Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Trillion-Dollar Defense Budget Is Already Here

Robert Higgs tries to assess the 'true' size of the US military budget. The argument is summarised in a chart with a breakdown of estimates.

Financing the War

Henry George on financing the US civil war:

[08] As I have before said, the wealth expended in carrying on the war did not come from abroad or from the future, but from the existing wealth in the States under the national flag, and if, when we called on men to die for their country, we had not shrunk from taking, if necessary, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand dollars from every millionaire, we need not have created any debt. But instead of that, what taxation we did impose was so levied as to fall on the poor more heavily than on the rich, and incidentally to establish monopolies by which the rich could profit at the expense of the poor. And then, when more wealth still was needed, instead of taking it from those who had it, we told the rich that if they would voluntarily let the nation use some of their wealth we would make it profitable to them by guaranteeing the use of the taxing power to pay them back, principal and interest. And we did make it profitable with a vengeance. Not only did we, by the institution of the national banking system, give them back nine-tenths of much of the money thus borrowed while continuing to pay interest on the whole amount, but even where it was required neither by the letter of the bond nor the equity of the circumstances we made debt incurred in depreciated greenbacks payable on its face in gold. The consequence of this method of carrying on the war was to make the rich richer instead of poorer. The era of monstrous fortunes in the United States dates from the war.

Michael Hudson wrote a very interesting book about this subject which I hope people are familiar with: Super Imperialism.

It can be obtained from amazon or the full text is available from Hudson's website at:

There is also an interesting email discussion with Hudson archived at:

Hudson argues that it basically works like this:

* the US imports goods from China and other places but doesn't export anything much in return.

* the US pays for its imports with US dollars.

* China and other countries send the US dollars back to the US in exchange for US treasury notes, ie US debt or promises to pay later (with interest).

* Foreign purchases of US bonds plug the federal budget deficit.

* Going off the global dollar standard is not allowed as this means war with the US.

* this goes on forever. Or does it? Eventually the system has to go bust, basically with huge devaluations of the dollar. This means US treasury notes could be worth half or less of what they were when the Chinese bought them. With a devaluation of the dollar, the US will essentially renege on its promise to pay. In other words, 'we imported all your manufactures, but we aint giving much in return. Sorry.'

Of course, at this point the empire is bust and the global economic system that depends on it.

In recent years there have been fears of an almighty dollar crash. This hasn't happened, instead there has been a steady decline, which is probably safer.

Hudson is arguing that the US is absorbing the economic surpluses of China (and the world) and giving nothing but paper in return. And of course, what the US does with its money and surpluses is invest it in its bloated military (bigger than the rest of the world combined) to maintain the empire including these advantageous financial arrangements.

NB. The official military budget of the US does not include "many military-related items that are outside of the Defense Department budget, such as nuclear weapons research, maintenance and production (which is in the Department of Energy budget), Veterans Affairs or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which are largely funded through extra-budgetary supplements, e.g. $120Bi in 2007)." One would think that this is a rather odd way of counting military spending. Perhaps the US is trying to convince itself and the world that it is not spending that much money on war, really. According to Chalmers Johnson, the real military budget of the US is nearly one trillion dollars per annum.

So yes, as George argues, it is real wealth that is being taken and consumed through debt, but in this case its not the wealth of the US, its the wealth of China and others. They are paying and supporting the US empire.

George's comments on English national debt might just as well apply to the gigantic US national debt of today:

[10] In paying interest upon their enormous national debt, what is it that the people of England are paying? They are paying interest upon sums thrown or given away by profligate tyrants and corrupt oligarchies in generations past -- upon grants made to courtezans, and panders, and sycophants, and traitors to the liberties of their country; upon sums borrowed to corrupt their own legislatures and wage wars against both their own liberties and the liberties of other peoples. For the Hessians hired and the Indians armed and the fleets and armies sent to crush the American colonies into submission, with the effect of splitting into two what might but for that have perhaps yet been one great confederated nation; for the cost of treading down the Irish people and inflicting wounds that yet rankle; for the enormous sums spent in the endeavor to maintain on the continent of Europe the blasphemy of divine right; for expenditures made to carry rapine among unoffending peoples in the four quarters of the globe, Englishmen of to~day are taxed. It is not the case of asking a man to pay a debt contracted by his great-grandfather; it is asking him to pay for the rope with which his great-grandfather was hanged, or the fagots with which he was burned.

In Fiscal Year 2006, the U. S. Government spent $406 Billion on interest payments to the holders of the National Debt. The interest expense paid on the National Debt is the third largest expense in the federal budget. Only Defense and income redistribution are higher.

When the interest on the debt gets to be nearly as big as the official defence spending itself, we're sort of running to stand still, aren't we? I know! Let's run a $500b budget deficit and borrow more money! That squares the circle nicely, and after all, as Dick 'Deficits dont Matter' Cheney said, Deficits Dont Matter. I'll bet you he thinks Defeats Dont Matter either.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Different Kind of Courage - The New York Review of Books

Charles Taylor: A Different Kind of Courage:
Jonathan Lear takes as the main subject of his study the Crow tribe of the western US, who were more or less pressured to give up their hunting way of life and enter a reservation near the end of the nineteenth century. The issue is not genocide.

Then what would it be, pray tell? Steal their lands and resources, and extinguish their culture (not to mention their population).

Plenty Coups, describing the transition many years after in the late 1920s, near the end of his life: "When the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell to the ground, and they could not lift them up again. After this nothing happened."

Add this to the list of statements of persons who have witnessed the genocide of their people in their own lifetimes.

Sometimes it seems to me that there is nothing more moving in the world than the testimony of the annihilated American Indian tribes.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Will Cheney Attack Iran?

