Monday, September 27, 2010

"I'll be back..."

I'll be away until Friday morning, folks. Meanwhile, there are 11,027 posts here, covering just about anything you can think of. Commenting is turned off to frustrate those naughty comment-link spammers. Enjoy your week. Be kind to each other, we're all we've got. See you on Friday.
CoyotePrime

The Daily "Near You?"

Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada. Thanks for stopping by.

Justice William O. Douglas

 "As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both
instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged.
And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air -
however slight - lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."

- Justice William O. Douglas

John W. Whitehead, "GPS and the Police State We Inhabit: Living in Oceania"

"GPS and the Police State We Inhabit: Living in Oceania"
By John W. Whitehead

"Voicing his discontent with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in United States v. Pineda-Moreno, which declared the warrantless use of a GPS tracking device to be constitutional, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski warned, “We are taking a giant leap into the unknown, and the consequences for ourselves and our children may be dire and irreversible. Some day, soon, we may wake up and find we’re living in Oceania.”

Indeed, we are already living in George Orwell’s totalitarian state known as Oceania, where the all-seeing government sees and tracks everything we do. By asserting that the police can constitutionally sneak onto a private driveway without a warrant and stick a GPS tag on your car so that they can remotely track you, the Ninth Circuit didn’t necessarily break any new ground. Rather, they merely confirmed what we have suspected all along: that the concept of private property is dead and along with it, the right against unreasonable searches and seizures once protected by the Fourth Amendment.

Having outstripped our ability as humans to control it, technology has become our Frankenstein’s monster. Delighted with technology’s conveniences, its ability to make our lives easier by doing an endless array of tasks faster and more efficiently, we have given it free rein in our lives, with little thought to the legal or moral ramifications of doing so. Thus, we have no one but ourselves to blame for the fact that technology now operates virtually autonomously according to its own invasive code, respecting no one’s intimate moments or privacy and impervious to the foibles of human beings and human relationships.

For example, consider how enthusiastically we welcomed Global Positioning System (GPS) devices into our lives. We’ve installed this satellite-based technology in everything from our phones to our cars to our pets. Yet by ensuring that we never get lost, never lose our loved ones and never lose our wireless signals, we are also making it possible for the government to never lose sight of us, as well.

GPS, originally known as Navstar, is funded and operated by none other than the U.S. Department of Defense. The U.S. military controls the satellites used by GPS devices and transmits signals to ground GPS receivers. The U.S Air Force, by means of ground stations, sustains 24 operational GPS satellites at all times. These synchronized satellites emit signals at the same time. A GPS receiver located on earth collects the signals that travel at the speed of light. The receiver calculates the distance to the satellites by determining the time it takes for the emitted signal to reach the GPS receiver. Once a time is determined for at least four of the GPS satellites, the receiver can pinpoint your location in three dimensions, including latitude, longitude, and altitude.

While many Americans are literally lost without their GPS devices, it has also become a ubiquitous convenience for law enforcement agencies.  For example, in 2009, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) introduced a prototype “smart” police car.  This smart cruiser is the most advanced of its kind, equipped with license plate cameras, computers, a GPS projectile launcher, and even a heat detector in the front grill to differentiate between people and animals.  The license plate reader can scan and download five to eight thousand license plates per shift. It saves the information it collects and can access the information instantaneously through the computer system installed in the car. If a stolen or wanted vehicle comes up in the scan, the license plate reader will automatically label the vehicle as a threat and a camera will take a colored picture of the vehicle and send the GPS coordinates of the vehicle to the police station.

In addition to the high tech license plate readers and cameras, the smart car is equipped with GPS-enabled projectiles. The device is similar to a dart launcher and is near the front bumper of the vehicle. The projectile is three inches in diameter. When engaged, the device shoots the GPS projectile at the target vehicle. The law enforcement agent inside the car arms and fires the projectile. With the aid of a military grade laser, the law enforcement agent can aim with tremendous precision. Once attached to the target, the projectiles have the capability of tracking the target in real time for days. The LAPD is currently shopping for a manufacturer willing to mass produce these cars in order to make them available to law enforcement agencies across the country.

Frankly, given how attached Americans have become to their cell phones--and how easily trackable, as a result, it’s a wonder the government even bothers with any other technologies. Currently, cell phone service providers have the ability to pinpoint a phone’s location to an area as small as a city block.  (It should come as no surprise that government agents have wasted little time in adding this technology to their bag of tricks, employing GPS on multiple occasions to track individuals without establishing probable cause or obtaining a search warrant.) Most corporate cell phone providers can also store vast amounts of data containing the location of the cell phone and its specific uses (such as the contents of text messages and websites visited), sometimes even in real time.

In an effort to handle the massive amount of requests from federal agents for access to the GPS data, several cell phone providers now offer automated services for obtaining internal cell phone data. Sprint Nextel, for example, has an entire website devoted to cell phone records that law enforcement officers can access. Called the Mobile Locator, the system allows law enforcement to access information, such as call history, without a search warrant, thus completely bypassing the protections afforded us by the Fourth Amendment. It also enables government agents to monitor an individual in real-time on a zoomable, online map.

A recent study by Indiana University reveals the extent to which government agents are making use of this resource. According to the study, over a period of 13 months, Sprint responded to eight million requests from law enforcement for GPS data. In addition to GPS data, Sprint also stores IP data and URL web history for a two-year period, which it also makes available to law enforcement upon request.

Intelligence and law enforcement agencies insist that a search warrant is not required to access the information because cell phone users, having disclosed their information to a third party, have no reasonable expectation of privacy anyhow. All the while, the American people remain clueless about the existence of these databases, the ease with which law enforcement agents can access them, and their overall loss of privacy.

