gold and silver options expiration. Then prior to the ETF GLD gold option expiry and the last manipulative attack commenced just prior to the dreadful unemployment housing and inventory statistics. This sort of action began in 1988 with the signing of the Executive Order by President Ronald Reagan entitled the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets,” ostensibly created to neutralize events such as the October 1987 collapse of the US stock market. Needless to say, that was not the real intention of the creation of such an order. As it has turned out the Treasury and the N.Y. Fed manipulates markets 24/7 worldwide, and they have a particular interest in the suppression of gold and silver prices; they being the antitheist of the US dollar. It should be noted that there were several times that the US Treasury and the privately owned Fed manipulated gold and silver prior to August 1988. We have found in 50 plus years of tracing this manipulative activity by the US government that it happens over and over again. There is no doubt in our minds that a great deal of what is done by government in gold and silver is done by the commercials, who privy to inside information go along for the ride. In the options operation prices are driven down for Comex options as well as GLD options, so that they expire out of the money and as well the perpetrators can cover some of their short positions. This is not difficult to execute, because other traders see what is going on and they get involved as well making the tasks easier.

This spring Andrew Maguire went public with a scam being pulled by JPMorgan Chase in the rigging of silver futures on the LBMA, an exchange similar to Comex in London. This caper was explained to the CFTC, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, months ahead of it occurring and they chose to do nothing about it. Making matters worse, when confronted with the evidence in public hearings, the CFTC didn’t want to hear about it. Maguire broke the story to others who confronted the CFTC who received lip service. The CFTC was forced to conduct a civil investigation and the Justice Department as well is conducting a criminal investigation, which we believe will go nowhere. Realizing that the CFTC, Justice, Morgan and the government are working together against the public in this matter, we are told by our sources that class action suits are being prepared and that the first one should be filed soon. It is a sad day for Americans when justice has to be forced from a corrupt government. In the end we will win but it will be a painful process.

We have found it interesting that the IMF prohibits members from tying their currencies to gold. All of you out there who believe the IMF’s, SDRs, Special Drawing Rights, will be gold backed are mistaken. This historical operating position was further proven when on August 15, 1971 the US closed the gold window. This was the advice Mr. Nixon received from Paul Volcker, who was an early member of the Trilateral Commission and is an Illuminist. Volcker has also been a leader against the US using gold in its monetary policy. Since 8/15/71 there has been an official war against gold by the elitists behind the curtain. It was that seminal event that essentially changed the future of America and the world. At that time US debt was just short of $500 billion. Today short-term debt is $14 trillion and long-term debt is $105 trillion. The engineer of the failure of the US banking system and the failure of the dollar and the rejection of it is at the feet of Mr. Volcker. What he has done to America at the behest of his Illuminist masters is reprehensible. That was eventually followed by the elimination of Glass Steagall and the looting and the collapse of our financial system. This is the result of the corruption of our system.

The result of this treachery is the coming with the complete collapse of the stock market and the end of real estate as an investment. The powers that be have destroyed a once great nation. Everywhere you look, budgets of towns, cities, counties, states and governments are in a shambles. The entire world is becoming their world. You have no doubt seen the elitists’ answer, which is we all switch to the SDR, another fiat currency, devalue all currencies versus the SDR and allow defaults among nations, just as we predicted would happen, although not in this particular way. The solutions being proffered are not solutions at all, only different methods of paying back the bankers and keeping them in business.

That keeps the leaders of the system solvent and throws the debt on the citizen. Mind you, these same bankers were the ones who destroyed our system – or better yet their system – in order to bring about world government. It should not be surprising that gold has been the investment leader.

The Illuminist bankers believe this time they are capable of shutting down the entire system and replacing it with S.D.R.s, so that they can control everything financial worldwide. This is what we have been telling the public for over 50 years and no one wanted to listen. We were called conspiracy theorists. We were dead on correct. The SDR is a stepping-stone to a world currency that can never work. Just look at the horrible results of the unnatural euro. The hunger for power, time after time, makes the rich and powerful become even more insane than they already are. G-8 is now G-20, part of the formation of amalgamation and the recognition of the failure of the euro and the EU as well. We find it ludicrous that the elitists want a broke IMF to fix the monetary system with an SDR. The same IMF that said they would never sell gold into the open market, yet that is what they are doing every day. Their plan is to back the SDR with taxes obtained from world citizens and a carbon tax. That is what the BP oil episode is all about. Don’t expect a gold or silver based currency, because that inhibits the bankers’ ability to own and run the system that has made them so rich and powerful. Sound money is something they never want to see again.

The idea of a Northern euro we believe is undoable. If the big debtors have to pay back their debt they’ll be in depression for 30 years. If they default they can return to their cheap domestic currencies, which would make their exports competitive. That Northern Union creditor group would be stuck with $2 trillion in bad paper. In addition we are very skeptical as to whether they have any gold left and if they do how much to back a new currency. The ECB probably sold off enough gold to suppress the gold price leaving the central bank with probably only 7% of the 15% they originally had. The ECB has the same situation that the Fed has, they are enveloped in debt - much of it sovereign debt. England and others have the same problem. The ECB continues to buy junk bonds because it has no choice but to do so.

These financial and economic matters are very perplexing and social and political issues complicate them. The theory of corporatist fascism, that is so prevalent in America today, has spawned an economic policy of centralism, debt and monopoly driven by the privately owned Federal Reserve, banking and Wall Street. The tune is borrow and go deeper into debt to the bankers until America is bankrupt. This last chapter will be kicked off with more taxes and more fiscal debt. This will be accompanie4d by massive unemployment and eventually a deflationary depression. The unemployment problem is being deliberately allowed to worsen both by the administration and Congress, which won’t address the real reasons our nation is in such a state of failure. What else can you call the loss of 5 million jobs from free trade, globalization, offshoring and outsourcing, which is still going on and the loss of 8.4 million via recession/depression. That is 13.4 million jobs supposedly being filled by a birth/death model and service and retail jobs with little remuneration. Those who control our government, politicians and our economy are about to kick Americans when they are down. Those who control government and their emissaries loathe capitalism and love collectivism. The average American so disgusts our controllers that, if they could they would remove 80% from society.

Is the IMF about Ready to Muscle U.S. Taxpayers?

I smell a rat.

The IMF has long been a bought, and paid for, muscle arm of the U.S. government and the banking elite.

The play goes like this. Banks loan money to third world countries that have no chance in hell of paying the money back. The IMF comes in with "austerity" programs that include heavy new tax burdens on the working class. The revenue from the new taxes will, of course, go to payoff the banking elite. It's a sick game, but the elite seem to get their jollies by pulling this scam in country after country.

It appears the elite appear to want to up the ante. It appears they are getting set to turn the guns inward and go after the hard earned money of Americans.

