Feb 292012



Source: StopCartel

Is what is being imposed today on this pressured and humiliated country a foretaste of what will one day be prescribed for Italy, Portugal and, why not, France?

…President Karolos Papoulias’ tirade against German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and a collection of EU nations was the latest example of a disturbing rise in anti-German and anti-European rhetoric in this country. At the same time, it was an earnest response to Schaeuble’s provocative “bottomless pit” remarks about Greece’s spending habits.

It was also seen as the latest indication that the EU – and Germany in particular – is forcing austerity on Greece whilst preparing to cut the country adrift as a relieved but listing eurozone of 16 member states sails into the distance.

The only problem is that many of those eurozone members are now looking at Greece and questioning whether they would be next. France’s Liberation said it best this week. “What if we all became Greeks?” the daily asked. “Is what is being imposed today on this pressured and humiliated country a foretaste of what will one day be prescribed for Italy, Portugal and, why not, France?” […]

READ @ http://www.stopcartel.net/2012/02/27/POLITICS/What_if_we_all_become_Greeks?/1114.html



By Nomi Prins

Greece has been the most pillaged country in Europe this Depression, among other reasons, because no one in any leadership position seems to have learned lessons from the 1930s. Plus, banks have more power now than they did then to call the shots.

Despite no signs of the first bailout working – certainly not in growing the Greek economy or helping its population – but not even in being sufficient to cover speculative losses, Euro elites finalized another 130 billion Euro, ($170 billion) bailout today. This is ostensibly to avoid banks’ and credit default swap players’ wrath over the possibility of Greece defaulting on 14.5 billion Euros in bonds.

Bailout promoters seem to believe (or pretend) that: bank bailout debt + more bank bailout debt + selling national assets at discount prices + oppressive unemployment = economic health. They fail to grasp that severe austerity hasn’t, and won’t, turn Greece (or any country) around. Banks, of course, just  want to protect their bets and not wait around for Greece to really stabilize for repayment. […]

READ @ http://www.nomiprins.com/thoughts/2012/2/21/the-greek-tragedy-and-great-depression-lessons-not-learned.html



By Calculated Risk

Q4 GDP revised up to 3.0% from 2.8% in advance estimate.

Chicago PMI comes in at 64.0 well above expectations.

Chicago Purchasing Managers reported the February CHICAGO BUSINESS BAROMETER rose to its highest level in ten months. The barometer also marked a 29th month of expansion and its fourth consecutive month above 60. Increases were seen in six of eight Business Activity Indexes, highlighted by a very large advance in Employment.

• EMPLOYMENT highest since May 1984;
• ORDER BACKLOGS moved back into expansion;
• NEW ORDERS highest level since March 2011:

Note: Testimony starts at 10 AM ET.

Here is the CSpan feed

Here is the CNBC feed.

Prepared testimony from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke: Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress […]

READ @ http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2012/02/bernanke-testimony-semiannual-monetary.html



By Dave Lindorff, This Can’t Be Happening

If a bunch of street toughs decided to gang up and beat the crap out of some guy in the neighborhood because they feared he might be planning to buy a gun to protect his family, I think we’d all agree that the police would be right to bust that crew and charge them with conspiracy to commit the crime of assault and battery. If they went forward with their plan and actually did attack the guy, injuring or killing him in the process, we’d also all agree they should all be charged with assault and battery, attempted murder, or even first-degree murder if he died.

In international relations and international law, the same applies. Under the Nuremberg Principles, later incorporated into the United Nations Charter, to which the United States is a signatory, the planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, which is defined as a war started against another nation that does not pose an imminent threat of attack on the aggressor nation or nations, is the highest of war crimes, for which the perpetrators are liable for the death penalty. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of those above acts is an equally serious capital crime.

How then to explain the casual way that civilian and military leaders of the US and Israel are talking openly about plans and threats to attack Iran? […]

READ @ http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/1081



By Pepe Escobar, Asia Times

Such a pity that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn’t make the 2012 Oscars. La Clinton would stand a good chance of upstaging even tweet-exploding Angelina Jolie’s right leg – that force of nature now all over the net, landing on the moon and even invading Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper.

The Empress of Libya (“We came, we saw, he died”) did try hard, including a photo op for the BBC, where she finally admitted that the US is fighting side by side with al-Qaeda to unleash regime change in Syria.

Well, old Cold War fox and former Russian prime minister (under vodka junkie Boris Yeltsin) Yevgeny Primakov actually beat her to the punch on Russia’s Rossiya channel – adding that no one could seriously believe that regime change in Syria could lead to democracy. […]

READ @ http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NC01Ak04.html



By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

In 2009, The New York Times‘ David Barstow won the Pulitzer Prize for his twopart series on the use by television networks of retired Generals posing as objective “analysts” at exactly the same time they were participating — unbeknownst to viewers — in a Pentagon propaganda program. Many were also plagued by undisclosed conflicts of interest whereby they had financial stakes in many of the policies they were pushing on-air. One of the prime offenders was Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who was not only a member of the Pentagon’s propaganda program, but also, according to Barstow’s second stand-alone article, had his own “Military-Industrial-Media Complex,” deeply invested in many of the very war policies he pushed and advocated while posing as an NBC “analyst”:

Through seven years of war an exclusive club has quietly flourished at the intersection of network news and wartime commerce. Its members, mostly retired generals, have had a foot in both camps as influential network military analysts and defense industry rainmakers. It is a deeply opaque world, a place of privileged access to senior government officials, where war commentary can fit hand in glove with undisclosed commercial interests and network executives are sometimes oblivious to possible conflicts of interest.

