Bush still pre-screening questions at speaking events.

Throughout George W. Bush’s presidency, his handlers always made a special effort to ensure his appearances with regular Americans were scripted in such a way that shined the best possible light on Bush and his polices. Whether he was meeting troops in Iraq, leading “Ask President Bush” re-election campaign events, or trying to sell his (failed) Social Security reform plan, Bush always had a friend in the audience ready to ask a softball question or heap praise on the president. It appears that old habits die hard, as those attending Bush’s upcoming speech in Michigan will be forced to submit their questions ahead of time:

Read on...

First of all the website www.protestbush.com is back online and it has been updated. The protest is today at 3 p.m. at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Peacenik already said this is a travesty, but it is also a farce. Peacenik watched the moderator for the event ,Frank McKenna, on The Hour the other night. They talked about what a "personable" guy George Bush is. Peacenik wanted to kick in Peacenik's tv screen. How will the media cover today's protest? How will the police police the protest? How many protestors will show up? 3 p.m. Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Update: The website is up but again is very slow to load.

War Crimes perpetrated under Democratic and Republican administrations: George Bush versus Bill Clinton

The Rule of International Criminal Law
by Prof. Anthony J. Hall

From Calgary to Toronto

Just as fresh revelations keep oozing out about the broad extent of the international criminality perpetrated by the regime of the former US president, Canada is becoming the main site of a corporate-driven effort to re-brand George W. Bush as a legitimate political pundit. On May 29 Mr. Bush joins Bill Clinton on the stage of the Metropolitan Toronto Convention Centre in an event hosted by the TD Financial Group and several other sponsors. The hosts include the Calgary-based Bennett Jones law firm, the global accounting giant Ernst and Young, the Toronto Board of Trade as well as the Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper.

The Clinton-Bush gig in Canada's biggest metropolis is happening about a month after the former president "tested the waters" as a public speaker by addressing an audience of 1,400 executives of mostly Texas-based oil conglomerates in an event hosted by Calgary's Chamber of Commerce. Bush's luncheon address was accompanied by the protests of several hundred demonstrators who advanced the case that there is a huge body of evidence already in the public domain that should be sufficient to prohibit Bush from entering Canada or, failing that, to necessitate his arrest on Canadian soil. In a widely published article, which I introduced in early March at an invited lecture at the University of Winnipeg, I outlined the legal and political terrain underlying Bush's first major public foray outside the United States. That paper, which has proliferated widely on many Internet sites, is entitled "Bush League Justice: Should George W. Bush Be Arrested in Calgary Alberta and Tried for International Crimes."

My academic intervention was one part of a larger collective effort aimed at advancing the case that the international crimes of George W. Bush and many of his ministers and advisers have been so obvious and gigantic that citizens must mobilize globally to insist that the rule of international criminal law should be made to prevail over the rule of force and political expediency. Many of the core legal principles awaiting enforcement are those that coalesced in the course of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. Its chief prosecutor, the renowned US jurist Robert Jackson, initiated the proceedings in 1945 by insisting that humanity's future depended on removing "immunity for practically everyone concerned in the really great crimes against peace and mankind." No longer could "so vast an area of legal irresponsibility" be "tolerated" because "because modern civilization puts unlimited weapons of destruction in the hands of men."

Keep Reading...

Punditman says...Punditman just bought the Globe and Mail. Punditman had a discussion recently with someone who works at the Globe and Mail. This took place late one night at a watering hole so there was truth serum involved—all the better to discover what this Globster really thinks. Glory be, low and behold, he and Punditman had an argument about the media! The Globster thought Noam Chomsky's analysis of mass media bias was wrong and saw no nefarious influence by media ownership over media content. Punditman was amazed at this dude's utter dismissal of someone who in 2005, was voted the world’s No 1. living intellectual.

Punditman wonders what the Globster would say about the above article, and in particular the following passage:

The role of corporate media as enablers and sugar coaters of the highest order of international crime could not be made clearer than in the sponsorship by the Globe and Mail of the Toronto encounter between Clinton and Bush. What credibility does the Globe and Mail retain after the Toronto event in its coverage of the fast breaking story of the global movement to enforce the rule of law on credibly accused war criminal George W. Bush? How likely is it that the journalists at the Globe and Mail will report fairly and objectively on the intervention of Lawyers Against War.
Perhaps there will be more people showing up than Punditman anticipates at today's protest in Toronto? Punditman sure does hope so, and he has a request of anyone reading this who is going to the protest: throw some old shoes in the direction of the Metro Convention Centre, on behalf of Punditman.

Punditman just bought the Globe and Mail. Was that wrong?


U.S. Inflation to Approach Zimbabwe Level, Faber Says (Update2)

By Chen Shiyin and Bernard Lo

May 27 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. economy will enter “hyperinflation” approaching the levels in Zimbabwe because the Federal Reserve will be reluctant to raise interest rates, investor Marc Faber said.

Prices may increase at rates “close to” Zimbabwe’s gains, Faber said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Hong Kong. Zimbabwe’s inflation rate reached 231 million percent in July, the last annual rate published by the statistics office.

“I am 100 percent sure that the U.S. will go into hyperinflation,” Faber said. “The problem with government debt growing so much is that when the time will come and the Fed should increase interest rates, they will be very reluctant to do so and so inflation will start to accelerate.”

Read on...

Peacenik doesn't know what to think about the inflation/deflation debate. Faber is a respected pundit, but some accuse him of just trying to sell his book. On the one hand housing prices are still dropping, and some stuff seems to be getting cheaper. But not a pint of beer....yet. On the other hand world economies are running trillion dollar deficits, which in the past has led to inflation. The billion dollar Zimbabwean burger is a scary thought.

Ilargi and others argue that the black hole of debt is just mopping up all the liquidity that is being thrown into the system. He argues that there isn't enough money in the world to fill the black hole. Can the average Joe, someone with few assets and/or a chunk of debt, somehow hedge himself/herself against either eventuality? Can anyone? Can Peacenik?

Clinton and Bush to clash for cash in Canada

By Joseph Curl (Contact) | Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The well-worn cliche is "time heals all wounds," but in politics, the saying often ought to be "money heals all wounds."

On Friday, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who spent years railing against each other, will appear together in Toronto for what is being billed a "conversation."

Read on...

Although this travesty is being hawked by Power Within, a company affiliated with Tony Robbins, Peacenik was disappointed to see that among others the Toronto Board of Trade, TD Canada Bank, and the Globe and Mail are also sponsors. Which made Peacenik surprised to see this story in the Globe: Bush-Clinton tickets not that hot.

Maybe the Globe is feeling a little guilty about sponsoring the appearance of a suspected war criminal in Toronto. Peacenik is conflicted. Peacenik wants to boycott the companies sponsoring this event. Which is easy as far as the Board of Trade and TD Canada Bank is concerned. But Peacenik reads the Globe. Peacenik likes the Globe. What will Peacenik do? What should Peacenik do?

Don't forget the protest at 3 p.m. Friday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre: www.protestbush.com Peacenik noticed that this website is down this morning. Peacenik hopes it is because it is being heavily used.


A Redneck View of Obama's Presidency

By Joe Bageant, JoeBageant.com. Posted May 27, 2009.

"It don't matter who gets to warm his butt in the White House chair. The top dogs eat high on the hog and the little dogs eat the tails and ears."

When it comes to expressing plain truths, few are as gifted as American rednecks. During recent travels in the Appalachian communities of West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky I've collected scores of their comments on our national condition and especially President Barack Obama.

