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Punking Ourselves to Death | KUNSTLER

Punking Ourselves to Death | KUNSTLER.

     The so-called Volker Rule for policing (ha!) banking practices, approved by a huddle of federal regulating agency chiefs last week, is the latest joke that America has played on itself in what is becoming the greatest national self-punking exercise in world history.

First of all (and there’s a lot of all), this rule comes in the form of nearly 1,000 pages of incomprehensible legalese embedded in what was already a morbidly obese Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform (ha!) and Consumer Protection (ha!) Act of 2012 that clocked in at 2000 pages, not counting the immense rafts of mandated interpretations and adumbrations, of which the new Volker Rule is but one. These additions were required because the Dodd-Frank Act itself did not really spell out the particulars of enforcement but rather left it to the regulatory agencies to construct the rules — which they did with “help” of lobbyist-lawyers furnished by the banks themselves. That is, the lobbyists actually wrote the rules for Dodd-Frank and everything in it, which means the banks wrote the rules. Does this strain your credulity? Well, this is the kind of nation we have become: anything goes and nothing matters. There really is no rule of law, just pretense.

The Volker Rule was a lame gesture toward restoring the heart of the Glass-Steagall provisions of the Banking Act of 1933, which were repealed in 1999 in a cynical effort led by Wall Street uber-grifter Robert Rubin and his sidekick Larry Summers, who served serially as US Treasury Secretaries under Bill Clinton. Glass Steagall was passed in Congress following revelations of gross misconduct among bankers leading up to the stock market crash of 1929. The main thrust of Glass Steagall was to mandate the separation of commercial banking (deposit accounts + lending) from investment banking (underwriting and trading in securities). The idea was to prevent banks from using money in customer deposit accounts to gamble in stocks and other speculative instruments. This rule was designed to work hand-in-hand with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), also created in 1933, to backstop the accounts of ordinary citizens in commercial banks. The initial backstop limits were very modest: $2,500 at inception, and didn’t rise above $40,000 until 1980. Investment banks, on the other hand, were not backstopped at all under Glass-Steagall, since their activities were construed as a form of high-toned gambling.

The Glass Steagall Act of 1933 was about 35 pages long, written in language that was precise, clear, and succinct. It worked for 66 years. Banking during those years was a pretty boring business, commercial banking especially. It operated on the 3-6-3 principle — pay 3 percent interest on deposits, lend at 6 percent, and be out on the golf course at 3 p.m. Bankers made a nice living but nothing like the obscene racketeering profits engineered by the looting operations of today. Before 1980, the finance sector of the economy was about 5 percent of all activity. Its purpose was to allocate precious capital to new productive ventures.

As American manufacturing was surrendered to other countries, there were fewer productive ventures for capital to be directed into. What remained was real estate development (a.k.a. suburban sprawl) and finance, which was the enabler of it. Finance ballooned to 40 percent of the US economy and the American landscape got trashed. The computer revolution of the 1990s stimulated tremendous “innovation” in financial activities. Much of that innovation turned out to be new species of swindles and frauds. Now you understand the history of the so-called “housing bubble” and the crash of 2008. The US never recovered from it, and all the rescue attempts in the form of bail-outs, quantitative easing, zero interest rates, have turned into rackets aimed at papering-over this national failure to thrive. It is all ultimately linked to the larger story of industrialism and its relationship with the unique, finite, fossil fuel resources that the human race got cheaply for a few hundred years. That story is now winding down and we refuse to pay attention to the reality of it.

The absurdity of Dodd-Frank and the Volker Rule in the face of that is just another symptom of that tragic inattention. The baroque prolixity of these statutes must have been fun for the lawyers to construct — thousands of pages of incantatory nonsense aimed at confounding any attempt to enforce decent conduct among bankers and their supposed regulators — but it does nothing to really help us move into the next phase of history.

 

 

Stratfor, a.k.a ‘Shadow CIA,’ Had Contracts With 13 Federal Departments: WikiLeaks

Stratfor, a.k.a ‘Shadow CIA,’ Had Contracts With 13 Federal Departments: WikiLeaks.

stratfor

AP
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

OTTAWA – At least 13 Canadian government agencies have had subscriptions with U.S. private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, Inc. or Stratfor, sometimes dubbed a shadow CIA, newly released WikiLeaks emails indicate.

Stratfor came under fire recently after a leaked company document prepared for an oil company outlined ways to counter activist groups, such as Greenpeace, who oppose Canada’s oil-sands development.

The same cache of leaked emails indicates Canadian federal agencies have purchased at least half a million dollars in Stratfor services.

Stratfor’s Presentation On Countering Anti-Oilsands Activists
Reportedly prepared for Suncor, 2010.
(Story continues below)

 

Stratfor Oilsands Presentation, 2010
1 of 69

Emails from January 2009 and February 2011 show invoices of $13,125 and $13,725 for one-year Stratfor subscriptions for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which were not publicly disclosed by the department.

Under proactive disclosure policy, Canadian government contracts worth more than $10,000 must be posted on the web.

Foreign Affairs spokesperson Jean-Bruno Villeneuve says there was a clerical error in not reporting the contracts.

Villeneuve added the subscriptions were “used widely within the department to help inform policy development and analysis.”

Stratfor declined to answer questions about the recent leaks, referring The Canadian Press to a posted statement about its policy not to comment on any of the WikiLeaks documents.

“Some of the emails may be forged or altered to include inaccuracies; some may be authentic,” the statement reads.

“We will not validate either. Nor will we explain the thinking that went into them. Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimized twice by submitting to questioning about them.”

A Canadian intelligence expert says some federal departments use private firms such as Stratfor to augment their supply of intelligence.

“I think it’s not uncommon,” Wesley Wark said in an interview.

“Particularly for people in the intelligence analysis world of the Canadian government … to have contracts from time to time with private-sector firms for delivery of certain kinds of analytical problems, which is basically what Stratfor does.”

Wark says such services can be expensive and beyond the budgets of government agencies.

In another leaked email, dated March 3, 2011, a senior executive in the firm applauds a Stratfor employee for cementing a long-term contract with National Defence.

The deal was on behalf of the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, worth $240,600 over three years.

The leaks suggest National Defence has had the highest-value agreements with Stratfor.

“We locked them in for a three-year commitment,” says the email, with several replies of congratulation for the coup.

According to the same email chain, National Defence paid Stratfor $78,225 in 2011, $80,175 in 2012 and $82,200 for this year. The contract was publicly disclosed by the department.

The deal gave the college “Authenticated Access to STRATFOR Enterprise Premium Portal,” which includes “Up to 10 individual user accounts” with access to sophisticated analysis and geopolitical forecasts.

National Defence’s publicly posted contract reports also show an agreement with Stratfor worth $182,377 from 2008 to 2011.

In 2006, a Stratfor analyst described in an email another deal with comparable value.

“We just inked a deal beginning yesterday similar to the Air Force,” the analyst wrote to a colleague, “except it covers the Canadian Forces for $50k (the) first year and $60k for (the) subsequent year.”

