Critical Alert: The Swine Flu Pandemic – Fact or Fiction?

American health officials declared a public health emergency as cases of swine flu were confirmed in the U.S. Health officials across the world fear this could be the leading edge of a global pandemic emerging from Mexico, where seven people are confirmed dead as a result of the new virus.

On Wednesday April 29th, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised its pandemic alert level to five on its six-level threat scale,1 which means they"ve determined that the virus is capable of human-to-human transmission. The initial outbreaks across North America reveal an infection already traveling at higher velocity than did the last official pandemic strain, the 1968 Hong Kong flu.

Phase 5 had never been declared since the warning system was introduced in 2005 in response to the avian influenza crisis. Phase 6 means a pandemic is under way. WHO now openly states it is not possible to contain the spread of this infection and recommends mitigation measures, not restricting travel or closing borders.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...
Everyone should take a deep breath (at least three feet away from anyone who is coughing, as always) and gain some bloody perspective. Here are some things to keep in mind, gleaned from the above article:
  • In 1976, more people died from the swine flu vaccine than swine flu!
  • Peacenik take note: Tamiflu, may be very bad for you! In 2007, the FDA finally began investigating some 1,800 adverse event reports related to the anti-viral drug. Serious symptoms included convulsions, delirium or delusions, and 14 deaths in children and teens as a result of neuropsychiatric problems and brain infections (which led Japan to ban Tamiflu for children in 2007).
  • There is speculation that this may not be a natural mutation. Your fear will Make Some People VERY Rich in Today"s Crumbling Economy.
  • Last month, the American pharmaceutical company Baxter was under investigation for distributing the deadly avian flu virus to 18 different countries as part of a seasonal flu vaccine shipment. Czech reporters were probing to see if it may have been part of a deliberate attempt to start a pandemic. Some say such a mistake would be virtually impossible under the security protocols of that virus. Punditman is no scientist but guess who gets the go-ahead to work on a new vaccine? Baxter of course!
  • Factory Farming may be the source of swine flu.
This is not black helicopter/alien lizard/wild-eyed conspiracy stuff. It is well documented. Punditman asks that you pardon punditman's pun, but is this swine flu outbreak just another manifestation of what the late Abbey Hoffman called the PIG empire?

So, after all we've been through lately—war crimes, torture, financial terrorism—in which the real criminals literally get away with theft, murder and mayhem, who in their right mind would accept whatever the corporatocracy says?

All punditman asks is that you don't be sheeple, people. Keep your skepticsm at LEVEL 6.

Next Steps On H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu)

by DemFromCT

Next Steps On H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu)

Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 04:16:08 AM PDT

CDC is putting together information and public service announcements on their web site:

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS Swine Influenza and You April 29, 2009, 10:55 PM ET

Taking Care of a Sick Person in Your Home Apr 25, 2009

Swine-Origin Influenza A (H1N1) Information for Child Care Providers April 29, 2009 9:45 PM ET

Swine Flu: Information for Concerned Parents and Caregivers April 29, 2009, 7:15 PM ET

Swine flu Public Service Announcements

Right now, state health departments are concentrating on testing suspicious cases and getting a handle on the rate of spread. This is flu, and it will spread. That's what flu does. So, today, there will be more cases reported (from more states). The number matters less now, and there'll be a shift to concentrating on locations, age ranges, and the other data the local folks need to get the picture of what's happening.

Read on...

DemFromCT offers some solid advice on the Swine Flu. Peacenik thinks it is time everyone took some modest precautions. Check your medicine cabinet. Check your preparations. Have some extra food and water in your house. The flu appears to be mild outside of Mexico, but if fatality rates in Canada and the U.S. start approaching the rates in Mexico there will be panic. Peacenik is prepared. Are you?

Peace ends, 15 arrested at Tamil protest

Aggression breaks out as plea for assistance in Sri Lanka continues

Apr 30, 2009 04:30 AM

Robyn Doolittle
Staff Reporter

Fifteen Tamil demonstrators were arrested yesterday evening after a group of protesters spilled over into a busy downtown intersection.

Police moved in as the crowd pushed forward on University Ave. to the north side of Dundas St. around 4:30 p.m.

Read on...

Peacenik was at the protest yesterday around noon when a Federal NDP member was giving a speech to thousands of protesters, praising the Tamils for their peaceful occupation of one of Toronto's major streets. Peacenik didn't catch his name but he was making the point that the Tamils had every right to block University Ave.

Apparently yesterday someone's patience ran out and there were arrests. If there can't even be a peaceful protest in Toronto, what chance is there to resolve a conflict where people are dying every day?

Peacenik stopped by the protest on Peacenik's way to work this morning. About 100 protesters remain, blocking the street. They are surrounded by more than 100 police. The protest leaders were visibly apprehensive that they were about to be forceably removed from the street. As new Tamils arrived they were encouraged to step onto the street and swell the numbers blocking traffic.

Peacenik hopes the protest continues peacefully. Peacenik hopes there is a cease fire in Sri Lanka. Peacenik hopes the police continue to show patience. Peacenik hopes there is a solution in Sri Lanka and on University Ave.



Help Save Our Hospitals – people from across Ontario facing hospital cuts or closure are joining in solidarity to ask McGuinty to protect our local hospitals. Thousands will be coming out. Get on the bus! Reserve your seat in advance!

Peacenik can't seem to even go out for some roast chestnuts for lunch without wading into another protest. A large crowd of protesters is now gathered in front of Queen's Park in support of community hospitals that are threatened with downsizing or closure. Peacenik saw signs from Hamilton, Burks Falls and Fort Erie. There were many more.

The police presence was minimal, since they were all down the street watching the re-envigorated Tamil Tiger protest.

Why can't Peacenik go out for some chestnuts without walking into a protest? Why is our pension/retirement system crumbling? Why is our healthcare system crumbling? Why is our economy crumbling? Why, when we are facing a flu pandemic, is the government cutting back on healthcare. Why? Because society can't afford it.

Thanks to the crooks on Wall Street and in government there is no money. Our standard of living is crumbling at a breathtaking pace. We can afford to fight a pointless war in Afghanistan. We can afford to pay executives millions of dollars in bonuses. We can afford to transfer societies wealth to the wealthiest 2 percent. We can afford new weapons systems, and military helicopters. We can afford to bailout corrupt companies. But it seems that we can't afford a decent standard of living. Peacenik senses these protests are just the beginning. And they are going to be very less cordial, very soon.

Flu Stories: Things To Expect

by DemFromCT

Wed Apr 29, 2009 at 05:10:39 AM PDT

With the first reported US death (a 23 month old in Texas, being announced by the President), it is perhaps helpful to put into perspective that the very young and very old are at risk from flu. This is true every flu season, where there are approximately 36K deaths per year. This is influenza. Flu spreads, just as it does every flu season. and we will hear about more cases today. Expect it. Concern, not alarm.

There will be cases in new states (possibly CT, and possibly others), and cases in new countries (Germany). CDC updates once per day, so late cases from yesterday will be listed today. The numbers don't matter. It is going to go up before it goes down. Look for geographic spread.

Read on...

Peacenik just got to work, after stopping by the Tamil Tiger protest on University Ave. to express his solidarity with the Tamils. Yesterday the police did force the protesters off of the street and onto the sidewalk. But today the protesters are back in bigger numbers and are back on the street. They are talking about huge numbers today. The U.S. and Canada need to try and do something to stop the civil war in Sri Lanka.

And then there is swine flu. This post by DemFromCT is a good, even-handed overview. This video by Henry Niman suggests that things might get worse than anticipated. Ontario has reported its first cases. As has Germany. Peacenik bought some more surgical masks yesterday, and some fresh Ibuprofin. But Peacenik remains calm and watchful....and compulsively washing Peacenik's hands.