WaPo reports:

The United States recently opened itself to the most intense scrutiny yet by the International Monetary Fund, and on Thursday was offered a bitter pill when the agency criticized some well-defended aspects of American culture -- cheap fuel, subsidized housing, and a government retirement check.

In a broad call for U.S. financial prudence, the agency also said the Obama administration was overestimating U.S. economic growth and needed to trim government deficits by hundreds of billions of additional dollars if its announced budget targets are to be met.
The U.S. opened itself up to "intense scrutiny" by the IMF? This is like David Rockefeller opening himself up to intense scrutiny by his chauffeur.

The IMF is a bought and paid for U.S. operation. There is no "scrutiny" unless the U.S. government wants it as cover. Cover for what? Here's more from the WaPo report:

Cut Social Security. Ditch the deduction for interest on home mortgages. Tax gasoline...

The recovery is going reasonably well in the United States, the IMF said, but some of the tougher decisions remain to keep it on track.

"The risks are tilted to the downside," David Robinson, deputy director of the IMF's Western Hemisphere department, said as he presented both the IMF's annual assessment of the U.S. economy and its first-ever review of the country's financial sector....

...the agency argues that the United States needs to move more aggressively to both cut spending and raise revenue, to the tune of $350 billion or more above what the administration now plans...

Allowing homeowners to deduct their mortgage interest payments from their income taxes, for example, is a staple of U.S. housing policy, considered a way to make homeownership more affordable. The IMF came out harshly against the deduction, saying that it was part of a homeownership system that was "costly, inefficient and complex," did not demonstrably increase ownership rates compared with similar countries without the same tax incentives, and mostly benefited "the better-off."
Not good. It appears there is a serious play in motion, by the elite, to tax the hell out of Americans. The IMF is obviously the front muscle organization that is going to lead the charge. Once the mid-term elections are over, American tax payers are going to be muscled, the way the IMF now muscles third world peasants.

‘Fun to Shoot People’ General Named as New CENTCOM Commander

Mattis Will Replace Petraeus in Position Overseeing Afghan, Iraq Wars

The Pentagon has announced its selection of a replacement for General David Petraeus as Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander today, and it will be the controversial Gen. James Mattis that goes to Congress for final approval.

Gen. Mattis

Gen. Mattis, who was previously serving as Joint Forces Command chief, had been out of the headlines for a few years, but his colorful past and what Gen. Michael Hagee called his tendency to “speak with a great deal of candor” ensure that the approval process will be anything but boring.

In 2005, then Lt. Gen. Mattis spoke of his “fun” experience in Afghanistan at a forum in San Diego, describing it as “a hell of a hoot.” After laughter from soldiers in the audience Mattis went on to declare “it’s fun to shoot some people.”

Mattis continued to elaborate. “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” adding “guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyways. So its a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

Officials attempted to explain away Mattis’ declaration at the time, and praising him as a great military leader. Gen. Peter Pace said of Mattis that “his actions and those of his troops clearly show that he understands the value of proper leadership and the value of human life.” Mattis’ most recent deployment at the time was to Iraq, where he took part in both battles of Fallujah, which left large numbers of Iraqi civilians dead.

Though Mattis’ comments garnered quite a bit of controversy at the time, just two and a half years later the Bush Administration promoted him to a four star general and gave him his current command. Though strictly speaking the transition from Joint Forces Command to Central Command is not a promotion, it is clearly the most prestigious position, as it puts him in overall charge of both the Iraq and Afghan Wars. Gen. Petraeus gave up this position to take over direct command of the Afghan War last week, after the ouster of Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Hope and Change Fade, but War Endures

Some words have a way of enduring. Take "endure." As the Bush administration headed into Iraq in the spring of 2003, the Pentagon already had plans on the drawing board to build at least four gigantic American bases in that country and garrison them for the long haul. But when questioned on the subject, administration officials and spokespeople were eager to avoid linking the word "permanent" to those as-yet-unbuilt bases and so, for a while, referred to them instead as "enduring camps," a phrase that had a certain charm and none of the ominous overtones of "permanent base." In the end, of course, more than four massive bases were built and garrisoned. Given the slow American drawdown in that country, their fate remains unknown — and typically undiscussed in the U.S. — but as of this moment, they still "endure" and, huge as they are, they couldn’t look more permanent.

According to an agreement signed at the end of George W. Bush’s second term, all American "combat troops" are to be withdrawn from Iraq by this August, hence the U.S. military is planning to relabel any post-August "combat operations" as "stability operations." Think of that as linguistic "endurance." In the same spirit, all U.S. troops are supposed to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, but as Tim Arango of the New York Times noted recently, "[F]ew believe that America’s military involvement in Iraq will end then. The conventional wisdom among military officers, diplomats, and Iraqi officials is that after a new government is formed, talks will begin about a longer-term American troop presence. ‘I like to say that in Iraq, the only thing Americans know for certain, is that we know nothing for certain,’ said Brett H. McGurk, a former National Security Council official in Iraq and current fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. ‘The exception is what’s coming once there’s a new government: they will ask to amend the Security Agreement and extend the 2011 date. We should take that request seriously.’"

There is, in other words, a well-based possibility — or at least serious American dreaming — that our mega-installations in Iraq (including our nearly three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar citadel of an embassy in the heart of Baghdad that takes more than $1.5 billion a year to run and has 1,800 private security guards) will endure.

Now, hop a couple of thousand miles to another war, Afghanistan, and a newly appointed war commander testifying before the Senate in his confirmation hearings. Responding to questions about President Obama’s previously announced decision to begin some kind of an American drawdown there in July 2011, General David Petraeus spent much time playing down the significance of that date (as did the president). He even brought up the possibility that the date could be delayed. In the process, choosing his words with care, he said this: "It is important to note the President’s reminder in recent days that July 2011 will mark the beginning of a process, not the date when the U.S. heads for the exits and turns out the lights. As he explained this past Sunday, in fact, ‘we’ll need to provide assistance to Afghanistan for a long time to come…’ Moreover, as President Karzai has recognized, and as a number of allied leaders noted at the recent G-20 Summit, it is going to be a number of years before Afghan forces can truly handle the security tasks in Afghanistan on their own. The commitment to Afghanistan is necessarily, therefore, an enduring one, and neither the Taliban nor our Afghan and Pakistani partners should doubt that." Given the history of America’s recent wars, that "enduring" couldn’t represent a more ominous choice of words.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel and TomDispatch regular William Astore takes a look at the single most "enduring" aspect of the American military scene in our time, our persistent war-making — and the war preparations that go with it. Tom

Hope and Change Fade, but War Endures
Seven Reasons Why We Can’t Stop Making War

By William J. Astore

If one quality characterizes our wars today, it’s their endurance. They never seem to end. Though war itself may not be an American inevitability, these days many factors combine to make constant war an American near certainty. Put metaphorically, our nation’s pursuit of war taps so many wellsprings of our behavior that a concerted effort to cap it would dwarf BP’s efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.