Industry Canada used an “enterprise premium portal” subscription similar to that of National Defence, an April 2005 email indicates, although a dollar figure was not reported. Another email indicated a renewal of a subscription in 2010.

Additional emails from the WikiLeaks database show the Public Safety Department, whose umbrella includes the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, had a deal with Stratfor in 2010 and 2011, although the valuation was not given.

WikiLeaks obtained the emails from a high-profile hacking of over five million Stratfor emails by alleged Internet activist and Anonymous member, Jeremy Hammond. Hammond pleaded guilty in a U.S. court and received a 10-year sentence last month.

“I don’t think they (Stratfor) have formal access to classified material,” said Wark.

“But the people who work at Stratfor are for the most part former members of the American intelligence community and have some connections. … But they’re primarily, I think, working with open-source material.”

Here is the Stratfor Canadian government subscription list, according to WikiLeaks cables: Transport Canada; Industry Canada; Export Development Canada (Crown corp.); Citizenship and Immigration; Canadian International Development Agency (now part of Foreign Affairs); Natural Resources; Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission; Treasury Board; Canadian Air Transport Security Authority; RCMP; Public Safety; National Defence; Foreign Affairs.

https://twitter.com/BMakuch

Inside the Saudi 9/11 coverup | New York Post

Inside the Saudi 9/11 coverup | New York Post.

After the 9/11 attacks, the public was told al Qaeda acted alone, with no state sponsors.

But the White House never let it see an entire section of Congress’ investigative report on 9/11 dealing with “specific sources of foreign support” for the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudi nationals.

It was kept secret and remains so today.

President Bush inexplicably censored 28 full pages of the 800-page report. Text isn’t just blacked-out here and there in this critical-yet-missing middle section. The pages are completely blank, except for dotted lines where an estimated 7,200 words once stood (this story by comparison is about 1,000 words).

A pair of lawmakers who recently read the redacted portion say they are “absolutely shocked” at the level of foreign state involvement in the attacks.

Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) can’t reveal the nation identified by it without violating federal law. So they’ve proposed Congress pass a resolution asking President Obama to declassify the entire 2002 report, “Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.”

Some information already has leaked from the classified section, which is based on both CIA and FBI documents, and it points back to Saudi Arabia, a presumed ally.

The Saudis deny any role in 9/11, but the CIA in one memo reportedly found “incontrovertible evidence” that Saudi government officials — not just wealthy Saudi hardliners, but high-level diplomats and intelligence officers employed by the kingdom — helped the hijackers both financially and logistically. The intelligence files cited in the report directly implicate the Saudi embassy in Washington and consulate in Los Angeles in the attacks, making 9/11 not just an act of terrorism, but an act of war.

Modal Trigger

The findings, if confirmed, would back up open-source reporting showing the hijackers had, at a minimum, ties to several Saudi officials and agents while they were preparing for their attacks inside the United States. In fact, they got help from Saudi VIPs from coast to coast:

LOS ANGELES: Saudi consulate official Fahad al-Thumairy allegedly arranged for an advance team to receive two of the Saudi hijackers — Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi — as they arrived at LAX in 2000. One of the advance men, Omar al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi intelligence agent, left the LA consulate and met the hijackers at a local restaurant. (Bayoumi left the United States two months before the attacks, while Thumairy was deported back to Saudi Arabia after 9/11.)

SAN DIEGO: Bayoumi and another suspected Saudi agent, Osama Bassnan, set up essentially a forward operating base in San Diego for the hijackers after leaving LA. They were provided rooms, rent and phones, as well as private meetings with an American al Qaeda cleric who would later become notorious, Anwar al-Awlaki, at a Saudi-funded mosque he ran in a nearby suburb. They were also feted at a welcoming party. (Bassnan also fled the United States just before the attacks.)

WASHINGTON: Then-Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar and his wife sent checks totaling some $130,000 to Bassnan while he was handling the hijackers. Though the Bandars claim the checks were “welfare” for Bassnan’s supposedly ill wife, the money nonetheless made its way into the hijackers’ hands.

Other al Qaeda funding was traced back to Bandar and his embassy — so much so that by 2004 Riggs Bank of Washington had dropped the Saudis as a client.

The next year, as a number of embassy employees popped up in terror probes, Riyadh recalled Bandar.

“Our investigations contributed to the ambassador’s departure,” an investigator who worked with the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington told me, though Bandar says he left for “personal reasons.”

FALLS CHURCH, VA.: In 2001, Awlaki and the San Diego hijackers turned up together again — this time at the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, a Pentagon-area mosque built with funds from the Saudi Embassy. Awlaki was recruited 3,000 miles away to head the mosque. As its imam, Awlaki helped the hijackers, who showed up at his doorstep as if on cue. He tasked a handler to help them acquire apartments and IDs before they attacked the Pentagon.

Awlaki worked closely with the Saudi Embassy. He lectured at a Saudi Islamic think tank in Merrifield, Va., chaired by Bandar. Saudi travel itinerary documents I’ve obtained show he also served as the ­official imam on Saudi Embassy-sponsored trips to Mecca and tours of Saudi holy sites.

Most suspiciously, though, Awlaki fled the United States on a Saudi jet about a year after 9/11.

As I first reported in my book, “Infiltration,” quoting from classified US documents, the Saudi-sponsored cleric was briefly detained at JFK before being released into the custody of a “Saudi representative.” A federal warrant for Awlaki’s arrest had mysteriously been withdrawn the previous day. A US drone killed Awlaki in Yemen in 2011.

HERNDON, VA.: On the eve of the attacks, top Saudi government official Saleh Hussayen checked into the same Marriott Residence Inn near Dulles Airport as three of the Saudi hijackers who targeted the Pentagon. Hussayen had left a nearby hotel to move into the hijackers’ hotel. Did he meet with them? The FBI never found out. They let him go after he “feigned a seizure,” one agent recalled. (Hussayen’s name doesn’t appear in the separate 9/11 Commission Report, which clears the Saudis.)

SARASOTA, FLA.: 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta and other hijackers visited a home owned by Esam Ghazzawi, a Saudi adviser to the nephew of King Fahd. FBI agents investigating the connection in 2002 found that visitor logs for the gated community and photos of license tags matched vehicles driven by the hijackers. Just two weeks before the 9/11 attacks, the Saudi luxury home was abandoned. Three cars, including a new Chrysler PT Cruiser, were left in the driveway. Inside, opulent furniture was untouched.

Democrat Bob Graham, the former Florida senator who chaired the Joint Inquiry, has asked the FBI for the Sarasota case files, but can’t get a single, even heavily redacted, page released. He says it’s a “coverup.”

Is the federal government protecting the Saudis? Case agents tell me they were repeatedly called off pursuing 9/11 leads back to the Saudi Embassy, which had curious sway over White House and FBI responses to the attacks.