In America, all successful politicians are first and foremost successfully marketed brands. In fact, the Obama campaign was named Advertising Age's 2008 marketer of the year. George W. Bush's brand may have "collapsed," as they say on Madison Avenue, but things don't change much. Rednecks instinctively know this:

Read on...

Peacenik wishes Joe Bageant sounded a little more outraged in this piece, rather than sounding resigned to what is going on. Meanwhile, in Canada, Flaherty announces that the deficit will be $50 billion. $50 billion. Flaherty has all the credibility of Dr. Evil in Austin Powers. By the way, no mention of bank bailouts in the deficit story in the Globe. The suggestion is that all those bad unemployed people are causing the ballooning deficit. Joe Bageant may be happy going out and getting tanked but Peacenik wishes someone would grab a pitchfork and start the revolution.

Don't forget the Bush Protest at Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Friday at 3p.m. www.protestbush.com


One Ricks Makes a Wrong

by Jeff Huber

Thomas E. Ricks, erstwhile journalist and author of The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008, has become the embodiment of the warmongery’s moral and intellectual duplicity.

Ricks’ most recent 15 minutes of fame involved an appearance at a FireDogLake.com book forum. In reply to a commenter who asked if "more deaths in Iraq are worth it," Ricks said, "I think staying in Iraq is immoral. But I think that leaving Iraq is even more immoral." In a nutshell, Ricks framed the core fallacy in the long-war philosophy: that two wrongs can make a right. This theme dominates Ricks’ work these days. The Gamble and the media blitz that accompanied its debut were dazzling examples of what Voltaire was talking about when he said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

Ricks continues to exalt Gen. David Petraeus, who he has known since Petraeus was a colonel or a light colonel (Ricks says he can’t remember which). Ricks became King David’s chief legend-maker when the Iraq surge began in January 2007. In a radio interview that month on WNYC in New York, Ricks described Petraeus as a "fascinating character" and "just about the best general in the Army." He specifically cited Petraeus’ "very successful first tour" as commander in Mosul after the fall of Baghdad, but he made little mention of the fact that the general tamed the city by handing out guns and bribes, and that months after Petraeus left Mosul the chief of police defected and the place went up for grabs again. (Mosul remains a major trouble spot to this day, and Petraeus is still arming and bribing militants.)

Keep Reading...

punditman says...

Some people will believe anything the mainstream media tells them. It is like they worship "important" or "prestigious" institutions. Thomas E. Ricks is a military correspondent for the Washington Post. He is the tricky kind that a lot of liberals fall for, because he appears critical of the establishment but in fact is far from from it. A brief search reveals that besides the book mentioned in the intro of the above article, he also wrote a book called Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. Even to come up with a name like that is automatically suspect; of course everyone knows it has been a freakin' fiasco! But the problem is that Ricks thinks the war was just a question of mismanagement instead of recognizing it for the moral and legal atrocity and imperial hubris that it is.

Ricks therefore functions as a Pentagon shill, or more specifically as General Petraeus' personal propaganda machine. Punditman finds the worshipping of any General to be a rather worrisome activity. Thankfully, there are internet journalists like Jeff Huber and Gareth Porter to set the record straight.

Why Are Long-Term Rates Going Up? Maybe Lenders Think We're Screwed

Henry Blodget|May. 25, 2009, 9:48 AM

The whole world is deflating, but long-term interest rates are moving up. (See the chart for the 10-yr Treasury at right). Why?

Tim Geithner thinks it's because traders are recognizing that the economy's beginning to recover

That's one happy theory. And it's possible (fingers crossed). But here are two less-happy theories:

Read on...

Peacenik has been browsing the news this morning. In the Globe and Mail there is a story about Flaherty not revealing the extent of the federal deficit. WTF? Peacenik guesses it must be big. And in Haaretz, Netanyahu is threatening Iran again. Yawn. Should Peacenik yawn at this threat? GM is on the verge of bankruptcy. Who cares? Standard and Poor's just warned Britain about downgrading Britain's credit rating. So what? Foreclosures in the U.S.A continues at a record pace.....zzzzzzzzzzzz . There are lots of stories about the growing threat of inflation. Boring. And the yield on 10-year U.S treasuries jumped 33 basis points in the past week. What dat? Obama said the U.S. was out of money. Who isn't?

Is there a trend in all this news? Peacenik doesn't see one. But Peacenik senses something. Something disquieting. Bad news is losing its punch. The sheeple are becoming inured to bad news. Society no longer seems to distinguish between good news and bad news. The stock market is just as apt to rise on bad news as on good news. Tons of really bad news is just ignored. Peacenik wonders why this is so. Peacenik wonders if this is bad. Bad news is losing its impact. That is bad news. Very bad news...I think.


Protest Bush on May 29, 2009.

Come and get waterboarded at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre

Rally outside Bush speaking engagement. Friday May 29, 3 PM to 6 PM. Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 255 Front Street West, TO ONT.

Volunteers needed at Toronto Coalition to Stop the War.

Read on...

Peacenik already noted last week that Peacenik wants to puke at the thought of Bush being welcomed to a speaking engagement in Toronto. Peacenik would be happy with an extraordinary rendition of Bush to Spain. But in the meantime Peacenik hopes that Toronto will make Bush and everyone associated with this speaking engagement regret having this event. Peacenik is also wondering if the Toronto Police are going to police this event with the same good sense they have shown when policing the Tamil protests of the past months. Not one Tamil protestor has been tasered. Will the Toronto Police be taser happy on Friday? Peacenik hopes not.


Outrageous Cherry: Our Love Will Change The World

Punditman says...A great song by Outrageous Cherry, the 1960s-influenced alternative psychedelic pop-rock band from Michigan. Surreal, fun.
Have an outrageously good weekend.

Obama's Civil Liberties Speech

by Glenn Greenwald

Obama's speech this morning, like most Obama speeches, made pretty points in rhetorically effective ways about the Constitution, our values, transparency, oversight, the state secrets privilege, and the rule of law. But his actions, in many critical cases, have repeatedly run afoul of those words. And while his well-crafted speech can have a positive impact on our debate and contained some welcome and rare arguments from a high-level political leader -- changes in the terms of the debate are prerequisites to changes in policy and the value of rhetoric shouldn't be understated -- they're still just words until his actions become consistent with them.

Worse, Obama repeatedly invoked the paradigm of The War on Terror to justify some extreme policies -- see my post of earlier today on this practice -- beginning with his rather startling declaration that he will work to create a system of "preventive detention" for accused Terrorists without a trial, in order to keep locked up indefinitely people who, in his words, "cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people." In other words, even as he paid repeated homage to "our values" and "our timeless ideals," he demanded the power (albeit with unspecified judicial and Congressional oversight) to keep people in prison with no charges or proof of any crime having been committed, all while emphasizing that this "war" will continue for at least ten years. Compare the power of indefinite, "preventive" detention he's seeking to this:

Read on...

Peacenik is getting tired of Obama saying one thing and doing another. This analysis by Glenn Greenwald is good. But the networks' coverage of Cheney's response to Obama illustrates how hopeless the state of civil liberties are in the U.S.A. And btw, why is Clinton even debating George Bush in Toronto next week? Who is sponsoring that atrocity? Why is George Bush even being allowed into Canada? Peacenik hopes he gets arrested and charged with war crimes.

Survival Challenge: Can a City Girl Live Off Wild Food For a Week in Portland?

