Friday, June 27, 2008

The Mogambo With His Thoughts

Economic Egomaniacs
"Now, total government taxation consumes half of all incomes, all of which goes around and around until my head is spinning and I wonder how it is possible that any country with as many schools, colleges and universities as we have can be so freakishly, perversely, brain-dead as to believe that such idiocy was even freaking possible?"
by The Mogambo Guru notes that Henry Hazlitt, economist extraordinaire and erstwhile Newsweek and New York Times editor, categorically stated that "The word 'inflation' originally applied solely to the quantity of money. It meant that the volume of money was inflated, blown up, overextended."
Mr. Hazlitt went on to say that "To use the word 'inflation' to mean 'a rise in prices' is to deflect attention away from the real cause of inflation and the real cure for it."
This reminded me that it was time to wade through the piles of potato chip bags, empty pizza boxes and beer bottles all over the floor and go over to the Mogambo Economic Detector Unit (MEDU) and see what happened with Total Fed Credit last week, as TFC is, literally, the money from thin air to which Mr. Hazlitt was referring in his classy, educated way, and which The Mogambo screeches and wails about in terror in his Loud Mogambo Way (LMW), which is neither classy nor educated, but it gets the point across via volume.
Anyway, Total Fed Credit was actually down by $4.2 billion last week, which is good news and bad news, all in one, as it means that the Fed is not inflating the money supply (and thus creating price inflation) for one damned, lousy week, which is good news; but it also means that the Fed is not inflating the money supply to finance buying and selling to make undeserved profits, which is bad news.
This brings up John Mauldin of, who writes, "I remember in the summer of 2006 I would face my blank computer screen on a Friday and wonder, what I could write about?"
Immediately, I started thinking about my own "Summer of 2006", and then I remember that's when I started drinking heavily to forget the summer of 2006, when you-know-who found out about you-know-what, and now that I think about it, I realize I never did get my barbeque tongs or rubber handcuffs back, either, which made everything worse! Damn! See the kind of crap I have to put up with around here all the damned time?
But this is not about me or some stupid ancient scandals with a troupe of traveling acrobats from Romania, but about how in 2006 it was, as he says, "Goldilocks, all the time. Today, there is such a target-rich environment. The problem today is trying to decide what not to write about"! Exactly!
In 2006, for me, there was always Alan Greenspan to write about, making a fool of myself in print and in line at the grocery store when I loudly and indignantly denounce that worthless, corrupt egomaniacal bastard as the, well, worthless, corrupt egomaniacal bastard that he is, and I could, and did, go on for pages and pages about how he and the Federal Reserve destroyed the dollar by creating so damned much of them, about $10 billion of them every freaking month, month after month, year after year, since 1997!
I know that you are sick of hearing me talk about it, but all this new money is the classical definition of inflation, which immediately shows up as a rise in some prices (usually stocks and bonds), and later shows up as a rise in more prices, and then more prices, until it has shown up as rises in all prices for everything, which is also popularly called inflation, but it isn't, as Mr. Hazlitt explained in the '60s.
And this doesn't even mention the cancerous growth in the size of government, which grew by borrowing a big chunk of all the money that the Fed created, and taxing the profits everybody else made with what was left, and the government used it to create incomes for more and more people, until the federal government now supports half of the population, all of whom unfortunately need more money because of the higher prices.
Now, total government taxation consumes half of all incomes, all of which goes around and around until my head is spinning and I wonder how it is possible that any country with as many schools, colleges and universities as we have can be so freakishly, perversely, brain-dead as to believe that such idiocy was even freaking possible?
Then there was, and still is, Ben Bernanke to write about, another worthless corrupt piece of Federal Reserve arrogance with blind allegiance to a laughable academic econometric theory of one bizarre kind or another, which is peculiar because even a complete idiot like me can look at the economic landscape it has engendered and immediately recognize the importance of getting gold and silver immediately, because this is truly economic stupidity on a grand scale!
I thought that maybe Mr. Mauldin would want to add a few remarks along those lines, but he says the more immediate evidence is that nobody has a damned job with which to make money with which to buy gold and silver, as the latest news is that unemployment rose to 5.5%, and "we probably saw a decrease in jobs of at least 100,000. The market was upset with 40,000."
Then he ominously asks, "What will it do when the monthly number prints 100,000 later this year? And it likely will." Yow!
Naturally, I want to know how he knows that, and I raised my hand to ask the question. Apparently he was ready for me, and says that "The Federal Reserve projects that unemployment will rise to 6%. That means there are a lot more jobs to be lost."
Since he did not say HOW many jobs would be lost, I figure that a civil labor force of 145 million means that another 725,000 jobs will be lost. Suddenly my life flashed before my eyes, as I see the ax coming, and once again I will be tossed out onto the street, rudely advised by in-house counsel and stupid co-workers to "never come back."
And my slim, slim chances of surviving a corporate cutback grew even more bleak when he said, "And that is if unemployment stops at 6%, which would be a very mild recession indeed." At this, I gave out an involuntary little yelp.
I could see that he was tired of dealing with me, so he turns me over to The Liscio Report for the next part of my flogging, which immediately said the employment figure for "March was revised down by 7,000, and April by 8,000. We've now had four consecutive months of downward first revisions, and also four consecutive downward second revisions - unusual strings that support the picture of a weakening employment trend."
If you are like me, then your sensitive Mogambo Economic Senses (MES) are tingling at the news of "unusual things", like "unusual strings of downward second revisions" of unemployment estimates, and suddenly you are bathed in a cold sweat of fear as you again think of being fired from your stupid job just because you made a few mistakes, goofed off most of the time, and you took a lot of "sick time" to go off playing golf and bar-hopping with your hoodlum friends.
That is why I was cheered when Mr. Mauldin revealed the technical analysis gem that "One of the best indicators of the direction of employment is temporary employment. If the workload is shrinking, the first thing you do is lay off your temporary help, or simply do not hire them."
Sure enough, he says, "Temporary employment is down 5.7% year over year and is showing continued monthly deterioration with each passing month since last October."
I think to myself, "Terrific news! Maybe they will lay off the temps, and keep me!"
Especially if I start the rumors that I have incriminating photos of everybody doing something illegal or kinky, which has just recently become the cornerstone of my new Save My Freaking Job (SMFJ) campaign! Here's hoping!

Nicely Said..................

"As Armen Alchian always says, there's one thing you can count on everybody in the world to do, and that's to put his self-interest above yours." -Milton Friedman

Mexico's Oil Fields On The Decline

Plummeting output from the Cantarell oil field could be trouble for Mexico and the U.S., reports Byron King today. Byron’s had his eye on Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil company. The Cantarell field, Mexico’s biggest source of oil, is in a rapid state of decline. Check out this chart:
“Pemex has accelerated the depletion of the Cantarell field,” says Byron. “In the ’90s, Mexico's government wanted to raise more revenues from oil sales. So Pemex built the world's largest nitrogen injection project right on top of Cantarell. One could say that the project worked too well. Now the easy oil is out of the field, and output from Cantarell is declining around 14% a year.”
For Mexico and the U.S., that’s a huge problem. Over 40% of Mexican federal revenues come from Pemex profits. At the current rate of Mexican growth and the Cantarell’s depletion, Mexico will cease to be an oil exporter by 2012. “That will be a disaster for Mexico,” says Byron.
Mexico is the third largest source of imported oil for the U.S. They send over around 1.2 million barrels a day.

Mugabe Decimates A Whole Country And Culture

Poor Zimbabweans… their dollar is now virtually worthless. In the wake of all the political turmoil there recently, Zimbabwe’s currency (the entire nation, really) has totally fallen apart.
Inflation has soared somewhere above 1,000,000%… probably safe to stop counting once in the millions. One U.S. dollar will officially get you Z$11 billion today. Just a week ago, the same greenback was worth Z$6 billion. What’s worse, Zimbabweans don’t follow the official exchange rates anymore… we hear the real exchange today to closer to $1 for Z$100 billion.

AMEX Is Hurting

"Business conditions continue to weaken in the U.S.,” said American Express CEO Ken Chenault yesterday, “and so far this month, we have seen credit indicators deteriorate beyond our expectations.”
On top of a recent $1.8 billion settlement with MasterCard, Amex is facing some stiff head winds. Unlike MasterCard and Visa, American Express actually issues credit to its customers, instead of just processing transactions on behalf of banks. The credit card company predicted the monthly write-off rate for bad credit would peak at 5.3% this year… a level already attained back in March.
We’ll keep an eye on Amex’s earnings report next month… likely another “canary in the coal mine.”

