Saturday, June 25, 2011

Half Of World’s Refugees Are Running From U.S. Wars

 (A dubious distinction if ever there was one. Yay, look how many we've driven from their homes!--jef)

Half Of World’s Refugees Are Running From U.S. Wars | America’s wars are forcing Afghans and Iraqis to flee their homes in greater numbers. According to a recent U.N. High Commission for Refugees study, nearly one half of the world’s refugees are from Afghanistan and Iraq, 3.05 million and 1.68 million, respectively. But neither the United States nor much of the developed world bears the burden of the 10.55 million refugees under the UNHCR’s purview globally. Instead, Pakistan, Iran, and Syria serve as the top host countries.

The Economist has charted the numbers:

Our Corporate Military

An Irrational, Authoritarian Institution

Nicholas Kristoff, in a New York Times op-ed ("Our Lefty Military," June 16), lauds the "astonishingly liberal ethos" that governs the military internally — single-payer health insurance, job security, educational opportunities, free daycare — in support of Gen. Wesley Clark's description of it as "the purest application of socialism there is."

For me — an avowed libertarian socialist as well as a market anarchist — at least two howlers stand out here. First, when I think of "socialism," I think of all the liberatory things originally associated with that term back in the days of the early working class and classical socialist movement in the nineteenth century: 

Empowerment of the working class, worker control of production, and all the rest. Last I heard, the U.S. military isn't set up as a worker cooperative, with enlisted men electing officers, managing their own work, or voting on whether or not to go to war. Taking orders from a boss "because I said so" isn't my idea of socialism.

Second, the primary external mission of the U.S. military is to keep the world — or rather the corporate pigs who claim to own it — safe from anything remotely resembling worker empowerment. To me, that's pretty unsocialistic. For the past sixty-odd years since WWII (a lot longer, actually), the primary focus of American national security policy has been to protect feudal landed oligarchs from land reform, protect Western-owned corporations from nationalization, act as collector of last resort for the company store known as the World Bank, and enforce the draconian "intellectual property" protectionism which is the central bulwark of global corporate power today. Kristoff's "socialist" military's primary mission is keeping the world firmly in the hands of its corporate rulers.

Aside from that, I think Kristoff has it exactly backward: The military is almost a parody of American corporate culture. It's riddled with hierarchy, with Taylorist/Weberian bureaucratic work rules and standard operating procedures, and all the irrationality that goes with them. The only difference is, the pointy-haired bosses wear a different kind of uniform. If you've ever seen the movie "Brazil," or read Dilbert on a regular basis, you get the idea.

Kristoff has one point on his side: The differentials between production workers and senior management are a lot lower in the military than in present-day Corporate America. But that just means the military is structured more along the lines of old-style bureaucratic "Organization Man" capitalism of the sixties (as described by J.K. Galbraith), in which CEO salaries were typically only fifty times that of a production worker, rather than the current pathological model of cowboy capitalism where it's more like five hundred.

The military, like the large corporation, is plagued by enormously high overhead costs (the cost of training a soldier), and enormously wasteful capital outlays. The military, like an oligopoly corporation, can afford to be so wasteful because it doesn't bear the full cost of its own activities.

Corporate America's prevailing management accounting system, invented almost a century ago by Donaldson Brown of DuPont and GM, equates consumption of inputs to creation of value. You know, like the Soviet centrally planned economy. Administrative costs like management salaries, along with wasteful capital expenditures, are incorporated — through the practice known as "overhead absorption" — into the transfer price of goods "sold" to inventory. And in an oligopoly market, the corporation is able to pass those costs — plus a profit markup — on to the customer through administered pricing. The military shares that pricing system, with its incentives to maximize costs (Paul Goodman called "the great kingdom of cost-plus"). Ever hear of those $600 toilet seats? But in the case of the military, the administered pricing is called "taxation."

In short the military, like the large corporation, is a giant, bureaucratic, irrational, and authoritarian institution which can only survive through parasitism — enabled by the state — on the working class.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Obama, Still Better Than Bush?

(I almost wrote this very article. One reason he is worse is because we knew what Bush would bring to the table. He didn't surprise many, did he?  But Obama came in doing the exact opposite of what he campaigned for/on. His broken promises read like epic failure.--jef)


It's Really Hard to Tell

A gullible portion of the electorate here in the Homeland  and a gullible slice of the entire world expected a great deal from Barack Obama.  But anyone who paid close attention to his run for the White House, and who managed not to succumb to the promise of hope that radiated out from the Rorschach figure Obama then was, expected nothing more than a Clintonite Restoration with cosmetic changes.  

Still, even those of us with expectations as low as that thought it obvious that an Obama administration would be a vast improvement over what we had endured for the preceding eight years.  And, once the Democratic field narrowed to a choice between Obama and Hillary Clinton, there was ample reason to prefer that the nomination go to him.  He seemed less inclined to make fast and loose with soldiers and bombs, and less unfriendly than she would be towards what remains of the affirmative state generations of Democrats helped fashion and that her husband did so much to undo.       

Still, no matter how low the expectations, it did not take long for disappointment to set in.  For me, it began the day Obama made Joe Biden his running mate.  It’s not that Biden’s politics is worse than other Democrats’; it’s that this purported foreign policy wise man has no idea how clueless he is about the world or how off his enthusiasms and animosities are.  Even after the election, I, along with other Obama skeptics, would still, in moments of weakness, let myself think that great things might happen yet; that Obama was only being god-fatherly with his appointments, keeping his friends close and his enemies closer.  That was, after all, the conventional wisdom among liberal pundits, and the will to believe is strong. 

But the illusion became harder to maintain as Inauguration Day approached – with Timothy Geithner, Lawrence Summers and other Wall Street toadies slated to manage economic policy, Hillary Clinton chosen to be Secretary of State, and George Bush’s Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, kept on to run Bush’s wars.  It was in that period too that it became clear that, under Obama, there would be no settling of accounts with the historical crimes of the Bush era.   As if that wasn’t enough to cause despair, Obama’s silence on Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli assault on Gaza, was deafening.  

Then, for a while, it looked like the situation Bush and Cheney handed over to the fledgling President was so desperate that common sense would prevail, forcing him to act in the ways his supporters expected he would.  He resisted the pressure.  By the time Rahm Emanuel made it clear that the administration would scuttle the “public option” to get its milquetoast health care (actually, insurance reform) bill passed, all one could say in Obama’s behalf is that, no matter how disappointing he might be, at least he was better than Bush.

How could that not be right? Anybody would be better than Bush!  It is therefore telling that one rarely hears that faint praise these days – and not just because memories of Bush’s awfulness have faded.  It isn’t said much anymore because it has come to seem less obviously true.  Nowadays, what one hears instead is just that Obama is better than the loonies running for the Republican nomination. 

That claim is unassailable.  But it doesn’t speak to the question at hand: whether Obama is still better than Bush.   On election day 2012, it may become relevant – especially to voters living in states whose electoral votes are up for grabs -- that the Republican candidate is worse, probably much worse, than Obama could ever be.  But that has nothing to do with what is an urgent task now: coming to a clear understanding of what the Obama presidency has been about, and what its trajectory is likely to be.  