The bottom line: there really is no place to hide in the American Oceania. As Judge Kozinski concludes: "You can preserve your anonymity from prying eyes, even in public, by traveling at night, through heavy traffic, in crowds, by using a circuitous route, disguising your appearance, passing in and out of buildings and being careful not to be followed. But there’s no hiding from the all-seeing network of GPS satellites that hover overhead, which never sleep, never blink, never get confused and never lose attention. Nor is there respite from the dense network of cell towers that honeycomb the inhabited United States. Acting together these two technologies alone can provide law enforcement with a swift, efficient, silent, invisible and cheap way of tracking the movements of virtually anyone and everyone they choose. Most targets won’t know they need to disguise their movements or turn off their cell phones because they’ll have no reason to suspect that Big Brother is watching them."
Think this is a joke? http://www.freedomfiles.org/war/fema.htm
•••
"Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose..."- Janis Joplin

Friedrich Nietzsche



“Insanity in individuals is something rare,
but in groups, parties, nations and epochs it is the rule.”
 - Friedrich Nietzsche

General David Petraeus; A Comment

 "I don't think you win this war. I think you keep fighting... 
This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives."
- General David Petraeus, quoted in "Obama’s Wars," by Bob Woodward.
 •••
Gen. Petraeus' Counter-Insurgency Manual

"According to the US Army counter-insurgency manual re-written by General David Petraeus, a ratio of one soldier to 40 or 50 inhabitants (20 to 25 per 1000) is required to defeat an insurgency. The population of Afghanistan is now about 33,609,937 (July 2009 est.)*, meaning that at least 672,181 soldiers would be necessary for success. After Obama's "surge," NATO deploys approximately 130,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. So... we're about 542,180 soldiers short of the number our own commander claims are necessary to "win." We cannot win. We will inevitably lose.

And you don't have to take my word for it. Just ask General David Howell Petraeus, who, before assuming command of the Afghan theater of war at Presidential request, was responsible for US military operations in 20 countries from Egypt to Pakistan, including Operations "Iraqi Freedom" and "Enduring Freedom," the ridiculously inappropriate name for our brutal occupation of Afghanistan. We cannot win. We will inevitably lose. Ain't that a hoot!?"
•••
A comment: Well folks, this seems really easy to understand. Our latter day Caeser's own counter-insurgency manual reveals we CANNOT win this war, yet he states we may be there "for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives." WHY? At what cost in lives lost? Another trillion dollars we don't have? If this is not by definition insanity, then you tell me what is... - CP

"Prisoners of War: Bob Woodward and All the President’s Men (2010 Edition)"

"Prisoners of War: 
Bob Woodward and All the President’s Men (2010 Edition)"
by Andrew Bacevich

"Once a serious journalist, the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward now makes a very fine living as chief gossip-monger of the governing class.  Early on in his career, along with Carl Bernstein, his partner at the time, Woodward confronted power.  Today, by relentlessly exalting Washington trivia, he flatters power.  His reporting does not inform. It titillates. A new Woodward book, "Obama’s Wars," is a guaranteed blockbuster.  It’s out this week, already causing a stir, and guaranteed to be forgotten the week after dropping off the bestseller lists.  For good reason: when it comes to substance, any book written by Woodward has about as much heft as the latest potboiler penned by the likes of James Patterson or Tom Clancy.

Back in 2002, for example, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Woodward treated us to Bush at War.  Based on interviews with unidentified officials close to President George W. Bush, the book offered a portrait of the president-as-resolute-war-leader that put him in a league with Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.  But the book’s real juice came from what it revealed about events behind the scenes.  “Bush’s war cabinet is riven with feuding,” reported the Times of London, which credited Woodward with revealing “the furious arguments and personal animosity” that divided Bush’s lieutenants.

Of course, the problem with the Bush administration wasn’t that folks on the inside didn’t play nice with one another.  No, the problem was that the president and his inner circle committed a long series of catastrophic errors that produced an unnecessary and grotesquely mismanaged war.  That war has cost the country dearly -- although the people who engineered that catastrophe, many of them having pocketed handsome advances on their forthcoming memoirs, continue to manage quite well, thank you.

To judge by the publicity blitzkrieg announcing the arrival of "Obama’s Wars" in your local bookstore, the big news out of Washington is that, even today, politics there remains an intensely competitive sport, with the participants, whether in anger or frustration, sometimes speaking ill of one another. Essentially, news reports indicate, Woodward has updated his script from 2002.  The characters have different names, but the plot remains the same.  Talk about jumping the shark.

So we learn that Obama political adviser David Axelrod doesn’t fully trust Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  National security adviser James Jones, a retired Marine general, doesn’t much care for the likes of Axelrod, and will say so behind his back.  Almost everyone thinks Richard Holbrooke, chief State Department impresario of the AfPak portfolio, is a jerk.  And - stop the presses - when under the influence of alcohol, General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, is alleged to use the word “f**ked.”  These are the sort of shocking revelations that make you a headliner on the Sunday morning talk shows.

Based on what we have learned so far from those select few provided with advance copies of the book - mostly reporters for the Post and The New York Times who, for whatever reason, seem happy to serve as its shills - "Obama’s Wars" contains hints of another story, the significance of which seems to have eluded Woodward. The theme of that story is not whether Dick likes Jane, but whether the Constitution remains an operative document.  The Constitution explicitly assigns to the president the role of commander-in-chief.  Responsibility for the direction of American wars rests with him.  According to the principle of civilian control, senior military officers advise and execute, but it's the president who decides.  That's the theory, at least.  Reality turns out to be considerably different and, to be kind about it, more complicated. 

"Obama’s Wars" reportedly contains this comment by President Obama to Secretary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates regarding Afghanistan:  "I'm not doing 10 years... I'm not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars." Aren’t you, Mr. President?  Don’t be so sure.

"Obama’s Wars" also affirms what we already suspected about the decision-making process that led up to the president’s announcement at West Point in December 2009 to prolong and escalate the war.  Bluntly put, the Pentagon gamed the process to exclude any possibility of Obama rendering a decision not to its liking. Pick your surge: 20,000 troops? Or 30,000 troops?  Or 40,000 troops?  Only the most powerful man in the world - or Goldilocks contemplating three bowls of porridge - could handle a decision like that.  Even as Obama opted for the middle course, the real decision had already been made elsewhere by others: the war in Afghanistan would expand and continue. And then there’s this from the estimable General David Petraeus: "I don't think you win this war,” Woodward quotes the field commander as saying. “I think you keep fighting... This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives."

Here we confront a series of questions to which Woodward (not to mention the rest of Washington) remains steadfastly oblivious.  Why fight a war that even the general in charge says can’t be won?  What will the perpetuation of this conflict cost?  Who will it benefit?  Does the ostensibly most powerful nation in the world have no choice but to wage permanent war?  Are there no alternatives?  Can Obama shut down an unwinnable war now about to enter its tenth year?  Or is he - along with the rest of us - a prisoner of war?

