Monday, September 28, 2009

Time to Change Bernanke's Medication?

I still get a thrill whenever I get my hands on a confidential memo with "The White House, Washington" on the letterhead. Even when--like the one I'm looking at now--it's about a snoozy topic: This week's G-20 summit.

But the letter's content shook me awake and may keep me up the rest of the night.

The 6-page letter from the White House, dated September 3, was sent to the 20 heads of state that will meet this Thursday in Pittsburgh. After some initial diplo-blather, our President's "sherpa" for the summit, Michael Froman, does a little victory dance, announcing that the recession has been defeated. "Global equity markets have risen 35 percent since the end of March," writes Froman. In other words, the stock market is up and all's well.

While acknowledging that this year's economy has gone to hell in a handbag, Obama's aide and ambassador to the G-20 seems to be parroting the irrational exuberance of Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke who declared last week that, "The recession is very likely over." All that was missing from Bernanke's statement was a banner, "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED."
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And the French are furious. The White House letter to the G-20 leaders was a response to a confidential diplomatic missive from the chief of the European Union Fredrik Reinfeldt written a day earlier to "Monsieur le Président" Obama.

We have Reinfeldt's confidential note as well. In it, the EU president says, despite Bernanke's happy-talk, "la crise n'est pas terminée (the crisis is not over) and (continuing in translation) the labor market will continue to suffer the consequences of weak use of capacity and production in the coming months." This is diplomatic speak for, What the hell is Bernanke smoking?

May I remind you Monsieur le Président, that last month 216,000 Americans lost their jobs, bringing the total lost since your inauguration to about seven million? And rising.

The Wall Street Journal also has a copy of the White House letter, though they haven't released it. (I have: read it here, with the EU message and our translation.) The Journal spins the leak as the White House would want it: "Big Changes to Global Economic Policy" to produce "lasting growth." Obama takes charge! What's missing in the Journal report is that Obama's plan subtly but significantly throttles back European demands to tighten finance industry regulation and, most important, deflects the EU's concern about fighting unemployment.

Europe's leaders are scared witless that the Obama Administration will prematurely turn off the fiscal and monetary stimulus. Europe demands that the US continue pumping the economy under an internationally coordinated worldwide save-our-butts program.

As the EU's Reinfeldt's puts it in his plea to the White House, "It is essential that the Heads of State and Government, at this summit, continue to implement the economic policy measures they have adopted," and not act unilaterally. "Exit strategies [must] be implemented in a coordinated manner." Translating from the diplomatique: If you in the USA turn off fiscal and monetary stimulus now, on your own, Europe and the planet sinks, America with it.

Obama's ambassador says, Non! Instead, he writes that each nation should be allowed to "unwind" anti-recession efforts "at a pace appropriate to the circumstances of each economy." In other words, "Europe, you're on your own!" So much for Obama channeling FDR.

The technical policy conflict between the Obama and EU plans reflects a deep difference in the answer to a crucial question: Whose recession is it, anyway? To Obama and Bernanke, this is a bankers' recession and so, as "stresses in financial markets have abated significantly," to use the words of the White House epistle, then "Happy Days Are Here Again." But, if this recession is about workers the world over losing their jobs and life savings, the EU view, then it's still "Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime."

If Bernanke and Obama were truly concerned about preserving jobs, they would have required banks loaded with taxpayer bail-out loot to lend these funds to consumers and business. China did so, ordering its banks to increase credit. And boy, did they, expanding credit by an eye-popping 30%, rocketing China's economy out of recession and into double-digit growth.

But the Obama Administration has gone the opposite way. The White House letter to the G-20 calls for slowly increasing bank reserves, and that can only cause a tight credit market to tighten further.

It's not that the White House completely ignores job losses. The US letter suggests, "The G-20 should commit to ... income support for the unemployed." You can imagine the Europeans, who already have generous unemployment benefits--most without time limits--turning purple over that one. America's stingy unemployment compensation extension under the Stimulus Plan is already beginning to expire with no live proposal to continue aid for the jobless victims of this recession.

The Europeans are so cute when they're angry, when they pound their little fists. Obama assumes he can ignore them. The EU, once the big player in the G-7, has seen its members' status diluted into the G-20, where the BRIC powers (Brazil, Russia, India and China) now flex their muscles. But Europeans have a thing or two to teach Americans about the economics of the twilight of empire.

Maybe the differences are cultural, not economic; that Europeans lack America's Manifest Destiny can-do optimism.

So, to give the visitors a taste of the yes-we-can spirit, Obama should invite Pittsburgh's 93,700 jobless to the G-20 meet to celebrate that 35% rise in the stock market.

Or -- my own suggestion -- change Bernanke's medication.

The Ultimate Sign Of Our Lethargy

New Rule: If America can't get its act together, it must lose the bald eagle as our symbol and replace it with the YouTube video of the puppy that can't get up. As long as we're pathetic, we might as well act like it's cute. I don't care about the president's birth certificate, I do want to know what happened to "Yes we can." Can we get out of Iraq? No. Afghanistan? No. Fix health care? No. Close Gitmo? No. Cap-and-trade carbon emissions? No. The Obamas have been in Washington for ten months and it seems like the only thing they've gotten is a dog.

Well, I hate to be a nudge, but why has America become a nation that can't make anything bad end, like wars, farm subsidies, our oil addiction, the drug war, useless weapons programs - oh, and there's still 60,000 troops in Germany - and can't make anything good start, like health care reform, immigration reform, rebuilding infrastructure. Even when we address something, the plan can never start until years down the road. Congress's climate change bill mandates a 17% cut in greenhouse gas emissions... by 2020! Fellas, slow down, where's the fire? Oh yeah, it's where I live, engulfing the entire western part of the United States!
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We might pass new mileage standards, but even if we do, they wouldn't start until 2016. In that year, our cars of the future will glide along at a breathtaking 35 miles-per-gallon. My goodness, is that even humanly possible? Cars that get 35 miles-per-gallon in just six years? Get your head out of the clouds, you socialist dreamer! "What do we want!? A small improvement! When do we want it!? 2016!"

When it's something for us personally, like a laxative, it has to start working now. My TV remote has a button on it now called "On Demand". You get your ass on my TV screen right now, Jon Cryer, and make me laugh. Now! But when it's something for the survival of the species as a whole, we phase that in slowly.

Folks, we don't need more efficient cars. We need something to replace cars. That's what's wrong with these piddly, too-little-too-late half-measures that pass for "reform" these days. They're not reform, they're just putting off actually solving anything to a later day, when we might by some miracle have, a) leaders with balls, and b) a general populace who can think again. Barack Obama has said, "If we were starting from scratch, then a single-payer system would probably make sense." So let's start from scratch.

Even if they pass the shitty Max Baucus health care bill, it doesn't kick in for 4 years, during which time 175,000 people will die because they're not covered, and about three million will go bankrupt from hospital bills. We have a pretty good idea of the Republican plan for the next three years: Don't let Obama do anything. What kills me is that that's the Democrats' plan, too.

We weren't always like this. Inert. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law and 11 months later seniors were receiving benefits. During World War II, virtually overnight FDR had auto companies making tanks and planes only. In one eight year period, America went from JFK's ridiculous dream of landing a man on the moon, to actually landing a man on the moon.

This generation has had eight years to build something at Ground Zero. An office building, a museum, an outlet mall, I don't care anymore. I'm tempted to say that, symbolically, all America can do lately is keep digging a hole, but Ground Zero doesn't represent a hole. It is a hole. America: Home of the Freedom Pit. Ironically, it's spitting distance from Wall Street, where they knock down buildings a different way - through foreclosure.