Because circumstances change and because each president is awful in his own way, comparing presidents is, as a rule, a fatuous exercise, fit only for TV pundits and pop historians.  But, in this case, the time frame is narrow enough and the circumstances similar enough that a comparison can be instructive.  In that spirit, I would venture that George W. Bush’s first administration, from the weeks following 9/11 until the 2004 presidential campaign got underway, was exceptionally awful in every respect.  If that is the point of reference, it would be hard for Obama, or anyone else, not to be better than Bush.  

But if we focus instead on Bush’s second term, and especially on the years after the 2006 election, it’s not at all clear that Obama has been a better president.  Indeed, one could make a case that, style apart, the Obama administration has continued along the lines its predecessor established.  To the extent this is so, it would follow that his administration has not improved upon what came before it except, at most, in superficial ways.  Lately, some erstwhile Obama supporters have even suggested that, in key respects, the Obama administration has been worse than Bush’s – especially on environmental matters and on a host of issues pertaining to the rule of law.

For some diehard Obamaphiles, Libya was the last straw.  This latest war of choice, in no way attributable to Bush, is a blatant imperialist venture, undertaken on a disingenuous pretext that fell apart almost from Day One.  Intended, supposedly, to save civilian lives, the US/NATO bombing has unleashed a civil war.  Libya also exposes what Obama’s vaunted “multilateralism” amounts to: empowerment of right-wing politicians from the “old” Europe – miscreants like David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy -- keen on reviving the bad old days.  

But the main problem with this latest war is that the way Obama launched it is in plain violation not just of the War Powers Act but also of Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution; and that he did it that way not because Congress wouldn’t have gone along, but so that in the future he could claim that, as Commander-in-Chief, he has the right to launch drones and drop bombs more or less as he pleases; Congress be damned.  We now know that his top lawyers told him that this was illegal, as it plainly is.  He did it anyway, finding lower-level lawyers who told him what he wanted to hear.  

At least Bush and Cheney did not deliberately not ask Congress to authorize their wars.  If only for this reason, Obama, the peace candidate and Nobel laureate, is certainly no better than his predecessor on questions of executive power.  Arguably, he is worse.     

Because there is likely to be movement on this front in the near future, it is worth noting an area in which Obama’s defenders can fairly say that he is is indeed better than Bush, though only slightly. 

He is better on gay politics.  Until recently, one could not have said that.  For almost two years, Obama neglected gay issues as much as he did the concerns of the rest of his base.  But then, when he and his advisors thought it expedient to shore up liberal support, he finally “nudged” Congress to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  He also declared that his administration would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts, though it will continue to enforce it.  These are small moves in the right direction; they advance equality.  But note, first, that Obama never leads, he only follows when it is plain that the public has his back; and note too that these issues are ones that “progressives” should feel ambivalent about supporting.   

It is fair to say that one reason why Obama threw this sop to his base is that the radicalism that once animated the struggle for gay liberation has gone missing.  Advancing equality is a good thing of course, but should progressives militate in favor of measures that aid military recruiting and retention?  And shouldn’t they be proposing civil unions, not marriage, for all?  

The issue is not or should not be about “marriage,” the word.  It is about how the institution the word designates is understood by proponents of gay marriage today.  Their understanding, like the understanding of their adversaries, offends the separation of church and state.  That principle was important at the time of the founding of the republic and it is important now as theocratic currents swell around us.  This is why progressives should fight to keep religion out of our political and civil affairs.  But by seeking to advance equality in the way proponents of gay marriage do, they implicitly legitimate its presence.    

Needless to say, if, for any reason, people want clerics involved in validating their relationships, that is their business and they should be free to do as they please.  But the state’s interest is limited to the civil aspects of marriage (or civil union).  It therefore has no business allowing clerics to confer the rights that marriage (or civil union) entails; the state alone should regulate the institution.  Unfortunately, this rather obvious and far from radical point has not registered much lately in the struggle for equality.  Proponents of gay marriage don’t want to change the institution; they only want same-sex couples brought into it.

The comforting conservatism of gay activists, along with the fact that gay issues don’t materially affect the interests of the corporations or wealthy individuals Obama courts, makes it possible for him to overcome the disabling (and largely unrequited) “bipartisanship” that usually governs his political maneuvering, especially when, as in this case, substantial majorities are on board.  And so Obama has and likely will again “give” something to this part of his base, to the great approbation of his otherwise taken for granted supporters.  Bush had to deal with a far more retrograde – and intolerant – base.  That, more than anything else, explains why, in this respect at least, Obama is better than Bush.

However, it seems that, in general, Bush at least believed in what he did; he didn’t know better.   It is hard to think the same of someone of Obama’s intelligence, education and experience of the world.  And although there was nothing in the record, beyond “paling around with terrorists,” that his enemies could use against him in 2008, there was enough to suggest to those who were determined to think well of him that Obama’s views, however compromised, were at least reasonable and humane.  Yet, on almost every front, he has taken up where Bush left off.   Bush was a simpleton – morally and intellectually.  Obama is a knave.  One needn’t be an old-fashioned moralist to think knavery worse.
*                           *
But that is a moral reproach, and the question posed at the outset is about politics, not ethics.  It does not call for passing judgment on the man so much as for reflecting on how much better or worse it is having Obama, rather than Bush, in office.  To address that question properly, we need to take into account not just the effects of the Obama presidency on the interests of his core constituencies, but also on their capacity to work for “change.”  From that vantage point, it doesn’t look good for Obama.

We have wars aplenty – in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Libya, and with varying degrees of openness and intensity in Yemen, Somalia  and Pakistan and who knows where else.  Yet we have no peace movement to speak of, not even to the extent we did in 2006.  Wall street continues to bring ruin to the bottom 98 per cent of the population, but there is no opposition strong enough to stop the predators in their tracks.  Our government has given the nuclear industry license to play Russian roulette with the future of the planet, and the opposition has largely acquiesced.  The administration’s other energy policies are outrageous too, and its heedlessness of urgent environmental concerns is staggering. Worst of all, organized labor is more on the ropes than ever, despite overwhelming popular support for unions and union rights.  In these and other ways, there is, as Brecht said of pre-War Germany, only injustice and no resistance.

It would be different if Bush were still in charge.  No matter how cowardly Democrats are and no matter how servile corporate media may be, there would be more resistance than there now is, just as there was before Obama became President.  Obama rode liberal discontent into the White House and then, deliberately or not, he put the fire out of liberal bellies.  That’s what disappointment and disillusion does when the potential opposition is riddled with people determined to keep on cutting the man endless slack. 

Part of the reason for their debilitating passivity is fear of the Tea Party/Republican alternative, a fear stoked relentlessly by Obama apologists and Democratic Party cheerleaders.  But fear-mongering is a two-edged sword.  At the same time that it encourages standing by the devil we know, it also makes plain how pitiful Obama’s opposition in the 2012 election will likely be.  That awareness can undo the caution that currently afflicts the political scene.  

Yes, the economy is in poor shape and Obama is widely (and correctly) thought to be partly to blame.  And, yes, for an incumbent, that should be a cause for concern.   But perhaps not so much when, as in Margaret Thatcher’s expression, there is no (remotely plausible) alternative.  This is why conditions are ripe for forcing change upon the powers that be.  But it isn’t happening with the intensity it should.  Indeed, the most fervent resistance these days is coming from the right, which opposes Obama for all the wrong reasons.  How pathetic is that!  And how urgent that it change!

