Masters Of War

Come you masters of war You that build all the guns You that build the death planes You that build all the bombs You that hide behind walls You that hide behind desks I just want you to know I can see through your masks. You that never done nothin' But build to destroy You play with my world Like it's your little toy You put a gun in my hand And you hide from my eyes And you turn and run farther When the fast bullets fly. Like Judas of old You lie and deceive A world war can be won You want me to believe But I see through your eyes And I see through your brain Like I see through the water That runs down my drain. You fasten all the triggers For the others to fire Then you set back and watch When the death count gets higher You hide in your mansion' As young people's blood Flows out of their bodies And is buried in the mud. You've thrown the worst fear That can ever be hurled Fear to bring children Into the world For threatening my baby Unborn and unnamed You ain't worth the blood That runs in your veins. How much do I know To talk out of turn You might say that I'm young You might say I'm unlearned But there's one thing I know Though I'm younger than you That even Jesus would never Forgive what you do. Let me ask you one question Is your money that good Will it buy you forgiveness Do you think that it could I think you will find When your death takes its toll All the money you made Will never buy back your soul. And I hope that you die And your death'll come soon I will follow your casket In the pale afternoon And I'll watch while you're lowered Down to your deathbed And I'll stand over your grave 'Til I'm sure that you're dead.------- Bob Dylan 1963

Thursday, September 30, 2010

UN: Israel Executed Flotilla Activists

Obviously Mr. Porter has not read my comments. Of course not many people do. :-)
I have been calling it murder and execution from the beginning.When I posted about this. I hardly got any hits, or comments. I guess the U.S/Israel "special relationship" is stronger than TRUTH! ! ! 

Forever War: For The War Addicts 2016 and Then Some

Sometimes it’s the little things in the big stories that catch your eye.  On Monday, theWashington Post ran the first of three pieces adapted from Bob Woodward’s new book Obama’s Wars, a vivid account of the way the U.S. high command boxed the Commander-in-Chief into the smallest of Afghan corners.  As an illustration, the Post included a graphic the military offered President Obama at a key November 2009 meeting to review war policy.  It caught in a nutshell the favored “solution” to the Afghan War of those in charge of fighting it -- Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General David Petraeus, then-Centcom commander, General Stanley McChrystal, then-Afghan War commander, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, among others.
Labeled “Alternative Mission in Afghanistan,” it’s a classic of visual wish fulfillment.  Atop it is a soaring green line that represents the growing strength of the notoriously underwhelming “Afghan Forces,” military and police, as they move toward a theoretical goal of 400,000 -- an unlikely “end state” given present desertion rates.  Underneath that green trajectory of putative success is a modest, herky-jerky blue curving line, representing the 40,000 U.S. troops Gates, Petraeus, Mullen, and company were pressuring the president to surge into Afghanistan.
The eye-catching detail, however, was the dating on the chart.  Sometime between 2013 and 2016, according to a hesitant dotted white line (that left plenty of room for error), those U.S. surge forces would be drawn down radically enough to dip somewhere below -- don’t gasp -- the 68,000 level.  In other words, three to six years from now, if all went as planned -- a radical unlikelihood, given the Afghan War so far -- the U.S. might be back close to the force levels of early 2009, before the President’s second surge was launched.  (When Obama entered office, there were only 31,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.)
And when would those troops dwindle to near zero?  2019?  2025?  The chart-makers were far too politic to include the years beyond January 1, 2016, so we have no way of knowing.  But look at that chart and ask yourself: Is there any doubt that our high command, civilian and military, were dreaming of, and most forcefully recommending to the president, a forever war -- one which the Office of Budget and Management estimated would cost almost $900 billion?

Of course, as we now know, the military “lost” this battle.  Instead of the 40,000 troops they desired, they “only” got 30,000 from a frustrated president (plus a few thousand support troops the Secretary of Defense was allowed to slip in, and some special operations forces that no one was putting much effort into counting, and don’t forget those extra troops wrung out of NATO as well as small allies who, for a price, couldn’t say no -- all of which added up to a figure suspiciously close to the 10,000 the president had officially denied his war commanders).
When, on December 1, 2009, Barack Obama addressed the cadets of West Point and, through them, the rest of us to announce the second surge of his presidency, he was at least able to slip in a date to begin a drawdown of U.S. forces.  (“But taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.”)  Hardly a nanosecond passed, however, before -- first “on background” and soon enough in public -- administration spokespeople rushed to reassure the rest of Washington that such a transfer would be “conditions based.” Given conditions there since 2001, not exactly a reassuring statement.
Meanwhile, days before the speech, Afghan war commander McChrystal was already hard at work stretching out the time of the drawdown date the president was still to announce.  It would, he claimed, begin “sometime before 2013.”  More recently, deified new Afghan War commander General David Petraeus has repeatedly assured everyone in sight that none of this drawdown talk will add up to a hill of beans.
More, Never Less
Let’s keep two things in mind here: just how narrow were the options the president considered, and just how large was the surge he reluctantly launched.  By the end of the fall of 2009, it was common knowledge in Washington that the administration’s fiercely debated Afghan War “review” never considered a “less” option, only ones involving “more.”  Now, thanks to Woodward, we can put definitive numbers to those options.  The least of the "more" options was Vice President Biden’s “counterterrorism-plus” strategy, focused on more trainers for the Afghan military and police plus more drone attacks and Special Forces operations.  It involved a surge of 20,000 U.S. troops.  According to Woodward, the military commanders, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the Secretary of Defense more or less instantly ruled this out. READ MORE

This link is at the end of Tom's dispatch. 
It is a must read IMHO.