Neverending game of speculation:

There is a race currently underway between different flanks of the administration to determine the future course of US-Iran policy.

On one flank are the diplomats, and on the other is Vice President Cheney's team and acolytes -- who populate quite a wide swath throughout the American national security bureaucracy.

The Pentagon and the intelligence establishment are providing support to add muscle and nuance to the diplomatic effort led by Condi Rice, her deputy John Negroponte, Under Secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns, and Legal Adviser John Bellinger. The support that Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and CIA Director Michael Hayden are providing Rice's efforts are a complete, 180 degree contrast to the dysfunction that characterized relations between these institutions before the recent reshuffle of top personnel....

This White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an "end run strategy" around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument.

The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran's nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).

Militarism in Israel is practically out of control, as it is in the US, but, especially after the Lebanon debacle, one has to wonder whether even the Israelis would be up for this craziness.
This strategy would sidestep controversies over bomber aircraft and overflight rights over other Middle East nations and could be expected to trigger a sufficient Iranian counter-strike against US forces in the Gulf -- which just became significantly larger -- as to compel Bush to forgo the diplomatic track that the administration realists are advocating and engage in another war.

Commenters chip in:

I'm not sure what to think. I've believed Cheney & Co. were determined to attack Iran for a long time. I expected it last October, and again this spring. They probably still do want to attack Iran, but the forces arrayed against them are organised and growing.

First, China has demonstrated that it could knock out all our military navigation and communication satellites in a number of hours. Ever since January you might have noticed that admirals and generals are a lot less keen on a war. Our ships would be blind sitting ducks. Our most advanced weapons systems would be useless.

Second, Saudi Arabia has got all stroppy and started cutting deals behind our backs in the Middle East, with China, with India and with Europe. Bush's buddies in Saudi now say that their marriage to America is Catholic - so no divorce - but because they are Muslim they can take another, younger wife - China. 75 percent of Gulf oil exports go to Asia.

Third, Europe has gotten real confusing for Bush. He doesn't know any of the new players. He hates what he does know about Gordon Brown, who will replace Blair within weeks. He can't count on anyone white to give him cover of legitmacy this time around.

Fourth, Russia is much more powerful and agile now than it was five years ago. Five years ago Russia watched us storm into Iraq and did nothing. Russia will allow us to storm into Iran, and then they will do to us what we did to them in Afghanistan. Now that they know it was Robert Gates who suckered them into the briar patch and then financed and armed Al Qaeda to destroy the Soviet military, they will be keen to return the favour.

Fifth, Iran has been more reasonable and very effective at diplomacy in the region and in Asia and Europe lately. That and it has the best value-for-money military on the planet (about $91 per capita), having prepared for defensive operations ever since we instigated Saddam's invasion of Khuzestan (90 percent of Iran's oil reserves). The proxy war in Lebanon last year was meant to prove the model for massive attacks on civilian infrastructure to destabilise response, and then combined air superiority with limited ground occupation to hold Khuzestan. It failed there and will fail in Iran. We won't hold Khuzestan long enough or peacefully enough to get any oil out, no matter how many millions of cluster bombs we drop on the surrounding mountains.

If the USA attacks Iran it will not only be the end of US hegemony in the world, it will probably be the end of the US as free and wealthy nation. I would expect economic collapse, dictatorship and civil war within 10 years. With the Bushies thrown off their game plan of one party rule by rigged voting machines, a politicised Justice Department and crony courts, few Republicans have the stomach for the aggressive march toward dictatorship that an open grab for power requires. Most GOP officials are inclined to skulk in the darkness and start plotting again rather than press ahead with the full PNAC plan for global domination.

There's a rumour going around Washington that Cheney has been a client of the notorious DC Madam:

"Apparently, there are rumors coming out of Washington that Vice President Dick Cheney, when he was the CEO of Halliburton, used to go visit prostitutes. This could explain why one girl was paid two billion dollars. I mean, I was thinking about this and Cheney ... I mean, going to a prostitute, that's ... I mean, I can't believe a good-looking guy like that would ever have to pay for sex, you know what I'm saying?"

Wonkette explained why its staffers were "underwhelmed by this rumor."

"Because even if it’s a fact, which it probably is, there’s no way it would have any impact on Cheney’s 'career,'" Wonkette continued. "This is a draft-dodging half-human war criminal [whose ratings are in the toilet where they started from] with a pregnant lesbian daughter who tells senators to fuck themselves and shoots his own friends in the face. Ordering an outcall hooker is positively innocent compared to the well-known things Cheney does every day."


"The White House must either shut Cheney and his team down . . . or expect some to begin to think that Bush has no control over his Vice President."

Gee, what would give them THAT idea?

Fortunately, while Bush doesn't control Cheney, Cheney doesn't control the Pentagon any more through his fellow Sith Lord, Donald Rumfeld.

If Gates is on board with the realist strategy -- and he practicaly defines the type -- then Cheney would appear to be checkmated. The Vice President's office has no constitutional authority whatsoever over any of the cabinet departments. Sure, he can continue to plot with the AEI and tie the NSC up in knots. But he can't start a war, not without the Dauphin's signature. And, with luck, Condi and company are in a position to keep that from happening.

The fatuous and sycophantic Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer chips into the debate with the following:
the Prime Minister of Australia's decision on American soil immediately after September 11th ... invoked our defense alliance with the United States in effect to declare war on the terrorists that had attacked our friend and our ally.

