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Archive for February 2010

Do Toxins Cause Autism?

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Care2 posted by Melissa Breyer Feb 26, 2010

It took a few thousand years for us to realize the severity of lead poisoning, although the signs were certainly there: “crazy as a painter” was a catch phrase rooted in the demented behavior of lead-poisoned painters in antiquity. Mad as a hatter? Before the use of mercury was banned in the 1940s, hat makers used it in their craft–which left many of them drooling, twitching, lurching, befuddled and mumbling. Seems to me that when a segment of the population is suffering from a mysterious condition, it would be prudent to examine the possibility of environmental toxins as the culprit.

Lead, mercury, asbestos–can phthalates be next? Phthalates, called “plasticizers,” are a group of industrial chemicals used to make plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) more flexible or resilient and also as solvents. Phthalates, as described by the EWG are nearly ubiquitous in modern society, found in, among other things, toys, food packaging, hoses, raincoats, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, wall coverings, lubricants, adhesives, detergents, nail polish, hair spray and shampoo.

According to a recent story in The New York Times, concern about toxins in our products and the environment used to be a fringe view, but now concern has moved into the medical mainstream. Toxicologists, endocrinologists and oncologists seem to be the most alarmed. One area of particular concern? The relationship between toxins and autism.

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Niall Ferguson- Complexity and Collapse

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Empires on the Edge of Chaos


Imperial collapse may come much more suddenly than many historians imagine. A combination of fiscal deficits and military overstretch suggests that the United States may be the next empire on the precipice.

NIALL FERGUSON is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His most recent book is The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World.

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Fiore: Free Market Clapper

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How come Mark Fiore (www.markfiore.com) gets it but the US  Senate doesn’t? Maybe he just doesn’t know the right lobbyists…….

Joe Bageant: Round Midnight- Tortillas and the Corporate State

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“If our national and individual minds have been colonized, occupied, then we necessarily live in an occupied nation. We have arrived at the destination where the trajectory of material consumer capitalism was always headed, toward an occupied (and preoccupied) totalitarian society. Rational, practical, productive and autonomous.”

By Joe Bageant
Ajijic, Mexico

Near midnight and I am making tortillas on an iron skillet over a gas flame. Some three thousand miles to the north, my wife and dog nestle in sleep in the wake of a 34-inch snowstorm, while the dogs of Ajijic are barking at the witching hour and roosters crow all too early for the dawn. While my good Mexican neighbors along Zaragoza Street sleep.

Yet here I am awake and patting out tortillas, haunted by the empire that I have called home most of my life.

I like to think that, for the most part, I no longer live up there in the U.S., but southward of its ticking social, political and economic bombs. Because the US debt bomb has not yet gone off, Social Security still exists, and the occasional royalty check or book advance still comes in, allowing me to remain here. And so long as America’s perverse commodities economy keeps stumbling along and making lifelike noises, so long as the American people accept permanent debt subjugation — I can drink, think and burn tortillas. Believe me, I take no smugness in this irony.

There is a terrible science fiction-like awe in the autonomous American economic monolith, in the way that it provides for us, feeds on us and keeps us as its both its lavish pets and slaves. Read the rest of this entry »

Watchdog Group Cuts Deficit — Without Touching Medicare, Social Security, Or Other Social Programs

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February 25, 2010

On the Hill

A consumer watchdog group is giving President Obama’s bipartisan deficit-reduction commission a head start — a $1.4 trillion head start.

Obama last week created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to develop a plan to balance the federal budget by 2015 and strengthen

off shore tax havens add to the deficit

the government’s financial health. Obama named as co-chairs Clinton administration budget director Alice Rivlin and former GOP senator Alan Simpson.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group this week posted online in The First Trillion report – a new list of policy recommendations that would save American taxpayers more than $1 trillion.

None of the recommendations would cut Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security or other social safety-net programs that many liberals worry will come under the commission’s fiscal knife.

To calculate The First Trillion, U.S. PIRG says it looked at existing tax code for loopholes, reviewed government reports on wasteful contracting practices and crunched the numbers. The group says that it came up with ways the government can save the first trillion dollars “by enacting common sense policy that is in the public interest.”