President Obama has repeatedly stated that in July 2011 a withdrawal of U. S. troops from Afghanistan will commence.  No one quite knows exactly what that means.  Will the withdrawal be symbolic?  General Petraeus has already made it abundantly clear that he will entertain nothing more.  Or will July signal that the Afghan War - and by extension the Global War on Terror launched nine years ago - is finally coming to an end? Between now and next summer attentive Americans will learn much about how national security policy is actually formulated and who is really in charge.  Just don’t expect Bob Woodward to offer any enlightenment on the subject."

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University.  His new book, "Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War," has just been published.  His other books include, "The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War," "The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (American Empire Project)," and "The Long War: A New History of U.S. National Security Policy Since World War II."

"How It Really Is"

Philip Stanhope


 "In the mass of mankind, I fear, there is too great a majority of 
fools and knaves; who, singly from their number, must to a certain
degree be respected, though they are by no means respectable."
- Philip Stanhope

Greg Hunter, “Recession Not Over, Double-Dip or Worse Coming”

“Recession Not Over, Double-Dip or Worse Coming”
By Greg Hunter

"Just last week, I ridiculed a group of academic economists for calling an end to the longest recession since World War II.   The National Bureau of Economic Research proclaimed the recession we STILL find ourselves in ended in June of 2009.  The NBER is the official arbiter of the timing of the U.S. business cycle.  Well, I’m not the only person who thinks the NBER’s ascertainment of the economy defies all statistical evidence.  

In his most recent report (it came out yesterday), economist John Williams of shadowstats.com says, “The official call of the recession’s end does not in any way alter the economic outlook, either as to existing underlying business activity or as to the course of likely future economic activity; only the nomenclature that will be used in describing current activity has been changed.  The re-intensifying economic downturn — already underway — simply will be called the second-dip of a double-dip recession, at such time as the NBER gets around to recognizing the “new” contraction in economic activity.”  

To me, this economy looks like one great big dip.  Here is what the spinmeisters at NBER said when they announced the recession was over, “The committee did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity. Rather, the committee determined only that the recession ended and a recovery began in that month.”   I wrote about this last week in a post I called “The Recession is Over? Really!”  

 If you read the statement closely, NBER simply said the recession was over without any facts to back it up.  I don’t know if this announcement was politically motivated because midterm elections are just 5 weeks away. I do know the facts say just the opposite– the recession is alive and getting worse.  Housing sales are bottom bouncing, car sales are plunging and banks are going under unabated.  The Fed is so freaked out, word is Bernanke and company has set the table for another trillion dollars of Quantitative Easing (QE) or money printing to buy U.S. debt.  These are not the signs of a healthy growing economy.  

The folks at ZeroHedge.com are also a little freaked out at what the Fed is planning on doing and have written a very good analysis about what is coming called “Why QE2 + QE Lite Mean The Fed Will Purchase Almost $3 Trillion In Treasurys And Set The Stage For The Monetary Endgame.”  Writer Tyler Durden says, “We were stunned to realize that over the next 6 months the Fed may be the net buyer of nearly $3 trillion in Treasurys, an action which will likely set off a chain of events which could result in rates dropping all the way to zero, stocks surging, and gold (and other precious metals) going from current price levels to well in the 5 digit range.”   

Don’t think we can print our way to out of this mess to prosperity.  Durden goes on to say, “. . . stocks will benefit from QE2, as will Bonds and as will commodities. In fact, every asset class will explode in a supernova of endless liquidity. To be sure, all of this will be very short lived. Very soon, all those assets denominated in fiat paper, will promptly collapse in the great black hole of reserve currency devaluation, as it becomes clear that the Fed will stop at nothing to win the race of global currency debasement.”  (Click here for the complete Zero Hedge Post.)

According to Williams, all the recent data on things such as housing starts, new home sales and orders for durable goods are “suggestive of a quarterly contraction for the current quarter (third-quarter 2010.)  Williams goes on to say, “. . . today’s ongoing “recovery” is not evident in most economic data, and, like the mid-Great Depression recovery, most people will not recognize the “good times.”  Main Street U.S.A. usually has a pretty good sense of what is happening in the real world, and the pain of today’s pocketbook issues still will be felt heavily at the polls, irrespective of any happy announcements or heavy political hype to the contrary.”  So, in my book, it’s “official” the recession is definitely NOT over, and it won’t be for a very long time.”

Karl Denninger, “The Times One Must Shake Ones Head”

“The Times One Must Shake Ones Head”
 by Karl Denninger

“... include when reading tripe like this: “So what will happen? In the end, I’d argue, what must happen is an effective default on a significant part of debt, one way or another. The default could be implicit, via a period of moderate inflation that reduces the real burden of debt; that’s how World War II cured the depression. Or, if not, we could see a gradual, painful process of individual defaults and bankruptcies, which ends up reducing overall debt.”

This, of course, is why we should borrow and spend more money on "stimulus." Krugman, for all his alleged smarts, fails to connect the ability to borrow (that is, to find someone to lend) and an inevitability of default. Exactly how, Paul, would you recommend that we go borrow up some more money to blow on "stimulus" (which you have repeatedly called for) if you are of the belief that we will eventually default? Would you loan us (the government) money knowing this fact - a fact that you claim to possess knowledge of?
 
I wouldn't. So why would you think others would? More to the point, if you believe that your default on debt is inevitable then continued borrowing under those circumstances is in fact an act of criminal fraud. You wouldn't be advocating that the government commit a crime, would you Paul? The disconnect between basic elements of logic always amuses me, especially when it comes from people like Krugman, who claim some special capacity for intellectual prowess."

The Economy: "U.S. Money Printing Presses at Warp Speed"

"U.S. Money Printing Presses at Warp Speed,
Stealth Monetization of U.S. Debt"
by Gonzalo Lira

“Insofar as money is concerned, governments and central banks should be kept as far away from one another as a pedophile from Dakota Fanning. If ever the twain should meet, very bad things would happen. This is because of the disparate natures of government, on the one hand, and the central bank, on the other.

Governments spend money. They spend money on social programs to keep the people docile and happy, wars to keep up the illusion of safety and security, and – almost as an afterthought – infrastructure. Ordinarily, they get the money for all of these things from taxes and other fees that the government collects. On the other hand, central banks print money. Most of the world’s economies depend on fiat currency – currency that has value because someone says it has value. The person who says it has value is the central bank. They are the custodians of the currency – they take care that it retains its value.

