Scott Horton Interviews Sydney Schanberg


Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Sydney Schanberg discusses his article “John McCain and the POW Cover-Up,” the hundreds of U.S. POWs and MIAs knowingly left in Vietnam and Laos after U.S. withdrawal, Arizona Senator John McCain’s suppression of the truth surrounding the abandonment of missing soldiers, personal reasons McCain may have for wanting to keep the records secret, the complicity of the mainstream media and thousands within the government in refusing to address this issue, McCain’s history of not supporting the VA system, the 900 U.S. soldiers left behind in Korea and the constant lying to Americans by our government.

MP3 here. (32:03)

A shattering moment in America's fall from power

The global financial crisis will see the US falter in the same way the Soviet Union did when the Berlin Wall came down. The era of American dominance is over.
John Gray The Observer, Sunday September 28 2008

Our gaze might be on the markets melting down, but the upheaval we are experiencing is more than a financial crisis, however large. Here is a historic geopolitical shift, in which the balance of power in the world is being altered irrevocably. The era of American global leadership, reaching back to the Second World War, is over.

You can see it in the way America's dominion has slipped away in its own backyard, with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez taunting and ridiculing the superpower with impunity. Yet the setback of America's standing at the global level is even more striking. With the nationalisation of crucial parts of the financial system, the American free-market creed has self-destructed while countries that retained overall control of markets have been vindicated. In a change as far-reaching in its implications as the fall of the Soviet Union, an entire model of government and the economy has collapsed.

Peacenik has been mentioning this possibility in several recent posts. When Russia was faced with the collapse of the Soviet Union, rather than lash out in anger and frustration, it simply acquiesced. The danger is that the United States, when faced with a similar situation, may choose to go down with guns blazing. This article by John Gray is a nice summary of the U.S.'s short term prospects. Peacenik has only just started trying to contemplate the consequences for Canada. Peacenik is going to stock up on Kraft dinner just in case.

The US and global financial crisis is becoming much more severe in spite of the Treasury rescue plan. The risk of a total systemic meltdown is now as

Nouriel Roubini Sep 29, 2008

It is obvious that the current financial crisis is becoming more severe in spite of the Treasury rescue plan (or maybe because of it as this plan it totally flawed). The severe strains in financial markets (money markets, credit markets, stock markets, CDS and derivative markets) are becoming more severe rather than less severe in spite of the nuclear option (after the Fannie and Freddie $200 billion bazooka bailout failed to restore confidence) of a $700 billion package: interbank spreads are widening (TED spread, swap spreads, Libo-OIS spread) and are at level never seen before; credit spreads (such as junk bond yield spreads relative to Treasuries are widening to new peaks; short-term Treasury yields are going back to near zero levels as there is flight to safety; CDS spread for financial institutions are rising to extreme levels (Morgan Stanley ones at 1200 last week) as the ban on shorting of financial stock has moved the pressures on financial firms to the CDS market; and stock markets around the world have reacted very negatively to this rescue package (US market are down about 3% this morning at their opening).

Let me explain now in more detail why we are now back to the risk of a total systemic financial meltdown...

It is Tuesday morning and the markets are bouncing back a bit, without the bailout. Roubini wrote the above before the bailout failed. Roubini's view is scary. Peacenik thinks some kind of bailout will occur this week, but Peacenik is not entirely optimistic that the bailout is the solution. It's funny how this financail crisis is dominating the news, even wiping speculation about a Sundin signing out of the media. Bailout fails. Leafs win. All is well.


The Ponzi-Plus Plan

by Jim Kunstler

To paraphrase the late and great old war-horse of the senate, Everett Dirkson of Illinois (1896 - 1969), a trillion here, a trillion there, sooner or later you're talking about real money. Except in the case of the Great Bail-out of 2008, maybe it's more like... sooner or later your money is no longer real.

What we're seeing in this fiasco, among other things, is a lesson in the diminishing returns of technology. This is a train wreck of investment vehicles so complex that they could only be created with the aid of computers. The result is that hardly anyone -- perhaps even nobody in or out of Wall Street -- really understands what they represent. In fact, this alphabet soup of engineered securities -- CDOs, CDSs, MBSs, SIVs, etc -- was cooked up from a recipe of Ponzi algorithms. They were designed to be mathematically indecipherable, except by computers, in an alternative universe of model-making that bore only a superficial relation to the real world. That was their dirty secret. And the dirty secret of the Great Bail-out is that, in the real world, we will never be able to discover the actual trading value of these things at any number above zero. This is why they are called "toxic."

Right now Peacenik is like everyone else in the world....clueless about how the great bailout will work. As usual Jim Kunstler offers an entertaining take on the situation. At this time the Dow is down 278 and the TSX is down 513, which would seem to imply a vote of no confidence by the markets. But weirder things have happened. When talk at the pub revolves around how deep to bury some cash in your backyard, you know the great unravelling can't be far in the future. Will the bailout calm the markets? Will everything go back to the way it was. Will Peacenik win a lottery?
Update: As of 1:55 pm the Dow is now down 653 points.....this is known as cliff diving. Capitulation? Everyone throws in the towel. Watch out below!


Rx: Depression

John Michael Greer

By the time you read these words they will have been sitting on my computer for most of a week; the chance to attend the annual ASPO peak oil conference in Sacramento was too good to pass up, and I’ll be on the road during the window of time I normally use to compose these essays. It’s an interesting time to be second guessing the future, too, for as I type these words, the world’s financial markets are in chaos. The collapse of Lehman Brothers, one of the longest established brokerage houses in the New York market, followed by the forced sale of Merrill Lynch and the near-collapse of insurance giant AIG, seem finally to have made it clear to the world’s investors that the mountain of unpayable debt weighing on the global economy is a problem that can no longer be ignored.