From May 24 through May 30, local "Wild Girl" Becky Lerner will be eating an entirely wild diet as she forages from sidewalks, parks, wilderness areas and yards in Portland. There will be no dumpster diving or mooching off gardens -- Lerner will be surviving on wild edibles only.

"I'm interested in foraging as a way to connect with the land and explore a fundamental aspect of what it means to be human," Lerner said. "It's also a valuable survival skill: Should the trappings of modernity become unavailable to us one day, knowing how to find food without grocery stores or even farms will surely come in handy."

Lerner readily admits that her pesco-vegetarianism is in question. She will face the decision of whether to endure a vegetable fast -- or else eat insects, go fishing or even consider dining on roadkill.

Read on...

As everyone knows, Peacenik periodically goes into the wilderness to practice his mushroom identification skills and survival skills. Peacenik has even roasted hotdogs in a solar oven. Peacenik considers this experiment by Becky Lerner important. Everyone should have some survival skills for the coming collapse of society and the food chain. Would you eat insects? Would you eat grubs? Would you eat roadkill? Peacenik would. Have a good weekend.


California, a Broke State, Reels as Voters Rebuff Leaders

Published: May 20, 2009

LOS ANGELES — Direct democracy has once again upended California — enough so that the state may finally consider another way by overhauling its Constitution for the first time in 130 years.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger returned home from a White House visit on Wednesday to find the state dangerously broke, his constituents defiant after a special election on Tuesday and calls for a constitutional convention — six months ago little more than a wonkish whisper — a cacophony.

As the notion of California as ungovernable grows stronger than ever, Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has expressed support for a convention to address such things as the state’s arcane budget requirements and its process for proliferate ballot initiatives, both of which necessitated Tuesday’s statewide vote on budget matters approved months ago by state lawmakers.

Read on...

The west coast has always been viewed as the place to go if you want to see the future. Fashion. Cultural trends. Political trends. And yes total collapse. The 10th biggest economy in the world is in a state of total collapse. Housing prices continue to fall. Unemployment continues to rise. Institutions continue to implode.

Does California provide a glimpse of our future. Peacenik hopes not but thinks so. The voters of California had a chance to weigh in on how to solve the economic crisis. Did the voters realize that there is no solution? Or did they simply continue with the anti-tax mantra of the last 30 years? Were the voters selfish or stupid or both? Peacenik doesn't know. But California is on the leading edge of living a new standard of living. A lesser one. A third world one. Here come the cuts to healthcare, education, and welfare. Here come 20,000 prisoners, on the street, cause the state can't afford to keep them in prison.

Will Canadian voters vote for progressive solutions when their turn to vote comes? Or have 30 years of brainwashing so engrained libertarian ideas that Canadians' too will vote against their own self- interest? Is there a way to prevent collapse? Peacenik thinks probably not.


Punditman goes shopping

Punditman just bought Miller beer. Punditman would not normally buy corporate swill, but his favourite local lager was out of stock and Punditman was in a rush. It was also cheap and Punditman is in search of inexpensive suds for skimpy times. Truth be told, Punditman has some fond memories of when Miller beer was first introduced into Canada all those years ago; back then, he did not eject part or all of the contents of his stomach in a series of involuntary spasmic movements, so how bad could it be now? In fact, one such encounter with Miller was quite enjoyable.

Granted, Punditman's taste buds have no doubt changed. He will keep you posted.

Earlier, Punditman went to another store in search of yellow Penn tennis balls (his favourite), but only found orange ones. Punditman does not like orange tennis balls or gimmicky things in general, so he had to settle for Wilson, his second choice. The shelves were sparse in this section of the hardware store, just like the shelves in the section of the beer store where Punditman's local craft beer normally sits.

Punditman thought: are these portents of economic collapse? On the other hand, the roads are clogged with vehicles in the middle of this mid-week day. All these people doing errands, putting around in their cars, trucks and mini vans. Where do they work? What do they do? It's no secret that Punditman works for himself, currently doing two jobs. Are all these others self-employed? Are they shift workers? Are they on pogy? Are they all living on credit? Without raw data, such mysteries in Punditman's mind concerning the population in Punditman's home town remain unanswered.

Gas prices are fairly stable lately, so that may account for the clogged traffic. But Punditman just read in the Report on Business section of yesterday's Globe and Mail that very soon, we will be experiencing a huge increase and that "...ever-higher energy costs will fundamentally change the way each and every one of us live our day-to-day lives." This gem of wisdom comes not from one of Peacenik's favourite "Peaknik" blogs but from none other than Jeff Rubin, who was recently the chief economist and chief strategist at CIBC World Markets. He has quit that position and has written a new book, entitled, "Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller." This sounds like good reading. Jeff Rubin is a believer in peak oil and he says declining production and rising demand mean that oil prices will be over $200 (U.S.) a barrel by 2012 or earlier. But Mr. Rubin is an optimist. As the ROB article states,

His world of the oil-starved future, at least for Western societies, looks a lot like the bygone years of our fond memory, where people work and vacation nearer to home, eat locally grown foods and buy locally produced goods, and suburban sprawl is replaced by revitalized cities.
Punditman just bought Miller beer. Will you still respect him in the morning?

Noam Chomsky interviewed by Neil Denny


Punditman says...Punditman and Peacenik seem to be on the same Chomskian wavelength this morning. There is always time for Noam Chomsky, who provides a cogent analysis of where we stand with "Brand Obama."

The Torture Memos and Historical Amnesia

By Noam Chomsky

May 19, 2009

The torture memos released by the White House elicited shock, indignation and surprise. The shock and indignation are understandable. The surprise, less so.

For one thing, even without inquiry, it was reasonable to suppose that Guantánamo was a torture chamber. Why else send prisoners where they would be beyond the reach of the law--a place, incidentally, that Washington is using in violation of a treaty forced on Cuba at the point of a gun? Security reasons were, of course, alleged, but they remain hard to take seriously. The same expectations held for the Bush administration's "black sites," or secret prisons, and for extraordinary rendition, and they were fulfilled.

More importantly, torture has been routinely practiced from the early days of the conquest of the national territory, and continued to be used as the imperial ventures of the "infant empire"--as George Washington called the new republic--extended to the Philippines, Haiti and elsewhere. Keep in mind as well that torture was the least of the many crimes of aggression, terror, subversion and economic strangulation that have darkened US history, much as in the case of other great powers.

Read on...

This article by Chomsky is sort of a depressing summary and backgrounder for just some of the crimes committed by the U.S.A. Peacenik has said it before. The U.S.A economy, society, and imperial outreach has already imploded. The media hasn't noticed yet. The public is starting to notice. The death rattle of the U.S. empire will not be pretty....but it has started.


John Cusack's Email to Obama's Blackberry: You're in Power, Don't Let Cheney's Torture Crew off the Hook

By John Cusack, Huffington Post. Posted May 19, 2009.

We can't whitewash institutionalized torture, trash any conceivable notion of the rule of law, and call that 'looking forward.'

If I had the President's Blackberry, I would send this.

President Obama,

On Wednesday you reversed your administration's promise to finally release pictures of detainee abuse.

The release of the photos was won by ACLU lawyers who have fought to bring to light the full extent of the brutality and torture that U.S. Army and intelligence services have perpetrated against human beings in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and at CIA "black sites" around the world. Torture that was sanctioned and effectively legalized under the former administration, and that, if we are to be honest, most Americans knew -- or should have known -- was being carried out in our names.

Read on...