World Bank: Zoellick embraces 'multipolar' world

By Matthew O Berger
WASHINGTON - World Bank president Robert Zoellick, speaking ahead of next week's World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual meetings here, critiqued both development economics generally and the lack of transparency of his own institution.
The speech picked up on some of the themes of the speech he gave in the run-up to the last World Bank/IMF meetings, in April.
"It's time we recognize the new economic parallel," he said then. "If 1989 saw the end of the 'Second World' with communism's demise, then 2009 saw the end of what was known as the 'Third
World'. We are now in a new, fast-evolving multipolar world economy."
On Wednesday, he repeated that message, but took it one step further, calling for development economists and policymakers to take this new, multipolar system into account in their thinking. "As economic tectonic plates have shifted, paradigms must shift too," he said.
Zoellick also noted that developing countries are becoming new partners in development work, contributing not only aid but expertise and investment.
"The new multipolar economy requires multipolar knowledge. With the end of the outdated concept of the Third World, the First World must open itself to competition in ideas and experience," he said. "The flow of knowledge is no longer north to south, west to east, rich to poor. Rising economies bring new approaches and solutions."
He gave examples such as India providing expertise on dairy farming to African countries and the US learning about high-speed railways from China's example.
A more transparent World Bank
Zoellick also focused on increasing the transparency of the World Bank and making its data more available to outside scholars and policymakers.
He said the Bank is working to make its research and models more available and user-friendly and regretted that in years past some data was only available by purchase.
This would allow "researchers civil society and local communities to come up with their own findings and double-check ours," he said.
A health care worker or parent with a laptop in a village can access information on schools, health, or the history of development in her village and compare what is being done in her village with others, he said.
He also announced that in July the Bank launched a program enlarging the public's access to its information, which he compared to the Freedom of Information Act in the US.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) "regard the new policy as a great accomplishment in that it is the most progressive international financial institution access to information policy to date. By establishing clear request mechanisms and opening up new categories of routinely disclosed information, the Bank significantly broadened its transparency horizon," the Washington-based NGO Bank Information Center (BIC) said on Wednesday.
BIC has also developed what it calls a toolkit to aid civil society in using the Bank's new policy to access documents and data. It will be launched during the annual meetings next week and available on its website.
Towards a multipolar governance?
In addition to his April speech, Zoellick's speech on Wednesday took off on themes laid out in a book released by the Bank on Monday.
The publication, The Day After Tomorrow: A Handbook on the Future of Economic Policy in the Developing World, contends that developing countries have "come to the rescue" of the global economy, picking up the slack of the advanced economies which were hurt the worst by the financial crisis.
"The developing world is becoming the driver of the global economy. Led by emerging markets, developing countries now account for half of global growth and are leading the recovery in world trade," Zoellick said on Wednesday.
According to the book, growth in developing countries is estimated to reach 6.1% in 2010, 5.9% in 2011, and 6.1% in 2012, while growth in high-income countries is estimated at 2.3%, 2.4%, and 2.6% respectively. This trend would mean the collective size of developing-country economies would surpass that of developed-country economies in 2015.
Five factors account for these trends, according to the Bank: "Faster technological learning, larger middle-classes, more South-South commercial integration, high commodity prices, and healthier balance sheets that will allow borrowing for infrastructure investment."
It is expected that this new economic order will mean a reordering of which countries have the most influence at the World Bank and IMF, and this topic - governance reform - is expected to be one of the top orders of business when the world's finance ministers converge on Washington next week.
"The governing structure needs improvement," Patrick Cirillo, deputy chief of operations at the IMF, told reporters on Wednesday. He said IMF members have committed to making "substantial changes" by January 2011.
But European countries have been reluctant to agree to reduce their share of seats on the IMF board, despite repeated calls by the US for reform.
At the Spring Meetings in April, the World Bank undertook a reform, but one that many NGOs were critical of. They have contended that the reform, which allotted about 3% more voting power to low- and middle- income countries, included countries that should not have been included in those income categories, including Saudi Arabia and Hungary.
Further Bank governance reform is on the table for five years, says the London-based NGO Bretton WoodsProject. They hope the reforms that are agreed this autumn regarding IMF governance are more significant. FROM HERE