That's the ultimate sign of our lethargy: millions thrown out of their homes, tossed out of work, lost their life savings, retirements postponed - and they just take it. 30% interest on credit cards? It's a good thing the Supreme Court legalized sodomy a few years ago.

Why can't we get off our back? Is it something in the food? Actually, yes. I found out something interesting researching last week's editorial on how we should be taxing the unhealthy things Americans put into their bodies, like sodas and junk foods and gerbils. Did you know that we eat the same high-fat, high-carb, sugar-laden shit that's served in prisons and in religious cults to keep the subjects in a zombie-like state of lethargic compliance? Why haven't Americans arisen en masse to demand a strong public option? Because "The Bachelor" is on. We're tired and our brain stems hurt from washing down French fries with McDonald's orange drink.

The research is in: high-fat diets makes you lazy and stupid. Rats on an American diet weren't motivated to navigate their maze and once in the maze they made more mistakes. And, instead of exercising on their wheel, they just used it to hang clothes on. Of course we can't ban assault rifles - we're the first generation too lazy to make its own coffee. We're the generation that invented the soft chocolate chip cookie: like a cookie, only not so exhausting to chew. I ask you, if the food we're eating in America isn't making us stupid, how come the people in Carl's Jr. ads never think to put a napkin over their pants?

By Bill Maher, host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher"

Keeping Iran Honest

It was very much a moment of high drama. Barack Obama, fresh from his history-making stint hosting the UN security council, took a break from his duties at the G20 economic summit in Pittsburgh to announce the existence of a secret, undeclared nuclear facility in Iran which was inconsistent with a peaceful nuclear programme, underscoring the president's conclusion that "Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow".

Obama, backed by Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy, threatened tough sanctions against Iran if it did not fully comply with its obligations concerning the international monitoring of its nuclear programme, which at the present time is being defined by the US, Britain and France as requiring an immediate suspension of all nuclear-enrichment activity.

The facility in question, said to be located on a secret Iranian military installation outside of the holy city of Qom and capable of housing up to 3,000 centrifuges used to enrich uranium, had been monitored by the intelligence services of the US and other nations for some time. But it wasn't until Monday that the IAEA found out about its existence, based not on any intelligence "scoop" provided by the US, but rather Iran's own voluntary declaration. Iran's actions forced the hand of the US, leading to Obama's hurried press conference Friday morning.
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Beware politically motivated hype. While on the surface, Obama's dramatic intervention seemed sound, the devil is always in the details. The "rules" Iran is accused of breaking are not vague, but rather spelled out in clear terms. In accordance with Article 42 of Iran's Safeguards Agreement, and Code 3.1 of the General Part of the Subsidiary Arrangements (also known as the "additional protocol") to that agreement, Iran is obliged to inform the IAEA of any decision to construct a facility which would house operational centrifuges, and to provide preliminary design information about that facility, even if nuclear material had not been introduced. This would initiate a process of complementary access and design verification inspections by the IAEA.

This agreement was signed by Iran in December 2004. However, since the "additional protocol" has not been ratified by the Iranian parliament, and as such is not legally binding, Iran had viewed its implementation as being voluntary, and as such agreed to comply with these new measures as a confidence building measure more so than a mandated obligation.

In March 2007, Iran suspended the implementation of the modified text of Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements General Part concerning the early provisions of design information. As such, Iran was reverting back to its legally-binding requirements of the original safeguards agreement, which did not require early declaration of nuclear-capable facilities prior to the introduction of nuclear material.

While this action is understandably vexing for the IAEA and those member states who are desirous of full transparency on the part of Iran, one cannot speak in absolute terms about Iran violating its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. So when Obama announced that "Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow", he is technically and legally wrong.

There are many ways to interpret Iran's decision of March 2007, especially in light of today's revelations. It should be underscored that what the Qom facility Obama is referring to is not a nuclear weapons plant, but simply a nuclear enrichment plant similar to that found at the declared (and inspected) facility in Natanz.

The Qom plant, if current descriptions are accurate, cannot manufacture the basic feed-stock (uranium hexaflouride, or UF6) used in the centrifuge-based enrichment process. It is simply another plant in which the UF6 can be enriched.

Why is this distinction important? Because the IAEA has underscored, again and again, that it has a full accounting of Iran's nuclear material stockpile. There has been no diversion of nuclear material to the Qom plant (since it is under construction). The existence of the alleged enrichment plant at Qom in no way changes the nuclear material balance inside Iran today.

Simply put, Iran is no closer to producing a hypothetical nuclear weapon today than it was prior to Obama's announcement concerning the Qom facility.

One could make the argument that the existence of this new plant provides Iran with a "breakout" capability to produce highly-enriched uranium that could be used in the manufacture of a nuclear bomb at some later date. The size of the Qom facility, alleged to be capable of housing 3,000 centrifuges, is not ideal for large-scale enrichment activity needed to produce the significant quantities of low-enriched uranium Iran would need to power its planned nuclear power reactors. As such, one could claim that its only real purpose is to rapidly cycle low-enriched uranium stocks into highly-enriched uranium usable in a nuclear weapon. The fact that the Qom facility is said to be located on an Iranian military installation only reinforces this type of thinking.

But this interpretation would still require the diversion of significant nuclear material away from the oversight of IAEA inspectors, something that would be almost immediately evident. Any meaningful diversion of nuclear material would be an immediate cause for alarm, and would trigger robust international reaction, most probably inclusive of military action against the totality of Iran's known nuclear infrastructure.

Likewise, the 3,000 centrifuges at the Qom facility, even when starting with 5% enriched uranium stocks, would have to operate for months before being able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a single nuclear device. Frankly speaking, this does not constitute a viable "breakout" capability.

Iran has, in its declaration of the Qom enrichment facility to the IAEA on 21 September, described it as a "pilot plant". Given that Iran already has a "pilot enrichment plant" in operation at its declared facility in Natanz, this obvious duplication of effort points to either a parallel military-run nuclear enrichment programme intended for more nefarious purposes, or more likely, an attempt on the part of Iran to provide for strategic depth and survivability of its nuclear programme in the face of repeated threats on the part of the US and Israel to bomb its nuclear infrastructure.

Never forget that sports odds makers were laying 2:1 odds that either Israel or the US would bomb Iran's nuclear facilities by March 2007. Since leaving office, former vice-president Dick Cheney has acknowledged that he was pushing heavily for a military attack against Iran during the time of the Bush administration. And the level of rhetoric coming from Israel concerning its plans to launch a pre-emptive military strike against Iran have been alarming.

While Obama may have sent conciliatory signals to Iran concerning the possibility of rapprochement in the aftermath of his election in November 2008, this was not the environment faced by Iran when it made the decision to withdraw from its commitment to declare any new nuclear facility under construction. The need to create a mechanism of economic survival in the face of the real threat of either US or Israeli military action is probably the most likely explanation behind the Qom facility. Iran's declaration of this facility to the IAEA, which predates Obama's announcement by several days, is probably a recognition on the part of Iran that this duplication of effort is no longer representative of sound policy on its part.

In any event, the facility is now out of the shadows, and will soon be subjected to a vast range of IAEA inspections, making any speculation about Iran's nuclear intentions moot. Moreover, Iran, in declaring this facility, has to know that because it has allegedly placed operational centrifuges in the Qom plant (even if no nuclear material has been introduced), there will be a need to provide the IAEA with full access to Iran's centrifuge manufacturing capability, so that a material balance can be acquired for these items as well.

