Politics and Legislation
Payola for the Most Profitable Corporations in History
And Why Taxpayers Shouldn’t Stand for It Any More
By Bill McKibben
April 06, 2012 — Along with “five dollar a gallon gas,” the energy watchword for the next few months is: “subsidies.” Last week, for instance, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez proposed ending some of the billions of dollars in handouts enjoyed by the fossil-fuel industry with a “Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act.” It was, in truth, nothing to write home about — a curiously skimpy bill that only targeted oil companies, and just the five richest of them at that. Left out were coal and natural gas, and you won’t be surprised to learn that even then it didn’t pass.
Still, President Obama is now calling for an end to oil subsidies at every stop on his early presidential-campaign-plus-fundraising blitz — even at those stops where he’s also promising to “drill everywhere.” And later this month Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will introduce a much more comprehensive bill that tackles all fossil fuels and their purveyors (and has no chance whatsoever of passing this Congress).
Whether or not the bill passes, those subsidies are worth focusing on. After all, we’re talking at least $10 billion in freebies and, depending on what you count, possibly as much as $40 billion annually in freebie cash for an energy industry already making historic profits. If attacking them is a convenient way for the White House to deflect public anger over rising gas prices, it is also a perfect fit for the new worldview the Occupy movement has been teaching Americans. (Not to mention, if you think about it, the Tea Party focus on deficits.) So count on one thing: we’ll be hearing a lot more about them this year.
Issa, Grassley hammer White House for stonewalling on ‘Fast and Furious’ witness
By Michael Volpe
The Obama administration is stonewalling two lawmakers’ requests to interview a former member of the National Security staff in connection with the failed Operation Fast and Furious gun-walking program, according to a March 28 letter obtained by The Daily Caller.
California Rep. Darrell Issa and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, both Republicans, requested a response by April 4 to their letter, which asks for an interview with Kevin O’Reilly, that former staffer. But the White House, according to the letter, is blocking access to him.
Through staff, both Grassley and Issa confirmed to TheDC on Thursday that April 4 came and went without any response from the Obama administration.
In their letter to White House Counsel Karen Ruemmler, Grassley and Issa cited a cryptic email exchange between O’Reilly and William Newell, the special agent in charge of the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at the time Fast and Furious was implemented. The emails, their letter suggests, indicate that Newell was going around his chain of command to personally brief the White House about developments in the gun-walking program.
“You didn’t get this from me,” Newell wrote to O’Reilly in a Sept. 3, 2010 email about Fast and Furious, according to the letter from Issa and Grassley.
“Just don’t want ATF HQ to find out,” Newell wrote in am earlier email, “especially since this is what they should be doing (briefing you!).”
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Issa chairs, has not yet made complete copies of those emails available to reporters.
Greek mourners: it was not suicide, it was financial murder – video
Athenians gather in the spot where a 77-year-old man shot himself dead over debts on Wednesday and a woman reads the man’s suicide letter to the crowd. Later in the evening the vigil turns to chaos when riot police use teargas on protesters. Mourners say the police attacks were unprovoked
Ireland: Bailed Out Banks are in Process of Going Bust Again
By David McWilliam
April 06, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — Ernest Hemingway was once asked how did he go bankrupt. The great man thought for a second and then replied: “I went bankrupt in two ways, gradually and then suddenly.”
When we see the figures coming from the various banks, it is not difficult to see that something similar is happening in Ireland. Whether the banks end up bust again, the second time in three years, will depend on how the ECB reacts but it looks like the banks, having been bailed out and having received huge government capital injections, could now be in the process of going bust.
As Mr Hemingway observed, people and entities go bust gradually, at first — this is the phase we are in. Then they go bust overnight. History suggests that after that happens, the economy will recover because we have to start again.
Interestingly, the reason that the banks might be going bust gradually is because the ECB is giving them money at 1pc so that they can mask the inconsistencies in their business model for another year or two. But when that money runs out or the ECB’s policy reverses, which it must eventually, where will they get the cash to operate?
U.S. Standard of Living Has Fallen More Than 50%
By Jeff Nielson
April 06, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — In writing about the relentless collapse of Western economies, I frequently point to “forty years of plummeting wages” for Western workers, in real dollars. However, where I have been remiss is in quantifying the magnitude of this collapse in Western wages.
On several occasions I have glibly referred to how it now takes two spouses working to equal the wages of a one-income family of forty years ago. Unfortunately that is now an understatement. In fact, Western wages have plummeted so low that a two-income family is now (on average) 15% poorer than a one-income family of 40 years ago.
