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Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2012

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[Dec 30, 2012] The real reason Russia wants to ban adoptions by 'dangerous' American families

Dec 28, 2012 | FP

... .. ..

As it turns out, the ban on American adoptions is remarkably popular in Russia. A new Russian survey finds that 56 percent support the ban and 21 percent oppose, a ratio of almost three-to-one. The support seems to stem from a belief that American families are dangerous, cruel, and at times violent to their adoptive Russian children. More than half of respondents who want to ban American adoptions cite either hostile American families or the fact that some adopted Russians have died in the U.S. A much smaller number say that Russian children would be best served by keeping them in their home country. A still-smaller minority, about 10 percent of those who support the ban, say that U.S. families want to adopt Russian children for free labor or to sell their organs. A number of Russians also say that Americans like to adopt from Russia because the Russian adoption system is cheaper and less cumbersome, although in fact the Russian adoption process is both expensive (about $50,000 per child, maybe twice the rate in China) and burdened by new regulations imposed in 2006.

The Russians who support the ban are more likely to be older, rural and lower-income. Their answers are consistent with a version of Russian nationalism that sees the United States as a violent, dangerous place. That view has been popularized in films such as 2000′s "Brother 2," in which a vigilante Russian man must rescue fellow nationals from decaying American cities ridden by crime and corruption.

Despite the popular Russian view that adoptive children will be mistreated in the United States, actual cases have been rare. But they are also widely reported in Russia. In the U.S., those of us who have heard of Chase Harrison know him as one of the victims of a tragic but extremely rare phenomenon of parents mistakenly leaving their children in parked cars. In Russia, Harrison is known first as a Russian orphan, born to the name Dima Yakovlev, who was killed by his stereotypically negligent American adoptive parents. His death sparked such outrage that, years later, the Russian legislature named its adoption-banning bill the Dima Yakovlev Act.

... ... ...

[Dec 26, 2012] Russian parliament approves bill banning US adoptions of Russian children

The Washington Post

slavixtuber:

Quote from the bill hiding under name of Magnitsky.

"To impose sanctions on persons responsible for the detention, abuse, or death of Sergei Magnitsky, and for other gross violations of human rights in the Russian Federation, and for other purposes."

NOTICE the 'other purposes' part! This bill has nothing to do with Magnitsky or human rights! It is a blackmail tool designed to pressure Russians to dance to Washington's tune.

Here is what a prominent activist, writer and leader of Trade Union of Russian Citizens Nikolay Starikov wrote about the bill:

"So called Magnitsky List is none other than an attempt to pressure political elites of Russia from US.

BTW, in liberal press and world msm this act of American state is presented as tool to fight corruptioners - people guilty of death of lawyer Magnitsky.

In reality Americans do not care about Magnitsky. Their goal is something else entirely - to create a "legal instrument", by which anyone can be added to a "list" and start putting on him/her economic sanctions. For example arrest his bank account or property abroad.

Magnistky List is an egregious violation of principles of international law and an example of how judicial system of US is trying to dominate the entire world.

The "List" of those whom US is unhappy with includes, not only police officers and prosecutors, but even judges! And most importantly - to add a person to the "Magnitsky List" he does not need to have any connection to Magnistky case. US authorities can add absolutely anyone to the list!"

Bflat:

slavixtuber is an employee of the Russian foreign ministry. He's just doing as he's told posting the above comment....

dmagee

Even JUDGES!?! Wow, that is just crazy, huh? Well, if appointed judges, or rigged judicial elections allow tools of the Russian state to rule on human rights cases, then of course judges need to be addeds. They are potentially very important persons to be added to such a list. And you forgot to mention that Russian police and Party "officials" can add anyone to a "disappear" list, if they so choose. Forgot that part, did you? ...

slavixtuber:

Interestingly, most media is talking about this adoption ban, but forget to even mention that the ban is part of much larger bill that includes sanctions on US human rights abusers, those who violate rights of Russian citizens, and bans all political so called ngos funded by US government and 'privately' (Soros and the like). This is a major bill designed to rid Russia of foreign political meddling.

Another bill that just passed first reading in the Duma bans all officials from holding foreign assets and is designed as response to blackmail tool of US government hiding under the name of Magnitsky Bill. So called Magnistky List is none other than a tool US government wants to use to blackmail Russians to dance to Washington's tune using threat of being added to 'Magnitsky List' and have property confiscated. Russia has prepared a few responses..

[Dec 24, 2012] Russian lawmakers back adoption ban in dispute with U.S. The Fiscal Times

Russia's lower house of parliament approved on Friday a proposed law banning Americans from adopting Russian children, in retaliation for U.S. human rights legislation which Vladimir Putin says is poisoning relations.

The State Duma overwhelmingly backed a bill which also would outlaw U.S.-funded "non-profit organizations that engage in political activity", extending what critics say is a clampdown on Putin's opponents since he returned to the presidency in May.

The bill responds to a new U.S. law known as the Magnitsky Act, passed by the U.S. Congress to impose visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials accused of involvement in the death in custody of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009.

Washington's ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, said the Russian bill unfairly "linked the fate of orphaned children to unrelated political issues," while the U.S. State Department rejected any parallels with the Magnitsky Act.

Putin hinted at a news conference on Thursday that he would sign the bill into law once the Senate votes on it next week, describing it as an emotional but appropriate response to an unfriendly move by the United States.

"It is a myth that all children who land in American families are happy and surrounded by love," Olga Batalina, a deputy with Putin's ruling United Russia party, said in defense of the new measures.

In a pointed echo of the Magnitsky Act, the Russian legislation has become known as the Dima Yakovlev law, after a Russian-born toddler who died after his American adoptive father left him locked in a sweltering car.

The bill has outraged Russian liberals who say children are being made victims of politics. Some government officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have expressed reservations about the legislation.

"Children should not be a bargaining chip in international affairs," said Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the Kremlin's human rights council.

Speaking in Washington, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the United States is ready to work with Russia on any concerns over adoptions, but rejected any comparisons between the Magnitsky Act and the Russian legislation.

"It's hard to imagine a reciprocal situation," Ventrell said. "It's Russian children who will be harmed by this measure."

Last year, 962 Russian children from orphanages were adopted by Americans. More than 45,000 have found homes in the United States since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Their parents are either dead or unable to care for them and some have complex medical needs.

Meanwhile, the United States and Russia formally informed the World Trade Organization in Geneva on Friday that they would apply the WTO agreement between each other.

Russia joined the WTO in August, but the two countries have not had full WTO relations because the U.S. Congress needed to pass a bill first to establish "permanent normal trade relations." It did that as part of the Magnitsky legislation.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said the two countries also reached agreement on an action plan to reduce Russian pirating and counterfeiting of American goods through improved enforcement of intellectual property rights.

[Dec 19, 2012] Duma approves amendments banning US adoptions of Russian children

December 19, 2012 | RT

The State Duma on Wednesday passed the 'anti-Magnitsky law' in a second reading and backed controversial amendments that ban US citizens from adopting Russian children. The legislation also bans the work of organizations selecting children for adoption by US citizens, and terminates an agreement with the US to cooperate on adoptions of children. The Duma also backed an amendment suspending operations by 'political NGOs' that receive money or property from US citizens free of charge or carry out domestic activities "posing a threat to Russia's interests," Interfax said.

[Dec 19, 2012] US woman forced to support abandoned Russian boy - RT

A US court has ordered the former foster mother of abandoned orphan Artyom Saveliev to pay thousands of dollars in child support and legal fees.
­Back in 2010, US citizen Torry Ann Hansen put the seven-year-old boy on a plane to Russia with a note saying she refused to be Artyom's mother. The decision was allegedly motivated by boy's "psychological issues."

The WACAP international agency filed a lawsuit against the woman due to her actions and the subsequent ban on US adoptions in Russia.

Torry Ann Hansen is ordered to pay her adopted son $58,000, the adoption agency $29,000, attorney fees of nearly $63,000 and $1,000 a month in child support, local NewsChannel5 television reported.

Artyom currently lives outside Moscow in a large family, together with five other children.

Russia's children rights ombudsman welcomed the court's decision, saying the judgment was fair.

"This landmark decision is of utmost importance both to Artyom and to the whole practice of adoption," Pavel Astakhov said. "The law must prosecute foster parents who abandon their responsibilities."

Russia has repeatedly expressed discontent with the American court decisions concerning the crimes of US adoptive parents towards their adopted Russian children.
For example, in 2011 a US couple who killed their adopted Russian son was sentenced to 19 months in prison each and a further five years conditionally. Because the two had already served the sentenced term while awaiting trial, they were released in the court.

Russia is one of the largest sources of foreign adoptions for US families. About 400 Russian children are currently living in adoptive families in the US.

[Dec 19, 2012] World News - dima-yakovlev

@NBCNewsWorld

Russia's parliament on Wednesday gave overwhelming preliminary approval to a measure banning Americans from adopting Russian children, a harsh retaliatory move against U.S. human rights legislation.

But the proposal appears to be too extreme for some senior Russian officials. The foreign minister and the education minister spoke out flatly against an adoption ban, and the speaker of the upper house of parliament, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, suggested the lower house members were letting emotions overtake rationality.

Putin himself, who has the authority to veto legislation, has made no public comment on the adoption provision. But his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, indicated Wednesday the Russian leader regards it as excessive.

Peskov told the Interfax news agency that, although Putin understands the emotions that prompted the move, "the executive powers are taking a more restrained line."

Before becoming law, the measure has to pass a third reading in the State Duma, which is set for Friday, after which it would go to the upper house, the Federation Council, and then require Putin's signature.

The legislation further steps up animosity with Washington by calling for closure of political organizations in Russia that receive American funding.

Both strictures were included as amendments in the second reading in the State Duma of a bill prompted by last week's signing by President Barack Obama of a U.S. law that allows sanctions against Russians deemed to be human rights violators.

Resentment and retaliation The U.S. law reopened a vein of deep resentment among many Russians over the United States' alleged meddling in Russian domestic affairs and Washington's perceived penchant for treating Moscow with condescension.

Putin has accused the U.S. of funding the wave of protests that rose against him over the past year and strongly criticized the new U.S. law.

Many Russians have long bristled at the adoption of Russian children by Americans, sensitive to the implication that Russians are hard-hearted or economically unable to take care of their own. The resentment is fanned by cases of abuse or deaths of Russian children adopted by Americans.

The anger hit the boiling point in 2010 when an American woman sent back a 7-year-old Russian boy she had adopted, saying he had behavioral problems and she didn't want him anymore.

In the wake of that scandal, and after long delay, Russia in July ratified an agreement with the U.S. on regulating adoptions. If the measure approved on Wednesday becomes law, Russia would abrogate that agreement.

Backers of the measure complain that the agreement is enforced poorly and that American courts are too lenient.

"Cases of the death of our children in the United States continue, and cases of not-guilty verdicts; we decided to take this tough decision to deprive Americans of the right to adopt Russian children," said Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the Duma's foreign relations committee.

Moscow responds to US Magnitsky Act with Dima Yakovlev Law - RT

The Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, taking its cue from US lawmakers, is preparing to make a list of Americans who have violated the rights of Russian children adopted into US families.

Diplomatic tensions between Moscow and Washington hit a feverish high earlier this month as US legislators smuggled the so-called Magnitsky Act into a bill designed to normalize trade relations with Russia.

Political analysts say it was the only way for the Obama administration to get the Russian-wary Republicans to sign onto the highly controversial bill.

The US legislation is named after Sergey Magnitsky, who was being investigated in a massive tax evasion scheme. Magnitsky, whose case is still being investigated by Russian authorities, died in pre-trial detention in November 2009.

One of the provisions of the Magnitsky Act empowers the US President to create a list of Russian citizens allegedly "responsible for criminal murders" and ban them from entering the United States. Unsurprisingly, Moscow views such acts as gross interference in Russia's internal affairs, especially since the investigation into the death of the former Hermitage Capital employee is still open.

Now, Russian parliamentarians are busy crafting an Anti-Magnitsky Act, named in honor of Dima Yakovlev, an 18-month old Russian boy who died after his adoptive American father left him locked inside of a vehicle for an extended period of time on a hot summer day.

Russian authorities are quick to point out, however, that the tragic case of Dima Yarovlev represents the tip of the iceberg as far as US abuses against Russian citizens are concerned.

The Public Chamber said many people are only familiar with the sensational cases of Viktor Bout and pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, two Russian nationals arrested by US officials abroad and now being serving time in the US prison system.

But there are many other lesser-known cases in which US officials either failed to react or reacted inadequately to incidences of adopted Russian children experiencing abuse – and even death – by their new US families.

In April 2010, for example, an American woman from the state of Tennessee sent 7-year-old her adopted son Artyom Saveliev back to Moscow on a plane by himself.

Criminal charges were never filed against the woman, but the adoption agency involved in the case sued the woman for child support.

According to Russian Children's Rights Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, 19 Russian children died while in the legal custody of US adoptive families over the past decade.

The Public Chamber will forward its proposals to blacklist both US citizens responsible for crimes against Russian children and those implicated in such crimes, including judges who handed down mild verdicts for such crimes, Deputy Secretary of the Public

Chamber Vladislav Grib told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday.

"We will make no exceptions," he warned.

Incidentally, if the Magnitsky Act succeeded in anything, it was in bringing the diverse members of the State Duma to a rare consensus. All four factions participated in co-writing the Dima Yakovlev Law (Vladimir Vasilyev (United Russia), Gennady Zyuganov (Communist Party), Sergei Mironov (Just Russia) and Vladimir Zhirinovsky (LDPR).

The bill also includes provisions targeting US citizens involved in kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment, groundless prosecution and groundless and unjust punishments administered to Russian citizens.

The bill that will become Russia's response to the Magnitsky Act could be signed into law by the president before the end of the year,the first deputy chairman of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, Vyacheslav Nikonov, told Russia Today.

Russia and the US could experience a "competition" of blacklists and the broadening of their geographical limitations because Washington has called on other countries to compile their own versions of the Magnitsky Act, he said.

Having repealed the Jackson-Vanik amendment, US legislators could not fail to replace it by another anti-Russian law, Nikonov said.

As far as the consequences are concerned, the Magnitsky Act, regrettably, could do even more harm than the Jackson-Vanik amendment, he said.

Nikonov noted that since Russian investigators, prosecutors, judges, prison administration staff and other officials included in the Magnitsky list do not usually spend their weekends in Florida or keep money at bank accounts in New York, the damage from the bill could be limited.

However, such practices could spread to other areas of bilateral relations and entail highly negative consequences, Nikonov concluded.

The first reading of the so-called Dima Yakovlev bill in the State Duma is scheduled for December 14.

[Dec 19, 2012] AFP Obama signs Russia rights law despite Putin fury

Obama signs Russia rights law despite Putin fury

By Stephen Collinson (AFP) – 5 days ago

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama Friday signed legislation that sanctions alleged Russian human rights abuses, which outraged Moscow after being coupled with a bill granting it normal trade relations.

Obama signed the measure into law a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the so-called Magnitsky Act, which blacklists Russian officials allegedly implicated in the prison death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

The Russian foreign ministry issued a statement minutes after Obama formally signed the legislation in the Oval Office, saying the move amounted to "open meddling" in its internal affairs and was "a blind and dangerous position."

Magnitsky was held in pre-trial jail on fraud allegations when he died in 2009 at age 37 of several untreated conditions.

Prior to his arrest, he claimed to have discovered a major tax fraud covered up by Russian interior ministry officials and testified against them.

Putin's comments came before the Russian lower house gave initial backing to a bill that Moscow sees as tit-for-tat retaliation for the Magnitsky legislation passed by Congress last week.

"The investigation (into Magnitsky's death) is not over yet, and it's not yet clear who is right and who is wrong there, what the situation is. This is a purely political, unfriendly act," Putin said.

"I don't understand why," he said. "Why do they need it? They (the United States) talk of a reset but they themselves make the situation worse."

The legislation approves establishing permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia, ending Cold War-era restrictions, and grants the same status to Moldova.

The repeal of the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment was meant to reflect the changes in the world with Russia's ascension to the World Trade Organization.

The White House opposed turning the trade bill into a referendum on Russia's human rights record amid already-strained ties, after Obama engineered a "reset" of relations with Russia in his first term.

Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, earlier gave initial backing to the bill that would blacklist some Americans with entry bans and asset freezes in retaliation for the Magnitsky bill.

In the first of three readings, 431 lawmakers voted in favor and two against. Once passed by the Duma and the upper house, the Federation Council, the bill will need to be signed by Putin to become law.

While initial discussion in Moscow revolved around sanctioning US officials implicated in the controversial Guantanamo prison or torture, deputies later decided to switch focus to Russian children allegedly abused on American soil.

One United Russia deputy has already dubbed the legislation the "Dima Yakovlev Bill" in honor of a two-year-old Russian boy who died of heat stroke in 2008 after his adoptive American father forgot him in a car in summer temperatures.

The father was controversially acquitted of involuntary manslaughter by a county judge in Virginia, a decision that was slammed by Moscow and eventually led to a new US-Russia adoption law that gave Russia more oversight.

The blacklist will also include judicial officials who handed out "baseless and unfair" verdicts on Russians. The blacklist will be kept by the Russian foreign ministry, the bill says.

[Dec 17, 2012] No More Covert Wars and Coups in Foreign Lands! by Ron Paul

Ron Paul

Earlier this month we learned that the Obama Administration is significantly expanding the number of covert Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) agents overseas. From just a few hundred DIA agents overseas today, the administration intends to eventually deploy some 1,600 covert agents. The nature of their work will also shift, away from intelligence collection and more toward covert actions. This move signals a major change in how the administration intends to conduct military and paramilitary operations overseas. Unfortunately it is not a shift toward peace, but rather to an even more deadly and disturbing phase in the "war on terror."

Surely attacks on foreign countries will increase as a result of this move, but more and more the strikes will take place under cover of darkness and outside the knowledge of Congress or the American people. The move also represents a further blurring of the lines between the military and intelligence services, with the CIA becoming more like a secret military unto itself. This is a very troubling development.

In 2010, I said in a speech that there had been a CIA coup in this country. The CIA runs the military, the drone program, and they are in drug trafficking. The CIA is a secretive government all on its own. With this new expanded Defense Intelligence Agency presence overseas it will be even worse. Because the DIA is operationally under control of the Pentagon, direct Congressional oversight of the program will be more difficult. Perhaps this is as intended. The CIA will be training the DIA in its facilities to conduct operations overseas. Much of this will include developing targeting data for the president's expanding drone warfare program.

Already the president has demonstrated his preference for ever more drone attacks overseas. In Pakistan, for example, President Obama has in his first four years authorized six times more drone strikes than under all eight years of the Bush Administration. Nearly three thousand individuals have been killed by these drones, many of those non-combatants.

President Obama said recently of Israel's strikes against the Palestinians in Gaza, "No country on Earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders." This announcement by the administration amounts to precisely that: the US intends to rain down ever more missiles on citizens overseas. I believe what the president says about Israel is true everywhere, so what about those overseas who live in fear of our raining missiles? How will they feel about the United States? Is it not possible that we may be inviting more blowback by expanding the covert war overseas? Does that make us safer?

An exhaustive study earlier this year by Stanford and New York University law schools found that US drone strikes on Pakistan are "damaging and counterproductive," potentially creating more terrorists than they kill. Its recommendations of a radical re-appraisal of the program obviously fell on deaf ears in the administration.

Thousands of new DIA spies are to be hired and placed undercover alongside their CIA counterparts to help foment ever more covert wars and coups in foreign lands. Congress is silent. Where will it all end?

[Dec 09, 2012] Obamacare architect leaves White House for pharmaceutical industry job by Glenn Greenwald

Dec 05, 2012 | Guardian

When the legislation that became known as "Obamacare" was first drafted, the key legislator was the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, whose committee took the lead in drafting the legislation. As Baucus himself repeatedly boasted, the architect of that legislation was Elizabeth Fowler, his chief health policy counsel... What was most amazing about all of that was that, before joining Baucus's office as the point person for the health care bill, Fowler was the Vice President for Public Policy and External Affairs (i.e. informal lobbying) at WellPoint, the nation's largest health insurance provider (before going to WellPoint, as well as after, Fowler had worked as Baucus's top health care aide). And when that health care bill was drafted, the person whom Fowler replaced as chief health counsel in Baucus's office, Michelle Easton, was lobbying for WellPoint as a principal at Tarplin, Downs, and Young... Now, as Politico's "Influence" column briefly noted on Tuesday, Fowler is once again passing through the deeply corrupting revolving door as she leaves the Obama administration to return to the loving and lucrative arms of the private health care industry: "Elizabeth Fowler is leaving the White House for a senior-level position leading 'global health policy' at Johnson & Johnson's government affairs and policy group."

Whatever one's views on Obamacare were and are: the bill's mandate that everyone purchase the products of the private health insurance industry, unaccompanied by any public alternative, was a huge gift to that industry; as Wheeler wrote at the time: "to the extent that Liz Fowler is the author of this document, we might as well consider WellPoint its author as well." Watch the five-minute Bill Moyers report from 2009, embedded below, on the key role played in all of this by Liz Fowler and the "revolving door" between the health insurance/lobbying industry and government officials at the time this bill was written and passed.

[Nov 22, 2012] Some thoghts about 2012 elections and the future of the USA politics by Mark Adomanis

Slightly edited Google translation... See also Mitt Romney's Russia Problem - Forbes
InoSmi (Foreign Press)

There are a lot of nervous comments about the 2012 elections and that they mean for the future of the United States. One of the worst political analysis was presented by The Telegraph columnist Janet Daley (Janet Daley) (not surprisingly). She argues that the re-election Obama's United States is fully transformed into a country of "Old World", which abound with all the features expected of the European continent, including the class envy and racial balkanization and aristocracy. It goes without saying that such statements are useless even as a caricature. Even if the United States were actually more like Europe (which in itself is very different), they are simply not able to be her clone. Between the U.S. and Europe so many historical, institutional, political, cultural, economic and ethnic differences, if Obama his entire second term dedicated turning America into Europe, he moved in the matter would be no more than the transformation of the U.S. into the country, where the night never comes.

It is foolish to say that Obama's election will have a transformative effect (GOP still controls the House and can frustrate almost any legislative initiative of the White House). However it is not silly to start thinking about what the long-term consequences will be Obama's election, and whether such effects at all. I have about it, there are certain considerations, and I try to give them to clearly and concisely.

First, I want to talk about demographics, as I have repeatedly said in my previous articles. Although my opinion is contrary to the generally accepted in the media, I think, was a big mistake to think the 2012 election proves that a political party, which is dominated by white, doomed, and that the Republicans need to urgently take up the establishment of relations with minorities. Just on the strength of economic populism (tea party style of it) Republican Party could easily remain competitive for a few presidential elections. Oligarch to the bone, Mitt Romney, who has long been clearly deceived and oppressed working class, was in fact the worst of the possible candidates, unable in any way to use the economic concerns of the lower classes.

It is still not the end of the debate on how much less the white vote in 2012, but according to preliminary estimates, this election came nearly seven million votes less than the previous one. Indeed, the share of the white population is decreasing day by day, but still a long way from the time when whites will be in the minority. Who are these voters did not come back to vote? Well, among the absentees was not corporate executives, lawyers and consultants, but were welders, builders, and ordinary clerks, waiters and other inhabitants of unassuming residential areas.

Why they did not vote? Because they clearly understood that both the first and second candidate they simply do not care. They will oppress and exploit, no matter who became president - so from voting is not useless. An anemic rogue Mitt Romney could not attract and inspire these people, but they could easily interest the person who knows how to communicate with people.

Is there any hope that the Republican Party has abandoned its "southern strategy", giving it more and more racist and conservative shade? Sure. I think that the strategy was a disaster for the country, raising the voices of those who should be ignored. But the question is not whether or not to be nice to the Republicans to change their strategy. The question is, do they need to do it in order to preserve their competitiveness. It seems to me that the candidate who is able to spur turnout of white people from the lower strata of society, would defeat Barack Obama, and would be very easy to be able to beat anyone who ran candidates in 2016.

If you dig deeper, I get the impression that, unfortunately, not in 2012 heralds the great progressive wave, and the preservation of incompetence and stagnation. Remember, the Republicans retained power in the House. How, you ask, is a great and old could hold in their hands the lower house if the elections it has suffered a clear defeat, giving Obama all the important swing states? And so. According to practical experience, the fewer people vote in elections, the better results from the Republicans. Although they exhibit more of inability and incompetence in the presidential election in the race for the state level, where almost no voice, they are gaining ground and more and more dominant. But state legislatures is not some powerless ratings agencies, they are responsible for many important issues, for example to establish the boundaries of constituencies for elections to Congress. Let's look at one example - Pennsylvania, and see how this works in practice. Barack Obama won in Pennsylvania quite comfortable with the result, beating rival by five per cent despite the fact that there has invested very limited resources (by the way, remember that Romney's staff showed there utter incompetence, investing heavily in Pennsylvania and attach a lot of work there with the expectation of that will be able to win in this state.) In Pennsylvania, 18 constituencies for elections to Congress. And even if you do not know anything at all about this state, you assume that Obama won in 10 or 11 of them. But in reality, thanks to a clever and very effective redrawing of constituencies by Pennsylvania Republicans, they got the 13 districts in the elections to the House of Representatives. Thirteen! In the state where they are wiped in every presidential election since 1988, the Republicans have a very strong representation in Congress. A similar story can be told about other "controversial" states such as Ohio, where Obama won the last two presidential elections, but where the state's congressional delegation predominantly Republican.

I hope that I am mistaken, but I can see a scenario in which the Democrats are increasingly winning the presidential election (though not everything is predetermined, because looking at the languid indifference of the Republican Party in respect of loss Romney, I'm starting to believe that they will not soon change their rate). However, this superiority of the election the Democrats do not will find full control over the levers of power. Republicans will continue to perform well in the state and local level, will continue to shamelessly cheat gerrymandering in order to control the House. They will be as before obstruct the Democrats at every opportunity the moment, skillfully using existing in the American political system, the right to veto their voices. This will create an atmosphere of perpetual chaos and gridlock in Washington, as the two branches of government will continue the debate about who actually represents the will of the people, and the economic and budgetary system will increasingly suffer from problems. If this does not stop, then in 10-15 years in the country can be a real constitutional crisis in which there or parliamentary system of government (if Congress wins) or super-presidential system, something akin to the Russian. What is too much? Perhaps, but the national political institutions in the United States have not been significant reforms since the early 20th century, and today they do not correspond to the new conditions of their excessive partisanship. In other words, you can not have infinite political parties in a parliamentary type presidential system: over time, something will still have to sacrifice (or parties or the presidency).

[Nov 10, 2012] The Decider and The Dictator By Stephen Nathanson

November/December 2012 | Foreign Affairs

In "Deterrence Lessons From Iraq" (July/August 2012), Amatzia Baram presents a case study of Saddam Hussein's behavior leading up to the Iraq war to support his view that one cannot assume that leaders are rational when predicting how they will act. Ironically, Saddam made that very same miscalculation when he predicted that U.S. President George W. Bush would not begin a war with Iraq. As various studies have shown, Bush and his top advisers were susceptible to the very same types of delusions and megalomania that Baram attributes to Saddam.

Blinded by a belief in their omnipotence, Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and other top U.S. advisers ignored arguments against the war and failed to plan adequately for what would happen after Saddam's regime fell. As a result, they initiated an unnecessary war that cost tens of thousands of lives, damaged the global reputation of the United States, boosted al Qaeda's recruitment efforts, strengthened Iran's influence, and vastly increased the U.S. budget deficit. One hopes that the United States heeds Baram's lessons and realizes that they do not apply only to rulers of other countries.

Stephen Nathanson Professor of Philosophy, Northeastern University

[Nov 03, 2012] Five myths about the electoral college By George C. Edwards

Nov 02, 2012 | The Washington Post

Could Mitt Romney win the popular vote on Tuesday while President Obama captures a majority of the 538 electoral votes and a return trip to the White House? Recent polling results have raised just that possibility, reminding Americans once again that they cast ballots, but they don't elect presidents directly. That job falls to the electoral college, a system that requires candidates to win states, not just votes. Let's take a look at the main justifications for maintaining the electoral college and see how they stand up to scrutiny.

1. The framers created the electoral college to protect small states.

The delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention had a variety of reasons for settling on the electoral college format, but protecting smaller states was not among them. Some delegates feared direct democracy, but that was only one factor in the debate.

Remember what the country looked like in 1787: The important division was between states that had slavery and those that didn't, not between large and small states. A direct election for president did not sit well with most delegates from the slave states, which had large populations but far fewer eligible voters. They gravitated toward the electoral college as a compromise because it was based on population. The convention had agreed to count each slave as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of calculating each state's allotment of seats in Congress. For Virginia, which had the largest population among the original 13 states, that meant more clout in choosing the president.

The electoral college distorts the political process by providing a huge incentive to visit competitive states, especially large ones with hefty numbers of electoral votes. That's why Obama and Romney have spent so much time this year in states like Ohio and Florida. In the 2008 general election, Obama and John McCain personally campaigned in only five of the 29 smallest states.

The framers protected the interests of smaller states by creating the Senate, which gives each state two votes regardless of population. There is no need for additional protection. Do we really want a presidency responsive to parochial interests in a system already prone to gridlock? The framers didn't.

2. The electoral college ensures that the winner has broad support.

Supporters argue that the electoral college format prevents candidates from targeting specific groups and regions, instead forcing them to seek votes across the country. But that's not the way it has worked in recent presidential contests. Generally, Republicans have tried to stitch together an electoral college majority from the South, Southwest and Rocky Mountain states, while Democrats have relied on the large states on both coasts and the Midwest, leaving certain swing states (hello, Florida!) as perennial battlegrounds.

Any system of electing the president requires some version of broad support, but the electoral college does little to promote that goal. In 2000, George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore but won in the electoral college. His victory came largely from his support among white men. He did not win majorities among women, blacks, Latinos, urbanites, the young, the old or those with less-than-average income. In short, Bush claimed the White House with the backing of one dominant group, not with broad support.

3. The electoral college preserves stability in our political system by discouraging third parties.

The electoral college offers no guarantee of such "stability" - in fact, history suggests otherwise. The Republican Party was born as a third (or even fourth) party, and it quickly established itself as a major force in the 1856 and 1860 elections. In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt ran as a third-party nominee, and though he didn't win, he easily bested his former party's candidate, the Republican incumbent, William Howard Taft.

The electoral college system gives a third-party candidate more opportunities to create mischief than a direct election does. Think about what could happen in a neck-and-neck contest: If a third-party nominee won enough states to prevent either major-party candidate from winning the 270 electoral votes needed for a majority, the House of Representatives would decide the outcome. Each state delegation would have one vote; Vermont and Wyoming would count the same as Texas and New York. That's hardly a recipe for stability.

In addition, under the electoral college, a third party can tip the balance in a closely contested state. In 2000, Ralph Nader siphoned votes away from Gore in Florida. Had Nader not run, Gore could have won the election.

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Direct elections, especially those without a runoff, prevent such problems. Coming in third or fourth would gain a party no leverage in the selection of the president.

4. In direct elections, candidates would campaign only in large cities.

Under any system, candidates try to spend their time in places where they can reach the most voters. But in a direct election, with every vote counting equally, candidates would have an incentive to appeal to voters everywhere, not just those in swing states. Because the price of advertising is mainly a function of market size, it does not cost more to reach 10,000 voters in Wyoming than it does to reach 10,000 voters in New York or Los Angeles.

It's the electoral college that shortchanges voters. Because it makes no sense for candidates to spend time or money in states they either cannot win or are certain to win, thriving cities such as Atlanta, San Francisco and El Paso get no love from White House hopefuls.

Making every vote count in every state would have other benefits. It would stimulate party-building efforts and increase turnout. People are more likely to cast a ballot if they think their vote matters.

5. Electors must vote for the candidate who wins their state.

In theory, this is true. In practice, however, electors may vote for whomever they please, and on rare occasions, they do. In a tight election, such behavior might deny either candidate a majority of the electoral vote and throw the election into the House of Representatives.

For generations, pollsters have found that a clear majority of Americans support direct election of the president. The longer we cling to the electoral college, the longer we'll have presidential campaigns that leave large numbers of voters feeling left out, along with a system that distorts the public's preferences.

George C. Edwards III is the Winant professor of American government at Oxford University in Britain, and the university distinguished professor of political science at Texas A&M.

Jesse's Café Américain Credibility Trap Moyers And Barofsky on Failed Reform and Another Financial Crisis

This is the second part of the Moyers interview with Neil Barofsky.
BILL MOYERS: I thought, at the time, this was an incestuous orgy going on there, between inside players at Washington and inside players at Wall Street. Is that too strong?

NEIL BAROFSKY: It's probably not too strong. It's the fact that their ideology matches up. And look, one of the reasons why their ideology matches up is they all come from the same small handful of institutions. And the people I was dealing with on a daily basis came from the same financial institutions that helped cause the financial crisis and were the most generous recipients of bailouts, Goldman Sachs, Bear Sterns, which, of course, had been adopted by J.P. Morgan Chase. Goldman Sachs, Goldman Sachs, it seemed like every time I turned around, I bumped into someone from Goldman Sachs.

Which is not to single them out. But they all bring that ideology with them, when they come to Washington. It's not like somebody hits them in the head with a magic wand and they give back everything that they've learned and believed in their years of Wall Street. And they bring that ideology with them. And even those who don't come from a specific bank, when you surround yourself, create an echo chamber of likeminded people, it's not terribly surprising that the government policy looks a lot like what the Wall Street institutions themselves would have most desired.

And I think the other side effect of that is that people who are outside of that bubble, people who don't have that background, people like myself as a federal prosecutor or Elizabeth Warren, who was the chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel and before that a Harvard professor, that our views, our criticisms, our contrary positions were discounted, mocked, ridiculed, insulted, cursed at, at times. Because there was no -- we didn't have the pedigree in their world to have a meaningful contribution. So what happens is that there's no new ideas that creep in. And you get this very uniform, very non-diverse approach to the problems of finance.

BILL MOYERS: It was puzzling to outsiders like me that you had TARP money being used to concentrate further the size of these banks.

NEIL BAROFSKY: And the granddaddy of all those transactions, Bank of America acquiring Merrill Lynch. And the important thing to remember here is this is not banks gone wild, banks taking the money and saying, "Party time, we're going to consolidate." They did this with the encouragement of the government. And in Bank of America, a little bit with a gun to the head to complete that transaction.

This was the government policy created by the architects, Ben Bernanke who is chair of Federal Reserve, Tim Geithner, who was then the president of the New York Fed before becoming Treasury Secretary, and Hank Paulson. Their solution originally was to further concentrate the industry, to make the too big to fail banks bigger.

The theory was you take a healthier bank and mix it up with a failing bank and you get something somewhere in between, which is better overall for the system. Which may have had some validity in the very, very short term, but has put us on a path, I believe, to being even more dangerous. Because you have institutions now that are just monstrous in size, over $2 trillion in assets by certain measures, close to $4 trillion by other measures. Terrifying. The idea that any of these institutions could ever be allowed to fail is pure fantasy, at this point.

BILL MOYERS: Are you suggesting that we could have another crash?

NEIL BAROFSKY: I think it's inevitable. I mean, I don't think how you can look at all the incentives that were in place going up to 2008 and see that in many ways they've only gotten worse and come to any other conclusion.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean incentives in place?

NEIL BAROFSKY: So in a normal functioning capitalist utopia, where, you know, most markets are that don't have this too big to fail, this presumption of government bailout if a firm like a Citigroup amasses massive amounts of risk. And in so doing, they keep razor-thin capital to absorb potential losses, which basically means they're just borrowing tons and tons of money.

And not have a lot of their own money at stake, but it's mostly borrowed money. And it is very opaque. It's not very transparent about how they're running their business. You would expect that creditors, people lending them money, counterparties, those on the other sides of their transactions would either stay away or really exact a premium. But the presumption of bailout changes that on its head and actually makes it go in the other direction. So it removes the incentive of the other market participants to impose what's known as market discipline. Because that's ideally in a capitalist society what happens is that the lenders and creditors and counterparties say, "Hey, we're not going to do business with you unless you clean house, slim down, be more transparent."

But when there's a presumption of bailout, that disappears. Because all those other market players can feel safe in the presumption that if anything goes bad at Citigroup, Uncle Sam is going to come in and make their bets whole.

Then you have the very real incentive for the executives at that institution to then pile on risk. Because they know that if the bets go well in the short term, they get paid. And they get paid very richly. But if it blows up and the risks go bad, no worry, the taxpayer's going to be on the other side of that bill.

That's what happened to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, before they collapsed. That's what happened to our biggest banks and global banks before they collapsed. And if you maintain that system, it is foolhardy to think that those incentives and pressures are not once again going to carry the day.

BILL MOYERS: At a conference a week or so ago, here in New York, you said playing ball for Wall Street has become a normal way of life, despite the panic of 2008. What does it mean, "playing ball for Wall Street"?

NEIL BAROFSKY: Well, what I saw when I was in Washington was this real pressure on myself, on other regulators to essentially keep their tone down. And I was told point blank by Assistant Secretary of the Treasury that, this is about in 2010.

And he said to me, he said, "Neil, you're a smart guy. You're a young guy. You're a talented guy. You got your whole future in front of you. You've got a young family that's starting out. But you're doing yourself real harm." And the reason why you're doing yourself real harm is the harsh tone that I had towards the government as well as to Wall Street, based on what I was seeing down in Washington. And he told me that if I wanted to get a job out on the Street afterwards, it was going to really be hard for me.

BILL MOYERS: You mean on Wall Street?

NEIL BAROFSKY: Yes. And I explained to him that I wasn't really interested in that. And he said, "Well, maybe a judgeship. Maybe an appointment from the Obama administration for a federal judgeship." And I said, "Well, again, that would be great. But I don't really think that's going to happen with my criticisms." And he said it didn't have to be that way. "If all you do is soften your tone, be a little bit more upbeat, all this stuff can happen for you."

And that's what I meant by playing ball. I was essentially told, play ball, soften your tone, and all of these good things can happen to you. But if you stay harsh that was going to cause me real harm in those words.

BILL MOYERS: What made you able to say no to the temptation?

NEIL BAROFSKY: Well, I think part of it is the only job I ever wanted was to be a federal prosecutor.

BILL MOYERS: Send bad guys to jail?

NEIL BAROFSKY: It doesn't get much better than that. Really interesting, complicated work, and wear the white hat. So I didn't have those incentives that I think that were presented. And I think, look, you know, being trained in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, I was trained to be a government employee and to take my oath of office very seriously.

But I wasn't really interested in their reindeer games. And I felt a real obligation and sense of duty to fulfill the oath that I took in Secretary Paulson's office on December 15th, 2008 to do the job that I was sent down there to do. But I wasn't really tempted with a big job on Wall Street. And frankly, if it meant getting a judgeship, compromising the job that I needed to do and was supposed to do, it just wasn't interesting to me.

But look, let me be very clear. I also have the fallback of I was a trial lawyer. I prosecuted a lot of big cases. And I knew that whatever happened, I could always go back and get a good job in New York, working at a law firm or doing legal work. So it gave me a degree of financial freedom even though I basically spent most of my career as a government employee and I didn't have money. I didn't necessarily need to please anyone to be able to go back and still be able to feed my family.

BILL MOYERS: What happens to a political society, to a democracy, when we stifle or bribe or shoot the sheriff?

NEIL BAROFSKY: When I had my incident with the assistant secretary that my deputy, who had come down from -- who's another former federal prosecutor, who did narcotics work, said to me, Kevin Puvalowski. And he said to me, "Neil, you were just offered the bullet or the bribe, the gold or the lead."

And what he was referring to was a society just like that, which was Colombia, back in the day when Pablo Escobar and the drug kingpins really controlled society. And what he was referring to is that basically to corrupt society Escobar would go to a magistrate or a police officer, police chief, a politician, and say, "You have two choices. You can either take this giant pile of money and do my bidding. Or you can get the lead, a bullet in your head."

And Kevin was joking that I just received the Washington white collar equivalent of the gold or the lead. And it was funny, at the time, but that's kind of what happens in a society where the rewards and incentives are, again, nobody's getting shot in the head thank goodness. But it's a breakdown of the system.

And in some ways, it creates this false illusion that there are people out there looking out for the interest of taxpayers, the checks and balances that are built into the system are operational, when in fact they're not. And what you're going to see and what we are seeing is it'll be a breakdown of those governmental institutions. And you'll see governments that continue to have policies that feed the interests of -- and I don't want to get clichéd, but the one percent or the .1 percent -- to the detriment of everyone else.

BILL MOYERS: You make it clear in the book that the Obama administration fought against cutting down the size of these banks. And yet, in the second debate with Mitt Romney the president said, "We passed the toughest Wall Street reform since the Great Depression." As I hear you, it wasn't all that tough.

NEIL BAROFSKY: Well, that's a literally true statement. Because when you think of -- but it's a very low bar to clear. I mean, all of the regulatory reform since the Great Depression has been peeling back on those regulations. With really the big death knell happening in the end of the Clinton administration with, you know, a couple of bills, one that removed the last vestiges of the separation between commercial and investment banks.

BILL MOYERS: Glass-Steagall Act?

NEIL BAROFSKY: Glass-Steagall.

BILL MOYERS: It took down the wall between those two?

NEIL BAROFSKY: The last part of it. And then the second part by passing a bill that made it, essentially made derivatives out of bounds for regulation. So saying that it's the toughest is literally true. The problem is it hasn't been tough enough in where it most matters.

And again, you don't really have to take my word for it. You just look what the market has done. Based on the presumption of bailout, the banks get higher ratings from the credit rating agencies which means they can borrow money for less, because their debt is viewed by the credit rating agencies as being less risky. And they get these higher ratings on explicit presumption that the government will bail them out and make good on their debt.

So it didn't deliver the goods where it matters the most. Again, not saying that it doesn't have some good positive things for our system and for people. But it didn't deliver the most important thing that we need if we want to address the causes of the last crisis and help prevent the next one.

BILL MOYERS: What will it take to prevent the next one?

NEIL BAROFSKY: Got to break them up. I mean, it is not a simple thing to accomplish, necessarily. But it's a very simple solution. And what you see, I think, kind of amazingly, is how many more people have come to this view over the last year or so. It used to be a lonely perch that we sat on. Former special inspector generals, a couple of academics.

But now you have people like Sandy Weill, the architect of Citigroup. And sure, too little too late, after he made all of his money off creating these Frankenstein monsters. But even he now recognizes that we have to break up the banks. You have senior officials at the Federal Reserve recently coming out in favor of this. The vice chair of the FDIC, a very strong advocate for breaking up the banks. And you hear it a lot more in members of Congress -- that are supporting this notion. So to me, on the one hand, it's absolutely essential. If we really want to get to the point where we don't have to bailout a bank, we have to make it so that no bank is so systemically significant and large that its failure could bring down the system.

BILL MOYERS: Are they up to their old tricks?

NEIL BAROFSKY: The banks? Sure. I mean, you know, so we had this regulatory reform of Dodd-Frank in 2010, which, you know, left them intact and inside. But it had all of these rules and all of these regulations that needed to follow. And right now it is hand to hand, trench warfare, combat with those lobbyists spending all that money on campaign contributions, on, you know, flooding the decision makers and the regulators with comment letters and endless meetings.

And pressuring members of Congress to put pressure on the regulators, to water down the rules, to basically get as much back to the good old days where they would have free reign to print money, take advantage of their too big to fail status, bully and push out the little guys, take advantage of consumers. And that's what all of these efforts area about are to preserve these very, very core profit streams that they had before.

And that's right now is where the battle is being waged. Not on TV, you know, not necessarily out in front, but behind the scenes where the next set of rules are being forged on what they're going to be able to do and how they're going to be able to do it...

[Oct 14, 2012] TRENDING: Colbert says he can't tell differences between Romney and Obama by Shirley Henry

"I'm not Ralph Nader. I don't think there's no difference," Colbert said in an interview airing Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "There is a difference. I don't know what the difference is, though."
October 14, 2012 | CNN

Comedian Stephen Colbert says it will make a difference whether President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney wins the election in November - but he doesn't know what that difference will be.

"I'm not Ralph Nader. I don't think there's no difference," Colbert said in an interview airing Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "There is a difference. I don't know what the difference is, though."

But he does speculate.

On Obama, Colbert said there's a possibility he might be "a more aggressive reformer or changer in the second act of his presidency."

"If he wins, I hope he keeps some of the promises he didn't keep the first time," he added.

Colbert said he didn't know how Romney would govern if elected president. "He might govern as a technocrat. That sort of seems to have been his career, as like the guy from Pepsi who comes in to run GM - he can't tell us what he'll do because he hasn't seen the books yet."

"We don't know because he seems absolutely sincere as a moderate, and he also seemed sincere as a severe conservative," Colbert said of Romney, even as he insisted that wasn't a slight. "It's honest confusion, because he has a good shot at winning, and if he does, I hope he's a good president."

War of words erupts between Ankara and Moscow over grounded jet News , Middle East THE DAILY STAR

America's new modesty in the Mideast Opinion By Rami G. Khouri

October 10, 2012 | THE DAILY STAR

The past month, during which I have had the opportunity to interact with thousands of Americans across the United States, has also been one of the most difficult and volatile in the American-Middle Eastern relationship. This has reflected the lively, occasionally violent, reactions to the anti-Islamic film that took place across the world, the exaggerated rhetoric of the American presidential elections, and the spirited, provocative rhetoric at the United Nations by Iranian and Israeli leaders. Passions are high all around, as Arabs, Americans, Turks, Israelis and Iranians all struggle with sharp rhetoric, violence, death, deep antagonisms and ongoing or threatened wars. The mass media and political classes everywhere tend to focus on the negatives that they see in others, giving the impression that we are on the verge of a catastrophic global war due to inflamed emotions and feelings of existential vulnerability by many of these parties.

The reality, fortunately, seems less frightening, as I have always sensed from my routine life and work in the Arab world, and as I am discovering from my extensive discussions with Americans this month. The many Americans I have engaged in conversations seem more realistic and sober than ever before about Middle Eastern issues and peoples. I have also sensed much less arrogance on the most appropriate role for the U.S. in the region, and in most cases a greater sense of humility about the limits of what the U.S. can and cannot do in this fast-changing region, where local actors drive events and the global powers tend to respond to rather than initiate change.

An important consequence of this is that more Americans now seem to view the Middle East, and react politically to its people and leaders, in a more pragmatic and nuanced manner than in recent years, when a more cartoon-like mentality prevailed that saw the region as a single lump with good guys and bad guys and nothing in between. Some new research tends to confirm this.

This week has seen the publication of a poll-based study entitled "Americans on the Middle East: A Study of American Public Opinion," headed by Shibley Telhami and Steven Kull, of the University of Maryland's Anwar Sadat Chair and the Program on International Policy Attitudes. They explored how Americans across the board felt about several key, current issues in the Middle East, including the Libyan and Egyptian governments, foreign aid, Iran, Syria and the importance of U.S. relations with the Muslim world and dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict. The nationally representative poll (conducted Sept. 27-Oct. 2) found the following:

First, most Americans believe the attacks against American diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya were the work of extremist minorities and were not supported by majorities in those countries. However, majorities of Americans also feel the Arab governments did not try to protect the missions.

Second, a substantially increased majority of Americans wants to reduce aid to Egypt. A modest majority has an unfavorable view of Egypt and a large majority an unfavorable view of Libya.

Third, Americans continue to see U.S. relations with the Muslim world and the Arab-Israeli conflict as a major priority, and a minority favors American disengagement from the Middle East. A plurality favors continuing to support democracy, even if it leads to less friendly governments, though this support has diminished a bit as perceptions of Arab uprisings have come to be increasingly seen as influenced by Islamists seeking power.

Fourth, majorities continue to say that it is possible for the West and the Muslim world to find common ground, and to attribute the conflicts between Islam and the West to political rather than cultural or religious factors.

Fifth, most Americans believe an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear program would do little or nothing to slow down the program. The majority believes it would lead to Iran striking U.S. bases and drawing the U.S. into a war, drastically increase the price of oil, and that it would worsen America's military and strategic position in the Middle East. A slight majority favors taking a neutral stance toward the possibility of Israel carrying out a strike.

And sixth, majorities of Americans would favor the U.S., jointly with its allies, increasing diplomatic and economic sanctions against Syria and imposing a no-fly zone over Syria. However, majorities oppose providing arms and supplies to anti-government groups, bombing Syrian air defenses, or sending U.S. troops into Syria.

The heartening news in this study is that Americans may be adopting more nuanced and realistic views toward people and events in the Middle East, based on events on the ground and actual national self-interest – rather than the combination of ideological manipulation, widespread ignorance, lingering anger, and presumptuous paternalism and militarism that drove so many American attitudes to the Middle East in past decades. This is also certainly the impression I get from speaking with many Americans these days.

Why Mitt Romney got it both right and wrong on the Middle East Opinion By David Ignatius

THE DAILY STAR

Why Mitt Romney got it both right and wrong on the Middle East October 11, 2012 12:37 AM The Daily Star

Like other commentators, I found many echoes of Barack Obama's Middle East policy in Mitt Romney's supposedly tough critique of it at Virginia Military Institute on Monday. I suppose that's reassuring – that Romney generally sees the same set of problems that Obama does, and in many cases would take pretty much the same action, though girded in "no apology" rhetoric. I also found many points in the speech that made sense.

The one anomaly in the speech was the way Romney lavished praise on Gen. George C. Marshall. Was it an oversight or mistake that Romney – among the most pro-Israel presidential candidate in our history – didn't seem to know that Marshall opposed American recognition of Israel and threatened in May 1948 that he would vote against President Harry Truman if he recognized the Jewish state?

Note to Romney speechwriters: Include caveat line "... though I didn't agree with all his policies" in future encomiums to the late five-star general.

Speaking of Marshall, he famously advised his aides: "Don't fight the problem. Decide it!" It's one of the clearest statements of political-military pragmatism I know, and it points up one of Obama's attributes: He doesn't fight the problem. He measures the situation realistically, assays the problem and then (usually) makes a decision. Indeed, the courteous, cerebral and reticent Marshall might have been accused of "leading from behind" in dealing with some of his cantankerous commanders.

What was missing from Romney's speech was an understanding that there is a revolution rolling across the Middle East. He talked about "America's great power to shape history" and what he claimed was Obama's mistake of "leaving our destiny at the mercy of events."

What was lacking was any apparent recognition that the Arab uprising has been an assertion of citizen rights against police-state regimes, and that America couldn't stop this tidal wave even if it wanted to.

Obama has understood the nature of this revolution from the beginning, and though I wish he had been more clear and forceful at various points in articulating America's interests and values, I'd say he has gotten the big things right. He remembers the limits of American power, and the need to let Arabs know they are writing this chapter of their history for themselves.

Now, for some specifics:

First, on Iraq, Romney is correct that "gains made by our troops are being eroded." That failing that can be partly laid at the feet of Vice President Joe Biden, who has been chiefly responsible for Iraq policy in this administration. Biden oversaw the process that inexplicably allowed incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to hold onto his job after he lost the May 2010 elections to a coalition headed by a pro-American candidate, Ayad Allawi.

This U.S. policy of acquiescence to Maliki has been baffling, from beginning to end, for it was clear to many observers that the Iran-leaning Maliki would eventually demand the exit of all American troops, as Tehran was insisting. But in backing Maliki, the Obama administration was following the equally inexplicable policy of George W. Bush and Gen. David Petraeus, who helped put Maliki in power in the first place. Everyone gets bad marks on Iraq. Romney should be careful where he fires his darts.

On Libya, I thought Romney was right when said the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stephens was "not an isolated incident" and part of an effort by extremists to stir trouble in nearly a dozen different countries. What was missing from Romney's analysis was, again, an understanding that this is a fluid post-revolutionary situation: Salafist demonstrators in the streets are opportunistically using anger over an amateur U.S. video to challenge the more moderate Islamist regimes in power in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and elsewhere. The kind of bombastic American reaction Romney seemed to be advocating would only make matters worse.

On the details of U.S. policy toward Libya and Egypt, as has been noted, Romney's policies were pretty similar to Obama's: more trade, economic assistance, stress on rule of law. There was a big Romney windup on the Arab Spring, but not much of a pitch.

The same policy affinity between Romney and Obama was evident, surprisingly, on what has been the high-voltage issue of Iran. For all his denunciation of Obama for "throwing Israel under the bus," it turns out that Romney's red line on Iran – he "will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability" – is very similar to the one Obama announced last year. The difference is that Romney speaks of preventing "capability," where Obama focuses on the bomb itself, which could be an earlier trigger for military action.

There was more similarity than difference on Afghanistan, too. Romney's Plan B was "a real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014." Uh, excuse me, but isn't that Plan A -- in other words current U.S. policy?

I did hear a subtle difference on Syria policy, which sounded like an amped-up version of Obama's limited non-lethal covert action to support the Free Syrian Army. Romney said: "In Syria I'll work with our partners to identify and organize those members of the opposition who share our values and then ensure that they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad's tanks and helicopters and fighter jets." Based on what I saw last week inside Syria, that's an approach worth examining.

The biggest difference between these candidates on the Middle East is probably on Israel. Romney said it pretty clearly: "The world must never see any daylight between our two nations." Taken at face value, this seems to mean the United States shouldn't take public positions different from Israel's. That's a formulation few Republican foreign policy leaders would agree with. Among those Republican luminaries who deliberately opened "daylight" were Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Brent Scowcroft, James Baker and Condoleezza Rice.

Romney can't seriously mean that on all major issues affecting Israel, he will defer to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. No nation hands over policy choices to another, even to its best friend.

Finally, in the utterly outrageous category, was Romney's shameless pitch for defense spending, even as he talks about cutting the budget. "I'll roll back President Obama's deep and arbitrary cuts to our national defense that would devastate our military," Romney said.

Now, that's pure demagogy: One of Obama's more thoughtful efforts was the defense budget guidance announced last January in which all the service chiefs agreed to balanced reductions in forces – including agreement by the Army and Marine Corps to significant cuts in ground forces on the understanding that we won't be fighting more wars like Iraq and Afghanistan in the near future. Romney should credit this kind of careful, consensus planning, rather than trash it.

Romney's Middle East speech was a serious discussion of big problems. And he's certainly right that there's a dangerous sense of drift in the region, as the "fog of revolution" obscures where these momentous events are heading. But the notion that this is somehow America's fault, and can be remedied by a restoration of the old, hard-line policies, is wrong and potentially dangerous for U.S. interests.

David Ignatius is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Columnist/2012/Oct-11/190942-why-mitt-romney-got-it-both-right-and-wrong-on-the-middle-east.ashx#ixzz2973vhm3A
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

[Oct 05, 2012] Random findings

[Oct 02, 2012] Why USAID is leaving Russia by Mathew Rojansky,

September 20, 2012 | CNN.com Blogs

As much as national pride, insecurity about the political motives of U.S. assistance makes the Kremlin bristle at the notion of a USAID mission committed to "supporting democracy, human rights, and the development of a more robust civil society in Russia."

To many Russians, Washington has no special claim on any of these values. After all, during the Cold War both sides routinely disguised proxy battles to install compliant strongmen in the Third World as interventions to protect human rights, freedom, and social welfare. It is not a stretch for some Russians to believe that U.S.-funded NGO's, such as the election monitoring group GOLOS, are actually part of a strategy to overthrow the Russian government. That is why Russian politicians and official media have linked the Kremlin's recent crackdown on NGO activity to the allegedly nefarious influence of "foreign agents."

...There may be no going back to the halcyon optimism of the 2009 "reset," but as this year of elections and protests draws to a close, both sides should take a hard look at recent history, and think hard about the future. We can't afford to let our lingering differences destroy the progress we have made.

[Oct 02, 2012] The Unraveling of Obama's Foreign Policy by Patrick J. Buchanan

October 02, 2012 | Antiwar.com

Three days after Ambassador Chris Stevens was assassinated, Jay Carney told the White House press corps it had been the work of a flash mob inflamed by an insulting video about the Prophet Muhammad.

As the killers had arrived with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, this story seemed noncredible on its face.

Yet two days later, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice doubled down. Appearing on five Sunday talk shows, she called the massacre the result of a "spontaneous" riot that was neither "preplanned" nor "premeditated."

Carney and Rice deceived us. But were they deceived?

It is impossible to believe that Carney would characterize the Benghazi, Libya, massacre as the result of a protest that careened out of control unless he had been told to do so by the national security adviser, the White House chief of staff, or President Barack Obama himself.

Who told Carney to say what he did? Who arranged for Rice to appear on five shows to push this line?

Throwing a rope to Rice and Carney, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said last week that only recently had his team concluded that Benghazi was the work of terrorists.

Yet intelligence insiders were leaking to the press the day after Stevens was murdered that it was terrorism.

Now that the cover story - that the murder of Stevens and the other Americans was the result of a spontaneous outburst the Obama administration could not have foreseen or prevented - has collapsed, the truth is tumbling out.

And the truth is more alarming. For it calls into question the credibility and competence of Obama's security team and the judgment of the president himself.

What do we now know?

Stevens believed he was on an al-Qaeda hit list and so wrote in his diary. He was concerned about a rise in Islamic extremism in the city. "Days before the ambassador arrived from the embassy in Tripoli," The Washington Post reported Sunday, "Westerners had fled the city, and the British had closed their consulate."

Rice insisted that the act of barbarism arose out of a protest, but there may not even have been a protest, just a military assault with RPGs, machine guns, and mortars that hit a safe house a mile from the consulate, killing two former Navy SEALs, while other U.S. agents fled to the airport.

So dangerous is Benghazi, The New York Times reported Friday, FBI agents investigating the ambassador's assassination have yet to venture into the city.

Was U.S. intelligence oblivious to how dangerous Benghazi was when Stevens went in? Was not Benghazi's reputation as a haven for Islamic jihadists known to us all before we "liberated" Libya?

This is the city U.S. air power saved when Moammar Gadhafi's forces were closing in. It now appears to be an al-Qaedaville where U.S. diplomats and agents dare not tread.

Late last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conceded that the Benghazi murders were acts of terror perpetrated by extremists associated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. She alluded to Mali, where an al-Qaeda affiliate, the Ansar Dine, has taken over half the country.

How grave is that threat?

On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that Gen. Carter Ham, head of the U.S. Africa command, met with Mauritania's president to discuss "a possible military intervention … in north Mali against al-Qaeda-linked group members and their allies."

Yet Vice President Joe Biden still campaigns through the Rust Belt bellowing, "General Motors is alive, and Osama bin Laden is dead," and Obama still recites his mantra, "Al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat."

The reality. Al-Qaeda affiliates have taken over a region of Mali the size of France. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb may have been in on the Benghazi massacre. Al-Qaeda is in Syria fighting for a cause, the overthrow of Bashar Assad, Obama supports. Al-Qaeda has helped reignite sectarian war in Iraq. Al-Qaeda remains in Pakistan. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is in Yemen.

We failed to cut out or kill the cancer at Tora Bora in 2001, and it has since metastasized and spread across North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.

As for the Arab Spring Obama embraced, that has given us the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo and jihadists in Sinai. Our departure from Iraq paved the way to a new sectarian war. The surge troops are out of Afghanistan, and the remaining U.S. troops no longer partner with the Afghan soldiers who are to take over the war.

Any doubt about the outcome there when we're gone?

Within the past month, anti-American riots, flag burnings, and the raising of Islamist banners atop U.S. embassy facilities have occurred in too many countries and capitals to recite.

If this is the fruit of a successful engagement with the Islamic world, what would a debacle look like? Rep. Paul Ryan said Sunday, "The Obama foreign policy is unraveling literally before our eyes on our TV screens."

Is he wrong?

America's Last Crusade by Patrick J. Buchanan

September 25, 2012 | Antiwar.com

For Americans of the Greatest Generation that fought World War II and of the Silent Generation that came of age in the 1950s, the great moral and ideological cause was the Cold War.

It gave purpose and clarity to our politics and foreign policy, and our lives.

From the fall of Berlin in 1945 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, that Cold War was waged by two generations, and with its end Americans faced a fundamental question:

If the historic struggle between communism and freedom is over, if the Soviet Empire and Soviet Union no longer exist, if the Russians wish to befriend us and the Maoists have taken the capitalist road, what is our new mission in the world? What do we do now?

