Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Obvious Immorality of Massive Financial Fraud

"100 years ago economists colluded to bend our minds around false ideas. The consequences have been devastating for everyone but the super-rich..."

--100 years ago, a cabal of faux economists acted to protect the vital interests of the privileged few by hiding the true value of land.

--Today's economists peddle a mangled version of economics the equations of which are fictitious representing models which do not comport with the real world.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Financial Crisis: Professor Bill Black, "Everywhere you Look you Find Massive Financial Fraud"

Professor Black Says:

--So far, no arrests, no prosecutions, no convictions have occurred in the wake of the Financial Crisis, in contrast to over 1000 convictions in the Savings and Loan debacle of the 1980's.

--The FBI and justice department can't be successful at bringing fraud cases unless the regulators do their jobs which they're not doing. They have submitted zero criminal referrals this decade.

--There has been a total coverup in this crisis, a death of regulation including the sham bank stress-tests.

--Everywhere you look you find massive fraud and millions of liars loans.

--There has been a really severe recession in the past 2 years which has reduced demand by almost 6 trillion dollars.

--The actual losses in this financial crisis have never been disclosed. The crooks are all still in place.

--The accounting rules via the Financial Accouting Standards Board (FASB) have been changed to help hide the debt and to allow the continued paying of exhorbitant bonuses to Bank executives.

--Citizens should demand that the government end Systemically Dangerous Institutions (SDI's) also known as too big to fail institutions and insist on accurate accounting standards!


Professor Michael Hudson on The Faux "Recovery" and the End of Capitalism

Professor Hudson Says:

--The post-industrial economy is nothing more than a return to Neo-Feudalism.

--The Federal Reserve is a sham. There is no reason the government of the United States should have to pay interest to a quasi-private body in order to print more money. The US Treasury should do so directly thereby eliminating the need to pay interest to the Fed which could be abolished or subsumed under the Treasury Department.

--Since the beginning of the Financial Crisis, the national debt has virtually tripled from roughly 5 trillion to 15 trillion dollars. In order to service the new debt, taxes will have to be increased markedly in order to avoid default.

New START Treaty Ratified: First Step in Reaching Global Zero?

U.S. Senate Ratifies 'New Start' Nuclear Treaty With Russia
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Last updated (GMT/UTC): 21.12.2010 21:35

By Richard Solash

WASHINGTON -- World leaders have hailed the vote in the U.S. Senate ratifying a landmark nuclear arms-control treaty between the United States and Russia. After months of heated debate and closed-door negotiation, the Senate on December 22 ratified the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia, giving President Barack Obama a major foreign-policy victory and U.S.-Russian relations a significant boost.

Senators voted 71 to 26 to approve the treaty, which commits the United States and Russia to reduce their stockpiles of deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 -- a reduction of nearly one-third -- within seven years. The treaty also sets new limits on ballistic-missile delivery systems and is accompanied by a verification regime.

A spokeswoman for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev noted that the U.S. amendments will need to be considered by Russian lawmakers before they vote in both houses to ratify. In a sign that a first vote in Moscow could come soon, Boris Gryzlov, speaker of the Russian State Duma, said the lower chamber could vote to ratify as early as December 24.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called the U.S. ratification a "significant contribution to Euro-Atlantic security," while United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it sends a "clear message" in support of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.

Japan, site of the world's first and only atomic bombings at the end of World War II, said the move marked "important progress" in disarmament efforts by Washington and Moscow.

Speaking at a press conference after the vote, Obama said he was pleased that the Senate had passed what he called "my top national security priority for this session of Congress."

"This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals, along with Russia. With this treaty, our inspectors will also be back on the ground at Russian nuclear bases. So we will be able to trust but verify," Obama said.

John Kerry (Democrat-Massachusetts), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the most vocal proponents of the treaty, told lawmakers in the moments before the vote that their decision would have global implications.

"Regardless of where we stand on the START treaty, this is one of those rare times in the United States Senate -- one of the only times in all of our service here -- when we have it in our power to safeguard or to endanger human life on this planet," he said.

Months Of Political Fighting

Obama and Medvedev signed the treaty, which replaces a 1991 agreement that expired in December 2009, on April 8 in Prague.

