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Archive for July 2011

US power grid tests approved without public consent (costs and consequences)

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By Rosalind Peterson

July 31, 2011

http://newswithviews.com/Peterson/rosalindA.htm

On June 27, 2011, CBS News reported: “…A yearlong experiment with America’s electric grid could mess up traffic lights, security systems and some computers and make plug-in clocks and appliances like programmable coffeemakers run up to 20 minutes fast…” [1]   CBS News also reported that:  “…Tom O’Brian, who heads the time and frequency division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, expects widespread (unspecified) effects…” [1].

The CBS report did not specify who approved this test.  This test will begin without public consent, substantial public notice or public debate in mid-July 2011 [1].  This test could disrupt so many businesses, state and local governments, and other government agencies, that it could quickly become a National Security nightmare and a massive public headache.

“A lot of people are going to have things break and they’re not going to know why,” said Demetrios Matsakis, head of the time service department at the U.S. Naval Observatory, one of two official timekeeping agencies in the federal government…This will be an interesting experiment to see how dependent our timekeeping is on the power grid, Matsakis said. [1-2].

According to CBS News, “…The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), runs the nation’s interlocking web of transmission lines and power plants and they will be conducting the tests…” [1, 3].  Will this company be liable for appliance replacement and other costs associated with these tests?

The disruptions from these tests may have the following consequences according to various news reports:

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The costs of WAR and Corporatism

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Afghan officials: NATO killed three civilians:

Wardak government spokesman Shahidullah Shahid says Dr. Aqeela Hekmat and two of her family members were killed in their vehicle. Aqeela was the head of gynecology and maternal health for neighboring Ghazni province.

US Tax Payers Fund The Taliban:

A year-long military-led investigation has concluded that U.S. taxpayer money has been indirectly funneled to the Taliban under a $2.16 billion transportation contract that the United States has funded in part to promote Afghan businesses.

The Omnipotence of Al Qaeda and Meaninglessness of “Terrorism”

By Glenn Greenwald

Al Qaeda is always to blame, even when it isn’t, even when it’s allegedly the work of a Nordic, Muslim-hating, right-wing European nationalist.

US wastes $34 bln in Afghan, Iraq contracting-study:

The United States has wasted some $34 billion on service contracts with the private sector in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a study being finalized for Congress.

US Gulag:
Judges keep accused Taliban fighter held at Guantanamo Bay:

The two rulings are just the latest from an an appeals court that has consistently sided with the Obama Administration in cases related to Guantanamo Bay detainees

Max Keiser: ‘US will see social and civil unrest’:

The Pentagon which is fighting yesterday’s war, funding military operations that don’t address the fact that we are in the 21 century currency war. It has nothing to do with the land based war; it has nothing to do with missiles, rockets, and submarines. It is about the currency.

Five Afghan children shot by British forces in helicopter raid:

The youngsters were working in a field in Helmand province when they were hit by “stray bullets” from an Apache gunship which was targeting the Taliban.

Defense Cuts? Don’t Believe Them Until You See Them:

One upshot of the debt-ceiling debate is that politicians might finally be ready to trim the outrageously bloated U.S. military budget. That’s the story, anyway, being told by the Washington Post

 

The government doesn’t give a wan, eitolated damn about you- Fred Reed

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The government doesn’t give a wan, eitolated damn about you. 

Eye-balling the Fifth Century

July 21, 2011   By Fred Reed       FredOnEverything.net

When a country works reasonably well—when the schools teach algebra and not governmentally mandated Appropriate Values, when the police are scarce and courteous, when government is remote and minds its business and works more for the benefit of the country than for looters and special interests, then pledging to it a degree of allegiance isn’t foolish. Decades back America was such a country, imperfect as all countries are, but good enough to cherish.

As decline begins, and government becomes oppressive, self-righteous, and ruthless yet incompetent, as official spying flourishes, as corruption sets in hard, and institutions rot, it is time to disengage. Loyalty to a country is a choice, not an obligation. In other times people have loved family, friends, common decency, tribe, regiment, or church instead of country. In an age of national collapse, this is wise.

A fruitful field of disengagement might be called domestic expatriation—the recognition that living in a country makes you a resident, not a subscriber. It is one thing to be loyal to a government that is loyal to you, another thing entirely to continue that loyalty when the Brown Shirts march and the government rejects everything that you believe in. While the phrase has become unbearably pretentious, it is possible to regard oneself as a citizen of the world rather than of the Reich.

