The American Empire in a Changing World


Thursday, June 30, 2011

'Revealed: British government's plan to play down Fukushima'

just goes to show ya how the "system" is run....lying bastards..........from the guardian......

"British government officials approached nuclear companies to draw up a co-ordinated public relations strategy to play down the Fukushima nuclear accident just two days after the earthquake and tsunami in Japanand before the extent of the radiation leak was known.

Internal emails seen by the Guardian show how the business and energydepartments worked closely behind the scenes with the multinational companies EDF EnergyAreva and Westinghouse to try to ensure the accident did not derail their plans for a new generation of nuclear stations in the UK.
"This has the potential to set the nuclear industry back globally," wrote one official at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), whose name has been redacted. "We need to ensure the anti-nuclear chaps and chapesses do not gain ground on this. We need to occupy the territory and hold it. We really need to show the safety of nuclear"....................READ MORE

Economic Collapse a Mathematical Certainty - Top 5 Places Where Not To Be

from dont tread on me

Photo Essay: Afghanistan

from the atlantic.......

"Last week, after a decade of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, President Obama announced a plan to begin withdrawing thousands of U.S. troops from the country this year. The war has been expensive -- a Brown University research project released Wednesday estimates the total cost of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq at nearly $4 trillion (a figure that includes the ongoing cost of veterans' care). The human cost is more difficult to quantify, as more than 2,500 coalition troops (1,644 of them American) have now been killed, and civilian casualties are estimated at well over 100,000. Canadian combat operations in Afghanistan will end in July, as troops withdraw from the southern region and hand control over to U.S. forces. Just yesterday, a group of nine Taliban suicide attackers stormed a major hotel in Kabul that was popular with foreigners, killing 21 and raising fears of what may come as foreign troops depart the country. Gathered here are images from the ongoing conflict over the past month, part of an ongoing monthly series on Afghanistan[41 photos]"............VIEW HERE

'How much will San Francisco's Chinese bridge really cost?

if a country cant build its own infrastructure than there aint much left.........from foreign policy.........

"Now, in these trying times as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke tells us the economic recovery from the Great Recession is stumbling for reasons he doesn't understand, it seems that we take pride in what China can do for us. Thus California Department of Transportation program manager Tony Anziano told the Times "they've (the Chinese) produced a pretty impressive bridge for us." In this, Anziano was only following the lead of former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who strongly backed the Chinese project on the basis of an estimated $400 million saving to the state and who praised "the workers that are building our Bay Bridge" during a visit to China last September.

In view of the quality problems that have arisen with major construction projects in China such as the Three Gorges Dam and the High Speed Railroad lines that have recently had to be speed restricted, U.S. industry and union groups have raised questions about the safety of the new bridge. But those who have awarded the contracts to the Chinese say their audits have convinced them of the engineering integrity of the projects. Furthermore, they say, American companies don't have the fabrication facilities, warehouses, or deep financial pockets to do these kinds of very large scale projects. " I don't think the U.S. fabrication industry could put a project like this together," Brian A. Petersen, project director for American Bridge/Fluor Enterprises, told the Times.
So it's cheaper to do it in China and anyhow Americans can't do that kind of stuff anymore seems to be the essence of the story. But is that really the case?"......................READ MORE

Photo Essay: "Getting Wall Street to Cut the Grass"

from wapo.........

"Standing at the end of this quiet suburban cul-de-sac, Gene Minkel surveyed one tiny battleground in a nationwide fight that often pits local governments against Wall Street.

The veteran Hillsborough County code enforcement officer looked over 7501 Woodland Oaks Ct. and wished Bank of America would mow the waist-high weeds. Or patch the shattered windows. Or get rid of the wasps that have taken up residence.

The 1,300-square-foot home has sat largely vacant since falling into foreclosure more than two years ago, racking up $55,372 in code violations while the case lingers in court. A tattered sign out front informs visitors that BAC Field Services, a subsidiary of the megabank, “intends to protect this property from deterioration.”
“They’re doing a great job,” Minkel said sarcastically"..........PICTURES AND TEXT

'China's Local Governments Trillions in Debt'

cheap chinese products ............from english.ntdtv........