So we invaded Iraq? It was Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda that attacked America on 9/11, not Saddam Hussein and Iraq. It's hard to find the words to express enough contempt for policy and public statements that are such transparent lies and manipulations. It's a time of lying, and a time of crimes, open and in your face, grinding on and on until these people are finally called to account. Downer again:

We believe that purposeful, determined, committed American leadership is equally indispensable to the peace and prosperity of the entire world. For us in Australia, these judgments are clear. There is a moral clarity about them. We fundamentally believe that the United States is a force for good in the world.

The attack on Iraq was an unprovoked act of aggression ('the supreme crime of aggressive war') accompanied by 'state-sponsored lies reminiscent of the worst regimes of the 20th Century'. It has destroyed the country in an incredible way, killing 650,000 people (heading towards one million) and creating four million refugees. And this is called 'good'.

But imperialism aint what it used to be. Last time we invaded a Muslim middle east nation 8,000 Australians were killed in the space of a few months, when the population was much smaller than it is now. Howard and Downer know that the public wouldn't stand for anything like such casualties today. In fact, the 'troops' are protected from harm, suffering virtually nil casualties, and are nothing more than a photo opportunity and political prop for a Prime Minister and a Government that loves the idea of a 'war leader'. A war hero without the deaths and casualties - you have to admit the 'tricky' John 'W' Howard has got one over Bush and Blair here.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Blair's legacy lies in the Baghdad morgue

Johann Hari: Blair's legacy lies in the Baghdad morgue:
Blair knew suprisingly little about American power and its purposes. In a conversation with John Snow, he revealed he had never heard of Mohammed Mossadeq, the democratic leader of Iran who was toppled by the CIA in 1953 because he wanted to control his own country's oil supplies. As recently as 2005, he had never even heard of the Project for a New American Century.

Good god almighty, how can such a downright ignorant, persistently ignorant, man get and hold the highest office, and take his country to war in a critical region of the world?

Previously I had regarded Blair as an actor, a liar, a kind of high-class conman. We all know that Reagan and 'Dubya' Bush are completely ignorant, ignorant by design. Perhaps Blair is in the same category.

One friend of Blair's recently told me she was shocked in 1997 when she saw Blair welcoming Henry Kissinger into Downing Street and lauding him as a great statesman and friend of democracy. She challenged him over it, but discovered "he just doesn't know about this history - how the Americans toppled democratic governments in Latin America and the Middle East. He really didn't know anything about it. It was shocking."

Shocking it is indeed, and virtually unbelievable. Could Blair truly be that ignorant? This is a major story, unless I've been duped. I always regarded Blair as somewhat more intelligent and eloquent than Bush, at least.

If for no other reason than cynical realpolitik, someone should know something about fact, history and reality. Is the Reagan model of democratic government the universal future? An empty headed actor/conman who reads the lines he is fed, and makes decisions concerning things he knows nothing about?

Friday, May 18, 2007

American Taliban leader Jerry Falwell Dead

Hitchens has some fun:

COOPER: Author and outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens is about as far from Jerry Falwell in his beliefs as one could get. Christian fundamentalists are a major target of his new book, "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything." He joins me now from Raleigh, North Carolina.

Christopher, I'm not sure if you believe in heaven, but, if you do, do you think Jerry Falwell is in it?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "VANITY FAIR": No. And I think it's a pity there isn't a hell for him to go to.

COOPER: What is it about him that brings up such vitriol?

HITCHENS: The empty life of this ugly little charlatan proves only one thing, that you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you will just get yourself called reverend. Who would, even at your network, have invited on such a little toad to tell us that the attacks of September the 11th were the result of our sinfulness and were God's punishment if they hadn't got some kind of clerical qualification?

People like that should be out in the street, shouting and hollering with a cardboard sign and selling pencils from a cup. The whole consideration of this -- of this horrible little person is offensive to very, very many of us who have some regard for truth and for morality, and who think that ethics do not require that lies be told to children by evil old men, that we're -- we're not told that people who believe like Falwell will be snatched up into heaven, where I'm glad to see he skipped the rapture, just found on the floor of his office, while the rest of us go to hell.

How dare they talk to children like this? How dare they raise money from credulous people on their huckster-like (INAUDIBLE) radio stations, and fly around in private jets, as he did, giggling and sniggering all the time at what he was getting away with?

Do you get an idea now of what I mean to say?

COOPER: Yes, no, I think -- I think you're making yourself very clear.

I mean, I...


HITCHENS: How dare he say, for example, that the Antichrist is already present among us and is an adult male Jew, while, all the time, fawning on the worst elements in Israel, with his other hand pumping anti-Semitic innuendoes into American politics, along with his friends Robertson and Graham?

COOPER: And, yet, there are...


HITCHENS: ... encouraging -- encouraging -- encouraging the most extreme theocratic fanatics and maniacs on the West Bank and in Gaza not to give an inch of what he thought of was holy land to the people who already live there, undercutting and ruining every democratic and secularist in the Jewish state in the name of God?


HITCHENS: This is -- this is -- he's done us an enormous, enormous disservice by this sort of demagogy.

COOPER: What do you think it says about America that -- and politics in America, that he was so successful in mobilizing huge swathes of the country to come out and vote?

HITCHENS: I'm not certain at all that he did deserve this reputation. And I... COOPER: You don't think he does?

HITCHENS: Well, I'm not certain that he was a mobilizer. He certainly hoped to be one.

Well, the fact is that the country suffers, to a considerable extent, from paying too much, by way of compliment, to anyone who can describe themselves as a person of faith, Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Chaucerian frauds, people who are simply pickpockets, who -- and frauds -- who prey on the gullible and...


COOPER: Do you believe he believed what he spoke?

HITCHENS: Of course not. He woke up every morning, as I say, pinching his chubby little flanks and thinking, I have got away with it again.

COOPER: You think he was a complete fraud, really?