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bonds Up In Smoke

Put a Fork in These Bonds — They're Done
The world's best performing fixed-income index since 1992 is now stuck in a rut. And as stagflation concerns continue to mount in the emerging markets, returns are likely to turn negative for the first time since 1998.The J.P. Morgan Emerging Markets Bond Index has outpaced the returns generated by all other debt markets over the last 15 years. Emerging market debt has also outpaced the S&P 500 Index since 1993 and many other industrialized economy stock markets. Over the last several years, emerging market countries have benefited from shrinking credit spreads, or interest rate differentials between emerging market bonds and risk-free Treasury bonds. The largest emerging markets, like Russia and Brazil, benefit enormously from rising commodities prices. Others, including China and India, have also gotten a boost from the export boom driven by low wages. But with growing inflation concerns, especially in Asia, investors are starting to redeem all their funds that are tied to emerging markets.According to Emerging Portfolio Fund Research, the appetite for global bond funds continues to fall off a cliff. For the week ending June 20, emerging market bond funds suffered from growing jitters about rising inflation in Turkey, Russia, China, and Argentina. In Asia, consumer prices are now in excess of 7.5% — their highest rate in 9 ½ years. Also, many emerging market economies are now overheating as central banks combat rising inflation with rate hikes. Rising interest rates, combined with growing inflation, depresses bond prices. Despite the increasing redemptions in 2008 from individual investors, credit spreads remain historically low. The benchmark J.P. Morgan Emerging Markets Bond Index is yielding just 2.88% more than 10-year Treasury bonds. Over the last 12 months, emerging market debt has gained 5.9% compared to 12.6% for 10-year T-bonds. But this year, the asset class is down 1.6% as inflation and rising rates knock prices lower. With the exception of high-grade corporate debt in the United States and in Europe, you should avoid the majority of fixed-income markets in a growing environment of toxic inflation in food and energy prices. Many emerging market central banks will be forced to raise rates even higher this year. That will be bad news for stocks and bonds. For now at least, it looks like the big post-2002 bull market for emerging market assets is finally over. It won't resume until governments lick inflation.

IRS On The Attack

What's Next? Armed Attack Units at the IRS!
* German tax spies break the law when they paid a former Liechtenstein bank employee millions to steal foreigners' bank records with accounts there.

* A disgraced UBS American banker tried to save his own hide by blabbing in a U.S. District Court about how he and other UBS officers allegedly helped wealthy Americans to evade billions in taxes.

* Reports that UBS is considering divulging the names of up to 20,000 of its well-heeled American clients.

* The New York Times screaming about: "A hole in the wall of secrecy surrounding the world of Swiss banking, a step that would have once been unthinkable to Swiss bankers, whose traditions of secrecy date to the Middle Ages."
"What is this world coming to?" you may rightfully ask.
Nothing But the Cold Hard Facts
Before I get into this, let's get a few basic facts straight right now.First of all, like it or not, the U.S. Internal Revenue Code requires all "U.S. persons," (meaning citizens and resident aliens, i.e. green card holders), to pay annual income taxes (IRS Form 1040) and any other taxes they may owe. This applies no matter where you live in the world, where you received any of your income, or where your income is deposited, either in the U.S. or offshore.Secondly, it's LEGAL for U.S. persons to invest, bank, do business, or live offshore in some other country. The reason people question its legality is because the IRS launches full blown marketing campaigns every year or so to discourage savvy individuals from taking their wealth offshore. In truth, the IRS would rather your money was right here at home — where anyone from their agents to identity thieves can keep an eye on your wealth (all the more reason to go offshore in my opinion). So if you do decide to use your constitutionally guaranteed freedom to invest or do business offshore, the U.S. law requires that:
You annually inform the IRS (on Form 1040) that you have an offshore account over which you have direct or indirect control
As a "U.S. person" (which includes corporations, trusts and other entities), you must disclose your status each year by June 30. You also must describe any foreign financial accounts that you (or your entity) has a beneficial interest or direct or indirect signature authority over all your foreign financial accounts that exceed US$10,000
The report requires you as the filer to provide your name, address, date of birth and taxpayer identification number, the name of the foreign financial institution, the country where your account is located, the type of account and the account number for each account (This is the infamous U.S. Treasury FBAR Form, TD F 90-22.1 - Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts.)
Finally, from our founding over 10 years ago, we at The Sovereign Society have advocated full compliance with applicable tax and financial reporting laws. We remind our readers that U.S. law requires all U.S. persons to pay income taxes on all worldwide income (see above) and that willful noncompliance may result in criminal prosecution.
As Usual, the U.S. Government Is Making Extraordinary Demands
Now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, let's get to the rotten meat of the current UBS banking scandal.No, I am not referring to the crass stupidity of the UBS managers that has cost the bank and its stock owners tens of billions in lost dollars. If you're interested in my comment on that, click here. What I'm talking about was inspired by an email from a Sovereign Society member. In his email, he said he was beginning to doubt that you could find financial privacy offshore. Specifically he was concerned about the recent indictment and testimony of an ex-UBS banker, a disgruntled American named Bradley Birkenfeld.After reading the UBS story anyone could have doubts about offshore financial privacy. Those are exactly the doubts the IRS wants to foster among gullible Americans. (By the way, The Sovereign Society has been warning against using UBS for a decade because of their anti-privacy policies.)Apparently the Feds believe some American UBS clients may have used offshore accounts to hide as much as US$20 billion in assets from the IRS. Doing so may have enabled these people to dodge a possible US$300 million in federal taxes on income from those assets, according to a nameless government official.As noted above, using offshore bank and other accounts is not illegal for U.S. taxpayers, but hiding income in so-called "undeclared accounts" is. Right now, they're investigating whether the UBS clients filed tax forms with the IRS and disclosed securities and assets held offshore in accordance with U.S. law. Switzerland does not consider tax evasion a crime, and using undeclared accounts is legal there.The Swiss government and private banking sector reportedly sent a delegation to Washington to meet with U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) officials last week. The trip follows a request by the Justice Department to the Swiss government for assistance in investigating UBS. Among other things, the U.S. DOJ wants to force UBS to turn over the names of up to 20,000 American offshore clients who may have violated United States tax laws.
Been Here, Done That IRS
Note: This extraordinary demand means the U.S. government is taking the preposterous position that any U.S. person with a UBS account is automatically considered a potential tax evader.This is an alarming replay of the same high handed position the IRS took in 2002. At the time, the IRS made a phony issue of Americans using credit cards issued by offshore banks. Using half truths and distortions, the IRS smeared the presumed guilt of tax evasion on all offshore credit card holders. While the IRS conceded offshore based credit cards were legal, the IRS insisted some people "might" use offshore accounts and the cards to hide unreported income.On that 2002 paper thin presumption, the IRS forced a nervous American Express and MasterCard to turn over all the records of 230,000 U.S. persons with offshore credit cards issued by banks in The Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, and Antigua.

The IRS also got a U.S. court to order VISA to turn over the records of hundreds of thousands of U.S. persons with credit cards issued in any IRS-designated "tax haven" nations from Luxembourg to Singapore. (The court had jurisdiction because the major credit card companies had collection operations within the United States.)At first the IRS claimed that US$70 billion a year was being lost by credit card evasion. Later they said they had identified 82,100 taxpayers who they said used offshore accounts to evade taxes, with an estimated annual tax loss at US$447 million. When it was all over a few years later a deflated IRS admitted they only caught about 1,500 tax evaders who had to repay a few million in back taxes.For this paltry return, information on hundreds of thousands of Americans with offshore credit cards had been turned over to the IRS to fuel this scare campaign.Sound familiar IRS? You're doing the exact same thing now — and I'm guessing you'll have the same paltry returns for your efforts.
A Very Reasonable Solution to Some Very Unreasonable Demands
The manufactured ruckus over the apostate UBS bankers indictment, is just one more skirmish in the continuing war against wealth, financial and personal privacy, and, ultimately, against everyone's liberty and freedom. If these guys can bring a bank the size of UBS to its knees, imagine what they'll do when the knock comes on your door. Plan accordingly and prepare to do battle.Of course there is a simple way for you to avoid all these tax troubles — simply file the proper reports and pay your taxes when they're due. Also, understand what you're getting by taking your wealth offshore. Today securing "financial privacy" doesn't mean hiding your wealth from the U.S. tax system or the government. That simply doesn't work. As evidenced by these ridiculous tax witch hunts recently, those ravenous IRS agents will find you. No, financial privacy means keeping your wealth private from anyone else who might want to take it. That includes any nosy business partners, identity thieves, irresponsible relatives, and anyone who may ever want to sue you in the future. And yes, by doing so, your wealth is much safer than here in the United States. That's it: Pay your taxes, and keep your wealth safe and private from everyone — particularly these mass IRS smear campaigns. And rest easy: Unless the IRS plans to send armed military units to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, I doubt that these sovereign nations are going to surrender any time soon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wind Power Is Part Of The Answer

How to Own 52 Wind Stocks for $30

By Ian Cooper Tuesday, June 24th, 2008
As oil prices stay high, the wind power and alternative energy themes are becoming increasingly popular, making the latest ETF issue even more enticing at $30.
Last week the much-anticipated First Trust ISE Global Wind Energy ETF (FAN) launched. And not only will investors will have an opportunity to profit from companies in the wind energy business, they can profit from companies that will soon enter the space.
Sixteen percent of the fund is allocated to the U.S. with some weighting in Denmark, Germany, the U.K. and Spain, including:
· RE powersystems AG - 10.51%
· Vestas Wind Systems - 10.28%
· Gamesa - 8.81%
· Hansen Transmissions - 6.80%
· Japan Wind Dev. Co. - 5.13%
· Babcock & Brown Wind Partners - 4.40%
· Nordex AG - 4.34%
· Theolia SA - 4.28%
· Clipper Windpower - 2.94%
· Gurit Holding AG - 2.81%
Why Are We So Bullish on Wind Energy Investing ?
For one, the U.S. isn't the only country interested in wind power.
UK ministers want a six-fold increase in the amount of energy generated by wind farms by 2020. That would mean that another 4,000 wind turbines would be build across the UK, adding to the 2,000 onshore turbines already in place.
Just last month, the government announced plans for another 7,000 turbines off the coast.

