March 25, 2009 archive

Four at Four

  1. The Guardian reports the Obama administration says goodbye to ‘war on terror’. The war on terror is over.

    A message sent recently to senior Pentagon staff explains that “this administration prefers to avoid using the term Long War or Global War On Terror (Gwot) … please pass this on to your speechwriters”. Instead, they have been asked to use a bureaucratic phrase that could hardly be further from the fiery rhetoric of the months immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The global war on terror is dead; long live “overseas contingency operations”.

  2. McClatchy reports Most electronic voting isn’t secure, CIA expert says. “The CIA, which has been monitoring foreign countries’ use of electronic voting systems, has reported apparent vote-rigging schemes in Venezuela, Macedonia and Ukraine and a raft of concerns about the machines’ vulnerability to tampering.”

    A presentation made by a CIA cybersecurity to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission “could provide disturbing lessons for the United States” where use of electronic voting is spreading. “Steve Stigall summarized what he described as attempts to use computers to undermine democratic elections”.

    Stigall told the Election Assistance Commission, a tiny agency that Congress created in 2002 to modernize U.S. voting, that computerized electoral systems can be manipulated at five stages, from altering voter registration lists to posting results.

    “You heard the old adage ‘follow the money,’ ” Stigall said, according to a transcript of his hour-long presentation… “I follow the vote. And wherever the vote becomes an electron and touches a computer, that’s an opportunity for a malicious actor potentially to … make bad things happen.”

Four at Four continues with news of the dollar fallar and U.S. economy, Iran and Obama, and Afghanistan.

Tell Chuck Todd To Ask About Torture Next Time

Apparently the Toddster (who appears to be in a bit above his head in his new job as WH Correspondent) had a little ‘contest’ to help him ask his question as to what more Americans should sacrifice.

No, he didn’t ask what The Ruling Class should sacrifice….you know the people who once again have made a mess of things (to put it mildly) to the point where somebody (you, apparently) has to make some sacrifices. He didn’t ask what sacrifice the bankers and hedge fund mangers and the politicians who enabled them and the reporters who didn’t report should make. He asked what sacrifices you and I should make.

What should the screw-ees should sacrifice. Since we were the ones stupid enough to get screwed, apparently it is up to us to sacrifice….something. Got it……Chuck.

A Spiritual Telegram from Mr. Charles Pratt

One of the primary functions of the shaman is to serve as a negotiator between the spirit world and what we perceive as the “real” world. Types of entities encountered in the otherworld vary: spirits of the unrested dead, land wights known by various names based on culture (the ones I primarily work with are usually referred to as alfar/elves and duergar/dwarves, which Celtic practitioners often refer to as the Sidhe), animal spirit helpers (aka “totems” in the Native American parlance), deities and other energy based beings. As a valkyrie and a priestess aligned closely with the earth-friendly Vanir, I work with the spirits of the dead and other types of landvaettir (land wights) very easily.

I have an affinity for finding antique glass. The stuff all but jumps out into my hands. It may have been there for over 150 years. Doesn’t matter, given the chance I will find it.

Glass is one of those substances once revered by the people who follow my spiritual path, now taken for granted like so many other things in our world. Glass still contains many a scientific mystery – it is neither a liquid nor a solid, and those who have sought to understand and study it have brought us to many a scientific breakthrough.

My affinity for finding glass frightens even me. I was helping family friends clean out the mansion that had originally belonged to the inventor of Corningware and found some absolutely priceless original prototypes in the basement that the entire family had missed. While we were in Corning, my husband and I visited the Museum of Glass. The energy of the place had me as high as a kite, I had to practically be dragged out of there kicking and screaming by my husband.

My connection with glass has existed since childhood, but only recently as I wandered my local lands this summer did I realize that something was going on with this that pertained to my shamanic practice and which required my attention. A gigantic hoard of antique bottles came to light from two turn-of-the-century sources as I began my work this summer to bring the festering problem of the contaminated Photocircuits corporate campus to the attention of local government.

I realized that this was, in it’s way, a form of thanks expressed to me by the landvaettir for speaking on their behalf. I even ended up obtaining a perfectly sized display cabinet for the antique bottles off Craig’s List, so here they are on display in my kitchen.