"In a time of severe global economic recession, China’s economy has grown to become the second largest in the world, by most measures. But China’s debt is also growing.

In a report to the National People’s Congress on Monday, China’s National Audit Office said that local government debt has swelled to 10.7 trillion yuan—that’s more than 1.6 trillion dollars. That’s equivalent to more than a quarter of the country's GDP.

The report confirms many analysts’ fears that China’s debt is much bigger than had been acknowledged. The Finance Ministry has put central government debt at 17% of the GDP. But that didn’t factor in debt from local governments.

Beijing-based research firm Dragonomics, however, did take into consideration Monday’s report from the Audit Office. They estimate the total government debt to be 82% of GDP.

Part of the problem: local government financing vehicles. These are entities created and backed by local governments in order to get around legal restrictions on borrowing. Monday’s report revealed that, for 177 city- and county-level governments, their financing vehicles owe more than the local governments generate in a year.

This puts banks in a loan crisis—because many loans are at risk of going bad. So the question is: can local governments pay the money back?

For Chinese leaders, there is no quick fix to the debt issue. But it’s another looming problem that could be compounded if economic growth slows down"..............LINK

'Bank of America Will Make Amends for Destroying Economy by Paying Billions to Other Banks'


"Bank of America feels just awful about it's role in packaging and selling a bunch of junk mortgages and inflating the economy with bad debt until the bottom fell out and more than 5 million people lost their jobs and more than 2.5 million went on food stamps, except for BofA's executives, who still got paid. So it's decided to pay $14 billion to BlackRock, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and a bunch of other extremely wealthy institutions to make up for it. Are we square?

BofA is setting aside $14 billion to settle claims that Countrywide Financial, the mortgage giant that it bought in 2008, lied about the value of billions of dollars worth of subprime mortgages it sold prior to the real estate meltdown. 
 At least $8.5 billion of that will go to BlackRock—an asset management firm with a $3.6 trillion portfolio—the Bank of New York, PIMCO, and other huge institutional investors.

The rest will go to families who were forced into foreclosure after they lost their jobs as a result of the crisis sparked in part by Countrywide's negligence. Just kidding! The rest will go to other really wealthy investors"...............LINK

Somalia: 'United States Using Drones to Attack Al-Shabaab'

from allafrica.........

"The United States is using its pilotless drone aircraft to launch military attacks on leaders of the Somali militant group, Al Shabaab, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
The Post quoted an unidentified U.S. official as saying a drone fired on two Al Shabaab leaders last week, apparently wounding them.

The official was reported to have said of Al Shabaab: "They have become somewhat emboldened of late, and, as a result, we have become more focused on inhibiting their activities... They were planning operations outside of Somalia.”

The Post said Somalia joins Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq and Yemen as the subject of lethal attacks from drones.

In remarks made in Washington on Wednesday, President Barack Obama's assistant in charge of counter-terrorism, John O. Brennan, identified Somalia as a country which hosted "affiliates and adherents" of Al Qaeda".........READ MORE

'The Business of America is War'


"Noted trends analyst Gerald Celente said it, and it's true. In fact, America's business is war, more war, multiple wars, permanent wars, pillaging one nation after another for wealth, power, and dominance, while homeland needs go begging. 

America never was and isn't now the "land of the free and home of the brave." In fact, it's become a "Let 'em eat cake" society.

Whether or not Marie Antoinette actually said it, France's 1789-99 revolution was very real, delivering guillotine justice, not promised "Liberte, Egalite, and Fraternite," a status now destroying what's left of American freedom, heading for the trash bin of history if not already there.

Earlier articles discussed Washington's wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen, as well as numerous proxy ones in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and at home against Muslims, Latino immigrants, and working households.

Combined, they represent a shocking contempt for rule of law justice, democratic values and humanity, notions now mere artifacts long ago abandoned to advance America's imperium.