Our political leaders, the media, and the military interpret enduring war as a measure of our national fitness, our global power, our grit in the face of eternal danger, and our seriousness. A desire to de-escalate and withdraw, on the other hand, is invariably seen as cut-and-run appeasement and discounted as weakness. Withdrawal options are, in a pet phrase of Washington elites, invariably "off the table" when global policy is at stake, as was true during the Obama administration’s full-scale reconsideration of the Afghan war in the fall of 2009. Viewed in this light, the president’s ultimate decision to surge in Afghanistan was not only predictable, but the only course considered suitable for an American war leader. Rather than the tough choice, it was the path of least resistance.

Why do our elites so readily and regularly give war, not peace, a chance? What exactly are the wellsprings of Washington’s (and America’s) behavior when it comes to war and preparations for more of the same?

Consider these seven:

1. We wage war because we think we’re good at it — and because, at a gut level, we’ve come to believe that American wars can bring good to others (hence our feel-good names for them, like Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom). Most Americans are not only convinced we have the best troops, the best training, and the most advanced weapons, but also the purest motives. Unlike the bad guys and the barbarians out there in the global marketplace of death, our warriors and warfighters are seen as gift-givers and freedom-bringers, not as death-dealers and resource-exploiters. Our illusions about the military we "support" serve as catalyst for, and apology for, the persistent war-making we condone.

2. We wage war because we’ve already devoted so many of our resources to it. It’s what we’re most prepared to do. More than half of discretionary federal spending goes to fund our military and its war making or war preparations. The military-industrial complex is a well-oiled, extremely profitable machine and the armed forces, our favorite child, the one we’ve lavished the most resources and praise upon. It’s natural to give your favorite child free rein.

3. We’ve managed to isolate war’s physical and emotional costs, leaving them on the shoulders of a tiny minority of Americans. By eliminating the draft and relying ever more on for-profit private military contractors, we’ve made war a distant abstraction for most Americans, who can choose to consume it as spectacle or simply tune it out as so much background noise.

4. While war and its costs have, to date, been kept at arm’s length, American society has been militarizing fast. Our media outlets, intelligence agencies, politicians, foreign policy establishment, and "homeland security" bureaucracy are so intertwined with military priorities and agendas as to be inseparable from them. In militarized America, griping about soft-hearted tactics or the outspokenness of a certain general may be tolerated, but forceful criticism of our military or our wars is still treated as deviant and "un-American."

5. Our profligate, high-tech approach to war, including those Predator and Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles, has served to limit American casualties — and so has limited the anger over, and harsh questioning of, our wars that might go with them. While the U.S. has had more than 1,000 troops killed in Afghanistan, over a similar period in Vietnam we lost more than 58,000 troops. Improved medical evacuation and trauma care, greater reliance on standoff precision weaponry and similar "force multipliers," stronger emphasis on "force protection" within American military units: all these and more have helped tamp down concern about the immeasurable and soaring costs of our wars.

6. As we incessantly develop those force-multiplying weapons to give us our "edge" (though never an edge that leads to victory), it’s hardly surprising that the U.S. has come to dominate, if not quite monopolize, the global arms trade. In these years, as American jobs were outsourced or simply disappeared in the Great Recession, armaments have been one of our few growth industries. Endless war has proven endlessly profitable — not perhaps for all of us, but certainly for those in the business of war.

7. And don’t forget the seductive power of beyond-worse-case, doomsday scenarios, of the prophecies of pundits and so-called experts, who regularly tell us that, bad as our wars may be, doing anything to end them would be far worse. A typical scenario goes like this: If we withdraw from Afghanistan, the government of Hamid Karzai will collapse, the Taliban will surge to victory, al-Qaeda will pour into Afghan safe havens, and Pakistan will be further destabilized, its atomic bombs falling into the hands of terrorists out to destroy Peoria and Orlando.

Such fevered nightmares, impossible to disprove, may be conjured at any moment to scare critics into silence. They are a convenient bogeyman, leaving us cowering as we send our superman military out to save us (and the world as well), while preserving our right to visit the mall and travel to Disney World without being nuked.

The truth is that no one really knows what would happen if the U.S. disengaged from Afghanistan. But we do know what’s happening now, with us fully engaged: we’re pursuing a war that’s costing us nearly $7 billion a month that we’re not winning (and that’s arguably unwinnable), a war that may be increasing the chances of another 9/11, rather than decreasing them.

Capping the Wellsprings of War

Each one of these seven wellsprings feeding our enduring wars must be capped. So here are seven suggestions for the sort of "caps" — hopefully more effective than BP’s flailing improvisations — we need to install:

1. Let’s reject the idea that war is either admirable or good — and in the process, remind ourselves that others often see us as "the foreign fighters" and profligate war consumers who kill innocents (despite our efforts to apply deadly force in surgically precise ways reflecting "courageous restraint").

2. Let’s cut defense spending now, and reduce the global "mission" that goes with it. Set a reasonable goal — a 6-8% reduction annually for the next 10 years, until levels of defense spending are at least back to where they were before 9/11 — and then stick to it.

3. Let’s stop privatizing war. Creating ever more profitable incentives for war was always a ludicrous idea. It’s time to make war a non-profit, last-resort activity.

4. Let’s reverse the militarization of so many dimensions of our society. To cite one example, it’s time to empower truly independent (non-embedded) journalists to cover our wars, and stop relying on retired generals and admirals who led our previous wars to be our media guides. Men who are beholden to their former service branch or the current defense contractor who employs them can hardly be trusted to be critical and unbiased guides to future conflicts.

5. Let’s recognize that expensive high-tech weapons systems are not war-winners. They’ve kept us in the game without yielding decisive results — unless you measure "results" in terms of cost overruns and burgeoning federal budget deficits.

6. Let’s retool our economy and reinvest our money, moving it out of the military-industrial complex and into strengthening our anemic system of mass transit, our crumbling infrastructure, and alternative energy technology. We need high-speed rail, safer roads and bridges, and more wind turbines, not more overpriced jet fighters.

7. Finally, let’s banish nightmare scenarios from our minds. The world is scary enough without forever imagining smoking guns morphing into mushroom clouds.

There you have it: my seven "caps" to contain our gushing support for permanent war. No one said it would be easy. Just ask BP how easy it is to cap one out-of-control gusher.

