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What price the new democracy? Goldman Sachs conquers Europe

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© The Independent
While ordinary people fret about austerity and jobs, the eurozone's corridors of power have been undergoing a remarkable transformation.

The ascension of Mario Monti to the Italian prime ministership is remarkable for more reasons than it is possible to count. By replacing the scandal-surfing Silvio Berlusconi, Italy has dislodged the undislodgeable. By imposing rule by unelected technocrats, it has suspended the normal rules of democracy, and maybe democracy itself. And by putting a senior adviser at Goldman Sachs in charge of a Western nation, it has taken to new heights the political power of an investment bank that you might have thought was prohibitively politically toxic.

This is the most remarkable thing of all: a giant leap forward for, or perhaps even the successful culmination of, the Goldman Sachs Project.

It is not just Mr Monti. The European Central Bank, another crucial player in the sovereign debt drama, is under ex-Goldman management, and the investment bank's alumni hold sway in the corridors of power in almost every European nation, as they have done in the US throughout the financial crisis. Until Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund's European division was also run by a Goldman man, Antonio Borges, who just resigned for personal reasons.

Even before the upheaval in Italy, there was no sign of Goldman Sachs living down its nickname as "the Vampire Squid", and now that its tentacles reach to the top of the eurozone, sceptical voices are raising questions over its influence. The political decisions taken in the coming weeks will determine if the eurozone can and will pay its debts - and Goldman's interests are intricately tied up with the answer to that question.

Bad Guys

Afghan drug war debacle: Blair said smashing opium trade was a major reason to invade but 10 years on heroin production is up from 185 tons a year to 5,800

Tony Blair
© Reuters
Broken pledge: Then prime minister Tony Blair meets British troops in Afghanistan in 2006
The West is losing the heroin war in Afghanistan - ten years after Tony Blair pledged that wiping out the drug was one of the main reasons for invading the country.

Despite spending £18billion and a conflict which has so far cost the lives of almost 400 British troops, production of the class-A drug by Afghan farmers rose between 2001 and 2011 from just 185 tons to a staggering 5,800 tons.

It increased by 61 per cent last year alone.

Such has been the failure to combat the problem that more than 90 per cent of the heroin sold on Britain's streets is still made using opium from Afghanistan.

The United Nations yesterday warned that the situation was out of control.

Vader

America: Hypnotized Into an Endless Dirty War

drone firing missle
© n/a
America has decided it has the right to kill whoever it wants, whenever it wants.

If in the year 2000 the U.S. president had told the American people that the government would soon begin using robot planes to track people, including U.S. citizens, all over the world, and would reserve to itself the right to kill them without trial, it is safe to say there would have been an enormous uproar. But that is exactly what is happening today, and nobody cares. The majority of Americans, including those who were opposed to the war in Iraq, have no problems with their government killing at will, so long as the killing is done in the name of "national security."

How did this happen? In retrospect, the war in Afghanistan was the prime culprit. That endless, Sisyphean war was the thin end of the wedge. In that murky, shifting struggle, it was normal for the U.S. to arrogate to itself the right to kill the Taliban wherever they were in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Once that precedent was established, it was an small step to killing bad guys in Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. And so, by imperceptible steps we arrived at the place we are now, where 77 percent of liberals support President Obama's vastly expanded killer drone campaign, where an American citizen can be remotely vaporized at the touch of a button and no one cares. The war on Afghanistan set the precedent that shaped the entire "war on terror" paradigm. The chimera of "safety from terrorism" led us by easy stages to begin waging dirty war across the globe - changing the definition of war, eroding moral and legal standards and greatly increasing the likelihood of ugly future consequences.

What makes this subject so tricky is that morally, legally and by any standard, the war on Afghanistan was completely justified. Recall the situation before we launched the invasion. 9/11 had just happened. The Taliban were in control of Afghanistan. They had aided and abetted Osama bin Laden, and refused to hand him over. This was an intolerable situation. As accomplices to mass murder, they could not be allowed to get away with their monstrous crimes. Moreover, if bin Laden remained at large he could plan another attack. Removing the Taliban was a matter of self-defense. We had to do everything possible to reduce the chances of another 9/11.