COOPER: You don't believe that, I mean, in his reading of the Bible, you don't think he was sincere in his -- whether you agree or not with his reading of the Bible, you don't think he was sincere in what he spoke?

HITCHENS: No. I think he was a conscious charlatan and bully and fraud.

And I think, if he read the Bible at all -- and I would doubt that he could actually read any long book of -- at all -- that he did so only in the most hucksterish, as we say, Bible-pounding way.

I'm going to repeat what I said before about the Israeli question. It's very important. Jerry Falwell kept saying to his own crowd, yes, you have got to like the Jews, because they can make more money in 10 minutes than you can make in a lifetime. He was always full, as his friends Robertson and Graham are and were, of anti- Semitic innuendo.

Yet, in the most base and hypocritical way, he encouraged the worst elements among Jewry. He got Menachem Begin to give him the Jabotinsky Medal, celebrating an alliance between Christian fundamentalism and Jewish fanaticism that has ruined the chances for peace in the Middle East.

Lots of people are going to die and are already leading miserable lives because of the nonsense preached by this man, and because of the absurd way that we credit anyone who can say they're a person of faith.

Look, the president endangers us this way. He meets a KGB thug like Vladimir Putin, and, because he is wearing a crucifix around his neck, says, I'm dealing with a man of faith. He's a man of goodwill.

Look what Putin has done to American and European interests lately. What has the president said to take back this absurd remark? It's time to stop saying that, because someone preaches credulity and credulousness, and claims it as a matter of faith, that we should respect them.

The whole life of Falwell shows this is an actual danger to democracy, to culture, to civilization. That's what my book is all about.

It seems to me that if you read carefully it is clear enough that the Antichrist is a false preacher, a wolf in sheep's clothing, like Falwell or Oral Robertson, who publicly called for murder on national television (the murder of Chavez). Just as it is clear that The Beast is none other than the Emperor himself - Nero back in the day but Bush is the man in our time. At any rate these people have certainly got nothing to do with the teaching of Jesus as might be found in the Gospels.

These false preachers betray the true message of Jesus and give over religion, morality and Christ himself to the service of the Beast. Its no accident they support and gather support for imperialism, militarism, colonialism, racism, fascism, injustice and inequality. That's the whole point.

Of course, the Republican party and ruling corporate elite couldn't care less about either religion or truth and laugh behind the back of these fanatics, fundamentalists and half-witted evolution-deniers. The only role these preachers have is to herd the rubes into the voting booth to vote Bush or whatever other puppet it put up. Good job Jerry, and here's all your money, more than even the goddam jews make.

Its nothing different from all history. The purpose of teachers and prophets is to critique the system and enlighten the oppressed. The purpose of organised religion is to traduce the message and induce the masses to vote for their own chains.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hoon: Its All About Cheney

Hoon admits fatal errors in planning for postwar Iraq | Iraq | Guardian Unlimited: You might have to take Hoon's remarks with a certain piece of salt, but they do make classic entry in Ron Beasley's series "Its All About Cheney"

Geoff Hoon reveals that Britain disagreed with the US administration over two key decisions in May 2003, two months after the invasion - to disband Iraq's army and 'de-Ba'athify' its civil service. Mr Hoon also said he and other senior ministers completely underestimated the role and influence of the vice-president, Dick Cheney.

'Sometimes ... Tony had made his point with the president, and I'd made my point with Don [Rumsfeld] and Jack [Straw] had made his point with Colin [Powell] and the decision actually came out of a completely different place. And you think: what did we miss? I think we missed Cheney.'..."

Of the summary dismissal of Iraq's 350,000-strong army and police forces, Mr Hoon said the Americans were uncompomising: "We certainly argued against [the US]. I recall having discussions with Donald Rumsfeld, but I recognised that it was one of those judgment calls. I would have called it the other way. His argument was that the Iraqi army was so heavily politicised that we couldn't be sure that we would not retain within it large elements of Saddam's people.... "

The dismantling of several ministries and removal from office of all state employees with Ba'ath party membership was also an error, Mr Hoon says.

Patrick Cockburn Reviews the Iraq Disaster

TomDispatch - Tomgram: Patrick Cockburn, Iraq Dismantled:
There was a central lesson of four years of war which Bush and Tony Blair never seemed to take on board, though it was obvious to anybody living in Iraq: the occupation was unpopular and becoming more so by the day....

It is this lack of political support that has so far doomed all U.S. political and military actions in Iraq. It makes the country very different from Afghanistan where foreign troops are far more welcome. Opinion polls consistently show this trend. A comprehensive Iraqi survey has been conducted by ABC News, USAToday, the BBC, and ARD annually over the last three years. Its findings illuminate the most important trends in Iraqi politics. They show that, by March 2007, no less than 78% of Iraqis opposed the presence of U.S. forces, compared to 65% in November 2005 and 51% in February 2004. In the latter year, only 17% of the population thought that violence against U.S. forces was acceptable, while by 2007 the figure had risen to 51%. This pool of people sympathetic to Sunni insurgents and Shia militias was so large as to make it difficult to control and impossible to eliminate them....

Again and again, assassinations and bombs showed that the Iraqi army and police were thoroughly infiltrated by militants from all sides.... Some American soldiers see that the problem is not about a few infiltrators. "Any Iraqi officer who hasn't been assassinated or targeted for assassination is giving information or support to the insurgents," one US marine was quoted as saying. "Any Iraqi officer who isn't in bed with the insurgents is already dead."

Time to give up, Cheney. Your attempt to seize by force Middle East oil reserves has failed.

The nightmare for Washington was to find that it had conquered Iraq only to install black-turbaned clerics in power in Baghdad, as they already were in Tehran. At first, the U.S. tried to postpone elections, claiming that a census had to be held. It was only on the insistence of the Shia Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani that two elections were held in 2005, in which the Shia religious parties triumphed.