Tons of people say that a fiat currency is unstable, and doomed to fail, and that we will all rue the day that we accepted that abomination into our lives! – and blah-blah-blah, rant-rant-rant. But in most cases – all cases, actually, regardless of what the tin-foil hat brigade might rant – fiat currency works like a charm. The proof of this is the last 40 years: All of the world’s major currencies have been fiat since at least 1970. The dollar has been fiat since 1973, and by certain definitions, fiat since 1933, or even 1913 – and it’s still around. That’s been because of the Federal Reserve (the U.S.’s name for its central bank).
Central bank independence is key for a successful fiat currency. If the government ever got its hands on the central bank’s printing presses, all hell would break loose. Rather than raise taxes and collect fees – which are politically unpopular – the government could (and would) direct the central bank to print all the money needed to carry out the government’s various programs.

This is monetization. What would happen once monetization took place is pretty obvious: So much of the currency would be printed by the government that businesses and ordinary people would lose faith in the currency as a stable medium of exchange. Since fiat money depends on people’s faith in it, this would become a self-reinforcing situation: The currency would fall leading to people losing faith in it, leading to the currency falling even more. This is the mid-stages of hyperinflation. Eventually, the currency would become worthless, wrecking the economy of the currency.

It’s happened more times than one would imagine. But the last time it happened in an advanced economy was Germany in 1922, the so-called Weimar episode. Since then – even during total war in WWII – there has not been an incident of hyperinflation in any advanced economy. (Though as I wrote in Was Stagflation in ‘79 Really Hyperinflation?, there have been bouts of high inflation that had all the traits of incipient hyperinflation.)

A collapse in the currency is why the government and the central bank are kept separate from one another – the fear of monetization, and what could happen, keeps the two apart. However, now, in the good ol’ U.S. of A., monetization is taking place – and it is happening right before our eyes, even though no one is realizing it. This monetization is invisible to sophisticated analyses, but obvious to anyone looking at the situation. Like one of those stealth fighter jets that are visible to the naked eye of a goat herder, but invisible to the radar and infrared and other sophisticated equipment of the professional military? Same thing: It’s what I call stealth monetization.

What happened in the Fall of 2008? Essentially, banks found themselves holding debts that would never be repaid – which meant the banks could never pay back the money that they in turn owed to depositors and other creditors. The bad debts the banks owned – the so-called “toxic assets” – were bonds made from the real-estate and commercial real-estate mortgages, as well as other collateralized debt obligations. Since the properties underlying these bonds had fallen in price – because their prices had been a speculative bubble to begin with – the bonds made from these bundles of loans would never be fully paid off. In other words, they were bad loans. Therefore, the banks which had made the loans – the banks which owned these toxic assets – would lose so much money that they would go bankrupt. If they did go broke, the U.S. and world economies would take a massive hit.

So in order to avert this fate, the Federal Reserve bought these toxic assets from the banks – but the Fed didn’t pay the market value for these toxic assets, which were pennies on the dollar: Instead, the Federal Reserve paid full nominal value for the toxic assets – 100¢ on the dollar. The banks the Fed bought these toxic assets from became known as the Too Big To Fail banks – for obvious reasons. How did the Fed buy these dodgy assets? Simple: In 2008 and ‘09, the Fed “expanded its balance sheet.” That’s fancy-speak for, “The Federal Reserve created about $1.5 trillion out of thin air.” That’s essentially what they did. The Fed just decided, “We’re going to create $1.5 trillion” – and lo and behold, $1.5 trillion came to be. What did the Fed do with this $1.5 trillion it conjured out of thin air? Why, it used it to buy up all the toxic assets and other dodgy assets from the TBTF banks. What did the TBTF banks do with all this cash? Why, they turned around and bought U.S. Treasury bonds.

U.S. Treasury bonds are called “assets” by sophisticated finance types – in fact, sophisticated finance types call all bonds “assets.” But they’re really just debt – including Treasuries. U.S. Treasury bonds are certificates of debt that the U.S. Federal government issues, in order to finance its shortfall, the deficit. The U.S. Federal government has been running monster deficits for a number of years now – but lately, it’s gotten pretty bad. In 2009 as well as 2010, the Federal government shortfall was over $1.4 trillion. This is roughly 10% of total U.S. gross domestic product – both in 2009 and 2010: A staggering sum of money. And it is likely that for 2011, the deficit will be another $1.5 trillion or so. The Federal government has so much outstanding debt that it is unlikely to ever be able to pay it back.

A lot of people think this. A lot of sensible people think that a day will come when the markets no longer believe in the Federal government’s promise to pay back its debt. A lot of sensible, smart people think that, one day, no one will buy any more Treasuries – yet every week, Treasury bonds get sold with numbing regularity. The U.S. Federal government has never put Treasuries up for auction which did not get bid on. Who are the people who buy these Treasury bonds? The primary dealers – that is, the Too Big To Fail banks. In other words, the TBTF banks are financing the Federal government’s massive deficits. How are they doing it? With money the Federal Reserve gave them for their toxic assets. This is one leg of stealth monetization.

Buying up toxic assets following the 2008 Global Financial Crisis was not the only way that the Federal Reserve got money into the hands of the TBTF banks, and thereby the Federal government – the other thing the Fed did was open up “liquidity windows.” Liquidity windows are simply the mechanism by which the Federal Reserve lends money to the banks. The interest rate the Fed assigns to this money it lends to banks is called the Fed funds rate. Right now – and for the past several months – the Fed funds rate has been 0.25%. That’s right: One quarter of one per cent. The interest is substantially lower than the inflation rate. This means that the Fed has essentially been giving away free money to the banks.

What are the Too Big To Fail banks doing with this free money? Why, they are buying Treasury bonds: The TBTF banks are borrowing money from the Fed at absurdly low rates, and then turning around and lending it to the Federal government by way of Treasury bond purchases. This is the other leg of stealth monetization.

In these two ways, the Federal Reserve has been monetizing the Federal government’s debt. The Fed bought up toxic assets from the TBTF banks, which then went and bought Treasuries. And the Fed is lending money for free to the TBTF banks, which are then buying Treasuries. Take a step back, and you get the picture: The Too Big To Fail banks are the sewer system by which the Federal Reserve supplies money to the Federal government for all its deficit spending.