Few illustrate the submerged complexities of this world better than Barry McCaffrey. . . . General McCaffrey has immersed himself in businesses that have grown with the fight against terrorism. . . .

Many retired officers hold a perch in the world of military contracting, but General McCaffrey is among a select few who also command platforms in the news media and as government advisers on military matters. These overlapping roles offer them an array of opportunities to advance policy goals as well as business objectives. But with their business ties left undisclosed, it can be difficult for policy makers and the public to fully understand their interests. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2012/02/28/gen_mccaffrey_privately_briefs_nbc_execs_on_war_with_iran/singleton/



Source: RT

Just when you thought the government couldn’t ruin the First Amendment any further: The House of Representatives approved a bill on Monday that outlaws protests in instances where some government officials are nearby, whether or not you even know it.

The US House of Representatives voted 388-to-3 in favor of H.R. 347 late Monday, a bill which is being dubbed the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011. In the bill, Congress officially makes it illegal to trespass on the grounds of the White House, which, on the surface, seems not just harmless and necessary, but somewhat shocking that such a rule isn’t already on the books. The wording in the bill, however, extends to allow the government to go after much more than tourists that transverse the wrought iron White House fence.

Under the act, the government is also given the power to bring charges against Americans engaged in political protest anywhere in the country.

Under current law, White House trespassers are prosecuted under a local ordinance, a Washington, DC legislation that can bring misdemeanor charges for anyone trying to get close to the president without authorization. Under H.R. 347, a federal law will formally be applied to such instances, but will also allow the government to bring charges to protesters, demonstrators and activists at political events and other outings across America.

The new legislation allows prosecutors to charge anyone who enters a building without permission or with the intent to disrupt a government function with a federal offense if Secret Service is on the scene, but the law stretches to include not just the president’s palatial Pennsylvania Avenue home. Under the law, any building or grounds where the president is visiting — even temporarily — is covered, as is any building or grounds “restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.”  […]

READ @ http://rt.com/usa/news/348-act-tresspass-buildings-437/



Source: Think Progress

Last October, when the Supreme Court announced that it would hear Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, we labeled this case the “mother of all corporate immunity cases” because it seems like it was ripped from a bad screenplay parodying a Supreme Court interested in advancing as many right-wing stereotypes as possible in a single case. Sadly, the case is not fiction, and it actually does give the Court’s five conservatives an opportunity to declare that corporations who hire foreign military forces that engage in torture are immune from a law holding the most atrocious human rights violators accountable to international norms. The case will be argued today. […]

READ @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/linkframe.php?linkid=146277



By Eric Lotke, Our Future

The private prison industry is on the march. In recent months the industry moved to take over 24 state prisons in southern Florida and buy five prisons in Ohio. Now it’s making moves in Michigan.

But the industry doesn’t always win. Resistance isn’t futile.

The industry wanted to buy five prisons in Ohio but had to settle for one. Community members pushed back and corrections professionals raised doubts about cost savings and program effectiveness. Policy Matters Ohio demonstrated that selling the prison will likely cost more money than it produces. Yes, the state gets $73 million immediately for the sale – but the lease commits the state to pay $4 million annually for 20 years. So depending how cost estimates are done, the sale will end up costing the state anywhere from $8 million to $15 million more than traditional corrections.

Florida shows that the prison industry can’t make an honest case for the product it sells. The move to privatize 24 prisons was slipped into the annual budget bill, and opponents were literally eliminated. The Corrections chief, Edwin Buss, was forced to resign after expressing doubt that a proper “business case” for cost savings could be made. Senator Paula Dockery (R-Lakeland), an outspoken critic of privatization, was stripped of her seat on the Criminal Justice Committee, where such legislation is ordinarily heard. Senator Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) was stripped of his chairmanship of the Committee on Criminal Justice Appropriations when he questioned the accelerated process, compressed hearing schedule, and absence of opposing experts. […]

READ @ http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2012020928/private-prison-industry-resistance-isnt-futile



The largest environmental trial in US history begins March 5, as BP is sued for its 2010 oil spill disaster.

By Dahr Jamail

It was the largest marine oil disaster in the United States, and now BP’s trial is the largest and most complex environmental lawsuit in US history.

In what is being called by many “The Trial of the Century”, a thousand plaintiffs, a multitude of witnesses, and at least 20,000 exhibits will converge at a US district court in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 5 for litigation surrounding BP’s oil disaster that began on April 20, 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.

The disaster caused at least 4.9 million barrels of oil to gush into the Gulf, a situation that was compounded by at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic Corexit dispersants used to sink the oil. […]

READ @ http://dahrjamail.net/bp-goes-to-court



By William D. Cohan, Bloomberg

It took a relatively obscure former British academic to propagate a theory of the financial crisis that would confirm what many people suspected all along: The “corporate psychopaths” at the helm of our financial institutions are to blame.

Clive R. Boddy, most recently a professor at the Nottingham Business School at Nottingham Trent University, says psychopaths are the 1 percent of “people who, perhaps due to physical factors to do with abnormal brain connectivity and chemistry” lack a “conscience, have few emotions and display an inability to have any feelings, sympathy or empathy for other people.”