Using the year 2000 as the numerical base from which to “zero” all of the numbers, real wages peaked in 1970 at around $20/hour. Today the average worker makes $8.50 hour – more than 57% less than in 1970. And since the average wage directly determines the standard of living of our society, we can see that the average standard of living in the U.S. has plummeted by over 57% over a span of 40 years.
There are no “tricks” here. Indeed, all of the tricks are used by our governments. The green line shows average wages, discounted by inflation calculated with the same methodology for all 40 years. Obviously that is the only way in which we can compare any data over time: through applying identical parameters to it each year.
Then we have the blue line: showing wage data discounted with our “official” inflation rate. The problem? The methodology used by our governments to calculate inflation in 1975 was different from the method they used in 1985, which was different than the method they used in 1995, which was different than the method they used in 2005.
Only 120,000 jobs added in March, missing economic expectations
By Vicki Needham
The economy added 120,000 jobs in March, well below what economists had predicted, while the unemployment rate ticked down slightly to 8.2 percent.
The number is nearly half the 210,000 expected and ends the streak of three straight months in which the economy added more than 200,000 jobs, according to a Labor Department report released Friday.
The news isn’t what the White House would want to see just as the labor market seemed to be improving at a faster pace.
With the economy remaining a top issue for voters, any perception that its growth is slowing down could hurt President Obama’s reelection effort.
Republicans immediately pounced on the news, attacking Obama’s economic policies.
Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the Republican nomination, used the numbers to criticize the president.
Wars and Rumors of War
We want war, and we want it now
By Pepe Escobar
It was deep into the night, somewhere over Siberia, in a Moscow to Beijing flight (BRIC to BRIC?) when the thought, like a lightning bolt, began to take hold.
What the hell is wrong with those Arabs?
Maybe it was the narcotic effect of that perennially dreadful Terminal F at Sheremetyevo airport – straight out of a Brejnev gulag. Maybe it was the anticipation of finding more about the Russia-China joint naval exercise scheduled for late April.
Or it was simply another case of “you can take the boy out of the Middle East, but you can’t take the Middle East out of the boy”.
With friends like these … It all had to do with that Friends of Syria (fools for war?) meeting in Istanbul. Picture Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal – who seems to have a knack for sending US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton into rapture – feverishly arguing that the House of Saud, those paragons of democracy, had “a duty” to weaponize the Syrian “revolutionary” opposition.
And picture al-Faisal ordering an immediate ceasefire by the Bashar al-Assad government, guilty – according to the House of Saud – not only of cruel repression but crimes against humanity.
No; this was not a Monty Python sketch.
To make sure he was milking the right cow, al-Faisal also said that the Gulf Counter-revolution Club (GCC), also known as Gulf Cooperation Council, wanted to get further into bed with the United States. Translation, if any was needed; the US-GCC tag team, as expressed by the weaponization of the Syrian “rebels”, is meant to body slam Iran…..
U.S. trained terror group
By Glenn Greenwald
When the U.S. wants to fund, train, arm or otherwise align itself with a Terrorist group or state sponsor of Terror — as it often does — it at least usually has the tact to first remove them from its formal terrorist list (as the U.S. did when it wanted to support Saddam in 1982 and work with Libya in 2006), or it just keeps them off the list altogether despite what former Council on Foreign Relations writer Lionel Beehner described as “mounds of evidence that [they] at one time or another abetted terrorists” (as it has done with close U.S. allies in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, along with the El Salvadoran death squads and Nicaraguan contras armed and funded in the 1980s by the Reagan administration). But according to a new, multi-sourced report from The New Yorker‘s Seymour Hersh, the U.S. did not even bother going through those motions when, during the Bush years, it trained the Iranian dissident group Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) at a secretive Department of Energy site in Nevada:
It was here that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training, beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a dissident Iranian opposition group known in the West as the M.E.K. . . . The M.E.K.’s ties with Western intelligence deepened after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and JSOC began operating inside Iran in an effort to substantiate the Bush Administration’s fears that Iran was building the bomb at one or more secret underground locations. Funds were covertly passed to a number of dissident organizations, for intelligence collection and, ultimately, for anti-regime terrorist activities. Directly, or indirectly, the M.E.K. ended up with resources like arms and intelligence. Some American-supported covert operations continue in Iran today, according to past and present intelligence officials and military consultants.