The debate was suspended when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. George H.W. Bush assembled a mighty coalition and won a war that required but 100 hours of ground combat.

We had found our mission.

The United States was the last superpower, and a triumphant Bush declared that we would build the "New World Order." Neoconservatives rhapsodized over America's "unipolar moment" and coming "global hegemony."

But Americans were unpersuaded and uninspired. They rejected the victor of Desert Storm - for Bill Clinton. By Y2K, the Republican Party was backing another Bush who was promising a "more humble" America.

Came then 9/11 and the midlife conversion of George W. to Wilsonian interventionism. After the rout of the Taliban in December 2001, Bush decided to remake Afghanistan in the image of Iowa and to go crusading against an axis of evil. In his second inaugural, he declared that America's mission was to "end tyranny in our world."

The world declined to oblige. By the end of 2006, the Taliban were back and America seemed in an endless war in Iraq. Republicans had lost Congress and Bush's democracy crusade was producing electoral victories for Hamas and Hezbollah.

In November 2008, the crusaders were sent packing.

Came then Barack Obama. With the "Arab Spring" beginning in 2010, with dictators being toppled in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, Obama embraced the movement as his own.

But Obama received a rude awakening. As the Arab dictators began, one by one, to fall, also unleashed and now surging and spreading through the lands they had ruled were the four horsemen of the Arab apocalypse: tribalism, ethno-nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism, and anti-Americanism. So we come to an elementary question:

If the Islamic world is so suffused with rage and hatred of us - for our wars, occupations, drone attacks, support of Israel, decadent culture, and tolerance of insults to Islam and the Prophet - why should we call for free elections, when the people will use those elections to vote into power rulers hostile to the United States?

If the probable or inevitable result of dethroning dictator-allies is to raise to power Islamist enemies, why help dethrone the dictators?

During the Cold War, the United States took its friends where it found them. If they were willing to cast their lot with us, from the shah to Gen. Pinochet, we welcomed them. Democratic dissidents like Jawaharlal Nehru in India and Olof Palme in Sweden got the back of our hand.

During the Cold War and World War II, the critical question was not whether you came to power through free elections - after all, Adolf Hitler did that - but are you with us or against us?

Ideology, as Russell Kirk admonished us, is political religion, and democracy worship is a form of idolatry, the worshiping of a false god, a golden calf, an idol.

And - while this may border on a hate crime - some countries are unfit for democracy. As Edmund Burke remonstrated: "It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters."

With hatred of America rampant across the Arab and Islamic world, we face anew a defining moment. What now is our mission in the world? What now should be the great goal of U.S. foreign policy?

What global objective should we pursue with our trillion-dollar defense, intel, and foreign aid budgets, and pervasive diplomatic and military presence on every continent and in most countries of the world? Bush I's New World Order is history, given our strategic decline and the resistance of Russia, China, and the Islamic world.

Bush II's democracy crusade and Obama's embrace of the Arab Spring have unleashed and empowered forces less receptive to America's wishes and will than the despots and dictators deposed with our approval.

All three visions proved to be illusions. With America headed for bankruptcy, with new debt of $1 trillion piled up each year, perhaps John Quincy Adams' counsel may commend itself to a country weary from a century of crusades.

"America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own."

[Sep 29, 2012] Bad Political Discourse Drives Out Good

Quote: "I'm not sure who I despise more, the GOP or the media that enables them."
August 31, 2012 | Economist's View

Chris Dillow tries to explain the poor quality of political discourse:

Adverse selection in political discourse, by Chris Dillow: ...there is adverse selection in political debate: fanatics are given attention whilst sober, rational voices are overlooked. There are four channels through which this happens: What I'm suggesting here is an adjunct to something Mancur Olson said in the 1960s. He pointed out that small numbers of people with large interests would organize themselves better than large numbers with smaller interests. The upshot, he said, was that politics would give too much weight to small vested interests to the detriment of aggregate well-being. ... Small groups with strongly-held beliefs are given more credence and deference than they should have.

And this, in turn, implies that the mass media can sometimes undermine rational political discourse rather than promote it.

bsc:

There's something missing in this analysis: there is a small group in the US with the strongly held belief that global warming will render the Earth uninhabitable, but they are not given particular credence or deference despite their organized actions.

Seth:

"There's something missing ..."

It's the money, bsc. A minority with a strongly held belief but no money has no impact. The deniers on the other hand, have loads of money from fossil fuel interests to amplify their 'motivated reasoning'.

{ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivated_reasoning }

Cheryl :

This week I changed my mind about what a fanatic is. Someone who uses moral framing to promote open borders in the middle of the worst recession since the 1930s when very little is being done to help the unemployed and corporations are sitting on mountains of cash is a now a fanatic in my view. I am being told that I have to do 100 informational interviews to interest 1 employer. What would the number be with open borders 500? And what would my rent be like?

kthomas:

Cheryl, what exactly changed in your mind? And who is the "someone" you refer to?

As for your rent, that's going to go up. And that has nothing to do with any open or closed borders.

Cheryl said in reply to kthomas...

Does it matter who the someone is? Apparently the economic theory of "race to the bottom" in terms of eliminating high quality employment and decent quality lifestyles is being taught globally and the theory is so dominant that it does not matter how many people have lower standards of living than ten years ago.

Second Best:

This sounds like an intro marketing course on how to sell bogus products home channel style to gullible consumers who make adverse selections.

As for small fanatical groups using government to manipulate the rest through adverse selection, that's exactly what conservatives typically complain about as they do it themselves.

Instead of adverse selection why not call it moral hazard of the wealthy in the context of how enough money can be used to carpet bomb the media with fanatical messages until they replace the truth.

Two major factors drive this. First is how public funding of campaigns failed miserably to produce serious competition among political candidates who are instead simply drowned out from the mountain of private sector cash until the desired winner surfaces.

Second is how private sector mainstream media designed it that way to thrive off cheap phony caricatures of competition by selling soundbite ads for hundreds of millions that cost way below that.

Most humiliating of all it matters increasingly less who actually wins elections because the system is so highly rigged for the upper 10% they win either way. The apathy is so pervasive it betrays any player attempting comically to pretend the political field is level so choices matter, whether fanatical or rational.

[Sep 26, 2012] Libya will militia crackdown spark insurgency

World War 4 Report

President Obama spoke Sept. 24 about the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, which was apparently led by Ansar al-Sharia but originally reported as part of the spontaneous protest wave against the notorious Islamophobic YouTube clip. "There's no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn't just a mob action," Obama said in an interview on ABC's "The View." "What's clear is that, around the world, there are still a lot of threats out there." But he pointedly did not invoke the word "terrorism." Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney promptly declared the attack an act of "terrorism"-indicating once again that the definition of "terrorism" is often a matter of political convenience. (AP, Sept. 25; LAT, Sept. 24)

There has also been controversy about the fact that about a dozen CIA personnel were evacuated from Libya after the consulate attack. "This is really disgraceful," a nameless "former CIA station chief with three decades of Middle East experience" was quoted by the LA Times. "Why spend billions of dollars a year on the intelligence service and then run away right at the moment when you most need intelligence?" (LAT, Sept. 25)

[Sep 26, 2012] Occupy Wall Street one year later World War 4 Report

One particularly creative prop depicted Bain Capital as a giant anime-style killer robot labelled "JOB DESTROYER"-certainly an image we like much better than the overdone vampire squid.

...A most welcome sight was the pithy phrase chalked on a sidewalk: "AYN RAND WAS WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING"-accompanied by an anarchist symbol, which is really good since anarchists have a special responsibility to call out the appropriation of the libertarian tradition by the free-market right. Although it must be said that Ayn Rand was right about secularism and reproductive freedom, which makes her more progressive than the Republican nimrods who today tout her otherwise barbaric ideology!

Another astute slogan was "A BETTER WORLD IS ALREADY HERE, IT JUST ISN'T EVENLY DISTRIBUTED"-which keeps the focus on the class struggle that should be what the Occupy movement is all about...

...Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times' "Dealbook" financial column noted the anniversary by declaring Occupy Wall Street "a Frenzy That Fizzled," and gloating: "It will be an asterisk in the history books, if it gets a mention at all."

Let's see if we can prove the fucker wrong, eh?

OWS

The issue of class is still a taboo word in the liberal left and even the radical left when workers and marginalized workers are only good when they illustrate the current party cause of the moment. If the said worker is just merely an unschooled oppressed laborer that doesn't fit the socialist realism model the laborer is of no use and is ridiculed. Many an erstwhile "lefty" will use their class privilege to avoid the working stiff who is down in their luck and clueless as to how to remedy their life. Treat your custodian well.

[Sep 20, 2012] Romni campaign reboot

After explaining that Mitt Romney's so-called "reboot" this week was thrown off by the leak of the tapes of him trashing half of the country as a bunch of lazy, mooching freeloaders at a wealthy donor's fundraiser earlier this year, The Daily Show's Jon Stewart explained that it set off a "firestorm everywhere, but nowhere more acutely than at Romney campaign headquarters," otherwise known as Fox "News."
As Stewart noted, it triggered something he likes to call "Chaos on Bulls#%t Mountain."
Which was followed by one of the better smack-downs of ClusterFox for their propaganda machine going into high gear trying to give cover to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and for repeating his talking points about all those "welfare queens" that make up 47 percent of the country. As Stewart pointed out, the real welfare queens are the likes of ExxonMobil, AT&T, Wall Street, wealthy farmers, and their poster child, Mitt Romney.Stewart sums up with:

The biggest problem with the denizens of Bullshit Mountain is they act like their shit don't stink. If they have success, they built it. If they failed, the government ruined it for 'em. If they get a break, they deserve it. If you get a break, it's a handout and an entitlement. It's a baffling, willfully blind cognitive dissonance best summed up by their head coach, in what is perhaps my favorite sound bite of all time.

Video Jon Stewart tears apart Mitt Romney for his 47 per cent remarks

The Daily Show's Jon Stewart tore apart Mitt Romney's now-infamous "47 per cent" remarks on Tuesday's night's show.

September 19, 2012 - Pink - The Daily Show With Jon Stewart - Full Episode Video Comedy Central

Aired: 09/19/12

Fox News slams Barack Obama's secret video, Mitt Romney explains what he won't do in office, a papyrus scrap mentions Jesus' wife, and violinist Itzhak Perlman performs live.

September 19, 2012 - Itzhak Perlman - The Colbert Report - Full Episode Video Comedy Central

[Sep 19, 2012] Intervention Backfires in Libya by Rep. Ron Paul

Antiwar.com

The attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya and the killing of the U.S. ambassador and several aides is another tragic example of how our interventionist foreign policy undermines our national security. The more the U.S. tries to control the rest of the world, whether by democracy promotion, aid to foreign governments, or bombs, the more events spin out of control into chaos, unintended consequences, and blowback.

Unfortunately, what we saw in Libya last week is nothing new.

In 1980s Afghanistan, the U.S. supported Islamic radicals in their efforts to expel the invading Soviet military. These radicals became what came to be known as al-Qaeda, and our one-times allies turned on us most spectacularly on Sept. 11, 2001.

Iraq did not have a significant al-Qaeda presence before the 2003 U.S. invasion, but our occupation of that country and attempt to remake it in our image caused a massive reaction that opened the door to al-Qaeda, leading to thousands of U.S. soldiers dead, a country destroyed, and instability that shows no sign of diminishing.

In Libya we worked with, among others, the rebel Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which included foreign elements of al-Qaeda. It has been pointed out that the al-Qaeda-affiliated radicals we fought in Iraq were some of the same groups we worked with to overthrow Gadhafi in Libya. Last year, in a television interview, I predicted that the result of NATO's bombing of Libya would likely be an increased al-Qaeda presence in the country. I said at the time that we may be delivering al-Qaeda another prize.

[Sep 18, 2012] The Scramble for Access to Libya's Oil Wealth Begins

There is an interesting analogy between Libya and Russia: in both cases opposition fights for getting oil rent. As part of comprador alliance with the West. That is essentially the real goal of Russian opposition, not all this democratization and fighting with corruption smoke screen.
Aug 22, 2011 | Reuters/Signs of the Times Alternative News

Since oil is far and away Libya's most important economic resource, any new government would be obliged to make oil production a high priority. That would mean establishing security over major fields, pipelines, refineries and ports. The government would also need to quickly establish relationships with foreign oil companies, some of which consulted with both the rebels and Colonel Qadaffi through the conflict to hedge their bets.

... ... ...

Italy in recent years has relied on Libya for more than 20 percent of its oil imports. France, Switzerland, Ireland and Austria all depended on Libya for more than 15 percent of their imports before the fighting began.

Libya's importance to France was underscored on Monday when President Nicolas Sarkozy invited the head of the rebels' national transitional council, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, to Paris for consultations.

[Sep 16, 2012] Human Rights Or Civil Rights

Notwithstanding civil rights vs. human rights topic, the USSR collapsed because it was not able to adapt to new world created by computers and Internet and was not able to raise the standards of living of the population which decimate the religious doctrine of superiority of socialism over capitalism. Another was the collapse of ideology which precede the collapse of the USSR by 10 years of more. As a collapse of theocratic state that was total collapse. The running joke was that there were more communists in any Paris Montmartre cafe than in whole Politburo... In a way Computers and Internet were crucial in giving the West capability to instill nationalism which blow up the USSR from within. But paradoxically capitalism was able to behave reasonably only having a grad foe such as the USSR. After dissolution of the USSR the US oligarchy went mad. So in a way the existence of the USSR was a garantor of the USA prosperity and with collapse of the USSR despite the economic rape of former USSR space in 1991-2000 the prosperity was gone in 20 years.
Moon of Alabama

Joseph Massad wrote an interesting column on The 'Arab Spring' and other American seasons.

Besides its relevance for the current U.S. revolutionary enterprise in the Middle East it includes an interesting historic view of distinguishing human rights from civil rights:

The Soviet/US struggle over defining human rights is now the stuff of Cold War history given the US victory in the Cold War, but a brief review is necessary. While the US insisted that having the right to work, to free or universally affordable healthcare, free education, daycare and housing (which the Soviet system granted in the USSR and across Eastern Europe as substantive and not merely as formal rights) are not human rights at all, the Soviets, in the tradition of socialism, insisted they were essential for human life and dignity and that the western enumerating of the rights to free speech, free association, free movement, freedom to form political parties, etc., were "political" and "civil" and not "human" rights, and that in reality in the West, they were at any rate only formal and not substantive rights except for the upper echelons of society and those who owned the media and could access it and who could fund election campaigns, etc.

Moreover the Soviets argued that it was essential for humans to have human rights in order to be able to access civil and political rights in a substantive manner and that granting formal civil and political rights while denying substantive human rights amounted to granting no rights at all.

What the Soviets, according to Massad, viewed as basic human rights was at a time also propagandized in the United States. In his 1941 message to congress U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of the four freedoms:
The four freedoms he outlined were freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
Roosevelt's last two "freedoms" can be seen as those the Soviets considered as real "human rights" while Roosevelt's first two "freedoms" are political and thereby "civil rights".

Personally I agree with the Soviet nomenclature.

What is the meaning of the right to vote or to free speech when one is dying of hunger or for lack of medicine? The best is of course to have it all but if, in dire times, you would have to choose which two "freedoms" would you then prefer?

As Massad writes the U.S. is propagandizing its lacking version of "human rights", which only means some civil rights, to prevent people from demanding their real human rights, social justice and economic rights.

The rather genuine revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt were largely carried by people in want of their basic economic human rights, their daily bread. The U.S. democracy propaganda is just a means to paper over those demands and to arrange for regimes that will continue to deny them. In Libya and Syrian, where the basic economic rights were widely, though uneven fulfilled, external instigation and military support was needed to bring those countries in line with U.S. demands: Give them civil rights, Roosevelt's first two "freedoms", but not those other rights that are counter to the neo-liberal ideology and infringe on our profits.

jawbone

Obama seldom mentions FDR and his achievements (other than to use SocSec as both a threat to his base that he will be forced to curtail it or as an election prod to get the base out to vote for him to defend SocSec).

FDR's Four Freedoms may be one of the reasons Obama tries to downplan FDR and his heritage. It's not the Corporatist way.

somebody

actually, the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 has the full list. I cannot name a single country where all inhabitants enjoy all of it.

"Article 22.

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality."

ben

"FDR's Four Freedoms may be one of the reasons Obama tries to downplan FDR and his heritage. It's not the Corporatist way."


Couldn't agree more @ 6. The biggest parts of the globalist agenda are the "want" and the "fear" aspects. Keeping the working class unemployed and fearful makes them very obedient.

b's right, having the first two freedoms,( speech & religion) are worthless without the last two( freedom from want & fear).

somebody

heathroi no11, I agree the economy of the Soviet Union brought almost everybody down to the lowest common denominator as they favoured equality (and solidarity) in the French revolution triangle plus they needed a bloody dictatorship to push industrialization through and to fight existential wars.

In their economies more money went around than goods and prices were fixed, so having more money was not much use, you had to find a way to get the goods. So a lot of the economy was in the shadow. It is the great strength of free markets that they regulate distribution "automatically & anonymously", it is the great weakness of free markets when that means that some people have all of it and some people starve.

So there has to be regulation and that has to be fought politically and people have to organize for that. It is not true that trade unions are run by "the elite", trade unions had a great role in educating people and running their own think tanks i.e. producing their own elite. I have never heard of a trade union leader recruited from outside the movement.

It is also not true that trade union agreements with employers hinder small innovative businesses, these agreements only apply for businesses they are negotiated with, otherwise a government would have to make them law for a whole industry. If "small innovative businesses" cannot compete for competent workforce I would suggest their future is doubtful anyway.

Most jobs, at least in this country, Germany, are offered by small to medium firms (or the government).

b

@somebody - I agree the economy of the Soviet Union brought almost everybody down to the lowest common denominator

You seem to have no idea of how the majority of Russians lived before the communists took over. For them the Soviet Union brought quite an uplift.

That is not denying the Stalin campaigns and the war that was terrible for all of them.

Noirette

The essential difference is - at present - one of legality and definition.

Human rights are a formulation of supra-categorical 'rights' that humans have or should be awarded or able to claim. Usually, they represent an ideal. Their intent is always universal, even though the formulation may be that of a particular body, culture, country, group, etc. E.g. the UN universal declaration of Human Rights. Animal rights, etc. are the same.

sidebar: This declaration is taught in our schools and 5th graders make short hash of it. Teachers dread these lessons. (After the Holocaust, which they fear even more.)

Civil rights are those granted to citizens, and are framed by law, unequivocal, in present day Nation-States or similar entities. (Their application or scope may pose multiple problems.) They may of course be put forward as aspirational as well, but then they are not existing civil rights but proposals for change, or a goal to work towards, etc.

Ideally, there should be close ties between some universal conception of man and his relations with nature, and rights accorded to citizens. Fat hope!

Yeah this post was not very useful.

Petri Krohn

The Amnesty International / Human Rights Watch driven HR hoax is from the very beginning an attack against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One third of the rights listed in the declaration are collective rights, rights that can only be fulfilled by collective effort, collective decision making and coercive power that can force everyone to abide by the collective decisions.

In essence the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a Stalinist document, reflecting Soviet views as much as those of the Roosevelts.

The AI and HRW driven falsification of the declaration aims the cleanse it of all collectivist content. This is done by omission, collective rights have disappeared from "human rights", and – as Joseph Massad correctly points out – civil rights have been renamed human rights.

The argument against collective rights, as expressed by Aryeh Neierm, the founder of HRW is that collective rights always equal authoritarian power. This is 100% true. Even worse is that collective rights are always in conflict with other collective rights, with individual rights and even with themselves. This is however no argument against their existence, in theory they all exist as much as ever - in declarations at least. Globalist and capitalist ideology will attack them all, from the right to education to the Leninist concept of the right of nations to self-determination.

The loss of collective rights. or "labor rights" was recently studied by Mark Ames:

Exclusive: The Quiet Extermination Of Labor Rights From Human Rights http://thedailybanter.com/2012/06/the-quiet-extermination-of-labor-rights-from-human-rights/

Aryeh Neier, founder of Human Rights Watch and its executive director for 12 years, doesn't hide his contempt for the idea of economic equality as one of the key human rights. Neier is so opposed to the idea of economic equality that he even equates the very idea of economic equality and justice with oppression-economic rights to him are a violation of human rights, rather than essential human rights, thereby completely inverting traditional left thinking. Here's what Neier wrote in his memoir, Taking Liberties: "The concept of economic and social rights is profoundly undemocratic… Authoritarian power is probably a prerequisite for giving meaning to economic and social rights."

brian

'The argument against collective rights, as expressed by Aryeh Neierm, the founder of HRW is that collective rights always equal authoritarian power. This is 100% true. '

fascinating! well lets get rid of all our laws...as these are egs of 'authoriatian power'...just ask any teenage punk and criminal for whom authoritarian power is a block t their individual right to do as they please.

Fancy HRW arguing against Law. However HRW has also been acting against nation states that stand in the way of the authoritarian power of the US.

'Even worse is that collective rights are always in conflict with other collective rights, with individual rights and even with themselves'

what utter and very american bunk....the reverse is true...the individual wants to do what he wants and other people stand in his way.The use of words like 'authoritian power' an attempt to manipulate people in favor of a situation that would be disastrous

'In Libya and Syrian, where the basic economic rights were widely, though uneven fulfilled, external instigation and military support was needed to bring those countries in line with U.S. demands:'

how ironic the land of individualism is the land that takes authoritarian coercian to a whole new level...US uses Authoritarian power to dictate to other nations

somebody

rkka no 23, it is a moot point as obviously you cannot separate war and revolution from the USSR economy. It is like arguing that the USSR would be alive and kicking without the war in Afghanistan thirty four years after the end of World War II. Economists have no way to test their theories in vitro.

"The Soviet industrialization of the 1930s indeed greatly improved the lives of the Soviet people, by ensuring that Hitler's *war* *of* *racial* *extermination* against them would fail."

Of course you can argue that in hindsight forced industrialization under the barrel of a gun was necessary for the Soviet Union to survive militarily, it is quite a stretch though to call managing to survive "improving people's lives" and yes, most of the destruction happened in WW2 and Germans were responsible for most of it that however does not change the fact that the USSR has never been a successful economic or political example to follow. Of course there are many reasons for this, but what is the point in arguing that Bolshevism might have worked in Switzerland?

27 watson, performance in the framework of industrialization as a stated goal does not necessarily mean making people's life better and did not as a matter of fact as the workers had to perform in very bad conditions with no unions that would defend them.

Fact is that even today, more than 50 years after the end of World War II, life expectancy - which probably is the main indicator of the quality of life in a place - in Russia is below rank 110. No, it is not the climate, Finland is no 25.

Noirette

It is true the Decl. of Human Rights is both Roosevelt-ish (look at the preamble, the word freedom) and Stalinist, in the sense of 'can only be constructed or guaranteed by some communal organization.'

Man is a social animal and his rights, i.e. living conditions and individual scope of action - his / her role, life, work, aspirations, child care practices, etc. - are dependent on social organization.

These may be informal and traditional, never questioned, or may have to be agreed on and then promulgated, encouraged or enforced by a 'central, powerful' body, be it the Local Chief, Priest, or the US Gvmt. Or come from 'grass roots' movements, local organization...they can be adopted, collectively, and are all the time, every day of the week. Leadership need not be 'authoritarian.'

In fact, all rights are 'collective' as an isolated individual has all rights but no life.

pirouz_2...

@ahji no 16: "If a govt. wishes to build hospitals, schools, sanitation, create full employment, act towards environmental amelioration, etc. (i.e. the human rights as stated by b) - in what way does the wearing or not wearing of an item of clothing, or the expression of one's sexual preference, or any other personal behavior that does not limit the behavior of others, limit a govt's ability to carry out such programmes?"

My point is that you cannot have civil rights without first having human rights (human rights take precedence over civil rights). When 800 million of the population of India live on less than 30 cents/day can one really talk about "freedom of expression" or "freedom of assembly" in India irrespective of what is written in the Indian constitution? In other words no matter how much you try to enshrine civil rights in your constitution, if the human rights are not guaranteed, the laws regarding civil rights remain a hollow sham. When 800 million Indians (out of 1 billion) live on less then 30cents/day, the "civil rights" that are enshrined in the indian constitution defacto become the rights of those who can afford those rights (ie. bourgeoisie)! Those laws will become like an item of luxury: completely out of the reach for those 800 million who cannot even afford their next meal. And India's attempts to show itself as a democracy turns into a disgusting show of hypocrisy. I used India as an example this argument actually applies to ALL LIBERAL DEMOCRACIES.

Watson

Re: USSR/Russia life expectancy, and USSR standard of living vis a vis former Eastern Europe

In 1985-87, life expectancy in the Soviet Union ranked 31 in the world. (Finland was 19) Hungary was 32. East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland were 25 through 28. http://199.173.225.108/policy/docs/ssb/v58n2/v58n2p34.pdf

Notwithstanding the restrictions and suffering caused by the lack of democracy, the relative equality of standard of living in the Soviet bloc was evidence of its ethical superiority to the 'West'.

The Soviet Union was subsidizing its satellites; capitalists exploit theirs. Compare the standard of living in the USA then or now with that of El Salvador, Haiti, the Philippines or Zaire. Meanwhile, the Soviet bloc was diverting scarce resources to provide crucial support to the anti-colonial struggle. Ask Mandela.

Posted by: | Sep 2, 2012 11:16:02 AM | 35

somebody

Watson, no 35, I am not sure the article you quote counts the full list of countries

according to this detailed account Russia and Ukraine reached similar mortality rates as France in the 1960's and declined from the 1970's onwards (ie people actually having a shorter life span) until 2005 (no data given later than that)

Which is confirmed by this Oxford Epidemology paper

The reasons given are alcohol abuse, air pollution, overuse of pesticides, careless release of industrial waste and - given as reason five years before Chernobyl, happened - poorly constructed nuclear facilities, an underpaid corrupt health care labour fource and a focus on expanding facilities instead of upgrading.

Plus there is this interesting point

"Finally, Eberstadt argued about deeper societal and psycho-social causes of the health crisis. In his view, the patriotism of the Russian people has always been combined with continuous suffering and self-sacrificing for purposes, that could be 'seen and understood.'

This quality was fully exploited by Stalin's system. Eberstadt claims that Stalin 'managed to raise life expectancy in the Soviet Union from about forty-four when he assumed total power to about 62 when he died in spite of politically inflicted famines and World War II.'

Stalin's successors tried to 'marry' a system of total state control over all aspects of country's life with 'consumerism.' But in the 1970s this movement turned into a failure. The Russian people had to realize that their hard work did not bring them any closer to communism and also did not provide them with good life standards. This led to adverse psychological changes such as spread of pessimism, demoralization, and alienation from the state."

Watson

It's certainly important to analyze and understand the crimes, errors, and inefficiencies of the governments which tried to be or claimed to be socialist/communist.

It's even more important to scrutinize the methods and outcomes of capitalism, which has a much more extensive track record and is currently dominant. Half the world is living in needless squalor under the obscurantist sway of despots and oligarchies.

bevin

"Agricultural workers were squeezed, especially in the early decades, to produce a surplus which was used to provide the benefits of industrialization to an increasingly urbanized society..."

Watson: is this not true also of Britain ca 1750-1850? And indeed of almost all industrializing countries? Is it not true of China today?

somebody: the history of the Soviet Union, after 1945, was largely shaped by the Cold War.

This is not to say that the CPSU was powerless but to recognize that the USSR was under constant threat and forced to earmark capital and resources to defend itself. Its impoverishment was one factor making it very conservative and unadventurous politically.

Stalin's great fault was always the political conservatism which made him, for managers and bureaucrats, the more attractive, safer candidate for power.

[Sep 13, 2012] Hidden Facts of 9-11

On 9/11 a THIRD Skyscraper Plunged to Earth: The Sudden Implosion of WTC Building 7

By David R. Kimball

July 30, 2005

"It is natural for man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth … For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it."

-- Patrick Henry

"The important thing is to never stop questioning."

-- Albert Einstein

Everyone remembers the Twin Towers exploding at 9:59AM and 10:28AM EDT on September 11, 2001. Comparatively few people can recall that there was a third massive skyscraper, also a part of the World Trade Center, which fell very rapidly to the ground on that day. This was World Trade Center Building 7.1

One reason that few remember WTC Building 7's collapse is that after September 11th it has been treated, both in the media and in The 9/11 Commission Report, as if it didn't happen.

"The total collapse of the third huge skyscraper late in the afternoon September 11th was reported as if it were an insignificant footnote... most people never saw video of Building 7's collapse… Incredibly, it is virtually impossible to find any mention of Building 7 in newspapers, magazines, or broadcast media reports after September 11th." 2

"The Commission avoids another embarrassing problem – explaining how WTC 7 could have collapsed, also virtually at free-fall speed – by simply not mentioning the collapse of this building." 3

The collapse of Building 7 at 5:20PM EDT was in itself a major event; the sudden and unexplained fall to earth of a 47-story steel-framed skyscraper is certainly news. Why has there been almost no mention of this in the U.S. media, and why was there no mention of Building 7's collapse in The 9/11 Commission Report? These are questions of great significance, and they cry out for answers. To be able to approach any kind of explanation, however, first some pertinent and verified facts of the Building 7 aspect of 9/11 need to be scrutinized.

The following eleven facts have been compiled from the research of reputable sources – those who have dared to question and have devoted innumerable hours into discovering what really happened on 9/11.

FACT 1: WTC Building 7 was one of the largest buildings in downtown Manhattan. It was 47 stories tall, about half the height of the Towers, and took up an entire city block. It was 300 feet from the closest Twin Tower (the North Tower, WTC 1), and was a steel-framed, concrete structure.4

FACT 2: WTC Building 7 – on its 23rd floor – housed an Emergency Command Center for the City of New York that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had built in the mid-1990's. On the morning of September 11th, Mayor Giuliani did not go "to his Command Center – with its clear view of the Twin Towers – but to a makeshift, street-level headquarters at 75 Barkley Street." WTC 7 also held the offices of numerous government agencies, including the Department of Defense, the CIA, the Secret Service, the IRS, and the Security and Exchange Commission.5 Late 2001 was the time of "the height of the investigation into Enron, so the majority of Enron's SEC filings were likely destroyed when World Trade Center 7 came down."6

FACT 3: WTC Building 7 was not hit by airplane or significant debris on September 11th. It had been evacuated after the planes hit the towers. By the afternoon of September 11th, there were a few small fires of unknown origin evident in the building, and these small fires could be seen in only a few of the hundreds and hundreds of windows in the building.7

FACT 4: On September 11, 2001, at 5:20PM, EDT, World Trade Center Building 7 suddenly and rapidly collapsed. Beginning with the penthouse, all 47 stories of it imploded into its own footprint in less than seven seconds. Three different videos of Building 7's vertical collapse – two from CBS video broadcasts, and one from an NBC news camera – can be seen online at http://wtc7.net/videos.html.

FACT 5: On September 16th, NASA flew an airplane over the World Trade Center site, recorded infrared radiation coming from the ground, and created a thermal map. The U.S. Geological Survey analyzed this data, and determined the actual temperature of the rubble. This map shows that five days after the collapse of Building 7, the surface temperature of a section of its rubble was 1,341º F.8 This high a temperature is indicative of the use of explosives.

"WTC 7's rubble pile continued to smolder for months."9

FACT 6: Fire Engineering magazine is the 125-year-old paper-of-record of the fire engineering community. Bill Manning, editor-in-chief, wrote an Editor's Opinion in the January, 2002 edition. His editorial, $elling Out the Investigation, pointed out that destruction of evidence – the hurried removal of rubble which should be examined by investigators – is illegal. He also issued a "call to action". To quote excerpts:

"For more than three months, structural steel from the World Trade Center has been and continues to be cut up and sold for scrap. Crucial evidence that could answer many questions … is on the slow boat to China …"

"I have combed through our national standard for fire investigation, NFPA 921, but nowhere in it does one find an exemption allowing the destruction of evidence for buildings over 10 stories tall."

"Fire Engineering has good reason to believe that the 'official investigation' blessed by FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] and run by the American Society of Civil Engineers is a half baked farce [emphasis mine] that may have already been commandeered by political forces whose primary interests, to put it mildly, lie far afield of full disclosure. Except for the marginal benefit obtained from a three-day, visual walk-through of evidence sites conducted by ASCE investigation committee members – described by one close source as a 'tourist trip' – no one's checking evidence for anything."

"The destruction and removal of evidence must stop immediately."

"Firefighters, this is your call to action. …contact your representatives in Congress and officials in Washington and help us correct this problem immediately." 10 11

FACT 7: In May of 2002, FEMA published their report #403 titled World Trade Center Building Performance Study. This report claims that the fires caused the building to collapse, but that the specifics of how this is supposed to have occurred "…remain unknown at this time."12

FACT 8: The collapse of WTC Building 7 shows five characteristics of a controlled demolition:

  1. It "dropped directly into its own footprint in a smooth, vertical motion";
  2. It "collapsed completely in less than seven seconds";
  3. "Dust streamed out of the upper floors of Building 7 early in its collapse";
  4. "WTC 7's roof inverted toward its middle as the collapse progressed"; and
  5. "WTC 7's rubble was mostly confined to the block on which the building stood."13

FACT 9: "Larry Silverstein is a rather large player within the realms of 21st Century real estate, finance, and politics."14 He "…had taken out a long lease on the World Trade Center only six weeks before 9/11. In a PBS documentary entitled 'America Rebuilds', originally aired in September of 2002, Silverstein made the following statement about Building 7:

'I remember getting a call from the, er, fire department commander, telling me that they were not sure they were gonna be able to contain the fire, and I said, "We've had such terrible loss of life, maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it." And they made that decision to pull, and we watched the building collapse.'" 15 16

FACT 10: "It is inconceivable that anyone could be running around placing explosives in exactly the right places all within seven hours. In fact, implosions take a minimum of two weeks and up to two months to plan and place the charges. The fire department of New York does not even train their personnel to do controlled demolition. They are done by highly skilled experienced specialists who plan and test far ahead."17

FACT 11: "… [George W.] Bush's brother, Marvin Bush, and his cousin, Wirt Walker III, were principles in the company [Stratesec, formerly named Securacom] that was in charge of security for the World Trade Center, with Walker being the CEO from 1999 until January 2002."18

In summation: A major aspect of 9/11 has been excluded from the entire U.S. media after September 11th, and was also omitted from The 9/11 Commission Report. This was the sudden fall to earth, on September 11th, 2001, of World Trade Center Building 7. Not hit by airplane or significant debris, 300 feet from the closest Twin Tower, and with just a few small fires burning within it, at 5:20PM EDT this massive concrete and steel-framed 47-story skyscraper imploded into its own footprint in less than seven seconds. Its rapid implosion had all of the characteristics of a controlled demolition, and the World Trade Center leaseholder, Larry Silverstein, stated in so many words that the building had been collapsed by demolition. It takes weeks, if not months, to prepare the demolition of a building as large as WTC 7; this implosion could not have been engineered and implemented in seven chaotic hours on September 11th. Therefore, a question emerges:

Who had the means and expertise to engineer such a demolition and acquire needed materiel, and who had access to WTC Building 7 PRIOR TO September 11, 2001 in order to place the explosives?

An inquiry into the answer to this question might be a good place to begin a search for the real perpetrators of 9/11. Do we, the citizens of the United States, have the courage and honesty necessary to initiate an actual investigation, or will we continue living a Lie – and reap the consequences?

"Why do you notice the sliver in your friend's eye, but overlook the timber in your own?"

-- Jesus

The following books, resources, and websites are recommended, in addition to the material listed in the footnotes:

The Secret Team – The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World, by L. Fletcher Prouty, Col., U.S. Air Force (Ret.), Copyright 1973, 1992, 1997 by L. Fletcher Prouty (Available from Len Osanic at www.prouty.org, or online at http://www.ratical.org/ratville/JFK/ST/ST.html )

Understanding Special Operations – And Their Impact on The Vietnam War Era – 1989 Interview with L. Fletcher Prouty, Colonel USAF (Retired), by David T. Ratcliffe (rat haus reality press, 1999) www.ratical.org

9/11 Synthetic Terror – Made in USA, by Webster Griffin Tarpley (Progressive Press, 2005) www.tarpley.net

Global Outlook magazine, available at many book and magazine outlets www.globaloutlook.ca

Peace Resource Project, P.O. Box 1122, Arcata, CA 95519 www.peaceproject.com (707)822-4229

Questioning the War on Terrorism – Carol Brouillet's website: http://www.communitycurrency.org/9-11.html

Copyright © 2005 by David R. Kimball

1 Jim Hoffman, http://wtc7.net

2 Jim Hoffman, http://wtc7.net/silence.html

3 David Ray Griffin, The 9/11 Commission Report – Omissions and Distortions (Olive Branch Press, 2005), 28

4 Don Paul and Jim Hoffman, Waking Up From Our Nightmare (Irresistible/Revolutionary, 2004), 5-20

5 Don Paul and Jim Hoffman, 18

6 Barry Zwicker, The 9/11 News Special You Never Saw, Global Outlook magazine (Issue 9, Fall/Winter 2005), 19

7 Eric Hufschmid, Painful Questions – An Analysis of the September 11th Attack (Endpoint Software, 2002), 62-65

8 Eric Hufschmid, 69-70

9 Don Paul and Jim Hoffman, 10

10 Eric Hufschmid, 5-6

11 Fire Engineering magazine, January 2002

12 Eric Hufschmid, 7-8

13Don Paul and Jim Hoffman, 8-10

14 Don Paul and Jim Hoffman, 20

15 David Ray Griffin, 28

16 For video footage of Silverstein's statement, see Eric Hufschmid's video Painful Deceptions, edited and narrated by ReOpen911.org (911busters.com, www.EricHufschmid.net)

17Narration from Eric Hufschmid's video Painful Deceptions, edited and narrated by ReOpen911.org

18 David Ray Griffin, 31-32

[Sep 12, 2012] P.K. Ryan The Ryan Identity's review of 9-11 Synthetic Terror Made in USA, Fourth...

Amazon.com

P.K. Ryan

Synthetic terror?,October 25, 2006

This review is from: 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA, Fourth Edition (Paperback) Webster Griffin Tarpley is a proponent of the so-called `MIHOP' (Make It Happen On Purpose) 9/11 theory. His book `9/11 Synthetic Terror' is an attempt to prove that rogue elements within the US government planned and executed the 9/11 attacks in order to further their own global strategic goals. In Tarpley's theory, figures like Osama bin Laden and Mohammed Atta are simply patsies for an Anglo-American global fascist plot.

Although the author does succeed in exposing the rampant corruption and subversion in the American political establishment, too many of his accusations rely on hearsay and speculation. The few sources he does use seem suspect to me, and he constantly makes sensationalist or damning statements without the least bit of proof to back it up. For instance, when he claims that Pakistan sent money to 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta, he claims this was "almost certainly at the behest of the CIA." That's it, no footnote, no source, nothing. This is a consistent practice throughout the book. Another annoying habit of the author is that he constantly makes definitive judgments in cases where the evidence presented is strictly circumstantial. The entire book is filled with sentences like: "This happened, so the only explanation can be that."

The author completely whitewashes and underestimates radical Islamists and claims that poor and oppressed Muslims do not form terrorist organizations on their own. He derides the view of terrorism being a result of poverty and oppression as naïve-perhaps forgetting that many terrorists are from wealthy or middle-class backgrounds-and argues that all major terrorist attacks are really covert, state-sponsored (primarily American) operations that are used to deceive the public into supporting wars. Tarpley argues that real terrorists are either incapable of or unwilling to pull off major terrorist attacks without the support and/or encouragement of intelligence services like the CIA, KGB, MI6, and Mossad. In other words, these people are stupid, complacent, or morally above such activities. I personally found this theory to be ridiculous. The author smears and lambastes anybody who shows a semblance of belief for the "official version" of the 9/11 attacks. Words like warmonger, xenophobe, bully, and fascist are used often and unscrupulously. His constant personal attacks and self-righteous attitude get old very quick.

The author does detail some very interesting and frightening aspects that he says led to the planning of 9/11. He argues that the devaluation of the US dollar would bring an end to Anglo-American dominance and describes how the oligarchs would not let this happen. The author also describes the so-called "shadow government" that works behind the scenes, secretly influencing global events. This is essentially the "Illuminati" argument with the Anglo-American neocons as the culprits. While I believe this to an extent, I think the author attributes way too much power to this enigmatic group. Where the author is most convincing is his argument regarding the collapse of the World Trade Center, and other events of that day such as the Pentagon crash. While I don't agree with his assessment that the official version of the WTC collapse was "physically impossible," I do concede that it seems highly questionable, and that the controlled demolition theory does seem plausible.

I found myself in a sort of mental tug-of-war while reading this book. I didn't want to believe any of it, but before I knew it, I found myself seriously questioning everything I had previously believed. Then I would read something ridiculous and I would revert back to my default thinking, only to repeat this process again and again. I think the author argues his case very cleverly-albeit unscrupulously-and does a good job of exposing the many inconsistencies in the official version of 9/11 as well as some of the deceitful practices of certain governmental agencies. But concerning the question of whether 9/11 was an inside job; Tarpley's case is based on too much speculation and circumstantial evidence. And while he offers some very plausible-and frightening-theories, almost all of them have an equally reasonable, counter-argument. With that said, I will grudgingly admit that 9/11 could have possibly been an "inside job." There are many glaring inconsistencies and unlikelihoods in the official version of events that merit further investigation. So I would urge anyone interested in the subject to read the book and come to their own conclusions. 3.5 stars.

[Sep 12, 2012] Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency

J. A Magill

A powerful indictment, September 16, 2008

Though I've not checked Fox News, no doubt the long knives are out for Barton Gellman. Angler, his portrait of Vice President Cheney is nothing short of devastating. However, for all of the charges Gellman lodges, the author never loses sight of his subject. While some may use Angler to support their two-dimensional mustache twisting image of the Vice President - or alternatively charge Gellman of offering such a portrait as a way of dismissing this excellent work of journalism - careful readers will find that the work offers a view with no small amount of nuance. The vision of Cheney offers is one created by a combination of the man's long held vision that executive power was unduly limited after the Nixon years - something he has long wished to "correct" - and his belief that in the wake of 9/11 the Government should not be constraint in any way in its efforts to prevent a future attack.

The result is nothing short of a toxic stew. Thus the VP, along with his senior staffers Libby and Addington threatened cajoled and manipulated their way into any action they thought necessary, regardless of the law. Gellman offers ample evidence for the charges he levels; likely owing the near end of the Bush reign, more than a few sources went on the record. Some have appeared elsewhere, such as Jack Goldsmith who worked in the Justice Department, while others are new, such as Former Majority Leader Dick Armey describing a meeting in the House in the run-up to the war where Cheney claimed that not only did they have unreleased proof that Saddam and his family had "close" relations with Al Qaeda, but that Iraq was getting close to creating miniaturized nuclear weapons. While in retrospect Cheney's claims more than strain credulity, one can imagine why Armey could not imagine the VP lying about such grave matters and, connecting the dots, switched his position to support the invasion.

Readers will also find interesting Gellman's careful work in explaining how Cheney achieved the level of power he did in the Bush White House. Beyond the obvious - a disengaged President with little intellectual curiosity as has been so well described by writers like Bob Woodward - Gellman offers insights into Cheney's use of his superior understanding of Washington, information, and access as the roads to power. By surrounding himself with the most experienced expert staff, as well as placing key allies at the second, third, and fourth layer of cabinet offices, Cheney was able to insert himself as a sort of Prime Minister, controlling the daily decision making of the Executive Branch. Gellman also provides interesting evidence of Cheney's declining influence as Bush's second term continued and he confronted other players with the President's ear.

Those who dismiss Gellman as an ideologue will be missing a useful and thoughtful examination of the inner workings of the Bush White House. His combination of journalist experience and understanding of foreign policy -- his concise examination of George Kennan remains a must read - make him the ideal person to write this important work.

Loyd E. Eskildson

Excellent Material! September 17, 2008

"Angler" is the code-name used by the Secret Service to refer to V.P. Cheney. "Angler" the book tells the story of V.P. Cheney's role in the Bush administration - from his selection as candidate, his initial moves before even taking office, to his ability to influence decision-making throughout the Bush term, and does this in a calm, credible manner.

Selecting a Running Mate: Bush asked Cheney early on, and was turned down. This, per Gellman, only increased Cheney's appeal. Bush II had witnessed tensions between his father's White House staff and those looking out for Dan Quayle's future; Cheney, in addition, had told him about problems between Nixon-Ford, and Ford-Rockefeller. Bush did not interview a single candidate before settling on Cheney. Further, Cheney negotiated his expanded role at the beginning - "I want to be a real partner in helping you reach decisions."

Cheney's Role in Staffing Positions: Cheney's commanding role on major appointments was without precedent. He recruited candidates, pre-interviewed them, and escorted them for Bush's approval in Austin. For State, Bush already set his sights on Colin Powell, and Linda Chavez for Labor (she withdrew after a nanny-scandal). Cheney brought in Rumsfeld, Whitman (EPA), and O'Neill (Treasury).

Cheney did not stop at the cabinet - 2nd and 3rd ranking officials (eg. Hadley, Bolton) could be vital allies. In policy fields he cared about Cheney placed people even deeper in the bureaucracy. The list did not include most of the Friends of George from the Republican Governor's Association.

"Scooter" Libby was made national security advisor, chief of the V.P. staff, and assistant to the president.

Cheney Gets Personally Involved: Early on (12/03/00), Cheney got his imprint in on the economy by suggesting a recession looked likely - setting the stage to blame Clinton and cut taxes. Cheney also attended almost all NSC meetings and briefed Bush afterwards (Rice did also - separately.) Cheney joined the regular Wednesday lunch of the president's economic team (secretaries of labor, commerce, and treasury, also the budget director), and the National Economic Council, the weekly Senate Republican caucus (LBJ was the last V.P. that tried - he was blocked by the Senators; Cheney pointed out that he was President of the Senate).

Also, the White House created a panel called the Budget Review Board, with Cheney as chair. Overseeing the budget was exactly the find of serious, boring work that Bush disliked, and Cheney thrived in the vacuum. Conflicts with OMB went to the Board, and no one appealed further to Bush.

Cheney also usually sent a staff member to Norquist's Wednesday anti-tax luncheons. Cheney had abandoned Milton Friedman's "no free lunch" maxim for Laffer's supply-side economics - despite serious objection from his long-time friends Paul O'Neil and Alan Greenspan.

Unlike most of his rivals and even the president, Cheney knew what he wanted. One of his first assignments to staff was a fast-track review of Clinton's departing executive orders, accompanied by an order to stop associated operations at the Government Printing Office. (Cheney knew that regulations have no force until printed in the Federal Register). He also got Bush to freeze hiring for everyone whose paperwork wasn't complete.

Cheney then finagled an office on the House side - close to the action on tax-writing. Greenspan began weekly visits to the White House - mostly to see Cheney. One important result was taking Greenspan out of 100% opposition to the Bush tax cuts.

Cheney worked With Andy Card to undermine Sen. Chafee's opposition to the bush tax cut, and convinced Bush to stand firm against Jefford's threat to bolt the party is not given additional Special Education funds. (Cheney reasoned that the R's had already de facto lost control, and did not want to reward threats.)

The Energy Task Force: Cheney asked for chairmanship of the task force on energy. Prior to starting, he directed an assistant to devise a structure that would leave the task force beyond reach of the Federal Advisory Commission Act (Hillary's undoing). This was achieved by limiting "membership" limited to employees of the executive branch. When challenged, Cheney convinced Bush to fight disclosure, contrary to most other advisers; his aim was to set a precedent and gain power.

Environmental groups were limited to a single meeting, and used up half the time making introductions; regardless, Cheney did not attend. An early goal became to walk Bush back from support for reducing CO2; Cheney was aided by four R Senators' requesting clarification from Bush. EPA. Secretary Whitman sensed a problem, scheduled a meeting with Bush, but was beat by Cheney's presenting a proposed response to the Senators.

How did he do it - his energy task force portrayed the scientific debate as complex, and unresolved. Bush hated wading into that sort of situation and usually told experts to come back when they had hammered out their facts. Cheney also called for smarter policy and technology to avoid the choice between less energy and greater pollution.

Cheney sat in on the president's daily briefings - AFTER receiving the briefing himself earlier in the A.M. Thus prepared, he was able to shape the president's briefing as well as make comments of his own.

Following these paths gave Cheney awareness and involvement in much of went on in the White House early on. From here on he was in an ideal position to play a leading role, detailed in an interesting and credible manner by "Angler," in the Bush administration. This included not just influencing decisions but also ensuring they were carried out - eg. "defanging" new source EPA rules for coal-fired power plants.

Still another source of Cheney's strength was his long-term relationships with numerous members of Congress, which he sometimes strained with slanted and stretched versions of reality (eg. describing Iraq's dangerousness to Rep. Armey to convince him to support war).

Bottom Line: "Angler" shows V.P. Cheney did not acquire his power and influence by accident - it was built through his experience and learning in prior decades at the top levels of government. Clearly he has transformed the nature of the office, and was aided in doing so by an uninvolved, incurious president who was also a poor manager (eg. failure to follow-up directive to Rumsfeld to begin Guantanamo trials, to back up Rice vs. Rumsfeld; to quickly realize "Brownie" was incompetent - Cheney did).

On the other hand, Cheney's ignoring warnings pre-9/11 (along with Bush), sometimes duplicity, and lack of pragmatism in favor of erroneous policies (eg. resisting information requests, even from the 9/11 Commission; almost marching the administration over the cliff regarding reauthorization for internal eavesdropping; lack of sensitivity to growing opposition to the Iraq War) are serious, irredeemable flaws.

Finally, to be fair, it should also be pointed out that Cheney was scrupulous in avoiding possible personal gain from his actions (eg. the Energy Task Force).

Future Watch Writer

A very disturbing book about American leadership September 17, 2008

I used to have a great deal of respect for Dick Cheney. He did a great job of running the 1991 war with Iraq. His 2001 energy plan was well researched and professional even thought some people (including myself) felt it should have been more oriented to renewable energy.

However, since September 11, 2001 Dick Cheney has strongly promoted some totally disastrous policies such as the decision to go to war with Iraq.

This book contains some truly stunning accusations. It suggests that Cheney's role in picking himself as Bush's running mate when he was in charge of finding a running mate for Bush in 2000 had serious ethical breaches. There is a suggestion that Cheney was less than candid about his health problems.

The author suggests that Cheney knowingly lied to Dick Armey (House Majority Leader) about intelligence concerning the (nonexistent) relationship between 9/11 terrorists and Saddam Hussein.

There is more disturbing material concerning Cheney's alleged role in encouraging the use of torture against terrorism suspects and the use of domestic wiretapping.

It is interesting that Gelman knocks down one of the most popular accusations against Cheney, the notion that he wanted to use his office for private financial gain or the benefit of the oil industry or his previous employer, Halliburton. In a recent interview with Harper's magazine, Gellman states,

"There's no venality here. Cheney was not trying to aggrandize himself, to steer money to friends, or to set himself up for higher office. He simply believed that the stakes were high and he was more capable than others. He saw the world, he believed, as it truly is and was prepared to do the "unpleasant" things that had to be done to safeguard us. Cheney is a rare combination: a zealot in principle and a subtle, skillful tactician in practice."

I can't vouch for the accuracy of all that's in this book. It may be true. It may not be - although the reporter is a very professional journalist.

What I can say is that this is a serious book that should be read and considered by American citizens. This is a book that should be read and debated by Amazon readers.

This whole situation is very depressing story about a talented man who did a lot of good in the past but went in a truly disastrous direction since 9/11/2001.

The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals

luke mccullough (Norah head, nsw, AU) Outstanding book implicating those truly responsible, June 3, 2012
Jane Mayer has compiled an insightful look into just how the War on Terror turned into a war on both American, and I dare say global-ideals. What I liked most about this book is the fact that much less emphasis is placed on George Bush's role in the War on Terror and placed fittingly with the men who actually were the architects; Addington, Flanigan, Yoo, Gonzales and Haynes. The Office of the Legal Council's egotistical lawyers are the men responsible for interpreting the Federalist Papers in a draconian manner and changing Terrorism form a criminal matter to a military matter. Hence we now have a war waged on a noun (terror). Mayer correctly limits Bush's role, which I believe pays homage to Mr. Bush's lack of actual intelligence. I find it interesting to read other reviews, which brand this book nothing, but 'Bush hate' bias material when in reality he is barley mentioned. Either they have not read the book, or more likely it is perhaps the complexity of politics exceeds the reviewer's capabilities?

Mayer's research also highlights the pitiful relationship between the criminal prosecuting FBI and the intelligence gathering CIA in the lead up to September 11 and beyond in Guantanamo Bay. She dovetails through key moments during 1999 and 2000 where intelligence information and surveillance on Al-Qaeda meetings were not shared or were suppressed between the CIA and the FBI. Thus the question arises; could September 11 have been prevented if correct information was shared between the intelligence and criminal branches of US security? And secondly, if so who is responsible?

My only reservation in Mayer's research is aimed towards her slant on demonizing Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. Yes, the ICRC evaluated the situation in Guantanamo Bay and ruled torture was committed, therefore I could never take a position supporting them. However, despite being ethically unjust, in some circumstances they did yield information which provided leads preventing further terrorist strikes. The Senate Hearing on the Bush Administration Detainee Interrogation Program (05-13-09) provides an interesting approach on the use of EIT's. The Acting Subcommittee Ranking Member, Sen. Lindsey Graham notes that that popular opinion suggesting `no good information came from EIT's' is not accurate, however he follows on by saying `that does not justify their use.' Both Mayer's book `Dark Side', and Ali Soufan's book `Black Banners,' both cite this Senate Hearing in their argument; however both omit any sign of the EIT counterargument. The exchanges between Special Agent Ali Soufan and Sen. Graham indicate both agree in some scenarios that they did work. Again, I am not promoting EIT's or justifying their use, rather suggesting the source used by both authors is curbed to parallel their particular stance on the issue.

This is one of the only books I have recommended to friends, and Mayer's research has earned a place on my bookshelf. By far the best piece of work I have read to date, giving an insight into just how world ideals have dramatically declined post September 11.

Luke.

Robert Carlberg (Seattle)

"Inept, incompetent and improper", September 27, 2011

By now we've all heard the stories of Dick Cheney's incredible immorality, his cartoonish similarities to Darth Vader, how he destroyed America's ideals, reputation and economy all in the pursuit of less than two dozen terrorists. Cheney surrounded himself with yes-man flunkies (including David Addison, Donald Rumsfeld, Scooter Libby, John Yoo, William Haynes, George Bush, Timothy Flanigan and others) which gave his treasonous power grab the imprimatur of legality, although history has already turned definitively against him. The Cheney Administration will long be remembered as the darkest hour of the American experiment.

Jane Mayer's book details the appalling descent after 9/11, the wanton misuse of American capital both fiscal and political, the venal personalities and the terrifying path we were led down -- not by terrorists, but by those entrusted with protecting us from them. It's a sober, scholarly and altogether horrifying account.

Timothy Griffin "skip_in_reno" (reno, NV)

Required Reading for Patriots, July 2, 2011

To the extent we can take Mayer at her word, this is a disturbing and compelling read. The metaphor of the "dark side" is a rich one. While Dick Cheney intended the expression, during his famous interview, to signify America taking off the gloves to combat terrorists, it was an unintended (or perhaps subconscious) premonition of the ugly part of ourselves that can emerge when we are threatened. If you believe America is worth fighting for (and even after reading this I still think it is), reading this book will remind you of the why and the how of going about that fight. We must fight to preserver our values, not flout them in the name of a false sense of "security".

Summary:

Mayer portrays a gaggle of scofflaws, such as Dick Cheney's legal council David Addington and DOJ Office of Legal Counsel attorney John Yoo, essentially conducting national foreign, military, and legal policy like a group of unruly boys who have discovered their fathers' caches of guns and beer. Along with the rest of the "War Council", they routinely contrived Constitution- - and treaty-skirting legalese to justify intensified aggression in the war on terror, circumvention of normal chains of communication and command, routine violation of accepted standards of military and legal conduct, and "enhanced interrogation" techniques including the well-discussed water boarding but numerous other barbarities as well. What you sense from reading the book is that these people genuinely thought they were cutting through the red tape of legal procedure to act in American interests, although Mayer`s language does not directly grant them the benefit of the doubt for this reasonable motive.

What Mayer does hammer home is her view that these activities were not just illegal and immoral (many examples of innocents needlessly suffering at American hands turn the stomach), but were ultimately ineffective relative to traditional investigation and counterterrorism technique. It would be a more compelling dilemma if water boarding KSM actually accomplished anything, but it turns out it did *not* accomplish anything that was not already being achieved through routine investigation. Furthermore, false intel from terror suspects simply attempting to end their torment by telling interrogators what they wanted to hear led to numerous goose chases, including the war in Iraq. Its one thing to break the law to win; it's quite another when you break your own laws and hurt your own cause in the process.

While some view the book as an anti-Bush/Cheney screed, many ideological conservatives -- the type of people Mayer would otherwise be at odds with -- come off as heroes for their willingness to oppose the Bush Administration's renegade approach and eventually restore order to American criminal procedure. In the end Mayer praises those who were willing to resist hysteria in the name of the rule of law, and reminds us of why America is supposed to be worth fighting for in the first place.

Response to other reviewers:

Whenever I like a book I always read the other side, so I went and checked all the one-star reviews. The best criticism was from someone who noted the reliance on some anonymous sources forces some skepticism. This is certainly true, but it's ironic when you consider that similar anonymity of sources prevailed during some of the very criminal/intelligence operations the book portrays. Another critic said that Mayer's portrayal of John Lind's extradition was flawed, but never specified how. In any event Mayer's key point about the Lind case was that Lind had a reasonable defense against charges of consciously acting against the United States. The critic did not challenge this central point and it makes me wonder if it's because he knows no such challenge is possible.

Here was one odd criticism:

"She [Mayer] attributes legislative power to Bush when almost every elementary student knows that Congress, not the president, makes the laws, and the president's duty is to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed, If Bush's acts were as unconstitutional as she claims, Congress could have, but did not, refuse to pay for them."

This is an argument?

Mayer's entire point is that the Bush administration did *not* faithfully execute American law *or* abide by constitutional and international norms. Mayer clearly explains that Congressional resistance -- whatever form it might have taken -- was stifled precisely because no one wanted to look "soft on terror" in the post-911 context. If that is to Congress's shame so be it. But this does not in any way diminish the accuracy of Mayer's work.

Here were some juicy ones:

"Thank God for George Bush and Dick Cheney that protected us from these civilian killers. If it takes pouring water over their face to simulate drowning to save mine, or your family.........sign me up. Humiliation is not torture."

"Do[sic] [Mayer] understand that under the Rules of Criminal Procedure, matters of national security would have to be disclosed to defendants during a criminal prosecution? Is that really wise and would it keep us safe?"

"Ms. Mayer clearly represents that large group of liberals who prefer to be dead rather than even twist the pinky toe of a terrorist. Bush-haters will love this book . . . "

And most poignantly:

"In this book she takes a moral position that murderous people with evil intentions have more rights than the people they kill and that the men and women trying to defeat them are essentially evil. That sadly is just not true."

All of these comments illustrate the very xenophobia and paranoia that got us into the moral and legal wreck that Mayer describes in her book. The first critic claimed to have "hated" the book when it is clear he did not read it. One of Mayer's key points is that water boarding and other violations of international law and military codes of conduct *hurt* our prospects in the war on terror by alienating allies and steeling the resolve of our enemies. Furthermore, the issue of "matters of national security" became a blanket protection against disclosure of misconduct. The Bush administration disrupted a generally noble (if of course imperfect) American tradition of humane treatment of enemy combatants that had served us well until the War Council decided they knew better and threw out two centuries of American tradition.

What these critics also don't realize is that under the Bush administration, virtually *no one* was ever prosecuted for crimes -- *precisely* because their interrogations would never withstand scrutiny in any reasonable court. And I *dare* the last negative reviewer to produce any quote that substantiates this slur that Mayer believes murderers have "more rights" than their victims. If this fat-mouthed critic had actually read the book, he would have known that what we learned to our horror was that numerous *innocent* people were caught up in this crazed witch hunt.