As previous articles explained, out-of-control imperialism is heading America for tyranny and ruin. In her 1951 book, "The Origins of Totalitarianism," Hannah Arendt said it's "never content to rule by external means, namely, through the state and a machinery of violence; thanks to its peculiar ideology and the role assigned to it in this apparatus of coercion, totalitarianism has discovered a means of dominating and terrorizing human beings from within".................READ MORE 

'Panetta must fight four wars: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, waste'

lets add yemen, pakistan, syria and the war on terror which makes EIGHT wars..........from

"It’s not just the wars; they represent less than 30 percent of the Pentagon’s enormous budget request. In the context of other government spending, the Pentagon is a behemoth. For every $100 of government discretionary spending, over $30 goes to non-war defense expenditures. The scope is overwhelming; the need for more than piecemeal cuts of failed systems is urgent.
Gates recently claimed that the Pentagon has already cut $300 billion, but the math suggests otherwise. That money came from programs already scheduled to be terminated. The savings were simply put into other military priorities. After noting that the Navy’s 11 carrier battle groups were excessive, Gates refused to eliminate a single one"...............READ MORE

Iran 'carrying out secret nuclear missile tests'

from the telegraph..........

"The claim comes as the Iranian regime mounts a visible show of its military technology with 10 days of missile tests. One tested this week was capable of reaching Israel or the Gulf states.
Mr Hague told the Commons that Iran "has been carrying out covert ballistic missile tests and rocket launches, including testing missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload".
Those tests were in clear contravention of United Nations Security Council resolutions forbidding Iran from developing a military nuclear programme, he said. British officials said that the nuclear tests took place separately from the current, publicly declared tests.
Britain believes that since last October, Iranian forces have carried out three secret tests of missiles that could be used to carry nuclear material"..............READ MORE

'Riyadh will build nuclear weapons if Iran gets them, Saudi prince warns'

From the telegraph.........

"A senior Saudi Arabian diplomat and member of the ruling royal family has raised the spectre of nuclear conflict in the Middle East if Iran comes close to developing a nuclear weapon.
Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington, warned senior Nato military officials that the existence of such a device "would compel Saudi Arabia … to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences".
He did not state explicitly what these policies would be, but a senior official in Riyadh who is close to the prince said yesterday his message was clear".........READ MORE

'Iran says U.S. exploits Syria uprising to save Israel'

from reuters....

"The United States and its allies are exploiting popular protests in Syria to try to break an alliance between Damascus and Tehran against Israel, a senior Iranian official said on Wednesday.

Iran is watching the unrest in neighboring Syria with alarm and rejects western allegations it is helping its closest ally in the Middle East to crush a three-month popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule.
Ramin Mehmanparast, a special advisor to Iran's Foreign Minister, said the alliance between Iran and Syria constituted a threat not only to Israel, but also to the West's interests in the Middle East.
"The West could not stop regional uprisings ... America lost a close ally in the region with the overthrow of (Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak," Mehmanparast said"............READ MORE

'IMF Wants US Debt Ceiling Raised Immediately'

from thenewamerican..........

"The June 20th report of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the United States strongly recommended that the debt ceiling be raised because “if the debt ceiling is not raised soon…[it] would have significant global repercussions, given the central role of U. S. Treasury bonds in world markets. ” In announcing the report, John Lipsky (picture, left), acting managing director for the IMF, said:

We’re confident that the participants are well aware of the potential risks of a debt default in the U. S. and will avoid those dangers. It should be self-evident [that] a debt default by the U. S. government debt market would have very serious, far-reaching, dramatic repercussions and that’s why we’re confident that it will be avoided.
The IMF reort was full of other suggestions to assist the U.S. in regaining its financial footing, including
1. Don’t cut spending too much — it might impede the economic recovery
2. Keep interest rates low for a long time
3. Keep an eye on inflation
4. Keep stimulating the housing market, it’ll eventually come back
5. Enforce “cramdowns” by banks holding mortgages in order to clear the market more quickly
6. Fully implement the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, with full funding to complete the bill’s potential to regulate further the financial markets
7. Allocate more money for federal job training.
8. Consolidate the government’s present 50 different job programs into a single program
9. Institute a national sales tax, or value-added-tax (VAT)".....................READ MORE

