Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Some Views on the Economy

In This Edition:

- A quiet crisis whispers of impending poverty

- The Private Sector Fallacy (Baseline Scenario)

- Krugman: The Third Depression

I am but one fallible soul in a universe of human emotion and thought (more like like a turbulent sea), so tonight I would like to bring to you once again, the thoughts of other souls, who might, and quite likely do, have a better understanding of our situation, in this case, the economic situation. They may, or may not be extreme, cheery, beyond the pale, and etc., but they are worth reading. In any event, they raise good questions and food for thought.

This first was referred from a fellow I used to read back in the 1990’s, who also happens to be on Jay Hansen’s “America 2.0” mailing list, to which I subscribe. He simply suggested that readers check out “The Automatic Earth” web page and so I did.

Here is what I found:

The Automatic Earth
A quiet crisis whispers of impending poverty

Ilargi: President Obama said during the G-20 meeting in Toronto, where he was told to take a hike by European leaders, that both he and British prime minister David Cameron

"... are aiming at the same direction, which is long-term sustainable growth that puts people to work..."

Somewhat curious, since his Vice President, Joe Biden, said a few days ago that

"...there's no possibility to restore 8 million jobs lost in the Great Recession."

Looks a lot as if the nonsense now starts to contradict itself. Perhaps we shouldn't expect anything else.

Biden then added that there is

" way to regenerate $3 trillion that was lost. Not misplaced, lost."

Don’t know what the Pennsylvania Avenue spin team thinks of Biden's remarks, but they do sound just about right to me, and a lot less hollow than Obama's empty fluff. Biden made me think of Springsteen's My Hometown (see video below), which has this verse:

Now main street's whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain't nobody wants to come down here no more
They're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back
To your hometown, your hometown, your hometown

My Hometown--Bruce Springsteen

That sounds to me like a remarkably accurate portrait of much of America in a few years time. And Britain. And the rest of Europe.

The talk in the press has shifted towards debt, debt and more debt. And austerity. Whether Obama and the rest of the Keynes religion like it or not.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes about an RBS note to its clients that warns of money printing by Bernanke. He says:

"America is one twist shy of a debt-deflation trap."

Ambrose is right there. But he's dead wrong in his subsequent remarks:

"There is no doubt that the Fed has the tools to stop this".

Oh, believe me, Ambrose, there's plenty doubt.

"Sufficient injections of money will ultimately always reverse a deflation," said Bernanke.

Bernanke may say what he wants, but that doesn't make him right. We are in the beginning phase of a debt deflation. And if you want to talk about ultimately, then I’ll give you this one: ultimately debt cannot be repaid with more debt. Haven't the past two years of failing policies taught these people anything? The Fed balance sheet stands at record highs, and bloating it even more will solve the problems? What is it with these folks? It's not as if Ambrose doesn't have the data:

"The ECRI leading indicator produced by the Economic Cycle Research Institute plummeted yet again last week to -6.9, pointing to contraction in the US by the end of the year. It is dropping faster that at any time in the post-War era."

The latest data from the CPB Netherlands Bureau shows that world trade slid 1.7% in May, with the biggest fall in Asia. The Baltic Dry Index measuring freight rates on bulk goods has dropped 40% in a month."

No, the debt deflation must and will run its course, and Bernanke is devastatingly powerless to do anything about it. Not that he will ever admit it, even if he knew. But it's like having your local weatherman believe he controls the climate.

$2,5 trillion hasn't done the trick, and neither will $5 trillion. Money velocity is way down and so is M3 broad money supply. How would Bernanke turn that around? The money simply isn't going anywhere. Except into a deep dark void. It's disappearing faster than Bernanke can print.

Once the deflation has run its ugly course, and it will be horrendous, printing presses may cause inflation, and given the level of ass-clowniness among economists it's highly likely that they’ll pick such a course. They've never seen a crisis they couldn't make worse. But I’ll bet you ten to one that by then Bernanke won't be in office anymore.

I’m going to post an article I happenstanced upon today sort of like an extra intro. I don't often do that, but this piece by Texan journalist Richard Parker struck a special chord. And since it brought Joe Bageant to mind, and Joe just posted a new piece, I’ll close today’s TAE with that.

But first, for those of you who haven't seen it yet, once more the wonderful video from CaptainSheeple, "A Tribute to the Automatic Earth".

[The video depends on images from the great Depression—I would Have preferred images from present day life, the homeless and etc.]

Richard Parker: Recession as big as Texas pummels rural parts of America
Wimberley, Texas: The grass in the pasture stands tall. Throughout the spring, bluebonnets, Indian paint brushes and black-eyed Susans waved from the roadside. The Blanco River runs clear and full now, and the tourists return to the town square. A wet winter and cold spring have broken the grip of a two-year drought in Texas. But this plenty camouflages a drought of another sort: the economic one. Texas was slow to be swept up by the Great Recession. But now its pain has come home to big cities and small towns, as the lagging effects of the recession batter the ranchers, storekeepers and families who all withstood — until now.

While Washington's fury is directed toward the Gulf oil pill, it has largely lost sight of the recession. Yet Congress continues to weigh financial reform, and it would do well to remember the human cost of the Great Recession, triggered by the titans of Wall Street but borne heavily by everyday people. Since the crisis began and through the first quarter of this year, more than $2 trillion in mutual funds have been wiped out, 4.5 million homes have gone into foreclosure and 6.8 million jobs have been lost. With its art, eclectic character and natural beauty ours is one of the best little towns in the nation to visit; it says so right in the pages of The New York Times and Travel Holiday Magazine.

But for those of us who live here, a quiet crisis whispers of impending poverty. A merchant confides he can't take another year like the last two. A Mexican stonemason tells me that a single project tided his family through winter. A Realtor relays that all over town, people who never took a mortgage they couldn't afford are looking to give up, sell out and move on. The alternative is tallied and cataloged at the stately 102-year old, brick-and-limestone county courthouse over in San Marcos. Jack Hays, for whom this county was named, was a living legend for his exploits as a Texas Ranger, namely for fighting the Comanche.

Today, people are losing their homes not to raiding parties but to banks. There were 157 up for auction in April alone. For 15 withering months there have been 100 or more, according to the San Marcos Daily Record. It cites George Roddy, whose company dutifully counts all of them: "This foreclosure storm is far from over." The list carries the names of familiar ranches, springs and creeks. Yet the tale of Hays County is, sadly, more emblematic than unique in the vast landscape that stretches westward beyond the Hudson and the Potomac. Up in Austin, $6.5 billion in real estate value has been wiped out as if by a tornado. The resultant cuts in money for teachers, cops and services in the city are likely just around the corner.

In Austin and elsewhere, the conservative cultural boosterism of Texas initially downplayed the recession. Heir to George W. Bush's original political office and many of his finest traditions, Republican Gov. Rick Perry quipped of the recession in 2009, "We're in one?" It was his so-far-overlooked Katrina moment as time proved that bravado as prematurely false as that of his predecessor. "Texas has been hit much harder by the 2008-09 recession than previous ones," according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Starting with a 6.1 percent unemployment rate at the beginning of the crisis, the job market fell throughout last year to end 2009 at an 8.2 percent unemployment rate. This year, manufacturing orders picked up, but the job creation rate stood stubbornly at zero in the first quarter.

Today in Texas, one in five people struggle to feed themselves and one in five children live in poverty, according to the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, founded by Benedictine nuns. Perhaps Perry's economic prowess will trail him out of the state like a coyote when he seeks the presidency. However, this is not a Texas story but an American one, told in fiscal crises that stretch from California to Illinois, from Alabama to New York. It is in Washington where the Great Recession will be justly dealt with — or not. Realistically, after all, Congress and the regulators have assiduously polished their reputations as hand-maidens of the banks at least since the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999.

It doesn't take an expert to understand that much of the legislation in Congress is mere cover for the politicians and the big banks. It isn't designed to redress the latest crisis or stop the next one. It puts matters in the hands of regulators who consistently failed, to, well, regulate. Regardless of party, the politicians will let the big banks go on gambling with other people's money. The only real solution is to reinstate Glass-Steagall and break up the big banks. Only one senator, Democrat Ted Kaufman of Delaware, railed for that and against something dressed up in the Orwellian costume of "reform."

Back here in Texas, when European settlers first came to the Hill Country they pushed ever deeper, establishing ranches, farms and homesteads because those early wet years made the land lush, green and inviting. When the Comanche came they scared some settlers. But when the droughts came, revealing a harsh, arid landscape clinging to hard-scrabble rock, it forced the hands of far more. I have taken what I have left and squirreled it away in a small Hill Country bank. But I, too, have to face the inevitable: I ask my 16-year old, Olivia, what she thinks about selling our little place high in the oaks and cedars over the Blanco. She looks at her sister, Isabel, and reflects, then replies: "We've made a lot of good memories here." I nod. So we have. So I will wait until, or unless, this drought forces my hand, too.

More at The Automatic Earth

And then there’s this bit from The Baseline Scenario, Simon Johnson’s and James Kwak’s informative web blog. The main point is this:

Yet the belief that the private sector is the answer to all our problems remains deeply rooted. One might even call it an ideology. I would hope that the financial crisis (and the BP disaster) might cause people to question that ideology, at least a little bit.”

The Private Sector Fallacy
Posted: 30 Jun 2010
By James Kwak

Felix Salmon highlights an important point to bear in mind when it comes to banks and short sales. Actually, it’s an important to bear in mind when you’re thinking about any big private sector company, be in Citigroup or British Petroleum. Yes, companies do things in their own self-interest that hurt other people and may not be net benefits to society. But they also do things that are not in their own self-interest all the time, because companies just aren’t all that efficient.

Felix’s post is largely about two factors. One is that big company executives are prone to exactly the same sort of cognitive fallacies as ordinary people, and hence make stupid decisions routinely. The second is that the incentives of individual people who make decisions (or provide information to people who make decisions) are only tangentially related to the interests of the company as a whole, and certainly not when you think of those interests over the long term.

A third factor is simply that companies are big, dumb, poorly designed institutions. There’s lots of talk about how individual human beings do not resemble the rational actors of textbook economic theory. The same is at least as true of big companies, of which I have seen many, from various perspectives.

Yet the belief that the private sector is the answer to all our problems remains deeply rooted. One might even call it an ideology. I would hope that the financial crisis (and the BP disaster) might cause people to question that ideology, at least a little bit.

For another view, as far as any hint of reining in spending goes, there is this, from Paul Krugman, liberal economist, who writes for the New York Times (anyway you look at it, the common people, are in deep do-do):

June 27, 2010

The Third Depression

Recessions are common; depressions are rare. As far as I can tell, there were only two eras in economic history that were widely described as “depressions” at the time: the years of deflation and instability that followed the Panic of 1873 and the years of mass unemployment that followed the financial crisis of 1929-31.

Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline — on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.

We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.

And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world — most recently at last weekend’s deeply discouraging G-20 meeting — governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.

In 2008 and 2009, it seemed as if we might have learned from history. Unlike their predecessors, who raised interest rates in the face of financial crisis, the current leaders of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank slashed rates and moved to support credit markets. Unlike governments of the past, which tried to balance budgets in the face of a plunging economy, today’s governments allowed deficits to rise. And better policies helped the world avoid complete collapse: the recession brought on by the financial crisis arguably ended last summer.