Rather than representing the tip of the iceberg in terms of uncovering a covert nuclear weapons capability, the emergence of the existence of the Qom enrichment facility could very well mark the initiation of a period of even greater transparency on the part of Iran, leading to its full adoption and implementation of the IAEA additional protocol. This, more than anything, should be the desired outcome of the "Qom declaration".

Calls for "crippling" sanctions on Iran by Obama and Brown are certainly not the most productive policy options available to these two world leaders. Both have indicated a desire to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Iran's action, in declaring the existence of the Qom facility, has created a window of opportunity for doing just that, and should be fully exploited within the framework of IAEA negotiations and inspections, and not more bluster and threats form the leaders of the western world.

By Scott Ritter (The Guardian)

More Lies, More Deception

“What does imperialism mean? It means the assertion of absolute force over others.” Robert Lowe 1878

The G-20 ministers declared their meeting in Pittsburgh a success, but as Rob Kall reports in OpEdNews.com, the meeting’s main success was to turn Pittsburgh into “a ghost-town, emptied of workers and the usual pedestrians, but filled to overflowing with over 12,000 swat cops from all over the US.”

This is “freedom and democracy” at work. The leaders of the G-20 countries, which account for 85% of the world’s income, cannot meet in an American city without 12,000 cops outfitted like the emperor’s storm troopers in Star Wars. And the US government complains about Iran.
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The US government’s complaints about Iran have reached a new level of shrillness. On September 25 Obama declared: “Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow.” The heads of America’s British, French, and German puppet states added their two cents worth, giving the government of Iran three months to meet the “international community’s demands” to give up its rights as a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty to nuclear energy. In case you don’t know, the term “international community” is shorthand for the US, Israel, and Europe, a handful of arrogant and rich countries that oppress the rest of the world.

Who is breaking the rules? Iran or the United States?

Iran is insisting that the US government abide by the non-proliferation treaty that the US originated and pushed and that Iran signed. But the US government, which is currently engaged in three wars of aggression and has occupying troops in a number of other countries, insists that Iran, which is invading and occupying no country, cannot be trusted with nuclear energy capability, because the capability might in the future lead to nuclear weapon capability, like Israel’s, India’s, and Pakistan’s--all non-signatories to the nuclear proliferation treaty, countries that, unlike Iran, have never submitted to IAEA inspections. Indeed, at this very moment the Israeli government is screaming and yelling “anti-semite” to the suggestion that Israel submit to IAEA inspections. Iran has submitted to the IAEA inspections for years.

In keeping with its obligations under the treaty, on September 21 Iran disclosed to the International Atomic Energy Agency that it is constructing another nuclear facility. The British prime minister Gordon Brown confused Iran’s disclosure with “serial deception,” and declared, “We will not let this matter rest.”

What matter? Why does Gordon Brown think that Iran’s disclosure to the IAEA is a deception. Does the moronic UK prime minister mean that Iran is claiming to be constructing a plant but is not, and thus by claiming one is deceiving the world?

Not to be outdone in idiocy, out of Obama’s mouth jumped Orwellian doublespeak: “The Iranian government must now demonstrate through deeds its peaceful intentions or be held accountable to international standards and international law.”

The incongruity blows the mind. Here is Obama, with troops engaged in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan demanding that a peaceful nation at war with no one demonstrate “its peaceful intentions or be held accountable to international standards and international law.”

It is the US government and its NATO puppet states, and militarist Israel, of course, that need to be held accountable to international law. Under international law the US, its NATO puppets, and Israel are war criminal governments. There is no doubt about it. The record is totally clear. The US, Israel, and the NATO puppet states have committed military aggression exactly as did Germany’s Third Reich, and they have murdered large numbers of civilians. Following the Fuhrer’s script, “the great democratic republics” have justified these acts of lawlessness with lies and deceptions.


Rudy Giuliani, the former US Attorney who framed high profile victims in order to gain name recognition for a political career, keynoted a rally against Iran in New York on September 25. According to Richard Silverstein at AlterNet, the rally was sponsored by an Israeli lobby group and an organization with connections to an Iranian terror organization (probably financed by the US government) that calls for the violent overthrow of the Iranian government.

The efforts to build pressure for acts of war against Iran continue despite the repeated declaration from the IAEA that there is no sign of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, and despite the reaffirmation by US intelligence agencies that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program years ago.

Meanwhile, the US and Israeli governments, who are so solicitous of international law and holding accountable countries that violate it, have moved to prevent the report of Judge Richard Goldstone from reaching the UN Security Council. http://www.forward.com/articles/114867/

Why?

Judge Goldstone’s report found Israel guilty of war crimes in its massive military assault against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza.

The continuous efforts of the world’s two militarist-aggressor states--the United States and Israel--to demonize Iran was addressed by Ahmadinejad in his speech to the UN General Assembly (September 23). Ahmadinejad spoke of the assault on human dignity and spiritual values by the selfish material interests of the US and its puppet states. Seeking hegemony “under the mantle of freedom,” the US and its puppets use “the ugliest methods of intimidation and deceit” to disguise that they are “the first who violate” the fundamental principles that they espouse and apply to others.

Why, Ahmadinejad asked the UN General Assembly, do the countries of the world sit there while Israel murders and dispossesses the Palestinian people?

Why, asked Ahmadinejad, do the countries of the world sit there while the US, from thousands of miles away, sends troops to the Middle East, “spreading war, bloodshed, aggression, terror and intimidation in the whole region,” while blaming the countries that are suffering the West’s naked aggression?

Ahmadinejad told the General Assembly what most of the UN representatives already know, that “selfishness and insatiable greed have taken the place of such humanitarian concepts as love, sacrifice, dignity, and justice. . . . Lies have taken the place of honesty; hypocrisy has replaced integrity, and selfishness has taken the place of sacrifice. Deception in foreign affairs is called foresight and statesmanship, looting the wealth of other nations is called development efforts; occupation is said to be a gift that promotes freedom and democracy; and defenseless nations are subjected to repression in the name of defending human rights.”

It could not be put any clearer. However, if Ahmadinejad’s speech is reported by the US print and TV media, statements will be taken out of context and used to enrage the conservatives and Christian Zionists in order to unify them behind the Obama/Israeli assault on Iran.

America will not be satisfied until, like Rome, she has more enemies and more wars than she can survive.

By Paul Craig Roberts

Street Report from the G20

The G20 in Pittsburgh showed us how pitifully fearful our leaders have become.

What no terrorist could do to us, our own leaders did.

Out of fear of the possibility of a terrorist attack, authorities militarize our towns, scare our people away, stop daily life and quash our constitutional rights.

For days, downtown Pittsburgh, home to the G20, was a turned into a militarized people-free ghost town. Sirens screamed day and night. Helicopters crisscrossed the skies. Gunboats sat in the rivers. The skies were defended by Air Force jets. Streets were barricaded by huge cement blocks and fencing. Bridges were closed with National Guard across the entrances. Public transportation was stopped downtown. Amtrak train service was suspended for days.
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In many areas, there were armed police every 100 feet. Businesses closed. Schools closed. Tens of thousands were unable to work.

Four thousand police were on duty plus 2500 National Guard plus Coast Guard and Air Force and dozens of other security agencies. A thousand volunteers from other police forces were sworn in to help out.

Police were dressed in battle gear, bulky black ninja turtle outfits - helmets with clear visors, strapped on body armor, shin guards, big boots, batons, and long guns.

In addition to helicopters, the police had hundreds of cars and motorcycles , armored vehicles, monster trucks, small electric go-karts. There were even passenger vans screaming through town so stuffed with heavily armed ninja turtles that the side and rear doors remained open.