Just days after Bush met with the Saudi ambassador in the White House, the FBI evacuated from the United States dozens of Saudi officials, as well as Osama bin Laden family members. Bandar made the request for escorts directly to FBI headquarters on Sept. 13, 2001 — just hours after he met with the president. The two old family friends shared cigars on the Truman Balcony while discussing the attacks.

Bill Doyle, who lost his son in the World Trade Center attacks and heads the Coalition of 9/11 Families, calls the suppression of Saudi evidence a “coverup beyond belief.” Last week, he sent out an e-mail to relatives urging them to phone their representatives in Congress to support the resolution and read for themselves the censored 28 pages.

Astonishing as that sounds, few lawmakers in fact have bothered to read the classified section of arguably the most important investigation in US history.

Granted, it’s not easy to do. It took a monthlong letter-writing campaign by Jones and Lynch to convince the House intelligence panel to give them access to the material.

But it’s critical they take the time to read it and pressure the White House to let all Americans read it. This isn’t water under the bridge. The information is still relevant ­today. Pursuing leads further, getting to the bottom of the foreign support, could help head off another 9/11.

As the frustrated Joint Inquiry authors warned, in an overlooked addendum to their heavily redacted 2002 report, “State-sponsored terrorism substantially increases the likelihood of successful and more ­lethal attacks within the United States.”

Their findings must be released, even if they forever change US-Saudi relations. If an oil-rich foreign power was capable of orchestrating simultaneous bulls-eye hits on our centers of commerce and defense a dozen years ago, it may be able to pull off similarly devastating attacks today.

Members of Congress reluctant to read the full report ought to remember that the 9/11 assault missed its fourth target: them.

Paul Sperry is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of “Infiltration” and “Muslim Mafia.”

 

Hardball US Geopolitics

DailyCensored.com – Breaking Censored News, World, Independent, Liberal NewsHardball US Geopolitics – DailyCensored.com – Breaking Censored News, World, Independent, Liberal News.

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America seeks unchallenged global dominance. No holds barred tactics pursue it. Rule of law principles don’t matter. Means justify ends. Might makes right.

Events are manipulated. Wars, economic disruption, financial terrorism, and other upheavals play out in real time. Grand schemes reflect them.

Ongoing Ukrainian protests didn’t erupt by chance. Washington’s dirty hands manipulated them. Obama officials want Kiev turning West, not East. They’ll stop at nothing to achieve it.

They want Russian influence weakened. They want Ukraine’s potential ruthlessly exploited. They want its people transformed into serfs. They want another NATO member they control.

They’re playing hardball against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. They’re considering various options. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said:

“All policy options, including sanctions, are on the table, in our view, but obviously that still is being evaluated.” She didn’t say what kind Washington has in mind.

It imposes sanctions recklessly. It does so lawlessly. It does it ruthlessly. One day it’ll go too far. It’ll target one victimized country too many.

Most others won’t go along. They’ll maintain normalized relations. They should be doing it now. Washington rules don’t matter if no one obeys them. It’s high time that practice took hold.

America is a global bully. It’s all take and no give. US officials warned Yanukovych. Don’t target protesters forcefully, they said.

Doing so in America is common practice. So is lawlessly interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. State terrorism is official  policy. War on humanity rages.

New World Order ruthlessness reflects it. McAlvany Intelligence Advisory calls it:

• “a supranational authority to regulate world commerce and industry;

• an international organization that would control the production and consumption of oil;

• an international currency that would replace the dollar (and other major currencies);

• – a world development fund that would make funds available to (all) nations alike; (and)

• an international police force to enforce the edicts of the New World Order.”

These policies reflect the Bilderberg Group’s grand design. It  includes:

• universal rules it sets;

• centralized control of world populations;

• manipulating public sentiment to do so;

• controlling global wealth and power;

• eliminating middle class societies;

• replacing them with ruler-serf ones;

• preventing real democracy from emerging;

• crushing it when it does so;

• perpetuating crises and wars;

• expanding corporate controlled trade worldwide;

• making NATO a global military;

• imposing a universal legal system;

• abolishing human and civil rights; and

• placing monied interests above all others.

This type world isn’t fit to live in. Money power in private hands is tyrannical. It’s abhorrent. So is waging war on humanity ruthlessly.

Washington glorifies it in the name of peace. The business of America is war, grand theft, and unchallenged global dominance.

One nation after another is ravaged. They’re pillaged. Their sovereignty is destroyed. Washington rules replace it. Brute force harshness reflects it.

Smedley Butler (1881 – 1940) was a former Marine major general. It was the highest authorized rank at the time. He served on active duty for over 33 years.

He was cut out of a different mold. He transformed himself after years of service. He looked back with regret. He justifiably called war a “racket.”

He spent “most of (his) time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers.” He called himself “a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”

He “helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests. (He) helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in.”

He “helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street” and other corporate crooks.

“The record of racketeering is long,” he said. He “helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers.”

He “brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests. In China, (he) helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.”

“During those years, (he) had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket.”

“Looking back at it, (he felt he) could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate his racket in three districts.” Butler “operated on three continents.”

America’s global empire stretches everywhere. Super-weapons Butler couldn’t have imagined enforce it. Going public made him an American hero.

Who in today’s military can match him? Who in government? Who’d dare try? Who’d survive if they did? Who’d make a difference long enough to matter?

Obama and Vladimir Putin reflect opposing doctrines. Obama solely serves monied interests. He deplores popular ones.

He advocates conflicts and instability. He pursues global dominance. He does so ruthlessly.

Putin supports peace and stability. He champions nation-state sovereignty. He respects international laws and norms. He endorses multi-polar world priorities.

On Thursday,he delivered his state of the nation address. He did so before Russia’s Federal Assembly.

It consists of the lower house State Duma and upper house Federation Council. It’s the equivalent of a joint session of Congress.

Russia seeks to be a world leader, he said. It doesn’t seek super-power status. It doesn’t want to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

“We will aspire to be a leader by protecting international law and insisting upon respect for national sovereignty, independence and uniqueness of peoples,” he said.

“We have always been proud of our country, yet we do not aspire to super-power status, which is understood as a claim to global or regional hegemony.”

“We are not encroaching on anyone’s interests. We are not pushing our patronage on anyone, and we are not trying to lecture anyone on how one should live.”

He called Moscow’s policy on Syria “resolute, well-judged and reasonable.”

“Not a single time have we put either our own interests and security or global security in danger. In my opinion, this is the way a mature and responsible power should act.”

“(W)e and our partners managed to turn the situation there away from war and toward the development of a nationwide Syrian political process and the achievement of civil reconciliation.”

He wants 33 months of conflict resolved peacefully.

“In my opinion,” he added, “it is our shared success that the choice was made on the basis of the fundamental principles of international law, common sense and the logic of peace.”

“At least thus far we have managed to avoid foreign military intervention in Syrian affairs and the spread of the conflict beyond the region.”

Russia “made quite a significant contribution to this process,” he stressed.

“The Syrian precedent reaffirmed the UN’s central role in global politics.”

