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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Korea Ranks 4th in High-Speed Rail Technology

Korea ranks fourth in the world in terms of technology in high-speed rail networks after France, Germany and Japan. The country was the fifth in the world to build a high-speed rail network and rose to fourth place just 16 years after it began development of the KTX bullet train.  

When Korea began the KTX development, the top speed was 159 km/h and its technology lagged 15 years behind France, but now that gap has narrowed to just three to five years, while up to 88 percent of the components are manufactured locally, said Kim Ki-hwan, head of the high-speed rail team at the Korea Railroad Research Institute. 

Korea now stands on par with advanced countries when it comes to the maximum speed. The KTX makes 300 km/h, which is the same as other bullet trains. China's high-speed train is faster, traveling between 330 km/h to 350 km/h, but it trails behind Korea in terms of technology. However, Korea still has some catching up to do when it comes to train manufacture and signaling equipment. Hyundai Rotem, which manufactured the KTX-Sancheon, is the world's fifth-largest manufacturer of high-speed trains. 

Korea is second to none in terms of civil engineering and track construction. Kim Byung-ho, head of the high-speed rail project at the Korea Rail Network Authority said, "We are at the same level as France, Germany and Japan in terms of civil engineering and track technology. Foreign technicians praised Korea's technology in those fields as the best in the world when we tested the the new route." 

Korea, China, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and  Spain are the only countries capable of exporting high-speed rail technology. It takes more than just trains to operate a high-speed rail service. Signal systems, communications networks, construction and operating knowhow are also necessary and must be developed in conjunction. 

Korea is seeking to export its technology to Brazil and the U.S. state of California. If successful, it would be its first export of the technology. As far as Brazil goes, officials say Korea is a tad behind advanced countries in terms of technology but has everything Brazil wants at a cheaper price. It is also good at transferring technology so it stands a good chance of landing the deal, they add. / Oct. 29, 2010 13:57 KST

"Cargo Cult: Questions on the Latest Terrorist Threat"

"Cargo Cult: 
Questions on the Latest Terrorist Threat"
 by Chris Floyd

"First we were told that the recently intercepted package bombs sent, we are told, from Yemen, were targeted at synagogues in Chicago. Now we are being told that they were intended to blow up the cargo planes themselves. We are also told that the bombs' design shows the mark of a "highly sophisticated" operation by extremist Islamists, most likely al Qaeda.

All of which prompts one question. If you were indeed a "highly sophisticated" Islamist extremist operation wishing to blow up cargo planes bound for the United States with package bombs, would you really a) mail those bombs from Yemen, a country currently under intense counterterrorism scrunity by the United States, and b) address these packages, from Yemen, to Jewish institutions -- in Barack Obama's home city?

Either a) or b) alone would be enough to set alarm bells clanging all through the thick mesh of security systems that now overlay modern life. Put them together, and what you have is either a) the mark of a very unsophisticated, cack-handed, two-bit operation whose sporadic and isolated threats hardly justify a world-wide, never-ending, mass-killing, liberty-gutting, multi-trilliondollar war, or b) the mark of a highly sophisticated organization that wished to ensure maximum publicity for this attempted terrorist attack -- and even more publicity for its heroic thwarting ... especially on the eve of a national election, and after weeks of leaks and bad press about atrocities and corruption that call the whole Terror War ethos into question.

Points perhaps worth pondering in the coming weeks as we watch the ever-more profitable security mesh seize on this incident to call for ever-greater funding, and ever-greater measures of control over our lives."

“The Founding Fathers' Vision of Prosperity Has Been Destroyed”

“The Founding Fathers' Vision of Prosperity
Has Been Destroyed”
by George Washington

“The Founding Fathers not only fought for liberty and justice, they also fought for a sound economy and freedom from the tyranny of big banks: Benjamin Franklin: "It was the poverty caused by the bad influence of the English bankers on the Parliament which has caused in the colonies hatred of the English and the Revolutionary War."

John Adams: "There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt."

Thomas Jefferson: “If the American people ever allow the banks to control issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers occupied.”

Thomas Jefferson: "I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies...The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the Government, to whom it properly belongs."

“The Founding Fathers of this great land had no difficulty whatsoever understanding the agenda of bankers, and they frequently referred to them and their kind as, quote, ‘friends of paper money. They hated the Bank of England, in particular, and felt that even were we successful in winning our independence from England and King George, we could never truly be a nation of freemen, unless we had an honest money system. ” - Peter Kershaw, author of the 1994 booklet “Economic Solutions”

As I noted last year: “Everyone knows that the American colonists revolted largely because of taxation without representation and related forms of oppression by the British. But - according to Benjamin Franklin and others in the thick of the action - a little-known factor was actually the main reason for the revolution.”

To give some background on the issue, when Benjamin Franklin went to London in 1764, this is what he observed: “When he arrived, he was surprised to find rampant unemployment and poverty among the British working classes. Franklin was then asked how the American colonies managed to collect enough money to support their poor houses. He reportedly replied: “We have no poor houses in the Colonies; and if we had some, there would be nobody to put in them, since there is, in the Colonies, not a single unemployed person, neither beggars nor tramps.”

In 1764, the Bank of England used its influence on Parliament to get a Currency Act passed that made it illegal for any of the colonies to print their own money. The colonists were forced to pay all future taxes to Britain in silver or gold. Anyone lacking in those precious metals had to borrow them at interest from the banks. Only a year later, Franklin said, the streets of the colonies were filled with unemployed beggars, just as they were in England. The money supply had suddenly been reduced by half, leaving insufficient funds to pay for the goods and services these workers could have provided. He maintained that it was "the poverty caused by the bad influence of the English bankers on the Parliament which has caused in the colonies hatred of the English and the Revolutionary War." This, he said, was the real reason for the Revolution: "the colonies would gladly have borne the little tax on tea and other matters had it not been that England took away from the colonies their money, which created unemployment and dissatisfaction."