U.S. and Russian nuclear inspectors have not visited each other's facilities for more than a year -- a situation that officials in Washington say endangers national security.

Washington's deeply partisan political climate meant that challenges brought by opposition Republican lawmakers in the months since last spring's signing turned the ratification process into a bitter fight.

Republican senators, led by the party's second-most-senior member, Jon Kyl (Arizona), argued that because the treaty acknowledges an interrelationship between offensive and defensive systems, it constrains U.S. plans for a missile defense shield, which Russia views with skepticism.

Several Republicans also voiced concern that the treaty diverts attention away from what they said was a need to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal in the face of threats from Iran and North Korea.

The Obama administration spent months courting Kyl before today's vote and even sent a team across the country to his Arizona office in an effort to persuade him to drop his opposition. The White House also announced $85 billion in additional funding over the next 10 years to modernize the country's nuclear complex.

The push for ratification included multiple newspaper editorials, speeches, and letters of support from not only Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, and Secretary of State Clinton, but also from military leaders and former presidents, secretaries of state, and defense secretaries from both the Democratic and Republican parties.

A December 17 "New York Times" editorial urging the Senate to ratify was even signed by the foreign ministers of 25 European countries.

It was not enough to erase Republican concerns, however.

On December 20, Democrats defeated three Republican amendments that they said would have killed the treaty by requiring additional negotiation with Moscow.

That led Kyl to say to lawmakers the following day: "Is the United States just to be a rubber stamp? We can't do anything to change the treaty or the protocol or just the resolution of ratification, which is what we're trying to do here, because the Russians would say no and therefore we can't do it? I thought we're the United States Senate."

In the end, Kyl voted against the treaty.

Capping 'Reset' With Russia

Before the vote, Democrats agreed to accept versions of two Republican amendments -- one recognizing the U.S. commitment to pursue a missile defense system and the other reiterating the U.S. commitment to weapons modernization. Neither one affects the language of the treaty itself.

All told, 13 Republican senators broke with the party leadership to give the treaty the two-thirds majority required for passage. Richard Lugar (Republican-Indiana), a longtime advocate of nuclear nonproliferation, led the Republicans who voted for the treaty.

Obama characterized the treaty as the lynchpin to Washington's reset of relations with Moscow, which he has pursued since taking office last year.

The White House has reaped rewards from the reset, including Russian flyover rights for military planes headed to Afghanistan and Moscow's agreement in June to support a strong set of UN sanctions against Iran for its nuclear ambitions, as Obama noted.

"We'll continue to advance our relationship with Russia, which is essential to making progress on a host of challenges, from enforcing strong sanctions on Iran to preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. And this treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them," he said.

Matthew Rojansky, an expert on U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons policy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says ratifying New START had become a "litmus test" for the reset in both the United States and Russia.

"We're at a point where it has been made something of a litmus test for the success of the reset from both sides, and so I think, that being the case, perceptions create the reality. You would be very hard-pressed to continue the reset with the same momentum if ratification failed," he says.

The Senate vote was also welcomed in Moscow, where Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called it "a gold standard" for arms control pacts, according to Interfax.

U.S. and Russian officials had pledged at the treaty's signing to try to synchronize their respective ratification efforts.

Moscow had voiced impatience in recent months over the U.S. delay in ratification, and on November 3, the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee withdrew its recommendation to ratify the treaty.


Global Zero (campaign) to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Global Zero is an international initiative launched in December 2008 to promote the elimination of nuclear weapons. It proposes a phased withdrawal and verification for the destruction of all devices held by official and unofficial members of the nuclear club. The Global Zero campaign works toward building an international consensus and a sustained global movement of leaders and citizens for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Goals include the initiation of United States-Russia bilateral negotiations for reductions to 1,000 total warheads each and commitments from the other key nuclear weapons countries to participate in multilateral negotiations for phased reductions of nuclear arsenals. Global Zero works to expand the diplomatic dialogue with key governments and continue to develop policy proposals on the critical issues related to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Action plan

The Global Zero plan for the phased, verified elimination of all nuclear weapons is a four-phased strategy to reach a global zero accord over 14 years (2010–2023) and to complete the dismantlement of all remaining nuclear warheads over the following seven years (2024–2030).