Is Obama still better than Bush?  The bar is so low that the answer may still be Yes.  But it’s looking increasingly like maybe not.  And it is becoming plainer still that being better than Bush isn’t all that it was cracked up to be.

Oil Prices Plunge as US, Europe Tap Strategic Reserves

Washington - Oil prices dropped sharply Thursday on news that the U.S. and Europe will sell 60 million barrels of oil from their strategic reserves over the next 30 days, a move experts called an important policy shift that should help restrain volatile energy prices.

Oil prices for month-ahead delivery fell by $4.39 a barrel, or almost 5 percent, to settle at $91.02 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil prices rose by more than 20 percent earlier this year but closed Thursday near where they started the year. Gasoline prices nationally averaged $3.61 for a gallon of regular unleaded, down from $3.82 a month ago, but up sharply from $2.74 a year ago.

In simultaneous news briefings, the White House and the Paris-based International Energy Agency said that they'd release oil from emergency reserves, ostensibly to ensure adequate supply to refiners during the peak summer driving season.

Both said the protracted conflict in Libya has resulted in insufficient supplies of light sweet crude oil, more commonly refined in Europe, and that shortfalls were expected in coming weeks. Many European refiners didn't expect the Libyan conflict that began in February to drag on so long. It's removed an estimated 1.5 million barrels a day of oil from the global market, according to IEA.

The U.S. will release half the 60 million barrels, offering it for auction beginning next Wednesday. The U.S. consumes about 21 million barrels a day and the world about 88 million, but the 60 million barrels to be sold from the reserves nevertheless sends an important signal to oil producers and markets, analysts said.

Officials on each side of the Atlantic insisted that they weren't acting to affect prices per se, but rather to head off an anticipated shortage — which would drive up prices. The reserve was created in 1975 following the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo to give the nation an emergency supply in case of disruptions; it's not supposed to be tapped simply to drive down fuel price — as critics in Congress and business groups noted Thursday.

"We're focused on the disruption of supply and this is about insuring that ... this will address the supply disruption" that has taken about 140 million barrels of oil off the market since February, said a senior Obama administration official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity. "This is about addressing the supply disruption and its potential impact on economic growth."

It's questionable whether the lost Libyan supply has made much difference to the global supply-demand equation. There's little evidence of a global shortage in oil. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has about 4 million barrels a day of spare production capacity.

Refineries in the U.S. — the world's biggest oil consumer_ are operating well below their capacity. Refiners are under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission for potential manipulation of oil prices. Their trade association suggested that Thursday's move is motivated to shore up Obama's political standing.

"Releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve today, when gasoline prices are falling and there is no supply shortage, makes no sense and weakens our economic and national security," Charles Drevna, the president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, said in a statement. "The Strategic Petroleum Reserve ... shouldn't be used as a Strategic Political Reserve to boost the popularity of elected officials."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce saw it similarly.

"The Obama administration's decision to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is ill-advised and not the signal the markets need," Karen Harbert, the president of the chamber's Energy Institute, said in a statement. "Our reserve is intended to address true emergencies, not politically inconvenient high prices."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, joined the critical chorus. "By tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the president is using a national security instrument to address his political problems."

However, independent energy experts saw an important shift in the use of strategic oil reserves. They said these reserves are now being used by 34 rich nations_ which collectively make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with which IEA is affiliated — to quash financial speculation and pressure oil-producing nations.

"We would suggest that today's action represents the first genuine, offensive use of the OECD's 'defensive oil weapon' to send an unforgettable message to OPEC and also to non-commercial players in the crude markets," said Kevin Book, the managing director for ClearView Energy Partners, in a research note.

By tapping reserves, Book suggested, rich oil-consuming nations are showing oil producers that they'll fight back when they think supply is being deliberately restricted to maintain high prices. OPEC collectively refused earlier this month to increase production, but Saudi Arabia separately began to do so and has vowed to raise production as much as 2 million barrels a day if necessary to restrain prices.

In Paris, Richard Jones, a former U.S. diplomat who is now the deputy executive director of the IEA, insisted that Thursday's surprise move had nothing to do with the June 8 collapse of OPEC negotiations.

"Before the release (announcement) took place, we were in consultation with some of these countries, and there is a good understanding that this is not an action directed against OPEC," said Jones.

Jones and administration officials said no decision has been made on possible additional releases if Libyan supplies remain off the market further into the summer.

Book also contended that there's a message for financial players who now make 70 percent or more of trades in U.S. contracts for future delivery of oil.

"In recent conversations regarding potential (Strategic Petroleum Reserve) sales, several senior policymakers told us they blamed speculative interest in oil and products for current price premiums. The structure of today's sale suggests that OPEC wasn't the only target," Book wrote.

Jim Burkhard, the managing director of global oil research for IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associations, said key answers will come when auctions begin next week.

"It will be telling if there is a rapid uptick (in price) of this offer ... that would signal that the market may be a little tighter than we thought before this release," Burkhard said. "If the uptick is weak or slow, that would signal that the market is relatively well supplied. Yes it's been released, but it's not certain how much of that oil will actually be purchased."

Frank Verrastro, the director of energy programs at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said: "If refiners bid on the ... crude and actually put it in storage, it's because they believe the market is supplied. We will see what the reaction to the sale is."

Soaring energy prices slowed the U.S. and global economic recovery. Prices have collapsed from the May high of $113 a barrel, but Burkhard expects them to fall further.

"It's a new form of economic stimulus," he suggested, adding that there aren't many government tools left as earlier stimulus measures end. "There is not a whole lot left to try to boost the overall economy. If oil prices decline ... that would be a positive for the economic recovery ... It would diminish one of the economic headwinds that we have been facing this year."

This will mark the fifth time that oil has been sold from the U.S. reserve. Previous sales were during the U.S. liberation of Kuwait in 1991 (17 million barrels); deficit reduction efforts in 1995-1996 (28 million barrels); an effort to bring down New England heating oil prices in 2000 (30 million barrels); and after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 (11 million barrels). IEA member states joined the 1991 and 2005 releases from oil reserves.

Why is the Fracking Fluid Disclosure Law Important?

How did the law happen, and what does it mean for the rest of the country?
Deb Nardone, Director of the Sierra Club Natural Gas Reform Campaign

Significant environmental damage from natural gas extraction is evident across the country, from air pollution in rural counties of Wyoming to wells contaminated in Texas, Colorado, and Pennsylvania.

Sierra Club is moving to enact policies that break our addiction to oil, move us toward a clean energy future, and hold oil and gas companies accountable. This past weekend, Texas certified a law to require natural gas drilling companies to disclose the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process.  Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" is a process used by the natural gas industry to remove gas from large shale rock deposits deep below the earth's surface. Natural gas drilling and the fracking process currently go unregulated by state and federal officials, despite the potential dangerous effect to our air, water, communities and landscapes with important wildlife and recreational value.

This new law comes during intense debate over the safety and health implications of this drilling process and in a state that positioned itself as a leader in oil and gas drilling. How did this happen?

The bill originated in the state House by State Representative Jim Keffer of Eastland, TX. Upon passage, the bill moved to the state Senate with State Senator Troy Fraser as the sponsor. The bill passed both chambers and was signed into law on June 17.  

It is important to note that this first step forward could not have been accomplished if it weren’t for the hard work and determination of the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter. Cyrus Reed, the Lone Star Chapter's Conservation Director, devoted tremendous time and energy lobbying for the inclusion of several amendments proposed by the Sierra Club. The chapter's hard work on this issue led the way for chapters across the country that are pushing for fracking fluid disclosure in their own states.