As a result, Boddy argues in a recent issue of the Journal of Business Ethics, such people are “extraordinarily cold, much more calculating and ruthless towards others than most people are and therefore a menace to the companies they work for and to society.” […]

READ @ http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-03/did-psychopaths-take-over-wall-street-asylum-commentary-by-william-cohan.html

MORE @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/linkframe.php?linkid=146340



By Common Dreams Staff

Over 70 cities are participating today in a national day of action called by Occupy Portland to “Shut Down the Corporations.” The group calls for non-violent direct action to “target corporations that are part of the American Legislative Exchange Council which is a prime example of the way corporations buy off legislators and craft legislation that serves the interests of corporations and not people.”

The group explains the action on its website: […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/02/29



By Dr. Cornel West, The Occupied Wall Street Journal

We the people of the global Occupy movement embody and enact a deep democratic awakening with genuine joy and fierce determination. Our movement — leaderless and leaderful — is a soulful expression of a moral outrage at the ugly corporate greed that pushes our society and world to the brink of catastrophe. We are aware that our actions have inaugurated a radical enlightenment in a moment of undeniable distrust and disgust with oligarchic economies, corrupt politicians, arbitrary rule of law and corporate media weapons of mass distraction. And we intend to sustain our momentum by nurturing our bonds of trust, fortifying our bodies, hearts and minds and sticking together through hell or high water in order to create a better world through a deep democratic revolution.

We refuse to be mere echoes of the vicious lies that support an illegitimate status quo. Our deep democratic awakening takes the form of we everyday people raising our individual and collective voices to tell the painful truths about unjust systems and unfair structures that yield unnecessary social misery. The past thirty years of a top-down, one-sided class war on precious poor and working people — with the greatest transfer of wealth from bottom to top in human history — have taught us that we either fight together in the name of truth and justice or we lose our livelihoods and sacred honor. In this sense, the movement is already victorious: our organizing and mobilizing have shifted public discourses toward truth and justice — towards a focus on corporate greed, wealth inequality, escalating poverty, obscene levels of unemployment, the role of big money in politics, and abusive military and police power. But we have work ahead of us yet.

The full-scale bankruptcy of the neoliberal order — of deregulated markets, unaccountable oligarchs, bribed politicians — is now an established fact of life and history. Its age is coming to an end. Our deep democratic enlightenment must break us out of our narrow intellectual frameworks and our parochial cultural habitus. […]

READ @ http://occupiedmedia.us/2011/11/a-love-supreme/

Feb 282012



By David Carr, NYTimes

[…] The Obama administration, which promised during its transition to power that it would enhance “whistle-blower laws to protect federal workers,” has been more prone than any administration in history in trying to silence and prosecute federal workers.

The Espionage Act, enacted back in 1917 to punish those who gave aid to our enemies, was used three times in all the prior administrations to bring cases against government officials accused of providing classified information to the media. It has been used six times since the current president took office.

Setting aside the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst who is accused of stealing thousands of secret documents, the majority of the recent prosecutions seem to have everything to do with administrative secrecy and very little to do with national security.

In case after case, the Espionage Act has been deployed as a kind of ad hoc Official Secrets Act, which is not a law that has ever found traction in America, a place where the people’s right to know is viewed as superseding the government’s right to hide its business. […]

READ @ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/27/business/media/white-house-uses-espionage-act-to-pursue-leak-cases-media-equation.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper



Source: youtube

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5rR-dknQUZs#!



By Allison Kilkenny, In These Times

Occupy protesters in London are braced for eviction following a court ruling that dictates local authorities can remove the 4-month-old campsite outside St. Paul’s Cathedral. The ruling came Wednesday, and ever since the Occupy London Twitter account (@OccupyLSX) has been posting periodic ominous updates.

“No sign yet,” @OccupyLSX tweeted in response today to a question about the eviction status.

While some protesters seemed determined to hold their ground – Occupy London tweeted that they would not be “bullied or afraid,” – the group’s lawyer, Karen Todner, ensured everyone that the activists are “seeking to discuss the best way to evacuate the camp in a peaceful and orderly fashion.” […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://inthesetimes.com/uprising/entry/12798/occupy_london_readies_for_eviction



Police and bailiffs have evicted anti-capitalist protesters and removed tents from the Occupy London camp at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Source: BBC

The operation, which began just after midnight, was mostly peaceful but there were 20 arrests.

The City of London Corporation said it “regretted” that it had become necessary to evict the protesters.

The Rev Giles Fraser, who resigned as canon chancellor of St Paul’s, said: “This is a sad day for the Church.”

Mr Fraser, who resigned in October in support of the protesters, added: “Riot police clearing the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral was a terrible sight.”

St Paul’s is yet to comment on the eviction.

Occupy London, which campaigns against corporate greed, set up the camp on 15 October. […]

READ @ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17187180



By Yves Smtih, Naked Capitalism

In Greece three-quarters of the independent doctors, lawyers, and engineers declare taxable income below the existential minimum. Tax fraud amounts to €20 billion per year (8.5% of GDP). And tax dodgers owe €63 billion in unpaid taxes (27% of GDP). The country is bankrupt and has been kept afloat by the Troika (EU, ECB, and IMF), of which Germany is by far the largest contributor. And the numbers are staggering: the first bailout package of €110 billion, the current bailout package of €130 billion, and the debt swap of €107 billion, in total €347 billion, amount to a mind boggling 150% of Greece’s GDP!