An American dream made in Brazil

By Pepe Escobar
SAO PAULO - Brazil is a country the world loves to love. Brazil is a (joyful) riddle wrapped in a (chaotic) enigma, with the added complexity that the riddle and the enigma are ritualistically juggling with football, dancing a samba, ogling a sensual mulata, watching a telenovela and sipping a lethal caipirinha- all at the same time.
The distinctive cultural trace of Brazil is anthropophagy - from culture to technology, the legacy of a former, lazy European monarchy in a tropical country where the aborigines, after banqueting over the odd whitey, were merrily exterminated while Europeans and black slaves copulated freely, with no Catholic guilt involved (there's no sin below the Equator). If this sounds like
the plot of a carnival parade, that's because it is.
French general and statesman Charles de Gaulle once quipped that Brazil "is not a serious country". Multi-ethnic, multicultural Brazilians, addicted to tolerance but most of the time drenched in complacency, preferred to believe - and joked about - the eternal promise of "the country of the future" (as Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig coined it over 70 years ago).
Now Brazil is on a roll - and profiting from global goodwill has become a crucial element of its re-turbocharged soft power. It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that Brazilian swing. The country is the "B" in Goldman Sachs-coined BRIC - the new, emerging global powers; less inscrutable and misunderstood than China, less authoritarian than Russia, less shambolic than India (and with no religious problems). And let's face it; much more fun. A new, two-fold national narrative has taken over; Brazil will become "the fifth power" - that is, the fifth-largest global economy (bye-bye Britain and France). And the New American Dream is made in Brazil.
Surfing USA, remixed
No wonder Anglo-American elites of the North tend to fry their brains confronted with so much tropical ebullience. At the Group of 20 (G-20) in London, United States President Barack Obama could not contain himself. "I love this guy," he said of Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, "He's the most popular politician on Earth." Time magazine recently named Lula as "the most influential person in the world". The Economist, never a fan of hyperbole, is convinced Brazil will become the fifth power by 2025.
But was the London Independent hyperbolic when it blared, "The world's most powerful woman will start coming into her own next weekend?" On Sunday, Dilma Rousseff, 63, Lula's former chief of staff, may indeed become the next Brazilian president, even without a run-off on October 31. She may become more powerful than German Chancellor Angela Merkel or US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - but Brazilians would quip, what about celebrities Madonna and Angelina Jolie?
The Financial Times, for its part, preferred to buy lunch last Friday in Sao Paulo for former president (1995-2002) Fernando Henrique Cardoso, colloquially known as FHC. It may have been a matter of the wrong president at the wrong (overrated) restaurant. Never one to shy away from self-promotion, FHC the peacock, multiple honorary PhD sociologist grumbled, "I did the reforms. Lula surfed the wave."
FHC's key reform was to crush hyperinflation by launching the "real" - the new Brazilian currency - plan in the mid-1990s; but it's telling how he still refuses to give Lula credit for responsible fiscal management and for fighting exclusion (but not corruption), and lifting about 30 million Brazilians out of poverty.
Welcome to Brazilian idiosyncrasy; a new poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project reveals that 79% of Brazilians see political corruption as a "major problem", even while 75% approve of Lula's government, and no less than 80% take Lula personally to the skies.
But even enjoying this stratospheric 80% approval rate Obama can only dream about, Lula is not a god; in eight years in office, he couldn't push a crucial tax reform through an inept, corruption-corroded congress. And without it, the New American Dream - essentially concerning a newly empowered lower-middle class consuming homes, cars, televisions and computers like there's no tomorrow - can't rally take off. As much as the current Brazilian boom - essentially fueled by the non-stop sale of commodities to China - cannot be sustainable forever.
Lula - issued from a very poor family in the poor northeast, and a former metalworker - rattled the nerves of the old-style Brazilian sub-imperialist comprador elite to an extent that is hard to fathom abroad. Historian Jose Honorio Rodrigues has pointed out how these elites have always been "alienated, anti-progressive, anti-nation and anti-contemporary". And they "have never reconciled with the people". The recent, vicious Brazilian corporate media anti-Lula drive can be explained as a war against poor people that are finally emancipating themselves and following a path whose trailblazer was Lula himself. Who said class struggle was dead? One just has to visit Brazil - still the most unequal society in supremely unequal Latin America.
Stella by starlight  READ MORE

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Study: Wars could cost $4 trillion to $6 trillion

The authors of the book "The $3 Trillion War" noted in a conference call on Wednesday that when they first released their findings two years ago, the estimates were widely criticized as being too high. Now, the researchers believe they may have been too low.
Joseph Stiglitz, who received the 2000 Nobel Prize for Economics, and Linda Bilmes, a public policy professor at Harvard University, said the number of veterans seeking post-combat medical care and the cost of treating those individuals is about 30 percent higher than they initially estimated. That, combined with increases in the cost of military medical care and the lagging economy, will likely push the true long-term cost of the war over the $4 trillion mark.
"This may be more of a crisis than the Medicare and Social Security problems we have looming," said House Veterans Affairs Chairman Bob Filner, D-Calif. "It rivals both in the potential impact. This is another entitlement we've committed ourselves to, and it could break the bank."
In a conference call with reporters, Bilmes said about 600,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have already sought medical treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and 500,000 have applied for disability benefits. That's about 30 percent higher than initial estimates for care, and could cost the department nearly $1 trillion in costs for  the current wars alone.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the costs Thursday morning. Filner said he'll use the new research to push for a "veterans trust fund" to pay for the long-term costs of war, a proposal he's already pitched to Democratic leaders in the House.
Under his plan, lawmakers would add a 10 to 15 percent surcharge on all appropriations bills, banking billions of dollars for future veterans medical costs. Reaction to the idea so far has been negative, Fliner said, because lawmakers are concerned that such a move would make the costs of war look astronomical.
Of course, Filner said, that's exactly the point. Stiglitz said history has shown the costs of treating illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder only increase with time, and with the country still expecting a significant presence in Afghanistan for years to come, the bills will keep piling up. 