But future historians will tell us that this wasn’t the end of the third depression, just as the business upturn that began in 1933 wasn’t the end of the Great Depression. After all, unemployment — especially long-term unemployment — remains at levels that would have been considered catastrophic not long ago, and shows no sign of coming down rapidly. And both the United States and Europe are well on their way toward Japan-style deflationary traps.

In the face of this grim picture, you might have expected policy makers to realize that they haven’t yet done enough to promote recovery. But no: over the last few months there has been a stunning resurgence of hard-money and balanced-budget orthodoxy.

As far as rhetoric is concerned, the revival of the old-time religion is most evident in Europe, where officials seem to be getting their talking points from the collected speeches of Herbert Hoover, up to and including the claim that raising taxes and cutting spending will actually expand the economy, by improving business confidence. As a practical matter, however, America isn’t doing much better. The Fed seems aware of the deflationary risks — but what it proposes to do about these risks is, well, nothing. The Obama administration understands the dangers of premature fiscal austerity — but because Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress won’t authorize additional aid to state governments, that austerity is coming anyway, in the form of budget cuts at the state and local levels.

Why the wrong turn in policy? The hard-liners often invoke the troubles facing Greece and other nations around the edges of Europe to justify their actions. And it’s true that bond investors have turned on governments with intractable deficits. But there is no evidence that short-run fiscal austerity in the face of a depressed economy reassures investors. On the contrary: Greece has agreed to harsh austerity, only to find its risk spreads growing ever wider; Ireland has imposed savage cuts in public spending, only to be treated by the markets as a worse risk than Spain, which has been far more reluctant to take the hard-liners’ medicine.

It’s almost as if the financial markets understand what policy makers seemingly don’t: that while long-term fiscal responsibility is important, slashing spending in the midst of a depression, which deepens that depression and paves the way for deflation, is actually self-defeating.

So I don’t think this is really about Greece, or indeed about any realistic appreciation of the tradeoffs between deficits and jobs. It is, instead, the victory of an orthodoxy that has little to do with rational analysis, whose main tenet is that imposing suffering on other people is how you show leadership in tough times.

And who will pay the price for this triumph of orthodoxy? The answer is, tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years, and some of whom will never work again.

My view is that the Federal government needs some leeway and flexibility in spending during tough economic times, if they can prevent run-away inflation. They should, however, spend the money on the human needs of the general population, not on Wall Street. Local governments can't print money, and therefore need to cut budgets, to the extent that the Federal Government won't bail them out.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Articles Concerning the State of American Mainstream Journalism and Potential War With Iran

In This Edition:

- Two Articles Concerning the State of American Mainstream Journalism

- Two Views About Potential War on Iran


Articles Concerning the State of American Mainstream Journalism
[This article and the next refer to, among other things, a Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings, about now ex-Afghanistan commander General McChrystal, titled "The Runaway General" - Chris
Lara Logan, You Suck
June 28, 2010 4:45 P.M. EDT | By Matt Taibbi

Lara Logan, come on down! You're the next guest on Hysterical Backstabbing Jealous Hackfest 2010!

I thought I'd seen everything when I read David Brooks saying out loud in a New York Times column that reporters should sit on damaging comments to save their sources from their own idiocy. But now we get CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan slamming our own Michael Hastings on CNN's "Reliable Sources" program, agreeing that the Rolling Stone reporter violated an "unspoken agreement" that journalists are not supposed to "embarrass [the troops] by reporting insults and banter."

Anyone who wants to know why network television news hasn't mattered since the seventies just needs to check out this appearance by Logan. Here's CBS's chief foreign correspondent saying out loud on TV that when the man running a war that's killing thousands of young men and women every year steps on his own dick in front of a journalist, that journalist is supposed to eat the story so as not to embarrass the flag. And the part that really gets me is Logan bitching about how Hastings was dishonest to use human warmth and charm to build up enough of a rapport with his sources that they felt comfortable running their mouths off in front of him. According to Logan, that's sneaky — and journalists aren't supposed to be sneaky:

"What I find is the most telling thing about what Michael Hastings said in your interview is that he talked about his manner as pretending to build an illusion of trust and, you know, he's laid out there what his game is… That is exactly the kind of damaging type of attitude that makes it difficult for reporters who are genuine about what they do, who don't — I don't go around in my personal life pretending to be one thing and then being something else. I mean, I find it egregious that anyone would do that in their professional life."

When I first heard her say that, I thought to myself, "That has to be a joke. It's sarcasm, right?" But then I went back and replayed the clip – no sarcasm! She meant it! If I'm hearing Logan correctly, what Hastings is supposed to have done in that situation is interrupt these drunken assholes and say, "Excuse me, fellas, I know we're all having fun and all, but you're saying things that may not be in your best interest! As a reporter, it is my duty to inform you that you may end up looking like insubordinate douche bags in front of two million Rolling Stone readers if you don't shut your mouths this very instant!" I mean, where did Logan go to journalism school – the Burson-Marsteller agency?

But Logan goes even further that that. See, according to Logan, not only are reporters not supposed to disclose their agendas to sources at all times, but in the case of covering the military, one isn't even supposed to have an agenda that might upset the brass! Why? Because there is an "element of trust" that you're supposed to have when you hang around the likes of a McChrystal. You cover a war commander, he's got to be able to trust that you're not going to embarrass him. Otherwise, how can he possibly feel confident that the right message will get out?

True, the Pentagon does have perhaps the single largest public relations apparatus on earth – spending $4.7 billion on P.R. in 2009 alone and employing 27,000 people, a staff nearly as large as the 30,000-person State Department – but is that really enough to ensure positive coverage in a society with armed with a constitutionally-guaranteed free press?

And true, most of the major TV outlets are completely in the bag for the Pentagon, with two of them (NBC/GE and Logan's own CBS, until recently owned by Westinghouse, one of the world's largest nuclear weapons manufacturers) having operated for years as leaders in both the broadcast media and weapons-making businesses.

But is that enough to guarantee a level playing field? Can a general really feel safe that Americans will get the right message when the only tools he has at his disposal are a $5 billion P.R. budget and the near-total acquiescence of all the major media companies, some of whom happen to be the Pentagon's biggest contractors?

Does the fact that the country is basically barred from seeing dead bodies on TV, or the fact that an embedded reporter in a war zone literally cannot take a shit without a military attaché at his side (I'm not joking: while embedded at Camp Liberty in Iraq, I had to be escorted from my bunk to the latrine) really provide the working general with the security and peace of mind he needs to do his job effectively?

Apparently not, according to Lara Logan. Apparently in addition to all of this, reporters must also help out these poor public relations underdogs in the Pentagon by adhering to an "unspoken agreement" not to embarrass the brass, should they tilt back a few and jam their feet into their own mouths in front of a reporter holding a microphone in front of their faces.

Then there's the part that made me really furious: Logan hinting that Hastings lied about the damaging material being on the record:

"Michael Hastings, if you believe him, says that there were no ground rules laid out. And, I mean, that just doesn't really make a lot of sense to me… I mean, I know these people. They never let their guard down like that. To me, something doesn't add up here. I just — I don't believe it."

I think the real meaning of that above quote is made clear in conjunction with this one:

"There are very good beat reporters who have been covering these wars for years, year after year. Michael Hastings appeared in Baghdad fairly late on the scene, and he was there for a significant period of time. He has his credentials, but he's not the only one. There are a lot of very good reporters out there. And to be fair to the military, if they believe that a piece is balanced, they will let you back."

Let me just say one thing quickly: I don't know Michael Hastings. I've never met him and he's not a friend of mine. If he cut me off in a line in an airport, I'd probably claw his eyes out like I would with anyone else. And if you think I'm being loyal to him because he works for Rolling Stone, well – let's just say my co-workers at the Stone would laugh pretty hard at that idea.

But when I read this diatribe from Logan, I felt like I'd known Hastings my whole life. Because brother, I have been there, when some would-be "reputable" journalist who's just been severely ass-whipped by a relative no-name freelancer on an enormous story fights back by going on television and, without any evidence at all, accusing the guy who beat him of cheating. That's happened to me so often, I've come to expect it. If there's a lower form of life on the planet earth than a "reputable" journalist protecting his territory, I haven't seen it.

As to this whole "unspoken agreement" business: the reason Lara Logan thinks this is because she's like pretty much every other "reputable" journalist in this country, in that she suffers from a profound confusion about who she's supposed to be working for. I know this from my years covering presidential campaigns, where the same dynamic applies. Hey, assholes: you do not work for the people you're covering! Jesus, is this concept that fucking hard? On the campaign trail, I watch reporters nod solemnly as they hear about the hundreds of millions of dollars candidates X and Y and Z collect from the likes of Citigroup and Raytheon and Archer Daniels Midland, and it blows my mind that they never seem to connect the dots and grasp where all that money is going. The answer, you idiots, is that it's buying advertising! People like George Bush, John McCain, Barack Obama, and General McChrystal for that matter, they can afford to buy their own P.R. — and they do, in ways both honest and dishonest, visible and invisible.

They don't need your help, and you're giving it to them anyway, because you just want to be part of the club so so badly. Disgustingly, that's really what it comes down to. Most of these reporters just want to be inside the ropeline so badly, they want to be able to say they had that beer with Hillary Clinton in a bowling alley in Scranton or whatever, that it colors their whole worldview. God forbid some important person think you're not playing for the right team!

Meanwhile, the people who don't have the resources to find out the truth and get it out in front of the public's eyes, your readers/viewers, you're supposed to be working for them — and they're not getting your help. What the hell are we doing in Afghanistan? Is it worth all the bloodshed and the hatred? Who are the people running this thing, what is their agenda, and is that agenda the same thing we voted for? By the severely unlikely virtue of a drunken accident we get a tiny glimpse of an answer to some of these vital questions, but instead of cheering this as a great break for our profession, a waytago moment, one so-called reputable journalist after another lines up to protest the leak and attack the reporter for doing his job. God, do you all suck!

John Pilger: There Is a War on Journalism
June 29, 2010

Guest: John Pilger, award-winning investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker. He began his career in journalism nearly half a century ago and has written close to a dozen books and made over fifty documentaries. He lives in London but is in the United States working on a forthcoming documentary about what he calls "the war on the media." It’s called The War You Don’t See.

Related stories


AMY GOODMAN: It’s been a week since Rolling Stone published its article on General Stanley McChrystal that eventually led to him being fired by President Obama. In a piece called "The Runaway General," McChrystal and his top aides openly criticized the President and mocked several top officials. Joe Biden is nicknamed "Bite me." National Security Adviser General James Jones is described as a "clown." Ambassador Richard Holbrooke is called a "wounded animal."

Since the article came out, Rolling Stone and the reporter who broke the story, Michael Hastings, have come under attack in the mainstream media for violating the so-called "ground rules" of journalism. New York Times columnist David Brooks penned a column attacking Hastings for being a, quote, "product of the culture of exposure." Brooks wrote, quote, "The reporter essentially took run-of-the-mill complaining and turned it into a direct challenge to presidential authority." He goes on to write, "The exposure ethos, with its relentless emphasis on destroying privacy and exposing impurities, has chased good people from public life, undermined public faith in institutions and elevated the trivial over the important," he said.

On Fox News, Geraldo Rivera attacked Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings for publishing quotes McChrystal and his aides made at a bar.