And even that won’t be enough, apparently, according to a crescendo of German politicians, among them Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble who inserted these devastating words into his letter to the members of the Bundestag:  “I cannot give any guarantees that the path taken will lead to success.” And: It’s possibly “not the last time that the German Bundestag will have to deal with financial aid for Greece.” Thus, he put a third bailout package on the table. […]

READ @ http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/02/wolf-richter-greece-“the-bottomless-barrel”-as-germans-say.html



Source: RT

Students and teachers in Spain have packed the streets of Valencia, angry at cuts to the education system by their government. They are also angry about harsh and brutal tactics used by police there at previous rallies when dozens were beaten and arrested. Spain is facing an out-of-control deficit and despite many across-the-board cuts, it slated for many more – in the realm of 40 billion Euros or 53 billion dollars. RT correspondent Sarah Firth brings the latest from Valencia, Spain in her report.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGrudKWTk7c&feature=player_embedded



By Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker

The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, was well under way when it officially commenced, early on a Wednesday evening in January, with an address, in the Congress Hall of the Congress Center, by Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany. She had a lot to say about Europe. Some of it—“Do we dare more Europe? Yes, we do dare”—made the news. But outside the hall many Davos participants paid her no mind. They loitered in various lounges carrying on conversations with each other. They talked and talked—as though they hadn’t been talking all day. They had talked while sitting on panels or while skipping panels that others were sitting on. “Historic Complexity: How Did We Get Here?,” “The Compensation Question,” “Global Risks 2012: The Seeds of Dystopia”: over the course of five days, a man could skip more than two hundred and fifty such sessions.

Many Davos participants rarely, if ever, attend even one. Instead, they float around in the slack spaces, sitting down to one arranged meeting after another, or else making themselves available for chance encounters, either with friends or with strangers whom they will ever after be able to refer to as friends. The Congress Center, the daytime hub, is a warren of interconnected lounges, cafés, lobbies, and lecture halls, with espresso bars, juice stations, and stacks of apples scattered about. The participants have their preferred hovering areas. Wandering the center in search of people to talk to was like fishing a stretch of river; one could observe, over time, which pools held which fish, and what times of day they liked to feed. Jamie Dimon, running shoes in hand, near the espresso stand by the Global Leadership Fellows Program, in the late afternoon. Fareed Zakaria, happily besieged, in the Industry Partners Lounge, just before lunch. The lunkers would very occasionally emerge from their deep holes (there were rumors of secret passageways) and glide through the crowd, with aides alongside, like pilot fish. (The W.E.F. says that Davos is an entourage-free zone, but this doesn’t seem to apply to the biggest of the big wheels, like heads of state.) It is said that the faster you walk the more important you are. […]

READ @ http://m.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/03/05/120305fa_fact_paumgarten



By Don Jeffery, Bloomberg

Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed company, won the dismissal of a lawsuit by growers of organic crops seeking to have its patents for genetically altered seeds invalidated.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan threw out the organic growers’ lawsuit in a ruling dated Feb. 24, saying it represented no controversy and that she had no jurisdiction over the suit.

Organic farmers, seed companies and food safety groups sued St. Louis-based Monsanto in March 2011 seeking court protection against possible lawsuits by the company for patent infringement if genetically modified crops were mistakenly found among their yields. […]

READ @ http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-02-27/monsanto-wins-dismissal-of-organic-growers-gene-patent-suit.html



By Barry C. Lynn, Harpers

Fear, in any real market, is a natural emotion. There is the fear of not making a sale, not landing a job, not winning a client. Such fear is healthy, even constructive. It prods us to polish our wares, to refine our skills, and to conjure up—every so often—a wonder.

But these days, we see a different kind of fear in the eyes of America’s entrepreneurs and professionals. It’s a fear of the arbitrary edict, of the brute exercise of power. And the origins of this fear lie precisely in the fact that many if not most Americans can no longer count on open markets for their ideas and their work. Because of the overthrow of our antimonopoly laws a generation ago, we instead find ourselves subject to the ever more autocratic whims of the individuals who run our giant business corporations.

The equation is simple. In sector after sector of our political economy, there are still many sellers: many of us. But every day, there are fewer buyers: fewer of them. Hence, they enjoy more and more liberty to dictate terms—or simply to dictate. […]

READ @ http://harpers.org/archive/2012/01/hbc-90008429



By Michael Hudson, Naked Capitalism

I have just returned from Rimini, Italy, where I experienced one of the most amazing spectacles of my academic life. Four of us associated with the University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) were invited to lecture for three days on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and explain why Europe is in such monetary trouble today – and to show that there is an alternative, that the enforced austerity for the 99% and vast wealth grab by the 1% is not a force of nature.


The basic thrust of our argument is that just as commercial banks create credit electronically on their computer keyboards (creating a bank account credit for borrowers in exchange for their signing an IOU at interest), governments can create money. There is no need to borrow from banks, as computer keyboards provide nearly free credit creation to finance spending.

