Saturday, April 28, 2012

One Nation Under Debt With Endless Debt Slavery For All

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Debt is a "soft" form of slavery. In America today, it is not legal to bind people up with chains and force them to work for you, but that doesn't mean that there are not millions upon millions of slaves in this country. When you borrow money, you willingly become a servant to the lender. Sadly, there are millions of Americans that will spend the rest of their lives working to pay off their debts but they will never escape the endless debt slavery that they have gotten themselves into. When you add up all forms of debt in the United States at this point, it comes to more than 54 trillion dollars. That is more than $178,000 for every man, woman and child in America. We truly are one nation under debt, and we have created the biggest debt bubble in the history of the planet. Unfortunately, all debt bubbles eventually burst, and when this one bursts the consequences are going to be unlike anything ever seen before.

When most Americans think of the "U.S. debt problem", they tend to only think of the U.S. national debt. Well, that certainly is horrifying, but it is only a small part of the overall problem.

The chart posted below shows the growth of total debt in the United States over the last several decades. Total credit market debt owed was less than 5 trillion dollars back in 1980, but now it is over 54 trillion dollars....

Our entire economy is now based on debt. We are told that we have to go into debt for everything.

Just think about it.

Most young adults start their lives by going into huge amounts of student loan debt. Young people are told that they won't be able to get a good job without a college education, and most of them can't get a college education without taking out huge loans.

Unfortunately, a college education just keeps getting more and more expensive. At this point, college students in the United States are borrowing approximately about twice as much money as they did a decade ago after adjusting for inflation.

Sadly, about two-thirds of all college graduates leave school with student loan debt these days. The average student loan debt burden at graduation is approximately $25,000.

So before they even start their lives, these young people are drowning in debt. Recently, total student loan debt in the United States passed the one trillion dollar mark.

That is absolute insanity.

Okay, so once our young people graduate from college they need to get a car so that they can get to work (if they are fortunate enough to find a job).

In most cases, that is going to involve more debt.

In the United States today, approximately 70 percent of all auto purchases involve an auto loan.

In order to make car payments affordable in a world of stagnating paychecks, auto lenders just keep extending the length of auto loans. Right now, the average length of an auto loan in America is close to 6 years.

And just like we saw with housing, a lot of these loans are being made to "subprime" borrowers. Sadly, 45 percent of all auto loans are being made to subprime borrowers at this point.

That is certainly not going to end well.

Once young adults start working, they are encouraged to buy a home.

In the vast majority of cases, that is going to involve even more debt.

Homes certainly cost a whole lot more than they did in the old days, and most Americans really have to stretch to be able to afford the homes that they live in.

In fact, mortgage debt as a percentage of GDP has more than tripled since 1955.

That is not economic progress.

Many Americans may be living in beautiful homes, but the truth is that the bankers own a bigger share of our homes than ever before.

Only in the past few years has it gotten to the point where the bankers actually have more equity in our homes than we do.

This is unprecedented in American history.

Today, homeowners are only holding about 40 percent of all home equity.

Back in 1952, that figure was above 80 percent.

One nation under debt indeed.

Once our young adults have a home, they have to fill it up with stuff.

So that is where credit cards and other forms of consumer debt come in.

Overall, consumer debt in America has increased by a staggering 1700% since 1971.

Sadly, most Americans have been told about how poisonous credit card debt is and yet they continue to rack up huge amounts of it anyway.

Today, 46% of all Americans carry a credit card balance from month to month.

That isn't very smart.

Overall, Americans are carrying a grand total of $798 billion in credit card debt, and all of that credit card debt is making the Wall Street bankers very, very wealthy.

Credit card debt is one of the worst forms of debt slavery, and yet millions upon millions of Americans cannot kick the habit. In fact, one out of every seven Americans has at least 10 credit cards.

When will we all learn?

Debt does not build up the middle class. Debt destroys the middle class.

Once Americans start getting older and their bodies start breaking down, medical debt starts becoming a problem.

One study found that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt.

Even if you go out and get a "really good" health insurance policy, that still does not mean that you are going to be able to avoid medical debt. According to the American Journal of Medicine, medical bills are a major factor in more than 60 percent of all personal bankruptcies in the United States. Of the bankruptcies that were caused by medical bills, approximately 75 percent of them involved individuals that actually did have a health insurance policy.

So what is the lesson?

Don't get sick.

You may not be able to afford it.

Government debt is also a major national crisis.

As I have written about previously, state and local governments all over the nation are on the verge of bankruptcy. In the years ahead we are going to see unprecedented financial implosions all over the nation.

And the worst debt problem of all is the federal government debt problem.

Since Barack Obama took office, the U.S. national debt has increased by more than 5 trillion dollars, and it is rising at a rate of about 150 million dollars an hour.

During the Obama administration, the U.S. government has accumulated more debt than it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that Bill Clinton took office.

That is really, really bad.

At this point, the United States has more government debt per capita than Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or Spain.

So yes, we are in a massive amount of trouble and yet our politicians are wasting money on some of the most insane things you could possibly imagine.

For example, the federal government is actually spending money to determine how rats respond to jazz music when they are high on cocaine.

I am afraid that the history books are not going to be too kind to us.

We were the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, but that was not good enough for us.

We just kept borrowing and borrowing and borrowing and now we have destroyed our future.

How could we have been so stupid?

The Family Farm Is Being Systematically Wiped Out Of Existence In America

The Family Farm Is Being Systematically Wiped Out Of Existence In America

An entire way of life is rapidly dying right in front of our eyes. The family farm is being systematically wiped out of existence in America, and big agribusiness and the federal government both have blood all over their hands. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farms in the United States has fallen from about 6.8 million in 1935 to only about 2 million today. That doesn't mean that there is less farming going on. U.S. farms are producing more than ever. But what it does mean is that farming is increasingly becoming dominated by the big boys. The rules of the game have been tilted in favor of big agribusiness so dramatically that most small farmers find that they simply cannot compete anymore. Back in 1900, about 39 percent of the U.S. population worked on farms. At this point, only about 2 percent of all Americans now live on farms. Big agribusiness, the food processing conglomerates, and big seed companies such as Monsanto completely dominate the industry. Unless something dramatic is done, the family farm is going to continue to be wiped out of existence. Unfortunately, it does not look like things are going to turn around any time soon.

The way that the farming industry is structured today, it is simply not economically feasible to operate a small family farm. According to Farm Aid, every week approximately 330 farmers leave their land for good.

Many old timers are trying to hang on for as long as they can. A very large percentage of family farmers are in their fifties, sixties or seventies at this point. Today, only about 6 percent of all farmers are under the age of 35.

Most young people these days are not too eager to choose farming as a career. A lot of young adults that grew up on family farms have decided that investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a business that requires you to work 12 hours or more per day most of the year for very meager wages is simply not worth it.

In recent years, many family farmers have been forced to find second jobs in order to support their families. Many farm families are constantly on the verge of financial ruin. It is a really tough life for many of them.

Sadly, less than 25 percent of all farms in America bring in gross revenues in excess of $50,000. The following comes from the EPA website....

It has been estimated that living expenses for the average farm family exceed $47,000 per year. Clearly, many farms that meet the U.S. Census' definition would not produce sufficient income to meet farm family living expenses. In fact, fewer than 1 in 4 of the farms in this country produce gross revenues in excess of $50,000.

On top of everything else, the federal government and many state governments just keep endlessly piling more rules and regulations on to the backs of farmers.