“As the situation around Syria and around Iran today has shown, any international problem can and should be resolved exclusively by peaceful means, without resorting to military actions, which have no prospects, but only serve to cause denunciation by the majority of countries in the world.”

Putin didn’t mention America directly by name. He commented on destabilizing conflicts it initiated. He warned against foreign powers seeking a military advantage over Russia.

He called attempts to destroy the current global strategic balance futile. He dismissed claims about Washington’s so-called missile shield being defensive.

He said it has strategically offensive potential. He was outspoken about Western nations attempting to undermine Moscow’s national defense strategy.

He’s mindful about fast-strike weapons platforms able to hit high priority targets worldwide.

“The increase by foreign countries of their strategic, high-precision non-nuclear systems potential and boosting missile defense possibilities could ruin earlier reached agreements on nuclear arms control and reduction, and lead to the disruption of the so-called strategic balance,” he said.

“No one should have illusions over a possibility of taking military advantage over Russia. We will never allow this.”

Moscow’s military capability is able to respond to all challenges effectively, he stressed.

Putin commented briefly on Ukraine. Earlier he said Russia’s “integration project (is) based on equal rights and real economic interests.”

On January 1, 2010, Moscow’s Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan was established. Putin hopes other regional states will join.

“I’m sure achieving Eurasian integration will only increase interest from our neighbors, including our Ukrainian partners,” he said.

His Eurasian Union success depends in large measure on whether Ukraine opts in. Putin envisions a cooperative trading bloc extending from the Pacific to Western European borders.

Ukraine weight heavily in his plans. It’s future is up for grabs. Turning East, not West, offers Yanukovych the best chance for economic progress. Joining a troubled EU alliance assures harder than ever hard times.

The battle for Ukraine continues. Washington’s hardball tactics show no letup. It remains to be seen how things turn out. Kiev’s future hangs in the balance.

A Final Comment

On December 12, Yanukovych said he’ll remove officials responsible for drafting the Association and Free Trade Area Agreement with the European Union.

“Those who prepared the agreement will be relieved of their duties or sacked altogether,” he said.

According to Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, Ukraine will sign a trade agreement with Moscow. It removes all trade contradictions.

“A visit to Moscow is planned for (December 17) so that we can sign agreements eliminating the majority of contradictions in trade with the Russian federation at the presidential level,” Azarov said.

Customs, standardizations and other issues will be resolved. Restoring trade with Russia to its former level will help Ukraine avoid economic collapse, he added.

“I assure you that we will do everything we can to” restore normal Russian/Ukrainian trade relations, he stressed.

Expect Washington and rogue EU partners to go all out to disrupt them.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

 

 

Sheriffs Refuse to Enforce Laws on Gun Control – NYTimes.com

Sheriffs Refuse to Enforce Laws on Gun Control – NYTimes.com

GREELEY, Colo. — When Sheriff John Cooke of Weld County explains in speeches why he is not enforcing the state’s new gun laws, he holds up two 30-round magazines. One, he says, he had before July 1, when the law banning the possession, sale or transfer of the large-capacity magazines went into effect. The other, he “maybe” obtained afterward.

He shuffles the magazines, which look identical, and then challenges the audience to tell the difference.

“How is a deputy or an officer supposed to know which is which?” he asks.

Colorado’s package of gun laws, enacted this year after mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., has been hailed as a victory by advocates of gun control. But if Sheriff Cooke and a majority of the other county sheriffs in Colorado offer any indication, the new laws — which mandate background checks for private gun transfers and outlaw magazines over 15 rounds — may prove nearly irrelevant across much of the state’s rural regions.

Some sheriffs, like Sheriff Cooke, are refusing to enforce the laws, saying that they are too vague and violate Second Amendment rights. Many more say that enforcement will be “a very low priority,” as several sheriffs put it. All but seven of the 62 elected sheriffs in Colorado signed on in May to a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the statutes.

The resistance of sheriffs in Colorado is playing out in other states, raising questions about whether tougher rules passed since Newtown will have a muted effect in parts of the American heartland, where gun ownership is common and grass-roots opposition to tighter restrictions is high.

In New York State, where Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed one of the toughest gun law packages in the nation last January, two sheriffs have said publicly they would not enforce the laws — inaction that Mr. Cuomo said would set “a dangerous and frightening precedent.” The sheriffs’ refusal is unlikely to have much effect in the state: According to the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, since 2010 sheriffs have filed less than 2 percent of the two most common felony gun charges. The vast majority of charges are filed by the state or local police.

In Liberty County, Fla., a jury in October acquitted a sheriff who had been suspended and charged with misconduct after he released a man arrested by a deputy on charges of carrying a concealed firearm. The sheriff, who was immediately reinstated by the governor, said he was protecting the man’s Second Amendment rights.

And in California, a delegation of sheriffs met with Gov. Jerry Brown this fall to try to persuade him to veto gun bills passed by the Legislature, including measures banning semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines and lead ammunition for hunting (Mr. Brown signed the ammunition bill but vetoed the bill outlawing the rifles).

“Our way of life means nothing to these politicians, and our interests are not being promoted in the legislative halls of Sacramento or Washington, D.C.,” said Jon E. Lopey, the sheriff of Siskiyou County, Calif., one of those who met with Governor Brown. He said enforcing gun laws was not a priority for him, and he added that residents of his rural region near the Oregon border are equally frustrated by regulations imposed by the federal Forest Service and the Environmental Protection Agency.

This year, the new gun laws in Colorado have become political flash points. Two state senators who supported the legislation were recalled in elections in September; a third resigned last month rather than face a recall. Efforts to repeal the statutes are already in the works.

Countering the elected sheriffs are some police chiefs, especially in urban areas, and state officials who say that the laws are not only enforceable but that they are already having an effect. Most gun stores have stopped selling the high-capacity magazines for personal use, although one sheriff acknowledged that some stores continued to sell them illegally. Some people who are selling or otherwise transferring guns privately are seeking background checks.

Eric Brown, a spokesman for Gov. John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado, said, “Particularly on background checks, the numbers show the law is working.” The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has run 3,445 checks on private sales since the law went into effect, he said, and has denied gun sales to 70 people.

 

Russia pushes Viktor Yanukovych to stare down protests as EU puts Ukraine deal on ice – World – CBC News

Russia pushes Viktor Yanukovych to stare down protests as EU puts Ukraine deal on ice – World – CBC News.

By Don Murray, CBC News Posted: Dec 16, 2013 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Dec 16, 2013 5:08 AM ET

  • Pro-European integration protesters take part in a rally at Independence Square in Kyiv on Dec. 15, 2013. Thousands gathered on Sunday for a rally against President Viktor Yanukovich just days before he heads for a meeting at the Kremlin which the opposition fears will slam the door on integration with the European Union.
  • Pro-European integration protesters take part in a rally at Independence Square in Kyiv on Dec. 15, 2013. Thousands gathered on Sunday for a rally against President Viktor Yanukovich just days before he heads for a meeting at the Kremlin which the opposition fears will slam the door on integration with the European Union. (Alexander Demianchu/Reuters)

Don Murray
Eye on Europe

A well-travelled former CBC reporter and documentary maker, Don Murray is a freelance writer and translator based in London and Paris.