The difference, of course, is that governments spend money (at least in principle) to promote long-term growth and employment, to invest in public infrastructure, research and development, provide health care and other basic economic functions. Banks have a more short-term time frame. They lend credit against collateral in place. Some 80% of bank loans are mortgages against real estate. Other loans are made to finance leveraged buyouts and corporate takeovers. But most new fixed capital investment by corporations is financed out of retained earnings. […]

READ @ http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/02/michael-hudson-2181-italians-pack-a-sports-arena-to-learn-modern-monetary-theory-–-the-economy-doesn’t-need-to-suffer-neoliberal-austerity.html

Feb 272012



The EU’s hostility to democracy is now so brazen it thinks it has the right to tell European countries when they can and can’t vote for their governments

Source: The Commentator

In a memorable speech last year at the European Parliament, UKIP’s Nigel Farage lambasted newly appointed (not elected of course) European Council President Herman Van Rompuy saying he had “the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low grade bank clerk.”

There can be little dispute about it. But a few moments later Farage went on to talk about Van Rompuy’s intention to become “the quiet assassin of European democracy.” On that one, he couldn’t have been more wrong. The man’s shouting it from the roof tops.

Here’s what he said yesterday after Italy’s Northern League, Silvio Berlusconi’s erstwhile backers, said it would not support the country’s prospective new government and called for a general election:

“This country needs reforms, not elections,” he said bluntly.

Who is this guy? No really, who precisely does Herman Van Rompuy think he is in telling one of Europe’s most historic nations that it doesn’t need elections?

It’s jaw dropping stuff. It’s like thinking you’re having a nightmare only for it to dawn on you that this is actually happening. It’s real.


These are dark days for modern Europe. Half of the continent only made it to democracy two decades ago. Spain, Portugal and Greece only consolidated their own democracies a decade or so before that.

Democracy is a fragile thing. And far too valuable to be entrusted to the likes of Herman Van Rompuy.

It’s time to take these people down. It’s time to destroy the new, emerging class of autocrats and to do so before it’s too late.

READ @ http://www.thecommentator.com/article/629/eu_s_van_rompuy_strikes_new_blow_against_democracy_telling_italy_it_doesn_t_need_elections



Source: youtube

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zR9JQAl519Y



By Naked Capitalism

I’m late to the remarkable interview given by ECB president Mario Draghi to the Wall Street Journalmag-glass_10x10.gif. I find the choice of venue curious, since the Financial Times has become the venue for top European politicians and technocrats to communicate with English speaking finance professionals.

But Draghi’s drunk-on-austerity-Kool-Aid message was a perfect fit for the Wall Street Journal. While he wasn’t as colorful as Andrew Mellon’s famous “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate,” Draghi is still a true heir in believing that his prescription, per Melllon, will result in “High costs of living and high living will come down.” The “high living” that Draghi is particularly opposed to is Europe’smag-glass_10x10.gif social safety nets.

The bizarre part about that is it is those very programs that kept Europe from being in even worse shape than it is now. I recall in early 2009 that American economic officials were hectoring Europeans, particularly Germans, for not doing enough in the way of economic stimulus. European readers argued that that reflected abject ignorance. Germany provides generous support to idled workers, and that spending was automatic. Germany performed far better than its US critics anticipated.

Not surprisingly, the Journal did not question the notion that democratic governments should take orders from an unelected finance official. But Draghi tried to make his views sound a tad more legitimate by blaming the planned ritual sacrifice as a demand of the market gods. […]

READ @ http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/02/ecb-president-draghi-declares-war-on-europes-social-safety-nets.html



If Social Security becomes just another line item in the federal budget, what’s to save it from being swept up in an across-the-board orgy of spending reductions?

By Michael Hilzik, LATimes

The accepted response to the economic deal reached in Congress last week, extending the Social Security payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance and maintaining reimbursement levels for Medicare doctors, is huzzah!

Finally Congress got something important done with a minimum of brinkmanship and posturing, and more than a few minutes before the deadline. A threat to the embryonic economic recovery was averted, and the extensions even pushed any subsequent fracas over the same issues to the end of this year, safely past the presidential election.

So why should we consider this action cause for despair?

It’s because with every extension of the payroll tax holiday, which was first enacted in 2010, the prospect that Congress will ever restore the tax to its statutory 6.2% of covered income recedes a little bit further over the horizon. And that’s bad medicine for Social Security. […]

READ @ http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hiltzik-20120219,0,1032274.column



End of controversial property tax breaks leaves the Pope facing €600m-a-year bill

By Michael Day, The Independent

After several years of scandal in which the Catholic Church has faced allegations of financial impropriety, paedophile priests and rumours of plots to kill the Pope, the Vatican is now facing a new €600m-a-year tax bill as Rome seeks to head off European Commission censure over controversial property tax breaks enjoyed by the Church.

As the EC heads closer to officially condemning the fiscal perks enjoyed by the Catholic Church and introduced by the Berlusconi administration, Prime Minister Mario Monti has written to the Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, saying that the Vatican will resume property tax, or Ici, payments.

Mr Almunia said in 2010 that the exemption amounted to state aid that might breach EU competition law. A parliamentary proposal by the Italian Radicals party last August to repeal the exemption, with a successful petition on Facebook, upped the pressure. A spokesman for Mr Almunia appeared to give the thumbs-up yesterday: “It is a proposal that constitutes a significant progress on the issue and I hope will be implemented,” he said. […]

READ @ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/vatican-told-to-pay-taxes-as-italy-tackles-budget-crisis-6988938.html



While a second bailout means there is money for the bankers, the Greek people face a decade of austerity.