Big agribusiness has the resources to deal with all of these regulations fairly well, but most family farms do not.

With each passing year, the farming industry becomes even more centralized. If current trends continue, big agribusiness will eventually control nearly all of it. The following is from the EPA website....

By 1997, a mere 46,000 of the two million farms in this country accounted for 50% of sales of agricultural products (USDA, 1997 Census of Agriculture data). That number was down from almost 62,000 in 1992.

In certain industries the amount of consolidation has been absolutely stunning. For example, between 1970 and today the United States has lost 88 percent of its dairy farms.

Another factor that is shaping the farming business is the incredible power that the giant food processing conglomerates have accumulated.

Today, there are 10 corporations that control most of the things that Americans eat and drink on a daily basis. If you doubt this, just check out this chart.

The giant food processing conglomerates have a massive amount of influence over how food is grown in the United States today. Small farmers that try to go against the tide often have a very rough go of it.

That is also true when it comes to seeds.

For example, approximately 80 percent of all corn grown in the United States is grown using seeds that have been genetically modified by Monsanto.

If you want to try to defy companies such as Monsanto, you are playing a very dangerous game. The predatory business practices of Monsanto have been well documented. Monsanto has taken countless numbers of farmers to court, and they are absolutely ruthless.

Plus, it certainly does not help that there is a constant revolving door between Monsanto and federal government agencies. If you doubt this, just check out the chart about Monsanto on this page.

Amazingly, in spite of all this there are still some small farmers that are able to overcome all of these obstacles and run successful businesses.

But that is where the federal government comes in.

In recent years, the federal government has become absolutely obsessed with going after small farmers.

For example, a recent Food Freedom News article detailed what the feds have been doing to Randy and Karen Sowers. They were keeping their cash deposits under $10,000 so that they would not have to fill out a bunch of paperwork, and the federal government came down on them like a hurricane....

“Structuring,” explains Overlawyered.com, “is the federal criminal offense of splitting up bank deposits so as to keep them under a threshold such as $10,000 above which banks have to report transactions to the government.”

While being questioned, the Sowers were finally presented with a seizure order and advised that the feds had already emptied their bank account of $70,000. The Dept. of Justice has since sued to keep $63,000 of the Sowers’ money, though they committed no crime other than maintaining their privacy.

Without funds, they will be unable to make purchases for the spring planting.

When a similar action was taken against Taylor’s Produce Stand last year, the feds seized $90,000, dropped the charges, and kept $45,000 of Taylor’s money.

Knowing that most farms operate on a very thin margin, such abuse of power wipes out a family’s income, and for a bonus, the feds enhance the monopoly power of Monsanto, Big Dairy and their supply chain.

At many other small farms across America, the feds have conducted military-style raids at the crack of dawn over the smallest infractions.

Some examples of this were detailed in a documentary entitled "Farmaggedon". The following is a short trailer for that film....

The sad truth is that the federal government has been using your tax money to go after small farmers in absolutely vicious ways.

For example, the feds raided one Amish farm at 5 AM one morning.

So what was the big crime that the feds were so concerned about?

Well, the Amish farm was selling raw milk.

Oh the horror!

The feds seem content to leave big agribusiness pretty much alone, but they are constantly going after small farms in hundreds of different ways.

Did you know that the Department of Labor is instituting new regulations that will ban children from doing many kinds of farm chores?

Just another way to kill off the family farm in America.

America is changing, and not for the better.

Just like the middle class, the family farm is heading for extinction.

Eventually, the big corporations and the federal government will have near total control over food production in America.

Nutrition Blogger May Face 120 Days In Jail For Advocating Paleo Diet

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Internet free speech is under assault in America, and a dangerous new trend has surfaced that threatens to throw nutritional bloggers in jail for advocating healthy diets on their blogs or websites. As you read this, a blogger who wrote about using the Paleo diet to overcome diabetes is being threatened with jail time in North Carolina, where the state Board of Dietetics / Nutrition claims his nutritional advocacy is equivalent to the crime of "practicing nutrition without a license."

His name is Steve Cooksey, and his website is http://www.diabetes-warrior.net

He's being targeted by state "dieticians" (which is another word for "nutritional moron" as you'll see below) who say that Chapter 90, Article 25 of the North Carolina General Statutes makes it a misdemeanor to "practice dietetics or nutrition." His website's advocating of the Paleo diet for individuals who have health challenges is, they claim, a violation of law.

So they've threatened him with arrest if he does not take down his website... or at the very least stop advocating the Paleo diet to readers.

Criminalizing health advice

But wait a second. People give nutritional advice on their websites all the time. Millions of websites and blogs, in fact, currently offer advice on fitness, nutrition, disease prevention, natural remedies and more. Are all those people now criminals if they live in North Carolina?

And even worse, could this censorship insanity spread to other states? Might such censorship be pursued at a federal level?

Truth is, such an effort has already taken place. I don't recall who was behind it, but nearly a decade ago, several U.S. Senators got together and tried to push a bill that would make it a federal crime to offer health advice on the internet. That effort failed, and we never heard anything more about it. But now that the U.S. government has crossed what I call the "threshold of criminality" and has devolved into a police state gang of total thugs (TSA, anyway?), it's not hard to imagine these people trying to bring back their loony ideas of criminalizing health advice on the web.

The point behind all this, of course, would be to monopolize information while silencing those who freely share the truth about natural cures, vitamin D, cancer prevention and so on. The truth about nutrition quite obviously threatens the power and profits of the pharmaceutical industry -- an industry that thrives on nutritional ignorance and highly deceptive marketing of its poisons to the uninformed masses. Merck, in fact, was just fined $321 million for criminal violations in the illegal marketing of Vioxx (http://www.naturalnews.com/035690_Merck_Vioxx_marketing.html).

In North Carolina, monopolistic thuggery and oppression of Free Speech is making the state look pretty ugly from a liberty perspective. As reported in the Carolina Journal: (http://www.carolinajournal.com/exclusives/display_exclusive.html?id=8...)

"Unless Cooksey completely rewrites his 3-year-old blog, he could be sued by the licensing board. If he loses the lawsuit and refuses to take down the blog, he could face up to 120 days in jail. The board�s director says Cooksey has a First Amendment right to blog about his diet, but he can�t encourage others to adopt it unless the state has certified him as a dietitian or nutritionist."

The key here is found in the phrase, "...can't encourage others." Thus, the mere "encouraging" of someone to eat something healthy is now considered a crime in North Carolina.

Thus, the sentence, "Eat more vegetables and less meat" can suddenly land you in jail. Or posting a blog that includes, "You will be healthier if you drink fresh raw veggie juice each day" suddenly turns you into a criminal.

The purpose of licensing boards is to enforce intellectual monopolies

This all comes from the bewildering brain of one Charla Burill, the director of the North Carolina Board of Dietetics & Nutrition. Like all state licensing boards, the purpose of this board is to create a state-run monopoly over a group of professionals. And like any group, it wants to criminalize anyone it can't control. This is why state medical boards that license M.D.s are also in the business of criminalizing herbal medicine, chiropractic medicine and other forms of therapy they cannot control.

Licensing boards have a poor track record of respecting freedom. In Texas, for example, the medical board has long sought to criminalize cancer research pioneer Dr. Stanislawy Burzynski whose innovative methods have saved countless cancer patients. (http://www.naturalnews.com/032998_Burzynski_cancer_cures.html) Other medical licensing boards around the nation routinely attack and criminalize naturopaths and Chinese Medicine practitioners.