Simply put, these abuses hurt innocent people, wasted our material and personnel resources, and made us no safer -- and possibly less so.

2bluesky2 (Corvallis, Oregon)

The War On Terror has itself become a dangerous threat to our security and liberty., December 2, 2010

When a government kidnaps, tortures, uses indefinite incarcerations, and kills without accountability, it is a danger to its citizens. But, as The Dark Side shows, that is exactly the power the US government secretly claimed and exercised after the 9/11 attacks. The US government denied any limitations on it power to conduct - as it saw fit - the War On Terror. This book documents many scary ways the government conducts the War On Terror.

Even democratic governments assume dictatorial-like powers in wartime. But the War On Terror is different. Congress never declared a war. There is no government, or state, or nation with which we are at war. There will always be "terrorists." There always have been. There is no way to know when the War On Terror is over and has been won. So, the War On Terror will have no end. It will be perpetual. The wartime powers the government assumed will never end.

War On Terror enthusiasts rely upon the claim that due to War On Terror we have not been hit since the 9/11 attacks. There are two main responses to this mistaken notion. First, we don't know if there has ever been another credible terrorist threat comparable to 9/11. In his book, Overblown, John E. Mueller argues that there has never been and likely will never be another such terrorist threat. His book is an excellent companion book to The Dark Side. Second, many more Americans have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan (over 5,000) than died in the 9/11 attacks. Those two wars have been more costly to the US than all the damage from the 9/11 attacks. War On Terror enthusiasts also ignore the estimated over 100,000 Iraqi's and Afghans killed, the over 2 million refugees just from the Iraq War, and the enormous devastation wreaked on both Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of the War On Terror. The magnitude of the US government overreaction to 9/11 in Iraq and Afghanistan is staggering. The War On Terror has been much more deadly and devastating than the evil it purports to combat.

Lord Acton famously pointed out that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." With history as our guide, we know that all of the War on Terror abuses our government inflicts on foreigners will eventually be inflicted on our own citizens as well. We already see evidence of that happening. Abuse always tends to escalate. Power corrupts.

The War On Terror corrodes our liberties and its proponents can't convincingly show any improvement in our security. The Dark Side provides a lot of scary information to alert us to the dangerous road we are on. This country was founded upon the right of active citizens to oppose government abuses. We can draw upon that heritage to meet today's new threats to our security and liberty. The War On Terror is indeed such a one.

Franklin the Mouse (Gorham, ME USA)

A Comedy Of Terrors, November 17, 2010

Ms. Mayer has done a great service for our country by writing this book. She lays out in a highly informative and engrossing read how the Bush Administration fell into the abyss of sanctioning torture and denying individuals their civil rights. The Machiavelian Vice-President Cheney, his right-hand troll David Addington and legal adviser John Yoo come under especially harsh criticism. Addington's and Yoo's Orwellian, legalistic sophistry in justifying torture and how the President is above the law is truly breathtaking. If these two are considered to be the best and the brightest of the legal community then our nation is in deep doo-doo.

Once the Abu Ghraib torture photos came out, it's almost comical how the CIA and some cabinet members scurry around in damage-control mode trying to save their own little hinnies. Some of the descriptions of torture are difficult to read. The subterfuge by especially Cheney, Addington, Rumsfeld, Yoo, Tenet, Gonzales and some personnel is infuriating.

The book, however, also explains how many people within the FBI, some military officials and conservative Republicans working within the Administration heroically tried to thwart Cheney's monstrous shenanigans. Well worth reading if you care about our nation and civil rights.

B

Great Book, October 13, 2010

I will say that I am a conservative, but still thoroughly enjoyed this book. Having the privilege to interrogate detainees on behalf of our nation working with the CITF, I was shocked at some of the techniques used by the CIA and MI side of the house. While most of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" has been reported and were well documented by Mayer, I was shocked at how inept the interviewing skills of our biggest intelligence agencies. All the examples wherein Mayer states the interrogator would make the detainees "dance", "act like a dog", etc. were mind boggling to me. How does our nation end up with people interrogating some of the biggest criminals in the world (I agree numerous people at Gitmo are innocent) that have no experience and no idea how to interview someone. From my personal experience, a detective working the street would have much more success than the techniques used by a majority of interrogators in the book.

Overall, I would say it was a well written book. I began reading the book understanding that Mayer was 'anti-Bush', but she lays out a lot of facts that could be eyeopening to some; to include the fact that it was likely Bush simply didn't have oversight and was mislead by his own legal team during the time immediately after 9/11. Hopefully we will grow from this as a nation, and realize the US wasn't the only country guilty and complicit in the entire situation. I for one, can't rule out that the CIA has always been doing this type of activity, it is just now readily available for public oversight.

A must read for people actively involved in the field of counter-terrorism!

[Sep 12, 2012] The Bush White House Was Deaf to 9-11 Warnings - NYTimes.com

They needed a new Pearl Harbor, and they got what they wished for on 9-11.

IT was perhaps the most famous presidential briefing in history.

On Aug. 6, 2001, President George W. Bush received a classified review of the threats posed by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, Al Qaeda. That morning's "presidential daily brief" - the top-secret document prepared by America's intelligence agencies - featured the now-infamous heading: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." A few weeks later, on 9/11, Al Qaeda accomplished that goal.

On April 10, 2004, the Bush White House declassified that daily brief - and only that daily brief - in response to pressure from the 9/11 Commission, which was investigating the events leading to the attack. Administration officials dismissed the document's significance, saying that, despite the jaw-dropping headline, it was only an assessment of Al Qaeda's history, not a warning of the impending attack. While some critics considered that claim absurd, a close reading of the brief showed that the argument had some validity.

That is, unless it was read in conjunction with the daily briefs preceding Aug. 6, the ones the Bush administration would not release. While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them, along with other recently declassified records, and come to an inescapable conclusion: the administration's reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed. In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that "a group presently in the United States" was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be "imminent," although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives' suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.

In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real.

"The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden," the daily brief of June 29 read, using the government's transliteration of Bin Laden's first name. Going on for more than a page, the document recited much of the evidence, including an interview that month with a Middle Eastern journalist in which Bin Laden aides warned of a coming attack, as well as competitive pressures that the terrorist leader was feeling, given the number of Islamists being recruited for the separatist Russian region of Chechnya.

And the C.I.A. repeated the warnings in the briefs that followed. Operatives connected to Bin Laden, one reported on June 29, expected the planned near-term attacks to have "dramatic consequences," including major casualties. On July 1, the brief stated that the operation had been delayed, but "will occur soon." Some of the briefs again reminded Mr. Bush that the attack timing was flexible, and that, despite any perceived delay, the planned assault was on track.

Yet, the White House failed to take significant action. Officials at the Counterterrorism Center of the C.I.A. grew apoplectic. On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews. The suggestion was batted down, they said, because there would be no time to train anyone else.

That same day in Chechnya, according to intelligence I reviewed, Ibn Al-Khattab, an extremist who was known for his brutality and his links to Al Qaeda, told his followers that there would soon be very big news. Within 48 hours, an intelligence official told me, that information was conveyed to the White House, providing more data supporting the C.I.A.'s warnings. Still, the alarm bells didn't sound.

On July 24, Mr. Bush was notified that the attack was still being readied, but that it had been postponed, perhaps by a few months. But the president did not feel the briefings on potential attacks were sufficient, one intelligence official told me, and instead asked for a broader analysis on Al Qaeda, its aspirations and its history. In response, the C.I.A. set to work on the Aug. 6 brief.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush officials attempted to deflect criticism that they had ignored C.I.A. warnings by saying they had not been told when and where the attack would occur. That is true, as far as it goes, but it misses the point. Throughout that summer, there were events that might have exposed the plans, had the government been on high alert. Indeed, even as the Aug. 6 brief was being prepared, Mohamed al-Kahtani, a Saudi believed to have been assigned a role in the 9/11 attacks, was stopped at an airport in Orlando, Fla., by a suspicious customs agent and sent back overseas on Aug. 4. Two weeks later, another co-conspirator, Zacarias Moussaoui, was arrested on immigration charges in Minnesota after arousing suspicions at a flight school. But the dots were not connected, and Washington did not react.

Could the 9/11 attack have been stopped, had the Bush team reacted with urgency to the warnings contained in all of those daily briefs? We can't ever know. And that may be the most agonizing reality of all.

Kurt Eichenwald, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a former reporter for The New York Times, is the author of "500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars."

Victor Morin, Minnesota

It was clear from early on, despite the dog and pony shows put on by Ms. Rice and others at the 9/11 Commission hearings, that the Bush Administration was asleep at the wheel prior to 9/11/11. What was never clear was why -- -your analysis provides a credible explanation. Bush/Cheney were blinded by ideology and misplaced focus. It is remarkable the Republicans currently running for office are not having to explain their party's failure to take actions that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks.

You know if 9/11 had occurred during a Democratic administration, the Republicans would be playing the blame game for a generation, but they are totally silent on their own negligence. Those who lost loved ones that day and the rest of us should hold them accountable.

Mike, Washington

.Isn't that what history is? An extended exercise in 20/20 hindsight as more and more primary materials become available? We can rest comfortably with our first impressions (e.g., that President Bush was presented with a single cryptic warning about a threat of terrorist activity which he perhaps did not take as seriously as he should have), or we can continue to refine our understanding of history (e.g., by recognizing how many serious warnings the President received and how negligent, incompetent and culpable he and his Iraq-obsessed advisers were at the outset of his administration).

Does it matter? In the long term, history informs our understanding of our past. In the short term, it perhaps helps to bring some perspective to the claims of Republican apologists for the Bush Administration (such as Jeb Bush at the convention) who repeat the mantra that President Bush "kept us safe" from terrorism -- a perspective that is important given the number of Bush Administration officials advising candidate Romney on foreign policy..

InvokingDiotima, Phoenix, AZ

Judging from George Pataki's desperate defensiveness on Morning Joe today, Eichenwald's column has clearly struck a nerve. The neo-cons know that the truth will not stay under the rug forever. Eventually, the dots will be connected between the hear-no-evil willful ignorance of the Bush Administration, their refusal to act on the warnings, and the Project For A New American Century. They needed a new Pearl Harbor, and they got what they wished for on 9-11.

Is it too soon to utter the word, "treason"? American names will live in infamy as sin of opportunistic omission accomplices to bin Laden and Al Qaeda. And to what purpose? Oil, and sheer lust for power, domination and control.

2bits, Nashville

It's pretty much impossible to stop attacks against "soft" targets. The best solution so far is to step up attacks on terrorist bases to keep them from planning such attacks. This combined with an independent intelligence agency that is taken seriously is the only strategy that has been proven effective. Zacarias Moussaoui was a huge catch in MN, and that field office was screaming as loudly as they could, but nobody listened.

As to the final question: could this have been prevented? My vote is yes. The most significant terrorist attack in history occurred during the early years of an inept presidency. The CIA had been effectively downgraded and no longer had weekly meetings with the president. Ideology had really changed the pragmatic nature of governing. I even question the role of the Afganistan Pipeline in all of this. The only practical way to reduce Al Qaida's planing ability was to bomb their known bases. These were largely within Afganistan, and US action would have jeopardized other US interests. It's a subtle thing in that it is hard to explain without sounding like a crackpot, I certainly don't propose that the neocons intentionally disregarded sound and clear evidence to make a buck. The nature of the job is to weigh risks and my opinion is that the US oil interests (these are legitimate interests) and the uncertain intelligence assessment were assessed differently by the Bush team than they would have been by any other presidential team.

Pam, Alaska

If you pay attention to architects and engineers for 911 truth, it gets even worse. The laws of physics don't lie, but according to the US govt, they were suspended on 9/11/2001

RobSan, Francisco

The hard and cruel lesson here is that we do not "create our own reality." The danger of that dogma is more apparent than ever. It allows the believer to accept any reality as his own doing and live in the throws of solipsistic denial.

Ms. Rice is the perfect example -- it is all about me and you are on your own. Certain things are unforgivable that occurred during the neoconservative reign and 9/11 tops the list. Frankly, one wonders who they think they are and how they sleep at night.

Jennifer Jones, Oakland

When 9/11 happened, I remember vividly the discussion I had with a fellow American - we knew instinctively that there was a reason this attack was not stopped - we suspected the reason was an excuse to start war, more specifically, as it became clearer in the months following, a war against Iraq. Later the fact that Mr. Cheney had been reported saying sometime in the months before the attack "we need another Pearl Harbor". Well, they got what they wanted. And even though the article doesn't draw this conclusion, I know in my heart the attacks were allowed to happen in order to justify war against Hussein, which was Cheney's sole aim. Don't forget he and his companies made billions on the Iraqi war, while we ended up trillions in debt. Add this war crime to the crimes of torture they gave us (not to speak of the sullied American reputation worldwide), and I expect to see both Bush and Cheney in the dock before I die... ps. America will be an idiot nation if they put these neocons back in the White House..

peonytigerPoint Roberts, WAReport

While Condoleeza Rice was being feverishly applauded at the Republican National Convention this past August, I wondered how so many people could forget her part in this 9/11 debacle. She may be the next Republican candidate in 2016. How quickly everyone forgets. She should be made to tell us the truth not be allowed to lead us into another war.

finchdog, Seattle

As I recall, in the summer of 2001 Newsweek or another national magazine reported that Attorney General John Ashcroft, had stopped flying commercial aircraft due to an unspecified threat. After 9-11 the Bush Administration and FBI insisted that the threat was unrelated to 9-11 and Congress and the media let the matter drop.

To me, it looks like Bush Administration took the threats seriously enough to protect themselves, while leaving the American public to fend for themselves. Typical self-centered narcissistic GOP governance.

Thomas, JohnsonKane County, IL

The focus by the George W. Bush administration from day one on inventing reasons to invade Iraq have been well documented. One good article on this appeared years ago in Mother Jones:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2004/01/lie-factory

W and company were so determined to invade Iraq that they apparently ignored the real threats from Osama bin Laden.

Ricardo, New York

This story illustrates that, as inept as they were at actual governing, the Bush-Cheney-Rove chicken hawks were masterful politically. They realized quickly that the best way to deflect attention from their incompetence against real terrorism was to gin up the war on Iraq, thereby sanctifying Bush as a 'wartime President', knowing that Americans are loathe to change leaders during a war.

Stunningly cynical and effective. We cant let this happen again this year with their spawn, the Romney-Rand clan.

M Elvin, NC

A very full account of all the warnings we received prior to 9/11 can be found in Susan Lindauer's book, Extreme Prejudice. They include warnings from many governments, including Afghanistan's Taliban foreign minister, that Bin Laden was planning an aerial attack on US soil. At the time, the Afghan government was our cooperative ally, and had been receiving US aid to eliminate their opium crop (at which task they had been far more successful than we are now). What's new is only that this story is now appearing on the pages of the paper of record, the NYT.

A complete picture can also be gained from accessing the "9/11 timeline- warnings" pages of historycommons.org. Try it in a day or two, the site is currently crashed.

LAinNC, North Carolina

Follow the money. The Neoconservatives pulled off the most thorough and deliberate looting of the US Treasury in history and are determined "hit" the same bank twice if Romney is elected.

Gerry Rempel, Eugene, OR

it was an inside job rendering all else moot. Bush the buffoon was clueless but neocon slime bags Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and others obviously played key roles. Hack beginner pilots having a couple of flight lessons in crop dusters don't perform miraculous flying skills flying jumbo jets into buildings. Jet fuel doesn't melt steel and buildings don't implode at free fall speed perfectly in their own foot prints unless they are professional demolitions. Oh, and let's not forget building #7 that imploded perfectly when it wasn't even hit by a plane. It remains to be seen whether Americans can wake up and smell the con job

Boo, East Lansing Michigan

Journalism about 9/11 - only 11 years too late. My husband and I remember asking questions at the time and being made to feel unpatriotic by some of our own relatives. I also remember wondering why the media was embedded with the troops and not taking an objective look at "shock and awe" and what the consequences for our nation would be. So many lives lost, so many lives ruined and trillions spent on what? Oil? False bravado? My god, we sent troops to fight a guerilla war without body armor!

BatCat, Severna Park, MD

9/11 happened just as it was supposed to happen. The deafness before the storm was fully intentional. Bush didn't fail to respond because he was asleep at the switch. He intentionally failed to respond.

Cheney, Rumsfeld and unregistered foreign agents in the form of Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle, Wormser, Kristol and others wanted another Pearl Harbor and they got it.

The irrational attack on Iraq following 9/11 was the point:

Gerry Rempel, Eugene, OR

It was an inside job masterminded by neocons and military industrialist profiteers. Everything else is moot

awake2012, New Mexico

Be afraid, be very afraid. Romney has surrounded himself with some of the same neocons that brought us 9/11. People who thirst for power and don't live by facts, but instead an ideology, are dangerous. Romney and Ryan have more than adequately displayed a disdain for critical thinking, factual information and an ability to see what is beyond their own belief systems. Their ardent worship of their own beliefs (in the case of Romney, entitlement) masquerades as some kind of intellectual prowess built on invention supported by lies.

As in the Bush years, accountability for results is for the little people. Romney's overall results as governor do not rise to the occasion of being qualified for President. And Ryan, who has never been elected to office beyond his 700,000 person constituency should be disqualified based on the fact that he lies. The records of both of these men live in the same paradigm that the failed Bush years brought us.

Phil M, New Jersey

What if the Bush administration knew that an attack was imminent and allowed it to happen? The purpose would have been using the wars as a distraction while Bush and his corporate cronies stole the country and decimated our democracy. The neo-cons knew how complacent the American public had become by 9/11 which created a tremendous advantage for his administration to exploit.

bajacalla, new mexico

so apparently Bush wasn't just reading "The Pet Goat," he WAS the pet goat.

DBSR, Napa Valley, CA

It could be argued that with Bushes & Chenys' close associations with the Bin-Ladin Family, that they purposely (for personal gain) ignored the warnings that were coming through the CIA and other channels, as to make them appear as false. As I understand, during the attacks, some of Bin-Ladins family were at his house and he was in a rush to get them on planes and out of this country!

looking for the truth, seattle

do you remember this? probably not:

UnionLeague, NY,NY

Let's get something straight, the Bush/Cheney Administration knew the attack was coming and were secretly delighted at the prospect. They clearly concluded that such an event could be used to achieve multiple political and military goals, not least of which, was pursuing a "transformational war in the Middle East" and an enhanced military and political posture in that part of the world. The collateral benefits included vast new opportunities for their crony capitalist supporters in the war and petroleum industries. The United States and its People, together with countless others, have been paying the price for this misadventure ever since.

chaotician, NM

I don't know why there is any question that George and his Neo-Con Cabal fixated on justifying attacking Iraq for revenge and Oil failed to do anything to protect the Homeland! Numerous public testimonies have repeatably exposed that George did nothing, Condi did nothing, Rove did nothing, and certainly Dick and his pal Donald did less than nothing!

These "leaders" swore an OATH and they failed not through incompetence and stupidity but because of hubris, dogma, and personal agendas! Then they compounded their failure by misusing their treason as a lying excuse to attack Iraq which further contributed to gross failure in Afghanistan by misusing military resources.

The effects of their treason continues today with our failed stupid War on Terror, our outrageous stupidity in Afghanistan, and our illegal and immoral use of weapons of Terror: Drones, mercenaries, black ops, and cyber weapons! And to add insult to injury, they authorized and practiced torture for no reason than to hide their treason and be "tough" guys!

Judith Testa, Illinois

Although the conspiracy theories that Bush and his advisors actually PLANNED the 9/11 attack are absurd, there is a definite possibility that they were hoping for some kind of small attack that would rally the country behind them and assure continuing GOP victories. After all, aren't the Republicans the part of "national security?" Thus: their do-nothing attitude in the face of that report.

... ... ...

sherry bell, sedona

Mystery solved! Poppy Bush was dining with Bin Laden's relative on 9/11; days later when NO American was allowed to fly, a plane load of Bin Ladens relatives flew around and left the country. No one has explained how and why this was possible.

Jaundiced View, Eastham, MA

After reading Jane Mayer's "The Dark Side," I realized that VP Chaney, Rumsfeld, and other neocons were running the United States. George Bush, who was a figurehead and totally ignorant of what was happening, was often sent out on fundraising tours and vacations. They totally dismissed all of evidence of a pending attack even when the National Security adviser was running around with his "hair on fire." The truth will eventually come out and all those involved in this coverup should be tried before the International Court.

Alan8, USA

Why is this author, who is looking into evidence the Bush Administration disregarded warnings, ignoring the very real evidence the three WTC buildings were brought down by controlled demolition?

Military-grade nano-thermate residues (used in demolition) were found in the debris of all three WTC buildings: http://www.benthamscience.com/open/tocpj/articles/V002/7TOCPJ.htm

Steel-reenforced concrete buildings have never collapsed from just fire before 9/11 (or since), yet it happened three times that day. According to the real architects and engineers, that's impossible: www.ae911truth.org

Three buildings collapsed straight down AGAINST the path of greatest resistance, at near-free-fall acceleration. This is what always happens in a controlled demolition. It never happens from fire. And jet fuel doesn't burn hot enough to melt steel.

These false-flag "attacks" were used to justify starting two wars, trashing the Constitution, and draining the Treasury for Bush's cronies. The "investigation" of the attacks was a whitewash that covered up evidence the "official" story is a lie.

Abby, Tucson

The most disturbing item is Neocons ALREADY conflating OBL and Iraq. Cousin PJ had me all in a twist with his Zeitgeist mist, but now I have to speed the intermittent wipers.

Them or Us, New York

"Could the 9/11 attack have been stopped, had the Bush team reacted with urgency to the warnings contained in all of those daily briefs? We can't ever know."

Yes, but we do know that the Bush Administration did not even try. They did not heed the warnings from Bill Clinton. They did not heed the warnings from the CIA. They allowed this to happen on their watch, and then they took political advantage of it. They portrayed themselves as the party that would protect us from terrorist attacks, hiked up orange and red alerts at election time, and even started a war with the wrong country based on lies tying Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

I can't tell you how many I times have heard Republicans say that the Bush Admin. kept us safe, and that they were successful in preventing attacks by Al Qaeda, overlooking the fact that they missed 9/11. Could this tragedy have been prevented? We will never know. We only now that Bush, Cheney, Rice, and Rumsfeld didn't even try to stop it.

Mark, Albuquerque, NM

he problem is that Bush was a tool of a group of fanatics who drew political and economic power from their affection for Israel's far-right. Since Hussein represented, at least to this group, a grave threat to Israel, good American intelligence was subverted to facilitate his elimination. After the attacks of course, good intelligence was literally perverted to the same end. 3000 Americans died on September 11. More died in Iraq and tens of thousands are permanently disabled from service therein. The Bush administration was a shameless gang of thugs.

Igazsag, Somerville, MA

The "neocons" most probably knew what is coming, not the extent, and not that it will be 4 coordinated attacks, but they made the calculation, if there is a terrorist attack on US soil, the positive outcome for the government is great. So they brushed the danger aside and misinformed the administration. Even Condolezza Rice made a similar point; how will we use this for our advantage? They used this tragedy to invade Iraq, where plans were already underway. They tried to spin in Saddam Hussein as a culprit. They introduced the Patriots act which took away our right to privacy, they are wiretapping whom they want, they follow whom they want. There are new ways they can know and see what you are doing in your home. These methods could finally use against activists for domestic issues. All this cost billions, and increases the deficit more than food stamps. When talking about deficit, nobody mentions the unnecessary cost we pay for Patriots act, which does not keep us safer. They introduced fear in public which will now allow anything for "safety" We are spending billions and are being humiliated and radiated every time you want to fly, and we are the one paying for it. It is really sad that we have to think this way about people who advise our presidents.

Bill, Madison, Ct

The neo cons spun their own web of fantasy to live in. Thinking that bin Laden was trying to help Saddam is a complete fantasy. They hated each other. This is the problem when the people running the country have their pre-conceived notions and make reality fit them whether it does or not.

We need pragmatists to run our government, not ideological idiots such as the republican party. Franklin Roosevelt was a pragmatist. If it works, do it again. If it fails, either change it or throw it away. The republicans just keep doing the same thing over and over with no regard about how it's working except for the very rich.

DrBB, Boston

When you govern under an ideological creed that declares "Gummint never works," you produce a government that doesn't work. 9/11, Katrina, the Crash of 2008 -- only the most prominent examples. I doubt we can survive another administration that rules under the same philosophy so soon after the last one, but apparently just shy of 50% of us think it's worth giving 'em another shot at it.

Ratza Fratza

You get the feeling that there was more left unsaid behind the excuses of not knowing where and when terrorists might strike. I'm not one for conspiracy theories but at some point any independent thinker has to be drawn to the least resistent path. The flight school event should have led to a sweep of flight schools across the nation. At the very least erring on the side of diligence would have been effort well spent. Not much is said about that can of worms known as "Able Danger" where the administration and the pentagon prevented inquiry into that programs foreknowledge of the masterminds of 9/11. I'll wager 90 percent of Americans never even heard of "Able Danger". What next?

Melvin Toast, Chicago, IL

.What created chaos then tragedy was the all-too-chummy relationship between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family. This is not, however, to attack the Republicans exclusively. It was FDR who sealed America's fate as the hapless supporters of the retrograde Wahabists with whom the Saudis tied their own future after Ibn Saud, via the real sword and the one of his loins, cemented the future of an eponymous kingdom known as Saudi Arabia.

Tony Silver, Kopenhagen

American excessive backing to Israel against the Palestinians is the cause of 9/11 attack: Israel has the largest and most modern air force in the region, one of the largest in the world. Israel has killed more civilians than any other nation 2006 - present. Osama named Israel, and American support of Israel as motivation for the 9/11 attacks. Why does America give billions annually in free weapons to Israel, a major weapons dealer?

Terry, San Diego, CA

.So now how about doing what Desmond Tutu suggested and bring Bush and Blair up on international war crimes. They never paid for a huge breach of trust and an illegal war.

May i point out that the new york times (along with all major papers except the Huffington post) did not even report on Tutu'a call for this trial last week.

Leaders world wide have been prosecuted but not the Bush.

TerrySan Diego, CAReport Inappropriate Comment.Vulgar.Inflammatory.Personal Attack.Spam.Off-topic..SubmitCancel. Flag ..So now how about doing what Desmond Tutu suggested and bring Bush and Blair up on international war crimes. They never paid for a huge breach of trust and an illegal war.

May i point out that the new york times (along with all major papers except the Huffington post) did not even report on Tutu'a call for this trial last week.

Leaders world wide have been prosecuted but not the Bush.

Scandalous like the war

rawebb, Little Rock, AR

This confirms a lot of suspicions I held for years, but does not seem to matter. The voting public does not seem to hold the Republican Party responsible for anything that happened during the GWB years (like doubling the national debt and generating a $1 trillion deficit). It is amazing that nothing any Republican has done is a reflection on the Party, or seen as a predictor of what they will do in the future.

Mauiyankee, Haiku, HI

This would just be additional legacy information for the Cheney/Bush crime family.

except......

The very same NeoCons who guided the Bush policies are now at the center of the Romney/Ryan/Rand regime.

Be afraid

Be very afraid

May you always pay an oligarch's tax rate.

Umar, New York

So the people that needed a "Pearl Harbor" type of event to get us into a war with Iraq, told the White House that Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein.

The neo-cons were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled. In the end it was the White House that was fooled.

The 9/11 conspiracy theory that certain American leaders did know of the impending attack, and let it happen, does not seem as far-fetched today.

veggiedudesouth, san francisco

Weeks before 9/11, Condi Rice read a briefing called "Bin Laden to strike with suicide planes" and it was tossed aside as fiction. Clinton had Bin Laden at the top of his top ten list, which he gave to incoming Bush, but Bush took Bin Ladens name out scoffing it was no threat at all.

In truth, the neocons have planned the Iraq war since 1997 in a document that was posted online called "Project for the New American Century" and signed by many of those that later became part of Bush's cabinet. At that time they proposed it to Clinton, but he rejected it. Once Bush was in, they acted.

Bob Laughlin, Denver

It is rumored that Bush said, "We hit the trifecta" when the third plane slammed into the Pentagon. With the attacks of that day the Cheney Bush administration could consolidate power and act unilaterally and they proceeded to consolidate that power. These people were not incompetent they were, and they remain, evil. Romney would be their third term.

Impishparrot, Augusta, GA

Think of George W. Bush standing atop the wreckage of the towers, then standing in front of the "Mission Accomplished" banner on that aircraft carrier, I have to wonder how a sociopath like him ever came to occupy the White House. Anyone who thinks it does not matter who sits in the Oval Office only needs to look at this dark, dark decade in US history. Remember what uber GOP lobbyist, Grover Norquist, said in February at CPAP:

"All we have to do is replace Obama. ... We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don't need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. ... We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don't need someone to think it up or design it. The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate."

No Grover, it matters. Bush proved it. Do we really want to give the neocons backing Romney to take US back down this route again?

mqurashi, Leesburg, FL

Bush Administration was so obsessed with Iraq, that they refused to be detracted by any other information. This is typical of the persons who are immersed with their ideologies. The problem has not gone away especially in the Republican Party. They are still hung up on their ideaologies and as evident from the RNC convention, they believe that we are en empire and make our own reality. They refuse to learn any lesson from the two wasteful wars and have declare their intention ot attack Iran. These are the same syndromes that led to the fall of Roman Empire.

joe, ny

There is a difference between deafness and choosing not to hear. Threats to American interests are political gold, rarely left unused. The truth about why Dick Cheney, with his ambitious Plan For a New American Century, or Bush, son of a former head of the CIA, would choose not to hear repeatedly or keep quiet about threats is something I do not expect to be revealed because our political system and media has not held them accountable, meaning the truth could remain hidden in their hearts. What I do know is that if these warnings had been received by a Democratic administration, their weakness, passivity and impotence in the face of a terror threat would never be forgotten and their party would be stained by it until they were condemned for that impotence by the party as a whole.

J, Berkeley

Democracy is a mechanism by which the collective intelligence of the people speak forth through the political process- this was, purportedly, among our great systemic advantages over our autocratic enemies.

By circumventing this process, the supreme court put in place an administrative which literally suppressed our intelligence. The irony : America would still be the great hegemon the neocons to so desire if only it weren't for the neocons.

Ann Moore, New York City

There ARE limits to party loyalty. Anybody, Democrat OR Republican, could see at the time that the younger George Bush was intellectually incompetent for the job.

PAS, Bloomington, Illinois

9/11 eleven was the biggest theatrical event held in American. My heart goes out to those that lost their lives and those who lost loved ones. But, we still do not have the story about what happened on 9/11. There are too many unanswered questions. I do not believe that Bush was part of a conspiracy but I do believe those buildings were brought down by exposives after being hit by planes.

SlammoFandango, Sacramento, CA

The Bush administration, by September 2001, could have already set up the Police State we now live under which we have seen has not really done much but to have taken from us our freedoms and prosperity yet nothing would have changed or prevented much of anything because tactics never change outcomes; only strategies change outcome.

One outcome of changed strategy is that we no longer are being attacked by ex-patriot Saudi Nationals and have instead exasperated new situations to where we now have new and different enemies.

Placing people in political situations which for them can not be resolved through conventional political means always results in violence against those who cause such situations.

kudzu62, mississippi

I believe there was a great deal more going on behind the scene. The planning of the Iraqi war, may have had everything to do with brushing aside the attack threats. The Bush Administration with knowledge of previous attacks, needed an excuse to attack Saddam Hussein, an Attack would have given them that excuse. It is not beyond belief that they allowed this attack never dreaming it would be so horrific. The Bush administration as has been reported, planned to go after Hussein form day one of his taking office, he only needed a reason. One things for sure, we will never know the whole story, unless someone gives a deathbed confession.

Charles, New York

So, what are we talking about? Gross incompetence? Criminal negligence? Official misconduct? Betrayal of trust?

What about FBI agent and Al-Qaeda expert John P. O'Neill who warned of an Al-Qaeda threat in 2000? Frustrated at every turn, O'Neill retired in 2001, citing repeated blocking of his Al Qaeda investigations by FBI officials. After his retirement, the World Trade Center hired O'Neill as its chief of security. He started work on August 23, 2001 and was killed on 9/11.

Despite repeated warnings, O'Neill's efforts, reports that known terrorists were taking flying lessons (and weren't interested in learning how to land), and with more than 3,000 dead, George W. Bush had the temerity to deny culpability with the bold deception "nobody in our government at least, and I don't think the prior government, could envisage flying air planes into buildings." Condi Rice backed up his falsehood with no-one "could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile".

G.W. Bush's administration brings a new dimension to the concept of cognitive bias, which is another name for dopamine bias. Lies that support false expectations are believed (because they trigger dopamine), while facts that expose the fallacies of expectations are dismissed (because they curtail dopamine flow).

DopamineProject.org

Stanley Maleski, California

This is shameful, but what is really scary was listening to Condy Rice at the GOP convention urging a return to neo-con policies. Just Cody's comments and Romney's insistence on maintaining military budgets at war levels should cause even ardent old line republicans to reconsider what the party has become.

Harry Pope, Austin, TX

When ideology trumps reality, the results usually range from poor to catastrophic. We are often chided lately for tracing today's problems back to reign of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, but some chains of events and causalities are hard to set aside. If the neoconservatives had not fixated on Saddam Hussein and been willing to see a more immediate threat they were repeatedly warned about -- not only by our primary intelligence agency but also by the outgoing Clinton administration -- they might have averted the events of 9/11/2001. Asking what our world would today look like if they had done so is painful and probably useless unless it reminds us not to go back to the bad old days when everything was viewed through a lens of right-wing verities that shut out any thing did not fit their grand theories. Grover Norquist's pledge comes to mind as a present-day example of an ideologicial blinder that magnifies the potential for great harm that common-sense actions can avert.

Dan Moerman, Superior Township, MI

We have heard before of the many hints and clues before 9/11 which were ignored by people whose ideology "created reality." My question now is, what are the hints and clues being accumulated today? We have doubled or tripled our intelligence agencies; we have massively overhauled everything from port security to airport scanning. So, what is today's chatter? Is there anything out there now? Surely if there is, we should have a vastly better opportunity to hear it, rate it, classify it, connect the dots, etc. So, what's going on NOW??

RN, New Jersey

The Bush administration was a criminal coterie. However, the American people must take the blame for voting them back into power for a second term. When the Bush team attacked Iraq without a valid reason, the American people took a cavalier attitude, since they felt that they were safe and secure thousands of miles away- it was only the Iraqi public that had to suffer. So, years after the fact, when we point the finger at Bush and company, let us remember who put them there and empowered them.

A, NY

Negligence and complicity. Thanks to the 9/11 attack we got the uber-conservative, fascistic state of affairs we are still living under. You mean to tell me nobody in the Bush admin foresaw that letting it happen would benefit them and other elites? Doubtful.

Walt McRee, Pt Pleasant, PA

Of equal concern to the Bush Administration's willing disregard of repeated and credible warnings is the ongoing cover-up associated with the event itself. Expert technical and forensic reviewers, indeed Commission members themselves, consider the 911 Commission study a whitewash of data constructed to further obfuscate the 911 event.

Facts and physics be damned, "we were attacked" has propelled a decade of tragedy built on a lie, and for fear of our security we have been told to sacrifice our liberties, perhaps by the very ones who enabled the tragedy to occur in the first place. Will we ever have the moral and civic courage to conduct an honest and open investigation of this tragedy?

KH, texas

Follow the money...isn't that the unfortunate but still intelligent course of action in the world we live today? Following the money with respect to 9/11 leads us to the most uncomfortable of realities. Deep down we know the truth, don't we. Too many unanswered questions... Those that have studied these questions intently, such as the more than 1500 architects and engineers, have come away with the same answer. Yes, in fact this was a terrorist attack...we've simply been lied to about the identity of all of the co-conspirators. The victims and families of same deserve better, and in the end the truth will win out...it always does.

martello, white plains, ny

Thanks for this, Kurt. It makes sense that Bush advisers were looking at Iraq. A nation-state is easy to make war against. Just use the use the left-over assets from the cold war. Making war against a terrorist group, on the other hand is not so easy. I guess it takes some degree of sophistication & imagination since it's nearly an invisible & mobile, small target. Add in the fact that Saddam attempted to assassinate Bush Sr. so W. Bush needed very little convincing that Iraq is where we should focus.

Also, I would like to add the fact that Bush & those around him have contempt for government workers, especially the Harvard & Yale grads who work for the CIA. Listening to their warnings & taking them seriously would have meant that Bush accepted their value. But no - Rove, Cheney, & Bush, politicians all, knew better than the professionals. And so here we are, thousands dead, maimed, families destroyed & trillions wasted. A war debt will take decades to pay off.

John Meshna, New Haven, Vt

I think the Bush administration allowed 9/11 to happen so they could manufacture and excuse to go into Iraq and after we invaded Afghanistan Cheney intervened in a very good special forces, CIA operation that was about ready to capture or kill most of the Al Queda leadership including Bin Laden because he knew if we got them their plans to invade Iraq and hand over the oil to US corporations who have had their shorts in a bunch since the fifties would be off for good. American could never have been talked in to invading Iraq had we captured Bin Laden. Bush and Cheney needed this mysterious, undefined threat out there to keep people scared so they could launch their war without end concept and call it the Global War on Terror. We would have had our celebration, our mourning period could start and healing could have begun soon after the event but that was not in the best interest of the oil companies and all the other evil demons that descended on Iraq to make money off the war.

Daniel Stageman, Monument, CO

I never liked Bush, and learned to despise Cheney. But let's get real. As Eichenwald admits, we will never know whether a different response to CIA warnings might have averted 911. There is nothing particularly useful, or even interesting, about questions which can be answered only with speculation. All the more true when the speculation is fueled by partisan bias. The better question is whether reforms enacted since 911 are 1) useful; 2) appropriate; and 3) enough. Why are we not having that discussion?

Red, Philadelphia

Cheney, Rice, and Rumsfeld should all be prosecuted for perjury and abject incompetence.

They have the blood of 3,000 American citizens, over 6,000 American soldiers, and untold numbers of Iraqi civilians on their hands. Not to mention the devastation of our economy through unfunded wars and a tax cuts to people who don't need them.

This country needs to sit up straight, take notice, and remember that this is the kind of thing that happens when you turn the reins of power over to a sophomoric, incurious, frat boy who does not know how to lead.

And, no, making decisions is not the same as leading

[Sep 12, 2012] Russians Say Attack in Libya Vindicates Their Position

NYTimes.com

But many commentators were far less diplomatic, especially on social media. The first commentaries on Twitter were bitingly sarcastic - "The democratized residents of Libya thanked the staff of the American Embassy for its support," one read. Another read, "This is what you call exporting democracy, it seems. America gives Libya a revolution, and Libyans, in return, kill the ambassador." Aleksei K. Pushkov, the head of Russia's parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote via Twitter: "Under Qaddafi they didn't kill diplomats. Obama and Clinton are in shock? What did they expect – 'Democracy?' Even bigger surprises await them in Syria."

Yevgeny Y. Satanovsky, president of the Institute of the Middle East in Moscow, said American leaders should not expect "one word of sympathy" from their Russian counterparts.

"It is a tragedy to the family of the poor ambassador, but his blood is on the hands of Hillary Clinton personally and Barack Obama personally," Mr. Satanovsky said. He said Russian warnings against intervention in the Middle East came from the bitter experience of the Soviets in Afghanistan.

"You are the Soviet Union now, guys, and you pay the price," he said. "You are trying to distribute democracy the way we tried to distribute socialism. You do it the Western way. They hate both." He said dictators were preferable to the constellation of armed forces that emerges when they are unseated.

"They lynched Qaddafi - do you really think they will be thankful to you?" he said. "They use stupid white people from a big rich and stupid country which they really hate."

Russia's case against American involvement in the Middle East dates from the post-Sept. 11 campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it has been at the forefront of Russian discourse for at least a year, since Mr. Putin broke out of his role as prime minister and delivered a passionate criticism of the NATO bombing campaign in Libya, leaving the clear impression that he - unlike his predecessor - would have used Russia's power in the United Nations to stop it.

Mr. Putin has dug his heels in on the issue of Syria, frustrating Western hopes that he could persuade Mr. Assad to leave his post voluntarily. Fyodor Lukyanov, a respected analyst and editor of Russia in Global Affairs, said violence like Tuesday's had been at the heart of Russia's warnings. He said Russia had formulated a "post-Communist position: If you try to impose anything on others, as the Soviet Union tried to do, the result will be the opposite, and disastrous."

"This killing is just strengthening the views which are already quite widespread - that the Western approach to the Arab Spring is basically wrong," Mr. Lukyanov said.

[Sep 08, 2012] Family Values and Valuing Families: The 2012 Democratic Party Platform and the Long Reach of Clintonism

Balkinization

What about family values? The 2012 Democratic Platform opens its section on "Families" thus:

"It's time we stop just talking about family values and start pursuing policies that truly value families."

This catchy prescription indicates the lasting impact of Clintonism and the pioneering ideas of the Democratic Leadership Council that propelled Bill Clinton and Al Gore to victory in 1992 with a "New Covenant" pairing responsibility and opportunity. Clinton and Gore argued, in their campaign book, Putting People First:

"Republicans have lectured America on the importance of family values. But their policies have made life harder for working families. . . A Clinton-Gore Administration will demand more from families, but it will offer more, too."

Clintonism used other powerful tropes:

The 2012 Platform echoes these basic themes, emphasizing the value of fairness:

"American works when everyone plays by the same rules."

The preamble states that the challenge of "reclaiming the economic security of the middle class" requires "restoring the basic values that made our country great, and restoring for everyone who works hard and plays by the rules the opportunity to find a job that pays the bills, turn an idea into a profitable business, care for your family, afford a home you can call your own and health care you can count on, retire with dignity and respect, and . . . give your children the kind of education that allows them to dream even bigger and go even further than you ever imagined."

[Sep 7, 2012] Paul Ryan's middling mendacity leaves media flummoxed by Bob Garfield

September 5, 2012 | guardian.co.uk

Ever since his speech at the Republican National Convention last week, the GOP vice-presidential nominee has been accused of telling Big Lies. From Paul Krugman of the New York Times, to Kevin Richert of the Idaho Statesman, to DownWithTyranny.blogspot.com, commentators have piled onto Ryan for his mendacity. FoxNews.com contributor Sally Kohn described his performance as "an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech."

But let us be cautious about our allegations. We are, after all, talking about a man's reputation.

First of all, nobody keeps records of political lies, as computer memory is not equal to that task. Second, to paraphrase the unimpeachable Bill Clinton, it depends on what a lie is.

Everyone understands that there are lies, white lies and Big Lies. A lie is, "No, I am not sleeping with my yoga instructor." A white lie is, "Your baby is just so beautiful!" The two biggest Big Lies of modern times are "the Jews are destroying you" and "global warming is an invention of the left." Plus, maybe, "Lose weight without diet and exercise."

Big Lies are hard to get going, requiring as they do obvious falsity, almost unimaginable ruthlessness and a premise so enticing to masses of bigots and fools that they eagerly suspend reason and disbelief. Many conspiracy theories aspire to the Big Lie, but they can't get traction – because when you start alleging that Bush blew up the twin towers, even morons think you're a nut job.

And vice versa.

So, no, Paul Ryan told no Big Lies. What he told, in quick succession, was an astonishing number of Medium Lies.

The Medium Lie has all the characteristics of the Big Lie – a shocking allegation, inherent pandering to bigotry and self-evident untruth – but lacks the high stakes and therefore tends to be more ephemeral. The Medium Lies of 2012 will be mainly forgotten in 2013.

No, Barack Obama has no intention of "gutting Medicare", as Republicans have alleged. But by spring, there will be other fish to fry – just as Massachusetts prison furloughs slipped out of the public consciousness shortly after Willie Horton got George HW Bush elected.

Once again, I don't want to sell Paul Ryan short. His command of the Medium Lie is indeed breathtaking. His anecdote about the Janesville, Wisconsin factory that candidate Barack Obama promised to save, but which President Obama let fail had a certain magnificence to it – because Obama never did promise to save the factory, and because he wasn't yet president when it closed down.

Ryan may not win his race, but he sure hit the Daily Double. He also quickened my heart when he attacked the president for discarding the recommendations of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

"He created a bipartisan debt commission," Ryan declared. "They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing."

Oh, snap! What a powerful anecdote – one that gets even more powerful when you know that Ryan was a commission member whose deciding vote against the report prevented it from being presented to Congress. Or that the president's attempt at a "grand bargain" with House Republicans exceeded the commission's recommendations for spending cuts.

Not to say that only Republicans trade in the Medium Lie. As noted in this space previously, Obama's proxies at the Priorities USA Action Super Pac all but accused Republican nominee Mitt Romney of murder in the cancer death of a woman whose husband lost his job at a Bain Capital-shuttered steel mill, and with it his family healthcare coverage. What the Medium Liars never mention is that the woman had her own health insurance and was not diagnosed with cancer until 5 years later. So Romney has no blood on his hands. And when the Obama campaign claimed to have had no knowledge of the Super Pac's activities, they were lying about that, too.

But let us not bend over too far backwards here. Yes, Democrats have been caught in many a lie, but the current GOP presidential campaign is the proverbial tissue of Medium Lies: that Obama plans to gut Medicare; that federal bureaucrats will make healthcare decisions for patients under "Obamacare"; that the administration's seeks to remove the work requirement from "welfare to work" policies and plenty more.

Luckily, we have the media to protect us. For so long, cowed by charges of liberal bias, the US press declined to be arbiters of truth. News organizations simply transcribed each lie and balanced it with the protests of the opposing party, leaving it to the public to evaluate truth or falsity. Such craven neutrality, of course, served nothing but to politicize reality – as if the truth of all assertions was merely a question of viewpoint. As such, facts and lies both came to be seen as political spin – which is why approximately half the US electorate believes that manmade global climate change is a boogeyman invented by leftwingers.

Now, of course, many news organizations have fact checkers who vet speeches, ads, soundbites and online videos for veracity. They actually do a marvelous job of providing context for political claims, especially to show how during the "opposition research" process a nominal fact can be twisted into naked prevarication. Good for them.

But then, having finally fulfilled their basic function as gatekeepers, they immediately denature their own efforts by softening language to the consistency of boiled linguine. There is no talk of lies White, Big or Medium. The words employed are "misleading", "deceptive", "mostly false". If you are discovered, as Ryan was, spewing unadulterated bullshit, the penalty will be four Pinocchios, or the designation "Pants on Fire".

Because, I suppose, Fibberific is just too hard-edged.

So yes, politicians are ever more emboldened to just invent whatever outrages they need to agitate the base. A few Pinocchios will not slow them down. On the contrary, as a Romney-Ryan pollster put it, "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers."

Or, this time to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, the Medium Lie is the message.

[Sep 06, 2012] Robert Johnson: Audacious Oligarchy - Unmasking Wall Street and the Decline of Confidence

02 September 2012
Two brief excerpts from Robert Johnson's Discussion at IMPACT 2012 in NYC

"Legitimate if you can, coerce if you have to, and accommodate if you must."

Jürgen Habermas, (paraphrased)


Robert Johnson serves as the Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) and a Senior Fellow and Director of the Global Finance Project for the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in New York.

Previously, Johnson was a Managing Director at Soros Fund Management where he managed a global currency, bond and equity portfolio specializing in emerging markets. Prior to working at Soros Fund Management, he was a Managing Director of Bankers Trust Company managing a global currency fund.

Johnson served as Chief Economist of the US Senate Banking Committee under the leadership of Chairman William Proxmire (D. Wisconsin) and of Chairman Pete Domenici (R. New Mexico).

Johnson received a Ph.D. and M.A. in Economics from Princeton University and a B.S. in both Electrical Engineering and Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Bill Moyers: Mike Lofgren and the Corruption of American Politics By Corporate Money

01 September 2012
Here is an interesting tale of some of the self-serving hypocrites of Washington.

Commentary is provided by Mike Lofgren, author of The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted.

Moyers & Company Full Show #134: The Resurrection of Ralph Reed.

[Sep 02, 2012] Reprise- Simon Johnson On the Quiet Coup d'Etat in the Anglo-American Financial System

Jesse's Café Américain

This is a reprise of an interview with MIT economist Simon Johnson which was posted here in February, 2009.

Have we heeded Simon Johnson's warning? Has he proven to be prescient? Is crony capitalism and the kleptocracy becoming bolder, more aggressive, ever more demanding?

"I think I'm signaling something a little bit shocking to Americans, and to myself, actually. Which is the situation we find ourselves in at this moment, this week, is very strongly reminiscent of the situations we've seen many times in other places.

But they're places we don't like to think of ourselves as being similar to. They're emerging markets. It's Russia or Indonesia or a Thailand type situation, or Korea. That's not comfortable. America is different. America is special. America is rich. And, yet, we've somehow find ourselves in the grip of the same sort of crisis and the same sort of oligarchs...

But, exactly what you said, it's a small group with a lot of power. A lot of wealth. They don't necessarily - they're not necessarily always the names, the household names that spring to mind, in this kind of context. But they are the people who could pull the strings. Who have the influence. Who call the shots...

...the signs that I see this week, the body language, the words, the op-eds, the testimony, the way they're treated by certain Congressional committees, it makes me feel very worried.

I have this feeling in my stomach that I felt in other countries, much poorer countries, countries that were headed into really difficult economic situation. When there's a small group of people who got you into a disaster, and who were still powerful. Disaster even made them more powerful. And you know you need to come in and break that power. And you can't. You're stuck....

The powerful people are the insiders. They're the CEOs of these banks. They're the people who run these banks. They're the people who pay themselves the massive bonuses at the end of the last year. Now, those bonuses are not the essence of the problem, but they are a symptom of an arrogance, and a feeling of invincibility, that tells you a lot about the culture of those organizations, and the attitudes of the people who lead them...

But it really shows you the arrogance, and I think these people think that they've won. They think it's over. They think it's won. They think that we're going to pay out ten or 20 percent of GDP to basically make them whole. It's astonishing....

...these people are throughout the system of government. They are very much at the forefront of the Treasury. The Treasury is apparently calling the shots on their economic policies.

This is a decisive moment. Either you break the power or we're stuck for a long time with this arrangement."


Bill Moyer's Journal - Interview with Simon Johnson, February, 2009.


Johnson also wrote a piece in the Atlantic Magazine titled The Quiet Coup. It may be worth re-reading.
Here is the introduction to this in The Fall of the American Republic: The Quiet Coup d'Etat in August 2010.

"I am not so optimistic that this reform is possible, because there has in fact been a soft coup d'etat in the US, which now exists in a state of crony corporatism that wields enormous influence over the media and within the government.

Let's be clear about this, the oligarchs are flush with victory, and feel that they are firmly in control, able to subvert and direct any popular movement to the support of their own fascist ends and unslakable will to power.

This is the contempt in which they hold the majority of American people and the political process: the common people are easily led fools, and everyone else who is smart enough to know better has their price. And they would beggar every middle class voter in the US before they will voluntarily give up one dime of their ill gotten gains.

But my model says that the oligarchs will continue to press their advantages, being flushed with victory, until they provoke a strong reaction that frightens everyone, like a wake up call, and the tide then turns to genuine reform."


As far as I can tell, we are right on track for a very bad time of it. And you might be surprised at how far a belief in exceptionalism and arrogant superiority can go before it finally ends, or more likely, falls.

[Sep 02, 2012] The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted [Hardcover]

T. Sales

...As was the case in Jeff Faux's "The Servant Economy" I got a sense of hopelessness when I got to that final chapter. If you believe the expression "it's always darkest before the dawn," the chapter starts with this quote --

"As we embark on the second decade of the 21st century, the commanding heights of corporate America -- the banks, the military-industrial complex, corporate interests benefiting from huge subsidies like Big Pharma and Big Oil -- largely have the government they want. They have the tax structure they desire. Under Bush appointee Chris Cox, the SEC's regulatory function was wrecked. The military has been so outsourced that the Army can no longer feed itself, while a policy of permanent war assures a perpetual cash flow to contractors. Federal law guarantees pharmaceutical companies the kind of collusive and monopolistic profiteering that antitrust laws were intended to prevent. Corporate America has posted record profits even amid the most protracted period of joblessness in post-World War II history. It is corporate nirvana. Under these circumstances, who needs an activist government? Now that the commanding heights have achieved their objectives, a gridlocked government will work just fine, regardless of who is in charge."

Pretty scary if this is even remotely the case. In that final chapter, though, Lofgren offers a glimmer of hope. If the money can be removed from politics, then a chain reaction of positive developments could take place. After all, Lofgren says, people put us into this unfair and unequal position and citizens if properly educated to the situation can fight our way out. Already there are positive developments like people cleaning up their debt, refusing to apply to colleges where the tuition keeps skyrocketing, and working their way out mortgages with no help from the government.

It's pretty interesting, too, to see the early press reactions to Lofgren and how he emerged from a long, low-profile career in government to express such loud and outspoken opinions about people he experienced up close and personally. Few have branded him as a whistleblower or a troublemaker, though one reporter wondered why he sat still for so long if this bothered him so much. This may be a preview of what we may see in the upcoming 2012 election. How are the Republican moderates who are increasing pushed out of their party going to react to the extremism of the current party? Will they have had enough and vote Democratic as the better of two evils? Will there be a candidate with the resolve to do what is right rather than doing what they are lobbied or outright bribed to do? These are the questions that Lofgren focuses on that can help us as voters to think through what must happen in a long-term effort to reclaim our government.

Robin E. Levin (San Francisco)

Decline and Fall, August 29, 2012

If you ever wondered how the United States has accumulated such massive federal debt, gone into severe economic decline and become completely incapable of dealing with such problems as the collapse of infrastructure, unemployment, poverty, homelessness, environmental degradation, energy needs and failure of education, this book will provide all the insight you will ever need in explaining how the U.S. has become a failed state. Mike Lofgren speaks from direct experience. He was a budget analyst for Representative John Kashich, a Republican member of the House of Representative, and later for Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire. He began working in this capacity in the 1980s when the federal government still functioned reasonably well and there was normally some co-operation across party lines. During the past thirty years, he has seen inter-party co-operation virtually cease and the government descend into complete gridlock and impotence. While Lofgren puts much of the blame on the Republicans, who have become a party of ideological extremes, he does not spare the Democrats who have failed to counter or even strongly oppose many of the Republican's destructive policies. He says:

"I was compelled to write this book because I became alarmed by the trends I was seeing. In particular, my own party, the Republican Party, began to scare me. After the 2008 election, Republican politicians became more and more intransigently dogmatic. They doubled down on advancing policies that transparently favored the top 1% of earners while obstructing measures such as the extension of unemployment insurance. They seemed to want to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted in the worst economic meltdown in eighty years."

Mr. Lofgren is an incisive political analyst and he states his case clearly and cogently. I kept wanting to write down his observations so I could quote them, but unfortunately, this medium does not provide sufficient space. Anyone of any political persuasion who has an interest in our country and its future should read, and memorize, this book.

Robert D. Steele (Oakton, VA United States)

6 on Republicans, 3 on Democrats, 0 on the Other 50% of America's Voters, August 12, 2012

I read this book is in original incarnation, "Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult," (truthout, 3 Sep 2011), and have to give the author high marks for fleshing out his original litany of Republican felonies against the public. For that he gets a 6 -- beyond five stars and long overdue. He is especially strong on showing how hypocritical, unintelligent, and generally unethical my former party has become. He barely earns a 3 on the Democrats, and this is a pity because his success on the Republicans really calls for a similar indictment for the Democrats by an insider.

Where I was most dismayed by the book is in the author's complete failure to grasp that the REASON the Republican and Democratic parties are so corrupt is precisely because they have excluded the Independents, Constitutionals, Greens, Libertarians, and Reforms from ballot access, while also disenfranchising them through gerrymandering -- our corrupt Congress chooses its voters, not the other way around, which is why Peggy Noonan was able to supply Ronald Reagan with the killer saying, "there is less turnover in the US Congress than in the Soviet politburo."

I've read the other reviews and decided the best thing I can do to encourage the general direction of this book (corrupt parties, corrupt government, time to flush) is list other books I have reviewed that strongly support this one but with more coherence in their chosen area of focus.

I begin with the two party tyranny. My own book I cannot link to but Amazon allows me to list it under my signature.
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny

On the corruption of Congress:
The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (Institutions of American Democracy)
Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders Into Insiders

On the corruption of the White House:
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Obama: The Postmodern Coup - Making of a Manchurian Candidate

On the military-industrial complex that broke the bank over the long term:
War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier
Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex

On the financial terrorism cabal led by Goldman Sachs that broke the global bank over the short term:
Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism

What this all boils down to is the complete loss of integrity across all sectors of the no-longer-a-Republic. I have reviewed many books, almost all non-fiction, that bear on the current state of the world and the union dismembered by the two-party tyranny and all it has made possible against the public interest, my two lists, one negative (an assessment of the situation) and one positive (what we could do if I -- who ran for President as a Reform Party candidate long enough to understand the corruption in person -- could get one patron to sponsor an Electoral Reform Summit in September of this year.

Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Positive)

Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Negative)

There is absolutely no question in my mind but that if we could get 50 million US voters to understand the specific policies of We the People Reform Coalition and demand the Electoral Reform Act of 2012 IN TIME FOR NOVEMBER 2012, that we could execute a non-violent legal abolishment of the corrupt two-party system and the restoration of a government Of, By, and For We the People.

Mike Lofgren's book may be the ultimate insider look at the naked Emperor, but it is not a precipitant for revolution. For that we need at least one soccer mom torching herself on the steps of Capitol Hill after giving an exclusive interview to CNN. It has come to that.

Robert David Steele
ELECTION 2008: Lipstick on the Pig

By Alan F. Sewell

Too much "WHO" and not enough "WHY", August 12, 2012

I started out reading this book in 100% absolute total agreement with Mike Lofgren, whose credentials as a moderate Republican seem beyond reproach. He worked for 28 years as a staff member for Ohio Republican Congressman John Kasich and Republican Senator Judd Greg, both respected for their yeoman work on budgeting and national security. I totally agree with his take:

==========================

Republican politicians became more and more intransigently dogmatic. They doubled down on advancing policies that transparently favored the top 1 percent of earners in this country while obstructing measures such as the extension of unemployment insurance. They seemed to want to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted in the middle of the worst economic meltdown in eighty years.

The Congressional Directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy. This is not to say that such specimens represent all or even most Republicans, but they have managed, through their shrillness, dogmatism, inflexibility, and belligerence, to become the center of gravity of the party.

Do Democrats offer a sane alternative? The explanation is more complicated, but the answer is, finally, no....It is not that they are fanatics or zealots; it is that most do not appear to believe in anything very strongly.

These new Democrats will say anything to win an election....Many of them last only a term or two, because if people want a Republican, they will vote for the real thing. What has evolved in America over the last three decades is a one-and-a-half-party system, as Democrats opportunistically cleave to the "center," which, in the relativistic universe of American politics, keeps moving further to the right. ===========================

These points are made 20% through the book. So far I am in word-for-word absolute agreement with Lofgren. I am as astounded as he is by the stupidity of both parties in worshiping at the altar of failed ideologies. BOTH parties have cheerfully put twenty million Americans out of work by encouraging corporations to replace their American workers with peon labor in Chinese Concentration Camps. Both parties slavishly worship at the "Free Trade benefits everybody" altar. Both parties are tools of corporate interests. If President Obama fails of re-election it won't be because he's a Communist. It will be because he has allowed himself to become the puppet of Wall Street interests as much as any Republican. What difference is there between Democrat Tim Geithner and Republican Hank Paulson? Both are creatures born and bred of Wall Street. Geithner has infiltrated Obama's administration and subverted it into a "Government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street" every bit as much as Hank Paulson sabotaged the Bush Administration.

What Lofgren needs to do at this point is to explain WHY the Republicans (and the Democrats who follow their lead) are wrong. Tell us WHY they are wrong about gutting our industrial economy with one-sided foreign trade. Tell us WHY they're wrong about sending the country into bankruptcy by cutting taxes on the wealthy. Tell us WHY they're wrong to believe that corporations will stop behaving badly if we deregulate them. Tell us WHY they're wrong about refusing to raise the minimum wage so as to increase the earnings power of those at the bottom.