Nonetheless, if we as a society aren’t willing to work hard for actual change — indeed, to demand it — we’ll be on that military escalatory curve until we implode. And that way madness lies.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and TomDispatch regular. He has taught at the Air Force Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School and currently teaches History at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He may be reached at

Copyright 2010 William J. Astore

U.S. marks 3rd-largest, single-day debt increase

$166 billion jump spurs concerns over policy

The National Debt Clock is shown Monday, Feb. 1, 2010 in New York. President Barack Obama sent Congress a $3.83 trillion budget on Monday that would pour more money into the fight against high unemployment, boost taxes on the wealthy and freeze spending for a wide swath of government programs. The deficit for this year would surge to a record-breaking $1.56 trillion. The Debt Clock is a privately funded estimate of the national debt. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
The National Debt Clock is shown Monday, Feb. 1, 2010 in New York. President Barack Obama sent Congress a $3.83 trillion budget on Monday that would pour more money into the fight against high unemployment, boost taxes on the wealthy and freeze spending for a wide swath of government programs. The deficit for this year would surge to a record-breaking $1.56 trillion. The Debt Clock is a privately funded estimate of the national debt. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The nation's debt leapt $166 billion in a single day last week, the third-largest increase in U.S. history, and it comes at a time when Congress is balking over higher spending and debt has become a key policy battleground.

The one-day increase for June 30 totaled $165,931,038,264.30 - bigger than the entire annual deficit for fiscal year 2007 and larger than the $140 billion in savings the new health care bill will produce over its first 10 years. The figure works out to nearly $1,500 for every U.S. household, or more than 10 times the median daily household income.

Daily debt calculations jump and fall, and big shifts are common. But all three of the biggest one-day debt increases have occurred under the tenure of President Obama, and all of the top six have been in the past two years - an indication of just how quickly the pace of deficit spending has risen under Mr. Obama and President George W. Bush.

"What matters is the overall trend line, and the overall trend line is shooting up," said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan deficit watchdog group, who said it is one more reason for a fiscal wake-up call.

Fears over red ink have stalled key parts of Mr. Obama's agenda in Congress in recent weeks, including his push for another round of stimulus spending. Just last week, House Democrats had to use a tricky parliamentary tactic to pass an emergency war-spending bill, aid for teachers and new spending caps.

On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office said the government has recorded a $1 trillion deficit for the first nine months of fiscal 2010, which began Oct. 1. That's slightly down from 2009's record $1.1 trillion deficit at this point.

CBO said revenues are doing slightly better this year than last year, while spending is down about $73 billion, mainly because the government made giant payments last year to bail out Wall Street, but did not have similar expenses this year. Other spending is higher, including unemployment benefits, which have jumped nearly 50 percent.

Deficits are the difference between what the government raises in revenue versus what it spends each year, while debt is the accumulation of those deficits over many years.

The Treasury Department calculates the country's debt position each day, and big rises and falls are not unusual. In fact, since hitting $13.203 trillion on June 30, the figure has since slipped $25 billion to settle at $13.178 trillion as of Tuesday, the latest day for which figures are available.

June 30 is always a major day for new debt, since debt held by one part of the government to another - for example, IOUs to the Social Security trust fund - are rolled over, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of the Public Debt said.

Story Continues →

© Copyright 2010 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Road pricing could become yet another tax

The RAC's pay-as-you-drive proposal reopens a historic can of worms, says Philip Johnston.

Road tax
The combined taxes raised from motoring are around £42 billion a year Photo: Alamy

The last time road pricing was suggested, Downing Street's website crashed as 1.8 million motorists visited it to register their opposition. But the idea has not gone away. A new report from the RAC Foundation says that charging drivers for each mile they travel is "inevitable" if future traffic gridlock is to be avoided. Stephen Glaister, the RAC's director, argues that there is no credible alternative to a "pay-as-you-drive" system in view of the rising population and the likelihood that the number of cars and lorries will grow by a third over the next 15 years.

Prof Glaister believes the public could be won over to the idea if it were combined with a judicious mix of benefits to make the initiative easier to swallow. These would include a cut in fuel duty and the abolition of road tax; guaranteed revenues for road improvements; and compensation for delays. However, the Department for Transport – which got its fingers burnt when the subject was debated a few years ago – is having none of it. It insists there are no plans to charge drivers to use existing roads (though not necessarily new ones) because they are "publicly owned and have already been paid for by the taxpayer".

Indeed they have. Many times over. Long, long ago our car tax, now known as Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), was called the Road Fund Licence. As the name suggests, it was set up in 1909 specifically to collect revenues for the roads. In the Commons, David Lloyd George, the chancellor, was asked by an opposition spokesman: "Is it intended to go to general revenue? If it is going to roads, we think it a fair proposition." Lloyd George replied: "My proposal is the whole of the moneys should go on the road."

It may be what the Welsh Wizard intended but it is not what happened. Within a few years, the Treasury started to raid the fund, blurring the link between what motorists paid and the roads they got in return. As with the National Insurance Fund, ostensibly set up to pay for pensions and welfare, road taxes became just another way of raising money for general expenditure. It stopped being called the Road Fund Licence in 1935.

Today, it is estimated that the combined taxes raised from motoring are around £42 billion a year; yet only about £10 billion is spent on new roads and maintenance. Taxing motorists is a significant source of general revenues which the Treasury, in this time of austerity, is hardly likely to give up. The question is whether road pricing would actually raise more for the Exchequer than the current tax regime.

Supporters believe that satellite tracking technology makes the concept viable and would cut congestion by about half. A government-commissioned study a few years ago suggested a charge of up to £1.34 a mile, though the price would vary depending on which road you were using and when you were travelling. So, those living in towns and cities or travelling on motorways at peak times would pay most; those in the countryside where the roads are less busy would pay a lower charge (though they tend to use the car more).

However, it is not strictly true that this would introduce a "pay-as-you-go" concept to motoring. We already pay more for travelling further through the huge amounts of duty and VAT that are raised from fuel. One estimate suggests that a distance-based element of about 5p a mile for cars is already factored into fuel tax, though this is not a formula the Treasury ever talks about. Might it not make more sense, then, to scrap the car tax entirely (winding up the expensive administration for collecting it) and load the cost of driving entirely on to fuel duty, which would also catch foreign cars in the net? Another option, used in Oregon, is to create a new payments structure where drivers pay their mileage charge when they fill up at the pump. But this still would hit people who have to travel at peak times and have no easy access to public transport. Matters are further confused by the use of road and fuel taxes to achieve environmental policy goals by encouraging low carbon emissions and greater efficiency.

The RAC report has reopened a can of worms whose lid has popped on and off many times since the 1920s. In 1964, the Smeed Committee advocated road pricing and yet here we are, nearly half a century on, still wondering what to do. Apart from public hostility, the biggest problem with road pricing schemes is that they will inevitably cost a fortune to set up and administer. By far the simplest option is to sell off the motorways and the trunk roads and charge a toll to use them. A feasibility study by NM Rothschild estimated that privatisation could raise £100 billion for the Exchequer, helping to solve the debt crisis. This is a radical idea but would only be acceptable to the motoring public if VED was scrapped, thereby taxing use instead of ownership. But you just know, don't you, that we would end up paying both.