........and from the daily bell
As noted by The Daily Bell:
The IMF and the World Bank work hand in hand. The World Bank loans money to corrupt governments that loot or squander the funds and then the IMF comes in and insists on an “austerity program” of higher taxes and lower government spending to insure the loans are paid back.
The IMF has gotten a bad reputation with developing countries because its solutions often eviscerate the middle class while the privatizations end up involving fire-sales bid out to Anglo-American corporations.
With friends like the IMF looking over the shoulder of the American government, no one needs enemies. The suggestions made by the IMF in its latest interference into American sovereignty promotes more, larger, more intrusive, and more expensive government. It’s long past time to ignore them altogether.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

'A People's History of American Empire by Howard Zinn'

'Boeing Stealing from Taxpayers, charged War Department $644.75 for a gear that sells for $12.51'

the country is corrupt to the core..........from wallstcheatsheet.........

"According to a recently released Department of Defense report,Boeing (NYSE:BA) overcharged the U.S. Army by $13 million dollars for 18 parts, the bill for which came to $23 million as opposed to a fair sale price of $10 million. While it’s only recently become public, the report is dated May 3, and at the time of its issue, Boeing had already repaid $1.3 billion in what the aircraft manufacturing called “defectively priced parts”. In one instance, Boeing charged $644.75 for a gear that sells for $12.51. Boeing also charged the Army by tens of thousands of percents over fair sale values on parts the DoD already had in surplus, like 4 cent thin metal pin for which Boeing charged $71.01''..............

This news brings into focus not just bookkeeping issues inside one of the world’s top two aircraft manufacturers, but also ethical issues at both Boeing and the Department of Defense, which spent exorbitant amounts of taxpayer money on products it didn’t need. The report also found that the government could fulfill $200 million worth of orders it had made with Boeing with inventory it already had in storage. Though technically the Pentagon has no policy that requires the Army exhaust surplus inventory before making new purchases, it seems especially cavalier and wasteful to spend unnecessarily when the government is is in the midst of a budget crisis.
DoD’s 2010 audit also found that the Air Force spent $70 million on parts from outside contractors that they already had in their inventory. And it’s apparently common practice for Boeing to negotiate lower prices on parts from its suppliers only after it has signed contracts with the Army, but before supplying them with the discounted parts. Boeing then pockets those savings to increase its own profit share rather than passing them on to the Army in the form of lower prices".............READ MORE

'Ron Paul: US Should Declare Bankruptcy'

from news max....

"Presidential candidate Ron Paul believes the answer to the U.S. financial crisis is simple – the country should just walk away from its debt and declare itself bankrupt.

And if the Obama administration is unwilling to take that drastic step, it should disband the Federal Reserve, so it doesn’t have to pay back $1.6 trillion it owes it, The Republican presidential hopeful said.

Paul made the comments during a radio interview in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday, the day Obama met GOP and Democratic Senate leaders in a bid to find common ground on the ceiling.

Paul told WHO radio’s Jan Mickelson that bankruptcy would be the ideal answer to the debt crisis facing Greece.

Mickelson followed up by asking the Texan Representative "Are you predicting, in essence, if bankruptcy is the cure for Greece, is it also the cure for the United States?”................READ MORE

"Absolutely," Paul responded.

'Water wars: 21st century conflicts?'

from aljazeera........

"As almost half of humanity will face water scarcity by 2030, strategists from Israel to Central Asia prepare for strife"

"After droughts ravaged his parents' farmland, Sixteen-year-old Hassain and his two-year-old sister Sareye became some of the newest refugees forced from home by war scarcity.

"There was nothing to harvest," Hassain said through an interpreter during an interview at a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya which is housing some 160,000 Somalis displaced by a lack of water. "There had been no rain in my village for two years. We used to have crops." 

As global warming alters weather patterns, and the number of people lacking access to water rises, millions, if not billions, of others are expected to face a similar fate as water shortages become more frequent.

Presently, Hassain is one of about 1.2 billion people living in areas of physical water scarcity, although the majority of cases are nowhere near as dire. By 2030, 47 per cent of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Environmental Outlook to 2030 report.

Some analysts worry that wars of the future will be fought over blue gold, as thirsty people, opportunistic politicians and powerful corporations battle for dwindling resources"...........READ MORE 

'Whither Afghanistan after 2014?'

the view from russia........from the voice of russia.....