Phase 1 (2010–2013) Following conclusion of a START replacement accord, negotiate a bilateral accord for the United States and Russia to reduce to 1,000 total warheads each.

Phase 2 (2014–2018) In a multilateral framework, the U.S. and Russia reach agreement to reduce to 500 total warheads each (to be implemented by 2021) as long as all other nuclear weapons countries agree to freeze their stockpiles until 2018, followed by proportional reductions until 2021. Establish a comprehensive verification and enforcement system, and strengthen safeguards on the civilian nuclear fuel cycle to prevent diversion of materials to build weapons.

Phase 3 (2019–2023) Negotiate a global zero accord, signed by all nuclear capable countries, for the phased, verified, proportional reduction of all nuclear arsenals to zero total warheads by 2030.

Phase 4 (2024–2030) Complete the phased, verified, proportional reduction of all nuclear arsenals to zero total warheads by 2030 and continue the verification and enforcement system.

In releasing the plan, the Commission noted that over the past twenty years (1989–2009), the United States and Russia retired and destroyed twice as many nuclear warheads (40,000+) as this action plan proposes (20,000+) over the next twenty years (2009–2030).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

John Pilger - The War You Don't See

John Pilger says in the film: "We journalists... have to be brave enough to defy those who seek our collusion in selling their latest bloody adventure in someone else's country... That means always challenging the official story, however patriotic that story may appear, however seductive and insidious it is. For propaganda relies on us in the media to aim its deceptions not at a far away country but at you at home... In this age of endless imperial war, the lives of countless men, women and children depend on the truth or their blood is on us... Those whose job it is to keep the record straight ought to be the voice of people, not power."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Utter Futility of War: Veteran's for Peace Arrested at White House

Bitter Memories of War on the Way to Jail

By Chris Hedges

December 20, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- The speeches were over. There was a mournful harmonica rendition of taps. The 500 protesters in Lafayette Park in front of the White House fell silent. One hundred and thirty-one men and women, many of them military veterans wearing old fatigues, formed a single, silent line. Under a heavy snowfall and to the slow beat of a drum, they walked to the White House fence. They stood there until they were arrested.

The solemnity of that funerary march, the hush, was the hardest and most moving part of Thursday’s protest against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It unwound the bitter memories and images of war I keep wrapped in the thick cotton wool of forgetfulness. I was transported in that short walk to places I do not like to go. Strange and vivid flashes swept over me—the young soldier in El Salvador who had been shot through the back of the head and was, as I crouched next to him, slowly curling up in a fetal position to die; the mutilated corpses of Kosovar Albanians in the back of a flatbed truck; the screams of a woman, her entrails spilling out of her gaping wounds, on the cobblestones of a Sarajevo street. My experience was not unique. Veterans around me were back in the rice paddies and lush undergrowth of Vietnam, the dusty roads of southern Iraq or the mountain passes of Afghanistan. Their tears showed that. There was no need to talk. We spoke the same wordless language. The butchery of war defies, for those who know it, articulation.

What can I tell you about war?

War perverts and destroys you. It pushes you closer and closer to your own annihilation—spiritual, emotional and, finally, physical. It destroys the continuity of life, tearing apart all systems, economic, social, environmental and political, that sustain us as human beings. War is necrophilia. The essence of war is death. War is a state of almost pure sin with its goals of hatred and destruction. It is organized sadism. War fosters alienation and leads inevitably to nihilism. It is a turning away from the sanctity of life.

And yet the mythic narratives about war perpetuate the allure of power and violence. They perpetuate the seductiveness of the godlike force that comes with the license to kill with impunity. All images and narratives about war disseminated by the state, the press, religious institutions, schools and the entertainment industry are gross and distorted lies. The clash between the fabricated myth about war and the truth about war leaves those of us who return from war alienated, angry and often unable to communicate. We can’t find the words to describe war’s reality. It is as if the wider culture sucked the words out from us and left us to sputter incoherencies. How can you speak meaningfully about organized murder? Anything you say is gibberish.

The sophisticated forms of industrial killing, coupled with the amoral decisions of politicians and military leaders who direct and fund war, hide war’s reality from public view. But those who have been in combat see death up close. Only their story tells the moral truth about war. The power of the Washington march was that we all knew this story. We had no need to use stale and hackneyed clichés about war. We grieved together.