So it's not necessarily a surprise that North Carolina's Board of Dietetics / Nutrition wants to criminalize those it cannot control through its licensing monopoly.

What other speech might soon be criminalized?

Charla Burill is a tyrant much like any other government tyrant we've seen in recent history. She wants to strip private citizens of their First Amendment rights in order to subject them to the onerous licensing requirements (and legal jurisdiction) of the board she controls. This is a blatant and outrageous violation of the fundamental right to Free Speech. And if it is allowed to stand, where else might it lead?

If a person can be criminalized for advocating a specific diet or nutritional approach on a website, then couldn't the same warped logic be used to criminalize anyone offering relationship advice? Or mental health advice? Financial advice? Political advice? Pet care advice? Advice for raising children?

I supposed in the mind of people like Charla Burill, the state should be in charge of licensing and controlling every single expression of speech on the internet. If you talk about pet care, you're supposed to apply for (and pay for) a "pet dietician" license. If you talk about relationships, you need a "counseling license." If you advocate self pleasure on the 'web, you might even need a "masturbation license," which I'm sure North Carolina's pot-bellied government goons are experts at granting.

Under North Carolina's interpretation of its (false) authority, virtually the entire NaturalNews website is "criminal." Yep, when we say you should drink some green tea for its antioxidants, well that's a crime, you see? When we say "get more vitamin D" to help prevent cancer, that's a violation of North Carolina's dietician rules!

Dieticians - the lowest sub-class of nutritional grunts

Dieticians, for the record, are the sub-class of processed food grunts who regurgitate government-approved nutritional DIS-information and design school lunch programs, prison food programs and hospital food programs. These are, for the record, the three worst places to get food, as nearly all the food served in these locations will leave you even more diseased than ever.

"Dieticians" are widely discredited in the world of real nutrition, and the dietician community has yet to even acknowledge any qualitative difference between DEAD foods and LIVING foods. Dieticians are all about counting calories, and they couldn't care less where they come from. These are the morons who actually tell cancer patients to drink Ensure! (Yeah, seriously...)

I'm not sure why anyone would even want to be labeled a "dietician." It's sort of like being called a "retard" in grade school. Because, of course, the nutritional knowledge of dieticians is rather retarded, as in "lacking in development." It's basically stuck in the dietary "science" of the 1950's, when scientists thought there were only 4 vitamins.

But instead of upping their knowledge and entering the 21st century of nutritional wisdom, these state-monopolized dietician groups want to force everybody to stay stuck in the 1950's while harassing everyone who dares to offer modern scientific nutritional knowledge on issues like raw foods, phytonutrients, anti-cancer medicinal herbs and other similar topics.

In fact, I would submit that the "North Carolina Board of Dietetics / Nutrition" is misnamed! They're so far behind on modern nutrition that the name itself is misleading. To be accurate, the board would have to be renamed the "North Carolina Board of Malnutrition." Because that's what the board teaches and enforces with its monopolistic (false) authority.

Action item: Tell the North Carolina Board of Dietetics / Nutrition to leave bloggers alone

It's time to tell this group of malnourished morons to keep their mitts off bloggers who are practicing Free Speech. In fact, I would say that the blogger who overcame diabetes using the Paleo diet probably knows MORE about nutritional principles than the dieticians who run the NC board!

If anything, the NC board should be studying this guy's blog and learning something useful. After all, type-2 diabetes can be cured with nutrition, but the dieticians groups never teach this simple truth. In their minds, food can never treat disease. And that's a truly idiotic limitation under which they operate.

Join me in CALLING the North Carolina Board of Dietetics / Nutrition and demanding they stop harassing health bloggers:

http://www.ncbdn.org/contact_ncbdn/
North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition
1000 Centre Green Way
Suite 200
Cary, NC 27513

Phone: (919) 228-6391
Toll Free: (800) 849-2936
Fax: (919) 882-1776

Email: info@ncbdn.org

Medical Debt Collectors Accused of Bullying Emergency Room Patients

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Patients in Minnesota and possibly other hospitals have been greeted with the unpleasant sight of bill collectors seeking payments for medical services.
The unethical and possibly illegal practice belongs to one of the nation’s largest collectors of medical debts, Chicago-based Accretive Health, according to Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. Accretive is registered in the state as a debt-collection agency, but has also taken over administrative and billing tasks at some hospitals, which allowed the company to place its employees in venues not normally accessible to debt collectors.
Accretive stands accused of posing debt collectors as employees in emergency rooms who in some cases demanded payments before patients received treatment.
The workers may also have broken federal laws by accessing patients’ health records and by not clearly identifying themselves as debt collectors.
The attorney general’s report characterized Accretive’s practices as “a high-pressure boiler-room-style sales atmosphere” that are “in conflict with the purpose of a charitable health-care organization.” Some hospital employees enthusiastically supported Accretive’s aggressive tactics. Jena Anderberg of Fairview hospital wrote in an email to Accretive managers, “We need to get cracking on labor and delivery. There is a good chunk to be collected there.”
Accretive Health works with hospitals in Minnesota, Michigan and Utah.
Swanson has not yet filed charges against Accretive, but is talking to state and federal regulators “about a coordinated response to Accretive Health’s practices across the country,” wrote Jessica Silvver-Greenberg of the The New York Times.

Occupy Points to a "Different Way of Living"

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Noam Chomsky is uniquely skilled to provide context to the Occupy movement and encourage its growth into new stages of energetic initiatives. Get your copy of his new 128-page book, "Occupy," with a minimum donation of $25 - or a monthly donation of $15 - to Truthout. You can order it here now, just released.

Noam Chomsky has seen a lot of social movements. He cut his teeth on the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and 1970s. He participated in the anti-intervention struggles of the 1980s as well as in the World Social Forums that began in the 1990s. Now in his 80s, Chomsky has hardly slowed down with his schedule of writing and speaking and agitating. And he is certainly not one to watch the new Occupy movement from the sidelines.

The latest publication from the new Occupied Media Pamphlet Series brings together several of Chomsky’s intersections with the Occupy movement. There’s a lecture he gave at Occupy Boston in October 2011, an interview in January 2012 with a student about the meaning of Occupy, a conference call with hundreds of Occupiers later that same month, a subsequent speech on “occupying foreign policy” at the University of Maryland, and a brief tribute to his friend and co-agitator Howard Zinn.

Having spent so much time thinking about and engaging with social movements, Chomsky is both optimistic about the energy of Occupy and realistic about the challenges it faces. He appreciates the “just do it” ethos and embraces its radical approach to participatory democracy. But he reminds his audiences that all social movements reach further than they can grasp. The influence of money on U.S. politics, the huge weight of the military-industrial complex, the rapaciousness of financial speculation: these are forces not easily dislodged by people gathering together in public spaces and voicing their opinions. And yet, as Chomsky points out, the mostly non-violent, non-funded, and non-partisan set of actions radiating out from Zuccotti Park in Manhattan managed to change the national discussion about economic inequality.

This inequality, he argues, is the result of a 30-year-long class war that has hollowed out the middle class and put great pressure on the poor in the United States. The neoliberal push for privatization and lower trade barriers has carried that war to every corner of the globe. The Occupy movement is pushing back against the actors, the actions, and most importantly the consequences of this class warfare. Not surprisingly, given the vested interests being challenged, the pushback of the 99 percent has generated pushback in turn from the 1 percent.

