Saturday, October 29, 2011

Maddow explains how Wall Street firms defrauded investors

Maddow explains how Wall Street firms defrauded investors

On her show Thursday night, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow explained how dishonesty and fraud in Wall Street tanked the U.S. economy. Internal emails show that Wall Street firms told their investors to purchase stocks in certain companies, but not because those stocks had good potential. The stocks were owned by companies that were paying the firms giving the advice.

CHART: Typical Hourly Wage Went Up Just $1.23 In The Last 36 Years

CHART: Typical Hourly Wage Went Up Just $1.23 In The Last 36 Years

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In a speech yesterday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) claimed that President Obama created “class resentment” by calling for slightly higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans. At the same time, Occupy Wall Street protesters continue to speak out in favor of an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top of the income scale.

Could their frustration be a product of the increasing inequality rather than Obama’s “divisive rhetoric?” Absolutely. In fact, a New York Times/CBS News poll released yesterday found that two-thirds of Americans believe “that wealth should be distributed more evenly in the country.”

As noted by the Half in Ten Campaign’s new report, “Restoring Shared Prosperity: Strategies to Cut Poverty and Expand Economic Growth,” the hourly wage of a typical worker grew from $14.73 in 1973 to $15.96 in 2009, for a raise in real terms (after accounting for inflation) of $1.23 over 36 years. Yes, you read that right. Only $1.23, an 8.4 percent increase over the last 36 years.

Top earners, meanwhile, saw a gain of $12.70 per hour gain (30 percent) over the same time frame. The growing gaps between the wealthy and everyone else could not be more stark.

Even 68 percent of millionaires, according to a survey from the Spectrem Group, agree that the rich should get taxed more. It’s not in the interest of America to have people fall out of the middle class and into an increasing population living in poverty, as the economy continues to suffer through a slow recovery. The middle class is the engine of America’s economic growth.

A report released this week by the Congressional Budget Office found that between 1979 and 2007, income grew 275 percent for the richest one percent of Americans, but by just 18 percent for those at the bottom. The federal government can do something about this — from investing in our infrastructure to improving education. It can help bolster demand and the Half in Ten Campaign offers some good ideas to get us started.

House GOP’s “Job Creating” Spending Cuts Destroyed 370,000 Jobs

House GOP’s “Job Creating” Spending Cuts Destroyed 370,000 Jobs

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House Republicans took the government to the brink of shutdown last spring by demanding across-the-board budget cuts to many vital programs. Instead of focusing on job creation, as Americans wanted them to, the GOP turned its attention to slashing funds for programs that funded assistance for women and children, local law enforcement, the social safety net, environmental protections, and many other programs they deemed as either too expensive or unnecessary. Worse, when challenged on why they hadn’t made the effort to tackle high unemployment, Republicans insisted that their slash-and-burn budget cuts were meant to create jobs.

Not all of those cuts made it through, but the GOP succeeded in passing massive spending reductions as part of a continuing resolution that kept the government operating. According to a new report from the Center for American Progress’ Scott Lilly, those cuts didn’t result in the job creating boon Republicans insisted would follow. Instead, it has done just the opposite, as those cuts will result in the destruction of roughly 370,000 jobs.

Lilly’s report focuses on three major areas where Republicans insisted on spending cuts: funding for local law enforcement, environmental cleanup of sites where nuclear weapons were disabled and destroyed, and investments into construction, repair, and maintenance of government buildings. Cuts to just those three areas will result in the loss of 90,000 jobs, the report found — 60,000 from direct cuts, and 30,000 additional jobs lost from the secondary impacts of job losses in each community.

And according to Lilly, those three areas weren’t among the worst budget cuts forced through by the Republican House:

Similar stories could be told about many other budget cuts made in this bill—cuts that resulted in further job losses,” said Scott Lilly, author of the report and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. “All of the various 250 program reductions in the fiscal year 2011 Continuing Resolution probably eliminated more than 370,000 American jobs. The three areas selected for discussion in this paper are in my judgment neither the worst cuts made by the committee from a policy standpoint nor the best. But without a doubt they demonstrate the consequences of slashing government spending in a weak economy.”

According to the report, the $2.5 billion cut to local law enforcement funding could have prevented 36,000 police layoffs nationwide, and similar cuts made to grant programs could have prevented the loss of other state and local government jobs. Crunched by the recession and budget cuts, state and local governments shed more than 200,000 jobs in 2010 alone. Republicans not only cut such funding this spring but have now opposed the American Jobs Act — which included grants to state and local governments for the hiring of teachers, police officers, and firefighters.

How the Wounding of a Vet Who Dared to Dissent Has Stirred More Dissent

How the Wounding of a Vet Who Dared to Dissent Has Stirred More Dissent

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“We Are All Scott Olsen!” was the message of vigils held across the United States Thursday night, held in answer to a call from Iraq Veterans Against the War and Occupy Oakland for “occupations across America and around the world to hold solidarity vigils” recognizing Olsen, the former Marine and Iraq War veteran who activists say “sustained a skull fracture after being shot in the head on October 25 with a police projectile while peacefully participating in an Occupy Oakland protest.

In cities across the United States and around the world, "We Are Scott Olsen" vigils, rallies and marches were held. Thousands attended a candlelight vigil in Oakland. In Las Vegas, an image of Olsen was projected at the site of the Occupy encampment. In New York, Occupy Wall Street activist took to the streets chanting "New York is Oakland, Oakland is New York." As far away as London, images of Olsen were displayed at gatherings. The buzz about the wounding of the 24-year-old veteran seemed to be everywhere, and was perhaps best summed up by a message from an activist who had protested at Wisconsin's state Capitol with Olsen in February. It read: "He could be any one of us."

The Washington-insider website Politico speculated about whether the wounding of Olsen would be the Occupy movement's "Kent State moment," a reference to the 1970 killing of four students at an anti-war demonstration in Ohio. No one was killed in Oakland, and Olsen is now expected to recover, although he remains hospitalized and is unable to speak. But the images of the young former Marine, standing peacefully in the frontlines of the protest in Oakland -- next to a Navy vet holding a "Veterans for Peace" flag -- and the images from just moments later of Olsen lying on the ground wounded as medics rush to his aid have both shocked and energized activists, in much the same way that violent responses to civil rights and anti-war demonstrations in the 1960s did -- and in much the way that official violence against anti-WTO activists in Seattle in 1999 shifted sentiment in favor of the protests.

In Oakland, anger over the incident and the brutal crackdown on the demonstration has led to a call for a November 2 city-wide general strike.

The intensity of the response reflects the horror and anger at the wounding of Olsen, a native of the small town of Onalaska, Wisconsin, who after graduating high school in 2005 joined the US Marines and swore an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”

After Scott Olsen swore that oath, he served two tours of duty in Iraq before being discharged in 2010.

Olsen survived Iraq. But he was seriously wounded Tuesday when he joined an Oakland, California, protest against the removal of the Occupy Wall Street–inspired encampment in that Bay Area city. The clashes between activists and the Oakland Police turned violent late Tuesday, during what the San Francisco Chronicle described as “a protracted street confrontation between protesters and police officers, who set off tear gas and used shotguns to fire projectiles designed to inflict pain but not kill.”