Just how bad that problem will become is anybody’s guess. Stock markets worldwide are down steeply but, at least as of this writing, not yet in freefall, and massive government intervention in the credit markets has staved off a liquidity crunch. Over the longer term, though, investments supposedly worth trillions of dollars are going to have to be written off, and companies that padded their balance sheets with those investments are now facing a scramble for survival that many will fail. An entire economy built around the exchange of exotic IOUs is coming apart at the seams, and the economic structures that will replace it are not yet in sight.

While Punditman plays hockey, Peacenik will sneak in this post from the Archdruid Report. Peacenik loves counter-intuitive points-of-view, and in this article Greer points out some of the possible benefits that might result from a depression. Peacenik doesn't think there will be a depression, but it is time to start looking creatively at how the present financial chaos could be harnessed for some postive outcomes.

The Idiocy of Wall Street: Applauding Its Own Demise

Daily Article by Don A. Rich Posted on 9/24/2008

The vertigo factor in the last two weeks of the stock market has been high: down 400 points, down 400 points, up 400 points, down 400 points, up… Which is it, one wants to know, because to have the answer as to the state of the future would relieve anxiety in the short run, even though the things we do to relieve short-run anxiety often cause long-term calamity.

Things like nationalizing the finance industry of the United States, which is, effectively speaking, the consequence of Federal Reserve and Treasury actions of the last two days.

The humor factor in the rally of last week has been far higher than the vertigo factor, however, as Wall Street bizarrely applauds the nationalization of the finance industry. I like to be less anxious, but not at the expense of socialism — or more likely fascism, the latter of which (when you listen carefully to the drumbeat for war with target of the month, Pakistan) is the clear direction of US policy.

Peacenik is getting overwhelmed by the events of the last couple of days. McCain suspends campaign. McCain postpones presidential debate. Bush declares economy in grave danger. Dow whipsaws up and down. Bailout/theft plan moves ahead. Harper denies a Canadian housing bubble exists. This is like a slow motion trainwreck. We are seeing history, historic events, unfold at a pace that is shocking, exciting and scary. Peacenik isn't wondering what tomorrow will bring. Peacenik is wondering what the next half hour will bring.


Yes, Virginia, There Is A Foreign Policy Debate Friday

by dday

The first Presidential debate is scheduled to focus on foreign policy, and I imagine those tuning in, whose knowledge of the subject is limited, would rather hear the candidates talk about the current economic mess. But the past week or so has also revealed a series of crises in global hotspots around the world. This includes but is not limited to Iraq, and I would hope that Jim Lehrer understands the full spectrum of global decisions that the next President will have to make, and really make a sustained effort to force the candidates past simplistic slogans and into the heart of what they would do in foreign policy.

• First we have the Marriott bombing in Islamabad, Pakistan, the second big suicide attack in the Muslim world in the space of the week (along with the bombing of the US embassy in Sanaa, Yemen). Given that the Marriott is typically home to international businessmen and Western dignitaries, so those similarities exist as well. This was a signal from the Taliban in response to the recent spate of US forays into the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) region. Given that the Pakistani Prime Minister was due at the Marriott, it could have been worse.

Peacenik found this nice summary article about U.S. foreign policy by dday, on the Hullabaloo blog. The list of foreign trouble spots is long, and the troubles are great. The first presidential debate on Friday should be interesting. Will McCain or Obama offer anything new or hopeful. Or will McCain be the blustering tough guy and Obama the thoughtful tough guy as he moves right to shore up his foreign policy creds. Peacenik is not hopeful that any of us who watch the debate will be feeling good on Saturday morning. Peacenik may just have a couple of beers and skip the debate.


Naomi Klein: Financial crisis part of Bush shock doctrine

punditman says...
Interesting discussion. I'm with Naomi: where is this ideal capitalism?

US generals planning for resource wars

ANALYSIS: The US military sees the next 30 to 40 years as involving a state of continuous war against ideologically-motivated terrorists and competing with Russia and China for natural resources and markets, writes Tom Clonan

AS GENERAL Ray Odierno takes command of US forces in Baghdad from troop surge architect Gen David Petraeus, America has begun planning in earnest for its phased withdrawal.

The extra brigade combat teams - or battlegroups - deployed to Iraq by Petraeus have already withdrawn and a further 8,000 troops have been diverted to Afghanistan.

Here's something to get Peacenik's mind off of the collapsing global economy. More wars. Lovely.


Threat to Democracy in Latin America

by Harold Pinter and John Pilger and Tony Benn

Global Research, September 21, 2008
The Guardian

On September 10 President Evo Morales of Bolivia declared the US ambassador persona non grata. On September 11 (the 35th anniversary of the military overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile) the president of Venezuela asked the US ambassador there to leave the country. President Hugo Chávez believed he was facing the possibility of an imminent coup d'etat in which he said the US administration were involved. President Morales believed that his government was facing serious destabilisation which was also being fomented by the US. A third country, Paraguay, announced 10 days previously that it had detected a conspiracy involving military officers and opposition politicians.

Latin America now faces its most serious crisis since the reintroduction of democracy at the end of the 20th century. The plot against democracy in Venezuela centred on a conspiracy, revealed in telephone conversations between senior military officers broadcast on national television, to assassinate the democratically elected head of state. In Bolivia, the separatist prefects of the five eastern and southern departments have begun a campaign of violence and economic sabotage designed to destabilise the democratic regime.

These events show unequivocally who defends democracy and who threatens it today. We are appalled by the failure of much of the international media to provide accurate and proportionate coverage of these events. All democrats throughout should rally to defend democracy in Latin America.


Harold Pinter, John Pilger, Tony Benn, Ken Loach, Jean Lambert MEP, Ian Gibson MP, Kelvin Hopkins MP, Billy Hayes, General secretary, CWU, Bill Greenshields

punditman says...
It is hard to believe that these conspiracies are all coincidental. It is more likely that it is a case of the centurys-old tradition of US meddling and interfering in the nations of Latin America.

