Monday, June 2, 2008

The Remorseless Algebra of a Deflationary Death Spiral

The Remorseless Algebra of a Deflationary Death Spiral

By Mike Whitney

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Look around. The evidence of a withering economy is everywhere. In "good times" consumers shun the canned meat aisle altogether, but no more. Today, Spam sales are soaring; grocery stores can't keep it on the shelves. Everyone is looking for cheaper ways to feed their families. The Labor Dept. assures us that core-inflation is only 4 per cent, but everybody knows it's load of malarkey. Food prices are going through the roof. White bread is up 13 percent, bacon is up 7 percent and peanut butter is up 9 percent. Inflation is rampant and there's no end in sight. The dollar is closing in on the peso and working people are struggling just to get by. The bottom line is that more and more people in "the richest country on earth" are now surviving on processed pig-meat. That says it all.

In Santa Barbara parking lots are being converted into hostels so that families that lost their homes in the subprime fiasco can sleep in their cars and not be hassled by the cops. The same is true in LA where tent cities have sprung up around the railroad yards to accommodate the growing number of people who've lost their jobs or can't afford to rent a room on service-industry wages. It's tragic. Everywhere people are feeling the pinch; that's why 9 out of 10 Americans now believe the country is now headed in the wrong direction and that's why consumer confidence is at its lowest ebb since the Great Depression. This is the great triumph of Reagan's free trade "trickle down" Voodoo economics; whole families living out of their cars waiting for the pawn shop to open.

The economy is on life-support. The rest of the world would be doing us all a favor if they decided to chuck the dollar and boycott US financial products altogether. That would put an end to Wall Street's chicanery once and for all. Foreign investors should be demanding restitution and impounding American assets to compensate for the trillions of dollars they lost in the subprime/securitization swindle. Litigate, litigate, litigate; that's the only way to make the guilty parties pay for their crimes. Either that or set up a gallows on Wall Street and get down to business.

The pundits on the business channel are telling us that the "worst is over"; that the Force 5 hurricane in the financial markets has weakened to a squall. Don't believe it. The corporate bond market is still frozen, housing is in free fall, and the banking system is buckling from the overload of bad investments. The FDIC is even trying to lure former employees out of retirement to deal with the tsunami of bank failures set to touch down later in 2008. Corporate defaults are on the rise and and commercial real estate is crashing.

"Commercial property prices in the US in February saw their sharpest decline since records began nearly 15 years ago as sources of finance for deals has dried up, according to data from Standard & Poor's out yesterday. Sales of commercial properties were down 71 per cent in the first quarter compared with a year earlier." (Financial Times) Commercial real estate is following the same downward trajectory as residential housing. They're both headed for the bottom of the fish-tank. Any slump in CRE will send unemployment skyrocketing while adding to the solvency problems facing the banks.

We're not out of the woods by a long shot, and won't be for years to come. According to Bloomberg News, soaring raw material costs have caused a sharp rise in costs to producers that they won't be able to pass on to cash-strapped consumers. That means that corporate profits will fall and stock values will plunge.

Last week, Oppenheimer analyst Meredith Whitney announced that:

"The real harrowing days of the credit crisis are still ahead of us and will prove more widespread in effect than anything yet seen. Just as strained liquidity pushed so many small and mid-sized specialty finance companies to the brink, we believe it will do the same to the US consumer. We believe losses will only accelerate further and far worse than the most draconian estimates."

Whitney has been one of the few consistently accurate analysts of the current market meltdown.

The fate of the larger investment banks is just as uncertain as the smaller "depository" banks. Carlyle Group Chairman David Rubenstein summed it up like this last week, "US and European banks and financial institutions have enormous losses from from bad loans they haven't yet recognized and may have a harder time wooing sovereign fund rescuers. Based on information I see, it will take at least a year before all losses are realized, and some financial institutions may fail. Many financial institutions aren't going to be able to survive as independent institutions."

That means there will be greater consolidation and more formidable banking monopolies, all of which is bad for the consumer.

The banks and financial institutions have never been in worse shape. They've already written down $344 billion since the credit crisis began last August and they'll write down another $200 billion next year. By the time the crisis is over, they will have racked up an estimated $1 trillion in losses. That represents a $3 trillion contraction in loans to consumers and businesses. Also, these estimates don't take into account the losses of revenue from the slowdown in consumer spending, shrinking GDP, and massive business failures; all of which will wreak further havoc on the financial sector.

The amount of stress on the banking system is unprecedented. The Fed is loaning out money hand-over-fist just to keep the scaffolding in place. Take a look at what is going on at the Fed's so-called "auction facilities" where the Fed is providing loans and US Treasuries for "unsellable" mortgage-backed junk and other toxic bonds. The numbers are staggering.

According to the Seattle Times:

"The Federal Reserve's emergency loans to banks climbed to the highest level on record even as Wall Street investment companies scaled back their borrowing....Banks stepped up their borrowing, according to the Fed report. They averaged $15.95 billion in daily borrowing for the week ending May 28, compared with $13.5 billion for the previous week, and the total was a record. The previous high of $14.4 billion came in the week ending May 14...In the broadest use of the central bank's lending power since the 1930s, the Fed in March scrambled to avert a market meltdown by giving investment houses a place to go for emergency overnight loans....The Fed also announced Thursday it will make a fresh batch of short-term cash loans available to banks as part of an effort to ease stressed credit markets...The Fed said it will conduct three auctions in June; each will offer $75 billion in short-term cash loans. It would mark the latest round in a program that the Fed launched in December to help banks overcome credit problems so they will keep lending to customers." ("Banks step up Fed loans, investment firms scale back", Seattle Times)

Another $225 billion?!?

The Fed is trashing its balance sheet--to the tune of $225 billion--when the money could be used to provide free college tuition and universal health care. What a waste. Instead, the money is being used to throw a lifeline to dodgy speculators would were trying to snooker foreign investors with garbage securities. At the same time, the Fed's emergency facilities have done nothing to restore trust between the individual banks who are more reluctant to lend to each other than ever. The ongoing scandal surrounding Libor (the interest rate that banks charge each other and which determines the rates on $3 trillion of financial products including mortgages) strongly suggests that the banks are lying about the true rate they are paying so the public doesn't find out how battered they really are.

Bloomberg News: "Banks routinely misstated borrowing costs to the British Bankers' Association to avoid the perception they faced difficulty raising funds as credit markets seized up."

Consumer spending is sluggish too, since lending standards have tightened and home equity continues to vanish. Subprime problems have migrated from Wall Street to Main Street as credit trends appear to be getting worse. Consumers are maxed-out on their credit cards, student loans, mortgages and car loans. The lack of personal savings is not the result of a profligate lifestyle (as the right wing media likes to opine) but 30 years of stagnant wages and class warfare waged via big business and the federal tax code. None of the baby boomers are counting on Social Security to pay the bills when they retire but, still, that doesn't justify the money being ripped-off from their paychecks every week and slipped into the general fund where it is used to pave roads and purchase cluster-bombs. Social security is nothing but a flat tax for paupers. (The rich get a free-ride after the first $87,000 income) These are some of the factors that are bearing down on an American economy like a Daisy Cutter. 2009 is looking is looking more and more like a chapter out of Revelation.