Six Months to Go Until The Largest Tax Hikes in History

In just six months, the largest tax hikes in the history of America will take effect. They will hit families and small businesses in three great waves on January 1, 2011:

(N.B. This version of the document contains even more tax hikes than the original version did)

First Wave: Expiration of 2001 and 2003 Tax Relief

In 2001 and 2003, the GOP Congress enacted several tax cuts for investors, small business owners, and families. These will all expire on January 1, 2011:

Personal income tax rates will rise. The top income tax rate will rise from 35 to 39.6 percent (this is also the rate at which two-thirds of small business profits are taxed). The lowest rate will rise from 10 to 15 percent. All the rates in between will also rise. Itemized deductions and personal exemptions will again phase out, which has the same mathematical effect as higher marginal tax rates. The full list of marginal rate hikes is below:

- The 10% bracket rises to an expanded 15%
- The 25% bracket rises to 28%
- The 28% bracket rises to 31%
- The 33% bracket rises to 36%
- The 35% bracket rises to 39.6%

Higher taxes on marriage and family. The “marriage penalty” (narrower tax brackets for married couples) will return from the first dollar of income. The child tax credit will be cut in half from $1000 to $500 per child. The standard deduction will no longer be doubled for married couples relative to the single level. The dependent care and adoption tax credits will be cut.

The return of the Death Tax. This year, there is no death tax. For those dying on or after January 1 2011, there is a 55 percent top death tax rate on estates over $1 million. A person leaving behind two homes and a retirement account could easily pass along a death tax bill to their loved ones.

Higher tax rates on savers and investors. The capital gains tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 20 percent in 2011. The dividends tax will rise from 15 percent this year to 39.6 percent in 2011. These rates will rise another 3.8 percent in 2013.

Second Wave: Obamacare

There are over twenty new or higher taxes in Obamacare. Several will first go into effect on January 1, 2011. They include:

The Tanning Tax. This went into effect on July 1st of this year. It imposes a new, 10% excise tax on getting a tan at a tanning salon. There is no exemption for tanners making less than $250,000 per year.

The “Medicine Cabinet Tax” Thanks to Obamacare, Americans will no longer be able to use health savings account (HSA), flexible spending account (FSA), or health reimbursement (HRA) pre-tax dollars to purchase non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines (except insulin).

The HSA Withdrawal Tax Hike. This provision of Obamacare increases the additional tax on non-medical early withdrawals from an HSA from 10 to 20 percent, disadvantaging them relative to IRAs and other tax-advantaged accounts, which remain at 10 percent.

Brand Name Drug Tax. Starting next year, there will be a multi-billion dollar tax assessment imposed on name-brand drug manufacturers. This tax, like all excise taxes, will raise the price of medicine, hurting everyone.

Economic Substance Doctrine. The IRS is now empowered to disallow perfectly-legal tax deductions and maneuvers merely because it judges that the deduction or action lacks “economic substance.” This is obviously an arbitrary empowerment of IRS agents.

Employer Reporting of Health Insurance Costs on a W-2. This will start for W-2s in the 2011 tax year. While not a tax increase in itself, it makes it very easy for Congress to tax employer-provided healthcare benefits later.

Third Wave: The Alternative Minimum Tax and Employer Tax Hikes

When Americans prepare to file their tax returns in January of 2011, they’ll be in for a nasty surprise—the AMT won’t be held harmless, and many tax relief provisions will have expired. These major items include:

The AMT will ensnare over 28 million families, up from 4 million last year. According to the left-leaning Tax Policy Center, Congress’ failure to index the AMT will lead to an explosion of AMT taxpaying families—rising from 4 million last year to 28.5 million. These families will have to calculate their tax burdens twice, and pay taxes at the higher level. The AMT was created in 1969 to ensnare a handful of taxpayers.

Small business expensing will be slashed and 50% expensing will disappear. Small businesses can normally expense (rather than slowly-deduct, or “depreciate”) equipment purchases up to $250,000. This will be cut all the way down to $25,000. Larger businesses can expense half of their purchases of equipment. In January of 2011, all of it will have to be “depreciated.”

Taxes will be raised on all types of businesses. There are literally scores of tax hikes on business that will take place. The biggest is the loss of the “research and experimentation tax credit,” but there are many, many others. Combining high marginal tax rates with the loss of this tax relief will cost jobs.

Tax Benefits for Education and Teaching Reduced. The deduction for tuition and fees will not be available. Tax credits for education will be limited. Teachers will no longer be able to deduct classroom expenses. Coverdell Education Savings Accounts will be cut. Employer-provided educational assistance is curtailed. The student loan interest deduction will be disallowed for hundreds of thousands of families.

Charitable Contributions from IRAs no longer allowed. Under current law, a retired person with an IRA can contribute up to $100,000 per year directly to a charity from their IRA. This contribution also counts toward an annual “required minimum distribution.” This ability will no longer be there.

Obama US Attorney expected to stand behind federal gay marriage ban, plaintiffs say

White House declines comment;
Political implications could be enormous

The gay rights law group that convinced a federal district court judge Thursday to strike down a federal ban on gay marriage has told the New York Times they "fully expect" the Justice Department to appeal the decision -- a move that could shatter Obama's image in the gay community and cost his party millions of dollars in donations from gay donors.

"Lawyers on various sides of the issue said it was a certainty that the government will appeal and likely that the cases will reach the Supreme Court," Politico added Friday.

Such an appeal would be filed by the Obama-appointed US Attorney Carmen Milagros Ortiz, who was confirmed last November by the Senate.

In an email Friday, a White House spokesperson told Raw Story, "This is a question for the Justice Department."

"The only comment I have is the Department is reviewing the decision," Tracy Schmaler, a Justice Department spokesperson, told Raw Story shortly after.

Evan Wolfson, director of the gay rights group Freedom to Marry, said he doesn't know what the Justice Department will do, but hopes that if they appeal, they will couch their filing carefully.

"I think we're going to have to see what the Justice Department decides," Wolfson said. "I do hope that, if there is an appeal, that at a minimum the administration will agree that the appellate court should apply a presumption of unconstitutionality -- which in legal terms is called heightened scrutiny -- to this law that they concede is discriminatory."

"My message [to Obama] would be: Do the right thing," Wolfson added. "You agree this law is discriminatory. A highly respected conservative Republican-appointed judge has now said it's unconstitutional. Stop enforcing this unfair and discriminatory law that harms families and helps no one."

Woman who won Massachusetts marriage case expresses disappointment

Hillary Goodridge, one of seven couples that sued -- and won -- gay marriage rights in Massachusetts, expressed disappointment in a Friday morning phone call.