America's China Bashing: A Short Tour of Junk Economics

It is traditional for politicians to blame foreigners for problems that their own policies have caused. And in today’s zero-sum economies, it seems that if America is losing leadership position, other nations must be the beneficiaries. Inasmuch as China has avoided the financial overhead that has painted other economies into a corner, U.S. politicians and journalists are blaming it for America’s declining economic power. I realize that balance-of-payments accounting and international trade theory are arcane topics, but I promise that by the time you finish this article, you will understand more than 99 per cent of U.S. economists and diplomats striking this self-righteous pose.
The dollar’s double standard gives America an international free ride
For over a century, central banks have managed exchange rates by raising or lowering the interest rate. Countries running trade and payments deficits raise rate to attract foreign funds. The IMF also directs them to impose domestic austerity programs that reduce asset prices for their real estate, stocks and bonds, making them prone to foreign buyouts. Vulture investors and speculators usually have a field day, as they did in the Asian crisis of 1997.
Conversely, low interest rates lead bankers and speculators to seek higher returns abroad, borrowing domestic currency to buy foreign securities or make foreign loans. This capital outflow lowers the exchange rate.
There is a major exception, of course: the United States. Despite running the world’s largest balance-of-payments deficit and also the largest domestic government budget deficit, it has the world’s lowest interest rates and easiest credit. The Federal Reserve has depressed the dollar’s exchange rate by providing nearly free credit to banks at only 0.25 per cent interest. This “quantitative easing” (making it easier to borrow more) aims at preventing U.S. real estate, stocks and bonds from falling further in price. The idea is to save banks from more defaults as the economy slips deeper into negative equity territory. A byproduct of this easy credit is to lower the dollar’s exchange rate – presumably helping U.S. exporters while forcing foreign producers either to raise the dollar price of their goods they sell here or absorb a currency loss.
This policy makes the dollar a managed currency. Low U.S. interest rates and easy credit spur investors to lend abroad or buy foreign assets yielding more than 1 per cent. This dollar outflow forces other countries to protect theircurrencies from being forced up. So their central banks do not throw the excess dollars they receive onto the “free market,” but keep them in dollar form by buying U.S. Government bonds. So the “Chinese savings,” “yen savings” and “Euro savings” that are spent on U.S. Treasury securities (and earlier, on Fannie Mae bonds to earn a bit more) are not really what Chinese people save in their local yuan, or what Japanese or Europeans save. The money used to buy U.S. Government securities consists of the excess dollars that the American military, American investors and American consumers spend abroad in excess of U.S. earning power. To pretend that these savings are “saved up” by foreigners (who save in their own currency, after all) is Junk Economics Error #1.
By lowering U.S. interest rates to near zero, the U.S. Federal Reserve is doing what the Bank of Japan did after its financial bubble burst in 1990, when it helped Japanese banks “earn their way out of negative equity” by providing cheap credit to obtain a markup by lending to speculators and arbitrageurs to buy foreign bonds paying higher rates. This came to be known as the “carry trade.” Arbitrageurs borrowed yen cheaply and converted them into Euros, dollars, Icelandic kroner or other currencies paying a higher rate, pocketing the difference. This threw yen onto foreign-exchange market, weakening the exchange rate and hence helping Japanese automotive and electronics exporters.
This is the easy credit policy that the Fed is following today. U.S. banks borrow from the Federal Reserve at 0.25 per cent, and lend to speculators at a markup of one or two percentage points. These speculators then look for companies, government bonds, corporate stocks and bonds and any other asset in a foreign currency that they believe may yield more than about 2 per cent (or that are denominated in currencies that may raise in price against the dollar by more than 2 per cent annually), hoping to pocket the difference.
Accusations that Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are “making their currencies cheaper” by recycling their dollar inflows into U.S. Treasury securities simply means that they are trying to maintain their currencies at a stable level. Even so, the yen’s exchange rate has risen as international borrowers pay off their carry-trade debts by re-converting the Euros, dollars and other currencies they borrowed in yen to play the arbitrage game. Paying back these foreign currency loans raises the yen’s price. To prevent this from pricing Japanese exporters out of world markets, Japan’s central bank is trying to stabilize the yen/dollar exchange rate by recycling these payments into the purchase of U.S. Treasury securities – exactly what U.S. officials accuse China of doing. It is how most central banks throughout the world are responding to the global dollar glut. They are increasing their international reserves by the amount of surplus free credit” dollars that the U.S. payments deficit is pumping out. To pretend that China is “manipulating its currency” by doing what central banks have done for over a century is Junk Economics Error #2. Back in the early 1970s, U.S. officials told OPEC governments that if they did not do this, it would be deemed an act of war. And Congress has refused to let China buy U.S. companies – so China can only recycle its dollar inflows by buying Treasury securities, thereby financing the U.S. federal budget deficit.
Every currency is managed by recycling dollars to avoid distorted exchange rates READ MORE

US Politicians Threaten Trade War With China

Chinese yuan and US dollar
China has been criticised by the US for keeping its currency artificially low. Photograph: Nicky Loh/REUTERS

American frustration with Beijing's trade policy boiled over today into a congressional vote that was expected to back a threat of punitive tariffs on Chinese imports to compensate for perceived manipulation of the level of the yuan.
Exporters and politicians in the US have become increasingly frustrated with the Chinese government's interventionist tendency to keep its currency artificially weak – a practice that means exports of Chinese goods are cheap around the world, while imports of foreign goods are expensive to Chinese consumers.
In a rare display of cross-party consensus, the US House of Representatives scheduled a swift vote on a bill to authorise the US commerce department to impose duties on Chinese imports to cancel out what some politicians claim is a 40% discount on their price on global markets. America's trade deficit with China is expected to hit $250bn (£158bn) this year.
"It's time to deliver a strong message to Beijing on behalf of American manufacturing: Congress will do whatever it takes to protect American jobs," said Tim Murphy, a Democratic congressman sponsoring the bill. He said the weakness of China's currency had cost 500,000 US jobs.
Economists believe that an uneven playing field in trade between the world's two largest economies is slowing America's recovery from recession. Barack Obama this month dispatched his financial guru Larry Summers to Beijing in an effort to secure greater flexibility in the yuan, and the US president raised the issue personally with China's premier, Wen Jiabao, at last week's UN general assembly.