Winters are long and winters of discontent more frequent in the biggest states of the ex-Soviet Union. At Independence Square in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, the crowds arrived weeks ago.

Days later the police arrived, too, and tried violently to dislodge them. Instead, the police fell back,and the next day the crowds were several times larger, growing to more than half a million people.

This winter confrontation mirrors another two years ago in Moscow and an earlier one in Kyiv as well in 2004. Both were marked by large crowds, and great enthusiasm; both were followed by failure.

The Moscow failure was obvious; a few months later Vladimir Putin, the object of the demonstrators’ fury, was elected president of Russia by a comfortable majority.

The 2004 demonstrations in Ukraine — the so-called Orange Revolution — are more paradoxical, though they seemed, at the time, a success.

Their goal was to prevent the fraudulent election of Viktor Yanukovych as president, and in that they succeeded.

Yet two years later, he and his party triumphed in parliamentary elections and he became prime minister; and in 2010 he was elected president in a vote that outside observers accepted as largely untainted.

Man of controversy

But Yanukovych seems to ignite controversy in whatever he does. This latest cold-weather confrontation began after he refused, at the last minute, to sign a deal offered by the European Union.

Ukraine protest Pro-European integration protesters take part in a rally at Independence Square in Kyiv on Dec. 15, 2013. Thousands massed on Sunday for a rally against President Viktor Yanukovich just days before he heads for a meeting at the Kremlin which the opposition fears will slam the door on integration with the European mainstream. ( Gleb Garanich/Ukraine)

The deal would have allowed for Ukraine to assume associate status, and thereby enjoy a free-trade deal with the 28 European states.

Why refuse? Because Russia, the Russia of Putin — the man who described the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geo-political disaster of the 20th century — was offering more.

More money to Ukraine as an incentive, and more penalties — higher gas prices, indeed a cut in gas supplies — as a whip if Ukraine didn’t sign up to his post-Soviet customs union.

Yanukovych, as his wont, dithered, and played for time.

In Kyiv, the demonstrators replied by tearing down a statue of Vladimir Lenin, the dictatorial founder of the Soviet Union, a man Putin admires.

Yanukovych clearly hadn’t expected to face a second Orange Revolution in the streets.

He tried force; it merely magnified the crowds. He dismissed lieutenants who had carried out the orders to crack down. The opposition was unimpressed: It demanded the heads of his prime minister and minister of the interior. But their heads stayed on.

The crowds that dug in and grew are the Ukrainians who see Europe and the EU as their future. They are, for the most part, from Western Ukraine.

But Ukraine is a divided country. In the industrialized East, Yanukovych’s stronghold, many voters are native Russian speakers and see their future with Moscow.

They are the ones his regime brings in by special train to counter-demonstrations in Kyiv, though many do so with little enthusiasm.

“I really don’t trust our politicians,” said one man taking part in the pro-Yanukovych demonstration on the weekend. “I don’t the like opposition leaders. But, of course, the president is an idiot, too.”

Calling his bluff

The “idiot,” however, clings to power, supported by the power ministries, like the police, the security forces and the army.  But, short of resorting to lethal repression, they seem powerless to stop the popular uprising.

Ukraine ProtestsA Pro-European Union activist in sunglasses in Ukrainian national colors attends a rally in Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. (Dmitry Lovetsky/The Associated Press)

The vague U.S. threat of  economic sanctions following the aborted police crackdown, and the appearance at Independence Square on the weekend of American Senator John McCain, in support of the demonstrators, has only added to the headaches of the Ukrainian president.

Yanukovych’s bluff in recent days, of promising to continue negotiations with the EU and devise some sort of interim deal, has now been called.

The European commissioner for enlargement, Stefan Füle, tweeted on Sunday that the “words and deeds of [Ukraine] president and government further and further apart. Their arguments have no grounds in reality.” The negotiating process was frozen.

It may be another blast of cold air to many pro-Europe demonstrators, but several of the largest nations in the EU, including Britain, France and even Germany, will be perfectly at ease with the freeze.

The negotiations with Ukraine began years ago. Since then the EU has been plunged into the euro crisis and has admitted Bulgaria and Romania to its ranks.

Since then, the appetite for expansion has cooled as the problems of absorbing those two Eastern European states have proven complicated.

What’s more, some Ukrainians living in the EU are distinctly skeptical of the deal as well.

I recently listened in astonishment as several vehemently rejected the idea, saying it would merely turn Ukraine into a hewer of wood and drawer of water, a sort of Slavic Canada, for the European powerhouses.

Russia’s zero-sum game

None of these developments, mind you, have stopped the drumbeat of Russian criticism of the West in general and the EU in particular.

Putin’s prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, has accused the EU of “crude interference” in Ukrainian affairs, while his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, describes the demonstrations in Kiev as the work of provocateurs, adding that the European powers have “lost their sense of reality.”

For the Putin regime, this is a zero-sum game: it’s either Russia or the EU for Ukraine. There can’t be deals with both. Which doesn’t leave Yanukovych with many good options.

But despite the size of the demonstrations in Kyiv, the opposition remains hydra-headed, only united over two things: the wish to sign the European deal and to get rid of Yanukovych.

These were the same objectives nine years ago, and that ended badly.

Lenin toppling in the snow was a photo opportunity too tasty for the world’s media not to swallow.

It recalled another famous figure pulled from his plinth 22 years ago in Moscow — Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of Lenin’s secret police, the Cheka.

That toppling seemed to symbolize the end of the Communist regime in the Soviet Union. Yet less than a decade later a Dzerzhinsky man, a graduate of the KGB, Vladmir Putin, was running Russia and putting ex-KGB men in positions of power around him.

Breaking a statue does not break a regime.

 

Legion | Collapse of Industrial Civilization

Legion | Collapse of Industrial Civilization.

American Horror Story

You almost have to feel sorry for the conservatives, tea partiers, and the whole menagerie of free market evangelists these days. Even a casual perusal of AM talk radio, along with the buffoonery and gas baggery of the hard right news shows, one can see evidence of collapsing narratives at every turn.

Our disintegrating social conditions demand a plausible explanation from the right, and any such explanation, ideologically, must be sure to exonerate capitalism and the free market system.

This is becoming increasingly hard to do, as the shrill and contradictory defenses put forth become less satisfying every time the story is told. The story evolves, the audience reactions carefully polled, and the messaging refined to try and adapt to a low information audience growing more skeptical by the minute. There are many versions of the same story, depending on who tells it and more importantly who is paying for it, but for this discussion we are interested in the narrative brought forth by the evangelical right, and their socially conservative stable mates, or in general, the fire and brimstone crowd accounting for something near half of the American population.

The operating theory of this cohort centers for the most part on morality, or lack thereof, as principal cause for our society’s collapse.

