Out of Work

Punditman says...

I am closing this blog for now. I lost my "real" job yesterday. With a tinge of unintended irony, the hammer came down on my head eighty years to the day after the crash of 1929. That is to say, my main client for whom I have worked for four and a half years suddenly laid off a whole bunch of folk: consultants, editors and the like. Thus I have no spare time to dedicate to this blog, as finding work takes precedence.

If you know of anything that you think may suit, (even if you don't know me), please use the comments section or email me here: wayne@editme.ca

I am open to all ideas, locally, or in a telecommuting sense.


(Peacenik, who still has a real job, may in future, be found somewhere in the blogosphere, espousing his witty, intelligent, doom-filled musings. We will keep you posted as to his landing spot, should this occur.)


When the Tough Should Get Going

punditman says...

A little levity for these panic-ridden times is just what Dr. Punditman has ordered for you today.

You may know Garrison Keelor as the American author, storyteller, humorist, columnist, musician, satirist, radio personality and the host of the Minnesota Public Radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion," who also wrote the screenplay and appeared in the '06 movie of the same name. Or you may not.

Here, he makes a series of witty points about about stubbornness and futility we are seeing on the part of officialdom as the Afghan War continues to drag on...and on.

By Garrison Keillor

The former Marine officer Matthew Hoh, who resigned his Foreign Service post in Afghanistan because he feels the war is pointless and not worth dying for, deserves all the attention he’s gotten and more. The Obama administration faces hard decisions there, and the man made a good case against deeper American involvement. He says that our presence among the Pashtun people, the rural, religious people, is only aggravating a civil war between them and the urban, secular (and, it seems, fraudulent) government of Kabul, and the role of the Taliban and al-Qaeda is not central – the real issues are tribal and cultural.

American families, he said, "must be reassured their dead have sacrificed for a purpose worthy of futures lost, love vanished, and promised dreams unkept. I have lost confidence such assurances can be made any more."

It is rare that a high-level official – he was the senior State Department guy in Zabul province – resigns in protest, and in all the to-do about his four-page resignation letter [.pdf], nobody had a single bad thing to say about Matthew Hoh.

The American people tend not to admire quitters, which is maybe why protest resignations are so rare. You can get up on your high horse and talk about your principles, but we suspect that you’re just another slacker looking for an easy way out. Your old football coach told you that when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and by "get going" he didn’t mean "write a four-page letter about your disillusionment with his coaching and the split-T offense in general" – he meant, Toughen Up, Assume the Three-Point Stance, Hit ‘Em Hard, Eat Some Turf, Get Up and Hit ‘Em Again.

Keep Reading...

Pandemic puts

Peacenik has been concentrated on the health effect of the swine flu pandemic, whether or not the funeral industry is able to handle a surge in flu related fatalities (it can't), whether or not there will be mass burials (there will be), etc. Peacenik hasn't been thinking about the economic, financial impact. But Garth Turner has.

By Garth Turner


Lining up for flu shots

On a highway not too far from the bunker is a yard where a local bus company keeps its rigs. These guys make their money in the charter business. You know, hauling old ladies to the casino, providing transportation for conventions, trucking tourists from the airport to Niagara Falls.

In the yard are tie-ups for about 30 buses.

One summer day in 2003 I was driving by, and noticed that every slot has a bus sitting idle. Then I heard that most drivers had been laid off. If bus rentals were a measure of economic activity, we were in trouble.

Read on...


Flus and Vaccines: Playing the Numbers Game

Punditman says...

Punditman did not want to have to wade into this morass once again, but he couldn't resist offering another perspective. While Peacenik prepares to line up for his two flu shots, Punditman is noticing that important people on the news are saying that this whole swine flu vaccine decision is all about numbers. So here are some numbers to consider as you make the big decision for yourself and your loved ones.

Punditman does not know what it was about the 1976 swine flu vaccine that caused all those health problems including Guillain–Barré syndrome for many and killed others in 1976. Neither, apparently do the experts. Some say it was bacteria that caused problems, while others suspect the cocktail itself. Why does punditman get the feeling that this was never studied thoroughly enough? Given the fact that the US government ended up paying millions in compensation to those they injured, you would think there would be hundreds of studies to find out exactly what went wrong, so it won't happen again. Maybe there are. Please locate them if you can.

This is where all our biases come in. Obviously punditman's own bias says there is not a lot of incentive (i.e. money) to be made looking at why certain products don't work, especially after the fact. That includes pharma products. Surfing around internet forums, Punditman has found all kinds of anecdotal stories about health-related nightmares from people who received the 1976 vaccine. Punditman has no idea if all these people figure into the official numbers. But punditman thinks his bias makes sense: if you don't study something enough, obviously it is easy to conclude there's nothing behind claims that run contrary to accepted wisdom, especially when a helluva lot of money is to be made.

On another note, why are completely healthy people routinely urged to get the regular flu shot? It is well known that regular flu shots are a shot in the dark, and a not very good percentage shot at that. Could the profit motive play a role? Hmmm. Even if bad reactions to flu vaccines are rare, is that risk better than getting the seasonal flu? After all, the vast majority of healthy people survive just fine. Or, is it really that horrible for a healthy person to get the flu and have to stay home from work or school for short while? The case of this Washington Redskins cheerleader, is particularly tragic. In any case, would it not be better to concentrate on maintaining healthy life styles and strong immune systems? Oh, punditman forgot: no money there.

Contracting swine flu is obviously very scary and potentially tragic, as we are seeing. But the tragic cases remain relatively rare. So are vaccine-injured children, I'm told. Which makes me ask about another numbers game, perhaps the biggest guessing game of all: given the fact that symptoms range from mild to severe, how many of us have already had H1N1? Apparently untold...ummm...numbers. In fact, last August, it was already being reported that over a million Americans had already contracted H1N1. So how many tens of milions are there now? And how many deaths? After all, health officials are only testing those who become hospitalized; yet, as always during flu season, everywhere people are coughing, sniffling, feeling lethargic, achy and naseous, the very same symptoms as swine flu. But most recover from whatever it is that they have.

So what are your chances of contacting swine flu? And does it constitute the admitted (rare) risk associated with any vaccine (beyond a sore arm). So far there are 87 deaths in Canada and around one thousand in the United States. Now compare the numbers above to the projected numbers of deaths we were told were coming: 30,000 to 90,000 U.S. deaths from swine flu by mid-October, warned President Obama's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, back in August.

Now compare those numbers and those projected numbers to the 8,000 deaths in Canada annually from MRSA in hospitals. No one is talking about that at the moment. One could be forgiven if one thinks there are greater risks out there right now than swine flu, but one would be going against the herd mentality.

As one wag once said, "there are lies, damn lies and there are statistics." Good luck deciding whether or not you and/or your children get the jab. Punditman remains skeptical, but in truth, he doesn't have a clue.

Ask Punditman about Iran or something.

6 Signs That the American Empire Is Coming to an Early End

"The day of America's global pre-eminence is over" so says Michael Klare. Is that a bad thing? Is that a scary thing? Is that a good thing?

Did America use its decades of global pre-eminence to advance good causes? to advance world peace? to advance global justice? Peacenik doesn't think so. So Peacenik doesn't think the collapse of America's pre-eminence is a bad thing. But it could be scary.

Can America be irrelevant when America is sitting on enough military power to blast the world apart many times over. In hindsight the Soviet Union seems to have accepted it's fall from co-global pre-eminence. But will the United States. The U.S. military and political class is already full of wingnut, religious crackpots. How are they going to adapt to the new reality? Not to mention the simultaneous collapse of their economic might. Scary indeed.

by Michael Klare

The day of America's global pre-eminence is over. We must face the new global realities.