What makes Chomsky’s perspective so interesting, aside from the wealth of his political experience, is the range of his interests. He draws from examples around the world to demonstrate his points. When talking about community-based media, for instance, he describes a scene from a Brazilian slum where media professionals set up a truck in a public square – to show skits and plays written by people in the community – and then walked around to interview people for their reactions. Why can’t we do something similar in the United States, Chomsky wonders.

It’s a big agenda that Occupy has identified, nothing less than a complete renewal of U.S. society and the U.S. role in the world. Chomsky sees not only the radical agenda but also the radical practice of the Occupiers. “Part of what functioning, free communities like the Occupy communities can be working for and spreading to others is just a different way of living, which is not based on maximizing consumer goods, but on maximizing values that are important for life,” he concludes in this valuable set of remarks and interviews.

A Full Spectrum Confrontation World?


A History of the World, BRIC by BRIC
Neoliberal Dragons, Eurasian Wet Dreams, and Robocop Fantasies

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Goldman Sachs -- via economist Jim O’Neill -- invented the concept of a rising new bloc on the planet: BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). Some cynics couldn’t help calling it the “Bloody Ridiculous Investment Concept.”

Not really. Goldman now expects the BRICS countries to account for almost 40% of global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050, and to include four of the world’s top five economies.

Soon, in fact, that acronym may have to expand to include Turkey, Indonesia, South Korea and, yes, nuclear Iran: BRIIICTSS? Despite its well-known problems as a nation under economic siege, Iran is also motoring along as part of the N-11, yet another distilled concept. (It stands for the next 11 emerging economies.)

The multitrillion-dollar global question remains: Is the emergence of BRICS a signal that we have truly entered a new multipolar world?

Yale’s canny historian Paul Kennedy (of “imperial overstretch” fame) is convinced that we either are about to cross or have already crossed a “historical watershed” taking us far beyond the post-Cold War unipolar world of “the sole superpower.” There are, argues Kennedy, four main reasons for that: the slow erosion of the U.S. dollar (formerly 85% of global reserves, now less than 60%), the “paralysis of the European project,” Asia rising (the end of 500 years of Western hegemony), and the decrepitude of the United Nations.

The Group of Eight (G-8) is already increasingly irrelevant. The G-20, which includes the BRICS, might, however, prove to be the real thing. But there’s much to be done to cross that watershed rather than simply be swept over it willy-nilly: the reform of the U.N. Security Council, and above all, the reform of the Bretton Woods system, especially those two crucial institutions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

On the other hand, willy-nilly may prove the way of the world. After all, as emerging superstars, the BRICS have a ton of problems. True, in only the last seven years Brazil has added 40 million people as middle-class consumers; by 2016, it will have invested another $900 billion -- more than a third of its GDP -- in energy and infrastructure; and it’s not as exposed as some BRICS members to the imponderables of world trade, since its exports are only 11% of GDP, even less than the U.S.

Still, the key problem remains the same: lack of good management, not to mention a swamp of corruption. Brazil’s brazen new monied class is turning out to be no less corrupt than the old, arrogant, comprador elites that used to run the country.

In India, the choice seems to be between manageable and unmanageable chaos. The corruption of the country’s political elite would make Shiva proud. Abuse of state power, nepotistic control of contracts related to infrastructure, the looting of mineral resources, real estate property scandals -- they’ve got it all, even if India is not a Hindu Pakistan. Not yet anyway.

Since 1991, “reform” in India has meant only one thing: unbridled commerce and getting the state out of the economy. Not surprisingly then, nothing is being done to reform public institutions, which are a scandal in themselves. Efficient public administration? Don’t even think about it. In a nutshell, India is a chaotic economic dynamo and yet, in some sense, not even an emerging power, not to speak of a superpower.

Russia, too, is still trying to find the magic mix, including a competent state policy to exploit the country’s bounteous natural resources, extraordinary space, and impressive social talent. It must modernize fast as, apart from Moscow and St. Petersburg, relative social backwardness prevails. Its leaders remain uneasy about neighboring China (aware that any Sino-Russian alliance would leave Russia as a distinctly junior partner). They are distrustful of Washington, anxious over the depopulation of their eastern territories, and worried about the cultural and religious alienation of their Muslim population.

Then again the Putinator is back as president with his magic formula for modernization: a strategic German-Russian partnership that will benefit the power elite/business oligarchy, but not necessarily the majority of Russians.

Dead in the Woods

The post-World War II Bretton Woods system is now officially dead, totally illegitimate, but what are the BRICS planning to do about it?

At their summit in New Delhi in late March, they pushed for the creation of a BRICS development bank that could invest in infrastructure and provide them with back-up credit for whatever financial crises lie down the road. The BRICS know perfectly well that Washington and the European Union (EU) will never relinquish control of the IMF and the World Bank. Nonetheless, trade among these countries will reach an impressive $500 billion by 2015, mostly in their own currencies.

However, BRICS cohesion, to the extent it exists, centers mostly around shared frustration with the Masters of the Universe-style financial speculation that nearly sent the global economy off a cliff in 2008. True, the BRICS crew also has a notable convergence of policy and opinion when it comes to embattled Iran, an Arab Sprung Middle East, and Northern Africa. Still, for the moment the key problem they face is this: they don't have an ideological or institutional alternative to neo-liberalism and the lordship of global finance.

As Vijay Prashad has noted, the Global North has done everything to prevent any serious discussion of how to reform the global financial casino. No wonder the head of the G-77 group of developing nations (now G-132, in fact), Thai ambassador Pisnau Chanvitan, has warned of “behavior that seems to indicate a desire for the dawn of a new neocolonialism.”

Meanwhile, things happen anyway, helter-skelter. China, for instance, continues to informally advance the yuan as a globalizing, if not global, currency. It’s already trading in yuan with Russia and Australia, not to mention across Latin America and in the Middle East. Increasingly, the BRICS are betting on the yuan as their monetary alternative to a devalued U.S. dollar.

Japan is using both yen and yuan in its bilateral trade with its huge Asian neighbor. The fact is that there’s already an unacknowledged Asian free-trade zone in the making, with China, Japan, and South Korea on board.

What’s ahead, even if it includes a BRICS-bright future, will undoubtedly be very messy. Just about anything is possible (verging on likely), from another Great Recession in the U.S. to European stagnation or even the collapse of the eurozone, to a BRICS-wide slowdown, a tempest in the currency markets, the collapse of financial institutions, and a global crash.

And talk about messy, who could forget what Dick Cheney said, while still Halliburton’s CEO, at the Institute of Petroleum in London in 1999: “The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.” No wonder when, as vice president, he came to power in 2001, his first order of business was to “liberate” Iraq’s oil. Of course, who doesn’t remember how that ended?

Now (different administration but same line of work), it’s an oil-embargo-cum-economic-war on Iran. The leadership in Beijing sees Washington’s whole Iran psychodrama as a regime-change plot, pure and simple, having nothing to do with nuclear weapons. Then again, the winner so far in the Iran imbroglio is China. With Iran’s banking system in crisis, and the U.S. embargo playing havoc with that country’s economy, Beijing can essentially dictate its terms for buying Iranian oil.

The Chinese are expanding Iran’s fleet of oil tankers, a deal worth more than $1 billion, and that other BRICS giant, India, is now purchasing even more Iranian oil than China. Yet Washington won’t apply its sanctions to BRICS members because these days, economically speaking, the U.S. needs them more than they need the U.S.

The World Through Chinese Eyes

Which brings us to the dragon in the room: China.