A point often overlooked: the great proponent of 'democracy' held elections in Iraq only when forced to by indigenous clerical forces.

The poll cited above showed that by Spring 2007 only 34% of Iraqis thought their country was being run by their own government; 59% believed the U.S. was in control. The Iraqi government had been robbed of legitimacy in the eyes of its own people.

Good god now, we're not really serious about democracy. As Chomsky has said, its hard to understand "how anybody can talk about democracy promotion by the United States with a straight face." That's the power of propaganda. 'Democracy' is ritually incanted to such an extent that for the unwary it is literally a form of brainwashing, and so it can come as a surprise that the promotion of democracy in reality is not actually done, rather the opposite.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

These lies will end in our misery

Clive Hamilton criticises the Howard Government's global warming policy -
Propaganda often works through fabrications so audacious that it is hard to know how to respond. This technique has been adopted by the federal Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, in his frequent claim that Australia is "leading the world" in the response to the climate crisis.

To counter the view at home and abroad that Australia is a pariah in efforts to tackle global warming, the Government has campaigned relentlessly to persuade voters the opposite is the case. To succeed it must somehow undo the hold of the facts.

The first fact that had to be countered was that Australia did extraordinarily well out of the Kyoto negotiations in 1997. After playing diplomatic hard-ball, Australia was conceded a very generous deal. Yet the Howard Government soon began to portray that great victory as a bad deal which would wreck the Australian economy. This repudiation of a gift from the rest of the world created widespread resentment.

The Government's various voluntary greenhouse programs with industry can be understood as publicity stunts rather than real efforts to cut emissions. When the Government early in its term commissioned a review of its flagship greenhouse challenge program, the results showed that only a sixth of the emission cuts claimed for the program were real. Now the Government refuses any independent scrutiny of its programs.

Irrespective of a few minor green policies announced in last night's federal budget, the failure of the Government to take effective measures to cut Australia's emissions is well understood by experts and policy makers abroad. When a team of German researchers asked hundreds of experts around the world to score industrialised countries according to their commitment to tackle climate change, Australia ranked second last, with only the US doing worse.

But we need not rely on expert testimony to disprove the Government's climate change fabrication. There is a simple and incontrovertible test of whether Australia is a leader or a laggard: are we reducing, or at least slowing the growth, of our greenhouse emissions?

Since the Howard Government came to power, Australia's emissions have increased by 19 per cent, a growth rate more than double the average of all other industrialised countries. And the Government expects them to grow by another 25 per cent by 2020. This is at a time when the world's climate scientists say we must reduce our emissions to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

When deploying the big-lie technique there are rules to be followed: be audacious; never admit fault; never accept the possibility of alternatives; and repeat the falsehood so often that people end up accepting it as truth. This describes the Government's approach, one now articulated with renewed vigour by Turnbull.

The strategy to avoid responsibility has two prongs: displace and defer. The Government has repeatedly displaced responsibility from itself, first by fingering developing countries as being "exempted" from Kyoto (itself a lie, as almost all developing counties have ratified the treaty). More recently it has shifted the blame to China, stating there is no point acting if China "pollutes the environment to its heart's content", in the words of Alexander Downer.

The Europeans have also been blamed. They are pretending to cut emissions to impose a cost on Australia, goes the argument. Most recently, the bizarre policy of allocating $200 million to reduce logging in the Third World is another attempt to shift responsibility from the need to reduce fossil emissions at home.

The second prong is to defer action. While imposing no effective measures to cut emissions now, the Government has put its faith in the development of "clean coal" technologies and nuclear power, the most important features of which are that neither would have a significant effect on our greenhouse emissions for at least 15 to 20 years.

In the public mind the facts are often weak in the face of persistent and passionate fabrications by figures of authority. In the 1930s the leaders of Europe, still traumatised by the Great War, wanted to believe that the rise of fascism did not mean another war, that it was possible to appease an expansionist dictator and live in peace. Winston Churchill was one of the few with a clear-eyed understanding of Nazi aggression, yet his warnings were ignored. There are parallels with Al Gore's long crusade.

But truth frequently gains a momentum of its own. The question then is how much damage will be done before it prevails. In the case of climate change the answer is "a great deal". The 10 years lost will translate into enormous additional human misery later this century. If Turnbull perseveres with the lies, the misery will only accumulate and add to the imbalance on his karmic ledger.

One can only conclude that the Howard Government either doesn't believe or doesn't care about the issue of global warming; it is only interested in playing political games to get itself re-elected and to serve the big corporate emitters which are its backers.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tomgram: Michael Schwartz, The Prize of Iraqi Oil

TomDispatch - Tomgram: Michael Schwartz, The Prize of Iraqi Oil: "According to Oil and Gas Journal, Western oil companies estimate that they can produce a barrel of Iraqi oil for less than $1.50 and possibly as little as $1…. This is similar to production costs in Saudi Arabia and lower than virtually any other country."

That's $63 dollars a barrel of economic rent, ie pure profit or surplus value above necessary costs. And the price can only go higher due to peak oil at the same time it is discovered Iraq might have the largest remaining oil reserves on the planet.

This is kapitalism, rent-seeking, land monopoly, colonialism, and imperialism in the tiniest and purest little nutshell that you could ever hope to find. Let's hope with this striking and final example the world population wakes up to what this system truly is and how it works.