The precise number of injuries is unclear. But Oakland’s Highland Hospital confirmed Thursday that Olsen, 24, was in fair condition with a skull fracture. Family members reported that his condition was improving, after having been unconscious for 12 hours following the Tuesday night incident..

Olsen, who went to work after leaving the Marines as a system administrator for a software firm, had joined the Oakland protests with fellow members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, an advocacy group that has long sought to draw attention to issues of homelessness and unemployment among Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Keith Shannon, who deployed with Olsen to Iraq, “Scott was marching with the 99 percent because he felt corporations and banks had too much control over our government, and that they weren’t being held accountable for their role in the economic downturn, which caused so many people to lose their jobs and their homes.”

IVAW’s reports from the scene—along with agonizing video footage that features cries of “medic!”— confirm that Olsen “sustained a skull fracture after being shot in the head with a police projectile while peacefully participating in an Occupy Oakland march.”

The video footage appears to show Olsen lying wounded when a police officer is seen throwing what looks to be a tear gas canister at protesters who are trying to help the former Marine.

That’s got Olsen’s uncle, George Nygaard, a Marine who served in Vietnam, unsettled and upset.

“It’s just so damn ironic,” says Nygaard, who like most of Olsen’s family still lives in rural Wisconsin. “To do two tours over there and not a scratch. All of a sudden he comes back here and a damn cop hits him with a projectile. It’s crap.”

That’s a common sentiment.

“It’s absolutely unconscionable that our citizens are going overseas to protect other citizens just to come back and have our own police hurt them,” Joshua Shepherd, a six-year Navy veteran and friend of Olsen’s, told reporters.

Iraq Veterans Against the War demanded that Oakland Mayor Jean Quan investigate the incident and allow peaceful protests to continue, and Quan did go to Olsen's hospital room Thursday, She has reportedly ordered an inquiry.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the National Lawyers' Guild are pressing for police transparency. In particular, the groups have asked the Oakland Police Department "to immediately produce records about the use of force in responding to the early morning raid of the Occupy Oakland encampment and the evening demonstration."

Beyond the specific questions regarding the actions of the police, there is a broader debate about the official response to peaceful protests in a country where the Constitution guarantees a right to assemble, and to petition for the redress of grievances.

Iraq Veterans Against the War featured a statement on its website Wednesday night that read: “It’s ironic that days after Obama’s announcement of the end of the Iraq War, Scott faced a veritable war zone in the streets of Oakland last night. He and other protesters were surrounded by explosions and smoke (tear gas) going off around him as people nearby carried him injured while yelling for a medic. This disturbing video of the incident shows how veterans are now fighting a war at home.”

In fact, it’s not so ironic. Returning veterans who have sought to exercise their rights at home have, at many points in American history, been the victims of violence—especially when they have made demands of Wall Street. When a “Bonus Army” consisting of thousands of World War I veterans camped near the Capitol in Washington, DC, in the summer of 1932—demanding payment of bonuses they had been promised for their service, and that they needed to survive in those Depression Days—they were attacked first by the police and then by the US Army,

Two veterans were killed. One of them, Eric Carlson, was from Oakland, California.

The revulsion at the attacks on the veterans in 1932 would eventually lead to a decision by the Congress of $2 billion to pay immediate bonuses to the World War I veterans.

Retired Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, a two-time recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, joined the Bonus Army at its encampment and supported its demands. Bulter is today remembered for his epic denunciation of the military-industrial complex:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class thug for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

But after the attack on the Bonus Army, he issued an even blunter declaration, announcing in 1933 that: “I believe in…taking Wall St. by the throat and shaking it up.”

Today’s Occupy Wall Street protests are, perhaps, less aggressive than those that came before. But the veterans who join today’s protests are being met with the same violence—and disrespect—that the Bonus Army experienced.

“I think it is a sad state of affairs when a Marine can’t assemble peacefully in the streets without getting injured,” says Jose Sanchez, the executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Major General Smedley Butler would surely agree.

1% Income Grew 275%

1% Income Grew 275%

According to the Congressional Budget Office since 1979, income for the top one percent of Americans has risen 275%. So you can start seeing why more Americans are starting to support Occupy Wall Street, as a new poll from CBS/New York Times shows that 43% generally agree with the movement..

Who Was Muammar Qaddafi? Libya's Wealth Redistribution Project

Who Was Muammar Qaddafi? Libya's Wealth Redistribution Project

With an Introduction by Cynthia McKinney

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Fourth of Four Installments on Libya: Who is Stealing the Wealth?

Once again, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya peels away the veneer of legitimacy and deception enveloping the U.S./NATO genocide currently taking place in Libya. In his first article, Nazemroaya makes it clear that there never was any evidence given to the United Nations or the International Criminal Court to warrant or justify United Nations Resolutions 1970 and 1973 or current U.S./NATO operations inside Libya.

In his second article detailing this very sad story, Nazemroaya exposes the relationships between the major Libyan protagonists/NATO collaborators and the U.S. Congress-funded National Endowment for Democracy. Incredibly, when leading Members of Congress publicly proclaimed repeatedly that they did not know who the Libyan "rebel" NATO collaborators were, select so-called rebel leaders were political intimates with stakeholders at the National Endowment for Democracy. Nazemroaya also exposes that, despite its Global War on Terror, the U.S. government actually financed Libyan terrorists and criminals wanted by INTERPOL.

In his third installment, Nazemroaya removes the U.S./NATO fig leaf that attempts to cover the cynical machinations of the pro-Israel Lobby and its objective of balkanizing African and Asian states, especially those whose populations are largely Muslim. Nazemroaya makes the essential point: "An attempt to separate the merging point of an Arab and African identity is underway." The Voice of America has exposed the psychological aspects of its brutal intervention and hints at the mindset of the U.S./NATO Libyan pawns; several stories suggest that the "new" Libya will turn more toward its Arab identity than its African identity. While Muammar Qaddafi drove home to all Libyans that Libya, as its geography dictates, is an African country, Nazemroaya shows how this fact is not a policy objective shared by the U.S., NATO, Israel, or their Libyan allies.

Finally, in this last of the four-part series, Nazemroaya shows the ultimate perfidy of the U.S./NATO Libyan allies, especially Mahmoud Jibril, in the pre-emptive strike against the Jamahirya Wealth Redistribution Project.

The Libyan people are now fighting the world's most powerful militaries to save their Jamahirya.

No matter how many times NATO-inspired media lie to their publics, the lies will never become the truth.

Hauntingly, Nazemroaya ends by telling us that the Libyan National Transitional Council has already recognized the Syrian National Council (SNC) as the legitimate government of Syria.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, now reputed to be the leader of Al Qaeda and reportedly rewarded with U.S. citizenship after fighting for the C.I.A. in Bosnia, just called for the people of Algeria to oust their President.

President Obama's policy of flying drones and dropping bombs over Africa, and invading the Continent with U.S. troops, means that any country that resists an AFRICOM base, as Colonel Qaddafi's wife tells us he did, or expects to exercise its right of self-determination, can expect the kind of treatment we are witnessing now in Libya. We, in the U.S., must resist these policies for ourselves and and on behalf of the Africans who deserve better than this from the United States of America.