An article is this week's The Economist summarizes the malaise in housing in particularly apocalyptic terms:

"America's house prices are falling even faster than during the Great Depression. As house prices in America continue their rapid descent, market-watchers are having to cast back ever further for gloomy comparisons. The latest S&P/Case-Shiller national house-price index, published this week, showed a slump of 14.1% in the year to the first quarter, the worst since the index began 20 years ago. Now Robert Shiller, an economist at Yale University and co-inventor of the index, has compiled a version that stretches back over a century. This shows that the latest fall in nominal prices is already much bigger than the 10.5% drop in 1932, the worst point of the Depression. And things are even worse than they look. In the deflationary 1930s house prices declined less in real terms. Today inflation is running at a brisk pace, so property prices have fallen by a staggering 18% in real terms over the past year." ("The Economist")

The country is undergoing a collapsing real estate market that surpasses the Great Depression and former Fed-chief Alan Greenspan's book is still on the New York Times Best Seller list. How's that for irony?

Regrettably, there's no sign of a bottom yet in housing. Some markets have already dropped by 30% costing the states (like California and Florida) billions in tax revenue and triggering a steep increase in foreclosures. In California, sales are not only down by roughly 50 per cent, but 40 per cent of new sales are sales of foreclosed homes. The pool of potential buyers has dried up. Now the vultures are circling and picking up homes for $.50 on the dollar. The losses are enormous. If the downward trend continues, (as many now expect) and housing prices drop 30 per cent nationwide; the market will shed $6.5 trillion in aggregate value and lower household spending by $300 billion. That means GDP will shrink at least another full percentage point.

The crisis in the financial markets won't be resolved until housing prices stabilize, that's why the Fed and Congress are scrambling to put together a plan (Hope Now) that will slow the rate of foreclosures. Trillions of dollars in complex bonds and mortgage-backed securities will continue to be downgraded until investors see that it is safe to "dip their toes in the water" again and reinvest in a (currently) moribund market. So far, Congress has made little headway in keeping homeowners from defaulting on their mortgages. Credit Suisse predicts that foreclosures will be somewhere north of 6.5 million homeowners over the next few years. It is the equivalent of Hurricane Katrina sweeping from one side of the country to the other.

The next administration---whether it's McCain or Obama---will be forced to restore the Resolution Trust Corp., which was created in 1989 to dispose of assets of insolvent savings and loan banks. The RTC would create a government-owned management company that would buy distressed MBS from banks and liquidate them via auction. The state would pay less than full-value for the bonds (The Fed currently pays 85 per cent face-value on MBS) and then take a loss on their liquidation. "According to Joseph Stiglitz in his book, Towards a New Paradigm in Monetary Economics, the real reason behind the need of this company was to allow the US government to subsidize the banking sector in a way that wasn't very transparent and therefore avoid the possible resistance."

There it is; a taxpayer-funded bailout of Biblical proportions looming on the horizon, possibly as soon as 2009. Ultimately, it is the only sure-fire way to stabilize the crumbling banking system and put a floor under housing prices. The effects on the dollar, however, will be catastrophic. Don't expect the greenback to survive as the world's "reserve currency". Those days are about over.

The troubles in the financial markets will be with us for some time. The massive expansion of credit has created numerous equity bubbles that are unwinding at an unpredictable pace. Author James Howard Kunstler calls the present process "the remorseless algebra of a deflationary death spiral". That's about as close to a perfect description as imaginable. There's bound to be considerable disagreement about the origins of the bubble and who is to blame. Was it the Fed's "low interest " policy following the bust in 2000, or the lack of government regulation in the securitzation process, or was it just the natural corollary of a political system which invariably bows and scrapes to Wall Street?

The real origin of the problem is ideological. It's rooted in the prevailing "trickle down" orthodoxy which opposes any increases in wages or benefits for working people. Henry Ford realized what today's captains of industry and finance refuse to accept; that if workers aren't adequately paid for their labor---and wages do not keep pace with production---then the economy cannot grow because consumers do not have the money to buy the things they make. It's just that simple. Greenspan and his ilk believed that they could prosecute the class war and make up the difference by relaxing lending standards, changing bankruptcy laws, and by creating a nearly endless array of exotic financial products that expanded credit. But shifting wealth from one class to another has its costs. By crushing the worker the Friedmanites have killed the golden goose. The world's most prosperous consumer society is in terminal distress and no amount of "free market" gibberish will keep it from crashing.

Tutu's Trip to Gaza Censored by the US Media

Tutu's Trip to Gaza Censored by the US Media

By Mike Whitney

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“There can be no justice, no peace, no stability, not for Israel, not for the Palestinians, without accountability for human rights violations." Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Why was Desmond Tutu's trip to Gaza censored by the US media?

When Nobel Laureate and world renowned peacemaker Desmond Tutu goes to Gaza to visit the site of an Israeli massacre; that's news, right? So why is it impossible to find any account of his trip in America's leading newspapers? Is it because any information that is incompatible with the territorial ambitions of the Israeli leadership is simply “disappeared” into the media-ether?

Archbishop Tutu was a leader in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. He is neaither a terrorist nor an anti-Semite. His work as a human rights activist spans 4 decades. Like former president Jimmy Carter he was shunned by the Israeli government and refused entry into Gaza.


Two days earlier author and university professor Norman Finkelstein was refused entry into Israel even though he's Jewish and had parents who survived the Holocaust. Isn't that enough to gain entry or must one accept the prevailing doctrine of the far-right extremists in the Olmert government who think that it's okay to deprive Palestinians of their rights whenever they see fit?

Bishop Tutu had to go through Eqypt to get to Beit Hanoun; the town where 18 members of the al-Athamna family--including 14 women and children--were killed by Israeli artillery fire in November 2006. Tutu said that hearing "from the survivors of the massacre" had left him in a "state of shock".

Christine Chinkin, professor of international law at the London School of Economics, told the UK Guardian that her preliminary assessment of the attack was that it was a breach of international law.

"Firing in a way that cannot distinguish between civilians and combatants is clearly a violation of international humanitarian law," she said. "I don't think that the idea of a technical mistake takes away from the initial responsibility of the action of firing where civilian casualties are clearly foreseeable ... it has to be foreseeable when you give yourself such a small margin that any error has the potential to lead to civilian casualties." (UK Guardian)

Chinkin is right, of course. It was a massacre and should be thoroughly investigated by the international community. The responsible parties need to be held accountable.

According to the UK Telegraph, “No soldiers were ever charged in connection with the incident. Israel blocked attempts by the UN's Human Rights Council to investigate the shelling, saying that members of the body were "biased".

So now the members of the UN's Human Rights Council can't be trusted either?!?

Tutu ended his three day mission by calling for an end to the blockade of food, medical supplies and economic assistance to the Gaza Strip and by condemning the “culture of impunity” in which one nation arbitrarily imprisons one and a half million civilians who are left to languish in abject poverty and hopelessness.

"We saw a forlorn, deserted, desolate and eerie place," Tutu said "The entire situation is abominable. We believe that ordinary Israeli citizens would not support this blockade, this siege, if they knew what it really meant to ordinary people like themselves."

Tutu is right. This is not the work of the Israeli public, which (according to a recent poll in the Jewish newspaper Ha'aretz) 65% want direct negotiations with Hamas. This is the work of fanatics at the top-rung of the political system who—much like the Bush administration---operate without any regard for the will their people and without any concern about the vast human suffering they are creating.

Tutu met with the Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday and told him that, while he was opposed to the Israeli occupation, he condemned the rocket fire by militants into Gaza.