Memo to the CIA: You may not be prepared for time-travel, but welcome to 2025 anyway! Your rooms may be a little small, your ability to demand better accommodations may have gone out the window, and the amenities may not be to your taste, but get used to it. It's going to be your reality from now on.

Okay, now for the serious version of the above: In November 2008, the National Intelligence Council (NIC), an affiliate of the Central Intelligence Agency, issued the latest in a series of futuristic publications intended to guide the incoming Obama administration. Peering into its analytic crystal ball in a report entitled Global Trends 2025, it predicted that America's global preeminence would gradually disappear over the next 15 years -- in conjunction with the rise of new global powerhouses, especially China and India. The report examined many facets of the future strategic environment, but its most startling, and news-making, finding concerned the projected long-term erosion of American dominance and the emergence of new global competitors. "Although the United States is likely to remain the single most powerful actor [in 2025]," it stated definitively, the country's "relative strength -- even in the military realm -- will decline and U.S. leverage will become more constrained."

Read on...

The Atlantic article: sur rebuttal

Peacenik has read a cross section of articles. Pro vaccine and con vaccine. Vaccines are becoming publicly available in Guelph on Friday. There will be clinics running all day for weeks. The Canadian vaccine will have adjuvants. But Canada has ordered some vaccine without adjuvants for pregnant women. This fact has added to any apprehension Peacenik has about the vaccines.

Peacenik doesn't know if the Canadian vaccine will create side effects that a vaccine without adjuvants will have. Helen Branswell, a respected Canadian medical reporter, says that this year's Canadian vaccine will cause sorer arms than last year's due to the adjuvants. Peacenik is hoping to golf on Saturday. Peacenik doesn't want a sore arm. So Peacenik will delay getting vaccinated until the first available chance after Saturday. Peacenik will get the swine flu vaccine and the seasonal vaccine.

But Peacenik also has a question. Peacenik Jr. almost certainly had the swine flu. But no tests were taken to confirm it. Should Peacenik Jr. still get vaccinated? Should Punditman? Should Don Cherry? Should Taxi Guy?

Posted on: October 27, 2009 6:31 AM, by revere

On Saturday we posted our take on The Atlantic magazine article by Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer. It's a major story in the November issue, a banner across the top of the cover page reading: Swine flu: Does the vaccine really work? We tried to ignore it. People kept asking us to comment on it, but we didn't want to get entangled in vaccine controversies. As Orac warned me, it's a game of Whac-A-Mole. But we got fed up and posted our global response, not a point by point refutation, since that wasn't what the issue was. Our main point was that it was a straw man argument built around the narrative device of the brave, mavericky truth teller who is shunned by colleagues and has to eat alone at conferences. A scientific Enemy of the People. Not unexpectedly it drew a sharp response from the authors here and elsewhere. So like the worker who gets his sleeve caught in the machine, we are being drawn inexorably into the gears of the vaccine controversy. Sigh. We should have known better. But what's done is done, so we will add this to our initial immediate reply to the authors.

Brownlee/Lenzer title their response to us, "Faith-based science not methodolatry is the problem." This is apparently a reference to our use of the neologism methodolatry to describe what we see as Dr. Jefferson's overweaning fealty to the randomized trial as the only reliable knowledge. It was actually a rather minor point, but not to hear the authors tell it:

Read on...


Insurgents Share a Name, but Pursue Different Goals

punditman says...punditman is posting an article from the New York times. That's probably a first. The Times has been a bastion of neo-con warmongering for as long as this man of punditry can recall. Of course, as with all corporate media, there are always exceptions. There are informative articles. This is one such piece.

Even experts have trouble keeping up with how complex the situation really is in the AfPak theatre. No surprise then, that many people do not know the difference between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban, or the fact that there are real tensions between these two movements. Or, that the Afghan Taliban are a "genuine national movement," whatever we may think of them. Or that the Afghan Taliban say that their interests lie solely in Afghanistan. In fact, in a recent interview, an Afghan Taliban leader said that they “don’t have any interest in fighting against other countries.” “Our aim was, and is, to get the occupation forces out and not to get into a fight with a Muslim army,” the commander added. Many people don't realize that while the Afghan Taliban are supported by elements in Pakistan's intelligence services, it is the Pakistan Taliban who are attacking Pakistani forces and causing a lot of havoc and misery for Pakistan.

This is worse than Iraq. Western governments are deluded if they really believe they can somehow manage and control this region. When you read this, you should realize that idea has become a joke, really--something to keep in mind when you hear shallow platitudes about "staying the course" from idiotic politicians.

Punditman says that the United States and NATO face an impossible situation, which is what often happens when you invade and occupy other countries. You stir up a hornet's nest. It is one helluva mess over there.

Punditman is posting an article from the New York times.

Published: October 22, 2009

WASHINGTON — As it devises a new Afghanistan policy, the Obama administration confronts a complex geopolitical puzzle: two embattled governments, in Afghanistan and Pakistan; numerous militias aligned with overlapping Islamist factions; and hidden in the factions’ midst, the foe that brought the United States to the region eight years ago, Al Qaeda.

But at the core of the tangle are the two Taliban movements, Afghan and Pakistani. They share an ideology and a dominant Pashtun ethnicity, but they have such different histories, structures and goals that the common name may be more misleading than illuminating, some regional specialists say.

“The fact that they have the same name causes all kinds of confusion,” said Gilles Dorronsoro, a French scholar of South Asia currently at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

Read On...


Raising up dead horses

Joe Bageant isn't happy as he surveys the detritus of what was the American dream. This guy is a downer. And unfortunately Peacenik saw Peacenik's self in Joe's article "you got your common man living on hope, lottery tickets, or the dogs and ponies." Yes Peacenik buys lottery tickets. Peacenik feels modestly anxious that Peacenik hasn't bought a 649 ticket for Saturday night.

But Peacenik said it before, Peacenik would rather trust the future to lottery tickets than to Stephen Harper or the rest of our oleaginous leaders or the corrupt and crooked stock exchanges. The DOW and TSX are in the red and only 4 hours to go till the closing bell. Does it matter? Do you have your lottery tickets?

By Joe Bageant


When Barack Obama took office it seemed to some of us that his first job was to get the national silverware out of the pawn shop. Or at least maintain the world's confidence that it was possible for us to get out of debt. America is dead broke, the easy credit, phantom "growth" economy has been exposed for what it was. A credit scam. Even Hillary Clinton and Obama's best efforts have not coaxed much more dough out of foreign friends. But at least we again have a few friends abroad.

So now we must jackleg ourselves back into something resembling a productive activity. No matter how you cut it, things will not be as much fun as shopping and speculative "investing" were.

The fiesta is over, the economy as we knew it is dead.

Read on...

It’s that simple

Peacenik was up early this morning and thought Peacenik would check a few blogs while Peacenik's English muffin toasted in the toaster oven. And the finanical news was all bad. Garth, Mish, Ilargi, Denninger. They all portend a crash...sooner rather than later.

But Peacenik was also listening to News570 a Rogers all news radio station in Kitchener. At 5:29 every morning the financial pundit/reporter/cheerleader always has a one minute business report. The cheerleader was cheerful. The futures market today was pointing up.

Garth mentions it in his post today and Peacenik recalls it from other articles. When empires collapse, they collapse very quickly. And black swan events can bring on a rapid collapse. And this impending collapse may not even need a black swan trigger. Who you gonna believe? Garth? Ilargi? or Rogers' pundit? By the time Peacenik gets home from work today investors may well be fricasseed. Have a good weekend.

by Garth Turner

dwight duncan1

Ont Treasurer Dwight Duncan: busted

It’d be hard to make this stuff up.