This is stealth monetization. It’s not even particularly stealthy, actually – it’s happening right out in the open. It’s just that nobody is pointing it out – or perhaps because it is an obscure, complicated system, nobody has realized what it actually is. But it’s monetization, pure and simple. The Fed is printing up all the money the Federal government wants and needs.

To put it more bluntly – and disturbingly – the pedophile is in the room with Dakota Fanning.

One of the pernicious effects of this stealth monetization is the dis-incentive it gives banks to lend money to small- and medium-sized businesses. Everyone – including the Fed – is complaining that the banks aren’t lending to businesses. But I don’t know why they’re complaining – it makes perfect sense. See, the TBTF banks get money for free from the Fed, and then they turn around and lend it to the Federal government by way of buying Treasury bonds. Treasury bonds are paying absurdly low yields, because they’ve been bid up so high by all those freshly minted dollars that the Fed printed up. But to the TBTF banks, it doesn’t matter how low the Treasury yields are – it’s still guaranteed profits. Lending money to the Federal government is totally safe.

But a loan to a small- or medium-sized business? It’s a risk – and a risk for only a slightly higher profit. The business might miss a payment, or even go broke. Plus it’s a hassle, to lend to a business – all that administrivia! The paperwork, the loan applications, the due diligence– blah-blah-blah-blah! “Screw it,” say the TBTF banks. “Let’s just buy Treasuries.”

That’s how the American government’s massive deficit is sucking up all the available funds. Why bother lending to the private sector, when the Federal government is paying good interest on the Treasury bonds, and the Fed is lending an endless supply of money for free? This is why private-sector businesses are not getting any loans, no matter how long the Fed keeps interest rates at rock-bottom levels – the Federal government is hoovering up all that money, leaving the private sector with nothing, not even lint. Ben Bernanke and the Lollipop Gang at the Fed do not seem to understand the disincentive they have created – in fact, they just keep on adding even more liquidity: Backstop Benny has announced that QE2 is on the way – that is, further “expansion of the balance sheet,” so as to create more money to give out to more banks – so they can buy more Treasuries from the Federal government.

Other banks which are not TBTF are getting squeezed – everyone acknowledges that the banking industry is really hurting. But the TBTF banks are racking up monster profits, with monster bonuses. That’s because they’re monsters – or more precisely, they are zombies: The American Zombie banks. Now this is all good and fine, but is there a simple way to verify that this stealth monetization is indeed what is going on? Yes – look at the markets: Over the past few months, we have seen two things occurring simultaneously: Treasury bond prices are rising (and therefore their yields are declining), and the dollar has been falling against all commodities and all other major currencies.

This is a contradiction. This cannot be happening simultaneously for any sustained length of time – unless there is some exterior factor making this contradictory situation happen. It is a contradiction because, if over a sustained period of time the dollar is losing value against commodities and other major currencies, then it would not make sense for investors to be putting more money into Treasuries and bidding up their prices. Not when their yields are at such absurdly low levels. Stealth monetization: That’s what’s bidding up Treasuries, even as the markets are losing faith in the dollar.

Poor Dakota Fanning: She’s in the pedophile’s sights – and she has no idea what’s about to happen. But we do."


Gonzalo Lira (Dartmouth '95) is a writer, filmmaker, venture capitalist and economic commentator. He has lived throughout the United States and Latin America, and currently resides in Santiago, Chile. Visit his blog. http://gonzalolira.blogspot.com/

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jim Davis



"The truth will set you free,
but first it will make you miserable."
- Jim Davis

Tom Dooley, "Mike Ruppert Interview"

 "Mike Ruppert Interview"
by Tom Dooley

"I came across Mike Ruppert’s website by accident, and at first was only mildly interested in what I found there. However, as conspiracy "theorists" go (Mike will tell you he only deals in conspiracy fact), this former LAPD narcotics investigator has a great deal of credibility. Getting to know him in preparation for this interview, I found his story to be compelling, but more importantly I find the man himself offers a remarkable perspective on this country we live in. Whether you believe him on the big issues or not, I think you’ll find truth in what he has to say.

If you’ve ever delved into the realm of conspiracy on the world wide web, you know that there’s literally an entire world of explanations out there for everything from Abraham Lincoln’s assassination to the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City. Often these explanations provide a wealth of documented evidence. Often they connect wildly different events and point toward a "shadow" government that uses agencies like the CIA to extort wealth and power from the masses. One has to assume that all these theories can’t be true (in fact, the theorists themselves are sometimes at odds with each other), but likewise it’s hard to imagine that NONE of them are true, given the preponderance of evidence and the number of government scandals that have already been exposed by the mainstream media. And for good or bad, it’s this line of thinking that keeps conspiracy theorists afloat.

Initially, I thought it'd be interesting to talk to one such whistle-blower, to learn more about what makes the clock tick in his world where the bad guys aren't just in the movies. Mike Ruppert was a good candidate. For one thing, he had connections. His mother was a cryptographer for the NSA (National Security Agency). His father was an Air Force officer involved with the Titan IIIC project that launched the CIA's satellite surveillance system. He has cousins who were CIA agents, one of whom was with the OSS during WWII. And Mike himself was a highly regarded LAPD narcotics agent who was at one time engaged to a CIA domestic operative. In recent years, Mike served as the LA County spokesperson for Ross Perot's failed presidential campaign. It was in that capacity that he finally received some national media attention, including mention in People Magazine.

Mike’s areas of expertise are numerous, but the one that caught my attention and imagination first was the issue of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. I was well aware that the circumstances of his brother John’s death were never satisfactorily cleared up (to use a little understatement), but I didn’t know there was any cloud of controversy around Bobby’s shooting. Silly me. My first question to Mike, then, concerned the night Bobby Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in June of 1968.

Eclectica: Mike, let’s just jump right into the heavy stuff. What do you contend took place the night RFK was shot?
Mike Ruppert: Bobby Kennedy was not killed by Sirhan Sirhan. Out of 76 witnesses in the pantry that night, not one placed Sirhan in a position where he could’ve fired the shots which killed RFK. The autopsy was irrefutable in its findings that the fatal shots were fired from one to three inches behind RFK’s right ear. Sirhan never got behind or close enough to accomplish that. Sirhan was a hypno-programmed patsy, firing loud blanks as a distraction from the real assassins, one of whom was Thane Cesar, a private security guard just hired out of Lockheed. The LAPD was part of the conspiracy even before the shots were fired and documentary evidence shows key LAPD personnel being arranged in key positions before the assassination. It was essential that Bobby be killed that night, the night of the California primary, because he had clinched the nomination and would’ve been under Secret Service protection as the Democratic nominee from that day forward. Documentary evidence shows that Sirhan and other members of the conspiracy were turning up close to Bobby in the last three days before the primary but they never got the right opportunity.