Python's Terry Jones: Saved by the bomb

Guardian | Saved by the bomb: "Campaigning in Oklahoma the other day, the Republican senator John McCain was asked what should be done about Iran. He responded by singing, 'Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran', to the tune of the Beach Boys' Barbara Ann. (Join the hilarity and see for yourself on YouTube.) How can any thinking person disagree? I mean, any country with a president who doesn't shave properly and never wears a tie deserves what's coming to it - a lot of American bombs, with a few British ones thrown in to ensure we don't miss out on the ensuing upsurge in terrorism."

This is another in a series of funny and cutting articles by Jones. I read somewhere (forget where) that cartoonist Tom Tomorrow was going the way of Mark Twain - an exhaustion of humour to be replaced by bitterness and despair in the face of grim and hopeless reality. Let's hope Jones doesn't also succumb - although lord knows any of us could easily suffer the same.

Uri Avnery dumps on Dan Halutz - wicked stuff

Israel's Exercise in Escapism - by Uri Avnery:
Dan Halutz has already drawn the conclusion and resigned. True, in the Book of Proverbs (24:17) the Bible commands us: "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth," but, frankly, I permitted myself to rejoice and verily mine heart was gladdened.

The story started when Halutz was commander of the Air Force. In order to kill the Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh, he ordered the dropping of a one-ton bomb on his house, which also killed 15 civilians, including nine children.

We sent him and his colleagues letters, warning them that we may sue them for war crimes. When Halutz was asked how he feels when releasing such a bomb, he answered that he feels a slight bump on his wing. He added that we were traitors, and that we should be brought to trial. (Treason is the only crime still punishable by death under Israeli law.)

When Halutz was appointed chief of staff, we protested in front of the General Staff building. The protest was not only motivated by moral considerations, profound as they were. We also warned against giving the command of the army to a person whose boastful style testified to his being reckless, irresponsible, and devoid of judgment.

Now comes the Winograd commission and repeats almost the same words. But in the meantime 119 Israeli soldiers, 40 Israeli civilians, and about a thousand Lebanese have been killed – because the pitiful political leadership was mesmerized by this winged nincompoop.

Of course, all this only reminds us of the unutterably terrible deathbed statement of the Swedish statesman Oxenstierna as quoted by Barbara Tuchman, "Know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed."

Henderson: Al-Qaeda, not US, is to blame for Iraq disaster

Blinkers on in the killing fields - Henderson makes the best case he can for the war in this article, critiquing the 'left' for its opposition and lamenting the horror of Al-Qaeda terrorism. Its very much in the grand style of condemning the historic crime of Hitler's Holocaust (not to mention the shocking acts of Genghis Khan) but having nothing to say about the evils for which we today, right now, are responsible, and could stop if we were minded to.

I suppose the most interesting thing about it is that he no longer seeks to deny the war has slaughtered 650,000 (and counting) Iraqis, he just attempts to pin the blame on Al-Qaeda and the insurgency. The US and its miserable Anglo-Saxon 'allies' Blair and Howard, who are just valiantly striving to promote democracy, apparently don't have anything to do with it.

Lets hope he's reading UK General Rose, who bluntly declared the war is lost, we have to admit defeat and leave, and that the insurgency is right to attack US forces. Henderson might get a clue but I doubt it. He long ago sold his soul to the neo-liberal, neo-conservative, pseudo-fascist governments we labour under. Henderson is billed as the 'executive director of the Sydney Institute', one of those phony academies cum-propaganda-outfits that are a defining feature of the right wing reaction to the sixties. Usually described as 'think tanks', these places have degenerated into being all tank and no think. Naturally a tool like Henderson doesn't know exactly who or when the next country it is that is going to be attacked, only that when the attack comes in, he has to propagandise for it as best he can.

The Iraq war is a modern watershed. There were those who recognised it as an immoral, illegal act of aggressive war and thus opposed it, even before it started; and then there were those who recognised it as an immoral, illegal act of aggressive war and supported it, to the bitter genocidal end. There were only 25 million people in Iraq to start with. We are now heading towards one million killed and another four million refugees. Another ten or twenty years and the place will be depopulated.

Perhaps that is the plan? Genocide the natives and work the fields with imported slave labour. Its reminiscent of the Irish famine: why don't these people just die or can I put them on a coffin ship to the New World? Capitalism wont be able to advance if we can't clear the land and make a profit from modern farming.

If democracy is to be saved and psuedo-fascism defeated, this latter category of war supporters will have to be driven out of public life and public discourse. People who really believed or still believe the silly lies about weapons of mass destruction, links to Al-Qaeda, and promotion of democracy are an insignificant minority. These lies would have done Himmler and Heydrich proud, which is exactly why no decent person these days would want to admit being duped by them.

A word about Pilger: he is one of Australia's great journalists, simply because he takes a moral stance, unlike Henderson who is nothing but a propagandist hacking away in a modern day Ministry of Propaganda. Certainly Pilger is correct in assessing the influence of the insurgency. They have halted the Bush plan of aggressive imperium, for which much of the world might be thankful. Another way of putting it is that 650,000 Iraqi people have paid with their lives so that Syria and Iran could be spared attack (sorry about Somalia).

However the phrase 'supporting the insurgency' is problematic. What exactly is meant by this? That one should send money and guns, perhaps volunteers, to the insurgency? I doubt many antiwar people (or Pilger) would actually agree with this, unlike warmongers of the Henderson variety who are doing all they can to keep the flow of political support, guns, money and soldiers into the warzone. Pilger's use of the word 'support' is probably more like the meaning of 'barracking' for the underdog in a movie at the cinema. You want to see the military machine defeated so that it cannot kill again. Ideally, the American people exercising democracy would halt the war and dismantle the Pentagon themselves, finishing the job Bin Laden started (non-violently, of course). But where democracy and the Republic have failed and been replaced by militarism and imperialism, the only check is military defeat and moral, political, and financial bankruptcy, which, for the sake of the world, cannot come quickly enough.

