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Signs of the Times for Mon, 27 Feb 2006

Signs Editorial:

Donald Hunt
Signs of the Times
February 27, 2006

Gold closed at 561.00 dollars an ounce on Friday, up 1.0% from $555.20 the week before. The dollar closed at 0.8420 euros Friday, up 0.5% from 0.8375 for the week. The Euro closed at 1.1876 dollars on Friday, compared to 1.1940 dollars at the previous Friday's close. Gold in euros would be 472.38 an ounce, up 1.6% from 464.99 the week before. Oil closed at 62.91 dollars a barrel, up 5.1% from $59.88 at the end of the week previous week. Oil in euros would be 52.97 a barrel, up 5.6% from 50.15 euros for the week. The gold/oil ratio closed at 8.92, down 3.9% from 9.27 at the end of the week before.  In the U.S. stock market, the Dow closed at 11,061.85, down 0.5% from 11,115.32 for the week.  The NASDAQ closed at 2,287.04 up 0.2% from 2,282.36 at the end of the previous week.  In U.S. interest rates, the yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury note was 4.57, down one from 4.58 for the week.

The mainstream media's economic news was particularly positive until the end of last week, when no one could hide the bad news for the U.S. empire. The shocks on Thursday and Friday drove the price of gold and oil up and made even optimists uneasy.

In particular, the false flag suicide bomb attempt in Saudi Arabia by Al-CIAduh, as Kurt Nimmo puts it, benefitted Texas-based oil companies, the Neocons, and even perhaps the Saudi Royal Family by raising oil prices in spite of high supplies.  So, too, did the attacks in Nigeria, which may also have been false flag ops.

Oil climbs 4 percent on Saudi attack

By Margaret Orgill
Fri Feb 24, 3:10 PM ET

Oil jumped more than $2 on Friday after news of a suicide bomb attack at the huge Abqaiq oil facility in Saudi Arabia, which triggered worries about supply from the world's top crude producer.

At least two cars exploded at the gates of the Abqaiq site when security forces fired on suicide bombers trying to storm the facility in the country's eastern province.

"It's all about perception. Just the idea of an attack in Saudi Arabia is enough to make the market jumpy," said Glenn Murray, an oil broker at GM Oil.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi described the raid as a "terrorist attempt" but said oil exports had been unaffected. He said a limited fire at the site was being brought under control.

"This incident had no impact on oil and gas production in the kingdom," Naimi said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. "The plant continued production at full levels and export operations are as usual."

Most Saudi oil is exported from the Gulf via Abqaiq which handles about two thirds of the country's output.

"This just emphasizes fears over global oil supply security when we're already facing major ongoing risks in Nigeria, Iran and Iraq," said Gary Ross, CEO at PIRA Energy consultancy in New York.

…Oil prices had risen a dollar earlier Friday as fears of deeper disruptions to Nigerian exports overshadowed the comfort drawn from brimming fuel stockpiles in the United States.

Attacks on Nigeria's oil network have already forced Shell to cut output by 455,000 barrels a day, shutting in a fifth of the country's exports. Militants holding foreign oil workers hostage say they will continue attacks in the next few days.

But oil's upside may be limited by brimming U.S. fuel tanks. Gasoline stocks rose to 225.6 million barrels, the highest level in seven years, according to weekly data. Crude stocks rose 1.1 million barrels to 326.7 million barrels.

"The market is being tugged by two forces -- data are pulling it down and political forces are pulling it up," said independent oil consultant Geoff Pyne.

Aside from tension in Nigeria, traders said Iran's nuclear ambitions and the possible ramifications for the nation's oil production also remained a worry.
The board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meets on March 6 to discuss the next step in resolving Iran's nuclear row with the West.

Iraq, which has been struggling to get oil output back to pre-war levels, is suffering the worst sectarian violence since the fall of Saddam Hussein, compounding the geopolitical risks in the Middle East.

Add to this the horrific bombing of the Samarra Mosque, most likely also a false-flag attack carried out by the neocons to dismember Iraq, and it is getting increasingly hard for the imperial optimists to maintain their sunny outlook.