Cynthia McKinney, 25 October 2011.

Cynthia McKinney is a former U.S. Congresswoman who served in two different Georgia federal dictricts in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2003 and from 2005 to 2007 as a member of the U.S. Democratic Party. She was also the U.S. Green Party presidential candidate in 2008. While in the U.S. Congress she served in the U.S. Banking and Finance Committee, the U.S. National Security Committee (later renamed the U.S. Armed Services Committee), and the U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee (later renamed the U.S. International Relations Committee). She also served in the U.S. International Relations subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights. McKinney has conducted two fact-finding missions in Libya and also recently finished a nationwide speaking tour in the United States sponsored by the ANSWER Coalition about the NATO bombing campaign in Libya.


INSTALLMENTS I-III


Libya and the Big Lie: Using Human Rights Organizations to Launch Wars
- by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya - 2011-09-29
The war against Libya is built on fraud. The UN Security Council passed two resolutions against Libya on the basis of unproven claims that Qaddafi was killing his own people in Benghazi...


America's Conquest of Africa: The Roles of France and Israel
- by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Julien Teil - 2011-10-06
Terrorists not only fight for Washington on the ground, they also act as frontmen for regime change through so-called human rights organizations that promote democracy.

Israel and Libya: Preparing Africa for the “Clash of Civilizations”
Introduction by Cynthia McKinney
- by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya - 2011-10-11
"An attempt to separate the merging point of an Arab and African identity is underway."


WHO WAS MUAMMAR QADDAFI? LIBYA'S WEALTH REDISTRIBUTION PROJECT

by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Colonel Muammar Qaddafi symbolizes many things to many different people around the world. Love or hate the Libyan leader, under his rule Libya transformed from one of the poorest countries on the face of the planet into the country with the highest standard of living in Africa. In the words of Professor Henri Habibi:

When Libya was granted its independence by the United Nations on December 24, 1951, it was described as one of the poorest and most backward nations of the world. The population at the time was not more than 1.5 million, was over 90% illiterate, and had no political experience or knowhow. There were no universities, and only a limited number of high schools which had been established seven years before independence. [1]

Qaddafi had many grand plans. He wanted to create a South Atlantic Treaty Organization to protect Africa and Latin America. He advocated for a gold dinar standard as the currency of Muslim countries. Many of his plans were also of a pan-African nature. This included the formation of a United States of Africa.

Qaddafi’s Pan-African Projects

Colonel Qaddafi started the Great Man-Made River, which consisted in a massive project to transform the Sahara Desert and reverse the desertification of Africa. The Great Man-Made River with its irrigation plans was also intended to support the agricultural sector in other parts of Africa. This project was a military target of NATO bombings. Without just cause, NATO’s bombing campaign was intent upon destroying the Great Man-Made River.

Qaddafi also envisioned independent pan-African financial institutions. The Libyan Investment Authority and the Libyan Foreign Bank were important players in setting up these institutions. Qaddafi, through the Libyan Foreign Bank and the Libyan Investment Authority, was instrumental in setting up Africa’s first satellite network, the Regional African Satellite Communication Organization (RASCOM), to reduce African dependence on external powers. [2]

His crowning achievement would have been the creation of the United States of Africa. The supranational entity would have been created through the African Investment Bank, the African Monetary Fund, and finally the African Central Bank. These institutions were all viewed with animosity by the European Union, United States, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Bank.

Qaddafi’s Wealth Redistribution Project

Qaddafi had a wealth redistribution project inside Libya. U.S. Congressional sources in a report to the U.S. Congress even acknowledge this. On February 18, 2011 one report states:

In March 2008, [Colonel Qaddafi] announced his intention to dissolve most government administrative bodies and institute a Wealth Distribution Program whereby state oil revenues would be distributed to citizens on a monthly basis for them to administer personally, in cooperation, and via local committees. Citing popular criticism of government performance in a long, wide ranging speech, [he] repeatedly stated that the traditional state would soon be “dead” in Libya and that direct rule by citizens would be accomplished through the distribution of oil revenues. [The military], foreign affairs, security, and oil production arrangements reportedly would remain national government responsibilities, while other bodies would be phased out. In early 2009, Libya’s Basic People’s Congresses considered variations of the proposals, and the General People’s Congress voted to delay implementation. [3]

Qaddafi wanted all the people of Libya to have direct access to the nation’s wealth. He was also aware of the deep rooted corruption that plagued the ranks of the Libyan government. This was one of the reasons why he wanted to apply a model of political anarchy in Libya through progressive steps. He was talking about both these project for a few years.

On the other hand, the Wealth Redistribution Project, along with the establishment of an anarchist political system, was viewed as a very serious threat by the U.S., the E.U., and a group of corrupt Libyan officials. If successful, the reforms could have created political unrest amongst many domestic populations around the world. Internally, many Libyan officials were working to delay the project. This included reaching out to external powers to intervene in Libya to stop Qaddafi and his projects.

Why Mahmoud Jibril Joined the Transitional Council

Amongst the Libyan officials that were heavily opposed to this project and viewed it with horror was Mahmoud Jibril. Jibril was put into place by Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi. Because of strong influence and advice from the U.S. and the E.U., Saif Al-Islam selected Jibril to transform the Libyan economy and impose a wave of neo-liberal economic reforms that would open the Libyan market.

Jibril became the head of two bodies in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the National Planning Council of Libya and National Economic Development Board of Libya. While the National Economic Development Board was a regular ministry, the National Planning Council would actually put Jibril in a government position above that of the Office of the General-Secretary of the People’s Committee of Libya (which is the equivalent of the post of a prime minister). Jibril actually became one of the forces that opened the doors of privatization and poverty in Libya.

About six months before the conflict erupted in Libya, Mahmoud Jibiril actually met with Bernard-Henri Lévy in Australia to discuss forming the Transitional Council and deposing Colonel Qaddafi. [4] He described Qaddafi’s Wealth Redistribution Project as “crazy” in minutes and documents from the National Economic Development Board of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. [5] Jibril strongly believed that the Libyan masses were not fit to govern themselves and that an elite should always control the fate and wealth of any nation. What Jibril wanted to do is downsize the Libyan government and layoff a large segment of the public sector, but in exchange increase government regulations in Libya. He would also always cite Singapore as the perfect example of a neo-liberal state. While in Singapore, which he regularly visited, it is likely that he also meet with Bernard-Henri Lévy.

When the problems erupted in Benghazi, Mahmoud Jibril immediately went to Cairo, Egypt. He told his colleagues that he would be back in Tripoli soon, but he had no intention of returning. In reality, he went to Cairo to meet the leaders of the Syrian National Council and Lévy. They were all waiting for him inside Cairo to coordinate the events in Libya and Syria. This is one of the reasons that the Transitional Council has recognized the Syrian National Council as the legitimate government of Syria.

Do Not Pity the Dead, Pity the Living!

Muammar Qaddafi is now dead.

He was murdered in his hometown of Sirte.