Peacenik is not keeping Peacenik's disappointment with Obama and the Democrats a secret. And the issues just keep piling up. Peacenik watched some of the Sunday morning talk shows...and Peacenik wanted to puke. The primary topic of discussion wasn't torture or the tribunals. It was all about what Pelosi knew about the torture and when she knew it. Even this is old news. The media continues to be an arm of the Bush/Rove/Cheney media machine. The gambling addicted Bennett was on, being his usual hypocritical self. And of course Newt, who the media is grooming for a run for the presidency, was being his usual sanctimonious, hypocritical self.

The Democrats don't seem to know how the frame any issue. The can't even effectively condemn torture. They can't even effectively counter Bennett and Gingrich, two of the tiredest most irrelevant pundits around. Why is anyone tiptoeing around the torture story? Is torture wrong? Yes. Should torturers be held accountable? Yes. Should there be a special prosecutor? Yes. Its simple.


Doomsday....times two.

May 15, 2009: White Hot Air

Ilargi: Today's a pivotal day, the entire system has started to visibly tumble in on itself, and it unfortunately takes me more time than I have right now to detail it. There's always tomorrow. But the evidence still doesn't lie.

Exchanges can rally all they want. When you see that "US prices fall most since 1955", you’re looking at something that could change rather quickly. Once you get to "US production capacity utilization lowest since records began in 1967", that is not the case. There's a lot more inertia in capacity utilization. Detroit runs at 42% of capacity, and all economic numbers except for those blurting out of Wall Street and Washington indicate that even that is nowhere near a bottom relative to actual sales.

Read on...

Disbelief Revisited Once Again

The U.S. is, in the best case scenario, entering an economic depression that will be far worse than both the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Panic of 1873. At worst, the USA will collapse altogether. I now think that the situation is actually, amazingly, worse than even this! I believe that our government is on total tilt; they have pushed trillions into the pot, and they feel now like there's no way they can fold the hand. They will, as such, print and spend TENS of TRILLIONS more in an effort to stave off depression. And in doing so they will destroy the nation.

Read on...

Peacenik says do not read these two posts if you are depressed, suffer from anxiety, have a lot of debt, feel nervous about the future, or have any neurosis of any type. Ilargi has virtually called the end of the world....doomsday. And Dan W. provides an eye-popping summary of why it is so. Is the world economy in its final death spiral? Will a growth economy miraculously re-appear? Will the bailouts suddenly start working? When the only engine of the economy is government debt the end is nigh. The U.S. is going to hire 1.3 million people to work on the 2010 census. This will distort future employment figures. But when that is the only good data point in the U.S. economy, it is hopeless. Is the economy in a death spiral? Ilargi thinks so. Dan W. thinks so. Peacenik thinks............and thinks............and thinks.


Sheldon Whitehouse: Iraq Justification Raises the Prospect of Criminal Prosecution for Torture

By Heather Friday May 15, 2009 5:30am

Sheldon Whitehouse while being asked about the torture bombshell that Lawrence Wilkerson dropped on Dick Cheney says that if what Wilkerson asserts is true and the Bush administration went outside of the OLC's legal justification for the torture, it raises the prospect for criminal prosecutions.

Sanchez: We're hearing from ex-Powell Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson and he's making the argument that he believes that what the Bush administration was doing with enhanced interrogations was trying to make a case for the invasion of Iraq and trying to justify what happened in Iraq. So you believe that is actually what enhanced interrogation, "so called" torture was being used for?

Whitehouse: I've heard that to be true. There is some further evidence of that in Chairman Levin's Armed Services Committee report. There is not a great deal of evidence that came out in our hearing one way or the other about that. The one things I will say about that is that if that is true, then it takes the application of these techniques out of the protected scope of the Office of Legal Counsel opinion.

Read on...

Peacenik has been surprised by some of the people who don't want the torture issue investigated, pursued, and prosecuted. A lot of people and writers who Peacenik thought were reasonable, have gone all wobbly on the torture story. Their arguement seems to be that maybe torture was necessary at the time. Maybe it did work. This is the problem with you stray from following the rule of law. It is a slippery slope. Just like all the crimes of Wall St.are being ignored. Where does it stop?

It turns out that the reason for torture was to try and prove a connection between Al Queda and Iraq. They were trying to justify the Iraq war. The torture wasn't to stop someone from setting a bomb off in New York City. It was evil. And it just goes to show how thin the veneer of civilization is....in Washington, in the U.S.A., in the world, and right her in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

McChrystal's Rise: More Secrets, Less Daylight

by Tom Hayden


All along there were two US wars in Iraq. There was the public war, in which the Pentagon tried to manipulate the mainstream media into being a "message amplifier," while some intrepid reporters and bloggers fought back. Then there was the secret war carried out by the Special Operations forces, whose existence was denied even by the Pentagon.

Now the secret operations threaten to completely compromise what remains of the public war in Afghanistan and Pakistan with the ascension of Gen. Stanley McChrystal to top commander from his classified role in running Special Ops in Iraq for five years.

When questioned by the media or senators presiding at his confirmation hearing in a few weeks, Gen. McChrystal may have a simple answer to anything troubling: sorry, that is classified.

The mystique of secrecy may come to shroud all public inquiry about Afghanistan and Pakistan. There are questions to be answered, however.

One is framed on page 380 of Bob Woodward's book The War Within, in which the author describes a top-secret operation in 2006 that targeted and killed insurgents with such effectiveness that it gave "orgasms" to Derek Harvey, a top aide to Gen. David Petraeus and longtime tracker of Iraqi dissidents. The secret program was led by McChrystal, then a lieutenant general, using signals intercepts, informants and other tools of what McChrystal calls "collaborative warfare" through Special Access Programs (SAPS) and Special Compartmented Information (SCI.) McChrystal, according to the New York Times, conducted and commanded most of his secret missions at night. These missions were consistent with the proposals of Petraeus's top counterinsurgency adviser at the time, David Kilcullen, to revive the discredited Phoenix Program used in South Vietnam.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...

Who is this General Stanley McChrystal dude? Turns out he's the guy the Pentagon found guilty of fabricating false information in the 2004 death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman. Readers may recall the Arizona Cardinals football player was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. McChrystal is the guy they held accountable for a newspeak story that claimed Tillman died from "devastating enemy fire." Tillman was an interesting guy. He despised Bush and thought the Iraq War was illegal and had arranged for a meeting with Noam Chomsky to take place after his return from Afghanistan.

Obama's ability to wage aggressive war "with a human face" is no doubt making Dickhead Cheney jealous. Punditman unhappily concludes that the Obama administration is quickly becoming exactly what Punditman expected: a wolf in sheep's clothing, with the sheep quickly losing its' wooly fluff on all fronts. It appears the metamorphosis is nearly complete.

Food Companies Are Placing the Onus for Safety on Consumers

Published: May 14, 2009

The frozen pot pies that sickened an estimated 15,000 people with salmonella in 2007 left federal inspectors mystified. At first they suspected the turkey. Then they considered the peas, carrots and potatoes.

The pie maker, ConAgra Foods, began spot-checking the vegetables for pathogens, but could not find the culprit. It also tried cooking the vegetables at high temperatures, a strategy the industry calls a “kill step,” to wipe out any lingering microbes. But the vegetables turned to mush in the process.

So ConAgra — which sold more than 100 million pot pies last year under its popular Banquet label — decided to make the consumer responsible for the kill step. The “food safety” instructions and four-step diagram on the 69-cent pies offer this guidance: “Internal temperature needs to reach 165° F as measured by a food thermometer in several spots.”