* One of Canada’s biggest banks is slapped with a debt review and a likely credit downgrade.

* The country’s biggest province says half its business taxes vanished, and doubles its deficit. It, too, gets a debt downgrade.

* And it’s taken a mere 12 months for Ontario and Canada itself to pile $83 billion more in debt on taxpayers’ shoulders. In fact Ontario alone figures new debt will hit $70 billion over the next three years, while the national government heaps on $200 billion.

Was it only a year ago we heard this: “We will not be running a deficit. We will keep our spending within our means. It is that simple. The alternative is not a plan. It is just the consequence of complete panic, and this government will not panic at a time of uncertainty.”

Read on...


What 'Controlling the Media' Really Means

The dysfunctionality of U.S. government and society is a direct consequence of hate radio, talk radio, right wing media, FOX, and all the rest of the wingnuts, and nattering nabobs of negativity. Peacenik never thought Peacenik would quote Spiro Agnew.

Of course the media doesn't want a progressive pushback against the media's rightwing slant. The biggest myth about the mainstream media is that it is liberal. At least the Internet has some progressive media and progressive points of view. Routinely described by the MSM as far left. The MSM is dying. It can't happen soon enough.

by Glenn Greenwald

The same media whining over criticisms of Fox was happy to be bullied and controlled by the Bush administration.


Hypocrisy is far too common a feature of our political culture to comprehensively chronicle, particularly when there is a change of party control and each side starts doing exactly that to which they spent the last several years vociferously objecting; see here for a vivid example of that dynamic, from a new Pew poll released today:

The belief that the press should keep political leaders from doing things that should not be done often depends on who those political leaders are, or more specifically, which party controls the White House. Currently, in the midst of the Obama administration, two-thirds of Republicans (65%) support the so-called "watchdog role" for the press, compared with 55% of Democrats. But last year, while Bush was still in office, only 44% of Republicans felt it was good that press criticism keeps political leaders honest, and Democrats were much more pro watchdog (71% supported press criticism). This partisan pattern has existed since the question was first asked by Pew Research in 1985.

With hypocrisy that pervasive, who could ever hope to take note of all of it? Still, the complaints from America's Right -- and especially former Bush officials -- that the Obama administration is attempting to "control the media," all because the White House criticizes Fox News, is in a class of hypocrisy all by itself. That those petulant complaints are being amplified by a virtually unanimous press corps -- "it's Nixonian!" is their leading group-think cliché -- makes it all the more intolerable.

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Musicians Demand Records On Bush Administration's Use Of Music For Torture

They are trying to find out what music was used to torture prisoners at Guantanamo. They are trying to find out what music was used to torture prisoners at Guantanamo. What the fuck?

Eight years of a criminal Bush regime. Eight years. Peacenik can't even recall all the accusations of criminal behaviour. Peacenik has to admit that Peacenik assumed some of the accusations were true. Remember before the 2006 mid-term congressional elections. If only the Democrats could get control of the house they would have the power of the subpoena. They did get control. They have had the power of the subpoena since then. In 2008 they solidified their control, and won control of the Senate and the White House.

What about all the investigations into Bush's crimes. Oh there were a few early hearings but those meanie Bush underlings refused to honour the subpoenas. They refused to talk. Three years later some musicians are trying to find out what music was used to torture prisoners at Guantanamo. All the investigations have yielded squat. Who has gone to jail? Who has been convicted of contempt? Peacenik says fuck it. Peacenik is going to take a Tylenol 3 and listen to Leonard Cohen.

by Sam Stein


A group of prominent musicians are joining a campaign to close Guantanamo Bay and demanding the release of records about what music was used during the potential torture of detainees there and at other facilities.

Some of the more famous names in the music industry are formally lending their prestige to an effort being led by retired generals, progressive groups and a former member of Congress to shut GITMO down. The list includes Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Jackson Browne, Rise Against, Rosanne Cash, Billy Bragg and the Roots, all of whom are joining the broader National Campaign to Close Guantanamo which was launched earlier in the week.

Hoping to cast further light on the potential illegalities that took place at the detention facility, the group is also working to obtain records about why and how music was used (under laws authorized by the Bush administration) to effectively torture suspected terrorists. The musicians have officially endorsed a Freedom of Information Act request for the declassification of all secret government records pertaining to music utilized during interrogations. At least two members of the coalition, Reznor and Morello, have had their music linked to interrogations.

Read on...


Iran Agrees to Draft of Deal on Exporting Nuclear Fuel

This will make the neo cons heads explode. Is this the framework for a deal, or is it posturing?

Peacenik recalls the weapons inspectors in Iraq prior to the Iraq war. Every time they asked for more access they were given it. But nothing could satisfy the U.S. or the neo cons. A balsa model plane was held up as a threat to the U.S. It will be curious to see how this proceeds. But remember. Lots of people want failure. And success will be redefined as failure. Watch the goal posts as they get moved.

Published: October 21, 2009

Herwig Prammer /Reuters
Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the I.A.E.A., spoke to journalists in Vienna on Wednesday.

VIENNA — The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday that Iranian negotiators had agreed to a draft of an agreement to ship much of its stockpile of nuclear fuel to Russia, but cautioned that it would have to be approved by Friday in both Tehran and Washington.

The draft, which came after three days of talks here between Iran, the United States, France and Russia, fills in the details of an agreement in principle made on Oct. 1 following a preliminary round of negotiations.

Read on...

Grim Reaper greets Bush in Canada: ‘GWB, I am your biggest fan’

Peacenik doesn't quite know what to make of the fact that 2000 people paid to see George Bush in Edmonton. Or that George Bush got a standing ovation in Edmonton. Or that similar events are scheduled for Saskatoon and Montreal.

This is some kind of measure of a sickness in society, a kind of depravity in society. When George Bush can't sell one ticket or get invited to any venue in Canada, Canada will be a better country. Until then Peacenik hopes Bushites in Canada will shut their pie holes and emigrate to the U.S.

by John Byrne


Ex-president gets standing ovation from paid crowd

During a visit to speak in Canada Tuesday, former president George W. Bush was met with signs, songs, screams and a black-clad Grim Reaper. And a little applause.

Protesters outside the speech carried signs emblazoned with such phrases as "Bush is a war criminal," "Bush lied, 1,000s died" and "Canada is not Bush Country," according to a Canadian press report. As a crowd mushroomed, police erected metal barricades.

Bush spoke at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton where he led a talk, "A Conversation with George Bush." Tickets to the event ranged from $30 to $100. All 2,000 tickets sold out, and ticketholders were frisked and made to show their tickets twice upon entrance.

Read on...


Spell "Quagmire" A-F-G-H-A-N-I-S-T-A-N

punditman says...that punditman is posting yet another article about Afghanistan. Why is punditman doing this? Because it seems the lessons of the past have not been learned. It seems that bewildered politicians and generals were playing hooky for one lesson in particular. That's the one that explained that occupying armies almost always end up being resisted, especially if they hang around long enough to do a lot of damage. Afghanistan is no exception. Duh!

Meanwhile, we can depend on the Washington Post and other bastions of brilliance to play their usual subservient roles.

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
There are few pundits quite as dishonest as the WaPo's Jackson Diehl, so who knows if his concern-trolling on behalf of our European allies is even true:
As the president and his National Security Council privately debate whether to send tens of thousands of troops to war, America's European allies watch with a mixture of anxiety and anguish. They know that if the deployment goes forward, they will be asked to make their own difficult and politically costly contributions of soldiers or other personnel. But they are, if anything, even more worried that the American president will choose a feckless strategy for what they consider a critical mission. And they are frustrated that they must watch and wait -- and wait and wait -- for the president to make up his mind.