And as for the U.S., twenty years from now wind energy could produce 20% of America's electricity.
An Energy Department study found that wind energy could generate 20% of U.S. electricity by 2030, as compared to today's one percent.
The good news - The Energy Department report finds that achieving a 20% wind contribution to U.S. electricity supply would:
Reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation by 25 percent in 2030.
Reduce natural gas use by 11%;
Reduce water consumption associated with electricity generation by 4 trillion gallons by 2030;
Increase annual revenues to local communities to more than $1.5 billion by 2030; and
Support roughly 500,000 jobs in the U.S., with an average of more than 150,000 workers directly employed by the wind industry.
To achieve 20%, wind turbines would have to produce 300,000 megawatts of power, compared to today's generated 16,000 megawatts.
It's doable.
And it should come as no surprise that billionaire investors are lining up for a piece of the coming wind energy boom, including T. Boone Pickens, who believes that by reducing oil imports by 38% would save us nearly $300 billion a year.
"It's time we got serious about using [wind power]," he said.
Follow the Smart Money
Pickens' Mesa Power just ordered 667 turbines from General Electric to begin a $10 billion wind far project in Texas. When completed by 2014, the wind farm will be capable of producing 4,000 megawatts, or enough energy to power 1.2 million U.S. homes.
"Oil fields have a declining curve - you find one, it peaks and starts downhill, you've got to find another one to replace it. It drives you crazy! With wind, there's no decline. "You need a giant plan for America," he says. "Not the pissant 83 megawatt [windfarm] deals being stamped all over the country. There needs to be a huge plan from someone with leadership. It's going to take years to do, but it has to start now."
Fortunately, we're familiar with the potential as well.

"What we simply cannot ignore about the wind energy market is its growth during 2007. Last year, a record-breaking 20,000 megawatts (MW) of wind power were installed around the world. That means that wind energy supplied approximately 94,000 MW of energy. In other words, that's a growth of around $36 billion."
Let's put this into perspective...
Between 2005 and 2007, both Germany and Spain's wind power capacity experienced impressive growth (about 21% and 51%, respectively). Now look back at the U.S. growth. Our capacity catapulted nearly 84%!
Don't think for a second that wind energy is about slow down...
Since 2000, wind power production has increased fivefold. Remember that during that period, oil prices have grown nearly the amount. Now that a peak oil is starting to get under the global spotlight, we can expect to see a massive interest in renewables like wind energy.
We're talking about a source of energy that is a renewable, clean, has a low operating cost and has technology that's been around for over century (the first power producing windmill was created back in 1887).
But it isn't just the past growth that we're impressed with. Over the next two years, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) predicts that the world's installed wind power capacity will practically double to 149.5 GW. If you notice, the installed capacity in 2007 was 94,000 MW-which was higher than originally forecasted!"
Not only are we bullish on the latest ETF issue, we remain bullish on pure wind play Western Wind Enertgy (WND.V).

4TH Amendment.....Going............Going..............GONE!

In With a New Law, Out with the Fourth Amendment!
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Compare that with the recent "compromise" legislation that will allow warrantless surveillance of Americans' electronic communications that Congress is set to approve. The bill amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) gives the U.S. National Security Agency — the world's largest intelligence agency — carte blanche to engage in wholesale "data mining" of email communications, telephone calls, faxes, etc. And there's absolutely no requirement that the government describe "the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."Instead, the NSA's "Terrorist Surveillance Program" (TSP) appears to rely on mining the data streams of U.S. telecommunications companies to analyze transactional records of telephone and email traffic. Supposedly, they're searching for patterns that might point to terrorist suspects. In other words, are you — or anyone else in the United States — acting in a way that merits eavesdropping? If you match one of these profiles, the NSA apparently assigns a human analyst to listen in on your telephone calls and read your email. Again, there's no warrant required. This apparently happens tens of thousands of times annually. Most of the time, the NSA doesn't find anything suspicious. What about a warrant backed by probable cause? Apparently, only in those 10 or so cases that merit a full investigation does the FBI obtain a search warrant or domestic wiretap warrant. Under the new FISA law, the only role the courts play is to approve the computer algorithms the NSA uses to decide which messages merit further investigation. That decision is in the hands of the secret court set up 30 years ago to oversee wiretaps in national security investigations. In its 30-year history, this "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court" has turned down only a handful of NSA surveillance requests. But now, its role is just to rubber-stamp whatever algorithm an NSA technician decides to use. The remainder of the law is a joke, although I'm not laughing. For full details, see my blog right now. The bottom line: The FISA amendments shift the decisions about which U.S. citizens to spy on from the courts to virtual priesthood of NSA technicians operating in secret and creating surveillance algorithms that only they understand. It's hardly an oversight to state that this type of wholesale surveillance makes the Fourth Amendment a quaint anachronism. So, so long Fourth Amendment. It was nice to have you while you were here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Peter Schiff Is The Man! Forward his Writings To Your Friends!

The Fed Unreserved
Peter Schiff
Throughout history, governments have always used crises to justify blatant power grabs. Often the crisis subsides, but the expanded government powers remain. In America this week, the tendency came into sharp focus. Congress signaled that it is preparing to perpetuate the Bush Administration’s domestic wiretapping program, and has even abandoned the pretense that warrantless surveillance be confined to terrorism. Similarly, even though our financial crisis has yet to reach full flower, Treasury Secretary Paulson announced plans to give the Federal Reserve new and explicit powers to oversee and regulate the financial services industry. However, a sober look at his plan reveals that it is tantamount to giving the fox complete autonomy to guard the henhouse.
What few economic leaders have acknowledged is that the Federal Reserve itself is responsible for the real estate and credit bubbles, which are the source of our current troubles. By keeping interest rates too low for too long, the Fed ignited a speculative fever and engendered a disregard for risk management that pushed asset prices above rational levels. Should we blame the private sector for taking advantage of all the cheap credit, or the Federal Reserve for supplying it? If a kindergarten teacher passes out handfuls of Pixie Sticks, and then leaves her classroom unattended for several hours, should we blame the five year olds for the hysteria that ensues?
The reality is that we should be restricting, rather than expanding, the powers given to the Federal Reserve. Since Greenspan, Bernanke and company have already inflicted so much damage with the weapons already in their arsenal, why provide them with heavier artillery? Only in Washington do those who screw up get rewarded for doing so.
Since the Fed has demonstrated complete incompetence at setting interest rates, why not return that function to the market? Instead of allowing the Fed to inflict unbridled havoc on our economy, why not re-impose some discipline? Instead of looking for new ways to regulate Wall Street, why not find an old way to regulate the Fed? Actually there is a simple answer to all of these questions; it’s called the gold standard.
In his speech outlining these proposals, Paulson stated that during the past fifty years the performance of the U.S. economy has been second to none. I do not know what planet Paulson has been living on these past fifty years, but it is certainly not Earth. If Paulson were referring to the prior fifty year period, from 1908-1958, his statement would have been correct. But from 1958 to 2008, the U.S. economy has blown a lead even greater than the one the Lakers enjoyed over the Celtics in game four of the just concluded NBA Finals. In fact, it may well qualify as the biggest economic choke in history.
In 1958 the U.S. enjoyed a standard of living so unmatched that the rest of the world still lived in the Stone Age by comparison. Our per capita income was so far ahead of our nearest rival that it seemed impossible that any other nation would ever catch up. Today not only is per capita income in the U.S. barely in the top ten, but we are being rapidly overtaken by countries that up until a few years ago were barely discernable in our rear-view mirrors. When it comes to economic performance during the past 150 years, the U.S. is the Big Brown of economies. 1858-1908 was the Kentucky Derby, 1908-1958 was the Preakness, and 1958-2008 was the Belmont Stakes.
Not only did the U.S. surrender a substantial lead, but in many respects our current standard of living is lower than the one our grandparents enjoyed. Sure we have a few more gadgets, larger televisions and more prevalent air conditioning, but the quality of life has actually declined. In the 1950’s, the average man earned enough money to fully support a wife and four kids, all while saving for retirement and paying off his mortgage. Today the average man can barely support himself. It takes two bread winners in most families to make ends meet, and that is assuming only two children. Even with both parents working, the typical mortgage on the family home will never be paid off and retirement is now a pipe dream. Flush with high pay, low debt, and a strong currency, the Ugly American in the 1950’s could vacation in Europe like a king. Now we can now barely afford the gas for a day trip to a Six Flags theme park.
If Paulson can be so completely clueless regarding the Fed’s role in the current debacle and in America’s economic stumbles over the past two generations, why would anyone place any faith in his proposed remedies? In fact, an unaccountable and unelected Federal Reserve, which nonetheless has lately proven to be as politically craven as any two-bit politician, does not hold the keys to our economic revival. However, with its increased willingness to rescue the big financial firms from their own excesses, perhaps Paulson sees an expanded Fed as the best way to ensure the continued prosperity of his former pals on Wall Street.