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Just another example of the anti-regulation mindset that drives corporate America and rules social America. It is no better in Canada. That insurance policy you own, the money in your bank account, the planes you fly on, the cars you drive, the water you drink, the food you eat, you thought someone cared about how safe these things are? What meager consumer safety or financial regulations that exist aren't enforced. As you are enjoying barbecuing this May 24 weekend, Peacenik advises that you burn the living shit out of whatever you are cooking. And enjoy the weekend.


Distant Voices, Desperate Lives in Sri Lanka

By John Pilger

In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes the catastrophe facing the Tamil people of Sri Lanka, whose distant voices have appealed to the world for almost as long as the Palestinians.

In the early 1960s, it was the Irish of Derry who would phone late at night, speaking in a single breath, spilling out stories of discrimination and injustice. Who listened to their truth until the violence began? Bengalis from what was then East Pakistan did much the same. Their urgent whispers described terrible state crimes that the news ignored, and they implored us reporters to "let the world know." Palestinians speaking above the din of crowded rooms in Bethlehem and Beirut asked no more. For me, the most tenacious distant voices have been the Tamils of Sri Lanka, to whom we ought to have listened a very long time ago.

It is only now, as they take to the streets of western cities, and the persecution of their compatriots reaches a crescendo, that we listen, though not intently enough to understand and act. The Sri Lankan government has learned an old lesson from, I suspect, a modern master: Israel. In order to conduct a slaughter, you ensure the pornography is unseen, illicit at best. You ban foreigners and their cameras from Tamil towns like Mulliavaikal, which was bombarded recently by the Sri Lankan army, and you lie that the 75 people killed in the hospital were blown up quite wilfully by a Tamil suicide bomber. You then give reporters a ride into the jungle, providing what in the news business is called a dateline, which suggests an eyewitness account, and you encourage the gullible to disseminate only your version and its lies. Gaza is the model.

From the same masterclass you learn to manipulate the definition of terrorism as a universal menace, thus ingratiating yourself with the "international community" (Washington) as a noble sovereign state blighted by an "insurgency" of mindless fanaticism. The truth and lessons of the past are irrelevant. And having succeeded in persuading the United States and Britain to proscribe your insurgents as terrorists, you affirm you are on the right side of history, regardless of the fact that your government has one of the world’s worst human rights records and practices terrorism by another name. Such is Sri Lanka.

This is not to suggest that those who resist attempts to obliterate them culturally if not actually are innocent in their methods. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have spilt their share of blood and perpetrated their own atrocities. But they are the product, not the cause, of an injustice and a war that long predate them. Neither is Sri Lanka’s civil strife as unfathomable as it is often presented: an ancient religious-ethnic rivalry between the Hindu Tamils and the Buddhist Sinhalese government.

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punditman says...Peacenik has had a close-up view of the Tamil protests in Toronto. This article by British journalist, John Pilger, gives an historic overview of the roots of the war in Sri Lanka. As usual, the seeds of this conflict were sown by British imperialism. And the British armaments industry continues to profit from it.

Obama seeks to block release of abuse photos

Obama abruptly changes position, tries to block court-ordered release of detainee abuse photos

AP News

May 13, 2009 17:20 EST

President Barack Obama declared Monday he would try to block the court-ordered release of photos showing U.S. troops abusing prisoners, abruptly reversing his position out of concern the pictures would "further inflame anti-American opinion" and endanger U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The White House had said last month it would not oppose an appeals court ruling that set a May 28 deadline for releasing dozens of photos from military investigations of alleged misconduct.

But American commanders in the war zones have expressed deep concern about fresh damage the photos might do, especially as the U.S. tries to wind down the Iraq war and step up operations against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

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Peacenik doesn't want to look at photos of people being tortured. Peacenik also doesn't want Obama to morph into Dick Cheney. But Peacenik is afraid it is too late. Bush/Cheney policies, Bush/Cheney secrecy, Bush/Cheney mistakes are being adopted wholesale by Obama. Peacenik is feeling discouraged. Obama can't even follow through with previously announced policies. Cheney's daughter ferchrissakes goes on TV and says releasing the photos (as ordered by the courts) would endanger U.S. troops. Does anyone think the Afghanis and Iraqis don't know what the U.S. is doing and has done. Bush/Cheney/Obama. Cheney/Obama/Bush. Obama/Bush/Cheney. etc. Fuck them.


Is the Conservative Movement Losing Steam? Posner

I sense intellectual deterioration of the once-vital conservative movement in the United States. As I shall explain, this may be a testament to its success.

Until the late 1960s (when I was in my late twenties), I was barely conscious of the existence of a conservative movement. It was obscure and marginal, symbolized by figures like Barry Goldwater (slaughtered by Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 presidential election), Ayn Rand, Russell Kirk, and William Buckley--figures who had no appeal for me. More powerful conservative thinkers, such as Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, and other distinguished conservative economists, such as George Stigler, were on the scene, but were not well known outside the economics profession.

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Richard Posner provides an interesting overview of the conservative movement. The movement may be at its lowest ebb, but the consequences of 30 years of conservatism will dominate society for years to come. Peacenik is looking for the resurgence of conservatism. Will societal collapse fuel it? Who is going to get blamed for current depression? Common sense says the conservatives should be blamed. Peacenik has Peacenik's doubts.

Canadian Military Plans to Spam Afghans This Summer

Canadian military propagandists plan to bombard Afghans' cellphones with texts and contest offers

by Allan Woods

OTTAWA - Canada plans to boost its propaganda reach by tapping into mobile phones in Afghanistan to send text messages, run contests and drive listeners to its military-run, Pashto-language radio station.

It's a fairly crude, transparent tactic in the high science of counter-insurgency, but the military sees it as a way to better connect with local Afghans in a war-torn land where the cellphone is one of the fastest growing, and only reliable, means of communication.

The capability, to be set up this summer, will encourage Afghans to sign up for text-message alerts from defence officials and to enter military-run contests awarding prizes to lucky locals, according to public tendering documents.

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Ferchrissakes. What is more ridiculous? Waging this propaganda in the first place or publicizing it via a publicly tendered bid? Can someone tell Peacenik what Canada is doing in Afghanistan? Can someone tell Peacenik why Canada is in Afghanistan? Canada doesn't know who the "enemy" is and doesn't know if they are killing civilians or "enemies." Canada can't afford the cost of the war effort. And now the Afspamistan campaign? Give Peacenik a break! Will Tim Horton coffees be the prizes? This is worse than goofy. It illustrates the obvious: Canada should not be in Afghanistan. Bring the troops home now.


Saigon Again?

By Philip Giraldi


The problem with assessing President Barack Obama’s foreign policy after little more than 100 days is that it is nearly impossible to distinguish what has already become policy from approaches that might be termed more tentative. Does he really think that a continued American engagement in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and on behalf of Israel serves the national interest? Maybe not. There are signs that a broad reassessment of U.S. policy is underway, though critics who have been rightly soured by eight years of George W. Bush’s blundering note that Obama appears to have embraced the interventionist formula that has proven so disastrous. Nation-building will not work in Afghanistan, and interference in neighboring Pakistan has produced a nuclear country that is self-destructing. Taking the two countries together, it is clear that Central Asia has become the poster child for U.S. foreign policy ineptitude.