War, once it begins, fuels new and bizarre perversities, innovative forms of death to ward off the boredom of routine death. This is why we would drive into towns in Bosnia and find bodies crucified on the sides of barns or decapitated, burned and mutilated. That is why those slain in combat are treated as trophies by their killers, turned into grotesque pieces of performance art. I met soldiers who carried in their wallets the identity cards of men they killed. They showed them to me with the imploring look of a lost child.

We swiftly deform ourselves, our essence, in war. We give up individual conscience—maybe even consciousness—for the contagion of the crowd and the intoxication of violence. You survive war because you repress emotions. You do what you have to do. And this means killing. To make a moral choice, to defy war’s enticement, is often self-destructive. But once the survivors return home, once the danger, adrenaline highs and the pressure of the crowd are removed, the repressed emotions surface with a vengeance. Fear, rage, grief and guilt leap up like snake heads to consume lives and turn nights into long, sleepless bouts with terror. You drink to forget.

We reached the fence. The real prisoners, the ones who blindly serve systems of power and force, are the mandarins inside the White House, the Congress and the Pentagon. The masters of war are slaves to the idols of empire, power and greed, to the idols of careers, to the dead language of interests, national security, politics and propaganda. They kill and do not know what killing is. In the rise to power, they became smaller. Power consumes them. Once power is obtained they become its pawn. Like Shakespeare’s Richard III, politicians such as Barack Obama fall prey to the forces they thought they had harnessed. The capacity to love, to cherish and protect life, may not always triumph, but it saves us. It keeps us human. It offers the only chance to escape from the contagion of war. Perhaps it is the only antidote. There are times when remaining human is the only victory possible.

The necrophilia of war is hidden under platitudes about honor, duty or comradeship. It waits especially in moments when we seem to have little to live for and no hope, or in moments when the intoxication of war is at its pitch to be unleashed. When we spend long enough in war, it comes to us as a kind of release, a fatal and seductive embrace that can consummate the long flirtation with our own destruction. In the Arab-Israeli 1973 war, almost a third of all Israeli casualties were due to psychiatric causes—and the war lasted only a few days. A World War II study determined that, after 60 days of continuous combat, 98 percent of all surviving soldiers will have become psychiatric casualties. A common trait among the 2 percent who were able to endure sustained combat was a predisposition toward “aggressive psychopathic personalities.” In short, if you spend enough time in combat you go insane or you were insane to begin with. War starts out as the annihilation of the other. War ends, if we do not free ourselves from its grasp, in self-annihilation.

Those around me at the protest, at once haunted and maimed by war, had freed themselves of war’s contagion. They bore its scars. They were plagued by its demons. These crippling forces will always haunt them. But they had returned home. They had returned to life. They had asked for atonement. In Lafayette Park they found grace. They had recovered within themselves the capacity for reverence. They no longer sought to become gods, to wield the power of the divine, the power to take life. And it is out of this new acknowledgement of weakness, remorse for their complicity in evil and an acceptance of human imperfection that they had found wisdom. Listen to them, if you can hear them. They are our prophets.

The tears and grief, the halting asides, the catch in the throat, the sudden breaking off of a sentence, is the only language that describes war. This faltering language of pain and atonement, even shame, was carried like great, heavy boulders by these veterans as they tromped slowly through the snow from Lafayette Park to the White House fence. It was carried by them as they were handcuffed, dragged through the snow, photographed for arrest, and frog-marched into police vans. It was carried into the frigid holding cells of a Washington jail. If it was understood by the masters of war who build the big guns, who build the death planes, who build all the bombs and who hide behind walls and desks, this language would expose their masks and chasten their hollow, empty souls. This language, bereft of words, places its faith in physical acts of nonviolent resistance, in powerlessness and compassion, in truth. It believes that one day it will bring down the house of war.

As Tennyson wrote in “In Memoriam”:

Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.

So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.
Copyright © 2010 Truthdig, L.L.C.


Witness at the White House Fence

By Ray McGovern

December 21, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- “Show me your company, and I’ll tell you who you are,” my grandmother would often say with a light Irish lilt but unmistakable seriousness, an admonition about taking care in choosing what company you keep.