Although Texas is the first state to make fracking fluid disclosure a law, many states already have rules in place to require well and fracturing fluid chemical reporting. Currently, Colorado requires operators to maintain an inventory of chemicals exceeding 500 pounds in a quarterly reporting period. Maryland requires operators to include drilling additives used and a description of their toxicity in drilling applications. Pennsylvania requires operators to prepare a Preparedness, Prevention, and Contingency Plan that includes a list of the chemicals used.

While this is a step in the right direction, there is still much more that should be required in each gas producing state. All chemicals used in fracking and well production, including volume and concentration,  should be reported to state regulatory agencies prior to their use, including proprietary "trade secrets."  This information should be posted online and available to the general public. Of course the most important part of the puzzle is how the states monitor and enforce the accuracy of reported data. More and more states are beginning to take action into their own hands as the U.S. Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency continue to drag their feet in closing the Halliburton Loophole and forcing disclosure of these dangerous chemicals.

Full public disclosure is essential for landowners, state regulators, emergency personnel and the general public to understand what is being pumped underground. We are tired of being kept in the dark about fracking, and we can't allow the gas industry to continue pushing our concerns aside. Congratulations to the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter for keeping vigilant and fighting for key amendments to this bill.

If Congress Does Nothing, The Deficit Will Disappear

Brian Beutler | June 24, 2011 | TPM

On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office released its updated long-term budget forecast, which looked surprisingly like the previous version of its long-term budget forecast.

It showed, as one might expect, that if the Bush tax-cuts remain in effect and Medicare and Medicaid spending isn't constrained in some way, the country will topple into a genuine fiscal crisis -- not the fake one the Congress is pretending the country's in right now.

Republicans, of course, seized on that particular projection, and claimed (a bit ridiculously) that it proved the government must adopt their precise policy views: major spending cuts, particularly to entitlement programs.

While all this -- from the findings to the politicization of them -- is perfectly expected, the forecast also presents another opportunity to remind people that the medium-term budget outlook is perfectly fine if Congress adheres to the law as it's currently written. That means no repealing the health care law, for one, but more significantly it means allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, and (unfathomably) allowing Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors to fall to the levels prescribed by the formula Congress wrote almost 15 years ago. In other words, no more "doc fixes."

Helpfully, CBO juxtaposed these two alternative futures in a pair of graphs and, just as last time, it projects that deficits will disappear entirely by the end of President Obama's second term (if he gets a second term) if Congress were to just sit on its hands and do nothing.

Take a look.

(So, Rep. Ryan? Sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up! None of your life destroying Draconian budgert cuts are needed.--jef)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Global revolution must begin in America

By Stephen C. Webster, RAW Story
Posted on 06.23.11

Pulitzer-winning author and former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges has a revolutionary worldview. In the video below, his recent “Endgame Strategy” piece for AdBusters is read aloud by George Atherton.

His conclusions are chilling, but not entirely hopeless.

“We will have to take care of ourselves,” he wrote. “We will have to rapidly create small, monastic communities where we can sustain and feed ourselves. It will be up to us to keep alive the intellectual, moral and cultural values the corporate state has attempted to snuff out. It is either that or become drones and serfs in a global corporate dystopia. It is not much of a choice. But at least we still have one.”

This video is from YouTube user wepollock, published June 22, 2011.

Supreme Court strikes down state drug data mining law; rejects generic drug labeling suits

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
By Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court struck down on Thursday a state law that prohibits the use of prescription drug records for marketing, in a case pitting free-speech rights against medical privacy concerns.

The high court handed a victory to data mining companies IMS Health, Verispan and Source Healthcare Analytics, a unit of Dutch publisher Wolters Kluwer, that collect and sell such information and that challenged the law.

(Reporting by James Vicini, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that generic drug companies cannot be sued under state law over allegations that they failed to provide adequate label warnings about potential side effects.

The justices handed a victory to Israel's Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Mylan Inc's UDL Laboratories and Iceland-based Actavis Inc by overturning U.S. appeals court rulings that allowed such lawsuits.

(Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

U.S. anti-Internet piracy campaign violates First Amendment

By Eric W. Dolan  Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal court to return two domain names seized as part of the U.S. government's "Operation in Our Sites," an ongoing campaign against websites that illegally provide access to copyrighted material.

"This misguided intellectual property enforcement effort is causing serious collateral damage to free speech rights," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "These domain seizures should cease unless and until the government can fix the First Amendment flaws inherent in the program."

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced in February that the domain names of ten "linking" websites had been seized for allegedly providing access to illegal, pirated telecasts of the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, World Wrestling Entertainment, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Visitors to these websites now only see a banner that says the domain name was seized by the New York office of ICE HSI because of criminal copyright violations.

The websites did not themselves host any illegal content, but allowed users to easily browse for links to third party websites that were hosting pirated videos, according to ICE.

EFF's amicus brief (PDF) was filed in support of a petition from Puerto 80, the Spanish company that owns the streaming sites and, which were both seized by ICE.

A Spanish court found the sites did not violate copyright law.

"Neither the government nor rightsholders should fear a copyright enforcement process that complies with the rule of law," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Valid claims of copyright infringement can be pursued in a manner that allows the accused parties to defend themselves. The unilateral seizure of domain names without a court ruling -- which obstructs access to all of a website's content -- is improper and should be strongly opposed by free speech advocates everywhere."

ICE has seized a total of 125 domain names as part of their ongoing anti-infringement campaign.

The domain seizures have been carried out under a procedure that allows the government to seize physical property that has been used in the commission of a crime, a strategy questioned by Members of Congress. The Supreme Court has ruled that seizures without prior notice must be limited to "extraordinary situations where some valid government interest is at stake" -- a narrowly-drawn exception that would not appear to apply to cases of copyright violation.


Four of the largest ISPs in the USA are on the verge of approving a deal with the RIAA and MPAA that'll require ISPs to limit people who repeatedly infringe copyright to visiting only 200 websites, throttled bandwidth, and/or sending them to copyright re-education school.

These are characterized as an alternative to outright disconnection, but as the entertainment execs behind it know that heavily throttled connections or limited access to a small collection of websites are tantamount to disconnection when it comes to the diverse benefits accrue to Internet users. And being sent to a copyright school designed by the entertainment industry isn't likely to deliver a decent understanding of education.
After years of negotiations, a group of bandwidth providers that includes AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon are closer than ever to striking a deal with media and entertainment companies that would call for them to establish new and tougher punishments for customers who refuse to stop using their networks to pirate films, music and other intellectual property, multiple sources told CNET
The sources cautioned that a final agreement has yet to be signed and that the partnership could still unravel but added that at this point a deal is within reach and is on track to be unveiled sometime next month...
Participating ISPs are given plenty of choices on how to respond to the toughest cases. They can select from a "menu" of responses outlined in the plan, such as throttling down an accused customer's bandwidth speed or limit their access to the Web. For example, a suspected pirate may be allowed to visit only the top 200 Web sites until the illegal file sharing stops. The subscriber may also be required to participate in a program that educates them on copyright law and the rights of content creators. In the past, a graduated response was also supposed to lead to a complete termination of service for chronic file sharers. Kicking someone off a network is not required under the proposed agreement, the sources said. As for who pays for all this, the ISPs and copyright owners will share the costs of operating the program, sources said.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

'It's Class Warfare' - Criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan's Budget Wasteland

The Koch Brothers' Campaign to Kill Social Security

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 by Brave New Foundation
The rightwing industrialists have spent millions funding opinion-forming propaganda to undermine a vital public service
by Robert Greenwald

Documents and interviews unearthed in recent months by Brave New Foundation researchers illustrate a $28.4m Koch business that has manufactured 297 commentaries, 200 reports, 56 studies and six books distorting social security's effectiveness and purpose. Together, the publications reveal a vast cottage industry comprised of Koch brothers' spokespeople, front groups, thinktanks, academics and elected officials, which has built a self-sustaining echo chamber to transform fringe ideas into popular mainstream public policy arguments.