Falling Into Fall

"A Truckload of Stinking Dead Carp"

by Jim Kunstler
So many shoes are poised to drop this week that the American scene might be confused for the world's greatest-ever clog dancing festival, but a closer look will reveal a circle of cavorting skeletons.

Last week's ripe moment turned out to be the Thursday night Washington photo op when Treasury Secretary Paulson and Fed Chief Bernanke emerged from a huddle with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and just about every other legislative eminentissimo in an attempt to reassure the nation that its financial system had not turned into something like unto a truckload of stinking dead carp. I don't know about you, but I got two distinct vibes from the faces in that particular tableau: 1.) abject fear, and 2.) a total lack of conviction that they knew what they were doing.

Peacenik likes Jim Kunstler's take on the current economic crisis as much as anything he has read this weekend. The proposed rescue seems to be as fraudlent as the policies that lead to the current situation. Today should be interesting. Does the euphoria of Friday's market uptick continue...or...


Impacts of the Financial Crisis: The U.S. Is Becoming an Impoverished Nation

by Richard C. Cook

Everything the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury Department are trying to do to stem the tide of the self-destructing U.S. financial system is a stopgap. They are locking the barn door after the horse—many horses—have already escaped, and they know it.

They also know the cause of the crisis is not subprime mortgage lending—that was just the trigger. Cries to re-regulate the failed financial industry are coming from Congress, the media, and investors around the world. But lax regulation is not the cause of the problem either.

For now, all the Federal Reserve can do is loan more “liquidity” into the system that must eventually be collateralized by Treasury debt—that is, debt incurred by taxpayers—to cover bad loans made previously with credit which the banking system created out of thin air.

The Federal Reserve and Treasury are trying to forestall and cover up the bankruptcy of the entire U.S. economy, which already is looming. But the injection of liquidity into the system only means more loans and more interest. With more foreclosures and bankruptcies, it also means that more assets pass into the bankers’ hands.

No doubt the decision makers hope to prevent a cataclysmic meltdown, at least until after the November presidential election. President George W. Bush is being deeply discredited, because it happened on his watch. Republican presidential candidate John McCain looks more out-of-touch and clueless with each passing day.

But even though all the attention has been focused on “Wall Street”; i.e., financial institutions such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Washington Mutual, and AIG—with more to come—none of these would have gotten into so much trouble without the nation’s banks having acted to leverage speculative investments with money they themselves generated as electronic ledger entries.

And it’s the banks—or at least some of them—that may be the next to go.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...

This article sums up what has been happening to the US economy and lays the blame squarely where it belongs: on the "geniuses" who run the country. It is they who created a "debt-based monetary system, with a debt pyramid in the tens of trillions of dollars...made even more dysfunctional with our loss of societal purchasing power due to the outsourcing of jobs to cheaper labor markets."

It's all connected. Expecting war as diversionary tactic more than ever.


Markets have completely failed - a simple lesson

Jerome a Paris

"The federal government is working on a sweeping series of programs that would represent perhaps the biggest intervention in financial markets since the 1930s, embracing the need for a comprehensive approach to the financial crisis after a series of ad hoc rescues. At the center of the potential plan is a mechanism that would take bad assets off the balance sheets of financial companies, said people familiar with the matter, a device that echoes similar moves taken in past financial crises. The size of the entity could reach hundreds of billions of dollars, one person said."
After years of deregulation, of promotion of greed and assertion of the superiority of the market, and in particular of financial makrets to decide how to run the economy, it appears - nay, make that: it is now blatantly, in your face, obvious - that none of this worked. Worse, the people that have mocked government throughout, as wasteful, inefficient and incompetent are now counting on the very same government to bail them out from the hole they have dug.

They made out like bandits during the "boom" years of the boom-AND-bust cycle they brought about with their policy suggestions, looting the middle classes in the process and are now trying - may, make that "succeeding" - to not bear the consequences of the same policies.

Peacenik thinks this brief piece by Jerome a Paris, a frequent contributor to the Oil Drum, is a succinct summary of the situation.

How do we deal with all of the financial distress?

Posted by Gail the Actuary on September 17, 2008 - 10:15am

The world's financial markets are in great turmoil. How do we deal with all of this? Let me tell you my view. Yours may differ.

For those of us who are peak oil aware, we know that the world is finite, so the period of continued compound growth cannot continue. Because of this, we have known that eventually we would start seeing turmoil in financial markets. It should be clear that putting our faith in these markets is crazy, even if this is what financial planners have told us to do. If we have already divorced ourselves from this faith, we are ahead of the game.

Looking at the situation from a historical perspective, we have been privileged to live in the world at a very unusual time--a time when oil was in abundance, and we were able to have conveniences that people a few generations ago wouldn't even have dreamed of. We know that this must come to an end, and that gradually we will get back to a world more like it has been over the millions of years that people have walked the earth.

Peacenik thinks Gail the Actuary has some good advice in this post from the Oil Drum. The bottom line is that we still have to live our lives regardless of the economic circumstances. Peacenik is all in favour of a civil society, and helping neighbours and the less fortunate. Peacenik hopes that the financial doom and gloom will not be as bad as it seems it might be. Peacenik senses a bottom in the market might be near. Oh my god, Peacenik has turned into Larry Kudlow.


Comment on Crisis: Necessary Steps

by CalculatedRisk

With the DOW off over 500 points yesterday, Lehman in bankruptcy, the Fed rescuing A.I.G. tonight, the viability of WaMu and others institutions in doubt, Fannie and Freddie placed in conservatorship, a major money market fund halting redemptions, it might seem like the credit crisis is spiraling out of control.