Alexander Hamilton echoed similar sentiments: “Alexander Hamilton, the nation's first treasury secretary, said that paper money had composed three-fourths of the total money supply before the American Revolution. When the colonists could not issue their own currency, the money supply had suddenly shrunk, leaving widespread unemployment, hunger and poverty in its wake. Unlike the Great Depression of the 1930s, people in the 1770s were keenly aware of who was responsible for their distress.”

As historian Alexander Del Mar wrote in 1895: “The creation and circulation of bills of credit by revolutionary assemblies... coming as they did upon the heels of the strenuous efforts made by the Crown to suppress paper money in America were acts of defiance so contemptuous and insulting to the Crown that forgiveness was thereafter impossible. There was but one course for the crown to pursue and that was to suppress and punish these acts of rebellion. Thus the Bills of Credit of this era, which ignorance and prejudice have attempted to belittle into the mere instruments of a reckless financial policy were really the standards of the Revolution. they were more than this: they were the Revolution itself!

And British historian John Twells said the same thing: “The British Parliament took away from America its representative money, forbade any further issue of bills of credit, these bills ceasing to be legal tender, and ordered that all taxes should be paid in coins. Ruin took place in these once flourishing Colonies, discontent became desperation, and reached a point, when human nature rises up and asserts itself.”

In fact, the Americans ignored the British ban on American currency, and: "Succeeded in financing a war against a major power, with virtually no 'hard' currency of their own, without taxing the people." Indeed, the first act of the New Continental Congress was to issue its own paper scrip, popularly called the Continental. Franklin and Thomas Paine later praised the local currency as a "corner stone" of the Revolution. And Franklin consistently wrote that the American ability to create its own credit led to prosperity, as it allowed the creation of ample credit, with low interest rates to borrowers, and no interest to pay to private or foreign bankers .

Is this just ancient history? No. The ability for America and the 50 states to create its own credit has largely been lost to private bankers. The lion's share of new credit creation is done by private banks, so - instead of being able to itself create money without owing interest - the government owes unfathomable trillions in interest to private banks. America may have won the Revolutionary War, but it has since lost one of the main things it fought for: the freedom to create its own credit instead of having to beg for credit from private banks at a usurious cost.

As economic writer and attorney Ellen Brown has tried to teach to Obama, Schwarzenegger, and anyone else who will listen, the way out of the economic crisis is to stop paying interest to private banks for the creation of credit, and to return to the system of government-issued credit used by the Founding Fathers to create prosperity for the people and to gain independence from their oppressors. As I wrote in July: "The U.S. has become a kleptocracy, an oligarchy, a banana republic, a socialist or fascist state ... which acts without the consent of the governed."

The New American Isolationism The Cost of Turning Away from War’s Horrific Realities

A new isolationism is metastasizing in the American body politic.  At its heart lies not an urge to avoid war, but an urge to avoid contemplating the costs and realities of war.  It sees war as having analgesic qualities -- as lessening a collective feeling of impotence, a collective sense of fear and terror.  Making war in the name of reducing terror serves this state of mind and helps to preserve it.  Marked by a calculated estrangement from war’s horrific realities and mercenary purposes, the new isolationism magically turns an historic term on its head, for it keeps us in wars, rather than out of them.