"The Koch brothers job is to do everything they can to dismember government in general," Senator Bernie Sanders says in this video. "If you can destroy social security, you will have gone a long way forward in that effort."

World's Wealthiest People Now Richer than Before the Credit Crunch

by Jill Treanor 
We are not all in this together. The UK economy is flat, the US is weak and the Greek debt crisis, according to some commentators, is threatening another Lehman Brothers-style meltdown. But a new report shows the world's wealthiest people are getting more prosperous – and more numerous – by the day.
 The globe's richest have now recouped the losses they suffered after the 2008 banking crisis. They are richer than ever, and there are more of them – nearly 11 million – than before the recession struck.

In the world of the well-heeled, the rich are referred to as "high net worth individuals" (HNWIs) and defined as people who have more than $1m (£620,000) of free cash.

According to the annual world wealth report by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini, the wealth of HNWIs around the world reached $42.7tn (£26.5tn) in 2010, rising nearly 10% in a year and surpassing the peak of $40.7tn reached in 2007, even as austerity budgets were implemented by many governments in the developed world.

The report also measures a category of "ultra-high net worth individuals" – those with at least $30m rattling around, looking for a home. The number of individuals in this super-rich bracket climbed 10% to a total of 103,000, and the total value of their investments jumped by 11.5% to $15tn, demonstrating that even among the rich, the richest get richer quicker. Altogether they represent less than 1% of the world's HNWIs – but they speak for 36% of HNWI's total wealth.

Age also helps: more than eight out of 10 of the world's wealthiest people are aged over 45. So does being male: women account for just over a quarter of the total – though this is slightly higher than in 2008. The highest proportion of wealthy women is in North America – 37% of HNWIs – while the lowest is in the Middle East, which has 14%.

Generally, HNWIs are most concentrated in the US, Japan and Germany: 53% of the world's most wealthy live in one of those three countries, but it is Asian-Pacific countries where the ranks of the rich are swelling fastest. For the first time last year the region surpassed Europe in terms of HNWI individuals.

This scale of wealth of the richest people in Asia Pacific – fueled by the fast-growing economies in China and India – is now threatening to overtake North America, where the value of the wealth rose more slowly – 9% – to reach $11.6tn.

The richest people in the Asia-Pacific region have also fared better since the crisis. Their wealth is now up 14.1% since 2007 while individuals in North America and Europe are yet to recoup the losses they suffered during the banking crisis.

Britain is lagging behind in the league of affluence – it has not yet enjoyed a return to pre-crisis levels of wealth as sluggish economic growth holds back prospects. The growth in the number of rich individuals in the UK was among the slowest in the top 10 nations, showing a 1.4% rise to 454,000 and remaining below the 495,000 recorded in 2007.

The report said that while the UK stock market rose almost 30% and GDP grew 1.3% – after contracting by 4.9% in 2009 – the fortunes of the rich were held back by falling house prices and the rise in unemployment.

Their prospects might improve next year, however. "Construction spending for the 2012 London Olympics is expected to help propel the economy and the housing market recovery," the report said.

The 1.4% rise in the number of rich people in Britain compares with a 7.2% rise in Germany and 8.3% in the US – where there are 3.1m HNWIs – and the 3.4% rise in France.

India moved into the top 12, with a 20.8% rise to 153,000, for the first time, while Italy, 10th in the table, endured a contraction in the number of wealthy people from 190,000 to 170,000.

The performance of investments made by wealthy individuals in shares and commodities, and their willingness to take more risks, helps drive their wealth, which in turn fuels "passion" purchases of multimillionaire must-haves, ranging from Ferraris to diamonds, art and fine wines. Demand for such luxuries is especially high among the growing number of wealthy individuals in the emerging markets.

The report warns of problems for this year, saying "the path to global recovery will likely be uneven and various risks remain".

It added: "The global effects of the financial crisis receded in 2010 but aftershocks still materialized in many forms, including the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the growing burden of a gaping fiscal deficit in the US. These types of shocks showed the fragility of the economic recovery and could still pose an obstacle to growth in 2011".

New bill ending federal ban on marijuana to be introduced in Congress

By Eric W. Dolan - RAW Story
Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) will introduce legislation on Thursday to the U.S. House of Representatives that ends the federal prohibition on marijuana.

The Oakland Tribute reported that the bill would limit the federal government to enforcing cross-border or inter-state smuggling laws, and allow people to grow, possess, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal to do so.

Although over a dozen states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical reasons, it is still outlawed under the federal Controlled Substance Act. 

The legislation authored by Frank and Paul would allow each state to propose and enforce its own marijuana laws without federal interference.

Democratic Reps. John Conyers (MI), Steve Cohen (TN), Jared Polis (CO) and Barbara Lee (CA) are co-sponsors of the bill.

"The human cost of the failed drug war has been enormous -- egregious racial disparities, shattered families, poverty, public health crises, prohibition-related violence, and the erosion of civil liberties," Lee said Wednesday. "And of course the cost in dollars and cents has been staggering as well -- over a trillion dollars spent to incarcerate tens of millions of young people."

"I co-sponsored this bipartisan legislation because I believe it is time to turn the page from this failed drug war."

Rep. Cohen, another co-sponsor, called last week for an end to the 40-year war on drugs, which he said had spent trillions of dollars to incarcerate millions of people for non-violent crimes.

Carnival of Crazy

WikiLeaks Expose Corporatism Dominating American Diplomacy

One of WikiLeaks' greatest achievements has been to expose the exorbitant amount of influence that multinational corporations have over Washington's diplomacy.
By Rania Khalek, AlterNet
Posted on June 22, 2011

One of the most significant scourges paralyzing our democracy is the merger of corporate power with elected and appointed government officials at the highest levels of office.  Influence has a steep price-tag in American politics where politicians are bought and paid for with ever increasing campaign contributions from big business, essentially drowning out any and all voices advocating on behalf of the public interest. 

Millions of dollars in campaign funding flooding Washington's halls of power combined with tens of thousands of high-paid corporate lobbyists and a never-ending revolving door that allows corporate executives to shuffle between the public and private sectors has blurred the line between government agencies and private corporations.  

This corporate dominance over government affairs helps to explain why we are plagued by a health-care system that lines the pockets of industry executives to the detriment of the sick; a war industry that causes insurmountable death and destruction to enrich weapons-makers and defense contractors; and a financial sector that violates the working class and poor to dole out billions of dollars in bonuses to Wall Street CEO's.

The implications of this rapidly growing corporatism reach far beyond our borders and into the realm of American diplomacy, as in one case where efforts by US diplomats forced the minimum wage for beleaguered Haitian workers to remain below sweatshop levels.