"True security, peace, will not come from the barrel of a gun," he said. "It will come through negotiation; negotiation not with your friends, peace can come only when enemies sit down and talk. It happened in South Africa. It has happened more recently in Northern Ireland. It will happen here too."
(UK Guardian)

Tutu went to Gaza for peace and not one newspaper in the United States covered the story. Apparently, the "culture of impunity" extends to America's media as well as the Israeli leaders who killed the 18 Palestinians at Beit Hanoun.

How Cheney Outfoxed His Foes on Iran and EFPs

How Cheney Outfoxed His Foes on Iran and EFPs

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For many months, the propaganda line that explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) that could penetrate U.S. armoured vehicles were coming straight from Iran has been embraced publicly by the entire George W. Bush administration. But when that argument was proposed internally by military officials in January 2007, it was attacked by key administration officials as unsupported by the facts.

Vice President Dick Cheney was able to get around those objections and get his Iranian EFP line accepted only because of arrangements he and Bush made with Gen. David Petraeus before he took command of U.S. forces in Iraq.

The initial draft of the proposed military briefing on the issue of EFPs, which asserted flatly that EFPs were being manufactured and smuggled to Iraqi Shiite groups directly by the Iranian regime, was met with unanimous objection from the State Department, Defence Department and National Security Council staff, as administration officials themselves stated publicly.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley tried to push back against Cheney's proposed line because they recognised it as an effort to go well beyond the compromise policy toward Iran that had been worked out in December and early January. The compromise policy had been to focus on networks working on procuring EFPs within Iraq and not to target Iran as directly responsible.

At his regular press briefing on Jan. 24, 2007, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Department spokesman Sean McCormack revealed the primary basis for the State, Defence and NSC opposition to the Cheney line on EFPs.

Asked whether the U.S. government had any evidence that EFPs were manufactured in Iran, McCormack did not answer directly but said, "You don't necessarily have to construct something in Iran in order for it to be a threat to the U.S. or British troops from the Iranian regime. There are lots of different ways you can do that. You can bring the know-how. You can train other people in Iraq to do that."

McCormack thus revealed that the State Department wasn't buying the accusation that Iran was manufacturing EFPs and sending them to the Shiite forces of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army fighting against U.S. forces.

On Feb. 2, while briefing the news media on the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, Hadley asserted bluntly that the draft military briefing that had been circulated in Washington had not been based on evidence.

"The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing was overstated," said Hadley. "We sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts."

Hadley did not tell reporters which points in the draft briefing paper had not been based on the evidence, but the remarks by McCormack and Gates were clear indications that the briefing had made claims of Iranian manufacturing of weapons and smuggling them into Iraq that could not be supported.

Hadley further revealed that he, Gates and Rice had tried to use the imminence of a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq to force the issue of the briefing's exaggerated claims. The briefing, he said was "an attempt to...address some of the issues in the NIE in a briefing on intelligence of Iranian activity in Iraq. And we thought, hey, why are we doing this?"

He said he and his associates wanted a briefing that "we're confident everyone can stand behind". The national security adviser was implying that the proposed briefing was not supported by the NIE on Iraq, and that the drafters would therefore have to redraft it so that the intelligence community could support it.

Hadley didn't say who he meant by "we", but Gates told reporters the same day that he and Rice had joined Hadley in ensuring that the planned briefing "is dominated by facts".

The declassified version of the NIE's main conclusions indicated that it did not support the claim that Iran was exporting EFPs to the Mahdi Army. The only sentence that related to the issue was, "Iranian lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shia militants clearly intensifies the conflict in Iraq." But in the absence of any language alleging Iranian EFP manufacture and export to Iraq, that phrase appears to be a reference to training of Mahdi Army officers.

Hadley, Rice and Gates thus appeared to believe that the briefing would have to reflect the NIE, and that they would be able to review the revised version before it was presented to the press. On Feb. 9, State Department spokesman McCormack said, "[W]hen the working-level folks at the deputies level...produce a presentation that they are comfortable with, I am sure that they'll share it with Secretary Rice, Secretary Gates and Steve Hadley over at the NSC just for review."

But Cheney had a surprise for the opponents of his hard line on Iran. When White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was asked on Feb. 9 about when the briefing would be held, she replied, "Decisions on that are being made out in Baghdad."

That announcement came just as Gen. George W. Casey was to be replaced by Gen. Petraeus as the new commander. Petraeus had only arrived in Iraq the day before and the changeover ceremony came on Feb. 10.

The day after the ceremony, three military officers presented a briefing to the press which not only asserted that the EFPs could only have been manufactured in Iran but that Iran's Qods Force was behind the smuggling of those weapons into Iraq. They strongly suggested, moreover, that the Iranian government knew about the smuggling.

Cheney had used the compliant Petraeus to do an end-run around the national security bureaucracy. Petraeus had already reached agreement with the White House to take Cheney's line on the EFPs issue and to present the briefing immediately without consulting State or Defence.

State and Defence tried to counter this manoeuvre. McCormack argued, rather lamely, that the briefing had really been about "a threat to our troops from these devices and from the networks that supply them". And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, responded by saying that he could not "from his own knowledge" confirm the assertion that the Qods Force was providing bomb-making kits to Shiite insurgents.

The U.S. command in Baghdad temporarily backed away from the briefers' charge against Iran. The command spokesman, Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, who had been one of the three military briefers, was forced to tell reporters on Feb. 14 that the purpose of the briefing had been to talk only about the threat to U.S. troops, implying that briefers had gone beyond their brief in making statements about Iranian complicity.

But the hardline position on EFP was the one that dominated press coverage. Instead of the more cautious line focusing on the EFP networks inside Iraq, which was what State, Defence and NSC and agreed to in January, Cheney now had a potential casus belli against Iran.

And Cheney would continue to use his alliance with Petraeus to advance his proposal for an attack on Qods Force bases in Iran. The very first episode in the Cheney-Petraeus alliance sheds additional light on the nomination of Petraeus to become the new CENTCOM commander later this year.

Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in 2006.

Report: Blackwater buys Brazilian-made fighter plane

Report: Blackwater buys Brazilian-made fighter plane

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A subsidiary of U.S. military security contractor Blackwater Worldwide has purchased a fighter plane from the Brazilian aviation company Embraer, a Brazilian newspaper reported Sunday.

The 314-B1 Super Tucano propeller-driven fighter — the same used by the Brazilian military — was bought for $4.5 million and delivered to EP Aviation at the end of February, according to the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper.

The report included the plane's registration number with the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency, and the FAA website confirmed it is registered by EP Aviation.

It was not clear if it was Embraer's first sale of a military-style aircraft to a private company. EP Aviation has 33 planes and helicopters registered with the FAA, according to the agency's website, only one of which is from Embraer.

Officials with Brazil's government and Embraer declined to comment on the Estado report. Phone calls to Blackwater were not returned.

The sale was apparently approved, the Estado report noted, by Brazil's president in a deal negotiated with the U.S. government.

Brazilian law prohibits the sale of arms to companies or for use in existing conflicts.

The newspaper reported that Blackwater president Gary Jackson said the plane would be used for training.

The plane sold to EP Aviation did not include the two .50-caliber machine guns normally attached to the wings.

Blackwater, the largest private security company in the world, has been under scrutiny as a U.S. federal grand jury investigates its involvement in the shooting deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians. Blackwater also is under investigation for possible weapons smuggling allegations — violations the company denies.