To back his contention, he cites Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, then fleshes it out with the words of a "senior commander in one European army," "the words of one ambassador" and "another ambassador." So there are two Europeans whose quotes are perfectly inline with Diehl's personal preference for more military force in Afghanistan. And apparently, they basically represent a continental consensus:

European governments bought in to Obama's ambitious plan to pacify Afghanistan when he presented it in March. Unlike the U.S. president, they mostly haven't had second thoughts. By and large they agree with the recommendations developed by the commander Obama appointed, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who says that unless the momentum of the Taliban is broken in the next year, the war may be lost.

Even if we buy his story, it's worth noting that Diehl's never met a foreign war he didn't like and was naturally far less sympathetic to European sensibilities when most of those in the Old Country vehemently opposed the invasion of Iraq.

Now he's become so preoccupied with the idea that the Yur-peans may think us wobbly -- and perhaps less-than-manly -- if the Obama administration chooses not to escalate the conflict that he doesn't bother to argue why we should.

He doesn't articulate what success in Afghanistan might look like, and he takes it as a given that more troops would finally give NATO forces the upper hand.

But that is anything but a sure thing ...

Here are a few recent stories to consider when weighing the prospects of achieving "victory" in Afghanistan.

Keep Reading...

As the Commander in Chief Deliberates, Frustration Builds Within the Ranks

This article is an example of the mainstream media's modus operandi. It serves no purpose other than to advance the warmongerer's agenda and pressure Obama into making a bigger committment to Afghanistan.

The article only really cites anonymous sources, who supposedly don't want to be identified for fear of reprisals. If military leaders really cared about the troops they would be happy to get out of an ill defined war, where the army is getting chewed up and where success is unachievable. But face it, the military likes war. So does the New York Times. So does Don Cherry. Peacenik says it is time for Canada to pull the plug on Canada's participation. Bring the troops home now.


Brennan Linsley/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Only nine months ago, the Pentagon pronounced itself reassured by the early steps of a new commander in chief. President Obama was moving slowly on an American withdrawal from Iraq, had retained former President George W. Bush’s defense secretary and, in a gesture much noticed, had executed his first military salute with crisp precision.

But now, after nearly a month of deliberations by Mr. Obama over whether to send more American troops to Afghanistan, frustrations and anxiety are on the rise within the military.

A number of active duty and retired senior officers say there is concern that the president is moving too slowly, is revisiting a war strategy he announced in March and is unduly influenced by political advisers in the Situation Room.

Read on...

Damn it, Jim, I'm an Editor, not a Doctor!

punditman says...

Punditman has noticed that once again, punditman's "blog about anything" has strayed into swine flu territory. C'est la vie...

Punditman remains confused (and skepticial) on several fronts. One such example is the apparent contradiction he keeps hearing in media reports about who is most vulnerable to this virus. On the one hand, Punditman heard again last night from a medical official on the news, that underlying medical conditions are the prime reason for severe sickness or death after exposure to swine flu. But on the other hand, Punditman has heard time and again that a healthy young person's auto immune response is causing sever complications and even death. Hmmm...that about covers the population, right? So why not just say, everyone is susceptible? Or are they? There is the whole idea that those born before 1976, may have already been exposed to swine flu because of the outbreak that year. Punditman awaits reasonable explanations to these and other questions because to paraphrase Doctor Leonard McCoy, "Damn it, Jim, I'm an editor, not a doctor."
Further to Peacenik's post, Punditman says there is similarly a sick child in Punditman's house. She was told by her doctor yesterday that she must stay home from school for the entire week. Her doctor told her mother that it could be swine flu, but that they don't test every child or adult who complains of fever, cough and aches and pains.

Importantly, the doc said that where people get into trouble with this, is that that they don't take care of themselves at the first signs of trouble. They don't drink lots of fluids and they get dehydrated. They don't take their vitamins, they don't get their rest and they don't keep their fever down; in other words, they leave it too late. Then along come the secondary infections. These are the people who become hospitalized. Punditman thought this was an interesting and useful take on things. Punditman started to think about some of the economic, social and environmental conditions of people's lives and why some may end up being more vulnerable than others. With all the conflicting information out there, it is no wonder people are confused. People want useful information, which is what this is. Take care of yourselves, people...and sheeple.

Why CDC says this year's flu season is "very sobering"

Peacenik drove Peacenik's son, Peacenik Jr. to Peacenik Jr.'s music lesson last night. On the way there Peacenik Jr. declared that Peacenik Jr. thought that...cough.....cough....Peacenik Jr. had the swine flu. Peacenik Jr.looked up swine flu....cough...cough...symptoms on the Internet.

Peacenik Jr. had all the symptoms save two. According to some sources that is pretty conclusive. Peacenik hopes Peacenik Jr. doesn't have swine flu. Peacenik thinks Peacenik Jr. didn't seem sick enough. Does Peacenik Jr. have the swine flu? Has Peacenik been exposed in a closed vehicle to a coughing swine flu victim? Will the swine flu vaccine be available soon enough? Should Peacenik isolate Peacenik's self?

Posted on: October 19, 2009 6:08 AM, by revere

Monday morning, start of week three of the official flu season (which began October 4). CDC's scientific spokeswoman on the flu, Dr. Anne Schuchat has said we are seeing "unprecedented" flu activity for this time of year, including an unusual toll in the pediatric age group. What does "unprecedented" mean? It's not very specific on what precedents are included, but if we confine ourselves to the three years before this one, we can get a good idea of just how unusual this flu season is. This week CDC unveiled a new graphic for their Emerging Infections Program (EIP) (I liked the old one better; this one is not very legible), the component of the surveillance system that tracks laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations in children and adults. It collects data in 60 counties covering 12 metropolitan areas of 10 states (San Francisco CA, Denver CO, New Haven CT, Atlanta GA, Baltimore MD, Minneapolis/St. Paul MN, Albuquerque NM, Las Cruces, NM, Albany NY, Rochester NY, Portland OR, and Nashville TN). It appears CDC has added six new sites (in IA, ID, MI, ND, OK and SD), but the data here are for the original 10 so comparisons can be made. This is a passive surveillance system that reviews hospital laboratory, admissions and infection logs at sites chosen to allow calculation of rates per population in the hospital catchment areas. Here is what the graphic looks like as of last Friday:

Read on...


No One Wants to Die From Dinner -- Here's a Quick Primer on What's Safe to Eat and Who's Looking Out for Your Health

This is a pretty scary list. Peacenik has eaten everything on the list except ice cream in the last two months. Click on the link near the top of the article to see the scary 10.

When Peacenik buys a pre-packaged salad there is not much Peacenik can do but eat it. But what about packaged beans, or carrots, or spinich, or lettuce or Parisenne potatoes? Does Peacenik have to wash them before eating? Do you?

By Vanessa Barrington, EcoSalon. Posted October 17, 2009.

Thousands are dying every year from food-borne illness and we have a confusing morass of regulations and agencies charged with enforcing them. How to sort out the mess?

On the heels of the devastating article in the New York Times about a young woman who paid dearly for the horrifying practices and lack of oversight in the meat industry, the Center for Science in the Public Interest released a list of the top 10 riskiest foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Some of your favorite foods are on this list, including ice cream, berries and leafy greens, with tuna being the most surprising culprit. Though meat contains some of the most virulent contaminants, like the strain of E. coli that almost killed Stephanie Smith, it's missing from the list, because it isn't regulated by the FDA. It's regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Confused yet?

Read on...

Marching Toward Zombieland

For a couple of weeks Kunstler veered off into neo con land. Today Kunstler is talking about the banks. Peacenik doesn't know when speculating about something turn's into advocating something. But this article sounds incendiary. Or is it just a warning? Peacenik is glad Peacenik is not a banker.