And there are definitely more problems to come.
Many banks will fail - especially small and regional banks with excessive concentrations in construction & development (C&D) and commercial real estate (CRE) loans. And the recession is getting worse with rising unemployment, declining personal consumption expenditures, declining industrial production and falling business investment. Economies of many other countries are in or close to recession. The Fed even cautioned on slowing U.S. exports today for the first time.

Peacenik isn't an alarmist. But holy fuck we are in a crisis. The U.S. and world financial system is hanging by a thread and there is no plan. The timeline between assurances that a given institution is fine, to a hint that all is not well, to speculation about bailouts, to failure or a bailout, is astonishingly short...as in days. The destruction of capital and the transfer of wealth from the taxpayer to the wealthy continues unabated. Remember Argentina? That was a cakewalk. Remember the Bolshevik revolution. That was a minor burp. What do normal people do in a crisis that is large beyond a normal person's comprehension. Carry on as usual? What will you do? What will Peacenik do?


What's the Matter With Canada?

How the world's nicest country turned mean.

By Christopher Flavelle Posted Friday, Sept. 12, 2008, at 11:17 AM ET

Last Sunday, news came that Canada—sensible, quiet, some would even say boring Canada—will hold an election on Oct. 14, its third in four years. Those outside the country may wonder what the problem is; in Canada, after all, health care is free, the dollar is strong, same-sex marriage is legal, and the government had the good sense to stay out of Iraq. You might think of Canada as the un-America, where the only debate ought to be whether to spend the country's growing oil wealth on faster snowmobiles, bigger hockey rinks, or Anne Murray box sets.

But beneath the calm exterior, Canada's political system is in turmoil. Since 2004, a succession of unstable minority governments has led to a constant campaign frenzy, brutalizing Canada's once-broad political consensus and producing a series of policies at odds with the country's socially liberal, fiscally conservative identity. Canada is quietly becoming a political basket case, and this latest election may make things even worse.

Read on...

Peacenik says read this story and ask yourself if it describes how you want Canada to be.

Military Industrial Complex 2.0

Cubicle Mercenaries, Subcontracting Warriors, and Other Phenomena of a Privatizing Pentagon

by Frida Berrigan

Seven years into George W. Bush's Global War on Terror, the Pentagon is embroiled in two big wars, a potentially explosive war of words with Tehran, and numerous smaller conflicts - and it is leaning ever more heavily on private military contractors to get by.

Once upon a time, soldiers did more than pick up a gun. They picked up trash. They cut hair and delivered mail. They fixed airplanes and inflated truck tires.

Not anymore. All of those tasks are now the responsibility of private military corporations. In the service of the Pentagon, their employees also man computers, write software code, create integrating systems, train technicians, manufacture and service high-tech weapons, market munitions, and interpret satellite images.

Whenever Peacenik reads about the money the U.S. spends on the military industrial complex Peacenik can't help but think of the collapse of the Soviet Union. There are whole books written on the similarites between the two empires. Read "Closing the Collapse Gap" by Dmitry Olav if you're interested. The point is that once this huge military machine stops being fed, it decays very quickly. Will it take economic collapse to curb America's appetite for war? Peacenik thinks that it might.

A Ripe Moment

Jim Kunstler
It turns out the real hurricane blew through Wall Street last week, not Galveston. This morning, Manhattan is strewn chest-deep with the debris of banking and at this hour (seven a.m.) nobody knows how far, deep, and wide the damage will spread. The fear, of course, is that we are witnessing a classic "house-of-cards" or "dominos-in-a-row," situation, and that the death of Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch will cascade into a generalized collapse of the entire consensus of value that supports mediums of exchange.

At least one thing ought to be clear: this has happened due to the negligence and misfeasance of the regulating authorities, namely the Republican Party, and that now all the hoopla surrounding Sarah Palin can be swept away revealing that group to be what they actually are: the party that wrecked America. I hope one or two Barack Obama campaign officials are reading this blog. You must commence the re-branding of the opposition right now. The Republicans must be clearly identified as, the party that wrecked America.

Peacenik called for the economic collapse to occur last Friday but it looks like Peacenik is off by a day or two. Kunstler, the master of doom, certainly sees things coming to a head this week. Lehman's bankrupt. Merrill Lynch taken over by Bank of America. WAMU on the brink. Emergency meetings to try and save AIG one of the biggest American insurance companies. Stock exchanges cliff diving. Kunstler calls the Republican Party the party that wrecked America. This may be one time Kunstler is understating things. They may be the party, of free market bullshit beliefs, that wrecks the world as we used to know it. Peacenik wonders, are your GICs safe?


The New 'Invasion of Cambodia'

by William Pfaff

Paris, September 11, 2008 – The United States has just invaded Cambodia. The name of Cambodia this time is Pakistan, but otherwise it’s the same story as in Indochina in 1970.

An American army, deeply frustrated by its inability to defeat an anti-American insurgent movement despite years of struggle, decides that the key to victory lies in a neighboring country. In 1970 the problem was the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Cambodia. Today it is Taliban and al Qaeda bases inside Pakistan, which the United States has been attacking from the air for some time, with controversial “collatoral damages.”

George W. Bush has now authorized independent ground assaults on Taliban and al Qaeda targets in Pakistan’s Tribal Territories, without consultation with Pakistan authorities. These already have begun.

This follows a period of tension, with some armed clashes, between American and Pakistani military units, the latter defending “Pakistan’s national sovereignty.” Pakistan public opinion seems largely against “America’s war” being fought inside Pakistan.

Washington’s decision was made known just in time for the 7th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that opened the first phase of the “war on terror,” after which “nothing could ever be the same.” We no doubt have now begun phase two.


punditman says...