Is Bin Laden Dead or Alive? US, Pakistan Not Sure

"No Trace" of al-Qaeda Leader, State Dept Vows to Keep Looking
by Jason Ditz, April 27, 2009


Since his March broadcast on al-Jazeera, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has seemingly vanished off the face of the earth, with neither US nor Pakistan spy agencies detecting a single trace of him. This has added to the speculation that he may have died.

“The question is whether he is alive or dead,” Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said, “there is no trace of him.” Zardari also said his advisers feel there is substance to the rumors of bin Laden’s failing health, and that “they obviously feel that he does not exist any more but that’s not confirmed.”

US State Department spokesman Robert Wood likewise admitted that they likewise “have no information that indicates that Osama bin Laden is … frankly dead or alive.” He insisted in the meantime the US would continue to operate under the assumption that he was alive and keep looking for him.

The enigmatic Saudi has been on the FBI’s ten most wanted list for over a decade, and US officials have repeatedly speculated that he is located somewhere along the mountainous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. At this point though, that seems to be nothing more than a guess.

punditman says...

Remember this guy? Public enemy number after 9-11. The whole issue of bin Laden's whereabouts and the apparent inability of the most sophisticated security and surveillance apparatus in the history of the world—to capture him or to prove definitively of his demise—always leaves Punditman mystified. Punditman has heard about or read most of the theories surrounding his fate: he died in the battle of Tora Bora in 2001; he was wounded at Tora Bora but escaped; he died of massive organ failure in April 2004; he died in Pakistan in August 2006 after contracting a case of typhoid fever; his videos are faked; he's a CIA stooge; he's camped out in a teepee at the end of an old logging road in Wawa, Ontario, living on moose meat and trying in vain to hitch a ride out of there...

None of it ever adds up. They can land on the moon, read your license plate from space as they peruse your email and tap your cell phone, but they can't find some 6' 4" bearded dude who lives in caves and huts and whofrom many reportsis not exactly the picture of perfect health? Punditman has always thought that somebody was up to something when it comes to Osama bin Laden. What do you think?

Sri Lanka Civilians, Tamil Tiger Leaders Trapped in Combat Zone

By Patrick Donahue and Debarati Roy

April 25 (Bloomberg) -- Sri Lankan government forces kept up their campaign to crush the Tamil Tiger rebels as thousands of civilians remained trapped in the combat zone in the island- nation’s north, along with two top rebel leaders.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is carrying out an evacuation of the sick and wounded, said ICRC spokeswoman Sarasi Wijeratne. The Sri Lankan military said Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and intelligence chief Pottu Amman are still in the country’s northeast.

“The humanitarian situation is nothing short of catastrophic,” Wijeratne said yesterday in a telephone interview from near the capital, Colombo. Almost 6,500 civilians have been killed in fighting in the north in the past three months, the Associated Press cited a United Nations document as saying yesterday.

Read on...

Peacenik just arrived at work after stopping by the Tamil Tiger protest on University Ave. in Toronto. It is raining and the number of protesters has dwindled to about 100 but Peacenik asssumes re-enforcements will arrive as the day progresses. The protest is going on in front of the U.S. Consulate and is closing one of Toronto's major north/south streets. This is the third day in a row the protesters have been on the street, non-stop.

There is also a very large and intimidating police presence. Police in full riot gear, with facemasks. Police on horse. Police on bike. Police on foot.

Peacenik confesses Peacenik has not followed the Sri Lankan civil war very closely. But Peacenik also thinks someone must have some leverage on both parties in the civil war to force some kind of settlement. Are there just too many problems in the world that no one can be bothered with the Sri Lankan civil war? Is there a right and wrong side in the civil war? Peacenik doesn't know, but Peacenik wishes the protesters all the best and hopes violence in Sri Lanka will end soon. It is time the international community helped negotiate a peaceful end to the Sri Lankan civil war.


Max Keiser compilation - April 24-25 2009

Barry Ritholtz - April 27th, 2009, 3:15PM

Compilation of clips from Max Keiser’s news appearances for 24 & 25 April to discuss: the New Revolution in France as boss-nappings are all the rage and the G7 finance ministers meeting in Washington DC.

Read on...

Follow the link and watch Max keiser on Youtube. And give Peacenik a pitchfork.

Swine flu lands in Canada

Mexican virus spreads north as United States declares public emergency

Iain Marlow
Richard J. Brennan

Ontario health officials are maintaining a vigilant watch for cases of confirmed swine flu in the province but, as fears of a possible global pandemic continue to spread, the only cases to emerge so far in Canada are in Nova Scotia and British Columbia.

All six Canadian cases – four at a Windsor, N.S., school, two in B.C.'s Lower Mainland – were linked to Mexican travel. Unlike Mexico, where the flu is believed to have killed more than 100 people and sparked fears of a pandemic, the Canadian cases were so mild they did not require hospitalization.

Read on...

Peacenik's inbox is overflowing with page after page of Google bird flu alerts. Was Peacenik's time spent preparing for bird flu wasted? Peacenik doesn't think so. Yesterday Peacenik reviewed Peacenik's bird flu medications. Peacenik was horrified. Peacenik's Aspirn, Peacenik's Ibuprofin, Peacenik's Acetaminophine, Peacenik's Kaopectate, and Peacenik's Tamiflu were all stale dated. Peacenik has been prepared for a very long time.

Peacenik reminds dear readers of this prophetic post: Bird Flu??? What dat????. This is not a time for panic. This is a time for alarm and preparations. This morning Peacenik's eyes were itchy. Do not rub your eyes. This is the number one rule of beating the pandemic. That and washing your hands. Peacenik feels good. Temperature normal. Supplies adequate. Spirits positive. Peacenik rubbed Peacenik's eyes.


Global Crisis: Is Economics Rational?

Do Economists Understand the Causes and Consequences of the Crisis?

Classical/neoclassical economics has consistently protected the wealth of the privileged; it has preserved the status quo. This is capitalism's intent, and the evidence for it is overwhelming. It has impeded the improvement of the human condition for two hundred years, and unless it is scrapped, it will continue to do so. No mere change in government can stop it.

Aristotle defined human beings as rational animals, and even today, few people would openly describe themselves as irrational; yet many are. Even so, people don't generally go around calling their decisions, choices, and expectations rational or calling what they do rational activity. Except, that is, economists! They modify sundry and diverse nouns with "rational." In a short search of a few documents, the nouns actors, calculations, choices, decisions, expectations, firms, foundations, investors, outcomes, prices, responses, self-interest, societies, systems, and workers are all modified by "rational," and some seem oxymoronic when so modified. For instance, how is it possible to have an irrational self-interest? And if that isn't possible, what sense does modifying "self-interest" with "rational" make? Why economists feel the need to continually cite the rationality of classical economics is curious. Astronomers, physicists, chemists, biologists, mathematicians, engineers, and others have never felt a similar need. Physicists never speak of rational forces, rational particles, or rational mass. Chemists don't speak of rational reactions. Mathematicians never speak of rational calculations. One begins to wonder whether economists can be likened to the proverbial errant child who almost automatically utters, "I didn't do it!" when everyone knows that s/he did. One wonders whether they continually call themselves and economics rational because that's the only exculpatory response they can think of when what they proclaim turns out, as it so often does, to be wrong.

But if rationality is a human attribute, it is at best a latent one. Activating it requires care and nurture. And some studies have suggested that the ability to activate it declines as people age. Anyone who has tried to teach even basic logic to college students knows that most never acquire enough facility to become even moderately proficient. Many professors who are tasked with teaching it lack the ability to construct even moderately advanced chains of valid reasoning, and for decades, the most used textbook for such courses presented a set of logical rules so deficient that even if a student mastered them all, s/he would have been unable to apply them efficiently. Furthermore the findings of psychologists who have devised experiments to measure rationality claim to have shown that few people consistently behave in rational ways. But this finding is not interesting. Who, other than economists, hasn't known it? Even Aristotle must have known it more than two millennia ago; after all, he was familiar with the irrational claims Plato clearly exposed in his Socratic Dialogues. So the acute question is why economists don't know it, why they persist in accepting classical economic theory?