No terrorists showed up at the G20.

Since no terrorists showed up, those in charge of the heavily armed security forces chose to deploy their forces around those who were protesting.

Not everyone is delighted that 20 countries control 80% of the world's resources. Several thousand of them chose to express their displeasure by protesting.

Unfortunately, the officials in charge thought that it was more important to create a militarized people-free zone around the G20 people than to allow freedom of speech, freedom of assembly or the freedom to protest.

It took a lawsuit by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU to get any major protest permitted anywhere near downtown Pittsburgh. Even then, the police "forgot" what was permitted and turned people away from areas of town. Hundreds of police also harassed a bus of people who were giving away free food - repeatedly detaining the bus and searching it and its passengers without warrants.

Then a group of young people decided that they did not need a permit to express their human and constitutional rights to freedom. They announced they were going to hold their own gathering at a city park and go down the deserted city streets to protest the G20. Maybe 200 of these young people were self-described anarchists, dressed in black, many with bandanas across their faces. The police warned everyone these people were very scary. My cab driver said the anarchist spokesperson looked like Harry Potter in a black hoodie. The anarchists were joined in the park by hundreds of other activists of all ages, ultimately one thousand strong, all insisting on exercising their right to protest.

This drove the authorities crazy.

Battle dressed ninja turtles showed up at the park and formed a line across one entrance. Helicopters buzzed overhead. Armored vehicles gathered.

The crowd surged out of the park and up a side street yelling, chanting, drumming, and holding signs. As they exited the park, everyone passed an ice cream truck that was playing "It's a small world after all." Indeed.

Any remaining doubts about the militarization of the police were dispelled shortly after the crowd left the park. A few blocks away the police unveiled their latest high tech anti-protestor toy. It was mounted on the back of a huge black truck. The Pittsburgh-Gazette described it as Long Range Acoustic Device designed to break up crowds with piercing noise. Similar devices have been used in Fallujah, Mosul and Basra Iraq. The police backed the truck up, told people not to go any further down the street and then blasted them with piercing noise.

The crowd then moved to other streets. Now they were being tracked by helicopters. The police repeatedly tried to block them from re-grouping ultimately firing tear gas into the crowd injuring hundreds including people in the residential neighborhood where the police decided to confront the marchers. I was treated to some of the tear gas myself and I found the Pittsburgh brand to be spiced with a hint of kelbasa. Fortunately I was handed some paper towels soaked in apple cider vinegar which helped fight the tears and cough a bit. Who would have thought?

After the large group broke and ran from the tear gas, smaller groups went into commercial neighborhoods and broke glass at a bank and a couple of other businesses. The police chased and the glass breakers ran. And the police chased and the people ran. For a few hours.

By day the police were menacing, but at night they lost their cool. Around a park by the University of Pittsburgh the ninja turtles pushed and shoved and beat and arrested not just protestors but people passing by. One young woman reported she and her friend watched Grey's Anatomy and were on their way back to their dorm when they were cornered by police. One was bruised by police baton and her friend was arrested. Police shot tear gas, pepper spray, smoke canisters, and rubber bullets. They pushed with big plastic shields and struck with batons.

The biggest march was Friday. Thousands of people from Pittsburgh and other places protested the G20. Since the court had ruled on this march, the police did not confront the marchers. Ninja turtled police showed up in formation sometimes and the helicopters hovered but no confrontations occurred.

Again Friday night, riot clad police fought with students outside of the University of Pittsburgh. To what end was just as unclear as the night before.

Ultimately about 200 were arrested, mostly in clashes with the police around the University.

The G20 leaders left by helicopter and limousine.

Pittsburgh now belongs again to the people of Pittsburgh. The cement barricades were removed, the fences were taken down, the bridges and roads were opened. The gunboats packed up and left. The police packed away their ninja turtle outfits and tear gas and rubber bullets. They don't look like military commandos anymore. No more gunboats on the river. No more sirens all the time. No more armored vehicles and ear splitting machines used in Iraq. On Monday the businesses will open and kids will have to go back to school. Civil society has returned.

It is now probably even safe to exercise constitutional rights in Pittsburgh once again.

The USA really showed those terrorists didn't we?

By Bill Quigley

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Exposing the Criminal Cover-Up of 9/11


In The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7: Why the Final Official Report about 9/11is Unscientific and False, David Ray Griffin provides an overwhelmingly convincing case that the latest official US government account of the events at “Ground Zero” on September 11, 2001 , is false. He examines in detail the whole series of publications by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) purporting to explain the highly “mysterious” collapse of World Trade Center 7, a 47-story steel-framed skyscraper across the street from the North Tower, which was not struck by a plane and yet collapsed into its footprint, at nearly free-fall speed, shortly after 5 PM that day.

That the sudden collapse of Building 7 constitutes a “mystery” is an admission of the major media and NIST itself, which for years said it was having a hard time understanding what had occurred. After a long series of preliminary attempts, admitting that a full explanation had not been achieved, NIST issued its “Final Report” in November 2008, claiming to present a scientifically-verified and complete account of the causes of the building’s collapse. As critics of the ever-changing official explanations point out, however, the “mystery” is the result of failure by government and media to consider the most likely explanation, one that accords with a vast amount of physical and testimonial evidence, which is that the building was brought down by controlled demolition.

As Griffin brilliantly demonstrates throughout this powerful indictment, NIST, a purportedly scientific agency of the federal government, has produced an official “explanation” that fails to follow basic scientific principles and meet established scientific standards. The publication of its “Final Report” therefore amounts to nothing less than scientific fraud, which when committed by a federal science agency is a criminal act. Despite its claims to have produced a final, definitive, scientific report on WTC 7’s collapse, NIST in fact has ignored, suppressed, or distorted all the evidence for controlled demolition, while fabricating fake “evidence” to support its own “explanation.”

In the Introduction, Griffin lays out the background to NIST’s “Final Report," surveying the agency’s earlier “interim” reports and the evolution of its attempts to explain the “mystery.” In its “Final Report," NIST abandoned its earlier claim that structural damage from debris from the North Tower was a significant cause of Building 7’s collapse, asserting that the principal cause was very hot and long-lasting fires of office materials in the building set ablaze by the falling debris.

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Part I of the book, “NIST’s Unscientific Rejection of the Most Likely Theory,” examines in six chapters the methods used by NIST to avoid considering controlled demolition as a possible explanation of the building’s collapse. Controlled demolition is the most likely hypothesis because never before 9/11 had a steel-framed skyscraper collapsed due to fires. All previous instances of sudden, rapid collapse of such buildings into their footprints had been the result of intentional, controlled demolition using explosives. As Griffin demonstrates in Part 1, a very large amount of physical and testimonial evidence supporting the “most likely hypothesis” exists, and it was all ignored, dismissed, or distorted by the authors of the “Final Report.”

In Chapter 1, “NIST as a Political, Not a Scientific, Agency,” Griffin shows that NIST, as an agency of the Commerce Department, was under tight political control by the Bush administration. He quotes from a whistleblower from the agency who described in detail how political appointees in the “front office” vetted every scientific statement issued by NIST, and how the statements were then vetted by “the HQ staff of the Department of Commerce,” the National Security Agency and the Office of Management and Budget.

In Chapter 2, “Some Principles of Scientific Method,” Griffin begins by considering what constitutes scientific fraud, and then distinguishes between scientific fraud in the strict sense and in a broader sense. Scientific fraud in the strict sense has been committed by NIST if it can be shown that i) the agency has fabricated evidence to support its claims; ii) that it has falsified evidence; or iii) that it has ignored relevant evidence. Scientific fraud in the broader sense has been committed by NIST if it can be shown that it violated further scientific principles, including these: extra-scientific considerations should not be allowed to determine conclusions; an investigation should begin with the most-likely hypothesis; straw-man arguments should be avoided; unprecedented causes should not, without good reasons, be posited to explain familiar occurrences; and scientists should not make claims implying that laws of nature have been violated.