Pentagon-Controlled Iraqi National Guard Implicated in Samarra Mosque Bombing

Thursday February 23rd 2006, 1:36 pm

As the "non-partisan" Council on Foreign Relations assures us, Iraqi National Guard troops are trained and fully "vetted" by the Pentagon. "National guard troops receive three weeks of formal training and then on-the-job training by working with U.S. forces," a CFR backgrounder explains. "The National Guard has replaced the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps as the largest security force in Iraq," reports the World Tribune. "The 45,000-member force has been trained and equipped by the United States, with help from Britain and Jordan." In short, the Iraqi National Guard is a subsidiary of the Pentagon, organized and trained to do the bidding of the Anglo-American occupation forces and their installed minions. Thus it should come as no surprise the Iraqi National Guard may play an important role in the recent bombing of the Golden Dome mosque in Samarra, according to locals.

Since it is unreasonable to expect Baghdad hotel-bound corporate media hacks to report anything beyond what is read from a Pentagon script inside the Green Zone, most Americans remain unaware of details implicating the Iraqi National Guard in the bombing. According to reports appearing on the humanitarian Iraqi League organization's Iraqi Rabita website and translated into English by the Iraqi blogger Baghdad Dweller (see original Arabic here and here), at least two witnesses saw "unusual activities by the ING [Iraqi National Guard] in the area around the mosque." Two mosque guards reported four men in ING uniforms had blindfolded them and planted explosives. A second witness, Muhammad al-Samarrai, the owner of an internet cafe in the area, was told to stay in his store and not leave the area. From 11 pm until 6:30 am, ten minutes before two bombs were detonated, the area surrounding the mosque was patrolled by "joint forces of Iraqi ING and Americans," according to al-Samarrai.

In addition to apparently facilitating the mosque bombing, Iraqi National Guard troops provided assistance to "more than a dozen masked Shia gunmen" attacking the Sunni al-Quds mosque in western Baghdad in the wake of the Samarra attack, according to the Times Online. In addition, "gunmen arrived [at the Maakel prison in Basra] in a fleet of cars and showed documents which claimed that they were from the Interior Ministry… and lynched at least eleven Sunni inmates, among them at least two Egyptians."

Last month, according to the Washington Post, the Iraqi Interior Ministry was implicated in the operation of death squads targeting Sunnis. Moreover, according to John Pike, an expert on classified military budgets, as cited by Robert Dreyfuss in an article for the American Prospect, a 2004 Iraqi appropriation bill contained $3 billion for paramilitary units. The "bulk of the covert money" went to "support U.S. efforts to create a lethal, and revenge-minded, Iraqi security force" and also "an Iraqi secret police staffed mainly by gunmen associated with members of the puppet Iraqi Governing Council," thus revealing the situation in Iraq is not precisely as the hand-fed corporate media would have us believe.

Of course, two eye witnesses should not be considered conclusive evidence the Pentagon puppet Iraqi National Guard is behind the mosque bombings in Samarra. However, when added to the wealth of evidence from various sources detailing the existence of a Anglo-American "counterinsurgency" program in Iraq (including the now largely forgotten and never referenced by the corporate media story of two British covert operatives caught red-handed in terrorist behavior last September) the incident should at least stir a modicum of suspicion.

One piece of good news for the rest of us, last week, was the resignation of the vile pathocrat Lawrence Summers from the presidency of Harvard University:

Lawrence Summers resigns as Harvard president

By Bill Van Auken
24 February 2006

The resignation this week of Lawrence Summers from the post he has held for the last five years as president of Harvard has provoked an extraordinary firestorm of political controversy far from the ivied halls of what has long been considered one of the premier US universities.

Summers, who served as Clinton's treasury secretary before taking the helm at Harvard, announced on February 21 that he will resign at the end of the current school year. The decision came on the eve of a "no confidence" vote called by the faculty and amid widespread demands within the university for him to step down.

The Wall Street Journal lamented the fall of an individual who, during his eight years in the Clinton administration, had identified himself fully with the interests of American corporations and financial institutions. The Journal's right-wing editorial board portrayed him as the victim of a "largely left-wing faculty that has about as much intellectual diversity as the Pyongyang parliament."