The Bush administration’s tendency to try to sell an otherwise questionable foreign policy continues. President Obama’s pledge after last week’s meeting with the Pakistani and Afghan presidents that he is dedicated to defeating al-Qaeda was intended to push a button with the American audience. He knows perfectly well that al-Qaeda has become a minor player in the Central Asian drama and that the problem is much larger than the terrorist group that carried out 9/11. To be fair to Obama, it should be accepted that the Bush administration created the Afghanistan and Pakistan crisis that he has inherited. Obama has questioned existing policies even though he has increased the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by only half the number requested by the Pentagon. He has also increased the intensity of Predator drone strikes directed against Taliban and al-Qaeda inside Pakistan. He would be well advised to think yet again about what he is doing.

The increase in soldiers will not win the day, and would not even if it were double the number being committed, because the Afghan topography means the U.S. has to rely on air power, which leads to high civilian casualties and has turned the Afghan people against the NATO mission. More important, the narco-trafficking-fueled corruption in the Karzai government is so pervasive that Afghans have lost any hope that their lot will ever improve. Without that, the insurgency, which at least offers stability, will inevitably win, and the American GI will follow his British and Russian counterparts in the graveyard of empires. There is no reason to believe that allowing a government that includes the Taliban in Afghanistan threatens the United States. Quite the contrary, as the Taliban are not interested in exporting any revolution and are intensely inward-looking. They will also likely have learned the lesson of 2001 and will know that their support of any international terrorist movements will result in a devastating response from the United States. Obama could stay a while to save face, put a Band-Aid on the situation, and then get out while there is still an option to do so. The Afghans will sort out their own future just as they always have. If it is not a free-market, pluralistic, democratic future, then so be it.

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punditman says...

Punditman does not pretend that if NATO troops withdraw from the AfPak theatre, all will be peace and light. The question is, would the death, destruction and misery be any worse than that of an unwinnable foreign intervention? Or would things sort of muddle along at a lower level of conflict as the various forces jockey for power? Those who say you must support the troops by supporting their mission rarely offer a realistic assessment of the dire situation in Afghanistan and South Asialet alone a "winning" scenario. They are content to follow whatever their government tells them until hell freezes over. Punditman thinks that they often secretly think this war is unwinnable but won't admit it. Or perhaps they believe in the magical military mystery tour?

Sometimes the only option is to choose the least worst choice. And that, it seems, is to stop messing with an already messy situation that the West is ill equipped to fixmuch less truly understandand come up with a plan for military withdrawal from South Asia. Unless of course the plan is for perpetual war as the domestic economy implodes. Other empires have known such folly. They now help form the ashheaps of history.

The Worst Case Scenario (Someone Has to Say It)

Since the economy began sliding downhill in late 2007, mainstream economic and market experts have consistently erred on the sunny side.

As late as June 2008, mainstream consensus held that the U.S. was heading for a “soft landing” and would avoid recession. Several months later, the slump was acknowledged to have started in January 2008, but we were supposed to see renewed growth by mid-2009, with unemployment peaking in the eight-to-nine percent range. A quick “shovel-ready” stimulus bag was supposed to set us back on the road to prosperity.

In January, recovery projections were pushed forward to late 2009. Today, the consensus is for a mid-2010 recovery, with unemployment peaking at just over 10 percent. Clearly, the mainstream has struggled to catch up to reality for well over one year. What are the chances that they finally have it right this time?

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With all the happy talk and irrational exuberance going on in the financial press and in the markets, Peacenik thinks its time for a splash of cold water. A bit of reality. Read the ten predictions in this article from Seeking Alpha. Many of these predictions are highly probable. If just one comes true the world as we know it is over. Peacenik hates to keep repeating Peacenik's self but the black hole of debt cannot be ignored.


Vietnam and Now: Lying and Deception "For the Good of the Country"

May 11, 2009

The lies, deceptions, misrepresentations and statistical legerdemain of the present financial meltdown remind me of the Vietnam era when the same sort of endless propaganda and deception was foisted on the American public "for the good of the nation."

The Vietnam War launched a great number of rich metaphors and ironies. We had to destroy the village in order to save it, etc. But beneath this tortured history lies a key point:

The entire justification for the war and its prosecution were constructed on conscious deceptions chosen by our elected and unelected leaders "for our own good." I think the process worked thusly: fearful the American public was tiring of the burdens of a global Cold War with global domination at stake, the U.S. Powers That Be did not trust democracy or the U.S. public to "make the right decision" which would serve "the best interests of the nation."

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Nice bit of history here from Charles Hugh Smith. They lied about Vietnam and they are lying about the financial crisis. They lie about everything. Peacenik is bemused by all the stories about how the corner is turned, the bottom is in. Even George Soros thinks the worst is over. Peacenik will continue to wait and see.....and watch the market continue to rally....on the basis of lies.


Secretary Doomsday and the Empathy Gap

The Everyday Extremism of Washington

by Tom Engelhardt, May 08, 2009

A front-page New York Times headline last week put the matter politely indeed: "In Pakistan, U.S. Courts Leader of Opposition." And nobody thought it was strange at all.

In fact, it’s the sort of thing you can read just about any time when it comes to American policy in Pakistan or, for that matter, Afghanistan. It’s just the norm on a planet on which it’s assumed that American civilian and military leaders can issue pronunciamentos about what other countries must do; publicly demand various actions of ruling groups; opt for specific leaders, and then, when they disappoint, attempt to replace them; and use what was once called "foreign aid," now taxpayer dollars largely funneled through the Pentagon, to bribe those who are hard to convince.

Last week as well, in a prime-time news conference, President Obama said of Pakistan: "We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don’t end up having a nuclear-armed militant state."

To the extent that this statement was commented on, it was praised here for its restraint and good sense. Yet, thought about a moment, what the president actually said went something like this: When it comes to U.S. respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty, this country has more important fish to fry. A look at the historical record indicates that Washington has, in fact, been frying those "fish" for at least the last four decades without particular regard for Pakistani sensibilities.

In a week in which the presidents of both Pakistan and Afghanistan have, like two satraps, dutifully trekked to the U.S. capital to be called on the carpet by Obama and his national security team, Washington officials have been issuing one shrill statement after another about what U.S. media reports regularly term the "dire situation" in Pakistan.

Of course, to put this in perspective, we now live in a thoroughly ramped-up atmosphere in which "American national security" — defined to include just about anything unsettling that occurs anywhere on Earth — is the eternal preoccupation of a vast national security bureaucracy. Its bread and butter increasingly seems to be worst-case scenarios (perfect for our 24/7 media to pounce on) in which something truly catastrophic is always about to happen to us, and every "situation" is a "crisis." In the hothouse atmosphere of Washington, the result can be a feeding frenzy in which doomsday scenarios pour out. Though we don’t recognize it as such, this is a kind of everyday extremism.

Being Hysterical in Washington

As the recent release of more Justice Department torture memos (which were also, in effect, torture manuals) reminds us, we’ve just passed through eight years of such obvious extremism that the present everyday extremity of Washington and its national security mindset seems almost a relief.

We naturally grasp the extremity of the Taliban — those floggings, beheadings, school burnings, bans on music, the medieval attitude toward women’s role in the world — but our own extremity is in no way evident to us. So Obama’s statement on Pakistani sovereignty is reported as the height of sobriety, even when what lies behind it is an expanding "covert" air war and assassination campaign by unmanned aerial drones over the Pakistani tribal lands, which has reportedly killed hundreds of bystanders and helped unsettle the region.

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punditman says...like the sign says, keep reading.


