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Longwood Gardens.  February, 2013.  Photo by joanneleon.

Neil Young - Heart of Gold (Live at Farm Aid 1985)

News and Opinion

The New York Times and "Liberal Media" Helped Sell the Iraq War

Iraq rocked by wave of explosions

Baghdad was convulsed by a deadly wave of explosions as terrorists detonated up to nine explosions in the course of a few hours on Tuesday morning on the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion.

Early reports suggested that at least 34 people were killed and dozens more wounded as car bombs hit Shia areas, including a mosque and a restaurant across the city.

At the ministry of the interior in central Baghdad, the Guardian heard one explosion in the distance, followed by a rising plume of smoke. Helicopters could be seen hovering above the scene.

An hour later, in another part of the city, a second blast was audible and another column of smoke a half a mile or so away, this time from an attack in Karrada,.

Two years ago today the "intervention" in Libya began.  As for this story? What a surprise.
Libya’s State Support Fund for Families Has $4.7 Billion Deficit

Libya’s Economic and Social Development Fund is showing a deficit of $4.7 billion as its revenue from investments declined following the 2011 revolution that toppled Muammar Qaddafi, Chairman Mahmoud Badi said.

The fund, tasked with providing support to needy families, has yet to receive dividends from most of the companies and projects in which it has investments in Libya, Badi said in an interview yesterday in Tripoli.

“Current average income received from the fund is at $390 million per year while payments amount to $936 million per year,” he said. “We are facing a difficult period.”
The fund is part of the Libyan Investment Authority, the North African nation’s sovereign wealth fund. Badi said the ESDF liquidated most investments abroad at the end of last year, incurring a loss of $450 million. Two portfolios with an original value of $375 million remain in Europe. These are part of the LIA and subject to sanctions. “Their monetary value could be less,” said Badi.

The oil companies are doing well.  The people? Not so much. And the oil revenues that used to support Libyan society are somehow not making it back to the people the way they used to.   Shocking.  "Foreign oil giants" are helping the fledgling Libyan government though, so have no fear.
Libya’s oil sector makes quick recovery after 2011 revolution

Thanks to concerted efforts by the national oil company — and those of major foreign firms that have retained a leading role in Libya’s oil fields for decades — the country’s oil production has climbed back to 1.4 million barrels a day in recent months, according to the International Energy Agency, or nearly 90 percent of prewar production levels.

The rebound in the oil sector marks a stark contrast with much of the rest of Libya, where, two years after the fall of Moammar Gaddafi, a weak central government has struggled to secure borders and rein in hundreds of well-armed militias.
Today, officials from the Oil Ministry and the National Oil Corp., the state enterprise that has a hand in all hydrocarbon dealings, often juggle job descriptions closer to those of local politicians — offering employment and promising roads, schools and other facilities to ward off civil unrest, which could jeopardize the sector.

The NOC has also tapped the expertise of foreign oil giants that preceded Gaddafi and that he invited to return before his fall, in most cases to the same fields they had worked years earlier, to boost sagging production.

Alan Greenspan vs. Naomi Klein on the Iraq War, Bush’s Tax Cuts, Economic Populism, Crony Capitalism and More

In a Democracy Now! exclusive debate, former federal reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and journalist Naomi Klein square off on the Iraq war, oil, President Bush tax cuts, social security, economic populism in Latin America, corruption and crony capitalism. Greenspan headed the central bank in the United States for almost two decades. He has written a new 500-page memoir titled, "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World." At one point in the debate, Klein asks Greenspan, " The policies that you pursued — deregulation, privatization, free trade — have contributed to this extraordinary division of income that is really the fuel for this economic populism that you’re now denouncing. Aren’t you the one that has caused this crisis of faith in capitalism?" [includes rush transcript]

As the credit crisis continues to grow and the US dollar hits a new low, we turn today to the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan. Greenspan headed the central bank in the United States for almost two decades. He was first appointed to this position in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan. Greenspan retired in January 2006 after deciding the fate of national interest rates under four different Presidents. Dubbed "The Maestro," he was widely regarded as one of the world’s most influential economic policymakers.

He has just written a new 500-page memoir. It’s called "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World." Alan Greenspan joins us on the telephone. And we are joined in studio by journalist Naomi Klein, author of "The Shock Doctrine."

Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006. His new memoir is "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World."
Naomi Klein, award-winning investigative journalist, the bestselling author of "No Logo" and the co-director of "The Take." Her latest book is called "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism."

The photo in this NYT article is pretty stunning.
Second Thoughts in Europe as Anxiety Rises in Cyprus

“How can I trust any bank in the euro zone after this decision?” asked Andreas Andreou, 26, an employee at a trading company.

“I’m lifting all my deposits as soon as the banks open. I’d rather put the money in my mattress.”
Cyprus’s president, Nicos Anastasiades, accused European Union leaders of using “blackmail” to get him to agree, and sought Monday to compel policy makers in Brussels to soften the terms.