Those psychological experiments, however, when examined carefully are difficult to interpret. Although the psychologists claim to be measuring rationality, what, if anything, is really being measured is not easily seen. For instance, Prof. Daniel Kahneman is reported to have devised this experiment:

"let's take two groups of people and ask the first if the tallest tree in the world is taller than 300 meters. Then let's ask them how tall the tallest tree in the world is. Then we repeat the exercise with the second group, asking them whether the tallest tree in the world is taller than 200 meters, and then how tall it is. At the end of the experiment, we find that the first group's average answer to the second question is, around 300 meters, and the second's is around 200 meters. Why? [Because] People tend to latch on to a certain 'anchor"—usually one they come across by chance—instead of trying to use a more rational way to gather and process data and make economic decisions." [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1077151.html]

But it is difficult to see how this experiment proves anything about rationality. The experiment requires the participants to merely guess, and guessing is not a rational activity. No rational participant would have even answered the initial question. S/he would have responded by asking something like, How would I know?, and the experiment would have collapsed.

But other experiments are more revealing. For instance,

"One of the more compelling studies described . . . involved trick-or-treaters. A few Halloweens ago, Ariely laid in a supply of Hershey’s Kisses and two kinds of Snickers—regular two-ounce bars and one-ounce miniatures. When the first children came to his door, he handed each of them three Kisses, then offered to make a deal. If they wanted to, the kids could trade one Kiss for a mini-Snickers or two Kisses for a full-sized bar. Almost all of them . . . opted for the two-Kiss trade. At some point, Ariely shifted the terms: kids could now trade one of their three Kisses for the larger bar or get a mini-Snickers without giving up anything. In terms of sheer chocolatiness, the trade for the larger bar was still by far the better deal. But, faced with the prospect of getting a mini-Snickers for nothing, the trick-or-treaters could no longer reckon properly. Most of them refused the trade, even though it cost them candy. Ariely speculates that behind the kids’ miscalculation was anxiety. As he puts it, “There’s no visible possibility of loss when we choose a FREE! item (it’s free).” Tellingly, when Ariely performed a similar experiment on adults, they made the same mistake. “If I were to distill one main lesson from the research described..., it is that we are all pawns in a game whose forces we largely fail to comprehend.”


What are the problems with this experiment? There is absolutely no evidence that any child or adult involved did any "reckoning," and if no reckoning took place, no "miscalculation" could possibly have occurred. After all, people do make choices on impulse. So how does this experiment prove anything about rationality?

Just ask how a calculation, choice, decision, expectation, outcome, responses, or anything else can be determined to be rational. The only answer is by examining the reasoning process that led to it. But the experiment was built in a way that made any examination of any reasoning involved impossible. The description above says that when the experiment was performed on adults, "they made the same mistake," that is, they selected the free bite-sized Snickers bar. The "mistake" was that they didn't select the larger bar and maximize the amount of chocolate they were receiving. But what if they didn't want to maximize the amount of chocolate? Suppose, for instance, that an adult desired more chocolate than was in the three Hershey Kisses but was also trying to lose weight and didn't want to over indulge. Or suppose that an adult wanted more chocolate, didn't want to eat it immediately, but instead, wanted to put it in a pocket but had no available pocket large enough in which to comfortably place the larger bar. Or again, suppose that an adult wanted more chocolate but wanted to eat it in one bite so that his hands were free for other tasks. In all three of these cases, selecting the mini-Snickers was the rational choice. The mistake made in this experiment was made by the designer, not the participants. He assumed that the only rational choice was the one that maximized the amount of chocolate obtained. But rationality cannot be determined by arbitrary definition. Rationality is an attribute of deliberative processes and nothing that does not involve a deliberative process can be called rational. Human beings do engage in thoughtless activities. When doing so, they are not engaged in rational behavior. But they also sometimes think about what they are doing. When their thinking conforms to well-known norms of logic and is based on true premises, it is rational, when it doesn't, it is not. The thinking, not the result, is the deciding factor.

Keep Reading (you read this far!)...

punditman says...

Punditman likes reading Prof. Kozy's articles. It is like reading what you already new intuitively, but did not have the words or enough information to express it . The above piece is heavy reading for this early in Punditman's day, but if you stick with it, you will find an interesting critique of the financial system and the geeky economists who prop it up up with their silly theories about "rationality." Punditman didn't care much for studying classical economics because he always suspected that someone was trying to pull the wool over Punditman's eyes. Punditman now feels he was right.

They Added a Tracheotomy Kit to the Torture Chamber

by drational

They Added a Tracheotomy Kit to the Torture Chamber

Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 04:07:07 AM PDT

Reading the OLC memos justifying "enhanced interrogation techniques" has revealed a frightening picture of our Government practicing torture. Below I focus on three of the OLC memos from the perspective of a physician. The first two were written in 2002, when the the OLC defined torture and the CIA outlined the protocols they would be using. The second is the 46 page memo of 5/10/2005, written after these techniques had been applied and after there had been serious dissent over their use within the government.

Close reading of these memos shows that:

1. The CIA misled the OLC about the harmlessness of waterboarding.

2. The waterboarding actually used on detainees fit the 2002 OLC definition of torture.

3. When the 2002 memos were rescinded, the OLC simply redefined torture to allow the waterboarding that fit the previous definition of torture.

Read on...

Peacenik doesn't particularly like analogies to Nazi Germany or to Nazis. But that is what Peacenik thought when Peacenik read this story this morning. A lot of people were astounded by the detailed record keeping that the Nazis kept of the holocaust. Peacenik is astounded by the documentary evidence there is about U.S. war crimes, even after many videos were destroyed in direct defiance of a court order. The new Nazis. One of them is being welcomed to Toronto next week to debate Bill Clinton. Who is the genius who dreamed up that promotion?

How Do You Ask a Man to Be the Last Man to Die for a Mistake in Afghanistan?

Posted by ZP Heller, Brave New Films at 1:51 PM on April 23, 2009.

Brave Afghan vet demands answers from Congress.

What happened today in Washington was, as Senator Russ Feingold called it, "historic." Thirty-eight years nearly to the day when a young John Kerry shocked the nation with his fiery anti-Vietnam war testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rick Reyes, a former US Marine Corporal, delivered an equally puissant testimony in which he expressed his disenchantment with the war in Afghanistan. How appropriate Kerry should be sitting directly across from Reyes as Committee Chairman, listening attentively as Congress heard one of the first major voices of dissent on this war.

The son of Mexican immigrants who joined the Marines to escape a violent gang life in Los Angeles, Reyes served as an infantry rifleman in Afghanistan and Iraq. He upheld his duty to serve our country honorably, and immediately after 9/11, he was deployed to Afghanistan "with the conviction of fighting for justice and the American way." All of that changed when Reyes realized US military forces faced the impossible task of fighting militant Taliban members who blended in with the local Afghan population, routinely resulting in the injuries or deaths of innocent civilians.

Read on...

Enough is Enough. Peacenik says bring the troops home now.

BigAg Ticked at Michelle Obama's Organic Garden

Michelle Obama's decision to make her new White House vegetable garden entirely organic has angered America's powerful agribusiness lobby who are urging the First Lady to consider the use of appropriate "crop protection products".

Mrs Obama started work on the kitchen garden with a gang of schoolchildren last month. Media coverage of the first White House food plot since Eleanor Roosevelt "dug for victory" in the Second World War garnered media coverage across the world.

But to the consernation of Big Ag, Mrs Obama has said the project will not use chemical products to tackle pests or give her plants a boost, the Times reports.