In Chapter 3, “NIST’s Refusal to Begin with the Most Likely Hypothesis,” Griffin establishes that the most likely hypothesis to consider in attempting to explain the collapse of WTC 7 must be that it was brought down by controlled demolition using explosives, for two reasons. First, no steel-framed skyscraper prior to 9/11 had ever collapsed for any reason other than demolition; on 9/11, however, and in one small area, three such buildings came down, purportedly due to fires, and in the case of the Twin Towers, additional damage caused by airliner impacts. (In his earlier book, Debunking 9/11 Debunking, Griffin has already demonstrated that NIST’s “explanation” for the disintegration and fall of the towers does not stand up to rational scrutiny.) Second, the collapse of WTC 7 “exemplified many of the signature features of the type of controlled demolition known as implosion”: the collapse started from the bottom and was sudden and total, the building came straight down and fell at close to free-fall speed, its concrete was pulverized to dust, and the debris pile was relatively small (p. 27). When fires result in “high-order damage,” evidenced by shattered structures, pulverized debris, and significant lateral ejections of material, guidelines established by the National Fire Protection Association in its “Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations” mandate official agencies to investigate the possibility of explosives, but NIST never undertook any such investigation.

In Chapter 4, “NIST’s Ignoring of Physical Evidence for Explosives,” Griffin lays out the physical evidence suggesting that the building was brought down by controlled demolition: video evidence of “squibs” of smoke and pulverized material blown laterally out of the building as it collapsed; a vertical row of blown-out windows from the 29th to the 37th floors, unexplainable by NIST’s account; molten metal in the debris under the building; an array of scientific reports of extremely high temperatures, far above the temperatures which could be reached by fires burning in office materials, as proposed by NIST; thinning and sulfidation of steel recovered from the building; extreme heat and unusual emissions at the collapse site for months afterwards; and red/gray chips found in dust from the building’s collapse, which on analysis by independent researchers Steven Jones, Kevin Ryan, Niels Harrit, and others, proved to be nanothermitic, derived from a very advanced type of explosive. NIST in its “Final Report” failed to take any of this evidence into account, simply pretending it did not exist.

In Chapter 5, “NIST’s Ignoring of Testimonial Evidence for Explosives,” Griffin first reviews NIST’s prior ignoring of testimonial evidence for explosions in the Twin Towers before their disintegration. He then presents in detail a wide array of testimonial evidence supporting the most-likely hypothesis, implosion. These testimonies came from credible witnesses, including a New York Daily News reporter and a New York Police Department officer located outside the building before it came down, who heard explosions inside it; detailed accounts from two high-level NYC employees, Barry Jennings and Michael Hess, of their experiences inside the building that morning, where they heard and felt large explosions before the Twin Towers had collapsed; testimonies, again from highly credible witnesses, to foreknowledge of the building’s collapse; premature television reports that the building had come down, before it had actually collapsed; and even witnesses to Fire Department of New York personnel announcing that the building was going to be “brought down.” Griffin shows that NIST either ignored this evidence or went to great lengths to distort it by constructing an elaborate false chronology of the testimonial evidence which it could not simply ignore.

In Chapter 6, “NIST’s Straw-Man Arguments against Explosives,” Griffin analyzes the reasons presented by NIST for its refusal to investigate the possibility that explosives were responsible for WTC 7’s destruction. He shows that they employed “straw-man” arguments based on highly-implausible scenarios for the types and quantities of explosives used and then argued that these scenarios are … implausible! The principal scenario NIST focused on, needless to say, was not one that has been proposed by any actual independent researchers as a plausible one. Griffin then shows that high-level personnel at NIST, including four directors from 2001 to 2008 as well as key advisors to the agency, had extensive professional involvement with and expertise in the technology of nanothermitic materials, the very type of explosive proposed by independent researchers as most likely to have been used on 9/11. Indeed, as Griffin details, NIST is engaged in partnerships with academic and federal government research units around the country to develop nanothermitic technologies.

In Part II, “NIST’s Unscientific Arguments for Its Own Theory,” Griffin dissects the arguments made by the agency in putting its own “explanation” forward. He shows in detail the failure of the authors of the “Final Report” to adhere to standard scientific principles, including their failure to base their analysis on empirical facts and physical tests (preferring “black box” computer models in which any parameter can be tweaked until the desired result is obtained), their distorting of data or fabrication of “data,” and their failure to eliminate glaring internal contradictions within their arguments.

In Chapter 7, “NIST’s Theory of an Unprecedented Collapse: an Overview,” Griffin provides an overview of the complex theory promulgated by NIST. He first explores NIST’s claim that the collapse of the building was unprecedented. NIST makes this claim implicitly in advancing its own candidate for the principal causal mechanism, thermal expansion of steel from office-materials fires. Because there is no known prior case in which thermal expansion of steel caused a steel-framed skyscraper to collapse, but there are many cases of implosion of such buildings, NIST’s proposal raises the question whether it violated the scientific principle to avoid invoking unprecedented causes to explain familiar occurrences. Then Griffin surveys the major features of the NIST “explanation” to orient the reader for the detailed discussion in following chapters.

In Chapter 8, “The Initiation and Spread of Fires: NIST’s Unempirical Account,” Griffin examines closely NIST’s claim that the fires in WTC 7 started as a result of the rain of debris which hit the building when the North Tower disintegrated and fell. He shows that NIST’s claims that fires in the building started at this time ( 10:28 AM ) are unsubstantiated, and that the fires therefore could not have burned for as long as NIST contended they did. He points out that NIST itself admitted that most of the fires in the building may have started quite a bit later in the day, in the middle and late afternoon, and thus have burned for less than three hours and even as little as 40 minutes.

In Chapter 9, “Fire and Steel Temperatures: Implausible Claims Based on Distorted Data,” Griffin shows that NIST’s claims regarding the temperatures reached by the fires themselves and the steel structure of the building exposed to those fires are both wildly exaggerated. This extreme overestimation was made possible by the use of computer models, which were manipulated by NIST “investigators” to achieve the desired result (the agency had used the same method in its earlier reports on the destruction of the Twin Towers ). There is in fact no evidence to support the fire temperatures or the fire durations claimed by NIST. In a similar manner, NIST “simulated” the temperatures reached by the steel structure of the building, and claimed wildly implausible temperatures for which there is no actual evidence, based on the assumption (contrary to fact) that steel has no thermal conductivity!

In Chapter 10, “From Thermal Expansion to Global Collapse: Fabrications and Contradictions,” Griffin shreds the last pillar of NIST’s account: its claim that thermal expansion of steel floor beams and girders caused “global collapse.” He shows that this claim is based on highly implausible assumptions, outright fabrications, denial of the existence of structural elements that did in fact exist, and fabrication of a “differential thermal expansion” result from its computer simulations by modeling heating of the steel beams but not of the floor slabs! Griffin delivers the coup de grace by showing that NIST was forced to admit that WTC 7 did indeed fall at free-fall speed for more than two seconds during its collapse, which would only be possible if all resistance to the fall had been eliminated by removal of the lower portion of the building by explosives. This demonstrates that NIST has resorted to a miraculous “explanation” of the collapse of Building 7, in which no explosives were used and yet free-fall still occurred, and has thus violated the scientific principles of non-contradiction and impermissibility of claims implying that laws of nature have been violated.