The ostensibly more liberal Washington Post published an editorial with the provocative title, "Prejudice Wins." It referred to the university faculty's "complaints that he was acting like a corporate chief executive—as though there were something wrong with that." The paper warned, "Because of the prestige of Harvard, his defeat may demoralize reformers at other universities."

Notice how the neoliberals and neoconservatives have hijacked the term 'reform'.  Germans should beware of this when they read about Angela Merkel's drive to institute what the neoliberal press calls "much-needed reform" for Germany

Even the Financial Times of Britain weighed in with a mournful editorial entitled "Larry Summers Concedes to his Foes." The voice of the City of London praised him for "challenging established fiefdoms and implementing uncomfortable changes," while declaring his "blunt style of management" a "virtue" necessary for pursuing such a struggle.

The reference to "fiefdoms" here is significant. The term refers to feudalism, a mode of production wiped out by capitalism.  So, for the neoliberals, "fiefdoms" are bad and "reform" that gets rid of them and makes universities run like corporations is good. But what the feudal aspects of universities, such as tenure, for example, do is protect intellectual freedom from political interference.

The reaction indicates that the departure of Summers represents for decisive sections of the ruling elite, in the US and beyond, a significant setback. Clearly, major political issues are involved in the so-called "reforms" and "uncomfortable changes" that these forces deem to be necessary in American academia.

Summers was brought in as Harvard's president in 2001 with a mandate from the university's governing body to "shake up" the institution. While he had taught economics at the school in the 1980s, his subsequent career left little doubt as to what kind of changes were contemplated.

In 1991 he left for Washington to become the chief economist at the World Bank, where he oversaw the implementation of "structural adjustment" programs that meant the impoverishment of masses of working people in Latin America, Africa and elsewhere around the globe.

It was during this phase of his career that Summers drafted an infamous secret memo proposing a "free market in toxics." He wrote that the World Bank should be encouraging the "migration of dirty industries to the LDCs [Less Developed Countries]."

"Health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages," he declared. He continued by arguing that the low life expectancy in impoverished countries meant that people would not live long enough to contract diseases from pollution.

Ah, the logic of the Pathocrat!

The memo provoked worldwide outrage and calls for his resignation. Brazil's secretary of the environment, Jose Lutzenberger, wrote to Summers that his proposal was "perfectly logical but totally insane" and reflected the "social ruthlessness and the arrogant ignorance of many conventional 'economists' concerning the nature of the world we live in... If the World Bank keeps you as vice president it will lose all credibility."

That such an individual was tapped by President Bill Clinton for high office was testimony to the right-wing character of the Democratic administration. Clinton first attempted to install Summers as the head of his Council of Economic Advisors, but was forced to withdraw the nomination in the face of protests. Instead Summers was appointed to the Treasury Department, where he was mentored by former Wall Street financier Robert Rubin, whom he succeeded as Treasury Secretary in 1999.

As Harvard's president, Summers deliberately staged a series of provocations that were clearly designed to shift the university's political atmosphere to the right and to more closely align the institution with the political philosophy of the Republican administration of George W. Bush.

He staged a confrontation with African-American Studies professor Cornel West, browbeating him for spending too much time on political activism. West responded by leaving Harvard for a post at Princeton University.

By 2002 he had made a well-publicized denunciation of the campaign, in protest against Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories, for Harvard and other universities to sell off investments in companies with significant holdings in Israel. Smearing the students and faculty members who had supported the campaign, Summers declared that the demands for divestment were "anti-Semitic in their effect, if not their intent," and linked the movement to "disturbing evidence of an upturn in anti-Semitism globally."

He called for the reintroduction of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) at Harvard, a program for training military officers that was closed down on the campus by the protests of the Vietnam War era. The proposal, which was not implemented, was widely seen as an attempt to curry favor with the Bush administration.

Indeed, the series of provocative acts on Summers's part led the right-wing Weekly Standard, the house organ of the Republican neo-conservative right, to declare him its "favorite university president."