US/IRAQ: "Enough Is Enough, It's Time to Get Out"

US/IRAQ: "Enough Is Enough, It's Time to Get Out"

Dahr Jamail

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SEATTLE, Jun 2 (IPS) - Dozens of veterans from the U.S. occupation of Iraq converged in this west coast city over the weekend to share stories of atrocities being committed daily in Iraq, in a continuation of the "Winter Soldier" hearings held in Silver Spring, Maryland in March.

At the Seattle Town Hall, some 800 people gathered to hear the testimonies of veterans from Iraq. The event was sponsored by the Northwest Regional Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), and endorsed by dozens of local and regional anti-war groups like Veterans for Peace and Students for a Democratic Society.

"I watched Iraqi Police bring in someone to interrogate," Seth Manzel, a vehicle commander and machine gunner in the U.S. Army, told the audience. "There were four men on the was pummeling his kidneys with his fists, another was inserting a bottle up his rectum. It looked like a frat house gang-rape."

Manzel joined the army after 9/11 for economic reasons -- he'd just been laid off, and his wife had just had a baby. Manzel told another story of military medics he was with in Tal Afar who refused to treat an elderly man in their detention centre. Manzel described the old man as being jaundiced and lying on the ground, writhing in pain.

"The medics said the old man was just being lazy and they were not authorised to treat detainees," Manzel said.

Jan Critchfield worked as an army journalist while attached to the 1st Cavalry in Baghdad during 2004. "I was with a unit that shot at a man and wife near a checkpoint," Critchfield said, "She had been shot through her shinbone, and that was the first story I covered in Iraq."

Critchfield told the audience that his unspoken job in Iraq was to "counter the liberal media bias" about the occupation.

"Our target audience was in the U.S., and the emphasis was reporting on humanitarian aid missions the military conducted," Critchfield said. "I don't know how many stories I reported on chicken drops (distributing frozen chickens in a community). I don't know what else you can call that, other than propaganda. I would find the highest ranking person I could get, and quote them verbatim without fact checking anything they said."

Other veterans told of lax rules of engagement that led to the slaughter of innocent civilians in Iraq.

"We were told we'd be deploying to Iraq and that we needed to get ready to have little kids and women shoot at us," Sergio Kochergin, a former Marine who served two deployments in Iraq, told the audience. "It was an attempt to portray Iraqis as animals. We were supposed to do humanitarian work, but all we did was harass people, drive like crazy on the streets, pretending it was our city and we could do whatever we wanted to do."

As the other veterans on the panel nodded in agreement, Kochergin continued, "We were constantly told everybody there wants to kill you, everybody wants to get you. In the military, we had racism within every rank and it was ridiculous. It seemed like a joke, but that joke turned into destroying peoples' lives in Iraq."

"I was in Husaiba with a sniper platoon right on the Syrian border and we would basically go out on the town and search for people to shoot," Kochergin said. "The rules of engagement (ROE) got more lenient the longer we were there. So if anyone had a bag and a shovel, we were to shoot them. We were allowed to take our shots at anything that looked suspicious. And at that point in time, everything looked suspicious."

Kochergin added, "Later on, we had no ROE at all. If you see something that doesn't seem right, take them out." He concluded by saying, "Enough is enough, it's time to get out of there."

Doug Connor was a first lieutenant in the army and worked as a surgical nurse in Iraq. While there he worked as part of a combat support unit, and said most of the patients he treated were Iraqi civilians.

"There were so many people that needed treatment we couldn't take all of them," he said. "When a bombing happened and 45 patients were brought to us, it was always Americans treated first, then Kurds, then the Arabs."

Connor added quietly, "It got to the point where we started calling the Iraqi patients 'range balls' because, just like on the driving range (in golf), you don't care about losing them."

Channan Suarez Diaz was a navy hospital corpsman who returned from Iraq with a purple heart, among other medals. He served in Ramadi from September 2004 to February 2005 with a weapons company. He is now the Seattle Chapter president of IVAW.

"Our commanding officer wanted us to go through a route that another platoon did and was completely wiped out in an ambush," Diaz explained. "We refused. They canceled that mission and we didn't go. I don't think these are isolated incidents. I think this is happening every day in Iraq. The military doesn't want you to know about this, because it's kind of like lighting a fire in a prairie."

The first Winter Soldier event was organised in 1971 by Vietnam Veterans Against the War in response to a growing list of human rights violations occurring in Vietnam.

From Mar. 13-16, 2008, IVAW held a national conference titled "Winter Solider: Iraq and Afghanistan" outside Washington, DC. The four-day event brought together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Foreclosure Bus Tour, Sign of Housing Bust, Hits New York Area

Foreclosure Bus Tour, Sign of Housing Bust, Hits New York Area

By Peter S. Green

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The white bus with the magnetic sign saying ''Long Island Foreclosurehomebuyers looking to save $100,000 or more. Tours'' pulled up to a small home in East Meadow, Long Island, and spilled out its cargo: a dozen

The driveway was cracked, and the vinyl siding sagged. There was a ''No Trespassing'' sign on the front door.

''You have some mold issues; you can definitely assume some water issues,'' said Dean Miller, a broker on the tour. Then again, he said, the asking price for the 1951 Cape Cod at 68 Lois Court was $312,900, down from $457,101 in February.

The foreclosure tour, mobile proof of the U.S. housing bust, has rolled into the New York City market. For $75, prospective buyers on the Long Island version last month got velour banquettes, a supply of potato chips and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and visits to eight foreclosed homes, with a general contractor and home inspector in tow.

And the broker, Miller, who continued his pitch for the three-bedroom, one-bath Cape Cod. ''You're in a quiet cul-de-sac in a very nice community for $100,000 less than the surrounding homes,'' he told the prospective buyers.

Potential bargains abound in the market. In April, 502 Nassau County homes, or one for every 913 in the county, entered the foreclosure process, more than double the number a year ago, according to RealtyTrac Inc., of Irvine, California.

Prices Fall

The median home price in the county fell 2.3 percent to $449,500 in the first quarter, and inventory rose 6.5 percent to 9,862 homes, New York-based appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. said.

Foreclosures are scattered across otherwise healthy neighborhoods, offering New Yorkers a chance to move up to a house they wouldn't ordinarily be able to afford. The East Meadow home, surrounded by similarly modest houses on small lots, is a 45- minute commute from Manhattan.

Sheri Cambareri, a saleswoman in Miller's office at Re/Max Village Properties in Mineola thought up the tour a few weeks ago, over drinks with Re/Max broker Dave Farrell. In a previous job, she organized luxury tours to the pyramids and the Galapagos Islands for members of New York's American Museum of Natural History.

''The extra benefit of those tours was that they brought along an archeologist or an anthropologist,'' Cambareri said. ''We thought we'd bring the mortgage broker, the inspector, the attorney and the contractor.''

The first stop on a recent Saturday was a four-bedroom, 1,400-square-foot Cape Cod on Clinton Road, a busy through-street in Garden City, New York. The asking price was $509,900.00. The buyer who defaulted on the mortgage had paid $600,000, Cambareri said. A nearby home of the same size sold a year ago for $560,000.

'Win-Win Situation'

''This is a win-win situation for everybody,'' said Eric Prusan, a lawyer who spoke on the bus before it started out from Mineola. ''All you got to do is decide if you want to spend the money. We'll help you buy the house.''