What’s the ultimate Chinese obsession? Stability, stability, stability.

The usual self-description of the system there as “socialism with Chinese characteristics” is, of course, as mythical as a gorgon. In reality, think hardcore neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics led by men who have every intention of saving global capitalism.

At the moment, China is smack in the middle of a tectonic, structural shift from an export/investment model to a services/consumer-led model. In terms of its explosive economic growth, the last decades have been almost unimaginable to most Chinese (and the rest of the world), but according to the Financial Times, they have also left the country’s richest 1% controlling 40%-60% of total household wealth. How to find a way to overcome such staggering collateral damage? How to make a system with tremendous inbuilt problems function for 1.3 billion people?

Enter “stability-mania.” Back in 2007, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was warning that the Chinese economy could become “unstable, unbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable.” These were the famous “Four Uns.”

Today, the collective leadership, including the next Prime Minister, Li Leqiang, has gone a nervous step further, purging “unstable” from the Party’s lexicon. For all practical purposes, the next phase in the country’s development is already upon us.

It will be quite something to watch in the years to come.

How will the nominally “communist” princelings -- the sons and daughters of top revolutionary Party leaders, all immensely wealthy, thanks, in part, to their cozy arrangements with Western corporations, plus the bribes, the alliances with gangsters, all those “concessions” to the highest bidder, and the whole Western-linked crony-capitalist oligarchy -- lead China beyond the “Four Modernizations”? Especially with all that fabulous wealth to loot.

The Obama administration, expressing its own anxiety, has responded to the clear emergence of China as a power to be reckoned with via a “strategic pivot” -- from its disastrous wars in the Greater Middle East to Asia. The Pentagon likes to call this “rebalancing” (though things are anything but rebalanced or over for the U.S. in the Middle East).

Before 9/11, the Bush administration had been focused on China as its future global enemy number one. Then 9/11 redirected it to what the Pentagon called “the arc of instability,” the oil heartlands of the planet extending from the Middle East through Central Asia. Given Washington’s distraction, Beijing calculated that it might enjoy a window of roughly two decades in which the pressure would be largely off. In those years, it could focus on a breakneck version of internal development, while the U.S. was squandering mountains of money on its nonsensical “Global War on Terror.”

Twelve years later, that window is being slammed shut as from India, Australia, and the Philippines to South Korea and Japan, the U.S. declares itself back in the hegemony business in Asia. Doubts that this was the new American path were dispelled by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s November 2011 manifesto in Foreign Policy magazine, none too subtly labeled “America’s Pacific Century.” (And she was talking about this century, not the last one!)

The American mantra is always the same: “American security,” whose definition is: whatever happens on the planet. Whether in the oil-rich Persian Gulf where Washington “helps” allies Israel and Saudi Arabia because they feel threatened by Iran, or Asia where similar help is offered to a growing corps of countries that are said to feel threatened by China, it’s always in the name of U.S. security. In either case, in just about any case, that’s what trumps all else.

As a result, if there is a 33-year Wall of Mistrust between the U.S. and Iran, there is a new, growing Great Wall of Mistrust between the U.S. and China. Recently, Wang Jisi, Dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University and a top Chinese strategic analyst, offered the Beijing leadership’s perspective on that “Pacific Century” in an influential paper he coauthored.

China, he and his coauthor write, now expects to be treated as a first-class power. After all, it “successfully weathered... the 1997-98 global financial crisis,” caused, in Beijing’s eyes, by “deep deficiencies in the U.S. economy and politics. China has surpassed Japan as the world’s second largest economy and seems to be the number two in world politics, as well... Chinese leaders do not credit these successes to the United States or to the U.S.-led world order.”

The U.S., Wang adds, “is seen in China generally as a declining power over the long run… It is now a question of how many years, rather than how many decades, before China replaces the United States as the largest economy in the world… part of an emerging new structure.” (Think: BRICS.)

In sum, as Wang and his coauthor portray it, influential Chinese see their country’s development model providing “an alternative to Western democracy and experiences for other developing countries to learn from, while many developing countries that have introduced Western values and political systems are experiencing disorder and chaos.”

Put it all in a nutshell and you have a Chinese vision of the world in which a fading U.S. still yearns for global hegemony and remains powerful enough to block emerging powers -- China and the other BRICS -- from their twenty-first century destiny.

Dr. Zbig’s Eurasian Wet Dream

Now, how does the U.S. political elite see that same world? Virtually no one is better qualified to handle that subject than former national security adviser, BTC pipeline facilitator, and briefly Obama ghost adviser, Dr. Zbigniew (“Zbig”) Brzezinski. And he doesn’t hesitate to do so in his latest book, Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power.

If the Chinese have their strategic eyes on those other BRICS nations, Dr. Zbig remains stuck on the Old World, newly configured. He is now arguing that, for the U.S. to maintain some form of global hegemony, it must bet on an “expanded West.” That would mean strengthening the Europeans (especially in energy terms), while embracing Turkey, which he imagines as a template for new Arab democracies, and engaging Russia, politically and economically, in a “strategically sober and prudent fashion.”

Turkey, by the way, is no such template because, despite the Arab Spring, for the foreseeable future, there are no new Arab democracies. Still, Zbig believes that Turkey can help Europe, and so the U.S., in far more practical ways to solve certain global energy problems by facilitating its “unimpeded access across the Caspian Sea to Central Asia’s oil and gas.”

Under the present circumstances, however, this, too, remains something of a fantasy. After all, Turkey can only become a key transit country in the great energy game on the Eurasian chessboard I’ve long labeled Pipelineistan if the Europeans get their act together. They would have to convince the energy-rich, autocratic “republic” of Turkmenistan to ignore its powerful Russian neighbor and sell them all the natural gas they need. And then there’s that other energy matter that looks unlikely at the moment: Washington and Brussels would have to ditch counterproductive sanctions and embargos against Iran (and the war games that go with them) and start doing serious business with that country.

Dr. Zbig nonetheless proposes the notion of a two-speed Europe as the key to future American power on the planet. Think of it as an upbeat version of a scenario in which the present Eurozone semi-collapses. He would maintain the leading role of the inept bureaucratic fat cats in Brussels now running the EU, and support another “Europe” (mostly the southern “Club Med” countries) outside the euro, with nominally free movement of people and goods between the two. His bet -- and in this he reflects a key strand of Washington thinking -- is that a two-speed Europe, a Eurasian Big Mac, still joined at the hip to America, could be a globally critical player for the rest of the twenty-first century.

And then, of course, Dr. Zbig displays all his Cold Warrior colors, extolling an American future “stability in the Far East” inspired by “the role Britain played in the nineteenth century as a stabilizer and balancer of Europe.” We’re talking, in other words, about this century’s number one gunboat diplomat. He graciously concedes that a “comprehensive American-Chinese global partnership” would still be possible, but only if Washington retains a significant geopolitical presence in what he still calls the “Far East” -- “whether China approves or not.”

The answer will be “not.”

In a way, all of this is familiar stuff, as is much of actual Washington policy today. In his case, it’s really a remix of his 1997 magnum opus The Grand Chessboard in which, he once again certifies that “the huge Trans-Eurasian continent is the central arena of world affairs.” Only now reality has taught him that Eurasia can’t be conquered and America’s best shot is to try to bring Turkey and Russia into the fold.