And now this: Pakistani Troops Fired on US Helicopters Trying to Cross Border. Using Pakistan as a gambit in the ever-expanding, endless war on terror is not going to work any more than invading Cambodia worked to help win another unwinnable war a generation ago. "Bold moves" such as these only serve to show up the US for the bumbling giant that it is, while making scores of new enemies for every civilian maimed or killed.


Palin Links Iraq to Sept. 11 In Talk to Troops in Alaska

By Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 12, 2008; A01

FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska, Sept. 11 -- Gov. Sarah Palin linked the war in Iraq with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, telling an Iraq-bound brigade of soldiers that included her son that they would "defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans."

The idea that the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein helped al-Qaeda plan the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a view once promoted by Bush administration officials, has since been rejected even by the president himself. But it is widely agreed that militants allied with al-Qaeda have taken root in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion.

"America can never go back to that false sense of security that came before September 11, 2001," she said at the deployment ceremony, which drew hundreds of military families who walked from their homes on the sprawling post to the airstrip where the service was held.

Keep Reading (if you can stomach her)...

punditman says... She's possibly the most dangerous political creature to ever run for high public office. If you think that's me hyperbolizing, just think of the stakes: she could be a heartbeat away from ordering war with Russia and/or Iran (she has hinted at both possibilities). Either could easily go nuclear. It's too bad she's considered a hottie; because if she wasn't, then the shallow and tepid American media would be giving her far less play -- and leeway.

RCMP didn't study Taser use enough: Report

Hard-hitting review says force relied too heavily on manufacturer's input

Sep 12, 2008 04:30 AM

Tonda MacCharles
Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA–The RCMP did not do "due diligence" when it approved the Taser stun gun for use as a less-than-lethal weapon by its officers, a hard-hitting independent review concludes.

The report was ordered by RCMP Commissioner Bill Elliott after the uproar following the death last October of a Polish immigrant shot with a Taser by RCMP at the Vancouver airport.

Submitted in June to Elliott but not made public, the review says the RCMP relied too much on the advice of the Taser's American manufacturer in developing its policies and training, did not consult widely enough with medical and mental health experts about its impact on people, and did not treat the weapon as a "prohibited firearm" – its proper legal classification.

Read on...

Peacenik knows the casual use of tasers by police forces is meant to intimidate and suppress legitimate dissent. A link to the Commissioners Report is available at the above link in the box to the right of the story. Keep in mind that they are bringing out a new more powerful taser delivered by a shotgun. Greater range and no doubt greater lethality. Peacenik thinks it is past time to ban the use of Tasers.


Cleared! Jury Decides That Threat of Global Warming Justifies Breaking The Law

by Michael McCarthy

The threat of global warming is so great that campaigners were justified in causing more than £35,000 worth of damage to a coal-fired power station, a jury decided yesterday. In a verdict that will have shocked ministers and energy companies the jury at Maidstone Crown Court cleared six Greenpeace activists of criminal damage.

Jurors accepted defence arguments that the six had a "lawful excuse" to damage property at Kingsnorth power station in Kent to prevent even greater damage caused by climate change. The defence of "lawful excuse" under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 allows damage to be caused to property to prevent even greater damage - such as breaking down the door of a burning house to tackle a fire.

Peacenik thinks this is an interesting decision. Peacenik wonders if the same defence could be applied to people who damage military installations or defence manufacturing industries. Can these installations be damaged to stop the greater damage caused by war?

Debt Rattle, September 10 2008: Unintended Consequences

Looking at the fall-out from the Fannie and Freddie bottomless pit bail-out, I can’t help combining in my head the financial news with reports on the Hadron particle accelerator.

Protesters claim it could create black holes. And I’m thinking: guys, if black holes are your thing, you should be watching Wall Street.

After yesterday’s market losses, it’s obvious that hardly anybody was fooled for more than 24 hours into thinking that the unlimited bail-out would calm investors, or stabilze mortgage rates, or anything of that sort.

And I’ll repeat once again that it can’t. Calling a bottom in this market is a very simple thing to do, it’s just that no-one wants to do it, for good reasons perhaps (fear).

Peacenik thinks it's time for a little bit of financial doom and gloom. Peacenik wouldn't be suprised if there was a total collapse of the global economy as early as tomorrow. It could be dragged down by a cascading failure of the U.S. financial sytem. The blog Automatic Earth lays out a possible scenario. Peacenik doesn't have much advice for anyone as this fiasco unfolds and our economies get sucked into a black hole. Mr. Harper and Mr Bush will figure something out.


Disaster in Afghanistan

by John W. Warnock

It is difficult to find out what is really going on in Afghanistan. The focus of the mass media is almost entirely on the military activities of the Canadian and NATO forces. There is absolutely no coverage of political developments. The news on the economy is limited to the state of the poppy industry. This is no accident. The North American media, including the CBC, has strongly supported the U.S./NATO strategy and the administration of President Hamid Karzai. Contrary to the mainstream message, things are not going well.

Rise in civilian casualties

Over the past few weeks NATO forces have killed civilians in a number of incidents, and popular opposition to the western military effort is increasing. On August 22 the United States bombed the village of Azizabad in Herat province; the result was the death of 91 civilians, including over 60 children. Rockets and missiles were also used. Many homes were destroyed. Local citizens stoned the Afghan army when they tried to distribute supplies. NATO forces in Paktika province launched an artillery attack on a village on September 1 as part of a general sweep-and-destroy mission against Taliban forces. Three children were killed and seven injured. That same day U.S. and Afghan forces carried out an overnight raid in Hud Kheil, east of Kabul. A family of four, including two children, were killed when hand grenades were thrown into their house. In Kabul hundreds blocked the main road out of town protesting the military practices of the international forces.