Source: Aljazeera

Greece has received its bailout and default has been avoided until, well, the next time.

But it is not the Greek people who stand to benefit from the bailout – while there is money for the bankers, the Greek people face a decade of austerity. Which begs the question: What is it really all about?

Just hours before the bailout deal was struck, a confidential report was released detailing just why it would not work.

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/countingthecost/2012/02/201222573721642601.html



Source: StopCartel

More than 160 German tax officials intend to travel to Greece in order to strengthen the Greek tax mechanism, according to the German magazine “Wirtschaftswoche”, which will be published on Monday.

Germans, who are making the largest financial contribution to the euro zone bailout for Greece, are growing increasingly impatient with the Greek “bottomless pit”, and since Greeks can’t do the job on their own they decided to take the situation in their own hands and send German tax officials to “help” Greek authorities. The preparations for the tax advice mission is being made under the auspices of the European Union and International Monetary Fund. The big question, however, is whether such assistance is wanted by the Greek people.

The article also refers to a confidential report from the European Commission, under which the mechanism of tax collection in Greece is facing serious problems. Tax evasion has basically turned into the most popular national hobby and tax evasion rates in major professions such as doctors, lawyers and engineers, who frequently declare income below the taxable limit, and entrepreneurs who do not pay VAT are the highest in Europe. […]

READ @ http://www.stopcartel.net/2012/02/27/POLITICS/Escalating_anger_in_Athens/1110.html



By Chris in Paris, AmericaBlog

Can you blame them? It’s a nervous time for many people and none of the options are great. It hardly seems likely that the latest bailout for Greece will do much to settle the situation. The only surprise with the crisis in Europe is that the dollar is falling against the euro. Bloomberg:

Greece (TODETOGR)’s total deposits plunged 28 percent from the peak in June 2009 to 169 billion euros ($225 billion) at the end of December, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In Spain (TODETOES), deposits slid 5 percent in the five months through November to 934 billion euros, the least since April 2008. Italian (TODETOIT) banks held 974 billion euros in November, the lowest in 18 months. Deposits in Germany (TODETODE) have climbed by almost 10 percent since May 2010, when Greece was granted its first bailout. Deposits have risen every month except five since the end of 2009, and reached 2.15 trillion euros at the end of 2011, Bloomberg data show. The deteriorating growth outlook in the euro region risks exacerbating those flows, according to Dario Perkins, an economist at Lombard Street Research in London. “The biggest systemic risk is if people lose confidence in keeping their euros in Spain, Portugal or Italy,” Perkins said. “It makes sense to put your cash into Germany just to be safe and that’s where the real systemic danger lies. That contagion isn’t priced in, and bank deposits are the place we’d spot it.”

READ @ http://www.americablog.com/2012/02/customers-shifting-money-out-of-banks.html



Source: OccupyWallStreet

Workers facing layoffs at a Chicago window factory have declared victory after occupying their plant for 11 hours. Through direct community action, including the support of Occupy Chicago, the workers and their union prevented the California-based Serious Energy company from closing the plant for another 90 days. The workers hope this will give them time to keep the plant open, possibly by purchasing it themselves and creating a worker-owned co-op. “We can run this company,” Juan Cortez, who has worked more than 23 years in the factory, told the media. “We got smart people to manage the money. We can find customers. We know how to run the company.” Members of Occupy Chicago showed up in solidarity and brought supplies. In 2008, workers at the same factory occupied their plant for six days during a labor dispute with its previous owners, Republic Windows and Doors. That occupation forced Bank of America into a $1.75 million settlement with the workers. […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://occupywallst.org/article/chicago-workers-claim-victory-after-occupying-thei/



Imperialism is still with us, but power has become more broadly distributed in a diversifying world.

By Noam Chomsky, Aljazeera

In the years of conscious, self-inflicted decline at home, “losses” continued to mount elsewhere. In the past decade, for the first time in 500 years, South America has taken successful steps to free itself from western domination, another serious loss. The region has moved towards integration, and has begun to address some of the terrible internal problems of societies ruled by mostly Europeanised elites, tiny islands of extreme wealth in a sea of misery. They have also rid themselves of all US military bases and of IMF controls. A newly formed organisation, CELAC, includes all countries of the hemisphere apart from the US and Canada. If it actually functions, that would be another step in US decline, in this case in what has always been regarded as “the backyard”. […]

READ @ http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/02/2012219123013358391.html



Source; The Real News w/ Michael Hudson

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InQ7l4Nv1YE&feature=player_embedded



By Ethan A. Huff, Pakalert Press

A new study published in the journal Archives of Toxicology proves once again that there really is no safe level of exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup (glyphosate) herbicide formula for genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). According to the new findings, Roundup, which is applied by the tens of thousands of tons a year all around the world, is still toxic to human DNA even when diluted to a mere 0.02 percent of the dilution amount at which it is currently applied to GM food crops.

Numerous studies have already identified the fact that Roundup causes DNA damage, not to mention endocrine disruption and cancer. But this new study, which originates out of the Medical University of Vienna, is one of the first to illustrate Roundup’s toxicity at such drastically diluted levels, which is a direct contradiction of the agri-giant’s talking points about the supposed safety of Roundup.

“Comparisons with results of earlier studies with lymphocytes and cells from internal organs indicate that epithelial cells are more susceptible to the cytotoxic effects and DNA-damaging properties of the herbicide and its formulation,” wrote the authors in their abstract.