Robocop Rules

Yet Brzezinski looks positively benign when you compare his ideas to Hillary Clinton’s recent pronouncements, including her address to the tongue-twistingly named World Affairs Council 2012 NATO Conference. There, as the Obama administration regularly does, she highlighted “NATO’s enduring relationship with Afghanistan” and praised negotiations between the U.S. and Kabul over “a long-term strategic partnership between our two nations.”

Translation; despite being outmaneuvered by a minority Pashtun insurgency for years, neither the Pentagon nor NATO have any intention of rebalancing out of their holdings in the Greater Middle East. Already negotiating with President Hamid Karzai’s government in Kabul for staying rights through 2024, the U.S. has every intention of holding onto three major strategic Afghan bases: Bagram, Shindand (near the Iranian border), and Kandahar (near the Pakistani border). Only the terminally naïve would believe the Pentagon capable of voluntarily abandoning such sterling outposts for the monitoring of Central Asia and strategic competitors Russia and China.

NATO, Clinton added ominously, will “expand its defense capabilities for the twenty-first century,” including the missile defense system the alliance approved at its last meeting in Lisbon in 2010.

It will be fascinating to see what the possible election of socialist François Hollande as French president might mean. Interested in a deeper strategic partnership with the BRICS, he is committed to the end of the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The question is: Would his victory throw a monkey wrench into NATO’s works, after these years under the Great Liberator of Libya, that neo-Napoleonic image-maker Nicolas Sarkozy (for whom France was just mustard in Washington’s steak tartar).

No matter what either Dr. Zbig or Hillary might think, most European countries, fed up with their black-hole adventures in Afghanistan and Libya, and with the way NATO now serves U.S. global interests, support Hollande on this. But it will still be an uphill battle. The destruction and overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan regime was the highpoint of the recent NATO agenda of regime change in MENA (the Middle East-Northern Africa). And NATO remains Washington’s plan B for the future, if the usual network of think tanks, endowments, funds, foundations, NGOs, and even the U.N. fail to provoke what could be described as YouTube regime change.

In a nutshell: after going to war on three continents (in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Libya), turning the Mediterranean into a virtual NATO lake, and patrolling the Arabian Sea non-stop, NATO will be, according to Hillary, riding on “a bet on America’s leadership and strength, just as we did in the twentieth century, for this century and beyond.” So 21 years after the end of the Soviet Union -- NATO’s original raison d’etre -- this could be the way the world ends; not with a bang, but with NATO, in whimpering mode, still fulfilling the role of perpetual global Robocop.

We’re back once again with Dr. Zbig and the idea of America as the “promoter and guarantor of unity” in the West, and as “balance and conciliator” in the East (for which it needs bases from the Persian Gulf to Japan, including those Afghan ones). And don’t forget that the Pentagon has never given up the idea of attaining Full Spectrum Dominance.

For all that military strength, however, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is distinctly a New World (and not in North America either). Against the guns and the gunboats, the missiles and the drones, there is economic power. Currency wars are now raging. BRICS members China and Russia have cordilleras of cash. South America is uniting fast. The Putinator has offered South Korea an oil pipeline. Iran is planning to sell all its oil and gas in a basket of currencies, none dollars. China is paying to expand its blue-water Navy and its anti-ship missile weaponry. One day, Tokyo may finally realize that, as long as it is occupied by Wall Street and the Pentagon, it will live in eternal recession. Even Australia may eventually refuse to be forced into a counterproductive trade war with China.

So this twenty-first century world of ours is shaping up right now largely as a confrontation between the U.S./NATO and the BRICS, warts and all on every side. The danger: that somewhere down the line it turns into a Full Spectrum Confrontation. Because make no mistake, unlike Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi, the BRICS will actually be able to shoot back.

The NSA Is Watching You

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Three targeted Americans: A career government intelligence official, a filmmaker and a hacker. None of these U.S. citizens was charged with a crime, but they have been tracked, surveilled, detained—sometimes at gunpoint—and interrogated, with no access to a lawyer. Each remains resolute in standing up to the increasing government crackdown on dissent.

The intelligence official: William Binney worked for almost 40 years at the secretive National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S. spy agency that dwarfs the CIA. As technical director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, Binney told me, he was tasked to “see how we could solve collection, analysis and reporting on military and geopolitical issues all around the world, every country in the world.” Throughout the 1990s, the NSA developed a massive eavesdropping system code-named ThinThread, which, Binney says, maintained crucial protections on the privacy of U.S. citizens demanded by the U.S. Constitution. He recalled, “After 9/11, all the wraps came off for NSA,” as massive domestic spying became the norm. He resigned on Oct. 31, 2001.

Along with several other NSA officials, Binney reported his concerns to Congress and to the Department of Defense. Then, in 2007, as then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was being questioned on Capitol Hill about the very domestic spying to which Binney objected, a dozen FBI agents charged into his house, guns drawn. They forced aside his son and found Binney, a diabetic amputee, in the shower. They pointed their guns at his head, then led him to his back porch and interrogated him.

Three others were raided that morning. Binney called the FBI raid “retribution and intimidation so we didn’t go to the Judiciary Committee in the Senate and tell them, ‘Well, here’s what Gonzales didn’t tell you, OK.’ ” Binney was never charged with any crime.

The filmmaker: Laura Poitras is an Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker, whose recent films include “My Country, My Country,” about the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and “The Oath,” which was filmed in Yemen. Since 2006, Poitras has been detained and questioned at airports at least 40 times. She has had her computer and reporter’s notebooks confiscated and presumably copied, without a warrant. The most recent time, April 5, she took notes during her detention. The agents told her to stop, as they considered her pen a weapon.

She told me: “I feel like I can’t talk about the work that I do in my home, in my place of work, on my telephone, and sometimes in my country. So the chilling effect is huge. It’s enormous.”

The hacker: Jacob Appelbaum works as a computer security researcher for the nonprofit organization the Tor Project (torproject.org), which is a free software package that allows people to browse the Internet anonymously, evading government surveillance. Tor was actually created by the U.S. Navy, and is now developed and maintained by Appelbaum and his colleagues. Tor is used by dissidents around the world to communicate over the Internet. Tor also serves as the main way that the controversial WikiLeaks website protects those who release documents to it. Appelbaum has volunteered for WikiLeaks, leading to intense U.S. government surveillance.

Appelbaum spoke in place of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, at a conference called Hackers on Planet Earth, or HOPE, as people feared Assange would be arrested. He started his talk by saying: “Hello to all my friends and fans in domestic and international surveillance. I’m here today because I believe that we can make a better world.” He has been detained at least a dozen times at airports: “I was put into a special room, where they frisked me, put me up against the wall. ... Another one held my wrists. ... They implied that if I didn’t make a deal with them, that I’d be sexually assaulted in prison. ... They took my cellphones, they took my laptop. They wanted, essentially, to ask me questions about the Iraq War, the Afghan War, what I thought politically.”

I asked Binney if he believed the NSA has copies of every email sent in the U.S. He replied, “I believe they have most of them, yes.”

Binney said two senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, have expressed concern, but have not spoken out, as, Binney says, they would lose their seats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Meanwhile, Congress is set to vote on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA. Proponents of Internet freedom are fighting the bill, which they say will legalize what the NSA is secretly doing already.

Members of Congress, fond of quoting the country’s founders, should recall these words of Benjamin Franklin before voting on CISPA: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

NATO Rehearses For War In The Arctic

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Except for the crash of a Norwegian military transport plane in Sweden during its course the world would have been unaware of it.