Afghan government and NATO attacks

In response to the steady increase of civilian deaths this year, the Afghan parliament passed a resolution in August calling on the Karzai administration to negotiate a new status-of-forces agreement with NATO and United States, making it consistent with Afghan and international law. President Karzai’s cabinet demanded “an end to air attacks in civilian areas, illegal detentions and unilateral house searches.” There is growing opposition to the presence of the occupying forces. The Senlis Council reported in June 2008 that in their most recent recent public opinion survey “more than six out of ten of those interviewed ... said that foreign troops should leave.” This is the position taken by many of the democratic parties in Afghanistan. Malalai Joya, the outspoken critic of the Karzai government, has called for all foreign troops to leave the country. She argues that Afghans can settle this dispute better on their own.

The approaching famine

However, the most important current issue in Afghanistan is the drought, the crop failure, and the prospect of famine. This story has received no coverage in the North American media.

Full article...

punditman says...

I am having a Vietnam flashback (which doesn't make much sense because I was just a kid playing softball and humming Three Dog Night songs in my head in the summer of '69).

Anyway, the flashback has to do with Western powers fighting stupid counter insurgency campaigns, with the predictable media compliance on the home front. A lot of folks fall for it. I suspect that those who dutifully queue up each morning in Tim Hortons drive-throughs with "Support the Troops" ribbons on their cars are part of the 41 per cent who approve of Canada's military action in Afghanistan -- but that they have not done a lot of independent research on the subject. And most probably never will.

It is amazing that in this age of easily accessbile information, so many people have bought into the notion that we are helping Afghans build their democracy. It is true there have been some success stories in the area of development aid, but these are hard to achieve and maintain in the context of the US-led search and destroy campaign. And aid alone does not equal democracy.

As the article points out, not only is NATO killing Afghan civilians at an alarming rate, losing the so-called "hearts and minds" campaign and even pissing off the puppet regime of Hamid Karzai, the US is actually blocking Afghan democratic aspirations. That's right. Blocking it. Read the whole freakin' article from the smart professor if you don't believe me. After all, I'm having a flashback.

Canadian Election - Who to Vote For (or not)

Peacenik is wondering about how to vote in the current Canadian general election. Needless to say, the candidates' and parties' position on Canada's role in Afghanistan is the central issue for Peacenik's decision-making process. To date, in the phony election campaign just witnessed in Guelph, there was virtually no mention of the war. There was one question and a bunch of vague answers in the televised debate. Peacenik doesn't know for certain what Green Party rep. Mike Nagy or the NDP's Tom King thinks about the war. He doesn't care what Conservative candidate Gloria Kovak thinks because he already knows that she will merely echo Prime Minister Harper's war until 2011 (unless the US tells us to stay forever) policy.

So Peacenik did a little research. First stop was Green Party candidate Mike Nagy's blog. Under a link to "other important issues" there is a meaningless phrase "rebalance our role in Afghanistan". What does that mean, rebalance? Does he want a surge, a repositioning, a withdrawal, a change of mission? Who knows?

Next, Peacenik checked out NDP candidate Tom King's blog. Under a link to "Issues," there is a list of ten issues but no mention of the war. Somewhere on the Tom King website, Peacenik found a more than year old anti-taser letter to the editor, "Weapons Make Us Arrogant." There was a mention of anti-Vietnam war protest in the letter, but no mention of Afghanistan. A statement about Tom King's position on the war may be on his website, but it is not prominent. Peacenik couldn't find it.

At Frank Valeriote's website, under a link to "Fast Facts About Frank," there is no mention of the war.

So we have the three leading progressive candidates in Guelph who make no mention of the war on their personal blogs or websites. Peacenik was intrigued and decided to expand his research. A visit to the NDP party website found no mention of the war on the front page. In a list of statements there was a statement about the death of two Canadian aid workers. A letter to oppose the deportation of two war resisters also was buried under a link. And there were multiple statments on the deaths of Canadian Soldiers in Afghanistan.

Finally, under a link to speeches, there was a speech to the University of Ottawa in which Jack Layton says, "its time for Canada to withdraw from the combat mission and lead the process for peace and stability." Sort of namby pamby but leaning in the right direction.

To be fair, Peacenik also checked out the Conservative Party of Canada's website. Under a list of ten key issues, the war is not mentioned. There are no obvious pictures of the war in Afghanistan.

A quick stop at the Liberal Party of Canada's website also failed to find any obvious mention of the war.

What does this mean? We are a country at war while engaged in a federal election. Where is the anti-war movement that at least had a pulse in Guelph prior to the Iraq war? Why are our politicians ignoring one of the major issues of the day? Why does the media let them?

Peacenik knows what he wants to hear. "Bring the troops home now." And Peacenik is still wondering how to vote.


The Mighty, Scary Press Corps

by Glenn Greenwald

Criticizing the McCain campaign for refusing to allow reporters to question Sarah Palin, Time's Jay Carney writes:

Political operatives love to talk about circumventing the media and other co-called "elites" -- i.e., independent specialists, observers and thinkers. The operatives convince themselves they can take their candidate's message directly to the people -- on their terms, without all that poking and prodding and skepticism. That's propaganda. In a democratic society, it rarely works for long.

If only that were true. But if there's one indisputable lesson from the last eight years, it's that political propaganda works exceedingly well -- not despite an aggressively adversarial press but precisely because we don't have one. Carney's idealistic claims about the short life-span of propaganda in American democracy are empirically false:

Peacenik just read elsewhere that Palin has agreed to an interview with Charlie Gibson. Just what Greenwald predicted would happen in this article. I would bet that there will be no gotcha questions and any questions about foreign leaders will be pre-screened. The press hasn't asked anyone in the Bush administration a tough question for 8 years. I don't even know why McCain and Palin are worried. BTW a weekend Gallup poll showed McCain jumping ahead of Obama.