On Thursday, I could sense her smiling down through the snow as I stood pinned to the White House fence with Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Hedges, Margaret Flowers, Medea Benjamin, Coleen Rowley, Mike Ferner, Jodie Evans, and over 125 others risking arrest in an attempt to highlight the horrors of war.

The witness was sponsored by Veterans for Peace, a group comprised of many former soldiers who have “been there, done that” regarding war, distinguishing them from President Barack Obama who, like his predecessor, hasn’t a clue what war is really about. (Sorry, Mr. President, donning a bomber jacket and making empty promises to the troops in the middle of an Afghan night does not qualify.)

The simple but significant gift of presence was being offered outside the White House. As I hung on the fence, I recalled what I knew of the results of war.

Into view came some of my closest childhood friends — like Bob, whose father was killed in WWII when Bob was in kindergarten. My uncle Larry, an Army chaplain, killed in a plane crash.

Other friends like Mike and Dan, whose big brothers were killed in Korea. So many of my classmates from Infantry Officers Orientation at Ft. Benning killed in the Big Muddy called Vietnam.

My college classmate with whom I studied Russian, Ed Krukowski, 1Lt, USAF, one of the very first casualties of Vietnam, killed, leaving behind a wife and three small children. Other friends, too numerous to mention, killed in that misbegotten war.

More recently, Casey Sheehan and 4,429 other U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, and the 491 U.S. troops killed so far this year in Afghanistan (bringing that total to 1,438). And their mothers. And the mothers of all those others who have died in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. Mothers don’t get to decide; only to mourn.

A pure snow showered down as if to say blessed are the peacemakers. Tears kept my eyes hydrated against the cold.

The hat my youngest daughter knit for me three years ago when I had no hair gave me an additional sense of being showered with love and affirmation. There was a palpable sense of rightness in our witness to the witless ways of the White House behind the fence.

I thought to myself, this White House is a far cry from the “Camelot” administration of John F. Kennedy, who brought me, and so many others to Washington almost a half-century ago. And yet, I could not resist borrowing a song from the play, Camelot: “I wonder what the king is doing tonight. What merriment is the king pursuing tonight…”

Perhaps strutting before a mirror in his leather bomber jacket, practicing rhetorical flourishes for the troops, like, “You are making our country safer.” The opposite, of course, is true, and if President Obama does not know that, he is not as smart as people think he is.

More accurately, the troops are making Obama’s political position safer, protecting him from accusations of “softness” on Afghanistan, just as a surge of troops into Iraq postponed the inevitable, sparing George W. Bush from the personal ignominy of presiding over a more obvious American defeat in Iraq.

Both presidents were willing to sacrifice those troops on the altar of political expediency, knowing full well that it is not American freedom that “the insurgents” hate, but rather U.S. government policies, which leave so many oppressed, or dead.

Despite our (Veterans for Peace) repeated requests over many months, Obama has refused to meet with us. On Wednesday, though, he carved out five hours to sit down with many of the fat cat executives who are profiteering from war.

It seems the President was worried that he had hurt the fat cats’ feelings – and opened himself to criticism as being “anti-business” – with some earlier remarks about their obscenely inflated pay.

Before our witness on Thursday, we read in the Washington Post that Obama told the 20 chief executives, “I want to dispel any notion we want to inhibit your success,” and solicited ideas from them “on a host of issues.” By way of contrast, the President has shown zero interest in soliciting ideas from the likes of us.

‘The Big Fool Said to Push On’

In another serendipitous coincidence, as we were witnessing against the March of Folly in Afghanistan, the President was completing his “review” of the war and sealing the doom of countless more soldiers and civilians (and, in my view, his own political doom) by re-enacting the Shakespearean tragedy of Lyndon the First.

Afraid to get crossways with the military brass, who have made it embarrassingly clear that they see no backbone under that bomber jacket, Obama has just sped past another exit ramp out of Afghanistan by letting the policy review promised for this month become a charade.

Hewing to the script of Lyndon the First, Barack Obama has chosen to shun the considered views of U.S. intelligence agencies, which, to their credit, show in no uncertain terms the stupidity of keeping U.S. troops neck-deep in this latest Big Muddy in Afghanistan — to borrow from Pete Seeger’s song from the Vietnam era.