By James Howard Kunstler
on October 19, 2009 7:23 AM

When sober-minded individuals begin to regard an enterprise within a nation as "an enemy of the people" you can bet that some serious blood is going to flow. This is now essentially the situation for the Goldman Sachs company, which last week announced third-quarter earnings of over $3 billion largely derived from converting zero percent loans from taxpayers into zero risk profits off of anything paying more than zero percent in interest, revenue, or dividends.
The "people" across this big country may not have a clue how any of this is done, and there may be much to fault them on from the care-and-feeding of their own bodies to the content of their dreams, but you can't argue with the fact that they are heavily armed to an extreme. And although it may be hard to measure with precision, one might venture to state that they are increasingly pissed off. How else explain popular entertainments like "Zombieland?"

Read on...

Boston Antiwar Protest Draws from New England Region

This story from the Sunday Boston Globe talks about 40 nationwide anti-war protests. Wow, there were some anti-war protests. Peacenik casually paid attention to the news over the weekend and Peacenik didn't know there were any anti-war protests going on.

So Peacenik scanned some websites this morning. The Washington post had zero weekend or Monday stories about the anti-war protests. The New York Times had zero weekend or Monday stories about the anti-war protests. The Toronto Star had zero weekend or Monday stories about anti-war protests.

But wait. The Sunday LA Times had a story about anti-war protests. A story about a non-stop protest in Oregon that has been going on for eight years. Big Deal.

Were there lots of anti-war protests on the weekend? Were any of them big? Where were they? Peacenik doesn't know. The mainstream media doesn't care.

Demonstrators in the pink in Copley Square

[Demonstrators gathered in Boston's Copley Square yesterday to protest the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. (David L. Ryan/ Globe Staff) ]Demonstrators gathered in Boston's Copley Square yesterday to protest the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. (David L. Ryan/ Globe Staff)

by Jeannie Nuss
Pink wigged-protesters and hundreds of other demonstrators wielding posters calling for peace converged on Copley Square in an antiwar rally yesterday

The regional gathering in Boston - one of more than 40 nationwide - brought protesters from throughout New England to shout, sing, and march against conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq.

Karyn Savage, a 26-year-old mother of two from central Maine, clutched a magenta poster covered in glitter glue and peace signs that read: "War is Expensive, Peace is Priceless.''

Read on...


Punditman busy

punditman says...that punditman has no time to post for the time being. Punditman's life is total chaos because Bunnie and he are trying to sell the house. Punditman is continually cleaning, tidying up and then getting kicked out for showings and thus goofing off in coffee shops and friends' places. Punditman and Bunnie's dwelling has never been so neat and orderly. Bunnie's kids have never been so well disciplined. Punditman wonders how people can do this for months on end. One week so far and Punditman is halfway round the bend.

Peacenik is in charge of the blog.

MSM Reporting as Propaganda (No one Minds our New Financial Masters)

Peacenik thinks this article is worth reading. It offers an explanation for why the sheeple aren't in the streets protesting.

The sheeple have been trained to not protest. But the sheeple haven't been trained to go hungry, or homeless or hopeless. The protests will come. Too bad they're 30 years too late.

by Yves

I’m of two minds about taking up this theme, since stating what ought to be obvious but is nevertheless unpleasant and inconvenient is apt to get one branded as lunatic fringe.

Access journalism has created what is in many respects a controlled press. And that matters because people are far more suggestible than most of us wants to admit to ourselves.

Let us start with the cheerleading in the media over Wall Street, and in particular, Goldman earnings. Matt Taibbi, in “Good News on Wall Street Means… What Exactly?,” tells us why this is so distorted:

It’s literally amazing to me that our press corps hasn’t yet managed to draw a distinction between good news on Wall Street for companies like Goldman, and good news in reality.

I watched carefully the reporting of the Dow breaking 10,000 the other day and not anywhere did I see a major news organization include a paragraph of the “On the other hand, so fucking what?” sort, one that might point out that unemployment is still at a staggering high, foreclosures are racing along at a terrifying clip, and real people are struggling more than ever. In fact the dichotomy between the economic health of ordinary people and the traditional “market indicators” is not merely a non-story, it is a sort of taboo — unmentionable in major news coverage.

Read on...

Get Out of Afghanistan Now

Sounds like a plan to Peacenik. Nothing positive can be accomplished by the occupation of Afghanistan. The idea that the west could impose a western democracy on Afghanistan is as ridiculous as the idea that the Soviet Union could impose a communist government.

Unfortunately countries sometimes get the governments they deserve. Does Canada deserve the present Harper government? Canada doesn't but, if the sheeple don't wake up, and if the Liberals or NDP or Greens don't get their act together Canada might end up with more of Harper. But Afghanistan has always been tribal. And looks like it always will be. Get out of Afghanistan now. Bring the troops home now.

By G. Pascal Zachary, In These Times. Posted October 15, 2009.

The case for an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Saigon being evacuated

For all the talk of polarization and partisanship in U.S. politics, what's remarkable is the extent to which President Obama has continued policies and practices of his predecessor, George Bush, in domestic economics and military affairs.

Economically, Obama has continued the bailout of Wall Street, maintained Bush-era tax cuts, pursued "stimulus" through large deficit spending and re-appointed Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman who was a Bush favorite.

In defense, Obama has broken with Bush on a few critical matters, notably by canceling expensive weapons systems and dropping (in September) an aggressive plan to impose a "missile shield" in Eastern Europe that Russia intensely opposed. Yet Obama has carried over Bush's secretary of defense, Robert Gates; essentially stuck with Bush timetables on Iraq; and maintained historically record levels of Pentagon spending. The president has continued the war in Afghanistan, raising the number of American combat troops. In a speech on August 17, Obama even tried to construct a moral basis for the war, described it as "not a war of choice," but "a war of necessity." And as a necessary war, "a war worth fighting," Obama has declared that only through the democratization of Afghanistan can the terrorist threat to the United States--in the form of al Qaeda--be eliminated from the country.

Read on...


The media and the warmongering scale

Whats the media saying about Iran today? Is it balanced? Is it fair? Is it true? Does it advance the cause of peace?

Peacenik took a quick spin through a few websites. This is what Peacenik found.

Cripple Iran to save it

This gem is written by none other that Dick Cheney's former national security adviser. The title says it all. And he is serious. No irony intended. And this appears in the Los Angles Times. 10 out of 10 on warmongering scale.

Next Peacenik visited the New York Times.

Some See Iran as Ready for Nuclear Deal

This story rehashes the nuclear story. It does quote intelligence reports saying Iran is working on building a bomb. But at least it mentions a possible deal. This one is only 7 out 10 on the warmongering scale.

The Washington Post has a small story today.

How to Engage Iran

Curious title considering the conclusion is to not shake had with a man with blood on his hands. 8 out of 10 on the warmongering scale.

Last stop the Jerusalem Post.

'Israel may attack Iran after December'

What can you say? 10 out of 10 on the warmongering scale.

So there you have a quick scan of the mainstream media. A good day for warmongerers.

Vultch USA

Yes the bailed out banks of Wall Street are rolling in dough. The bonus pool this year will be the biggest ever. The DOW is over 10,000. And real estate in Canada is still blowing a big bubble.

Garth, who just decided not to run for the liberals in the next election, thinks the Canadian bubble is just about to pop. Read his numbers. Its hard to disagree. Peacenik doesn't.

by Garth Turner

Toll of the loonie:
Manufacturing takes a big dive.


There are 7,952 houses for sale in Jacksonville. That Florida city has a population of about 820,000 and an average temperature of 76 degrees.