Cold Response 2012 was conducted from March 12-21 primarily in Norway but also in Sweden with the participation of 16,300 troops from fifteen nations as part of full spectrum – air, sea, infantry and special forces – maneuvers against the backdrop of the past three years’ new scramble for the Arctic.

The term High North is a translation of the Norwegian designation nordområdene which was adopted by NATO in January of 2009 for its two-day Seminar on Security Prospects in the High North in Reykjavík, Iceland attended by the bloc’s secretary general, chairman of its Military Committee and two top military commanders, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.

Four of the five Arctic claimants – the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark – are members of NATO. The other, Russia, is not. In 2010 Norway became the first Arctic nation to move its military command center within the Arctic Circle, transferring the Norwegian Operational Command Headquarters from Stavanger to Bodø, a five-story complex built during the Cold War to withstand a nuclear attack. The preceding year Norway purchased 48 Lockheed Martin F-35 fifth generation multirole fighters.

Last month’s Cold Response was the largest of five such exercises held since 2006. The first was the largest military exercise ever conducted in Norway, with 10,000 troops from eleven nations. All NATO member states, at the time 26, were invited to participate.

The next, in 2007, included 8,500 military personnel. The third, in 2009, consisted of 7,000 troops from eleven nations and the fourth, in 2010, included 8,500 soldiers from fourteen nations.

This year’s Arctic drills were almost twice as large in terms of troop numbers as any preceding one.

Information on the exercise was scarce before, during and after the event; even the full roster of participating nations was not disclosed by the Norwegian military.

According to the website of the Norwegian Armed Forces, military forces from fifteen nations were involved – NATO members Norway, the U.S., Britain, France, Canada and the Netherlands – as well as Partnership for Peace affiliate Sweden, part of whose territory was employed for the exercise.

The other eight nations were not identified but the exercise was described as a joint Norwegian-NATO-Partnership for Peace undertaking. One of only a handful of English-language reports on the subject, from Finland, confirmed that nation’s participation. Finland and Sweden are for all intents the 29th and 30th members of the Alliance.

The other Partnership for Peace states involved are likely to have been, among others, former Soviet republics like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine.

According to the Norwegian Armed Forces, “The main purpose of this year’s winter exercise is to rehearse high intensity operations in winter conditions within NATO with a UN mandate.”

The source added: “Participants will rehearse deploying and using military reaction forces in an area of crisis where they have to handle everything from high intensity warfare to terror threats and mass demonstrations. The soldiers have to balance the use of diplomatic and military force.”

High-intensity warfare, terror threats and mass demonstrations in the Arctic…

It also described live-fire infantry, naval and air – with the participation of fighter jets and helicopters operating from several Norwegian and Swedish bases and from aircraft carriers – components of the exercise.

The ground forces included U.S. Marines. According to the Marine Corps Times, “After years of fighting in a desert environment, most Marines may not think of the North Pole often, but the area abounds with oil, gas and other minerals, making it one of the most contentious regions of the world.”

The same source quoted a national security and Arctic expert at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for a New American Security with the improbable name of Will Rogers:

“The importance of why we need forces capable of operating in the Arctic is very basic power projection — to make a show to other players in the international community that we are an Arctic nation, and we are going to protect our interests in the Arctic Circle.”

Britain deployed HMS Illustrious, its last-remaining aircraft carrier, which had to return home early for repairs after being rammed by a tugboat, thereby eliciting a few paragraphs in the Daily Mail.

A Norwegian C-130 Super Hercules military transport plane crashed in Sweden, killing five soldiers. A memorial service was presided over by King Harald V, the titular commander-in-chief of the Norwegian armed forces.

The assault ship HMS Bulwark accompanied HMS Illustrious, which carried eight helicopters, and the first landed British commandos as well as American and Dutch troops, equipment and vehicles on the northern Norwegian coast.

In the words of the commanding officer of the Bulwark:

“It is not simply park the ship and offload it. In war – and therefore in training – we have to take account of the environment, enemy forces in the air, sea, and on land, coordinate people into boats and naval helicopters, all to arrive on target, in the right order, at the right time, to achieve the battle-winning effect. Few navies deliver this successfully and most aspirants look to the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, and Fleet Air Arm, with our war-proven capability, for guidance – on the sea in the air and on the land.”

Regarding “war-proven capability(ies),” Defense Media Network quoted U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General James M. Lariviere, commanding general of 4th Marine Division, present for the occasion:

“It was an opportunity to interact with our allies. Many of them are veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, and anti-piracy task forces off the coast of Somalia. They all have a lot of experience working with the U.S. and our allies in various capacities…”

The U.S. uses the Bjugn Cave Facility in Norway’s Fosen peninsula for Marine Corps Prepositioning Program Norway, the Marine Corps’ only land-based prepositioning program. According to a U.S. European Command article of last year:

“Well guarded within 671,000 sq. feet of six climate-controlled caves, $420 million worth of Marine Corps equipment and supplies lie ready for real world use. The caves, located in Norway, serve as a key strategic storage site for the Marine Corps….The Norwegian caves are strategically located to provide support to the United States Marine Corps’ operations around the globe…[T]he equipment from the climate controlled caves of Norway has seen action in places as diverse as the deserts of Iraq and mountains of Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.”




The Helsingin Sanomat, which reported 215 Finnish soldiers participating in the exercise, characterized Cold Response 2012 as “a major military training exercise being held in the far north of Norway [in which] armed forces from 14 nations are protecting civilians in the same way as last year in Libya, and are fighting against the local opposition just as in Afghanistan.”

The newspaper also quoted a Finnish military media and communications officer stating, ”It would be silly to rehearse a situation if it were not realistic.”

A Swedish website, which identified Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Latvia and Switzerland as having also supplied units for Cold Response, published a synopsis of the scenario for the Swedish part of the exercise provided by the Swedish Armed Forces, which included:

A “strange group of people” have settled in northern Sweden and established a state called “Gardaland” from which they have invaded “an area in Norway,” after which NATO intervenes under a United Nations mandate.

The Ministry of Defence of the Netherlands reported a potpourri of unrelated and even conflicting scenarios that leaves the door open for any pretext for military intervention:

“The Netherlands Defence organisation sent 800 military personnel to take part in the exercise, including a large maritime detachment and units from the army and air force. The Dutch units left the Norwegian training area on 21 March, after a simulated attack lasting 48 hours. The emphasis was on beating off air attacks, combating submarines and covertly landing amphibious units. The scenario also included taking terrorists into custody.”

The Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 was deployed to the Norwegian Arctic island city of Tromsø for the exercise. NATO established a Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, which at the time hosted the nation’s military command headquarters, in 2003. According to NATO’s Norfolk, Virginia-based Supreme Allied Command Transformation, the center is “the jewel in the Crown of Allied Command Transformation”.

On the opening day of this year’s Cold Response, Igor Korotchenko of Russia’s National Security Journal put the event in geopolitical perspective:

“The current military drill takes place amid NATO’s increased activities in the Arctic. Apparently, NATO is set on obtaining a share of Arctic resources and is carrying out the naval exercises to demonstrate that its geopolitical and diplomatic efforts lean on military might.”

Vladimir Yevseyev of the International Security Center of the Institute of Global Economy and International Relations, as cited by Voice of Russia, added:

“[T]he exercises are being held on the territories of Norway and Sweden, in close proximity to Russian borders. They might thus be seen as a provocation. Russia has all grounds for concern given that ships equipped with the…Aegis Combat System can be deployed in the Arctic.”