Tell us WHY all these policies are wrong. Beat us over the head until we understand it completely if you have to. We're never going to get moving in the right direction until we understand *** WHY *** what we've been doing up till now has failed.

Instead of telling us WHY Republican policies have failed, Lofgren beats us over the head with the idea that the Republicans are just plain nuts. According to him Republicans started going nuts when Newt Gingrich brought them Congressional majorities in 1994. According to him the Republicans are nuts on everything. They're gun-crazy, liberty-destroying, Bible-thumping Neanderthals who love the rich and hate the middle class and poor. Their favorite spectator sport is sending the sons of the poor off to foreign countries to kill people who speak other languages and worship in other faiths.

In the midst of all these diatribes Lofgren actually does manage to work in a few sentences about why Republican tax cuts are counterproductive in CHAPTER 5 TAXES AND THE RICH. But by then he's destroyed his credibility. He's just so over-the-top in his rants about why Republican Conservatives are completely worthless human beings that it is impossible to take anything else he says seriously. Furthermore, it's a waste of time to rehash issues like the Iraq War, which is now over, when the main priority of Americans now is jobs. We want to know WHY the Republicans and Democrats are still doing everything they can to destroy American jobs by mismanaging foreign trade instead of directing our trade policy so as to create jobs.

His diatribe against religion is also childish. I attend Catholic Churches that offer prayers both to prevent abortion (Conservative value) and to promote Social Justice (Liberal value). The churches have every right to make their feelings known on these issues.

This book is terribly disappointing, especially since it started out being 100% dead-center, right-on-the-money in describing the malaise that afflicts both our parties. I am a moderate Republican who agrees with Lofgren that the Republicans have been unreasonable in opposing Obama to such an extreme. But they have opposed him on the basis of principle, not because they're insane.

Well-meaning people can be wrong on the issues because they are misinformed or have different life perspectives than those who are better informed or have more complete life experiences. Instead of demonizing Conservative Republicans, Lofgren should have just told us WHY their perspectives are wrong. I think I could give a credible explanation of WHY the Republicans are wrong, but I am reviewing Lofgren's book, not writing my own.

Like many other poorly written books, it follows up CHAPTERS of diatribe with a couple of SENTENCES recommending reforms of government. The content of the book should have been reversed. It should have been SENTENCES of diatribe followed up by CHAPTERS of proposed reforms.

Bottom line is that this book is entirely too much "WHO" (the "who" being those demonic Republicans) and not enough "WHY" (the "why" being the REASONS that Republicans are wrong.) I'm going to give this book an extra star (two-stars instead of one-star) because it is at least intellectually honest in asking towards the end "Are the Democrats any better?" The answer is (paraphrasing): "No, they're just as corrupt as the Republicans. Maybe not quite as stupid, but certainly as corrupt."

[Sep 01, 2012] Mitt Romney's Tax Plan Only Works If Income Inequality Explodes - Matthew O'Brien - The Atlantic

Matthew O'Brien - Matthew O'Brien is an associate editor at The Atlantic covering business and economics. He has previously written for The New Republic.

All Posts Share " Previous Business | Next Business " Email Print Close Mitt Romney's Tax Plan Only Works If Income Inequality Explodes By Matthew O'Brien inShare.1Aug 31 2012, 10:24 AM ET 70

Mitt Romney's tax plan is mathematically possible -- but only if the rich get richer at a level we have never seen before

Mitt Romney's tax plan is a logic puzzle. The details barely exist, but there are just enough of them to infer what the nonexistent details would be if they did exist. Think of it like the LSAT, just with more numbers. Pick up your number two pencils, and let's see what we can figure out.

Here's what we know Romney wants to do with taxes based on statements from his campaign, his advisers, and his interviews.

I. Cut marginal rates 20 percent for all brackets

II. Eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and the estate tax

III. Close enough loopholes to make tax reform revenue neutral

IV. Maintain rates on savings and investment and eliminate them altogether for the middle class

V. Keep the mortgage-interest, healthcare, and charitable giving deductions for the middle class

VI. Have high-income earners will pay the same share of overall taxes that they do now

VII. Not raise taxes on middle-income taxpayers

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (TPC) has a head start on us. They looked at the first four conditions above -- Romney only laid out the others later -- and concluded that the numbers don't add up for 2015. There aren't enough tax expenditures for the rich to pay for the tax cuts for the rich. The result is a net tax cut for high-earners to the tune of $86 billion -- meaning taxes would have to go up by $86 billion on everybody making less than $200,000 for the plan to be revenue neutral.

That's a bummer. But is the Romney plan really unsalvageable? That depends on four big assumptions. First, what does Romney mean by middle class? Second, what taxes is Romney talking about when he talks about preserving rates on "savings and investment"? Third, how does Romney's corporate tax plan factor in? And finally, how much economic growth should we project? These assumptions are worth real money. Romney's annual revenue hole is either as small as $41 billion or as large as $144 billion depending on our answers here. Let's consider them in turn, and then see what we can piece together.

  1. Who's middle class, exactly? Former Reagan adviser and Harvard professor Marty Feldstein claims TPC got it wrong -- that Romney's tax math works without requiring a middle class tax hike. Feldstein argues that cutting tax expenditures for households making $100,000 or more would pay for their tax cuts. This is incorrect.

    Brad DeLong points out that there isn't enough money in those expenditures to pay for those cuts. But there's a bigger issue. Feldstein claims that Romney's plan would work by closing loopholes for households making between $100,000 and $200,000, but Romney defines those households as middle class. Feldstein inadvertently corroborates TPC's conclusion -- Romney's tax plan does require a middle class tax hike to work.

[Sep 01, 2012] Agents of Misinformation

If Gods want to publish somebody they deprive him of wit. This is a clear case with top Repugs who more and more resembles Soviet Politburo members. The same stale ideology, rampant hypocrisy and desire to flesh fellow citizens. Actually Romney reminds me Yeltsin (minus alcoholic addition.). He actually was not a bad volleyball player when he was young. The second guy imitates Mao Chairman. Mao swam across the Yangzi for an hour instead of running marathon in 3 hours. Actually running marathon can cause brain damage. I think 26.1 miles is farther than God intended for most mortals to run. Long distance unners and boxers had the same amount of potentially harmful protein, S-100B, in their blood. Elevated blood levels of S-100B protein, which leaks from certain brain cells when they are traumatized, have been shown to correlate with neuropsychological deficits.
How any reasonable person can vote for those two guys can only be explained that the other guy is actually not that different ;-).
August 30, 2012 | Economist's View

Steve Benen:

A pass-fail test, by Steve Benen: At the Republican National Convention last night, Paul Ryan told so many demonstrable lies, he raised important questions about his character and what's left of his integrity. What matters next, however, is whether anyone notices.

It's come as something of a relief to see so many media professionals go after Ryan for his dishonesty last night. ... I'm well aware of the fact that the vast majority of Americans will never see any of this scrutiny, but other reporters, editors, and producers will, and if a consensus begins to emerge that Romney/Ryan is fundamentally dishonest, this is likely to influence the public's perceptions of the race.

But let's not ignore those inclined to give Ryan a pass. ...

Not to put too fine a point on this, Ryan, like his running mate, tells obvious falsehoods because he's confident there will be no consequences. He simply assumes he can lie with impunity because the media doesn't care to separate fact from fiction.

This is a critical test of the political world, and a few too many are failing.

They have been doing this with economics for a long time, but it has been difficult for reporters to figure out the difference between legitimate disputes about theory and evidence within the profession, and outright misrepresentations (it's not that hard in every case, and it's frustrating reporters still don't do better than this, but it's at least understandable in some instances).

But this year it is rising to a different level, and what used to bug me about the right's presentation of economics has now been extended to their discussion of everything. The campaign is pretty much laughing at the fact checkers and saying, so what?

The press is supposed to be helping America understand, not helping to mislead them, and it's time for reporters -- political reporters in particular -- to take a long, hard look inward and figure out where they've gone so wrong.

[Aug 31, 2012] Republicans not the party of small government: By dissing Ron Paul, party shows true colors by Darrell Delamaide

Aug 30, 2012 | http://www.marketwatch.com/

The successful move by the Republican establishment at the party convention this week to disenfranchise delegates supporting Ron Paul - who truly does want small government - demonstrates the point.

So do the large federal deficits consistently run by Republican presidents from Ronald Reagan through George W. Bush - the result of tax cuts coupled with increased military spending.

Republican 2012 convention

When the end of the Cold War made it hard to justify further increases in the Pentagon budget, Republican presidents initiated new and questionable wars to spur further spending.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, the failed Republican presidential candidate in 2008, was once again beating the war drums against Iran at the convention this week. (Remember "bomb, bomb Iran"?)

Ron Paul opposed all this. Arguably he never belonged in the Republican Party and party leaders have now made it crystal clear they want to be rid of him.

By banning several Paul delegates, by changing the rules to prevent delegates from switching their support to Paul, and by declining even to total up his delegate count, party chiefs showed their disdain for the erstwhile presidential aspirant and his followers.

Paul's libertarian ideals challenge the real goals of the Republican Party - to lower taxes (further) for the wealthy and to feed the military-industrial complex with ever-greater spending.

Paul was too outspoken in his opposition to warmongering over Iran, which the corporate interests backing the Republican Party see as key to maintaining military spending and a super-sized Pentagon budget.

And the Texas congressman made fun of Paul Ryan's much-vaunted budget, becoming one of only four House Republicans to vote against it, because in his opinion the new vice presidential nominee's plan didn't really amount to much and only got around to balancing the budget three decades down the road.

The latest Washington Post-ABC poll confirmed that, when asked the general question whether they would prefer smaller government with fewer services, a majority of Americans - 56% - reply yes, compared to 38% who prefer bigger government with more services.

Of course, polls have also found that Americans are mostly unwilling to sacrifice any specific services, such as Medicare or Social Security, when asked directly about them.

There's a good case to be made for reducing the size of government, cutting ineffective programs, and closing or combining some federal agencies.

[Aug 28, 2012] Many the Wonders, But Nothing Stranger Than Man - Sophocles

"What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals...

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Men and women are such varied instruments, with far-ranging highs and lows, capable of remarkable, heart-breaking beauty and, with the same voice and hands and mind, unspeakable ugliness and petty squalor.

A mass of contradictions. Love and hate, held by a narrow seam. Heirs to the everlasting, born astride a grave. Dust that moves the eternal mind.

"What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"

Psalm 8:4

Posted by Jesse at 11:46 AM

[Aug 25, 2012] Matt Taibbi and Eliot Spitzer Discuss Eric Holder's (and Obama's) Failure: Credibility Trap

Jesse's Café Américain

The failure of Obama's Justice Department to engage in any systemic investigations and indictments of a thoroughly rotten and corrupt financial system that has laid waste to the real economy is an almost perfect example of the credibility trap.

A credibility trap is a situation in which the regulatory, political and/or the informational functions of a society have been thoroughly taken in by a corrupting influence and a fraud, so that one cannot address the situation without implicating, at least incidentally, a broad swath of the power structure and the status quo who at least tolerated it, if not profited directly from it, and most likely continue to do so. They become susceptible to various forms of blackmail. And so a failed policy can become almost self-sustaining long after it is seen to have failed, and even become counterproductive, because admitting failure is not an option for those holding power.

Another example is the blatant fraud, and principles not of productivity but of prey, that prevail on the financial asset exchanges and the monetary system, the stealing of customer funds, and the manipulation of commodity markets such as silver. And it expresses itself in the frivilous coarseness of spectacle, and careless brutality of decline.

"Happy Hunger Games. And may the odds be ever in your favor."
Normally a two party system or a balance of powers would correct such a situation, but if the fraud is pervasive and enduring enough, those remedies can lose their effectiveness since the fraud binds even seemingly diverse elements in its grasp. And therein lies the trap.

There is a general loss of honor, a disparagement of moral principles, the common welfare, and a sense of 'service.' People in power are creatures of the system, 'getting their ticket punched' in Washington, as resume builder on their way to an even more lucrative position back in the corrupt system where they can leverage their connections and knowledge of the system to further undermine the rule of law. Their guiding principles are self-referential greed and power.

After one of the most outrageous periods of widespread fraud in a major developed country, prosecutions for fraud are at twenty year lows. Who expected this outcome from an election in which the theme was change and reform?

Here is a recent article, Why Can't Obama Bring Wall St to Justice, asking the broader question inferred by this video interview. Why? And the answer is not to be found in making excuses and allowing him to hide behind the incompetency or disengagement defense so popular in American management circles.

And if you think that voting for the other guy in this case, the emotinally engaging but fatally flawed red v. blue paradigm, is going to provide a cure you are sadly mistaken. The other guy in this case is the poster child for most of the problems that face a nation under siege by a financial elite engaged in an economic, ideological, and political coup d'etat.

As Glenn Greenwald recently put it:

"You can often, and I would say more often than not, in leading opinion-making elite circles, find an expressed renouncement or repudiation of that principle [of the rule of law]...All of these acts entail very aggressive and explicit arguments that the most powerful political and financial elites in our society should not be, and are not, subject to the rule of law because it is too disruptive, it is too divisive, it is more important that we should look forward, that we find ways to avoid repeating the problem...the rule of law is not that important of a value any longer...

The law is no respecter of persons, but the law is also a respecter of reality, meaning if it is too disruptive or divisive that it is actually in our common good, not the elite criminals, but in our common good, to exempt the most powerful from the consequences of their criminal acts, and that has become the template used in each of these instances."

And thanks to the apathy of the people and the gullibility of the badly used, self-proclaimed 'patriots' they are winning.
"The disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least to neglect, persons of poor and mean condition is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments."

Adam Smith

Such unsustainable social arrangements are backed by force and fraud. And as the fraud loses its power over time, force must increase, until there is an end in genuine reform, or evenutal self-destruction.

[Jul 15, 2012] http://russkiy-malchik.livejournal.com/173466.html

Somewhat interesting analysis of a value of WTO for Russia. Slightly edited Google translation...

The liberal part of the Kremlin and the comprador elite are rejoicing for one simple reason – they believe that the WTO "will open up" Russia and convert it to a new Latin America country as it should in the classic scenario. But the classic scenario was possible in 2004, in 2007, even in 2010 it had a couple of years, but in 2012 the classic scenario does not work.

Comprador liberals are blinded by the "neo-liberal economics" that they are quite confident in the effectiveness of old tools and have not noticed most obvious structural changes in the global economy. Meanwhile a prominent Western economic guru Paul Krugman repeats Mr. Hazin and suggests that we are experiencing a crisis comparable to the depression 30′s and even worse. If this is true, then to predict what will happen to the WTO in 2015-16 is difficult to impossible… The typical line thinking "Russia needs to open to the West" of the comprador part of the elite is nothing but a self-revealing fantasy. It is also possible that in the process of negotiations and finding proper compromises for Russia entry into the WTO was "exchanged" with something valuable like a downshift in the political interference and the relative political calm after the return of Putin. If so, then this barter deal also contains some winning cards for Russia.

Patriotic Forces (at least genuine part of them) expressed outrage about the entry into the WTO. And rightly so. Generally, the more they put a highly critical, but constructive arguments against the WTO, the better Russian government will be able to defend the national interests in the "After WTO" economy. But while we critique the deal we should not forget that a number of countries already in WTO managed to defend their own economic interests and even reap some benefits in the development of their economies. This is true for China, for example. Or more generally for all BRICS countries -- members of the WTO. It is clear that they are still sensitive to the WTO rules and get less preferences than the Western countries that dominate WTO. Still they managed to adapt and even became powerful enough to counterattack Western countries in some areas.

I would like to stress that BRICS which, except Russia, consists of WTO member countries is now powerful enough to create their own international development bank since those countries gained enough strength to defend their economic interests. It will take some time but the crisis will expose a new reality and it turns out that the WTO center of power might move toward new countries, the developing countries. And they might be able to formulate a new, better rules for international trade. It might be possible even without changing the name of the organization. The name might remain, but the rules change. And to ensure that that those rules were developed with Russia's participation, it is necessary to participate in all more or less influential international organizations. Including the WTO. I think this is something like a stated position of the Russian "gosudastvennikov" in power.

The grand "reload" of the dollar reserve currency system (generated by the natural course of events) might give a chance not only to the owners of the Fed who will try to dispose maximum amount of debt and enslave additional regions of the would, but also for the rest of the world, which at the lowest point of the "reset" may be able at least partially get rid of parasites sitting on their shoulders. Russia at this point (and it's pretty close – I think, no later than 2015, but can also begin this fall) should not be a closed economy, but on the contrary, be as open to the world to take part in the formation of the new system. Economic stress – not a dollar is now a factor that might open the international system, and the world for an alternative system of relations. Many public political forces demand that Russia go in opposite direction – to close the economy and go into hiding. This is a destructive way. Even China, which seem to have ideological constraints (albeit weak and conditional), even he, in recent years more and more widely and openly integrated into the world economy: using treaties about all kinds of unions it actively negotiates with individual countries, regions as well as buying up land around the world, and so on. Russia should behave the same way in the economic sphere, and be even more active in the ideological. Indeed, the WTO – is not only opening their own markets to others, but the opening of other markets for themselves.

A separate question – a resentment of Russian industrialists. In my opinion, it has two components. The first – a sincere concerns that some industries and enterprises of the Russian industry could suffer a loss. In fact, with full transition to the WTO rules, such effects will occur. This is not no secret, and the amount of damages vary according to various estimates from 5 to 23 billion dollars (but only with the full accession to the WTO). It's a lot of money. They say that they overlap with additional income from the WTO in other industries, but the fact remains that some industries and businesses will suffer greatly. And this is unfortunate. But when you take such an important and difficult decision, we must understand that the loss in some areas can't be avoided. You just need to honestly and correctly estimate the ratio of losses and gains. I think the strategic benefits far exceed the loss from the accession to the WTO (which, according to Putin, is 50 to 50), which means that the Russian government has the right to take such a step.

Another component of the resentment of Russian industrialists – is the fear of competition. Our entrepreneurs, with all due respect to them is still very inert people. Without a profit of 100% or more, they did not lift a finger. Unless absolutely necessary, they will never go for the modernization of production, and will only be to the maximum squeeze out of the old infrastructure of profit. Fierce competition with businessmen from other countries for which a profit of 10% – is the ultimate dream, will serve our dealers a great lesson. Help them make the right conclusions. Putin has tried for years to convince them about things that stiff competition from global players will convince them at once. And stop arguing about modernization with anyone. At the same time, I have no doubt that Putin and the Russian government will protect our business as much as they can. I think this has no doubt and Konstantin Babkin, who, nevertheless, lobby the power that be to prevent entry into the WTO. Why? Because he is afraid not withstand stiff competition. And partly because he wants to score political points. He dreams in the future to say: Well, I told you so! I warned you!

No entry into the WTO – is certainly not an easy decision. And if you think this decision is incorrect, it is necessary to protest, as well as to offer another solution and to justify it. But not to engage in hysteria. Do not try to play on the uncertainty surrounded any complex problem and important decision. Do not divert the conversation toward demagogic "everything is sold" and do not put stupid slogans such as "Putin you need to choose: Russia or the WTO." If you see that the critics began to use such cheap tricks, this is a signal for you – beware the manipulation! If you see that they throws at you some figures and expert estimates, depict the apocalypse after the entry into the WTO, then give it at least one question: if everything is so bad, why did Russia under the contract is able to provide subsidies to agriculture 9 billion rubles while today they do it at the annual rate of 4.5? Are we this way kill our own agro-industry completely ?

To sum up, I would like once again emphasize that the global financial system and all its structures in its present form have a limited time span, some say months, well, may be years. If so, then even if we joined the WTO on the most onerous conditions, during this period it could not bring fatal harm to Russia's economy before it collapses with the global financial system. In this case we will sustain a minor injury, and can reap serious political benefits. It's not just an economic decision, how the geopolitical. This is a part of positioning your pieces on the Grand Chess Board.

[Jul 15, 2012] Hillary Clinton: Trade With Russia Is a Win-Win

Looks like reading audience of Wall Street Journal now is limited to Fox News viewers.

Later this summer, Russia will join the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the culmination of a process that began nearly two decades ago. This is good news for American companies and workers, because it will improve our access to one of the world's fastest-growing markets and support new jobs here at home.

U.S.-Russian bilateral trade isn't reaching anything close to its full potential today. While that trade has increased over the past few years, America's exports to Russia still represent less than 1% of our global exports. Given the potential for expanding these links, Russia's WTO membership will be a net benefit for our economy.

But there is one obstacle standing in the way. American businesses won't be able to take advantage of this new market opening unless Congress terminates the application of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment and extends "permanent normal trading relations" (PNTR) to Russia.

Jackson-Vanik, which restricts U.S. trade with countries that limit their people's emigration rights, was adopted by Congress in the early 1970s to help thousands of Jews leave the Soviet Union. It long ago achieved this historic purpose.

Now it's time to set it aside. Four decades after the adoption of this amendment, a vote to extend permanent normal trading relations to Russia will be a vote to create jobs in America. Until then, Russia's markets will open and our competitors will benefit, but U.S. companies will be disadvantaged.

Extending permanent normal trading relations isn't a gift to Russia. It is a smart, strategic investment in one of the fastest growing markets for U.S. goods and services. It's also an investment in the more open and prosperous Russia that we want to see develop.

As the demonstrations across Russia over the past six months make clear, the country's middle class is demanding a more transparent and accountable government, a more modern political system, and a diversified economy. We should support these Russian efforts.

When Russia joins the WTO, it will be required-for the first time ever-to establish predictable tariff rates, ensure transparency in the publication and enactment of laws, and adhere to an enforceable mechanism for resolving disputes. If we extend permanent normal trading relations to Russia, we'll be able to use the WTO's tools to hold it accountable for meeting these obligations.

The Obama administration is under no illusions about the challenges that lie ahead. WTO membership alone will not suddenly create the kind of change being sought by the Russian people. But it is in our long-term strategic interest to collaborate with Russia in areas where our interests overlap.

Already our work together over the past three years has produced real results, including the New Start Treaty to reduce strategic nuclear weapons, an agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation, military transit arrangements to support our efforts in Afghanistan, and cooperation on Iran sanctions. With permanent normal trading relations, we would add expanded trade to the list.

To be sure, we have real differences with Russia. We disagree fundamentally about the situation in Georgia. On Syria, we are urging Russia to push Bashar al-Assad to implement former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's six-point plan, end the violence, and work with the international community in promoting a transition.

In addition, President Obama and I have clearly expressed our serious concerns about human rights in Russia. And we have taken steps to address these challenges, including support for programs that promote human rights, rule of law, and civil society there. We have strengthened ties between nongovernmental organizations in both countries, from political activists to groups working for women's rights. Following the tragic death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who blew the whistle on official corruption, we imposed restrictions to ensure that no one implicated in this crime can travel to the United States. We are continuing to work with Congress on addressing these issues.

Some argue that continuing to apply Jackson-Vanik to Russia would give us some leverage in these areas of disagreement. We disagree-and so do leaders of Russia's political opposition. They have called on the U.S. to terminate Jackson-Vanik, despite their concerns about human rights and the Magnitsky case. In fact, retaining Jackson-Vanik only fuels more anti-American sentiment in Russia.

Russia's membership in the WTO will soon be a fact of life. Failing to extend permanent normal trading relations will not penalize Russia, nor will it provide a lever with which to change Moscow's behavior. It will only hurt American workers and American companies. By extending those trading relations, we can create new markets for our people and support the political and economic changes that Russia's people are demanding. These reforms will ultimately make Russia a more just and open society as well as a better partner over the long term for the U.S.

Henry Newbold: (15 Recommendations)

Putin just announced that he is sending 3 warships from one of Russia's Black Sea bases to the port of Tartus in Syria, in order to "re-open" this long dormant Russian naval base there.

In other words....Putin is telling the Amateur in the White House that survival of the Syrian regime is important to him.

Looks like Hillary and Obama's "reset" isn't working. So why would we even think about doing away with Jackson-Vanik while the KGB thug is still calling all the shots there?

Mike Mai:

It's really just a morale move for the troops. Despite the war, I bet being stationed on the Mediterranean as a Russian seaman is a far sight better than any of the dreary outposts in the motherland.

Steve Weaver:

LOL, The Black Sea is where the resorts are and you obviously have never been to the Mediterranean Arab ports (20 years US Navy stationed in the Med).

Aaron Browne:

This is simply another oversold trade relationship that will lead to more job losses for working class Americans. The benefits that Mrs. Clinton mentions are the very same benefits that were trumpeted when her husband signed-off on China's ascension to the WTO. Tellingly, just after China's entrance into the trade body, President Clinton had to send his trade representative back to Beijing because China was already backpeddling on its promises. China has never fully implemented all of the policies that it promised to and as exibited all of the hallmarks of a neo-mercantilist state, which has no place in the WTO. In the ensuing years millions of Americans have lost their jobs and the U.S. has ceded 25% of its hi-tech manufacturing jobs to China. Intellectual property theft is still rampant and the trade deficit with China is gargantuan.

Improving the human rights situation in Russia is just cover for the administration doing coporate America's bidding. It is they who are pining for trade with Russia, not middle class Americans. Since China's entrance into the WTO has the human rights situation improved? I hardly think so, and Russia will be no different. For U.S. politicians, the human rights issue is just icing on the cake; Russia's membership into the WTO will have all these great benefits...and it will improve the human rights situation in Russia too! Very few Americans care about the human rights situation in Russia, I certainly don't. This will just be another fairy tale that that just fades out of the memory of most Americans like all of the other promises that will turn out to be overblown.

Now that Russia and China have WTO membership, they will have greater clout when attempting to deter Western countries from pursuing policies they don't like. China and Russia have a few things in common. They are both authoritarian regimes that want to control what their citizens know, think, and do. They try to do this through various methods, one of which includes controlling all forms of media. Another way that these two authoritarian countries control their populations is through brute force and harsh police state tactics. Russia and China are part of the authoritarian regimes of the world that include Iran, North Korea, and Syria among others. They leaders of these countries have completely different goals that the U.S. and its allies, which is painfully clear as Syria descends into chaos. China's assertiveness in the South and East China Sea is another example.

Richard Peasel Jr

Oh Umm, I remember when President Clinton made the same arguments in the 1990's with China. And now after more than 20 years, China has equaled or surpassed the USA in manufacturing and striving to in technology. What about trade benefits? The largest trade benefit to the United States is China's monies to facilitate American consumer's addiction to spending.

It has taken GM almost 10 years to open one Assembly plant in Russia. By reducing trade barriers with Russia, GM will be in position to, more easily move most of the high cost car production in Europe and North America to Russia and China. Per an Internal 'Government' Motors strategy paper leaked earlier this year, The US automaker wants to close its plants in Western Europe and transfer production to low cost countries. The document means the future looks bleak for Opel's plants in Germany and Great Britain. I presume that once Obama is no longer capable of protecting the UAW, American plants will follow suit.

Bailed out General Motors is just an example of one corporation transferring manufacturing and technology out of America. What does this mean when the rest of American manufacturing and technology follow GM into Russia? If we use China as an example, economic power translates into military power. China's military power has been growing in tandem with its economic power, and on the flip side, the USA's military power has be declining along with its economic power.

... ... ...

NEIL SAARI:

Hillary Clinton had no background or experience to justify her appointment as Secretary of State. I always viewed her appointment as a "keep your friends close but your enemies closer" type of calculation by Obama. However, with that said, she appears to at least giving the job her best shot. But is that good enough, especially with Russia? No.

Russia lost over 20 million dead in WWII and still views the world as it's us against them. Plus, Russia and Putin have been brooding since their humiliation and subsequent fall during the Reagan-H.W. Bush years. Putin is a cold-blooded calculated man who I believe views Obama and Secretary Clinton as naïve inexperienced neophytes he can run roughshod over.

If Secretary Clinton thinks a deal with Putin is fair, you know he's smirking behind the scenes. Putin will play this thing out as long as he can before some adults return to running the White House.

Roger Conklin:

Secretary Clinton states that less than 1% of US exports are to Russia and cites the Jackson-Vanick legislation which punishes Russia for extracting payments from its Jewish citizens emigrating to Israel as a principal barrier to our exports to Russia. She urges Congress to repeal this legislation and thus remove this barrier which she believes is why our exports to Russia are next to nothing.

The Irony is that it is the US that has replaced Russia of the principal violator of his Act by making it virtually impossible for US citizens to relocate to Russia to sell US exports. With our unique citizenship-based taxation laws US citizens who relocate to any other country to sell US exports, or for any other purpose, continue to be subject to US income tax as if they never left home. They are taxed by their host countries on their world-wide income and then double taxed on that same income by the IRS. There is a limited foreign earned income exclusion and they may claim a foreign tax credit for some foreign taxes, but because of the vast differences in the US tax system from other countries, this mitigation is largely illusionary. Even if these factors totally offset the person's US tax liability he must still pay several thousand dollars for expert tax advice in order to properly file forms 1040, 2111, 1116, FBAR reports and the new FATCA report. The penalty for even an inadvertent error in the FBAR form is $10,000 and for failing to file a US tax return may be $25,000 plus prison time. And in Russia with its foreign currency controls he must violate Russian law and buy dollars illegally to pay his US tax obligation.

The Russian citizen relocating to the US has no problem opening a US bank account and he files and pays US taxes only, whereas the US citizen relocating to Russia, because of the IRS reporting requirements imposed by FATCA on Foreign Banks requiring they report full details on their account holders who are Americans, in all probability cannot open a bank account there. The application will be denied because it is a violation of Russian law to divulge to any 3rd party, let alone a "foreign" government, confidential information on anybody's bank accounts. Banks around the world are closing down the accounts of US persons because of this draconian FATCA legislation enacted by Congress and signed into law as part of the HIRE Act by President Obama. Americans are persona-non grata abroad because of this law.

The result is that the US in 2011 imported 4.3 times as much from Russia as was exported to Russia. Russia's 12-month goods world trade surplus is $211 billion, which is 26% greater than China's $172 billion trade surplus and compares to the US trade deficit of $758 billion. So Secretary Clinton, the problem is not Jackson-Vanick but our own tax system. Exports don't sell themselves It takes American feet on the ground to sell US exports, just like it took American Navy SEALS to take out bin Laden. The Russians, just like the Germans (who have a $227 billion trade surplus) know this, but Secretary Clinton, Congress and the Administration are totally blind to this economic reality.

When President Kennedy in 1962 signed the legislation making US citizens living abroad the only persons in the world living in another country subject to the double taxation by their country of citizenship he asserted that any American would would live abroad was doing so to evade taxes. Our successful exporting competitors treat their citizens who go abroad and sell the exports that create jobs at home as patriots, whereas our unique double taxation treats Americans who do this as tax-evading traitors. No, it is not Jackson-Vanick that is responsible for our massive trade deficit (which represents some 7.9 million destroyed American jobs) but our own citizenship-based tax system which tips the playing field against ourselves.

Russia's Liberal Pseudo-Politicians by Andreas Umland

June 18, 2012 | The Globalist

In Russia's Putin era, the political clout of the country's liberals seems to have all but evaporated. As Andreas Umland writes, Russia's liberals seem more interested in being traveling abroad and speaking at symposia than engaging in the hurly-burly of real politics. If they want to have an impact on the country's future, that will have to change.

key reason for the relative social and political insignificance of Russian liberalism has to do less with President Vladimir Putin's authoritarianism than with post-Soviet liberal leaders themselves, if not with decades-old pathologies of Russian intelligentsia culture. Russian liberals have yet to start engaging with politics proper.

Russia's liberals are acting in a manner that makes them seem more like "pseudo" politicians than real politicians.
Russia's democratic movement has to contend with a significant internal problem. Instead of facing the realities of inter-party competition and coalition building in post-Soviet Russia, many of Russia's liberal activists act like political moralists, high-flying humanists, busy civic activists and theory-savvy analysts. Posing as politicians, they have mentally never left the remnants of intellectual life and civil society.

In order to become effective participants in the rough-and-tumble of political life, Russia's liberals need to embrace the notion of strategy and the tactics of fighting for power. Currently, their fledgling political activities merely play into the hands of President Putin and his ilk in the Kremlin, who are known to be ruthless power realists.

Two decades after independence, Russia's democratic opposition forces still need to overcome the Yavlinsky Syndrome - the pattern of behavior shown in the 1990s by the then-leading democratic politician Grigory Yavlinsky. Yavlinsky was famous for his avoidance of making political alliances and shying away from taking responsibility in government - hardly the way to bring about the political change the country so desperately needs.

To be sure, many of Russia's liberals are well traveled and well informed. They are intimately familiar with the functioning of Western societies. They understand that real-life, contemporary democratic politics often necessitates awkward alliances, self-denying compromises and disgusting opportunism. That is the nature of politics in pluralistic settings - and it is the price that often has to be paid to obtain executive positions.

However, Russia's reformers continue to see their own practical politics as a purist and/or altruistic exercise. They view the quality of their political engagement in terms of the consistency and principledness of their public positions and everyday behavior.

The more Russia's liberals connect abroad, playing the role of Russian opposition politician there, the less they count at home.
At first glance, this is a laudable attitude, speaking in favor of the quality of post-Soviet Russian liberalism. On second thought, though, Russia's liberals are acting in a manner that makes them seem more like pseudo politicians than real politicians.

Thus, their continuing political insignificance is, to some degree, a result of their own choice. The liberals' excessive pride and permanent infighting sometimes borders on sectarianism. It is apolitical, if not ultimately anti-political, behavior.

Paradoxically, the liberals' engagement with their Western colleagues often serves to strengthen rather than weaken these pathologies. Instead of facing the challenges of building a nationwide political movement throughout Russia's provinces, a number of liberal party leaders are occupied with frequent visits to Europe and North America.

Some of them are happy to be sought-after guests at Western political meetings, columnists in major international newspapers and speakers at prestigious foreign conferences. But the more they connect abroad, playing the role of Russian opposition politician there, the less they count at home.

To be sure, there is now a new cohort of democratic leaders emerging, including Alexei Navalnyi, Mikhail Prokhorov and Ilya Yashin. They were not active in the 1990s and seem to have a more pragmatic attitude towards politics. Yet so far, the rise of these new leaders has only further fragmented the pro-democratic spectrum.

Like most of their older colleagues, many of the new leaders come from Moscow or St. Petersburg, belong to the upper middle class (or even the upper class), and are too highbrow for the average Russian voter.

The rise of a new generation of leaders who were not active in the 1990s has further fragmented the pro-democratic spectrum.
For Russian liberalism to ever succeed, it will need a leader who is different from the current ones. Preferably, this person would not come from the Moscow or St. Petersburg intelligentsia, or not be perceived as an aloof egghead with little empathy for the worries and needs of ordinary Russians outside the country's two major metropolitan cities.

Ideally, the new leader would have a natural understanding of the need for coalition-building and reaching compromises. He or she should be a person who actually wants to obtain, and work in, a high position in the Russian executive rather than merely perform in scholarly debates or international symposia. Russian liberalism, in short, needs a real politician - and not yet another "intelligent" at its helm.

[Jun 27, 2012] Russia, US, Syria Time to Talk The Nation by Robert Dreyfuss

It will cost a lot of money first to install islamic fundametalists links to Gulf monarchies Syria and then depose it...
June 27, 2012 | thenation.com

President Obama needs to put an end to NATO's warmongering on Syria, and quick. I don't know what he said to President Putin last week, but if it wasn't, "I'd really like to work with you and the United Nations to quiet Syria down," then he'd better get on the red phone.

Judging by recent events, that's not where Obama is headed. I don't think that Obama wants war over Syria, but I don't think he wanted war in Libya until various forces arrayed to push him in that direction. Already the CIA is reportedly stumbling around southern Turkey mucking it up with various members of the ragtag Syrian rebel movement that is fast funneling more and more lethal weapons into Syria's civil war. Meanwhile, Turkey is trying to rally the United States and NATO to support Ankara over the hoked-up crisis over the shootdown of a Turkish spy plane.

It's entirely possible that the main mission of the CIA, in this case, is to sort out who's who among the rebels, since undoubtedly the more level-headed people in Washington are saying to themselves, "Who are these guys?" (I'm wondering that myself.) but it's equally possible, and more likely, that the CIA is involving itself more deeply in coordinating the weapons flow into Syria. That's been reported for a while now, and if so it means that the Obama administration is edging closer to an open, armed regime-change strategy aimed at a major Russian and Iranian ally.

Meanwhile, even Turkey's NATO allies seem to be privately ridiculing Turkey's assertion that its plane was on a training mission. That seems patent nonsense, and much more likely is that Turkey was testing Syria's air defense and perhaps trying to provoke the creation of a NATO-imposed, Iraq-style no-fly zone in Syria. Had Syrian jets scrambled to protect its air space, by now hawks and quite a few Obama administration officials would be clamoring for a no-fly edict backed by US armed forces. This is dangerous, Tonkin Gulf–style gamesmanship.

The question is, Why isn't Obama speaking out aggressively in defense of the UN, the Kofi Annan plan and the need to arrange a cease-fire and a negotiated solution? (Part of the answer, as always: politics at home. Another part of the answer: the administration's desire to poke Iran in the eye.)

Russia will attend a meeting in Geneva aimed at the Syrian crisis on June 30, and Hillary Clinton will hold pre-discussions with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. Clinton is threatening not to go to Geneva if the Russians don't agree that the focus of the meeting is to force President Assad out of power. A US official told reporters:

"For us, the key thing is that the participants in the meeting agree on the way forward including political transition in Syria. I think if Kofi Annan can get the proposed participants to agree on such a plan for political transition, then there will be a meeting. But that's what we need to find out before we go to any meeting. If other proposed participants agree to that, then the secretary will go to the meeting and we'll try to advance it in that way. What it can't be is just another round of dialogue for dialogue's sake with the regime. And that's our view. And I think, frankly, it's the view of a very large number of members of the international community."

Maybe, but the fact is that right now the Free Syrian Army, other rebels and the Muslim Brotherhood are convinced they're winning in Syria, and so they don't believe in any dialogue or compromise, even if it means that eventually Assad steps down, Yemen-style.

Lavrov, meanwhile, wants Iran to attend the Geneva meeting, which the United States wrongly opposes. Said Lavrov:

"We are ready to go. Iran must be present. Otherwise the circle of participants will be incomplete and will not gather everybody who has influence on all Syrian sides. I think it (Iran) must be invited. There is an understanding (about this) among those who are most actively organizing it."

Stay tuned. This could get a lot uglier, fast. Obama must weigh in personally, rather than leave it to spokesmen and to Clinton.

theshadowknows
I might agree with you about what the CIA is doing except for the many reports, some still coming, on what the CIA and its sister spooks did in Libya. And except for the New York Times article which revealed CIA arms shipments to the Syrian opposition forces. And except for the reports that the so-called Syrian opposition, like the so-called Libyan opposition, are mainly Al Qaeda recruited from U.S. controlled Iraq.

I might agree with you that Obama's intentions were not war in Libya nor now in Syria but that he is being pulled into the war by his Axis partners. But you are old enough by now to know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. What matters in the end is not what is in Obama's heart and mind, but what his administration is actually doing. There is a a lot of information out there on what is happening in Syria, but evidently you don't prefer to read more widely than the major U.S.papers and the State Dept.'s bullet points.

And Obama did personally weigh in on the "Yemen" solution when he met with Putin. Putin put him in his place. That is why NATO and the CFR are encouraging Turkey to lead the way in partitioning Syria which appears to be the current agenda. I don't think Russia will stand for this either.

Furthermore, with Syria shooting down the Turkish fighter, I don't think Assad will go anytime soon. Obama is being pushed hard by both the neocons and his own allies among the neolibs to destroy Assad but that is going to be very, very difficult to do militarily or politically. Assad has clearly learned the lessons of Libya.

Robert Schiele
I've thought this whole thing has smelled like rotten fish from the beginning, and I believe the whole thing is being carefully orchestrated toward some (as yet) unseen end. Are Russia and China part of the puzzle? Are they following carefully scripted moves so that, when the fecal matter hits the rotating blades, they can piously wring their hands and say none of it was their fault? Or are they simply trying to send a message to the West that U.S. imperialism has gone as far as they're prepared to let it go, even if it means risking general war? And what is the real agenda of the Western powers here? Certainly, it has nothing to do with Syria or the Syrian rebels. You'd think, as unpopular as so many Western regimes are with their own populations (the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. come readily to mind here), the last thing they'd be considering is further military adventurism, which the Western democracies clearly cannot afford. Yet they seem to be maneuvering, every so slowly, to get a war. Something does not compute here. I have the feeling there's a very large, very smelly shoe that's about to drop, and when it does, I suspect a lot of people in the West are going to be extremely dissatisfied.

[Jun 27, 2012] Kissinger - Primakov dialog at the Sanct Petersburg forum

Summary of Primakov notes:

  1. The Americans asked Russia to adopt a resolution to impose no-fly zone over Libya, not to allow Gaddafi to use the aircraft. We went to a meeting and agreed to reduce the number of casualties in the Civil War. So what? We were cheated. The USA used this resolution to forcibly (using outside intervention) overthrow Gaddafi. But we are learning. And in the case of Syria, we are no longer fooled.

  2. On ABM deployment in Eastern Europe. If the U.S. thinks that deploying a missile defense system, they dragged Russia into the arms race, as they did with the Soviet Union, they are mistaken. We will not do that. Russia's response will be different. Here Primakov issued a cryptic statement: "We have not start from scratch."

  3. In Iran, there is no political decision to develop nuclear weapons. Iran just wants to bargain for a better international position. And the world powers have to negotiate with them. In other words, Primakov made it clear that Russia will not give Iran up.
  4. Primakov: "I'm not sure that during the capture of Tripoli the French and British troops were not used." Also, Primakov has repeatedly hinted that the West is directly involved in the riots in the Arab world. In particular, it has hinted about the shipments of arms to Syrian "opposition" gangs.
  5. After a possible removal Assad from power in Syria to power will come the same thugs as in Libya and Egypt. "The Libyan and the Iraqi lesson is not learned States," - said Primakov. Translated from diplomatic criticism is that the U.S. is going to do with Syria is the same as with other Arab countries. Namely, bringing the tribal animosity Shiites and Sunnis to an unprecedented cruelty, strengthening, "Al-Qaeda", and bringing the total collapse of the country. After that Primakov gave a brilliant joke: "We will put pressure on the government [of Syria], and the U.S. should put pressure on the opposition ... If, of course, they are cable of deal with them, because they are too democratic."
  6. And now kind of a bomb... Primakov called the current leadership of the U.S. to be Trotskyites, engaged in exporting the revolution to other countries of the world as the Soviet leadership tried to do in the 20s - those commissars in dusty helmets. Linking the current organizers of the revolutions with Soviets as was done by Primakov is a rather dangerous thing to do. Such an analogy is a clear taboo in the world establishment. Daring to push such an analogy at the international forum is an extremely brave thing to do. To do this, should really be the real top gun. If such things were said to the Americans in direct transmission, I am afraid even to think that Putin might said Obama behind the scenes...

RUSSIA, SYRIA AND THE WEST Mercouris

The key to understanding Russian policy is to look at what has happened in international relations since the end of the Cold War. If one does then it becomes clear that a small group of states, namely the United States and Britain but also occasionally France and some other US allies (but significantly not Germany) have appropriated to themselves a licence to overthrow governments of which they disapprove. They do this through a variety of ways such as by funding and supporting opposition movements and parties (called "democracy promotion") as happened in Yugoslavia in 2000, by arming rebels as happened in Libya last year and in Syria this year and ultimately by launching military attacks and even invasions of the various states whose governments they want to overthrow. Examples include Yugoslavia in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003 and Libya and Cote d'Ivoire in 2011.

Armed attacks or invasions of countries to overthrow their governments have of course been a feature of international relations since the beginning of history. What is unique about the present is that the United States and its allies have come to think of this licence they have given themelves to overthrow governments as a right they supposedly possess. It is a right they limit to themselves and which they claim on the basis of their supposedly superior democratic virtue as western democracies. Occasionally this right is even claimed to be a "duty" to overthrow governments which the United States and other western powers say misbehave. The policy arising from the exercise of this supposed right or duty is sometimes referred to as "liberal" or even "humanitarian" interventionism.

Notes on the USA foreign policy

June 23, 2012

R.C.

What I find so incredible, is that any leader who doesn't fall lock-step behind Washington's party-line is tarred a "dictator." Chavez is a dictator, Putin is a dictator, Ortega is a dictator, Morales is a dictator, Correra will be the new "dictator" if he gives Assange asylum, etc; Reading the responses of imbeciles on message boards who can't even find many of these countries on a MARKED map, I really am starting to wonder what's happened to the level of education in America that people are unable to see through this BS. It's simply irresponsible for mainstream publication like the NY Times and The Huffington Post to continually refer to Putin as Russia's "autocratic leader" when it's patently untrue. The article that Stephen Cohen published two months ago on the "pointless demonization of Putin" was not picked up by even so-called progressive websites. Many liberals in the US have been bamboozled by the Russian opposition and foolishly believe that they share some sort of solidarity with the protesters in Moscow, oblivious to the fact that most of them are neo-liberals who want to take Russia back to the 1990′s, do whatever the hell the west tells them to do & rally around presidential candidates (Mikhail Prokhorov) who are nothing more than Mitt Romney on steroids. By comparison, it's hard to iamgine that the occupy movement in the US would ever rally around someone like Prokhorov.
Misha
Among the regular of realists appearing in The National Interest, there's some degree of what you mention R.C.; which is perhaps encouraged (though not admitted) by the throwing a bone route. Having some realists doing such, along with giving space to the Abramowitzs and A. Cohen's better ensures being part of the establishment.

BTW, S. Cohen has had his moments which come across as mainstreaming for the elites. That he's a better overall option to many of the other talking heads serves as notice that there's room to improve the situation at the more high profile of venues.

cartman

It is perfectly okay and proper to send an ambassador to promote "democracy" and it is perfectly okay for ambassadors to take jobs with oil companies owned by a dictator's family:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/19/matthew-bryza-azerbaijan-oil-job-controversy_n_1608830.html

By the way, in the 90s he ran over a pedestrian in Moscow, and was recalled before his immunity could be compromised. Apparently this was a big problem among US envoys in Russia:

http://exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=17524&IBLOCK_ID=35

marknesop
Remember when the western world was ramping up to the war in Iraq, and the UK was all, like, we have a Special Relationship and we stand shoulder to shoulder with the USA? And at the same time around 50% of the British were opposed to the war and to England participating in it? By the time things were really getting going, Bush visited the UK, and then-mayor Livingstone called him the greatest threat to life on the planet? These are official government positions, and far from all the people believe in or support them.

It's true educational standards have slipped and the trend now is toward a daily diet of nonsense pablum from the media, shaping and directing our perceptions, but that doesn't mean there are not a lot of Americans who see through the BS. It's just not popular to go against the narrative, and those who do are seldom reported unless they are big names. In fact, we should spare a moment to feel sorry for America, because it is definitely worth saving and there are a lot of people who know better. Their voices are just drowned out by the monkey cage, and they have so many problems of their own that those of others must seem distant indeed.

[Jun 24, 2012] Ron Paul on intervention in Syria)

Original source: http://www.youtube.com/user/CongressmanRonPaul
Congressman Paul on intervention in Syria - Full text:

Ron Paul: Plans, rumors, and war propaganda for attacking Syria and deposing Assad have been around for many months.

This past week however, it was reported that the Pentagon indeed has finalized plans to do just that. In my opinion, all the evidence to justify this attack is bogus. It is no more credible than the pretext given for the 2003 invasion of Iraq or the 2011 attack on Libya.

The total waste of those wars should cause us to pause before this all-out effort at occupation and regime change is initiated against Syria.

There are no national security concerns that require such a foolish escalation of violence in the Middle East. There should be no doubt that our security interests are best served by completely staying out of the internal strife now raging in Syria.

We are already too much involved in supporting the forces within Syria anxious to overthrow the current government. Without outside interference, the strife-now characterized as a civil war-would likely be non-existent.

Whether or not we attack yet another country, occupying it and setting up a new regime that we hope we can control poses a serious Constitutional question: From where does a president get such authority?

Since World War II the proper authority to go to war has been ignored. It has been replaced by international entities like the United Nations and NATO, or the President himself, while ignoring the Congress. And sadly, the people don't object.

Our recent presidents explicitly maintain that the authority to go to war is not the U.S. Congress. This has been the case since 1950 when we were taken into war in Korea under UN Resolution and without Congressional approval.

And once again, we are about to engage in military action against Syria and at the same time irresponsibly reactivating the Cold War with Russia. We're now engaged in a game of "chicken" with Russia which presents a much greater threat to our security than does Syria.

How would we tolerate Russia in Mexico demanding a humanitarian solution to the violence on the U.S.-Mexican border? We would consider that a legitimate concern for us. But, for us to be engaged in Syria, where the Russian have a legal naval base, is equivalent to the Russians being in our backyard in Mexico.

We are hypocritical when we condemn Russian for protecting their neighborhood interests for exactly what we have been doing ourselves, thousands of miles away from our shores. There's no benefit for us to be picking sides, secretly providing assistance and encouraging civil strife in an effort to effect regime change in Syria.

Falsely charging the Russians with supplying military helicopters to Assad is an unnecessary provocation. Falsely blaming the Assad government for a so-called massacre perpetrated by a violent warring rebel faction is nothing more than war propaganda.

Most knowledgeable people now recognize that the planned war against Syria is merely the next step to take on the Iranian government, something the neo-cons openly admit.

Controlling Iranian oil, just as we have done in Saudi Arabia and are attempting to do in Iraq, is the real goal of the neo-conservatives who have been in charge of our foreign policy for the past couple of decades.

War is inevitable without a significant change in our foreign policy, and soon. Disagreements between our two political parties are minor. Both agree the sequestration of any war funds must be canceled. Neither side wants to abandon our aggressive and growing presence in the Middle East and South Asia.

This crisis building can easily get out of control and become a much bigger war than just another routine occupation and regime change that the American people have grown to accept or ignore.

It's time the United States tried a policy of diplomacy, seeking peace, trade, and friendship. We must abandon our military effort to promote and secure an American empire.

Besides, we're broke, we can't afford it, and worst of all, we're fulfilling the strategy laid out by Osama bin Laden whose goal had always been to bog us down in the Middle East and bring on our bankruptcy here at home.

It's time to bring our troops home and establish a non-interventionist foreign policy, which is the only road to peace and prosperity.

This week I am introducing legislation to prohibit the Administration, absent a declaration of war by Congress, from supporting - directly or indirectly - any military or paramilitary operations in Syria. I hope my colleagues will join me in this effort.

Ron Paul to Offer Resolution Opposing Syria Intervention -

See also
Yahoo! News

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, announced his intention to introduce a measure in Congress to prevent an American military intervention in Syria, according to the Hill.

Paul wants formal declaration of war

Paul's measure would force the Obama administration to ask Congress for a formal declaration of war against Syria in support of the rebels fighting against the regime of Bashir al-Assad. Paul complains that previous wars such as the ones of Iraq and Libya were launched not only for dubious reasons but without proper authorization from Congress.

[Jun 20, 2012] Is the US Returning to the Cold War With Russia by Stephen F. Cohen

June 18, 2012 | The Nation

As Washington and Moscow sink deeper into another familiar cold war–like conflict, this time over Syria, American policy-makers and commentators, Democrats and Republicans alike, declare that President Obama's "reset" of relations with Moscow has failed. With equal unanimity, they blame only Moscow, in particular President Vladimir Putin, while entirely deleting Washington's longstanding role in the deteriorating relationship, as they have done for more than a decade.

But as I pointed out in this Nation article a year ago, Obama's reset was all but doomed from inception because it was based on the same bipartisan, winner-take-all triumphalism that had guided US policy toward post-Soviet Russia since the 1990s. As before, Obama's "new" policy meant "selective cooperation"-that is, concessions from Moscow without US reciprocity.

Until the US-Russian conflict over Syria erupted this year, the Obama White House wanted three major concessions from the Kremlin as part of the reset:

The Obama administration got all three concessions. In return, Moscow wanted a compromise on the administration's plan to place missile defense installations near Russia's borders; an end to NATO expansion in the direction of Ukraine and Georgia; and a curtailment of US interference, known as "democracy promotion," in Russia's internal politics. The Kremlin got none of these.

In short, another chance for expansive cooperation in US-Russian relations, even the partnership possible after the Soviet Union ended in 1991, has again been squandered in Washington, not in Moscow.

That the historical and political analyses set out in my 2011 article, as well as the concerns expressed there, have been amply justified by events gives me no satisfaction. Nor to add that a year later, things have only gotten worse. The three US policies to which Moscow reasonably objected before the reset have become more aggressive, and indeed, in the Kremlin's view, have been supplemented by Washington's policy of selective military "regime change" in the Middle East.

In response, as I also warned, anti-American forces in Russian politics have continued to grow, along with the possibility of "another escalation of the arms race," about which both Putin and former Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, on whom Obama unwisely based the reset, warned.

[Jun 04, 2012] New Ideas From Dead Political Systems - Crooked Timber

I can read the title now: "Capitalist Plenty". The plutocrats' wet dream: plenty for us, a pittance for everyone else. The richest 20% now consume 85% of the world's resources.

I don't think anyone but the most studiedly mindless (and tasteless) contrarian would bother to ask the question "but what did the Nazis get right?" at any great length[1]. But there's always a temptation to do so with Soviet communism.[2] It killed quite a lot more people than Nazism but (for the most part, and after the 1920s) in a less obviously criminally insane way, and as a system it does have the characteristic that lots of people and countries at various times did want to have a go at it for themselves, more or less of their own free will. Which is why one of the big draws of "Red Plenty" is the promise to take us, as the subtitle of my edition reads, "Inside the Fifties Soviet Dream", or even to help us learn "lessons from the Soviet dream".

... ... ...

A lot of the dysfunctional behavior described in the Soviet system of the Khruschev years (particularly the gaming of targets and the wheeling and dealing between factory managers for spare parts) would have totally different mood music if we knew that it was leading up to the triumphs of industrialization, saving the world from Hitler and the Space Race, just as a lot of the behavior in "The Right Stuff" and "Patton" is actually pretty unforgiveable when you consider it in isolation from the overall project. But I don't think that such a book would actually be an honest work. As I hinted above, the novelistic first-person-shooter approach to history is so potentially powerful that you have to be careful about the sort of character and system you're humanizing, and the sad truth of Soviet communism is that the only honest way to write about the "Fifties dream" is in a way which makes it clear it was a great big lie, and that the only lesson from that system is not to do that again.

Because, as the book makes clear, there was no bloody great economic miracle. The Soviet economy grew because of the vast increase in resources thrown at it; there was an enormous increase in investment, much of it highly suspect in its productivity. There never could have been a golden future of plenitude and consumption just the other side of the hill, because the economic growth and the repression of domestic consumption were the same thing. It was all a con game.

David Wright:

Having grown up in Germany, I can vouch that "what did the Nazi's get right?" discussions are quite commonplace, although usually amongst trusted friends rather than in public media. By far the most common and widely accepted answer is: the Autobahn. Fiscal and industrial policy (repudiate debt, subsidize national champions) is also often brought up. National pride (patriotic spectacles, cool uniforms, rhetoric of unity and rejuvination) is sometimes mentioned. I've personally never heard someone call out monetary policy.

The Raven:

"It was all a con…"

Might one also reasonably say this about the Reagan-era regulatory and financial reforms, and apply similar reasoning.

Except it con-tinues.

J. Otto Pohl:

There was a lot violence in the Civil War 1918-1920, but it was on a much smaller scale than what happened later in the 1930s and 1940s. It is hard to come up with good estimates, but excluding the massive famine of 1921-1922, the Bolsheviks might be responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths during this time. The mass waves of repression in the USSR were concentrated between 1928 and 1953 under Stalin. There were three big ones.

The official GULag death toll including both Corrective Labor Colonies (ITK) and Corrective Labor Camps (ITL) is a little over 1.6 million for 1934-1956. One often sees figures that only include ITL deaths from 1934-1953 which bring down the number significantly to less than 1.1 million. But, these figures are incomplete and do not include transit deaths or deaths after release and release of prisoners about to die was an official policy. GUPVI the other camp archipelago (POWs and foreign internees) recorded in excess of another 500,000 deaths. But, only people who actually survived transit from the Front Camps to the GUPVI camps were ever registered. Those that died before arriving were never registered.

Given the existing gaps in the data is quite probable that the number of excess deaths due to communism in the USSR probably over 10 million. That puts it numerically in the same ball park as the Nazis. But, I wouldn't argue that it was a lot more.

mds:

Might one also reasonably say this about the Reagan-era regulatory and financial reforms, and apply similar reasoning.

Indeed, we seem to still be in the grip of a neoliberal "dream that the underlying model is basically sound, and a few technical changes will make it possible to achieve the vision of plenty." When the technical changes were progressive taxation funding a welfare state, the system admittedly did work for a while, until enough of those at the top decided that they'd just as soon keep it all, thanks.

Whereupon we got the technical changes of deregulation, privatization, disempowerment of organized labor, and "trickle-down." Since the vision of plenty is thereby once more reserved for a tiny elite, what new ideas might we learn from the results of our current zombie political system?

William Timberman:

If I were to say that present conditions in Europe and the US remind me of the Brezhnev era in the Soviet Union, I'd have the germ of a clever bumper sticker, but not much that could be offered as a substantive contribution to CT's seminar.

Even so, emotional reactions to our present difficulties aren't entirely without value in making some sense of where we're headed. When you look at the bloated toads of both parties in the US Senate, and the much younger, but equally smug LibDems and Tories in the British Parliament, how can you not be reminded of the fur-encased and totally dead mugs atop the Lenin's tomb reviewing stand in days gone by?

Daniel, as always, argues with panache, and with a sense of the inevitable triumph of good sense as he defines it, but I find him unconvincing nevertheless. Even enveloped in the sardonic moral tales of one so thoroughly done with socialism, I find myself dwelling morbidly on the young waitress taking our orders last Spring in a local restaurant, bursting into tears when she realized that we were discussing the merits of single-payer health care plans. It turned out that the younger of her two children had developed a serious, chronic illness. Although both she and her husband were working, they couldn't afford health insurance, and our state's version of Medicaid had just dropped them. I also think of President Obama and his kill lists, and Angela Merkel and her stern scheitert der Euro, scheitert Europa, and the smirk that came at the end of it. Just a year and a half ago was that last? Honestly, it seems at this point like a century ago.

Anecdotal evidence, contentless emotional responses, yes. On the other hand, it could be worse doesn't seem to me like much of a consolation, or very credible as a way to address the realities of our situation.

The Raven Re: William Timberman

I think there are political parallels here that are worth paying attention to. Not only the parallels between Western representatives and the "the fur-encased and totally dead mugs," but also in the ideas about economics.

Keynes skewered Trotsky in 1926 for, basically, having no workable way to implement his ideals and so resorting to ultimately pointless violence. Decades ago, I commented that perhaps we could now start writing articles about the failure of capitalism in Russia, and perhaps we could now write articles about the failure of capitalism in the West. Did Western economists of, say, 2005 understand Western capitalism any better than the Soviet economists of 1955 understood Soviet communism?

The Soviet economists repressed ("were in denial" is the pop-psych term) the knowledge that they were not, in fact, in the dictatorship of the proletariat but in a system dominated by an elite which had little interest in the professed goals political of communism. There was some sincere idealism in the elite, but it was the system overwhelmingly corrupt and corrupting: liberalization was a slow process, and almost immediately hijacked by the same neo-liberal economists that have so thoroughly wrecked the Westerns systems and the criminals who now dominate Russian economic life.

Having written that - and I am not sure I will believe it in 20 minutes - some parallels with the current situation in the West seem to me overwhelming and heartbreaking. The recognition that the system was increasingly a plutocracy, dominated by people who gave only lip-service to the stated Western political goals of equality and democracy, was something that eluded most Western economists-and, indeed, political scientists and historians-until the new depression hit, and it became clear where the real power lay.

