Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart
* AWASH IN SELF-DELUSIONAL CORNUCOPIANISM
By Tyler Durden, zerohedge
Submitted by James H. Kunstler via Peak Prosperity
For most people, the collapse of civilizations is a subject much more appetizingly viewed in the rear-view mirror than straight ahead down whatever path or roadway we are on.
Jared Diamond wrote about the collapse of earlier civilizations to great acclaim and brisk sales, in a nimbus of unimpeachable respectability. The stories he told about bygone cultures gone to seed were, above all, dramatic. No reviewers or other intellectual auditors dissed him for suggesting that empires inevitably run aground on the shoals of resource depletion, population overshoot, changes in the weather, and the diminishing returns of complexity.
Yet these are exactly the same problems that industrial-technocratic societies face today, and those of us who venture to discuss them are consigned to a tin-foil-hat brigade, along with the UFO abductees and Bigfoot trackers. This is unfortunate but completely predictable, since the sunk costs in all the stuff of daily life (freeways, malls, tract houses) are so grotesquely huge that letting go of them is strictly unthinkable. We’re stuck with a very elaborate setup that has no future; but we refuse to consider the consequences. So messengers are generally unwelcome.
Awash in Self-Delusional Cornucopianism
Will the cost or availability of oil threaten America’s Happy Motoring utopia? There should be no question. But rather than prepare for a change in our daily doings, such as rebuilding the railroad system or promoting walkable neighborhoods over suburban sprawl, we tell ourselves fairy tales about how the Bakken shale oil play will make America “energy independent” to provide the illusion that we can keep driving to WalMart forever.
This is an especially delusional season in the USA, with salvos of disinformation being fired every day by happy-talkers seeking to reassure a nervous public that everything is okay. Just in the past few weeks we’ve seen an Atlantic Magazine cover story titled “We Will Never Run Out of Oil” followed by a report from the International Energy Agency stating that the USA would become the world’s number one oil producer by the year 2020, and many other bulletins of comforting optimism from The New York Times, NPR, and Forbes. The Atlantic Magazine used to be a credible organ of the American thinking classes, and the Paris-based IEA is vested with authority, though its political agenda (to prop up the status quo) is hidden. In any case, these are the interlocutors of reality for the public (and its leaders) and the memes they sow travel far, wide, and deep, whether they are truthful or not. The infectious cornucopianism they gleefully retail has goosed the stock markets and made it even more difficult to put out the contrary view that we are in deep trouble, perhaps even on the verge of an epochal disruption. […]
* MONSANTO HIRES INFAMOUS MERCENARY FIRM BLACKWATER TO TRACK ACTIVISTS AROUND THE WORLD
By Carolanne Wright, Natural News
Remember the private mercenary army Blackwater that caused such a stir in Iraq during an unprovoked attack in 2007? Apparently, Monsanto and the controversial security firm are in bed together, described by blogger Randy Ananda as “a death-tech firm weds a hit squad.” At this point, you might be wondering what in the world the GM seed giant needs with the services of a ‘shadow army’? It appears as though the corporation found it necessary to contract with Blackwater in order to collect intelligence on anti-Monsanto activists as well infiltrate their ranks.
Notorious for the Iraqi Nisour Square Massacre, Blackwater “created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq,” reports the New York Times. One of these subsidiaries became Total Intelligence, the company contracted by Monsanto between 2008-2010 to collect intelligence on activists rallying against GMO crops and other Monsanto activities. Journalist Jeremy Scahill states in The Nation:
“… 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.” […]
* REBELS WITH A CAUSE: SCIENTISTS FIGHT BACK IN THE WAR ON SCIENCE
By Elizabeth Hand, Desmog
It has been called “Stephen Harper’s war on science” in Canada and just plain “war on science” in the US. But whatever you call it, scientists everywhere are frustrated with how scientific research is treated in North America. With the American sequester cuts looming on the horizon and the Canadian government openly admitting that it is no longer interested in funding “discovery science,” scientists are feeling accused, cut-off and shut-up.
It is becoming a trend in the United States and Canada to treat scientists like nay-sayers or rebels without a cause instead of like respected public figures. In cases where scientific evidence doesn’t support industry, governments in both countries have allowed corporations and oil companies to cast doubts on research.
By dirt digging into scientists’ private lives and creating false parallel science, the pursuit of doing good science has become a complicated job. Character defamation and false research has not only offered enough leeway to proceed on potentially dangerous projects, it has done endless damage to the reputation of the scientific community.
Though President Obama promised otherwise when he “told scientists, engineers and doctors that his goal is to reach for a public and private research and development investment that we haven’t seen since the space race.”
The reality is, the 2013 sequester is expected to be devastating to many non-defense agencies. The National Institutes of Health will sustain funding cuts of around $1.6 billion, the National Science Foundation is losing $283 million, and the American Association of Science is looking at a cut of about $9.3 billion. […]
* OBAMA EXPANDS MILITARIZATION OF POLICE
Among items transferred to local law enforcement agencies: assault rifles, grenade launchers, even Blackhawk helicopters and .50 caliber machine guns. In 2011 alone, the Pentagon transferred almost $500 million worth of materials to domestic law enforcement — near double the previous year’s total.
* NO TO NATO
On May 20th -21st the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit was held in Chicago. Thousands of protesters carried their anti-war message to world leaders at the summit, in a mostly peaceful march led by a group of Iraq War veterans who symbolically gave back their military medals.