Old-style American isolationism had everything to do with avoiding “entangling alliances” and conflicts abroad.  It was tied to America’s historic tradition of rejecting a large standing army -- a tradition in which many Americans took pride.  Yes, we signed on to World War I in 1917, but only after we had been “too proud to fight.”  Even when we joined, we did so as a non-aligned power with the goal of ending major wars altogether.  Before Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Americans again resisted the call to arms, looking upon Hitler’s rise and other unnerving events in Europe and Asia with alarm, but with little eagerness to send American boys into yet another global bloodbath.
In the decades since World War II, however, “isolationism” has been turned inside-out and upside-down.  Instead of seeking eternal peace, Washington elites have, by now, plunged the country into a state of eternal war, and they’ve done so, in part, by isolating ordinary Americans from war’s brutal realities.  With rare exceptions (notably John F. Kennedy’s call for young Americans to pay any price and bear any burden), our elites have not sought to mobilize a new “greatest generation,” but rather to keep a clueless one -- clueless, that is, as to war’s fatal costs and bitter realities -- unmobilized (if not immobilized).
Such national obliviousness has not gone unnoticed.  In a recent New York Timesop-ed headlined “The Wars that America Forgot About,” former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw asked the obvious question: Why, in an otherwise contentious political season, have our wars gone so utterly undebated?  His answers -- that we’re in a recession in which people have more pressing concerns, and that we’ve restricted the burdens of war to a tiny minority -- are sensible, but don’t go quite far enough.  It’s important to add that few Americans are debating, or even discussing, our wars in part because our ruling elites haven’t wanted them debated -- as if they don’t want us to get the idea that we have any say in war-making at all.
Think of it this way: the old isolationism was a peaceable urge basic to the American people; the new isolationism is little short of a government program to keep the old isolationism, or opposition of any sort to American wars, in check.
Americans Express Skepticism about War… So?
When you’re kept isolated from war’s costs, it’s nearly impossible to mount an effective opposition to them.  While our elites, remembering the Vietnam years, may have sought to remove U.S. public opinion from the enemy’s target list, they have also worked hard to remove the public as a constraint on their war-making powers.  Recall former Vice President Dick Cheney’s dismissive “So?” when asked about opinion polls showing declining public support for the Iraq War in 2008.  So what if the American people are uneasy?  The elites can always call on a professional, non-draft military, augmented by hordes of privatized hire-a-gun outfits, themselves so isolated from society at large that they’ve almost become the equivalent of foreign legionnaires.  These same elites encourage us to “support our troops,” but otherwise to look away.
Mainstream media coverage of our wars has only added to the cocoon created by the new isolationism.  After all, it rarely addresses the full costs of those conflicts to U.S. troops (including their redeployment to war zones, even when already traumatized), let alone to foreign non-combatants in faraway Muslim lands.  When such civilians are killed, their deaths tend to take place under the media radar.  “If it bleeds, it doesn’t lead,” could be a news motto for much of recent war coverage, especially if the bleeding is done by civilians.
Only the recent release of classified documents and videos by WikiLeaks, for instance, has forced our media to bring the mind-numbing body count we’ve amassed in Iraq out of the closet.  If nothing else, WikiLeaks has succeeded in reminding us of the impact of our vastly superior firepower, as in a now infamous video of an Apache helicopter gunship firing on non-combatants in the streets of Baghdad.  Such footage is, of course, all-too-personal, all-too-real.  Small wonder it was shown in a censored form on CNN.
Where’s the benefit, after all, for corporate-owned media in showcasing others’ terror and pain, especially if it’s inflicted by “America’s hometown heroes”?  Our regular export of large-scale violence (including a thriving trade in the potential for violence via our hammerlock on the global arms trade) is not something Americans or the American media have cared to scrutinize.
To cite two more willful blind spots: Can the average American say roughly how many Iraqis were killed or wounded in our “liberation” of their country and the mayhem that followed?  In mid-October, U.S. Central Command quietly releaseda distinctly lowball estimate of 200,000 Iraqi casualties (including 77,000 killed) from January 2004 to August 2008.  That estimate (lower by 30,000 than the one compiled by official Iraqi sources) did not include casualties from major combat operations in 2003, nor of course did it have any place for the millions of refugees driven from their homes in the sectarian violence that followed.  The recent WikiLeaks document dump on Iraq held at least another 15,000 unacknowledged Iraqi dead, and serious studies of the casualty toll often suggest the real numbers are hundreds of thousands higher.
Or how about the attitudes of those living in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan subject to the recent upsurge of U.S. drone strikes?  Given the way our robotic wars are written about here, could most Americans imagine what it feels like to be on the receiving end of Zeus-like lightning bolts?
Here’s what one farmer in North Waziristan in the Pakistani tribal borderlands had to say: “I blame the government of Pakistan and the USA… they are responsible for destroying my family. We were living a happy life and I didn’t have any links with the Taliban. My family members were innocent… I wonder, why was I victimized?”
Would an American farmer wonder anything different?  Would he not seekvengeance if errant missiles obliterated his family?  It’s hard, however, for Americans to grasp the nature of the wars being fought in their name, no less to express sympathy for their victims when they are kept in a state of striking isolation from war’s horrors.
Analgesic War
Once upon a time, America’s Global War on Terror was an analgesic.  Recall those “shock and awe” images of explosions that marked the opening days of Iraqi combat operations in 2003.  Recall as well all the colorful maps, the glamorous weapons systems, and the glowering faces of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein interpreted and explained to us on our TV screens by retired U.S. military officers in mufti.  In this curiously sanitized version of war, weapons and other military arcana were to serve to ease our pain at the tragedy we had suffered on 9/11, while obscuring the “towers” of dead we were creating in other lands.
In fostering analgesic war and insisting on information control, our elites have, yet again, drawn a mistaken lesson from the Vietnam War.  In Vietnam, even if it took years, free-to-roam and often skeptical reporters finally began to question the official story of the war.  Violent images came home to roost in American living rooms at dinnertime.  Such coverage may not have stopped the killing, at least not right away, but it did contribute to a gutsy antiwar movement, as well as to a restive “silent majority” that increasingly rejected official rhetoric of falling dominoes and lights at the end of tunnels.
Iraq and Afghanistan, by way of contrast, have been characterized by embedded (mostly cheerleading) reporters and banal images of U.S. troops on patrol or firing weapons at unseen targets.  Clear admissions that our firepower-intensive form of warfare leads to the violent deaths of many more of “them” than of “us” -- and thatmany of them aren’t, by any stretch of the imagination, our enemies -- are seldom forthcoming.  (An exception was former Afghan war commander General Stanley McChrystal’s uncommonly harsh assessment of checkpoint casualties: "We've shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.")
“We don’t do body counts on other people,” said a cocky Donald Rumsfeld late in 2003 and, even though it wasn’t true (the Pentagon just kept its body counts to itself), an obliging Pentagon press corps generally fell into line and generally stayed there long after our new wars had lost their feel-good sheen.  Clearly, military and political elites learned it’s better (for them, at least) to keep vivid images of death and destruction off America’s screens.  Ironically, even as Americans seek more lifelike and visceral representations from ever bigger, brighter, high-def TVs, war is presented in carefully sanitized low-def form, largely drained of blood and violence.
The result?  Uncomfortable questions about our wars rarely get asked, let alone aired.  A boon to those who want to continue those wars unmolested by public opposition, even if a bust when it comes to pursuing a sensible global strategy that’s truly in the national interest.  In seeking to isolate the public from any sense of significant sacrifice, active participation in, or even understanding of America’s wars, these same elites have ensured that the conflicts they pursued would be strategically unsound and morally untenable.
Today, Americans are again an isolationist people, but with a twist.  Even as we expand our military bases overseas and spend trillions on national security and wars, we’ve isolated ourselves from war’s passions, its savagery, its heartrending sacrifices.  Such isolation comforts some and seemingly allows others free rein to act as they wish, but it’s a false comfort, a false freedom, purchased at the price of prolonging our wars, increasing their casualties, abridging our freedoms, and eroding our country’s standing in the world.
To end our wars, we must first endure their Gorgon stare. 
William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), is a TomDispatch regular.  His books and articles focus mainly on the military, technology, and society.  Listen to a Timothy MacBain TomDispatch audio interview withAstore on what it felt like to come out of the military and learn how to write honestly about wars by clicking here or download it to your iPod, hereHe welcomes reader comments at HERE