The affinity of the most predatory sections of the American establishment for Summers has a definite social content. Summers is representative of an avaricious social layer that enriched itself off of the economic transformations—many of which he helped direct—that have led to a lowering of the living standards for the vast majority of the world's population, including the American working class, over the past two decades. His tenure at Harvard exhibited the repugnant characteristics of the social type that has risen to the summit of the ruling elite and its institutions: shallowness, arrogance, egotism.

As university president he was paid an annual salary of $563,000. He was provided a chauffer-driven black stretch limousine. In one of his first appointments, he hired a former press secretary of British Prime Minister Tony Blair to serve as his own spokesman.

His interactions with the university's faculty were frequently described as bullying and autocratic.

Resentment and opposition boiled over following a speech that Summers delivered at a January 2005 conference on workforce diversity, in which he attributed the under-representation of women in science and engineering to gender differences in "intrinsic aptitude," describing "socialization and continuing discrimination" as "lesser factors."

While he at first attempted to defend this ignorant contention, he was subsequently forced to acknowledge that his assertions were unsupported by research or scientific evidence.

…While Summers's tenure at Harvard will end with the current school year—making it the shortest for any president in the university's history—the political and social pressures that his policies expressed will certainly persist.

These pressures are directed at subordinating academic institutions and intellectual inquiry as a whole to government policies and the corporate economic interests which they defend. It is a process that inevitably involves the shattering of humanities programs that do not directly further these interests.

Under conditions of aggressive war abroad and increasing social and economic polarization at home, the drive to ideologically discipline academia becomes all the more acute. This is why the failure of Lawrence Summers at Harvard has provoked such cries of outrage from the establishment press.

Fascism cannot tolerate truly free inquiry, and universities are clearly in the fascists' sights.

In case anyone has any doubts as to the fascist sympathies of multinational corporations, take a look at what the Ford Motor Company did in Argentina during the Dirty War of the 1970s. Given how U.S. corporations cooperated with the Nazis before and even during World War II, and given their thuggish behavior in the labor struggles of the 1930s, the burden of proof is on those who would say things are somehow different now. Since the U.S. economy will soon resemble Argentina's, the following article is particularly chilling:

Ford Motor charged as accomplice in Argentina's "dirty war"

By Bill Van Auken
25 February 2006

Ford Motor Company has been charged in an Argentine court with playing a direct part in the illegal detention, torture and "disappearances" of its own workers under the dictatorship that ruled the South American country from 1976 to 1983.

The US automaker is accused in both a criminal and a civil lawsuit filed this week of carrying out "management terrorism" under the military regime in order to suppress worker militancy at its Argentine production plants.

The lead plaintiff in the case, Pedro Norberto Troiani, was a union delegate at the automaker's plant in General Pachecho, outside Buenos Aires, in 1976, when the Argentine military seized power in a US-backed coup. He is suing on behalf of more than two dozen of union committee members and other workers who were seized at gunpoint by security forces, many of them as they worked on Ford's assembly lines, others at their homes.

"Some of us were kidnapped by the security forces inside the factory and transferred to a makeshift clandestine detention center set up at a sports area of the factory," Troiani, now 64 years old, recalled. "There, they hooded us and beat us; we suffered mock executions and were tortured," he said, adding that their captors shocked them with an electric probe.

The case, which was initiated three years ago, has gathered documentary evidence as well as testimony establishing that Ford management collaborated intimately with the dictatorship in identifying militants and providing direct assistance in their abduction and torture.

"After evaluating all of the material, we reached the conclusion that the company wanted to get rid of the delegates who were bothering it," explained Tomas Ojea Urquiza, the lawyer in the case.

Witnesses testified that their kidnappers had received detailed files from the company's personnel office and used company identification card photographs to identify them. In a number of cases, the workers were paraded through the plant surrounded by military personnel in a clear attempt to intimidate the rest of the workforce.

Some 5,000 workers were employed at the plant at the time. One of the principal vehicles that they produced was the Ford Falcon, which became infamous as the car of choice for the so-called 'task forces" that were used in rounding up perceived opponents of the military, nearly 30,000 of whom "disappeared" under the dictatorship.

Ford, the suit charges, in addition to providing the space for the clandestine detention center, donated vehicles to the military for the express purpose of carrying out the roundup of its own employees.


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