Shortly after the digging began, Mrs Obama received a letter from the Mid-America CropLife Association (MACA), which represents the companies producing the pesticides and fertilisers underpinning "conventional" American agriculture, the paper said.

Read on...

Ferchrissakes. Peacenik's outrage meter just blew a gasket. This is like the former BIG 3 automakers lobbying against CAFE standards and negotiating tax rebates for purchasers of Hummers. The Big 3 were doing this while they were functionally bankrupt. The Big 3 is still lobbying against CAFE standards just days before they head for Chapter 11.

BigAg is in the same boat. Its business model is defunct. BigAg is destroying the world, and defending its handiwork. BigAg depends on oil. Fertilizers depend on oil. Oil is running out quickly. But BigAg is ticked about a dinky organic garden. BigAg is about to become NoAg. Peacenik says again: if you have a patch of ground, grow something you can eat.


April 22 2009 2: Not If But When.

Ilargi: Today was one sad day among many to come. General Motors finally gave up on survival today, a development which is deeply tragic for its employees and pensioners, more than most of them realize right now. And perhaps someday we'll know why Freddie Mac's acting CFO David Kellerman was found hanging in his basement. The upcoming revelations of large scale defaults on the firm slash federal agency slash toxic dumpster's mortgages may well be the main reason. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with $5-6 trillion in their combined portfolio's (not counting their deep dabbling in securities), are powderkegs waiting to blow up. The old “not if, but when” question, just like at GM.

Fannie and Freddie should never have existed in the first place, but they should certainly have been wound down long ago. As it is, what's slushed through to Wall Street via AIG is but a pittance compared to what's being parked at Fannie and Freddie. And there's a limit even to that game. After all, California defaults just rose to new highs again.

Read on...

Peacenik is sitting in Peacenik's office listening to the Canadian Autoworkers protesting in Queen's Park that their pension plans are going bust. Someone is playing music. Peacenik saw the line of portable toilets set up on Peacenik's way to work. Peacenik wondered what what going on. Then Peacenik read about the protest in the Star.

The lack of sympathy/empathy shown towards the CAW pensioners in the comments of the Star piece made Peacenik wonder about how people are going to work together to survive societal collapse. Most of the comments seemed resentful towards the pensioners. Were these same commenters resentful towards the big ongoing Canadian bank bailout?

This isn't going to turn out well when citizen is turned on citizen. Worker on worker. Unemployed on unemployed. And pensioner on pensioner. Everyone is going to need help in the future. Everyone deserves help in the future. But 30 years of Ann Randism has destroyed the concept of helping your neighbour. Is it going to be a dog eat dog future? Peacenik hopes not.

Update: Peacenik just got back from the pension protest at Queen's Park. It was huge. Multi-generational. Not just the CAW. The police directed traffic and were jovial.
The portable toilets were overwhelmed.

There is nothing like standing in solidarity with your fellow men and women. Was the protest a success? Peacenik thinks this is just the beginning of protests.

It was a good beginning.

Healthy addictions

by Jason Bradford

I want to discuss the notion of “healthy addictions.” Really, this is an important topic. Our brain likes 'happy' chemicals and we tend to find ways to effect their release. Trouble is, we become quickly habituated to stimulation and then seek novelty in order to get that same old feeling. Our modern society gives us so many opportunities to be rewarded, but many people can’t handle it. They gradually become addicted to unhealthy things.

Topics I'll explore are: Distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy addictions. Examples of each kind. And my birthday wishes.


Nate Hagens has written about the psychology, sociology and neurology behind addictive behavior, including consumerism, which is basically the process of turning high value natural capital into mostly disposable products with low or often negative marginal utility.

Read on...

Peacenik thinks this is a very important topic. As the economy continues to collapse and society changes, health issues will rise to the fore. Peacenik is always trying to control Peacenik's consumer addiction. Peacenik is always tring to control Peacenik's addiction to unhealthy foods....like meat and potato chips and smart popcorn. In the near future there won't be any consumer items,and there may not be much food, so Peacenik's task will be simpler.

As for healthy addictions. Peacenik is addicted to walking. Peacenik is addicted to looking out windows. Peacenik recommends both. How about you?


Scott Horton Interviews Michael Hastings


Michael Hastings, author of the article “Obama’s War” in GQ Magazine, discusses the skepticism among some high-ranking military officers about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, the inevitability of diplomatic negotiations with the Taliban, the permeation of Afghan society by the drug trade and the frightening talk about a 25 year U.S. committment to Afghanistan and the broader region.

MP3 here. (28:16)

Michael Hastings is the author of I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story.

punditman says...

Will US internal economic collapse determine the future of the Afghan mission? Will the US emulate the Soviet experience? As Mark Twain once said, "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme." Punditman concurs: it will be the same but different.

5 Reasons House Prices May Never Recover

John Carney

House prices will eventually stop falling, probably in about two years. But will they ever recover to the levels we saw during the heights of boom? In some areas, prices might climb that high again. But for most markets, such a recovery will probably never happen, and would take decades it were to occur.

In an essay published today, Charles Hugh Smith explains that the bubble vaulations are probably never coming back.

1. Once the bubble in an asset class pops, it never reflates. "It is simply a truism that bubbles never reflate, ever. Tulip bulb valuations did not rise to stratospheric heights after the Tulip Craze popped, and the Nasdaq dot-com bubble did not reinflate, either, for the very good reason that bubbles are never based on rational valuations--they are based on the psychological state of mania which cannot be reinstated once lost," Smith writes.

Read on...

Peacenik thought Stephen Harper said the Canadian banking system was strong...an example for the world. Why then did the Bank of Canada lower interest rates to .25% and promise to keep them there for a year? Peacenik thinks someone is desperately trying to re-inflate the housing bubble. Charles Hugh Smith says it is not going to happen. The Japanese tried zero or negative interest rates for 10 years...their lost decade...and it didn't help.

The financial crisis cannot be solved by low interest rates. It cannot be solved by any of the programs Obama and others are trying, because it cannot be solved. It must play out. It will play out. Depression. Deflation. Collapse. The Black Hole wins. But at least Peacenik is leading his playoff hockey pool.


Rep. Harman lobbied NYT to spike wiretapping story at Bush's behest

by kos

Rep. Harman lobbied NYT to spike wiretapping story at Bush's behest

Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 10:28:10 AM PDT

NY Times spokesperson:

Congresswoman Harman spoke to Washington Bureau Chief Phil Taubman in late October or early November, 2004, apparently at the request of General Hayden. She urged that The Times not publish the story. She did not speak to me, and I don’t remember her being a significant factor in my decision. In 2005, when we were getting ready to publish, Phil met with a group of congressional leaders familiar with the eavesdropping program, including Ms. Harman. They all argued that The Times should not publish. The Times published the story a few days later.


So Dem Rep Harman appears to have worked behind the scenes to dissuade publication of a blockbuster expose about Bush that could have put her own party’s nominee in the White House and changed the history of the last four years. And, according to Keller, she apparently did this at the request of Michael Hayden, Bush’s National Security Agency chief.

Read on...

Remember how Bush was only spying on phone calls originating in the mountains of Afghanistan. Except that he was spying on everyone. Illegally. But the media and pundits trusted Bush. They still trust him. They still defend him. Looks like in the example above members of Congress were being spied on. The example kind of looks like there was blackmail. Peacenik doesn't wonder why the public discourse is so broken. It is corrupt beyond belief. Societal collapse isn't something that is in the future. Societal collapse already happened.

Magic Bank Profits

“Although perfectly legal, this move is also perfectly delusional, because some day soon these assets will be written down to their fair value, and it won’t be pretty.”

-Steven Roth, professor of management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, on Bank of America’s earnings fraud

We been discussing how many of the recent profits were not “real” — i.e., based on one time sleights of hands — losing a losing month, AIG flow throughs, bailout monies, etc.