“I would find it very disheartening that they would choose that course of action," Goodridge told Raw Story. "I want to see the president and his administration committed to full marriage equality.”

On Thursday, Boston US District Court Judge Joseph Tauro struck down the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act," declaring it unconstitutional and asserting that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same federal benefits as straight couples.

Should the Justice Department decided to appeal the ruling, the political implications would likely be extreme. If they decide not to appeal the ruling, which would effectively mean that President Obama does not believe the federal government has a right to ban gay marriage, Republicans will have another weapon in their political arsenal during their fall House and Senate campaigns.

An appeal filed by an Obama-appointed US Attorney will enrage gay rights groups and their allies, who are already frustrated with what they see as inaction on Obama's behalf in not ending a federal law which forces the Pentagon to fire anyone who admits publicly that they are gay.

Congress recently voted to give the military the authority to end the practice. The military, however, says it is still "studying" the implications of allowing gays to serve. Obama lauded Congress' move, saying, "Our military is made up of the best and bravest men and women in our nation, and my greatest honor is leading them as Commander-in-Chief. This legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity."

Our military is made up of the best and bravest men and women in our nation, and my greatest honor is leading them as Commander-in-Chief. This legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity."

Several hundred gay and lesbian servicemembers have been fired under the law since President Obama took office. Aside from the loss of US servicemembers' jobs during a war, a recent estimate by the University of California also found that the law has cost $363.8 million over 10 years, partly as a result of the fact the Defense Department has been forced to train new hires to replace those they have terminated.

Goodridge, whp says she voted for Obama, said she will be upset if his Administration "fails to deliver" on gay equality.

“I did vote for him and I will be very angry if his administration continues to stall or actively block the equality of men and women serving in the Armed Forces, married gay men and lesbians, LGBT communities and our families," Goodridge said. "It is past time for this administration to demonstrate their commitment to us, to all Americans."

US Attorney managing case known for public service career

carmen Obama US Attorney expected to stand behind federal gay marriage ban, plaintiffs sayObama-appointed US Attorney Carmen Milagros Ortiz spent much of her career in public service prior to taking her current job, according to her bio on the Justice Department's Web site.

"Ms. Ortiz has spent much of her professional career in public service," the bio reads. "Before becoming United States Attorney, she was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Economic Crimes Unit of the United States Attorney's Office in Boston for twelve years. While there, Ms. Ortiz also served as Grand Jury Supervisor. In addition to her federal service, Ms. Ortiz served as an Assistant District Attorney in Middlesex County, where she worked for a total of eight years, overseeing the District Court and prosecuting homicides, sexual assaults, robberies and other felony cases.

"In addition to her public service, Ms. Ortiz was a senior trial attorney at the law firm of Morisi & Associates, P.C., concentrating on civil, criminal, and governmental agency litigation. She also was a Program Associate and Training Coordinator at the Harvard Law School's Center for Criminal Justice from 1989 through 1991. There she worked on the Harvard/Guatemala Criminal Justice Project, which entailed collaborating with the judiciary of Guatemala and other legal professionals to implement criminal justice reforms in that country. In 1991, on behalf of the National Football League, Ms. Ortiz investigated allegations of sexual harassment that were made by a sports writer against the New England Patriots."

With research by Muriel Kane.

This article has been updated from the original.

Untidy beds may keep us healthy

Failing to make your bed in the morning may actually help keep you healthy, scientists believe.

Research suggests that while an unmade bed may look scruffy it is also unappealing to house dust mites thought to cause asthma and other allergies.

A Kingston University study discovered the bugs cannot survive in the warm, dry conditions found in an unmade bed.

The average bed could be home to up to 1.5 million house dust mites.

The bugs, which are less than a millimetre long, feed on scales of human skin and produce allergens which are easily inhaled during sleep.

The warm, damp conditions created in an occupied bed are ideal for the creatures, but they are less likely to thrive when moisture is in shorter supply.

'Small glands'

The scientists developed a computer model to track how changes in the home can reduce numbers of dust mites in beds.

Something as simple as leaving a bed unmade during the day can remove moisture from the sheets and mattress so the mites will dehydrate and eventually die
Dr Stephen Pretlove

Researcher Dr Stephen Pretlove said: "We know that mites can only survive by taking in water from the atmosphere using small glands on the outside of their body.

"Something as simple as leaving a bed unmade during the day can remove moisture from the sheets and mattress so the mites will dehydrate and eventually die."

In the next stage of their research, the scientists are putting mite pockets into beds in 36 houses around the United Kingdom to test their computer model and will investigate how people's daily routines affect mite populations.

Building features such as heating, ventilation and insulation will also be altered to monitor how the mites cope.

Dr Pretlove said the research had the potential to reduce the £700m spent treating mite-induced illnesses each year in the UK.

"Our findings could help building designers create healthy homes and healthcare workers point out environments most at risk from mites."

Dr Matt Hallsworth, of the charity Asthma UK, said: 'House-dust mite allergen can be an important trigger for many people with asthma, but is notoriously difficult to avoid."

Professor Andrew Wardlaw, of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology, agreed.

He said: "Mites are very important in asthma and allergy and it would be good if ways were found to modifiy the home so that mite concentrations were reduced.

"It is true that mites need humid conditions to thrive and cannot survive in very dry (desert like) conditions.

"However, most homes in the UK are sufficiently humid for the mites to do well and I find it hard to believe that simply not making your bed would have any impact on the overall humidity."

Shootout At El Paso City Hall

National Security: In his speech Thursday, President Obama assured us that our "southern border is more se cure today than at any time in the past 20 years." So why is El Paso's City Hall taking fire from Mexico?

The president made his pitch for "comprehensive immigration reform" by assuring us problems on the border were already taken care of, so the next course of action was a modified amnesty program for 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.

But a funny thing happened on the same day he was urging Americans to go along: El Paso's City Hall found itself in a war zone as gunfire from the Mexican side from either traffickers or the Mexican lawmen trying to fight them pocked the edifice. News reports said as many as seven bullets hit the building. No one was hit — this time.

It's another sign of the horror in Mexico spilling onto the U.S. side.

Further down the border on the same day, 12 miles from Nogales, Ariz., 21 people were massacred in a fight between rival smuggling gangs over the right of way to bring their illegal immigrant "shipments" and narcotics into the U.S.

It all gives the president's assurances to Americans that the border situation is being dealt with an aura of unreality.

Statistics can be cut a number of ways, and some areas do have better border security. But the fact that it's uneven has left other areas — such as the Arizona border, more vulnerable as traffickers fight over the last remaining routes with intensity.