“Since we found genotoxic (DNA damaging) effects after short exposure to concentrations that correspond to a 450-fold dilution of spraying used in agriculture, our findings indicate that inhalation may cause DNA damage in exposed individuals.” […]

READ @ http://www.pakalertpress.com/2012/02/25/study-roundup-diluted-by-99-8-percent-still-destroys-human-dna/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=facebook



By Chris Monty, Blippit

The U.S Geological Survey has confirmed that radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan was measured in minimal amounts in precipitation in the U.S. in approximately 20 percent of 167 sites sampled in a nationwide study released earlier this week.

The USGS led the study as part of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP).

Levels measured were similar to measurements made by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the days and weeks after the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. […]

READ @ http://www.blippitt.com/usgs-fukushima-fallout/

Feb 252012



By Lillina Rizzo, globalpost

Bradley Manning, the US army officer accused of linking information to WikiLeaks, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the group The Movement of the Icelandic Parliament.

Manning is faced with charges that include aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the internet, theft of public property or records, transmitting defense information and fraud and related activity in connection with computers, CNN reported. The former Army private could face life in prison if convicted of these charges.

Despite his long list of charges, the parliamentary group The Movement of the Icelandic Parliament submitted a letter to the Nobel Peace Prize committee for the 2012 prize for his “individual effort to have an impact for peace in our world,” the letter stated. […]

READ @ http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120207/bradley-manning-nominated-nobel-peace-prize-2012



Lies, damn lies, and the war in Afghanistan.

By Douglas Wissing, Foreign Policiy

[…] Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis has traveled over 9,000 miles across Afghanistan to learn a simple lesson: public statements made from podiums in Washington and Kabul bear little resemblance to the reality of the Afghan war. The 17-year U.S. Army veteran spent most of his time in the insurgency-enflamed provinces in the east and south, and was shaken to discover the U.S. military leadership’s glowing descriptions of progress against the Taliban insurgency did not jibe with the accounts of American soldiers on the front lines of the war.

Davis then did a remarkable thing for a U.S. Army officer: He went public. In January 2012, he began a singular campaign to bring his findings to the attention of the American people. Davis wrote two reports, classified and unclassified, that aimed to expose the failures of the Afghan war while not endangering lives in the process. “I am no WikiLeaks guy Part II,” he wrote.

Davis’s reports have become one of the most damning insider accounts of the U.S. military’s handling of Afghanistan. In his unclassified report, he wrote that U.S. officials have so thoroughly misinformed the American public “that the truth has become unrecognizable” and that, during his recent year-long deployment, he saw “deception reach an intolerable low.” In his view, the divergence between the upbeat accounts offered by the top military leadership and the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan has undermined U.S. credibility with both allies and enemies, cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars, and inflicted death, disfigurement, and suffering on tens of thousands of soldiers with “little or no gain to our country.”

Davis briefed members of Congress and journalists on his conclusions, and also took his case to the media. In his article, “Truth, Lies and Afghanistan: How Military Leaders Have Let Us Down,” published in the venerable Armed Forces Journal, Davis candidly summarized his charge that military leaders are misleading Congress and the public. He asked: “How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding?” […]

READ @ http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/02/23/the_juice_ain_t_worth_the_squeeze?page=full



Industrial civilisation’s entire economy is based on a finite resource we treat as infinite.

By Dahr Jamail, Aljazzera

Oil touches nearly every single aspect of the lives of those in the industrialised world. Most of our food, clothing, electronics, hygiene products and transportation simply would not exist without this resource.

There is a reason why oil giants such as ExxonMobile, BP, Total and Royal Dutch Shell, year in and year out, generate more profit than most other companies on the planet.

Our current global economy is based on continual growth, and that growth depends on cheap energy.

“Fossil fuels are roughly 84 per cent of what we use, and oil is 35 per cent of the world’s primary consumption energy,” says David Hughes, a geoscientist who studied Canada’s energy resources for nearly four decades. […]

READ @ http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/02/201222051514575294.html



By Richard Schiffman, Truthout

In a match that some would say was made in hell, the nation’s two leading producers of agrochemicals have joined forces in a partnership to reintroduce the use of the herbicide 2,4-D, one half of the infamous defoliant Agent Orange, which was used by American forces to clear jungle during the Vietnam War. These two biotech giants have developed a weed management program that, if successful, would go a long way toward a predicted doubling of harmful herbicide use in America’s corn belt during the next decade.

The problem for corn farmers is that “superweeds” have been developing resistance to America’s best-selling herbicide Roundup, which is being sprayed on millions of acres in the Midwest and elsewhere. Dow Agrosciences has developed a strain of corn that it says will solve the problem. The new genetically modified variety can tolerate 2,4-D, which will kill off the Roundup-resistant weeds, but leave the corn standing. Farmers who opt into this system will be required to double-dose their fields with a deadly cocktail of Roundup plus 2,4-D, both of which are manufactured by Monsanto.

But this plan has alarmed environmentalists and also many farmers, who are reluctant to reintroduce a chemical whose toxicity has been well established. The use of 2,4-D is banned in several European countries and provinces of Canada. The substance is a suspected carcinogen, which has been shown to double the incidence of birth defects in the children of pesticide applicators in a study conducted by University of Minnesota pathologist Vincent Garry. […]

READ @ http://www.truthout.org/dow-and-monsanto-join-forces-poison-americas-heartland/1329933936



Source: youtube

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pZPEGgwSkI



By Jeremy Bloom, Organic Consumer Association

A new report by some top scientists has nailed it down, and Monsanto isn’t going to be happy. The Agri-giant has built it’s entire business model, including genetically modified (GMO) crops that dominate the US market, around its Roundup brand herbicide.

