Posted by: quiscus | April 6, 2013

April 6, 2013

. “Big Banks and D.C. Politicians Doing the Exact Same Things Which Caused the Financial Crisis In the First Place

Instead of Changing their Behavior to Prevent Another Crisis, the Powers-That-Be Double Down On the Strategies that Caused the Financial Crisis In the First Place

Liberals blame deregulation and reckless Wall Street greed for the economic crisis.

Conservatives blame bad government policy.

Now, the D.C. politicians are doing the exact same things which got us into the crisis in the first place. For example, they are:

Pushing banks to make home loans to people with weaker credit (sound familiar?)

Deregulating and even promoting insane levels of derivatives (ring a bell?)

Following policies which lead to rampant inequality (that didn’t work out so well last time)

Letting white collar criminals know that they have free rein to do whatever they want, and they won’t be prosecuted (once again)

Letting the giant banks get bigger and bigger (the government helped them get big in the first place)

Bailing out the banks with hundreds of billions of dollars a year (which creates dangerous “moral hazard” – just like before the 2007 crisis – and once again destroys sovereign nations)

Indeed, crony capitalism has gotten worse than ever

Enacting policies which suck money out of the U.S. economy … and ship it abroad (as they’ve been doing for decades)

Enacting policies which discourage people from even to find work

Giving the Federal Reserve more power than ever (while economists say the Fed caused many of our problems in the first place, and has too much power for the good of the economy)

Blowing insanely large speculative bubbles (when they burst in 2007, that caused the last crisis; and see this)

Leverage is back to pre-crash levels (too much leverage was one of the main causes of the crash)

The humorously-labeled “financial reform” laws passed in the wake of the crisis have intentionally allowed fraudulent accounting; and here and here (deja vu all over again)

And the big banks and financial institutions are engaging in the same risky behavior which got us into the crisis in the first place. For example, they are:

Trading even more risky derivatives than at the height of the financial crisis

Taking insanely risky bets (see this, this and this)

Getting back into “synthetic” financial instruments – and here – which are even more disconnected from real assets than regular derivatives

Once again doing no-document mortgage loans

What could possibly go wrong?”

http://www.globalresearch.ca/big-banks-and-d-c-politicians-doing-the-exact-same-things-which-caused-the-financial-crisis-in-the-first-place/5330033

Posted by: quiscus | April 4, 2013

April 4, 2013

“Congress Obsessed with American Muslims, Neglects real threat of White Supremacists

The shooting of Kaufman, Texas district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia remains a mystery. But investigators are increasingly looking into a cell of extremist white terrorists as the suspects. Two months ago, a county assistant district attorney, Mark Hasse, was murdered not far from his office at the court. (I used the term extremist white terrorists because that is what they are, but usually the American press only describes foreigners and Muslims as terrorists, while calling whites “extremists.”)

Likewise, a gang of white terrorists is suspected in the recent slaying of the head of Colorado’s prison system.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and other Islamophobes in Congress, seeking to look good to campaign donors who hate Muslims, has conducted several hearings on the alleged increased radicalization of American Muslims. Sociologists don’t find evidence of such a thing; American Muslims on the whole are relatively well-integrated into US society and are disproportionately well off and pillars of the society. The hearings are a form of McCarthyism.

No one was killed or injured in the US in 2012 by terrorists of Muslim heritage, and only 14 Americans of Muslim heritage were even indicted for violent plots. Only one act of violence was traced to such a group, which produced no casualties.

Rep. Peter King is a big supporter of the old 1980s Irish Republican Army, which killed two Americans in a bombing at Harrod’s department store in London. The man’s feet won’t touch the ground when he walks because of the rivers of hypocrisy exuding from between his toes.

In the meantime, Congress not only has held few or no hearings on the danger of white terrorism, it has actually pressured the Department of Homeland Security not to produce studies on the phenomenon.