At 109 Ellison Avenue in Westbury, the foreclosure tourists inspected a brick-fronted, 1,155 square-foot Cape Cod on a corner lot with an asking price of $374,900. The last owner may have left in a hurry: A green leather sofa was upended in the living room, and a baby stroller moldered in the back yard.

''I'd put in an offer at three-and-a-quarter and see what happens,'' said Farrell as the tourists shone flashlights into the boiler room and crawl spaces. Some of the tourists said they'd be ready to buy the same day.

Built-in Equity

''If the right house comes along, you really don't need 20 days -- at the right price,'' said Brian Cacioppo, a 24-year-old salesman shopping for his first home with Courtnie Harrison, 28. Buying a foreclosed home could give them some cash for improvements, he said.

''With a foreclosure, it's selling for lower than it's worth and the equity is already in the house,'' Cacioppo said.

Even with the needed repairs, the houses were well-priced for Will Brecker, 70, a retired school custodian. ''Where else are you going to find a $600,000 house for 300 or 400?'' he asked. Brecker and his wife Lillian weren't ready to buy yet.

Prices are still high, said Liliana Martinovich, an interior designer who wants to move closer to her son's school in Garden City. She said she'll wait for prices to fall further before buying.

''It seems like it's going to get worse before it gets better with all these Wall Street layoffs,'' said Melissa Cohn, president of Manhattan Mortgages, a mortgage broker active in Long Island. New York City, where financial services are the largest private employer, expects to lose 59,000 jobs by the middle of next year, according to the City's Independent Budget Office.

Farrell said he was looking at a list of 165 homes for a tour the next week. The more foreclosed homes on the market, he said, the lower the prices will go, and the easier it will be to sell them.

''Foreclosed properties have to sell,'' said Farrell. ''Anyone else can take a property off the market. Banks have to sell them, they can't leave them on the market.''

Perhaps, but three weeks after the tour only one of the foreclosure tourists had put in a bid.

Probe of Crude Oil Trading Disclosed

Probe of Crude Oil Trading Disclosed

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During continued volatility in oil prices, federal regulators said yesterday that they had been investigating crude oil trading, storage and transportation for the past six months with a focus on possible "futures market manipulation."

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which normally keeps investigations confidential, said in a statement that it was "taking the extraordinary step of disclosing this investigation because of today's unprecedented market conditions."

Those conditions have sent oil prices to record heights, adding to the U.S. trade deficit, hurting consumers and companies, and weighing heavily on the nation's economy.

Gregory Mocek, director of enforcement at the CFTC, said five senior trial lawyers, "some of the most experienced prosecutors that we have," and other investigators were engaged in the inquiry. "The scope is quite broad," Mocek said, adding that the commission was looking at the "national crude market," including trades on regulated exchanges, cash trades, storage, pipeline operations and shipping.

Yesterday was another chaotic day for crude oil prices, which had soared about 30 percent since the start of the year. This time, however, prices tumbled $4.41, or 3.4 percent, to $126.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as traders tried to decipher new U.S. inventory numbers. The Energy Information Administration said petroleum stocks fell sharply, which would ordinarily drive prices up, but it blamed the drop on "temporary" delays in oil tanker off-loadings on the Gulf Coast.

Elsewhere, there were scattered signs recently that worldwide demand for petroleum products might be easing. MasterCard, the second-biggest credit card company, said this week that U.S. gasoline demand dropped 5.5 percent last week. Meanwhile, Indonesia, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have recently indicated that they would trim fuel subsidies and raise prices.

In addition, Bloomberg News reported that the United Arab Emirates representative to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries told reporters in Dubai that oil price increases have been "too fast, too high" and were "not good for producers or consumers."

The CFTC said its investigation started in December, before this latest surge in prices but after an earlier surge that took oil prices over $90 a barrel.

Congress has been pressing the CFTC to take tougher action to stop what lawmakers call "speculation" -- which is not illegal -- and possible unlawful manipulation of oil markets. Some lawmakers have suggested that the commission discourage speculation by increasing margin requirements so that traders would have to put up more cash to buy positions on commodity markets.

The CFTC said that in addition to the investigation, it had reached agreements with British and European regulators to share more information about oil markets. It also said it would take steps to increase transparency by getting more information from index traders and other financial players.

It was unclear whether the commission's announcements were a reaction to congressional pressure, but they were praised by many lawmakers. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said he was pleased, adding that "the CFTC must vigorously pursue all leads to protect the American people from market manipulation during a time of record prices at the pump."

One of the CFTC commissioners, Bart Chilton, wrote a letter dated May 9 to Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) praising the work of Congress in scrutinizing the rapid rise in gasoline prices. "It's not good enough to say, let the markets take care of this, when there is even the possibility that uneconomic forces may be at work," Chilton wrote.

Mocek said yesterday that the CFTC had about 60 price manipulation investigations in progress aside from the one looking at the national crude oil market. Some of those investigations also involve oil and gas firms or traders, he said.

Police may take blood sample without warrant, court says

Police may take blood sample without warrant, court says

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When authorities have reason to believe that a drunken driver has caused a serious or fatal accident they have a right to draw the driver's blood to test its alcoholcontent without their consent and without a search warrant, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The ruling was greeted with relief by law enforcers.

The high court reversed a ruling by a Dakota County district judge in the case of Janet Sue Shriner, 48, of Burnsville.

Charges of drunken driving and criminal vehicular homicide were dismissed against Shriner involving a 2006 accident in Burnsville because the lower court ruled that police should have at least tried to obtain a warrant before taking her blood without her consent.

In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court said that the "rapid, natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood creates ... a circumstance [requiring immediate attention] that will justify police taking a warrantless, nonconsensual blood draw from a defendant" provided the officer has probable cause to believe that the defendant has committed criminal vehicular homicide or operation.

The case against Shriner has been on hold pending the Supreme Court ruling, but will now move forward.

"This decision in the Shriner case is very much appreciated," Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom said. "It's very positive news for law enforcement across our state."

State Patrol Maj. Mike Asleson, who was messaging all patrol staff about the ruling Friday afternoon, said it "will keep us from having to go through what we sort of felt were unnecessary hoops that just delayed the inevitable, which was getting the blood draw from the driver.

"We're grateful to the court for their ruling," Asleson said.

The case stemmed from an incident on May 8, 2006. Shriner, who had four previous drunken driving convictions, was "highly intoxicated" when she drove the wrong way in traffic and hit another vehicle head-on, injuring that driver. Shriner left the scene, still driving the wrong way but was eventually forcibly stopped by a Burnsville police officer.

The officer took her to a nearby hospital to have her blood drawn. She was charged with first-degree drunken driving, criminal vehicular homicide, fleeing police, driving after cancellation, leaving the scene of an accident and reckless driving.

But a judge dismissed the drunken driving and criminal vehicular operation charges after her attorney, Jeffrey Ring, argued that police should have at least tried to obtain a search warrant before the blood draw. The state Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling.

The officer who stopped Shriner had no other duties at the accident scene, was six blocks from a hospital and testified that he had no fear that evidence would be destroyed by dissipation of alcohol, Ring argued.

He said the high court wasn't being asked to ban blood draws in all cases, but if officers don't have a search warrant, they would need to prove why it was unreasonable to get one.

Ring said Friday that "my opinion hasn't changed." He said he will advise Shriner "to consider asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review this because we'll never have better facts.