He stood his ground until the end like he said he would.

The Transitional Council, which vowed to take him to court had him murdered.

He even reminded the men who beat him, anally raped him, mocked him, and finally murdered him that they were not following the laws of Islam about respectful treatment of prisoners. NATO played a central role and oversaw the whole event.

The murder was systematic, because after Qaddafi was murdered his son and several other Libyan leaders were killed too.

Colonel Qaddafi’s death marks a historic milestone for Libya. An old era has ended in Libya and a new chapter begins.

Libya will not become a new paradise like the Transitional Council says. In many cases the living will envy the dead, because of men like Mahmoud Jibril, Ali Tarhouni, and Sliman Bouchuiguir.

Mahmoud Jibril is a mere opportunist. The man had no problems being a government official under the late Qaddafi. He never complained about human rights or a lack of democracy. He was the prime minister of the Transitional Council of Libya until a few days after the savage murder of Colonel Qaddafi. The opposition of Jibril to the late Qaddafi’s Wealth Redistribution Project and his elitist attitude are amongst the reasons he conspired against Qaddafi and helped form the Transitional Council.

Is this ex-regime official, who has always been an open supporter of the Arab dictators in the Persian Gulf, really a representative and champion of the people? How about his colleagues in the Transitional Council who negotiated oil contracts with NATO member states, even before they held any so-called government positions in the Transitional Council?


Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a Sociologist and Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montréal. He specializes on the Middle East and Central Asia. He was on the ground in Libya for over two months and was also a Special Correspondent for Flashpoints, which is an investigative news program carried on numerous stations in the United States and based in Berkeley, California. Nazemroaya has been releasing these articles about Libya in conjunction with aired discussions (now archived) with Cynthia McKinney on Freedom Now, a show aired on Saturdays on KPFK, Los Angeles, California.

Notes

[1] Henri Pierre Habib, Politics and Government of Revolutionary Libya (Montmagny, Québec: Le Cercle de Livre de France Ltée, 1975), p.1.

[2] Regional African Satellite Communication Organization, “Launch of the Pan African Satellite,” July 26, 2010:
<http://www.rascom.org/info_detail2.php?langue_id=2&info_id=120&id_sr=0&id_r=32&id_gr=3>

[3] Christopher M. Blanchard and James Zanotti, “Libya Christopher M. Blanchard and James Zanotti, “Libya: Background and U.S. Relations,” Congressional Research Service, February 18, 2011, p.22.

[4] Private discussions with Mahmoud Jiribil’s co-workers inside and outside of Libya.

[5] Internal private documents from the National Economic Development Board of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.

Europe Tries To Kick The Can Down The Road But It Will Only Lead To Financial Disaster

Europe Tries To Kick The Can Down The Road But It Will Only Lead To Financial Disaster

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Have you heard the good news? Financial armageddon has been averted. The economic collapse in Europe has been cancelled. Everything is going to be okay. Well, actually none of those statements is true, but news of the "debt deal" in Europe has set off a frenzy of irrational exuberance throughout the financial world anyway. Newspapers all over the globe are declaring that the financial crisis in Europe is over. Stock markets all over the world are soaring. The Dow was up nearly 3 percent today, and this recent surge is helping the S&P 500 to have its best month since 1974. Global financial markets are experiencing an explosion of optimism right now. Yes, European leaders have been able to kick the can down the road for a few months and a total Greek default is not going to happen right now. However, as you will see below, the core elements of this "debt deal" actually make a financial disaster in Europe even more likely in the future.

The two most important parts of the plan are a 50% "haircut" on Greek debt held by private investors and highly leveraging the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) to give it much more "firepower".

Both of these elements are likely to cause significant problems down the road. But most investors do not seem to have figured this out yet. In fact, most investors seem to be buying into the hype that Europe's problems have been solved.

There is a tremendous lack of critical thinking in the financial community today. Just because politicians in Europe say that the crisis has been solved does not mean that the crisis has been solved. But all over the world there are bold declarations that a great "breakthrough" has been achieved. An article posted on USA Today is an example of this irrational exuberance....

Investors — at least for now — don't have to worry about a financial collapse like the one in 2008, after Wall Street investment bank Lehman Bros. filed for bankruptcy, sparking a global financial crisis.

"Financial Armageddon seems to have been taken off the table," says Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott.

Wow, doesn't that sound great?

But now let's look at the facts.

You can't solve a debt problem with even more debt. But that is what this debt deal is trying to do.

The politicians in Europe did not want to raise more money for the EFSF the "hard way". Voters in Germany (and other European nations) are overwhelmingly against contributing even more cash to a fund that many see as a financial black hole.

So what do you do when more money is needed but nobody wants to contribute?

You borrow it.

Essentially, this debt deal calls for the EFSF to become four or five times larger by "leveraging" the existing funds in the EFSF.

But isn't that risky?

Of course it is.

There are some leaders in Europe that recognize this. For example, an article in The Telegraph notes the reservations that the president of the Bundesbank has about this plan....

Jens Weidmann, the president of the Bundesbank and a member of the European Central Bank, sounded the alarm over the plan to “leverage” the fund by a factor of four to five times without putting any new money into the pot.

He warned that the scheme could be hit by market turbulence with taxpayers left holding the bill for risky investments in Italian and Spanish bonds.

So who is going to fund all of this new debt?

Well, it turns out that the Europeans are counting on the same folks that the U.S. government is constantly borrowing money from.

The Chinese.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has already spoken directly with Chinese President Hu Jintao about funding this new bailout effort.

So is borrowing money from the Chinese to fund bailouts for Greece and other weak sisters in Europe sound policy?

Of course not.

And the sad thing is that this expanded EFSF is still not going to be enough to solve the financial problems in Europe.

According to an article in The Telegraph, a recent survey of economists found that most of them do not believe that this new plan is going to raise enough money....

The plan to increase the European Financial and Stability Facility to €1  trillion on paper was attacked by economists as not enough to “stave off” worsening debt problems in Italy and Spain.

In a survey of economists, 26 of 48 thought the firepower was not enough.

But the worst part of this new plan is the 50 percent "haircut" that private investors are being forced to take.

This is essentially a partial default by the Greek government. A lot of folks are going to get hit really hard by losses from this. Instead of making financial institutions in Europe stronger, these losses are going to make a lot of them even weaker.

Normally, in the event of a default, credit default swap contracts would be triggered. But apparently because this was considered to be a "voluntary" haircut, that is not going to happen in this instance.

A Bloomberg article explained this in greater detail. The following is a brief excerpt....

The EU agreement with investors for a voluntary 50 percent writedown on their Greek bond holdings means $3.7 billion of debt-insurance contracts won’t be triggered, according to the International Swaps & Derivatives Association’s rules.

That means that investors and financial institutions all over the world are just going to have to eat these losses.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is already acknowledging that a number of Greek banks will have to be nationalized because of the severity of this "haircut". A recent CNBC article detailed this....

The haircut is expected to impose big losses on the country's banks and state-run pension funds, which are up their necks in toxic Greek government bonds of about 100 billion euros.

The government will replenish pension funds' capital, but banks may face temporary nationalisation, Papandreou said.