Thus, it is gratifying to see on the front page of the NYT Business section, Andrew Ross Sorkin’s article with the provocative but accurate title, Bank Profits Appear Out of Thin Air.

Read on...

Lately Peacenik hasn't mentioned the "black hole" that has been sucking the world's delusional wealth away. Obama's and CNBC's PR campaign had a lot of people thinking the worst was over. The DOW had it's best rally since 1938. But. But the black hole has not gone away. The PR is failing. Yesterday the DOW lost almost 300 points. The public is no longer believing in the banks' mysterious profits. Today the Globe reports that banks are bracing for huge credit card losses. Today we learn again that pension plans are woefully underfunded. States, provinces, countries, cities, towns, companies, and people are all broke. Can a world-wide run on banks happen in 2009? Do you have enough cash to last a couple of weeks? Peacenik's black hole sensor is tingling.


The Next Forgotten War

By Ryan McCarl

Human beings have strong emotional immune systems, and human societies have a remarkable capacity for collective forgetfulness. Milan Kundera, writing of the effect of the news cycle on historical memory, once said: "The bloody massacre in Bangladesh quickly covered the memory of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the war in the Sinai desert made people forget Allende, the Cambodian massacre made people forget Sinai, and so on and so forth until ultimately everyone lets everything be forgotten."

Likewise, the histories of our time might say: there was an American invasion and occupation of Iraq, a war that amounts to a crime, but it was quickly followed by other wars, a financial crisis, and an economic depression – and we found that we had enough problems on our plate without worrying too much about the past.

Americans are leaving the Iraq War behind; it is seen as an embarrassing episode, best unmentioned in polite company. The Obama administration is stacked with liberal hawks who supported the Iraq War, and figures from the former Bush administration are signing book deals and making the rounds of press conferences and interviews, propagating meae culpae of the "mistakes were made" sort. A war of choice is being quietly transformed into an unfortunate but ultimately unavoidable mistake, one caused not by politicians and public intellectuals cocooned in their hubris and their reckless ideologies, but by an "intelligence failure."

Keep Reading...

punditman says...
Punditman realizes that there are those out there who have bought the media nonsense that the "surge" in Iraq has been a "success," and because that same media now conveniently turns its gaze elsewhere, then the war itself must be a "success." But it isn't. The tragedy that is Iraq will continue to play out one way or another whether or not the world pays attention. And if all its victims on all sides are forgotten, then repeating unjust wars will happen over and over. This article challenges peaceniks everywhere to show that the Iraq war would have been a mistake even if it were a "success."

Barack Obama: Crime Boss

by Stephen Lendman / April 18th, 2009

Since taking office, Obama, wittingly or otherwise, has headed the largest criminal enterprise in history — the mass looting of national wealth to enrich his Wall Street benefactors. He assembled a rogue economic team of Clinton/Robert Rubin retreads — to fix the current crisis they engineered.

In a March 13 article, (author and former Republican strategist) Kevin Phillips called them “recycled senior (Clinton administration) Democrats (responsible for the) tech mania, deregulation binge and (1997-2000) stock market bubble and crash. (Obama) extend(ed) the (disastrous) mismanagement and pro-Wall Street bias of the 2008 Bush regime bailout.”

He called Geithner and Bernanke “hapless,” the result of their ruinous misjudgments (and, along with Alan Greenspan, complicit) with finance-sector malfeasance.”

Read on...

Peacenik is a fan of Obama. Or Peacenik was a fan of Obama. Peacenik is all mixed up. Peacenik thinks Obama is screwing up the finanacial rescue for the benefit of the crooks on Wall St. But maybe Obama knows something Peacenik doesn't know. Obama does a few things that seem reasonable...overtures to Iran and Cuba; then Obama does outrageous things....financial bailout for the banks....screwing the autoworkers union....and turning a blind eye to torture. Peacenik thinks there should be a special prosecutors for torture and Wall St. Can you be president and not be a crime boss? Maybe not.


It's Official: Obama Will Not Prosecute CIA Torturers

Obama strikes a deal with CIA torturers not to prosecute them. This is a victory for Bush’s lawyers who justified torture.

by Jeremy Scahill

The White House has announced that CIA operatives, including contractors, who followed Bush guidelines for torturing prisoners will not be prosecuted for these actions, regardless of the Obama administration’s position on the legality of the techniques they used. “[I]t is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution,” President Obama said in a statement released today. This seems to be part of a deal struck with the CIA over the release of several torture memos today and it is a victory for Bush administration lawyers who sought to provide legal cover for US government torture.

The Washington Post also reported:

For the first time, officials said that they would provide legal representation at no cost to CIA employees in international tribunals or U.S. congressional inquiries into alleged torture. They also said they would indemnify agency workers against any possible financial judgments.

“It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

Read on...

Peacenik thinks this is a very downer story for a beautiful Friday morning. No accountability. No Justice. Peacenik thinks the reason there will be no torture prosecutions is that Obama is afraid of the whacko wingnut backlash. Fox News. CNBC. And all the rightwing pundits who continue to pollute and shape the U.S. media.

If there is no prosecution, the U.S. is only one terrorist act or one election away from returning to full scale torture. And Peacenik isn't kidding Peacenik's self. The torture continues. And before Peacenik gets too worked up remember that Canada is completely complicit in the torture. Canada hands over detainees who are tortured. We are all torturers. Think about that while you quaff your beer and watch the hockey playoffs.

Peacenik needs to calm Peacenik's self. Peacenik needs to go back to reading about solar ovens.


Grateful Dead - Morning Dew

To mark the ever present danger posed by nuclear proliferators, space weapon/missile shield pipe dreamers and war makers everywhere, punditman says:

Where have all the people gone my honey,
Where have all the people gone today?

Report: US Air Strikes in Iraq Kill Mostly Women, Children

39 Percent of Those Killed Were Children


In a report to be published in tomorrow’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers have concluded that air strikes by US-led coalition forces have killed mostly women and children. 39 percent were children, while 46 percent were women.

Interestingly enough, though the high-tech weaponry used by the invading forces killed a disproportionately large number of (presumably mostly non-combatant) women and children, it showed that among victims of suicide bombings only 12 percent were children.

The researchers used a database of 60,481 civilians violently killed during the first five years of the war, which was compiled by Iraq Body Count. They say that the shocking number of women and children killed are a function of using air strikes in urban combat settings, and the report may have policy implications elsewhere, where US air strikes seem to be killing large numbers of innocent civilians as well.

punditman says...

A reminder of what modern warfare is all about. How can it not be considered a crime when a powerful state undertakes military aggression with full knowledge that the death, maiming and terrorizing of innocent people will result? Hey, punditman is no international law scholar, but it stands to reason that it no longer becomes an accident when such foreknowledge is involved. Instead, we get doublespeak about "collateral damage" and wingnuts throughout media and government defending the perpetrators. It's an unjust world...

The Coming Siege of Austerity

by Jim Kunstler

It's a curious symptom of the consensus trance zombifying the American public and its auditors in the media that something like a "recovery" is now deemed to be underway. And, as events compel me to repeat in this space, it begs the question: recovery to what? To Wall Street booking stupendous profits by laundering "risk" out of bad loans with new issues of tranche-o-matic securitized paper? This I doubt, since there isn't a pension fund left from San Jose to Bratislava that would touch this stuff with a stick, even if it could be turned out in collector's editions of boxed sets. Does it mean that American "consumers" (so-called) are awaited momentarily in the flat-screen TV sales parlors with their credit cards fanned-out like poker hands, ready for "action?" Not too likely with massive non-performance out in cardholder-land, and half the nation's electronics inventory wending its way onto Craig's List. Are we expecting more asteroid belts of new suburbs carved in the loamy outlands of Dallas and Minneapolis, complete with new highway strips of Big Box shopping and Chuck E. Cheeses? Go to banking's intensive care unit and inquire (if you can) among the flat-lining production home-builders and the real estate investment trusts on life support when they expect to rev up the heavy equipment.