Swine flu: what does "so far, so good" mean?

Posted on: May 7, 2009 6:53 AM, by revere

Breathing easier, may be an apt phrase for an almost audible collective sigh of relief. So far, the incipient swine flu pandemic is not extremely nasty. Is this perhaps premature? The world's premier scientific journal, Nature, and many flu scientists, suggest it is:

Complacency, not overreaction, is the greatest danger posed by the flu pandemic. That's a message scientists would do well to help get across.


There is ample reason for concern: a new flu virus has emerged to which humans have no immunity, and it is spreading from person to person. That has happened only three times in the past century.

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Effect Measure is one of the premier flu knowledgeable sites on the Internet along with www.fluwikie.com. Peacenik continues to monitor these sites closely. Forget the media's reaction. Did the authorities at the CDC and WHO and public health over-react to the swine flu? Peacenik doesn't think so. Read the story. Only three times in the past century has a new flu virus emerged....that humans have no immunity to.

Peacenik continues to prep. Canadian Tire has an excellent flu section selling masks, hand sanitizer, and vinyl gloves. Peacenik prefers latex gloves but the vinyl will do in a pinch.

Tomorrow Peacenik goes on a field trip to scout out someplace to SIP (stay in place). Sort of a place to bug out to when it is time to bug out. Peacenik also has some plumbing work to do in a basement where Hanta Virus may be present. Peacenik will be wearing Peacenik's mask and vinyl gloves. Is it time to bug out? When Peacenik reads stories like this Peacenik gets nervous. But for now Peacenik is not declaring it bugging out time.


BAC: More Obfuscation by The Media

An unbelievable spin-cycle of nonsense has been coming from CNBS this morning.

Here's the story that started it all (although originally not on Bloomberg):

May 6 (Bloomberg) -- Regulators have determined that Bank of America Corp. requires about $34 billion in new capital, the largest need among the 19 biggest U.S. banks subjected to stress tests, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

CNBS is claiming that this isn't really "new capital" in that the preferred already held by government can be converted as part of it.

That's true but if you are a shareholder it doesn't matter!

If you are a stockholder dilution is dilution and it doesn't matter how it happens. As I noted yesterday:

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Peacenik's Greyhound bus broke down on the Gardiner Expressway this morning, on Peacenik's way into work. As Peacenik walked along the shoulder of the Gardiner, with cars whizzing by, Peacenik contemplated regulation, or the lack thereof. Who regulates Greyhound buses? When was Peacenik's bus last checked? Who regulates anything anymore? Food? Transportation? Water? Consumer products? Safety? Banks?

Which brings us to the bank stress tests in the US. These stress tests, by bank regulators, were sold to the public to demonstrate that the public's money wasn't being pissed away. The stress tests were/are an exercise in public relations. But even the phoney stress tests can't hide the obvious. The banks are bankrupt. The test results have been delayed, massaged, manipulated and distorted. The public desperately wants to believe that the current market rally is real. The public desperately wants to believe the stress tests are legitimate. The stress tests, the market rally, the market are all bullshit.

Peacenik was rescued from the shoulder of the Gardiner this morning by another Greyhound bus. People who still have money in the market should be so lucky.


Interview: Dr Jurgen Todenhofer Part 1

punditman says...Jurgen Todenhofer has traveled extensively in the Muslim world over several decades. He talks about colonialism and neo-colonialism and the history of Western interference in the Muslim world.

Interview: Dr Jurgen Todenhofer Part 2

punditman says...Jurgen Todenhofer spent time in Iraq living with the common people. A good interview with common sense conclusions.

The Bottom

by Jim Kunstler

Euphoria managed to out-run swine flu last week as the epidemic-du-jour, with "consumer" confidence jumping and the big bank stocks nudging up. The H1N1 virus fizzled for now, at least in terms of kill ratio, though we're warned it might boomerang in the fall with a vengeance. No one was surprised to see Chrysler roll over like a possum on a county highway, but the memory of their muscle cars will linger on like a California surfing song. Here in the northeast, where Sundays are not spent at the Nascar oval, the spring foliage reached the tenderly explosive stage and it was hard to feel bad about anything.

For now, the "bottom" is in -- that is, the bottom of this society's ability to process reality. It may continue for a month of so, even after the "stress test" for banks is finally let out of the massage parlor with a "happy ending." But events are underway that are beyond the command of personalities. We're done "doing business" in all the ways that we've been used to, but we just can't get with the new program. Let's count the ways:

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Is the bottom really in? The swine flu didn't even make the front page of Tuesday's Globe and Mail. Instead the headline reads: Investors flock to stocks as market sees some good news. The leaves are coming out on the trees. Peacenik walked by a beautiful Magnolia tree in full bloom on Peacenik's way to work this morning. Its spring.

But is the bottom in? The auto industry is still in its death throes, with GM likely to soon follow Chrysler into bankruptcy. Many of the biggest banks are still bankrupt. Almost every sector of the economy is still lining up for bailouts. The commercial real estate sector is tanking. The world is past peak oil. Unemployment is soaring. The black hole of debt, containing more debt that the whole world's GDP, is still hungry. None of the structural issues that caused the financial collapse have been resolved. They are being ignored.

Is the bottom in? Jim Kunstler doesn't think so. Peacenik will stick with Peacenik's lottery tickets for future security, cash in Peacenik's pockets, Kraft dinner in Peacenik's cupboard, and a pitchfork by Peacenik's bed. Peacenik wishes all the best to anyone trying to time the top of what is a classic bear market rally.


Why Much of the Discussion About Swine Flu is Racist

The Déjà Vu Flu


OK, we get it: somewhere in Mexico lies the epicenter of an outbreak of swine flu. It doesn’t really matter where because any part of the country would suffice for the hate-mongers in the media (Malkin, Beck, etc.), for which only Keith Olbermann has called out within the mainstream media. Is the swine flu really the next major human catastrophe? More people have died from “regular flu” since January, roughly 36,000. So then why isn’t there hysteria about that? Most of the deaths attributed to swine flu have taken place in Mexico, about 150, and only one in the US so far. Even so, the real culprit was probably Smithfield Foods, an Anglo-American company that owns factory pig farms.

This latest epidemic will probably prove to be an epidemic that isn’t, as was the case with several others leading up to today. Yes, there’s a tradition of using disease epidemics to prevent immigration along racial lines, and its been documented by historians. I recommend two thoroughly researched books: Alexandra Stern’s Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America (University of California Press, 2005), and Natalia Molina’s Fit to Be Citizens?: Public Health and Race in Los Angeles, 1879-1939 (University of California Press, 2006).

In 1916, the US Public Health Service established quarantines at El Paso and Laredo to quarantine Mexican immigrants. The USPHS was heavily influenced by Eugenics, or race science (1). Then as now, some efforts were made to distinguish good and bad Mexicans along racial lines. Light-skinned Mexicans arriving in 1st class passenger railcars could bypass the quarantine while darker Mexicans arriving in second-class cars were quarantined, and then deloused in kerosene (2). At the El Paso station in 1917, a grand total of three Mexicans were acknowledged to have had the deadly typhus fever—after almost 800,000 Mexican bodies had been inspected. Almost 2,700 bodies were inspected per day in El Paso, in contrast to Ellis Island, which inspected about 350 a day (3). And while the Eugenics movement obsessed about eastern and southern Europeans through the 1930s, the latter had some protection from the Democrats. Mexicans had none back then, and very little now. These practices at the border lasted until the late 1930s (4).

