In the first treatise written on the art of war, sometime around 450 BC , Sun Tzu explained why “the wise general sees to it that his troops feed on the enemy,”
EXTRACT: The militarization of development aid is a central pillar of General Petaeus’s counterinsurgency strategy to buy the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, ninety per cent of whom are spread out in remote rural areas. So it should not be surprising that the military is controlling the bulk of the billions of dollars in aid money flowing into (and being smuggled out of) Afghanistan.
In the very important CounterPunch report on 13 December, Patrick Cockburn, certainly one of the most informed observers of insurgencies in the Middle East and Central Asia, described how the militarization of development aid in Afghanistan is riven with corruption.
What if the greatest scam ever perpetrated was blatantly exposed, and the US media didn’t cover it? Does that mean the scam could keep going? That’s what we are about to find out.
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The Fed doled out $12.3 trillion in near-zero interest loans, using the American people as collateral, demanding nothing in return, other than a bunch of toxic assets in some cases. They only gave this money to a select group of insiders, at a time when very few had any money because all these same insiders and speculators crashed the system.Do you get that? The very people most responsible for crashing the system, were then rewarded with trillions of our dollars. This gave that select group of insiders unlimited power to seize control of assets and have unprecedented leverage over almost everything within their economies – crony capitalism on steroids.
01 Do the American people deserve to know the truth regarding the on-going war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen?
02 Could a larger questions be how can an Army private gain access to so much secret information?
03 Why is the hostility mostly directed at Assange the publisher and not our government’s failure to protect classified information?
04 Are we getting our money’s worth from the $80 billion dollars per year we are spending on intelligence gathering?
05 Which has resulted in the greatest number of deaths? Lying us into war, or WikiLeaks revelations or the release of the Pentagon Papers?
06 If Assange can be convicted of a crime for information that he did not steal, what does this say about the future of the First Amendment and the independence of the Internet?
07 Could it be that the real reason for the near universal attacks on Wikileaks is more about secretly maintaining a seriously flawed foreign policy of empire than it is about national security?
08 Is there not a huge difference between releasing secret information to help the enemy in a time of declared war, which is treason, and the releasing of information to expose our government lies that promote secret wars, death, and corruption?
09 Was it not once considered patriotic to stand up to our government when it is wrong?
It is becoming increasingly clear that the United States passed through some kind of fork in the economic road in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and has now landed on onto an evolutionary pathway toward some kind of decline. The questions of what interplay of chance and necessity created the turning movement in the pathway of socio-economic evolution, how enduring that new pathway is, or where it is leading no one can answer; but with the advantage of hindsight, it is becoming empirically clear that most of the adverse economic trends of de-industrialization, deregulation, increasing debt, a collapsing trade balance, the stagnation of real wages, rising income inequality, etc., took a systemic turn for the worse during the five years between 1977 and 1982.
Attached are two reports (in pdf format) on one aspect of anatomy of decline: rising income inequality. They build on the seminal research (which can be downloaded here and here) of Professors Emanuel Saez’s (Univ. of Calif. Berkeley) and ThomasPiketty (Paris School of Economics), which quantified and analyzed the size, nature, and effects of rising income inequality in the United States.
The first report has been prepared by the democratic majority staff of the Joint Economic Committee in Congress and therefore may be discounted by some as partisan — to those readers inclined to dismiss this report, I suggest that they compare its results of the Saez-Piketty analyses before jumping to any conclusions.
The second report is a non partisan analysis produced by Frank Levy and Peter Temlin of Industrial Performance Center of MIT.
Charles Ferguson’s new movie, Inside Job, is a fast-moving and fascinating account of the process and the people who wrecked the economy with their blind ambition and unfettered greed. The timing could not have been better, coming amidst the Wall Street establishment’s celebration of the second anniversary of the TARP.
I completely missed the release of this film in July, and stumbled on it while picking movies for a sick son.
It opens with Henry Kissinger, since demonstrated to be a war criminal, calling Daniel Elsberg the most dangerous man in America, and lamenting the release of secret documents (that ultimately proved government perfidy). Fast forward to WikiLeaks as a sequel to the 935 documented lies led by Dick Cheney.