It is not allowed to say this in the corporate media, but some Republican representatives and their constituents are, if not implicated in white supremacist sentiments, at least a little smelly in that regard.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there has been recent explosive growth in the number and members of white hate groups:

There is also a problem of hate groups in the military, some of whom are responsible for atrocities against innocent Muslims that have harmed the US image and US policy abroad.

But the Tea Party Congress won’t investigate this problem.”

http://www.juancole.com/2013/04/congress-american-supremacists.html

Posted by: quiscus | April 3, 2013

April 3, 2013

1. ” Suddenly, NYPD doesn’t love surveillance anymore

Law enforcement agencies monitor our most basic acts. But try assigning them a watchdog and they resist with fury “

http://www.salon.com/2013/04/02/big_brother_is_a_big_hypocrite/

2. “Myths of Underdevelopment

Through the centuries of colonization, many self-serving imperialist theories have been spun. I was taught in school that people in tropical lands are slothful and do not work as hard as we denizens of the temperate zone. In fact, the inhabitants of warm climates have performed remarkably productive feats, building magnificent civilizations well before Europe emerged from the Dark Ages. And today they often work long, hard hours for meager sums. Yet the early stereotype of the “lazy native” is still with us. In every capitalist society, the poor—both domestic and overseas—regularly are blamed for their own condition.

We hear that Third World peoples are culturally retarded in their attitudes, customs, and technical abilities. It is a convenient notion embraced by those who want to depict Western investments as a rescue operation designed to help backward peoples help themselves. This myth of “cultural backwardness” goes back to ancient times, when conquerors used it to justify enslaving indigenous peoples. It was used by European colonizers over the last five centuries for the same purpose.

What cultural supremacy could by claimed by the Europeans of yore? From the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries Europe was “ahead” in a variety of things, such as the number of hangings, murders, and other violent crimes; instances of venereal disease, smallpox, typhoid, tuberculosis, plagues, and other bodily afflictions; social inequality and poverty (both urban and rural); mistreatment of women and children; and frequency of famines, slavery, prostitution, piracy, religious massacres, and inquisitional torture. Those who claim the West has been the most advanced civilization should keep such “achievements” in mind.

More seriously, we might note that Europe enjoyed a telling advantage in navigation and armaments. Muskets and cannon, Gatling guns and gunboats, and today missiles, helicopter gunships, and fighter bombers have been the deciding factors when West meets East and North meets South. Superior firepower, not superior culture, has brought the Europeans and Euro-North Americans to positions of supremacy that today are still maintained by force, though not by force alone.

It was said that colonized peoples were biologically backward and less evolved than their colonizers. Their “savagery” and “lower” level of cultural evolution were emblematic of their inferior genetic evolution. But were they culturally inferior? In many parts of what is now considered the Third World, people developed impressive skills in architecture, horticulture, crafts, hunting, fishing, midwifery, medicine, and other such things. Their social customs were often far more gracious and humane and less autocratic and repressive than anything found in Europe at that time. Of course we must not romanticize these indigenous societies, some of which had a number of cruel and unusual practices of their own. But generally, their peoples enjoyed healthier, happier lives, with more leisure time, than did most of Europe’s inhabitants.”

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article28397.htm

Posted by: quiscus | April 1, 2013

April 1, 2013

1. “Black Mass Incarceration, the Prison-Industrial Complex and the Prison State

Black Mass Incarceration —- Is It New? Is It Jim Crow? Is the Prison-Industrial Complex Real? And What Difference Does It Make?

The short answers are yes, not exactly, not really, and a whole lot, which tells more about the inadequacies of short answers than it does about whether “New Jim Crow” is a really useful description, and who it’s most useful to.”

http://www.globalresearch.ca/black-mass-incarceration-the-prison-industrial-complex-and-the-prison-state/5329328

2. “The Treason of Intellectuals

The rewriting of history by the power elite was painfully evident as the nation marked the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. Some claimed they had opposed the war when they had not. Others among “Bush’s useful idiots” argued that they had merely acted in good faith on the information available; if they had known then what they know now, they assured us, they would have acted differently. This, of course, is false. The war boosters, especially the “liberal hawks”—who included Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Al Franken and John Kerry, along with academics, writers and journalists such as Bill Keller, Michael Ignatieff, Nicholas Kristof, David Remnick, Fareed Zakaria, Michael Walzer, Paul Berman, Thomas Friedman, George Packer, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Kanan Makiya and the late Christopher Hitchens—did what they always have done: engage in acts of self-preservation. To oppose the war would have been a career killer. And they knew it.