Not So Nicely Said.........................

"We shall have World Government, whether or not we like it. The only question is whether World Government will be achieved by conquest or consent." -James Paul Warburg

California H2O Troubles

“In California, an acre-foot of water now sells for $1,000 on the open market,” reports our Sound Of Cannons West Coast reporters with another California crisis. The West Coast state is currently plagued by the worst drought since 1992, and already, rising water rights costs have skyrocketed. The $1,000 price tag will grant you around 326,000 gallons of water… likely the most expensive H2O in U.S. history. Such a volume of water, by the way, would satiate an average family for only one year.
“Perilously low water reserves have forced Schwarzenegger to declare nine counties disaster areas. Fresno County, caught smack-bang in the middle of the crisis, is the largest agricultural county in the U.S. and serves up around $4.8 billion in crops to American plates every year.”

NAU Gets Support from Commerce Chief

Commerce chief pushes for 'North American Integration'

Communique shows SPP far more than just 'dialogue' with Canada, Mexico

By Jerome R. Corsi© 2008
Commerce Secretary Carlos M. GutierrezWhile the Bush administration insists the controversial Security and Prosperity Partnership is just a dialogue with Canada and Mexico, a State Department cable released to WND shows Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez pressing to implement major trilateral initiatives to help "capture the vision of North American integration."
The cable was among some 150 pages of State Department SPP documents recently released to WND under a Freedom of Information Act request.
Howard Phillips, who has formed a coalition to block development of a "North American Union" and formation of NAFTA superhighways, told WND the document "makes clear that the agenda of SPP is to pursue major economic integration that redefines U.S. businesses into a 'North American' definition."

"By leading with economics, SPP is crafting a North American regulatory structure that transforms U.S. regulations by 'harmonizing' them with Mexican and Canadian regulations, all without specific congressional approval," said Phillips, chairman of the Conservative Caucus.
The State Department communiqu?, dated May 20, 2005, documents a March 13, 2005, meeting between Gutierrez, Mexican Secretary of Economy Fernando Canales and Canadian Privy Council Assistant Secretary Phil Ventura. The meeting was held just prior to the announcement of SPP at the trilateral summit with the country's three leaders in Waco, Texas, March 23, 2005.
The cable notes Gutierrez opened the discussion by stressing that the July 23, 2005, "Report to Leaders" needed "to show results" that would be "enduring and create an on-going process."
Gutierrez suggested each working group should propose one "big ticket" issue, rather than the "50-60 smaller initiatives" that were then in the SPP "matrix," allowing the "SPP ministers" to capture the attention of the "SPP leaders" with major North American integration goals that were both tangible and important.
"This memo gives us an important 'behind the scenes' look at the trilateral bureaucratic process that gave rise to the "Report to Leaders.
The 2005 "Report to Leaders" on the SPP website, Phillips noted, resulted from a detailed process of trilateral bureaucratic meetings that led to cabinet-level discussions within the three governments. The end result, he said, was for the report to "focus on the major SPP working group initiatives that could advance the goal of North American integration."
Phillips contended a "close reading of the document makes a lie of the SPP 'myth vs. facts' contention that SPP is just a 'dialogue.'"
"The document quotes Canada's Ventura as stating that the three countries should prepare a joint document declaring their trilateral intention to 'integrate' a list of industries, including automobiles, pharmaceuticals, textiles, furniture, and steel," he argued. "Ventura said the more 'trilateral integrated' industries that could be listed, the better."
At the meeting, Gutierrez proposed that the SPP ministers think in terms of a trilateral "integrated" auto industry creating a "Made in North America Vehicle by 2009." He also suggested announcing "an IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) Violation Free Zone by 2010" and that SPP ministers should hold weekly conference calls to advance the agenda.
"The economic route being pursued behind closed doors by SPP working groups is a replay of the exact stealth route taken in Europe," Phillips noted.
"Right now the EU is celebrating with a series of television commercials the evolution over a 50-year period from an initial coal and steel agreement to a full-fledged European Union regional government with the euro as a regional currency," he said.
The recently uncovered State Department memo, Phillips added, makes clear the same bureaucratic process of regional integration is being implemented in North America within working group and minister meetings that are closed to the public and the press.
"The State Department memo also makes clear that Gutierrez is a major moving force driving the North American integration agenda for the Bush White House," Phillips said.
Supporting Phillips' contention, the State Department cable noted in the last paragraph the meeting got off to a slow start, but under Gutierrez's leadership "it resulted in concrete ideas and direction for the working groups."

NAU Superhighway Takes A Small Hit

Texas Corridor detour: Officials nix land grab

Toll plan tossed: 'Any area that is not along an existing highway will not be considered'
Posted: June 14, 200810:56 pm Eastern
Opponents of a plan to build a Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) road and rail system from Mexico to Oklahoma received welcome news this week, as Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials announced their strategy would no longer include building new highway routes southwest of Houston, a plan that would have annexed huge tracts of private land.
The $184 billion TTC project originally called for a 4,000-mile network of transportation corridors, 1,200 feet wide, to be built across Texas. The plan would have taken about a half million agricultural acres out of private hands, leading to a maelstrom of objections from Texas landowners.
But now TxDOT executive Director Amadeo Saenz says plans have changed. In a conference call with reporters he said TxDOT "had narrowed the study area for TTC I-69" and that the department "is going to be considering only existing highway" routes, and "any area that is not along an existing highway will not be considered."
"This is great news for landowners," said John Means, president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. "TSCRA appreciates the agency's decision to not build the toll roads through rural lands that would threaten the private property rights of many of our members."
The TxDOT website states that "the preliminary basis for this decision centers on the review of nearly 28,000 public comments made" on the issue. Saenz added that 47 town hall meetings with Texas residents had further influenced the decision.
Brehham, Tex., State Rep. Lois W. Kolkhorst, who joined in the battle to protect rural lands from the project, told The Huntsville Item, "The real heroes who deserve the credit here are the constituents. I want to thank the thousands of people who joined me in fighting the I-69 TTC for the past 5 years, writing letters, calling and attending meetings to make their voices heard."
(Story continues below)

Though opponents of the TTC celebrate victory in this battle, they have been quick to point out that the war is not over.
"This is good news about a retreat from the corridor," Kolkhorst said, "but the controversy over how we pay for our roads will continue. We need to stay strong against the forces out there who want to sell off our highway infrastructure to foreign sources."
"This is a great first step," said Kenneth Dierschke, president of the Texas Farm Bureau. "But we must continue to hold TxDOT's feet to the fire during the next legislative session to ensure they keep these promises."
David Stall of the anti-TTC group CorridorWatch is also wary of crying victory too soon. Speaking of TxDOT, Stall told a Houston Community Newspaper, "They've never taken the public's input into consideration before."
Part of the concern is that the announcement to limit the TTC's scope only included project proposals south and west of Houston. The announcement did not mention plans for the northern I-35 corridor.
"We want (Saenz) to send the same letter to the Federal Highway Administration for TTC I-35 that he sent about I-69," Stall said. "There was as much public input about I-35 as there was about 69."
Stall also worries that TxDOT was motivated largely by "financial ability and political expediency," warning, "As soon as it becomes fiscally viable, it will come back."
For now, landowners in southwestern Texas are breathing a sigh of relief and preparing for future battles if necessary.
Last year Amy Klein, a member of CorridorWatch, quoted Stall in the Gainesville Daily Register with words that are just as meaningful now to the group as they were then. "You eat an elephant one bite at a time," she quoted. Then she added, "I think we're slowly devouring this elephant."