The failed dreams of academics are perhaps farcical threads in the broader tragedy of the retreat from the democratic dream in the West. It seems to me that Red Plenty, in telling the story of a failure of political ideals in the Soviet Union, mirrors that tragedy.

William Timberman:

The failed dreams of academics are perhaps farcical threads in the broader tragedy of the retreat from the democratic dream in the West. It seems to me that Red Plenty, in telling the story of a failure of political ideals in the Soviet Union, mirrors that tragedy.

At the risk of composing yet another trivial variation on the dominant theme of my comments on each of these quite remarkable reviews, yes, I agree that for the most part this is indeed the case. I can't agree, though, that the failed dreams of academics are farcical, except to the extent that all of our failed dreams are farcical. It may be sentimental of me, but I see academics-many of them, anyway-as the canaries in the coal mine, historians of the future, antennae of the race, or whatever other cleverness one finds most readily to hand-that artists are traditionally purported to be. Most of us cry after the tragedy. Academics are condemned cry beforehand. I don't think we give them enough credit for that service, which, after all, so many of us have profited from in one way or another.

[Jun 04, 2012] Paul Krugman: This Republican Economy

Why isn't Obama making sure that voters know the truth about Republican obstructionism?:
This Republican Economy, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: What should be done about the economy? Republicans claim to have the answer: slash spending and cut taxes. What they hope voters won't notice is that that's precisely the policy we've been following the past couple of years. Never mind the Democrat in the White House; for all practical purposes, this is already the economic policy of Republican dreams.

So the Republican electoral strategy is, in effect, a gigantic con game: it depends on convincing voters that the bad economy is the result of big-spending policies that President Obama hasn't followed..., and that our woes can be cured by pursuing more of the same policies that have already failed.

For some reason, however, neither the press nor Mr. Obama's political team has done a very good job of exposing the con. ...

[Jun 03, 2012] John Rawls's Critique of Capitalism

Daniel Little:

Rawls on a property-owning democracy, by Daniel Little: John Rawls's critique of capitalism was deeper than has been commonly recognized -- this is a central thrust of quite a bit of important recent work on Rawls's theory of justice. Much of this recent discussion focuses on Rawls's idea of a "property-owning democracy" as an alternative to both laissez-faire and welfare-state capitalism. This more disruptive reading of Rawls is especially important today, forty years later, given the great degree to which wealth stratification has increased and the political influence of wealth has mushroomed. (I've addressed this set of issues in prior posts; link, link.) Martin O'Neill and Thad Williamson's recent volume, Property-Owning Democracy: Rawls and Beyond, provides an excellent and detailed discussion of the many dimensions of this idea and its relevance to the capitalism we experience in 2012. It includes contributions by a number of important younger political philosophers.

O'Neill and Williamson make the point in their introduction that this issue is not merely of interest within academic philosophy. It also provides a powerful conceptual and normative system that might serve as a basis for a more successful version of progressive politics in North America and the UK. Politicians on the left have found themselves locked into a defensive battle trying to preserve some of the features of welfare state capitalism -- usually unsuccessfully. The arguments underlying the idea of a property owning democracy have the potential for resetting practical policy and political debates on more defensible terrain.

The core idea is that Rawls believes that his first principle establishing the priority of liberty has significant implications for the extent of wealth inequality that can be tolerated in a just society. The requirement of the equal worth of political and personal liberties implies that extreme inequalities of wealth are unjust, because they provide a fundamentally unequal base to different groups of people for the exercise of their political and democratic liberties. As O'Neill and Williamson put it in their introduction, "Capitalist interests and the rich will have vastly more influence over the political process than other citizens, a condition which violates the requirement of equal political liberties". A welfare capitalist state that succeeds in maintaining a tax system that compensates the worse-off in terms of income will satisfy the second principle, the difference principle. But in the striking recent interpretations of Rawls's thinking about a POD, a welfare state cannot satisfy the first principle. (It would appear that Rawls should also have had doubts about the sustainability of a welfare state within the circumstances of extreme inequality of wealth: wealth holders will have extensive political power and will be able to effectively oppose the tax policies that are necessary for the extensive income redistribution required by a just welfare capitalist state.) Instead, Rawls favors a form of society that he describes as a property-owning democracy, in which strong policies of wealth redistribution guarantee a broad distribution of wealth across society. Here is how Rawls puts it in Justice as Fairness: A Restatement:

Property-owning democracy avoids this, not by the redistribution of income to those with less at the end of each period, so to speak, but rather by ensuring the widespread ownership of assets and human capital (that is, education and trained skills) at the beginning of each period, all this against a background of fair equality of opportunity. The intent is not simply to assist those who lose out through accident or misfortune (although that must be done), but rather to put all citizens in a position to manage their own affairs on a footing of a suitable degree of social and economic equality.

O'Neill and Williamson draw out the implications of this view of a just society by contrast with the realities of 2012:

The concentration of capital and the emergence of finance as a driving sector of capitalism has generated not only instability and crisis; it also has led to extraordinary political power for private financial interests, with banking interests taking a leading role in shaping not only policies immediately affecting that sector but economic (and thereby social) policy in general.... The United States is now further than ever from realizing what Rawls termed the "fair value of the political liberties" -- that is, the core value of political equality.

How would the wide dispersal of wealth be achieved and maintained? Evidently this can only be achieved through taxation, including heavy estate taxes designed to prevent the "large-scale private concentrations of capital from coming to have a dominant role in economic and political life".

It seems apparent that progressives lack powerful visions of what a just modern democracy could look like. The issues and principles that are being developed within this new discussion of Rawls have the potential for creating such a vision, as compelling in our times as the original idea of justice as fairness was in the 1970s. It is, in the words of O'Neill and Williamson, "a political economy based on wide dispersal of capital with the political capacity to block the very rich and corporate elites from dominating the economy and relevant public policies". And it is a society that comes closer to the ideas of liberty and equality that underlie our core conception of democracy than we have yet achieved.

(Williamson and O'Neill provided an excellent exposition of the idea and some of the foundational questions that need to be explored in 2009 in "Property-Owning Democracy and the Demands of Justice" (link). The concept of a property-owning democracy originates in writings by James Meade, including his 1965 Efficiency, Equality and the Ownership of Property.)

Posted by Mark Thoma on Sunday, June 3, 2012 at 12:06 AM in

[Jun 02, 2012] The Heartless Pursuit of Power

Robert Frank calls for more spending on infrastructure:
... The most important single step toward a brighter future is to repair our economy as soon as possible. And one of the surest ways to do so is a large and immediate infrastructure refurbishment program.

This path would not require Republicans to concede the merits of traditional Keynesian stimulus policy. Nor would it require them to abandon their concerns about the national debt. In short, the philosophical foundation for an agreement is already firmly in place.

If it doesn't happen, the coming political campaign will provide a golden opportunity to learn why. At the inevitable town hall meetings, voters who are tired of gridlock should ask candidates when they think that long-overdue infrastructure repairs should begin. The only defensible answer is "Right now!" Candidates who counsel further delay should be pressed to explain why.

For some reason, I always thought that people would come before politics, especially in a severe recession when so many households are struggling. But the Republican's lust for power ensures that gridlock will prevail.

Posted by Mark Thoma on Saturday, June 2, 2012 at 03:00 PM in Economics, Fiscal Policy | Permalink Comments (48)

Catastrophic Credibility

Paul Krugman today:
Catastrophic Credibility, by Paul Krugman: A little while ago Ben Bernanke responded to suggestions that the Fed needed to do more - in particular, that it should raise the inflation target - by insisting that this would undermine the institution's "hard-won credibility". May I say that what recent events in Europe, and to some extent in the US, really suggest is that central banks have too much credibility? Or more accurately, their credibility as inflation-haters is very clear, while their willingness to tolerate even as much inflation as they say they want, let alone take some risks with inflation to rescue the real economy, is very much in doubt. ...

I took this up in a recent column:

Breaking through the Inflation Ceiling: At some point during the recovery, the Fed may face an important decision. If the inflation rate begins to rise above the Fed's 2 percent target and the unemployment rate is still relatively high, will the Fed be willing to leave interest rates low and tolerate a temporary increase in the inflation rate?

Probably not. Even though higher inflation can help to stimulate a depressed economy, Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, is not in favor of allowing higher inflation because it could undermine the Fed's "hard-won inflation credibility." And recent Fed communications seem to be setting the stage for the Fed to abandon its commitment to keep interest rates low through the end of 2014. This adds to the likelihood that the Fed will raise interest rates quickly if inflation begins increasing above the 2 percent target even if the economy has not yet fully recovered.

As I'll explain in a moment, that's the wrong thing to do. But first, why does the Fed put so much value on its credibility?

An abundance of credibility allows the Fed to bring the inflation rate down from, for example, 5 percent to 2 percent at minimal cost to the economy. It also makes it less likely that inflation will become a problem in the first place, because high credibility makes long-run inflation expectations less sensitive to temporary spells of inflation. So maintaining high credibility has substantial benefits.

Does this mean the Fed should do its best to keep the inflation rate at 2 percent?

Sticking to a 2 percent target independent of circumstances is not optimal. There are times, such as now, when allowing the inflation rate to drift above target would help the economy. Higher inflation during a recession encourages consumers and businesses to spend cash instead of sitting on it, it reduces the burden of pre-existing debt, and it can have favorable effects on our trade with other countries.

If inflation begins to rise before the recovery is complete the Fed could, for example, announce that it is willing to allow the inflation rate to stay above target temporarily in the interest of helping the economy. But once unemployment hits a pre-set rate, for example 6.25 percent, or core inflation rises above some predetermined threshold, for example, 5 percent, then, and only then, will the Fed step in and take action. And it should leave no doubt at all about its commitment to step in if either condition is met.

But there is a tradeoff to consider. Allowing a temporary spell of higher inflation during the recovery does pose some risk to the Fed's credibility. I think the risk is small precisely because the Fed has been so careful to establish its inflation fighting credibility in the past. And the risk is even smaller with the 5 percent limit on the Fed's tolerance for inflation described above. But the risk is there.

When the economy is near full employment, the tradeoff between the risk to credibility and the prospect for a faster recovery is unattractive. There's little room to stimulate the economy and hence little room to benefit from a higher inflation rate. And the loss of credibility is potentially large because creating inflation in such a circumstance – when the economy is already growing robustly – would be viewed as irresponsible. Thus, the tradeoff is negative overall.

But when there is considerable room for the economy to expand, as there is now, the potential benefits from the increase in employment that this policy is likely to bring about are much larger. Why the Fed places so little weight on these benefits when unemployment remains so high is a mystery.

In comparison to the risks to credibility, which are smaller than they are near full employment, the benefits are large and the tradeoff is positive rather than negative. There does come a point when the tradeoff is negative again – hence the 6.25 percent unemployment and 5 percent inflation triggers described above – but in the interim we should be willing to allow modestly higher inflation. I have no doubt that, once the economy has finally recovered, the Fed will ensure that the inflation rate is near its target value, so long-run credibility is not at risk.

If inflation begins to rise before the economy has fully recovered, the Fed shouldn't react as though its world is coming to an end and immediately begin reversing its stimulus efforts. The resulting increase in interest rates would make the recovery even slower. In fact, given the net benefits that more inflation would provide right now, the Fed should try to raise the inflation rate through additional stimulus programs.

Unfortunately, the Fed has made it abundantly clear that's not going to happen. But at the very least the Fed should continue its present attempts to help the economy, even if that means a temporary increase in the inflation rate.

[May 27, 2012] Myth about competency of Mitt Romney by Mark Adomanis

See also Mitt Romney's Russia Problem - Forbes
InoSMI (Russia)

During the presidential primaries, GOP, Mitt Romney is very successful and very deliberately positioned itself as a "serious" candidate. In contrast, people like Newt Gingrich (Newt Gingrich) (who loves to make silly statements about the construction of bases on the Moon), Rick Santorum (Rick Santorum) (who loves to make silly statements about gays) or Ron Paul (Ron Paul) (who likes to do ridiculous statements about almost everything), Romney deliberately behaved politely, calmly and kindly. Knowing that behind him stands the entire party establishment and a lot of money, Romney gave preference to a specific strategy, trying to behave dull and gray in the hope that all the enemies in time to yourself will make hara-kiri. At the time, this strategy seemed to be very risky. I well remember thinking that Romney could lose his chance at the nomination. But in the end it turned out that the calculation was accurate and subtle. One after another, Herman Cain (Herman Cain), Rick Perry (Rick Perry), Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum tried to use the slogan "Anyone but Romney," and one by one they were defeated and disgraced. Romney, in contrast to other candidate was nominated largely by default, for lack of better options. Voters in the Republican primaries, did not like him, and now do not like him, too, but they mostly understand that this is the best of the worst candidates.

See also: Challenges Mitt Romney with Russia

Opposition antics Romney in the primaries has created for him an aura of competence, which, as it turned out, it is undeserved. No question, against the background of Rick Santorum is easy to sound better, but now the problem with Romney is much more complicated. Barack Obama turned out far from epoch-making political talent, as he was considered by many in 2008. Clearly, he is grossly inferior to Franklin D. Roosevelt, and even to Lyndon Johnson. However, he is an impressive speaker and a decent organizer, has a team of astute advisers, and a huge amount of cash for the campaign. Given the downturn in the U.S., we can assume that Romney has a real possibility to beat Obama. However, this victory is not that easy to achieve: he would have to earn it in a fight, and to do so he need to act during the election campaign more effectively than at any other time in his career.

Unfortunately for Republicans, Romney leads his campaign as if Obama is now ready to admit defeat, though his participation in the race means the inevitable victory of GOP. I try not to get hung up on the news that goes around the clock, because there are an infinite number of infantile and meaningless messages. However, the interview that Mitt Romney gave to Mark Halperin from the magazine TIME, seems to me a vivid embodiment of his superficial, arrogant, and ultimately stupid world views.

Halperin is hardly an aggressive journalist discoverer, vindictively and desperately seeking to uncover the secrets of the powers that be and bring them to clean water. He is perhaps the most mainstream of all mainstream journalists, a man whose undistinguishable from the gossip reports about the 2008 election, the cable channel Home Box Office has turned into a film. In other words, if Romney can not deal with journalists like Halperin, he should now lift up your hands and save everyone wasting time for a huge disappointment. The fact is that since he is too weak for a stooge like Mark Halperin means that the minion Democrats when they will be unleashed, just eat him alive.

Also on the topic: the Russian Gambit Romney

During an interview with Halperin Romney looked like a real life caricature of the cartoon evil and cowardly politician. On the very direct and simple question ("What specific skills and techniques that you acquired while working in the company of Bain, will help you create an environment in which there will be new jobs?"), Romney said the following:

Well, it's a question like "what you have learned in life that will help you to lead, to be a leader." I studied all my life to lead, to be a leader, learned from their parents, learned during their studies, on the experience it has gained in the private sector, helping to organize the Olympics, and then, of course, managing a staff.

So, answering the basic question, asked to explain why his career in the business gives him the opportunity to work the president - that is, giving the answer to which he should known by heart even before he officially become a candidate, Romney began to talk about raising a child, about his education, his work on the organization of the Olympic Games, his work as governor. In fact, he mentioned what he could but his career in business. And he said nothing about how his experience in the private sector (as a top of pack of private equity Gienas ) and his knowledge of magic of the free market will allow it to be the most powerful and influential person in the world.

See also: With the departure of Santorum - Romney vs. Obama

If Romney's explanation seem formulaic, banal and vague, do not blame that to problems in translation to Russian (these people who are working for InoSMI are really brilliant specialists!) Blame Romney himself. Reading his interviews, you get the impression that such an interview was generated on some robotic language and then this language was translated in human language such as English. This interview turned out to be surprisingly ineffective and futile for a man who during his entire campaign trying to present Obama as a pacifier, pampered intellectual, able to lift with his oratorical skills a storm in a teacup, but afraid to dirty his hands, at the same time falsely depicting himself as a man of action. In fact, the whole interview was one big and rambling digression from the theme proposed, almost an excerpt from the satirical newspaper Onion. In no way this was an interview of a presidential candidate.

I do not want a to quite this person a lot, but as an additional example I will present to you yet another masterpiece of absurdity: "The man who devoted his career to the economy, is better suited to restore order in the economy." In essence, the question of "why the business - is it good?" Romney replied: "Because the business - it's good." What a deep and bright idea! Although Halperin put pressure on him throughout the interview, Romney did not say anything to justify his corporate raids, even in the most shallow and unconvincing was it is typically done. Instead, he simply repeated the question, and then made insinuating and courteous statement about the value of the private sector. However, his statements sounded so banal that they would have seemed out of place even for a lecture on business ethic for the freshmen at the second rate university.

Also on the subject: Obama and Romney confronted on the issue of foreign policy

Of course, from a single interview one can extract almost anything to support his/her prejudices. A presidential candidate lives in a state of tremendous stress, and for many months of the presidential campaign blunders are almost inevitable, especially with US media, which writes about him nonsense from dawn to dusk. Maybe Romney just does not get enough night sleep before the interview, maybe his wife is suffering from multiple sclerosis reacted badly to the weather, maybe one of his many children or grandchildren needed his attention. Man is man, and it is quite clear that he occasionally stumbles.

However, an interview to TIME magazine, was not an exception, unusually pale performance of the typically sharp and flawless candidate. It is typical of his habit of saying ridiculous and crazy things like: "Russia is the geopolitical enemy of America's number one." Clearly, Romney is intelligent and wise man in some the most abstract meaning of those words. I know from experience that if you got from the Harvard a JD and an MBA, then you have a least some intellectual baggage. But it is quite possible that his handlers told him: "Mitt, you're too nervous and tense. Relax, say something ridiculous and stupid, and people will be pulled to you! " It is quite possible that he heeded such an advice.

In any case it is indisputable that Romney is extremely awkward and stressed candidate, and that he will make blunders which will turn seemingly "a cakewalkl", easy and decisive victory of Republicans into really tense contest, whose results will be unclear until the very end.

[May 23, 2012] How Much Does Washington Spend on 'Defense' by Tom Engelhardt

Antiwar.com

War American-style, already long detached from the lives of most Americans, is growing more so: ever more secret, presidential, and beyond the control of, or accountability to, citizens or Congress. In only one way is this not true: we taxpayers still fork over the massive sums that make our perpetual state of war and war state possible. As Chris Hellman and Mattea Kramer of the invaluable National Priorities Project report, the expense of all this is blowing a hole in your wallet and our treasury. To offer but one small example, if someday soon the Pakistani/Afghan border is reopened to U.S. war supplies, you will be paying the Pakistanis $1,500-$1,800 for every truck that crosses it, at an estimated cost of at least $1 million a day (with other "fees" likely). And yet, it's remarkable how little Americans know about what's coming out of their pockets when the subject is "national security," or where exactly it's all going. Which is why we need Hellman and Kramer (and their new book, A People's Guide to the Federal Budget) to keep us in the loop. Tom

War Pay

The nearly $1 trillion national security budget
by Chris Hellman and Mattea Kramer

Recent months have seen a flurry of headlines about cuts (often called "threats") to the U.S. defense budget. Last week, lawmakers in the House of Representatives even passed a bill that was meant to spare national security spending from future cuts by reducing school-lunch funding and other social programs.

Here, then, is a simple question that, for some curious reason, no one bothers to ask, much less answer: How much are we spending on national security these days? With major wars winding down, has Washington already cut such spending so close to the bone that further reductions would be perilous to our safety?

In fact, with projected cuts added in, the national security budget in fiscal 2013 will be nearly $1 trillion - a staggering enough sum that it's worth taking a walk through the maze of the national security budget to see just where that money's lodged.

If you've heard a number for how much the U.S. spends on the military, it's probably in the neighborhood of $530 billion. That's the Pentagon's base budget for fiscal 2013, and represents a 2.5% cut from 2012. But that $530 billion is merely the beginning of what the U.S. spends on national security. Let's dig a little deeper.

The Pentagon's base budget doesn't include war funding, which in recent years has been well over $100 billion. With U.S. troops withdrawn from Iraq and troop levels falling in Afghanistan, you might think that war funding would be plummeting as well. In fact, it will drop to a mere $88 billion in fiscal 2013. By way of comparison, the federal government will spend around $64 billion on education that same year.

Add in war funding, and our national security total jumps to $618 billion. And we're still just getting started.

The U.S. military maintains an arsenal of nuclear weapons. You might assume that we've already accounted for nukes in the Pentagon's $530 billion base budget. But you'd be wrong. Funding for nuclear weapons falls under the Department of Energy (DOE), so it's a number you rarely hear. In fiscal 2013, we'll be spending $11.5 billion on weapons and related programs at the DOE. And disposal of nuclear waste is expensive, so add another $6.4 billion for weapons cleanup.

Now, we're at $636 billion and counting.

How about homeland security? We've got to figure that in, too. There's the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which will run taxpayers $35.5 billion for its national security activities in fiscal 2013. But there's funding for homeland security squirreled away in just about every other federal agency as well. Think, for example, about programs to secure the food supply, funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. So add another $13.5 billion for homeland security at federal agencies other than DHS.

That brings our total to $685 billion.

Then there's the international affairs budget, another obscure corner of the federal budget that just happens to be jammed with national security funds. For fiscal 2013, $8 billion in additional war funding for Iraq and Afghanistan is hidden away there. There's also $14 billion for what's called "international security assistance" - that's part of the weapons and training Washington offers foreign militaries around the world. Plus there's $2 billion for "peacekeeping operations," money U.S. taxpayers send overseas to help fund military operations handled by international organizations and our allies.

That brings our national security total up to $709 billion.

We can't forget the cost of caring for our nation's veterans, including those wounded in our recent wars. That's an important as well as hefty share of national security funding. In 2013, veterans programs will cost the federal government $138 billion.

That brings us to $847 billion - and we're not done yet.

Taxpayers also fund pensions and other retirement benefits for non-veteran military retirees, which will cost $55 billion next year. And then there are the retirement costs for civilians who worked at the Department of Defense and now draw pensions and benefits. The federal government doesn't publish a number on this, but based on the share of the federal workforce employed at the Pentagon, we can estimate that its civilian retirees will cost taxpayers around $21 billion in 2013.

By now, we've made it to $923 billion - and we're finally almost done.

Just one more thing to add in, a miscellaneous defense account that's separate from the defense base budget. It's called "defense-related activities," and it's got $8 billion in it for 2013.

That brings our grand total to an astonishing $931 billion.

And this will turn out to be a conservative figure. We won't spend less than that, but among other things, it doesn't include the interest we're paying on money we borrowed to fund past military operations; nor does it include portions of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that are dedicated to national security. And we don't know if this number captures the entire intelligence budget or not, because parts of intelligence funding are classified.

For now, however, that whopping $931 billion for fiscal year 2013 will have to do. If our national security budget were its own economy, it would be the 19th largest in the world, roughly the size of Australia's. Meanwhile, the country with the next largest military budget, China, spends a mere pittance by comparison. The most recent estimate puts China's military funding at around $136 billion.

Or think of it this way: National security accounts for one quarter of every dollar the federal government is projected to spend in 2013. And if you pull trust funds for programs like Social Security out of the equation, that figure rises to more than one third of every dollar in the projected 2013 federal budget.

Yet the House recently passed legislation to spare the defense budget from cuts, arguing that the automatic spending reductions scheduled for January 2013 would compromise national security. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has said such automatic cuts, which would total around $55 billion in 2013, would be "disastrous" for the defense budget. To avoid them, the House would instead pull money from the National School Lunch Program, the Children's Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, food stamps, and programs like the Social Services Block Grant, which funds Meals on Wheels, among other initiatives.

Yet it wouldn't be difficult to find savings in that $931 billion. There's plenty of low-hanging fruit, starting with various costly weapons systems left over from the Cold War, like the Virginia class submarine, the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, the missile defense program, and the most expensive weapons system on the planet, the F-35 jet fighter. Cutting back or cancelling some of these programs would save billions of dollars annually.

In fact, Congress could find much deeper savings, but it would require fundamentally redefining national security in this country. On this issue, the American public is already several steps ahead of Washington. Americans overwhelmingly think that national security funding should be cut - deeply.

If lawmakers don't pay closer attention to their constituents, we already know the alternative: pulling school-lunch funding.

[May 19, 2012] Why Americans Are Less Hawkish than Their Leaders The National Interest Blog

American leaders are reliably more hawkish than Americans. That gap marks a failure in democratic decision making. Under some circumstances, the free marketplace of ideas not only fails to produce good policy but actually thwarts it.

That problem underlies a new joint study published by the Stimson Center. Based on a survey of 665 Americans, the study shows that when presented with arguments for and against cutting the defense budget, Americans want to cut it-a lot. Respondents rated general arguments for and against cutting total defense spending, finding most arguments convincing but dovish arguments generally more so. They preferred cutting defense spending to raising taxes or cutting other spending (though Republicans somewhat preferred cutting other spending). Asked to set a defense-spending level for next year, nine-tenths of Democrats and two-thirds of Republicans cut it. The survey then listed defense-spending categories, gave standard pro and con arguments for each, and asked respondents for their recommendation on each. Their biggest cuts, by percentage, came from the war in Afghanistan and nuclear weapons. The average total cut amounted to about 18 percent of the nonwar defense budget.

The study is a useful exposition of what we knew: Americans are less enthusiastic about war and military spending than U.S. policy on these matters suggests. As Christopher Preble points out, polls show majorities of Americans will gladly slash defense spending to reduce the deficit, are against the war in Afghanistan and remain lukewarm about global policing and current alliances. But the American political system offers only historically modest defense cuts, an endless, albeit reduced, military presence in Afghanistan and preservation of our globocop strategy. Republican voters' growing opposition to war of late (which, incidentally, Tea Party supporters seem to be hindering, not leading) has not translated into many antiwar positions among Republican leaders. As Ari Berman recently noted in the Nation, Mitt Romney's foreign-policy advisors are almost entirely neoconservative Bush administration retreads. Democratic voters, of course, are disappointed by the Obama administration's hawkishness, though it shouldn't have been surprising.

This gap is not new. Historically, according to Gallup, substantially more Americans say that we spend too much on defense than say we spend too little. Dan Drezner finds Americans are traditionally more realist in their foreign-policy views-thus less inclined to support military adventure-than American elites. In the latest edition of Political Science Quarterly, Joshua Busby and Jonathan Monten show that Republicans elites have long been more prone than Republican voters to favor high defense spending and long-term alliances.

One explanation for this democracy deficit is what Busby and Monten call "dual slack," the absence of restraint that either voters or international politics put on U.S. defense policy. Foreign-policy issues tend to rank low among voters' concerns and to contribute little to their voting decisions. So politicians have little incentive to cater to voters' foreign-policy views. They are relatively free to adopt principled (undemocratic) stances. And with few rivals restricting U.S. military deployments, foreign-policy makers can indulge ideological ambition and fancy.

Relative power causes the two sources of slack. Power lets the United States run amok abroad while insulating citizens from the consequences. For most Americans, even the war in Iraq brought little worse than marginally higher tax rates and unsettling TV images. Americans don't much care about foreign policy because it is usually inconsequential to their welfare.

Slack is a permissive condition. It explains why foreign-policy makers can ignore the public, not why they do. Understanding their motives means considering how power changed interests and ideology. As in other public-policy areas, minorities with concentrated interests rule over less interested majorities. The Cold War required organized interests in government and beyond that benefit from high defense spending. Foreign-policy elites may not directly work for the iron triangle, but those interests dominate conventional wisdom in both parties. Those seeking political appointment, government funding or credentials as an establishment bigwig can't safely buck it.

Exercising power abroad also required changing the United States foreign-policy ideology to suit activism. Where once the dominant idea was that preserving liberalism meant staying out of foreign military fights, the new ethos-call it Wilsonianism-said that liberalism's success required participating in those fights. Advocates of that view included both the narrow interests mentioned above and most others eager to overcome isolationist sentiment and keep the United States military abroad. By further limiting restraints and thus increasing the policies that Wilsonianism had to justify, the Soviet Union's collapse accelerated that shift. Variants of Wilsonianism are now the operational code of party's foreign-policy elite, while realism has been cast aside. The public remains relatively realist because it gets less Wilsonian education and socialization.

The public-elite opinion gap on foreign policy is likely to shrink if these issues get more salient, as Trevor Thrall will tell you. As voters get more interested in issues, they gather information about them from sources consistent with their partisan predispositions and should increasingly reflect elite views. From my perspective, that's ironic: the more Americans learn about foreign policy, the worse their opinions become. Democracy is not the culprit really-elite rule would be worse-but it hardly helps.

This analysis suggests that good U.S. foreign policy requires bad events. As Justin Logan and I discuss in the latest Orbis, if the economy stays flat and deficits further mount, maintaining military costs will increasingly require sacrificing entitlements or low tax rates. Although the public might then become more informed and partisan, the nature of partisanship might shift. That fight should catalyze antidefense interests that slowly move elites toward the realist, public view. Likewise, another brutal war or mounting threats should increase the popularity of restraint and realpolitik among elites. Because none of those conditions are worth rooting for, the public-elite opinion gap is. It's a bad consequence of good fortune.

Plutonomy and the Precariat by Noam Chomsky

May 8, 2012 | The Nation

On the Working Class

In the 1930s, unemployed working people could anticipate that their jobs would come back. If you're a worker in manufacturing today-the current level of unemployment there is approximately like the Depression-and current tendencies persist, those jobs aren't going to come back.

The change took place in the 1970s. There are a lot of reasons for it. One of the underlying factors, discussed mainly by economic historian Robert Brenner, was the falling rate of profit in manufacturing. There were other factors. It led to major changes in the economy-a reversal of several hundred years of progress towards industrialization and development that turned into a process of de-industrialization and de-development. Of course, manufacturing production continued overseas very profitably, but it's no good for the work force.

Along with that came a significant shift of the economy from productive enterprise-producing things people need or could use-to financial manipulation. The financialization of the economy really took off at that time.

On Banks

Before the 1970s, banks were banks. They did what banks were supposed to do in a state capitalist economy: they took unused funds from your bank account, for example, and transferred them to some potentially useful purpose like helping a family buy a home or send a kid to college. That changed dramatically in the 1970s. Until then, there had been no financial crises since the Great Depression. The 1950s and 1960s had been a period of enormous growth, the highest in American history, maybe in economic history.

And it was egalitarian. The lowest quintile did about as well as the highest quintile. Lots of people moved into reasonable lifestyles-what's called the "middle class" here, the "working class" in other countries-but it was real. And the 1960s accelerated it. The activism of those years, after a pretty dismal decade, really civilized the country in lots of ways that are permanent.

When the 1970s came along, there were sudden and sharp changes: de-industrialization, the off-shoring of production, and the shift to financial institutions, which grew enormously. I should say that, in the 1950s and 1960s, there was also the development of what several decades later became the high-tech economy: computers, the Internet, the IT Revolution developed substantially in the state sector.

The developments that took place during the 1970s set off a vicious cycle. It led to the concentration of wealth increasingly in the hands of the financial sector. This doesn't benefit the economy-it probably harms it and society-but it did lead to a tremendous concentration of wealth.

On Politics and Money

Concentration of wealth yields concentration of political power. And concentration of political power gives rise to legislation that increases and accelerates the cycle. The legislation, essentially bipartisan, drives new fiscal policies and tax changes, as well as the rules of corporate governance and deregulation. Alongside this began a sharp rise in the costs of elections, which drove the political parties even deeper into the pockets of the corporate sector.

The parties dissolved in many ways. It used to be that if a person in Congress hoped for a position such as a committee chair, he or she got it mainly through seniority and service. Within a couple of years, they started having to put money into the party coffers in order to get ahead, a topic studied mainly by Tom Ferguson. That just drove the whole system even deeper into the pockets of the corporate sector (increasingly the financial sector).

This cycle resulted in a tremendous concentration of wealth, mainly in the top tenth of one percent of the population. Meanwhile, it opened a period of stagnation or even decline for the majority of the population. People got by, but by artificial means such as longer working hours, high rates of borrowing and debt, and reliance on asset inflation like the recent housing bubble. Pretty soon those working hours were much higher in the United States than in other industrial countries like Japan and various places in Europe. So there was a period of stagnation and decline for the majority alongside a period of sharp concentration of wealth. The political system began to dissolve.

There has always been a gap between public policy and public will, but it just grew astronomically. You can see it right now, in fact. Take a look at the big topic in Washington that everyone concentrates on: the deficit. For the public, correctly, the deficit is not regarded as much of an issue. And it isn't really much of an issue. The issue is joblessness. There's a deficit commission but no joblessness commission. As far as the deficit is concerned, the public has opinions. Take a look at the polls. The public overwhelmingly supports higher taxes on the wealthy, which have declined sharply in this period of stagnation and decline, and the preservation of limited social benefits.

The outcome of the deficit commission is probably going to be the opposite. The Occupy movements could provide a mass base for trying to avert what amounts to a dagger pointed at the heart of the country.

Plutonomy and the Precariat

For the general population, the 99 percent in the imagery of the Occupy movement, it's been pretty harsh-and it could get worse. This could be a period of irreversible decline. For the 1 percent and even less-the .1 percent-it's just fine. They are richer than ever, more powerful than ever, controlling the political system, disregarding the public. And if it can continue, as far as they're concerned, sure, why not?

Take, for example, Citigroup. For decades, Citigroup has been one of the most corrupt of the major investment banking corporations, repeatedly bailed out by the taxpayer, starting in the early Reagan years and now once again. I won't run through the corruption, but it's pretty astonishing.

In 2005, Citigroup came out with a brochure for investors called "Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances." It urged investors to put money into a "plutonomy index." The brochure says, "The World is dividing into two blocs-the Plutonomy and the rest."

Plutonomy refers to the rich, those who buy luxury goods and so on, and that's where the action is. They claimed that their plutonomy index was way outperforming the stock market. As for the rest, we set them adrift. We don't really care about them. We don't really need them. They have to be around to provide a powerful state, which will protect us and bail us out when we get into trouble, but other than that they essentially have no function. These days they're sometimes called the "precariat"-people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society. Only it's not the periphery anymore. It's becoming a very substantial part of society in the United States and indeed elsewhere. And this is considered a good thing.

So, for example, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, at the time when he was still "Saint Alan"-hailed by the economics profession as one of the greatest economists of all time (this was before the crash for which he was substantially responsible)-was testifying to Congress in the Clinton years, and he explained the wonders of the great economy that he was supervising. He said a lot of its success was based substantially on what he called "growing worker insecurity." If working people are insecure, if they're part of the precariat, living precarious existences, they're not going to make demands, they're not going to try to get better wages, they won't get improved benefits. We can kick 'em out, if we don't need 'em. And that's what's called a "healthy" economy, technically speaking. And he was highly praised for this, greatly admired.

So the world is now indeed splitting into a plutonomy and a precariat-in the imagery of the Occupy movement, the 1 percent and the 99 percent. Not literal numbers, but the right picture. Now, the plutonomy is where the action is and it could continue like this.

If it does, the historic reversal that began in the 1970s could become irreversible. That's where we're heading. And the Occupy movement is the first real, major, popular reaction that could avert this. But it's going to be necessary to face the fact that it's a long, hard struggle. You don't win victories tomorrow. You have to form the structures that will be sustained, that will go on through hard times and can win major victories. And there are a lot of things that can be done.

Toward Worker Takeover

I mentioned before that, in the 1930s, one of the most effective actions was the sit-down strike. And the reason is simple: that's just a step before the takeover of an industry.

Through the 1970s, as the decline was setting in, there were some important events that took place. In 1977, US Steel decided to close one of its major facilities in Youngstown, Ohio. Instead of just walking away, the workforce and the community decided to get together and buy it from the company, hand it over to the work force, and turn it into a worker-run, worker-managed facility. They didn't win. But with enough popular support, they could have won. It's a topic that Gar Alperovitz and Staughton Lynd, the lawyer for the workers and community, have discussed in detail.

It was a partial victory because, even though they lost, it set off other efforts. And now, throughout Ohio, and in other places, there's a scattering of hundreds, maybe thousands, of sometimes not-so-small worker/community-owned industries that could become worker-managed. And that's the basis for a real revolution. That's how it takes place.

In one of the suburbs of Boston, about a year ago, something similar happened. A multinational decided to close down a profitable, functioning facility carrying out some high-tech manufacturing. Evidently, it just wasn't profitable enough for them. The workforce and the union offered to buy it, take it over, and run it themselves. The multinational decided to close it down instead, probably for reasons of class-consciousness. I don't think they want things like this to happen. If there had been enough popular support, if there had been something like the Occupy movement that could have gotten involved, they might have succeeded.

And there are other things going on like that. In fact, some of them are major. Not long ago, President Barack Obama took over the auto industry, which was basically owned by the public. And there were a number of things that could have been done. One was what was done: reconstitute it so that it could be handed back to the ownership, or very similar ownership, and continue on its traditional path.

The other possibility was to hand it over to the workforce-which owned it anyway-turn it into a worker-owned, worker-managed major industrial system that's a big part of the economy and have it produce things that people need. And there's a lot that we need.

We all know or should know that the United States is extremely backward globally in high-speed transportation, and it's very serious. It not only affects people's lives, but the economy. In that regard, here's a personal story. I happened to be giving talks in France a couple of months ago and had to take a train from Avignon in southern France to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, the same distance as from Washington, DC, to Boston. It took two hours. I don't know if you've ever taken the train from Washington to Boston, but it's operating at about the same speed it was sixty years ago when my wife and I first took it. It's a scandal.

It could be done here as it's been done in Europe. They had the capacity to do it, the skilled work force. It would have taken a little popular support, but it could have made a major change in the economy.

Just to make it more surreal, while this option was being avoided, the Obama administration was sending its transportation secretary to Spain to get contracts for developing high-speed rail for the United States, which could have been done right in the rust belt, which is being closed down. There are no economic reasons why this can't happen. These are class reasons and reflect the lack of popular political mobilization. Things like this continue.

Climate Change and Nuclear Weapons

I've kept to domestic issues, but there are two dangerous developments in the international arena, which are a kind of shadow that hangs over everything we've discussed. There are, for the first time in human history, real threats to the decent survival of the species.

One has been hanging around since 1945. It's kind of a miracle that we've escaped it. That's the threat of nuclear war and nuclear weapons. Though it isn't being much discussed, that threat is, in fact, being escalated by the policies of this administration and its allies. And something has to be done about that or we're in real trouble.

The other, of course, is environmental catastrophe. Practically every country in the world is taking at least halting steps towards trying to do something about it. The United States is also taking steps, mainly to accelerate the threat. It is the only major country that is not only not doing something constructive to protect the environment, it's not even climbing on the train. In some ways, it's pulling it backwards.

And this is connected to a huge propaganda system, proudly and openly declared by the business world, to try to convince people that climate change is just a liberal hoax. "Why pay attention to these scientists?"

We're really regressing back to the dark ages. It's not a joke. And if that's happening in the most powerful, richest country in history, then this catastrophe isn't going to be averted-and in a generation or two, everything else we're talking about won't matter. Something has to be done about it very soon in a dedicated, sustained way.

It's not going to be easy to proceed. There are going to be barriers, difficulties, hardships, failures. It's inevitable. But unless the spirit of the last year, here and elsewhere in the country and around the globe, continues to grow and becomes a major force in the social and political world, the chances for a decent future are not very high.

Noam Chomsky

May 8, 2012

[May 09, 2012] bernie-sanders-suggests-ways-to-boost-the-us-economy-and-reform-campaign-finance

From Current TV this Tuesday -- Bernie Sanders suggests ways to boost the US economy and reform campaign finance:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and "Viewpoint" host Eliot Spitzer consider what the U.S. can learn from the rejection of austerity measures in the recent European elections. Sanders proposes investments to bolster the economy, calling for "fundamental changes" in U.S. trade policy: "Unfettered free trade has not worked for the United States of America and for our workers. We have to demand that corporate America start investing in this country, not China."

Sanders also expresses concern about U.S. campaign finance in the wake of Citizens United: "We are moving into a system - and we see it now every single day - where these guys who are billionaires are literally buying politicians and trying to buy elections."

[May 05, 2012] NGOs Not So Nongovernmental After All

April 27, 2012 | The National Interest

February's dramatic arrest of fifteen nongovernmental workers accused by Egyptian authorities of "illegally operating pro-democracy programs and stirring unrest" aroused ire from several vocal advocates. One such advocate, Thomas Friedman, took to his New York Times column this week to lament the ongoing tension over the flap.

Friedman expresses outrage and moral indignation over the U.S. decision to provide aid to Egypt despite the NGO controversy and the country's failure to meet the West's human-rights standards. He sums up his argument in a series of rhetorical questions:

If we don't stand up firmly for our own values, then what will happen to those Egyptians who do? We must respect Egypt's sovereignty and dignity, but we have no reason to respect a contrived witch hunt against democracy workers trying to hold their own government accountable. We bit our tongue with Hosni Mubarak, and how did that end?

But it's the questions Friedman neglects to ask that hinder his piece. For example: Why do we assume Egypt should be remade in a Western image? Is it so wrong that policy makers in Washington "just care about strategic stability"? And is it unreasonable, all things considered, that Egyptians are upset with American NGOs-many of which are funded at least in part by the U.S. government-meddling in internal Egyptian affairs, attempting to impart their values and fundamentally change a country half a world away?

These and other pertinent questions have been raised before, by Robert W. Merry on this site and Patrick Buchanan, among others. The debate deserves more attention than it gets. American not-so-nongovernmental organizations operate under the assumption that their values are universal ones, necessarily welcomed with open arms by good and decent people everywhere. As Merry notes: "The arrogance of many of these people is almost guaranteed to be incendiary in target countries."

Friedman and others tirelessly championing the cause of spreading democracy and Western freedoms would do well to remember that "crusades on behalf of presumed 'universal values' have a way of going awry." This piece-along with the arguments that undergird it-is deeply flawed.

[May 05, 2012] "The number one threat facing America is its debt burden"

New Statesman

Beyond the naval shipyard in south-east Washington lies Fort McNair, America's third-oldest continuous fort, which looks across the Potomac at the Ronald Reagan national airport. Sacked by the British in the war of 1812, the fort is today better known as the home of the National Defense University (NDU) – the descendant of the Army Industrial College that was set up in 1924 to prevent a recurrence of the procurement difficulties that had blighted the US military during the First World War. It was also supposed to act as a kind of internal think tank for the military.

NDU was the place where promising officers were sent to prepare their minds for leadership. Dwight Eisenhower, after whom its main redbrick building is named, graduated from here. By focusing on the resources needed to sustain the US military, these mid-career officers think differently to others: they grasp the importance of a robust economy. "Without it, we are nothing," says Alpha, a thoughtful air force colonel, who, as is the custom, is known by his military nickname (a name I have changed to protect his identity). "People forget that America's military strength is because of our power. It didn't cause it."

I got to know Alpha in peculiar circumstances. Unusually for a foreigner, particularly one whose forebears once trashed the place, I was invited by the NDU to judge the school's annual exercise in national strategising. Along with two other "distinguished visitors" – a label that has never before, and is unlikely again, to be bestowed on me – I was invited to assess a ten-year national security plan for the US that the students had spent the previous two weeks thrashing out. The campus also conducts hi-tech war simulations in which outsiders with military or diplomatic expertise are invited to participate.

This was an exercise in much fuzzier geopolitics. In short, what should America do over the next decade to sustain its global pre-­eminence? I was intrigued to hear what these soldiers thought. Would they focus on defeating al-Qaeda, pacifying Afghanistan and disarming Iran? Or would they concentrate more on containing China as the emerging challenger to American power? As the saying goes, give a man a hammer and all he sees are nails. These people (I reminded myself) are the product of by far the most powerful military machine the world has ever known. Which nails were they seeing?

In what will qualify as another first and last, when I entered the room all its occupants stood and then, even more excruciatingly, sought my permission to sit down again. I momentarily thought about making a run for it. Instead we made our introductions. Of the 16 members of the group, nine were in uniform and the remainder were mostly senior civilian officials from the Pentagon, the department of homeland security and the state department. To judge from their accents, at least half of them were from the south. Most had done combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I think you could still describe the US military as a bastion of Republicanism," Alpha told me a few days later. "But it's a different kind to what's in­fashion nowadays."

Over the following three hours, this heavily be-medalled group laid out its blueprint. For the most part it was a highly articulate pre­sentation. The only small exception was a tendency to stray into military jargon. Terms such as "off-ramp", "kinetic" and "situational awareness" kept recurring. It reminded me of an American colleague at the Financial Times who, on his return from a briefing at the Pentagon was asked what he had picked up. "I learned that situational awareness is a force multiplier," he said. "Which means if you know where you are, you don't need so many people." When I related this to Alpha he smiled. "We could have done with some more situational awareness when we went into Iraq," he said.

The group's premise was that the US still had enough power to help shape the kind of world it wanted to see. By 2021 that moment would have passed. The country needed to act very fast and very pragmatically. "The window on America's hegemony is closing," said the ­officer selected to provide the briefing. "We are at a point right now where we still have choices. A decade from now, we won't." The US, he continued, was way too dependent on its military. The country should sharply reduce its "global footprint" by winding up all wars, notably in Afghanistan, and by closing peacetime military bases in Germany, South Korea, the UK and elsewhere.

It should not to go to war with Iran. "We have to be able to learn to live with a ­nuclear-armed Iran," the briefer said. "The alternative [war] would impose far too high a cost on America." In Asia, the US should recognise the inevitable and offer the green light to China's military domination of the Taiwan Straits. In exchange for the US agreeing to stand down over Taiwan, China would push North Korea to unite with South Korea. Finally, the US should stop spending so much time and resources on the war against al-Qaeda (the exercise took place about three weeks before Osama Bin Laden was killed).

All this was a means to an end, which was to restore the US's economic vitality. It would not be easy. It may not even be possible, they conceded. But it should be the priority. "The number one threat facing America is its rising debt burden," said the briefing officer. "Our number one goal should be to restore American prosperity." Intrigued by the boldness of their vision, I was unprepared for what followed. The briefer said they had all agreed on the need to shrink the Pentagon budget by at least a fifth, partly by closing overseas bases, partly by reducing the number of those in uniform by 100,000, but also by cutting the number of "battle groups" – aircraft carriers – below its current level of 11.

Most of the savings would be spent on civilian priorities such as infrastructure, education and foreign aid. None of this would be possible were the US at war, or even under threat of war, they said. It could be pulled off only if the country were, in effect, to cede – or "share" – its domination over large parts of the world. "We would need to persuade our friends on the Republican side that America has to share power if we want to free up resources to invest at home," the briefer said. "We tried really hard to come up with alternatives. But we couldn't find a better way to do this."

Led by my two "co-judges", we probed the 15 men and one woman for signs of hesitation. Expecting some kind of a reaction, I suggested that their plan would be seen as dangerous. Pull out of Europe? Accept nuclear parity with China? Embark on a Marshall-style plan to revive the US economy? The chances of anything like this happening were zero. "Nobody here thinks the politics in this town is going to change overnight," said an army colonel from Tennessee with a classic military buzz cut. "All we are saying is that we're in trouble if they don't." I heard his words and saw the person from whom they were issued. It was still a struggle to match them up.

Later it occurred to me that what the group had laid out was within the mainstream of Republican tradition. In the 1860s, Abraham Lincoln unleashed a series of investments that were to unify the continent into one national economy – from the railroads to the public universities. In the early 1900s, Teddy Roosevelt, another Republican, broke up the oil mono­polies, introduced regulation of workplace conditions and set up the first national parks to preserve the wilderness. Dwight Eisenhower, their fellow alumnus, responded to the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957 with massive investments in public education, science and road-building. In a classic of unintended consequences, he also created the research agency that went on to develop the internet.

Even Ronald Reagan, the undisputed icon of today's conservative movement, shepherded through an amnesty for illegal immigrants, closed down thousands of income-tax loopholes and set up a public-private partnership to defend the US's embattled computer chip­industry. Reagan once said: "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me." Given the Republican Party's instinct to equate virtually any taxes with socialism nowadays, it looks like Lincoln's party has left the US military – or at least its upper reaches.

Even with my grasp of polling methodology, I knew a group of 16 officers was too small a sample from which to draw any big ­conclusions. So it was with particular interest, a few weeks after the session, that I came across an article in Foreign Policy on a report issued by the Pentagon, by the mysterious "Y", entitled "A National Strategic Narrative". The report made much the same arguments. It paid homage to the famous "long telegram" from Moscow by George Kennan, published under the byline "X" in Foreign Affairs in 1947, which argued for a strategy of "containment" of the Soviet Union. In an attempt to get more attention, Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and therefore the head of all the US armed services, agreed to allow the names of the two "Y" authors to be revealed. These were Captain Wayne Porter of the US Navy and Colonel Mark "Puck" Mykleby of the US Marine Corps. Both were on loan to Admiral Mullen's office when they wrote it.

The authors argued that the US could not hope to practise "smart power" abroad if it did not practise "smart growth" at home. Unlike Kennan's intervention, the article written by "Y" generated little response. Barring a few bloggers, none of the major newspapers or television stations saw it as newsworthy. Kennan had been compelled to reveal that he was "X" after a mounting campaign of public speculation. The authors of "Y" elicited barely a shrug when they volunteered their identities. Yet their piece offered a key insight into the troubled mindset of the US senior military.

Much like the NDU group, Porter and Mykleby argued for a new spirit of "shared ­sacrifice" in America. It was Alpha who gave force to that phrase for me. Having patrolled the skies of Iraq – acting as the "unblinking eye" of the army – Alpha, like many of his colleagues, was disappointed with how the civilians managed that war. "In this country 'shared sacrifice' means putting a yellow ribbon around the oak tree and then going shopping," he said, in reference to George W Bush's infamous call for Americans to hit the ski slopes and the shopping malls after the 11 September 2001 attacks. The memory still bothered him. "Taxes are the price we pay for civilisation," he said, in quotation of the jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes.

America's ability to reverse her fortunes could come about only through being admired around the world, rather than feared, Alpha said. There was a thin line between being feared and being mocked. "Should we be seen as a hegemon that imposes its will on others, or as a beacon?" he said when I asked whether the US should regain its appetite to promote democracy overseas. "The best thing we can do for democracy around the world is to change our act here at home."

Alpha's group had recommended lifting the foreign aid budget by $30bn a year, entirely at the expense of the Pentagon. "We know there's no lobby in Washington for foreign aid," he said. In a poll by World Public Opinion a few months earlier, the American public estimated that a quarter of the US federal budget was spent on foreign aid. In fact, Washington spends little more than a dollar on aid for every 99 dollars it spends on something else. The gap between perception and reality is occasionally stunning. In practice, and given the patchy record of the aid industry around the world, it is unlikely more money would buy the kind of goodwill that Alpha's group would expect for the US – development is a complicated business. But that seemed beside the point. What I took from Alpha and his colleagues was a visceral concern about America's future.

I picked up the same concern from Admiral Mullen in an interview that he gave me three months before retiring as head of the US military. Mullen was in a talkative mood. In 2010, in the midst of overseeing a 30,000 troop surge to Afghanistan, Mullen had vented alarm about growing US national debt, declaring that it was the country's biggest threat – greater than that posed by terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and global warming. He had since repeated his point. We met amid the rolling high drama that led up to the last-minute decision in August 2011 to raise the US national debt limit by more than $2trn.

Perched at his utilitarian semi-circular desk, with a bank of television screens behind him, the admiral munched happily through two hot dogs, both of which he had drowned in mustard. It did not slow his word rate. "We are borrowing money from China to build weapons to face down China," he said. "I mean, that's a broken strategy. It may be OK now for a while, but it is a failed strategy from a national security perspective."

Mullen spoke of the need for Washington to take more effective decisions at a time when the US is entering a lengthy phase of fiscal austerity. It was clear he did not think Washington was up to the task. It still hadn't made a proper account about the events that led up to the September 2008 meltdown in the days that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Nor was there strong reason to be confident that such a meltdown would not recur. "Where were the overseers, as opposed to the finger pointers, which is what they became?" he asked. "Where was the oversight – the helpful, regulatory, legislative oversight to keep us in limits? Because it wasn't there. It wasn't there. Where the hell is the accountability for this?"

Mullen's concerns reminded me of Eisenhower's famous address in 1961, just before John F Kennedy was inaugurated as president, in which he warned of the dangers posed by the US's emerging "military-industrial com­plex". The world has turned at least half circle since then. Nowadays, those in Mullen's position spend more time worrying about the foreign components that go into US military equipment. The global supply chain is a growing reality for the Pentagon. In such a hyper-integrated world, very little is made purely in America.

The world is changing rapidly, Mullen continued, and the US cannot be expected to do all the heavy lifting. Much of its industrial base, including the naval shipyards and certain kinds of missile-building systems, was now in a "critically fragile" state, he said. "Once you lose that capacity, it's hard to get back. We're going to have to have something like a global security strategy that involves our allies and our alliances, so that our industrial capacities are complementary." In short, America's allies should share much more of the economic burden. "There is not a country in the world that can do this alone any more," Mullen told me.

A few weeks after the NDU course finished, Alpha went back to Afghanistan to a war in which he believes the US has again set its heights too high. "We should be more modest in what we think we can achieve," he said. "The American military was never supposed to be an aid agency." For Alpha, as for Mullen, American recent history offers a lesson in overreach. The US military has been asked to pull off the impossible in far away places. But whatever it has learned only reinforces its scepticism about what it can achieve. The real challenges are at home.

It is a mindset increasingly shared by the American people, more than seven out of ten of whom tell Gallup they believe their children will be worse off than they are – a strikingly un-American pessimism. Yet it is deeply rooted: a large chunk of the middle class is worse off, or the same, in real terms as their parents. Their contempt for Washington, which seems unable to grapple with the structural challenges facing US competitiveness, keeps growing, whoever is in office. Last year, just 9 per cent said they believed Congress was doing the right thing all or some of the time, which pretty much confined it to "blood relatives and paid staffers", as the joke goes.

And while Washington prevaricates, the rest of the world keeps expanding its share. In 2000, the US had 31 per cent of world income, according to the IMF. That is now down to 23 per cent, heading towards 17 per cent in the next decade. Yet even Barack Obama, whom Mitt Romney likes to portray as the declinist-in-chief, says, "anyone who says America is in decline doesn't know what they're talking about". To tackle a problem you must first recognise that it exists. That is what they are taught in officer school. For the most part, the US's problems are not obscure. But the will to confront them appears to be missing in action.

For Alpha, the best illustration of Washington's falling IQ – among a rich embarrassment of choices – is its reluctance to address the festering morass in the American immigration system. As a nation of immigrants, America is supposed to attract people. "We take the world's smartest kids and we give them the best education available, and then we put them on a plane back home," he said. "How smart is that?"

Edward Luce is the author of "Time to Start Thinking: America and the Spectre of Decline" (Little, Brown, £20

[May 04, 2012] Forbes: United States Is a Plutocracy

Jesse's Café Américain
Interesting piece, but what was most interesting was that it is from Forbes, 'the Capitalist Tool' business magazine, and not Rolling Stone or Mother Jones.

Economics certainly is a 'disgraced profession' that is largely in denial, but it has good company in politicians, accountants, business CEOs, bankers, and regulators.

Forbes
Economists' Malign Influence on Taxes
By Lee Sheppard
May 3, 2012

If Occupy Wall Street supporters are looking for new places to protest, they might think about picketing the economics departments of the most prestigious American universities.

Not only would they find a more convivial place to camp than an ugly concrete slab in lower Manhattan, but protesting at universities would serve two purposes.

First, those who are unemployed and burdened with non-dischargeable student debt - which now exceeds U.S. consumer debt -could make a point about the inutility and expense of American higher education.

Second, and more important, protesters could confront another group of elites who are responsible for the financial meltdown and have yet to apologize: the nation's academic economists.

Free market economic "literature" as economists call it - and their papers frequently are works of fiction - gave succor and intellectual respectability to the decades of deregulation and tax cuts that have bankrupted the country. Congress is compromised, to be sure, but lobbyists and members need economic studies as cover for what they are doing.

The United States is a plutocracy, with an income and wealth distribution that rivals South America's worst cases, but economists refuse to acknowledge that these outcomes are attributable to ill-advised public policies on taxation, regulation, trade, and education spending over the last several decades.

Economists bleat about "globalization" as though it were inevitable rather than a set of deliberate policy choices. Markets are political creations, so results produced by them are not inviolable or free from question. And they don't always produce equilibrium...

Read the rest at Forbes.

[Apr 29, 2012] Matt Stoller Obama as Neoliberal Ideologue

April 29, 2012 | naked capitalism

G3

My quip :

Repubs are like the abusive guy who will hit and throw the wife out of the house. Dems are like the one who will hit but let her stay in.

My friend's quip :

With Repubs, it is like outright rape. With Dems, it is like date rape.

[Apr 28, 2012] Bill Moyers The Ghost of Joe McCarthy in Today's Republican Party Tea Party and the Right AlterNet

Tea Party favorite Allen West was asked at a local gathering how many of his fellow members of Congress are "card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists."

April 26, 2012 |

Photo Credit: National Archives

We've talked at times about George Orwell's classic novel 1984, and the amnesia that sets in when we flush events down the memory hole, leaving us at the mercy of only what we know today. Sometimes, though, the past comes back to haunt, like a ghost. It happened recently when we saw Congressman Allen West of Florida on the news.

A Republican and Tea Party favorite, he was asked at a local gathering how many of his fellow members of Congress are "card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists."

He replied, "I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It's called the Congressional Progressive Caucus."

By now, little of what Allen West says ever surprises. He has called President Obama "a low level Socialist agitator," said anyone with an Obama bumper sticker on their car is "a threat to the gene pool" and told liberals like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to "get the hell out of the United States of America." Apparently, he gets his talking points from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, or the discredited right wing rocker Ted Nugent.

But this time, we shook our heads in disbelief: "78 to 81 Democrats… members of the Communist Party?" That's the moment the memory hole opened up and a ghost slithered into the room. The specter stood there, watching the screen, a snickering smile on its stubbled face. Sure enough, it was the ghost of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin farm boy who grew up to become one of the most contemptible thugs in American politics.

Back in the early1950's, the Cold War had begun and Americans were troubled by the Soviet Union's rise as an atomic superpower. Looking for a campaign issue, McCarthy seized on fear and ignorance to announce his discovery of a conspiracy within: Communist subversives who had infiltrated the government.

In speech after speech, McCarthy would hold up a list of names of members of the Communist Party he said had burrowed their way into government agencies and colleges and universities. The number he claimed would vary from day to day and when pressed to make his list public, McCarthy would stall or claim he accidentally had thrown it away.

His failure to produce much proof to back his claims never gave him pause, as he employed lies and innuendo with swaggering bravado. McCarthy, wrote historian William Manchester, "realized that he had stumbled upon a brilliant demagogic technique… Others deplored treachery, McCarthy would speak of traitors."

And so he did, in a fearsome, reckless crusade that terrorized Washington, destroyed lives, and made a shambles of due process.

Millions of Americans lapped it up, but in the end, Joe McCarthy would be done in by the medium that he had used so effectively to spread his poison: television. In 1954, legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow bravely exposed McCarthy's tactics on the CBS program, See It Now.

"This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent," Murrow declared. "We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a Republic to abdicate his responsibilities."

Later that same year, for 36 days on live TV, during Senate hearings on charges McCarthy had made questioning the loyalty of the U.S. Army, we saw the man raw, exposed for the lout and cowardly scoundrel he was. The climactic moment came as the Boston lawyer Joseph Welch, defending the Army, reacted with outrage when McCarthy accused Welch's young associate Fred Fisher of Communism. "Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator," Welch said as he shook his head in anger and sadness. "You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency? … If there is a God in heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good."

[Apr 22, 2012] Jesse's Café Américain Michael Hudson Debt The Politics and Economics of Restructuring

I have been watching the presentations from the New Economic Thinking's (INET) Paradigm Lost Conference in Berlin.

Here is Michael Hudson's talk on Debt and Restructuring from April 13, 2012


Posted by Jesse

[Apr 22, 2012] Jesse's Café Américain For Capitalism to Survive, Crime Must Not Pay

There are too many people in the financial sector, with their enablers, familiars, and camp followers, engaged in distorting markets and public policy discussions while collecting their enormous and counterproductive entitlements from corruption, fraud, and the misery of others.