As lawyers in Cyprus questioned the legality of both taxing deposits that are supposed to be insured up to 100,000 euros, and confiscating sums above that, Mr. Anastasiades postponed a parliamentary vote on the package until Tuesday, as signs emerged that lawmakers might not approve.

In Brussels, the club of 17 euro zone finance ministers that had signed the bailout plan for Cyprus held an emergency conference call Monday evening and tiptoed back from terms of the arrangement, by agreeing to consider a new deal that could lighten the burden for less well-to-do Cypriots.

Cyprus banks are closed for yet another day.  They know what is coming.  You can't keep those banks closed forever, dumbasses. The damage is done, no matter how you might change the plan. Banking is based on trust and you've lost it.  Why they didn't realize this would happen (when every other person in the world seemed to know that everyone would remove their money from Cyprus banks) is just really fishy, IMHO.  Either that or the German bankers and ECB bankers are so drunk with power that they are blind and have lost their minds.  This Guardian article is very good.  It gives a bulleted list of things that happened Monday (a lot) and explains all of it in clear language.
Cyprus closes banks to stop run amid fury over bailout
Eurozone finance ministers hold emergency talks as vote on aid package in Cyprus parliament is delayed for second day

Cyprus took the unprecedented step on Monday of closing its banks until Thursday as officials scrambled to renegotiate the terms of a controversial bailout that threatens to force savers to take a €5.8bn (£5bn) hit to their deposits.

Finance ministers from the 17-country eurozone held an emergency video conference call and concluded that small depositors should not be hit as hard as others. They said the Cypriot authorities could stagger the deposit seizures, but remained firm in demanding that the overall sum of money raised remained the same. Cyprus state media said accounts with less than €20,000 may be spared.
Senior Cypriot officials told the Guardian that Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, had been the strongest advocate of the savers' tax, but he insisted responsibility lay elsewhere. It had been the Cypriot government, the European commission and the ECB that had pushed for the bank levy, he said.

Cyprus: Nest eggs and broken baskets
Euro authorities seem to be using Cyprus to demonstrate a newly pig-headed toughness. Harder times could follow

Like much of southern Europe, Cyprus has two linked crises, of bank and sovereign solvency. Like the eurozone as a whole, it operates within a single currency, which precludes the options of devaluation and inflation that, for all their dangers, have provided the most reliable means of muddling through previous debt crises. And, like the wider European Union, Cyprus is up against an austerity-aggravated slump – a slump in which citizens enjoy precious few certainties. One rare exception was Europe's pledge to guarantee deposit accounts up to €100,000 (£86,000), a promise that was supposed to make cash in the bank as good as money under the mattress, but a promise that is now tainted everywhere by Nicosia's plan to swipe 7% from even modest nest eggs.

Inflation has frequently rendered fiduciary currency's "promise to pay the bearer" pledge rather hollow, but the psychology of snatching funds outright is different. If you doubt it, just compare the near impossibility of actually cutting money wages with the ease of letting them sink relative to a rising cost of living, something so doable that it is being ubiquitously done across Britain and Europe right now. Where wages are at issue, politicians urging restraint can rally a pro-austerity constituency of savers on fixed incomes against angry unions. But when – as in Cyprus – austerity is biting directly on the savers, it is hard to see where any support is going to come from. That matters, since it is not too grand to describe Europe's crisis as a crisis of democracy.

Cyprus suffers for others' failings

• I can't help feeling that the Cypriot raid on savings is not entirely different from what political control of interest rates has done to bonsai my retirement money tree in the UK.
Mike Brown
Newcastle upon Tyne

• If the result of the tax on deposits is that people in other weak economies like Italy, Spain and Portugal now withdraw their savings, it might well bring down the entire eurozone. Samson and the pillars of the temple spring to mind.
Ralph Blumenau

• I used to think Karl Marx's definition of banks in capitalist society as "institutions created for the systematic robbery of the people" as cheap polemic. Now I begin to see what he meant.
Patrick Renshaw

Senior Cypriot finance minister says Cyrpus is the guinea pig.  If it works, they will do this to Spain, Italy, et al.
Cyprus bailout: how Nicos walked straight into a German sucker punch
Greek Cypriot president's disastrous first EU summit ended with a €5.8bn bill for savers as troika demanded payback

Various formulas and calculations were kicked around, with the Germans and the IMF demanding much bigger taxes on savers' deposits, the commission seeking modest contributions from savers with less than €100,000 and Anastasiades said to be keener on spreading the burden, fearful of scaring off the wealthy Russians with too punitive levies. They use Cyprus as a holiday, property, and banking paradise.

Anastasiades balked at anything over 10% for the wealthy, said EU sources, and settled on the symbolic figure of a 9.9% "tax" on depositors with more than €100,000. That meant the rest of the €5.8bn had to come from the more modest savers, at a one-off rate of 6.75%.
"I was present," said Sklavos. Asked who pushed the hardest for the levy to be slapped on depositors, he said: "Wolfgang Schaeuble."