As global warming and environmental conservation have become issues our society had best no longer ignore, I have become prone to ending my letters and email messages on those subjects to local government with the following sentence: “Take care of the land and the land will take care of you.”

This is no mere platitude I preach to others, it is one that I live by. In my wanderings I began cleaning up the land. To be sure, some of this was rooted in the fact that I’ve been unemployed for over two years now and I wanted to be able to feed my kitties. So I was gathering up recycleable bottles and cans and redeeming them. However, if I had the energy and the wherewithal, I would gather up the non-redeemables I found in equal measure and recycle them along with my regular household stuff. I considered this part of my shamanic service to the land; a means whereby I would assure the local vaettir that I cared about their well being. I find that there is little shame in such action if one is doing it for wider reasons than one’s own benefit.

Torture: Each Of Us Shares This Sin

We are Americans. We live in and vote in America. We elect our leaders. Thus we are responsible for what our leaders do.

We here may look upon ourselves as different.  

But each of the other 7 Billion human beings we share this planet with, looks at us as Americans.

As a country, as an entity. The Americans selected George Bush to lead them. A country is what its leaders do. And our leaders were George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. In the period after 9/11, to the rest of the world, they represented America. The rest of the world was ready to join with America after the attacks. To the rest of the world, they were…and still are…America.  What they did…America did.

Each and every American did. It is how we judge others, how we judge other countries….by what their leaders do.

And it is how we will be judged. How we are judged. By what George Bush, Dick Chenmey, and Donald Rumsfeld did. That is just how it works. Fair or not, it is true. America DOES torture.

We are Americans, and this is what we did.

The International Red Cross says so. The United Nations is investigating US.

We are torturers. We try to avoid that fact, here in our comfy little Exceptional American Bubble. But to the rest of the world, until there is justice visited upon the individuals who ordered torture…Americans are torturers. How does that feel?

Sensible Regulation For “Too Big To Fail” Companies.

Crossposted at Square State

There is a lot of talk about the way which we need to go in order to fix our current very serious problems in the financial sector and the economy in general. There can be very little doubt one of the major causes of our crisis is the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999. Now the Dog knows that some of his reader’s eyes are going to glaze over when the old hound starts to talk about economic policy, but he promises not to make it too dry and boring. Besides, none of us can really have an informed opinion if we don’t wade through this stuff.  

The Black Hole Of The Economy

Crossposted from Antemedius

A black hole gravitationally sucks in everything that comes near it, and nothing can return from the other side of the event horizon once sucked in.

Banks lending money is one of the major, if not THE major way they produce revenue and profit. In any business, when sales are down you do everything you can do to increase sales revenue – or you go bust – UNLESS you can produce revenue another way.

Yet the real message coming through is that the banks BANKERS seem to have decided that they do not want to increase revenue in any other way than simply taking it from taxpayers instead of lending to generate revenue.

This leads me to suspect that they have no intention of returning to providing the “product” they have always provided to generate revenue, but instead have decided to simply and openly steal it, and that the current economic crisis is not something the government is trying to correct but is instead actively a partner in intentionally manufacturing.

With government help. With Geithner’s help. With the presidents help.

We have a big problem. The problem is not the economic crisis.

What is “government”?

Very simply, it is an agency of coercion. Of course, there are other agencies of coercion — such as the Mafia. So to be more precise, government is the agency of coercion that has flags in front of its offices.

   –Harry Browne

Thomas Ferguson is an American political scientist and author who studies and writes on politics and economics, often within an historical perspective. He is a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He obtained his Ph.D. from Princeton University. He is also a contributing editor for The Nation.

Today Ferguson talks with Real News CEO Paul Jay about the banking crisis and the black hole at the center of the crisis, the Obama administrations response so far to it, and about something he thinks really needs to be done that is not being done.