This blame game is nothing more than political posturing from both sides of our dysfunctional aisle. For every finger we point at China for our financial problems we should be pointing three back at  ourselves. 
This "beggar thy neighbor "war can not be won by a debtor nation.
America is a debtor nation.  We have turned ourselves into a  Hamburger Helper Republic. OPEC countries, Japan, European countries, and China have been financing our wars, our economy, and our debt. 
America's Kleptocracy is to blame. The Korpocratic elite have not only out sourced our jobs, but they have outsourced our country. 
They are now moving on. Leaving America to suffer the consequences of their thievery, and profits. 
Unregulated Korporate Kasino Kleptocracy has taken us to the brink. 
A new era of a global financial order is coming. 
This time America will not be in the drivers seat. 
We will be looking through the rear view mirror. 
The mirror of what was, and what could have, and should have been. 

Holbrooke's Hypocrisy on Drones

"It's such a precise weapon, the Predator, that if they were aiming at your producers over there,” Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administrations special representative to Afganistan and Pakistan intoned to a skeptical Rachel Maddow on Monday, “you and I could continue our conversation. It’s very very small; does that not appeal to you, that idea?” Holbrooke’s excitement about the drone program is just the most recent public example of how drones are viewed privately by current Washington policy makers.
Our policy elites considers drones to be politically positive; as they reduce the number of troop casualties, fiscally responsible; being many times cheaper to purchase than manned fighter jets, and militarily effective; allowing the military to push deeper and deeper into sovereign states such as Pakistan without needing a declaration of war. Because of all these seemingly positive factors, the drone program has not engendered very much serious critical discourse amongst our elected officials. Holbrooke was correct to assert the accuracy of unmanned drones, notwithstanding the bizarre quip that he and Rachel could continue their conversation unimpeded even if a hellfire missile were to be fired at their producer several feet away, though this admission does require some examination. Drones are the most accurate weapon on the field of battle today, unquestionably, but what does require questioning is Holbrooke’s logic when faced with the reality of the drone program.
On January 23rd, 2009 newly sworn in President Barack Obama on only his third day in office gave the authorization for his second drone strike of the day in Pakistan. The first bombing of the day seemed to be a success with 20 suspected militants incinerated in a house near the town of Mirali in North Waziristan,[1] a long suspected bastion of Al-Qaeda affiliated militants. The second bombing President Obama authorized targeted the incorrect house, killing a South-Waziristan pro-government tribal leader and his entire family, including his three children, one of whom was only five years old.[2] This sort of pattern is entirely typical of the drone program, a program which is characterized above all else by its incredibly high rate of civilian casualties. According to a study by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann for the New America Foundation, about one in three persons killed by drone strikes in Pakistan from 2004 to 2010 has been a civilian. The authors of the study further tell us that of the 114 reported drone strikes in the northwest part of Pakistan from 2004 to 2010 somewhere between 830 and 1,210 people were killed, only 550 to 850 of whom were militants. Shocking as this is, Bergen and Tiedemann conclude that the true civilian fatality rate of the drone program from 2004 to the present has been has been approximately 32 percent.[3] While the knowledge that 32 percent of all people killed in drone strikes in Pakistan have been civilians is disturbing, the figure grows even more disturbing when it becomes clear that this data is indicative of a larger general trend. The majority of the data from the study actually comes from the Obama administrations reported drone operations in Pakistan from 2009, which numbered 51 strikes in total.[4] The rest of the data is culled from operations spanning the entire tenure of George W. Bush whose strikes numbered 45 in total, making clear that in the year 2009 alone the Obama administration carried out more drone operations than George W. Bush did during his entire presidency.[5]