"I'm grateful there are two dissenters," Ring added.

Those two dissenters were Justices Helen Meyer and Paul H. Anderson.

"The majority today has created a new rule of law that erodes the rights of the citizens of Minnesota to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures," Meyer wrote.

The justice said she would allow a blood sample to be taken without the suspect's consent only if the officer "has a reasonable belief that the delay necessary to obtain a warrant ... threatens the destruction of evidence."

Pat Pheifer • 651-298-1551

Washington cops getting

Washington cops getting

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WASHINGTON -- Civil rights activists say the move to arm District of Columbia Police Department patrol officers with semiautomatic weapons is going overboard.

Officers will be given AR-15 rifles this summer as a way to combat dangerous criminals on the streets, The Washington Post reported Saturday

It is reported 352 officers completed training programs to handle the weapons, which have not been used in street patrols until now.

"We want to be prepared. I want officers to have what they need to be safe," Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said.

Critics argue the weapons only increase the threat of danger on the street and are unnecessary.

"Against a backdrop of danger and harm that could result from high-powered weaponry, it doesn't seem to make sense."

"I wonder why at a time when we're trying to get guns off the street, we're putting more guns on the street," said Johnny Barnes, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area.

Indefensible spending

Indefensible spending

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What should be the most important issue in this election is one that is rarely, if ever, addressed: Why is U.S. military spending at the highest point, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than at any time since the end of World War II? Why, without a sophisticated military opponent in sight, is the United States spending trillions of dollars on the development of high-tech weapons systems that lost their purpose with the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago?

You wouldn't know it from the most-exhausting-ever presidential primary campaigns, but the 2009 defense budget commits the United States to spending more (again, in real dollars) to defeat a ragtag band of terrorists than it spent at the height of the Cold War fighting the Soviet superpower and what we alleged were its surrogates in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

The Pentagon's budget for fiscal year 2008 set a post-World War II record at $625 billion, and that does not include more than $100 billion in other federal budget expenditures for homeland security, nuclear weapons and so-called black budget -- or covert -- operations.

And what are we spending all this money on? We are talking high-tech war toys designed to fight a Cold War enemy that no longer exists, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, with its estimated total price tag of $300 billion, and Virginia-class submarines at $2.5 billion each. Who cares that the terrorists lack submarines for the Navy to battle deep in the ocean, for which the Virginia-class submarine was designed?

Then there are the F-22 Raptor jet fighters that no longer fill a credible military purpose but will take $65 billion out of taxpayers' pockets. The Raptor includes stealth technology and elaborate electronics designed to counter threatened leaps in Soviet war-fighting capability. In 2005, Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, wrote that the Raptor "is the most unnecessary weapon system being built by the Pentagon."

Since President Bush's first year in office, according to the Government Accountability Office, the Defense Department has doubled its future planned investment in those ultra-pricey weapons from $790 billion to $1.6 trillion.

When pressed on why the massive weapons arsenal we already possess, which was credited with intimidating the Soviet Union into surrender, isn't sufficient to keep the peace in a suddenly unipolar world, defense hawks sometimes cite what they claim is an emerging threat from China. "The Chinese are designing new classes of submarines with increased capabilities," said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). "If we do not move to produce two submarines a year as soon as possible, we are in serious danger of falling behind."

That is nonsense. China is not even a serious regional power, as the Pentagon's 2007 report to Congress makes clear: "The intelligence community estimates China will take until the end of this decade or later to produce a modern force capable of defeating a moderate-size adversary." The report noted that "China's military is focused on assuring the capability to prevent Taiwan independence," but this last week the military threat to Taiwan gave way to a historic peace opening, with the first visit by the head of Taiwan's ruling party to the mainland since the 1949 revolution.

Oh, and here's another thing. Those Virginia-class submarines that Lieberman says are so important to our national security and for which he lobbied so hard? General Dynamics' Electric Boat Co. has received multibillion-dollar contracts to build them. The company is based in Connecticut, suggesting that the real goal here was to find an enemy -- any enemy -- that would justify spending U.S. tax dollars on weapons produced in his home state.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the United States has been on a madcap spending spree on wars and weapons having little, if anything, to do with combating terrorism, nothing to do with the imaginary threat from China and everything to do with sustaining an enormously bloated defense industry threatened with extinction because of the demise of the communist enemy. The fact is, the end of the Cold War was a welcome development for everyone except for those in the military-industrial complex whose profits and jobs, as President Eisenhower famously warned, are rooted in every congressional district.

As President George H.W. Bush noted in his 1992 State of the Union address, "communism died this year," and, he promised, "we can stop making the sacrifices we had to make when we had an avowed enemy that was a superpower. Now we can look homeward even more and set right what needs to be set right." Toward that end, he ordered his secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, to initiate a 30% cut in defense spending. Gloom and doom in the military-industrial complex was palpable.

But then came what defense industry lobbyists and their many allies on both sides of the aisle in Congress came to treat as the gift of 9/11, offering dramatic imagery of a new global enemy. Fortunately for those who profit from a permanent war economy, few in government or the media were inclined to challenge the enemy bait-and-switch game that unfolded. The defense industry and the Pentagon bureaucracy that services it were all too happy to accept whatever war they could embrace, even if the new "global war on terrorism" that President George W. Bush launched was to be fought against an enemy armed primarily with weapons that could be purchased for a few dollars at Home Depot.

The Soviets had developed the most modern arsenals, and the 9/11 hijackers were armed with box cutters, so how could we justify spending more to defeat Al Qaeda than we ever did to combat the communist enemy? That is the third-rail issue that politicians and the media dread touching because of the national security hysteria generated after the 9/11 attacks. Yet no presidential candidate can be serious about cutting the federal debt, improving education, holding down taxes or paying for any of the other things that the candidates of both parties promise without cutting military spending.

Without slashing the inflated military budget, the next president, who will inherit at least a $400-billion current-accounts deficit along with debt service on seven years of profligate military spending, will not be able to finance any of the domestic reforms that both the surviving Republican candidate and his two Democratic opponents advocate.

Maybe one can make a case that it is appropriate that more than half of the discretionary funds in the 2009 budget go to defense, and all the other federal programs for science, education, infrastructure, global warming and nonmilitary international programs compete for the rest. But isn't it bizarre that the biggest peacetime military budget in U.S. history -- 35% higher than when Bush came into office and larger than the military budgets of all other nations combined -- is not even discussed in the current presidential contest?

That is because politicians from both parties are complicit in the waste of taxpayer dollars on weapons systems that deliver jobs to their home districts and profits to their defense industry campaign contributors. It is a disease of our political system predicted by two of our great wartime generals-turned-president. First was George Washington, warning in his farewell address that once a nation embarks on the path of imperial adventure, the irrationality of false patriotic appeals would trump reason. What better time to recall Washington's historic caution to the nation "to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism."

In Eisenhower's farewell address, he warned that "in the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

There is no better evidence of the prescience of Washington and Eisenhower than the fact that the most obscenely bloated military budget in U.S. history is not an issue in the current presidential campaign. Sadly, defense spending has become enshrined in our political system as a totem to be worshiped rather than a policy program to be critically examined.

Robert Scheer, who wrote an Op-Ed column for The Times for 13 years, is the editor in chief of Truthdig ( and the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," to be published this week by Twelve Books.