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punditman says...See my comment on a related post, here.

Robert Fisk’s World: Right to the very end in Iraq, our masters denied us the truth

The sentence ‘millions of Iraqis now live free of oppression’ is pure public relations

We acknowledge," the letter says, "that violence has claimed the lives of many thousands of Iraqi civilians over the last five years, either through terrorism or sectarian violence. Any loss of innocent lives is tragic and the Government is committed to ensuring that civilian casualties are avoided. Insurgents and terrorists are not, I regret to say, so scrupulous."

This quotation comes from the Ministry of Defence's "Iraq Operations Team, Directorate of Operations" and is signed by someone whose initials may be "SM" or "SW" or even "SWe". Unusually (but understandably), it does not carry a typed version of the author's name. Its obvious anonymity – given the fact that not a single reference is made to the civilians slaughtered by the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq – is no surprise. I, too, would not want to be personally associated with such Blair-like mendacity. What is astonishing, however, is that this outrageous letter should have been written this year.

I should say at once that I owe this revelatory text (actually dated 20 January) to a very un-anonymous Independent reader, Tom Geddes, who thought I would find its "economy with the truth" interesting. I certainly do. We are now, are we not, supposed to be in the age of Brown-like truth, as we finally haul down the flag in Basra, of near-certainty of an official inquiry into the whole Iraq catastrophe, a time of reckoning for the men who sent us off to war under false pretences. I suspect that this – like the Obama pretensions to change – is a falsehood. Well, we shall see.

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punditman says...

Robert Fisk surveys ongoing British government propaganda regarding the Iraq war and counters it with this rather important rejoinder: contrary to official claims, Saddam Hussein did not "refuse to co-operate" with the UN weapons inspectors. He actually was co-operating, and the UN weapons team under Hans Blix was about to prove those mythical weapons of mass destruction were non-existent. Hence the US forced Blix and his team to leave Iraq. Punditman wonders how many people actually know that. The lies about Iraq continue. The revisionist history has begun; it is important to guard the truth.

Much Ado About the Flu: Is the Media Frenzy Justified?

By Bart Laws, AlterNet. Posted May 4, 2009.

So far, there's no indication that the "swine flu" is particularly dangerous, but the prospect of global catastrophe is attractive and exciting.

Scientists use various models to evaluate risk, but researchers have long understood that ordinary people don't rely on mathematical probability to assess the dangers posed by some phenomenon -- they use other kinds of rules.

For example, we're much more accepting of risks that we assume voluntarily. That's one reason why people who smoke a pack a day will go to a zoning board meeting to fight against a diesel bus yard.

People are also more accepting of risk when they have a sense of control. Driving a car is much more dangerous than riding in an airplane, but as an airplane passenger, you feel helpless. Another reason people worry more about airplane crashes than motor vehicle accidents is because the events are more noteworthy -- a whole lot of people killed all at once, instead of one or two here and there, even though the latter adds up to a lot more people over time.

Read on...

Has the media gone overboard on Swine Flu? Peacenik thinks some flu stories were/are a bit over the top. But public health issues are important and widely ignored. The swine flu has made a lot of formerly disinterested people suddenly interested in society's response to a pandemic flu.

Bart Laws says the time to start yelling the sky is falling is when the sky starts falling. Peacenik doesn't quite understand that concept. Governments and NGO's such as the CDC and WHO and FEMA have been encouraging the public to be prepared for an emergency, whether it is a health emergency, an earthquake, or a power outage. It is good advice. The jury is still out on the swine flu but it is very early in the game to be concluding that it is a media creation. Peacenik continues to prep. Will anyone trade Peacenik 100 current aspirin for 500 aspirin with a 2007 expiry date?


The Lobby Wants War


by Justin Raimondo

The Israel lobby has been running into a few problems lately, but it’s nothing they don’t think they can handle: a charge of treason, a strong suspicion of obstructing justice, and a gathering storm of criticism from a few dissident intellectuals and policy types. Nothing to get too exercised about. Having felled Charles "Chas" Freeman, smitten Gen. Zinni, and sidelined those in the Obama administration who question the nature and utility of America’s "special relationship" with Israel, the Lobby’s flagship organization, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), is primed to hold their national conference in Washington next week, with Jane "This Conversation Doesn’t Exist" Harman slated to address the gathering.

The focus of the conference, and the legislative centerpiece of the event, will be passage of the Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act, which would ban US companies from providing Iran with refined petroleum products, and seeks to punish European companies — particularly the Swiss, who come in for two specific mentions in the text of the bill — for doing so.

To begin with, the name affixed to this piece of legislative legerdemain is a prime example of congressional doublethink: will it really enhance diplomatic relations with Iran to impose draconian sanctions, the equivalent of an economic chokehold and a prelude to a military blockade? Hardly, and that is very far from its clear intent.

This bill is all about provoking the Iranians, effectively sabotaging efforts to engage in a mutual dialogue with Tehran. Why the egregious packaging? Well, it seems the American people are sick and tired of war, and preparations for war, and so it is far less incriminating if a member of Congress can say he (or she) voted for "the Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act" than it is to admit they supported isolating Iran economically.

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punditman says...
Oh, yeah, there's something else happening other than swine flu. The US-Iran dance continues even if no one is paying attention. As does a US foreign policy warped by undo influence.


April 28, 2009 by rgwallace

Cases of swine flu H1N1 are now reported in Honduras, Costa Rica, Brazil, Argentina, Austria, Thailand, Israel, etc. Can’t keep up at this point.

H1N1 is making its way across the world by hierarchical diffusion. By the world’s transportation network it is bouncing down a hierarchy of cities defined by their size and economic power and their interconnectedness to Mexico City, the international city closest to the initial outbreak. It’s no coincidence that New York and San Diego were among the first cities hit. The virus is also engaged in contagious diffusion, spreading out within each new country hit.

For the most part only a few cases have been reported in countries other than Mexico. But as influenza, unlike SARS, can transmit before symptoms show, there may be no way to stop H1N1 now. New York now reports hundreds infected.

Read on...

Yesterday commenter Johnnyanonymous mentioned factory farms as one of the causes of swine flu. He was right. Notice how Peacenik is going to continue to call the swine flu the swine flu. Peacenik will not be intimidated by the pork industry. This is ridiculous. Economic collapse. Healthcare collapse. Pension collapse. Financial collapse. And the lead item on this morning's news was that the local radio station will now refer to swine flu and H1N1.

Peacenik is glad everyone has their priorities straight.

The Swine Flu may be less Deadly than the Average Winter Flu

The headlines have been scary.

For example, the headline from the Telegraph says:

"Swine flu: 'All of humanity under threat', WHO warns"

That sounds extremely dire, indeed.

And every new case of swine flu is being treated as a breaking news alert.

However, the World Health Organization quote was taken out of context. And science actually paints a more reassuring picture.

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punditman says...

In the last couple of days, Punditman has overheard several conversations in public about swine flu, demonstrating the contagion effect of ceaseless hoopla. One woman was talking about how she knew someone whose pandemic plan included heading for the cottage. A splendid ideawhen pigs fly, that's when.

The media sure has given blanket coverage on this one. But is it "balanced"? Are all the right questions being asked? What is emphasized and what is not? Hey, what is that man behind the curtain doing while everyone is buying masks and Tamiflu? Wait, I thought I saw former US Defence Secretary Rumsfeld cashing in.

Count Punditman amongst those who think this is a classic example of hype, misinformation and manipulation. Until proven wrong.