Read on...

Yesterday Peacenik read that the Stratford Festival was putting 30 performance dates on hold. This morning, former Mike Harris acolyte and now Canada's Industry Minister, Tony Clement, is warning the CAW to make more concessions. Also this morning, General Growth Properties, the largest mall owner in the U.S., declared bankruptcy. Conquest Vacations went out of business yesterday. Intrawest is being forced to sell Mont Tremblant. Housing starts in the U.S. are near a record low. The Habs are for sale. A closer examination of Goldman Sachs stated first quarter profit shows that maybe the profit was just some accounting trickery.

Peacenik doesn't think things are getting better. Jim Kunstler doesn't think things are getting better. Do you?


The Politics of Faux Outrage

by Steven D

Wed Apr 15th, 2009 at 10:08:52 AM EST

Governor Perry of Texas grandstands for the media by asserting "states rights" in his call for an end to the oppression of the Federal Government. Glenn Beck calls for secession and/or revolution (depending on the day, or even the time of day). Thousands of dimmer bulbs on the internet grid of conservative crazy town call for a violent rejection of the very government which they so assiduously defended when Republicans held the reins of power. It seems that these people would prefer to see our economy collapse and mass chaos in the streets rather than watch our democratically elected officials in power, elected by a clear majority of Americans last Fall, implement the very policies they promised to implement in the campaigns they ran to win those elections.

Did the Democrats in Congress and President Obama win an overwhelming electoral victory last November by cheating? Through "voter fraud?" There is no evidence of it. Did they act other than as they said they would if elected? Yes, but only in the sense that they have been more cautious and conservative than their campaign promises led us to believe they would be. Have they done anything to "oppress" (as that term is commonly employed) the vast majority of Americans other than call for limits on the pay of those individuals in the financial industry whose actions drove our economy off a cliff over the last two years? Yet, suddenly, our government, now that it is controlled by a different party, a party legitimately elected under the Constitution, is the cause of all our troubles?

Read on...

This article is quite the laundry list of Republican malfeasance. Peacenik remembers well that there wasn't a lot of protest in the last 8 years. Peacenik remembers that the Democratic party was actively supporting much of this agenda. Peacenik remembers when everyone said, "Just wait till the Democrats have the power of subpeona." Peacenik remembers how the Democrats didn't even, and still don't, have the committment to enforce those subpeonas.

Yes, the Democrats rolled over while in opposition. The Republicans not so much. This article is a little too dismissive about the future of the Republican Party. In the midst of financial and societal collapse, Peacenik is concerned about a fascist populist getting elected. The Democratic Party needs to stop laughing at the Republicans, and it needs to start acting on a progressive agenda. It needs to start enforcing the rule of law. It needs to prosecute the war criminals. Instead, it continues to pander to the wingnuts and cower to the mainstream media. It won't turn out well.

Tale Of Two Hitlers

by digby

Robert Parry observes an important Beltway phenomenon:

Watching Glenn Beck of Fox News rant about “progressive fascism” – and muse about armed insurrection – or listening to mainstream pundits prattle on about Barack Obama as the “most polarizing President ever,” it is hard to escape the conclusion that today’s U.S. news media represents a danger to the Republic.

By and large, the Washington press corps continues to function within a paradigm set in the 1980s, mostly bending to the American Right, especially to its perceived power to destroy mainstream journalistic careers and to grease the way toward lucrative jobs for those who play ball.

Read on...

The mainstream media (MSM) really is dangerous. This example from Digby is just one of many. The MSM protected Bush. The MSM protected the financial industry. The MSM cheered for war and continues to. Peacenik really wonders, if, in the present media environment, there are any chances of progressive outcomes. Peacenik could document many media outrages, but Peacenik is too busy making Peacenik's pool picks for the NHL playoffs. Peacenik is loading up on Habs. Peacenik senses a big upset.


"Bush Six" Are Being Indicted Today

by Jesselyn Radack

Tue Apr 14, 2009 at 06:53:56 AM PDT

Finally. Spanish prosecutors have decided to go ahead with a criminal investigation of former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Federal Appeals Court Judge and former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, University of California law professor and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, former Defense Department general counsel and current Chevron lawyer William J. Haynes II, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff David Addington, and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith.

Thank you to the latest foreign justice system courageous enough to stand up for the rule of law, while the U.S. wrings its hands over whether to investigate, much less prosecute, war crimes.

Read on...

Peacenik thinks this could get interesting and entertaining. Of course North American media won't bother to cover it.....much.

Cold War Déjà-Vu

by Mike Gravel

In his speech in Prague, President Obama's rhetoric was essentially no different than that of George Bush. He promised, because of our "moral responsibility," to rid the world of nuclear weapons. He then averred that the US would not lower its defenses while others are pursuing a nuclear threat.

He's right about his last promise. Under his budget the US will continue to spend on defense (and a nuclear capability) more than all the rest of the world put together, "While others are pursuing a nuclear threat" an obvious reference to Iran, which our intelligence community reports is not pursuing a nuclear weapon. Obama who knows this intelligence information said to a cheering crowd: "As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven." So much for his recent peaceful overtures to the people of Iran whose defense budget is less than 1% of ours.

"Cost-effective!!!" The missile shield is the biggest boondoggle in military history with constant cost overruns. "Proven!!!" All tests have failed save one where the target's location was programmed into the interceptor guidance system. The President's false exaggerations are statements right out of a lobbyist's briefing paper. The missile shield in Alaska was deployed before the system was ever proven to work at a cost of $100 billion. The shield for Poland and Czech will cost more than $100 billion. The great majority of knowledgeable scientists, not on the payroll of the benefiting defense contractors, state that the system will not work and that a threat does not exist.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...
Ah yes, missile defence. Punditman is having an early 80s flashback.

The idea of a missile "shield" has always been misleading, dating back to Reagan's SDI. According to assistant professor Tom Sauer at the University of Antwerp in Belgium and professor Dave Webb of Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom, "it is a solution that technically does not work being applied to a problem that does not actually exist...The systems cannot effectively target incoming missiles without assistance from homing devices."

As the above piece by Mike Gavel points out, missile "defence" is not so much a defense against incoming enemy missiles as it is an "offense" in that it seeks to knock out enemy communications leaving them blind and vulnerable to a first strike. Moreover, missile defence is not a stabilizing influence; it is destabilizing, because when one country develops any weapons systems, whether deemed "offensive" or "defensive," it inevitably spawns more weapons systems from other countries. Nor is missile defence cheap; it will only lead to a new expensive arms race in space that the world can ill afford, while lining the pockets of Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and the rest of the military industrial complex.

So once again, most of what you hear is propaganda, meant to benefit the few while endangering and impoverishing the many.

US Must Stop Mixed Signals on Iran

By Roane Carey

April 13, 2009

Israel has been steadily ratcheting up pressure on the United States concerning the grave threat allegedly posed by Iran, which seems poised to master the nuclear fuel cycle, and thus the capacity to produce nuclear weapons. The new Israeli prime minister, Likud Party hawk Benjamin Netanyahu, has warned President Barack Obama that if Washington does not quickly find a way to shut down Iran's nuclear program, Israel will.

Some analysts argue that this is manufactured hysteria, not so much a reflection of genuine Israeli fears as a purposeful diversion from other looming difficulties. The Netanyahu government is filled with hardliners adamantly opposed to withdrawal from, or even a temporary freeze on, settlements in the occupied territories, not to mention to any acceptance of Palestinian statehood. On his first day as foreign minister, extremist demagogue Avigdor Lieberman, with characteristic bluster, announced that Israel was no longer bound by the 2007 Annapolis agreements brokered by Washington, which called for accelerated negotiations toward a two-state settlement.

Read on...