"It was a fait accompli. They had made their decision before the meeting had even begun. They don't care. They want Cyprus to be the guinea pig. They want to see if this thing works. If it does, then perhaps Spain or Italy will be next. If it doesn't, then who cares about Cyprus?"

Pope Francis, the CIA and the ‘Death Squads’
The primary role of the Catholic hierarchy was to urge the people to stay calm and support the traditional system.

As for Obando, the Sandinistas did nothing to punish him for his collaboration with the CIA and he gradually evolved more into a figure of reconciliation than confrontation. However, the hyper-secretive Vatican has refused to open its archives for any serious research into its relationship with the CIA and other Western intelligence services.

Whenever allegations do arise about the Catholic Church’s hierarchy winking and nodding at the kinds of human rights atrocities that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s, the Vatican PR department lashes out with sternly worded denials.

That practice is playing out again in the days after the election of Pope Francis I. Rather than a serious and reflective assessment of the actions (and inactions) of Cardinal Bergoglio, Cardinal Obando, Pope John Paul II and other Church leaders during those dark days of torture and murder, the Vatican simply denounces all allegations as “slander,” “calumny” and politically motivated lies.

Providence — a short film featuring Bradley Manning's voice

Published on Mar 12, 2013
Leaked audio recording of Bradley Manning describing his response to the July 12, 2007 Baghdad Apache airstrike video that documented the killing of two Reuters journalists.

By Laura Poitras and Jenny Perlin

Information about the release of the leaked audio of Bradley Manning's statement: https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/....

Downloads, embed code, and transcript for full audio, as well as excerpts: https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/....

This video is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.

You can download a copy of this video, along with all of the audio that Freedom of the Press Foundation published, from The Pirate Bay: https://thepiratebay.se/....

The Progressive Movement is a PR Front for Rich Democrats

There is good news in the Boston Globe today for the managers, development directors, visionaries, political hacks and propaganda flacks who run “the Progressive Movement.”   More easy-to-earn and easy-to-hide soft money, millions of dollars,  will be flowing to them from super rich Democrats and business corporations.  It will come clean, pressed and laundered through Organizing for Action, the latest incarnation of the Obama Money Machine which has recently morphed into a “nonpartisan non-profit corporation” that will  ‘‘strengthen the progressive movement and train our next generation of leaders.’’

Does this information concern you?  If not, you need to get out of the propaganda bubble of your Progressive Movement echo chamber and think.  Think hard.  Think about fundamental, radical, democratic, social and economic change, who might bring it about and how.  Ask yourself if the the rich elite, the 1%, are going to fund that.   Leave The Nation and Mother Jones on the shelf;  turn off Ed Schultz, Rachel Madow and Chris Hayes;  don’t open that barrage of email missives from Alternet, Media Matters, MoveOn, and the other think tanks;  and get your head out of the liberal blogosphere for a couple days.  Clear your mind and consider this:

The self-labeled Progressive Movement that has arisen over the past decade is primarily one big propaganda campaign serving the political interests of the the Democratic Party’s richest one-percent who created it.  The funders and owners of the Progressive Movement get richer and richer off Wall Street and the corporate system.  But they happen to be Democrats, cultural and social liberals who can’t stomach Republican policies, and so after bruising electoral defeats a decade ago they decided to buy a movement, one just like the Republicans, a copy.


Social Security Blogathon at DailyKos March 25-29

 photo Poopdogspic.jpg

Penn Alum Lawrence Lessig to Speak at National Constitution Center for Democracy Café

Phillips and Lessig will co-facilitate a Constitution Café to craft “new” constitutional articles on March 18 at the Friends Center, Lucretia Mott Room, 1501 Cherry St., from 7 to 9 p.m. On March 19, “An Evening With Lawrence Lessig: The Constitution and the Corrosive Influence on Money in Politics” will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. in Kirby Auditorium of the National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St. Phillips will moderate the event. The University is a co-sponsor of both events.

Each event is free, open to the public and will be livestreamed at http://constitutioncenter.adobeconnect.com/....

A scholar and political reformer, Lessig, founder of the activist group Rootstrikers, is working to spark a national conversation on a range of proposed constitutional reforms, from limiting political contributions from non-citizens to implementing public-campaign financing to initiating Electoral College reform.

Constitution Cafe is a project run by Phillips, recent recipient of the Distinguished American Leadership Award, under the auspices of Democracy café, www.DemocracyCafe.org, which Lessig serves as an advisory-board member.

More information about the Constitution Café is at: http://www.ConstitutionCafe.org.

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

Evening Blues
Jamie Dimon Told Regulators He Would Not Follow Regulations
The Last Iraqi WMD Prisoner: The Scientist Who Tried to Reveal on March 2, 2003 He Destroyed the CW/BW
Ben Emmerson: Dupe on Two Continents, or Politically Savvy Diplomat?

Phish and Neil Young - Down By the River (Live at Farm Aid 1998)
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