"It is very likely that a large part of the banks' shares will pass into state ownership," Papandreou said. He pledged, however, that these stakes will be sold back to private investors after the banks' restructuring.

So where will the Greek government get the funds to "replenish" the capital of those banks?

That is a very good question.

But we haven't even discussed the worst part of this "debt deal" yet.

If you don't remember any other part of this article, please remember this.

The debt deal in Europe sends a very frightening message to the market.

The truth is that Europe could have totally bailed out Greece without any sort of a "haircut" taking place.

But they didn't.

So now investors all over the globe have got to be thinking that if they are holding Portuguese bonds, Italian bonds or Spanish bonds there is a really good chance that they will be forced to take a massive "haircut" at some point as well.

At this time last year, the yield on two year Italian bonds was about 2.5 percent. Now it is about 4.5 percent. As investors begin to price in the probability of having to take a future "haircut" on Italian debt, those bond yields are going to go much, much higher.

That means that it is going to become much more expensive for the Italian government to borrow money and that also means that it is going to become much more difficult for the Italians to get their financial house in order.

In essence, the haircut on Greek debt is a signal to investors that they should require a much higher rate of return on the debt of all of the PIIGS. This is going to make the financial collapse of all of the PIIGS much more likely.

Remember, about this time last year the yield on two year Greek bonds was about 10 percent. Today, it is over 70 percent.

As I wrote about in a previous article, the western world is in debt up to its eyeballs right now and trying to kick the can down the road is not going to solve anything.

Our leaders may succeed in delaying the pain for a while, but it most definitely is coming.

Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Italy all have debt to GDP ratios that are well over 100% right now. Spain is in a huge amount of trouble as well.

When you add up all the debt, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain owe the rest of the world about 3 trillion euros combined.

If Italy or Spain goes down, the rest of Europe is going to be helpless to stop it. There simply is not going to be enough money to bail either one of them out.

That is why this "debt deal" is so alarming. All investors in Italian or Spanish debt will now have to factor in the probability that they will be required to accept a 50 percent haircut at some point in the future.

If the markets behave rationally (and if the ECB does not manipulate them too much), it appears inevitable that bond yields over in Europe are going to rise substantially, and that will put tremendous additional financial strain on governments all over Europe.

Basically, we have got a huge mess on our hands, and this debt deal just made it a lot worse.

Yes, a financial collapse has been averted in Greece for the moment, but the truth is that there is no real reason to be celebrating this deal.

A massive financial storm is coming to Europe, and this "debt deal" has made that all the more certain.

Once again, politicians in Europe have tried to kick the can down the road, but in the end their efforts are only going to lead to complete and total financial disaster.

Fascist America, in 10 easy steps

Fascist America, in 10 easy steps

From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all.

October 11, 2007

Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.

They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.

Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree - domestically - as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government - the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors - we scarcely recognise the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security - remember who else was keen on the word "homeland" - didn't raise the alarm bells it might have.

It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realise.

Conason eloquently warned of the danger of American authoritarianism. I am arguing that we need also to look at the lessons of European and other kinds of fascism to understand the potential seriousness of the events we see unfolding in the US.

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy

After we were hit on September 11 2001, we were in a state of national shock. Less than six weeks later, on October 26 2001, the USA Patriot Act was passed by a Congress that had little chance to debate it; many said that they scarcely had time to read it. We were told we were now on a "war footing"; we were in a "global war" against a "global caliphate" intending to "wipe out civilisation". There have been other times of crisis in which the US accepted limits on civil liberties, such as during the civil war, when Lincoln declared martial law, and the second world war, when thousands of Japanese-American citizens were interned. But this situation, as Bruce Fein of the American Freedom Agenda notes, is unprecedented: all our other wars had an endpoint, so the pendulum was able to swing back toward freedom; this war is defined as open-ended in time and without national boundaries in space - the globe itself is the battlefield. "This time," Fein says, "there will be no defined end."

Creating a terrifying threat - hydra-like, secretive, evil - is an old trick. It can, like Hitler's invocation of a communist threat to the nation's security, be based on actual events (one Wisconsin academic has faced calls for his dismissal because he noted, among other things, that the alleged communist arson, the Reichstag fire of February 1933, was swiftly followed in Nazi Germany by passage of the Enabling Act, which replaced constitutional law with an open-ended state of emergency). Or the terrifying threat can be based, like the National Socialist evocation of the "global conspiracy of world Jewry", on myth.

It is not that global Islamist terrorism is not a severe danger; of course it is. I am arguing rather that the language used to convey the nature of the threat is different in a country such as Spain - which has also suffered violent terrorist attacks - than it is in America. Spanish citizens know that they face a grave security threat; what we as American citizens believe is that we are potentially threatened with the end of civilisation as we know it. Of course, this makes us more willing to accept restrictions on our freedoms.

2. Create a gulag

Once you have got everyone scared, the next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law (as Bush put it, he wanted the American detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be situated in legal "outer space") - where torture takes place.

At first, the people who are sent there are seen by citizens as outsiders: troublemakers, spies, "enemies of the people" or "criminals". Initially, citizens tend to support the secret prison system; it makes them feel safer and they do not identify with the prisoners. But soon enough, civil society leaders - opposition members, labour activists, clergy and journalists - are arrested and sent there as well.

This process took place in fascist shifts or anti-democracy crackdowns ranging from Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s to the Latin American coups of the 1970s and beyond. It is standard practice for closing down an open society or crushing a pro-democracy uprising.

With its jails in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, of course, Guantánamo in Cuba, where detainees are abused, and kept indefinitely without trial and without access to the due process of the law, America certainly has its gulag now. Bush and his allies in Congress recently announced they would issue no information about the secret CIA "black site" prisons throughout the world, which are used to incarcerate people who have been seized off the street.

Gulags in history tend to metastasise, becoming ever larger and more secretive, ever more deadly and formalised. We know from first-hand accounts, photographs, videos and government documents that people, innocent and guilty, have been tortured in the US-run prisons we are aware of and those we can't investigate adequately.

But Americans still assume this system and detainee abuses involve only scary brown people with whom they don't generally identify. It was brave of the conservative pundit William Safire to quote the anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemöller, who had been seized as a political prisoner: "First they came for the Jews." Most Americans don't understand yet that the destruction of the rule of law at Guantánamo set a dangerous precedent for them, too.

By the way, the establishment of military tribunals that deny prisoners due process tends to come early on in a fascist shift. Mussolini and Stalin set up such tribunals. On April 24 1934, the Nazis, too, set up the People's Court, which also bypassed the judicial system: prisoners were held indefinitely, often in isolation, and tortured, without being charged with offences, and were subjected to show trials. Eventually, the Special Courts became a parallel system that put pressure on the regular courts to abandon the rule of law in favour of Nazi ideology when making decisions.

3. Develop a thug caste

When leaders who seek what I call a "fascist shift" want to close down an open society, they send paramilitary groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens. The Blackshirts roamed the Italian countryside beating up communists; the Brownshirts staged violent rallies throughout Germany. This paramilitary force is especially important in a democracy: you need citizens to fear thug violence and so you need thugs who are free from prosecution.