After Nearly A Century, A Modern Afghan Railroad Is Under Construction

Hairatan, Northern Afghanistan (CNN) -- Afghan visitors pose for photos and pretend to sell each other passenger tickets next to a rusty little locomotive in a shattered corner of the Afghan capital.
Built in Germany in 1923, this little engine is all that is left of King Amanullah Khan's effort to modernize Afghanistan by constructing a 7 kilometer-long railroad in downtown Kabul in the 1920s. The locomotive is now a curiosity at the Kabul Museum, standing below the ruins of the former king's battle-scarred palace.
For 24-year old Abil Ahmad, it is the first time he has seen a train in Afghanistan.
"It's a very sad symbol," says the university student. "Unfortunately we don't have a train today."
In fact, the first modern railroad in Afghanistan in nearly a century is nearing completion in the north of the country.
Gallery: Afghanistan's new railway
Map of Afghanistan's proposed rail system
Construction crews from Uzbekistan are putting the final touches on a brand-new, 75-kilometer long railroad that runs from the Uzbek-Afghan border to the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif.
An eerie metallic "whump" echoes down the rails, as service locomotives and passenger trains carrying work crews and equipment trundle up and down the track.
"Afghanistan is a land-locked country and its economic prospects depend quite a bit on connectivity with its neighbors," says Craig Steffensen of Asian Development Bank, which contributed $165 million dollars for construction of the project. "If we extend the railway across northern Afghanistan it will really be a shot in the arm towards Afghanistan's economic prospects."
Due to poverty, isolation and war, Afghanistan skipped the age of railroads. Afghans went from riding horseback to traveling by car down bone-jarring dirt roads. The country's economy relies on convoys of trucks to ship goods.
Steffensen says the new railroad will dramatically increase capacity for freight passing through Hairatan, the main shipping terminal at the Uzbek-Afghan border. Clusters of freshly-painted fuel depot tanks have cropped up in the sands around Hairatan. According to the Asian Development Bank, Hairatan is the biggest transit point in Afghanistan, accepting more than 50 percent of all imports, including more then 80 percent of the country's fuel.
The new railroad is part of an ambitious plan to develop a new "North-South" trade corridor. Afghanistan has long been economically and politically severed from its northern, former Soviet neighbors. But for the past several years, the U.S. State Department has been promoting the construction of bridges, rail links and pipelines to the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The idea is to eventually link energy-rich Central Asia to energy-hungry South Asia through the war-torn mountains and deserts of Afghanistan.
The plan has won support from another major player in the region: China.
Last week, the Chinese state mining company China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC) signed an agreement with the Afghan government to develop plans to construct a much longer railroad in eastern Afghanistan. MCC estimates the project's initial price tag would be between $6- to $7 billion dollars.
The proposed railway would run at least 700 kilometers (434 miles) from the border of Pakistan to Kabul, past the Aynak copper mine south of Kabul. MCC won a tender in 2008 to extract copper from Aynak.
The Afghan government is counting on untapped mineral resources to be the main engine for economic growth in coming decades. But officials say new transport infrastructure will be essential for mineral extraction to succeed.
"For the transportation of iron ore or copper you must have a railway line," said Wahidullah Shahrani, Afghanistan's minister of mines.
Chinese officials say there is another vital element before railroad construction can begin: security.
The proposed MCC railroad runs right through heavily-contested Taliban country.
"There really exists a problem of security," said MCC president Zou Jianhui, when asked by CNN how he planned to protect the multi-billion dollar railroad. Jianhui said the security environment would be assessed after two years, when the feasibility study for the railroad is expected to be completed.
"If the security situation is getting worse, then of course we will see and discuss with the [Afghan] government how to go ahead with this investment. Definitely the security of the investment, the safety of the investment is very important to the investor," he added.
Representatives of Uzbekistan's state railway company say they have not encountered a single security incident since the company began construction of the railroad in northern Afghanistan last January.
Armies of guards protect the Uzbek work crews. Afghan police have erected guard posts every few kilometers along the railroad.
Afghanistan's northern Balkh province, where the railroad is located, is considered to be one of the safer parts of the country. And yet a deadly suicide bombing targeted a NATO military convoy outside the main city of Mazar-e Sharif last week, killing and wounding several Afghan civilian bystanders.
Despite the fear of possible sabotage attacks, residents of the rapidly-growing trade hub of Hairatan clearly see hope in the construction of the new railroad.
"This connects Afghanistan to the world," says an 18-year-old high school student named Shakrullah. He says he hopes to one day get a job as an engineer for the railroad. "I want trains for all the provinces of Afghanistan, not just for Balkh province."
Just a few yards away, an Uzbek operator brought a construction locomotive to a squeaking halt, allowing several women dressed in billowing blue burkas to lead their children by hand over the railroad's dusty tracks.

So let me see if I got this right. 
We are fighting a war in Afghanistan. Spilling the blood of our soldiers, and spending 2 Billion dollars a week. 
China is going to build a railroad in same country. 
Mostly to get natural resources out of Afghanistan and into China. 
While we in America can not even fix, maintain our rail lines. 
We are not building any new lines.
China lays thousands of miles for bullet trains in China. 
We will not have a bullet train in America for decades. And even if, and or when we do  it will be engineered, built, and financed by a foreign country. 
Probably China, Japan, S/Korea, France, or Germany. 

And Americans still believe that they are superior over the rest of the world. 
Amazing, simply amazing.  

Uganda: A Pawn In The US's Proxy African War On Terror

Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, has been an ardent supporter of US-backed actions in Somalia. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
The dangers of turning Africa into a front in the "war on terror" – much as it was a front in two world wars and a cold war that were not of its making – have been starkly revealed in Uganda following the 11 July bombings that killed 76 people watching the World Cup final in popular nightspots. That atrocity was attributed to Somali al-Shabaab extremists seeking to carry out retribution for the presence in Somalia of Ugandan "peacekeeping" troops.
But there is no peace to keep in Somalia, where a transitional federal government (TFG), established under UN auspices in 2002, controls only a few blocks of the capital city and would have collapsed altogether but for a US-backed invasion by Ethiopia in 2006. Why did Uganda's veteran leader, Yoweri Museveni, rush in with military support for Somalia's decrepit regime where other African countries, barring Ethiopia and Burundi, had feared to tread?
One factor is that Museveni needs to project Uganda as a "responsible member of the international community" to deflect criticism of its own army's alleged pillaging in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. The Ugandan People's Defence Forces, built out of the guerrilla army that brought Museveni to power 24 years ago, are accused of human rights abuses while crushing rebellion in Uganda's northern region.
More generally, western aid still supplies around a third of Uganda's government budget, but donor countries were becoming uncomfortable with the corruption that has increasingly marred Museveni's long rule. Alignment with US-backed efforts to see Somalia pacified – so as to prevent the incubation and export of terror – serves both to smooth relations and to attract US logistical and training support for the Ugandan army.
Yet Ugandans, who have paid in blood for their country's part in the botched counter-insurgency efforts in Somalia, are now paying again in a clampdown on their civic freedoms. In a new round of security measures, the citizens of Kampala will need police clearance for all gatherings, including private parties and wedding receptions. "No gathering of more than five people, even if it is in your compound, should be held without clearance from the inspector general of police," the Kampala metropolitan police commander, Andrew Sorowen, told the press last week.
This measure comes as no less than 35 suspects await trial, which will be held behind the closed doors of the Luzira maximum security prison, charged with involvement in the 11 July attack. Sceptical Ugandans attribute the speed and number of arrests to a "beauty contest" between Uganda's various security forces – police, army and special operations units – vying for anti-terror funds.
Kenyan lawyer who travelled to Kampala last week to represent one of the defendants was arrested and questioned by police before being put on a plane back to Nairobi. A Muslim human rights activist accompanying him remains in custody.
Curtailment of civil liberties is widely interpreted as a move to muzzle the opposition in the run-up to February 2011 general elections. Campaigning has already been marred by violence and fraud in the primaries to select candidates for the ruling party, headed by Museveni, who is seeking another 5-year term.
Thus, far from containing "Islamist" terror, efforts forcibly to pacify Somalia have created fertile ground – attractive to fanatics from outside that country – for it to develop and spread, while also risking fragile freedoms elsewhere
This fiasco has been led politically by Washington which, since the catastrophic American occupation of Somalia in 1993 (and given the sobering experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan), has preferred to see its security objectives advanced through African proxies and private security contractors.
Museveni, a lifelong warrior who does not know the meaning of the word "retreat", has proved a willing proxy. In a predictably bellicose response to the Kampala bombings, he increased Uganda's troop commitment to Somalia and led calls for other African Union states to send their own troops. The rules of engagement have been adjusted to allow peacekeepers to fire first if they feel threatened: a highly ambiguous directive that will leave nearly all actions in a grey zone.
Bolstering the Somali peacekeeping forces may be good news for US contractors such as DynCorp International, who equip and train the peacekeepers in Somalia with US state department funding. But it is hard to see how it is good for anyone else.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bill Maher interviews Richard Tillman