Rush Limbaugh provides a pathetic but typical example of this type of addled logic:

The reason all of these stats on income inequality don’t work anymore is because the baseline for the statistical start is the fifties.  Now, what was happening in the fifties?  Well, in the fifties we had this thing called a nuclear family.  There was a mother, a woman.  There was a father, a man.  They had babies by engaging in coitus.  Leave It To Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet — hell, even the Beach Boys, for crying out loud!  They were seemingly clean and pure as the wind driven snow.

Anyway, then after the coitus in the bedroom, then little Beaver was born and then Wally, and there were 2.8 of the kids and little picket fence and (if the dad got a vice presidency), there were two cars in the garage, and mom — the female. I’ve gotta make that distinction. The mother was a woman, the wife of a man. She stays home, raises the kid, fixes breakfast, sends ‘em off to school, talks to the PTA. There was all that.  There was one breadwinner, and there was an economic boom going on at the same time, following World War II.

Incomes in America rose dramatically.  Then something happened.  The left didn’t like that arrangement.  That was just bad. They didn’t fit in.  They didn’t like the idea of coitus in the bedroom.  They didn’t like coitus with someone the opposite sex, necessarily.  They didn’t even like coitus as a means of producing a kid.  In fact, most times they didn’t even like the kid. They wanted to have the abortion.  So what happened was that the nuclear family became under assault by “progressive” forces of modernization.

So today, you can’t compare family income today to what it was in the fifties when the boom time ’cause the family’s not the same.  You’ve got single women, single-parent families, fewer nuclear families.  Incomes have been divided.  It doesn’t work.

Who knew?

The root of American ethics and morality stems in part from its heavily Protestant and Calvinistic theological underpinnings, which we might well reduce to the “Puritan” ethic. There are several key components of this behavior, tracing back to the late 17th century:

1. Personal sacrifice fulfilled by austere living conditions.

2. Self-sufficiency and disdain of charity for one’s self.

3. Obsessive work ethic fueled by the notion that idleness is evil.

Of course there are others, but we can use these generalizations to continue. In addition we should mention that Calvinism utilizes the principle of predestination, or predetermination, a fundamental departure from modern evangelical Christianity.

The rollup of these centuries old dogmatic beliefs is a programing bias towards moral explanations for when things go wrong, and strong lifestyle choices that dictate high moral standards when times are normal, in order to stave off any potential (future) fall from grace. The modern evangelical right has conflated this DNA to represent a distorted view of Christianity leaning heavily on Capitalism-which has fascist underpinnings in its ultimate embodiment.

In the Flat Fields

A gut pull drag on me
Into the chasm gaping we
Mirrors multy reflecting this
Between spunk stained sheet
And odorous whim
Calmer eye- flick- shudder- within
Assist me to walk away in sin
Where is the string that Theseus laid
Find me out this labyrinth place

I do get bored, I get bored
In the flat field
I get bored, I do get bored
In the flat field

What is often lost in our current infatuation with Enlightenment thinking is the degree to which the Pre-Enlightenment Church managed commerce, financing, and general market forces. In fact, the Church maintained an iron hand on issues such as usury, which was condemned and not distinguished from the “normal” practice of charging interest until the late 19th century.

In the age of Church hegemony, which lasted for centuries, it was considered immoral, and grossly so, to profit in any way through trade, charging interest, or commerce which resulted in a profit without actually performing any work. specifically, any rent seeking activity was forbidden.

Things that are considered commonplace today, such as raising prices for items needed in a disaster, (supply and demand) were thoroughly rejected by the Church and considered inconceivable during that time. Thomas Aquinas brought forth these concepts in the theory of Just Price in his Summa Theologica circa 1274 AD. Although this was clearly a Pre-Capitalist economy, much learning was put towards strict management of commerce dating back to the money changers being expelled from the temple in Biblical times- a theme oft repeated through the Dark Ages and well beyond.

For centuries, civilizations knew full well the dangers of markets and unconstrained commerce, and there is more than a passing connection between this realization and theology, present in virtually all religions throughout time.

This reality has been brought to the fore with the recent, and controversial, exhortation Evengelii Gaudium from the Roman Catholic Pope. Pundits have been zeroing in on the more provocative aspects after his release of the document last month. I’ve read all 244 pages of it and I’m here to tell you that he has pretty well burned down the Christian right’s moralistic narrative along with a good bit of the more mainstream conservative cohort.

For those who have dismissed previous Papal exhortations (as well as any other messaging, written or otherwise delivered) as irrelevant and hypocritical drivel, and I count myself on this list, the recent missive is a shocker. Let’s take a look as some selected passages:

We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmers, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.

The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality,[173]no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.

Now this passage in particular stands out, and is a recurring theme throughout the document. Inequality is the root of all social ills. Not moral misbehavior. Rush Limbaugh is positively foaming at the mouth with this conclusion. You see, the story as told has to exonerate Capitalism, so the explanatory focus is redirected to not just suggest, but to demand that the moral lapses of the populace are the sole causality of a world gone bad.

After all, the world was given to us with abundance, work hard, maintain high moral standards, and its abundance will never run out. No limits to resources, no environmental disasters, no exploitation, nothing but paradise, unless of course you take a bite of that apple.

Spear Of Destiny - Religion - Front

Let’s go on:

Sometimes we prove hard of heart and mind; we are forgetful, distracted and carried away by the limitless possibilities for consumption and distraction offered by contemporary society. This leads to a kind of alienation at every level, for “a society becomes alienated when its forms of social organization, production and consumption make it more difficult to offer the gift of self and to establish solidarity between people.

Karl is that you?

Genuine forms of popular religiosity are incarnate, since they are born of the incarnation of Christian faith in popular culture. For this reason they entail a personal relationship, not with vague spiritual energies or powers, but with God, with Christ, with Mary, with the saints. These devotions are fleshy, they have a face. They are capable of fostering relationships and not just enabling escapism. In other parts of our society, we see the growing attraction to various forms of a “spirituality of well-being” divorced from any community life, or to a “theology of prosperity” detached from responsibility for our brothers and sisters, or to depersonalized experiences which are nothing more than a form of self-centredness.

images

This would seem to be a dig at modern “strip mall religiosity” as it is now de rigueur to have non denominational churches in strip malls, repurposed industrial buildings, etc, all which have superficial distorted messaging, often pronouncing how wealth is your divine right.

Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. It serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts. Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an “education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.

Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future. We are far from the so-called “end of history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized.

So now we get to the money shot:

While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

And

One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.

In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the socialized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

attack_zps72cf4894

Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers.

So this goes on in a similar vein, and this position does not bode well for the conservative narrative. We see capitalism explicitly blamed for inequality, and in turn inequality for societies ills, a disturbing cause and effect that is disruptive to the American status quo. Coming from a supposedly impartial and world recognized voice of moralistic guidance, this is particularly damning.