Where Have I Seen Sarah Palin Before?

by Arash Kamangeer

I grew up in Iran and immigrated to US to avoid living in a theocracy. Lately though, the trajectory of US politics is something to worry about, not only to me, but also to many others in my predicament.

Wednesday night at the Republican convention was an especially poignant moment. I was watching Sarah Palin deliver her acceptance speech. As I was watching her, her family, and her adoring fans in the Republican convention, I could not overcome a feeling that I have seen this scene before...

Right after the Revolution in Iran and the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the Iran-Iraq war was started. To be fair, Iraq started that war, but the new revolutionary leaders of Iran saw the war as a godsend. They milked it for all it was worth. They labeled anyone against the war as a traitor or unpatriotic. Anyone who suggested that there may be a negotiated settlement was ridiculed and purged from power. Even Ayatollah Khomeini once said that this war is a blessing from God himself. You may see the parallels here already, but keep reading.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...

The article points out that Ayatollah Khomeini once said that the Iran-Iraq war is a blessing from God. Sarah Palin once said that the (current) Iraq war is a "task that is from God."

Recall that the United States is supposedly all about the separation of Church and State. Recall also a time when religious activism meant standing alongside the poor and the beaten down, challenging the money changers and marching alongside the Peacemakers in the tradition of Jesus, Ghandi and Martin Luther King. Then, starting around forty years ago, the American right-wing began a rather successful campaign to appropriate Christian political activism. The result is that they now have much more in common with the mullahs in Iran than with any true lover of freedom. The lethal combination of militarism and religion adds up to theocracy, not democracy.

The author sees this clearly, having looked at two sides of this ugly mirror.


Antiwar march ends in tense standoff, 396 arrests

The final night of the convention led to confrontations between police and protesters. At least 396 people were arrested, an official said this morning.


Police arrested scores more people Thursday night after another series of tense showdowns with protesters on the final night of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
Sweeping into the State Capitol grounds in riot gear, police used snowplows, horses and dump trucks to seal off downtown from antiwar demonstrators attempting a march to the Xcel Energy Center.

Peacenik is glad someone showed up to protest. This news report is straightforward, but what follows is a comment from Earthian, commenting on another story at commondreams.org about the arrest of Amy Goodman. Earthian's comment is from Sept 4, 2:27 p.m. Peacenik thinks it has some relevance:

Comment by Earthian
The courageous actions by Amy Goodman, the other journalists, and the protesters reminded me of a passage I read in a book called Defying Hitler by Sabastian Haffner, a young, progressive, white (Aryan) German lawyer in the 1930s, during the rise of the National Socialists.

After the brief passage below I'll leave a link to a review of the amazing book.

Here is the passage (he is a lawyer with other lawyers, and is in a library-like room):

" . . . the intruders had arrived at the library. The door was thrust open and a flood of brown uniforms surged in. In a booming voice, one of them, clearly the leader, shouted, 'Non-Aryans must leave the premises immediately.' It struck me that he used the careful expression 'non-Aryans,' but also a rather colloquial expression for 'premesis.' Someone, probably the same person as before, answered, 'They've already left.' Our ushers stood there as though they were about to salute. My heart beat heavily. What should I do, [how do] I keep my poise? Just ignore them? Do not let them disturb me? I put my head down over my work. I read a few sentences mechanically: 'The defendant's claim that . . . is untrue, but irrelevant . . .' Just take no notice!

"Meanwhile, a Brownshirt approached me and took up position in front of my worktable. 'Are you Aryan?' Before I had a chance to think, I said, 'Yes.' He took a close look at my nose, and retired.

"The blood shot to my face. A moment too late, I felt the shame, the defeat. I had said
'Yes!' Well in God's name, I was indeed an 'Aryan.' I had not lied. I had allowed something much worse to happen. What a humiliation, to have answered the unjustified question as to whether I was Aryan, so easily, even if the fact was of no importance to me! What a disgrace, to buy, with a reply, the right to stay with my documents in peace! I had been caught unawares, even now. I had failed my very first test. I could have slapped myself.

"As I left the Kammergericht it stood there, gray, cool, and calm as ever, set back from the street in its distinguished setting. There was nothing to show that, as an institution, it had just collapsed. There was also nothing about my appearance to show that I had just suffered a terrible reverse, a defeat that would be almost impossible to make good. A well-dressed young man walked down Potsdammer Strasse. There was nothing untoward about the scene. Business as usual, but in the air, the approaching thunder of events to come . . ."

p 150, 151Defying Hitler

Here is a review:

Perhaps each of us will face a choice in this budding police state.

Amy Goodman did. And she passed her test. She attempted to see a commanding officer. She attempted to see her reporters and free them. She has that right. Journalists have additional rights.

Perhaps others of us will face our test and will have to choose between humiliating ourselves by cooperating with totalitarian bullying OR demonstrating courage by NOT cooperating with totalitarian bullying.
Haffner's story is remarkable.

Haffner answers a number of questions. Why didn't the German people resist the rise of their totalitarian police state? What was it like being IN that situation?

I ask a question: What must progressives do to resist our emerging police state? (I think Amy, her colleague journalists, and the protesters she documented provide one answer--defiance.)

Sabastian Haffner notes that at some point it became too late for Germany to avoid the path of their totalitarianism. It is not yet too late for us to stop the creeping movement towards a totalitarian police state of America.


RNC Dispatch #4

punditman says...One is supposedly free to view this, post this and arrive at one's own conclusions. Some may be offended; some pissed off at this form of protest; others may be apalled at the St. Paul police (pardon the pun). One thing is certain: you won't see this on CNN.

Antiwar march planned for last day of RNC

By AMY FORLITI, Associated Press Writer
Thu Sep 4,

ST. PAUL, Minn. - As John McCain accepts his party's presidential nomination Thursday night, protesters calling for an end to the Iraq war plan to march outside the Xcel Energy Center.