GERALDO RIVERA: "This is a situation where you have to put it in the context of war and warriors and honor and the penumbra of privacy that is presumed when it’s not on the record specifically. When you’re hanging out at a bar waiting for a plane or a train or an automobile and you’re stuck together hours and hours, and you’re drinking in a bar, or you’re at an airport lounge, this is not an interview context. These guys, particularly the staffers who gave the most damning statements about the civilians in office, including the Vice President of the United States, these guys had no idea that they were being interviewed by this guy."

BILL O’REILLY: "I’m not sure about that, Geraldo."

GERALDO RIVERA: This reporter—wait, hold on, Bill.

BILL O’REILLY: "I’m not sure about that."

GERALDO RIVERA: "This reporter from Rolling Stone, he was a rat in an eagle’s nest."

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Fox News. But other mainstream media outlets have also attacked Michael Hastings for writing the story. This is Lara Logan, the chief foreign affairs correspondent for CBS News, being interviewed by Howard Kurtz on CNN.

HOWARD KURTZ: "If you had been traveling with General McChrystal and heard these comments about Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Jim Jones, Richard Holbrooke, would you have reported them?"

LARA LOGAN: "Well, it really depends on the circumstances. It’s hard to know here. Michael Hastings, if you believe him, says that there were no ground rules laid out. And, I mean, that just doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me, because if you look at the people around General McChrystal, if you look at his history, he was the Joint Special Operations commander. He has a history of not interacting with the media at all. And his chief of intelligence, Mike Flynn, is the same. I mean, I know these people. They never let their guard down like that. To me, something doesn’t add up here. I just—I don’t believe it."

HOWARD KURTZ: Washington Post quoted an unnamed senior military official as saying that Michael Hastings broke the off-the-record ground rules. But the person who said this was on background and wouldn’t allow his name to be used. Is that fair?

LARA LOGAN: Well, it’s Kryptonite right now. I mean, do you blame him? The commanding general in Afghanistan just lost his job. Who else is going to lose his job? Believe me, all the senior leadership in Afghanistan are waiting for the ax to fall. I’ve been speaking to some of them. They don’t know who’s going to stay and who’s going to go. I mean, just the question is, really, is what General McChrystal and his aides are doing so egregious that they deserved to—I mean, to end a career like McChrystal’s? I mean, Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Lara Logan, the chief foreign affairs correspondent for CBS News, being interviewed on CNN. Meanwhile, both the Washington Post and ABC have published articles quoting anonymous military sources attacking Hastings’s Rolling Stone article.

For more on the story, we’re joined by the award-winning investigative journalist, documentary filmmaker John Pilger, began his career in journalism, oh, nearly half a century ago and has written close to a dozen books and made over fifty documentaries. He lives in London but is in the United States working on a forthcoming documentary about what he calls "the war on the media." It’s called The War You Don’t See.

We welcome John Pilger to Democracy Now! John, welcome. Talk about the war you don’t see.

JOHN PILGER: Well, the war you don’t see is expressed eloquently by the New York Times, that range of extraordinary media apologists that we’ve just seen. The reason we don’t see the war on civilians, the war that has caused the most extraordinary devastation, human and cultural and structural devastation in both Iraq and Afghanistan, is because of what is almost laughingly called the mainstream media. The one apology, not these apologies that we’ve seen this morning from Fox to CBS, right across the spectrum, to the New York Times this morning, the real apology that counted was the New York Times when it apologized to its readers for not showing us the war in—or the reasons that led up, rather, to the invasion of Iraq that produced this horrific war. I mean, these people now have become so embedded with the establishment, so embedded with authority, they’re what Brecht called the spokesmen of the spokesmen. They’re not journalists.

Brooks writes about a "culture of exposure." Excuse me, isn’t that journalism? Are we so distant from what journalism ought to be, not simply an echo chamber for authority, that somebody in the New York Times can attack a journalist who’s done his job? Hastings did a wonderful job. He caught out McChrystal, as he should have done. That’s his job. In a country where the media is constitutionally freer, nominally, than any other country on earth, the disgrace of the recent carnage in the Middle East and in Afghanistan is largely down to the fact that the media didn’t alert us. It didn’t report it. It didn’t question. It simply amplified and echoed authority. Hastings has proved—God bless him—that journalists still exist.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, it’s interesting to read the first paragraph of Hastings’s piece. He talks about, yes, this group in a French bar—and, by the way, Rolling Stone said, you should see what we didn’t print, because in fact there were things they said that were off the record. But to say that Hastings violated the off-the-record rule, they said, was not the case. There was many things we didn’t print. But right after they talked about the French—he talked about the French bar and McChrystal and his high officials in the bar, his aides, you know, dancing and singing the words "Afghanistan, Afghanistan," Hastings writes, "opposition to the war has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany’s president [and] sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. McChrystal is in Paris to keep the French, who have lost more than 40 soldiers in Afghanistan, from going all wobbly on him." But this is something most people in this country don’t know, that the US, despite the US-led coalition, the NATO troops, is very much almost going this alone.

JOHN PILGER: Yes, it’s going it alone in terms of the American people. And what journalism, like Hastings, does is represent the American people. A majority of the American people are now opposed to this colonial debacle in Afghanistan. I mean, I was very interested to read what President Obama said about Afghanistan, if I can find it. Yes, here it is. On February the 10th, 2007, quote, "It’s time to admit that no amount of American lives can resolve the political disagreement [that lies] at the heart of someone else’s civil war," unquote. That’s what President Obama said before he became president. And unless the people of the United States, like the people of Europe, like most peoples in the world, understand that, that this is a long-running civil war, that it needs the kind of sympathy, if you like, for the people of Afghanistan—it certainly doesn’t need this brutal imposition of a colonial force there.

Now, that happens to be a truth that the likes of Michael Hastings and others are expressing. But it’s also a forbidden truth. And the moment you even glimpse that truth in the United States, the kind of barrage that—the grotesque sort of cartoon barrage of Fox, right up to the rather sneering barrage that comes from the New York Times, through to CBS and so on, the barrage against truth tellers becomes—Amy, we’re dependent now on the few Hastings, but also on whistleblowers. The most important exposé was the Wikileaks exposé of the Apache attack on those journalists and children in Iraq. And here they are prosecuting the whistleblower, when in fact those responsible should be prosecuted. But that’s verboten now.

AMY GOODMAN: . . . . I wanted to go back to this comment of the CBS correspondent, of Lara Logan, who says, "Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has." This is the reporter. You say that the media is not covering the war; it’s promoting the war.

JOHN PILGER: Michael Hastings is serving his country. This country tells the rest of the world about its magnificent beginning, about its magnificent Constitution, about its magnificent freedoms. At the heart of those freedoms is the freedom of speech and the freedom of journalism. That is serving your country. That is serving humanity. The idea that you only serve your country by being part of a rapacious colonial force—and, you know, I’m not speaking rhetorically here. That’s what is happening in Afghanistan. This is a civil war in which European and American forces have intervened. And we get a glimpse of that through the likes of the Hastings article. I really call on journalists, young journalists, to be inspired, if you like, by this Rolling Stone article, not to be put off by the apologists, not to be put off by those who serve their country embedded in the Green Zone in Baghdad, but to see journalism as something that is about truth telling and represents people and does serve one’s country.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting you say this, as up in Toronto—we just came from Toronto yesterday—well, hundreds of people and a number of journalists have been beaten and arrested—


AMY GOODMAN: —as they try to cover what’s happening on the streets, the protests around the G8/G20 meetings, as they talk about protecting banks and promoting war—


AMY GOODMAN: —in the summits.

JOHN PILGER: Yeah. Well, there is a war on journalism. There’s long been a war on journalism. Journalism has always been—I mean, if you read, let’s say, General Petraeus’s counterinsurgency manual, which he put his name to in 2006, he makes it very clear. He said we’re fighting wars of perception—and I paraphrase him—in which the news media is a major component. So, unless the news media is part of those wars of perception—that is, that not so much the enemy that is our objective; it’s the people at home—then, you know, they’re out. They’re part of—they can easily become part of the enemy. And as we’ve seen in the numbers of journalists who have been killed in Iraq—more journalists have been killed in Iraq, mostly Iraqi journalists, than in any other war in the modern era—there is a war on this kind of truth telling. And we’re seeing this—another form of this attack on truth telling by the likes of Fox and CBS and New York Times this morning. It embarrasses them. What Hastings has done deeply embarrasses these apologists.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, interestingly, it was Hastings himself that exposed the mainstream media. Just quoting from Glenn Greenwald at, as Barrett Brown notes in Vanity Fair, "Hastings in 2008 did to the establishment media what he did to Gen. McChrystal—[he] exposed what they do and how they think by writing the truth—after he quit Newsweek (where he was the Baghdad correspondent) and wrote a damning exposé about how the media distorts war coverage. As Brown put it: 'Hastings ensured that he would never be trusted by the establishment media ever again.'"

JOHN PILGER: What a wonderful accolade! My goodness! That’s a tremendous honor for him to bear.

. . . .

AMY GOODMAN: Your assessment of the media’s coverage?

JOHN PILGER: Well, it’s very different. I mean, there was—I think things—I think the perception of Israel and Palestine has changed quite significantly in Europe, and there was horror at the murder of these people on the Turkish ship. And there was quick understanding, I felt, that how the Israelis manipulated the footage in order to suggest that the victims were actually assaulting those who attacked the flotilla.

The coverage here has been bathed in the usual euphemisms about Israel. It’s always put into the passive voice. Israel really—the Israeli commandos never really killed anybody; it was a tragic event in which people died, and so on and so forth.

Having said that, I must say, Amy, since I’ve been in the United States, I see a—there’s a shift that is in—both politically, but certainly in the media. Since Lebanon, since Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 2006, since the attack on Gaza, Christmas 2008 and early 2009, and now this assault on the flotilla, Israel can’t be covered up. It can’t be apologized for as effectively anymore. And even in the New York Times, which has always been a stalwart in supporting the Israeli regime, the language is changing. And I think this again reflects a popular understanding and a popular disenchantment with the Middle East and the United States role in the Middle East, the apologies for one atrocity after the other, the lack of justice for the people in Palestine. So, I don’t know whether I’m being optimistic or not, but there is a change. And where that change is going to, I don’t know.

AMY GOODMAN: Are there any other key stories that you feel the media is missing or distorting?

JOHN PILGER: Well, I mean, one of the key stories is the devastation, the economic devastation, in people’s lives, that it seems to me extraordinary. And this is true in Britain, as it is in the United States, that ordinary people have suffered since the collapse in September 2008 of significant parts of Wall Street, since the bubble burst. The idea that a president was elected as a man of the people—at least that’s the way he presented himself—is still, I think, promoted by the media, whereas Obama has made clear that he has very much reinforced Wall Street, he has helped to rebuild Wall Street, his whole team is from Wall Street. He’s reached into Goldman Sachs for his senior people. I think that that anger that I’ve felt in the United States over the last few years, that anger at a popular level, is still not expressed in the so-called mainstream media. I remember in the last year of George W. Bush, someone said that in one day 26,000 emails bombarded the White House, and almost all of them were hostile. That suggests to me a popular anger in this country that is often deflected into—down into cul-de-sacs, like the Tea Party movement. But the root of that anger—and that is a social injustice in people’s lives, in the repossession of houses, the loss of jobs, a rather weak reform, if it is a reform, of the scandalous healthcare arrangements, none of these—this popular disenchantment, disaffection, is not expressed in the media.