Manufactured Reality: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Manufactured Reality: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

By Peter Chamberlin

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In order to force a new reality upon any targeted populace, the masters of the universe follow a simple strategy – they immediately make things twice as bad as they intend to keep them, only to take one step back after a short while, so that the new manufactured reality will be easier to accept. This strategy holds constant from the manipulation of oil prices to the military strategy to rule the world by force.

In the terror war, nuclear terrorism has become the weapon of both first choice and last resort for American war planners. It was more important to create the impression that nuclear war was imminent than it was to convince the world that we intended to use nuclear weapons as our ace in the hole. The world had to be terrorized into believing that our insane cowboy president was about to unleash nuclear war upon the world, so that it could be held over the people's heads. The world had to be shocked and awed by American military supremacy into submitting to Bush's demands.

America took two giant steps forward militarily, intending in the end to take one step back from the precipice of actual global thermonuclear war, to a more limited approach that only called for a limited use of "tactical" nukes. A two-track approach to the war was undertaken; one path leading to immediate global nuclear war and another "democratic" approach, which put-off the use of nuclear weapons until some future action, in order to create unlimited opportunities for subversion where America's full military might could be brought to bear upon more specific targets. (Have they already been used?)

The threat that full-scale nuclear war in the center of the world's primary energy basket was imminent created a global atmosphere of mortal fear and dread, while covert limited wars were simultaneously pursued. This was intended to cow both the American people and the people in the targeted countries into submission to presidential dictates. The threat of general nuclear war was used to intimidate the targeted governments into "playing nice" diplomatically, while America interfered in their national affairs, introducing its revolutionary "democratic" form of politics, which included backing extremist groups.

Fear of US nuclear forces provided cover to American agitation in the Middle East region along the lines of "Operation Gladio," which was used against our own allies in Europe. In both operations, sympathetic right-wing leaders were found who could be bought, to be groomed by the CIA, to cultivate and organize local opposition groups. From these agitated groups more violent radicals were found and hired to stage terrorist ("false flag") attacks upon civilians and the governments, to be blamed upon their local opposition, which were usually actual patriot groups.

The second leg of the neoconservative war doctrine is the spreading of subversion under the cover of implanting democracy by force, and its companion, the spreading of force through democratic means. Divisive political campaigns in targeted nations (including staged attacks by extremists) were engineered, to split the tribal societies into heavily-armed polarized factions waiting for retribution.

We have this apt description of this divisive American strategy from former Pakistani ISI agent, turned human rights activist, Khalid Khawaja:

"Many of us call it a battle between East and West, between the Islamic and Judeo-Christian world, but it is neither of these. It is in fact the ruling regimes that want to dictate their will...

Ninety percent of people accept to be ruled, but there always remain some elements who refuse to succumb. They fight for freedom and resist till their last. However, in this conflict of two minorities - those who impose their will and those who resist it - the majority remains the sole victim. Yet people talk about Islam versus Christianity or Judaism. The basic theme remains the same. There is a group of people who want to impose their will, whether they happen to be Christian or Muslim, and there is a group of people who want to resist, and there is a silent majority which is trampled in between."

Mr. Khawaja continues to delve into the under-discussed cause of the whole war on terror:

"In Afghanistan's case, a similar game was carried out on a massive scale when Muslim youths from all over the world were brought in by Pakistan and the US [to fight against the Soviets in the 1980s]. They were tools for the empires' proxy war. The name of jihad was is a question of a state imposing its will. The message is clear: if you are against us, we will kill you and your sympathizers. In this state terrorism, there is no exception, be it Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Pakistan, India, the US or Israel. All are the same.

When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets crushed. When two elephants make love, it is again the grass that gets crushed. Whether states fight with each other or make friendships, it is only the tools who became victims."

The same deception has been practiced in both Iraq and Afghanistan, to prolong both of those wars until the doctrine could be spread beyond them. Both countries had been targeted for regime change, but nonetheless, even after the first regime was replaced, the doctrine of creating surrogate militias to promote democratic revolution was still developed in each one, targeting the new regimes. In each country violent extremist groups, usually identified as "al Qaida related," were put on the American payroll to fight against US troops and US installed governments. The hiring and training of these "militia" mercenary groups falls within the recognized definition of treason, "levying war against [the United States]."

That destabilizing doctrine is now being exported into Iran from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where beachheads have been established for a planned assault upon the entire neighborhood. These training centers are terrorist camps, plain and simple. These are the American trained terrorists who will carry the limited warfare scenario into Iran under cover of the greater threat of nuclear terrorism. The United States of America is the world's number one supporter and exporter of terrorism; it always has been.

In order to carry out the Israeli-centric PNAC (Project for a New American Century) terror war plan that they have committed to, Bush and Cheney have doggedly undermined America's national interests at home and all over the world. America's national interest has always been based on advancing liberty and human rights to the whole world, but now, under the neocon plan, these are rights that must be earned. Bush was sent unto the world to turn reality upon its head.

On a rotating basis, America and Israel took turns slinging threats of nuclear annihilation and libelous invective at Iran and Syria, hyping the threats to intensify the notion that a nuclear attack was becoming imminent. As Israel and America ramp-up the war-mongering against Iran and Syria, Israel sings out the threats first, then America will provide the chorus and hopefully the highly desired "money shot" afterwards.

As a final machination, to seal America and Israel's position, the neocon doctrine unlocked the prohibition of the offensive use of nuclear weapons, even in civilian areas. It is this new free use of nuclear weapon doctrine that is the icing on the cake for those who are plotting to seize the world under the threat of American nuclear terrorism. Because it is now possible, it is easy to convince us all that our cowboy administration of religious zealots is about to commit an insane act, i.e., unleashing nuclear war to eliminate the possibility of a nuclear war.

Patriotic anti-government voices in this country and in the targeted countries, helped to create a strong public perception that nuclear war was imminent. Antiwar voices of protest like mine sound a warning to alert the people to the crimes being planned that must be heard, but in so doing, we play into the government scheme by helping to hype the threat. It is both necessary and natural that patriots arise to defend their nations in the face of American invasion or aggression. We play a vital role in the planned drama, as it unfolds. We have convinced the world that Bush and Cheney were insane enough to radiate the Middle Eastern oil fields, in order to steal the world's oil. We now may have to convince the world that the crazies themselves are the source of most of the terrorism which we fight.

It is pretty obvious that they really are that insane, but it should be even more obvious that their greedy masters don't want their world destroyed, they only want to control it. Why should they actually nuke Iran, if they can persuade the locals to overthrow the regime for us, causing less collateral damage (it would be difficult to operate the Middle East oil facilities, if they were all radioactive). We have to convince the American people that Bush even though the little dictator is both stupid and insane, the real deciders are neither of those things. It is their wills which will prevail, meaning that there are other less final, less costly ways to takeover the oil reserves and the pipeline routes.

We have to concentrate the secret war, without being blinded by the glare of nuclear terrorism. Exposure of American sponsorship of world terrorism (some of the very "terrorism" we are fighting) must become our top priority. Legal actions must be taken to stop the illegal support of terrorism upon civilians by our government. Further legal actions must be taken to separate American foreign policy from Israel, in order to bring the terror war to an end.

Israel has been the primary source for most of the "intelligence" that launched the war on Iraq, the Iranian reactors and hypothetical nuclear weapons, as well as the alleged Syrian reactors. America turned Israel's evidence into grounds for waging war, even nuclear war. They are behind the new push to find other Syrian nuclear facilities as well as the alleged Iranian warhead blueprint.