By way of contrast, the GTA has 15,984 properties currently for sale and 5.5 million people living on the north shore of Lake Ontario. This week the average temperature is 7 Celsius. I mean, what’s to compare?

Other than this: There’s one house for sale in Jacksonville for every 100 people. In Toronto, there’s only one active listing for every 345 residents. And, given the laws of supply and demand, you’d expect real estate to cost more in Toronto, even if the climate sucks. And they both do.

Read on...


Foreign Policy Hawks Launch New Campaign Against Obama

The neocons are like the Terminator. They will never go away, and they will never give up. And of course they all have unlimited access to the public airwaves and print media.

Now watch the usual suspects flock to "Keep America Safe" Woosley, Lieberman, Gaffney and all the rest. Peacenik thought that the neocons were on the run after the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan. But failure doesn't deter them. A complete lack of credibility doesn't deter them. The media will keep them on life support. And they will keep the pressure on Obama. No one wants to run for office on a "soft on terror" or "soft on security" platform. So America will keep fighting wars, and occupying the world until its last dollar is spent.

by Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - Just days after the Nobel Committee in Oslo awarded Barack Obama its coveted peace prize, two of Washington's most prominent foreign policy hawks launched a new group and ad campaign designed to depict the president as weak and defend the more aggressive policies of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

The new group, Keep America Safe, was co-founded by neo-conservative heavyweight William Kristol, who also edits The Weekly Standard; and Elisabeth (Liz) Cheney, the outspoken daughter of Bush's vice president, Dick Cheney, who is believed to harbour political ambitions of her own.

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One Hand Clapping Theory Analyzed

This article by Chris Martenson is at the core of Obama's,and Harper's economic policy. Pretend that the debt that exists on bank balance sheets and in the books of corporate America, doesn't exist.

This is the foundation upon which the present stock market rally, and all the talk about greens shoots exists. If you have investments in the stock market, they are dependent upon everyone continuing to pretend that all is well. What happens when the pretending stops? Recall that insiders have been outselling outsiders 30 to one over the last months. What happens when the rush to the exits starts? When the herd senses danger. The brokers will probably get out. The big players. The insiders. But what about you, and your measley mutual funds stuck in an RRSP. Think you'll get out in time? Pretend. Pretend you have money in your bank account. Pretend. Pretend your credit cards have zero balances. Pretend. Pretend it all isn't about to come crashing down. Feel better? Peacenik doesn't.

by Mish Shedlock

Numerous people have asked me to comment on Chris Martenson's article The Sound of One Hand Clapping - What Deflationists May Be Missing.

Chris Writes:

The hot topic of the day is "Inflation or Deflation?" and the camps are firmly divided into groups of inflationistas and deflationistas. When asked which camp I am in, I reply "Yes." Some would say that puts me in the confusionista camp, but I actually have an explanation for why are living in a world encompassing both.

From a technical perspective, we are absolutely in one of the most powerfully deflationary periods in history, yet, besides housing prices and a few over-produced consumer goods, we find that stocks, bonds, and commodities are all well-bid at the moment.

Read on...

What lies beneath the war in Afghanistan

punditman says...Just to show that punditman doesn't get too hung up on the "ideological purity" of every source he or Peacenik uses on this blog, punditman is posting another Eric Margolis article. Yes, Eric Margolis. Here's how his politics are described by wikipedia:

Margolis identifies his politics as "Eisenhower Republican". Though his domestic political persuasion is moderately conservative (he is a staunch anti-communist and a supporter of capitalism), Margolis' views on the Middle East are sharply at odds with the neoconservatives.

He also happens to have written some of the most insightful pieces on Middle East politics and the so-called "War on Terror" in recent years.


Truth is war's first casualty. The Afghan war's biggest untruth is, "we've got to fight terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them at home."

Many North Americans still buy this lie because they believe the 9/11 attacks came directly from the Afghanistan-based al-Qaida and Taliban movements.

False. The 9/11 attacks were planned in Germany and Spain, and conducted mainly by U.S.-based Saudis to punish America for supporting Israel.

Taliban, a militant religious, anti-Communist movement of Pashtun tribesmen, was totally surprised by 9/11. Taliban received U.S. aid until May, 2001. The CIA was planning to use Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida to stir up Muslim Uighurs against Chinese rule, and Taliban against Russia's Central Asian allies.

Keep Reading...


Why the epidemiology of swine flu matters

Peacenik knows Punditman is sick and tired of posting about swine flu and vaccines. But Peacenik isn't. Peacenik doesn't know if the authors of the article Punditman posted are quacks or not. There is lots of bad science available to support any argument. George bush just based 8 years of his presidency on bad science. And unfortunately bad science is so entrenched in today's society that it truly is difficult to make informed decisions about some topics.

Companies obviously have agendas. As do agencies, NGO's, lobbyists, the media and bloggers. Revere at Effect Measure seems to Peacenik to be someone who is trustworthy. Reading the comments to this post by Revere though does get into the question of adjuvants being added to vaccines. This makes Peacenik queasy. And this all may be academic in any case. In Canada the vaccine may not be available in time to make a difference. Peacenik will not be at the front of the line in any case if and when vaccine becomes available. Pregnant women and children first. Bad side effects will probably be known before cowardly Peacenik does or does not line up. Will Peacenik get the shot? Will Snowman? Will Punditamn? Will Taxiguy? Will JohnnyAnon? Will Humphrey the Hippie? Will Puttyman? Will Don Cherry?

Posted on: October 11, 2009 2:00 PM, by revere

If you are hesitating to be vaccinated for swine flu this year, perhaps this post will help you make up your mind. If it does, I hope it pushes you to get vaccinated, but whatever persuasion we attempt here will only be from a recital of what we know of the epidemiology of this pandemic. Because it is the different epidemiology that is the main feature, not the clinical characteristics or the virulence of the virus. So far this looks pretty much like a standard influenza A virus -- except for the epidemiology. Since I'm an epidemiologist, you might expect me to think this is important, and I do. Epidemiology is the public health science that studies the patterns of illness in populations. One kind of pattern we study is who is getting sick. And it is a change in this pattern that is one of the big differences between a pandemic strain and a seasonal strain.

Read on...


Vaccines’ Dark Inferno

punditman says...Do you always trust politicians? Do you always trust the police? Do you always trust your school board? Do you always trust the military? Do you always trust corporations? Some of the same people whose answer would be a resounding NO to all of the above, for some reason then put great faith in Big Pharma, in public health, the CDC, the FDA, Health Canada, the WHO., etc. Why? These are just institutions made up of human beings just like the others mentioned above. Punditman does not understand why any rational, educated person would put any more trust in these institutions than in any other ones. Are they bloody God just because they are involved in healthcare? Punditman doesn't even trust that his own doctor knows what he is talking about half the time. Not because Punditman doesn't like his doctor but because after the average five-minute appointment, Punditman knows that his doctor has not always been right. Maybe some people just need to believe in something and the healthcare industry is the last bastion of true faith.

If you wonder why punditman is skeptical about the vaccine industrial complex, read the article below. Punditman is amazed that by raising these issues, he stands accused by some of doing a disservice to the public. So if you've already made up your mind in the other direction, then just go get your damn flu shot, swine flu shot and whatever else is in the works shots. Punditman is getting *sick* of this debate.

What is not on insert labels?

The vast majority of scientists, physicians, nurses and public health educators’ trust that the ingredients in a vaccine have been individually and synergistically proven safe and effective. The public believes these vaccines, aside from their specified virus(es), are sterile solutions, free from undesirable contaminants not listed on the manufacturer’s package inserts. When the pediatrician injects a vaccine into the muscle of a child, the public has unquestioning faith that this is the case. In other words, we want to believe that vaccines have been generated under perfect conditions for the safety of children and ourselves.