Peacenik has to confess that alarmist stories about the impending Israeli attack on Iran are failing to alarm Peacenik. Peacenik believed all the Seymour Hersch fueled alarming stories. Peacenik went to the supermarket on the basis of some of the alarming stories. Peacenik is concerned about the constant threats from Israel. But ultimately Peacenik thinks most world actors are rational. Peacenik thinks any attack on Iran would lead to Armageddon. So Peacenik discounts the threats. Is Peacenik naive? Is Netanyahu insane? Maybe.


Pathways to community collapse: can we intervene?

by Kathy McMahon


As communities are facing high unemployment, economic hardship and deteriorating infrastructure, they will be left even more vulnerable when fossil fuel once again rises in price. In the early stages of distress, appeals to the “common good” or “cooperative engagement” may be met warmly and enthusiastically by townspeople.

However, there are predictable changes as hardship, deprivation and even violence escalates, which impacts on this spirit of altruism. One size does not fit all when working within a community setting. It is a skill to recognize the level of community functioning, or at what stage of collapse the system is functioning, and to work within these circumstances skillfully. Is an important skill for concerned citizens and community activists alike.

In this first of a multi-part series, I will outline the ways in which researchers have dissected the elements of community deterioration, and outlined the ways in which this cooperative effort between external forces, leadership, and individuals, contributes to its escalating violence trajectory. In later writings, I’ll look at the way researchers have actually worked with communities experiencing high levels of violence and social deterioration, both in the US and in other countries.

Read on...

Peacenik survived another weekend battling the elements and isolation. There was a severe wind chill up north, but it was sunny which allowed Peacenik the opportunity to test Peacenik's beer case solar oven. Peacenik lined the inside of an empty beer case with Reynolds tin foil....shiny side out. Peacenik could adjust the flaps of the beer case to maximize and focus the reflected sun on Peacenik's hotdog. The experiment was successful, the hotdog was cooking, but some cloud moved in and Peacenik got hungry and ate the cold hotdog. Peacenik is encouraged for the future. When Peacenik got home Peacenik tried to assess Guelph's place on the community collapse scale that the above post is about. This is an ongoing project .....the community collapse scale.


Resist or Become Serfs

by Chris Hedges

America is devolving into a third-world nation. And if we do not immediately halt our elite's rapacious looting of the public treasury we will be left with trillions in debts, which can never be repaid, and widespread human misery which we will be helpless to ameliorate. Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty. This is the inevitable result of unchecked corporate capitalism. The stimulus and bailout plans are not about saving us. They are about saving them. We can resist, which means street protests, disruptions of the system and demonstrations, or become serfs.

We have been in a steady economic decline for decades. The Canadian political philosopher John Ralston Saul detailed this decline in his 1992 book "Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West." David Cay Johnston exposed the mirage and rot of American capitalism in "Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill)," and David C. Korten, in "When Corporations Rule the World" and "Agenda for a New Economy," laid out corporate malfeasance and abuse. But our universities and mass media, entranced by power and naively believing that global capitalism was an unstoppable force of nature, rarely asked the right questions or gave a prominent voice to those who did. Our elites hid their incompetence and loss of control behind an arrogant facade of specialized jargon and obscure economic theories.

The lies employed to camouflage the economic decline are legion. President Ronald Reagan included 1.5 million U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine service personnel with the civilian work force to magically reduce the nation's unemployment rate by 2 percent. President Bill Clinton decided that those who had given up looking for work, or those who wanted full-time jobs but could only find part-time employment, were no longer to be counted as unemployed. This trick disappeared some 5 million unemployed from the official unemployment rolls. If you work more than 21 hours a week-most low-wage workers at places like Wal-Mart average 28 hours a week-you are counted as employed, although your real wages put you below the poverty line. Our actual unemployment rate, when you include those who have stopped looking for work and those who can only find part-time jobs, is not 8.5 percent but 15 percent. A sixth of the country is now effectively unemployed. And we are shedding jobs at a faster rate than in the months after the 1929 crash.

Keep Reading...

punditman says...The article posits that if the Obama administration doesn't change course--and fast--America is headed towards becoming Weimar Germany. And we all know what followed. So will we see skyrocketing inflation followed by some sort of crypto fascism? Things are not getting better, and that is why Peacenik is practicing his survival skills for two weekends in a row. And that is why Punditman is worried. Is this what America's near future will look like? Scary stuff--and not just for America.

Household Dry Food Cooking

Posted by Glenn on April 8, 2009 - 7:00pm

This is a guest essay by Craig Bergland. (A companion supplement to Household Dry Food Storage by J. Bradford)

As a frequent reader and infrequent poster to this wonderful site, I find that the Campfire series is one that I'm comfortable posting to. The recent Household Dry Food Storage article by Jason Bradford has prompted me to participate, as I do have some hands-on experience in building and using cute little solar toys, and other semi-practical devices.

A nice prime rib with horseradish is a wonderful thing as long as we can get it, but we know that it is more efficient to eat grains than beef. The EROEI on non-meat foods is far higher than farther up the foodchain. We also know they are healthier and clog our arteries less. Seeds can be stored long term with minimal preps. They can be ground and baked into flours (some say longer shelf-life when whole and living -- tho' old time bakers suggest aged flour is better). They can be soaked or cracked or flaked and cooked. They can be sprouted for greater bulk and superior nutritional content -- as sprouting changes the chemical composition and increases vitamins and mass. Some can be malted to make simple sugars for consumption, and for brewing beer and alcohol. A seed diet frees up resources for more food for more (hungry) people. 30 pounds of seeds carried into the boonies is going to last me a lot longer than 30 pounds of meat. And, importantly, they can be planted in your garden to replicate themselves. Indefinitely. Because of minimal prep requirements, and long storage, they are my preferred stash. Especially since they eliminate the need for freezers and other hi-energy appliances which may lack long-term sustainability. If you don't have the resources now for a solar powered freezer and batteries, etc., you can perhaps spend less current cash instead, and buy more food (seeds) for the buck. It all depends on how much money you have and how long you think we have before...it...happens. I'm unfortunately an Early Topper and think Mad Max is going to meet the Donner Party near-term, and for more reasons than just Peak Oil.

Read on...

Peacenik will be going back into the primitive wilderness tomorrow for the long weekend. Peacenik will again enjoy working on Peacenik's survival skills while living in an information vacuum. This post has lots of good information on solar cooking. Tomorrow Peacenik will cook a hotdog with nothing but solar energy and a crudely constructed solar oven made out of 50 feet of Reynolds tin foil. Peacenik will report back on Monday. Have a good holiday weekend.


Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Published: April 7 2009 20:02 | Last updated: April 7 2009 20:02

1. What is fragile should break early while it is still small. Nothing should ever become too big to fail. Evolution in economic life helps those with the maximum amount of hidden risks – and hence the most fragile – become the biggest.

2. No socialisation of losses and privatisation of gains. Whatever may need to be bailed out should be nationalised; whatever does not need a bail-out should be free, small and risk-bearing. We have managed to combine the worst of capitalism and socialism. In France in the 1980s, the socialists took over the banks. In the US in the 2000s, the banks took over the government. This is surreal.

3. People who were driving a school bus blindfolded (and crashed it) should never be given a new bus. The economics establishment (universities, regulators, central bankers, government officials, various organisations staffed with economists) lost its legitimacy with the failure of the system. It is irresponsible and foolish to put our trust in the ability of such experts to get us out of this mess. Instead, find the smart people whose hands are clean.

Read on...

Peacenik has mentioned Black Swan events before. Highly improbable events with huge impacts. Like the collapse of capitalism. Like the collapse of society. The world is now witnessing the consequences of the biggest black swan event in history. Historians will name it in the future. Is it possible to black swan-proof the world.? Probably not. Does it make sense to plan for a black swan event? Probably not. But read Taleb's list and start thinking about black swan events. Past, present and future. Here's chapter one of Taleb's book The Black Swan.