We have to ask given the (millennial) history of precisely just this set of teachings, where the hell have these people been for the last 400 years? Mired in child molestation cases, and other aspects of immeasurable hypocrisy, that’s where. Typically dispensing irrelevant teachings to a disinterested world, met with a yawn and the clink of coins in the Sunday collections basket, the cafeteria Catholics and faithful parishioners buy their penance on the free market of theology, shopping for workable edicts and morals they can live with, and leaving aside things that might prove troublesome.

And the Church, let’s not (yet) get all misty eyed that the new Pope has found his voice, that the Holy See can finally see after 400 years of Post Enlightenment blindness, because if we learned anything in the Dark Ages we learned the Church was an authoritarian, totalitarian institution, honed to perfection after centuries of practice, misappropriating Christianic themes in furtherance of its own power and hegemony. Restricting knowledge, capturing books, and distorting, twisting and interpreting discovery with a certain malleability of facts, and containing science to maintain its omnipotence.

It is worth noting that at its core, the Church operates as a corporatist entity, with significant focus on profits itself, poisoned if you will, by the very same sickness it chastises. So we might well leave the discussion here, hopeful that the new Papal vision will at least upset some belief systems, and file this under the category of good ideas for the wrong reasons, and move on to other superficial topics. Except that we have 2000 years of history here, history that resonates with this same message, repeated in many ways over and over again. We have a seminal event in the Enlightenment, which purported to shut down the fiefdoms, mysticism and fanciful explanations, replacing it with science and reason to wrest the power and authority from cloistered theocrats.

And this has failed.

None of the Post Enlightenment theories of political economy have provided satisfactory, sustainable solutions despite 400 years of trying. By most measures, they are in fact worse. The current fashionable trend to double down on technology as means of providing solutions is not working, and critical thinkers can see these measures are leading to cascading failure modes, with each technological “breakthrough” creating new and unanticipated failures of their own, with insufficient study as to unanticipated outcomes.

theatreofhate_zpsb312a704

I had occasion last month to attend a talk by Chris Hedges, the first time I have heard him in person. The venue was in Santa Monica in a historic building now owned by the Women’s Club, a depression era wood structure with a whitewashed paint job, faintly reminiscent of a church. The venue was packed to the rafters, with the upstairs balcony fairly bulging under the weight of way more people wanting to see Hedges than the organizers anticipated. Everyone finally got in to the standing room only crowd. Hedges has found his voice, he is articulate in person, but powerful, vocally projecting in a way I’ve not seen him do in taped interviews where he seems more reflective and almost mournful. His message is a powerful force and it is clear his upbringing under a Presbyterian minister (his father) and his education in seminary converge to forge his style and messaging. The emotion and power left me somewhat stunned, I wasn’t prepared for the electricity in the room and palpable agitation of the attendees who know full well the truth in his message.

It might seem that these events conspire to ordain a germ of an idea, a small, kindled spark that suggests, almost horrifically, that the assemblage of the capitalist mode of production is not a just theory of economics or political economy. It is not merely an exchange of commodities or a clever and oblique system of exploitation. It is not just a mechanism for conflicting class structure or means for the landed nobility to hold down the masses.

It is a religion, a theology so all consuming that it transcends borders, boundaries, catechism and Koran. It extends to every denomination, to every corner of the earth with a deification and worship of commerce and consumption so deeply ingrained that there is no inoculation once infected. Its participants trapped in a purgatory analogous to opium dens, transient pleasure of consumption and accumulation, but in the 19th century opium dens most knew to advise a friend to retrieve them after several hours (or days) as they would be unable- and unwilling- to leave on their own.

In this version, no one is coming to get you out, there is no getting out. No one is free from the addictive vapors of consumption.

CAPITALISM AS RELIGION

a) First of all because, as we have seen, capitalism, by defining itself as the natural and necessary form of the modern economy, does not admit any different future, any way out, any alternative. Its force is, writes Weber, ‘irresistible’, and it presents itself as an inevitable fate.

b) The system reduces the vast majority of humanity to ‘damned of the earth’ who cannot hope for divine salvation, since their economic failure is the sign that they are excluded from God’s grace. Guilty for their own fate, they have no hope of redemption. The God of the capitalist religion, money, has no pity for those who have no money . . .

c) Capitalism is ‘the ruin of being’, it replaces being with having, human qualities with commodified quantities, human relations with monetary ones, moral or cultural values with the only value that counts, money.

d) Since humanity’s ‘guilt’ – its indebtedness towards Capital – is permanent and growing, no hope of expiation is permitted. The capitalist constantly needs to grow and expand his capital if he does not wish to be crushed by his competitors, and the poor must borrow more and more money to pay their debts.

e) According to the religion of Capital, the only salvation consists in the intensification of the system, in capitalist expansion, in the accumulation of more and more commodities; but this ‘remedy’ results only in the aggravation of despair.

So in other words, the will of God is substituted by the will of the market. The Saints of Capitalism are not represented by iconography in dusty church alcoves, rendered in plaster bas relief, illuminated by flickering votive candles aligned in perfectly concentric rows, no, these saints are reproduced on our paper money, mass produced by photoengraved plates and scaled to feel, to touch, with every transaction to reacquaint and remind the heathen that this is the portal to eternal salvation.

Our cathedrals are not limestone structures of centuries production, flying buttresses soaring gracefully to the heavens, constructed of a scale to intimidate and instill perspective of scale between creator and subject, no these cathedrals are chrome and glass, with banal and endless rows of cubicles for the disciples to prosthelytize to the unwashed masses, “lift yourself, take our hand and elevate yourself to the glory of all the money is and can be”.

Consume or be consumed, the entire New Testament may be reinterpreted not as a warning of end times, not as a statement of worldly evangelism, but each parable and writing a searing indictment and prophetic warning of a planet destroying insidious religion about to rise. The Original Sin may well be reduced to being born into a world which requires you to sell your labor power for survival, the baptism a cleansing in preparation of a lifelong participation in commodity exchange- labor for goods.

There is no expiation in the religion of Capitalism, it is game theory analogous toNewcomb’s Paradox, a contrivance where an omniscient being gives you two choices, one of which is already made for you, and analyzes your strategy for utility maximization when you know that your choice is already predetermined- and you cannot change the outcome.

Here’s hoping for the ninth Crusade.

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31THOUGHTS ON “LEGION”

  1. Reblogged this on Food sovereignty reflections and commented:
    The new Pope’s scathing critique of unbridled consumerism and the immorality of the unconstrained market has come as a surprise. His identification of inequality as the root of all social evils reminds me of the compelling data compiled in the Spirit Level, how sharp inequality correlates very closely with high levels of crime, ill-health, low educational attainment, and so forth.

 

‘Watch what we do, not what we say’: Shell cancels U.S. gas-to-liquids plant

‘Watch what we do, not what we say’: Shell cancels U.S. gas-to-liquids plant.

When civil rights advocates grew restless because of President Richard Nixon’s right-wing rhetoric on the issue of desegregation, then-Attorney General John Mitchell told them, ”Watch what we do, not what we say.”