In this context of corporate government corruption, one of WikiLeaks' greatest achievements has been to expose the exorbitant amount of influence that multinational corporations have over Washington's diplomacy. Many of the WikiLeaks US embassy cables reveal the naked intervention by our ambassadorial staff in the business of foreign countries on behalf of US corporations. From mining companies in Peru to pharmaceutical companies in Ecuador, one WikiLeaks embassy cable after the next illuminates a pattern of US diplomats shilling for corporate interests abroad in the most underhanded and sleazy ways imaginable.

While the merger of corporate and government power isn't exactly breaking news, it is one of the most critical yet under-reported issues of our time. And WikiLeaks has given us an inside look at the inner-workings of this corporate-government collusion, often operating at the highest levels of power. It is crystal clear that it's standard operating procedure for US government officials to moonlight as corporate stooges. Thanks to WikiLeaks, here are instances that display the lengths to which Washington is willing to go to protect and promote US corporations around the world.

1. US officials work as salespeople for Boeing. The merger of state and corporate power is striking in a slew of cables detailing US State Department officials acting as marketing agents on behalf of one lucky corporation. Earlier this year the New York Times revealed details about how US diplomats have actively promoted the sale of commercial jets built by the US company Boeing.

Hundreds of cables from WikiLeaks show that Boeing had a sales force of US diplomats that went up to the highest levels of government, even going as far as sabotaging sales for Boeing's European rival Airbus. Enticing deals for the jetliners were offered to heads of state and airline executives in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Turkey and other countries. The WikiLeaks documents also suggest that demands for bribes, or at least payment to suspicious intermediaries, still take place.

In a deal that was valued at about $3.4 billion, the US Embassy in Istanbul pushed for the sale of Boeing jetliners to Turkish Airlines (THY), according to a  cable from January 2010. In return, the president of Turkey asked the Obama administration to let a Turkish astronaut sit in on a NASA space flight.

The most puzzling and ironic tidbit in the cable is the US ambassador's bewilderment at the "conflation of USG-GOT interactions and what is ostensibly a commercial sale between private firms," which he complains is "an unwelcome, but unsurprising degree of political influence in this transaction." The accusation that inappropriate political influence exists among the Turkish government and a private airline is laughable considering that the US State Department is the one pitching the sale on behalf of a private firm.

The cable goes on to say, “We probably cannot put a Turkish astronaut in orbit, but there are programs we could undertake to strengthen Turkey’s capacity in this area that would meet our own goals for improved aviation safety. In any case, we must show some response to the minister’s vague request if we want to maximize chances for the sale.”

In November of last year, Saudi Arabia announced a deal with Boeing to buy more than $3.3 billion worth of airliners, a deal that WikiLeaks reveals was preceded by years of intense lobbying by American officials of the highest order.

In late 2006, then President George W. Bush wrote a personal letter he had hand-delivered to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, practically begging the king to buy as many as 43 Boeing jets to modernize Saudi Arabian Airlines and 13 jets for the Saudi royal fleet.

King Abdullah responded by asking the US government and President Bush to trick out his private airplane with the same high-tech equipment used on Air Force One. He hinted that if the US fulfilled his request, he would make a large purchase of Boeing planes for the royal family's fleet and Saudi Arabian Airlines. And lo and behold, King Abdullah got his airplane upgrade, and Boeing made billions.

A cable from early 2008 details a plan that successfully sabotaged an Airbus sale. In December 2007, the Bahrain-owned airline Gulf Air announced plans to buy a new fleet of Airbus planes. Boeing officials alerted the State Department, which immediately intervened urging them to buy from Boeing instead. Following months of intense lobbying by the ambassador, the crown prince and king of Bahrain agreed to kill the Airbus purchase. They ordered Gulf Air to reopen negotiations with Boeing, ultimately winning the deal valued at $6 billion, which was signed while President Bush was visiting Bahrain.

2. US diplomats by day — Monsanto the devil henchmen by night. Boeing isn't the only multi-billion-dollar corporation US diplomats have been shilling for. In a cable from late 2007, former ambassador to France, Craig Stapleton, advised Washington to launch a military-style trade war against any European Union country that opposed genetically modified (GM) crops.

"Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits. The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory," he wrote.

Stapleton was reacting to efforts by France to ban a Monsanto the devil GM corn variety. He specifically asked Washington to punish the EU countries that did not support the use of GM crops.

"Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices."

An embassy cable from 2009 written by the ambassador to Spain directly cites meetings with Monsanto the devil executives, showing that US diplomats were taking orders directly from GM companies.

Monsanto the devil's director for biotechnology for Spain and Portugal briefed embassy officials about the region, complaining that "Spain is increasingly becoming a target of anti-biotechnology forces within Europe. If Spain falls, the rest of Europe will follow."

In a random insult thrown into the cable, the ambassador says, "Within the agriculture sector, only left-wing farmers' unions have negative opinions of GMOs."

The cable ends with a dramatic call for intervention by the US government on behalf of Monsanto the devil:  "ACTION REQUESTED: In response to recent urgent requests by [Spanish rural affairs ministry] State Secretary Josep Puxeu and Monsanto the devil, post requests renewed US government support of Spain's science-based agricultural biotechnology position through high-level US government intervention."

3. Pharmaceuticals + US diplomats = best friends forever. In October 2009, Ecuador's President Rafael Correa issued a decree to improve access to medicines and support public health programs through a protocol that would reduce drug costs. Cables from US embassy personnel in Ecuador to the U.S. Department of State show the United States, multinational pharmaceutical companies, and three ministers within the government shared information and worked to undermine Ecuador's emerging policy.

In a cable dated October 13, 2009, before the decree was issued, the US ambassador was troubled by Correa's plans because it would prioritize local production and eliminate pharmaceutical patents. In other words, Ecuador was about to makes changes that would negatively impact the profits of US pharmaceutical companies.

Immediately following word of Correa's plans, the US embassy staff met with local representatives of US pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Merck, Sharp and Dohme, Scering-Plough, and Wyeth to share strategies that would prevent or limit Ecuador's licensing changes.

US concerns intensified as revealed by a cable written days later, which refers to meetings with "well-placed contacts" with "potentially sympathetic ministries." In what sounds like attempted blackmail, Minister of Health Caroline Chang -- one of the "well-placed contacts" described as an ally — assured multinational pharmaceuticals that she was looking into financial irregularities and business dealings of some of the local producers with the intent of gaining some leverage.

Despite efforts to undermine Ecuador’s access protocol, Ecuador issued its first compulsory license in April 2010, enabling generic imports of the HIV/AIDS drug ritonavir.

4. Washington 'hearts' abusive mining companies in Peru. From Bolivia to Venezuela to Peru, American diplomats are obsessed with securing the profits of multinational mining corporations at the cost of indigenous rights and the environment. At least that is the impression given by WikiLeaks cables that detail the eruption of anti-mining protests near the Ecuador border against the mining firm Minera Majaz.

In August 2005, a group of protesters in northern Peru marched to the site of a copper mine operated by the firm Minera Majaz, a subsidiary of the British mining company Monterrico Metals. Of the hundreds of people who converged at the mine site from the surrounding communities, 28 were brutally tortured and three were shot, one of whom bled to death

But you wouldn't know this from the WikiLeaks US embassy cables that describe the protests. The tone is one of sympathy for the mining company, while depicting the protesters as dark and sinister "militant anti-mining protesters" maliciously sabotaging Majaz.