"While the deadline for American and other foreign troop’s withdrawal from Afghanistan is slowly but inevitably approaching, too many questions are arising concerning the future of Afghanistan after 2014.

Tuesday’s terrorist attack on Kabul’s heavily guarded landmark Intercontinental Hotel was an obvious demonstration of force by the Taliban. The Taliban wanted to show, first, that despite the massive foreign military presence, Hamid Karzai’s government is unable to control even the capital of the country, and second, that any future configuration of power in Afghanistan is doomed if the Taliban is excluded from it.

Therefore, despite the outrage in the West following the bloody terrorist attack, the talks with the Taliban that are already going on are sure to continue.

What is not so clear is the fate of the present Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The longer any solution is not reached, the vaguer his fate seems to become. Just recently, he had to face a kind of a rebellion within his own parliament which had been carefully selected and elected under strict control"..........................READ MORE

US Senate votes to continue to Bail Out Insolvent Countries With Taxpayer Money.........

endless bailouts and endless wars.........thats our country.............from the hill.........

"The Senate on Wednesday defeated an amendment in a 44-55 vote that would have prevented the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from using $108 billion in U.S. monies to bail out foreign nations. 
The author of the amendment, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), said he is concerned that the IMF is using U.S. funds to rescue irresponsible nations and banks. He said the U.S. can no longer afford to offer such aid. 
"There is no excuse for us giving away money around the world when we cannot even keep our promises here in America today, promises we have made to our seniors, promises we have made to our veterans," said DeMint"..........READ MORE 

'North Korea shuts down universities for 10 months'

maybe kim jong il is prepping for war?............from the telegraph.......

"Pyongyang has told the North Korean people that the nation will have achieved its aim of becoming "a great, prosperous and powerful nation" in 2012, which marks the 100th anniversary of the founder of the reclusive state, Kim Il-sung.
In addition, Kim Jong-il will turn 70 in February and the "Dear Leader" hopes to be able to transfer his power and an economically stronger nation to his son and heir-apparent, Kim Jong-Un.
Reports in South Korea indicated that the government in Pyongyang on Monday ordered all universities to cancel classes until April of next year. The only exemptions are for students who will be graduating in the next few months and foreign students.
The reports suggested that the students will be put to work on construction projects in major cities while there are also indications that repair work may be needed in agricultural regions that were affected by a major typhoon recently".............READ MORE

Book Review: "Postmodern Imperialism"

from aljazeerah.........

"With roots in the European enlightenment, shaped by Christian and Jewish cultures, and given economic rationale by industrial capitalism, the inter-imperialist competition turned the entire world into a conflict zone, leaving no territory neutral.

The first “game” was brought to a close by the cataclysm of World War I. But that did not mark the end of it. Walberg resurrects the forbidden “i” word to scrutinize an imperialism now in denial, but following the same logic and with equally horrendous human costs. What he terms Great Game II then began, with America eventually uniting its former imperial rivals in an even more deadly game to destroy their common revolutionary antagonist and potential nemesis—communism. Having “won” this game, America and the new player Israel—offspring of the early games—have sought to entrench what Walberg terms “empire and a half” on a now global playing field—using a neoliberal agenda backed by shock and awe.

With swift, sure strokes, Walberg paints the struggle between domination and resistance on a global canvas, as imperialism engages its two great challengers—communism and Islam, its secular and religious antidotes".......................READ MORE

Pepe Escobar: 'What's really at stake in Libya'

syria, lebanon anf then iran................from asia times online..........

................"Moreover, billions of dollars of Libyan assets have already been - illegally - seized by the US and the European Union. And part of the national oil production is being commercialized by Qatar

This mongrel NATO war now has absolutely nothing to do with R2P (Responsibility to Protect) - the new gospel of humanitarian hawks that has turned international law on its head. Civilians are not being protected but bombed in Tripoli. There's a refugee crisis - a direct consequence of this civil war. Against repeated pleading by Turkey and the AU, the humanitarian hawks didn't even bother to organize a humanitarian corridor towards Tunisia and Egypt. 