These apologists, however, acted not only as cheerleaders for war; in most cases they ridiculed and attempted to discredit anyone who questioned the call to invade Iraq. Kristof, in The New York Times, attacked the filmmaker Michael Moore as a conspiracy theorist and wrote that anti-war voices were only polarizing what he termed “the political cesspool.” Hitchens said that those who opposed the attack on Iraq “do not think that Saddam Hussein is a bad guy at all.” He called the typical anti-war protester a “blithering ex-flower child or ranting neo-Stalinist.” The halfhearted mea culpas by many of these courtiers a decade later always fail to mention the most pernicious and fundamental role they played in the buildup to the war—shutting down public debate. Those of us who spoke out against the war, faced with the onslaught of right-wing “patriots” and their liberal apologists, became pariahs. In my case it did not matter that I was an Arabic speaker. It did not matter that I had spent seven years in the Middle East, including months in Iraq, as a foreign correspondent. It did not matter that I knew the instrument of war. The critique that I and other opponents of war delivered, no matter how well grounded in fact and experience, turned us into objects of scorn by a liberal elite that cravenly wanted to demonstrate its own “patriotism” and “realism” about national security. The liberal class fueled a rabid, irrational hatred of all war critics. Many of us received death threats and lost our jobs, for me one at The New York Times. These liberal warmongers, 10 years later, remain both clueless about their moral bankruptcy and cloyingly sanctimonious. They have the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocents on their hands.

The power elite, especially the liberal elite, has always been willing to sacrifice integrity and truth for power, personal advancement, foundation grants, awards, tenured professorships, columns, book contracts, television appearances, generous lecture fees and social status. They know what they need to say. They know which ideology they have to serve. They know what lies must be told—the biggest being that they take moral stances on issues that aren’t safe and anodyne. They have been at this game a long time. And they will, should their careers require it, happily sell us out again.

Julien Benda argued in his 1927 book “The Treason of Intellectuals”—“La Trahison des Clercs”—that it is only when we are not in pursuit of practical aims or material advantages that we can serve as a conscience and a corrective. Those who transfer their allegiance to the practical aims of power and material advantage emasculate themselves intellectually and morally. Benda wrote that intellectuals were once supposed to be indifferent to popular passions. They “set an example of attachment to the purely disinterested activity of the mind and created a belief in the supreme value of this form of existence.” They looked “as moralists upon the conflict of human egotisms.” They “preached, in the name of humanity or justice, the adoption of an abstract principle superior to and directly opposed to these passions.” These intellectuals were not, Benda conceded, very often able to prevent the powerful from “filling all history with the noise of their hatred and their slaughters.” But they did, at least, “prevent the laymen from setting up their actions as a religion, they did prevent them from thinking themselves great men as they carried out these activities.” In short, Benda asserted, “humanity did evil for two thousand years, but honored good. This contradiction was an honor to the human species, and formed the rift whereby civilization slipped into the world.” But once the intellectuals began to “play the game of political passions,” those who had “acted as a check on the realism of the people began to act as its stimulators.” And this is why Michael Moore is correct when he blames The New York Times and the liberal establishment, even more than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, for the Iraq War.

“The desire to tell the truth,” wrote Paul Baran, the brilliant Marxist economist and author of “The Political Economy of Growth,” is “only one condition for being an intellectual. The other is courage, readiness to carry on rational inquiry to wherever it may lead … to withstand … comfortable and lucrative conformity.”