Eclectica: You know, one thing I don’t understand, is why would the killers have Sirhan shooting blanks? I mean, wouldn’t it be more thorough to have him firing the real things? Which ties into my other question: I’m assuming that if there was a conspiracy to kill Bobby, the conspirators would want to draw as little suspicion to themselves as possible. To that end, it seems like having multiple assassins in a crowded room, along with a visible assassin who was shooting blanks, would just increase the chances that someone would suspect sinister forces at work. Finally, if Sirhan was firing blanks, how do you account for all the bullets they recovered from the walls of the pantry?
Mike Ruppert: First, the fact that Sirhan was firing blanks has nothing to do with the fact that probably fifteen or more REAL shots were fired. I am very familiar with the bullet holes in the door jams and the walls. Sirhan's gun held only eight rounds. Many more than that were fired and analysis of tape recordings proves that. The use of blanks accomplished several things. I am a firearms expert. When the bullet is removed from the cartridge, the muzzle flash and noise are greatly increased behind a standard powder charge. Witnesses reported that Sirhan's gun was exceptionally loud. A heavier powder charge produced a totally distracting noise which drew all attention to Sirhan. .22 rounds are not very noisy. But when you load one up with a heavier powder with no projectile the difference is astonishing. The bad guys wanted all eyes on Sirhan and not on Cesar or any other shooter. Lynn Mangan and John Christian absolutely agree with me on this point.

Also note that when Bobby fell he grabbed Cesar's tie. It's in the infamous photo of Bobby lying on the floor. Cesar, by all accounts was the only person directly behind Bobby in position to fire the fatal shots, and he was armed. It is a very common practice to build a .22 revolver on the frames of .38's and .357's for target practice. The guns look and weigh and feel exactly like the heavier caliber. Security Guards carried .38's. A longer barrel (4-6 inches) would reduce and/or eliminate both muzzle flash and noise. Sirhan, meanwhile, fired a snub nose. You ask why the fake bullets and the multiple shooters? In order to close a homicide you must have a killer. Patsies are perfect in that they are dead ends. Both Oswald and Sirhan (and Ray) were the ultimate cul de sacs. In Bobby's case the killing was much more haphazard because of the time constraints and the previously failed attempts.

Eclectica: So, you’ve explained who did it, how they did it, and why they had to do it that night. But why do it at all? What did the CIA and/or the LAPD have against Bobby Kennedy?
Mike Ruppert: The motive was clear and entirely consistent with the assassination of JFK. Bobby was going to immediately end the war in Vietnam. The nation was on the verge of civil war, over civil rights and Vietnam, and the military-industrial complex stood to lose billions. Bobby was probably going to make good on JFK's promise to scatter CIA into a thousand pieces. LAPD was the ideal tool because it had been a CIA playground for fifteen or so years thanks to the machinations of former LAPD Chief Bill Parker.

Eclectica: There is an essay, "Bobby, I didn't know!", on your web page, that explains your connection to the Robert Kennedy assassination. You were only a teenager at the time, but years later when you joined the LAPD, you crossed paths with many of the principle players. However, this doesn’t necessarily explain how you’ve come to be one of the people who won't let the circumstances of his death be swept under the rug. Why are you one of those people, and how would you characterize some of the others fighting the same fight?
Mike Ruppert: The assassinations are not my main area of expertise or interest. There are many who are dedicated to revealing the truth. Unfortunately, there are also many dedicated to making a living from it and protecting their sinecures in the field. I have said that I am more afraid of being shot by an assassination researcher whose stature or pet theory I threatened than by the CIA. I have never once failed to mention and bring forth the real fighters against tyranny. The minute that self-serving ego or petty jealousies enter the picture the enemy is being served and not the truth. The net result is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic or worse, a liberal firing squad.

Eclectica: You draw a distinction, then, between people who are dedicated to revealing the truth, and those who are in it for personal gain. In our society we enjoy a certain freedom to disseminate information, especially with the advent of the internet. However, this freedom has made it easy for false information to proliferate as well. How do you respond to people who dismiss what you have to say as conspiracy theory hype, exploitation, paranoia, a personal vendetta on the part of a disgruntled former LAPD employee... in short, what do you say to the non-believers? And how have people attempted to refute you?
Mike Ruppert: If what I say was hype, then the motive would have to be profit. In twenty years I have made less than seventeen thousand dollars from this while having spent more than thirty. "Conspiracy theory" is a piss-poor term by any standard. I deal in conspiracy FACT, and, as you will note from my web page, I make no assertions without documentation. That takes things out of the realm of theory, doesn't it? As for a personal vendetta I guess I must admit that the pain of being betrayed by my fiancee (a CIA agent) and left hung out to dry and die by LAPD has never quite healed. So what? My motive however, is not to get even. What I felt then and feel now more than ever, is that if these kinds of crimes can happen to me, they happen, de facto, to all of us as citizens. As Jim Garrison said, "If I don't do this, who will?"

Eclectica: That makes me think of one of my favorite quotes, said by Jerry Garcia: "Somebody has to do something, and it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us."
Mike Ruppert: There is not a sane soul I can think of who would not say that it was wrong to witness a murder and keep silent about it. What I have witnessed is hundreds of times worse than that and belies the existence of hundreds and thousands of murders. Having gone before so many others down this road I feel primarily responsible to the other victims who have been betrayed in their decency and faith in right-doing.

I have largely been refuted in one of two ways. Either people say I am crazy, which conveniently gives them an excuse to avoid looking at my evidence, or else I have been ignored. Not once in twenty years has any official source ever been willing to debate me on the facts or my evidence. They can't! All I have asked for (and I have been promised four times that I would be allowed to testify in Congress) was an opportunity to present my case in a public forum and have the government respond. They can't allow that. As to my sanity, let me ask this question: If a man came running up to you on the street and told you that a house was on fire and people were trapped inside, would you have him psychoanalyzed before you went to check the house? If you did, then who would be the crazy one?