AMY GOODMAN: John Pilger, I want to thank you very much for being with us. John Pilger here in the United States doing a film, The War You Don’t See, as he covers the media’s coverage of war. He’s an award-winning investigative journalist and filmmaker. Thank you so much.

Two Views About Potential War on Iran

[When reading Chomsky, please realize he is writing with a blend of bitter sarcasm and irony. -Chris]

The Iranian Threat
By Noam Chomsky
Monday, June 28, 2010

The dire threat of Iran is widely recognized to be the most serious foreign policy crisis facing the Obama administration. Congress has just strengthened the sanctions against Iran, with even more severe penalties against foreign companies. The Obama administration has been rapidly expanding its offensive capacity in the African island of Diego Garcia, claimed by Britain, which had expelled the population so that the US could build the massive base it uses for attacking the Middle East and Central Asia. The Navy reports sending a submarine tender to the island to service nuclear-powered guided-missile submarines with Tomahawk missiles, which can carry nuclear warheads. Each submarine is reported to have the striking power of a typical carrier battle group. According to a US Navy cargo manifest obtained by the Sunday Herald (Glasgow), the substantial military equipment Obama has dispatched includes 387 “bunker busters” used for blasting hardened underground structures. Planning for these “massive ordnance penetrators,” the most powerful bombs in the arsenal short of nuclear weapons, was initiated in the Bush administration, but languished. On taking office, Obama immediately accelerated the plans, and they are to be deployed several years ahead of schedule, aiming specifically at Iran.

“They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran,” according to Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London. “US bombers and long range missiles are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours,” he said. “The firepower of US forces has quadrupled since 2003,” accelerating under Obama.

The Arab press reports that an American fleet (with an Israeli vessel) passed through the Suez Canal on the way to the Persian Gulf, where its task is “to implement the sanctions against Iran and supervise the ships going to and from Iran.” British and Israeli media report that Saudi Arabia is providing a corridor for Israeli bombing of Iran (denied by Saudi Arabia). On his return from Afghanistan to reassure NATO allies that the US will stay the course after the replacement of General McChrystal by his superior, General Petraeus, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen visited Israel to meet Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and senior Israeli military staff along with intelligence and planning units, continuing the annual strategic dialogue between Israel and the U.S. in Tel Aviv. The meeting focused “on the preparation by both Israel and the U.S. for the possibility of a nuclear capable Iran,” according to Haaretz, which reports further that Mullen emphasized that “I always try to see challenges from Israeli perspective.” Mullen and Ashkenazi are in regular contact on a secure line.

The increasing threats of military action against Iran are of course in violation of the UN Charter, and in specific violation of Security Council resolution 1887 of September 2009 which reaffirmed the call to all states to resolve disputes related to nuclear issues peacefully, in accordance with the Charter, which bans the use or threat of force.

Some respected analysts describe the Iranian threat in apocalyptic terms. Amitai Etzioni warns that “The U.S. will have to confront Iran or give up the Middle East,” no less. If Iran’s nuclear program proceeds, he asserts, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other states will “move toward” the new Iranian “superpower”; in less fevered rhetoric, a regional alliance might take shape independent of the US. In the US army journal Military Review, Etzioni urges a US attack that targets not only Iran’s nuclear facilities but also its non-nuclear military assets, including infrastructure – meaning, the civilian society. "This kind of military action is akin to sanctions - causing 'pain' in order to change behaviour, albeit by much more powerful means."

Such harrowing pronouncements aside, what exactly is the Iranian threat? An authoritative answer is provided in the April 2010 study of the International Institute of Strategic Studies, Military Balance 2010. The brutal clerical regime is doubtless a threat to its own people, though it does not rank particularly high in that respect in comparison to US allies in the region. But that is not what concerns the Institute. Rather, it is concerned with the threat Iran poses to the region and the world.

The study makes it clear that the Iranian threat is not military. Iran’s military spending is “relatively low compared to the rest of the region,” and less than 2% that of the US. Iranian military doctrine is strictly “defensive,… designed to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities.” Iran has only “a limited capability to project force beyond its borders.” With regard to the nuclear option, “Iran’s nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy.”

Though the Iranian threat is not military, that does not mean that it might be tolerable to Washington. Iranian deterrent capacity is an illegitimate exercise of sovereignty that interferes with US global designs. Specifically, it threatens US control of Middle East energy resources, a high priority of planners since World War II, which yields “substantial control of the world,” one influential figure advised (A. A. Berle).

But Iran’s threat goes beyond deterrence. It is also seeking to expand its influence. As the Institute study formulates the threat, Iran is “destabilizing” the region. US invasion and military occupation of Iran’s neighbors is “stabilization.” Iran’s efforts to extend its influence in neighboring countries is “destabilization,” hence plainly illegitimate. It should be noted that such revealing usage is routine. Thus the prominent foreign policy analyst James Chace, former editor the main establishment journal Foreign Affairs, was properly using the term “stability” in its technical sense when he explained that in order to achieve “stability” in Chile it was necessary to “destabilize” the country (by overthrowing the elected Allende government and installing the Pinochet dictatorship).

Beyond these crimes, Iran is also supporting terrorism, the study continues: by backing Hezbollah and Hamas, the major political forces in Lebanon and in Palestine – if elections matter. The Hezbollah-based coalition handily won the popular vote in Lebanon’s latest (2009) election. Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian election, compelling the US and Israel to institute the harsh and brutal siege of Gaza to punish the miscreants for voting the wrong way in a free election. These have been the only relatively free elections in the Arab world. It is normal for elite opinion to fear the threat of democracy and to act to deter it, but this is a rather striking case, particularly alongside of strong US support for the regional dictatorships, particularly striking with Obama’s strong praise for the brutal Egyptian dictator Mubarak on the way to his famous address to the Muslim world in Cairo.

The terrorist acts attributed to Hamas and Hezbollah pale in comparison to US-Israeli terrorism in the same region, but they are worth a look nevertheless.

On May 25 Lebanon celebrated its national holiday, Liberation Day, commemorating Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon after 22 years, as a result of Hezbollah resistance – described by Israeli authorities as “Iranian aggression” against Israel in Israeli-occupied Lebanon (Ephraim Sneh). That too is normal imperial usage. Thus President John F. Kennedy condemned the “the assault from the inside, and which is manipulated from the North.” The assault by the South Vietnamese resistance against Kennedy’s bombers, chemical warfare, driving peasants to virtual concentration camps, and other such benign measures was denounced as “internal aggression” by Kennedy’s UN Ambassador, liberal hero Adlai Stevenson. North Vietnamese support for their countrymen in the US-occupied South is aggression, intolerable interference with Washington’s righteous mission. Kennedy advisors Arthur Schlesinger and Theodore Sorenson, considered doves, also praised Washington’s intervention to reverse “aggression” in South Vietnam – by the indigenous resistance, as they knew, at least if they read US intelligence reports. In 1955 the US Joint Chiefs of Staff defined several types of “aggression,” including “Aggression other than armed, i.e., political warfare, or subversion.” For example, an internal uprising against a US-imposed police state, or elections that come out the wrong way. The usage is also common in scholarship and political commentary, and makes sense on the prevailing assumption that We Own the World.

Hamas resists Israel’s military occupation and its illegal and violent actions in the occupied territories. It is accused of refusing to recognize Israel (political parties do not recognize states). In contrast, the US and Israel not only do not recognize Palestine, but have been acting for decades to ensure that it can never come into existence in any meaningful form; the governing party in Israel, in its 1999 campaign platform, bars the existence of any Palestinian state.

Hamas is charged with rocketing Israeli settlements on the border, criminal acts no doubt, though a fraction of Israel’s violence in Gaza, let alone elsewhere. It is important to bear in mind, in this connection, that the US and Israel know exactly how to terminate the terror that they deplore with such passion. Israel officially concedes that there were no Hamas rockets as long as Israel partially observed a truce with Hamas in 2008. Israel rejected Hamas’s offer to renew the truce, preferring to launch the murderous and destructive Operation Cast Lead against Gaza in December 2008, with full US backing, an exploit of murderous aggression without the slightest credible pretext on either legal or moral grounds.

The model for democracy in the Muslim world, despite serious flaws, is Turkey, which has relatively free elections, and has also been subject to harsh criticism in the US. The most extreme case was when the government followed the position of 95% of the population and refused to join in the invasion of Iraq, eliciting harsh condemnation from Washington for its failure to comprehend how a democratic government should behave: under our concept of democracy, the voice of the Master determines policy, not the near-unanimous voice of the population.

The Obama administration was once again incensed when Turkey joined with Brazil in arranging a deal with Iran to restrict its enrichment of uranium. Obama had praised the initiative in a letter to Brazil’s president Lula da Silva, apparently on the assumption that it would fail and provide a propaganda weapon against Iran. When it succeeded, the US was furious, and quickly undermined it by ramming through a Security Council resolution with new sanctions against Iran that were so meaningless that China cheerfully joined at once – recognizing that at most the sanctions would impede Western interests in competing with China for Iran’s resources. Once again, Washington acted forthrightly to ensure that others would not interfere with US control of the region.

Not surprisingly, Turkey (along with Brazil) voted against the US sanctions motion in the Security Council. The other regional member, Lebanon, abstained. These actions aroused further consternation in Washington. Philip Gordon, the Obama administration's top diplomat on European affairs, warned Turkey that its actions are not understood in the US and that it must “demonstrate its commitment to partnership with the West,” AP reported, “a rare admonishment of a crucial NATO ally.”

The political class understands as well. Steven A. Cook, a scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations, observed that the critical question now is "How do we keep the Turks in their lane?" – following orders like good democrats. A New York Times headline captured the general mood: “Iran Deal Seen as Spot on Brazilian Leader’s Legacy.” In brief, do what we say, or else.

There is no indication that other countries in the region favor US sanctions any more than Turkey does. On Iran’s opposite border, for example, Pakistan and Iran, meeting in Turkey, recently signed an agreement for a new pipeline. Even more worrisome for the US is that the pipeline might extend to India. The 2008 US treaty with India supporting its nuclear programs – and indirectly its nuclear weapons programs -- was intended to stop India from joining the pipeline, according to Moeed Yusuf, a South Asia adviser to the United States Institute of Peace, expressing a common interpretation. India and Pakistan are two of the three nuclear powers that have refused to sign the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), the third being Israel. All have developed nuclear weapons with US support, and still do.

No sane person wants Iran to develop nuclear weapons; or anyone. One obvious way to mitigate or eliminate this threat is to establish a NFWZ in the Middle East. The issue arose (again) at the NPT conference at United Nations headquarters in early May 2010. Egypt, as chair of the 118 nations of the Non-Aligned Movement, proposed that the conference back a plan calling for the start of negotiations in 2011 on a Middle East NWFZ, as had been agreed by the West, including the US, at the 1995 review conference on the NPT.