And dramatic events are happening across the border area anyway that suggest bottoms dropping out, with horrors unimaginable in the past becoming the new norm:

• The U.S. has lost control of actual U.S. territory to drug and migrant smugglers as much as 80 miles inland in Arizona. Any American who enters this area risks being shot dead.

• The Falcon Dam on Texas' lower Rio Grande was targeted for destruction by a Mexican cartel to destroy a rival's drug and alien-smuggling route. Had the foiled plot succeeded, 4 million people could have ended up downriver with mass casualties and deaths.

• Arizona now has the second-highest kidnapping rate in the world, behind only Mexico City, with nearly all of it due to drug and migrant smugglers and their quests for cash and territory.

• Mass graves have been discovered in New Mexico, believed by lawmen to be the work of cartels.

French News Web Site Shakes Sarkozy Camp

PARIS — At dinner parties there is talk of a French Watergate, but with at least one big difference: the would-be Woodwards and Bernsteins behind the biggest scandal to hit the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy work on the Web instead of at a newspaper.

In an intensifying drama over accusations of political corruption, a news Web site called Mediapart this week published its most incendiary article yet, accusing Mr. Sarkozy of receiving illegal donations from Liliane Bettencourt, the 87-year-old heiress to the L’Oréal fortune, during his 2007 election campaign.

Spokesmen for Mr. Sarkozy have issued vehement denials. On Thursday, they said that the source of the accusations, a former accountant to Ms. Bettencourt, had partly recanted in testimony to the police. Aides to Mr. Sarkozy have lashed out at Mediapart. Xavier Bertrand, the leader of his right-leaning political party, the Union for a Popular Movement, accused the site of “fascist methods” on French radio last week.

Mediapart, however, has stuck by its article, reveling in its ability to set the news agenda in France, where its reports for weeks have provided the grist for the front pages of the next day’s newspapers. It is one of several news and investigative journalism Web sites that are flourishing in France, even as the printed press sinks deeper into crisis.

“It’s a story that has really galvanized the public,” said François Bonnet, the Mediapart editor. “It has everything in it: a great personality and a famous family, and now it has become a state affair.”

While Mr. Sarkozy’s approval ratings had been steadily declining even before the scandal, the polemic has so far been a boon to Mediapart.

Founded two years ago by Edwy Plenel, a former editor of Le Monde, and other former print journalists, Mediapart has pursued a business strategy as iconoclastic as its approach to news. Unlike the majority of news sites on the Web, it charges readers for access. Over the last month, fueled by the newfound notoriety, subscriptions have surged by 20 percent, to 30,000.

“Two years ago, everyone looked at us as if we were crazy, saying news on the Web is free,” Mr. Bonnet said. “We did everything in reverse.”

While aides to Mr. Sarkozy have accused Mediapart of pursuing a partisan political agenda, doing legwork for the opposition Socialist Party as the 2012 election approaches, Mr. Bonnet said the site was simply trying to serve as a forum for independent, hard-hitting journalism.

French newspapers, he said, have largely ceded this role as they sink ever deeper into financial crisis. Most major French dailies lose money. Some depend on public subsidies for survival, while others have taken shelter in larger industrial companies.

The biggest daily, Le Figaro, is part of the business empire of Serge Dassault, a tycoon who is a friend of Mr. Sarkozy’s. Bernard Arnault, chief executive of the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton luxury conglomerate, owns the business daily Les Echos. Meanwhile, Le Monde, in a move to avert bankruptcy, recently moved to sell a controlling stake to a group of investors with connection to the Socialist Party.

One of the investors in Le Monde, Xavier Niel, a telecommunications entrepreneur, also has stakes in Mediapart and another news Web site, Bakchich.

Mr. Bonnet said the financial dependency of the French press had instilled a culture of caution, creating a journalistic void. First, that was filled by alternative publications like the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé, and now, by Web sites like Mediapart.

“The written press in France is in a terrible crisis,” he said. “It doesn’t take risks anymore in terms of journalism.”

Other news-focused Web sites have also sought to step into the void. In 2007, Pierre Haski, a former deputy editor of the newspaper Libération, set up the site Rue89 with other former journalists from that paper. Bakchich, meanwhile, was started in 2006 by a former reporter at Le Canard Enchainé.

These sites frequently scoop newspapers, television and other news media in France, similar to counterparts in the United States like Talking Points Memo. That distinguishes France from other European countries, where the mainstream media still break most of the big news stories. When a scandal over parliamentarians’ expenses rocked Britain last year, for instance, the reports appeared in a newspaper, The Daily Telegraph.

U.N. Security Council to condemn sinking

Click to play

United Nations (CNN) -- The United Nations is set to formally condemn the action -- but not a particular nation -- for the March sinking of a South Korean warship, the Cheonan.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice emerged from a closed-door Security Council session Thursday afternoon, telling reporters that the United States had proposed a "presidential statement," agreed to by the five permanent Council members, plus Japan and South Korea.

The Security Council will convene Friday morning in a formal meeting to vote on the proclamation.

Rice called the statement "a very clear and appropriate response." She said the step "shows the Council's unity in confronting threats to peace and security."

"It underscores the importance of preventing further attacks and emphasizes the critical need to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the larger region," Rice added.

A draft version of the statement expresses the Security Council's "deep sympathy and condolences," deploring the loss of 46 South Korean sailors when the Cheonan was ripped in two on March 26.

However, the statement stops short of naming North Korea as responsible for the incident, which an international joint civilian-military investigation deemed clearly culpable for the ship sinking. Australia, the UK, U.S., Sweden, and South Korea provided experts for the inquiry.

Instead the statement "expresses deep concern" over the investigators' conclusion that North Korea was to blame, calling for "appropriate and peaceful measures to be taken against those responsible." But the Security Council also takes note of the fact that North Korea "has stated it had nothing to do with the incident."

"Therefore," the statement reads, "the Security Council condemns the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan."

In June, investigation Co-chair Yoon Duk-yong presented technical and visual evidence to the Security Council, saying the Cheonan was definitively "sunk by a torpedo which was made in North Korea and the launching was also done by a North Korean midget submarine."

The isolated North has maintained its innocence, totally rejecting the investigation findings outright, questioning the validity of the experts involved, asking to conduct their own inquiry, and telling the Security Council that North Korea is the true victim of a conspiracy.

North Korean U.N. Ambassador Sin Son Ho made a rare appearance before reporters in June, saying that his nation "has nothing to do with the sinking of the Cheonan."

Sin questioned a number of the experts' conclusions, for instance asking how "the body of the torpedo can remain as it is while [a] huge warship is cut down into two parts? How can the torpedo remain?"

While Ambassador Sin warned, "our people and army will smash out aggressors with merciless counteraction if they dare to provoke us," the Security Council statement highlights the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. It welcomes the "restraint shown" by South Korea in the handling of the Cheonan incident, urging the resumption of dialogue and negotiations between the strained neighboring nations.