A couple of other points about Henderson's article: the whole theme of this article is that the immoral 'left' does not condemn terrorist killing, and yet in the very statement from Pilger that Henderson himself quoted Pilger says "we abhor and condemn the continuing loss of innocent life in Iraq". No decent and fair minded person would doubt that that is the genuine motive and feeling of John Pilger. So what is this, cognitive dissonance? Henderson or his propaganda line manager need to review this crap before it goes to print lest it collapse under its own self-refuting idiocy.

Secondly, Henderson say baldly: "Whatever a person's position on the invasion of Iraq, the fact is that most Iraqi deaths are being caused by members of the Iraqi insurgency - Sunni and Shiite alike - as well as by the radical Islamists who comprise al-Qaeda in Iraq." Evidence please? Even if this were true, it does not absolve the US and its allies of responsibility for the disaster which the invasion has imposed on Iraq. But, IIRC, the Lancet guys indicated that most of the deaths were caused by airpower - the vast, great unpunished warcrime of the modern world.

From the slaughter of the Germans (600,000) to the firebombing of Tokyo and the nuking of two other cities, to the monstrous Indo-China bombardment, to the slaughter of 200,000 Iraqis in the First Gulf Massacre, through to this contemporary Second Gulf Massacre, what would Henderson know or care about that? Picasso's Guernica is nice, but its ok if we do it. The shame is revealed, however, when they put a blanket over it.

Monday, May 07, 2007

UK and US must admit defeat and leave Iraq, says British general: Insurgents justified in opposing the occupation

General Sir Michael Rose on the Iraq war: "A retired British army general says Iraq's insurgents are justified in opposing the occupation, arguing that the US and its allies should 'admit defeat' and leave Iraq before more soldiers are killed.

"According to the Guardian, General Sir Michael Rose told the BBC's Newsnight programme: 'It is the soldiers who have been telling me from the frontline that the war they have been fighting is a hopeless war, that they cannot possibly win it and the sooner we start talking politics and not military solutions, the sooner they will come home and their lives will be preserved.'

"Asked if that meant admitting defeat, the general replied: 'Of course we have to admit defeat. The British admitted defeat in north America and the catastrophes that were predicted at the time never happened.

"'The catastrophes that were predicted after Vietnam never happened. The same thing will occur after we leave Iraq.'"

A refreshingly frank statement. Of course it is the truth, but UK/US/A will find it very hard to admit.

Foy: The Kissinger Connection

Taki's Top Drawer: The Kissinger Connection Kissinger is condemned as the world's biggest living war criminal due to the huge scale of the Indo-china atrocity and the fact Nixon is now dead. But according to this article it turns out he played a key role in the Iraq disaster as well.

Garner drew up detailed plans and, at his first briefing with President Bush, outlined three essential “musts” that would, he asserted, ensure a smooth transition after the war. The first “must”, he said, was that the Iraqi military should not be disbanded. The second “must” was that the 50,000-strong Ba’ath party machine that ran government services should not be broken up or its members proscribed. If either were to happen, he warned, there would be chaos compounded by thousands of unemployed, armed Iraqis running around. And the third “must”, he insisted, was that an interim Iraqi leadership group, eager to help the United States administer the country in the short term, should be kept on-side.

Initially, no one disagreed, according to State of Denial, the new book by the veteran Washington reporter, Bob Woodward. But within weeks of the invasion, Garner’s tenure as head of the post-war planning office was over: he was replaced by Paul Bremer, a terrorism expert and protégé of Henry Kissinger. Bremer immediately countermanded all three of Garner’s “musts”. [My emphasis.] When, eventually, Garner confronted Rumsfeld, telling him: “There is still time to rectify this,” Rumsfeld refused to do so.

There's little doubt that all this is an extraordinary, epic bungle, but the writer's thesis that the bungle is 'deliberate' seems a conspiratorial stretch to me.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A New History?

Global Guerrillas: "In this essay, [Fukuyama's End of History] he made a convincing case that we are in a post-historical epoch that is devoid of ideological struggle. Liberal capitalist democracy has won and it is only a matter of time before we all live under its roof. That claim has proven generally true since that writing."

I guess this is one of the areas where we have to part company with John Robb. Apart from the silliness of 'open source warfare' (if we dont believe in 'open source', perhaps there could be 'free software warfare'?), there is nothing more ludicrous than Fukuyama's 'end of history' thesis since Hegel protested the Prussian Kingdom comprised something similar.

Robb's analysis is sometimes interesting but the weakness it seems to me is that there is a nearly complete lack of class analysis or the material basis of history. In other words there is almost no political analysis at all.

Zawahiri mocks failure of US in Iraq war

Zawahiri prays for US bloodbath in Iraq: In the video aired Saturday, Zawahiri reacts to the legislation passed by the US Congress in late April to force a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq starting in October and concluding by early 2008.

"Zawahiri said that the legislation "reflects American failure and frustration". He lamented that it would "deprive us of the opportunity to destroy the American forces, which we have caught in a historic trap".

""We ask Allah that they only get out of it after losing 200,000 to 300,000 troops ... in order that we give the spillers of blood in Washington and Europe an unforgettable lesson, which will motivate them to review their entire doctrinal and moral system which produced their historic, criminal Crusader-Zionist entity," Zawahiri said."

Howard: Are you listening?

No more excuses for climate lethargy: "THERE is a simple message for the Federal Government from the final report of the United Nations' expert panel on climate change: get with the program. We have the technology and the means to arrest climate change. We can save the planet and the economy. We will not bankrupt the world or the nation."

"From the head of News Corp to the head of Greenpeace, there is a realisation the world is about to embark on an energy revolution, and the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is pointing the way forward.