Dr. James Schlesinger: The peak oil debate is over

Dr. James Schlesinger "The Peak Oil Debate is Over" from ASPO-USA on Vimeo.


The Business of American Politics and Politics as a Business

The Business of American Politics and Politics as a Business

by Danny Schechter
We live in a country in economic distress. Millions are out of work and cutbacks in public services are pervasive at the city and state levels. The ‘great recession’ is deep and could go deeper. Most families are tightening their belts and in some cases at the breaking point because their benefits have run out and money is so hard for many to find.

Hard to find, perhaps, for the people,  but, curiously, not for their political representatives, their nominal public servants. Despite the fact that popularity for politicians, especially members of Congress, is at an all time low, campaign contributions are at an all time high. (A recent poll showed a majority of Americans want to toss out all incumbents)

The Washington Post reports, “House and Senate candidates have already shattered fundraising records for a midterm election and are on their way to surpassing $2 billion in spending for the first time, according to new campaign finance data.

To put it another way: That's the equivalent of about $4 million for every congressional seat up for grabs this year.”

Think of that number, think of all the pressing needs in this country, and the world, and weep. But also think about why politics is so associated with, and seemingly dependent, on big bucks.

Some critics seem to believe there is no way to stop these practices because “the beast” must be fed.

“Candidates are raising more money in 2010 than ever before, and spending it at a much quicker pace than 2008,” said David Donnelly, director of the, Public Campaign Action Fund’s Campaign Money Watch project. “With all the attack ads, candidates have to spend more time dialing for dollars and less time talking with voters. They have to feed the beast – the endless raising and spending for campaigns – that is devouring our democracy.”

“Devouring” is a term often associated with beasts.

Donnelly adds, “Regardless of the outcome next Tuesday, the winners will be the big donors.

There has been a big debate this year about the role corporations and to a lesser degree; unions have played in financing campaigns. The recent Citizen United Supreme Court decision makes it legal not to disclose where the money is coming from.

Its’ been said that business is taking over politics. As Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics which tracks political money, writes:
“When tens or hundreds of millions of dollars are targeting these midterm elections and our votes, but their origin is unknowable, one has to wonder whether someone isn’t trying to pull a fast one on us.

OK, so we get a disclaimer naming the coalition that runs an ad. Maybe that disclaimer names a group with some vague, innocuous-sounding moniker. Or it’s a group signaling that it has many “citizens” or “Americans” behind it. However, these groups often have no publicly known members, donors or contact info.”
Many are up in arms about the latest wave of “secret money,” some perhaps from overseas—including charges in one race in Washington State that the Saudis are involved. The group Climate Action Network Europe released a new report revealing the effects of Big Business — all the way across the ocean — trying to weaken US environmental laws by backing climate change denialists.

They reported in part:
“Big European emitters Lafarge GDF-Suez, EON, BP, BASF, BAYER, Solvay and Arcelor-Mittal supported climate change deniers in the US Senate in 2010 for $107,200. Their total support for senators blocking climate change legislation in the US amounts to $240,200, which is almost 80% of their total spending in the 2010 Senate race. This is why those funds are seen as systemic. This amount is higher than the same type of spending of the most notorious U.S. climate denier and Tea Party funder: Koch Industries ($217,000).”
Overlooked in all the hoopla is the fact that American politics has itself become a business with a vast network of professional fundraising companies, consultants, advisors and ad agencies profiting from the services they provide in the competitive business at the center of all this. These people run permanent campaigns throwing fundraisers, parties and creating “giving” opportunities.

The politicians don’t just hire others. They spent much of their own time “dialing for dollars” as one Congressman I know well told me, in small rooms in the basement of the Congress where phone banks exist to call prospective donors from vast lists.

“Sometimes I just want to quit,” said my college friend.” I didn’t come to Washington to become a begger, but that’s what I do, harassing people I don’t know and don’t know me to give. Every Member does it because we all live in fear of the other party funding a primary race or buying ads to discredit us. We have to be ready to fight back.

The Post reports that Congressman is in the forefront of this effort to keep their jobs and influence. It’s not just about their salaries but their potential to supplement what the government pays them with outside donations.

“As of last week, House and Senate campaigns reported taking in more than $1.5 billion, exceeding the total collected by congressional candidates in 2006 and in 2008, Federal Election Commission data show. Most of that money already has been put toward advertising and other expenses.