In the “Conclusion,” Griffin summarizes the many ways in which standard principles of scientific investigation were violated by NIST in its “Final Report.” On this basis, he concludes that the Report is false, and then discusses the implications of this fact. The only possible conclusion is that WTC 7 was demolished “by domestic terrorists with the ability to plant explosives in it and then to orchestrate a cover-up” (p. 255). If this is true of Building 7, it must be true as well of the Twin Towers . When these conclusions are drawn, it is clear that the entire basis and pretext for the ongoing war in Afghanistan (and now Pakistan ) is false. Muslims did not bring down these buildings. The events of 9/11 were quite simply the largest, most heinous false-flag operation of all time.

The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7 by David Ray Griffin is an epoch-making book, of tremendous importance for our future. Griffin has shone a spotlight on the Achilles’ heel of the US government’s account of 9/11. NIST’s failure to defend the official story of the collapse of WTC 7 lays bare the weak spot that will make it possible for us to bring this monster down and stop the wars of aggression abroad and the growing police-state at home. You owe it to your country and the world to read this book.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Answer my questions on 9-11

It's useless to expect US corporate media and the ruling elites' political operatives to call for a true, in-depth investigation into the attacks on the US on September 11, 2001. Whitewash has been the norm. But even establishment highlight Dr Zbig "Grand Chessboard" Brzezinski, a former national security advisor, has admitted to the US Senate that the post-9/11 "war on terror" is a "mythical historical narrative".

The following questions, some multi-part - and most totally ignored by the 9/11 Commission - are just the tip of the immense 9/11 iceberg. A hat tip goes to the indefatigable work of 911truth.org; whatreallyhappened.com; architects and engineers for 9/11 truth; the Italian documentary Zero: an investigation into 9/11; and Asia Times Online readers' e-mails.

None of these questions has been convincingly answered - according to the official narrative. It's up to US civil society to keep up the pressure. Eight years after the fact, one fundamental conclusion is imperative. The official narrative edifice of 9/11 is simply not acceptable.
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1) How come dead or not dead Osama bin Laden has not been formally indicted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as responsible for 9/11? Is it because the US government - as acknowledged by the FBI itself - has not produced a single conclusive piece of evidence?

2) How could all the alleged 19 razor-blade box cutter-equipped Muslim perpetrators have been identified in less than 72 hours - without even a crime scene investigation?

3) How come none of the 19's names appeared on the passenger lists released the same day by both United Airlines and American Airlines?

4) How come eight names on the "original" FBI list happened to be found alive and living in different countries?

5) Why would pious jihadi Mohammed Atta leave a how-to-fly video manual, a uniform and his last will inside his bag knowing he was on a suicide mission?

6) Why did Mohammed Atta study flight simulation at Opa Locka, a hub of no less than six US Navy training bases?

7) How could Mohammed Atta's passport have been magically found buried among the Word Trade Center (WTC)'s debris when not a single flight recorder was found?

8) Who is in the possession of the "disappeared" eight indestructible black boxes on those four flights?

9) Considering multiple international red alerts about a possible terrorist attack inside the US - including former secretary of stateCondoleezza Rice's infamous August 6, 2001, memo - how come four hijacked planes deviating from their computerized flight paths and disappearing from radar are allowed to fly around US airspace for more than an hour and a half - not to mention disabling all the elaborate Pentagon's defense systems in the process?

10) Why the secretary of the US Air Force James Roche did not try to intercept both planes hitting the WTC (only seven minutes away from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey) as well as the Pentagon (only 10 minutes away from McGuire)? Roche had no less than 75 minutes to respond to the plane hitting the Pentagon.

11) Why did George W Bush continue to recite "My Pet Goat" in his Florida school and was not instantly absconded by the secret service?

12) How could Bush have seen the first plane crashing on WTC live - as he admitted? Did he have previous knowledge - or is he psychic?

13) Bush said that he and Andrew Card initially thought the first hit on the WTC was an accident with a small plane. How is that possible when the FAA as well as NORAD already knew this was about a hijacked plane?

14) What are the odds of transponders in four different planes be turned off almost simultaneously, in the same geographical area, very close to the nation's seat of power in Washington, and no one scrambles to contact the Pentagon or the media?

15) Could defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld explain why initial media reports said that there were no fighter jets available at Andrews Air Force Base and then change the reports that there were, but not on high alert?

16) Why was the DC Air National Guard in Washington AWOL on 9/11?

17) Why did combat jet fighters of the 305th Air Wing, McGuireAir Force Base in New Jersey not intercept the second hijacked plane hitting the WTC, when they could have done it within seven minutes?

18) Why did none of the combat jet fighters of the 459th Aircraft Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base intercept the plane that hitthe Pentagon, only 16 kilometers away? And since we're at it, why the Pentagon did not release the full video of the hit?

19) A number of very experienced airline pilots - including US ally Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a former fighter jet pilot - revealed that, well, only crack pilots could have performed such complex maneuvers on the hijacked jets, while others insisted they could only have been accomplished by remote control. Is it remotely believable that the hijackers were up to the task?

20) How come a substantial number of witnesses did swear seeing and hearing multiple explosions in both towers of the WTC?

21) How come a substantial number of reputed architects and engineers are adamant that the official narrative simply does not explain the largest structural collapse in recorded history (the Twin Towers) as well as the collapse of WTC building 7, which was not even hit by a jet?

22) According to Frank de Martini, WTC's construction manager, "We designed the building to resist the impact of one or more jetliners." The second plane nearly missed tower 1; most of the fuel burned in an explosion outside the tower. Yet this tower collapsed first, long before tower 2 that was "perforated" by the first hit. Jet fuel burned up fast - and by far did not reach the 2000-degree heat necessary to hurt the six tubular steel columns in the center of the tower - designed specifically to keep the towers from collapsing even if hit by a Boeing 707. A Boeing 707 used to carry more fuel than the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 that actually hit the towers.

23) Why did Mayor Rudolph Giuliani instantly authorized the shipment of WTC rubble to China and India for recycling?

24) Why was metallic debris found no less than 13 kilometers from the crash site of the plane that went down in Pennsylvania? Was the plane in fact shot down - under vice president Dick Cheney's orders?

25) The Pipelineistan question. What did US ambassador Wendy Chamberlain talk about over the phone on October 10, 2001, with the oil minister of Pakistan? Was it to tell him that the 1990s-planned Unocal gas pipeline project, TAP (Turkmenistan/Afghanistan/ Pakistan), abandoned because of Taliban demands on transit fees, was now back in business? (Two months later, an agreement to build the pipeline was signed between the leaders of the three countries).

26) What is former Unocal lobbyist and former Bush pet Afghan Zalmay Khalilzad up to in Afghanistan?

27) How come former Pakistani foreign minister Niaz Niak said in mid-July 2001 that the US had already decided to strike againstOsama bin Laden and the Taliban by October? The topic was discussed secretly at the July Group of Eight summit in Genoa, Italy, according to Pakistani diplomats.

28) How come US ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine told FBI agent John O'Neill in July 2001 to stop investigating al-Qaeda's financial operations - with O'Neill instantly moved to a security job at the WTC, where he died on 9/11?

29) Considering the very intimate relationship between the Taliban and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the ISI and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is Bin Laden alive, dead or still a valuable asset of the ISI, the CIA or both?

30) Was Bin Laden admitted at the American hospital in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on July 4, 2001, after flying from Quetta, Pakistan, and staying for treatment until July 11?

31) Did the Bin Laden group build the caves of Tora Bora in close cooperation with the CIA during the 1980s' anti-Soviet jihad?