There is one reality upon which there is virtually complete consensus as highlighted by the U.S. intelligence agencies: The U.S. and NATO will not be able to “prevail” in Afghanistan if Pakistan does not stop supporting the Taliban. Are we clear on that? That’s what the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan says.

A companion NIE on Pakistan says there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that the Pakistani Army and security services will somehow “change their strategic vision” regarding keeping the Taliban in play for the time when the United States and its NATO allies finally leave Afghanistan and when Pakistan will want to reassert its influence there.

Should it be too hard to put the two NIEs together and reach the appropriate conclusions for policy?

It is difficult to believe that – after going from knee-deep to waist-deep in the Big Muddy by his early 2009 decision to insert 21,000 troops into Afghanistan, and then from waist-deep to neck-deep by deciding a year ago to send in 30,000 more — Obama would say to “push on.”

The answer lies in the kind of “foolish consistency” Emerson termed the “hobgoblin of little minds.” Out of crass political considerations, Obama continues to evidence a spineless persistence behind this fool’s errand. He seems driven by fear of offending other important Washington constituencies, such as the neoconservative opinion-makers, and having to face the wrath of the be-medaled and be-ribboned Gen. David Petraeus. This is pitiable enough — but a lot of people are getting killed or maimed for life.

‘When will we ever learn?’

To answer this other Vietnam-era song, well, we have learned — many of us the hard way. We need to tell the big fool not to be so afraid of neocon columnists and the festooned left breast of the sainted Petraeus — you know, the ten rows of medals and merit badges that made him so lopsided he crashed down on the witness table and was given a time-out by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Outside the White House on Thursday, we found ourselves singing “We Shall Overcome” with confidence. And what we learned later of other witnessing conducted that same day provided still more affirmation, grit, and determination.

For example, 75 witnesses braved freezing temperatures at the Times Square recruiting station in New York to express solidarity with our demonstration in Washington.

There in Times Square stood not only veterans, but also grandmothers from the Granny Peace Brigade, the Raging Grannies, and Grandmothers Against the War. Two of the grandmothers were in their 90s, but stood for more than an hour in the cold. The Catholic Worker, War Resister League and other anti-war groups were also represented.

What? You didn’t hear about any of this, including the arrest of 135 veterans and other anti-war activists in front of the White House? Need I remind you of the Fawning Corporate Media and how its practitioners have always downplayed or ignored protests, large or small, against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Dave Lindorff summed the situation up HERE... .

A Rich Tradition

Civil Disobedience was Henry David Thoreau’s response to his 1846 imprisonment for refusing to pay a poll tax that violated his conscience. Thoreau was protesting an earlier war of aggression, the U.S. attack on Mexico.

In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau asked:

“Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward.

“It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”

Imprisonment was Thoreau’s first direct experience with state power and, in typical fashion, he analyzed it:

“The State never intentionally confronts a man’s sense, intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses. It is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength. I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.”

Prior to his arrest, Thoreau had lived a quiet, solitary life at Walden, an isolated pond in the woods about a mile and a half from Concord. He returned to Walden to mull over two questions: (1) Why do some men obey laws without asking if the laws are just or unjust; and, (2) why do others obey laws they think are wrong?

More recent American prophets have thrown their own light on the crises of our time while confronting the questions posed by Thoreau.

Amid the carnage of Vietnam, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, SJ, posed a challenge to those who hoped for peace without sacrifice, those who would say, “Let us have peace but let us loose nothing. Let our lives stand intact; let us know neither prison nor ill repute nor disruption of ties.”

Berrigan saw no such easy option. “There is no peace,” he said, “because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war — at least as liable to bring disgrace and prison.”

So, if the making of peace today means prison, that’s where we need to be. It is time to accept our responsibility to do ALL we can to stop the violence of wars waged in our name. Now it’s our turn to ponder those questions.

This article first appeared at

Prosecuting Wall Street Fraud: The US Economy is A Giant Ponzi Scheme

Editor's NOTE:

This is an excellent piece. I encourage readers to follow my end link to the original article and those which are referenced internally at Washington's Blog.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

Prosecuting Wall Street Fraud: The US Economy is A Giant Ponzi Scheme

by Washington's Blog

December 14, 2010

Bill Gross, Nouriel Roubini, Laurence Kotlikoff, Steve Keen, Michel Chossudovsky and the Wall Street Journal all say that the U.S. economy is a giant Ponzi scheme.