The Arab League is pro-Benghazi. In fact a fake Arab League vote (only nine out of 22 countries, six of them part of the Gulf Counter-Revolution Club, also known as GCC), manipulated by Saudi Arabia, allowed the Arab endorsement of what became UN resolution 1973; in fact this was a trade-off for the House of Saud having its hands free to repress pro-democracy protests in Bahrain, as Asia Times Online has reported (see Exposed: The US/Saudi deal, Asia Times Online, April 2). 

Expect the US/NATO consortium to fight to the death. For obvious reasons - all linked to the Pentagon's eternal, irremovable full-spectrum dominance doctrine plus a crucial subplot, NATO's new strategic concept adopted in Lisbon in November 2010 (seeWelcome to NATOstan Asia Times Online, November 20, 2010).

NATO's definition of "winning" implies Benghazi as the new Camp Bondsteel - the largest US military base in Europe, which happens to double as an "independent" state under the name of Kosovo. Cyrenaica is the new Kosovo. Balkanization rules.

This is a sort of dream scenario for the compound NATO/Africom. Africom gets its much-wanted African base (the current headquarters is in Stuttgart, Germany) after participating in its first African war. NATO extends its crucial agenda of ruling over the Mediterranean as a NATO lake. After Northern Africa there will be only two Mediterranean non-players to "take out": Syria and Lebanon. The name of this game is not Libya; it's Long War"...............READ MORE 

'Price of U.S. wars: $4.4 trillion?'

this country is run by war mongers and sociopaths............from politico.........

"The final bill for U.S. military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan could be as high as $4.4 trillion, according to a comprehensive new report Tuesday.

In the 10 years since American troops were sent into Afghanistan, the federal government has already spent between $2.3 trillion and $2.7 trillion, say the authors of the study by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.

The report calculates not only direct spending on the conflicts but also the long-term costs of caring for wounded veterans and projected war spending from 2012 to 2020.

At a minimum, say the authors of the study, the final cost for these military engagements will be $3.7 trillion. But the report also points out that their estimates do not include at least $1 trillion more in interest payments and other costs that cannot yet be quantified. Indeed, the report criticized the U.S. Congress and the Pentagon for poor accounting"..............READ MORE

'Banker Occupation of Greece'

from op-ed news........

"Economist Michael Hudson calls it "Replacing Economic Democracy with Financial Oligarchy" in a June 5 article by that title, saying:

After being debt entrapped, or perhaps acquiescing to entrapment, the Papandreou government needs bailout help to pay bankers that entrapped them. Doing so, however, requires "initiat(ing) a class war by raising its taxes (harming working households most), lowering its standard of living - and even private-sector pensions - and sell off public land, tourist sites, islands, ports, water and sewer facilities" - in fact, all the country's crown jewels, lock, stock and barrel, strip-mining it of everything of worth at fire sale prices.

Why? Because the US-dominated IMF, EU and European Central Bank (ECB), the so-called "Troika," demand it as the price for bailout help that wouldn't be needed if Greece wasn't trapped in the euro straightjacket. Membership means foregoing the right to devalue its currency to make exports more competitive, maintain sovereignty over its money to monetize its debt freely, and be able to legislate fiscal policies to stimulate growth.

Instead they're entrapped by foreign banker diktats demanding tribute. They call it a "rescue." In May 2010, the Papandreou government agreed to earlier austerity in return for loans. Now they're at it again, demanding more or they'll collapse the entire economy, or so they say. And the same scheme is replicated in Ireland and Portugal. Moreover, it's heading for Spain, and potentially most of Europe and America as representative governments head closer to "financial oligarchy"...........................READ MORE 

''In Washington, war always wins'

from politico........

"There are age-old truths in Washington that transcend the passage of time, the predictability of politics and even the churning of White House administrations.