The Public Campaign Action Fund, a watchdog group, will release a study Tuesday predicting that House candidates alone could spend nearly $1.5 billion by the time the dust settles on Election Day. The calculation is based on previous elections in which about half of a campaign's money was spent in the final month of the contest”

These candidates also have to kick back portions of their largesse to fund their own parties, helpers and bureaucracies. Many seem to see the campaign trail as a fundraising trail, speaking for fees and generating media visibility that they then can monetize with direct mail solicitations.  In some cases their donors and their lobbyists and well-funded think tanks even do their legislative work that in many by helping draft bills and orchestrate the political agenda. These “donations” of time are not considered contributions and also not reported making the cost of maintaining the political establishment much higher than funds raised in  political contributions.

The political elite spends a disproportionate amount of their time insuring that they remain the political elite. This focus on raising money often undermines time spent on raising awareness. It in turn leads to their reliance on being guided by polls, not convictions.

No wonder this has been called “the best election money can buy." Donors and the recipients of their largesse are not naïve. They know that when a politician takes money, there is an expectation of some quid pro quo. This money may not buy the politicians outright, but only rent them for a key vote or two.

Politics is about the never-ending fight over the allocation of resources, deciding what gets funded in the federal budget and then who gets the contracts. It is far more about serving interests than ideology or constituents. Millions of jobs are at stake in federal allocations and most companies have separate divisions, with plenty of former politicians on the payroll to help them win contracts through what is euphemistically called “public affairs.”

All want to be insiders, but, to achieve that status, they need access to politicians to do their bidding, to set up meetings, make key introductions and win business that is always rationalized in terms of the jobs, never the profits, that are generated.

On the day the latest report on new records being set in political donations was published, there were reports of Afghan president Hamid Karzai admitting he has received “bundles of cash” from Iran.

The story seemed so crude, so “third World”, so... corrupt.

Until, that is, you look closely at politics as an industry in the USA where checks and electronic transfers are routine and make it easier to move money around so you don’t need paper bags and shady bagmen to carry them.

In the case of Afghanistan, a few days after this disclosure made news, another reported that $18 billion in US reconstruction aid to American companies—the stuff of endless hours of lobbying—can now not be accounted for.  That’s first world corruption with a capital C.
Mediachannel’s News Dissector Danny Schechter investigates the origins of the economic crisis in his new book Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity and the Subprime Scandal (Cosimo Books via Amazon). Comments

The business of America has always been business. 
Corruption and Corptocracy go hand in hand. 
After the iou's are collected by the Corps that slithered these snakes into office America will wish that we would/could have had more regulated government.
After these snakes get in, America will wish that democratic Socialism would have come to our shores. 
Instead we will now have Fascism that came from with in. 
The Trojan horse of Fascism was allowed to enter our gates decades ago. 
Now the public has been groomed, and massaged to accept corporate control with open arms. 

UK to sell half of forests - Europe - Al Jazeera English

UK to sell half of forests - Europe - Al Jazeera English

The for sale signs will be going up in America as soon as the next Congress is seated [slithered in] .
" Drill baby drill " will be the call of the land. 
Privatization will be near and far.

Land of the Corporations, Home of the Banksters will be our new motto.

So start taking pictures of our forests, wetlands, mountains, valleys, oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, and all of our other national treasures that belong to the people.
The DO-NOT-ENTER------NO TRESPASSING----signs will be going up shortly. 
All thanks to our dysfunctional, greedy, materialistic, bastards that run this country.  RZ

Obama's economic policy failed, GOP will be worse

More at The Real News

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Afghanistan: Sleeping with the enemy

Foreclosure Activity Up In 65% Of U.S. Metros In Q3: RealtyTrac

Data released by RealtyTrac Thursday shows that foreclosure activity rose in 65 percent of the nation’s major metropolitan areas during the third quarter.

Cities in California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona once again claimed the nation’s highest foreclosure rates, accounting for 19 of the top 20 metros at the top of RealtyTrac’s list. The only exception was Boise City-Nampa, Idaho at No. 14. However, the largest increases in foreclosure filings were reported from Seattle, Chicago, and Houston.
Among all 206 metro areas tracked in the report 133 posted year-over-year increases in foreclosure activity, including 11 of the nation’s 20 largest metro areas.
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue led the way with a 71 percent increase in foreclosure activity from the third quarter of 2009, followed by Chicago-Naperville-Joliet with a 35 percent increase. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown posted a 26 percent increase in foreclosure activity from a year earlier. Detroit-Warren-Livonia saw filings up nearly 23 percent, and Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta recorded a 20 percent increase.
“The underlying problems that are causing homeowners to miss their mortgage payments – high unemployment, underemployment, toxic loans and negative equity – are continuing to plague most local housing markets,” said James J. Saccacio, CEO of RealtyTrac. “And these historically high foreclosure rates will continue until those problems are resolved.”
Las Vegas-Paradise continued to post the nation’s highest metro foreclosure rate in the third quarter, with one in every 25 housing units (3.98 percent) receiving a foreclosure filing – more than five times the national average. A total of 32,288 properties in the metro area received a foreclosure filing during the quarter, an increase of nearly 2 percent from the previous quarter but a decrease of 20 percent from the third quarter of 2009.
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida, documented the nation’s second highest metro foreclosure rate, with one in every 35 housing units (2.84 percent) receiving a foreclosure filing during the third quarter. A total of 10,352 properties in the metro area received a foreclosure filing in Q3. That’s up 12 percent from the previous quarter but down nearly 22 percent from the third quarter of last year.
The only other Florida metro area in the top 10 was Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach at No. 7 (2.42 percent).
With one in every 36 housing units (2.76 percent) receiving a foreclosure filing during the third quarter, Modesto, California, posted the nation’s third highest metro foreclosure rate despite a nearly 18 percent decrease in foreclosure activity from the third quarter of 2009.
Other California metro areas in the top 10 were Stockton at No. 4 (2.59 percent); Merced at No. 5 (2.48 percent); Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario at No. 6 (2.46 percent); Bakersfield at No. 9 (2.25 percent); and Vallejo-Fairfield at No. 10 (2.23 percent).
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale posted the nation’s eighth highest metro foreclosure rate, with one in every 44 housing units (2.28 percent) receiving a foreclosure filing during the third quarter.
Phoenix also documented the most bank repossessions of any metro area during the third quarter, with 14,317 properties completing the foreclosure process – up 6 percent from the previous quarter and up nearly 28 percent from the third quarter of 2009.