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The unPATRIOTic Act & COINTELPRO 2.0 (you think you still have rights?)

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The PATRIOT Act has allowed the FBI and other government agencies to spy on you and monitor your activities. Join the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and fight back.

 

Government cyber-bullying: David House on political harassment 2.0

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 11:37 am by Philip Leggiere                                         People’s Blog for the Constitution

First a couple of government agents come to your apartment, offering cash rewards for you if you’ll only “keep your ear to the ground” and feed them juicy tidbits of information about any acquaintances or professional colleagues you think they might be interested in.

After you refuse the “carrot” is quickly replaced by a stick.  Everywhere you go the same black sedan lurks nearby. Friends and family receive visits from government agents during which they are asked probing questions about you and your acquaintances.

When you and your girlfriend go the airport you’re pulled aside and questioned at length about the books you’re reading and your opinions about all sorts of political topics. Then your property (in this case computers, phone, notes, information storage devices) are confiscated for further study by the authorities. Then you’re called before a secret “grand jury” where you’re compelled on threat of imprisonment to testify about any potentially juicy tidbits of information that might help the government at some future time to build an unspecified criminal case against someone, or some group, or, perhaps, you.

No criminal warrant has ever been produced to justify all this surveillance and harassment.

The preceding description is neither fiction nor an account from another place or era (East Germany, 1970s?). It’s an outline of the life of David House (co-founder of The Bradley Manning Support Network) over the past year as recounted in an engaging hour-long video to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!

It was unconscionable to cooperate with this grand jury. The grand jury is obviously politically motivated, and it’s—I can’t imagine a principled activist for Bradley Manning or for WikiLeaks cooperating with this investigation in any way. And it’s been said by others in the Boston area that they will not cooperate, even if they are compelled to testify before the grand jury. So it seems to be this is like a commonly held belief in the Boston area.

In fact, the day that I was actually called to testify, there was a protest happening outside the Alexandria court house and also in Boston against the grand jury and the politically motivated investigation of WikiLeaks currently happening in the States. And in my mind, this kind of reeks of the Pentagon Papers investigation. I mean, Richard Nixon’s DOJ 40 years ago attempted to kind of curtail the freedoms of the press and politically regulate the press through the use of policy created around the espionage investigation of the New York Times. I feel the WikiLeaks case we have going on now provides Obama’s DOJ ample opportunity to kind of continue this attempt to politically regulate the U.S. media, and so I’m very worried about this happening. And I think this grand jury is a step in the process.

Sustainable Agriculture and Off-Grid Renewable Energy

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Small integrated farms with off-grid renewable energy may be the perfect solution to the food and financial crisis while mitigating and adapting to climate change

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho  July 18, 2011     Institute of Science in Society

In a Nutshell

An emerging scientific consensus that a shift to small scale sustainable agriculture and localized food systems will address most, if not all the underlying causes of deteriorating agricultural productivity as well as the conservation of natural soil and water resources while saving the climate

To substantially improve living standards, access to modern energy is also crucial. Small agro-ecological farms are known to be highly productive, and are ideally served by new renewable energies that can be generated and used on site, and in off-grid situations most often encountered in developing countries

A model that explicitly integrates sustainable farming and renewable energies in a circular economy patterned after nature could compensate, in the best case scenario, for the carbon emissions and energy consumption of the entire nation while revitalising and stimulating local economies and employment opportunities

Food crisis, global economic instability, and political unrest

Soaring food prices were a major trigger for the riots that destabilized North Africa and the Middle East, and have since spread to many other African countries [1, 2]. The UN Food Price Index hit its all-time high in February 2011, and the May 2011 average was 37 percent above a year ago [3]. This is happening as the global economy is still staggering from the 2008 financial (and food) crisis, with public debt expanding and unemployment sky high [4].

Lester Brown, venerated veteran world-watcher, says food has quickly become the hidden driver of world politics [5], and food crises are going to become increasingly common. “Scarcity is the new norm.” The world is facing increasing demand for food as population increases while food crops and land are being diverted to produce biofuels; in 2010, the United States alone turned 126 million tons of its 400 million tons corn harvest into ethanol.  At the same time, the world’s ability to produce food is diminishing. Aquifers are running dry in the major food producing countries where half of the world population live. There is widespread soil erosion and desertification; and global warming temperatures and weather extremes are already reducing crop yields [6-9], hitting the most vulnerable people in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia the hardest.