Turning away from the onslaught of angst

punditman says...
While Punditman's trusted sidekick and blogging companion, Peacenik, was feigning survivalist within the confines of his cottage and driving across literally hundreds of yards (<<< looky there!) of flooded roads with nothing but beer and love to fuel him, Punditman was growing more depressed by the nanosecond within the confines of his own mind.

As usual, Punditman blames this state of being on the Big Media monolith. Don't get me wrong. I think we should be informed. But we are saturated with mass media these days, and yet we're in more trouble on more levels than ever before. Maybe it is because the majority of today's mass media messaging can be classified as one of the following: negative, biased, insidious or trivial.

Negative media puts the emphasis on bad news, most of which we can do very little or nothing about. An accident here, a murder there, a disaster somewhere, a war over there. As a reminder of our helplessness, this onslaught of angst arrives via TVs tuned to what I call the "bad news channels." Ticker tape tales tell of dire economic conditions, unwinnable wars, fresh international sabre-rattling, random acts of insane violence by mainly males who suddenly explode in fits of rage at age 41, 23, 59, 10...terrible mishaps by stressed out cell-phone distracted, headset-enhanced cyborgs and that great cruel equalizer, the natural calamnity. These 24-hour plasma invaders now dot our public spaces, leaving precious little area of reprieve from the planet's daily carnage. It's one flashed headline of awfulness after another.

I honestly don't know if social psychologists have begun to study the long-term effects of all this mediated mayhem on our already frail psyches, but they should be. Twenty-four hour bad news stations now serve as the fallback channel in (gasp!) pubs (the wait staff never could figure out how to program the 7,000 channel all sports satellite service). So until some geek arrives, it's the bad news channel, no volume necessary. Ditto for the banks. Like everything else they do, banks never care to ask what we want. So there you have it: two places where we don't need to catch any more negative news. Thank you very much, Mr. Banker and Mr. Publican.

Biased media is self-explanatory. It comes in the form of most everything you see or hear on the corporate media networks, from the way the economic crisis is being reported and covered up to the narrow range of allowable foreign policy debate. Switch channel in disgust. Hey, it's another another commercial for more Big Pharma dope with possible side affects worse than the original ailment. This place is nuts.

Then there is insidious media, my very own pet peeve. Insidious media, for purposes here, are those violent video games that desensitize our children. I notice they are now advertised on prime time TV. Adults can now get a little glimpse of what their sons are doing for 10 hours a day up in their bedrooms.

When Punditman was a kid watching Hockey Night in Canada, he may have seen a Tiger in your tank Esso commercial or the old "I'd like to teach the world to sing" coke commercial. Yes it was corporate propaganda as all advertising is, but compare that to today's kids who are subjected to ads for the Grand Theft Auto video game, which apparently has a few critics. Rightfully so. Could violent video games end up causing more damage to society in the long run than a thousand jihadists? No wonder our boys are adrift.

Trivial media includes celebrity gossip and anything else that has no bearing on your life but is nevertheless pushed at you 24-7 as if it really mattered. It really doesn't matter that the Leafs missed the playoffs yet again (does it?). Okay, maybe.

Quality media on the other hand, engages us because it involves actual thinkingthe awake, critical, creative, insightful, inspiring and uplifting kind of cognition. But it it is harder to find because you have to first sift through all the clutter being shoved in your face. But it is there. In books; in parts of newspapers; in online or offline documentaries. Peacenik has found one such web gem, by Carolyn Baker, here. It happens to sum up much of the minutiae that has been floating around Punditman's brain these last few days.

The article deals with the "...daily now, almost hourly-rampant eruptions of violence throughout the so-called developed world" and sees it as the inevitable outcome of a collapsing empire. Punditman notes that wackjobs appear even during the so-called good economic times of "empire." Ms. Baker claims that it is the psychology of empire itself that leads to these episodic psychoses of mass violence, "a culture in which one's reason for being lies entirely outside of oneself." You work, you consume, you pay taxes. You feed the growth machine. If things go awry, it's all your fault. Actually, for many peoplean inner life that allows for a modicum of reflection or perspective is simply unattainable. What's more, the isolation of modern life means that millions lack a viable social support network. Thus for some, when their organism is distressed, the default position is madness. How many more human cluster bombs must go off before we realize that something in the social fabric, in the way we organize ourselves, in the way information is mediated, is very deeply flawed?

Two years ago, Punditman had this to say about another American massacre:
Is there any correlation between the horrific events at Virginia Tech and the daily carnage unfolding in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world? There may be no direct link, but it has been shown that domestic violence does increase when nations go to war, as outlined by the landmark study, Violence and Crime in Cross-National Perspective, published in 1984 by Yale University Press. The hypothesis posits that when countries do violence to other human beings, this incites their citizens to perpetrate more violence than they would normally commit. So the phenomenon extends well beyond the returning war vet who becomes a ticking time bomb (although this is a huge problem as well).
In Collapse psychosis: navigating the madness, Ms. Baker uses civilization synonymously with empire. I quibble, slightly: what I call civilization is synonymous with society. And society always seems to muddle on through, decade to decade--almost like there is a kind of collective brain at work (Margaret Thatcher be damned!).

The good news is that after we emerged from the primordial slime, we evolved into our current apish frames and began to form civilizations around 11,000 years ago, after the last glacial epoch. No easy task! What's more, since 1970 humans have created and stored more information than in the previous 5,000 years. Granted, a lot of it is negative, biased, insidious and trivial. But at least we're a persistent bunch. With any luck, we could get through this current phase of stupidity without slipping totally into the abyss.

Enough niggling. If you are wondering how to make sense of all the mayhem, Ms. Baker's piece is highly recommended. Read it. Then go for a walk outside.

Obama Goes Ahead With Missile Defense Shield Despite Disarmament Pledge

The United States would continue to develop a missile defence shield until Iran abandoned its nuclear ambitions, President Barack Obama said in the Czech Republic.

by Toby Harnden and Bruno Waterfield

"As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defence system that is cost-effective and proven," he told a crowd of about 20,000 gathered in Hradcany Square, next to Prague Castle.

"Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran's neighbours and our allies."

Read on...

Peacenik read this story. And re-read it. And re-read it. Peacenik can only shake Peacenik's head and wonder what in the bejezzus Obama is thinking. Obama wants to go ahead with a completely discredited, wildly expensive, missle shield that will not work. Obama talks about Iran like it is the old Soviet Union. The U.S. no longer can afford a pot to piss in yet it continues to spend like crazy on the military. Empires collapse. Empires deserve to collapse.

A Soldier’s Soul Screams ‘Get Out’

posted by Katrina vanden Heuvel on 04/06/2009 @ 12:14pm

Last week, the Congressional Progressive Caucus held its second of six scheduled forums on Afghanistan. It was the first non-classified public forum on Capitol Hill to address the Obama Administration's newly released Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson (Ret.) -- a Vietnam Veteran and former chief of staff for Secretary Colin Powell -- offered some powerful words of caution.

"My soldier's soul screams at me to get out," Wilkerson said. "Part of that is some 38,000 names on a Wall that I do not fail to visit twice a year every year for the last 25 years….Counterinsurgency is not a very optimal experience. It rarely is won, it rarely results in what we might call a viable civility, prosperity and dignity. Look at Iraq right now… We never solved the problems in the Gulf."

Read on...

Colonel Wilkerson was a fairly constant critic of the Bush foreign policy. Unfortunately he still has a role, as a critic of Obama's foreign policy. Everyone assumes Wilkerson is speaking for Colin Powell. It would be nice if the discredited Powell would come out on his own and denounce the Iraq and Afghanistan mistakes. Neither follows the Powell doctrine. Peacenik agrees with Wilkerson. It is time for Canada to get out of Afghanistan. Bring the troops home now.