Unlike a Security Council resolution, a presidential statement is not legally binding but does require accord amongst permanent members China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

It will be read aloud by the Nigerian ambassador, the rotating Security Council president for the month of July, after being voted on by the full 15-member body on Friday.

Word is .....

Tales from the locals ...

Father vs. Son
A middle aged man has what is called an incurable form of MS. A former working class tax payer all his life now on disability with a not so bright future. Vanderbilt University hospital is trying some experimental procedures and feeding him a diet of very expensive drugs along with the recommendation that he self medicate with a little outside the law help ... marijuana. The man says it's the one thing that gives him relief.

Buying pot is an expensive proposition so he takes a chance, gets a few good seeds and grows 4 plants. There's no profit motive, personal use only and the helicopter jockeys who are now searching the county don't seem to want to fool with small amounts, only big crops that will help justify their existence.

Then the father who mows his son's yard finds them. What does he do? Cuts them down and feeds them to his goats.

Understandably that is a depressing predicament for someone looking to ease the pain.

His mother comes over to his house to talk. What reason did she give for the destruction of personal property? Because if he got busted the parent's name would be disgraced. It would be in the newspaper and folks would talk. It's a small county where everyone knows everyone else

What's really bad is that the Tennessee legislature is jerking around with the medical marijuana issue. Debate has been put off again. People who are actually suffering when relief is even suggested by knowing and compassionate doctors be damned. Bible belt politics as usual. There are still too many misinformed closed minded 'voters' who cringe at the thought of legalizing a plant with over 20,000 known uses for the politicians to do the right thing. They think it might cost them a vote or two and get them labeled as soft on drugs. Disingenuous cowards is what I call them.

Corporate predictions ...
A conversation with a long time Caterpillar equipment salesman didn't reveal anything new for those paying attention but did give a glimpse of what a very large corporation is conveying to their management.

The Cat think tank won't be issuing a press release but here's what the salesman said they said.
There is no recovery. At least for the foreseeable future. The word depression is being used. Sales of new product are virtually nonexistent and what sales have occurred this year will be gone as the 'stimulus' money dries up. Further cuts will be necessary and managers are put on notice to plan accordingly.
Additional word is that small time contractors who have been in business for many years are going bankrupt left and right. Soon only the 'big boys' will be left and even they will be hurting badly in short time.

Can't get out of Florida ...
An 80 year old man and his wife own a farm close by. They have slowly been getting the property ready to move here. They have worked and owned commercial and residential property in central Florida all their lives and want to leave for good but there's a problem.

I asked him why he doesn't sell his Florida property now in case the Gulf oil spill doesn't end anytime soon or the economy completely collapses and the value of all he owns is gone.

His response was that he has been trying to liquidate his properties for over two years. Buyers were interested when he put them on the market in early 2008 but the economy started to fall and there has not been a single offer for anything.

He's active, fairly healthy and ready to finally retire to what he considers a safe place. Fed up with Florida but lacking the money to get out without being able to sell out. Paying taxes for over 60 years, contributing to the economy and never taking a government handout doesn't count for much these days.


Individual stories in the decline of the America are many and varied. They don't mean a whole lot in the overall scheme of things and that's how it has been planned.

The powers that be twist the statistics, manipulate the money, make laws against the people and think they won't be affected. The 'small people' are expendable.

But the PTB will be affected, it won't be pretty for them and it's just a matter of time.

Government Trying to Sweep Size of Oil Spill Under the Rug, Just As It Has Tried to Sweep the Economic Crisis, 9/11 and All Other Crises Under the Rug

As I previously pointed out, the Gulf oil spill is very similar to 9/11, because - in both cases - the responders helping with rescue and clean up were getting sick ... but were told they don't need any safety gear. And see this.

In addition, the government is keeping scientists away from "ground zero" of the oil spill and - for that reason - scientists cannot accurately measure the size of the oil spill.

BP has also tried to cover up its blunders by lowballing spill estimates, keeping reporters out of areas hardest hit by the oil (and see this, this, this and this) and threatening to arrest them if they try to take pictures (and see this), hiding dead birds and other sealife, and using dispersants to hide the amount of spilled oil (the dispersants are only worsening the damage caused by the spill).

The government is complicit in all of these cover-ups. Indeed, the Obama administration has made it a felony to get near enough to oiled wildlife and beaches to film them.

Similarly, the official 9/11 investigators were themselves largely denied funding, access to the site and the evidence contained there, or even access to such basic information as the blueprints for the world trade center.

Indeed, just as the government and BP have consistently underestimated the amount of oil gushing out of the Gulf, the blueprints for the World Trade Center are still to this day being withheld from reporters and the public, and the government agency in charge of the investigation has grossly mischaracterized the structure of the buildings.

How are we supposed to improve building safety regulations if the blueprints are still being hidden from engineers and scientists investigating the collapse of world trade center buildings 1, 2 and 7 on September 11th?

Moreover, as I previously pointed out:

9/11 Commission co-chairs Thomas Keane and Lee Hamilton wrote:

Those who knew about those videotapes — and did not tell us about them — obstructed our investigation.


  • The chairs of both the 9/11 Commission and the Joint Inquiry of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees into 9/11 said that government "minders" obstructed the investigation into 9/11 by intimidating witnesses
  • The 9/11 Commissioners concluded that officials from the Pentagon lied to the Commission, and considered recommending criminal charges for such false statements
  • Investigators for the Congressional Joint Inquiry discovered that an FBI informant had hosted and even rented a room to two hijackers in 2000 and that, when the Inquiry sought to interview the informant, the FBI refused outright, and then hid him in an unknown location, and that a high-level FBI official stated these blocking maneuvers were undertaken under orders from the White House. As the New York Times notes:
    Senator Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who is a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, accused the White House on Tuesday of covering up evidence . . .

    * * *

    The accusation stems from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's refusal to allow investigators for a Congressional inquiry and the independent Sept. 11 commission to interview an informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, who had been the landlord in San Diego of two Sept. 11 hijackers.

    In his book "Intelligence Matters," Mr. Graham, the co-chairman of the Congressional inquiry with Representative Porter J. Goss, Republican of Florida, said an F.B.I. official wrote them in November 2002 and said "the administration would not sanction a staff interview with the source.'' On Tuesday, Mr. Graham called the letter "a smoking gun" and said, "The reason for this cover-up goes right to the White House."

Of course, the government's response to the economic crisis, torture, the anthrax attacks, and just about every other crisis has been the same: try to sweep it under the rug.

It almost seems as if the main activity of government these days is trying to cover up criminal negligence and fraud ... instead of actually solving problems, firing - let alone convicting - the folks who caused the problems, or changing things enough to prevent future crises.