“We are now so close to the edge that a breakdown in the food system could come at any time.” Brown warns [5]. “At issue now is whether the world can go beyond focusing on the symptoms of the deteriorating food situation and instead attack the underlying causes. If we cannot produce higher crop yields with less water and conserve fertile soils, many agricultural areas will cease to be viable…..If we cannot move at wartime speed to stabilize the climate, we may not be able to avoid runaway food prices….The time to act is now — before the food crisis of 2011 becomes the new normal.”

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Corporate efforts to control State legislatures exposed!

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July 13, 2011        The Center for Media and Democracy has obtained copies of more than 800 model bills approved by corporations through ALEC meetings, after one of the thousands of people with access shared them, and a whistleblower provided a copy to the Center. We have analyzed and marked-up those bills and made them available at  ALEC Exposed.

Tell the IRS to investigate!

ALEC Exposed (A Project of CMD)

About ALEC Exposed

An open letter from CMD’s Executive Director, Lisa Graves

In April 2011, some of the biggest corporations in the U.S. met behind closed doors in Cincinnati about their wish lists for changing state laws.  This exchange was part of a series of corporate meetings nurtured and fueled by the Koch Industries family fortune and other corporate funding.

At an extravagant hotel gilded just before the Great Depression, corporate executives from the tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, State Farm Insurance, and other corporations were joined by their “task force” co-chairs — all Republican state legislators — to approve “model” legislation. They jointly head task forces of what is called the “American Legislative Exchange Council” (ALEC).

There, as the Center for Media and Democracy has learned, these corporate-politician committees secretly voted on bills to rewrite numerous state laws. According to the documents we have posted to ALEC Exposed, corporations vote as equals with elected politicians on these bills. These task forces target legal rules that reach into almost every area of American life: worker and consumer rights, education, the rights of Americans injured or killed by corporations, taxes, health care, immigration, and the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink.

The Center obtained copies of more than 800 model bills approved by companies through ALEC meetings, after one of the thousands of people with access shared them, and a whistleblower provided a copy to the Center. Those bills, which the Center has analyzed and marked-up, are now available at ALEC Exposed.

The bills that ALEC corporate leaders, companies and politicians voted on this spring now head to a luxury hotel in New Orleans’ French Quarter for ALEC’s national retreat on August 3rd. In New Orleans, Koch Industries — through its chief lobbyist — and lobbyists of other global companies are slated for a “joint board meeting” to approve the bills with a rookery of Republican legislators who are on ALEC’s public board. Before the bills are publicly introduced in state legislatures by ALEC politicians or alumni in the governor’s offices, they will be cleansed of any reference to the secret corporate voting or who really wrote them.

With CMD’s publication of the bills, the public can now pierce through some of the subterfuge about ALEC, and see beyond the names of the bills to what the bills really do, alongside the names of corporations that lead or have helped lead ALEC’s agenda and accompanied by analysis to help decode the bills.

Many of the bills have obvious financial benefits for corporations but little or no direct benefit to the constituents that a particular legislator was elected to represent. Still, it may be tempting to dismiss ALEC as merely institutionalizing business as usual for lobbyists, except that ALEC’s tax-free donations are linked to it not spending a substantial amount of time on lobbying to change the law. ALEC has publicly claimed its “unparalleled” success in terms of the number of model bills introduced and enacted. But seeing the text of the bills helps reveal the actual language of legal changes ALEC corporations desire, beyond what can be known by the PR in their titles. ALEC says it has created a “unique” partnership between corporations and politicians. And it has.

It is a worrisome marriage of corporations and politicians, which seems to normalize a kind of corruption of the legislative process — of the democratic process–in a nation of free people where the government is supposed to be of, by, and for the people, not the corporations.

The full sweep of the bills and their implications for America’s future, the corporate voting, and the extent of the corporate subsidy of ALEC’s legislation laundering all raise substantial questions. These questions should concern all Americans. They go to the heart of the health of our democracy and the direction of our country. When politicians — no matter their party — put corporate profits above the real needs of the people who elected them, something has gone very awry.

As President Teddy Roosevelt observed in response to corporate money corrupting the democratic process a century ago, “The true friend of property, the true conservative, is he who insists that property shall be the servant and not the master of the commonwealth . . . . The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have called into being.”

–Lisa Graves, Executive Director, Center for Media and Democracy

P.S. ALEC anointed the billionaire Koch Brothers as two of the first few recipients of its “Adam Smith Free Enterprise Award.” Smith argued that self-interest promoted more good in society than those who intend to do good. “Greed is good!” is how Oliver Stone translated this concept to fiction on screen.