Babar Ahmad: This interview is the last chance of ending my nightmare
Uploaded by StoptheWarCoalition on Apr 6, 2012
On 5 April 2012, Barbar Ahmad became the first prisoner in a British jail to be interviewed on television from behind bars in this BBC broadcast. He has been held for eight years in a UK jail without charge or trial, during which time he has been fighting extradition to the United States under controversial “war on terror” legislation. If he has done anything wrong, as a British citizen he asks that he be tried in his own country. MP Caroline Lucas, who has called for a public inquiry, says, “Babar Ahmad’s case shames us all.” To learn more about Babar Ahmad’s case, go to http://freebabarahmad.com
Kurdish opposition quits Syrian National Council
By Lauren Williams
The Daily Star
ISTANBUL: The Syrian Kurdish opposition bloc has walked away from the Syrian National Council, exposing deep and problematic rifts within the umbrella opposition group just days after international leaders granted the body extra recognition after attempts to unify.
Syrian Kurdish opposition leader Abdul-Baki Yousef, a leading member of the Kurdish Yakiti party in Syria and former member of the Kurdish National Council, charged host country Turkey with “pressuring the SNC” to omit the demands of the Kurdish opposition members in the final constitution document outlining a transition plan for Syria.
The fiercely divided SNC pulled the document together at the last minute under pressure to unite from the “Friends of Syria” group.
The Friends group – which includes Turkey, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Gulf states – recognized the SNC as “a legitimate representative of the Syrian people,” falling well short of the recognition as the legal government in exile they had hoped for after the first Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis in February.
“Our goal was to unify with the opposition and come up with a patriotic agreement that makes an umbrella for the whole opposition, but unfortunately the Turkish sponsor was very sensitive toward the Kurdish issue,” Yousef told The Daily Star. “We accuse the Turkish government of putting pressure on the council.”
Yousef said that negotiations ahead of the conference had outlined recognition of the Kurds, but claimed that those points had been removed in the final covenant.
‘US to accept civilian nuke program in Iran’
President Obama signals Iran that US would endorse nuclear program if Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backs up claim that Islamic Republic won’t purse atom bomb, US paper reports
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama
has signaled Tehran that the Washington would accept an civilian nuclear program in Iran if Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei can back up his recent claim that his nation “will never pursue nuclear weapons,” the Washington Post reported Friday.
According to the report, the verbal message was sent through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who met with Khamenei last week. A few days prior to leaving for the trip, Erdogan held a two-hour meeting with Obama on the sidelines of the nuclear security summit in Seoul, in which they discussed what the Turkish leader would tell Khamenei about the nuclear issue.
Articles of Interest
Our Men in Iran?
Posted by Seymour M. Hersh
From the air, the terrain of the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site, with its arid high plains and remote mountain peaks, has the look of northwest Iran. The site, some sixty-five miles northwest of Las Vegas, was once used for nuclear testing, and now includes a counterintelligence training facility and a private airport capable of handling Boeing 737 aircraft. It’s a restricted area, and inhospitable—in certain sections, the curious are warned that the site’s security personnel are authorized to use deadly force, if necessary, against intruders.
It was here that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training, beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a dissident Iranian opposition group known in the West as the M.E.K. The M.E.K. had its beginnings as a Marxist-Islamist student-led group and, in the nineteen-seventies, it was linked to the assassination of six American citizens. It was initially part of the broad-based revolution that led to the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran. But, within a few years, the group was waging a bloody internal war with the ruling clerics, and, in 1997, it was listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. In 2002, the M.E.K. earned some international credibility by publicly revealing—accurately—that Iran had begun enriching uranium at a secret underground location. Mohamed ElBaradei, who at the time was the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring agency, told me later that he had been informed that the information was supplied by the Mossad. The M.E.K.’s ties with Western intelligence deepened after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and JSOC began operating inside Iran in an effort to substantiate the Bush Administration’s fears that Iran was building the bomb at one or more secret underground locations. Funds were covertly passed to a number of dissident organizations, for intelligence collection and, ultimately, for anti-regime terrorist activities. Directly, or indirectly, the M.E.K. ended up with resources like arms and intelligence. Some American-supported covert operations continue in Iran today, according to past and present intelligence officials and military consultants.
Leaked Video Shows US Contractors Randomly Killing Civilians
Employees of the US military contracting group Academi (formerly Xe, Blackwater USA and Blackwater Worldwide) are seen in new leaked video shooting their machine guns at random while driving through the streets of Baghdad, crashing into other cars and even running over a pedestrian without hesitation.
Academi received a $250 million contract by the Obama administration to provide military services in Afghanistan.
Guilty Of Telling The Truth
20-Year Veteran to Face Jail Time for Act of Civil Disobedience
Retired Naval Commander Leah Bolger will appear in court Thursday, April 12, 2012 on charges stemming from her arrest on October 26th, 2011. Bolger, who is a peace activist and the President of Veterans For Peace, interrupted a public hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, commonly known as the Super Committee.
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