Gas, Get This, Is STILL Expensive

Oil prices 'will not come down' says OPEC boss

By Edmund Conway

The cost of a barrel of crude oil has edged closer to its all-time high after OPEC president Chakib Khelil warned that oil prices “will not come down”. Ahead of a meeting with EU officials in Brussels today, he said that the cartel had done all it could to ease prices.

His comments pushed up benchmark crude in London by $1.24 to $137.15 a barrel - it hit an all-time high of $137.69 a barrel on June 6. The spot price - the cost of buying a barrel of oil for delivery that day - has risen close to $140.
European Union Energy Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, said he was “not convinced” speculators are to blame and repeated his call for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to pump more oil and scrap production quotas. But OPEC Secretary-General Abdalla el-Badri said: “The market is currently hijacked by speculators,” including hedge funds. “There is no shortage of supply as I said before.”
OPEC members besides Saudi Arabia have no intention of raising output to bring down near-record prices, he said. This will be the “main point” for today’s discussions, which will also include Mr Khelil and French Energy and Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter and OPEC producer, plans to raise production for a third straight month in July and will further increase output as needed to curb record-high prices above $135 a barrel.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi announced the increase at last weekend’s summit of 35 producing and consuming countries in the Saudi port city of Jeddah. Mr Khelil and ministers from Venezuela and Libya have said the Saudi initiative would fail to lower prices.
Speculators have almost doubled their share of the New York oil futures market, according to figures provided for the US Congressional Energy and Commerce Committee by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Between 2000 and this April their share of West Texas Intermediate contracts rose from 37pc to 71pc, with the rest accounted for by companies such as airlines hedging against price rises.
Many analysts now expect crude prices to shoot up towards $200 a barrel as the growth in global demand for energy outpaces the supply.
However others, including billionaire investor George Soros, have warned that the price could soon fall back sharply, and that the price looks like a bubble.
John Dingell, chairman of the Congressional committee, said the growth in speculative activity "raises troubling concerns about whether the oil future prices have become de-linked from underlying supply and demand fundamentals and whether the commodities markets have become a casino for unscrupulous speculators who profit at the expense of the American people".
Presidential nominee Barack Obama has pledged to control oil speculation if he gains office, ensuring, among other things, that US energy futures cannot be traded offshore unregulated.
Julian Jessop, of Capital Economics, said: "I've no doubt that there is some speculative froth in the market... it's impossible to prove if it is contributing $5 or $50 to the price.
"More recently [since April] speculative positions have been flat or falling, while prices have been rising sharply," he added, saying speculative activity could not explain the recent sharp increase in price from $100 to almost $140 a barrel.
However, analysts expect that with China, Indonesia and other emerging nations cutting subsidies on their domestic oil prices, demand may soon drop.
The fact that oil prices have risen, rather than fallen, may embarrass Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, who flew out yesterday to the Jeddah meeting to urge producers to pump more crude.

Like Giving Crack To The Drug Addict

Alcoa, Shell Want Climate Plan, Global Carbon Limits
By Alex Morales

June 20 (Bloomberg) -- Alcoa Inc., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and 97 other companies are urging world leaders to devise a plan for fighting global warming by setting greenhouse-gas targets for all nations and creating an international carbon market.
A new climate-change treaty is needed with incentives to capture and store carbon dioxide and protect forests, the 99 companies said in a statement prepared by the World Economic Forum, a Geneva-based business coalition. The group presented the proposals today to Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who hosts a meeting of the Group of Eight nations next month in Japan.
Oil, power and metal industries are among the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. To cut their output in half by 2050, an extra $45 trillion must be invested in clean-air technologies, the Paris-based International Energy Agency said this month. The business group said it wants government guidance on how new climate policies may affect investment decisions.
``The report makes clear that businesses can't operate in a policy vacuum,'' Willie Walsh, chief executive officer of London- based British Airways Plc, Europe's third-largest airline, said in a conference call yesterday. He is one of 16 corporate leaders who developed the proposals.
The group, representing 10 percent of the market value of the world's listed companies, also is led by Jeroen Van der Veer, chief executive officer of Shell, Europe's largest oil company, based in The Hague; Chairman Alain Belda of New York-based Alcoa, the world's third-biggest aluminum producer; and Chief Executive James Rogers of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp., owner of electric utilities in the Carolinas and the U.S. Midwest. Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, presented the proposals to Fukuda in Tokyo.
Green Industry
``This is the first time you've had an international group of business leaders set out in a great degree of depth their vision for what the new framework should look like, and put their name to it,'' Dominic Waughray, the World Economic Forum's head of environmental initiatives, said in a telephone interview.
To limit the risks of global warming, a ``paradigm shift to a low-carbon economy'' is needed, the companies said in the statement prepared by the Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, also based in Geneva. The statement called for a ``green industrial revolution,'' with rich nations taking the lead in cutting greenhouse gases and developing a global market for carbon credits, or permits to pollute.
``We see enormous opportunity here for the global financial industry,'' Caio Koch-Weser, vice chairman of Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank AG, Germany's biggest bank, said on the conference call. An emissions treaty enforced beyond 2012 might produce ``the makings of the global carbon market, with carbon almost as a currency 10 years from now.''
New Accord
World leaders aim to reach an accord by the end of 2009 to limit emissions, replacing the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. Negotiations have stalled because of disagreement over what commitments different countries should make. The U.S. says it won't agree to binding targets unless China and India also agree to limits. Those nations say it's up to the industrialized world to first control emissions.
``We need strong leadership from governments to enable the business community to take advantage of opportunities,'' British Airways' Walsh said.
Under carbon trading, companies are given emission limits and enough permits to meet that cap. If they undershoot, they're able to sell those excess credits to other businesses that are unable to meet their targets.
`Unambiguous' Goal
``The new framework must be designed to harness the power of the market,'' the chief executives wrote in the 12-page proposal. ``A well-designed market-based framework in developed countries that enables the emergence of an international market for carbon can help catalyze the required flows of private capital and clean-energy technology to developing nations.''
The new treaty must include an ``unambiguous'' international goal to cut emissions, the companies said, suggesting a target for 2050 to halve output of the gases, produced mainly from burning fossil fuels. All major economies should be involved, including developing countries such as China and India, which have no binding targets under Kyoto, the companies said.
The proposal called for incentives to avoid cutting down forests and to develop technologies including solar energy, nuclear power, and carbon capture and storage, or CCS, an experimental technique that removes carbon dioxide from factory and power-plant exhaust and pumps it underground for storage.
Carbon Capture
``Acceleration of the demonstration and deployment of a range of CCS technologies is particularly important,'' the report said. ``If all new coal-fired electricity generation plants are not operating with CCS from 2015 to 2020 onward, it will be difficult to realize the target of a 50-percent reduction in global emissions by 2050.''
The executives also said licensing agreements and funds are needed to allow clean technologies to be used in poorer nations.
While no companies from mainland China have endorsed the plan, Rick Samans, managing director of the forum, said invitations are there for Chinese firms to sign up. Walsh and Koch-Weser said awareness of climate change is high among Chinese business leaders.

We Knew It All Along....................