The last sentence is an allusion to the U.S.-NATO sea- and land-based interceptor missile system, which thus far is limited to Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Sea but could well expand into the Norwegian, Barents, Baltic and Black Seas in future.

The Western campaign for global dominance has reached the top of the world.

5 New Lies That The Federal Reserve Is Telling The American People

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The Federal Reserve says that everything is going to be okay. The Fed says that unemployment is going to go down, inflation is going to remain low and economic growth is going to steadily increase. Do you believe them this time? As you will see later in this article, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has been dead wrong about the economy over and over again. But the mainstream media and many Americans still seem to have a lot of faith in the Federal Reserve. It doesn't seem to matter that Bernanke and other Fed officials have been telling the American people lies for years. As I always say, most people believe what they want to believe, and many people seem to want to have blind faith in the Federal Reserve even when logic and reason would dictate otherwise. The truth is that things are not going to be getting much better than they are right now. When the next wave of the financial crisis hits, the U.S. economy is going to fall back into recession, financial markets are going to crash and unemployment is going to absolutely skyrocket. But you will never hear any of that from the Federal Reserve.

The following are 5 new lies that the Federal Reserve is telling the American people. After each lie I have posted what The Economic Collapse Blog thinks is actually going to happen....

#1 The Federal Reserve says that the labor market has improved and that unemployment is going to decline significantly over the next few years.

The following is a quote from the FOMC press release that was released on Wednesday....

Labor market conditions have improved in recent months; the unemployment rate has declined but remains elevated.

The Federal Reserve is projecting that the unemployment rate will fall within the range of 7.8 percent and 8.0 percent by the end of 2012.

The Federal Reserve is also projecting that the unemployment rate will fall within the range of 6.7 percent and 7.4 percent by the end of 2014.

The Economic Collapse Blog says that the labor market has not improved. In March 2010, 58.5 percent of all working age Americans had a job. Exactly two years later in March 2012, 58.5 percent of all working age Americans had a job. If the labor market was improving, the percentage of working age Americans with a job should have gone up.

The Economic Collapse Blog also says that while there is a chance the official unemployment rate may go down slightly in the short-term, the truth is that it is going to go up into double digits once the next wave of the financial crisis hits us.

#2 The Federal Reserve says that that U.S. economy is going to experience solid GDP growth over the next couple of years.

In fact, the Federal Reserve is projecting that U.S. GDP will be rising at an annual rate that falls between 3.1 percent and 3.6 percent by the end of 2014.

The Economic Collapse Blog says that a great economic cataclysm is coming....

"When the European banking system crashes (and it will) it is going to reverberate around the globe. The epicenter of the next great financial crisis is going to be in Europe, and it is getting closer with each passing day."

#3 The Federal Reserve says that we can expect low inflation for an extended period of time.

The Federal Reserve is officially projecting that the annual rate of inflation will not be higher than 2.0 percent by the end of 2012. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reinforced this projection during his press conference on Wednesday....

“But we expect that to pass through the system, and assuming no new shocks in the oil sector, inflation ought to moderate to about 2 percent later this year.”

The Economic Collapse Blog says that the Fed is being tremendously dishonest and that if inflation was measured the exact same way that it was measured back in 1980, the annual rate of inflation would be more than 10 percent right now.

The truth is that most middle class families know that we do not have low inflation right now. This is hammered home millions of times a day when average Americans visit the gas station or the grocery store.

At the beginning of the next recession inflation will likely subside, but that will only be because economic activity will be slowing down dramatically.

#4 The Federal Reserve says that it has built up a 30 year reputation for keeping inflation low.

Ben Bernanke actually had the gall to make the following claim during his press conference on Wednesday....

"We, the Federal Reserve, have spent 30 years building up credibility for low and stable inflation, which has proved extremely valuable in that we’ve been able to take strong accommodative actions in the last four, five years to support the economy."

Oh really?

The Economic Collapse Blog says that the Federal Reserve has nearly a 100 year reputation for destroying the value of the U.S. dollar. Even using the Fed's doctored numbers, the value of the U.S. dollar has declined by more than 95 percent since 1913.

To get a really good idea of just how much the dollar has been destroyed by the Fed over the years, just check out this chart.

#5 Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says that we should trust him because the Federal Reserve stands ready to do whatever is necessary to support the U.S. economy.

"If appropriate... we remain entirely prepared to take additional action"

The Economic Collapse Blog says that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is doing a great disservice by not warning the American people about the tremendous crisis that is coming. In a recent article I stated that this next crisis will blindside most Americans just like the last one did....

"Sadly, just like back in 2008, most people will never even see this next crisis coming."

So who should you trust - the Federal Reserve or all of the half-crazed bloggers out there that are warning about the "serious doom" that is coming.

Well, come back to this article in a year or two and compare how accurate the predictions were.

In the end, time will tell who is telling lies and who is not.

If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.

For example, let's take a quick look at Ben Bernanke's track record over the past several years.

The following are statements that Bernanke actually made to the public....

#1 (July, 2005) "We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, what I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don’t think it’s gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though."

#2 (October 20, 2005) "House prices have risen by nearly 25 percent over the past two years. Although speculative activity has increased in some areas, at a national level these price increases largely reflect strong economic fundamentals."

#3 (November 15, 2005) "With respect to their safety, derivatives, for the most part, are traded among very sophisticated financial institutions and individuals who have considerable incentive to understand them and to use them properly."

#4 (February 15, 2006) "Housing markets are cooling a bit. Our expectation is that the decline in activity or the slowing in activity will be moderate, that house prices will probably continue to rise."

#5 (February 15, 2007) "Despite the ongoing adjustments in the housing sector, overall economic prospects for households remain good. Household finances appear generally solid, and delinquency rates on most types of consumer loans and residential mortgages remain low."

#6 (March 28, 2007) "At this juncture, however, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime market seems likely to be contained. In particular, mortgages to prime borrowers and fixed-rate mortgages to all classes of borrowers continue to perform well, with low rates of delinquency."

#7 (May 17, 2007) "All that said, given the fundamental factors in place that should support the demand for housing, we believe the effect of the troubles in the subprime sector on the broader housing market will likely be limited, and we do not expect significant spillovers from the subprime market to the rest of the economy or to the financial system. The vast majority of mortgages, including even subprime mortgages, continue to perform well. Past gains in house prices have left most homeowners with significant amounts of home equity, and growth in jobs and incomes should help keep the financial obligations of most households manageable."

#8 (January 10, 2008) "The Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession."

#9 (June 10, 2008) "The risk that the economy has entered a substantial downturn appears to have diminished over the past month or so."

But don't worry, Ben Bernanke insists that he knows exactly what is going on this time.

So do you believe him?

A lot of Americans don't. In fact, an "economic collapse" is the number one catastrophic event that Americans worry about according to one recent survey.

Perhaps that is one reason why so many Americans are preparing for doomsday these days.

The central planners over at the Federal Reserve are not going to solve our economic problems.

The truth is that the Fed is at the very heart of our economic problems.

We have been living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world and that debt bubble has been facilitated by the Fed.

Over the past three decades, the total amount of debt in America has increased by about 50 trillion dollars. By stealing from future generations, we have been able to live like kings and queens, but there is going to be a great price to pay for our foolishness.

Ben Bernanke and the other folks running the Federal Reserve are just going to keep insisting that everything is going to be okay for as long as they possibly can. They are going to tell you that they know exactly how to fix things and that the economy will be back on track very soon.

Don't be stupid and believe them this time.