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/

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