Ancient Aliens of Puma Punku

The Mysterious And Intriguing Ruins Of Tihuanaco And Pumapunku

Korean history - Silla Kingdom

Korean Celadons

Korea brokers tripartite meet with Japan, China - INSIDE JoongAng Daily

Korea brokers tripartite meet with Japan, China - INSIDE JoongAng Daily

This is America's greatest fear. A China, Japan, S/Korean alliance.

The Military strangle hold that America holds on S/K will not last for ever.
Japan is no longer dependent on the U.S. as before. 
This global recession was brought upon the world via the West and its unregulated, corrupt, casino minded, Corpocratic toxic waste. 
A new way will be found. Except this time the West and its Goldman Sach's of the world will not be dictating any longer. 
The corrupt white collar workers [Banksters] in Asia  that are guilty of financial crimes against humanity are shamed into committing suicide. 
Or they are taken care of in the most abrupt, and permanent manner available. 

Sooner or later S/Korea, and especially Japan will have to decide.
Are they Asian, or are they wannabe Westerners. 
Tick - Tock. 

Nuclear Weapons: "I Am Become Death"

 "I Am Become Death"
by Roger K. Smith

 "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, 
but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."
- Albert Einstein

"One of the most brilliant quips from the social critic Paul Goodman is that "technology is a branch of moral philosophy, not of science." Goodman was astute enough to recognize that technological "progress" was not a monolithic process but the consequence of many decisions made by individuals and institutions. Any specific technology will bring about changes, sometimes unexpected ones, for good or ill, often both. The challenge, which Goodman implored us to conceive as a moral one, is to make it likely, if not certain, that the technologies we choose to bring into the world, considering the full spectrum of their likely effects, will make the world a better place to live.

Of all the technological developments of the 20th century, perhaps the one that's been hardest for human beings to live with has been the atomic bomb. What moral values does its invention imply? It started amid the terror of total warfare, with Einstein's famous letter to Franklin Roosevelt, written weeks before the German invasion of Poland. The ethics implicit in this letter are clear- they are the ethics of the jungle, the ethics of war at its most brutal: do it to them before they do it to you; kill or be killed. Inevitably, the government's utmost capacity was devoted to developing the bomb, and inevitably, once developed, it was used in warfare. There are many people who still accept the justification President Truman offered to a war-weary population-that the atomic bombings were necessary to secure the enemy's surrender. I don't mean to discuss why this argument was disingenuous; the late Howard Zinn did that admirably, among others. I would merely point out the moral philosophy upon which Truman was relying: the end justifies the means.

The existence of nuclear weapons has challenged and undermined human faith in ourselves, our works, and our future. Many writers, none more brilliant or persistent than Jonathan Schell, have dwelled upon how the dawn of the nuclear age transformed the human condition, making it impossible to assume an indefinite human future, making the survival of the species essentially up to us-that is, up to a small number of individuals with custody of this technology, above all the president of the United States.

In the book "Bomb Power," published this year, the eminent historian Garry Wills gives us a dispassionate analysis of the way nuclear weapons have bent our republic out of shape. A few reviewers have quibbled with some of the scholarship in Wills' book and questioned the scope of his conclusions, but to me the basic case he makes is unassailable. Incorporating nuclear weapons into the U.S. military apparatus and making them the linchpin of American defense policy set the government on a path that cannot be reconciled with the intent of the founders or the instructions they provided in the Constitution. It wrecked their elaborate system of checks and balances by centering power in the executive branch and in the office of the president. Not only that, it gave the executive an invincible tool with which to accumulate ever more power, "bomb power," through secrecy, covert activity, the concealment of information not only from mere citizens but even from Congress, and the overarching climate of never-ending life-or-death emergency that made national security a trump card over all other functions of government.

All of these dynamics, Wills argues, were in place right from the beginning of the Manhattan Project. They only gained in importance as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings provided a seamless segue between World War II and the Cold War. The vague whiff of an opportunity to address some of these abnormalities may have become detectable with the end of the Cold War, but before we knew it, the window slammed shut on 9/11. To Wills, the tyrannical excesses of the Bush/Cheney "war on terror"-torture, rendition, warrantless surveillance, signing statements, trashing habeas corpus, the "unitary executive" theory-all followed logically from the arrogation of executive power during World War II and the immediate postwar years, all set into motion by the bomb, its equipment, the day-to-day doomsday routines of its deployment, and the apocalyptic fear in which it is all enshrouded.

There's a moral philosophy for you. "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." Under President Obama, these abuses continue, despite the president's proclaimed commitment to the "ultimate" objective of a nuclear-weapon-free world. His administration openly acknowledged, for example, that it has pre-authorized the assassination of several American citizens, including Anwar al-Awlaki, in the name of the ongoing war with terrorists.

Paul Goodman's awareness of the depths of this "chronic acute emergency" led him to participate in the "Worldwide General Strike for Peace" in early 1962. "When the institutions of society threaten the very foundation of the social contract, namely, biological safety," he said, "then the social contract is very near to being dissolved." He advocated "the rational-animal response of saying, No. We won't go along with it. Stop it." Easier said than done.