Those following the hype over America’s supposed newfound abundance of oil and natural gas would do well to follow that advice when evaluating what oil and gas company executives and their surrogates say.

When Royal Dutch Shell pulled the plug on its U.S. gas-to-liquids project recently, the company offered the same explanation it used when it shut down its oil shale project earlier this year: Shell sees better opportunities elsewhere. This explanation–much like the I’m-resigning-to-spend-more-time-with-my-family explanation–tends to deflect questions about why things aren’t working out.

What’s not working out for Shell is a planned $20 billion plant in Louisiana designed to turn natural gas into diesel, jet fuel, lubricants and chemical feedstocks, products typically produced by oil refineries. The plug was pulled, however, while the project was still in the planning stage.

Shell did actually say a little more about why it is abandoning the project in this almost inscrutable piece of corporate prose:

 Despite the ample supplies of natural gas in the area, the company has taken the decision that GTL is not a viable option for Shell in North America, at this time, due to the likely development cost of such a project, uncertainties on long-term oil and gas prices and differentials, and Shell’s strict capital discipline.

Now, here’s the same paragraph translated into simple English:

 The plant is going to cost a lot more to build than we thought it would. Natural gas prices are going up and could easily make it uneconomical to produce diesel and jet fuel from natural gas when compared to making them from oil. And, we don’t have unlimited funds to spend on everything we think of just to see if it works.

Shell CEO Peter Voser has voiced doubts about the so-called “shale revolution” in the United States (which refers to advances in drilling technology that have opened previously inaccessible shale deposits of natural gas and oil to exploitation). In fact, Shell took a $2.1 billion write-down on its shale assets in the United States. In lay terms, the company had to reduce the value of those assets on its balance sheet to reflect reality. The company also sold small tight oil fields related to shale deposits, fields that it no longer wishes to develop.

Voser said he still believes Shell’s remaining $24 billion investment in U.S. shale gas and tight oil will “be a success story for Shell.” Three-quarters of that investment is devoted to natural gas from shale. But, Voser added that the potential for natural gas and oil from shale elsewhere in the world has been “a little bit overhyped” citing concerns specifically about Europe.

Now, because this rhetoric is coming from an oil industry CEO, we can assume that he is walking the line between saying things which will get him removed from the invitation lists of his fellow oil executives’ cocktail parties–things otherwise known as the awful truth–and misrepresenting the facts to shareholders, which would get him into trouble in other ways.

But abandoning the gas-to-liquids plant speaks much more loudly than Voser’s actual remarks. It means Voser expects that natural gas prices simply won’t stay low long enough to make such a huge investment pay off. And, that means that he doesn’t believe the hype about an ongoing glut of U.S. natural gas.

So, Voser directs Shell to abandon a gas-to-liquids plant, the profitability of which would be destroyed by high prices for the natural gas which the plant must purchase. At the same time, he has Shell retain most of its shale gas wells, a move which only makes sense if he expects U.S. natural gas prices to go higher. And, those prices will only go higher if there is increased demand or reduced supply, or a combination of both.

It’s not hard to figure out the meaning of what Peter Voser is doing. But it is understandably difficult to shut out the constant din of abundance stories sponsored by the industry and its well-financed public relations machine–that is, until you understand that it’s not what the industry says that’s important, but what it actually does.

 

Today’s technology, tomorrow’s trash? – Inside Story – Al Jazeera English

Today’s technology, tomorrow’s trash? – Inside Story – Al Jazeera English.

INSIDE STORY

Today’s technology, tomorrow’s trash?

As a UN report warns of the hazards of electronic waste, we ask if the world is ready to tackle technology trash.

 Last updated: 16 Dec 2013 11:24
The number of electronic and electrical gadgets being dumped around the world is set to soar, raising concerns about the impact on the environment and human health.

Rapid advances in technology are giving rise to what is being described as a buy-it-and-bin-it generation. People are throwing away everything from TVs to toys, computers to cameras, and mobile phones to motorised toothbrushes.

The fact is some of the [e-waste] supply chains are very long. In the UK there are many sub-contractors who get involved in the supply chain and divert the e-waste on to the black market rather than go into the proper recycling facility.

Julian Newman, Campaigns Director for the Environmental Investigation Agency, UK

Now, a new UN study is forecasting that the amount of global e-waste, as it is called, will rise by one-third by 2017.

The report says 48.9 million metric tons of e-waste was produced last year. That is expected to rise by 33 percent by 2017 bringing total global e-waste to 65.4 million tons.

That is enough to fill a line of 40-ton trucks that, end-to-end, would stretch three-quarters of the way around the world.

The largest producers are the US and China. They generated 10 million tons and 11.1 million tons respectively last year.

Each American is said to be responsible for an average 29.8kg of hi-tech trash a year that is almost six times higher than China’s per capita figure of 5.4kg.

Keep the laws aside, the people in general are treating this [electronic] waste in their own way. And it is not a very wrong way because they isolate the entire reusable things …. You won’t find any heaps [of e-waste] in Pakistan.

Sami Uz Zaman, an industrial research scientist, Pakistan

“There are laws in Europe, quite strong laws, about the rules what we can export or what we cannot export yet we see these laws are disregarded often and we see the evidence in places like Ghana, Nigeria, India and China where we can go to the dump sites and see computers from Europe openly being broken down illegally,” explains Julian Newman, the campaigns director for the Environmental Investigation Agency in the UK.

The UN study has been carried out by StEP (Solving the E-waste Problem), a coalition of UN organisations, industry, governments, NGOs and science bodies.

“Some countries are moving towards safe recycling and reuse of e-waste. But it’s feared the increasing demand for electronics, will overwhelm existing facilities. This could see millions of tonnes of waste dumped into landfills,” Ruediger Kuehr, the executive secretary of StEP told Al Jazeera.

The report warns that e-waste is being dumped illegally in developing countries. It says the garbage contains toxic substances such as mercury, cadmium and arsenic, which can seep into landfills, contaminating the ground, water and air.

The study adds that devices are often dismantled in dangerous conditions, harming the health of those involved.

StEP is calling for better monitoring of e-waste exports, and more effective rules for the treatment of electrical junk.

So why is today’s technology destined to become tomorrow’s trash? And what is being done to tackle the growing global crisis of e-waste?

Inside Story presenter Sohail Rahman discusses with guests: Sami Uz Zaman, a consultant for Global Environmental Management Services, an environmental court judge, and an industrial research scientist in Pakistan; Julian Newman, the campaigns director for the Environmental Investigation Agency in the UK; and Akshat Ghiya, the co-founder and director of Karma Recycling, specialising in electronic waste in India.

“[In India], 95 percent of all e-waste ends up in slums … A shift in mentality is so difficult to achieve and that is what we are working on. Out in the UK they have developed that mentality and you have consumers who are weary and know about the hazards of electronic waste management done in an improper way. India has the capacity to tackle massive amounts of [electronic] waste but it does not have the capacity to tackle it scientifically and responsibly.”

Akshat Ghiya, the co-founder and director of Karma Recycling

 

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