In a cable following the protests, J. Curtis Struble, the former US ambassador to Peru, toes the Majaz line that communists and unions were to blame for sowing the seeds of rebellion, an accusation that reeks of Washington's typical red-baiting of anything opposed to abusive corporate practices in the developing world.

"The anti-mining forces in action in Majaz represent a strange group of bedfellows indeed -- the Catholic church, violent radical leftists, NGOs, ronderos and perhaps narcotraffickers. Working behind the scene are a combination of the Peruvian Communist Party/Patria Roja, national teachers, union SUTEP and perhaps opium poppy traffickers," says Struble.

Struble's glowing profile of the mining company reads: "Majaz has spent $20 million exploring for copper for over a year, building roads and providing services and employment to area residents. Militants still deny access to most of the pipeline route."

Not once does Struble acknowledge the long history of devastation that mining companies have caused throughout the region, such as pollution of the local water supply and land, the use of brutal paramilitaries in assassinating indigenous leaders who challenge them, or the displacement caused by theft of indigenous lands.

Just days after the blatant human rights violations committed against the protesters, another cable reveals that the US and Canadian ambassadors hosted a meeting with representatives from several international mining companies in Peru. Struble expresses his plan to reinforce security in the mines, to avoid the closing of highways by demonstrators which would disrupt commerce, and to encourage the Peruvian government to prosecute the protesters.

5. Diplomats as corporate spies. A more recent US embassy cable dated March 17, 2008, reveals that US diplomats spied on indigenous activists and their supporters who were organizing anti-summit protests against the European Union-Latin American Heads of State summit that was scheduled in Lima that year.

US ambassador to Peru James Nealon identified specific indigenous activists and tracked the involvement of Bolivian President Evo Morales, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Bolivia Ambassador Pablo Solon, prominent Quechua activist Miguel Palacin Quispe and other influential community leaders. 

What do all these people have in common? Their unwavering support for indigenous rights and the environment along with their successful organizing tactics and popularity among indigenous populations, which has Washington's corporate masters shaking in their boots.

Nealon describes the anti-summit groups as "a variety of radical Peruvian social movements and European anti-globalization NGOs," citing specific peasant and indigenous groups along with the names of prominent organizers who the US embassy was keeping tabs on. The cable is riddled with insulting references to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales, particularly Morales and his supporters. One Bolivian social leader is described as a "pro-Morales ideologue" and another as a "top Evo Morales adviser and anti-free trade and globalization guru."

In almost all of the Peru cables, the US government interprets the enemies of corporate power as being enemies of the United States. As a result, leftist activists and community organizers, particularly those who  threaten corporate profits, are regularly targeted. Unions, environmentalists and indigenous communities that challenge multinationals are consistently regarded with disdain and viewed as hostile villains. The US government's propensity at conflating threats to corporate interests as threats to US interests should alarm anyone who values democracy.

What don't we know about?
Besides getting a good laugh at watching pathetically corrupt diplomats whore themselves out to corporate executives, these cables give us a rare glimpse at American diplomatic subservience to corporate behemoths regardless of the costs to people and the environment.
It appears that the collusion between corporate executives and US diplomats is taking place at an ever accelerating rate around the globe, yet more and more, these shady endeavors are shrouded in secrecy. Transparency and accountability have taken such a devastating blow over the past decade, that whistleblowers and media outlets such as WikiLeaks are the only mechanisms left still capable of shedding light on the consequences of the unbridled corporate influence infecting our government.

With tens of thousands of WikiLeaks embassy cables still waiting to be published, there’s sure to be hundreds if not thousands of episodes involving US corporate and government collusion that have yet to be discovered. 

Responding to PolitiFact, Stewart reads laundry list of Fox News lies

By Stephen C. Webster | 06.22.11 | RAW Story
When comedian Jon Stewart told Fox News host Chris Wallace that Fox News viewers are the “most consistently misinformed” in “every poll,” he may have let his rhetoric run away from him, just a little — and he got fact checked by PolitiFact, which called his allegation “false.”

On Tuesday night’s show, Stewart apologized and corrected the statement, then turned around a laundry list of Fox News lies and PolitiFact’s ratings.

“Well, I tell ya what … They’ve got a lot of fucking correcting to do,” he concluded.

This video is from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, broadcast Tuesday, June 22, 2011.

Here is Stewart's unedited appearance on FOX News Sunday.

Apple's Pre-Emptive Strike Against Free Speech

So you think you control your smartphone? Think again.

Late last week reports uncovered a plan by Apple, manufacturer of the iPhone, to patent technology that can detect when people are using their phone cameras and shut them down.

Apple says this technology was intended to stop people from recording video at live concerts, which should worry the creative commons crowd. But a remote "kill switch" has far more sinister applications in the hands of repressive governments. And it further raises concerns about the power new media companies hold over our right to connect and communicate.

Imagine if Apple's device had been available to the Mubarak regime earlier this year, and Egyptian security forces had deployed it around Tahrir Square to disable cameras just before they sent in their thugs to disperse the crowd.

Would the global outcry that helped drive Mubarak from office have occurred if a blackout of protest videos had prevented us from viewing the crackdown?

This is more than speculation. Thousands of people across the Middle East and North Africa have used cellphone cameras to document human rights abuses and share them with millions via social media.

In a February speech, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton credited the viral spread of a cellphone video depicting the shooting death of a young Iranian woman named Neda for bringing world attention to the human rights abuses of the regime.

What would we know of Neda's shocking death had Iranian security forces disabled that camera?

Social Media's Wild West
But here's the rub. The First Amendment and Article 19 of the U.N.'s Declaration on Human Rights don't really apply to the corporations that build these cellphones and run these social networks. Free speech rules don't apply to Silicon Valley.

And while platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr might enable individual expression more than governments do, many governments are at least accountable by law for protecting your right to speech and assembly.

The social networks are only beholden to their terms of service, which in most cases extend them the power to take down your communications "for any or no reason."

That's why Flickr got away with taking down the photographs and files of Egyptian security officers, which were posted by a local activist wanting to draw attention to their crimes. That's why could kick Wikileaks off its hosting platform after it released a series of diplomatic cables that exposed abuses of power by American agents. And that's why Facebook could shut down the pages of any anonymous political protester who decides to use the network to build a community of like-minded activists.

"Hosting your political movement on YouTube is a little like trying to hold a rally in a shopping mall. It looks like a public space, but it's not," writes Ethan Zuckerman of Harvard's Berkman Center.

"Even if YouTube's rulers take their function as a free speech platform seriously and work to ensure you've got rights to post content, they're a benevolent despot, not a representative government."

A Pre-emptive Strike
What Apple is proposing to develop is worse in many ways. Its cellphone camera kill switch can be used as a pre-emptive strike against free speech.

In its patent application, Apple describes the technology as making it impossible to capture video or pictures at events where cameras and video recorders are prohibited. Your phone determines whether an image includes an infrared beam with encoded data. This data is sent from an emitter that directs the cellphone or a similar device to shut down image capture.

Disabling emitters could be mounted on stages, throughout public squares or, conceivably, on police helmets.

While the technology might not be available now, the grave consequences of its use far outweigh any worry Apple and its entertainment industry allies have about video piracy.