Comment: Of course, none of this argumentation amounts to a hill of beans when you consider that 9-11 was NOT due to Osama bin Laden, but was rather, an inside job carried out by MOSSAD, the CIA, the MIC, and more...


Stormtrooper

Consequences To Expect If The U.S. Invades Iran

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© n/a
Let's be honest, quite a few Americans love a good war, especially those Americans who have never had to bear witness to one first hand. War is the ultimate tribally vicarious experience. Anyone, even pudgy armchair generals with deep-seated feelings of personal inadequacy, can revel in the victories and actions of armies a half a world away as if they themselves stood on the front lines risking possible annihilation at the hands of dastardly cartoon-land "evil doers". They may have never done a single worthwhile thing in their lives, but at least they can bask in the perceived glory of their country's military might.

This attitude of swollen ego through proxy is not limited to the "Right" side of the political spectrum as some might expect. In fact, if the terrifyingly demented presidency of Barack Obama has proven anything so far, it is that elements of the "Left" are just as bloodthirsty as any NeoCon, and just as ready to blindly support the political supremacy of their "side" regardless of any broken promises, abandoned principles, or openly flaunted hypocrisies. No matter how reasonable or irrefutable the arguments against a particular conflict are, there will ALWAYS be a certain percentage of the populace which ignores all logic and barrels forward to cheerlead violent actions which ultimately only benefit a select and elite few.

They do this, though they rarely openly admit it, because of unbalanced and irrational biases which drive their decision making processes. In the case of the wars in the Middle East, the common public argument boils down to one of "self defense". "They are coming to get us!" At least, that is what we are constantly told. And I'm sure that some Americans out there truly believe this. However, in their heart of hearts, others instead relish the idea of imposing their world views and philosophical systems upon others, even if it means using cluster bombs and predator drones.

UFO 2

US Sends Drones Over Syria as Fighting Spreads

drone
© Reuters
US military officials confirmed Saturday that US drones are flying over Syria, as fighting spreads inside the country and US officials discuss military or "humanitarian" intervention to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

The drone flights, which flagrantly violate Syrian air space, include a "good number" of both military and US intelligence drones, according to US defense officials. These officials said the drones' mission is to obtain "intercepts of Syrian government and military communications in an effort to 'make the case for a widespread international response.'"

The Israeli daily Ha'aretz also reported Saturday that Syrian forces had captured 40 Turkish intelligence operatives working with the "opposition" inside Syria. It said the Turkish operatives confessed to working with the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad to train the US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), and claimed that Mossad operatives were working with Al Qaeda operatives in Jordan planning operations in Syria.

This echoes testimony Thursday before the US Senate Armed Services Committee by US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. He said that recent bombings in Damascus and Aleppo "had all the earmarks of an al Qaeda-like attack. So we believe that al Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria."

Dominoes

West's Poker Face at Middle Eastern Grand Chessboard

US Navy's USS Carl Vinson
© Reuters/Tyrone Siu
The US Navy's USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier
The planned neo-colonial takeover of the Middle East is gearing up. As the heat rises, the West finds it increasingly difficult to proceed with its grab for dominance and maintain a brave face, says political analyst Adrian Salbuchi.

­Things are happening very fast in the Middle East. Tensions are mounting, threats are being made, and strange assassinations are taking place... Even stranger diplomatic, political, global media, military and economic strings are being pulled; sometimes so quickly, that they're getting tangled! The atmosphere is becoming very rarefied indeed! A bit of historical perspective might even lead you to think we're re-living August 1939: the last days before World War II.

But what is really happening over there and why? Well, to begin with, we witnessed twenty years during which the US, UK, France, other NATO members, and Israel have variously attacked, bombed and overrun Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Palestine almost constantly and unimpaired.

Millions of Muslims have died as a consequence of these aggressions which have been based either on flagrant lies like Iraq's non-existent WMDs, or Iran's alleged A-Bomb program. Blatant double-standards make the media systematically ignore Israeli ethnic cleansing in Palestine. Last year we saw a fabricated and engineered social turmoil throughout the region - dubbed the "Arab Spring."