Eclectica: You said that RFK’s assassination isn’t your main area of expertise or interest. I gather from your web page that your primary fight has been to expose the CIA’s drug trafficking activities, domestically and abroad. This fight has almost had an ironic and anticlimactic ending, as the powers that be have all but admitted CIA involvement in drugs after the Iran-Contra affair. I also read about John McCarthy, who is a remarkable person in his own right with an equally remarkable story. Is there another issue you’re involved with besides those that you feel strongly about?
Mike Ruppert: In 1994 I sponsored a conference in Indiana concerning more than 100 mysterious suicides in the military. These were very suspicious suicides in that they involved military personnel being handcuffed and shot in the back of the head, etc. The people at this conference had sons, husbands, and brothers murdered. The most important things in their lives were ripped away without recourse of any kind. That changes you forever. That happened to me. I was not in the military and did not have a loved one murdered, but when I brought these people together we understood each other immediately. I fight for and am one of those people. The sad part is that we look out at people like you and say, "You could be next. Then you will understand."

Eclectica: It's interesting that you should say that. It's possible I already was one of those people. My father passed away when I was four, and I believe he died as a direct result of exposure to Agent Orange. There is no history of such a thing in his family, and yet he died of systemic cancer (kidneys, lungs, etc.) at the age of 42. He served in Korea and did two tours in Vietnam, and was an extremely decorated Marine who apparently died of a preventable, deliberate exposure to a chemical whose grand purpose was to clear foliage.
Mike Ruppert: The main purpose of Agent Orange was not to clear foliage. The main purpose was to sell chemicals which the government knew would kill our own people. When you understand that, you’ll have a better grasp on what this is all about.

Eclectica: Any way you look at it, it was a lousy deal.
Mike Ruppert: It sounds like your father was a brave man, wasted for a lousy cause. There were thousands like him and I love them all.

Eclectica: Here’s a slightly "lighter" question. There’s been a lot of attention given to conspiracies by the entertainment industry in recent years. Oliver Stone’s JFK, Conspiracy Theory starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts, the X-Files, to name a few... What is your opinion of these movies and shows? Is there one you feel to be particularly accurate? Do you have any favorites?
Mike Ruppert: My favorite movie of all time is Braveheart. Field of Dreams comes in second. Both are about inner faith and conviction which public opinion, bribery or outside pressure cannot influence. They are about integrity and honor. They are also about facing and overcoming fear. JFK was a truly outstanding film, especially because of the influence of Fletcher Prouty who teaches people how to think, to examine and stand independent in their thoughts, even from the so-called experts who would tell them which conspiracy theory to believe. Using the CIA and drugs as an example I often make the point in my lectures that if sanity were prevailing then we would need nothing other than one entry from Oliver North's diary, (July 5, 1985), which stated that "$14 million to buy arms for the Contras came from drugs", to bring the government to a screeching halt.

The same logic applies to the magic bullet in JFK and the autopsy in RFK. The problem is not a lack of evidence. The problem is people's inherent unwillingness to face things of which they are afraid, thereby scapegoating and sacrificing their fellows to an evil they dare not confront themselves.

Eclectica: Mel Gibson’s character in Conspiracy Theory brings up a good question though. Given that even presidents and presidential candidates haven't been safe from the people to whom you are drawing unwanted attention, do you have any fear for your own life? If not, why? If so, what precautions have you taken to prevent any "accidents?"
Mike Ruppert: I was shot at twice. Both times were almost twenty years ago. I believe both times were intended to frighten me. It worked but it did not stop me. If these people had wanted me dead they would have succeeded. I now enjoy a certain amount of protection by virtue of my visibility but my attitude has changed drastically. I own only one firearm and would seriously debate whether or not to use it. I now believe that I will not die one minute before God has decided. I heard Anwar Sadat say that many years ago and it is truer for me more than ever now. My life is all about refusing to live in fear. I don't look over my shoulder, nor do I set booby traps or anything like that. I am careful and prudent, yes, but I refuse to let fear govern my life. I live as a free man, walking the earth as a free man should. When I decide to let fear govern my actions then those whom I oppose have truly won. I followed that path for a while and found it to be the ultimate dead end.

Eclectica: Okay, so you've been fighting this fight for twenty or more years. You've been shot at and ignored. You've lost money. While you say you've learned to walk the earth a free man, are you also walking the earth an unhappy man? What would have to happen for you to achieve a sense of closure—a sense of inner peace? Would it be the opportunity to testify before congress? Or perhaps the arrest and condemnation of the men who were behind RFK's assassination? In other words, is there a goal that when achieved would bring you contentment?
Mike Ruppert: I am what I am. I have walked away from the issues of CIA's complete destruction of our democracy on behalf of Wall Street three times. Three times my life has been torn apart so that this was the only thing left for me to do. This struggle is in my heart and I would (and sometimes do) do it without consideration of reward. I thought I was different for a long time. But as I have met others whose lives were destroyed, and their consciousness shredded by this "thing," I have discovered that all of us react pretty much the same. Some have been able to walk away, to pretend forgetfulness. I cannot. This is my calling and what I was born to do. I believe that. As to a goal that would satisfy me I'm hard pressed to give a complete answer. I'll know that when I feel inside that my work is done. Bill Davis, formerly of the Cristic Institute, said once, "This is a relay." He's right.

Personally, I think I'm entitled to twenty years of back pay from LAPD and a pension. Would I stop if I got it? Absolutely not! Do I like my life now? The loneliness is sometimes very difficult. Michael Jackson's marriage lasted longer than mine did. Finding a woman who wants to hang around with phone taps, assassinations, conspiracies, CIA documents and political intrigue is a bit like buying the winning lottery ticket. Financial stability has not been my strong suit. Only commitment has.

Why did William Wallace do what he did in Braveheart though? In a ham and eggs breakfast the chicken is involved and the pig is committed. But that reveals a larger question which I'll rephrase as, "Is there a price that would make you give this up?" I was told by a Special Forces veteran back in 1981 that if I continued to pursue this I should never have children because they could be killed. I have no children for a variety of reasons but I realized that if I was ever in fear of losing something then I was not totally free to speak out. As Janis Joplin said, "When you ain't got nothing you got nothing to lose." Testifying before Congress would be a good start. A complete overhaul of the government would be good. A massive awakening on the part of my fellow man would be best. I'll know what's enough for me when it happens and, believe me, nothing would make me happier than to know that this work is done.