Washington still formally agrees, but insists that Israel be exempted – and has given no hint of allowing such provisions to apply to itself. The time is not yet ripe for creating the zone, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated at the NPT conference, while Washington insisted that no proposal can be accepted that calls for Israel's nuclear program to be placed under the auspices of the IAEA or that calls on signers of the NPT, specifically Washington, to release information about “Israeli nuclear facilities and activities, including information pertaining to previous nuclear transfers to Israel.” Obama’s technique of evasion is to adopt Israel’s position that any such proposal must be conditional on a comprehensive peace settlement, which the US can delay indefinitely, as it has been doing for 35 years, with rare and temporary exceptions.

At the same time, Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, asked foreign ministers of its 151 member states to share views on how to implement a resolution demanding that Israel "accede to” the NPT and throw its nuclear facilities open to IAEA oversight, AP reported.

It is rarely noted that the US and UK have a special responsibility to work to establish a Middle East NWFZ. In attempting to provide a thin legal cover for their invasion of the Iraq in 2003, they appealed to Security Council Resolution 687 (1991), which called on Iraq to terminate its development of weapons of mass destruction. The US and UK claimed that they had not done so. We need not tarry on the excuse, but that Resolution commits its signers to move to establish a NWFZ in the Middle East.

Parenthetically, we may add that US insistence on maintaining nuclear facilities in Diego Garcia undermines the nuclear-free weapons zone (NFWZ) established by the African Union, just as Washington continues to block a Pacific NFWZ by excluding its Pacific dependencies.

Obama’s rhetorical commitment to non-proliferation has received much praise, even a Nobel peace prize. One practical step in this direction is establishment of NFWZs. Another is withdrawing support for the nuclear programs of the three non-signers of the NPT. As often, rhetoric and actions are hardly aligned, in fact are in direct contradiction in this case, facts that pass with little attention.

Instead of taking practical steps towards reducing the truly dire threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, the US must take major steps towards reinforcing US control of the vital Middle East oil-producing regions, by violence if other means do not succeed. That is understandable and even reasonable, under prevailing imperial doctrine.

Warning Of War

Discovering The Truth In Time

(Taken from CubaDebate)

By Fidel Castro

June 29, 2010 "Granma" -- WHEN I was writing one of my previous reflections, as a disaster for humanity was rapidly approaching, my greatest concern was to fulfill the elemental duty of informing our people.

Today I feel calmer than 26 days ago. As things continue happening in the short term, I can reiterate and enrich information to national and international public opinion.

Obama promised to attend the quarter-final game on July 2 if his country won in the second round. He must know, more than anybody, that those quarter finals could not take place if extremely grave events should happen beforehand, or at least he should know that.

Last Friday, June 25, an international news agency of known attention to detail in the information that it provides, published statements from "…the naval commander of the elite corps of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, General Ali Fadavi…" warning that "… if the United States and its allies inspect Iranian ships in international waters ‘they will receive a response in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.’"

The information was taken from the national Mehr news agency of Iran.

That agency, according to the cable, communicated: "Fadawi added that ‘the Navy of the Revolutionary Guard currently has hundreds of vessels fitted with missile launchers.’"

The information, written almost at the same time as the one published in Granma, or perhaps before, seemed at certain points a carbon copy of the paragraphs of the Reflection written on Thursday, June 24 and published in that newspaper on Friday 25th.

The coincidence can be explained by the elemental use of logical reasoning that I always apply. I was not aware of one word of what was published by the national Iranian agency.

I do not harbor the slightest doubt that as soon as the warships of the United States and Israel take up their positions – together with the rest of the U.S. military vessels located in the vicinity of the Iranian coasts – and attempt to inspect that country’s first merchant ship, a rain of missiles will be unleashed in both directions. That will be the precise moment when that terrible war will begin. It is not possible to foresee how many ships will be sunk nor of what ensign.

Finding out the truth in time is the most important thing for our people.

It doesn’t matter that by natural instinct, almost everybody; it could be said 99.9% or more of my compatriots, are conserving hope and agreeing with me with the sincere desire of being wrong. I have talked with people in my closest circles and, at the same time, have received news from so many noble, altruistic and conscientious citizens who, on reading my Reflections, do not contest my considerations in the least, but assimilate, believe and instantly swallow the reasoning that I expound but who, nevertheless, immediately give their attention to fulfilling their work to which they devote their energies.

That is precisely what we desire of our compatriots. The worst things is to suddenly become aware of news of extremely grave events, without having heard any news whatsoever of such a possibility beforehand; then confusion and panic spreads, something that would be unworthy of a heroic people like the Cubans, who were at the point of being the target of a massive nuclear attack in October 1962, and did not hesitate for an instant to fulfill their duty.

During their undertaking of heroic internationalist missions, valiant combatants and chiefs of our Revolutionary Armed Forces were at the point of becoming the victims of nuclear attacks on the Cuban troops who were approaching the southern border with Angola, from where the racist South African forces had been evicted after the battle of Cuito Cuanavale, entrenching themselves on the border with Namibia.

With the knowledge of the U.S. president, the Pentagon supplied the South African racists via Israel with approximately 14 nuclear weapons, more powerful than those launched on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as we have explained in other reflections.

I am not a prophet or a fortune teller. Nobody said a single word to me about what was going to happen; all of it is the fruit of what today I am describing as logical reasoning.

We are not novices nor are we interfering in this complicated subject.

In the nuclear post-crisis, it can be augured what will occur in the rest of Ibero-American speaking America.

In such circumstances, one cannot talk of capitalism or socialism. Only that a stage of the administration of goods and services available in this part of the continent will open up. Inevitably, each country will continue to be governed by those who are currently leading the government, a number of them very close to socialism and others full of euphoria at the prospect of a world market now opening for fuel, uranium, copper, lithium, aluminum, iron and other metals that are currently being sent to the developed and rich countries in that world market, which will suddenly disappear.

Abundant foodstuffs currently being exported to that world market will also abruptly disappear.

In such circumstances, the most basic products required in order to live: foodstuffs, water, fuels and the resources of the hemisphere to the south of the United States, are there in abundance for maintaining a little bit of civilization, the uncontrolled advances of which have led humanity to such a disaster.

However, some things are still very unclear at the present moment; can the two most powerful nuclear powers, the United States and Russia, abstain from using their nuclear weapons against one another?

What remains in no doubt whatsoever is that, from Europe, the nuclear weapons of Britain and France, allies of the United States and Israel – and which enthusiastically imposed the resolution that will inevitably unleash war, and a war that, given the reasons explained, will immediately become a nuclear war – are a threat to Russian territory, although that country, just like China, has tried to avoid such an outcome as far as the strengths and possibilities of each one allow.

The economy of the superpower will collapse like a house of cards. The society of the United States is one which is the least prepared to endure a disaster like the one created by the empire in the very territory from where it set out.

We do not know what might be the environmental effects of the nuclear weapons that will inevitably explode in various parts of our planet, something which, in the less grave variant, is going to happen in profusion.

To venture any hypothesis would be pure science fiction on my part.

Fidel Castro Ruz - June 27, 2010 - 2:15 p.m.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

City Budget, Bogart Resigning?, House Cleaning at City Hall, & More

[edited 6/27/10]

- Quotes- Barney Frank on NPR's "All things Considered"

- Can Anyone Understand the Budget?

- Is City Manager Steve Bogart Resigning?

- Don Williams Appointment as Justice of the Peace Pro-Tem on Hold

- Cleaning House, er, City Hall

- Essays on "Tragedy of the Commons" from Jay Hanson

- Supreme Court Ruling on "Aiding Terrorists"

- Latest Possible Threat to Social Security Safety Net


Quotes-Barney Frank on NPR's "All things Considered

SIEGEL: But do people behave differently because it's being broadcast on...?

Rep. FRANK: No, that's a very good question, Robert. The fact that we did this so publicly, we got an even stronger bill out of the conference committee than I had thought. And I know that the public pressure was one of the reasons. And the public pressure was there because people knew they were being watched on C-SPAN. And the fact that what you see will be preserved forever is a powerful force for the public good in this case.

Can Anyone Understand the Budget?
(Warning, this article may make your eyes blur over and bring on dizzy spells!)

The City Council and volunteer Budget Committee just completed many grueling weeks wrestling with the City Budget, and what they came up with has shaken some at City Hall.

The Budget Committee consisted of the Council and seven members from the community--Randy Daugherty--Chairman, owner of Baker Garage and Chevy dealership, previously with 4 years on Council, Alan Blair--long-time member of the committee, Debra Bainter--Chamber of Commerce, Nelson Clarke--insurance agent, Roger Coles--Manager of Coles Funeral Home, Peter Ellingson--Of Ellingson Lumber, Former Mayor with 12 years on Council. and Reid Langrill--CFO of Oregon Power Solutions and previously CFO for Micron Technology. My understanding is that several members of the committee, including Ellingson and Daugherty, were in favor of moving towards regaining a comfortable reserve position that the City had struggled for and attained prior to the time when former City Manager Steve Brocato was hired (See: CITY: Trio spent 35 years on Baker City Council), hence the wish to get an Ending Fund Balance in the range of $1 million.

Committee meetings were also attended by City Staff, including City Manager Steve Bogart, Finance Director Jeanie Dexter, and (now or soon former) Community Development Director and Assistant City Manager Jennifer Watkins. (TidBit: It is my understanding, that when City Manager was an interim CM back in 2004-2005, he had established a separate fund for things like termination payments, separation agreements, and etc., but Steve Brocato eliminated it during his tenure by rolling it over into the general fund.)

The thing people notice about budgets immediately is that they are complex, seemingly arcane, and almost incomprehensible to the layperson upon the first, second, or even third reading. That's a major reason why most citizens don't attend budget meetings. They'd like to know what is going on financially, they probably even have strong opinions on how the money (some of it their money) should be spent, but they have households to keep up and/or families to feed, and they feel they can't just give it all up to take the time for getting a degree in accounting or business administration so as to figure it all out and go to budget meetings. (I'm wondering how much different this situation is from that of the high priests in earlier societies, who held power because they had information that would allegedly not be comprehended by the common folk?) To my knowledge, the only non-committee citizens attending regularly were Jason Bland and now Councilor Gail Duman. Sometimes it seems like even some councilors and administrators, and surely myself and some reporters, can misinterpret the figures that are tossed about. One wonders, given the importance of budgets to citizens (who benefits?--who pays?"), why they are written in such a manner that only accountants and savants can initially understand them.

I myself was a late-comer to the process, but my ears were open and I did attend the June 14 Special Council meeting with the Budget Committee (called after the committee had essentially finished its work), the June 21 County Economic Development Council Meeting on funding for the City's Economic Development function, and the June 23 Council meeting to approve the Budget (Click here for a copy of the 2010-2011 Baker City Budget Resolution No. 4637 that I posted on Scribd). I was also given the audios of four previous Budget meetings by City Manager Bogart upon request, although my recent questions to him about the budget have gone unanswered. Given the seeming complexity of the budget, my late start, and problems associated with getting answers, it seemed prudent to take some time before offering up opinions in a blog. Councilors Bonebrake, Button, and Calder, have taken time to respond to some of my questions, with Councilor Bonebrake being particularly helpful in understanding the ramifications of the illusory $136,000 for Economic Development support that was included in the City Manager's proposed budget and the budget approved by the Budget Committee before they knew of the possible deletion of $136,000 in support from the County controlled transient occupancy tax dollars. The fact that both the Budget Committee's and proposed City Manager's budgets discussed at the June 23 Council Meeting had not accounted for the deletion of $136,000 from the revenue side of the equation allowed for the obscuring of the real figures for the Ending Fund Balance and the differences between them.