Those who doggedly challenge the orthodoxy of belief, who question the reigning political passions, who refuse to sacrifice their integrity to serve the cult of power, are pushed to the margins. They are denounced by the very people who, years later, will often claim these moral battles as their own. It is only the outcasts and the rebels who keep truth and intellectual inquiry alive. They alone name the crimes of the state. They alone give a voice to the victims of oppression. They alone ask the difficult questions. Most important, they expose the powerful, along with their liberal apologists, for what they are.”

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article34478.htm

Posted by: quiscus | March 31, 2013

March 31, 2013

1. “Let’s All Stop Saying ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ Forever

Any term that conflates nuclear weapons with any other kind of weapon is bound to be a poor descriptor. But the U.S. government has reached peak absurdity by labeling a rocket-propelled grenade a weapon of mass destruction.

Technically, Eric Harroun, a U.S. Army veteran who joined the rebellion in Syria, has only been charged with using a “destructive device.” (More on him in a second.) But U.S. law isn’t particularly diligent about differentiating dangerous weapons from apocalyptic ones. The affidavit of FBI agent Paul Higginbotham undergirding Harroun’s recent arrest and charge sums it up like this: “There is probable cause to believe that, in or about January 2013 to March 2013, Eric Harroun conspired to use a weapon of mass destruction, i.e. a Rocket Propelled Grenade, outside of the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2332a(b).”

Other weapons of mass destruction, legally speaking: Bombs. Grenades. Mines. Missiles “having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce.”

The law, as Charles Dickens wrote, is a ass. But to be fair to the lawyers, the problem resides within the term itself. “Weapons of mass destruction” are a bitter punchline, thanks to the war that the United States launched, ostensibly to secure ones that weren’t there. But the term endures, obscuring the fact that the holy trinity of weapons contained therein — nuclear, chemical and biological — are very different things.

It’s very easy to kill lots of people with a nuclear weapon. It’s harder, but possible, for a nuclear exchange to disrupt planetary climate patterns and kill vastly more once crops die and famines result. These are not things that chemical and biological weapons, as dangerous as they are, can do. Chemical weapons are subject to atmospheric dissipation and need people packed into a dense area to do maximum damage, as with Saddam Hussein’s chemical massacre at Halabja. Biological weapons are potentially more deadly, but their distribution patterns — particularly when passed through humans or animals — can limit their virulence. Rocket-propelled grenades, missiles, bombs, mines — just, no.

In fact, as a fascinating paper by W. Seth Carus at the National Defense University shows (.pdf), the Defense Department’s definition of the term has long been problematic. For years, its official definition included “high explosives,” to make it consistent with the federal statute that Harroun ran up against. But “most military weaponry relies on high explosive charges,” Carus writes, “meaning that even the mortars and grenades used by infantrymen might qualify as WMD.” The doctrinal answer was ultimately to limit the definition to “chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons capable of a high order of destruction or causing mass casualties.”

But clearly those weapons are not created equal. As many have pointed out through the years, there’s an inherent threat inflation that occurs when you say So-and-So possesses weapons of mass destruction to mean So-and-so possesses chemical weapons. Better, and more responsible, to simply describe an arsenal specifically. “

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/03/weapons-of-mass-destruction/

2. “Was the Iraq War About Grabbing Oil … Or Keeping It Off the Market?

Was the Real Purpose of the Iraq War to Restrict Oil … So As to Raise Oil Prices?

Palast concludes that Cheney – a neo-con, but also a long-time oil man – sided with the oil companies, and decided not to divvy up the Iraqi oil spoils, but instead to make sure that the oil supply remained relatively scarce.

Indeed, top oil economists have said that the Iraq war substantially raised the price of oil … making a lot of people rich.

As bizarre as the oil-restriction theory may sound, the big U.S. oil companies have been doing that kind of stuff for years.”

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/03/was-the-iraq-war-to-get-oil-or-to-keep-it-off-the-market.html

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