They are crippling the economic recovery. These are not 'job creators' or even real wealth creators; they are con men, parasites, and leeches.

I was planning on writing something like this, but Bruce Judson says it quite well.

If the people allow it, the crony capitalists will destroy the capitalist economy and the democratic republic that sustains it. They will destroy it because they hate it.

They hate the risk and the narrow profits of honest competition and productive work in a free and open society, and so they create monopolies, cartels, private privilege, and fraud. They also hate equality, and the freedom that threatens to give other people the ability to curtail their insatiable lust for power.

If the people allow it, they will destroy themselves in their vanity and greed, which might not be all that bad as in the case of Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay and Jon Corzine, for example, but they tend to take a lot of innocent and good people with them, and that is a shame, and most often a tragedy.

For Capitalism to Survive, Crime Must Not Pay

by Bruce Judson
04/12/2012 - 3:52 pm

Unequal enforcement of the law will distort and destroy any capitalist society, and we may be witnessing just such a downward spiral in the financial sector.

Capitalism is not an abstract idea. It is an economic system with a distinct set of underlying principles that must exist in order for the system to work. One of these principles is equal justice. In its absence, parties will stop entering into transactions that create overall wealth for our society. Justice must be blind so that both parties - whether weak or powerful - can assume that an agreement between them will be equally enforced by the courts.

There is a second, perhaps even more fundamental, reason that equal justice is essential for capitalism to work. When unequal justice prevails, the party that does not need to follow the law has a distinct competitive advantage. A corporation that knowingly breaks the law will find ways to profit through illegal means that are not available to competitors. As a consequence, the competitive playing field is biased toward the company that does not need to follow the rules.

The net result of unequal justice is likely to be the destruction of the overall wealth of our society. I don't mean the wealth of individuals; I mean the total wealth of goods and services that are the benefits of healthy competition. To the extent that unequal justice prevails, entities that are exempt from the laws will, in all likelihood, be more profitable than law abiding competitors. Then they use their profits to further weaken competitors by using their illegal profits to further build their businesses at the expense of competitors. All of this business building activity is based on a foundation of sand, and ultimately the entire industry - or even the larger economy - becomes distorted. The "rogue" company gains power, changes markets, and destroys direct and indirect competitors because it is playing by different rules...

Read the rest here.

[Mar 28, 2012] Invisible Handouts and Anti-Government Conservatives By James Kwak

March 5, 2012 | 28 Comments

Ezra Klein wrote a column for Bloomberg discussing research by political scientist Suzanne Mettler and some of her collaborators. Mettler studies what she calls the "submerged state"-the growing tendency of government programs to provide benefits in ways that mask the fact that they come from the government-and its implications for perceptions of government and ultimately for democracy.

There are several important lessons to draw from Mettler's work. The most obvious, which was highlighted by Bruce Bartlett a year ago (and that I wrote about here), is that Americans are hypocrites: many people benefit from government programs, ranging from the mortgage interest deduction to Medicare, yet deny receiving help from any "government social programs."*

Woop
This post by Mr. Kwak reinforces how silly the Tea Party was, is, or will always be, co-opted by billionaires, now, or not.

So many Teabaggers were on the receiving end of Tricare, Civil Service Retirement Benefits, FERS, Social Security, Medicare, and a ton of other benefit programs, yet so many were decrying extended unemployment benefits and "food stamps", along with WIC and those targeting poor children.

Talk about un-Christian worldview and narrowly defined hypocrisy…..sheeesh. So many seemed to manage squeezing out a cushy existence pursuant to these government benefit programs, followed by the middle finger to everyone else. Well, what do we expect from the conservative MOVEMENT? One big movement at that.

Maybe this post by Mr. Qwak will serve to wake up a few of these screaming hyenas…..don't be on it, however.

fresno dan

Are social security and medicare "beenfits" or are they insurance polices that are bought and paid for by the recipients? And Social Security taxes are often called contributions.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/05/business/05norris.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&pagewanted=all&adxnnlx=1331029025-1PiAFwOM9NWHyYIPncVxaQ

But maybe we should remember what was said about social security by the guy who initiated it: http://www.ssa.gov/history/fdrstmts.html#exec Three principles should be observed in legislation on this subject. First, the system adopted, except for the money necessary to initiate it, should be self-sustaining in the sense that funds for the payment of insurance benefits should not come from the proceeds of general taxation. Second, excepting in old-age insurance, actual management should be left to the States subject to standards established by the Federal Government. Third, sound financial management of the funds and the reserves, and protection of the credit structure of the Nation should be assured by retaining Federal control over all funds through trustees in the Treasury of the United States.

Maybe the people getting government "benefits" are getting back, as they were told, just what they paid in… So, what is it? Government can manage funds in an actuarily sound manner and dispense them efficiently??? – or, government just redistributes as it likes and those rubes out in the hinderlands just don't get it?

The Raven

Social Security is a transfer-payment system, not an insurance system. Always has been. Fresno Dan, as you know very well, FDR was capable of being politic in his speeches, and he was selling the system to a public which wanted desperately both to have the system and not admit that it was a transfer-payment system.

Which point, come to think of it, applies very well to social-policy-through-tax-break. People can both claim that the money was theirs to begin with and at the same time claim feel satisfied that they are getting a break. Some decades ago, when Jackson wrote Crabgrass Frontier, the "deserved" mortgage interest deduction was worth about five times the much-resented housing subsidies to the poor.

"Help! Help! I'm being repressed!"

[Mar 28, 2012] Reproductive Rights and the Long Hand of Slave Breeding The Nation

"Scratch at modern life and there's a little slave era just below the surface, so we're right back to your argument."

Pamela Bridgewater's argument, expressed over the past several years in articles and forums, and at the heart of a book in final revision called Breeding a Nation: Reproductive Slavery and the Pursuit of Freedom, presents the most compelling conceptual and constitutional frame I know for considering women's bodily integrity and defending it from the right.

In brief, her argument rolls out like this. The broad culture tells a standard story of the struggle for reproductive rights, beginning with the flapper, climaxing with the pill, Griswold v. Connecticut and an assumption of privacy rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and concluding with Roe v. Wade. The same culture tells a traditional story of black emancipation, beginning with the Middle Passage, climaxing with Dred Scott, Harpers Ferry and Civil War and concluding with the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Both stories have a postscript-a battle royal between liberation and reaction-but, as Bridgewater asserts, "Taken together, these stories have no comprehensive meaning. They tell no collective tale. They create no expectation of sexual freedom and no protection against, or remedy for, reproductive slavery. They exist in separate spheres; that is a mistake." What unites them but what both leave out, except incidentally, is the experience of black women. Most significantly, they leave out "the lost chapter of slave breeding."

... ... ...

That the slave system in the US depended on human beings not just as labor but as reproducible raw material is not part of the story America typically tells itself. That women had a particular currency in this system, prized for their sex or their wombs and often both, and that this uniquely female experience of slavery resonates through history to the present is not generally acknowledged. Even the left, in uncritically reiterating Malcolm X's distinction between "the house Negro" and "the field Negro," erases the female experience, the harrowing reality of the "favorite" that Harriet Jacobs describes in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

We don't commonly recognize that American slaveholders supported closing the trans-Atlantic slave trade; that they did so to protect the domestic market, boosting their own nascent breeding operation. Women were the primary focus: their bodies, their "stock," their reproductive capacity, their issue. Planters advertised for them in the same way as they did for breeding cows or mares, in farm magazines and catalogs. They shared tips with one another on how to get maximum value out of their breeders. They sold or lent enslaved men as studs and were known to lock teenage boys and girls together to mate in a kind of bullpen.They propagated new slaves themselves, and allowed their sons to, and had their physicians exploit female anatomy while working to suppress African midwives' practice in areas of fertility, contraception and abortion.Reproduction and its control became the planters' prerogative and profit source. Women could try to escape, ingest toxins or jump out a window-abortion by suicide, except it was hardly a sure thing.

The foregoing is the merest scaffolding of one of the building blocks of Bridgewater's argument, which continues thus. "If we integrate the lost chapter of slave breeding into those two traditional but separate stories, if we reconcile female slave resistance to coerced breeding as, in part, a struggle for emancipation and, in part, a struggle for reproductive freedom, the two tales become one: a comprehensive narrative that fuses the pursuit of reproductive freedom into the pursuit of civil freedom."

[Mar 27, 2012] Political Inequality

Economist's View

At the end of a post discussing Acemoglu and Robinson's claim that inclusive political institutions are one of the keys to widespread prosperity, I wondered how inclusive our political institutions really are. Acemoglu and Robinson give an answer:

Who's Afraid of Super PACs?, by Acemoglu and Robinson: A lot of discussion on Super PACs has focused on whether they are able to get their candidate elected... This is the wrong way to think about a very serious problem.
As we argued in this Huffington Post article, political inequality is a serious challenge to US inclusive institutions, and is the real reason why we should be worried about the increase in inequality. These problems predate the Citizens United ruling. Lobbying and campaign contributions already have major impact on politics, and the wealthy have much better access to politicians and are able to convince them of their viewpoint much more easily.
Larry Bartels documents an intriguing and alarming pattern in his book Unequal Democracy: US Senators roll call votes correlate strongly with the opinions of their rich constituents, and not at all - or even sometimes negatively - with those of their poor constituents. Notably, this is true both for Republicans and Democrats. ...
In this light, the real problem with Super PACs is not whether they get Romney or Santorum elected, but how they have already totally changed the political agenda - and together with it, political inequality in the US.

Lafayette:

THE IMAGE MAKERS

{the real problem with Super PACs is not whether they get Romney or Santorum elected, but how they have already totally changed the political agenda - and together with it, political inequality in the US.}

The issue of SuperPACs is not that they exist, but that they work adeptly at manipulating Public Opinion.

One must presume that most of the money goes to publicity on behalf of the candidate. It would seem the most effective usage, given that Americans seem attached at the hip to the BoobTube (TV). (Not that it is any different elsewhere in the world and the differences only a matter of degree of attachment.)

If one wanted to enter every American household with political messaging, there could not have been innovated a more effective means to do so.

The issue devolves therefore to this simple question: Why does it work in manipulating public opinion?

Most of the publicity is mindless nonsense intended to show how a candidate, like soap-powder, washes "whiter than white". Because, obviously, their opponent is the Dirty Devil Incarnate.

For this sort of manipulation to be effective, they key ingredient is the recipient and an extremely supple but simple mind. One that has not be tasked to ask pointed questions about the malarkey being shown. One that has very little training in the political process and how winning is all important and the ends justify the means.

Political debates on TV are candidates trying to demonstrate oneupmanship and woe betide the candidate who says the wrong wrong words in the wrong way at the wrong time. Which means what?

It means that Americans are indeed swayed by the image conveyed and not the substance of a candidate. And thus the Image Designers and Handlers are defining how a candidate looks, how s/he behaves, what they say and how they say it.

The work is of a professional level that reminds one of the best national Advertising Agencies.

In a Pavlovian sense, since we are so inured to TV advertising, we, the sheeple, are being molded into supporting a political candidate - often on a daily basis.

MY POINT: The puppet show

And political substance be damned ... with any luck, like Dubya, we learn much too late that - behind the mask - is, uh, nothing. Just an ordinary human being, sometimes a puppet being manipulated with strings by Vested Interests.

What a surprise!

Lafayette:

I could not agree more.

Which makes me wonder what are they being taught in primary- and secondary-school education? Or is it a phenomenon of the television itself - that people actually allow themselves willingly to be manipulated?

I recall the movie Fahrenheit 451 (the temperature at which books burn). Its author, Ray Brandbury, said, according to WikiP: {The novel (was) the subject of various interpretations, primarily focusing on the historical role of book burning in suppressing dissenting ideas. Bradbury has stated that the novel is not about censorship, but a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature, which leads to a perception of knowledge as being composed of factoids, partial information devoid of context}

The book was published in 1953. Fast-forward 60 years - fiction has become reality ...

Lafayette:

A VERY LONGGGGGGG SHOT

Let's remember, when thinking about "Political Inequality", that SuperPACs work both ways in a country with a two-party system. (Towards which many countries are morphing because it tends - supposedly - to bring about government stability. But at what price?)

From their Huffington Post article: {So here is the concern: economic inequality will lead to greater political inequality, and those who are further empowered politically will use this to gain a greater economic advantage by stacking the cards in their favor and increasing economic inequality yet further }

Wasn't it the Bobsie Twins (Summers & Rubin) who convinced Clinton to retract the Glass-Steagal Act? Which, for the Dem Party, does not show them in the best Progressive Light.

So, is it not our two-party system that may be at fault? For instance, a Senate in control of the Dems but consisting of 47% of Senators who are qualified millionaires. Much like the Roman Senate was that of the Roman elite (Patrician Families) that owned large parts of Rome and tracts of land in the countryside?

As I am fond of saying: Reagan's election opened Pandora's Box of Reactionary Ills that brought to the fore those interests of a Plutocrat Class. Aka, the Vested Interests of this nation, who desire to perpetuate the Trickle-Up Money Pump, by keeping their hands on the levers-of-power on both the State and Federal levels.

By which "regulatory environments are bad for business and worse for jobs". The sort of false-factoid that voters swallow hook, line and sinker.

And again I put this simple question: Who voted them into power? We, the sheeple, did.

And why did we do that? Because we continue to believe the mindless nonsense that "What is good for General Motors is good for America". First uttered by Secretary of Defense (in 1955) Charlie Wilson, ex-head of ... GM.

And what is the ultimate solution? There's only one, methinks. To increase the Progressive Caucus in Congress, presently constituted of 83 brave souls, all Dems, and only one Senator. This represents only about 20% of all Congress representatives (both Chambers). It is nonetheless a good start.

If only the Progressives can get their act together and increase their numbers in November. Which is, at present, a very longggggg shot.

Besides, "Progressive" in America is not quite the same term as a European Progressive, the former being more Centrist and the latter more Leftist on most matters of Social Justice.

Darryl FKA Ron:

"Wasn't it the Bobsie Twins (Summers & Rubin) who convinced Clinton to retract the Glass-Steagal Act? Which, for the Dem Party, does not show them in the best Progressive Light."

Well yes, but still long story there about theThe Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLB), also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. I would start with Gramm, but to be fair it was not the work of one Senator, or even one lobbyist.

The link below presents the final vote tally in an effort to represent the bipartisan nature of the bill.

http://www.uspoliticsonline.com/economic-issues/60404-repeal-glass-steagall-bi-partisan.html

However, if you look into the history of the bill back to 1998 then you will find that it originally passed along partisan lines, some deals were made during reconciliation so that the final bill passed with a veto proof majority. Now if the Dems had gotten any intention that Clinton might veto the Republicans then that might have turned out differently. But the congressional Republicans had made themselves "veto proof" by virtue of Monica-gate weakening the authority of a sitting President. It is a complicated world my friend

Lafayette :

{Now if the Dems had gotten any intention that Clinton might veto the Republicans then that might have turned out differently.}

I am of the opinion that Billy-boy had in mind, when he went along with Summers & Rubin, his wife's eventual election bid for which she would need Wall Street money to pursue.

The fact that she was New York's Senator also worked in her favor to curry the funds necessary for an election bid.

It must have been a great disappointment not to have been successful.

But, she'll be back. As Obama's VP, placing her in pole-position to take over from him.

bakho:

The TV advertising is largely negative. Negative advertising works. It discourages voter turnout. One characteristic of the GOP primaries has been low voter turnout. Voter suppression is necessary for a minority to win an election.

The threat of a primary challenge is used to make politicians change their votes. Vote for me or I fund a primary challenger with millions of dollars in negative TV ads and force you to raise enough money to counter them making you even more beholden to other interests groups.

DrDick:

While negative advertising has an impact, I think most of the GOP turnout issues can be explained by the quality of the candidates on offer. It is absolutely the most pathetic group of presidential candidates I have seen in my 60 years (they make Dukakis look charismatic).

Jim Harrison:

It's normal for the rich to dominate American politics. As Jeffrey Winters points out in his book Oligarchy, money is a more reliable basis for power than the charisma of political leaders, revolutionary ardor, or religious fervor. Dough waits out enthusiasm. Formerly, however, there were factors that held wealth in check in American politics, most notably the threat of revolution, but also the circumstance that a dynamically growing economy allowed the rich to get richer without impoverishing the underlings.

In the absence of any credible threat from beneath and in a time where profitable investments in the real economy are hard to find, all bets are off. The be all and end all of Conservative politics was the protection of property and the defense of inequality: now it has become the aggrandizement of property and the premeditated intensification of inequality.

Mark A. Sadowski:

Just a plug for Larry Bartel's book (linked to in the post).

http://www.amazon.com/Unequal-Democracy-Political-Economy-Gilded/dp/0691136637

Every person who considers themself a Democrat should read it if for no other reason than it will remind you why.

Seth:

Our political institutions are inclusive in precisely the following ways:

  1. politicians will take money from anybody who'll give it to them,
  2. anyone can volunteer to make phone calls or walk a precinct

These do not extend to an influence on candidate behavior in office unless the amounts of money (#1) given figure prominently in their overall budget.

Public opinion does indeed register with candidates, but mostly as an obstacle to implementing the agenda given them by their major donors. Office holders have to demonstrate consistency on the issues over time, but this has more in common with the way actors get 'type cast' than with real ideology. Once a candidate gets a reputation as a "liberal" or a "conservative" (among other issue-specific positions) any actions which deviate from expectations can generate a loss of popularity. They have to maintain their "image" by playing parts in various issue-dramas that build on their perceived strengths. What they do 'off stage' is separate, but subject to risks of exposure. It was very bad for Tiger Woods to have marital problems in large measure because his image was "squeaky clean". The same issues would not have hurt a "bad boy" athlete. It's the same thing with pols.

The fundamental problem for an office-holder is how to square donor-driven policy priorities with voter perceptions. Political talent is the capacity to do this with grace and agility.

Seth said in reply to Seth...

By this definition of political talent, Mitt Romney is pretty weak and Obama very good ... but not *quite* as good as some thought in 2008.

The Republicans are ALL OVER Romney for his etch-a-sketch inconsistency. And Democratic enthusiasm for Obama has waned as his 'compromises' (or is it really just plain 'comfort'?) with banker immunity, "tax cuts for the rich, austerity for the poor" fiscal policy, and 'national security' statism have whittled away his oratorically crafted image.

Mark A. Sadowski said in reply to Seth...

Who are you kidding? Democrats aren't going to pick Gordan Gekko over Obama. Moreover human beings with a pulse beat in general aren't going to pick Romney over Obama.

If this is the best you can do you have lost now and for the next 40 years.

Seth said in reply to Mark A. Sadowski...

I only said Democratic enthusiasm for Obama has *waned*. His tap-dancing in the service of the people who largely own the government has tarnished his image somewhat. I can't imagine a single Obama voter choosing any of the R field over Obama in 2012.

I can imagine some of them shrugging and staying home, though, if only because they are thinking emotionally rather than rationally. Such a pity that we spend our whole voting lives picking the lesser evil :(

Roger Gathman:
Interesting glimpse into the financial lives of our Representatives in the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/us/politics/study-shows-how-house-members-and-families-reap-benefits.html?ref=politics

The assumption a lot of people make is that the system is corrupted because politicos take money for their election campaigns, and then owe favors. But what if the venality is deeper and simpler than that? Getting the opportunity to do regulatory favors for monied interests pays off all the way down the line for politicos and their families. We know that the Senate and the House are in the ten percent, but how did they get there? They come, as it were, pre-bribed. I am not at all sure that the model that claims that the venality into which legislators tend to descend is derived from the expense of campaigning. I think it is derived from the unparalleled structure of incentives into which they are plunged. I would much rather see laws banning anyone who was ever elected to the House or Senate from any lobbying job, and from dealing in any way shape or form with any organization contracting with the government. And I'd like to see the lobbying ban put into effect for their immediate family.

Seth :

Yes. They are very much 'pre-bribed'. I think straight-up quid-pro-quo venality is relatively rare and is more common among long-time office holders who have become jaded.

The problem is that to GET elected requires finding a constituency, which pols generally select based on their own basic 'orientation' (innate, sincerely held beliefs), and then to attract funding sufficient to run a campaign.

If a pol doesn't approach funders 'tactfully' -- minus any threatening ideas like, say, confiscatory taxes for those very funders, or frankly ANYTHING that might be a little awkward to bring up -- they don't get the money. So they instead focus on a few hot button issue positions which are popular with a donor constituency and match their own personal preferences and cultivate that resonance with 'their' donors as their careers progress.

Over time there is an accumulation of compromises with the sources of funding. Both their own funding, and the funding of the other politicians they need to work with. Compromises with what we call euphemistically "Political Reality" which gradually disconnect even the most sincere pols from their original commitments and motivation.

It's darwinism: survival of the donor-friendliest.

[Mar 19, 2012] Opening the Fraud Gates New JOBS Bill 'A Colossal Mistake of Historic Proportions'

Jesse's Café Américain

I think this is just what America needs: many more IPO's from the financial sector with much less disclosure and transparency, and the weakening of Sarbanes-Oxley and what few investor protections still remain.

Even though Obama chooses not to enforce them, and investigate and prosecute very little, regulations still have a mild dampening effect on the predatory frenzy that we enjoyed in the 1990's under Bill Clinton and the tech bubble, and under Bush II with the Housing and derivatives bubble.

So the solution to unemployment, debt, and fraud is -- wait for it -- more debt and more fraud. And even though it won't gain many new jobs outside of the boiler rooms and penny stock hustlers let's call it JOBS.

This is in case you were under the illusion that the Democrats were any more committed to reform than the Republicans. These jokers are only bipartisan when it comes to taking their marching orders from their masters on Wall Street.

The White House is putting its chips on the CEO defense, and is feigning uninvolvement with the process, being too busy on other matters to be concerned with the very reason that his supporters elected him.

Personally I cannot understand why people don't just vote most of the incumbents out of office, essentially firing them for non-performance, and let them go find real jobs.

We have learned nothing. And it will happen again. And it will be worse.

Baseline Scenario
A Colossal Mistake of Historic Proportions: The "JOBS" Bill
By Simon Johnson
March 19th, 2012

From the 1970s until recently, Congress allowed and encouraged a great deal of financial market deregulation – allowing big banks to become larger, to expand their scope, and to take on more risks. This legislative agenda was largely bipartisan, up to and including the effective repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act at the end of the 1990s. After due legislative consideration, the way was cleared for megabanks to combine commercial and investment banking on a complex global scale. The scene was set for the 2008 financial crisis – and the awful recession from which we are only now beginning to emerge.

With the so-called JOBS bill, on which the Senate is due to vote Tuesday, Congress is about to make the same kind of mistake again – this time abandoning much of the 1930s-era securities legislation that both served investors well and helped make the US one of the best places in the world to raise capital. We find ourselves again on a bipartisan route to disaster.

The Senate needs to slow down and do its job – we have two legislative bodies for a reason and the Senate's historical role is partly to serve as a check on enthusiasms that may suddenly sweep the House. To pass this legislation on Tuesday would be a grave mistake.

The idea behind the JOBS bill is that our existing securities laws – requiring a great deal of disclosure – are significantly holding back the economy.

The bill, HR3606, received bipartisan support in the House (only 23 Democrats voted against). The bill's title is JumpStart Our Business Startup Act, a clever slogan – but also a complete misrepresentation.

The premise is that the economy and startups are being held back by regulation, a favorite theme of House Republicans for the past 3 ½ years – ignoring completely the banking crisis that caused the recession...

Where are the supposed guardians of our financial system?

The White House is reportedly taken with the idea of crowd-financing and wants a quick political win in the form of legislation; the Obama administration is poised to concede too much to financial sector interests, again. The Treasury Department likes to claim it provides "adult supervision" for all matters financial, yet it is conspicuously absent from serious conversation around this legislation. And he much-vaunted Financial Stability Oversight Council turns out, again, to be a meaningless paper tiger.

The securities industry special interests are naturally out in force – strongly supported by Senator Charles Schumer of New York and Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reports of the death of Wall Street lobbying power have been greatly exaggerated.

Financial deregulation was the result of decades-long delusion and bipartisan consensus. A major undermining of our securities law seems likely to take place on Tuesday – in a rushed moment of legislative madness.

Read the rest here.

[Mar 19, 2012] labor-and-dividend-income-from-1959

This is what some of the US industrialists and Wall Street have defined as 'Perfect Capitalism.'

The implications of this model are mercantilism and neo-colonialism, for the obvious reason that the process of subordinating wages to narrow profits erodes domestic market demand.

The only sort of schemes that must keep expanding in order to maintain their sustainability are essentially Ponzi schemes.


Source: Geographics at the Council on Foreign Relations

[Mar 19, 2012] Damning the Demimonde: Thomas Frank Versus the Oligarchs' Enablers

18 March 2012
The defense being offered for Goldman Sachs, and Wall Street, is that since they are serial cheaters and everyone knows it, the victims should only blame themselves for thinking otherwise, and doing business with them, and being cheated.

I have heard this one quite a bit lately. When someone from the Street offers this defense it is a bit ironic and almost funny.

If you are a member of a fraternity of self-confessed cheaters and liars, your public statements may not be as credible and compelling as you think. Unless you are talking to hardcore muppets of course. 'Trust me, this time I am NOT lying. But if it goes wrong, I was and you should have known better.'

It is as hypocritical as the CEO defense, wherein these titans command outrageous salaries for their superior performance, but when crimes are discovered, it turns out they have progressive dementia, and are barely aware of what goes on in the businesses that they supposedly lead.

Are these people children? Or is anyone who takes them seriously merely a gullible idiot?

What about the politicians, economists, and the media that rise to their defense, and serve their interests, time after time? Are they merely dupes, useful idiots?

Thomas Frank reflects on the serial failures of the country's thought leaders in the following essay. Frank leans a bit left, and I thought the criticisms which he levels could be spread around much more liberally, if you know what I mean.

I can remember arguing with certain prominent 'progressive economists' about the growing bubble some years ago, and more recently the moral hazards of TARP, and being shut down as effectively as any reformer on financial television.

It is not a right or left thing anymore. It is what Lord Action called, 'the people versus the Banks.'

More broadly, it is about equal protection under the law, the primacy of the democratic republic versus the tyranny of the oligarchs and their enablers, the statists of both left and right.

Too Smart to Fail
Notes On an Age of Folly
By Thomas Frank

In the twelve hapless years of the present millennium, we have looked on as three great bubbles of consensus vanity have inflated and burst, each with consequences more dire than the last.

First there was the "New Economy," a millennial fever dream predicated on the twin ideas of a people's stock market and an eternal silicon prosperity; it collapsed eventually under the weight of its own fatuousness.

Second was the war in Iraq, an endeavor whose launch depended for its success on the turpitude of virtually every class of elite in Washington, particularly the tough-minded men of the media; an enterprise that destroyed the country it aimed to save and that helped to bankrupt our nation as well.

And then, Wall Street blew up the global economy. Empowered by bank deregulation and regulatory capture, Wall Street enlisted those tough-minded men of the media again to sell the world on the idea that financial innovations were making the global economy more stable by the minute.

Central banks puffed an asset bubble like the world had never seen before, even if every journalist worth his byline was obliged to deny its existence until it was too late.

These episodes were costly and even disastrous, and after each one had run its course and duly exploded, I expected some sort of day of reckoning for their promoters...

But what rankles now is our failure, after each of these disasters, to come to terms with how we were played. Each separate catastrophe should have been followed by a wave of apologies and resignations; taken together- and given that a good percentage of the pundit corps signed on to two or even three of these idiotic storylines mandated mass firings in the newsrooms and op-ed pages of the nation...

The day Larry Kudlow apologizes for slagging bubble-doubters as part of a sinister left-wing trick is the day the world will start spinning in reverse. Standard & Poor's first leads the parade of folly (triple-A's for everyone!), then decides to downgrade U.S. government debt, and is taken seriously in both endeavors. And the prospect of Fox News or CNBC apologizing for their role in puffing war bubbles and financial bubbles is no better than a punch line: what they do is the opposite, launching new movements that stamp their crumbled fables "true" by popular demand.

The real mistake was my own. I believed that our public intelligentsia had succumbed to an amazing series of cognitive failures; that time after time they had gotten the facts wrong, ignored the clanging bullshit detector, made the sort of mistakes that would disqualify them from publishing in The Baffler, let alone the Washington Post.

What I didn't understand was that these were moral failures, mistakes that were hardwired into the belief systems of the organizations and professions and social classes in question...
[big snip]

"The main lesson we should take away from the Efficient Market Hypothesis for policymaking purposes is the futility of trying to deal with crises and recessions by finding central bankers and regulators who can identify and puncture bubbles," announced Chicago school economist Robert Lucas from amid the ruins in 2009. "If these people exist, we will not be able to afford them."

And the main lesson we should take away from the Efficient Market Hypothesis for our purposes is the utter futility of economics departments like the one that employs Robert Lucas.

A second lesson: if economists- and journalists, and bankers, and bond analysts, and accountants- don't pay some price for egregious and repeated misrepresentations of reality, then markets aren't efficient after all. Either the gentlemen of the consensus must go, or their cherished hypothesis must be abandoned. The world isn't gullible enough to believe both of them any longer.

Read the rest here.


Things will change, but it is going to take some time. As Charles Mackay observed, a people do not go mad overnight, and they only come back to their senses slowly, one by one.

And history has shown that a minority of 10 to 20 percent may remain true believers to an ideology after it is thoroughly discredited and even vilified. I was astonished to find Russians who in 1997 still longed for the days of Stalin, and of older Germans and Italians who even today have a sentimental wistfulness for a strong leader with a firm hand, and would welcome the return of der Führer.

I think this is because their ideas are founded not in reason, but in the realms of schadenfreude, a burning hole in their being that craves filling with the misery of others, or a natural obesiance to autocracy born out of a slavish dependence on the will of dark leaders who relieve them of the burden of thinking.

A Nation of Princelings and Paupers

Max Keiser has made a simple but absolutely brilliant observation about crony capitalism.

There is a certain prevailing attitude being broadly promoted that if a person can pay for something, then they should have it, and if they cannot pay for it, then they can't have it.

This is a fundamentally valid idea for ordering the discretionary aspects of an economy. Like most principles it is based on a number of assumptions including opportunity, honesty, and fairness of remuneration.

Having spent the better part of my working life traveling the world, flying hundreds of thousands of miles in a year at times. I became used to different classes of travel, and special clubs for frequent and professional travelers. I have no problem with that, even now that I don't travel in that manner much anymore.

But such differentiation has its limits. Evil is not only the absence but often the misapplication of virtue, an excess of zeal and a lack of proportion.

One can easily see how this principle of wealth as differentiation and rationing is now being applied to healthcare. By arguing with extreme examples of 'luxury treatments,' and widening the definition of what is discretionary, in fact basic healthcare can be cut back and even denied to those who cannot afford it, or afford it only with great difficulty, so that even questions of life and death can become a matter of the ability to pay.

What if this principle of the primacy of wealth is applied to the law? To justice? To go about one's business without official harassment?

It has gotten so bad that we have recently seen an instance showing that if you can afford the best lawyers available, you can steal the money of your clients, and you can openly keep that money, and get away with it.

The very principle that made America different, that made America a great beacon of light in history, is the the idea that 'all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights.'

America was intended to be a classless society, in which peoples' fundamental value as human beings was to be judged not by gender, or faith, or color of skin, or even their relative ability to spend money on luxury items, but by their fundamental worthiness and rights as citizens, sufficient in itself, because that value was given not by the State, but inalienably by God.

Yes those rights are limited, but they are also sacred and inviolate. And that does not mean that you have the right to equal protection under the law, to be considered fully a human being, but only if you can pay for it.

This will spread to all aspects of civil interaction as we become a nation of princelings and paupers via financial segregation.
Posted on March 17, 2012 by maxkeiser

Pay the TSA $100 and Bypass Airport Security

As the TSA spreads to trains and highways imagine a 'bypass' card applied in these instances as well. Pay a fee and drive in separate lanes, sit in separate train carriages, park in reserved parking, even walk on segregated sidewalks.

Financial Jim Crow laws are no longer a theory, they're here.




[Mar 19, 2012] How America Avoided A Fascist Coup in 1933

17 March 2012
The plot was exposed by a highly decorated Marine Corps veteran and war hero, Major General Smedley Butler.

BBC Documenary on 'The Business Plot' of 1933 in which a powerful group of wealthy Americans attempted to set up an organization patterned on the French fascists and German Storm Troopers and overturn democracy and the Constitution.

If they had succeeded, and formed an alliance with the industrialists and bankers backing the corporatism of Mussolini and Hitler, then the world might appear very differently than it does today.



The Corporatists: Mussolini, Hitler, Mosley


The history of man is the history of crimes, and history can repeat. So information is a defence. Through this we can build, we must build, a defence against repetition.

What connects two thousand years of genocide? Too much power in too few hands.

Simon Wiesenthal


Posted by Jesse at 10:21 PM

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Harvard Business Review: Psychopaths on Wall Street

I think that the salient point in all this, the technical details of percent and depth of psychopathy in the US financial industry aside, is that self-regulation is at best a vulnerable strategy in any human concern involving trust, but is absolute folly in an industry where the emphasis and incentives are based on the ruthless pursuit of performance at any cost, and where such behaviour is lauded.

There is little doubt that strong personality types such as even marginal psychopaths can hijack an organization, a party, or even a sub-culture given the right environment of moral relativism and complacency. And if successful, they bring more of the morally ambivalent and weak-willed along with them.

"I may have made an error in judgement...but one thing is beyond dispute: the man was able to work his way up to leader of a people of almost 80 million... His success alone proved that I should subordinate myself to him."

Adolf Eichmann

The efficient market hypothesis is more a clever cover story than a legitimate scientific observation worthy of consideration in public policy discussions. Transparency and oversight are absolutely essential in all financial matters.

The financial system, and their amoral enablers in politics and the media, have done enough damage to the world. It is time to have a stop.

Harvard Business Review
Psychopaths on Wall Street
by Ronald Schouten, MD, JD
Wednesday March 14, 2012

Psychopaths are the subject of endless fascination. We tend to apply that term loosely to people who engage in bad acts, ranging from pathological lying and repeated deception to major fraud and serial killing. Psychopaths rival pedophiles in the panoply of those we despise and fear. Given this fascination with psychopathy, and the public's current negative view of Wall Street (see Greg Smith's op-ed column in The New York Times about his resignation from Goldman Sachs), it is no surprise that Twitter, the blogosphere, and traditional media have been buzzing about "The Financial Psychopath Next Door," an article in CFA Magazine by Sherree DeCovny (subscription required).

The headline-grabbing factoid in the article was an estimate that 10% of people in the financial services industry are psychopaths. And that's a conservative estimate, according to Christopher Bayer, a Wall Street psychotherapist cited by DeCovny.

DeCovny describes "financial psychopaths" as individuals who seek thrills, lack empathy, don't care about what others think, are charming and intelligent, and are skilled at lying and manipulation. Citing Richard Peterson, managing partner of MarketPsych (a firm that provides psychological and behavioral finance training for the industry), DeCovny notes that these are some of the traits that also predict success on Wall Street.

To understand the implications of all this, it helps to define psychopathy. It is a psychological condition based on well-established diagnostic criteria. These include glibness and superficial charm, conning and manipulative behavior, lack of remorse and empathy, refusal to take responsibility for one's behavior, and others.

Determining whether a person is a psychopath is generally done using a test like the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), developed by Robert Hare and his colleagues. People who are "normal" invariably score a few points on such scales. True psychopaths score in the top 25%.

Using formal diagnostic criteria, researchers have estimated that about 1% of Americans - about 3 million people - are psychopaths. Based on statistics alone, there are some true psychopaths on Wall Street, as there are in all walks of life. The odds increase further when we consider the competitive advantage that some of the characteristics of psychopathy, including willingness to take risks, can provide in the field.

Psychopathy is mistakenly regarded as an all or nothing affair: you either are a psychopath or you aren't. If that were the case, saying that 10% of people on Wall Street are psychopaths could actually be somewhat comforting, since it implies that the remaining 90% are not and so shouldn't cause us any concern...

But there is good news. First of all, it is possible to screen out almost and full-blown psychopaths during the hiring process and after. Some of the key indicators are:

Glibness and superficial charm
Lack of empathy
Consistent decisions in their self interest, even where it is ethically questionable
Chronic, sometimes transparent lies, even with regard to minor things
Lack of remorse
Failure to take responsibility for their actions, and instead blaming others
Shallow emotions
Ignoring responsibilities
Persistent focus on gratifying their own needs at the expense of others
Conning and manipulative behavior
The only way to deal with a true psychopath is to get him or her out of the organization as fast as possible. While full-blown psychopaths are not deterred by fear and do not learn from punishment, "almost psychopaths" can get the message that adverse consequences will follow misconduct. As a result, strictly enforced firm policies can be effective in deterring those who may be tempted to engage in illicit conduct. As long as the firm wants to deter them.

Read the entire article here.


What I find most disturbing is that checklist sounds like a screening tool for political candidates.

[Mar 15, 2012] To Aid Russian Democracy, U.S. Seeking Use of Funds by DAVID M. HERSZENHORN

That's was a pretty shrewd investment: to make Russia pay for "Democracy export"...
NYTimes.com

The Obama administration is pushing to free $50 million in long-stalled aid to promote democracy and civil society in Russia, an effort that comes amid a drumbeat of accusations that the United States is meddling in Russia's internal politics.

... ... ...

The "enterprise funds" that invested American tax dollars in the former communist bloc were created during the administration of the elder President George Bush and first approved by Congress in 1989 in legislation that was called the Supporting Eastern European Democracy Act, also known as the SEED Act.

Paige Alexander, the assistant administrator for Europe and Eurasia at the United States Agency for International Development, said that 10 funds, including the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund, had generated $2.3 billion in investments in local businesses.

"We view the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund's liquidation proceeds as an essential resource to continue having an impact on private sector development throughout the country while also having a positive effect on Russian civil society," Ms. Alexander said. "Last spring we decided to consult with Congress to see if we could break the nearly five-year-old impasse."

[Mar 15, 2012] Kremlin Willing to Let NATO Use Airfield for Afghan Transit - NYTimes.com

The Kremlin expressed willingness on Wednesday to allow NATO to use an airfield in the heart of European Russia, in a city best known as Lenin's birthplace, as a transit center for moving troops and "nonlethal" cargo into Afghanistan.

[Mar 12, 2012] A Russophobic Rogue's Gallery The Kremlin Stooge

I realize all everyone wants to talk about right now is the presidential election in Russia, and although it has yet to be run as I start this post, it might well be over before I finish. But I am fairly easy in my mind that Vladimir Putin will win on the first ballot, and fairly sure that the Russian liberals will try to whip up massive protests on the grounds that his win was fraudulent although even the most virulent I-hate-Putin sources have said he will win on the first ballot even if there is no cheating at all. Who knows – maybe that's a devilishly clever western trick, to lull Putin into a false sense of security, so that he won't cheat and Zyuganov will win. Kidding.

No, I thought I would do something like the "Top Russia Blogs" sort of post, only this time I would showcase the most barking mad, snake-handling, rolling-in-the-dirt loopy, frothy Russia haters I know of. Among them, the vast majority are know-it-all foreigners who fancy themselves near-psychic academics who can predict the future of Russian politics and affairs, and who are never called to account when they are wrong. Only two are Russians living in Russia; Julia Ioffe does not count as such, since she left Russia as a small child and grew up in the United States. Anyway, let's get to know my rogue's gallery of Russophobes, and I'll try to tell you a little bit about them – maybe you'll think of some I forgot or missed, or will disagree that some of those listed are actually Russophobes. In no particular order, here they are.

American Kathy Lally and her husband, Will Englund, came to Moscow in the early 90′s as journalists for The Baltimore Sun. Kathy Lally is the Deputy Business Editor at the Washington Post. She and her family lived in Moscow throughout most of the 90′s, and I can only guess it was not a good experience. Back when she and her husband worked for The Baltimore Sun, the expectation when Yeltsin resigned was that Vladimir Putin would "carry on economic reforms already under way". When it became clear Mr. Putin did not intend to carry on "economic reforms" that were resulting in a handful of Russians controlling the nation's wealth at fire-sale prices, any probationary slack he had been granted melted away. Putin was described as the initiator of "shrill and aggressive" anti-Americanism, and Lally and others like her took up the cause of the opposition, playing up alliances between Russian liberals and the United States and encouraging – if you can imagine it – the Communists. An article covering the protest at the Garden Ring suggested that although the police estimated the crowd at 11,000, she pegged it at twice that number and that those in cars who "honked their horns in solidarity" should be included in the total.

The ersatz-intellectual blatherings and stubborn outright falsehoods of British nutjob Edward Lucas make you think of Clarence Darrow's pungent witticism; "I have never killed a man, but I have read many an obituary with great pleasure". The very model of the smug idiot who is so smugly certain of his own unassailable rightness in everything that no reason can penetrate the Shroud Of Durak, Lucas regularly embarks upon the most vitriolic stupidities imaginable where Russia is concerned. Author – as if he would let you forget – of "The New Cold War", Mr. Lucas seems sometimes to be the sole occupant of a parallel universe, evident in silly ramblings that cast Mikhail Saakashvili as "radiating responsibility", upping the total of protesters in the Garden Ring protests to 20,000 with no evidence whatsoever and the by-now-familiar assessment of Mr. Putin's support among decided voters as "40%" when it is in fact better than 60%, which he will augment with "a bit of rigging" setting the stage for de-legitimizing the vote amid screams of massive fraud. At the same time, he ridicules the threat against Russia – as described by Mr. Putin – as "imaginary". (As predicted, at this point in the post the vote count revealed that Mr. Putin would win easily and maybe with more than 60% of the vote: congratulations, Mr. Putin.) Mr. Lucas regularly and wearyingly propagates tired and discredited tropes about Russia's population, such as that there is a punishing "brain drain" of the smartest intellectuals from Russia to the benevolent manna-strewn shores of the west, and that the overall population is in an irretrievable nosedive. Suspiciously, often-cited "intellectuals" like economists Vladimir Mau, Vladislav Inozemtsev and Yevsey Gurvich, Stanislav Belkovsky, Yulia Latynina and Masha Gessen remain in Russia. I guess they are just part of the massed hopeless dullard halfwits who didn't get out while the getting is good. Either that, or Russia is churning out brilliant intellectuals faster than they can leave. You can't have it both ways, Ed.

Founder and Director of the National Strategy Institute – whose sole purpose seems to be churning out rubbish about the Russian economy and making up official-sounding figures that cannot be defended when it is pressed for substantiation – Stanislav Belkovsky is a real piece of work. Best known for his fantastic stories about the usurious wealth allegedly accumulated by Vladimir Putin – who is supposed to personally control 37% of Surgutneftegaz, 4.5% of GAZPROM and "at least 75% of Gunvor" – and who is supposed to be sitting on a fortune (at least $40 Billion) that would make him easily Europe's richest man, Belkovsky confides, "I suspect there are some businesses I know nothing about…it may be more. It may be much more."

Speaking of things you know nothing about, Stas, I've just been through the Forbes List of Billionaires: all 1,153+ of them – plus because many of them are ties. I found a lot of Russians, most of whom I'd never heard of and including one with the improbable first name of "God". And you know something? On this list – maintained, tracked and scrupulously updated since 1987 by financial professionals who make it their business to know the business of every fantastically rich person on the planet – the name "Vladimir Putin" does not appear anywhere. Does it seem conceivable to you that Stanislav Belkovsky and nobody else, since all the papers who "reveal" Putin's supposed wealth are only quoting your original figures, stumbled upon what turns out to be the world's fifth-richest man (after Carlos Slim, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Bernard Arnault) while the fiscal professionals missed him over and over again? Is it conceivable that Gunvor could have a secret majority shareholder who controlled 75% of its stock, and nobody in the company knew who he was? Particularly viewed in light of the incredible clangers dropped by you in the past, such as in 2007 when you were sure Putin would step down and leave power completely, in order to protect his secret personal fortune (which has managed to remain secret for an additional 5 years now in spite of your blabbing it to the world). Also, according to this piece, Putin somehow managed to surreptitiously increase his stake in Gunvor from 50% to 75% in the month between your talking to the Jamestown Foundation and talking to serial liar Luke Harding. Quite a businessman: where does he find the time? And that's without even getting into the ridiculous allegation by the organization of which you are director that "44% of the Russian economy is off the books". So while FDI in Russia is drying up and the brightest Russians are fleeing the country in droves, the Putin/Medvedev administration still manages a steadily-increasing GDP that is actually nearly half again what the state says it is, is that your position? Sure you want to stick with that? How many fingers am I holding up?

Russia correspondent for U.S. News & World Report – as well as sometime writer for a variety of sources including Slate, Vanity Fair and the New York Times - Masha Gessen holds dual citizenship, and mostly uses her Russian citizenship to tirelessly demean and abuse the country of her birth and present residence. While a little less ambitious than Crazy McCrazerton Stas Belkovsky, Gessen also contends that Putin is fabulously wealthy, this time owing to funds embezzled while deputy mayor of St. Petersburg under Anatoly Sobchak – as lovingly chronicled by the aforementioned High Priest of Prevaricators, Luke Harding, in a gushing review of Gessen's Putin biography, The Man Without a Face. Gessen is of the opinion that a violent revolution would free the Russian people of their torment by the evil, grasping Putin and pave the way for that all-healing palliative, western-style democracy. Although she never comes out and says it in so many words, she appears to agree with train-wreck nutcase Yulia Latynina that poor people are too susceptible to cheap promises to better their lives for them to be entrusted with The Vote, and that only the elite have the dispassionate distance necessary to make important decisions on the nation's future.

Curiously, she also engages in an energetic defense of media oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky, her former employer. She concludes, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the only man who could have crushed Gusinsky's media empire was Vladimir Putin, and that he had MediaMost destroyed because it was critical of his government. But this report suggests otherwise; while it is generally in agreement that the Putin administration intensely disliked Gusinsky and MediaMost for their aggressive promotion of Yuri Luzhkov over Putin in the Presidential elections, and an American Embassy official at the time was quoted as saying "Gusinsky bet wrong", it also points out that Gusinsky used MediaMost to suppress criticism of his other holdings, that he had no business plan, and points out that the financial obligations that formed the basis of the charges against MediaMost would likely have been forgiven if Luzhkov had won. Would that have made Gusinsky right? In fact, the report is clear that MediaMost's debts – the greatest part of which by far accrued to NTV – were approximately $1.3 Billion in the summer of 2000. Gessen implies Putin made them up, in order to attack MediaMost and wrest control of it from Gusinsky, although the report is also clear that NTV's financial outlook was "grim" and that without financial intervention it would not be able to meet its debt deadlines. Similarly, Gessen skips over Gusinsky's arrests, saying that Spain conducted the only extradition hearing, and that a Spanish court concluded the Russian charges were "without substance". That's not quite how it happened; Gusinsky was actually arrested in December 2000, and was held under strict house arrest for 4 months before the Spanish court released him because the crimes he was accused of (fraud and embezzlement) "were not considered crimes in Spain". Good to know; it explains a lot about Spain's present economic state. In any case, that's far from the Spanish court immediately ruling the charges were without substance. He was also arrested on the same warrant in Greece in 2003, but was released – reportedly under intense pressure from the American Ambassador in Athens, Israeli officials and the European Jewish Congress.

An unpredictable fusion of shit and high pressure, Britain's The Guardian windbag Luke Harding is actually more full of shit than his total surface displacement. His sophomoric sense of humour and self-impression as centre of the universe, coupled with his propensity for insulting and patronizing everyone with whom he comes in contact – perhaps in the mistaken belief that the famous British appetite for self-deprecation extends to a broad international welcome for being the object of gratuitous flagellation – shortens his welcome to seconds everywhere he goes. He wasn't always the Russian correspondent; he did a stint as a correspondent in Germany. However, insistence on his right to feed his infants on potato chips and squire them about outside without warm clothes led to a conflict with elderly Germans, leading him to twin epiphanies that Germany is run by bitchy old folks, and that living somewhere else would be better. Since Luke Harding believes in a world ruled by People Who Think Like Luke Harding, he felt that the existence in Germany of a powerful political bloc of pensioners "impeded reform".

However, when he got to Russia Harding was overcome by a previously untapped love for pensioners – particularly when he singled them out as the group who had not benefited from Russia's oil and gas fortunes and consequently could be used in a typically hysterical attack on the government. Russia went ahead with a 6.3% pension increase in 2010 despite warnings that the country could not afford it, from the Finance Minister, and pensions in Russia increased steadily under Putin.

Notorious for his sloppy research and laziness, which on occasion led to representing others' work as his own original work, the best thing that ever happened to Harding was Russia's refusal to allow him to enter the country last year, which he promptly spun into a web of intrigue featuring himself as fearless journalist who had to be muzzled because of his Fearless Laptop Of Truth. His breathless account of having his apartment tossed by the FSB while he and his family were out (he immediately picked up on their coded signal to ixnay the criticism of Russia, or his children would pay the price, by his observation that his son's tenth-floor bedroom window was left open) and his foolproof technique for spotting covert FSB agents (spoiler alert – they wear leather jackets) make for some racy reading; no horse's head left in the bed for these guys, they're subtle. Deflects all criticism of his maudlin Guardian opinion-as-fact pieces by speculating that critics are "Kremlin trolls" who must of course be paid to disagree with his work because it threatens to split the Kremlin's very foundations asunder. Author of – surprise – a book (Mafia State) which leaves no stone unturned in its efforts to portray Russia as a festering swamp of crime and corruption from which no ruble emerges unstolen.

In fact, of our Russophobes thus far, Kathy Lally is the only one not cruising on a book written blasting Vladimir Putin and his supposed klepto-government's ruthless squeezing for the last drop of blood from his poor, benighted people. You know, the ones who just re-elected him president with 64% of the vote.

And I'm afraid we're going to have to leave it there for the moment; I've decided to break this post up into a miniseries, because I kind of got into it, and we're already at 2,271 words. Ideally, it shouldn't be much longer than that, but we still have Julia Ioffe, Yulia Latynina, Simon Shuster, Fred Weir, Miriam Elder and Nicholas Eberstadt to go. As always, your participation and suggestions are encouraged

kievite
It's a very good and important job to describe those nasty creatures but they are trench solders as such are as interchangeable as they are mean. It's more interesting to see the hands behind the curtain. For that it is important to understand that the cold war never ended and that the USA still wants to completely decimate former enemy.

That's why there is ample financing which makes Russophobia a profitable business for those hucksters (with alarmingly large fraction of female psychopaths). If you have some talent and no morals it's easy to get a piece of the pie enough for comfortable living.

Fundamentally the USA elite failed to understand the importance of the USSR for world stability. Now they repeat the same mistake with Russia. They also have no clue about power of Russian nationalism, because I think the only realistic alternative to Putin are ultra-nationalists (Weimar republic scenario). In fact now we can see that in the past the evil USSR provided stability and prosperity to Western block by blocking the USA elite suicidal tendencies.

In any case visceral Russophobia is a distinctive feature of four last USA administration including current. It sometimes really reminds me Kafka. They fear Muslim fundamentalists, but are happy to cooperate with it against a common enemy (with especially soft spot for Caucasian jihadists). Actually Bin Laden is a creature created by Soviet invasion in Afghanistan. The invasion that created a secular state that the USA now try to recreate at significant cost.

It also might be that Russia serves as a convenient smoke screen to hash internal problems under the table and provide nice life for military-industrial complex. The USA "democratic process" is run by the elite in such a way as to make secondary issues important and to treat important issues as irrelevant or illegitimate.

So in the current situation it is unrealistic to expect the West to stop treating Russia as "the Other," and to stop wishing for its disintegration. Russophobia is an integral part of such a treatment. So Stanislav Belkovsky, Masha Gessen and other Russophobia warriors are just a natural part of the scene: solders of the propoganda war…

BTW the unilateral continuation of Cold War (Cold War II) by the USA means that the term "democratic Russia" has nothing to do with democracy and means the completely conquered state subservient domestically and externally to Western demands. George Soros has said that "a strong central government in Russia cannot be democratic" by definition, and further says that "Russia's general public must accept the ideology of an open society" meaning of course "casino capitalism".

At the same time Russia is an easy target. Multinational, multiconfessional states are always inherently unstable, and if Islam is a significant part of the equation, with sufficient external pressure they are doomed. Currently Russia has small scale war in Dagestan and stability in Chechnya and Ingushetia is marginal. Recent election had shown that the country has substantial fifth column. Actually in Moscow Putin did not manage to get 50% of votes. So it might well be that Russia is doomed.

Here is a old (2006), but still current and very sobering assessment by Dr. Cohen of the actual USA policy toward Russia (The New American Cold War The Nation)

The stability of the political regime atop this bleak post-Soviet landscape rests heavily, if not entirely, on the personal popularity and authority of one man, President Vladimir Putin, who admits the state "is not yet completely stable." While Putin's ratings are an extraordinary 70 to 75 percent positive, political institutions and would-be leaders below him have almost no public support.

The top business and administrative elites, having rapaciously "privatized" the Soviet state's richest assets in the 1990s, are particularly despised. Indeed, their possession of that property, because it lacks popular legitimacy, remains a time bomb embedded in the political and economic system. The huge military is equally unstable, its ranks torn by a lack of funds, abuses of authority and discontent. No wonder serious analysts worry that one or more sudden developments–a sharp fall in world oil prices, more major episodes of ethnic violence or terrorism, or Putin's disappearance–might plunge Russia into an even worse crisis. Pointing to the disorder spreading from Chechnya through the country's southern rim, for example, the eminent scholar Peter Reddaway even asks "whether Russia is stable enough to hold together."

As long as catastrophic possibilities exist in that nation, so do the unprecedented threats to US and international security. Experts differ as to which danger is the gravest - proliferation of Russia's enormous stockpile of nuclear, chemical and biological materials; ill-maintained nuclear reactors on land and on decommissioned submarines; an impaired early-warning system controlling missiles on hair-trigger alert; or the first-ever civil war in a shattered superpower, the terror-ridden Chechen conflict. But no one should doubt that together they constitute a much greater constant threat than any the United States faced during the Soviet era.

Nor is a catastrophe involving weapons of mass destruction the only danger in what remains the world's largest territorial country. Nearly a quarter of the planet's people live on Russia's borders, among them conflicting ethnic and religious groups. Any instability in Russia could easily spread to a crucial and exceedingly volatile part of the world.

There is another, perhaps more likely, possibility. Petrodollars may bring Russia long-term stability, but on the basis of growing authoritarianism and xenophobic nationalism. Those ominous factors derive primarily not from Russia's lost superpower status (or Putin's KGB background), as the US press regularly misinforms readers, but from so many lost and damaged lives at home since 1991. Often called the "Weimar scenario," this outcome probably would not be truly fascist, but it would be a Russia possessing weapons of mass destruction and large proportions of the world's oil and natural gas, even more hostile to the West than was its Soviet predecessor.

How has the US government responded to these unprecedented perils? It doesn't require a degree in international relations or media punditry to understand that the first principle of policy toward post-Communist Russia must follow the Hippocratic injunction: Do no harm! Do nothing to undermine its fragile stability, nothing to dissuade the Kremlin from giving first priority to repairing the nation's crumbling infrastructures, nothing to cause it to rely more heavily on its stockpiles of superpower weapons instead of reducing them, nothing to make Moscow uncooperative with the West in those joint pursuits. Everything else in that savaged country is of far less consequence.

Since the early 1990s Washington has simultaneously conducted, under Democrats and Republicans, two fundamentally different policies toward post-Soviet Russia–one decorative and outwardly reassuring, the other real and exceedingly reckless. The decorative policy, which has been taken at face value in the United States, at least until recently, professes to have replaced America's previous cold war intentions with a generous relationship of "strategic partnership and friendship." The public image of this approach has featured happy-talk meetings between American and Russian presidents, first "Bill and Boris" (Clinton and Yeltsin), then "George and Vladimir."

  • The real US policy has been very different–a relentless, winner-take-all exploitation of Russia's post-1991 weakness. Accompanied by broken American promises, condescending lectures and demands for unilateral concessions, it has been even more aggressive and uncompromising than was Washington's approach to Soviet Communist Russia. Consider its defining elements as they have unfolded–with fulsome support in both American political parties, influential newspapers and policy think tanks–since the early 1990s:
  • A growing military encirclement of Russia, on and near its borders, by US and NATO bases, which are already ensconced or being planned in at least half the fourteen other former Soviet republics, from the Baltics and Ukraine to Georgia, Azerbaijan and the new states of Central Asia. The result is a US-built reverse iron curtain and the remilitarization of American-Russian relations.
  • A tacit (and closely related) US denial that Russia has any legitimate national interests outside its own territory, even in ethnically akin or contiguous former republics such as Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia. How else to explain, to take a bellwether example, the thinking of Richard Holbrooke, Democratic would-be Secretary of State? While roundly condemning the Kremlin for promoting a pro-Moscow government in neighboring Ukraine, where Russia has centuries of shared linguistic, marital, religious, economic and security ties, Holbrooke declares that far-away Slav nation part of "our core zone of security."
  • Even more, a presumption that Russia does not have full sovereignty within its own borders, as expressed by constant US interventions in Moscow's internal affairs since 1992. They have included an on-site crusade by swarms of American "advisers," particularly during the 1990s, to direct Russia's "transition" from Communism; endless missionary sermons from afar, often couched in threats, on how that nation should and should not organize its political and economic systems; and active support for Russian anti-Kremlin groups, some associated with hated Yeltsin-era oligarchs.
    That interventionary impulse has now grown even into suggestions that Putin be overthrown by the kind of US-backed "color revolutions" carried out since 2003 in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, and attempted this year in Belarus. Thus, while mainstream editorial pages increasingly call the Russian president "thug," "fascist" and "Saddam Hussein," one of the Carnegie Endowment's several Washington crusaders assures us of "Putin's weakness" and vulnerability to "regime change." (Do proponents of "democratic regime change" in Russia care that it might mean destabilizing a nuclear state?)
  • Underpinning these components of the real US policy are familiar cold war double standards condemning Moscow for doing what Washington does. Such as seeking allies and military bases in former Soviet republics, using its assets (oil and gas in Russia's case) as aid to friendly governments and regulating foreign money in its political life. More broadly, when NATO expands to Russia's front and back doorsteps, gobbling up former Soviet-bloc members and republics, it is "fighting terrorism" and "protecting new states"; when Moscow protests, it is engaging in "cold war thinking." When Washington meddles in the politics of Georgia and Ukraine, it is "promoting democracy"; when the Kremlin does so, it is "neoimperialism." And not to forget the historical background: When in the 1990s the US-supported Yeltsin overthrew Russia's elected Parliament and Constitutional Court by force, gave its national wealth and television networks to Kremlin insiders, imposed a constitution without real constraints on executive power and rigged elections, it was "democratic reform"; when Putin continues that process, it is "authoritarianism."
  • Finally, the United States is attempting, by exploiting Russia's weakness, to acquire the nuclear superiority it could not achieve during the Soviet era. That is the essential meaning of two major steps taken by the Bush Administration in 2002, both against Moscow's strong wishes. One was the Administration's unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, freeing it to try to create a system capable of destroying incoming missiles and thereby the capacity to launch a nuclear first strike without fear of retaliation. The other was pressuring the Kremlin to sign an ultimately empty nuclear weapons reduction agreement requiring no actual destruction of weapons and indeed allowing development of new ones; providing for no verification; and permitting unilateral withdrawal before the specified reductions are required.

The extraordinarily anti-Russian nature of these policies casts serious doubt on two American official and media axioms: that the recent "chill" in US-Russian relations has been caused by Putin's behavior at home and abroad, and that the cold war ended fifteen years ago. The first axiom is false, the second only half true: The cold war ended in Moscow, but not in Washington, as is clear from a brief look back.

[Mar 11, 2012] Russian Riot Grrrls Jailed for 'Punk Prayer'

Some context:
  1. One of the girls previously was caught filming porno movie in Zoo museum being 8 months pregnant (Natalia Tolokonnenkova). She only by chance preserved her parent rights as she put her girl in mortal danger by putting her on high table to sleep at night and forgetting her there while visiting friends apartment. The poor baby fell and has a severe skull injury as a result. It's a miracle that the baby girl survived.
  2. The other participated in stealing chicken in supermarket by putting them in vagina. Very creating punk art indeed.
  3. I think at least one of them is narco-dependent (Natalia Tolokonnekova).. May be both.
NYTimes.com

In an interview with Gazeta.ru's English-language Web site last week, members of the band explained that they got together last year because "Russia did not have enough explosive punk-feminist groups, pushing people to the development of a culture of protest."