32) How come General Tommy Franks knew for sure that Bin Laden was hiding in Tora Bora in late November 2001?

33) Why did president Bill Clinton abort a hit on Bin Laden in October 1999? Why did then-Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf abort a covert ops in the same date? And why did Musharraf do the same thing again in August 2001?

34) Why did George W Bush dissolve the Bin Laden Task Force nine months before 9/11?

35) How come the (fake) Bin Laden home video - in which he "confesses" to being the perpetrator of 9/11 - released by the US on December 13, 2001, was found only two weeks after it was produced (on November 9); was it really found in Jalalabad (considering Northern Alliance and US troops had not even arrived there at the time); by whom; and how come the Pentagon was forced to release a new translation after the first (botched) one?

36) Why was ISI chief Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmad abruptly "retired" on October 8, 2001, the day the US started bombing Afghanistan?

37) What was Ahmad up to in Washington exactly on the week of 9/11 (he arrived on September 4)? On the morning of 9/11, Ahmad was having breakfast on Capitol Hill with Bob Graham and Porter Goss, both later part of the 9/11 Commission, which simply refused to investigate two of its members. Ahmad had breakfast with Richard Armitage of the State Department on September 12 and 13 (when Pakistan negotiated its "cooperation" with the "war on terror") and met all the CIA and Pentagon top brass. On September 13, Musharraf announced he would send Ahmad to Afghanistan to demand to the Taliban the extradition of Bin Laden.

38) Who inside the ISI transferred US$100,000 to Mohammed Atta in the summer of 2001 - under orders of Ahmad himself, as Indian intelligence insists? Was it really ISI asset Omar Sheikh, Bin Laden's information technology specialist who later organized the slaying of American journalist Daniel Pearl in Karachi? So was the ISI directly linked to 9/11?

39) Did the FBI investigate the two shady characters who met Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi in Harry's Bar at the Helmsley Hotel in New York City on September 8, 2001?

40) What did director of Asian affairs at the State Department Christina Rocca and the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef discuss in their meeting in Islamabad in August 2001?

41) Did Washington know in advance that an "al-Qaeda" connection would kill Afghan nationalist commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, aka "The Lion of the Panjshir", only two days before 9/11? Massoud was fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda - helped by Russia and Iran. According to the Northern Alliance, Massoud was killed by an ISI-Taliban-al Qaeda axis. If still alive, he would never have allowed the US to rig a loya jirga (grand council) in Afghanistan and install a puppet, former CIA asset Hamid Karzai, as leader of the country.

42) Why did it take no less than four months before the name of Ramzi Binalshibh surfaced in the 9/11 context, considering the Yemeni was a roommate of Mohammed Atta in his apartment cell in Hamburg?

43) Is pathetic shoe-bomber Richard Reid an ISI asset?

44) Did then-Russian president Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence tell the CIA in 2001 that 25 terrorist pilots had been training for suicide missions?

45) When did the head of German intelligence, August Hanning, tell the CIA that terrorists were "planning to hijack commercial aircraft?"

46) When did Egyptian President Mubarak tell the CIA about an attack on the US with an "airplane stuffed with explosives?"

47) When did Israel's Mossad director Efraim Halevy tell the CIA about a possible attack on the US by "200 terrorists?"

48) Were the Taliban aware of the warning by a Bush administration official as early as February 2001 - "Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs?"

49) Has Northrop-Grumman used Global Hawk technology - which allows to remotely control unmanned planes - in the war in Afghanistan since October 2001? Did it install Global Hawk in a commercial plane? Is Global Hawk available at all for commercial planes?

50) Would Cheney stand up and volunteer the detailed timeline of what he was really up to during the whole day on 9/11?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

US Hypocrisy Astonishes the World

Americans have lost their ability for introspection, thereby revealing their astounding hypocrisy to the world.

US War Secretary Robert Gates has condemned the Associated Press and a reporter, Julie Jacobson, embedded with US troops in Afghanistan, for taking and releasing a photo of a US Marine who was wounded in action and died from his injury.

The photographer was on patrol with the Marines when they came under fire. She found the courage and presence of mind to do her job. Her reward is to be condemned by the warmonger Gates as “insensitive.” Gates says her employer, the Associated Press, lacks “judgment and common decency.”

The American Legion jumped in and denounced the Associated Press for a “stunning lack of compassion and common decency.”

To stem opposition to its wars, the War Department hides signs of American casualties from the public. Angry that evidence escaped the censor, the War Secretary and the American Legion attacked with politically correct jargon: “insensitive,” “offended,” and the “anguish,” “pain and suffering” inflicted upon the Marine’s family. The War Department sounds like it is preparing a harassment tort.

Isn’t this passing the buck? The Marine lost his life not because of the Associated Press and a photographer, but because of the war criminals--Gates, Bush, Cheney, Obama, and the US Congress that supports wars of naked aggression that serve no American purpose, but which keeps campaign coffers filled with contributions from the armaments companies.

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Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard is dead because the US government and a significant percentage of the US population believe that the US has the right to invade, bomb, and occupy other peoples who have raised no hand against us but are demonized with lies and propaganda.

For the American War Secretary it is a photo that is insensitive, not America’s assertion of the right to determine the fate of Afghanistan with bombs and soldiers.

The exceptional “virtuous nation” does not think it is insensitive for America’s bombs to blow innocent villagers to pieces. On September 4, the day before Gates’ outburst over the “insensitive” photo, Agence France Presse reported from Afghanistan that a US/Nato air strike had killed large numbers of villagers who had come to get fuel from two tankers that had been hijacked from negligent and inattentive occupation forces:

“ ‘Nobody was in one piece. Hands, legs and body parts were scattered everywhere. Those who were away from the fuel tanker were badly burnt,’ said 32-year-old Mohammad Daud, depicting a scene from hell. The burned-out shells of the tankers, still smoking in marooned wrecks on the riverbank, were surrounded by the charred-meat remains of villagers from Chahar Dara district in Kunduz province, near the Tajik border. Dr. Farid Rahid, a spokesperson in Kabul for the ministry of health, said up to 250 villagers had been near the tankers when the air strike was called in.”

What does the world think of the United States? The American War Secretary and a US military veterans association think a photo of an injured and dying American soldier is insensitive, but not the wipeout of an Afghan village that came to get needed fuel.

The US government is like a criminal who accuses the police of his crime when he is arrested or a sociopathic abuser who blames the victim. It is a known fact that the CIA has violated US law and international law with its assassinations, kidnappings and torture. But it is not this criminal agency that will be held accountable. Instead, those who will be punished will be those moral beings who, appalled at the illegality and inhumanity of the CIA, leaked the evidence of the agency’s crimes. The CIA has asked the US Justice (sic) Department to investigate what the CIA alleges is the “criminal disclosure” of its secret program to murder suspected foreign terrorist leaders abroad. As we learned from Gitmo, those suspected by America are overwhelmingly innocent.

The CIA program is so indefensible that when CIA director Leon Panetta found out about it six months after being in office, he cancelled the program (assuming those running the program obeyed) and informed Congress.

Yet, the CIA wants the person who revealed its crime to be punished for revealing secret information. A secret agency this unmoored from moral and legal standards is a greater threat to our country than are terrorists. Who knows what false flag operation it will pull off in order to provide justification and support for its agenda. An agency that is more liability than benefit should be abolished.