Our investigation shows that most people do not know what is actually in a vaccine: the active ingredients listed on product labels, inert ingredients, and, most important, the hidden ingredients. Even more remote is taking the time to actually study the subject matter, review the scientific literature and discover the truth for oneself. To our amazement, that truth was easy to find. But it is a truth that will scare the hell out of you.

Similar to eating veal parmesan, what would happen if a video were placed on your table and used as a living reality recipe instead of the actual meal. This video unfolds before your eyes every step in that little creature’s life, from the veal’s birth to the parmesan on your plate. You witness how this veal was starved of its natural nutrients, kept in a tiny stall, grossly malnourished and deformed, filled with drugs—antibiotics—diseased and suffering complete privations until finally slaughtered, sliced, cooked and served on your plate. Would your appetite be the same? Would you still desire the parmesan? Conveniently we rarely ask the questions, where does our food come from? How and where was it grown? What was sprayed on it prior to our consumption? Therefore, we are going to re-record something that even most top health educators and opinion leaders on vaccines are unaware of. That is, what goes into the making of vaccines and what is hidden from you that should give you a moment’s of pause? Then ask yourself, do you want vaccines in your body?

To give us the most in depth, honest, scholarly and objective examination about the methods by which vaccines and their hidden ingredients are prepared we turn to the award-winning British investigative medical journalist, Janine Roberts, who paints an entirely different picture about the darker inferno in vaccines that do not appear on product labels. This is the same Janine Roberts who brought to the world’s attention blood diamonds, genocide in the Congo and the destruction of aboriginal cultures by the Australian government.

Roberts’ account of conversations between high level members from the World Health Organizatioin (WHO), federal health agencies, and expert vaccine scientists, who determine whether or not a certain vaccine will be approved or not, is horrid. Her investigations are based on official meeting documents and her attendance at emergency vaccine meetings, and confirm that our world’s vaccine and health experts agree there is no solution in sight to resolve the potential and uncertain threats posed by these hidden ingredients.(1)

The story begins with the vaccine industrial complex’s attempt to reduce vaccine manufacturing costs by seeking government approval to use cancerous cell lines in the development of vaccines. Vaccine industry’s rationale is that cancerous cells are “immortal.” Current vaccine methodology relies on animal cells, such as fertilized hen embryos and monkey kidneys, that die quickly in culture. Using cancerous cell lines are also much cheaper than relying on the purchase of animals, especially monkeys, that need to be sacrificed for vaccine substrates.

Keep Reading...


A Historian's Account of Democrats and Bush-Era War Crimes

It's Friday before the long weekend and as Peacenik started to scan the news Peacenik was hoping to find something upbeat to post. Or something amusing. Or something entertaining. Maybe even something absurd. But the very first goddamn article Peacenik sees is this one. And it sickens Peacenik. It bums peacenik out. Peacenik will push this item back into Peacenik's memory banks,and Peacenik will enjoy the long weekend. Peacenik hopes you enjoy the long weekend. Obama, and Lieberman and Graham? They can go fuck themselves.

by Glenn Greenwald

The American Propsect's Adam Serwer notes that, yesterday, Sen. Joe Lieberman successfully inserted into the Homeland Security appropriations bill an amendment -- supported by the Obama White House -- to provide an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act's mandates by authorizing the Defense Secretary to suppress long-concealed photographs of detainee abuse. Two courts had ruled -- unanimously -- that the American people have the right to see these photographs under FOIA, a 40-year-old law championed by the Democrats in the LBJ era and long considered a crowning jewel in their legislative achievements. But this Lieberman amendment, which is now likely to pass, undermines all of that and -- as EBay founder Pierre Omidyar put it today -- its central purpose is to "legalize suppression" of evidence of American war crimes.

What made those detainee photographs so important from the start is that they depict brutal abuse well outside of the Abu Ghraib facility and thus reveal to Americans -- and the world -- that America's torture was not, as they've been constantly told, limited to rogue sadists at Abu Ghraib and the waterboarding of three bad guys. Instead, our torture regime was systematic, pervasive, brutal, fatal, and -- becuase it was the by-product of conscious policies set at the highest levels of government -- common across America's "War on Terror" detention regime. These photographs would have documented those vital facts; combated the false denials from torture apologists; fueled the momentum for accountability; and revealed, in graphic and unavoidable terms, what was truly done by America's government. But a Democratic-led Congress, at the urging of a Democratic President, are now taking extraordinary steps -- including an act of Congress which has no purpose other than to suppress evidence of America's war crimes -- to ensure that this evidence never sees the light of day.

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A War of Absurdity

Johnnyanon's comment yesterday captured the absurdity of the Afghan/Iraq war. The U.S. and Canada and NATO went to war against sovereign states because why? Because 100 or 1000 or 3000 criminals attacked the United States. Stateless criminals. And now there are apparently less than 100 al qaida operating in Afghanistan but the U.S. and Canada and NATO are still occupying the country.

Eight years is long enough. But not long enough correct a bad decision. Not long enough to justify a mistake. And too long to suffer the consequences of the mistake. Johnnyanon should be Canada's foreign minister. Peacenik says bring the troops home now.

by Robert Scheer

Every once in a while, a statistic just jumps out at you in a way that makes everything else you hear on a subject seem beside the point, if not downright absurd. That was my reaction to the recent statement of the president’s national security adviser, former Marine Gen. James Jones, concerning the size of the terrorist threat from Afghanistan:

“The al-Qaida presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country, no bases, no ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.”

Less than 100! And he is basing his conservative estimate on the best intelligence data available to our government. That means that al-Qaida, for all practical purposes, does not exist in Afghanistan—so why are we having a big debate about sending even more troops to fight an enemy that has relocated elsewhere? Because of the blind belief, in the minds of those like John McCain, determined to “win” in Afghanistan, that if we don’t escalate, al-Qaida will inevitably come back.

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Is the Sky Really Falling?

punditman says...Not quite. But the drunken Superpower Party is starting to peter out. The shindig is not quite over for the United States, but people are starting to leave the premises, the cops have been called several times and big fines have been levied on the partiers. When will this decades-old party end? Will the world turn away from the US dollar as the reserve currency? Not right away, according to Mike Whitney.

Here's the deal: American consumers are in debt and apparently have turned to saving once again. Unemployment is way up, and wages are going nowhere. This makes for less and less American consumer demand in world markets; that is what will eventually cause foreign governments and central banks to run away from the US dollar.

Then again, Americans are the quintessential consumers. Will they come back and live to party another day? When they do, it will be a different world. US "dollar hegemony" will no longer be used as a bully tactic backed up by military might. It's going to be an interesting future.

Dollar Hysteria


Robert Fisk lit the fuse with his hyperventilating narrative which appears in Tuesday's UK Independent which went viral overnight spreading to every musty corner of the Internet and sending gold skyrocketing to $1,026 per oz. Now every doomsday website in cyber-world has headlined Fisk's "shocker" and the blogs are clogged with the frenzied commentary of bunker-dwelling survivalists and goldbugs who're certain that the world as we know it is about to end.

From Fisk's article:

"In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.

"Secret meetings have already been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme, which will mean that oil will no longer be priced in dollars.

“The Americans, who are aware the meetings have taken place – although they have not discovered the details – are sure to fight this international cabal which will include hitherto loyal allies Japan and the Gulf Arabs. Against the background to these currency meetings, Sun Bigan, China's former special envoy to the Middle East, has warned there is a risk of deepening divisions between China and the US over influence and oil in the Middle East. ‘Bilateral quarrels and clashes are unavoidable,’ he told the Asia and Africa Review. ‘We cannot lower vigilance against hostility in the Middle East over energy interests and security.’”
"International cabal"? C'mon, Fisk, you're better than that.