At Last, Some Truth About Iraq and Afghanistan
Eric MargolisLew Rockwell.comTuesday, June 24, 2008
PARIS – After a sea of lies and a tsunami of propaganda, the ugly truth behind the Iraq and Afghanistan wars finally emerged into full view this week.
Four major western oil companies, Exxon, Mobil, Shell, BP and Total, are about to sign US-brokered no-bid contracts with the US-installed Baghdad regime to begin exploiting Iraq’s oil fields. Saddam Hussein had kicked these firms out three decades ago when he nationalized Iraq’s foreign-owned oil industry for the benefit of Iraq’s national development. The Baghdad regime is turning back the clock.
This agreement comes as talks are continuing between the Washington and its Baghdad client regime over future US basing rights in Iraq. After some face-saving Iraqi objections, it is expected that Baghdad will sign a compact with Washington giving US forces control of Iraq and its air space in a manner very similar to Great Britain’s colonial arrangement with Iraq.
Interestingly, the same oil companies that used to exploit Iraq when it was a British colony are now returning. As former US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recently admitted, the Iraq war was all about oil. VP Dick Cheney stated in 2003 that the invasion of Iraq was about oil, and for the sake of Israel.
Meanwhile, according to Pakistani and Indian sources, Afghanistan just signed a major deal to launch a long-planned, 1680 km long pipeline project expected to cost $ 8 billion. If completed, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline (TAPI) will export gas and, later, oil from the Caspian Basin to Pakistan’s coast where tankers will transport it to the west.
The Caspian Basin located under the Central Asian states of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakkstan, holds an estimated 300 trillion cubic feet of gas and 100–200 billion barrels of oil. Securing the world’s last remaining known energy Eldorado is strategic priority for the western powers. China can only look on with envy.
But there are only two practical ways to get gas and oil out of landlocked Central Asia to the sea: through Iran, or through Afghanistan to Pakistan. For Washington, Iran is tabu. That leaves Pakistan, but to get there, the planned pipeline must cross western Afghanistan, including the cities of Herat and Kandahar.
In 1998, the Afghan anti-Communist movement Taliban and a western oil consortium led by the US firm UNOCAL signed a major pipeline deal. UNOCAL lavished money and attention on Taliban, flew a senior delegation to Texas, and also hired an minor Afghan official, one Hamid Karzai.
Enter Osama bin Laden. He advised the unworldly Taliban leaders to reject the US deal and got them to accept a better offer from an Argentine consortium, Bridas. Washington was furious and, according to some accounts, threatened Taliban with war.
In early 2001, six or seven months before 9/11, Washington made the decision to invade Afghanistan, overthrow Taliban, and install a client regime that would build the energy pipelines. But Washington still kept up sending money to Taliban until four months before 9/11 in an effort to keep it "on side" for possible use in a war or strikes against Iran.
The 9/11 attacks, about which Taliban knew nothing, supplied the pretext to invade Afghanistan. The initial US operation had the legitimate objective of wiping out Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida. But after its 300 members fled to Pakistan, the US stayed on, built bases – which just happened to be adjacent to the planned pipeline route – and installed former UNOCAL"consultant" Hamid Karzai as leader.
Washington disguised its energy geopolitics by claiming the Afghan occupation was to fight "Islamic terrorism," liberate women, build schools, and promote democracy. Ironically, the Soviets made exactly the same claims when they occupied Afghanistan from 1979-1989. The cover story for Iraq was weapons of mass destruction, Saddam’s supposed links to 9/11, and promoting democracy.
Work will begin on the TAPI once Taliban forces are cleared from the pipeline route by US, Canadian and NATO forces. As American analyst Kevin Phillips writes, the US military and its allies have become an "energy protection force."
From Washington’s viewpoint, the TAPI deal has the added benefit of scuttling another proposed pipeline project that would have delivered Iranian gas and oil to Pakistan and India.
India’s energy needs are expected to triple over the next decade to 8 billion barrels of oil and 80 million cubic meters of gas daily. Delhi, which has its own designs on Afghanistan and has been stirring the pot there, is cock-a-hoop over the new pipeline plan. Russia, by contrast, is grumpy, having hoped to monopolize Central Asian energy exports.
Energy is more important than blood in our modern world. The US is a great power with massive energy needs. Domination of oil is a pillar of America’s world power. Afghanistan and Iraq are all about control of oil.

Too Much Power Within The Agri-Business Sector

Killing Farmers with Killer Seed
JOHN ROSS CounterpunchTuesday, June 24, 2008
As the global food crisis escalates, Big Biotech (Monsanto, Novartis, Syngenta, Dupont-Pioneer, Dow et al) are capitalizing on the desperation of the hungry at runaway prices and rapidly diminishing reserves as a wedge to foist genetically modified (GMO) seeds on a reluctant Third World.
Latin America is a prime marketing target for Big Biotech's little darlings, often tagged "semillas asasinas" or "killer seeds" for their devastating impacts on local food stocks. Now the killer GMOs are suspected of literally provoking murder most foul.
Last October, Armando Villareal, a farm leader in the Mexican border state of Chihuahua, was gunned down after a farmers' meeting in Nuevo Casas Grandes. Villareal had been denouncing the illegal planting of GMO corn in the Mennonite-dominated municipalities of Cuauhtemoc and Naniquipa.
Chihuahua Mennonite communities originally migrated from Canada after a dispute with the Canadian government over education in the 1920s and were granted land by post-revolutionary president Alvaro Obregon. Over the decades, the Mennonites have successfully cultivated up to 60,000 hectares in the northeast of the state. Acutely insular with their signature dress (denim overalls for the men, prairie dresses and calico bonnets for the women) and speaking low-German as befits their European roots, the Mennonites have never integrated into the Mexican mainstream and their success as farmers - they have benefited from Mexican government irrigation projects - has created tensions in a region where aridity limits agricultural production for most farmers.
Hundreds of tractors lined up in a cortege at Villareal's October 15th funeral during which he was compared to another Chihuahua hero, Francisco Villa. Ironically, the slain farmers' leader who claimed to have evidence that the Mennonites' killer seeds had been smuggled in from Kansas, was not opposed to planting GMO corn which his "Aerodynamica" group hoped would save strapped farmers money on pesticides and power costs. His followers had even burnt tractors to demand that the Mexican government grant them permits to plant the transgenic corn.
Eight months later, Armando Villareal's murder remains unresolved.
The Chihuahua farm leader's assassination is not the only death of a militant Latin American campesino being linked to Big Biotech's encroachments. In Parana Brazil about the same time Villareal was gunned down in Chihuahua, Keno Mota, an activist of the Movement of Landless Farmers ("Movimento de Sem Terras" or MST), affiliated with the international poor farmers coalition Via Campesina, was drilled by security guards during an action on an illegal experimental station under cultivation by the Biotech giant Syngenta - the Syngenta plot, adjacent to Iguazu National Park, a protected nature reserve, violated Brazilian strictures as to where such "semillas asasinas" can be planted.
Unlike Mexico, Brazil has few restrictions on GMO crops and indeed under social democrat president Lula da Silva, has become the second-largest GMO soybean producer on the continent. Neighboring Argentina is Numero Uno. Big Argentinean growers, who have been blocking that southern cone nation's highways in a dispute over tariffs on soy exports for weeks, have announced intentions to surpass the United States as the largest grower of genetically modified maize in coming years. Argentinean corn is grown exclusively as feed for the gaucho nation's cattle industry, a cornerstone of its agrarian economy.
Mexico, where maiz was first domesticated 8000 years ago and where corn is at the core of culture as well as nutrition, has been more circumspect in embracing GMO seed. Under the banner of the "No Hay Pais Sin Maiz" ("we have no country without corn") campaign, farmers and environmentalists have joined hands to prevent GMO contamination of native species and the nation's Bio-Security Commission, initialed CYBOGEN, an inter-secretarial government body, declared a moratorium on the cultivation of genetically modified corn in the late 1990s.
Nonetheless, millions of tons of GMO maize pour into Mexican tariff-free each year from the U.S. under provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA.)
Now, in the wake of the much-hyped global food crisis, Big Biotech is pressuring the Mexican government to permit experimental plantations of the semillas asasinas as the only solution to predicted shortages, a ploy that Monsanto and its ilk have successfully sprung on the European Union.
Although GMO corn remains officially proscribed in Europe, seven EU members will grow the modified maize this year. Agribiz combines like the British National Beef Association, insist that "all resistance to GMO crops must be abandoned" in light of the growing international food psychosis.
One motive for the industry's big push, according to Sylvia Ribero who keeps tabs on Big Biotech for the left daily La Jornada: patents for some of the major GMO seed brands like Monsanto's BT corn are set to expire in the next five years.
Buckling under the Biotech barrage, Mexico's CYBOGEN posted regulations this March for applicants who contemplate cultivation of "experimental" GMO corn. Now, with a 60-day countdown ticking, Mexican farmers could be legally planting genetically modified maiz by July.
Under ground rules issued by both the Agriculture and Environmental secretariats (SAGARPA and SAMARNAT), experimental patches of GMO corn must be limited to regions where native corn stocks will not be contaminated by windblown pollens from such fields.
But the Mennonite farmers who occupy huge tracts in Chihuahua apparently jumped the gun. Under the tutelage of Monsanto and Syngenta-Golden Harvest with the SAGARPA and the SAMARNAT turning a blind eye, the Mennonites have sewn GMO corn in at least two of their "camps" or agricultural stations (#102 and #305) in the municipality of Naniquipa where Villareal spotted the illegal patches last year. Decrying insufficient safeguards against windblown pollens, Chihuahua campesinos led by Victor Quintana of the "No Hay Pais" campaign, also affiliated with Via Campesina, and a deputy in the Mexican congress for the left-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), have threatened to tear out the Mennonite fields before they flower in mid-summer.
Quintana's group worries that the Mennonite "experiment" will germinate five to 25 million "granos" or kernels, each of which is a potential threat to native corn.SAGARPA regards the Mennonite "experiment" as a field test to see just how far the pollens can be spread by winds and other weather conditions.
Windblown GMO pollens are held responsible for the contamination of maiz in neighboring Sinaloa state where Greenpeace activists found traces of genetically modified corn in 96% of samples taken in nine municipalities in 2007 - Sinaloa is Mexico's top corn producing state. Aleira Lara, Greenpeace anti-GMO campaign coordinator, considers that trying to confine experimental plots to one geographical region is merely cosmetic. Last year, the Greenpeacers listed 39 instances of windblown GMO contamination in 23 countries.
Native Mexican corn was first found to have been infected by NAFTA GMO imports in 2001 when Indian campesinos in Oaxaca's Sierra of Juarez discovered that maiz from a lot introduced from Michigan and sold by a local government DICONSA grain distribution center had been inadvertently planted in the Zapotec-Chinanteco village of Calpulapan. Subsequent investigation by the National Ecology Institute, documented in a report suppressed by the Secretary of Agriculture, turned up traces of GMO contamination (some as high as 60%) in 11 out of 22 corn-growing regions in Oaxaca and Puebla. Maiz was first domesticated in the Puebla-Oaxaca altiplano eight millenniums ago.
Although the CYBOGEN has never until now licensed the production of genetically modified corn in Mexico, the semillas asasinas have almost certainly been cultivated here since the late 1990s. The International Commission for the Betterment of Corn and Wheat (CIMMYT), financed by the Rockefeller Foundation, with experimental fields in Texcoco just outside Mexico City is thought to be one source of windblown contamination. Roberto Gonzalez Barrera, the King of the Tortilla, the owner of MASECA, the world's biggest corn flour miller now a third owned by Archer Daniels Midlands, once boasted that he had thousands of hectares under GMO corn. NAFTA imports fall off DICONSA trucks on rural highways and the pollens are blown into roadside "milpas" (cornfields.)
Now GMO infestation is about to get much more acute. In a move to offset soaring prices and shrinking reserves that invariably generate social discontent, Mexican president Felipe Calderon has announced the tariff-free importation of millions of tons of basic grains (corn, wheat, soy, sorghum.) Because the Cargill Corporation, which has dominated grain distribution in Mexico ever since the government's CONASUPO system was privatized in 1999, claims it cannot separate out GMO from uncontaminated imports, the impacts on native corn and other grains will be greatly magnified - Greenpeace estimates that 60 to 70% of all corn imports are contaminated by genetically modified organisms.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Boston's Big Dig Fails........Again