In short, the horror story collapses as soon as anyone gives it any serious thought. The Wall Street gang can hardly be faulted for trying cheap scare tactics for pushing its agenda; after all it worked so brilliantly with the TARP two years ago. At the time the plot line was that unless we immediately gave all our money to the Wall Street banks, with no questions asked, then the whole economy would collapse.
Joseph Stiglitz outlines a very sensible approach for placing the United States on a pathway toward correcting the problems paralyzing our political economy. Of course, his ideas will never be seriously considered by the let-them-eat-cake oligarchs now running Versailles on the Potomac, because to put this plan into action, someone must smash the Hall of Mirrors that is distorting what passes for reality in our collective OODA Loops. CS<
A five-part plan to cut the deficit, narrow inequality, and strengthen the economy—and why special interests would block it.
By Joseph E. Stiglitz, Slate, Monday, Dec. 6, 2010
Technically, reducing a deficit is a straightforward matter: One must either cut expenditures or raise taxes. It is already clear, however, that the deficit-reduction agenda, at least in the United States, goes further: It is an attempt to weaken social protections, reduce the progressivity of the tax system, and shrink the role and size of government— all while leaving established interests, like the military-industrial complex, as little-affected as possible.
Precis: history includes massive increase in defense expenditures, growth in inequality, underinvestment in public sector including infrastructure, and growth in corporate welfare. Remediation demands increased spending on high-return public investments, cut in military expenditures “not just funding for the fruitless wars, but also for the weapons that don’t work against enemies that don’t exist;” eliminate corporate welfare; create a fairer and more efficient tax system; 5% increase in taxes actually paod (focus on top 1%).
Phi Beta Iota: The Deficit Commission has not produced any supporting documentation. The public intelligence available, of which the above is a small sample, is overwhelming in suggesting that the deficit commission is a criminal fraud being perpetuated on the American public. Wall Street and the two-party tyranny appear to believe that the public is both stupid and permanently inert, and that they can get away with this. Time will tell. We condemn it–and note that Joseph Stiglitz was appointed Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the Virtual Cabinet at Huffington Post. We trust him.
Sudan: Sudanese media broadcast the following decree on Monday.
Marshal Umer Hassan Al-Bashir the President of the Republic, the president of the National Congress Party has authorized the state governors to expel NGOs and persons that do not respect the country’s sovereignty, work guidelines within 24 hours. He added we respect the NGOs that come to assist us and we reject whoever intends to control us. He indicated that some NGOs have spread rumors that they work in Sudan without the need of the government approvals. He directed the governors to expel the NGOs that do not adhere to their authorities on the same day.
NIGHTWATCH Comment: The government in Khartoum remains highly suspicious of western aid organizations that it suspects of encouraging separatism in Darfur and the South. This decree is a manifestation of that suspicion because it mentions rumor mongering. A government has a right to control foreigners without further justification. Odd behavior…
Phi Beta Iota: This is the beginning of the end for predatory NGO’s including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and of course all the religious NGOs and the corporate pseudo-NGOs. They have lost all trust for a good reason. On the one hand, they have been spending less than 10% of what they have collected under the various guises (Katrina, Haiti, etcetera) and on the other they are now demonstrably untrustworthy and ineffective. The next big step forward will be hybrid arrangements in which public intelligence both validates every move, every expense, every bona fides, and harmonizes a diversity of efforts toward a common publicly-appraised and accepted purpose.
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, had moved 37 times by the time he reached his 14th birthday. His mother didn’t enroll him in the local schools because, as Raffi Khatchadourian wrote in a New Yorker profile, she feared “that formal education would inculcate an unhealthy respect for authority.”
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She needn’t have worried. As a young computer hacker, he formed a group called International Subversives. As an adult, he wrote “Conspiracy as Governance,” a pseudo-intellectual online diatribe. He talks of vast “patronage networks” that constrain the human spirit.
Far from respecting authority, Assange seems to be an old-fashioned anarchist who believes that all ruling institutions are corrupt and public pronouncements are lies.