If the damage that nuclear stockpiles, never fired, have done to domestic rule of law in the United States of America concerns you, rest assured that at the international level it's only more manifold. After all, many people around the world have noticed that the American president, and certain other Leaders of Nations, reserve for themselves the right to murder other people by the hundreds of millions and maybe put an end to complex life on planet Earth. And, by the way, they may decide to do this at any time and would probably deliberate for a couple of minutes at most before giving the order.

It is insanity of the highest degree, of course, the grimmest kind of absurdity. Yet somehow half a century's leaders, the serious men in authority, have wanted us to believe that they believed and everybody had to believe in all this Dr. Strangelove stuff, "deterrence" and Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) and 24/7 hair-trigger alert, and of course we all remember Richard Nixon's "madman theory"-yes, the idea that it was sane to make people think the president just might be insane enough to start a nuclear war. (It helped that the very Strangelovish and oh-so-serious Dr. Kissinger was always at his side.)

But sometime while they were all "thinking about the unthinkable," somebody had the good sense to ask, shouldn't there be a law about all this? Isn't there such a thing as international law, and if so, couldn't it just give one big hello? Say sorry, folks, you can't do this, this is all beyond the pale, weapons of war aren't supposed to wipe out entire populations or cause irreparable harm to the planet's environment? Well, in fact, while a whole body of international law had rather quietly been developed during the 20th century, including laws intended to govern what states could and couldn't legally do during armed conflict, apparently nobody had ever put nuclear weapons into the equation.

This was the impetus for the World Court Project, a diplomatic campaign to place the question before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The project succeeded, in one of the disarmament movement's few great successes of recent times. In 1994 the U.N. General Assembly requested an advisory opinion from the World Court on the question, "Is the threat or use of nuclear weapons permitted in any circumstance under international law?" The following fall inside the Peace Palace in The Hague, twenty-two nations presented oral arguments to the court in an operatic series of hearings. The majority of states urged the court to answer the question before it with a resounding no, but the nuclear-armed states and their allies argued that the question was out of bounds and the court should dismiss the case. If it must offer an opinion, France and the U.K. said, the judges must be mindful of the central role that nuclear deterrence policy has played in keeping the peace.

The court's pronouncement of July 8, 1996 offers a sharp insight into the gap between the world as it is and the world as we would like it to be. The ICJ's fourteen justices searched international law but could find neither an authorization nor an express prohibition to use or threaten to use a nuke. They agreed unanimously that the requirements of international law, especially humanitarian law, must apply in this case. But on the basic question-is it permitted?-they split down the middle, seven to seven. Court president Mohammed Bedjaoui of Algeria used a casting vote to affirm, jointly, two virtually contradictory and highly obfuscatory propositions. On the one hand, threat or use "would generally be contrary" to international law-but no full stop. "However," added the court with a sigh, "in view of the current state of international law, and of the elements of fact at its disposal, the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defence, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake."

It's the big lacuna-or in Latin legalese, a "non-liquet." The nuclear weapon stood accused in the world's highest court, but not only did the defendant hang the jury and all the judges, it delivered mass destruction on the law. That's one bad dude. Chief judge Bedjaoui allowed himself to admit in a side statement: "The very nature of this blind weapon therefore has a destabilizing effect on humanitarian law which regulates discernment in the type of weapon used. Nuclear weapons, the ultimate evil, destabilize humanitarian law which is the law of the lesser evil. The existence of nuclear weapons is therefore a challenge to the very existence of humanitarian law....Atomic warfare and humanitarian law therefore appear to be mutually exclusive: the existence of the one automatically implies the non-existence of the other."

The court made one final point, an important one. The only way to remedy this holocaust-sized gap in the law would be to "pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion" a negotiated abolition of the weapon, as biological and chemical weapons are banned by treaty. Such a ban is, in fact, already legally mandated, by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in its Article VI. That's the good news, but getting there is the rub. A trio of prominent anti-nuclear lawyers recently wrote: "It is not hyperbole to say that the challenge to human civilization presented by nuclear weapons may be the consummate test of the human race's ability to survive. The very existence of nuclear weapons requires that human societies-both the most technologically efficient and affluent of societies and societies still struggling to establish their place in the world-overcome the historical and contemporary human burden of aggressiveness and tribalism."

Paul Goodman had arrived at the same conclusions by 1967. He even had the chance to state them, rather caustically, at a top-level symposium of the National Security Industrial Association in Washington, in a speech Goodman published under the title "A Causerie at the Military-Industrial":  "The survival of the human species, at least in a civilized state, demands radical disarmament, and there are several feasible political means to achieve this if we willed it. By the same token, we must drastically de-energize the archaic system of nation-states....Instead, you-and your counterparts in Europe, Russia, and China-have rigidified and aggrandized the states with a Maginot-line kind of policy called Deterrence, which has continually escalated rather than stabilized...Past a certain point your operations have increased insecurity rather than diminished it. But this has been to your interest." At the time, the way Goodman saw through the masters of war in the audience made them want to launch MIRVed tomatoes at him. Would any of them hear it today?"
Roger K. Smith is a free-lance writer and former disarmament movement organizer. The documentary film "Paul Goodman Changed My Life" is slated for a 2011 release. A panel entitled "Humanitarian Law Versus Nuclear Weapons" will take place at the United Nations on October 25.

Robert Scheer: An Obit For Our Hopes

More GRITtv

Is history repeating itself in US-Pakistan relations?: A history of tragedy and farce

Robert Grenier
It was Karl Marx who said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.