These constants define Capitol Hill debates and White House policies whether the city is run by Democrats or Republicans. These bitter truths also help explain why America continues slouching toward an economic cliff and a catastrophic fall.
The first of these truths is that Washington always wins. Always.
The federal government always gets bigger. The federal workforce always grows. And the federal budget always expands. Ronald Reagan’s $1 trillion debt became Bill Clinton’s $5 trillion debt, which became George W. Bush’s $10 trillion debt, and that is becoming Barack Obama’s $20 trillion debt.
The second time-tested truth of Washington is that policymakers skew the rules to ensure Wall Street always wins.
In the 1990s, we heard panicked appeals for bipartisanship from Clinton and Newt Gingrich for the 1995 Mexican bailout plan. We learned later that the bipartisan effort was actually a bailout of former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin’s Goldman Sachs. Today, Wall Street stands stronger than ever, three years after bringing America to the brink of financial collapse.
Then, as now, Washington made sure its allies’ profits were privatized while political contributors’ losses were covered by the state.
The third ugly truth is that the city’s political gears are always greased for war. The most recent Republican administration showed an unnerving propensity for war, and the current Democratic White House has expanded troop levels, increased the Pentagon budget and made larger the percentage of the U.S. economy being spent on weapons systems and hot wars"...........READ MORE

'Book Review: The Next Decade'

from gurufocus.........

"In the opening chapters, Friedman discusses America’s place in the world and struggles with some of the questions that perplex thinkers on both the left and the right. Is the United States a republic—or an empire? And if it is an empire, how should its massive power and influence be used? And in such a system, what are the respective roles of the American president, congress, and international institutions like the United Nations and NATO?

In addressing these issues, some of Friedman’s conclusions may prove to be unsettling to some readers. Friedman writes:

I invite readers to consider two themes. The first is the concept of theunintended empire. I argue that the United States has become an empire not because it intended to, but because history has worked out that way. The issue of whether the United States should be an empire is meaningless. It is an empire. 
The second theme, therefore, is about managing the empire, and for me the most important question behind that is whether the republic can survive. The United States was founded against British imperialism. It is ironic, and in many ways appalling, that what the founders gave us now faces this dilemma. There might have been exits from this fate, but these exits were not likely. Nations become what they are through the constraints of history, and history has very little sentimentality when it comes to ideology or preferences. We are what we are.
The theme of this book…is that justice comes from power, and power is only possible from a degree of ruthlessness most of us can’t abide".............READ MORE

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

OP-ED: 'The Deficit Is Worse Than We Think'

from wsj.........

"Normal interest rates would raise debt-service costs by $4.9 trillion over 10 years, dwarfing the savings from any currently contemplated budget deal"

"Washington is struggling to make a deal that will couple an increase in the debt ceiling with a long-term reduction in spending. There is no reason for the players to make their task seem even more Herculean than it already is. But we should be prepared for upward revisions in official deficit projections in the years ahead—even if a deal is struck. There are at least three major reasons for concern.
First, a normalization of interest rates would upend any budgetary deal if and when one should occur. At present, the average cost of Treasury borrowing is 2.5%. The average over the last two decades was 5.7%. Should we ramp up to the higher number, annual interest expenses would be roughly $420 billion higher in 2014 and $700 billion higher in 2020.
The 10-year rise in interest expense would be $4.9 trillion higher under "normalized" rates than under the current cost of borrowing. Compare that to the $2 trillion estimate of what the current talks about long-term deficit reduction may produce, and it becomes obvious that the gains from the current deficit-reduction efforts could be wiped out by normalization in the bond market"...........READ MORE

'South Korea braced for North Korean 'provocation' as tension mounts'

from the guardian.........

"What makes the current situation so fraught with danger – some say the most perilous moment on the Korean peninsula for a generation – is South Korea's hardline stance. The government of President Lee Myung-bak, facing elections next year and criticism for its cautious response to the previous two incidents, is threatening to unleash a far more punishing response to any further "provocation", setting the scene for an unpredictable tit-for-tat escalation.

South Korean islands along the western maritime border, the scene of the two earlier incidents, are bristling with new weapons. Government officials in Seoul confirmed that those new defences will include Israeli-made Delilah missiles, with a range of 150 miles – enough to hit Pyongyang.