On that score, perhaps, the award was apt, except that ALEC apparently ignores Smith’s caution that bills and regulations from business must be viewed with the deepest skepticism. In his book, ”Wealth of Nations”, Smith urged that any law proposed by businessmen “ought always to be listened to with great precaution . . . It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.”

One need not look far in the ALEC bills to find reasons to be deeply concerned and skeptical.Take a look for yourself.

Take Action! Send a letter today to ALEC’s corporate leaders telling them to DUMP ALEC!

See also:

How business lobbies bought all the laboratories of democracy

By Alex Pareene       – ALEC’s dream of a world where industry writes every state law

Inconvenient Truths About The Debt Ceiling: None of US debt has been repaid for 51 years

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“Not one penny of US debt has been repaid for 51 years: the last time US government funded debt actually decreased on a year-over-year basis was 1960”

Zero Hedge    by Tyler Durden on 07/10/2011

Bill Buckler presents an amusing compendium of facts, let us call them inconvenient truths, in the latest edition of his newsletter, some of which would make for entertaining anecdotes if presented at the Biden “deficit cutting” talks, which also, and very paradoxically, aim to cut US debt by increasing it.

  • Not one penny of US debt has been repaid for 51 years: the last time US government funded debt actually decreased on a year-over-year basis was 1960
  • 97% of today’s funded debt has been accumulated since August 1971 – the end of the Bretton Woods era by Nixon, and the terminal delinking of all fiat currencies from any and all hard assets, ushered in the era of modern-day hyper-debt insolvency
  • Obama projects 2.5% Fed Funds rate in budget calculations through 2020. Average Fed Funds rate since 1980: 5.7%; Since 2008: 0.00%, If average 5.7% rate was used, projected US deficit would increase by another $4.9 trillion by 2020
  • Obama projects 4.2% growth rate over next 3 years. If a normal growth rate of 2.5% is used, deficits would increase by another $4 trillion by 2020
  • The US government borrows 40-50 cents for every dollar it spends. A balanced budget would mean cutting government spending in half.
  • Implementing a balanced budget would not reduce current debt outstanding. It would merely stop it from growing.
  • Over the past three fiscal years US debt grew by over $1.5 trillion per year: this is more than three times the record annual debt increase in any previous year in US history
  • Last night deficit reduction targets were cut from $4 trillion to $2 trillion over the next decade, in exchange for a $2.4 trillion debt ceiling hike, which will last the Treasury until the next presidential election. Said otherwise, the Treasury needs to fund a $2.4 trillion hold over the next 15 months. Over a decade this come to $20 trillion: ten times more than the proposed deficit reduction.

And the most inconvenient truth of all:

The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) is said to have been precipitated by the Lehman failure in 2008 which froze inter-bank lending on a global basis and almost brought down the system. It is said to have been prevented by a massive and global increase in new money creation. In reality, had economic nature been left alone to take its course, there is a good chance that the world would be fast emerging from its financial black hole by now. At a minimum, most of the malinvestments would have been discounted to the point where they would no longer act as a dead weight on future savings and investment.

Economic “miracles” (so-called) have happened before. The US emerged from a deep recession in 1920-21 because the government and the central bank did NOT interfere. Germany emerged from the actual physical rubble of WW II for exactly the same reason. So, to a lesser extent, did Japan. In all these cases, debts which could not be repaid were not held on life support by central banks, they were written off. In all these cases, creditors took very severe “haircuts” indeed while many debtors literally had to start again from scratch. In all these cases, the LACK of government impediments or government largesse meant that a recovery took place in a much shorter time frame than would otherwise have been the case.

Economic distortions today are HUGELY bigger than they were then. That means that the recession will be deeper and the recovery phase possibly longer. But until it is allowed to begin, there is no way out.

None of the above will be noted anywhere by the great diversionary media spin machine over the next two weeks, since July 22 is the date by which Congress says it needs to pass the debt ceiling legislation so it can get it to Obama’s desk for his signature by August 2.

See also:

Why QE2 Failed: The Money All Went Overseas:

On June 30, QE2 ended with a whimper. The Fed’s second round of “quantitative easing” involved $600 billion created with a computer keystroke for the purchase of long-term government bonds. But the government never actually got the money, which went straight into the reserve accounts of banks, where it still sits today.