The women, who described themselves as "activists of the opposition movement, dealing with the problems of feminism, ecology, as well as rights for the L.G.B.T. movement," added that the group's name "was inspired by the famous punk-feminist movement called Riot Grrrl which was active in America in 1990s. Their ideas were close to ours."

The point of staging unauthorized concerts in unusual locations - before the cathedral, there were performances in the center of Red Square, outside a prison and in a subway station - the women explained, was to present an image of "pure protest, saying: super heroes in balaclavas and acid bright tights seize public space in Moscow."

[Mar 07, 2012] Observers Detail Fraud in Russian Election Won by Putin

NYTimes.com

bostonReport

The vast majority of commenters on this board pretend that plutocracy and dictatorship are the same thing. Is it hypocrisy , myopia, both?

In plutocracy there are always competing interests, and the pundits have to use the people to come on top, and, more importantly, have to depend on them.

Btw, the opposite of plutocracy, bumocracy (has nothing to do with Obama) or lumpenocracy, has been tried in history - this is how Soviet Union was established and the ancient Rome destroyed.

Me Again Georgia, USA

Judging from what we have seen in the U.S. primaries, it wouldn't surprise me if Putin ran a cleaner election run than what we have seen the GOP do. Wait until we have our presidential election in November, then come back and tell me that Putin rigged elections. These accusations are meaningless as we have read about them time and time before. One thing for sure: Russian and American elections share many similarities, and the biggest one is the unfairness that goes on. What we see on TV is the worst, as most ads are outright lies.

Eric Holt Santa Fe, NM

Fraud is a redundant factor in an election taking place in a kleptocracy. Russia still needs Putin's geopolitical savvy and iron grip grip for at least the next Presidential term. Beyond that, it will be nice to see the preponderance of talented, progressive young Russians get a fair shake with a more western-style leadership perspective. Man, isn't the photo of Vladimir tearing up surreal? like something out of a sci-fi film...

Jeffrey San Francisco, CA

Good point IgorSh. I'd add that the the need for an overwhelming win is at the heart of the corrupt power logic of the regime. It is a regime whose legitimacy is based not on the will of a majority of its people. Rather it is based on the ability of the regime to demonstrate its grip is overwhelmingly powerful and above being questioned. That is the essence of the Russian "power vertical" system Putin has built. All dictatorships are similar in nature, even a more sophisticated version of soft authoritarianism, as in Russia today.

Sergey Hazarov Redmond, WA

Especially when one of the most "democratic" radio stations "Echo of Moscow" was organizing Nazi meetings, by announcing the place where supporters start to crowd. The same is about the most blue news portal www.rambler.ru - it is the most "democratic" and nationalistic web portal in Russian domain. Go and read with Google translate what people write and you would realize that opposition you care so much has nothing to do with democracy. I agree that country has a lot of problems, and yes I agree that 12 years are more then enough for one person.

But I don't agree that he has full control over situation, the country is in transition from anarchy when collectible taxes are about 1-2% to radical form of capitalism when taxes below 13%. You should understand that country collapsed from socialistic economy having taxes over 90% and government over-regulation down to anarchy of effective taxes below 2% (official taxes ware over 150%) without any working government institutions and complete absence of court system.

You believe that what he has was done on purpose, because you assume working government institutions and court system. The current Russia is about people who agree for low salaries and do nothing at work. Massive laws violations resulting in complete inefficiency and double standards in all aspects of society. Putin has managed to consolidate enough power to stop further collapse. Russians voted for him because he promised a lot, and it would be hard to realize.

bluewombat Los Angeles, CA

Gosh darn those authoritarian Russians and their corrupt presidential elections. Thank God nothing like that could ever happen here in the liberty-loving United States of America. Except for the election of 2000 (Florida) and 2004 (Ohio), of course.

r. kevin appier washington

Hypocrite, one should look at the stifling, illegitimate nature of our own political system before one dares open one's mouth in condemnation of that of the Russian Federation's. We do not have real choice here either, lil' homie. An oligarchical hierarchy of finance capitalists select our candidates. We are tasked only with selecting a company man from among their approved list of candidates. Godfather? King? Even V. Putin is not so brazen as to say publicly, as Obama has, that he alone reserves the prerogative to condemn a man to death without ANY due process. Even the terrorists that tried to assassinate him will receive a trial. Even if it is farcical, there is at least some process. No evidence, just "trust me". Despotism has begun with much smaller portions before. Please, just become somewhat politically mature. But forgive me; sorry to have interrupted you from your two-minutes-hate. May you return to the crip/blood dialectic of our political system in peace.

"The arrests drew criticism from the American ambassador, Michael A. McFaul, who said via Twitter that it was "troubling to watch arrests of peaceful demonstrators at Pushkin Square." Mikhail D. Prokhorov, the billionaire oligarch who placed third in Sunday's election, wrote over Facebook that he was "indignant over the use of force against people who came to express their civic position."

Occupy Wall Street, anyone?

Dolores Greece

The real problem with Putin is that Russia is asserting itself, rather than rolling over and playing dead, as Yeltsin did. How inconvenient for the Western establishment!

PatriciaPasadena, CA

I'd like to personally congratulate Putin on his now-assured reelection and thank him for everything he's done to drive the most talented and productive Russian physicists into the arms of the West.

As long as Putin is in power, European and American research institutions will continue have their pick of the best and the brightest from Russian math and science.

So as long as ordinary Russians are able to tolerate Putin, it's going be good for Western science.

Susannah Moscow

This is a good point, and one that also concerns me. Yes, perhaps it's risky for Russia to gamble on anyone other than Putin, and sure, electoral fraud aside, he would have won based on the voting results from the provinces, but the fact is that those with access to good education - ie: the highly skilled specialists - usually live in (or move to) Moscow or St Petersburg, and this is exactly where the dissent it. People are thinking less about geopolitics (because though it hasn't been very long, there has been some form of stability in recent years), and more about the fact that they see no potential for development and innovation and a total lack of diversification of industries.

This is caused by a crippling level of corruption that makes it tough to start your own business venture, laughably low salaries for those in scientific research positions (and this includes doctors, if they don't work in private clinics where they can receive bribes and kickbacks). Plus of course the need to address these issues isn't reflected in law-making and government policy, because the members of United Russia are too busy sending their children to foreign boarding schools and buying villas in the alps.

EmmanuelNew York, NY

Those poor European "monitors". Don't they have enougth to do in their own bankrupted backyard? Why about going to France to monitor the election campaign and denounce Napoleon Sarkozy trickeries? OSCE, Council of Europe... Do they really think they are perceived as impartial, credible institutions? Putin does not need cheating to win an election in today's Russia. The West should just get over it and stop the bashing and propaganda...

Wendy

Putin wants the Soviet empire back so badly. Fie on him and his Kremlin buddies. The former KGB officer thinks Russia's worst event was the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Susannah Moscow

All I see in your comment is the same old tired rhetoric about the evils of Communism. Sadly enough it always crops up when the NYT publishes anything about Russia or Putin.

For many Russians and some (clearly not all) citizens of countries that were willingly or not included in the USSR, the collapse of the Soviet Union WAS a catastrophic event that changed their way of life, and not always for the better. Some of it is because many people were younger then, and there's a certain element of rose-tinted glasses about it. However it might be admitted that there were some things that provided people with a certain amount of security or reliability - always having a job, very low crime rate, organised programs for children etc. Also, believe it or not, there ARE people here who did not have any family or friends sent to the Gulag or deported en masse to some inhospitable barren steppe.

In addition, a whole generation grew up hearing that the USSR was a united, peaceful, globally competitive union of nations, and as much as we understand that much of that was spin, there is absolutely nothing untoward OR surprising in someone of Putin's generation expressing sorrow or regret about the fall of the USSR.

Try having your country go into a tailspin like Russia did in the 90s and see how you feel about what came before it.

Kevin Boston

If the NYTimes readership doesn't think US presidential elections aren't at least this corrupt as Putin's, then wake up, folks. The charade of fake casino-owner-bought republican challengers (Cain, Bachman, Gingrich et al.), foils to the anointed banker, and the Goldman-Sachs funded US president Obama are proof enough that US-led criticism of Putin is hypocritical. Maybe Putin's country is more democratic than ours. Russia seems to have large protests that occur with little police repression. Compare that to the mass arrests of pro-democracy protesters of the Occupy movement. Shame, shame, the US is a corporate oligarchy.

IB NYC

there is no doubt that out of those five candidates, the strongest and the most popular! was Putin. it is for sure more than 55% voted for him. Why? because there were no strong alternative candidates for this seat. Zyuganov - is a communist, Mironov - is not popular, Prokhorov - is a businessman not a politician, Zhirinovskii - is too unpredictable and emotional to lead the country. Putin is the only candidate with a good resume.

2. Yes, every election in every country has incidents of electoral fraud; and there were such incidents here; but why does the author automatically assume it is Putin's fault? Let's not forget there were four other candidates! why is there such a one-sided picture?

3. David, where is the reference to your statement about Putin saying he is likely to run after this term?

4. David, you are saying that other candidates did not have enough media coverage and same opportunities Putin had? Every candidate had the money, the power to buy their air time; they could have posted their strategies on their websites just like Putin did; they had every chance, and enough months to prepare for those elections! btw, Putin was harshly criticized by Russian media and his opposition. He did not have it as easy as you are describing it.

Susannah Moscow

According to the ITU, in 2011 43.0% of the Russian population were internet users. If you are Russian then you already know what a fixture the television is in smaller towns - it's playing in the background in every kitchen. These people either don't have the internet, or they don't use it for watching television or reading articles, and are only interested in watching small snippets of state-channel news on TV sandwiched between normal programming.

This idea that other candidates could have just "bought" airtime is ludicrous. Can you imagine Mironov going to Channel 1 with a bundle of money and asking for a primetime slot?

This election is the tip of the iceberg. There are endemic problems in the system that don't allow other candidates to register their parties, a lack of potential for exposure for other candidates, as opposed to Putin's carefully controlled public image (reflected in his absolute refusal to participate in live TV debates with other candidates!) Then to make matters worse, there are all the 'Putin pep rallies' organised with state money by groups like Nashi or the Young Guard. Sure, there are some fervent believers amongst them, but the majority are young, uninformed 'filler', shipped in from outside Moscow in convoys of buses who have been promised either money, a free trip to Moscow or ordered to attend by their bosses or academic supervisors. Doesn't inspire much trust in the status quo does it?

Democracy NowEast Coast

Given the following, I'm wondering how justified we are here in the U.S. to lecture the Russians on their electoral process:

1. Ability to hack electronic voting machines and alter results.

2. Propensity for voting machine manufacturers to support right-wing candidates and parties.

3. Devotion of an entire national broadcast television network to right-wing propaganda.

4. Allowing the Supreme Court and not voters to decide a Presidential election.

5. Allowing millionaires and billionaires unlimited spending in elections.

6. Forcing Americans to go to the polls on workdays instead of weekends.

7. Throwing out absentee ballots in some locations.

8. State legislation to restrict voter access with unnecessary ID requirements, etc.

I could probably go on, but you get the picture. Anyone who thinks U.S. elections are totally fair is reading too many high school history textbooks.

David Huang OH, US

"Mr. Putin, by contrast, was not only featured on a constant basis on state-controlled television..."

If you think about it, isn't post-Citizens-United US slowly turning into a country where the rich and powerful get all the air time and are allowed to say pretty much whatever they want without repercussion? To all Americans out there, if you find Putin's control of the Russian state media to be wrong, how about our country where the richest gets the brightest spotlight?

The Citizens United decision needs to be overturned, or US will slowly turn into Russia.

Ed Burke Long Island, NY

State Controlled propaganda, Republican Controlled FOX Propaganda channel, remember Animal Farm ? The Pigs and the humans running it all in the end, we're well on our way. Corporations are people now - Pigs are People now. Capice ?

ITOttawa, Canada

"But doing so could draw a more forceful response from the authorities, ... "

Isn't that what they want to provoke?

"... in contrast to the prior demonstrations which proceeded peacefully if under the watchful gaze of a huge deployment of riot police. "

Sounds like the Russians are becoming much more sensitive to the need for at least the appearance of tolerance of open dissent - In Russia the vector is upward and improving . Seem to have at least achieved if not surpassed the standards of the NYPD and the pepper spraying security forces of the University of California in this regard.

"after someone pretending to be the American ambassador, Michael McFaul, posted a message on Twitter saying that the evidence of widespread election fraud would undermine the legitimacy of the vote"

Sounds like the old cold war disinformation programs - actually sounds like the sort of 'Robocall' scandal we are going through here in Canada about the last general election - the difference of course being that in Russia the call was aimed at disrupting the government's efforts to get re-elected where as in Canada it appears to have been aimed at the opposition parties trying to unseat the government - early days all around - lots of 'buffers' a la Godfather and plausible deniability. March 5, 2012 at 11:08 a.m.Recommended2
George L.New YorkNYT Pick
Our media coverage and analysis is amazingly inept. Why can you people not accept (or understand) that although there is a significant opposition to Putin in Russia, the majority of the population still prefers him to any alternative?

He is the one who over the years created some measure of stability following the crazy years of Yeltsin. And he is the one who provided a strong government. That is what people want, not the chaos that we in the West call "Democracy".

Corruption? They always had it and always will have it. Just like here in the glorious US of A.

PHNY
In Russia:

"Observers detail flaws in US election" 2000 & 2004 March 5, 2012 at 10:58 a.m.Recommended13
spiral007Charlotte, NC
what a joke, when the observers could not find true voter fraud, they go on to say that the reason the vote was not fair was because the result was known and there was no uncertainty. So are we to assume that all the elections where an incumbent president was re-elected in a landslide in the US was not fair!!

Get over your bias and trying to find fault with everyone Else's system. First look at home, with all the voter De-legitimization etc!!

Larry LinnDallas, TX

Did Jeb Bush and Diebold run the election? They had to run an alpha test before the next elections in Florida.

Winemaster2GA

One has to wonder as to why we are so concerned as to what is going on in Russia, when we have these farce of GOP so called primaries, where less then 8.5% of GOP registered voters are precipitating in this facade. With a bunch of rich conservative republicans controlling the wealth and power influence everything through these SUPERPACKS. In a nation where there is no equal justice for all, no insurance of domestic tranquility for all, no promotion of general welfare of all and no blessings of security of liberty and posterity for all.

Where these racist, bigots conservative republicans types, with their perversity of inequality, malignant narcissism, chronic scapegoating, incorrigible grab bagging, rights only of their kind falsely accuse and label the President to be a Muslim Kenyan etc. Most of the same have no stomach for a black man being President of of the nation, and their only priority is to oust him at any cost. To hell with the country and the people.

We preach democracy and practice it not our selves.

90% of the people have no confidence in the US Congress and yet these yahoos just keep on misappropriating, using , abusing taxpayer's money with coercion, reckless abandon and impunity. The Supreme Court is nothing more then extension of the political system. The US Senate being the most unrepresentative, undemocratic , dysfunctional and inefficient body. We do not elect the president by a popular vote and the like of G. W Bush stole the 2000 election.

Carl LoeberSan Jose

this writer is a good example of what the problems are .. never been to Russia .. has no rational idea of what the situation is .. just an axe to grind ..

Am-ExpatSt Petersburg Russia

I am an American living in Russia and marvel at the claims by people who know nothing about the country or the desires of the people, claim that since 60 percent of the people preferred a candidate the west does not like, that it is automatically election fraud. I find it hard to even find anyone who was in favor of one of the other candidates. Old people like the Communists and the exit polls ended up with predictions within the margin of error in actual count. Putin IS popular here in Russia, the vast majority of people have benefited from his leadership, and keeping the country out of foreign entanglements. If the opposition parties are so hot to replace him why did they not run a good candidate? It is street theater where they know the western press will assume their claims are correct. Even the election observers had little to complain about in the election other than 1 candidate got more air time. The others were not kept off the networks, we saw their ads and speeches all the time over the last few weeks. They had a choice between a communist, an ultra-nationalist(sort of a Nazi), a US based oligarch and one other of less distinctive qualities. Sounds like the Republicans. Which would you have voted for? Get over it. Things are improving a great deal in Russia, the middle class (and still supportive of Putin contrary to the western news reports) is growing as fast as it did in the US in the mid 50s when the US still made things and saved.

Carpenter Sweden

"because of overwhelming bias in the television media and the use of government money and resources in support of his campaign." --That is what Social Democrat parties in Western Europe have been doing for decades. And the media have never complained about that. Suddenly when Putin does it, it is wrong ... how strange.

In Sweden, the government had a monopoly not only on kindergartens, schools and universities, but also on television and radio up until the 1990s. That meant the Social Democrats had an almost total control over people's minds. Not surprisingly they won every post-war election up until the 1990s except one.

Another way to control society was the symbiotic relationship between the socialists and the Labor Organization, a labor union that was given the power to force employees to sign its "collective agreements". If even one person in a workplace wanted everyone to sign a "collective agreement", submitting the company to the LO's grip, then every other employee had to do so. Otherwise the company was put in "blockade", meaning LO members in other companies wouldn't deliver supplies to them, wouldn't pick up their trash, etc. On average 50 companies were forced into bankruptcy this way every year.

The socialists would also give the LO "organization aid" every year from state coffers. The LO then gave a large part of the money to the socialist party, to pay for election campaigns, etc. Clever, isn't it?

Where are your complaints about that, New York Times?

kunosoura Oklahoma

Reply to Carpender, (Sweden) Been there, Trosa ? (*end of the world* they advertise, nice place). Was part of US team briefing on nuclear reactor safety. Why do you think the US, or actual *democracy* is different. Truely, a plutocracy controlled by the wealthy elite ruling class, aristocracy that has total control of the government, decide which office seekers are elected, and more important, which that do not do as they are told are removed from office. Presently, a powerful foreign-based organization openly boasts of that power. i.e., control of the american government. But as has been long observed, democracy carries the seed of its own destruction. As described above, the aristocracy, controlling the government, soon owns everything -- the means of production, and drive the middle working class out of existance. I doubt history ever shows it otherwise.

It*s predatory capitalism and the final end is revolution. Mexico, Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Haiti, Cuba, France, Nigeria, et al. Revolutions infrequently win, even at terrible price in lives, and the people are usually only worse off. But the point comes, it is the only choice, fight to be free of live forever in slavery. America now approaches that point, the homeless, hungry people , children. jobs industry, manufacturing gone forever. Thur all history, no country, empire ever survived militarism and america didn't either.

Does Sweden, (handsome race of people) have a spot for a retired good engineer/ mathematician ? (Humor)

JudyW Cumberland, MD

I have no doubt that given the choice of candidates, most people would vote for Putin. But the OSCE position that a "fair" election has to be one where the outcome is in doubt is ludicrous. We have elections in the US where the outcome is not in doubt - does that mean they are not fair. OSCE shoudl really not be allowed to monitor elections as they have standards which often do not conform to the reality of a sitution.

But I think that personally Hillary Clinton and the US Ambassador to Moscow did try and incite the opposition. After all that has been the modus operandi of the State Department since HRC became Sec. of State - look at our behaviour in other countries.

As for fair elections -- I think the result were fair - we judge everything too much my Moscow and forget that large swaths of the country have changed very little in 50/75 years - esp. the rural areas. Those people will vote 100% for Putin - they want the stability and economic prosperity he has given them. The political opposition forgets how unstable and impoverished Russia was before Putin - they are where they are today because of Putin - they need to remember that.

After all who are we to judge what is a fair elections - This is a country that seems to view it illegal to ask for a voter ID to prevent fraud in the elections.

Jo USA

Off course, the West couldn't get their poppet in the Russian's house. So, what are they going to say? "There were FLAWS in the election" I've never seen any Western election has web cameras or any independent observers at their voting stations. The West is just afraid that someone will now have the power to stand in their bulling act against the smaller and weak countries of the world.

sarahla

Get real. Only the Jewish cadre pushing the detested Russian oligarchs to take over the country are screaming. The Russian people spoke loud and clearly. Is America, and especially it's very specifically owned media, to be used to play that game? THere would be no greater disaster for AMerica and the world than if the oligarchs finally managed to grab Russia like they grabbed it's natural resources. But it is true that ISrael isn't looking too safe, in the future, for it's population. Maybe another homeland in the making wold be a good idea. Just that the Russian people are in the way.

Something else Somewhere else

Come on, Putin would have won anyway. Now excuse me while I vote for Speaker Gingrich in the primary. Oh wait, he's not on the ballot. Well, I'll vote for Senator Santorum. Oh wait, not him either. Would you guys hold it down casting stones? I can't hear myself over the breaking glass!

[Mar 06, 2012] Web cams reveal more than transparent Putin election

The 2012 Russian presidential election is drawing to an end without much suspense, not only because of Vladimir Putin's landslide victory but also thanks to hundreds of thousands of web cameras revealing more than just a transparent election.

For well over 24 hours, Internet users of whatever political inclinations could enjoy a nationwide real-time Reality Show of sorts.

From Kamchatka to Kaliningrad and from Chechnya to Chukotka, more than 2.5 million net surfers registered to view live streaming from at least 188,000 web cams installed in more than 94,000 polling stations on Russian territory.


The live streaming has helped hush claims of vote rigging while entertaining quite a few others.

In one rural polling station, set up in a private home in the mountains, a couple in their fifties with a small baby fascinated net surfers, generating heavy traffic on Twitter. In an urban polling station, a young couple was caught making out in the hours leading up to voting.

Besides the pre-balloting scenes, the web cams served their expected purpose in the 12 hours when online volunteers, actual voters, and international observers took full advantage of the coverage to witness a smooth voting process that ended with Putin polling in 63.75 percent of the votes cast.

"It impresses," said Putin early Monday in his election campaign headquarters in Moscow. "I have spoken with counterparts from the diplomatic representations who say nothing of the kind exists elsewhere." Stanislav Govorukhin, chief of the headquarters, recalled he had attempted to object to the installation of web cams.

"You tried to save money," Putin joked back.

The installation cost 13 billion roubles (450 million U.S.

dollars) and the real-time online viewing system covered all the polling stations throughout Russia, the company which installed it said.

"Now we should use (the system) in the future," the Russian president-elect said.

Russian Communications Minister Igor Shchegolev said 99.3 percent of the web cams were working and requests for technical support totaled 18,000 phone calls and 19,000 e-mail messages.

The support system had worked well, the minister said.

At peak viewing time, more than 400,000 people were logged onto the Elections-2012 site at the same time.

According to the minister, the most popular polling stations had been those where presidential candidates went to cast their votes.

"From five to ten thousand (net) users visited those sites at a time," he said.

Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) chief Vladimir Churov even suggested promoting the initiative in France and the United States.

"I am ready to propose the same system for the presidential elections in France and the United States. Many programmers from our country work there and they can help (with it)," the election master said.

"This video surveillance is organized in such a way as to guarantee the secrecy of voting," CEC secretary Nikolai Konkin explained. "I can assure you that it will not be possible to see who votes for whom." Johan Beckman, a Finnish national in Moscow monitoring Sunday's presidential election, described the polling web system as "a landmark in the history of democracy and democratic elections" and said there were no such systems in any other country in the world.

Other international observers, commenting at the election media center in Moscow, agreed with the Finn, saying the system exceeded world standards.

It was surprising how such a complicated electoral mechanism had run so smoothly, independent observer Alessandro Mussolini from Italy said.

The polling web cams were not without their problems, however. They had become targets of thieves.

Yuri Demidov, chief of the law and order section under the Russian Interior Ministry, reported 13 cases of the equipment being stolen.

"One of the crimes was committed in the Dyatkovo district of the Bryansk region," said the official. "The theft was identified; the web camera was confiscated, and the criminal case was opened," he said.

[Mar 05, 2012] Russian Vote Draws Thousands of Election Observers -

The installation of web cameras in Russia's 95,000 polling stations is an amazing technical and political feat. This is what needed for the USA: "In an effort to shore up public confidence in the election, the Kremlin ordered a $478 million network of Web cameras installed in polling places" Installation on webcams is probably the most interesting of recently invented methods in increasing the democracy of election process.
NYTimes.com

A small army of first-time election observers fanned out across Russian polling places, and hundreds of thousands of citizens watched ballot boxes via a vast network of Web cameras on Sunday, in what amounted to a huge experiment in public scrutiny of the voting process.

... ... ...

Election monitoring had exploded from a scholarly endeavor into grass-roots political activism in recent months.

... ... ...

Mr. Putin and other officials have claimed in recent days that accusations of fraud had been prepared in advance as part of a plot to weaken his government, and point to the fact that Golos is financed mostly by the American government. -[Can you imagine Russian financed monitoring NGO in the USA ?]

"This is simply one of the instruments of battle," Mr. Putin said last week. "They are getting ready to use certain mechanisms to confirm that the elections are falsified. They are going to stuff the ballot boxes, they are going to control it, and then they will present it to the public. We already see it, we already know it."

... ... ... ...

In an effort to shore up public confidence in the election, the Kremlin ordered a $478 million network of Web cameras installed in polling places, and the video generated several accusations. In one, shot from a polling place in Dagestan, in the Caucasus, two people are seen placing ballot after ballot in two separate voting machines.

In another, recorded in Chechnya, a woman seems to vote twice.

[Mar 05, 2012] Election Webcams Reveal a Slice of Russian Life Arts & Ideas

The Moscow Times

The costly web cameras put in place in Russia's polling stations to combat fraud served a dual purpose over the weekend, giving viewers an unusual glimpse of the lives of people all over the country - from small Chechen villages to Tyumen nightlife and beyond.

Anyone with an Internet connection could rove the land, spying on a range of buildings that work as polling stations during elections - from schools to sanatoriums and even private homes.

With the cameras going online Saturday, viewers could see what went on before the ballot boxes began to be used.

In Tyumen, a party at a polling station quickly went viral as the 60th birthday party of a man called Nikolai was caught on camera, complete with slow "sexy" dancing and vodka-drinking toasts to Nikolai's young age.

Others showed schools still in use. One had young boys fighting and rolling on the floor, according to news reports.

That was just the aperitif as Sunday saw more than 2.5 million people register to view the web feeds, Itar-Tass reported. At its peak, there were 400,000 viewers on the site at once.

The most popular ones were those in places that put on a show for the election with dancing and national costumes, said Igor Shchyogolev, the press and communications minister, Itar-Tass reported.

Stations in Sochi and Chechnya proved popular and video of a voter - who bore a striking resemblance to Chechnya's leader Ramzan Kadyrov - dancing the traditional Chechen dance, the lezginka, quickly went viral with people wondering if it was actually the head of the republic. It wasn't.

One of the most widely discussed polling stations was a private house in the village of Meseda in Chechnya, where one of the elections commission officials, a woman in her 50s, could be seen with her husband and baby, with a blue sheet hung up to hide the voting "booth." The baby proved especially popular among viewers and users of Twitter.

Another polling station was crammed into a shop, just to the right of a display of piles of oranges. Another showed a young couple making out before voting began, and another revealed the legs of a sleeping man sticking out from a voting-booth curtain the night before the polls opened.

Many Russian media outlets made lists of their favorite polling stations.

One Altai newspaper that made a list, added sadly: "In the Altai republic, no such charming situations could be found." It also noted that in most cases, there was nothing to see. It did add, though, that in Kyzl-Szek a man could be seen watching television.

Others just had fun with the videos.

"There is a new game: stand in front of the camera at a polling station and ask to be photographed via Webvybory.ru," Roman Zadorozhny wrote on Twitter.

In a video posted on YouTube, a man is shown walking toward the curtained-off area, stopping and then starting to dance. He then dances in to vote behind the curtain, despite a policewoman coming up to him. A bit later he dances out, places his vote in the ballot box and leaves.

Somebody else posted a video of themselves on YouTube as they watch a polling station on the Webvybory site. A woman can be seen on the phone via the webcam, and they scream directions on how to look at the camera. The video is called "My mom at the polling station."

[Mar 03, 2012] Moscow Diary

Coming Sunday I will vote for Putin. I think the friends with whom we were at the Boltotnaya Sq. , marched on Yakimanka, froze at the Sakharov would be very surprised with this decision. I'll try to explain the reasons for such "immoral" decision. I'll vote for him, not because "I do not see alternatives," or I like "stability in the country." All who read my posts and communicating with my friends know that I have always been a tough and consistent critic of the prime minister.

But today, paradoxically, it's his supporters and not the opposition who are the object of the widespread vicious attacks and need some defense:

And many of the "ringleaders" of the opposition were among the scum, who betrayed the Democracy in 1996 supporting Yeltsin, just to preserve their well fed positions. It was they, who closed eyes on totally falsified and dirtiest election in the history of Russia in 1996. Now they pose as the defenders of democracy and try to silence journalists when they try to voice concerns of millions of people across the country, who sincerely support the current Prime Minister.

In today's Russia, I am for Putin. Because those who want to displace him, do not want to change the system, they want just to replace Putin grabbing his position with themselves by whatever means possible. If all those who support Putin are uneducated, corrupt rednecks, I am with them and will to the bitter end defend their values and beliefs. And if "to support Putin means to hate Russia," as writes bloggers Drugoy, I'm guilty as charged and agree to be the first in this proscription list of such people.

[Mar 03, 2012] Putin Accuses Opponents of Plotting to Tamper With Ballots

NYTimes.com

Speaking of his opponents, Mr. Putin said: "They are preparing to use some mechanisms that would confirm that the elections were falsified. They will stuff ballots themselves, monitor this themselves, and then present this themselves." The prime minister also hinted darkly that his opponents might even stoop to the murder of a prominent member of the anti-Putin movement, just to tarnish him.

Days before the prime minister made this accusation, one of his supporters posted a video on YouTube that was described as evidence of an opposition plot to fabricate election fraud videos before Sunday's vote. The four-minute clip, titled "Fraud in the March 4th Russian Presidential Election," was filmed in the style of amateur exposés of official wrongdoing but was clearly staged.

A fictional clip posted online this week that recreates several incidents of voter fraud caught on video during last year's parliamentary elections in Russia.

According to the blogger who uploaded the video, he stole the footage from "one of Moscow's underground production studios." Such fabrications, the anonymous blogger claimed, are being made under the direction of leading opposition figures like Aleksei Navalny and Boris Nemtsov, to be used as a pretext for people to flood the streets the day after the election and "feed us with revolutionary slogans, and scream that all has been stolen from them."

... ... ...

Although the anonymous video blogger who posted the fictional clip on YouTube has not offered any evidence to support the claim that it was made by the opposition, not supporters of Mr. Putin, the idea was taken seriously by Ruslan Gattarov, a member of Mr. Putin's ruling United Russia Party. In an interview with Dozhd TV, a cable and Internet channel, Mr. Gattarov said: "I think that most of the opposition, no matter how well Putin does - whether or not the elections are fair - they're just not going to accept them, and therefore they need to create proof" of fraud.

Vladimir Y. Churov, Russia's top election official and a Putin ally, first raised the idea that videos of fraud could be fakes days after December's parliamentary elections. "Even before the elections, I heard about several fake polling places in apartments, where these movies were shot," he said at the time. "I think we'll see more of them."

[Mar 02, 2012] Russia's Protest Movement Finds Its Voice The Nation by Adam Federman

All those suckers who dream about Orange revolution in Russia do not understand what it brings to Russia...
There is little doubt that Putin will win. But it may come at great cost. Whether he wins in the first or second round his authority has already been greatly diminished (The head of Russia's Levada Center, a widely respected independent polling agency, recently described Putin as a "weak authoritarian leader"). In addition, as Timothy Frye of Columbia University's Harriman Institute points out, "The two things that have helped him-high growth rates and high approval ratings-are not coming back. He can try to distance himself from United Russia and he can try to criticize the state corporations but of course these are all products of his tenure. And United Russia has, I think, been quite discredited by the parliamentary elections. So Putin will be governing in an environment that is unfamiliar to him."

... ... ...

But, as Wilson points out, "Whether there's more or less fraud isn't really the question. People are in the mood to protest anyway (after weeks of wrangling with Moscow's City Hall the opposition recently secured a permit to hold a rally for up to 30,000 on March 5, the day after elections). Then what next? Putin could crackdown. The opposition could lose momentum. They could try and get a jump on him by using different tactics. Some people are talking about occupying public space like the Ukrainians did in 2004. So the next question is, can they move it up a notch?"

Kievite:

Here is the translation of the blog post from Moscow Diary diaries by Moscow Diary - I vote for Putin Путина... It was published on March 2, 2012 and is relevant to the discussion:

Coming Sunday I will vote for Putin. I think the friends with whom we were at the Boltotnaya Sq. , marched on Yakimanka, froze at the Sakharov would be very surprised with this decision. I'll try to explain the reasons for such "immoral" decision. I'll vote for him, not because "I do not see alternatives," or I like "stability in the country." All who read my posts and communicating with my friends know that I have always been a tough and consistent critic of the prime minister. But today, paradoxically, it's his supporters who are the object of the widespread vicious attacks and need some defense:

- People who went to the streets for the sake of "freedom and democracy", suddenly became feeling and acting as if they are really a narrow cult of the "selected enlightened few", the most "clean and honest," people in the whole country, usurping the concept of morality and honesty.

- "Caste" of those pseudo-liberals with great easiness "destroyed" the girl from Ivanov (by launching vicious campaign again her because she just voiced her support for Putin -- the translator note), and then called tens of thousands of their countrymen who support Putin to be just a "cattle". Explicitly for the no other reason then "they are for Putin."

- People who pretend that they want to create the "other, better Russia" became engaged in systematic witch hunt on distinguished national cultural figures who are "pro-Putin" (not unlike Bolsheviks -- the translator note).

- People who accuse Putin of the "usurpation of power", do not hesitate to create their own complete monopoly on the right to define who is a "decent person" in the country and are ready to viciously attack and harass a person just for their political views.

- People are supposed to be tolerant to other views, furiously attack and troll anyone who dares to say that he/she would not mind to live under the President Putin.

And many of the "ringleaders" of the opposition were among the scum, who betrayed the Democracy in 1996 supporting Yeltsin, just to preserve their well fed positions. It was they, who closed eyes on totally falsified and dirtiest election in the history of Russia in 1996. Now they pose as the defenders of democracy and try to silence journalists when they try to voice concerns of millions of people across the country, who sincerely support the current Prime Minister.

In today's Russia, I am for Putin. Because those who want to displace him, do not want to change the system, they just want to replace Putin grabbing his position with themselves by whatever means possible. If all those who support Putin are uneducated, corrupt rednecks, I am with them and will to the bitter end defend their values and beliefs. And if "to support Putin means to hate Russia," as writes blogger Drugoy, I'm guilty as charged and agree to be the first in this proscription list of such people.

Kievite:

It's difficult to predict in which direction a third Putin's term will bring Russia but I doubt that it will be much different from the present, pretty much pro-western stance. All this screaming about bad big Russia in MSM reflect only disappointment that it stopped to behave like a complete vassal (say British poodle) and has a nerve to disagree with "Big Brother".

And while the inability to change the political leadership is somewhat regrettable (let's remember that the change typical for the USA is not a change at all; this is just ruling oligarchy allow plebs to vote for different trusted members of the clan; no outsiders are allowed), but the face of opposition is really worrisome and does not carry much political promise even if we assume that democracy is a universal good that should imposed on hapless countries like a medicine.

IMHO Russian opposition consists of three major groups:

1. Yeltsin's crooks (such as Nemtsov, Kasyanov, Yavlinsky) who want to return to power and privilege they used to enjoy and that was cut to the bones (but not completely eliminated) by Putin.

2. New generation of hucksters who lament that they missed the "steal as much as you can" atmosphere of Yeltsin years and want to enrich themselves by stealing property that was not stolen during Yeltsin years (Navalny, Maria Gaidar, etc)

3. Nationalists and communists. Those are most anti-Western and the most courted by the West :-)

Two first groups are ready to speculate on the "democracy card" (and have powerful artillery behind them including but not limited to NYT, Guardian and other MSM outlets). They are also by definition more pro-USA as they (along with Russian financial oligarchy) essentially represent fifth column for the particular country. They are OK with the idea of US companies dominating in the Russian economy (and first of all in the energy sector) as long as they can get enough cramps from the table for themselves. They are not interested in the quality of life of ordinary Russians one bit.

So they are by-and-large viewed as US stooges by ordinary Russians and this does not help. Moreover US foreign policy also does not help as all those financed by State Department via various channels Russian NGOs create a bad impression about world superpower motives: for a Russian person with modest IQ there is no doubt that US wants to impose favorable for its companies condition on the vassal. Smoke screen of "fighters for democracy" became much thinner after Iraq and Libya so to fool people about benign intensions became more difficult. Recent troubles of McFaul support this hypothesis. And for major elite groups it is quite clear that security interests of the USA requires weak, semi-disintegrated or completely disintegrated Russia to achieve maximum energy security at minimum cost. This is well understood and also feeds anti-US sentiments. It also automatically paints opposition as pro-US fifth column, which they actually are. As paradoxical as it may sound the best hope for USA in its anti-Putin game are communists. US financial oligarchs and Russian communists are strange bed-fellows but politics knows no limits on pervert relationships ;-).

The trump card for the USA here is that a large part of the Russian elite is will integrated in the West (With London which they often call Londongrad as a common residence for families and money ;-) and as such no longer can be considered to be 100% Russian elite. Like Brzezinski used to say "the nation-state is gradually yielding its sovereignty." The elite which keeps accounts in Western banks cannot be legitimately considered to be a national elite. And this trump card guarantee that Putin or no Putin but Russian foreign policy will be reasonably pro-western despite some minor disagreements like the latest about Syrian regime and desirability to re-carving markets in Western favor in this region using internal rebels as a Trojan horse. In this particular case Russia is opposed to the re-construction of a nation-state power structures in which the western nations became not only instrumental in building, but in exerting hegemony over is called Arab democratization ;-)

While Putin plays on the theme of greatness of Russia as a country and promise continuation of the growth of the standard of living for the population, opposition can not propose the same (they want growth of standard of living strictly for themselves) and does not have any coherent plan of reforms. Moreover the list of reforms necessary varies form on faction to another. Paradoxically the only common item is the demand to free Khodorkovsky. Which is a way too funny, because the key problem with Khodorkovski is not that he was jailed, but that he was jailed for insufficient term (life would be a more proper sentence) and that other equally ruthless and criminal barons such as Berezovski, etc are still not behind the bars. All opposition can propose is repeating of Yeltsin-style anarchy and another ten or more years of destitute life for ordinary Russians. I doubt that this is a sellable political platform in modern Russia no matter how well opposition is supported by the West.

IMHO Yeltsin's yeas still provide some immunization from the orange scenario that was successful in Ukraine.

While Putin is criticized as the person who wasted his time and did not achieve more for ordinary Russians, people forgot that in 1999 Russia from economic point of view was much like a raped woman lying on the sidewalk that other pedestrians preferred not to notice. In 2012 Russia represents at least somewhat workable economy with the standard of living close to the best achieved during the "Soviet" period. While people can be brainwashed into thinking that they deserve more, such an achievement is impressive enough to give Putin enough political support for his third term. Whether he would be able to use this support for further increase of Russian living standards or will be distracted into some "gun and butter" rearmament scheme with free democratic help in this direction from the USA is another story.

OneVote

'While people can be brainwashed into thinking that they deserve more, such an achievement is impressive enough to give Putin enough political support for his third term. Whether he would be able to use this support for further increase of Russian living standards or will be distracted into some "gun and butter" rearmament scheme with free democratic help in this direction from the USA is another story.' __________________

Well said. And, look at the tensions in Syria, Iran, Libya, Azerbaijan, Georgia, fostered by "pro-democracy"

You would think that the intelligentsia would have this figured out - 'the harder you push, the harder the pushback'

Russians, would like Putin to raise social living standards. Many Russians see real world democracy as corrupting, and wasteful of state resources, which divert resources away from the people to politicians running for office and their backers. Hard to argue with this notion, and it does have lessons of history on its side.

[Feb 28, 2012] YouTube - Ron Paul Michigan State University Auditorium Intro and Crowd - 2-27-12

[Feb 26, 2012] Susan Lindauer Lockerbie Diary-Gadhaffi, Fall Guy for CIA Drug Running

An interesting conspiracy theory about Pan Am 103 bombing...
Mar 4, 2011 | Veterans Today

...The concept of infiltration into criminal networks cuts to the murky nature of intelligence itself. Drug enforcement frequently rely on the same strategies. Where the CIA went far wrong was in pocketing some of those heroin profits for itself along the way. The dirty little secret is that the CIA continued to take a percentage cut of opium and heroin production out of Lebanon well into the 1990s.

As for the hostage rescue itself, considering the operation took years to accomplish, it's always been whispered that a corrupted CIA officer enjoying those opium profits might have swallowed reports on the hostages' locations, or otherwise diverted his team in order to protect his narcotics income.

That appears to have become a serious fear at the time, among other U.S. officers jointly involved in the rescue.

In December 1988, infuriated Defense Intelligence agents issued a formal protest, exposing CIA complicity in Middle East heroin trafficking. When teams from both agencies got summoned back to Washington to attend an internal hearing, they boarded Pan Am 103. A wing of militant Hezbollah led by Ahmed Jibril, his nephew Abu Elias, Abu Talb and Abu Nidal took out both teams in order to protect their lucrative cartel.

Classified Defense Intelligence records show that Jibril and Talb had been toying with a conspiracy to bomb a U.S. airplane during the 1988 Christmas holidays anyway. They planned to bomb a U.S. airliner in revenge for the U.S.S. Vincennes, which shot down an Iranian commercial airliner loaded with Hajiis returning from Mecca in July, 1988. However the Defense Intelligence threat to expose their heroin network put the bombing plan into action. Islamic Jihad's ability to discover actionable intelligence on the flight schedules would definitely confirm that somebody at CIA was operating as a double agent, keeping Islamic Jihad a step ahead of the rescue efforts.

That's the dirty truth about Lockerbie. It ain't nothing like you've been told.

Wait a darn moment-I anticipate your confusion. Libya got blamed for the Lockerbie attack. Daddy George Bush told us so! The United Nations imposed sanctions on Libya, demanding that Colonel Moammar Gadhaffi hand over two Libyans for trial. One of the two, Lameen Fhima got acquitted immediately. The other Abdelbasset Megrahi got convicted (on the most flimsy circumstantial evidence that overlooked endless contradictions). Libya paid $2.7 billion in damages-amounting to $10 million per family death- to make the U.N. sanctions go away, and expressed a sort of non-apology for the deaths-while never acknowledging its involvement in the conspiracy.

So Libya was innocent the whole time? In a word, yes.

Don't get me wrong: I have no soft spot for Libya. As an Asset, I saw that no matter the flowing promises of friendship, at heart Libyans hearken to their glory days as Bedouin raiders. It's pathological, not personal. They are deeply tribal and Islamic, which often makes them paranoid and suspicious of outsiders. They have an ancient history of raiding each other's camps, back and forth, stealing livestock, women and children. One of my best diplomatic sources had a tattoo on his wrist, because his grandmother feared he would be kidnapped as a small child (in the 1950s). Libya simply does not have a history of believing that it needs to keep promises to individuals outside their clans. That's not part of their heritage.

That vendetta culture bodes dangerously for the current rebellion. Even after Gadhaffi's gone, in all likelihood these tribal families will continue to exact vengeance on one another. It remains to be seen whether the new government will hide those clashes to protect its image of cohesion and legitimacy to the outside world. In truth, Libyan culture poses a threat to itself most of all.

I don't say that about just any Arab country. I enjoy Arab culture very much. I just know better than to do favors for Gadhaffi. His actions often mask some other agenda.

But the bottom line is that Libya had nothing to do with the bombing of Pan Am 103, which exploded over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland.

We should care about Lockerbie because of the serious problem that it exposed. Opium trafficking out of the Bekaa Valley provides a major source for global heroin production. In turn, the global pipeline of narco-dollars keep militant operations alive world-wide from the Middle East to Indonesia, Colombia, Burma and the Far East.

That's something to fear. We don't have to deploy soldiers to shut it down. With a little creativity, we could attack the bank accounts of these global heroin traffickers and cut off funds for the violence without damaging the local society through warfare. We could strike down two scourges-heroin and terrorism. And the U.S. would not require military action all over the planet to accomplish its goals. Thankfully, there are other ways.

[Feb 15, 2012] Nader and Fein: "America's Lawless Empire"

Jesse's Café Américain

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

Edmund Burke

[Feb 13, 2012] Paul Krugman: Severe Conservative Syndrome

Economist's View
It's come to this: "tinfoil hats have become a common, if not mandatory, GOP fashion accessory":
Severe Conservative Syndrome, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Mitt Romney has a gift for words - self-destructive words. On Friday he did it again, telling the Conservative Political Action Conference that he was a "severely conservative governor."

As Molly Ball of The Atlantic pointed out, Mr. Romney "described conservatism as if it were a disease." ... That's clearly not what Mr. Romney meant to convey. Yet if you look at the race for the GOP presidential nomination, you have to wonder whether it was a Freudian slip. For something has clearly gone very wrong with modern American conservatism.

Start with Rick Santorum ..., best known for 2003 remarks about homosexuality, incest and bestiality. But his strangeness runs deeper than that. ... Mr. Santorum made a point of defending the medieval Crusades against the "American left who hates Christendom"..., he has also declared that climate change is a hoax ... on the part of "the left" to provide "an excuse for more government control of your life." You may say that such conspiracy-theorizing is hardly unique to Mr. Santorum, but that's the point: tinfoil hats have become a common, if not mandatory, GOP fashion accessory.

Then there's Ron Paul, who came in a strong second in Maine's caucuses despite ... the racist (and conspiracy-minded) newsletters published under his name ... and his declarations that both the Civil War and the Civil Rights Act were mistakes. ...

Finally, there's Mr. Romney... The truth, of course, is that he was not a "severely conservative" governor. ... So he can't run on his record in office. ... Instead, his stump speeches rely almost entirely on fantasies and fabrications designed to appeal to the delusions of the conservative base. ...

How did American conservatism end up so detached from, indeed at odds with, facts and rationality? ...

My short answer is that the long-running con game of economic conservatives and the wealthy supporters they serve finally went bad. For decades the GOP has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy - a process that reached its epitome when George W. Bush won re-election by posing as America's defender against gay married terrorists, then announced that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security.

Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum - and now the party elite has lost control.

The point is that today's dismal GOP field ... is no accident. Economic conservatives played a cynical game, and now they're facing the blowback, a party that suffers from "severe" conservatism in the worst way. ...

Josh R:

This is a trend that I have become increasingly perplexed by. In the long run, it seems that public opinion (and both parties) have slowly become more progressive. But the Republican party has shown a dramatic shift to the right ever since Reagan (who, despite his laughable Laffer adherence, was not as "severely conservative" as his worshipers would like to believe). This trend has culminated with the rise of the Tea Party, whom the current candidates are all clamoring to appease. My initial assumption was that the rightward GOP shift would only advantage Democratic candidates, but with the Tea Party successes in the 2010 elections, I'm beginning to worry.

Reginald vanGleason 3rd

The delusions of the conservative base. ...Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum - and now the party elite has lost control. The long running con game is not solely owned by the right. Part of the gamble you speak of is that voters will forget what the candidate's polished quotes were soon after they hit the submit button. It's become so much gruel for us to categorize and either vindicate or predict failure or stigmatize and predict victory. We don't often know where our pols stand. Obama's "failure" is his ability to stand up for what he believes. Of course Bush stood for anti-terrorism and we played the role of docile follower or staunch defender of liberty. Once Republicans barred speech defending freedom which was not methodically chewed and regurgitated by its elite it became impossible they thought to disagree and be American. Did we really see through this con game? Or did we finally get bored with it and moved onto the next argument. Had the bubble not occurred Obama would not be president. Had the banks lending been regulated as per law we would not have even the senate controlled by Democrats. We're in this mess because we are no different than our leaders. We aggressively fight for our right to be stupid. And as comic Ron White says "You can't fix stupid".

bakho:

There are people who believe in rational analysis and people who run their life and their politics based on "authorit

There are people who are very successful running their life based on Patriarchal authority and accumulate a lot of wealth. Humans evolved as social animals and human success is better for individuals who belong to a group than loners. Joining a community, even one run by irrational Patriarchal authority can be more successful than rational individuals acting alone.

Pushing voters in a more progressive direction may depend on creating successful progressive communities and pushing religion in a more progressive direction.

DrDick said in reply to bakho...

"Pushing voters in a more progressive direction may depend on creating successful progressive communities and pushing religion in a more progressive direction."

Not sure that works any more. To a large extent, we had that in the 50s and 60s (though it was far from perfect and did not initially include women or people of color) when I was growing up. Much of what we have today, especially among conservatives, is a direct backlash against the spread of progressivism through the Civil Rights and Women's movements.

[Feb 13, 2012] "There is No High Ground in American Politics"

So now a relative handful of super-rich Democrats want fight a relative handful of super-rich Republicans. And we call that a democracy.
Economist's View

Robert Reich:

The Sad Spectacle of Obama's Super PAC, by Robert Reich: It has been said there is no high ground in American politics since any politician who claims it is likely to be gunned down by those firing from the trenches. That's how the Obama team justifies its decision to endorse a super PAC that can raise and spend unlimited sums for his campaign.

Baloney. Good ends don't justify corrupt means.

I understand the White House's concerns. ... The White House was surprised that super PACs outspent the GOP candidates themselves in several of the early primary contests, and noted how easily Romney's super PAC delivered Florida to him and pushed Newt Gingrich from first-place to fourth-place in Iowa.

Romney's friends on Wall Street and in the executive suites of the nation's biggest corporations have the deepest pockets in America. ... "With so much at stake" wrote Obama campaign manager Jim Messina on the Obama campaign's blog, Obama couldn't "unilaterally disarm."

But would refusing to be corrupted this way really amount to unilateral disarmament? To the contrary, I think it would have given the President a rallying cry that nearly all Americans would get behind: "More of the nation's wealth and political power is now in the hands of fewer people and large corporations than since the era of the robber barons of the Gilded Age. I will not allow our democracy to be corrupted by this! I will fight to take back our government!"

Small donations would have flooded the Obama campaign, overwhelming Romney's billionaire super PACs. The people would have been given a chance to be heard. ...

One Obama adviser says Obama's decision to endorse his super PAC has had an immediate effect. "Our donors get it," the official said, adding that they now want to "go fight the other side."

Exactly. So now a relative handful of super-rich Democrats want fight a relative handful of super-rich Republicans. And we call that a democracy.

The rules on campaign finance need to change. Political influence and power is too concentrated already and as noted in a part of Reich's post that I left out, president Obama hasn't done much to encourage reform. But given the rules that are in place, and my doubts that a surge of small donations would really overwhelm PACs, I'm not so sure this is a bad decision. I'd be curious to hear what you think.

[Feb 11, 2012] US finds democracy a tougher sell abroad

A lot of taxpayers money for question "folie de grandeur" (Megalomania) of corrupt elite.
Msnbc

Michael McFaul was in the second day of his new job as U.S. ambassador to Russia last month when Russian state television charged he was on a mission to stir up revolution.

The evidence? Among the reasons cited was McFaul's work in Russia in 1992 for the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a U.S. pro-democracy organization the Russian television commentator alleged was "close" to U.S. intelligence agencies.

In another part of the world, Egypt recently took its long-term hostility to the NDI and other U.S. government-funded democracy-building groups to a whole new level.

Egyptian authorities raided the groups' offices and placed travel bans on at least 19 U.S. citizens. The cases have been referred to criminal court.

For decades, U.S. organizations like the NDI, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House have promoted democracy and human rights around the world, from Russia and other former Soviet states to the nations swept by the "Arab spring" upheavals of the past year.

But some of their activities, such as monitoring elections and helping to develop political parties, are not universally appreciated in host countries. In nations where the transition to democracy is incomplete, the welcome mat can be quite small.

Governments in places like Egypt, which is still run by military rulers, and Russia, which has been dominated by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for over a decade, often see democracy-building activities as a threat to their grip on power.

"Authoritarian regimes don't like sharing power with their people - and they look for any excuse to distract from their problems at home," said Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress think tank who worked for NDI in the West Bank, Gaza and Cairo from 1995 to 1998.

U.S. once 'relatively trusted' And the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, which sparked deadly sectarian warfare and messy American attempts to build an Iraqi democracy, sparked a decline in global trust in U.S. pro-democracy efforts, experts said.

"In the best circumstances - think sub-Saharan Africa - the U.S. used to be relatively trusted for its far-sighted engagement on all three development fronts: economics, politics and security," said Paul O'Brien, vice president of policy and advocacy at Oxfam America, an international relief organization.

Some critics of U.S. democracy-building groups say hostility can extend beyond autocrats to average people who don't want foreigners telling them how to run their lives.

"Egyptians have always been suspicious of outsiders meddling. In Egypt, such meddling is called the 'invisible hand' or 'foreign fingers'," said Paul Sullivan, a professor and Middle East expert at Georgetown University.

"Any organization that is there to work on the development of voting and political parties is leaving itself open to those suspicions and considerable risk - and not just from the courts and the police," Sullivan said.

NDI denies meddling NDI president Ken Wollack denies his organization is meddling, or trying to foment revolution or regime change in any country.

"We don't support revolution" he said. NDI's programs have always been intended "to support a democratic elections process that reflected the will of the people."

"People can claim that it's meddling, but it's based on certain fundamental principles," he said, including a universal declaration of human rights adopted by the United Nations.

irene-2033073

Of course it's a tougher sell - they don't buy the US BS - We only sell democracy when we're trying to get into a country to take control of what they have - and once we get in we build bases and stay - forever. Meanwhile, back here at home, children go to bed hungry because their parents don't have jobs. And only millionaires can get into office. In other words - we sell democracy when we don't have it here at home - and the world sees it. Our military is bloated - and the great majority of our wealth is spent on fighting, taking, bombing, killing, getting more sophisticated weapons, spying, building prisons, and giving huge sums of money to uphold terrorists regimes like Israel.

sayitagain and again

American style democracy is probably the most successful scam the world has ever seen.

Junison

On the subject of spreading democracy to the world, the wisest statement I ever heard was this (sorry I don't remember who said it):

"If you have something truly wonderful, you don't need to stick a gun in someone's face to force him to take it."

Let's focus on building the best society we possibly can here in America. Let's build a nation in which:

1. Government agents don't open your suitcase and run their hands through your underwear in secret rooms at the airport.

2. Everyone has a chance at a good education.

3. Everyone has access to health care

4. Everyone has a reasonable place to live.

5. Everyone has a CHANCE to get rich through his or her own ideas and hard work.

Do that and you'll be amazed at how quickly the rest of the world will want to copy us.

bill-1260019

democracy- what the heck is that. since the "citizens united" (america divided) ruling by the scotus, democracy has been redefined to mean "for sale to the highest bidder" and if you think advertising doesnt work, then ask yourself why there are commercials on TV. over 90% of the elections for the last hundred or so years have been won by whomever spends the most money. works in sports too- just ask the yankees- do they always win? no! do they win most of the time? yes!

hadenough-345906

Democracy is a cruel joke.

The Western Elite care about the individual of the 3rd world about as much as they care about an average American. NOT AT ALL.

We are not in other countries to help the people, we are there so that the elites (the 1%) can take what they want. They only SELL this idea to us that we are helping.

If the snakes in congress, the council on foreign relations, Builderbergs, Trilateral commission, etc. etc.

Let them pick up a rifle and go. Our children our being sacrificed to the golden calf.

[Feb 04, 2012] Putin Aide Says Foreign Hands Are Behind Protests

"It's so ridiculously predictable," he said. Asked whether he believed that the protests were being orchestrated in this way, Mr. Peskov said, "I don't believe that. I know it."
NYTimes.com

...he also reiterated Mr. Putin's earlier claim that the United States has played an important role by sending money "to provoke the situation." He said that Russian intelligence services had long warned that protests were planned, using information gathered from various countries.

"Listen, we knew two or three years in advance that the next day, after parliamentary elections, we will have a scandal and we will have people going out and saying, 'Listen, guys, these elections are not legitimate, because there are hundreds of violations and they have stolen our voices,' " Mr. Peskov said. "We knew this in 2010. We knew that it would happen."

"And we know now that on the fifth of March we will have the same scenario," he added.

He said that the authorities knew of Web sites prepared to publicize election violations, including fabricated ones, after the March 4 presidential elections, and that they have the wording of the statement that will be issued by election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

"It's so ridiculously predictable," he said.

Asked whether he believed that the protests were being orchestrated in this way, Mr. Peskov said, "I don't believe that. I know it."

Mr. Peskov's remarks reflect the struggle going on at the top of Russia's government over how to respond to the wave of political dissent after December's parliamentary elections. After unusually large crowds gathered to protest electoral fraud, a range of officials said that they were a signal from voters that Mr. Putin's highly centralized political system should open up to allow new players. This has been accompanied by persistent claims that the protests were planned by the United States in order to undermine Mr. Putin.

A particular target has been Golos, an election monitoring group that is mainly financed by Washington and publishes accusations of electoral violations.

[Jan 28, 2012] Michael Hudson: Banks Weren't Meant to Be Like This

By Michael Hudson, a research professor of Economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College

A shorter version of this article in German will run in the Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung on January 28. 2012

The inherently symbiotic relationship between banks and governments recently has been reversed. In medieval times, wealthy bankers lent to kings and princes as their major customers. But now it is the banks that are needy, relying on governments for funding – capped by the post-2008 bailouts to save them from going bankrupt from their bad private-sector loans and gambles.

Yet the banks now browbeat governments – not by having ready cash but by threatening to go bust and drag the economy down with them if they are not given control of public tax policy, spending and planning. The process has gone furthest in the United States. Joseph Stiglitz characterizes the Obama administration's vast transfer of money and pubic debt to the banks as a "privatizing of gains and the socializing of losses. It is a 'partnership' in which one partner robs the other." Prof. Bill Black describes banks as becoming criminogenic and innovating "control fraud." High finance has corrupted regulatory agencies, falsified account-keeping by "mark to model" trickery, and financed the campaigns of its supporters to disable public oversight. The effect is to leave banks in control of how the economy's allocates its credit and resources.

If there is any silver lining to today's debt crisis, it is that the present situation and trends cannot continue. So this is not only an opportunity to restructure banking; we have little choice. The urgent issue is who will control the economy: governments, or the financial sector and monopolies with which it has made an alliance.

Fortunately, it is not necessary to re-invent the wheel. Already a century ago the outlines of a productive industrial banking system were well understood. But recent bank lobbying has been remarkably successful in distracting attention away from classical analyses of how to shape the financial and tax system to best promote economic growth – by public checks on bank privileges.

How Banks Broke The Social Compact, Promoting Their Own Special Interests

People used to know what banks did. Bankers took deposits and lent them out, paying short-term depositors less than they charged for risky or less liquid loans. The risk was borne by bankers, not depositors or the government. But today, bank loans are made increasingly to speculators in recklessly large amounts for quick in-and-out trading. Financial crashes have become deeper and affect a wider swath of the population as debt pyramiding has soared and credit quality plunged into the toxic category of "liars' loans."

The first step toward today's mutual interdependence between high finance and government was for central banks to act as lenders of last resort to mitigate the liquidity crises that periodically resulted from the banks' privilege of credit creation. In due course governments also provided public deposit insurance, recognizing the need to mobilize and recycle savings into capital investment as the Industrial Revolution gained momentum. In exchange for this support, they regulated banks as public utilities.

Over time, banks have sought to disable this regulatory oversight, even to the point of decriminalizing fraud. Sponsoring an ideological attack on government, they accuse public bureaucracies of "distorting" free markets (by which they mean markets free for predatory behavior). The financial sector is now making its move to concentrate planning in its own hands.