The last thing they want to admit is that it causes birth defects.

But that’s just what a group of scientists from a diverse group – including Cambridge University, the King’s College London School of Medicine, and the Institute of Biology, UNICAMP, São Paulo, Brazil – have found. […]

READ @ http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_23390.cfm



By Stephanie Dearing, Digital Journal

Documents reveal that Blackwater has been busy expanding its corporate reach by providing intelligence services for agencies such as the Canadian Military, Netherlands Police and corporations like Monsanto.

Blackwater is a private, mercenary army. They’ve been called the ‘shadow army,’ and most notoriously worked for the United States in Iraq, where the company courted controversy. Journalist Jeremy Scahill, who wrote a book about Blackwater, wrote an exclusive for The Nation, revealing general details of the extent of the Blackwater business operations. Scahill managed to obtain documents that, according to Scahill, show

“… entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater’s work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater’s owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation.” […]

READ @ http://digitaljournal.com/article/297701



By Dave Lee, BBC

The European Union’s highest court has been asked to rule on the legality of a controversial anti-piracy agreement.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta) has been criticised by rights campaigners who argue it could stifle free expression on the internet.

EU trade head Karel De Gucht said the court will be asked to clarify whether the treaty complied with “the EU’s fundamental rights and freedoms”.

The agreement has so far been signed by 22 EU member states.

The European Commission said it “decided today to ask the European Court of Justice for a legal opinion to clarify that the Acta agreement and its implementation must be fully compatible with freedom of expression and freedom of the internet”. […]

READ @ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-17125469



By Peter Crawford, Economy In Crisis

Many politicians and the media make it sound as if the majority of America is in favor of free trade, and support pacts like NAFTA. But the truth is that most Americans do not want any more new, disastrous free trade agreements. The majority of Americans believe that free trade has cost jobs in the United States and that trade agreements have hurt the country overall. So why do our politicians continue to push these disastrous agreements?

Gordon Lafer, former senior adviser to the U.S. House’s Labor Committee, makes the case that our lawmakers have chosen to serve their donors rather than the voters on the trade issue. He uses the case of the pending Colombian agreement as illustration, saying that our lawmakers are ignoring the workers rights issues that matter to their constituents in favor of bigger profits for their donors.

When our politicians are so blatantly ignoring the wishes of the American voter, the justification must lie, as Lafer says, with the loyalty to campaign donors and lobbyists. The campaign cycle has become such that politicians are constantly running for office, never focusing on the best policies for the country. A look at the length of modern presidential campaigns is a good example. As early as two years before the election, campaign developments for candidates will begin to appear in the news virtually every day. […]

READ @ http://economyincrisis.org/content/truth-about-americas-opinion-free-trade



Source: youtube

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=TLv1wzCga0Y



By Christopher Petrella, Human Rights

On August 22, 1996 President Bill Clinton signed into law his now infamous Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act thereby “end[ing] welfare as we have come to know it.” The Act replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). TANF establishes a lifetime limit of 60 months (5 years) for federal assistance, mandates that single parents participate in work activities for an average of 30 hours per week, and caps federal block grant contributions to states at $16.6 billion per year. (As a result of inflation the real value of the TANF block grant has already fallen by 28%.)

And despite few fluctuations in the poverty rate since TANF supplanted AFCD, the participation rate among eligible families has plummeted by 52% since 1995. […]

READ @ http://www.nationofchange.org/criminalizing-poor-welfare-cellfare-1330094117

Feb 252012



Den Plirono Movement in Athens: A solidarity action with workers of a Steel Company who have been on strike for over 3 months!



– VIDEO: I DON’T PAY: ΔΕΝ ΠΛΗΡΩΝΩ ΔΡΑΣΗ ΜΕΤΡΟ ΣΥΝΤΑΓΜΑ 17/2/2012:http://99getsmart.com/?p=2285

– VIDEO: MOVEMENT “I DON’T PAY” IS SPREADING ACROSS EUORPE: http://99getsmart.com/?p=2280

– VIDEO: “I DON’T PAY” MOVEMENT GIVES INTERVIEW ON BBC: http://99getsmart.com/?p=229


– VIDEO: ATHENS RIOTS 2-12-2012http://99getsmart.com/?p=2303

– THE KERATEA RESISTANCE: http://99getsmart.com/?p=2359

ATHENS: THE BATTLE IN THE METRO: http://99getsmart.com/?p=2356

– PHOTOS by Elias Theo: PEOPLE PROTEST IN SYNTAGMA SQUARE, ATHENS : http://www.demotix.com/news/1062516/people-demonstrate-syntagma-square-athens

– READ and PHOTOS: I Was At #OccupySyntagma Square All Summer by Elias Theodoropouloshttp://99getsmart.com/?p=2381

– #SYNTAGMA SQUARE IN PHOTOS By Elena Tiniakou: http://99getsmart.com/?p=2368

– DEBTOCRACY: A documentary film about the Greek economic crisis: http://99getsmart.com/?p=2266