The years following 9/11 have proved a bonanza for America's security contractors, with the Bush administration outsourcing areas of work that traditionally fell to the US military. In the process, contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been issued for security work by mercenaries at home and abroad. In Iraq, some of these contract operatives have been accused of involvement in torturing prisoners, harassing journalists and firing on Iraqi civilians. Under Order 17, issued to regulate contractors in Iraq by the one-time US administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, these contractors are immune from prosecution

Yes, but that is in Iraq, you could argue; however, after Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security hired and deployed hundreds of armed private security guards in New Orleans. The investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill interviewed one unnamed guard who reported having fired on unarmed civilians in the city. It was a natural disaster that underlay that episode - but the administration's endless war on terror means ongoing scope for what are in effect privately contracted armies to take on crisis and emergency management at home in US cities.

Thugs in America? Groups of angry young Republican men, dressed in identical shirts and trousers, menaced poll workers counting the votes in Florida in 2000. If you are reading history, you can imagine that there can be a need for "public order" on the next election day. Say there are protests, or a threat, on the day of an election; history would not rule out the presence of a private security firm at a polling station "to restore public order".

4. Set up an internal surveillance system

In Mussolini's Italy, in Nazi Germany, in communist East Germany, in communist China - in every closed society - secret police spy on ordinary people and encourage neighbours to spy on neighbours. The Stasi needed to keep only a minority of East Germans under surveillance to convince a majority that they themselves were being watched.

In 2005 and 2006, when James Risen and Eric Lichtblau wrote in the New York Times about a secret state programme to wiretap citizens' phones, read their emails and follow international financial transactions, it became clear to ordinary Americans that they, too, could be under state scrutiny.

In closed societies, this surveillance is cast as being about "national security"; the true function is to keep citizens docile and inhibit their activism and dissent.

5. Harass citizens' groups

The fifth thing you do is related to step four - you infiltrate and harass citizens' groups. It can be trivial: a church in Pasadena, whose minister preached that Jesus was in favour of peace, found itself being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, while churches that got Republicans out to vote, which is equally illegal under US tax law, have been left alone.

Other harassment is more serious: the American Civil Liberties Union reports that thousands of ordinary American anti-war, environmental and other groups have been infiltrated by agents: a secret Pentagon database includes more than four dozen peaceful anti-war meetings, rallies or marches by American citizens in its category of 1,500 "suspicious incidents". The equally secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (Cifa) agency of the Department of Defense has been gathering information about domestic organisations engaged in peaceful political activities: Cifa is supposed to track "potential terrorist threats" as it watches ordinary US citizen activists. A little-noticed new law has redefined activism such as animal rights protests as "terrorism". So the definition of "terrorist" slowly expands to include the opposition.

6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release

This scares people. It is a kind of cat-and-mouse game. Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the investigative reporters who wrote China Wakes: the Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power, describe pro-democracy activists in China, such as Wei Jingsheng, being arrested and released many times. In a closing or closed society there is a "list" of dissidents and opposition leaders: you are targeted in this way once you are on the list, and it is hard to get off the list.

In 2004, America's Transportation Security Administration confirmed that it had a list of passengers who were targeted for security searches or worse if they tried to fly. People who have found themselves on the list? Two middle-aged women peace activists in San Francisco; liberal Senator Edward Kennedy; a member of Venezuela's government - after Venezuela's president had criticised Bush; and thousands of ordinary US citizens.

Professor Walter F Murphy is emeritus of Princeton University; he is one of the foremost constitutional scholars in the nation and author of the classic Constitutional Democracy. Murphy is also a decorated former marine, and he is not even especially politically liberal. But on March 1 this year, he was denied a boarding pass at Newark, "because I was on the Terrorist Watch list".

"Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that," asked the airline employee.

"I explained," said Murphy, "that I had not so marched but had, in September 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the constitution."

"That'll do it," the man said.

Anti-war marcher? Potential terrorist. Support the constitution? Potential terrorist. History shows that the categories of "enemy of the people" tend to expand ever deeper into civil life.

James Yee, a US citizen, was the Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo who was accused of mishandling classified documents. He was harassed by the US military before the charges against him were dropped. Yee has been detained and released several times. He is still of interest.

Brandon Mayfield, a US citizen and lawyer in Oregon, was mistakenly identified as a possible terrorist. His house was secretly broken into and his computer seized. Though he is innocent of the accusation against him, he is still on the list.

It is a standard practice of fascist societies that once you are on the list, you can't get off.

7. Target key individuals

Threaten civil servants, artists and academics with job loss if they don't toe the line. Mussolini went after the rectors of state universities who did not conform to the fascist line; so did Joseph Goebbels, who purged academics who were not pro-Nazi; so did Chile's Augusto Pinochet; so does the Chinese communist Politburo in punishing pro-democracy students and professors.

Academe is a tinderbox of activism, so those seeking a fascist shift punish academics and students with professional loss if they do not "coordinate", in Goebbels' term, ideologically. Since civil servants are the sector of society most vulnerable to being fired by a given regime, they are also a group that fascists typically "coordinate" early on: the Reich Law for the Re-establishment of a Professional Civil Service was passed on April 7 1933.

Bush supporters in state legislatures in several states put pressure on regents at state universities to penalise or fire academics who have been critical of the administration. As for civil servants, the Bush administration has derailed the career of one military lawyer who spoke up for fair trials for detainees, while an administration official publicly intimidated the law firms that represent detainees pro bono by threatening to call for their major corporate clients to boycott them.

Elsewhere, a CIA contract worker who said in a closed blog that "waterboarding is torture" was stripped of the security clearance she needed in order to do her job.

Most recently, the administration purged eight US attorneys for what looks like insufficient political loyalty. When Goebbels purged the civil service in April 1933, attorneys were "coordinated" too, a step that eased the way of the increasingly brutal laws to follow.

8. Control the press

Italy in the 1920s, Germany in the 30s, East Germany in the 50s, Czechoslovakia in the 60s, the Latin American dictatorships in the 70s, China in the 80s and 90s - all dictatorships and would-be dictators target newspapers and journalists. They threaten and harass them in more open societies that they are seeking to close, and they arrest them and worse in societies that have been closed already.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says arrests of US journalists are at an all-time high: Josh Wolf (no relation), a blogger in San Francisco, has been put in jail for a year for refusing to turn over video of an anti-war demonstration; Homeland Security brought a criminal complaint against reporter Greg Palast, claiming he threatened "critical infrastructure" when he and a TV producer were filming victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Palast had written a bestseller critical of the Bush administration.

Other reporters and writers have been punished in other ways. Joseph C Wilson accused Bush, in a New York Times op-ed, of leading the country to war on the basis of a false charge that Saddam Hussein had acquired yellowcake uranium in Niger. His wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA spy - a form of retaliation that ended her career.