Videography: Jorge Alva – Huerto
Additional Video Images: Eric Allin
Still Images: Occupy Everywhere
Pyroklast “Welcome to the 3rd World”
Son Solidario: “Siquisiri”
Adelit@s: “Police State”
Sin Dios: “O.T.A.N. NO”
VIDEO @ http://vimeo.com/49799154#
* THE REAL NUMBERS: HALF OF AMERICA IN POVERTY – AND IT’S CREEPING UPWARD
By Paul Buchheit, AlterNet
The Census Bureau  has reported that 15% of Americans live in poverty. A shocking figure. But it’s actually much worse. Inequality is spreading like a shadowy disease through our country, infecting more and more households, and leaving a shrinking number of financially secure families to maintain the charade of prosperity.
1. Almost half of Americans had NO assets in 2009
2. It’s Even Worse 3 Years Later
Since the recession, the disparities have continued to grow. An OECD report  states that “inequality has increased by more over the past three years to the end of 2010 than in the previous twelve,” with the U.S. experiencing one of the widest gaps among OECD countries. The 30-year decline in wages  has worsened since the recession, as low-wage jobs havereplaced  formerly secure middle-income positions.
3. Based on wage figures, half of Americans are in or near poverty.
The IRS  reports that the highest wage in the bottom half of earners is about $34,000. To be eligible for food assistance, a family can earn up to 130%  of the federal poverty line , or about $30,000 for a family of four.
Even the Census Bureau recognizes that its own figures  under-represent the number of people in poverty. Its Supplemental Poverty Measure  increases, by 50%, the number of Americans who earn between one-half and two times the poverty threshold.
4. Based on household expense totals, poverty is creeping into the top half of America.
A family in the top half, making $60,000 per year, will have their income reduced by a total tax bill of about $15,000 ($3,000 for federal income tax  and $12,000 for payroll, state, and local taxes . The Bureau of Labor Statistics  and the Census Bureau  agree that food, housing, and transportation expenses will deduct another $30,000, and that total household expenditures will be about $50,000. That leaves nothing.
Nothing, that is, except debt. The median debt level  rose to $75,600 in 2009, while the median family net worth , according to the Federal Reserve, dropped from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010. […]
* GREECE BECOMES TRADE BATTLEGROUND AS FOREIGN INVESTORS SWOOP
By Helena Smith, Guardian
The Chinese are interested in airports, harbours and railways. The Russians are determined to infiltrate the energy market. The Qataris have made clear they want to invest in property.
Three years to the month after becoming the first eurozone country to be bailed out by the European Union (EU), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF), Greece has finally got its long-delayed privatisation campaign off the ground, and the programme has turned the debt-choked country into a battleground for nations seeking access to the EU trading bloc.
“We have to transmit the message that this is a different Greece,” the development minister, Kostis Hadzidakis, said in an interview. “We have to surprise in a positive way. Privatisations will send the message that we are a business-friendly country.”
The prime minister, Antonis Samaras, took that message to Beijing this month, urging China to participate in what he described as Athens’ success story. He was buoyed by a raft of unusually good news: international creditors had agreed to prop up the economy with another €8.8bn (£7.5bn) in rescue funds, Fitch had upgraded Greece’s credit rating, while borrowing costs on 10-year bonds in May fell to their lowest level since the outbreak of the debt crisis.
If ever there was a time, it was now, for the Asian tiger to pursue its desire to make Greece a gateway to Europe by investing in infrastructure projects beyond Piraeus port. As Europe’s biggest passenger harbour and one of its top 10 container terminals, the docks at Piraeus have become an operational base for the Chinese since Cosco, its state-run shipping company, paid €500m to lease half of them in 2010. […]
* UK COURTS TO BE PRIVATIZED, THIS IS NOT SATIRE
Source: Scriptonite Daily
Today’s front page of The Times newspaper was issued ahead of time yesterday evening, bearing the headline ‘Courts to be privatised in radical justice shake-up’. While many hoped it was a late April Fool or a piece of over-zealous reporting, closer investigation suggests these hopes were futile. The UK Government has once more chosen to pillage a public service in the pursuit of private profit. These changes, in combination with other privatisations and cuts, will result in a two tier justice system – or justice to the highest bidder alone.
The Privatisation of our Courts
These plans have been entirely closed to public debate. In fact, there has been only one public reference to this fundamental overhaul of our justice system.
Chris Grayling, Minister of Justice, made an oblique reference to a review of the justice system in remarks to parliament this March:
“The courts and tribunals are at the centre of our justice system, relied on by the public to enforce their rights and uphold the rule of law. As in other areas, we need to look at the way we deliver our services to provide a more efficient service that delivers access to justice quickly and effectively, while delivering value for money for the taxpayer. At the same time, we must preserve the independence of the judiciary, which lies at the heart of our constitutional arrangements.”
According to The Times report today:
“Courts in England and Wales are facing wholesale privatisation under revolutionary plans that would end the system that has existed since Magna Carta. The idea would establish the courts service as a commercial enterprise, paying its way and freed from Treasury control, with court buildings and thousands of staff put in the hands of private companies. It would save the Ministry of Justice £1 billion a year.”
“Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, instructed officials this year to explore plans for reform to ensure that the Courts and Tribunal Service provides value for money.
A paper outlining options is expected to go to Mr Grayling within two weeks, with a tight timetable for action under which the shake-up could proceed this autumn. The plan is strongly backed by the Justice Secretary.
Options under discussion include hiving off court buildings to a private company, which would run and maintain them, or a more radical proposal in which the 20,000 courts staff would also transfer to the private sector.” […]