"We are now in the most dangerous moment in Korean history over the last 25 years," said Andrei Lankov, a Russian professor at Seoul's Kookmin University. "South Korea has already committed itself to a strong reaction to a future North Korean provocation so many times and so loudly that if they don't do it they will lose elections and be shamed.
"So they will probably react. North Korea is not getting what they want [diplomatically] so they will probably use their usual trick of rising escalation. My advice to war history fans is you should think of buying a map of the Korean peninsula"...............READ MORE

'North Korea recruits hackers at school'

from aljazeera........
"As South Korea blames North Korea for a recent slew of cyberattacks, two defectors share their experiences with Al Jazeera, shedding some light into the inner workings of the cyberwarfare programme in the communist country.

Kim Heung-kwang, a trainer of "cyberwarriors", and hacker Jang Se-yul also warn of the regime's concentrated efforts to bolster its cyberwarfare capabilities.

The hackers' professor

Kim Heung-kwang was a computer science professor in North Korea. Kim graduated from the Kim Chaek University of Technology in Pyongyang, where he majored in data processing. He pursued graduate studies at Hamhung Computer College where he studied operating systems, hardware technology and network theory - before going on to spend 19 years teaching students-turned-recruits for the North Korean regime's cyberwarfare units at Hamheung Computer College and Hamheung Communist College.

Kim was also in charge of monitoring contraband South Korean television dramas and foreign books and managing other classified materials, until he was caught renting some of the seized loot to a friend. He escaped North Korea in 2003 via China, and since 2004 has settled in Seoul as the head of a defectors' group named North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity"................READ MORE

'Britain threatens force over Falklands'


"Britain is willing to use force to defend its right to the Falkland Islands no matter how robust the rhetoric from Buenos Aires, Liam Fox said today.

The British defence secretary was asked to comment on quotes from Argentine president Cristina Fernandez Kerchner, in which she branded Britain "a crass colonial power in decline".
Taking questions after his speech to the Reform thinktank, Mr Fox said: "Those in politics on the other side of the world can huff and puff but it will not change our resolve politically to retain the independence and the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands nor to come to their defence and to maintain deterrence as best we can.
"We have Typhoons already stationed there. We have a very clear message that we have both the naval power if necessary, and certainly an intent to ensure that the Falkland Islands are kept free and their people enjoy the liberation we fought so hard for 30 years ago."
The comments come as the issue of the Falklands, known as the Malvinas in Argentina, continues to boil away on the international stage"..............READ MORE

New Mexico: 'Wildfire swells near nuclear laboratory'

from chron.......

"A vicious wildfire spread through the mountains above a northern New Mexico town on Tuesday, driving thousands of people from their homes as officials at a government nuclear laboratory tried to dispel concerns about the safety of sensitive materials.

The wildfire — which has swelled to about 93 square miles — sparked a spot fire at the Los Alamos National Laboratory on Monday. The fire was quickly contained, and lab officials said no contamination was released and radioactive materials stored at spots on the sprawling lab were safe.

No fires burned on lab property overnight, but teams from the National Nuclear Security Administration's Radiological Assistance Program were headed to the scene to help assess any nuclear or radiological hazards, said Kevin Smith, Los Alamos Site Office manager.

"The ... teams' work will provide another level of assurance that the community is safe from potential radiological releases as the fire progresses," Smith said in a statement.

The lab will be closed through at least Wednesday, with only essential employees permitted back onto laboratory property.

The wildfire has destroyed 30 structures south and west of Los Alamos, for many stirring memories of a devastating blaze in May 2000 that destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings in town. About 12,500 residents have been evacuated from Los Alamos, an orderly exit that didn't even cause a traffic accident.

Flames were just across the road from the southern edge of the famed lab, where scientists developed the first atomic bomb during World War II. The facility cut natural gas to some areas as a precaution"..........READ MORE

'Berlusconi faces battle to pass austerity plan'

from reuters.......

"Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was meeting coalition allies on Tuesday to push through an unpopular 40 billion euro ($56.7 billion) austerity plan, his biggest test since suffering two major political defeats.

The budget, seen by economists as vital to avoid contagion from Greece's debt crisis, has heightened tension within Berlusconi's fragile centre-right coalition, with his Northern League allies demanding tax cuts to increase public support.

Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti, widely credited with protecting Italy from the global economic crisis, is steadfastly resisting League pressure to dilute deficit-cutting proposals."..............READ MORE