Prosecution and job loss are nothing, though, compared with how the US is treating journalists seeking to cover the conflict in Iraq in an unbiased way. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented multiple accounts of the US military in Iraq firing upon or threatening to fire upon unembedded (meaning independent) reporters and camera operators from organisations ranging from al-Jazeera to the BBC. While westerners may question the accounts by al-Jazeera, they should pay attention to the accounts of reporters such as the BBC's Kate Adie. In some cases reporters have been wounded or killed, including ITN's Terry Lloyd in 2003. Both CBS and the Associated Press in Iraq had staff members seized by the US military and taken to violent prisons; the news organisations were unable to see the evidence against their staffers.

Over time in closing societies, real news is supplanted by fake news and false documents. Pinochet showed Chilean citizens falsified documents to back up his claim that terrorists had been about to attack the nation. The yellowcake charge, too, was based on forged papers.

You won't have a shutdown of news in modern America - it is not possible. But you can have, as Frank Rich and Sidney Blumenthal have pointed out, a steady stream of lies polluting the news well. What you already have is a White House directing a stream of false information that is so relentless that it is increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth. In a fascist system, it's not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can't tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.

9. Dissent equals treason

Cast dissent as "treason" and criticism as "espionage'. Every closing society does this, just as it elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and expand the definition of "spy" and "traitor". When Bill Keller, the publisher of the New York Times, ran the Lichtblau/Risen stories, Bush called the Times' leaking of classified information "disgraceful", while Republicans in Congress called for Keller to be charged with treason, and rightwing commentators and news outlets kept up the "treason" drumbeat. Some commentators, as Conason noted, reminded readers smugly that one penalty for violating the Espionage Act is execution.

Conason is right to note how serious a threat that attack represented. It is also important to recall that the 1938 Moscow show trial accused the editor of Izvestia, Nikolai Bukharin, of treason; Bukharin was, in fact, executed. And it is important to remind Americans that when the 1917 Espionage Act was last widely invoked, during the infamous 1919 Palmer Raids, leftist activists were arrested without warrants in sweeping roundups, kept in jail for up to five months, and "beaten, starved, suffocated, tortured and threatened with death", according to the historian Myra MacPherson. After that, dissent was muted in America for a decade.

In Stalin's Soviet Union, dissidents were "enemies of the people". National Socialists called those who supported Weimar democracy "November traitors".

And here is where the circle closes: most Americans do not realise that since September of last year - when Congress wrongly, foolishly, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 - the president has the power to call any US citizen an "enemy combatant". He has the power to define what "enemy combatant" means. The president can also delegate to anyone he chooses in the executive branch the right to define "enemy combatant" any way he or she wants and then seize Americans accordingly.

Even if you or I are American citizens, even if we turn out to be completely innocent of what he has accused us of doing, he has the power to have us seized as we are changing planes at Newark tomorrow, or have us taken with a knock on the door; ship you or me to a navy brig; and keep you or me in isolation, possibly for months, while awaiting trial. (Prolonged isolation, as psychiatrists know, triggers psychosis in otherwise mentally healthy prisoners. That is why Stalin's gulag had an isolation cell, like Guantánamo's, in every satellite prison. Camp 6, the newest, most brutal facility at Guantánamo, is all isolation cells.)

We US citizens will get a trial eventually - for now. But legal rights activists at the Center for Constitutional Rights say that the Bush administration is trying increasingly aggressively to find ways to get around giving even US citizens fair trials. "Enemy combatant" is a status offence - it is not even something you have to have done. "We have absolutely moved over into a preventive detention model - you look like you could do something bad, you might do something bad, so we're going to hold you," says a spokeswoman of the CCR.

Most Americans surely do not get this yet. No wonder: it is hard to believe, even though it is true. In every closing society, at a certain point there are some high-profile arrests - usually of opposition leaders, clergy and journalists. Then everything goes quiet. After those arrests, there are still newspapers, courts, TV and radio, and the facades of a civil society. There just isn't real dissent. There just isn't freedom. If you look at history, just before those arrests is where we are now.

10. Suspend the rule of law

The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national guard. This means that in a national emergency - which the president now has enhanced powers to declare - he can send Michigan's militia to enforce a state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections of the state's governor and its citizens.

Even as Americans were focused on Britney Spears's meltdown and the question of who fathered Anna Nicole's baby, the New York Times editorialised about this shift: "A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night ... Beyond actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or any 'other condition'."

Critics see this as a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act - which was meant to restrain the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement. The Democratic senator Patrick Leahy says the bill encourages a president to declare federal martial law. It also violates the very reason the founders set up our system of government as they did: having seen citizens bullied by a monarch's soldiers, the founders were terrified of exactly this kind of concentration of militias' power over American people in the hands of an oppressive executive or faction.

Of course, the United States is not vulnerable to the violent, total closing-down of the system that followed Mussolini's march on Rome or Hitler's roundup of political prisoners. Our democratic habits are too resilient, and our military and judiciary too independent, for any kind of scenario like that.

Rather, as other critics are noting, our experiment in democracy could be closed down by a process of erosion.

It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931. Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere - while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: "dogs go on with their doggy life ... How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster."

As Americans turn away quite leisurely, keeping tuned to internet shopping and American Idol, the foundations of democracy are being fatally corroded. Something has changed profoundly that weakens us unprecedentedly: our democratic traditions, independent judiciary and free press do their work today in a context in which we are "at war" in a "long war" - a war without end, on a battlefield described as the globe, in a context that gives the president - without US citizens realising it yet - the power over US citizens of freedom or long solitary incarceration, on his say-so alone.

That means a hollowness has been expanding under the foundation of all these still- free-looking institutions - and this foundation can give way under certain kinds of pressure. To prevent such an outcome, we have to think about the "what ifs".

What if, in a year and a half, there is another attack - say, God forbid, a dirty bomb? The executive can declare a state of emergency. History shows that any leader, of any party, will be tempted to maintain emergency powers after the crisis has passed. With the gutting of traditional checks and balances, we are no less endangered by a President Hillary than by a President Giuliani - because any executive will be tempted to enforce his or her will through edict rather than the arduous, uncertain process of democratic negotiation and compromise.

What if the publisher of a major US newspaper were charged with treason or espionage, as a rightwing effort seemed to threaten Keller with last year? What if he or she got 10 years in jail? What would the newspapers look like the next day? Judging from history, they would not cease publishing; but they would suddenly be very polite.

Right now, only a handful of patriots are trying to hold back the tide of tyranny for the rest of us - staff at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who faced death threats for representing the detainees yet persisted all the way to the Supreme Court; activists at the American Civil Liberties Union; and prominent conservatives trying to roll back the corrosive new laws, under the banner of a new group called the American Freedom Agenda. This small, disparate collection of people needs everybody's help, including that of Europeans and others internationally who are willing to put pressure on the administration because they can see what a US unrestrained by real democracy at home can mean for the rest of the world.

We need to look at history and face the "what ifs". For if we keep going down this road, the "end of America" could come for each of us in a different way, at a different moment; each of us might have a different moment when we feel forced to look back and think: that is how it was before - and this is the way it is now.

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands ... is the definition of tyranny," wrote James Madison. We still have the choice to stop going down this road; we can stand our ground and fight for our nation, and take up the banner the founders asked us to carry.