Some of my confusion was contributed to by the problems faced by the stereotypical wild-eyed blogger--that would be me, or anyone who seriously questions policy--is the access problem. People in that position most often have to rely on their own videos, hearsay, or publicly available information that is often slow in coming. I've posted some videos with commentary on the meetings involved in the process on my YouTube channel. I will be posting more.

This last Budget Process for the next fiscal year 2010-1011 (Yes--budgeteers aren't allowed use a normal year--budgeting tradition has invented their own year--July 1 to June 30), was no exception when it comes to understanding what is going on. In this blog, and perhaps more in the future I hope to shed some light on the puzzle, but it would be good to start with the information that has been reported thus far in the Herald (Council cuts two positions, June 25, 2010)

This was a pretty good article, but they too fell into the 136K confusion concerning the difference in the Ending Fund Balance (EFB) between the final Council budget and the City Manager's budget.

The Herald article states:

Pope pointed out that the original proposed submitted by Bogart had a reserve of about $671,000 — about $60,000 less than the budget the Council adopted — yet the original budget didn’t eliminate Stackle’s or Watkins’ jobs or eliminate the community and economic development department.

He also noted that the budget the Council adopted Wednesday does not include money to replace Police Lt. Brian Harvey, who left the city to take the job as La Grande’s Police Chief.

"For that $60,000 you lose three people,” Bass said. “Hey people, if we are that hard up we ought to take out a loan.”

I certainly did not understand what had occurred after leaving the meeting, and was confused by statements that came out of Q & A between Councilor Pope and the City Manager. See: YouTube-CM Bobart & Milo Pope's Initial Comments.m4v). I was subsequently disappointed with the Council's low Ending Fund Balance, having relied on Councilor Pope's and the City Manager's numbers. The small difference between the City Manager' recommended Budget ($686,849) and the one finally approved by Council ($722,832), did seem insignificant. After all, the Budget Committee, trying to reverse the continuous decline of City reserves in recent years, was shooting for $1 million and had approved a budget with an EFB of $904,849. It had been over $2 million not too many tears back, which would certainly come in handy today as we face maintenance issues with streets and other infrastructure, as well as looming costs for Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) along with sewage and water treatment.

The problem with their statements however was that neither the CM's nor Councilor pope's figures accounted for the by then missing $136,000 from the revenue budget line for economic and community development.

Statements by Councilors Pope and Bass that the difference was $60,000 went unquestioned. If you subtract the missing $136,000 for the CM's published proposed EFB of $686,849, you arrive at $550,849, so the actual difference in the EFBs between CM Bogart's proposal and that approved by the Council was actually $171,983 ($722,832 - $550,849), not $60,000 or so. My understanding from Councilor Bonebrake is that the CM's proposal is now $671,000, which leaves an EFB of $535, 000, which would put the actual difference between the two budgets at $187,852 (not $60,000 as stated by Bogart, Pope, and Bass)

All I can say is that the Councilors seem to be trying to bring the budget back in line with economic realities, like "The Great Recession," and to rebuild the cash balance (depleted by the previous City Manager) to a place where it will be able to help mitigate problems associated with street maintenance, sewer treatment and maintenance, and a host of other issues. Look for large increases in your water and sewer bills if we don't.

Enough for now.

More background from the June 14 special Council Meeting on budget (YouTube):

Budget Committee Chair Randy Daugherty discusses City Manager's budget revisions.

- "What are you asking for Steve? . . . Are the changes workable?"
- Thought the committee would like to redo the 2008-2009 budget
- "If we had leased the police station instead of bought it, we wouldn't be here tonight."
- "We can't as a city continue to spend more than our resources are . . . ."

Budget Committee Chair Randy Daugherty discusses difficult Issues:

- Divisions and lack of trust in Baker City
- Economic uncertainties that face the city and the nation.

More background from the Baker City Herald archives:

Councilor: Cut city spending
by MIKE FERGUSON, Baker City Herald November 21, 2008
Dennis Dorrah proposes trimming 5 percent from city’s budget for next fiscal year

City looks to pare its $2 million cash balance

City budget board breezes through process

Is City Manager Steve Bogart Resigning?

I have it from reliable people who should know, that City Manager Steve Bogart is resigning in September.

Steve Bogart, former County Commissioner and City manager prior to his current term, was hired in late January to take the place of Tim Collins, who resigned, and whose time in that office ended on January 31, 2010. It had been thought that Mr. Bogart had committed for a year's service, during which time the Council would re-initiate a new search for a City Manager. His early resignation has created a need to begin that search immediately, as there are but a few months remaining in his tenure.

I do not know why he resigned early, but there have been recent rumors that he had threatened to resign over the current direction of the City budget. He had stated in one of the Budget Committee Meetings that the path the committee was taking might result in a "train wreck," or something like that, if I recall correctly--this despite the Council and business budgetary experience that is quite evident on the Budget Committee.

I would have asked him why he resigned, but he has not answered many of my most recent e-mails on the budget, and I don't like to bother people on their days off. Some had thought that he was working for the Council and that he had indicated that he could work with the budget provided by them, but until his brother gives his opinions in the Courier, or until the Herald can get some answers from him, I simply do not know (Steve please call me and let me know, I am interested in your views, as always.). Generally, Steve has been very forthcoming with me on his views when I can get a rsponse, but he has been extremely busy lately. The job of City Manager is so fraught with political uncertainty that it takes a very dedicated or motivated person to even consider it.

Don Williams Appointment as Justice of the Peace Pro-Tem on Hold

The appointment of Don Williams was put on hold at the June 23, 2010 County Commissioner's meeting.

Apparently, the Commissioners have decided to (very appropriately) place an advertisement in the local papers for qualified applicants before filling the position.

Thanks to Gary Dielman and others for writing to the Commissioners about this appointment.

Baker County Commissioners Warner, Kerns, and Stiff:

I understand that you're planning to appoint Don Williams as Justice of the Peace Pro Tem at your June 23 meeting.

Given Don Williams' outspoken objections to the ouster of Steve Brocato as city manager of Baker City and his backing of the recall of Baker City Mayor Dorrah and Council Calder, I don't think Baker City voters, who rejected the recall by over 2 to 1, will be sympathetic to your appointing him to a position of authority and power in Baker County government.

And personally, given Williams' vicious and ill-informed public attack on City Councilor Beverly Calder concerning the building she owns on Valley St. which [she] is attempting to rescue after decades of neglect by previous owners, I do not want such an intemperate person as Williams appointed JP Pro Tem to impartially dispense justice in Baker County.

Surely you can find a more qualified and moderate person in Baker County to be JP Pro Tem than Williams.

Gary Dielman


Cleaning House, er, City Hall

The following photos are of archived documents tht were recently removed from City Hall. The photos were taken at Baker Sanitary's recycling station on Campbell by an interested citizen.

City Documents in Baker Sanitary Dumpster

The word from the City is that they are old records, bills, confidential, and etc., some from as far back as the 1920's. Some had been stored in the basement and brought up to the attic for going through by the recorder.

They say they are keeping records according to the legal time schedule, 2, 5, 7 years etc. and tossing what they don't need to keep any longer. A Title V worker named Bill, whose funding runs out at the end of the month, under the supervision of Jennifer Watkins and Becky Fitzpatrick, has been sorting them out. I asked whether they are keeping records they might need for the City to defend itself in the Brocato lawsuit, and I was assured me they were.

It's reassuring to know that resigning City Manager Bogart and soon to be ex-employee Watkins (an avid Brocato supporter, to say the least) have gotten rid of City documents.

Essays on "The Tragedy of the Commons"
Jay Hanson  America2Point0

A "commons" is any resource used as though it belongs to all. In other words, when anyone can use a shared resource simply because one wants or needs to use it, then one is using a commons. For example, all land is part of our commons because it is a component of our life support and social systems.

A commons is destroyed by uncontrolled use—neither intent of the user, nor ownership are important. An example of uncontrolled use is when one can use land (part of our commons) any way one wants.
Tragedy of the Commons Re-stated
by Jay Hanson -- 06/14/97

"To the free man, the country is a collection of individuals who compose it ... He recognizes no national goal except as it is the consensus of the goals that the citizens severally serve. He recognizes no national purpose except as it is the consensus of the purposes for which the citizens severally strive."

"We may well call it 'the tragedy of the commons,' using the word 'tragedy' as the philosopher Whitehead used it: 'The essence of dramatic tragedy is not unhappiness. It resides in the solemnity of the remorseless working of things.'"

As the 21st century races towards us like a huge wave on the horizon, we fear that we are not going to be able to ride this one out, that global currents will pull us to the bottom and tear us apart. We look to our political leadership and see that it has been corrupted by freedom—everything is for sale—and all political decisions are reduced to economic ones. In other words, we have no political system—no means to save ourselves—only an economic system (one-dollar-one-vote).

In 1944, 29 reindeer were moved to St. Matthew Island. The reindeer thrived by "exploiting" (making the best use of) their rich "commons".

The island had no natural predators to keep the reindeer population in check, so the population swelled to 6,000 animals during the next 19 years. Suddenly the commons was depleted and the population crashed until only 42 animals remained alive! The reindeer could have avoided the crash by keeping the population within the carrying capacity of the island, but reindeer politics couldn't manage it, so naturally the population crashed.

In his 1968 classic, "Tragedy of the Commons", Garrett Hardin illustrates why the reindeer crashed and why communities everywhere are headed for tragedy—it's because freedom in the commons brings ruin to all:

Visualize a pasture as a system that is open to everyone. The carrying capacity of this pasture is 10 animals. Ten herdsmen are each grazing an animal to fatten up for market. In other words, the 10 animals are now consuming all the grass that the pasture can produce.

Harry (one of the herdsmen) will add one more animal to the pasture if he can make a profit. He subtracts the original cost of the new animal from the expected sales price of the fattened animal and then considers the cost of the food. Adding one more animal will mean less food for each of the present animals, but since Harry only has only 1/10 of the herd, he has to pay only 1/10 of the cost. Harry decides to exploit the commons and the other herdsmen, so he adds an animal and takes a profit.

Shrinking profit margins force the other herdsmen either to go out of business or continue the exploitation by adding more animals. This process of mutual exploitation continues until overgrazing and erosion destroy the pasture system, and all the herdsmen are driven out of business.

Most importantly, Hardin illustrates the critical flaw of freedom in the commons: all participants must agree to conserve the commons, but any one can force the destruction of the commons. Although Hardin describes exploitation by humans in an unregulated public pasture, his commons and "grass" principle fit our entire society.

Private property is inextricably part of our commons because it is part of our life support and social systems. Owners alter the emergent properties of our life support and social systems when they alter their land to "make a profit"—cover land with corn or concrete.

Neighborhoods, cities and states are commons in the sense that no one is denied entry. Anyone may enter and lay claim to the common resources. One can compare profits to Hardin's "grass" when any number of corporations—from anywhere in the world—drive down profits by competing with local businesses for customers.

One can see wages as Hardin's "grass" when any number of workers—from anywhere in the world—can enter our community and drive down wages by competing with local workers for jobs. People themselves even become commons when they are exploited (are made the best use of) by other people and corporations. Everywhere one looks, one sees the Tragedy of the Commons. There is no technological solution to the problem of the commons, but governments can act to limit access to the commons, at which time they are no longer commons.