"Yes, it comes at a price, but it is not as steep as the Howard Government has repeatedly forecast. Australia's heavy dependence on coal, its resource-based economy and its wasteful energy use will mean the cost it bears may be twice the world average, according to CSIRO estimates. But it is unlikely to hack into our economic growth, as the Government's modelling has claimed."

The Concept of Rent Seeking

Concepts & Issues: Rent Seeking: "To avoid misunderstandings, “rent” in this context has nothing to do with “rent” in the sense of rent for land or property. In the modern context of “rent seeking”, rent strictly speaking means financial income which is not matched by corresponding labour."

The author provides in this article a useful explanation of the concept of rent seeking except that tax-free land or property yielding a pure profit, surplus value, disposable surplus, or economic rent is the quintessential form of rent seeking and rent taking and the obvious original source of the concept.

In Marxist theory this is known as the 'primitive accumulation of capital'; in geonomics it is described as land monopoly or enclosurism.

'Rent', or profit above all costs, or income without work, is certainly the holy grail of capitalism and indeed of all privileged systems throughout history. It is of course, merely the institutionalised appropriation of the product of others' labor, ie slavery. This income, when transferable, becomes capitalised into what I call 'kapital' (assets, property) which i define as 'the kapitalised (or exchange-value) of a politically guaranteed unearned income (rent)'.

The push by corporations, industry, ideologists and major political parties for carbon trading and simultaneous resistance to the carbon tax is a major contemporary example of rent seeking. In effect, the corporations to which the 'carbon credits' ('license to pollute') are issued will achieve the virtual enclosure of the atmosphere. What was previously common will become the corporations' 'private property', and you will have to pay for access. This is a truly vast new global enclosure movement which will create a vast new pool of oppressive and exploitative kapital.

The carbon tax idea as an alternative is directly analagous to the idea of a land tax in dealing with land monopoly or land enclosure. It is at once both more equitable in explicitly recognising the equal right of all people to the natural common; and more efficient in realising the best and safest use of the common resource. For all these reasons, the introduction of the carbon tax is unfortunately unlikely as we can clearly see as we follow the debate. 'Kapital' controls the consciousness of the public, and must do so if it is to continue to exist.

IPCC Report: Fixing Climate Change Is Cheap

Reason Magazine - Fixing Climate Change Is Cheap: "Even the most stringent goal of following a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction trajectory that aims to stabilize greenhouse concentrations at around 535 parts per million (ppm) would reduce annual GDP growth rates by less than 0.12 percent per year by 2030. In that scenario, global GDP in 2030 would be 3 percent lower than it would otherwise have been without emissions reductions. The current world GDP is around $47 trillion, and in 23 years, at 3 percent per year growth rate, it would double to about $94 trillion without any emissions reductions. A 3 percent GDP reduction in 2030 implies that world GDP would drop to $91.3 trillion. In other words, putting humanity on a path to stabilizing GHG concentrations to below the equivalent of 535 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would cost humanity an average of $117 billion per year in lost economic growth for the next 23 years."

"The summary projects that keeping GHG concentrations below the equivalent of 535 ppm of carbon dioxide would eventually raise global average temperatures by about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above current temperatures, keeping in mind that average global temperature today is estimated to be 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above what it was in 1850. In order to stabilize GHG at 535 ppm, emissions will have to peak before 2020 and must fall by 2050 to 30 to 60 percent below what they were in 2000."

"Yale economist William Nordhaus suggests that the optimal carbon tax trajectory balancing costs and benefits would start with a tax of about $17 per ton of carbon rising to $84 per ton in 2050 and $270 in 2100. But what if climate change is not predictably gradual? As the SPM3 notes, "if the damage cost curve increases steeply, or contains non-linearities (e.g. vulnerability thresholds or even small probabilities of catastrophic events), earlier and more stringent mitigation is economically justified." Doesn't the remote chance of climatic catastrophe suggest that humanity might want to purchase some extra insurance against that possibility?"

"In any case, the range of proposed policy interventions in the SPM3 report including renewable energy mandates, producer subsidies, mandatory fuel economy standards, subsidies to public transportation, appliance and building standards, energy efficiency tax credits, and so forth leave a lot of scope for counterproductive government meddling and rent-seeking. The simplest policy aimed at reducing GHG emissions would be an internationally harmonized carbon tax. Increasing the price of carbon-based energy would encourage transport, industry, and residential fuel efficiency. There would be no need to set appliance or building code standards or offer subsidies to companies and consumers to switch to low-carbon sources of energy. Furthermore, subsidies or tax credits for companies to develop new low-carbon technologies would not be necessary-higher carbon energy prices by themselves will encourage energy supply innovation."

The case for the carbon tax seems convincing to me. The problem is lack of political will, or the fact that in our degenerate corporate/liberal democracy, the major political parties are controlled not by the public or the common good but by the short term profit interests of the fossil fuel industry.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

"These People Frighten Me"

Margaret Kimberly: The Candor of Mike Gravel: "During the first Democratic presidential debate a little known candidate, former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, ended up with one of the most memorable lines of the evening:

"And I got to tell you, after standing up with them, some of these people frighten me--they frighten me. When you have mainline candidates that turn around and say that there's nothing off the table with respect to Iran, that's code for using nukes, nuclear devices.

"I got to tell you, I'm president of the United States, there will be no preemptive wars with nuclear devices. To my mind, it's immoral, and it's been immoral for the last 50 years as part of American foreign policy."

"Of the eight candidates on that stage in South Carolina, only Gravel and Congressman Dennis Kucinich will say that there is no reason for the American people to incinerate the Iranian people with nuclear weapons."