Virtually all independent economists and financial experts say that rampant fraud was largely responsible for the financial crisis. See THIS and and THIS.

But many on Wall Street and in D.C. - and many investors - believe that we should just "go with the flow". They hope that we can restart our economy and make some more money if we just let things continue the way they are.

But the assumption that a system built on fraud can continue without crashing is false.

In fact, top economists and financial experts agree that - unless fraud is prosecuted - the economy cannot recover.

Fraud Leads to a Break Down in Trust and Instability in the Markets

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Whistleblower Colleen Rowley on Wikileaks and Pfc. Bradley Manning

Former FBI agent Coleen Rowley discusses Whistleblower Bradley Manning and Wikileaks

US spy agencies paint grim picture of Afghan war

by Bill Van Auken

Global Research

December 16, 2010

Two reports produced by US intelligence agencies sharply contradict the American military's claims of success in the nine-year-old war in Afghanistan.

The National Intelligence Estimates on Afghanistan and Pakistan were recently presented in secret to members of the Senate and House intelligence committees. They represent the consensus view of Washington's 16 separate intelligence agencies, led by the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the State Department and the various arms of military intelligence.

Coming on the eve of the formal presentation by the Obama White House of its review of the US policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the reports stand in sharp contradiction to the rosy estimates being peddled by the US military.

This month marks one year since President Barack Obama, in a speech at West Point, ordered his military “surge” in Afghanistan. This escalation saw the deployment of 30,000 more US troops into the impoverished, war-torn country, bringing the total US force there to nearly 100,000. Another 50,000 NATO and other foreign troops are participating in the US-led colonial-style war.

On Tuesday, President Obama signed off on a report prepared by Gen. David Petraeus, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, which claims that the escalation of the war has proved successful.

Previewing the report, which will be formally presented by the president today, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Wednesday, “There has been some important progress in halting the momentum of the Taliban in Afghanistan.” He also claimed that the US has “seen greater cooperation over the course of the past 18 months, with the Pakistani government.”

According to unnamed senior government officials quoted in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, however, US intelligence agencies challenge the veracity of such claims.

The classified intelligence reports contend that large swaths of Afghanistan are still at risk of falling to the Taliban, according to officials who were briefed on the National Intelligence Estimates,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

The paper also reported that the reports, presented at a closed-door hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee recently, state that the Pakistani government “remains unwilling to stop its covert support for members of the Afghan Taliban who mount attacks against US troops from the tribal areas of the neighboring country.”

According to the New York Times, the reports conclude that “there is a limited chance of success unless Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border.”

The Washington Post carried an article Wednesday indicating that the administration's own review, at least in regard to Pakistan, appears to concur in part with the intelligence estimates. It quoted an official familiar with the review as stating that Pakistan has not “fundamentally changed its strategic calculus” regarding the use of the country's Federally Administered Tribal Areas by armed Afghan opposition groups as sanctuary.

The Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus has longstanding ties to the Taliban, which it views as a counterweight to the attempt by its regional rival, India, to exert its influence in Afghanistan.

The logic of this shared assessment of the role played by Pakistan is the escalation of US pressure on the government in Islamabad and the increasing extension of the US military intervention into Pakistani territory.

White House spokesman Gibbs advised that the results of the policy review will “not surprise” anyone who has been familiar with the administration's policies.

Indeed, the long-awaited review has become virtually a non-event. The Obama administration already spelled out its intentions at the NATO summit in Lisbon last month, where it embraced a new timeline that effectively jettisoned the pledge made by the US president last December to begin withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan in July of 2011.

The new deadline embraced in Lisbon is the end of 2014 when, supposedly, Afghan security forces would be capable of taking over most combat operations in the country. July 2011 will, at most, see a token withdrawal, that will leave the bulk of US forces in the country. And military commanders have indicated that they expect American troops to remain in Afghanistan well past 2014.

The inability of the Obama administration to hold off announcing this new policy until its policy review was formally presented is indicative of the crisis gripping the US enterprise in Afghanistan, and in particular the fear that any illusion that Washington planned a major withdrawal by next year would only strengthen the Taliban and other armed opposition groups.