In the private-money based political system we have in America, everything (including people) becomes the commons because money is political power, and all political decisions are reduced to economic ones. In other words, we have no political system, only an economic system—everything is for sale. Thus, America is one big commons that will be exploited until it is destroyed. Like the reindeer population on St. Matthew Island, our population will crash too.

Will the coming global currents will pull us to the bottom and tear us apart? Our only chance to avoid it is to invent a political system that money can't buy—and then limit freedom in the commons. If we can't, we're dead.

By Jay Hanson (8/1/97)

"The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust." 
—James Madison, FEDERALIST #57 (1787)
"I see the White House is like a subway—you have to put in coins to open the gates." 
—Johnny Chung (1997)

Systems that select for failure are often called Greshamite systems after the English financier Sir Thomas Gresham (1519?-1579). His name was given to Gresham’s Law, the economic principle that "bad money drives out good. " When depreciated, mutilated, or debased (bad) money circulates concurrently with money of high value (e.g., silver or gold), the good money disappears because of hoarding. As more and more people notice that good money is being hoarded, more and more good money is hoarded—runaway positive feedback. Ultimately, the monetary system fails.

American Democracy can also be seen as a Greshamite system. To understand why, first consider the theoretical premise of our political system: a government that is willing to act for the Common Good. Next, consider two very different candidates for public office. Ms. Honesty believes in the principle embodied in our Pledge of Allegiance "... liberty and justice for all." If Honesty is elected, she will treat everyone fairly and pursue the Common Good.

Mr. Corruption is a good capitalist who is motivated to pursue his own private gain. He has studied the system carefully and knows that he can gain political power by rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies.

Which of these candidates has the advantage? Obviously, Corruption has the advantage! Here's why:

Mr. Jones is a local developer who has money, employees and influence. Philosophically, he is an average, self-interested individual who was trained by television (and to some extent by his family and formal education) to consume as much as he can. In fact, Jones can’t even remember ever hearing about public goods.

Will Mr. Jones contribute to Ms. Honesty? No, why should he? If she wins, Jones will receive justice and fairness from her anyway (a public good). If she loses, Jones will be punished by Mr. Corruption for helping her.

Will Mr. Jones contribute to Mr. Corruption? Yes, because Jones has been promised a change of zoning (a private good) so he can build his new gated community. Jones writes a check for $2,000 to Mr. Corruption and has a few dozen employees volunteer to help out on Corruption’s campaign.

American Democracy tends to elect politicians who are motivated to maximize their own private gain (there are some rare exceptions). Runaway positive feedback occurs as politicians need more and more money to run for public office. As this process continues, more and more politicians are corrupt.

Bad drives out good and Corruption drives out Honesty. To what end? In the end, we do not even have a political system (one-person-one-vote), only an economic system (one-dollar-one-vote).

"Public goods" are goods and services that can be shared by a whole group of people. Some examples of public goods are national defense, police protection, government, and environmental services. As a rule, government must provide public goods for two reasons:

1. Private investors won't supply public goods because they can't make a profit on them.

2. Voluntary efforts won't supply public goods because the voluntary contribution of any one person exceeds the services received by that person. For example, suppose the cost of national defense to each taxpayer is worth the services each taxpayer receives. But if the entire cost were spread out evenly among only those who will voluntarily pay, then the individual cost will exceed the individual services. Thus, only government can supply a national defense through its taxing powers.
This same principle applies to voluntary efforts at cleaning roads, parks, and so on. Voluntary efforts will ultimately fail because those who don't contribute (called "free riders") can use the services anyway. So there is little incentive for volunteers to contribute over the long term. Ultimately, volunteers will "burn out".

[ Civic-minded citizens can even be seen as a form of corporate welfare! Instead of corporations paying for their social and environmental destruction, civic-minded volunteers donate their own time and money to keep their communities together while CEOs give themselves million-dollar bonuses! ]

"Private goods" are restricted goods. A couple of examples of private goods are gated communities and toll roads (only those who pay can enjoy the services).

America's political system is based on private money: whoever can raise the most money usually wins. Our private-money political system naturally exhibits a strong bias towards private goods—and private profits. This bias towards private goods leads to less public infrastructure and more private infrastructure (e.g., private police, gated communities, etc.). Unfortunately, this leads to a two class society: one with private infrastructure and one with no infrastructure; and ultimately, these will lead to the disintegration of the state.


by Beryl Crowe (1969)
by Garrett Hardin and John Baden
W.H. Freeman, 1977; ISBN 0-7167-0476-5

"There has developed in the contemporary natural sciences a recognition that there is a subset of problems, such as population, atomic war, and environmental corruption, for which there are no technical solutions.

"There is also an increasing recognition among contemporary social scientists that there is a subset of problems, such as population, atomic war, environmental corruption, and the recovery of a livable urban environment, for which there are no current political solutions. The thesis of this article is that the common area shared by these two subsets contains most of the critical problems that threaten the very existence of contemporary man." [p. 53]


"In passing the technically insoluble problems over to the political and social realm for solution, Hardin made three critical assumptions:

(1) that there exists, or can be developed, a 'criterion of judgment and system of weighting . . .' that will 'render the incommensurables . . . commensurable . . . ' in real life;

(2) that, possessing this criterion of judgment, 'coercion can be mutually agreed upon,' and that the application of coercion to effect a solution to problems will be effective in modern society; and

(3) that the administrative system, supported by the criterion of judgment and access to coercion, can and will protect the commons from further desecration." [p. 55]


"In America there existed, until very recently, a set of conditions which perhaps made the solution to Hardin's subset possible; we lived with the myth that we were 'one people, indivisible. . . .' This myth postulated that we were the great 'melting pot' of the world wherein the diverse cultural ores of Europe were poured into the crucible of the frontier experience to produce a new alloy -- an American civilization. This new civilization was presumably united by a common value system that was democratic, equalitarian, and existing under universally enforceable rules contained in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

"In the United States today, however, there is emerging a new set of behavior patterns which suggest that the myth is either dead or dying. Instead of believing and behaving in accordance with the myth, large sectors of the population are developing life-styles and value hierarchies that give contemporary Americans an appearance more closely analogous to the particularistic, primitive forms of 'tribal' organizations in geographic proximity than to that shining new alloy, the American civilization." [p. 56]

"Looking at a more recent analysis of the sickness of the core city, Wallace F. Smith has argued that the productive model of the city is no longer viable for the purposes of economic analysis. Instead, he develops a model of the city as a site for leisure consumption, and then seems to suggest that the nature of this model is such is such that the city cannot regain its health because the leisure demands are value-based and, hence do not admit to compromise and accommodation; consequently there is no way of deciding among these value- oriented demands that are being made on the core city.

"In looking for the cause of the erosion of the myth of a common value system, it seems to me that so long as our perceptions and knowledge of other groups were formed largely through the written media of communication, the American myth that we were a giant melting pot of equalitarians could be sustained. In such a perceptual field it is tenable, if not obvious, that men are motivated by interests. Interests can always be compromised and accommodated without undermining our very being by sacrificing values. Under the impact of electronic media, however, this psychological distance has broken down and now we discover that these people with whom we could formerly compromise on interests are not, after all, really motivated by interests but by values. Their behavior in our very living room betrays a set of values, moreover, that are incompatible with our own, and consequently the compromises that we make are not those of contract but of culture. While the former are acceptable, any form of compromise on the latter is not a form of rational behavior but is rather a clear case of either apostasy or heresy. Thus we have arrived not at an age of accommodation but one of confrontation. In such an age 'incommensurables' remain 'incommensurable' in real life." [p. 59]


"In the past, those who no longer subscribed to the values of the dominant culture were held in check by the myth that the state possessed a monopoly on coercive force. This myth has undergone continual erosion since the end of World War II owing to the success of the strategy of guerrilla warfare, as first revealed to the French in Indochina, and later conclusively demonstrated in Algeria. Suffering as we do from what Senator Fulbright has called 'the arrogance of power,' we have been extremely slow to learn the lesson in Vietnam, although we now realize that war is political and cannot be won by military means. It is apparent that the myth of the monopoly of coercive force as it was first qualified in the civil rights conflict in the South, then in our urban ghettos, next on the streets of Chicago, and now on our college campuses has lost its hold over the minds of Americans. The technology of guerrilla warfare has made it evident that, while the state can win battles, it cannot win wars of values. Coercive force which is centered in the modern state cannot be sustained in the face of the active resistance of some 10 percent of the population unless the state is willing to embark on a deliberate policy of genocide directed against the value dissident groups. The factor that sustained the myth of coercive force in the past was the acceptance of a common value system. Whether the latter exists is questionable in the modern nation-state." [p.p. 59-60]


"Indeed, the process has been so widely commented upon that one writer postulated a common life cycle for all of the attempts to develop regulatory policies. The life cycle is launched by an outcry so widespread and demanding that it generates enough political force to bring about establishment of a regulatory agency to insure the equitable, just, and rational distribution of the advantages among all holders of interest in the commons. This phase is followed by the symbolic reassurance of the offended as the agency goes into operation, developing a period of political quiescence among the great majority of those who hold a general but unorganized interest in the commons. Once this political quiescence has developed, the highly organized and specifically interested groups who wish to make incursions into the commons bring sufficient pressure to bear through other political processes to convert the agency to the protection and furthering of their interests. In the last phase even staffing of the regulating agency is accomplished by drawing the agency administrators from the ranks of the regulated." [p.p. 60-61].

Garrett Hardin on Carrying Capacity

Animal lovers and professional biologists should be able to agree on the ultimate goal of game management: to minimize the aggregate suffering of animals. They differ in their time horizons and in the focus of their immediate attention. Biologists insist that time has no stop and that we should seek to maximize the wellbeing of the herd over an indefinite period of time. To do that we must "read the landscape," looking for signs of overexploitation of the environment by a population that has grown beyond the carrying capacity.

By contrast, the typical animal lover ignores the landscape while focusing on individual animals. To assert preemptive animal rights amounts to asserting the sanctity of animal life, meaning each and every individual life. Were an ecologist to use a similar rhetoric he would speak of the "sanctity of carrying capacity." By this he would mean that we must consider the needs not only of the animals in front of us today but also of unborn descendants reaching into the indefinite future.

Time has no stop, the world is finite, biological reproduction is necessarily exponential: for these combined reasons the sanctity strategy as pursued by animal lovers in the long run saves fewer lives, and these at a more miserable level of existence, than does the capacity strategy pursued by ecologically knowledgeable biologists.
—Garrett Hardin

Supreme Court Ruling on "Aiding Terrorists"

Intimidating Supporters of Palestine
US Fear Factory Kills Free Speech

By Yvonne Ridley

June 22, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- AMERICA is still embarrassed by the infamous McCarthy Hearings which ruined the lives of thousands of innocents during the Fifties.

Anyone then, suspected of being linked to communism was arrested, interrogated and either imprisoned or forced to give names of others suspected of communist tendencies. And so the fear and intimidation spread like a great plague across the USA.

Names were blacklisted, careers and lives ruined as the authorities ruthlessly traded on peoples’ fears, paranoia and weaknesses.

With little or no evidence people were found guilty and anyone daring to question any of the actions and the wild accusations also had suspicion cast upon them. But hey folks, that was back in the Fifties and various administrations resolved the same insane hysteria, hatred and fears would never again cast a dark shadow across the Land of the Free.