Israel is behind every military move against Iran that is being brought-up in the press. It was the first to suggest taking out Iranian reactors, the first to recommend a naval blockade of Iran and an embargo on air flights between Iran and Syria and Lebanon. American Zionist Congressional leaders gladly took up the torches lit by Israel, to create Israeli security at America's expense. A Congressional resolution is awaiting passage in the Senate, which demands that our government carry-out these acts of war, both the naval blockade and the air embargo, House Resolution 1194

The American people must rise-up in outrage to the terrorists who rule over us and stop the planned escalation, as a first step to de-escalating the war. It is time for us to take our own two steps forward, to force the aggressors to take one step back and begin to tear-down their manufactured reality.

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By Attorney Michael Shaw

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Our ancestors recognized the idea and the ideal that every individual possesses unalienable rights. When this idea is respected it provides great advantages to individuals and society.

The advantages to unalienable rights are:

* They recognize and elevate humans above all other species.
* They recognize that we each have a life that is our own.

From this philosophical premise we create systems that enable personal achievement, improve society and allow one to pursue happiness.

Many Californians have fallen for the collectivist form of societal organization.

Under collectivism, individual unalienable rights are abridged for the "common good." Ultimately, individual rights are abolished under the law.

The collectivist philosophy in action is:

* All things fall under the control of "society."
* In practice this requires that collectivist societies rule by force.
* This almost always leads to rule of an individual or a small group with unlimited power.
* They decide the "common good."

The creation of a global collectivist society is in full operation today. The collectivist society is currently being promoted in the open.

However, as more people recognize and understand their goals, the global collectivists will find their cause is best served by taking cover in a fully formed, high-tech police state. This is why globalists' are interested in accelerating "change" in America. This high-tech police state is being put in place:

* It will be needed to enforce and maintain the new order.
* The time to fully implement the collectivist philosophy and enforce communitarian law is approaching.
* Promoters of social justice plan to replace the principles of equal justice under communitarian law.

The globalist Sustainable program working goal is to restructure human nature. Restructured human nature is the central mission of their political—economic program. Globalist political-economics will be controlled by those in control of the high-tech police state.

People with some knowledge and understanding of history and who remember freedom will long for the days when unalienable and individual rights were acknowledged and protected by government.

Examples of the collectivist progression are readily seen in California politics. Organizers facilitate growing legions of mindless citizens to attack the rights of others. Their goal is to obtain and/or control what is not theirs. The reality of these examples shows us the process of America's fall into the emerging global movement. There private property will be abolished.

The globalist movement is well organized, financed and powerful. It operates using 'global-to-local' "Sustainability" programs. All you need do is track Sustainable Development policy in Every Town USA.

In my County, Santa Cruz, on California's central coast, 'global-to-local' activists work ceaselessly. Here are some of their tactics and practices:

* Conform school curriculum to raise "global citizens."
* Establish public transportation systems to oppose auto-mobility.
* Collectivize water, timber and other natural resources.
* Run roughshod over private land owners.
* Create government controlled "affordable housing" projects.

Average Americans are growing aware of these issues. However, most fail to understand the full impact of what is happening. I strongly suggest they undertake a study of the idea and full meaning of "unalienable rights."

Americans need to recognize that America's unique experience is the result of our Founder's study and articulation of the principles underlying John Locke's treatise explaining each individual's unalienable right to his life, liberty and property.

Unalienable: inherent to or imbued within our being - something which cannot be decreed away.

Humans may have their natural or unalienable rights violated. But human beings are never separated from their unalienable rights. History shows that no society has acknowledged their citizens' unalienable rights. This fact accounts for mankind's greatest social travails.

The United States is the only nation in world history to politically recognize the unalienable nature of these individual rights. This is why the Declaration of Independence is generally and properly recognized as mankind's greatest achievement by earlier American generations.

John Locke's powerful phrase; "life, liberty and property" appear three times in the US Constitution. These words mean:

Life: That your life is your own. You manage and direct your life as you choose. Life is not to be dictated by ruling elite who seek to create batteries of rules to control every aspect of ordinary life.
Liberty: The freedom of action incident to and necessary for making choices that result in leading one's own life. Individual liberty necessitates a government with limited power.
Property: Executes one's expression of liberty and insures pursuit of one's life. Never forget that private property is not simply 'a thing'. It is the relationship between a person and a thing. This relationship allows individual citizens to use and enjoy private property. George Washington described the essence of that relationship when he said: "Private property and freedom are inseparable."

America is being directed toward a collectivist course change today. At the core, this change is driven by our nation's lessening commitment to unalienable rights. Private property is being abolished step-by-step. With it will go liberty and for many, life itself.

If we are to restore and preserve liberty and live in a society which respects individuals, we must confront the on-going assault on private property.

Ask yourself: "Do I support political candidates who recognize the unalienable right of each person to the reasonable use and enjoyment of their property?"

The time has come:

* When your failure to protect the rights of others will result in the loss of your rights.
* It is late in the war on liberty.
* It is time to commit and take action.

Defend the idea of the right of the use and enjoyment of private property. Understand the nature of the global orders' attack upon unalienable rights. Work to preserve liberty.

US spending in Iraq ignored rules

US spending in Iraq ignored rules

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An audit of some $8bn (£4bn) paid to US and Iraqi contractors has found that almost every payment failed to comply with US laws aimed at preventing fraud.

In one instance, $11m was paid to a US company without any record of what goods or services were provided, the US defence department audit said.

US spending of another $1.8bn in seized Iraqi assets was also poorly handled.

The findings, covering the period from 2001 to 2006, will fuel anti-war Democrats' claims of mismanagement.

They accuse the Bush administration of relying too heavily on contractors to run the Iraq war and paying too little attention to problems of corruption and fraud.

'Very wrong'

The review by the defence department's inspector general estimates that the US Army made more than 180,000 commercial payments from bases in Iraq, Egypt and Kuwait from 2001 to 2006.

The $8bn spending of US taxpayers' money involved purchases of goods and services ranging from bottled water, mattresses and food to trucks and phones.

In some cases, contracts worth millions of dollars were paid for in cash with little or no documentation to show what was delivered.

In one example, investigators found a copy of a $5.6m cheque paid by the US Treasury to an Iraqi contractor, but no records to show what had been purchased.

"Payments that are not properly supported do not provide the necessary assurance that funds were used as intended," the inspector general concluded.

The Pentagon auditors' review was released at a hearing of the US House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government reform on Wednesday.

Democratic committee chairman Henry Waxman said: "There is something very wrong when our wounded troops have to fill out forms in triplicate for meal money while billions of dollars are handed out in Iraq with no accountability."

Mary Ugone, the Pentagon's deputy inspector general for auditing, told the committee: "Without a receiving report and invoice, we don't know what we paid for."


The hearing came on the same day as legislation introduced by Mr Waxman with the aim of strengthening anti-fraud measures and boosting transparency was passed by the House.

The review was seen as significant because, unlike previous critical audits of US spending in Iraq, it was the first time the Pentagon itself had revealed mismanagement on such a scale.

In April, a separate audit of US-funded reconstruction projects for Iraq found that millions of dollars had been wasted because hundreds of schemes were never completed.

Last year, congressional investigators said as much as $10bn (£5bn) charged by US contractors for Iraq reconstruction had been questionable.