People

US: Rick Santorum Sings The Praises Of Income Inequality

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© unk
Rick Santorum has said a lot of dumb things in his feeble existence. He has pushed extreme religious views, accused President Obama of wanting to exterminate religious people and he has made many hateful statements about women and the LGBT community. Santorum has largely avoided making as many gaffes about the economy which may be one reason why Romney is falling in the polls, but Santorum decided to talk about the auto industry bailout during a speech at the Detroit Economic Club on Thursday, and made some stunningly stupid comments about income inequality.
There is income inequality in America. There always has been and hopefully, and I do say that, there always will be. Why? Because people rise to different levels of success based on what they contribute to society and to the marketplace and that's as it should be. We shouldn't have a society that has a President who envies or creates class warfare or envy between one group of people and another. We should celebrate like we do in the small towns all across American as you do here in Detroit. You celebrate success. You build statues and monuments. Buildings, you name after them. Why? Because in their greatness and innovation, yes, they created wealth, but they created wealth for everybody else, and that's a good thing, not something to be condemned in America.

Display

US: Senators Ramp Up Fear Mongering To Try To Rush Through Cybersecurity Bill

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© n/a
We're still waiting for any actual evidence that this new cybersecurity bill is really necessary. An actual description of the real problem being dealt with would be a good start. Instead, we just get pure fear mongering. While some Senators are asking supporters of the bill to slow down and carefully consider the issue, the bill's backers, led by Senator Lieberman seem to be on "full speed ahead" mode -- trying to skip hearings and markups to take the bill straight to the Senate floor for a vote.

In this case, Senator John McCain is urging caution, and pushing back at claims that because totally different cybersecurity bills have been introduced in the past, this one can be rushed:
To suggest that this bill should move directly to the Senate Floor because it has 'been around' since 2009 is outrageous," McCain said. "First, the bill was introduced two days ago. Secondly, where do Senate Rules state that a bill's progress in a previous congress can supplant the necessary work on that bill in the present one?"
Of course, it isn't that McCain is "the voice of reason" here. He's actually pushing for a different bill that will give NSA broad spying powers over the internet. The dispute between McCain and Lieberman is really a long-running territorial dispute -- concerning whether Homeland Security or the Defense Department get to control the "cybersecurity" budget. The Lieberman bill gives the power to Homeland Security. McCain wants to give it to the DoD. Neither seem to want to bother with evidence of the actual need here.

Light Sabers

Santorum uses Hitler analogy to describe Obama

santorum hitler
© Screenshot via CBS
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Sunday likened the upcoming U.S. election to World War II.

While the candidate's comments to a packed First Redeemer Church in Cumming, Georgia were somewhat vague, NBC news noted that he "seemed to compare President [Barack] Obama to [Adolph] Hitler."

The former Pennsylvania senator told his supporters that this election was like World War II, "where our closest ally, Britain, was being bombed and leveled."

"And America sat from 1940 when France fell to December of '41 and did almost nothing," he explained. "Why? Because we're a hopeful people. We think, 'You know it will get better. Yeah, I mean, he's a nice guy. It won't be near as bad as what we think. You know, this will be OK. You know, maybe he's not the best guy.' After a while, you found out some things about this guy over in Europe and maybe he's not so good of a guy after all. But you know what? 'Why do we need to be involved? We'll just take care of our own problems, just get our families off to work and our kids off to school and we'll be OK.'"

Bad Guys

GMO Crops Remain a Global Failure

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© Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images
Kenya has approved the cultivation of GM crops but critics say there is strong grassroots opposition to this in Africa.

Wednesday 8 February 2012, Sydney: Greenpeace responded today to a report on the perceived success of genetically modified (GM) crops around the world, which was published by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), a bio-tech industry lobby organization.

Contrary to claims in the report, GM crops remain a global failure with only about 1% of global farmers cultivating GM crops.[i]" said Greenpeace campaigner Éric Darrier.
"There are so many oversights and exaggerations in this report that is hard to know where to start," said Mr Darrier.
For example, the 'acreage' of GM crops is completely exaggerated in the report through the presentation of acreage by 'trait' rather than the actual acreage of a crop. If a particular plant is cultivated on 100 hectares, ISAAA does not calculate its acreage as 100 hectares; they consider how many traits (characteristics) have been inserted into the ground. In the case of a crop that is stacked with three traits (e.g. pesticide producing + tolerance to 2 herbicides), the acreage is presented as 3 times 100 hectares = 300 hectares, wrongly tripling the acreage and misleading alike.