More than ten thousand people have already signed a letter imploring Apple CEO Steve Jobs to pull the plug on this technology.

Smartphones like the iPhone and Droid are becoming extensions of ourselves. They are not simply tools to connect with friends and family, but a means to document the world around us, engage in political issues and organize with others. They literally put the power of the media in our own hands.

Apple's proposed technology would take that power away.

Things The Mainstream Media Is Being Quiet About Right Now

(Lost in the daily tracking of Weiner's weiner, premature political debates and celebrity news, are events that are far more important yet receive little mention.--jef)

The End of the American Dream - 06/21/2011

As the mainstream media continues to be obsessed with Anthony Weiner and his bizarre adventures on Twitter, much more serious events are happening around the world that are getting very little attention. 

In America today, if the mainstream media does not cover something, it is almost as if it never happened. Right now, the worst nuclear disaster in human history continues to unfold in Japan; U.S. nuclear facilities are being threatened by flood waters; the U.S. military is bombing Yemen; gigantic cracks in the earth are appearing all over the globe; and the largest wildfire in Arizona history is causing immense devastation.  But Anthony Weiner, Bristol Palin and Miss USA are what the mainstream media want to tell us about and most Americans are buying it.

In times like these, it is more important than ever to think for ourselves.  The corporate-owned mainstream media is not interested in looking out for us.  Rather, they are going to tell us whatever fits with the agenda that their owners are pushing.

That is why more Americans than ever are turning to the alternative media.  Americans are hungry for the truth, and they know that the amount of truth that they get from the mainstream media continues to decline.

The following are things that the mainstream media is being strangely quiet about right now....

  • The crisis at the Fort Calhoun nuclear facility in Nebraska has received almost no attention in the national mainstream media.
Back on June 7th, there was a fire at Fort Calhoun.  The official story is that the fire was in an electrical switchgear room at the plant.  The facility lost power to a pump that cools the spent fuel pool for approximately 90 minutes.  According to the Omaha Public Power District, the fire was quickly extinguished and no radioactive material was released.
The following sequence of events is directly from the Omaha Public Power District website....
  • There was no such imminent danger with the Fort Calhoun Station spent-fuel pool.
  • Due to a fire in an electrical switchgear room at FCS on the morning of June 7, the plant temporarily lost power to a pump that cools the spent-fuel pool.
  • The fire-suppression system in that switchgear room operated as designed, extinguishing the fire quickly.
  • FCS plant operators switched the spent-fuel pool cooling system to an installed backup pump about 90 minutes after the loss of power.
  • During the interruption of cooling, temperature of the pool increased a few degrees, but the pool was never in danger of boiling.
  • Due to this situation, FCS declared an Alert at about 9:40 a.m. on June 7.
  • An alert is the second-least-serious of four emergency classifications established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  • At about 1:15 p.m. on June 7, FCS operators declared they had taken all appropriate measures to safely return to the previously declared Notification of Unusual Event emergency classification. (See first item above.)
But the crisis at Fort Calhoun is not over.  Right now, the nuclear facility at Fort Calhoun is essentially an island. It is surrounded by rising flood waters from the Missouri River.
Officials claim that there is no danger and that they are prepared for the river to rise another ten feet.
The Cooper Nuclear Station in Brownville, Nebraska is also being threatened by rising flood waters.  A "Notification of Unusual Event" was declared at Cooper Nuclear Station this morning at 4:02.  This notification was issued because the Missouri River's water level reached 42.5 feet.
Right now the facility is operating normally and officials don't expect a crisis.
But considering what has been going on at Fukushima, it would be nice if we could have gotten a lot more coverage of these events by the mainstream media.
  • Most Americans are aware that the U.S. is involved in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.  However, the truth is that the U.S. military is also regularly bombing Yemen and parts of Pakistan If you count the countries where the U.S. has special forces and/or covert operatives on the ground, the U.S. is probably "active" in more countries in the Middle East than it is not.  Now there are even persistent rumors that U.S. ground units are being prepared to go into Libya.  Are we watching the early stages of World War 3 unfold before our eyes in slow motion?
  • The crisis at Fukushima continues to get worse.  Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president, recently made the following statement about the Fukushima disaster....
"Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind"
TEPCO has finally admitted that this disaster has released more radioactive material into the environment than Chernobyl did.  That makes Fukushima the worst nuclear disaster of all time, and it is far from over.
Massive amounts of water is being poured into the spent fuel pools in order to keep them cool.  This is creating "hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive sea water" that has got to go somewhere.  Inevitably much of it will get into the ground and into the sea.
Arnold Gundersen says that the scope of this problem is almost unimaginable....
"TEPCO announced they had a melt through. A melt down is when the fuel collapses to the bottom of the reactor, and a melt through means it has melted through some layers. That blob is incredibly radioactive, and now you have water on top of it. The water picks up enormous amounts of radiation, so you add more water and you are generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive water."
The mainstream media is not paying as much attention to Fukushima these days, but that doesn't mean that it is not a major league nightmare.
Elevated levels of radiation are being reported by Japanese bloggers all over eastern Japan.  There are reports of sick children all over the region.  One adviser to the government of Japan says that an area approximately 17 times the size of Manhattan is probably going to be uninhabitable.
Of course the mainstream media has been telling us all along that Fukushima is nothing to be too concerned about and that authorities in Japan have everything under control.
If the mainstream media is not going to tell us the truth, how are they going to continue to have credibility?
  • China's eastern province of Zhejiang has experienced that worst flooding that it has seen in 55 years.  2 million people have already been forced to leave their homes.  China has already been having huge problems with their crops over the past few years and this is only going to make things worse.

  • All over the world, huge cracks are appearing for no discernible reason.  For example, a massive crack that is approximately 3 kilometers long recent appeared in southern Peru.  Also, a 500 foot long crack suddenly appeared recently in the state of Michigan.  When you also throw in all of the gigantic sinkholes that have been opening all over the world, it is easy to conclude that the planet is becoming very unstable.
  • According to U.S. Forest Service officials, the largest wildfire in Arizona state history has now covered more than 500,000 acres.  But based on the coverage it is being given by the mainstream media you would think that it is a non-event.
  • There are reports that North Korea has tested a "super EMP weapon" which would be capable of taking out most of the U.S. power grid in a single shot.  The North Koreans are apparently about to conduct another nuclear test and that has some Obama administration officials very concerned.
  • All over the United States, "active shooter drills" are being conducted in our public schools.  Often, most of the students are not told that these drills are fake.  Instead, students often go through hours of terror as they think a hostage situation or a shooting spree is really taking place.
  • NASA has just launched a "major" preparedness initiative for all NASA personnel.  The following is an excerpt about this plan from NASA's own website....
A major initiative has been placed on Family/Personal Preparedness for all NASA personnel. The NASA Family/Personal Preparedness Program is designed to provide awareness, resources, and tools to the NASA Family (civil servants and contractors) to prepare for an emergency situation. The most important assets in the successful completion of NASA’s mission are our employees’ and their families. We are taking the steps to prepare our workforce, but it is your personal obligation to prepare yourself and your families for emergencies.
  • Over the past week over 40 temporary "no fly zones" have been declared by the FAA.  This is very highly unusual.  Nobody seems to know exactly why this is happening. One of the no fly zones is over Fort Calhoun.