{I see it as an irony that when justly leveled criticism was voiced against the ridiculously expensive Big Dig; that the crooks screamed that critics would still have us living in caves. Funny, the caves would've cost us less and have been safer.......assholes. ~SOC}

Big Dig contractor files for bankruptcy

Jun 23 12:52 PM US/Eastern
BOSTON (AP) - A contractor on Boston's beleagured Big Dig tunnel project has filed for bankruptcy protection, one business day after federal prosecutors charged the company with lying about its work.
Modern Continental Co. made a Chapter 11 filing Monday in federal bankruptcy court in Boston. The bankruptcy petition lists debts of $500 million to $1 billion, and assets of $100 million to $500 million. The Boston Globe reports Modern Continental's board voted June 11 to seek protection from creditors.
On Friday, federal prosecutors charged the Big Dig's biggest contractor with lying about the quality of its work on two areas of the tunnel system. Those include a section where a ceiling collapse killed a woman.

McCain Goes To Canada To Defend NAFTA: Proving He Just Doesn't Get It

McCain Defends Trade Pact: As Candidate Visits Canada, His Team Bashes Obama on NAFTA
By Perry Bacon Jr.Washington Post Staff WriterSaturday, June 21, 2008; A06
OTTAWA -- Sen. John McCain traveled to Canada on Friday to offer a vigorous defense of the North American Free Trade Agreement, as his campaign sought to portray rival Sen. Barack Obama as inconsistent on free trade.
"For all the successes of NAFTA, we have to defend it without equivocation in political debate because it is critical to the future of so many Canadian and American workers and businesses," McCain told a crowd of several hundred at the Economic Club of Canada. "Demanding unilateral changes and threatening to abrogate an agreement that has increased trade and prosperity is nothing more than retreating behind protectionist walls."
McCain said his visit to Canada was "not a political campaign trip," and his remarks centered on keeping relations between the United States and Canada strong. The Republican from Arizona did not refer to Obama by name and refused to take questions on political matters at a news conference after his speech, though he was accompanied by top political adviser Charles R. Black Jr. McCain spent much of his trip in closed-door meetings with Canadian officials.
Nonetheless, his comments on NAFTA invoked Obama's criticism of the agreement, and McCain's campaign attacked the senator from Illinois on the issue throughout the day, accusing him of changing his position after becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee.
"For months, Barack Obama said that he would 'make sure that we renegotiate' NAFTA, demanded unilateral changes and threatened to unilaterally withdraw if he did not get his way," McCain said in a statement released by his campaign. ". . . Now he claims: 'I'm not a big believer in doing things unilaterally.' "
Throughout his primary battle with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), Obama was a strong critic of NAFTA, describing it as a "big mistake." He said he wanted to renegotiate the deal with Mexico and Canada to impose requirements on worker pay and environmental safeguards.
Obama's position was questioned after a report that adviser Austan Goolsbee had downplayed the candidate's rhetoric as "political maneuvering" in a meeting with a Canadian diplomat in Chicago.
Obama says he still wants to renegotiate parts of the deal, but he backed off of some of his harsh language in an interview with Fortune magazine published this week. Responding to a question about his earlier phrasing, Obama said that "sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified."
As it was in the Democratic primary, NAFTA figures to be a major issue in the pivotal states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, where many view free-trade agreements as the cause of job losses. McCain's support of the deal could complicate his aggressive efforts to court working-class voters in those states.
During a conference call organized by the Obama campaign, Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm (D) said McCain's advocacy of NAFTA "certainly demonstrated that he is completely out of touch with the reality of the situation on the ground in Michigan."
Obama's campaign also highlighted votes McCain cast against bills that would have provided additional money for workers whose jobs had been shipped abroad.
Obama spent the day meeting with 16 Democratic governors to talk about the economy, before holding campaign events in Florida, where he responded to McCain's attacks on NAFTA. "What's interesting to me is that he chose to talk about trade in Canada instead of in Ohio or Michigan," he said. "I think Senator McCain should have shared some of his views there to American voters."
The Democratic National Committee on Friday accused McCain's campaign of violating Hatch Act rules that proscribe political activity by government employees, citing reports that the U.S. ambassador to Canada helped organize the event in Ottawa. The DNC filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the State Department, a move the McCain team called a "publicity stunt."
The disagreement on trade is emblematic of disputes the two candidates have on other economic issues, with McCain offering a pro-growth, anti-regulation vision and Obama proposing a variety of measures to help Americans deal with immediate pocketbook issues.
McCain's strong support for NAFTA and other trade agreements could prove costly in November. In an April poll by the Pew Research Center, a majority of independents and Democrats said the impact of such agreements is a "bad thing," while Republicans were evenly split over whether they help or hurt.
Most economists say that some jobs have moved abroad because of NAFTA and other trade agreements but that the biggest causes of manufacturing job losses are the rise of China and improvements in technology.
Along with NAFTA, McCain highlighted Canada's close relationship with the United States on other issues, such as preventing terrorism.
"We've been through an awful lot together, Canada and America, and together we have achieved great things," he told the economic club. "We have a long shared history to draw from, and deep reserves of good will and mutual admiration."
On his trip, McCain also met with business executives and defense officials in meetings that were closed to the news media. His aides said the trip was part of the foreign travel that McCain has long done and will continue to do.