Jean Quan's About-Face: Oakland Mayor Now Supports the Occupy Movement, Orders "Minimal Police Presence"

Jean Quan's About-Face: Oakland Mayor Now Supports the Occupy Movement, Orders "Minimal Police Presence"

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This is rather incredible. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan released a statement late last night saying she now supports the Occupy Oakland protesters and will minimize police presence for the time being. The statement comes less than 48 hours after local police used excessive force against protesters, including rubber bullets, stun grenades, sound cannons, and tear gas. One protester, an Iraq war veteran named Scott Olsen, was shot with a projectile at close range, fracturing his skull and landing him in critical condition. [Update: Olsen's condition has since been upgraded to fair.]

Quan's statement, via the San Francisco Chronicle:

We support the goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement: we have high levels of unemployment and we have high levels of foreclosure that makes Oakland part of the 99% too. We are a progressive city and tolerant of many opinions. We may not always agree, but we all have a right to be heard.

I want to thank everyone for the peaceful demonstration at Frank Ogawa Park tonight, and thank the city employees who worked hard to clean up the plaza so that all activities can continue including Occupy Wall Street. We have decided to have a minimal police presence at the plaza for the short term and build a community effort to improve communications and dialogue with the demonstrators.

99% of our officers stayed professional during difficult and dangerous circumstances as did some of the demonstrators who dissuaded other protestors from vandalizing downtown and for helping to keep the demonstrations peaceful. For the most part, demonstrations over the past two weeks have been peaceful. We hope they continue to be so.

I want to express our deepest concern for all of those who were injured last night, and we are committed to ensuring this does not happen again. Investigations of certain incidents are underway and I will personally monitor them.

We understand and recognize the impact this event has had on the community and acknowledge what has happened. We cannot change the past, but we are committed to doing better.

Most of us are part of the 99%, and understand the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. We are committed to honoring their free speech right.

Finally, we understand the demonstrators want to meet with me and Chief Jordan. We welcome open dialogue with representatives of Occupy Wall Street members, and we are willing to meet with them as soon as possible.

Wow.

New Inequality Data Likely to Boost “Occupy” Movement

New Inequality Data Likely to Boost “Occupy” Movement

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A major study on income equality by a non-partisan government agency is likely to boost the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, whose standing with the general public appears on the rise, according to a new poll.

The study, released here Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), found that the average after-tax real income of the top one percent of the nation's households grew by 275 percent between 1979 and 2007 - about seven times greater than the increase in income by the remaining 99 percent over the same period.

And the income of the poorest 20 percent of the nation's earners grew by a mere 18 percent during that period, according to the report, which had been requested by the senior Democratic and Republican members on the Senator Finance Committee several years ago. That was less than one percent per year.

The report – the latest in a series of private or non-profit studies that confirm a sharp rise in income and wealth inequality over the past generation – came as a new New York Times/CBS News poll showed stronger-than-expected popular support for the "Occupy" movement, which has spread to dozens of cities across the country.

The movement, which was launched in Wall Street's Zucotti Park Sep. 17, has sought to draw public attention to the growing concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny minority of people compared to the increasingly difficult plight of the middle class, the poor, and the unemployed. The movement has also protested what it regards as the excessive influence of Wall Street banks and big corporations on government policies.

A 43-percent plurality of the 1,650 respondents queried by the poll said they agreed with the views expressed by the movement, compared to 27 percent who said they disagreed. Thirty percent –the same percentage who said they had heard little or nothing about the movement - said they had no opinion.

The poll found stark partisan differences on the question: 54 percent of Democrats said they agreed with the movement's views, while only 13 percent disagreed. Among Republicans, however, the numbers were virtually reversed: 19 percent agreed, while 57 percent disagreed.

Among self-identified independents - the 30 to 40 percent of the electorate who will likely decide next November's presidential election - 48 percent agreed with the movement's views, while only 20 percent disagreed.

Moreover, a strong plurality of 46 percent of all respondents agreed with the proposition that the "views of the people involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement generally reflect the views of most Americans." Thirty-four percent said they disagreed, while the rest said they had no opinion.

Those percentages marked a sharp boost in the movement's popular support and visibility from just two weeks ago when the mainstream U.S. media began to cover it. A Gallup poll conducted in mid-October found that only 22 percent said they "approved" of the movement's goals, while 15 percent said they disapproved, and 63 percent said they didn't know enough to judge.

They also suggest that the Occupy movement enjoys substantially greater popularity and acceptance than the so-called "Tea Party", a mainly right-wing, populist movement that played a key role in the Republican victories in the 2010 mid-term elections and has since driven demands for big cuts in government spending.

According to recent polls, only about 25 percent of respondents say they support the "Tea Party" and its policies.

"In just one month, the protesters have shifted the national dialogue from a relentless focus on the (government) deficit to a discussion of the real issues facing Main Street: the lack of jobs - and especially jobs with decent benefits - spiraling inequality, cash- strapped American families' debt-loads, and the pernicious influence of money in politics that led us to this point," wrote Joshua Holland, the editor of the progressive, California-based website Alternet, Wednesday.

The poll, which found historically low levels of public confidence in Congress and the federal government, also found strong support for a more equal distribution of "money and wealth" in the country. Two- thirds of respondents said the distribution should be "more even", while only 26 percent said that the current distribution of money and wealth was "fair".

And in an ominous sign for the Republican Party, nearly 70 percent of respondents said they think the policies of Republicans in Congress favour the "rich" over the middle class and the poor.

Since taking control of the House of Representatives in 2010, Republican lawmakers have effectively blocked all efforts to increase taxes on the corporations and wealthiest individuals, initiatives supported by about two-thirds of the public, according to the poll.

The CBO findings should bolster popular support for such efforts. While the after-tax income of the poorest 20 percent of U.S. households grew by an average of less than one percent per year, the next 60 percent – the broad middle class – did not fare much better. The average growth in its after-tax income over the 28 years came to only about 1.4 percent annually.

As a result, the wealthiest 20 percent of the population received substantially more of the total after-tax household income in 2007 – 53 percent – than all of the rest. In 1979, the same wealthiest 20 percent received 43 percent, according to the CBO.

In a second report released here Wednesday, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a think tank closely associated with the U.S. labour movement, found an even greater disparity in income between the very rich and the rest of the country.

According to its calculations, the incomes of the top 0.1 percent of households grew 390 percent between 1979 and 2007, while incomes of the bottom 90 percent grew by only five percent during the same period.

"The sense that most of us have been ignored by those in charge of economic policy is totally justified," said EPI economist and co- author of the report, Josh Bivens. "And I think it is what is driving the energy of the Occupy Wall Street campaign."

Some conservative analysts noted that the CBO report only covered the period through 2007 and did not take account of the impact of the 2008 "financial crisis".

Citing data from the pro-business Tax Foundation, Michael Tanner of the libertarian Cato Institute argued that the wealthiest were particularly hard hit by the fallout.

"(T)here has been a 39 percent decline in the number of American millionaires since 2007," he wrote on the right-wing National Review website Wednesday. "Among the so-called super rich, the decline has been even sharper. The number of Americans earning more than 10 million (dollars) per year has fallen by 55 percent. Perhaps someone should tell the folks in Zuccotti Park: Inequality is actually declining."