Phi Beta Iota: We like David Brooks. He’s less submissive than David Ignatius, less pretentious than Fareed Zakaria, and generally has something interesting to say. In this piece, most revealingly, he displays his limitations to the fullest. We are quite certain that David Brooks means well, but the depth of his naivete in this piece is nothing short of astonishing. The below lists of lists of book reviews will suffice to demonstrate that David Brooks is not as well-read as he needs to be, not as intellectual as he pretends to be, and not at all accurate in his assessment of Julian Assange. We share with Steven Aftergood of Federation of American Scientists (FAS) concerns about Assange’s judgment in releasing some materials that are gratuitous invasions of rightful privacy, but we also believe that Assange is finding his groove, and the recent cover story in Forbes captures that essence. WikiLeaks is an antidote to corporate fascism and elective Empire run amok. It meets a need.
EXTRACT: These sentences set the tone. The first is a bald-faced lie, as a Westerner like Senator Simpson knows perfectly well. To the contrary, we have often fallen under the sway of robber barons, water barons, oil barons, bison-killers, clear-cutters and strip-miners, hell-bent on maximum pillage in the shortest time. Only occasionally have a few heroes like Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot and Harold Ickes Sr. emerged to battle for the most precious physical elements of our heritage — and then only with limited success.
EXTRACT: Noticeably missing from the Commission’s plan are measures that would fall on the “leaders” themselves. The very richest pay cash for their houses. The commission would reduce, not increase, marginal income tax rates. There is no suggestion of a financial transactions tax.
EXTRACT: “…we spent the past eight months studying the same cold, hard facts. Together, we have reached these unavoidable conclusions. The problem is real. The solution will be painful. There is no easy way out. And Washington must lead.”
The reference to “studying” is suggestive. Are there any studies? White papers? Background analyses? Normally, one might expect a commission to produce some. In this case, it did not. The Commission’s web site makes no mention of any such thing.
Phi Beta Iota: The most important point in our view is that there are no studies to back up the hyperbole and the recommendations, at the same time that it is clear the deficit reductions are Of, By, and For Wall Street, not We the People. The White House and Congress continue to offer the public theater of the most absurd kind, lacking in all substance and assuredly not in the public interest.
People are more likely to lie, exaggerate and distort when they know they won’t be held accountable for what they said, and people like to say what their interlocutors want to hear, says Jordan Stancil.
Jordan Stancil is a lecturer in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs of the University of Ottawa.
Phi Beta Iota: This is the single best overview of how secrecy supports corruption. It is consistent with testimony to the Moynihan Commission on Secrecy and with Morton Halperin’s findings in Bureaucratic Politics and Foreign Policy in which one of the “rules of the game” was “Lie to the President if you can get away with it.” Today, the “rule of the game” is “Lie to the public if you can get away with it for at least one election cycle.” Newt Gingrich started the decline with his power and ambition, Dick Cheney peaked at 935 documented lies that Colin Powell allowed to stand unchallenged, and now Obama, with Bloomberg in the wings, are the anti-climax of secrecy as fraud Of, By, and For Wall Street. America has become a cheating culture, an unthinking culture, far removed from the essence of a Republic.
The more I think about the WikiLeaks episode, the less I know what to say about it. Unfortunately, too much commentary, right and left, has tried to inject certitude where ambivalence should be.
It is not clear whether the WikiLeaks disclosures will damage our national interest. During the few years I spent as a Foreign Service officer, in Jerusalem and Berlin, I produced and read a fair number of classified cables, and I understand the rather obvious point that diplomats might get more — and more sensitive — information when their contacts believe that what they say will remain secret. We have heard endless appeals to “common sense” about the need for secrecy on these grounds.
But common sense also tells us that people are more likely to lie, exaggerate and distort when they know they won’t be held accountable for what they said, and that people like to say what their interlocutors want to hear. The annals of diplomatic communication, indeed of all communication, are filled with evidence of this banal insight, which many people seem to have forgotten in their rush to defend government secrecy.
This is a permanent reference. Read the rest below the line, followed by links.