Reports of the dollar's demise are greatly exaggerated. The dollar may fall, but it won't crash. And, in the short-term, it's bound to strengthen as the equities market reenters the earth's gravitational field after a 6 month-long ride through outer-space. The relationship between falling stocks and a stronger buck is well established and, when the market corrects, the dollar will bounce back once again. Bet on it. So why all this bilge about Middle Eastern men huddled in "secret meetings" stroking their beards while plotting against the empire?

Isn't that the gist of Fisk's article?

Yes, the dollar will fall, (eventually) but not for the reasons that most people think. It's true that the surge in deficit spending has foreign dollar-holders worried. But they're more concerned about the Fed's quantitative easing (QE) program which adds to the money supply by purchasing mortgage-backed securities and US Treasuries. Bernanke is simply printing money and pouring it into the financial system to keep rigor mortis from setting in. Naturally, the Fed has had to quantify exactly how much money it intends to "create from thin air" to placate its creditors. And, it has. (The program is scheduled to end by the beginning of 2010) That said, China and Japan are still buying US Treasuries, which indicates they have not yet "jumped ship".

Keep Reading...

The Human Cost of War: The Images the Corporate Media Doesn't Want You to See

You can follow the link in this article and watch Greenwald's, Rethinking Afghanistan documentary. Peacenik didn't follow the link. Peacenik doesn't like seeing images of dead people. The neo cons don't like Peacenik seeing images of dead people either. The neo cons don't want anyone seeing the consequences of war.

Ironically Obama isn't getting out of Afghanistan. Isn't withdrawing troops. He is trapped. And Canada better start thinking about what Canada's role in Afghanistan will be if Harper gets a majority government. That promise to end offensive military operations. Peacenik doesn't believe it.

Posted by Liliana Segura, AlterNet at 2:30 PM on October 5, 2009.

Robert Greenwald's Rethink Afghanistan brings you jarring images of civilian suffering. Not surprisingly, the NY Times isn't on board.

This past weekend, AlterNet had the privilege of hosting a screening of Robert Greenwald's important new documentary, Rethink Afghanistan, in New York City. It was just one of several screenings to kick off an impressive nationwide campaign by Brave New Films to spread a crucial message about the war in Afghanistan: This is not the "good war" as we have been told by so many for so long. This is a losing battle, and it is costing us dearly: in billions of dollars, in thousands of lives, and in the eyes of the rest of the world.

And of course, it is costing the people of Afghanistan more than anyone. Perhaps one of the most jolting things about watching the film is seeing image after terrible image of civilian suffering: desperate families mired in refugee camps, pain-stricken schoolgirls attacked with acid by the resurgent Taliban, countless injured men, women and children who are the "collateral damage" from errant U.S. bomb strikes. It is a punch-to-the-gut reminder of just how sanitized this war -- which Obama has always called the "right front" of the so-called war on terror -- has been.

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CanWest files for court protection, Aspers set to lose bulk of stake

It wasn't long ago that the way of doing business was to take over companies, and take on a ton of debt to do so. No one was afraid of debt.

Now one of the biggest companies in Canadian media, Canwest, can't even pay the interest on its debt. Does anyone think that Canwest is the only huge company that can't pay the interest on its debt. Peacenik doesn't. Now all that debt is toxic and lethal. It can't be paid off. It can't be ignored. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity. It is a black hole. And it is sucking the whole economy into it.

Grant Robertson, Tavia Grant and Andrew Willis

CanWest Global Communications Corp. (CGS.A-T0.19----%) filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday after Canada's biggest media company told a judge in Toronto it was now insolvent.
The Winnipeg-based company, which owns the Global Television network, more than a dozen daily newspapers across the country and several specialty TV channels, expects the court ordered restructuring of its debt will take four to six months.
The decision to file for protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act comes after a year of negotiations with creditors that saw CanWest no longer able to make interest payments on much of its $4-billion debt. The decision to file was made after a board meeting held late Monday.

The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted…

punditman says...When you look for evidence of creeping fascism, sometimes you have to take a closer look at our brave new world. Here's an interesting article that ends up equating P2P file sharing with activists who monitored police scanners at the recent G-20 summit and told other demonstrators about police movements via Twitter—and got themselves arrested. Some might say they should have been arrested. But what if the police were acting illegally? What if the governments of the G-20 were acting like criminals? Who are the real crooks here. What if punditman forgot a question mark or three. Is that a crime.

New technologies, old battles. What will happen to the Pittsburgh Two? From Iran to the US, apparently the Revolution will not be tweeted...

… at least not if “law enforcers” get their way.

During the G-20 summit in the Pittsburgh area last week, police arrested two activists. These particular activists weren’t breaking windows. They weren’t setting cars on fire. They weren’t even parading around brandishing giant puppets and chanting anti-capitalist slogans.

In fact, they were in a hotel room in Kennedy, Pennsylvania, miles away from “unsanctioned” protests in Lawrenceville … listening to the radio and availing themselves of the hotel’s Wi-Fi connection. Now they stand accused of “hindering apprehension, criminal use of a communication facility and possessing instruments of crime.”

The radio they were listening to was (allegedly) a police scanner. They were (allegedly) using their Internet access to broadcast bulletins about police movements in Lawrenceville to activists at the protests, using Twitter.

Is that a crime? Should it be a crime?

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Will California become America's first failed state?

Peacenik hasn't posted anything about the economy for a while. Peacenik has been watching in disbelief as the stock market continues to rally. Meanwhile insiders are selling like crazy. Revenue in New York State collapsed by 38% in the last quarter. State after state is unable to balance its budget. The big banks in the states are still being kept afloat by shady accounting and public tax dollars. And California is paying its workers with IOU's.

But the market goes up and in Canada the housing bubble keeps bubbling along. Of course the Canadian banks just got another handout from the feds. And mortgage rates are artificially low. And federal and provincial deficits across the country have exploded. And unemployment and underemployment is growing. And pension plans, big and small, are unable to keep either their promises, nor their legal obligations. But all is good. Until the Minsky Moment arrives. Then watch out.

Paul Harris

Los Angeles, 2009: California may be the eighth largest economy in the world, but its state government is issuing IOUs, unemployment is at its highest in 70 years, and teachers are on hunger strike. So what has gone so catastrophically wrong?

Patients without medical insurance wait for treatment

Patients without medical insurance wait for treatment in the Forum, a music arena in Inglewood, Los Angeles. The 1,500 free places were filled by 4am. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

California has a special place in the American psyche. It is the Golden State: a playground of the rich and famous with perfect weather. It symbolises a lifestyle of sunshine, swimming pools and the Hollywood dream factory.

But the state that was once held up as the epitome of the boundless opportunities of America has collapsed. From its politics to its economy to its environment and way of life, California is like a patient on life support. At the start of summer the state government was so deeply in debt that it began to issue IOUs instead of wages. Its unemployment rate has soared to more than 12%, the highest figure in 70 years. Desperate to pay off a crippling budget deficit, California is slashing spending in education and healthcare, laying off vast numbers of workers and forcing others to take unpaid leave. In a state made up of sprawling suburbs the collapse of the housing bubble has impoverished millions and kicked tens of thousands of families out of their homes. Its political system is locked in paralysis and the two-term rule of former movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger is seen as a disaster – his approval ratings having sunk to levels that would make George W Bush blush. The crisis is so deep that Professor Kevin Starr, who has written an acclaimed history of the state, recently declared: "California is on the verge of becoming the first failed state in America."

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