“To truly put everything on the table, the commission cannot ignore gaping corporate loopholes and tax breaks that have gone unchecked,” says Nicole Tichon, tax and budget reform analyst for U.S. PIRG. “There has also been ample evidence that all agencies need to undergo scrutiny when it comes to the money spent on contracts.”

A number of the recommended provisions were included in Obama’s proposed budgets last year and this year, but never made their way into final legislation, U.S. PIRG notes. Some of the largest potential revenues can be derived from closing loopholes that enable large corporations and individuals to make use of offshore tax havens for business or banking. Despite attenpting to make political hay out of the budget deficit, Republicans have already objected to ending at least some of these corporate giveaways.

The U.S. PIRG recommendations would collect duplicate payments made to federal contractors, as well as collect delinquent taxes from these contactors, and end student loan subsidies to private lenders.

“In addition to bailing out bankers now rolling in bonus money, taxpayers and small businesses on Main Street have had to assume the tax burden of those who use every trick in the book to avoid paying taxes,” Tichon says. “This has got to end, and enacting the policy recommendations in The First Trillion report are a good place to start.”

Juan Cole: Gates wants Europe to beggar itself on War Expenditures the Way the US Has

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February 24, 2010         

Informed Comment

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates decries Europe for general anti-war sentiment, unwillingness to beggar itself with expenditures on war.

But as far as I can tell, Europe is the world’s largest economy and got there without any recent substantial wars except those the US dragged it into. Moreover, the fastest-growing economy for the past nearly 30 years has been China, which spends a fraction on their military of what the US spends on its, and, aside from a skirmish with Vietnam in the early 1980s, has been at peace. Apparently massive war expenditures are unrelated to economic growth or prosperity.

In contrast, the US has been at war for 19 of the last 47 years (not counting US-backed insurgencies such as 1980s Afghanistan, on which we spent billions) but has not grown faster than the other two economically. Moreover, the increasingly unwieldy US national debt, deriving from the US government spending more than it took in in recent decades, would not exist if the US military budget had been the same as that of the European Union since 1980. The US overspent on its military because Washington mistakenly thought the Soviet economy was twice as big as it actually was, and vastly over-estimated Soviet military capabilities. The bloated military budgets continue now, apparently because of a couple thousand al-Qaeda operatives hiding out in caves in the Hadhramawt and Waziristan.

Some statistics to ponder:

US Military Budget 2009: $711 billion
European Union Military Budget 2009: $289 billion
China Military Budget 2009: $122 billion.

US GDP 2009: $14.4 trillion
European Union GDP 2009: $16.5 trillion (PPP)
China GDP 2009: $8.8 trillion (PPP)

US economic growth 2009: 0.2%
European Union economic growth 2009: -4%
China economic growth 2009: 8.7 %

The real military-related expenditures of the US are closer to $1 trillion. If the US cut those back to the level of the European Union and spent the money on promoting solar energy and making it inexpensive, America would have a chance of remaining a great power in the 21st century. If it goes on rampaging around the world bankrupting itself by invading and occupying other countries, the Chinese will laugh at us all the way to world dominance.

Leaked ACTA draft reveals plans for internet clampdown

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ISPs must snoop on subscribers or face being sued by content owners

By Paul Meller | Brussels | 21 February, 2010   Computerworld

The US, Europe and other countries including New Zealand are secretly drawing up rules designed to crack down on copyright abuse on the internet, in part by making ISPs liable for illegal content, according to a copy of part of the confidential draft agreement that was seen by the IDG News Service.

It is the latest in a series of leaks from the anticounterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA) talks that have been going on for the past two years. Other leaks over the past three months have consisted of confidential internal memos about the negotiations between European lawmakers.

The chapter on the internet from the draft treaty was shown to the IDG News Service by a source close to people directly involved in the talks, who asked to remain anonymous. Although it was drawn up last October, it is the most recent negotiating text available, according to the source.

It proposes making ISPs (internet service providers) liable under civil law for the content their subscribers upload or download using their networks.

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Written by laudyms

February 24, 2010 at 10:29 am