I have never really been sure what he meant. But as the recent history of US-Pakistan relations churns onward through multiple repetitive cycles, the results, while perhaps verging at times on black farce, have been clearly and consistently tragic. More tragic still, history seems poised to deliver yet more of the same.

As in all genuine tragedies, the protagonists in this drama are coming to grief not simply because of what they do, but fundamentally because of who they are. Their actions, and therefore their fate, are inevitable because it seems they cannot do otherwise.

I am not privy to the discussions conducted during the recently-held third iteration of the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, but all indications are that the central talks did not go well. That is hardly a surprise. American frustrations with Pakistan are rising, primarily over two key issues: Pakistan's continued unwillingness to invade the fervid extremist haven of North Waziristan; and its apparent refusal to take effective action against the leadership of the Afghan insurgency, which shelters on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line.

The two issues, of course, are linked. All else being equal, the Pakistanis would be more than happy to enter North Waziristan, if it were only a matter of sorting out a few dozen trouble-making al-Qaeda cadres. But they cannot do so without triggering yet more tribal resistance, further overstretching a military already overwhelmed by multiple insurgencies and a massive domestic disaster-relief effort. Beyond that, and strategic considerations regarding Afghanistan aside, they fear incurring the wrath of the so-called Haqqani network based in North Waziristan which, while currently focusing its efforts in Afghanistan, could easily shift course to combine efforts with the extremists of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, who have major Pakistani cities and the Pakistan army in their sights. The last thing the government of Pakistan needs is more, and more consolidated, enemies.

Betrayal, not opportunity
Pakistan's inclination to resist US demands is reinforced further by its concerns over the future of Afghanistan, which in the Pakistani view seems destined for major political upheaval as the US executes a military withdrawal in the near- to medium-term. From Pakistan's optic, maintaining a link with the insurgent elements which hold sway over Afghanistan's Pashtuns is the only viable way to exert influence over a country which, if in the hands of non-Pashtun minorities, might otherwise provide India with the opportunity to effectively surround them.

To the Americans, who feel constrained to defend themselves by training airborne missiles on al-Qaeda extremists providing support to militants who have recently attempted terrorist outrages as far afield as New York City, while also suffering a sharp increase in casualties to their Afghan-based troops at the hands of Pakistan-based extremists, the Pakistani attitude seems treacherous, and a poor way of repaying billions of dollars in US generosity.

Nor do US attitudes appear to have shifted in light of current efforts to support reconciliation between the Karzai government and Pakistan-based insurgent leaders. In these circumstances, Pakistan's latent ability to exert influence over the insurgents could be seen as a strategic asset; but to American eyes Pakistani dealings with the insurgents still constitute a betrayal, and not an opportunity.

The Americans' frustration and distrust are very much shared on the Pakistani side. Pakistani officials resent that despite their years of counter-terrorism cooperation and heavy losses at the hands of militants inflamed by the US presence in Afghanistan, the Americans seem never to be satisfied. The threat of new attacks on the US emanating from Pakistan does not generate a greater sense of shared risk and solidarity, but instead inspires thinly-veiled American threats for having failed to do enough to stop them.

To these long-standing concerns are now added the fear that the Americans will try to exclude Pakistan from the nascent national reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Recent press reports cite Pakistani complaints that they are not informed as to which Taliban leaders are meeting with the Karzai government. Such officials make plain that they will not blindly support an Afghan peace process without assurances that their interests will be recognised and protected. The US attitude, as reflected in a recent statement by the US embassy spokesman in Islamabad, on the other hand, is that Pakistan must do precisely that. "The US believes that Pakistan's role is to work in concert with the international community and support the Afghan government as it charts a course for the future," he intoned.

Throat or feet
It appears the only way out of this morass would be for the US, acting in close conjunction with the Afghan government, to reach agreement with Pakistan on the broad outlines of an acceptable political solution in Afghanistan, as well as on the tough pressure which Pakistan must be prepared to exert upon both the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban's so-called "Quetta Shura," to either press the insurgent leadership into agreement, or to incentivise significant elements of the insurgency to break with their leadership.

Such an agreement would be a critical key to solving the compelling problems with Islamically-inspired violence and militancy - and ultimately the problem of al-Qaeda haven - on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Unfortunately, it would be nearly impossible for all sides to concur on a viable strategy, and even less likely that Pakistan could properly execute its agreed role in such a venture if they did.

Winston Churchill said of the Germans that they are "always either at your throat, or at your feet". One imagines that Pakistani militants must have a similar view of the government of Pakistan. When the army is not engaged in brutal combat with extremist elements, it is negotiating agreements with them which are essentially capitulations in substance and largely unenforced in practice. That pattern of past behaviour provides little confidence that Pakistan could play a systematic and effective role in pressing a flexible and nuanced strategy to bring at least some substantial part of the Afghan insurgency into a political settlement.

In the immediately post-9/11 past, I had the unenviable role of trying to mediate between a US side which lacked empathy for legitimate Pakistani concerns, and thus tended to employ tactics which made Pakistan's problems worse, rather than better; and a Pakistani side which would rather deny a problem until it became too big to ignore, and then seemed incapable of putting together and executing a sustained strategy to deal with it at that point. It is difficult to advocate for either side when both sides are wrong.

That pattern in US-Pakistan relations still persists. As they approach another such cycle, both countries would do well to contemplate the tragedy which history holds in store for those who fail to learn from it.
Robert Grenier was the CIA's chief of station in Islamabad, Pakistan, from 1999 to 2002. He was also the director of the CIA's counter-terrorism centre.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.