CryptoMeria: Time & Devotion Korean Women & The Sacred Hemp

China, Japan, Korea: East Asian Community May Arrive Sooner

This is the last in a five-part series exploring how best to realize an East Asian community of reconciliation and communication in the 21st century. — ED.By Lee Geun
One can find magnets not only in the natural world, but in the human world as well. Just like magnetic forces pull materials like iron, some mysterious but powerful magnetic force in the human world pulls people, money, resources, and ideas toward its center.
In the human world, those spaces within which magnetic forces are functioning are called groups, societies, communities, nations, regions, and empires. People are pulled together to create a society, and societies are pulled together to create a region and a nation. At the same time, some societies or nations repel each other, again like magnets, to produce enemies and “others.”
The question is what constitutes magnetic forces in the human world? The answers are many. Common language, history, and culture, common ethnic background, common material and non-material interests, common responses to threats, shared ideas of destiny are some of the popular and frequently heard answers. In artificially creating a community, therefore, the community builders need to find at least some of such common grounds to begin with. The stronger the common grounds are the easier and the faster the community building will become.
East Asian Community building has been criticized by many as lacking in common grounds among the potential members. Even if such common grounds had existed in the past, pundits are saying, they broke apart due to recent historical animosities and ideological differences among key players such as Korea, China, and Japan. The legacies of the Cold War and the U.S. military presence in the region in the form of bilateral alliances are said to have prevented the U.S. allies, namely, Korea and Japan from narrowing emotional and psychological distances between them and China.
If we weigh both the facilitating and preventing factors of the East Asian Community on the scales, in the eyes of many realistic people, the negatives are still much stronger than the positives. That means East Asia, however that space may be defined and confined, has yet to find enormous magnetic forces to overcome either the historical inertia or other magnetic forces that have been pulling the major players of the region away from Asia.
But do we really need the East Asian Community in the first place? Countries in the region have had record-high growth rates in the absence of a Community for the past half-century, and have not had any major wars among themselves since the Korean War. People are traveling with relative ease, only except to and from North Korea, and Korean and Japanese pop-stars are attracting thousands of fans around the region. Korean baseball players are playing in the Japanese League and Chinese singers are members of prominent Korean pop groups. If holding negotiations to create the East Asian Community levies more fines in terms of transaction costs and political tension than benefits accrued, why do we bother to have one?
Well, things are not that simple. As the global economy contracts and international economic competition gets fiercer, we need bigger and more stable markets with a huge growth potential. The East Asian Community will bring that market. When we are to have several more regional or global financial crises, we need to secure the friendly lender of the last resort. The 1997 financial crisis has proven that the International Monetary Fund as well as the U.S. was not entirely credible. The East Asian Community brings such safety nets. If every country in the region becomes a member of the Community, including North Korea, prospects for peace and stability in the region will improve tremendously. East Asian countries will be more competitive in terms of standard setting as East Asian standards can easily become global standards considering the sheer number of people following its principles.
Simply speaking, we need a large and wide roof when it’s raining. We have seen that most of the countries that lent umbrellas to us when it was sunny took the umbrellas back when it began to rain.
Theoretically speaking, the strongest magnetic forces that pull countries together are opportunities for prosperity and security. When there are such opportunities in abundance, countries will run toward them. In the past, the U.S .offered such opportunities to many countries in East Asia as well as Europe. Other countries or regions will pale in comparison with the U.S. Many countries in Asia and Europe rapidly fell within the U.S. orbit, the strongest magnet in the world. However, like the natural world, nothing lasts forever in the human world. Europeans found that integrated Europe might offer more opportunities than the U.S. in the face of fierce economic competition from Japan and the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s.
The European Union charged itself with a fresh but powerful magnetic force of a larger single market and Europe-wide confidence building. Again, with the beginning of the 21st century arrived another powerful regional magnet in Asia. China, a country of 1.3 billion people began to accelerate its economic growth since the 1980s and all of a sudden forgot how to hit the brake.
The Chinese market is ever expanding when other global powers suffered from the 2008 global financial crisis. The number one trade partner for two Asian powers, Korea and Japan is now China, not the U.S. American charm has much disappeared with the unilateralism of the Bush era, and the greedy behavior of Wall Street.
If the U.S. does not rebound quickly from the “great recession” and the quagmire in the Middle East, one never knows if the U.S. would be willing to sacrifice the lives of her sons and daughters in the Asian theatre. China is gearing up to pull Asian countries while America may be shrinking in terms of its charm, market opportunities, and most importantly, international commitments. The popular and influential Tea Party movement in the U.S. these days sounds too nationalistic and exclusivist.
East Asian Community building at the moment requires three conditions. (1) Strong magnetic forces coming from within Asia; (2) Weakening magnetic forces of the U.S. toward Asian countries, particularly the U.S. allies, and (3) Extra-regional threats or challenges such as financial crises and economic competition. The Chinese market becomes increasingly attractive to Korea and Japan, the U.S. is rapidly losing its material base to continue its international commitments, and the integrated global economy has been producing incessant crises. The East Asian Community led primarily by China together with Korea and Japan may be in the offing sooner than we expect.
The writer is professor of international relations at the Graduate School of International Studies, Seoul National University. Formerly, he was a professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and also served as president of a private think-tank, Korea Institute for Future Strategies. He is an advisory committee member for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Unification, and the Presidential Council for Future and Vision. His research areas are Asian international relations, International Political Economy, and soft power. FROM HERE