The problem is that the financial time frame is notoriously short-term and often self-destructive. And inasmuch as the banking system's product is debt, its business plan tends to be extractive and predatory, leaving economies high-cost. This is why checks and balances are needed, along with regulatory oversight to ensure fair dealing. Dismantling public attempts to steer banking to promote economic growth (rather than merely to make bankers rich) has permitted banks to turn into something nobody anticipated. Their major customers are other financial institutions, insurance and real estate – the FIRE sector, not industrial firms. Debt leveraging by real estate and monopolies, arbitrage speculators, hedge funds and corporate raiders inflates asset prices on credit. The effect of creating "balance sheet wealth" in this way is to load down the "real" production-and-consumption economy with debt and related rentier charges, adding more to the cost of living and doing business than rising productivity reduces production costs.

Since 2008, public bailouts have taken bad loans off the banks' balance sheet at enormous taxpayer expense – some $13 trillion in the United States, and proportionally higher in Ireland and other economies now being subjected to austerity to pay for "free market" deregulation. Bankers are holding economies hostage, threatening a monetary crash if they do not get more bailouts and nearly free central bank credit, and more mortgage and other loan guarantees for their casino-like game. The resulting "too big to fail" policy means making governments too weak to fight back.

The process that began with central bank support thus has turned into broad government guarantees against bank insolvency. The largest banks have made so many reckless loans that they have become wards of the state. Yet they have become powerful enough to capture lawmakers to act as their facilitators. The popular media and even academic economic theorists have been mobilized to pose as experts in an attempt to convince the public that financial policy is best left to technocrats – of the banks' own choosing, as if there is no alternative policy but for governments to subsidize a financial free lunch and crown bankers as society's rulers.

The Bubble Economy and its austerity aftermath could not have occurred without the banking sector's success in weakening public regulation, capturing national treasuries and even disabling law enforcement. Must governments surrender to this power grab? If not, who should bear the losses run up by a financial system that has become dysfunctional? If taxpayers have to pay, their economy will become high-cost and uncompetitive – and a financial oligarchy will rule.

The Present Debt Quandary

The endgame in times past was to write down bad debts. That meant losses for banks and investors. But today's debt overhead is being kept in place – shifting bad loans off bank balance sheets to become public debts owed by taxpayers to save banks and their creditors from loss. Governments have given banks newly minted bonds or central bank credit in exchange for junk mortgages and bad gambles – without re-structuring the financial system to create a more stable, less debt-ridden economy. The pretense is that these bailouts will enable banks to lend enough to revive the economy by enough to pay its debts.

Seeing the handwriting on the wall, bankers are taking as much bailout money as they can get, and running, using the money to buy as much tangible property and ownership rights as they can while their lobbyists keep the public subsidy faucet running.

The pretense is that debt-strapped economies can resume business-as-usual growth by borrowing their way out of debt. But a quarter of U.S. real estate already is in negative equity – worth less than the mortgages attached to it – and the property market is still shrinking, so banks are not lending except with public Federal Housing Administration guarantees to cover whatever losses they may suffer. In any event, it already is mathematically impossible to carry today's debt overhead without imposing austerity, debt deflation and depression.

This is not how banking was supposed to evolve. If governments are to underwrite bank loans, they may as well be doing the lending in the first place – and receiving the gains. Indeed, since 2008 the over-indebted economy's crash led governments to become the major shareholders of the largest and most troubled banks – Citibank in the United States, Anglo-Irish Bank in Ireland, and Britain's Royal Bank of Scotland. Yet rather than taking this opportunity to run these banks as public utilities and lower their charges for credit-card services – or most important of all, to stop their lending to speculators and gamblers – governments left these banks operating as part of the "casino capitalism" that has become their business plan.

There is no natural reason for matters to be like this. Relations between banks and government used to be the reverse. In 1307, France's Philip IV ("The Fair") set the tone by seizing the Knights Templars' wealth, arresting them and putting many to death – not on financial charges, but on the accusation of devil-worshipping and satanic sexual practices. In 1344 the Peruzzi bank went broke, followed by the Bardi by making unsecured loans to Edward III of England and other monarchs who died or defaulted. Many subsequent banks had to suffer losses on loans gone bad to real estate or financial speculators.

By contrast, now the U.S., British, Irish and Latvian governments have taken bad bank loans onto their national balance sheets, imposing a heavy burden on taxpayers – while letting bankers cash out with immense wealth. These "cash for trash" swaps have turned the mortgage crisis and general debt collapse into a fiscal problem. Shifting the new public bailout debts onto the non-financial economy threaten to increase the cost of living and doing business. This is the result of the economy's failure to distinguish productive from unproductive loans and debts. It helps explain why nations now are facing financial austerity and debt peonage instead of the leisure economy promised so eagerly by technological optimists a century ago.

So we are brought back to the question of what the proper role of banks should be. This issue was discussed exhaustively prior to World War I. It is even more urgent today.

How Classical Economists Hoped to Modernize Banks as Agents of Industrial Capitalism

Britain was the home of the Industrial Revolution, but there was little long-term lending to finance investment in factories or other means of production. British and Dutch merchant banking was to extend short-term credit on the basis of collateral such as real property or sales contracts for merchandise shipped ("receivables"). Buoyed by this trade financing, merchant bankers were successful enough to maintain long-established short-term funding practices. This meant that James Watt and other innovators were obliged to raise investment money from their families and friends rather than from banks.

It was the French and Germans who moved banking into the industrial stage to help their nations catch up. In France, the Saint-Simonians described the need to create an industrial credit system aimed at funding means of production. In effect, the Saint-Simonians proposed to restructure banks along lines akin to a mutual fund. A start was made with the Crédit Mobilier, founded by the Péreire Brothers in 1852. Their aim was to shift the banking and financial system away from debt financing at interest toward equity lending, taking returns in the form of dividends that would rise or decline in keeping with the debtor's business fortunes. By giving businesses leeway to cut back dividends when sales and profits decline, profit-sharing agreements avoid the problem that interest must be paid willy-nilly. If an interest payment is missed, the debtor may be forced into bankruptcy and creditors can foreclose. It was to avoid this favoritism for creditors regardless of the debtor's ability to pay that prompted Mohammed to ban interest under Islamic law.

Attracting reformers ranging from socialists to investment bankers, the Saint-Simonians won government backing for their policies under France's Third Empire. Their approach inspired Marx as well as industrialists in Germany and protectionists in the United States and England. The common denominator of this broad spectrum was recognition that an efficient banking system was needed to finance the industry on which a strong national state and military power depended.

Germany Develops an Industrial Banking System

It was above all in Germany that long-term financing found its expression in the Reichsbank and other large industrial banks as part of the "holy trinity" of banking, industry and government planning under Bismarck's "state socialism." German banks made a virtue of necessity. British banks "derived the greater part of their funds from the depositors," and steered these savings and business deposits into mercantile trade financing. This forced domestic firms to finance most new investment out of their own earnings. By contrast, Germany's "lack of capital … forced industry to turn to the banks for assistance," noted the financial historian George Edwards. "A considerable proportion of the funds of the German banks came not from the deposits of customers but from the capital subscribed by the proprietors themselves. As a result, German banks "stressed investment operations and were formed not so much for receiving deposits and granting loans but rather for supplying the investment requirements of industry."

When the Great War broke out in 1914, Germany's rapid victories were widely viewed as reflecting the superior efficiency of its financial system. To some observers the war appeared as a struggle between rival forms of financial organization. At issue was not only who would rule Europe, but whether the continent would have laissez faire or a more state-socialist economy.

In 1915, shortly after fighting broke out, the Christian Socialist priest-politician Friedrich Naumann published Mitteleuropa, describing how Germany recognized more than any other nation that industrial technology needed long term financing and government support. His book inspired Prof. H. S. Foxwell in England to draw on his arguments in two remarkable essays published in the Economic Journal in September and December 1917: "The Nature of the Industrial Struggle," and "The Financing of Industry and Trade." He endorsed Naumann's contention that "the old individualistic capitalism, of what he calls the English type, is giving way to the new, more impersonal, group form; to the disciplined scientific capitalism he claims as German."

This was necessarily a group undertaking, with the emerging tripartite integration of industry, banking and government, with finance being "undoubtedly the main cause of the success of modern German enterprise," Foxwell concluded (p. 514). German bank staffs included industrial experts who were forging industrial policy into a science. And in America, Thorstein Veblen's The Engineers and the Price System (1921) voiced the new industrial philosophy calling for bankers and government planners to become engineers in shaping credit markets.

Foxwell warned that British steel, automotive, capital equipment and other heavy industry was becoming obsolete largely because its bankers failed to perceive the need to promote equity investment and extend long term credit. They based their loan decisions not on the new production and revenue their lending might create, but simply on what collateral they could liquidate in the event of default: inventories of unsold goods, real estate, and money due on bills for goods sold and awaiting payment from customers. And rather than investing in the shares of the companies that their loans supposedly were building up, they paid out most of their earnings as dividends – and urged companies to do the same. This short time horizon forced business to remain liquid rather than having leeway to pursue long term strategy.

German banks, by contrast, paid out dividends (and expected such dividends from their clients) at only half the rate of British banks, choosing to retain earnings as capital reserves and invest them largely in the stocks of their industrial clients. Viewing these companies as allies rather than merely as customers from whom to make as large a profit as quickly as possible, German bank officials sat on their boards, and helped expand their business by extending loans to foreign governments on condition that their clients be named the chief suppliers in major public investments. Germany viewed the laws of history as favoring national planning to organize the financing of heavy industry, and gave its bankers a voice in formulating international diplomacy, making them "the principal instrument in the extension of her foreign trade and political power."

A similar contrast existed in the stock market. British brokers were no more up to the task of financing manufacturing in its early stages than were its banks. The nation had taken an early lead by forming Crown corporations such as the East India Company, the Bank of England and even the South Sea Company. Despite the collapse of the South Sea Bubble in 1720, the run-up of share prices from 1715 to 1720 in these joint-stock monopolies established London's stock market as a popular investment vehicle, for Dutch and other foreigners as well as for British investors. But the market was dominated by railroads, canals and large public utilities. Industrial firms were not major issuers of stock.

In any case, after earning their commissions on one issue, British stockbrokers were notorious for moving on to the next without much concern for what happened to the investors who had bought the earlier securities. "As soon as he has contrived to get his issue quoted at a premium and his underwriters have unloaded at a profit," complained Foxwell, "his enterprise ceases. 'To him,' as the Times says, 'a successful flotation is of more importance than a sound venture.'"

Much the same was true in the United States. Its merchant heroes were individualistic traders and political insiders often operating on the edge of the law to gain their fortunes by stock-market manipulation, railroad politicking for land giveaways, and insurance companies, mining and natural resource extraction. America's wealth-seeking spirit found its epitome in Thomas Edison's hit-or-miss method of invention, coupled with a high degree of litigiousness to obtain patent and monopoly rights.

In sum, neither British nor American banking or stock markets planned for the future. Their time frame was short, and they preferred rent-extracting projects to industrial innovation. Most banks favored large real estate borrowers, railroads and public utilities whose income streams easily could be forecast. Only after manufacturing companies grew fairly large did they obtain significant bank and stock market credit.

What is remarkable is that this is the tradition of banking and high finance that has emerged victorious throughout the world. The explanation is primarily the military victory of the United States, Britain and their Allies in the Great War and a generation later, in World War II.

The Regression Toward Burdensome Unproductive Debts After World War I

The development of industrial credit led economists to distinguish between productive and unproductive lending. A productive loan provides borrowers with resources to trade or invest at a profit sufficient to pay back the loan and its interest charge. An unproductive loan must be paid out of income earned elsewhere. Governments must pay war loans out of tax revenues. Consumers must pay loans out of income they earn at a job – or by selling assets. These debt payments divert revenue away from being spent on consumption and investment, so the economy shrinks. This traditionally has led to crises that wipe out debts, above all those that are unproductive.

In the aftermath of World War I the economies of Europe's victorious and defeated nations alike were dominated by postwar arms and reparations debts. These inter-governmental debts were to pay for weapons (by the Allies when the United States unexpectedly demanded that they pay for the arms they had bought before America's entry into the war), and for the destruction of property (by the Central Powers), not new means of production. Yet to the extent that they were inter-governmental, these debts were more intractable than debts to private bankers and bondholders. Despite the fact that governments in principle are sovereign and hence can annul debts owed to private creditors, the defeated Central Powers governments were in no position to do this.

And among the Allies, Britain led the capitulation to U.S. arms billing, captive to the creditor ideology that "a debt is a debt" and must be paid regardless of what this entails in practice or even whether the debt in fact can be paid. Confronted with America's demand for payment, the Allies turned to Germany to make them whole. After taking its liquid assets and major natural resources, they insisted that it squeeze out payments by taxing its economy. No attempt was made to calculate just how Germany was to do this – or most important, how it was to convert this domestic revenue (the "budgetary problem") into hard currency or gold. Despite the fact that banking had focused on international credit and currency transfers since the 12th century, there was a broad denial of what John Maynard Keynes identified as a foreign exchange transfer problem.

Never before had there been an obligation of such enormous magnitude. Nevertheless, all of Germany's political parties and government agencies sought to devise ways to tax the economy to raise the sums being demanded. Taxes, however, are levied in a nation's own currency. The only way to pay the Allies was for the Reichsbank to take this fiscal revenue and throw it onto the foreign exchange markets to obtain the sterling and other hard currency to pay. Britain, France and the other recipients then paid this money on their Inter-Ally debts to the United States.

Adam Smith pointed out that no government ever had paid down its public debt. But creditors always have been reluctant to acknowledge that debtors are unable to pay. Ever since David Ricardo's lobbying for their perspective in Britain's Bullion debates, creditors have found it their self-interest to promote a doctrinaire blind spot, insisting that debts of any magnitude could be paid. They resist acknowledging a distinction between raising funds domestically (by running a budget surplus) and obtaining the foreign exchange to pay foreign-currency debt. Furthermore, despite the evident fact that austerity cutbacks on consumption and investment can only be extractive, creditor-oriented economists refused to recognize that debts cannot be paid by shrinking the economy. Or that foreign debts and other international payments cannot be paid in domestic currency without lowering the exchange rate.

The more domestic currency Germany sought to convert, the further its exchange rate was driven down against the dollar and other gold-based currencies. This obliged Germans to pay much more for imports. The collapse of the exchange rate was the source of hyperinflation, not an increase in domestic money creation as today's creditor-sponsored monetarist economists insist. In vain Keynes pointed to the specific structure of Germany's balance of payments and asked creditors to specify just how many German exports they were willing to take, and to explain how domestic currency could be converted into foreign exchange without collapsing the exchange rate and causing price inflation.

Tragically, Ricardian tunnel vision won Allied government backing. Bertil Ohlin and Jacques Rueff claimed that economies receiving German payments would recycle their inflows to Germany and other debt-paying countries by buying their imports. If income adjustments did not keep exchange rates and prices stable, then Germany's falling exchange rate would make its exports sufficiently more attractive to enable it to earn the revenue to pay.

This is the logic that the International Monetary Fund followed half a century later in insisting that Third World countries remit foreign earnings and even permit flight capital as well as pay their foreign debts. It is the neoliberal stance now demanding austerity for Greece, Ireland, Italy and other Eurozone economies.

Bank lobbyists claim that the European Central Bank will risk spurring domestic wage and price inflation of it does what central banks were founded to do: finance budget deficits. Europe's financial institutions are given a monopoly right to perform this electronic task – and to receive interest for what a real central bank could create on its own computer keyboard.

But why it is less inflationary for commercial banks to finance budget deficits than for central banks to do this? The bank lending that has inflated a global financial bubble since the 1980s has left as its legacy a debt overhead that can no more be supported today than Germany was able to carry its reparations debt in the 1920s. Would government credit have so recklessly inflated asset prices?

How Debt Creation Has Fueled Asset-Price Inflation Since The 1980s

Banking in recent decades has not followed the productive lines that early economic futurists expected. As noted above, instead of financing tangible investment to expand production and innovation, most loans are made against collateral, with interest to be paid out of what borrowers can make elsewhere. Despite being unproductive in the classical sense, it was remunerative for debtors from 1980 until 2008 – not by investing the loan proceeds to expand economic activity, but by riding the wave of asset-price inflation. Mortgage credit enabled borrowers to bid up property prices, drawing speculators and new customers into the market in the expectation that prices would continue to rise. But hothouse credit infusions meant additional debt service, which ended up shrinking the market for goods and services.

Under normal conditions the effect would have been for rents to decline, with property prices following suit, leading to mortgage defaults. But banks postponed the collapse into negative equity by lowering their lending standards, providing enough new credit to keep on inflating prices. This averted a collapse of their speculative mortgage and stock market lending. It was inflationary – but it was inflating asset prices, not commodity prices or wages. Two decades of asset price inflation enabled speculators, homeowners and commercial investors to borrow the interest falling due and still make a capital gain.

This hope for a price gain made winning bidders willing to pay lenders all the current income – making banks the ultimate and major rentier income recipients. The process of inflating asset prices by easing credit terms and lowering the interest rate was self-feeding. But it also was self-terminating, because raising the multiple by which a given real estate rent or business income can be "capitalized" into bank loans increased the economy's debt overhead.

Securities markets became part of this problem. Rising stock and bond prices made pension funds pay more to purchase a retirement income – so "pension fund capitalism" was coming undone. So was the industrial economy itself. Instead of raising new equity financing for companies, the stock market became a vehicle for corporate buyouts. Raiders borrowed to buy out stockholders, loading down companies with debt. The most successful looters left them bankrupt shells. And when creditors turned their economic gains from this process into political power to shift the tax burden onto wage earners and industry, this raised the cost of living and doing business – by more than technology was able to lower prices.

The EU Rejects Central Bank Money Creation, Leaving Deficit Financing to the Banks

Article 123 of the Lisbon Treaty forbids the ECB or other central banks to lend to government. But central banks were created specifically – to finance government deficits. The EU has rolled back history to the way things were three hundred years ago, before the Bank of England was created. Reserving the task of credit creation for commercial banks, it leaves governments without a central bank to finance the public spending needed to avert depression and widespread financial collapse.

So the plan has backfired. When "hard money" policy makers limited central bank power, they assumed that public debts would be risk-free. Obliging budget deficits to be financed by private creditors seemed to offer a bonanza: being able to collect interest for creating electronic credit that governments can create themselves. But now, European governments need credit to balance their budget or face default. So banks now want a central bank to create the money to bail them out for the bad loans they have made.

For starters, the ECB's €489 billion in three-year loans at 1% interest gives banks a free lunch arbitrage opportunity (the "carry trade") to buy Greek and Spanish bonds yielding a higher rate. The policy of buying government bonds in the open market – after banks first have bought them at a lower issue price – gives the banks a quick and easy trading gain.

How are these giveaways less inflationary than for central banks to directly finance budget deficits and roll over government debts? Is the aim of giving banks easy gains simply to provide them with resources to resume the Bubble Economy lending that led to today's debt overhead in the first place?

Conclusion

Governments can create new credit electronically on their own computer keyboards as easily as commercial banks can. And unlike banks, their spending is expected to serve a broad social purpose, to be determined democratically. When commercial banks gain policy control over governments and central banks, they tend to support their own remunerative policy of creating asset-inflationary credit – leaving the clean-up costs to be solved by a post-bubble austerity. This makes the debt overhead even harder to pay – indeed, impossible.

So we are brought back to the policy issue of how public money creation to finance budget deficits differs from issuing government bonds for banks to buy. Is not the latter option a convoluted way to finance such deficits – at a needless interest charge? When governments monetize their budget deficits, they do not have to pay bondholders.

I have heard bankers argue that governments need an honest broker to decide whether a loan or public spending policy is responsible. To date their advice has not promoted productive credit. Yet they now are attempting to compensate for the financial crisis by telling debtor governments to sell off property in their public domain. This "solution" relies on the myth that privatization is more efficient and will lower the cost of basic infrastructure services. Yet it involves paying interest to the buyers of rent-extraction rights, higher executive salaries, stock options and other financial fees.

Most cost savings are achieved by shifting to non-unionized labor, and typically end up being paid to the privatizers, their bankers and bondholders, not passed on to the public. And bankers back price deregulation, enabling privatizers to raise access charges. This makes the economy higher cost and hence less competitive – just the opposite of what is promised.

Banking has moved so far away from funding industrial growth and economic development that it now benefits primarily at the economy's expense in a predator and extractive way, not by making productive loans. This is now the great problem confronting our time. Banks now lend mainly to other financial institutions, hedge funds, corporate raiders, insurance companies and real estate, and engage in their own speculation in foreign currency, interest-rate arbitrage, and computer-driven trading programs. Industrial firms bypass the banking system by financing new capital investment out of their own retained earnings, and meet their liquidity needs by issuing their own commercial paper directly. Yet to keep the bank casino winning, global bankers now want governments not only to bail them out but to enable them to renew their failed business plan – and to keep the present debts in place so that creditors will not have to take a loss.

This wish means that society should lose, and even suffer depression. We are dealing here not only with greed, but with outright antisocial behavior and hostility.

Europe thus has reached a critical point in having to decide whose interest to put first: that of banks, or the "real" economy. History provides a wealth of examples illustrating the dangers of capitulating to bankers, and also for how to restructure banking along more productive lines. The underlying questions are clear enough:

Solving the Eurozone's financial problem can be made much easier by the tax reforms that classical economists advocated to complement their financial reforms. To free consumers and employers from taxation, they proposed to levy the burden on the "unearned increment" of land and natural resource rent, monopoly rent and financial privilege. The guiding principle was that property rights in the earth, monopolies and other ownership privileges have no direct cost of production, and hence can be taxed without reducing their supply or raising their price, which is set in the market. Removing the tax deductibility for interest is the other key reform that is needed.
A rent tax holds down housing prices and those of basic infrastructure services, whose untaxed revenue tends to be capitalized into bank loans and paid out in the form of interest charges. Additionally, land and natural resource rents – along with interest – are the easiest to tax, because they are highly visible and their value is easy to assess.

Pressure to narrow existing budget deficits offers a timely opportunity to rationalize the tax systems of Greece and other PIIGS countries in which the wealthy avoid paying their fair share of taxes. The political problem blocking this classical fiscal policy is that it "interferes" with the rent-extracting free lunches that banks seek to lend against. So they act as lobbyists for untaxing real estate and monopolies (and themselves as well). Despite the financial sector's desire to see governments remain sufficiently solvent to pay bondholders, it has subsidized an enormous public relations apparatus and academic junk economics to oppose the tax policies that can close the fiscal gap in the fairest way.

It is too early to forecast whether banks or governments will emerge victorious from today's crisis. As economies polarize between debtors and creditors, planning is shifting out of public hands into those of bankers. The easiest way for them to keep this power is to block a true central bank or strong public sector from interfering with their monopoly of credit creation. The counter is for central banks and governments to act as they were intended to, by providing a public option for credit creation.

[Jan 24, 2012] The eXiled's Mark Ames On The Alyona Show "It's Going To Get Ugly" by Mark Ames

The eXiled
Exiled editor Mark Ames went on The Alyona Show to talk about why the financial sector keeps expanding even after the collapse of 2008, American decadence, the Occupy protests, and why "It's going to get ugly" in this country…

[Jan 23, 2012] mikey-mcfaul-and-the-three-bears-a-review-of-russias-unfinished-revolution

This book is a four-hundred page testimonial to the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the American Russia-watching mafia.
This book is a four-hundred page testimonial to the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the American Russia-watching mafia. In its pages, Michael McFaul condemns himself again and again with staggering non-sequiturs, self-serving lies, crude misrepresentations of his own past and the recent history of Russia, and repeated failures to meet even the most basic standards of academic rigor.

The failures to meet academic standards are the most glaring fault of the book. What can one say of an academic work that attempts to chart Russia's "course to democracy" without once even attempting to define its central term, "democracy"? Was this mere incompetence? God knows there is incompetence and provincial gaucherie enough in McFaul's work, from the Preface, in which he informs us that "In 1799, France was still deep in the throws [sic] of revolutionary turmoil…," to his Conclusion, which ends with some of the most inadvertently comic attempts at grand chiasmus since Cicero wore out his whipping-arm on his duller pupils.

But McFaul's simple-minded concepts and clunky prose serve his and his masters' purposes. There's all too much method in this muddle. As his long, successful career has shown, McFaul possesses a canine cunning which has more than compensated for his canine intelligence, sending him to the top of a profession which values collegiality far more than brains. And his most glaring intellectual failures, starting with his failure to define "democracy," show the cunning of the sidling, canine mind. If McFaul had attempted to produce a clear definition of this term, it would have become impossible - even for him - to imply that Yeltsin's garish kleptocracy ever approached anything which could be called "democracy."

McFaul's method of dealing with inconvenient theoretical questions such as the question of whether 1990s Russia ever attained anything which could be called "democracy" is consistent, simple and efficient: he relegates such thorny complications to footnotes in which opposing texts are listed - without comment, without rebuttal, without any engagement at all. The most stunning example of this technique comes on page 338. Here, near the end of the book, McFaul interrupts one of his many rhetorical flights about how Russia's transition to democracy "has been a long one" with this footnote:

"Of course, many still argue that there has been no transition to democracy at all. Others have argued that Russia is still an authoritarian regime, not due to historical legacies but as a result of Yeltsin and his reforms. See [followed by list of academic books]."

It does seem a bit odd that in a book wholly devoted to Russia's transition to democracy, the fact that there exists a whole body of academic work asserting that Russia has no democracy should be mentioned only once.

In a footnote on page 338.

Without comment.

I would be curious to hear the views of "the many scholars" mentioned in McFaul's "Acknowledgements," who "devoted hundreds of hours to reading drafts of the manuscript" on this matter. Here are the academics named by McFaul as having read the manuscript:

Anders Aslund, Vladimir Bokser, George Breslauer, Valerie Bunce, Larry Diamond, John Dunlop, Lynn Eden, Matthew Evangelista, Jim Fearon, Jim Goldgeiger, Gordon Hahn, David Holloway, Andrew Kuchins, Gail Lapidus, David Laitin, Sarah Mendelson, Nikolai Petrov, Thomas Remington, Scott Sagan, Stephen Stedman, Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom, Steven Solnick, Svetlana Tsalik, Kathryn Stoner-Weiss, Barry Weingast.

All those whose names appear on this list are encouraged to write to me, c/o the eXile, to clarify what might otherwise seem like collusion in a prima facie case of violation of basic academic integrity for reasons of crude ideological bias. Replies will be published without alteration in the eXile.

Being more cynical than the average academic, I am inclined to suspect that McFaul failed to deal with opposing views simply because he is intellectually incapable of doing so and temperamentally unsuited, by virtue of his utterly shameless pursuit of political power, to spend too much time on the unrewarding arcana of his vocation.

Perhaps the starkest illustration of that shamelessness is that this man, who has spent the last year groveling to the most rightwing administration in a century, can allude with a straight face to "my comrades in the African National Congress (ANC)." It would be interesting to survey the ANC ruling circles to see if anyone there remembers a "comrade" named McFaul. One might refresh their memories with some updated details: "You know, McFaul - Fellow of the Hoover Institution, advocate of 'regime change' in Iraq, admirer of George W., …" It might be a tad difficult, these days, to find anyone in the ANC willing to admit remembering Comrade McFaul.

But for McFaul, there is no shame and no contradiction in simultaneously groveling to Bush's imperialists and the ANC. After reading McFaul's book, I was overcome by something like morbid curiosity about what sort of grotesque consciousness could sustain such incompatible patrons. To put it more bluntly: how can such a vile, double-speaking courtier live with himself?

Rereading the book, I realized that for McFaul, groveling to power is not merely a natural, but in a bizarre sense, a moral act. A sincere conviction underlies such behavior and also provides the major premise of McFaul's book: the belief that any political structure that can triumph and sustain itself is thereby legitimized.

This premise is historicized in McFaul's account of recent Russian history via a crude, fairy-tale structure: the ancient Indo-European story-form of the heroic quest involving three attempts, the first two of which fail, while the third succeeds (eg "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," "The Three Little Pigs"). The first stage, which McFaul calls "The Gorbachev Era," begins with Gorbachev's accession to power and ends with the failed 1991 coup. The second begins with Yeltsin coming to power in 1991 and ends with the attack on the White House. To this alleged epoch McFaul has given the grand title "The First Russian Republic." The third stage is the next three years of Yeltsin's disastrous reign, a period which McFaul terms "The Emergence of the Second Russian Republic, 1993-1996."

McFaul is not shy in introducing his three-part narrative, admitting that it is an artificial "periodization" of a "single historical phenomenon." In fact, in a two-page subsection called "Methodological Considerations" (pp. 26-27) he admits that "…this periodization is manufactured, artificially dividing what is a single case of regime transformation into three observations of institutional change…" Then, without engaging this rather basic intellectual flaw in any way whatsoever, he says that despite such "research design limitations," "[his] analysis forges ahead…"

This is surely one of the grandest non sequiturs in contemporary academic prose. Like much of McFaul's work, it cannot be understood in logical terms. It must be seen as a rhetorical ploy resulting from the author's divided intention and audience. Look closely at the language of the non sequitur. The very title of the subsection in which it occurs, "Methodological Considerations," suggests that this two-page section is a brief aside to more rigorous academic readers. McFaul trots out academic language here, conceding his "research design limitations." But then he turns to the language of the politician in boasting that "the analysis forges ahead" - as if resuming his true role, the orator, and abandoning his academic pretensions in all possible haste. The author's priorities could hardly be clearer: professional respectability is well enough, but "forg[ing] ahead" to the big grants is what really matters.

Having made his pro forma concession that the whole three-part fairytale story is fake, McFaul returns to it, unabashedly repeating the term "failure" as often as possible in discussing the first two stages: "The first failure occurred in August 1991…"; "The second failure occurred in October 1993." Whenever alluding to the first two "failures" after introducing them, McFaul consistently uses melodramatic terms, calling them "two violent confrontations" or characterizing them separately as "the August 1991 conflict and the October 1993 confrontation." By such emotive language, and by dint of simply repeating the term "failure," McFaul tries to create an artificial break between these two events and his happy-ending third stage, that just-right bowl of democratic porridge which Yeltsin served up, with the help of oligarch cash and electoral fraud, thereafter.

So often, and so crudely, does McFaul overdo the contrast that one is almost forced to confront the begged question: why make two historical events villains, and a third a fairy-tale hero? Why not accept Russian political history of the 1990s as all of a piece? For McFaul, the reason is simple: there would be no moral to that story. That is the way the story reads, in the hands of more honorable scholars like Stephen Cohen, Peter Reddaway and Dmitri Glinski, who have risked their careers by debunking the lie that Yeltsin's era ever had anything like a happy ending. But honor has a price; those people will never have the access to the White House, which is, for creatures like McFaul, the whole purpose of a career in Russia-watching.

In defining the success of this third attempt, McFaul is, at least, consistent. Throughout the book, even as he fudges everything from his own sleazy record as Yeltsin apologist to the disastrous economic effects of Gaidar's reforms, he never wavers from the criterion by which he measures the success of "political institutions": survival. Every sentence of the book is suffused with the influence of that most fundamental American proverb: "You can't argue with success."

By this standard, the Bolsheviks would make excellent protagonists in a three-stage fairy tale of the sort McFaul employs: Once upon a time, there were three revolutions. The first two were "failures," "violent confrontations" which left no enduring Russian political institutions; the third was a grand success. The first failure was the 1905 revolution. The second was the Kerensky revolution. Then came the third, Leninist revolution, which left "enduring political institutions" (to say the least).

Why stop there? Why not impose the three-little-pigs tale on the course of Bolshevik rule (as Orwell did quite literally in Animal Farm): first came Lenin, who built his house of Proletarian straw; then Trotsky, who built his of Comintern sticks; and then, at last, that most worthy of pigs, Stalin, who built his house of good blood red bricks. Stalin's edifice meets McFaul's single standard of success: it lasted.

Survival, plain and simple - again and again, McFaul uses this as the test of the post-1993 political structure of Russia. In a crucial passage very early on in the book, he acknowledges that outright fraud had everything to do with the "success" of Yeltsin's regime, but then - relying on the word "yet" to wall off this troubling quibble - he simply reasserts what is, for him, the only fact that matters: the regime survived, and is therefore legitimate:

"Elections…became a crucial component of this new political order….These elections were guided by law, held on time, and did not contradict the 1993 Constitution…Election fraud tarnished the results, especially in 1993, yet all major political actors recognized the results as legitimate and refrained from challenging their validity."

Note the key concession, "[e]lection fraud tarnished the results…" An interesting metaphor, "tarnished." It implies surface damage, largely cosmetic; nothing to whine about, as implied by the way the sentence plows onward, returning to McFaul's relentless optimistic tone in the next clause, "…yet all major political actors recognized the results as legitimate and refrained from challenging their validity." That aside, McFaul is just plain wrong: everyone from Yavlinsky to Zyuganov as well as most of the Russian press uncovered massive fraud in the elections. Just because they didn't take up arms doesn't mean they recognized the results: they knew that there was no other choice but civil war, so they chose to play ball. This is hardly a ringing endorsement of Yeltsin's democracy.

There are so many lies and half-truths in this claim that it's difficult to know where to begin. First, it is absolutely false that fraud was crucial "especially in 1993″; as McFaul knows very well, fraud was central to the far more important 1996 Presidential elections. McFaul simply hopes to pass this nonsense off on an American audience which doesn't know any better. Then there's the implication that fraud merely "tarnished" the results of these elections. Lying via metaphor is lying nonetheless - fraud changed the outcome of these elections.

In an attempt to mollify more knowledgeable readers who know something of the scope and effect of electoral fraud in Yeltsin's time, McFaul inserts brief accounts of what really happened in that crucial 1996 election here and there, too far apart for the casual American reader to piece together. Here, formed by connecting two such passages placed forty pages apart, is a more honest version of this triumph of "democracy":

"In…the 'loans for shares' program, a small group of Russian banks gave the government loans in exchange for interim control of shares in a dozen major companies. These loans were never paid back, so the banks kept their shares. …Boris Berezovsky's Logovaz eventually landed its own oil company, Sibneft, through the loans-for-shares scheme….Cleverly, the oligarchs only gained control of these companies after the 1996 election." (p. 252)

Taking up this story forty pages later, McFaul concedes that in the lead-up to the 1996 election, Yeltsin knew he was in trouble - and so did his backers, the very oligarchs who had been handed over Russia's entire wealth by Yeltsin's thieves' court. He only rated about 3 percent in the polls. So the oligarchs decided to intervene in the "democratic process":

"Assembled in Davos…arch-rivals Vladimir Gusinsky from Most Bank and Boris Berezovsky from Logovaz decided to bury their differences for the duration of the campaign and work together to reelect Boris Yeltsin. Because Gusinsky owned NTV television (Channel 4) and Berezovsky controlled ORT (Channel 1), this strategic alliance was crucial….Berezovsky and his business colleagues [!] met with the president and pledged to finance his campaign…." (p. 293)

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how "democracy" came to Russia. At least, that's how McFaul sees this shameful tale, the stripping of a rich land by a band of vultures. One can only wonder what sort of model of democracy McFaul has absorbed…Oh, that's right, he lives in the United States and spends his life sucking up to the Bush administration - so of course government by oil oligarchs, sustained by massive petrodollar infusion, tax evasion, shareholder fraud and crude vote rigging is the very essence of "democracy" in his mind. No wonder he finds the recent history of Russia such fertile ground for his notorious "optimism": every day in every way, Russia looks more and more like Texas - and now, D.C.

For McFaul, Yeltsin's great achievement is the fact that he left power voluntarily, rather than staging a coup to stay in charge. It's astonishing to see McFaul repeating endlessly his hymn to Yeltsin as champion of democracy simply for not calling out the tanks…again. McFaul makes Yeltsin sound like Thomas More on the scaffold for bowing out "peacefully and constitutionally" - even while conceding that Yeltsin probably COULD NOT have stayed in power even if he had staged a coup:

"We may never know what Yeltsin would have done had he lost the 1996 election. Many believe he would not have vacated the Kremlin peacefully….[but changes] in the balance of power limited Yeltsin's ability to hold on to power by other means [i.e. a military coup]. This power distribution may have encouraged Yeltsin to leave office peacefully and constitutionally, as he did on December 31, 1999."

Apparently the reader is supposed to be misty-eyed at the thought that this bloated, moribund embezzler limped away from the throne to play with his ill-got millions, handing over power to a spy who didn't even pretend to play with democracy, rather than ordering tanks into the street. This was, for me, the most utterly bizarre aspect of this strange volume. Have I lived away from America too long? Do we now so revere oil oligarchs and their frontmen that we are required to canonize them for failing to stage a coup?

McFaul's tone changes suddenly at the end of the book, when Putin replaces Yeltsin. The ever-forgiving adulator suddenly switches on his atrophied sense of outrage. Putin, McFaul informs us "…inflicted considerable damage to democratic institutions." This sentence occurs on p. 362, which is why the reader is somewhat surprised; how can Putin have damaged "democratic institutions" when McFaul has never even begun to demonstrate that such institutions came into being in Yeltsin's Russia? It's like accusing Hiroshima's 1946 City Council of ruining the city's architectural heritage.

... ... ...

This article was originally published in The eXile, November 27, 2002.

[Jan 21, 2012] Delyagin called to expose real nature of liberasts

Edited Google translation. Liberasts is Russian fifth column of paid supporters of subduing Russia to interests of the international corporations and converting it into just a source of oil and gas, kind of new Latin American country with poor population and compradors at power.

Elegance and simplicity of hijacking [of power by liberasts] was shown pretty vividly in direct coverage of Sakharov's meeting organizing committee. If these people replace Churov, "Party of People's Freedom" - or whatever a liberasts' variant of "United Russia" might be called will be automatically get lo less then 70% of votes, and those who would loudly doubt this will get 15 days or jail. And if too many of them will, then there will be another shelling of Parliament with key liberasts screaming "Crush the vermin!" They supported this slogan in the past and will support it again.

Liberasts in Russia are not the people who love freedom but those who believe the state should serve not people but global debt markets. They are stormtoopers of global business: that's why they have money, organizational resources, well entrenched bought media, full support of Western governments as well as in part of Russian government which also contain a lot of liberasts -- they are members or the same clan! Therefore, the rest -- left and Patriots -- now are in exile, you can think that they do not exist on political map. And if Putin will be overthrown, to say the truth, the power in no time, tomorrow will be taken by liberasts.

Therefore it is important to understand that the overthrow of Putin today, in the first half of 2012, will simply transferee power to liberasts and will harm Russia. I am writing this as a man who demanded Putin's resignation in January 2005, after the cannibalistic monetization of privileges. The was tiny chance at the Bolotni Square to form honest a single, honest People's Front . Right now this chance is gone.

Posted by - and heard the comments of the "animated professional freedom fighters," that "stupid penguin shyly hiding...,", that "Stupid intellectuals betray people at the first threat to the regime "and so on up to the account in the " Dresdner Bank." And pseudoscientific crap that socialist revolution can happen only after bourgeois-democratic, revolution and so the latter was the necessary condition...

The liberasts in power will never be of Kerenski type, they will be people who already tried to played Führer extraordinary powers (some 20 years ago, some 20 days). They will solve the problem with democracy very quickly (as there is no in our society more permanent carriers of totalitarian virus then liberasts, sorry people) And by realization of their dreams about splendid future then with drive people into such poverty and despair that they will not be able to think about right of the people to power, only about the physical survival. Economic recession in 1994, after the shelling of Parliament was deeper than even in 1992.

Source: : delyagin.ru

[Jan 11, 2012] Vladimir Ryzhkov, Doomsday's Outrider I Wanted a NATO Intervention for Christmas

The Kremlin Stooge

It's a measure of how long it's been since I paid any attention to the Moscow Times that I did not notice until today that Chris Floyd was fired in 2006. Apparently his column "no longer fit in with the paper's plans". In 2005, the Moscow Times was sold to the Finnish publishing group Sanoma, owned by one of Finland's richest men, Aatos Erkko (a regular at Bilderberg Group meetings), and members of his family;

Sanoma also owns the St. Petersburg Times. At the Moscow Times, former Deputy Editor Andrew McChesney moved up to Editor. I honestly couldn't say if this marked a change in ideology (although your friend and mine, "Kim Zigfeld" claimed Mr. McChesney as an associate), since I didn't read most of what was in it.

[Jan 10, 2012] Raspil is nothing more then a sophisticated PR project.

Politrash

Real "anti-corruption" efficiency (money saved due to challenging of results of "corrupted" auctions, etc) of Navalny famous Raspil site is marginal (less then 2%).

http://politrash-ru.livejournal.com/62588.html

It looks like his ability to count money that he supposedly saved is on the same level as his ability to count the number of protesters on Sakharov Sq.

In other words Raspil is nothing more then a sophisticated PR project.

[Jan 08, 2012] Patriarch Kirill's Saturday interview on the channel "Russia-1

KP.RU

Orthodox church entered the debate about Duma elections. Quote from Patriarch Kirill's Saturday interview on the channel "Russia-1. Key points:

Edited Goggle translation of a part of the interview

Interviewer:

Well now the events of the political and public life became condensed. Some of our fellow citizens considered the elections to the parliament to be unfair. And there were rolling actions of protest in the country. The most numerous in Moscow. And the people who gathered at Bolotni Sq, and Sakharov Avenue, have completely different political views, but they were united by a single slogan - "For Fair Elections!". At the end of the year in the midst of rallies you in a sermon calling for the preservation of civil peace and consent. But ahead of us, perhaps, the most responsible and important election - the presidential election. What would lake to say today, both to those in power, and protesters> How to find a mutual understanding? Is it possible to protest, without endangering and undermining the foundation of our common home?

Patriarch Kirill:

Your last sentence is the key. Each person in a free society should have the right to express their views, including opposition to the actions of the authorities. If people are deprived of this right, it is perceived as a restriction of liberty. It is very painful. Let us remember the same thing the Soviet era. There was no such law. It was declared on paper only, but in reality does not exist. In Novocherkassk people came out to the streets and said that situation was bad, salaries are paid with delay. And what? Blood was spilled. That means that people had no such right.

And now there is such a right. And, of course, people use this particular right. And if people feel the presence of injustice, some deception, manipulation, and thus express their opinion, it is very important to express this is such as way as not to shake the foundations. For the church this question is very sensitive, because our parishioners were among those who came to the square and they were also among those against whom they protected on the square. Therefore, the church sermon should not be politicized, it can not be unbalanced in the fundamental sense of this word. Not in the sense of fake balance of diplomatic protocol, but in the sense that the word church must carry the truth, which would be acceptable to everybody -- to both opposing forces. And the single truth in this situation is that the lie should be reduced in our aspects of our environment. From the political, from economic, from social.

But let me now say something that can not leave indifferent anybody who protested in the square. Let's address the personal life. Were not among the protesters, those who deceives her husband or his wife? Who runs parallel life? Who is crooked in business? But if we lie and deceive in pour personal and professional life, why we so hotly demand that those ills were exterminated on macro level. And on micro level they are OK, The church declare that those levels are interconnected and on each level that should be truthfulness. At the level of individual, family, labor collective. At the level of political parties. At the level of economic corporations. At the government level. At the level of those who lead the country. The truthfulness should be at each level. When I spoke about God's truth, I had in mind the truthfulness, life with harmony with your consciousness. At the end the concept of truth it's just God's living in accordance with commandments. We must learn to live according to God's truth. That is, we should not lie to each other.

The second point, one which we have with yourself have said, if something happens, the society should have the right to express their discontent. But it must be some wisdom. Now, if the demonstration that preceded the Revolution of 1917 ended in an expression of peaceful protest and did not follow with bloodbath of revolution and civil war. In this case today Russia would be more than 300 million people and was either the same as the United States, in terms of economic development, or even exceeded this country. We failed. We were not able to keep the balance, to keep wisdom. We destroyed our country. Why did this happen? It happened because just protests of people very cleverly used by those political forces who seek power. A radical shift in power is always a change of elites. Remember the calls of our great Democrats in the late Soviet era: the need to destroy the nomenclature, we must reject all those people who go to black "Volga".

Interviewer:

Well, and of course, to remove shades in government cars.

Patriarch Kirill:

Yes, to remove shades in government cars. Do you remember? Indeed, under this slogan thousands came out. What happened? They took power and replaced black "Volga" with black "Mercedes."

Interviewer:

They put flash lights.

Patriarch Kirill:

Yes, they put flash lights. And they appropriated the resources of the country. I do not condone what happened. But I'm just talking about how easy it is to tempt man. The same thing happened during the revolution of 1917. "Rob the robbers!". And they started to break into the apartments and to destroy estates. Burned the country! And where is now what was stolen? The new elite in the only one who get some tiny bits of burned treasure. And did the standard of living of common people improved as a result? The main task is to ensure that the legitimately expressed protests (after the December elections. - Ed.) served as a feedback which led to the correction of political cause of the government. If "power that be" remains insensitive to the expression of protest, this is a very bad sign, a sign of failure of authorities to self-adjustment. Government should self-tune, including by sensing external signals, and adjust course accordingly.

I do not want to preach, I just want to say how I try to work myself. I always try to hear these signals. And through the Internet, through correspondence. And there is a constant, if you can see, self-tuning of the church establishment. Perhaps insufficient. I am aware that we are very far from perfect. But this feedback in the church does exists. It also exists because the priests listen to peoples confessions.

[Jan 06, 2012] Crushing Vladimir Putin by Dan Lieberman

While people of Russian and people of the USA feel a strong affinity, the large, dominant part of USA elite is so adamantly anti-Russian that it causes some concerns about its sanity. Realism in foreign policy is limited to selected group such as those who advocate semi-isolationist stance (Ron Paul) and balance-of-power approach. None of them is well represented in Washington, DC. Neo-con, Trotskyite mentality dominates and it represents a structural obstacle to any serious pursuit of success in relations with Russia other then lord-vassal relationship that was partially successful during Yeltsin's dictatorship (the so called "economic rape of Russia")... Return from imperial to normal foreign policy s a delicate, and sometimes humiliating task, with only long-range payoffs. The trick is making the decision to abandon the imperial venture clear and convincing to one's own people and the rest of the world (including Russia), while at the same time showing that this is a strategic decision dictated by good sense and done from strength, not the product of weakness, despair, or disorientation. A good place to start is with the public renunciation of failed, misconceived, counterproductive policies of "color revolutions" in xUSSR space despite that they are obvious favorites of administration and the neoconservatives.
December 26, 2011 | Scoop News

Description of the castigated grow, graduating from being against American policies to being anti-American, then a serious threat to America and finally a danger to everyone. Nothing good can be said about them; anyone muttering kindly remarks is considered ignorant and slightly warped. After the aversion to the anti-Americans who are a danger to everyone engulfs a large percentage of the population, the media joins the bandwagon, aware it best not contradict the one-sided appraisals. This conditioning enables U.S. foreign policy planners to gain public support for their rejection of foreign critics and for policies that disturb their critics. Initiation of wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Granada, Panama and other countries could not occur before a mention of the name of the leaders of the antagonist nations had aroused an angry emotional reaction in America's psyche. Economic warfare against several nations could not be practiced until Americans were made to feel that the economic warfare was morally correct; a necessary action to defeat and replace the criminal leader of the impudent nation.

Despite Hillary Clinton having pressed the reset button, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin clearly broadcasts his disfavor with State Department initiatives. Has he also fallen into the Washington character crusher and being leveled due to his alleged antagonism towards America? American media's scornful attacks on the Russian premier hint at that possibility.

[Jan 01, 2012] Russian Protests and the Soviet Union's Afterlife by Stephen Cohen

The Nation

The similarities between 1991 and 1917, despite important differences, were significant. Once again, hopes for evolutionary progress toward democracy, prosperity and social justice were crushed; a small group of radicals, this time around Yeltsin, imposed extreme measures on the nation; fierce struggles over property and territory tore apart the foundations of a vast multiethnic state; and the victors destroyed longstanding economic and other essential structures to build entirely anew, "as though we had no past." Once again, elites acted in the name of a better future but left society bitterly divided over yet another of Russia's perennial "accursed questions"-why it had happened. And again the people paid the price.

All of those recapitulations unfolded, amid mutual (and lasting) charges of betrayal, during the three months from August to December 1991, when the piecemeal destruction of the Soviet state occurred. The period began and ended with coups (as in 1917)-the first a failed military putsch against Gorbachev organized by his own ministers in the center of Moscow, the second Yeltsin's liquidation of the state itself in the Belovezh Forest. What followed was a revolution from above against the Soviet system of power and property by its own elites. Looking back, Russians of different views have concluded that during those months political extremism and unfettered greed cost them a chance for democratic and economic progress.

Certainly, it is hard to imagine a political act more extreme than abolishing what was still a nuclear superpower state of 286 million citizens. And yet, Yeltsin did it, as even his sympathizers acknowledged, precipitously and in a way that was "neither legitimate nor democratic." A profound departure from Gorbachev's commitment to social consensus and constitutionalism, Yeltsin's actions were a return to the country's "neo-Bolshevik" tradition of imposed change, as many Russian, and even a few Western, writers have characterized it. The ramifications were bound to endanger the unprecedented democratization achieved during the preceding six years of perestroika

At the time of the breakup, Yeltsin and his aides promised, for example, that their extreme measures were "extraordinary" ones, but as had happened before in Russia, most recently during Stalin's forcible collectivization of the peasantry in 1929–33, they grew into a system of rule. (Shock therapy was already being planned.) Those initial steps also had a further political logic. Having ended the Soviet state in a way that lacked legal or popular legitimacy-in a referendum only nine months before, 76 percent of the large turnout had voted to preserve the Union-the Yeltsin ruling group quickly began to fear real democracy. In particular, an independent, freely elected Parliament and the possibility of relinquishing power in any manner raised, according to Russians with impeccable democratic credentials, the specter of "going on trial and to prison." And indeed Yeltsin's armed overthrow of the Russian Parliament, in October 1993, soon followed.

The economic dimensions of Belovezh were no less portentous. Dissolving the Union without any preparatory stages shattered a highly integrated economy. It was a major cause of the collapse of production across the former Soviet territories, which fell by almost half in the 1990s. That in turn contributed to mass poverty and its attendant social pathologies, which still blight Russian life today.

The economic motivation behind Soviet elite support for Yeltsin in 1991, as opposed to the "socialist" Gorbachev, was even more ramifying. As a onetime Yeltsin supporter wrote thirteen years later, "Almost everything that happened in Russia after 1991 was determined to a significant extent by the divvying-up of the property of the former USSR." Here too there were foreboding historical precedents. Twice before in twentieth-century Russia the nation's fundamental property had been confiscated-the landlords' vast estates and bourgeoisie's industrial and other large assets in the revolution of 1917–18, and then the land and livestock of 25 million peasant farmers in Stalin's collectivization drive. The aftereffects of both episodes plagued the country for years to come.

Soviet elites took much of the state's enormous wealth, which for decades had been defined in law and ideology as the "property of all the people," with no more regard for fair procedures or public opinion than Yeltsin had shown in abolishing the Union. To maintain their dominant position and enrich themselves, they wanted the most valuable state property, including the country's vast natural resources, distributed from above, without the participation of legislatures or any other representatives of society. They achieved that goal first by themselves, through "spontaneous privatization," and then, after 1991, through Kremlin decrees issued by Yeltsin, who played, as a former top aide put it, "first fiddle in this historic divvying-up." But as a result, privatization has also been haunted from the beginning by, in the words of another Russian scholar, a "'dual illegitimacy'-in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of the population."

The political and economic consequences should have been easy to anticipate. Fearful for their dubiously acquired assets and even for their lives, the new property holders, who formed the post-Soviet elite, were as determined as Yeltsin to limit or reverse the parliamentary electoral democracy initiated by Gorbachev. In its place, they strove to create a kind of praetorian political system devoted to and corrupted by their wealth, at best a "managed" democracy. (Hence, their choice of Vladimir Putin, a vigorous man from the security services, as a leader who could establish this system, or so they thought, to replace the enfeebled President Yeltsin in 1999.) And for much the same reason, uncertain how long they could actually retain their immense property, they were more interested in stripping its assets than investing in it. The result was an 80 percent decline in investment in Russia's economy by the end of the 1990s and rather than the nation's modernization, its actual demodernization. (The country's basic infrastructures, amid urgent calls for a "new modernization," are still disintegrating.)

* * *

Considering all of these ominous circumstances, why did so many American commentators-politicians, journalists and scholars-hail the breakup of the Soviet Union as a "breakthrough" to democracy and free-market capitalism? Where Russia was concerned, their reaction was, as usual, based mainly on anti-Communist ideology and hopeful myths, not historical or contemporary realities. Alluding to that myopia on the part of people who had sought the destruction of the Soviet state, a renowned Moscow philosopher, Aleksandr Zinoviev, later remarked bitterly, "They were aiming at Communism but hitting Russia."

One of the most ideological myths surrounding the end of the Soviet Union was, to quote both another Times columnist and a leading American historian, that it "collapsed at the hands of its own people" and brought to power in Russia "Yeltsin and the democrats"-even "moral leaders"-who represented the people. (In this mythical rendition, their "achievements" have been reversed by Putin, most recently in the protested parliamentary election in December.) No popular revolution, national election or referendum having mandated or sanctioned the Soviet breakup, there was no empirical evidence for this supposition.

As for Yeltsin's role, even the most event-making leaders need supporters. Yeltsin abolished the Soviet Union in December 1991 with the backing of a self-interested alliance. All of its groups called themselves "democrats" and "reformers," but the two most important were unlikely allies: the nomenklatura elites who were pursuing the "smell of property like a beast after prey," in the revealing metaphor of Yeltsin's own chief shock therapist, Yegor Gaidar, and wanted property much more than they wanted democracy or free-market competition; and an avowedly pro-democracy wing of the intelligentsia. Traditional enemies in the pre-Gorbachev Soviet system, they colluded in 1991 largely because the intelligentsia's radical market ideas seemed to justify nomenklatura privatization.

But the most influential pro-Yeltsin intellectuals, who played leading roles in his post-Soviet government, and who were hailed in Washington as "real reformers," were neither coincidental fellow travelers nor real democrats. Since the late 1980s, they had insisted that free-market economics and large-scale private property would have to be imposed on a recalcitrant Russian society by an "iron hand" regime. This "great leap," as they extolled it, would entail "tough and unpopular" policies resulting in "mass dissatisfaction" and thus would necessitate "anti-democratic measures." Like the property-seeking elites, they saw Russia's newly elected legislatures as an obstacle. Admirers of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who had brutally imposed economic change on Chile, they said of Yeltsin, now their leader, "Let him be a dictator!" Not surprisingly, they cheered (along with the Clinton administration and the American mainstream media) when he used tanks to destroy Russia's popularly elected Parliament.

Political and economic alternatives still existed in Russia after 1991. Other fateful struggles and decisions lay ahead. And none of the factors contributing to the end of the Soviet Union were inexorable or deterministic. But even if authentic democratic, market and nationalist aspirations were among them, so were cravings for power, elite avarice, extremist ideas and widespread popular perceptions of illegitimacy and betrayal. All of these factors have continued to play a role since 1991, but it should have been clear at the time that the latter would prevail.

* * *

Twenty years later, an adage persists that probably best expresses how most Russians feel about their former state. It originated in the early 1990s but has been reiterated more recently both by Putin and by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the oligarch Putin's regime imprisoned: "Anyone who does not regret the breakup of the Soviet Union has no heart. And anyone who thinks it can be reconstructed has no head."

The product of historical legacies and specific political circumstances, the Soviet Union as it was cannot be re-created. In October, however, no doubt timed both for the twentieth anniversary of the breakup and his intended return to the Russian presidency in the March 2012 election, Putin proposed the creation of a "Eurasian Union" that would unite Russia and other former Soviet republics willing to join. Two, it seems-Kazakhstan and Belarus, which have already formed a Customs Union and Common Economic Space with Moscow-have agreed; other small ones may soon do so.

The idea of Eurasian reintegration around Russia arose with the end of the Soviet Union, but Putin, by making it his personal "project" and citing the European Union, has given it authority and priority. Not surprisingly, Western reactions have been largely negative, but even in Russia they have varied. An array of prominent political and intellectual figures, from right to left, agree with Putin about the economic imperative-that tearing apart Soviet suppliers, producers and consumers was a disastrous mistake and that the future belongs to large integrated economies. Others see in Putin's plan a resurgence of Russian imperialism, czarist and Soviet. Still others think the project is unfeasible and being used mainly to abet Putin's presidential campaign. (A majority of Russians surveyed in November favored some form of reintegration.)

Much will depend on how many former republics, now independent states, and perhaps Russians themselves, believe Putin's assurance: "We are not talking about re-creating the USSR in one form or another. It is naïve to try to restore or copy something that is already in the past." The Soviet Union may have died or, as many Russians believe, been killed, but as for its afterlife-too early to say.

Stephen F. Cohen, professor of Russian studies at New York University,

[Jan 1, 2012] We fight corruption

Pretty biting about popular and addictive mixture of net addition with political protest. In russian.
Youtube

Митинг! Ура! Долой! Доколе! Путин! Немцов! Навальный! Видео! Наши! Не наши! Оранжевые! Зюганов! Явлинский! Демократия! Выборы! Фальсификации! Красная площадь! Болотная! Сахарова! Кремль! Распил! Пила-4! Чума на оба ваших дома! Боевые хомячки!

[Jan 7, 2011] Wall Street Journal "Determines" Russian Election a "Fraud"

Prison Planet

Image: A screenshot from NED's official website, listing GOLOS as a recipient of NED funding, which in turn is provided by the US State Department. Despite this overt conflict of interest – especially with NED subsidiary International Republican Institute chairman John McCain openly threatening Russia with "Arab Spring" unrest, "journalists" like those at the Wall Street Journal continue citing them as "independent" election monitors. (click image to enlarge)

….

A computer program can be written to render any result desired, as the recent "Climate Gate" hoax has proven. It is then only the integrity of those carrying out the analysis and presenting the results that determine the possible veracity of their conclusions. Since the Wall Street Journal makes such overt misrepresentations, such as GOLOS being "independent" when they are clearly, admittedly funded by the US government, indicates that the WSJ lacks such integrity. Instead, they are but the most recent corporate-media propaganda front to jump on the Wall Street-London battlewagon on its way to Moscow.

Wall Street Journal's Conclusions are Fraudulent as are the Protest Leaders in Russia's Streets

Meanwhile, Christmas Eve protests in Moscow were once again led by verified agents of Western sedition, namely Alexei Navalny, according to an AP report titled, "Alexei Navalny, Key Engine Behind Russian Protests." Called a "corruption-fighting lawyer and popular blogger" by AP, who unlike Wall Street Journal, skipped feigned analysis and jumped right to labling the elections as "shameless falsification," Navalny is portrayed as a force of reform against a corrupt system.

And while Alexey Navalny is renowned for "exposing corruption," at least when profitable, those researching his background begin unraveling his own insidious, compromised agenda. Alexey Navalny was a Yale World Fellow, and in his profile it states:

"Navalny spearheads legal challenges on behalf of minority shareholders in large Russian companies, including Gazprom, Bank VTB, Sberbank, Rosneft, Transneft, and Surgutneftegaz, through the Union of Minority Shareholders. He has successfully forced companies to disclose more information to their shareholders and has sued individual managers at several major corporations for allegedly corrupt practices. Navalny is also co-founder of the Democratic Alternative movement and was vice-chairman of the Moscow branch of the political party YABLOKO. In 2010, he launched RosPil, a public project funded by unprecedented fundraising in Russia. In 2011, Navalny started RosYama, which combats fraud in the road construction sector."

The Democratic Alternative, also written DA!, is indeed a National Endowment for Democracy fund recipient, meaning that Alexey Navalny is an agent of US-funded sedition and willfully hiding it from his followers. The US State Department itself reveals this as they list "youth movements" operating in Russia:

"DA!: Mariya Gaydar, daughter of former Prime Minister Yegor Gaydar, leads DA! (Democratic Alternative). She is ardent in her promotion of democracy, but realistic about the obstacles she faces. Gaydar said that DA! is focused on non-partisan activities designed to raise political awareness. She has received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, a fact she does not publicize for fear of appearing compromised by an American connection."

Alexey was involved directly in founding a movement funded by the US government and to this day has the very people who funded DA! defending him throughout Western media. (For more information, please see, "Wall Street Vs. Russia.")

Continued ...



Etc

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Society

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Quotes

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Bulletin:

Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law

History:

Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Hater’s Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

The Last but not Least


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