The agency’s program of assassinating terrorist leaders is itself fraught with contradictions and dangers. The hatred created by the US and Israel is independent of any leader. If one is killed, others take his place. The most likely outcome of the CIA assassination program is that the agency will be manipulated by rivals, just as the FBI was used by one mafia family to eliminate another. In order to establish credibility with groups that they are attempting to penetrate, CIA agents will be drawn into participating in violent acts against the US and its allies.

Accusing the truth-teller instead of the evil-doer is the position that the neoconservatives took against the New York Times when after one year’s delay, which gave George W. Bush time to get reelected, the Times published the NSA leak that revealed that the Bush administration was committing felonies by violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The neocons, especially those associated with Commentary magazine, wanted the New York Times indicted for treason. To the evil neocon mind, anything that interferes with their diabolical agenda is treason.

This is the way many Americans think. America uber alles! No one counts but us (and Israel). The deaths we inflict and the pain and suffering we bring to others are merely collateral damage on the bloody path to American hegemony.

The attitude of the “freedom and democracy” US government is that anyone who complains of illegality or immorality or inhumanity is a traitor. The Republican Senator Christopher S. Bond is a recent example. Bond got on his high horse about “irreparable damage” to the CIA from the disclosures of its criminal activities. Bond wants those “back stabbers” who revealed the CIA’s wrongdoings to be held accountable. Bond is unable to grasp that it is the criminal activities, not their disclosure, that is the source of the problem. Obviously, the whistleblower protection act has no support from Senator Bond, who sees it as just another law to plough under.

This is where the US government stands today: Ignoring and covering up government crimes is the patriotic thing to do. To reveal the government’s crimes is an act of treason. Many Americans on both sides of the aisle agree.

Yet, they still think that they are The Virtuous Nation, the exceptional nation, the salt of the earth.

by Paul Craig Roberts

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Liquidity to Keep the Financial System from Collapsing in a Heap

Ben Bernanke never should have been reappointed as Fed chairman. Obama made a big mistake. The main thing to remember about Bernanke is that, in the two years since the financial crisis began, he's made no effort to force the large banks and financial institutions to write-down their losses. Nor has he pushed for the regulations that are needed to restore confidence in the system. The credit system is still clogged because the banks are buried under $1.5 trillion in toxic assets and non performing loans which are defaulting at the fastest pace on record. At the same time, Bernanke has failed to push for reform of derivatives trading, off-balance sheet operations, securitization or capital requirements for financial institutions. The good news is that Bernanke has demonstrated great creativity in providing sufficient liquidity to keep the financial system from collapsing in a heap. The bad news is that the core problem is not liquidity at all, but solvency. A good portion of the banking system is underwater. That's why Bernanke's actions have been a complete flop.

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The banks can't fix themselves, because--to do so--would drive many of them out of business. If the FDIC doesn't sort them out, they will continue to be a drain on public resources. Lending will continue to contract and GDP will shrink. That's what is happening now, except Obama stimulus has triggered a slight uptick in growth that is being confused for recovery. But there is no recovery. Things are simply getting worse at a slower pace. That's to be expected. Housing prices will not go to zero; they flatten out over time. That doesn't mean things are getting better. They're not; they're getting worse. Personal consumption is in the tank, business investment has never been lower, the rate of bank failures is accelerating, and unemployment is headed higher. So where are the "green shoots"?

The only real cure is political. The notion that the market will fix itself is pure fantasy. We are following the same path as Japan--perennial recession.

Many people believe that the Federal Reserve is the head of a banking cartel. But that's not entirely true. Bernanke is actually an employee of the banking cartel; an apparatchik who carries out the policies that best serve the interests of his constituents. The Central Bank's serial bubblemaking has been a successful means of transferring capital from working people to the investor class and corporate elites. The facts speak for themselves.
A report by University of California, Berkeley economics professor Emmanuel Saez concludes that income inequality in the United States is at an all-time high, surpassing even levels seen during the Great Depression.

The report shows that:

* Income inequality is worse than it has been since at least 1917

* "The top 1 percent incomes captured half of the overall economic growth over the period 1993-2007"

* "In the economic expansion of 2002-2007, the top 1 percent captured two thirds of income growth."


The Fed disguises its stealth-looting of the middle class with ideological mumbo-jumbo about "supply side" this and "trickle down" that. Ripping off working people has a long history going back 30 years Reagan's "Voodoo" economics, but the severity of the current recession has pitted market fundamentalism against the sobering reality that the US consumer is not an inexhaustible resource. Debt-fueled consumption has reached its apex and is descending rapidly. This is apparent in all of the recent research and data. Between 2000 and 2007 US households increased their aggregate debt by nearly $14 trillion. The household debt-to-disposable income ratio rose to 135% and has only recently declined to 128%. For the first time in 60 years, households have begun saving. (although much of what is classified as "saving" is, in reality, just paying down debt) The larger point is,that US consumers are undergoing a generational shift and will not be able to lead the way out of the recession as they have in the past. Nor will they miraculously "bounce back" and provide demand for products made abroad. In fact, the export-driven model (Germany, South Korea, Japan, China) is sure to be challenged in ways that were unimaginable just two years ago. With credit lines being cut, and outstanding credit shrinking by trillions in the past year alone, and unemployment nudging 10 per cent (16 per cent in real terms) the consumer will not be the locomotive driving the global economy. Credit destruction, asset firesales, defaults, and foreclosures will continue for the foreseeable future choking off growth and pushing unemployment higher. Consumption patterns are changing dramatically, although their impact won't be fully-felt until government stimulus programs run out. That's when the signs of Depression will become apparent once more.

This is why Bernanke should never have been reappointed as chairman. Bernanke has a good grasp of the issues---underwater banks, overextended consumers, exotic debt-instruments (derivatives), and an out-of-control financial system--but he refuses to do anything about them. The institutional bias of the Fed provides no wiggle-room for structural change. The Fed represents the status quo.

Bernanke's reappointment isn't just wrong because he failed to detect the biggest housing bubble of all time, or for supporting the loosey-goosey monetary policies which triggered the current Great Recession, or for shrugging off Congress's attempts to audit the Fed, or for rejecting Bloomberg News (legal) claims that the Fed should release information about which financial institutions received $1.5 trillion in Fed loans, or for $12.8 trillion to keep a corrupt and insolvent system operating while millions of working people lose their homes, their jobs and their prospects for the future. These are bad enough, but, worse still, is the fact that Bernanke's strategy has no chance of succeeding; it just kicks the can further down the road.

The economy is experiencing system-wide deleveraging and deflation is now visible in every sector of the economy. Exports are down, so is trucking. Railroad freight is off 18 per cent year-over-year. Department stores, building materials, restaurants, furniture sales, appliances, travel, retail, outdoor equipment, tech; down, down, down, down, down and down. You name it; it's down. Consumer credit is plummeting and personal savings are up. Industrial production is down, PPI down. Capacity utilization has slipped to 68.5 per cent.(another record) There's so much slack in the system, inflation could be low for years. Commercial real estate--a $3.5 trillion industry--is plunging faster than residential housing. Corporate bond defaults are at record highs, Treasury yields are flat, and the dollar index is teetering at the brink. It's a wasteland.

Bernanke has put himself and the country in the direct path of a debt-liquidation avalanche; a near-endless flow of rising defaults, foreclosures and bankruptcies. His liquidity injections and monetization programs have inflated another speculative bubble in the stock market, but eventually that will run its course and stocks will retest their March lows. The massive debt-purge will continue despite the Fed chief's best efforts. The trend is irreversible.

Debt-reduction can't be put off forever. Markets eventually "correct" and red ink gets mopped up. That's just the way it is. Bernanke is simply trying to prevent the market from clearing. It's futile. And, that's why he shouldn't have been reappointed.