Sadly, the Salem-style witch hunts have returned, but the new villains are no longer communists. The Red Scare has been replaced by those who shout Viva Palestina!

From the very highest law-makers right down to ordinary John Doe there is an irrational fear so great that it holds many of them hostage in their homes, workplaces and schools.

Their vision has become so skewed they are unable to distinguish between what is real and what is not.

And so when they’re told that heavily armed Israeli soldiers shoot peace activists at near point blank range because they are defending themselves, few dare to question.

When they see babies dying on the Gaza Strip because of lack of medical equipment because of the Israeli-enforced blockade, they remain silent.

And even fewer dare to criticize Israel.

Millions upon millions of Americans wake up frightened, go to sleep frightened while others feed on the hatred and bile spewed out by politicians, preachers, academics and the media who tell them Israel is good and Palestine is bad.

There are some politicians who want to see the heroic Americans who took part in the Viva Palestina convoys and the recent Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla prosecuted as terrorists.

Today I trolled through some of the pages in the American media and there, among the column inches, are stories that perfectly illustrate the Zionist Fear Factory in operation.

The Los Angeles Times reveals that UC Irvine has told its university students that the Muslim Student Union will be suspended for one year because it dared to criticize Israel and protested during a speech given by the Israeli Ambassador. So there you have it – freedom of speech is now banned.

The unprecedented action also sends out a chilling message to students across the USA who might consider demonstrating, rallying or protesting against the Zionist state and its supporters. Free speech, it seems, is a thing of the past in Barack Obama’s America. 

And should you be in any doubt, read a story about the latest decision to emerge from the US Supreme Court.

In a majority 6-3 ruling it becomes virtually impossible for anyone to put food into the mouths of malnourished babies in Gaza or to give money to a charity to do the humanitarian act for you.

Insane as it sounds, it is now a crime in America to work for peace and human rights in Gaza because the day-to-day running of The Strip is carried out by the democratically-elected Hamas government. Therefore it would be virtually impossibly to bypass Hamas to operate in Gaza.

In an astonishing McCarthy-like ruling any American who even offers advice to banned organizations like Hamas, including legal assistance and information on conflict resolution, will be prosecuted as terrorists. Be afraid, be very afraid … this is happening in the USA, here and now.

Barack Obama’s barmy administration reckons that even giving advice intended for peaceful purposes will amount to "material support" for terrorism. "The supreme court has ruled that human rights advocates, providing training and assistance in the nonviolent resolution of disputes, can be prosecuted as terrorists," said David Cole, a Georgetown university law professor who argued the case before the court. In the name of fighting terrorism, the court has said that the first amendment [on free speech] permits congress to make it a crime to work for peace and human rights. That is wrong."

The ruling is designed to intimidate Palestinian supporters and their fundraising activity. Some have already been prosecuted and jailed for raising cash for social groups dealing with issues such as housing and welfare in Gaza. 

The government's case was enthusiastically argued in February by Elena Kagan, who is now the Obama administration's nominee to the supreme court. She said: "Hizb’Allah builds bombs. Hizb’Allah also builds homes. What Congress decided was when you help Hizb’Allah build homes, you are also helping Hizb’Allah build bombs. That's the entire theory behind the statute.”

Well if that’s the case an interesting legal situation looms on the horizon – unless all of this legislation is purely designed for Palestinian supporters.

A Congressional subcommittee, led by Representative John F. Tierney, Democrat of Massachusetts, has uncovered evidence showing US tax dollars are funding the Taliban.

The source is a Pentagon-issued $2.1 billion dollar contract called Host Nation Trucking, which pays for the movement of food and supplies to some 200 American bases. It appears Afghan security firms have been extorting as much as $4 million a week and then funneling the spoils to warlords and the Taliban in return for a safe passage. In short, the US is financing the enemy and undermining international efforts to stabilize the country. 

Hmm, isn’t this material support for terrorism? I think we need to have the Commander in Chief charged with immediate affect.

Yvonne Ridley is one of the founders of Viva Palestina and European President of the international Muslim Women’s Union

Published on Tuesday, June 22, 2010 by The San Francisco Chronicle
Giving Peace Advice to Terrorist Can Be Illegal
by Bob Egelko

WASHINGTON - The government can prosecute private citizens for giving advice to a foreign organization - on how to negotiate peace or take its case to the United Nations, for example - if the group is on the U.S. terrorist list, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.

In the most important foreign policy and civil liberties case of their 2009-10 term, the justices ruled 6-3 that a law prohibiting "material support" of foreign terrorist organizations can be used against people who claim to be providing only peaceful, humanitarian assistance.

Any tangible support - money, legal aid or political advice - "frees up other resources within the organization that may be put to violent ends," Chief Justice John Roberts said in the majority opinion.

"It also importantly helps lend legitimacy to foreign terrorist groups - legitimacy that makes it easier for those groups to persist, to recruit members, and to raise funds - all of which facilitate more terrorist attacks," Roberts said.

Dissenting Justice Stephen Breyer protested that the majority's interpretation "would deny First Amendment protection to the peaceful teaching of international human rights law," on the grounds that it might enable terrorists to conduct sham negotiations.

Those who intend to aid terrorism should be prosecuted, but any broader use of the law would violate free speech, argued Breyer, whose dissent was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. The majority included liberal Justice John Paul Stevens as well as the court's conservatives - Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

Furious debate
The ruling touched off a furious debate over the government's power to prevent dissidents from helping blacklisted organizations. The ban on "material support" for foreign terrorists was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996 and was expanded in the USA Patriot Act that President George W. Bush signed in 2001.

Under Monday's decision, "human rights advocates, providing training and assistance in the nonviolent resolution of disputes, can be prosecuted as terrorists," said David Cole, lawyer for organizations and individuals who challenged the law.

The plaintiffs sought to train members of two groups on the State Department's terrorist list - the Kurdish Workers Party in Turkey and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka - in peaceful conflict resolution and advocacy before the United Nations.

Those forms of assistance to such "deadly groups" could lead to prosecution, the court said Monday, while insisting it was not restricting free speech. "Plaintiffs may say anything they wish" on their own behalf, Roberts said.

Carter concerned
Civil liberties advocates said they also feared repercussions for U.S.-based critics of the Israeli government, who might be charged with aiding Hamas, which Washington has designated as a terrorist group. One such critic is former President Jimmy Carter, whose private Mideast diplomatic efforts have included contact with Hamas.

The ruling "threatens our work and the work of many other peacemaking organizations that must interact directly with groups that have engaged in violence," said Carter, whose organization filed arguments with the court.

On the other side, Annemarie McAvoy, a Fordham law professor and former federal prosecutor, said the court recognized the "reality factor" of a world in which groups such as al Qaeda thrive on aid funneled through charities.

"By helping the terrorists, even tangentially, they're freeing up the terrorists to focus on other things, such as violent attacks," McAvoy said.

During arguments in February, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, now President Obama's nominee to the court, defended the law and urged a broad interpretation that would allow prosecution of a U.S. citizen who filed a legal brief on behalf of a terrorist organization.

"What Congress decided," Kagan told the court, "is that when you help Hezbollah build homes, you are also helping Hezbollah build bombs."

Read the ruling
The ruling in Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project, 08-1498, can be read at .

© 2010 The San Francisco Chronicle
Article printed from

Latest Possible Threat to Social Security Safety Net

Commentary: Hands off Social Security: There are better ways to cut the national debt.

Posted: 7:18 p.m. Friday, June 25, 2010

The Social Security Trustees' Annual Report on the program's finances comes out Wednesday, delayed from March by the health bill. It will be turned into a marketing tool by advocates of cutting Social Security to reduce the national debt.

Among those, the president's newly appointed National Commission on Fiscal Reform (the "debt commission") is threatening to strangle the economic lifeblood of seniors by denying the solvency of Social Security and then using the solvent funds for other purposes.

It's an illusion that cutting Social Security would reduce the deficit. If the new report does not point out that the money seniors have given to Social Security keeps it solvent through 2043, and after that 80 percent funded, it's a propaganda fraud for defunders.

Moreover, that future shortfall is only a blip - a point missed by nearly all media. After the Baby Boomers reap their Social Security benefits, since those Boomers have had the fewest children ever (2.1 per couple vs. the current 2.7 rate), the system will return to full solvency because it will pay benefits to fewer people.

To cut a national deficit by cutting Social Security, which does not have a deficit, is theft from seniors who have paid in. If a bank told a customer, "Sorry. We've spent your money on other items," would anyone accept that or say: "Fine, you made money on my money but you still owe me mine. Pay up."

The debt commission is littered with politicians and industry CEOs who have a history of wanting to scale back Social Security benefits. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., told us in an interview, "The commission is loaded with billionaires who want to convert Social Security's money to business."

Commission Co-chairman Erskine Bowles is linked to Wall Street as a Morgan Stanley board member, and Honeywell CEO David Cote to the defense industry, both of which would benefit from Social Security's money. Will these captains of industry stand up for people who need Social Security the most? Or look for ways to transfer its money to defense and stocks?

Co-chairman Alan Simpson, along with Dave Camp, Judd Gregg, Tom Coburn and Mike Crapo, made statements supporting cutting or privatizing Social Security. Sen. Richard Durbin told "bleeding-heart liberals" to be open to Social Security cuts. Alice Rivlin co-authored a 2005 report titled Restoring Fiscal Sanity that advocated $47 billion in entitlement cuts, including an "increase in the retirement age under Social Security."

Why could the administration not appoint former Connecticut Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security? Or Al Gore, who famously said he would protect Social Security in a "lockbox"? Or expert "policy wonk" Bill Arnone, a partner at Ernst & Young, co-author of the firm's retirement planning guide, a spokesman for the positive economics of Social Security?

The program remains indispensable in enabling the 38 million senior citizens over 65 nationwide and 3 million in Florida to live their lives in dignity. Without Social Security, nearly half of Americans age 65 or older would be below the poverty line. For two-thirds of the elderly, Social Security provides the majority of their income. For one-third, it provides nearly all.

We need the courage of the late Florida Congressman Claude Pepper. In 1978, when Commerce Secretary Juanita Kreps suggesting raising the retirement age, Rep. Pepper and House Social Security Chairman James Burke ran over for a meeting, and Rep. Pepper said they would "fight it to our death." Ms. Kreps suddenly said the proposal hadn't been drawn up.

The debt commission has plenty of options. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the military needed to cut its "gusher of defense spending." Congress could also scale back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to the levels they were under President Clinton and could get rid of tax breaks for U.S. corporations doing business overseas. The deficit needs to be cut, but not at the cost of our seniors.

During a 2006 speaking tour, every time President Bush spoke of his plan to privatize Social Security, his approval ratings dropped. His advocacy of cuts helped cost Republicans the Congress. While up a hair recently, the market has lost 20 percent since 2000. Voters knew that would have meant 20 percent less food on the table for seniors or money for electricity. President Obama should not let the commission make the same mistake, or this time it will cost him and his party.

Robert Weiner was chief of staff of the House Select Committee on Aging, chaired by the late U.S. Rep. Claude Pepper, and a senior public-affairs director in the White House. Jonathan Battaglia is policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates..

Oftentimes, one must put down well nourished roots before one can blossom productively and constructively within a community.