The Anti-War Committee, which is organizing Thursday's march, urged others to join in and denounced the increased presence of police in riot gear and acts of "intimidation" in the streets of St. Paul.
Peacenik wonders how many will show up for this protest tonight given the extreme aggression shown by the police. Would you?

Logical consequences: When you believe in war, sooner or later you bring it home

by Robert C. Koehler September 4, 2008

Call it creative self-destruction, maybe.

How surreal it's been this week to watch the Republicans reap a small portion of the divine comeuppance due them, first from a hurricane, then from a pregnant teen-ager. Surely more of the same is on its way, but no one wins, because what is lying in a shambles around the McCain campaign is a harvest of suffering.

The bad ideas of the Republican right, or rather the consequences of those ideas -- from pre-emptive war to abstinence-only sex education to the merger of church and state to let's-drown-government-in-the-bathtub -- started taking over the Republican National Convention, bursting the levees of managed news and disciplined hypocrisy. Suddenly eight years of extreme cynicism began generating (it's a miracle) . . . bad press.

was lucky he was quashing a big thirst at the pub last night and didn't have to watch the hatefest that was the Republican convention. The stage is set. Extreme right wing Republican party versus a Democratic party that at least talks about a few progressive positions. Are there enough sane, moderate, Americans willing to reject eight years of Republican rule? Peacenik thinks so.


September Surprise: Get ready for it...

by Justin Raimondo

While the rest of the pundits opine about the meaning and implications of Sarah Palin's ascension from small town mayor to prospective vice president – and whether or not her daughter's private life is fair game for any media outlet other than the National Enquirer – those of us whose job it is to stand watch on the ramparts and report the real news are wondering when – not if – the War Party will pull a rabbit out of the proverbial hat. For months, I've been warning in this space that an American attack on Iran is imminent, and now I see that the Dutch have reason to agree with my assessment. Their intelligence service reportedly has pulled out of a covert operation inside Iran on the grounds that a U.S. strike is right around the corner – in "a matter of weeks," according to De Telegraaf, a Dutch newspaper.

As the story goes, the Dutch had infiltrated the purported Iranian weapons project and were firmly ensconced when they got word that the Americans are about to launch a missile attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. They wisely decided to close down the operation and pull out.

Remember, the Israelis have been threatening to strike on their own for months: what's changed is that now, apparently, the U.S. has caved in to what is a blatant case of blackmail and has agreed to do the job for them.

We haven't heard much about Iran lately, at least compared to the scare headlines of a few months ago, when rumors of war were swirling fast and furious. The Russian "threat" seems to have replaced the Iranian "threat" as the War Party's bogeyman of choice. What we didn't know, however, is that the two focal points are intimately related.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...If you were wondering why the Israelis have been messing around in the Caucasus and why they had a thousand Israeli military advisers training Georgia's armed forces and why they were deeply involved in the Georgian army’s preparations to attack and capture the capital of South Ossetia, then this article explains why. And just when you thought the Iran issue was put safely on the back burner...

As Unlawful Arrests Continue, St. Paul Feels Like a City Under Siege for Some Residents

By Liliana Segura, AlterNet. Posted September 3, 2008.

"It's like we don't have rights. Like we don't even live here."

Sitting outside the Black Dog cafe in lower St. Paul late Tuesday morning, a lanky kid in dreadlocks and a black Bob Marley T-shirt stopped, asked me for a light, and sat down next to me. It was drizzly and gray, and eerily quiet. The night before, nearly 300 people had been arrested by Minnesota police in a sweeping display of brute force. Among them were journalist Amy Goodman and two Democracy Now! producers, both of whom were physically assaulted. With helicopters overheard and the National Guard out, it felt like a city under siege.
I asked the guy if he lived in St. Paul. "Yeah." It turned out he lives next door, in the building where I've been staying, an artist's co-op on Broadway Street. I was about to ask him what he thought about the scene here when he sort of laughed and said, "Yeah, you know -- I was just arrested."

Peacenik likes the spirit of Punditman's previous post with the Rage Against the Machine video. Nice to see someone cares as the assault on civil liberties, freedom of the press, and the right to protest, continues unabated. Watch the video and read this story. Restoring the right of assembly and protest should be the first priority of an Obama administration, but unfortunately Peacenik hasn't heard much from the politicians on this. Peacenik thinks they like their "free speech zones".

Rage Against the Machine RNC - 09.02.08 (Performs Acapella in Crowd)

punditman says...this speaks for itself.


Federal Government Involved In Raids On Protesters

by Glenn Greenwald

As the police attacks on protesters in Minnesota continue -- see this video of the police swarming a bus transporting members of Earth Justice, seizing the bus and leaving the group members stranded on the side of the highway -- it appears increasingly clear that it is the Federal Government that is directing this intimidation campaign. Minnesota Public Radio reported yesterday that "the searches were led by the Ramsey County Sheriff's office. Deputies coordinated searches with the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

Today's Star Tribune added that the raids were specifically "aided by informants planted in protest groups." Back in May, Marcy Wheeler presciently noted that the Minneapolis Joint Terrorist Task Force -- an inter-agency group of federal, state and local law enforcement led by the FBI -- was actively recruiting Minneapolis residents to serve as plants, to infiltrate "vegan groups" and other left-wing activist groups and report back to the Task Force about what they were doing. There seems to be little doubt that it was this domestic spying by the Federal Government that led to the excessive and truly despicable home assaults by the police yesterday.

Peacenik wonders why there is such a concerted effort to disrupt legitimate protest. It seems like it is a warm up for the near future. What Peacenik doesn't understand is why the police, who are by and large made up of underpaid everyday regular people, so enthused to participate in this kind of stuff. Its their neighbours, its their kids, and its their friends who they are cracking down on.