it's Somehow Managed To Get Worse

A Totally Lawless Regime
PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS CounterpunchSaturday, June 21, 2008
Think about this question: In the 21st century what regime is more lawless than the Bush Regime?
Everyone is entitled to his own answer. The only answer I can come up with is the Zimbabwe regime of Robert Mugabe. Voted out of power in the last election, the great man hasn’t left. Zimbabweans are going to have to vote again, and the great man has said that any vote that is not for him will be cancelled by a bullet.
Does anyone remember how determined the British and the Americans and everyone else was to turn Rhodesia over to Mugabe in order to save Rhodesia from the evil Ian Smith? What a fool everyone was.
But before we laugh at those fools, we had best laugh at ourselves, or cry.
It is now an incontrovertible fact, known all over the world, that George W. Bush and his regime lied through their teeth in order to launch wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq, and that the Bush regime is doing the same thing again in hopes of launching an attack on Iran.
There have been a number of memoirs from high ranking Bush appointees who cannot stand all the lies. Bush’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O’Neill, told us that an invasion of Iraq was on the agenda prior to 9/11. There is the leaked Downing Street Memo in which the head of British Intelligence told the British Prime Minister and his cabinet that the Americans have decided to attack Iraq and are creating the “intelligence” to justify the attack.
And now we have the White House’s own spokesman from 2003-2006, Scot McClellen, ratifying what we all already knew, that President Bush deceived us and led us into war based entirely on lies and fabrications, and that he, Scott McClellen, was deceived into issuing a false public denial that top Cheney aide Scooter Libby and White House operative Karl Rove were involved in committing a felony under US law by revealing the identity of a covert CIA operative, Valerie Plame.
As a consequence of Bush’s lies, there are a million dead Iraqis, mostly women and children, and four million displaced Iraqis, 4,100 dead American soldiers and tens of thousands of seriously wounded. No one knows how many dead in Afghanistan. And there is the ongoing Israeli slaughter of Palestinians and Lebanese that has fallen under the rubric of the “war on terror.”
The only ones pleased with these wars are the American neoconservatives, the Israeli right-wing, the US corporate military-security complex, and Osama bin Laden.
The Bush regime has created enormous hatred and disrespect for the United States. A recent world wide poll found that George W. Bush ranks at the bottom of world leaders as one of the least trusted along with US Pakistani puppet Musharraf and the Iranian president, Ahmadinejad, who has the disadvantage of being the victim of demonization by the US and European corporate-controlled media, which serves as ministries of propaganda for the governments that control their broadcast licenses. The American and European media lie for their living.
The two leaders with the highest approval rating are UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
So, the old adversary, Russia, now has a more respected leader than the “leader” of the Great Free Nation, a Great Free Nation that has sat on its hands while its “leader” destroyed America’s civil liberties, America’s reputation, the jobs of Americans, and committed the US to a course of war crimes punishable by the International Criminal Court at the Hague.
A number of readers took issue with my recent column, “Elect Obama or Fall Into Tyranny.” Echoing former Alabama Governor George Wallace, readers said Obama would make no difference. But that is what I wrote.
My point was not that Obama would make any difference, as he has put himself and his administration into the hands of Wall Street and the Israel Lobby. I said that the American people could make a difference by rejecting the Republicans, as it was the only accountability that the Republicans were likely to suffer.
If Americans return a Republican regime, Americans will validate the right of the president to violate with impunity US and international law. Americans will validate the use by the president of the United States of deception and lies in order to initiate wars of aggression, aggression that is a war crime under the Nuremburg standard established by the US. Americans will validate the infringement of US civil liberties in the name of “safety” and “national security.” Americans will disembowel the US Constitution and leave themselves at the total mercy of the government.
Reelecting Republicans means the end of the United States as a land of liberty.
I am sympathetic to the argument that we, as a country of liberty, are near our end regardless. Look at the Democrats. Today, June 20, the House of Representatives, which the voters gave to the Democrats in the 2006 congressional elections in order to end the pointless barbarity that the US has brought to Iraq, voted the largest war-spending bill ever. The “antiwar” Democrats completely collapsed, giving the warmonger Brownshirt Republican regime everything it wanted.
The House Democrats, led by “impeachment-is-off-the-table” Nancy Pelosi, added to the Democratic Party’s shame by passing today, June 20, a bill that shields from punishment the criminal Bush regime and the telecommunications corporations that the Bush regime coerced into committing felonies under US law by cooperating in Bush’s illegal spying on American citizens.
The great hope of the Founding Fathers, the people’s house, the House of Representatives, has passed an illegal and unconstitutional retroactive law making acts legal which were illegal when they were committed.
If a Democratic House of Representatives will pass a retroactive law in order to legalize the criminal violations of a Republican regime, the same House will pass a retroactive law making illegal what you did legally yesterday. No one is any longer safe in America. By abandoning the US Constitution, Republicans and Democrats have made America as potentially unsafe as Zimbabwe for anyone who takes exception to the government.
The total collapse of the Democratic Party and the House of Representatives signals the end of liberty and democracy in America. Henceforth, led by the Republican Federalist Society, we will gravitate toward the beautiful regime of “energy in the executive” that has been achieved in Zimbabwe by Robert Mugabe.

Fuck Tim Russert :Sorry Assholes, He Was Part Of The Problem

The Russert Send-Off
ALEXANDER COCKBURNCounterpunchSunday, June 22, 2008
In the old days, when a journalist met his final deadline, friends would gather round the grave, toss in a few memories, then make off to the bar for liquid comfort and disrespectful stories about the dear departed. Contrast this with the send-off for Tim Russert, NBC’s Washington Bureau Chief and 17-year maestro of “Meet the Press”, who dropped dead of a heart attack last week.
He got funeral ceremonies a pope and most U.S. presidents would envy: a private funeral with this year’s two presidential nominees sitting side by side on Russert family orders, with the Congressional leadership in the neighboring pews; George and Laura Bush at the public wake; thousands at the memorial in the Kennedy Center, with Washington and New York’s media and political elites massed in respectful homage.
Was Russert so extraordinary a fellow, to elicit so tumultuous a farewell? Surely not. He could be a sharp interviewer, but I can’t remember any occasions when I said to myself, “ Russert has given me a whole new insight into the way the world works.” There are many journalists and broadcasters I would put miles ahead of him.
Russert was a protege of Moynihan and a very close personal friend-- many have said they were like father and son. Carl Ginsberg, who’s done excellent work on Moynihan down the years, sent me the following note on this relationship.
“A few years ago, in the course of promoting his book, Russert said that he -- Russert -- always made a point of getting home for dinner when in town to be with his son, Luke. The point was that even a busy and powerful dad can - and should - be attentive to his child. This was part of the Moynihan-tainted dogma about family Russert recycled for years: if poor blacks just made more of an effort with their families they could set their lives straight, help the kids and join respectable society. Moynihan once told me regarding black conditions, ‘it's beyond economics... we can't help them.’
It’s interesting that no matter how many sub-prime mortgages were sold through financial sleight of hand, packaged and resold (at a reported profit of 40per cent every two months at its height) and how many somersaults Moody's did to give those mortgages -- dubbed "collateralized debt obligations"-- AAA rating (the rating agency 20 per cent owned by Oracle of Omaha Warren Buffett, who today is sitting on $35 billion in cash)... and no matter the simple fact that the reason that poor people stretched for those mortgages was in desperation to get out of the clutches of miserable matter what, the purveyors of capital never seem to be characterized as being "irresponsibility"; nor are their families ever scrutinized for their behavior.
But Moynihan -- and Russert -- couldn't stop pointing the finger at irresponsible blacks.”
Russert was an insider, with a useful line in presenting himself somewhat to be an ordinary Joe from Buffalo (his hometown, where the flags have been flying at half mast). He didn’t have enemies, (which for a journalist is not an impressive credential). So this nice, popular insider was a fine advertisement for two professions – journalism and politics -- whose collective ranking in public esteem is down there with salesfolk for subprime mortgages. No wonder they made haste to offer Russert to the people as the hero-journalist In hailing Russert, they got to hail and to ennoble themselves.
I was in Virginia the weekend after he died and the lead editorial in a local paper had this to say: "Tim Russert was the kind of newsman to which every journalist aspires; which every journalist wishes to emulate." His conduct on Meet the Press was "fair and courageous, balanced and tenacious. Liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, Russert held everyone accountable to the people of America. He demonstrated the highest qualities of professional journalism as well as the highest qualities of humanity.... a deeply religious man, a dedicated family man, a true American patriot."
Now Russert had the power, the clout and the venue to ask tough questions in the run-up to the war in Iraq which began in March, 2003. There were plenty of serious people with informed views about whether or not Saddam Hussein really had nuclear missile to level London and bio-weapons to kill millions. But Russert was part of the Amen Chorus for a war that sent countless men, women and children to their deaths. When it mattered, he entertained no dangerous differences with the White House line. Was this a performance worthy of “a true American patriot”?
Did this “true American patriot” commanding the attention of millions every week not open his mouth to lament the fact that the U.S. government has been trashing the Constitution and tossing the Bill of Rights in the toilet? Negative on that one too.
We’ve had seven years of craven, culpable journalism - across the mainstream board. No one honors the reporters at Knight Ridder newspapers, who were among the few ones in the mainstream press, pre-war, to hammer away at the WMD lies. They never led off Russert's or anyone else's show. Russert was managing editor and host of Meet the Press, host of The Tim Russert Show on MSNBC, senior vp of NBC News, NBC Washington Bureau Chief, and regular political analyst on the Today Show, The Nightly News. So he was as responsible as anyone for the press collusion with the Administration. But now that the administration is looking bad, he's not a collaborator but a tenacious knight, jousting with them, 'truth-telling', getting 'the bad guys' for 'we, the people.'
Final question: Since NBC had a huge stake in Tim Russert’s future (“Meet the Press” brought in $50 million a year and they paid him around $5 million a year) you’d have thought the network’s executives would have taken a look at the tv screen and raised the alarm. Across the past three months he looked in increasingly awful shape, bright red in the face, overweight and sometimes with a slightly glazed, sad look. I told people I thought he was set to die of a heart attack right there in the studio, which is exactly what happened. On one sighting recently he didn’t take his loafers off in the gym, and when pressed about this casual approach to vitally needed exercise, gave a wink.