Junkets for Jesus The C Street Family goes global: How congressmen travel the world to preach to dictators on the taxpayers' dime.

Mon Sep. 27, 2010 3:00 AM PDT
Adapted from C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy.
THE OLDEST AND MOST politically influential Christian conservative organization in Washington is known to the public, if at all, for one thing: adultery. In particular, that of three Republican politicians,Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), and ex-Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.)—all caught last year in various states of moral undress, all linked to a Capitol Hill townhouse at 133 C Street SE, which the blogosphere promptly tagged "the Prayboy Mansion." The organization behind the townhouse, which is used to provide subsidized housing for "brothers" in Congress, is known to outsiders as the Fellowship. But its leader, a quietly charismatic octogenarian named Doug Coe, calls it the Family.
Coe is only the second leader of the movement, which began as a fundamentalist anti-labor coalition of political and business elites in 1935. Coe's mentor, Abraham Vereide, shared with him a revelation from God: For nearly 2,000 years, Christianity, with its emphasis on the down and out, had been getting it all wrong. Their focus would instead be on the "up and out," the "key men" in positions of power who would be able to usher in the kingdom of God—which, to the Family, has always looked a lot like the country clubs where it conducts much of its soft-sell evangelism. The best way to help the weak, it teaches, is to help the strong. That required first building a ministry in the nation's capital that would over the years become one of Washington's most influential, and most secretive, institutions. Dozens of members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are involved in Family prayer groups (Hillary Clinton was a regular in the Senate group), and every president since Eisenhower has attended the organization's only public event, the National Prayer Breakfast. [READ MOJO'S COVERAGE OF HILLARY CLINTON'S PRAYER GROUP.]
But while Coe's Washington operation has drawn more scrutiny of late, what most news accounts have missed is that the Family has also exported its philosophy overseas—by dispatching US politicians to recruit leaders abroad. Members of Congress have traveled the globe, sometimes on the taxpayer dime. They've gone to Greece and Japan, Aruba and Hawaii. But much of the travel has been to international trouble spots—the Middle East, Africa, the Balkans—where the footprint of American power (and American aid) is vast, and a congressman complete with entourage and military escort is a VIP indeed.
As far as the Family's "key men" are concerned, the separation between church and state doesn't extend overseas.
Many of the "friends" targeted by these congressional missionaries are strongmen such as Omar al-Bashir, the president of oil-rich Sudan, who has been indicted for genocide in the International Criminal Court; and Yoweri Museveni, president of Uganda. (The Family's Ugandan friends also include David Bahati, the author of a murderous piece of legislation called the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which mandates the death penalty for some homosexual acts.)
What's in it for the strongmen? Legitimacy, and a champion back in Washington. What's in it for the US politicians? Jesus—and, sometimes, profits for themselves or the interests they favor. Many of them have had their expeditions underwritten by the Family: Ensign has enjoyed trips to Japan, Jordan, and Israel that cost nearly $17,000. The list of Family-funded travelers also includes Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) andReps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), who has done the Lord's work in Aruba and the Virgin Islands. [SEE "FREQUENT FLIERS," MOJO'S BREAKDOWN OF WHERE THE FAMILY'S POLITICAL MONEY GOES.] On other occasions, Coe's political missionaries charge their travel to the government—putting not just the weight of their office, but the taxpayers' money, behind an unabashedly religious agenda.
That agenda isn't about converting the masses. The Family's goal, according to one internal document, is to create a "hidden structure" of "national and international world leaders bound together relationally by a mutual love for God and the family." In researching two books on the Family and C Street, I sought to uncover the workings of this hidden structure. I reviewed the Family's files (592 boxes of documents stored at the Billy Graham Center Archives) and conducted hundreds of interviews. I found that as far as the Family's "key men" are concerned, the separation between church and state doesn't extend overseas, and no dictator is too heinous to be embraced as a brother.
PERHAPS THE MOST intriguing of the Family's apostles READ MORE