The extreme sensitivity of the US military to any questioning of its claims of success was expressed in the Pentagon's reaction to the National Intelligence Estimates.

Both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times quoted an unnamed senior Pentagon official as dismissing the intelligence reports as out-of-date and irrelevant, having been produced by Washington bureaucrats unfamiliar with the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.

“They are not on the ground living it day in and day out like our forces are, so they don’t have the proximity and perspective,” the official told the Times.

But, as the New York Times pointed out, the CIA has built its largest station since the Vietnam War in Kabul and is commanding secret armies and death squads that number in the thousands in Afghanistan.

The Los Angeles Times article included an angry retort from an unnamed senior intelligence official. “The notion that intelligence officers aren't on the ground in Afghanistan and on the front lines in the fight against terrorism is preposterous,” he said.

This kind of backbiting within the US military-intelligence apparatus is symptomatic of the crisis atmosphere pervading the entire imperialist venture in Afghanistan.

The military's claims of progress in Afghanistan are linked to what is referred to by the Pentagon as the rise in “kinetic activity,” i.e., the escalating use of deadly force that has accompanied the Obama surge. It has resurrected the discredited method of “body counts,” claiming, for example, to have killed 952 “insurgents” during a 90-day period ending December 2. Many of these were the victims of special forces death squads, which have frequently assassinated unarmed civilians in the course of controversial night raids.

The US military has also sharply escalated the use of aerial bombardment, having dropped 5,465 bombs and missiles on Afghanistan in the first 11 months of this year. This already considerably outpaces the 4,184 that were dropped in all of 2009.

Now, for the first time, the Pentagon is bringing heavy battle tanks into Afghanistan, a move that will significantly increase the US military's firepower and the overall carnage.

The predictable result of this increased violence is a rise in civilian casualties, a sharp deterioration in economic and social conditions and growing popular anger against the foreign occupation.

More than 2,400 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan between the months of January and September alone
, the most intense bloodshed since the US invaded the country in 2001. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported a 31 percent rise in civilian casualties for the first six months of this year compared to the same period in 2009.

In the latest incident, NATO acknowledged on Wednesday that it is investigating a bombing by a US warplane in the Marjah district of Helmand province in which an Afghan civilian was killed and two children were wounded. “We are here to protect the Afghan people and initial indications are that in this case we may have failed,” a military spokesman said. Marjah was supposedly one of the “success” stories after the US Marines carried out a major offensive there earlier this year.

The International Committee of the Red Cross organized a press conference in Kabul Wednesday to decry what the agency said was the worst violence it has seen in Afghanistan in 30 years.

The proliferation of armed groups threatens the ability of humanitarian organizations to access those in need
,” said Reto Stocker, head of the ICRC in Afghanistan. “Access for the ICRC has over the last 30 years never been as poor.”

Stocker said that the agency had called the press conference because it is “extremely concerned of yet another year of fighting with dramatic consequences for an ever-growing number of people in by now almost the entire country.” While the US has concentrated its surge in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, the Red Cross representative said that the growth of the insurgency had cut off its access to the previously peaceful north of the country.

This assessment was shared by a group of aid workers and others working in Afghanistan who addressed an open letter to President Obama last week.

The situation on the ground is much worse than a year ago because the Taliban insurgency has made progress across the country,” they wrote. “It is now very difficult to work outside the cities or even move around Afghanistan by road. The insurgents have built momentum, exploiting the shortcomings of the Afghan government and the mistakes of the coalition.”

The growing hostility of the Afghan people to the US occupation produced by the Obama surge found expression in a poll conducted earlier this month by the Washington Post, ABC News, the British Broadcasting Corporation and Germany’s ARD television.

The survey found that more than half of the Afghan population wants the US and other foreign forces to begin their withdrawal by mid-2011, if not immediately. Three-quarters of those surveyed supported negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, the insurgent force that the US military is attempting to annihilate. And support for the Taliban in Kandahar province, the main focus of the ongoing US surge, has increased markedly, with 45 percent saying that they view the movement favorably.

Given the inherent dangers in expressing hostility to the US occupation and support for the Taliban, there is no doubt that the poll is a pale indication of both the popular outrage over the US military offensive and the level of support for the armed groups fighting against the occupation.