Real News – March 25, 2009 – 12 minutes 25 seconds

Obama should save the banks, not the bankers

Tom Ferguson: Stimulus package is dangerously small; plan for toxic assets shovels money to bankers

Foster’s “Failed System” and the question of what to do

This diary will attempt to address the current economic debate in light of the general analysis of the system presented by John Bellamy Foster in his piece in the March Monthly Review, titled “A Failed System: The World Crisis of Capitalist Globalization and its Impact on China.”  Foster is, I would argue, correct, without really being all that proactive.  I will conclude this diary with a couple of suggestions on how to read Foster and on what to do.

(crossposted at Big Orange)

“V” is for Virtue


Power is not alluring to pure minds. – Thomas Jefferson

The position of A.I.G. at the tippy-top of the pyramidal ponzi-scheme called “finance capitalism” is the same position as the Fairy Godmother in a Fairytale. But, obviously, we don’t live in a fairy tale. It has “Happily Ever After” as part of its DNA.

But life is something else and the secret of life is we create our own reality – and we reap what we sow.

The United States of Anarchy

The uneasiness I have felt for months about the unraveling economy has come into clearer focus with the realization that America is entering a state of institutional anarchy. We are now in a situation where it is no longer clear who is in charge. The nominal supreme institution, the US Federal Government, is effectively being run by large private financial concerns. Superficially, the Obama administration may pretend to tell Goldman Sachs what to do, but on a practical basis, corporations like Goldman Sachs are directing the economic policy of the White House through a network of careerist influence that they don’t even bother to conceal.

We would not be in an anarchic state if the Government would simply capitulate, and put its economic affairs in the hands of the financial barons, but the fragmentary legal and political apparatus of our Federal system keeps making random and isolated challenges to the defacto authority of the financial oligarchs. It is like watching some great machine break down with a shower of sparks and short-circuiting, as misdirected energy continues to flow through a broken structure. Nationalization is off the table, not merely for political reasons, but because the Federal Government of the United States appears no longer to believe in its own competence. The financial corporations, having demonstrated incompetence, by contrast feel fully entitled to keep running the show.

Just who is in charge here? It’s not Obama. It’s not the bad boy plutocrats. Neither side is willing to take full responsibility. This is an anarchic state, and it will not be long before its pernicious consequences become more noticeable. Anarchy is worse than any system of government, and this awful realization is what will eventually drive us toward a resolution of the current crisis.

Soiling the Planet Wins a Pat on the Back

Help me figure out the lesson that we should draw from an event this week. The Alberta Government, central to perhaps the most disastrous project in North America, is receiving an award for leadership at an Environment Forum.  Consider me confused …

The Aspen Institute and National Geographic are banding together to give out six awards as part of the Aspen Environment Forum.  

A ceremony to recognize and reward excellence for those making a real and concrete contribution to innovation, implementation, and communication of energy and environmental solutions.

Amid the awardees are some heroes, but some are far from heroes. The “government” awardee: The Province of Alberta, Canada. Yes, that Alberta government which is facilitating what has been called the most destructive project on Earth: devastating Alberta in the rapacious Tar Sands projects.   And, this is occurring in the same month that National Georgraphic ran The Canadian Oil Boom: Scraping Bottom.

One of the Best War Photojournalists of Vietnam and Beyond

Never published before, Eddie Adams’ family have released a book of his Vietnam Photo’s and there’s a showing in the New York Umbrage Gallery of same.

The Vietnam War, Through Eddie Adams’ Lens

Wednesday Morning Science Supplement

Wednesday Science Supplement is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Science

1 Scientists find new species in Papua New Guinea

By KRISTEN GELINEAU, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 24 mins ago

SYDNEY – A brilliant green tree frog with huge black eyes, jumping spiders and a striped gecko are among more than 50 new animal species scientists have discovered in a remote, mountainous region of Papua New Guinea.

The discoveries were announced Wednesday by Washington D.C.-based Conservation International, which spent the past several months analyzing more than 600 animal species the group found during its expedition to the South Pacific island nation in July and August.

Of the animals discovered, 50 spider species, three frogs and a gecko appear to have never been described in scientific literature before, the conservation group said. The new frogs include a tiny brown animal with a sharp chirp, a bug-eyed bright green tree frog and another frog with a loud ringing call. One of the jumping spiders is shiny and pale green, while another is furry and brown.

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