Eclectica: Do you think the government will ever ‘fess up to all they’ve done?
Mike Ruppert: I do not want the government to admit to a conspiracy. I want the People to admit to a conspiracy and thereby accept responsibility for changing the government. That admission cannot be a half-assed, "I don't trust the government," but a straight-on, adult admission that our democratic form of government is an illusion and the illusion is not acceptable in place of the reality. This CAN be done if enough people overcome their fear of challenging authority and begin to grasp the essentials of what they have been denied and not focus on the consumeristic, mind-conditioned STUFF they are afraid of losing. In my opinion one of the main things the major media does well is deprive people of their imaginations and dreams of what might be possible. The results would, necessarily, be viewed as epochal and produce a drastic change in society. Good. We're long overdue for that.

Eclectica: What is a question you wish that interviewers WOULD (and/or wouldn't) ask you?
Mike Ruppert: There is not a single question that I am afraid of being asked. There are some painfully dumb ones, however. (None were asked by you). I try to be as patient with those questions as possible.

The question I would like to be asked is, "What is this really all about?" I would answer that ALL of this is about fear. People are much more afraid than they care to admit and they even refuse to see the ways in which fear governs their lives. These conspiracies and the machinations of a ruling elite are as old as mankind. And the rules for implementing and sustaining the power structure are absolutely ancient. They have not changed. The basic rules used against us are: 1 - Keep the people in fear of losing their protection from unspeakable evils; 2 - Keep the people afraid of each other by means of race, sex, age, language, culture, etc; 3 - Create conflict so that the powers that govern can be seen to solve the conflict, thus keeping people submissive; 4 - isolate and destroy any independent thinkers; and 5 - always deny the truth.

This corruption I and other brave friends fight is very much like a cancer which reduces societies to lowest common denominators. It is insatiable in its demands for more.

Eclectica: Mike, thank you for taking the time to do this interview, and approaching all of these questions so thoughtfully. I wish you the best of luck with all of your future endeavors.
Mike Ruppert: Thank you.

Mike finances his battle against the CIA with lecture fees, newsletter subscriptions, and other contributions. If you’d like to contact him or learn more about the causes he supports, you can visit his website at www.copvcia.com. I recommend, if you read nothing else, the preface to his congressional testimony (as yet, undelivered).

One question that occurred to me while preparing this interview, and which still causes me some unease, is this: if a man in a gray suit were to appear at my door and urge me, in no uncertain terms, to delete every word on my computer having to do with Mike Ruppert, what would I do? How far would I be willing to go, and what would I be willing to sacrifice to ensure that you can read this interview? I’d like to think I’d do the right thing, but what that is and whether or not I would have the courage, I just don’t know."

"A Look to the Heavens"

"Why does this galaxy have such a long tail? In this stunning vista recorded with the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys, distant galaxies form a dramatic backdrop for disrupted spiral galaxy Arp 188, the Tadpole Galaxy. The cosmic tadpole is a mere 420 million light-years distant toward the northern constellation Draco. Its eye-catching tail is about 280 thousand light-years long and features massive, bright blue star clusters. 
Click image for very large size.

One story goes that a more compact intruder galaxy crossed in front of Arp 188 - from left to right in this view - and was slung around behind the Tadpole by their gravitational attraction. During the close encounter, tidal forces drew out the spiral galaxy's stars, gas, and dust forming the spectacular tail. The intruder galaxy itself, estimated to lie about 300 thousand light-years behind the Tadpole, can be seen through foreground spiral arms at the lower left. Following its terrestrial namesake, the Tadpole Galaxy will likely lose its tail as it grows older, the tail's star clusters forming smaller satellites of the large spiral galaxy."

"Is Pet Food Actually POISONING Our Dogs?"

 "Is Pet Food Actually POISONING Our Dogs?"
 by Rebecca Hosking

 "It was early spring this year and my other half, Tim, and I were down in one of the lower meadows on our Devon farm, coppicing willow while keeping half an eye on our ten-month-old border collie, Dave, as he indulged in his favourite pastime: moth hunting. Not that we knew it then, but that was the last time in months we would all be worry-free. Half an hour later, as we sat down for tea back at the house, we heard a horrible thumping sound from outside. The following seconds are still a blur. I don't remember getting to the kennel, I just recall pulling Dave into the recovery position and putting a blanket under his head. He was convulsing violently,legs wildly paddling, frothing at the mouth.

Dave, we would later discover, was having a grand mal seizure and that thumping sound was his head uncontrollably banging on the kennel floor. It was a sound we would come to dread and one we would sadly hear all too often. The vets told us that dogs can have seizures for many reasons and that there are only so many tests you can run. If, as in Dave's case, the specific cause cannot be identified, the diagnosis of 'idiopathic epilepsy' is made. That translates as: 'He's having seizures and we don't know why.' Dave was prescribed anti-convulsant medication but the seizures continued. They were particularly severe and we knew that any one could be lethal.

Vets tell you: 'Live with canine epilepsy, not for it.' Good advice, but much easier said than done. We went entirely the other way and buried ourselves in research, starting on a journey that would take us far beyond canine epilepsy. A concerted internet trawl through scientific journals, veterinary publications and pet-owner forums revealed a huge and growing incidence of dogs with diseases of the joints, internal organs, immune system, eyes, ears, skin, teeth and nervous system; not to mention cancers, behavioural disorders and, yes, epilepsy. And, this being the internet, the suggested treatments encompassed everything from fancy pharmaceuticals to collective prayer. There was one piece of advice, however, that cropped up far too often to ignore - 'get your dog off commercial pet food'.

At the time we were feeding Dave what we thought was a high-quality dried food or 'kibble'. According to the description on the side of the packaging, it was 'rich in meat' with 'wholesome ingredients' and '100 per cent complete and balanced'. But the 'ingredients' section on most petfood packaging is notoriously vague and misleading. Manufacturers don't really want you to know what's in there. After some serious delving, I could understand why. In all probability we had been feeding Dave the waste by-products of industrial grain processing, vegetable pulp (and possibly woodchip), a grounddown mix of non-nutritious animal parts, along with used fats and oils, possibly from restaurant fryers and industrial food-processing units. This mixture is preserved with powerful antioxidants banned in the UK for human consumption and linked to liver and kidney damage, stomach tumours and cancer. The vets I talked to agreed that a diet of processed food was linked to many chronic ailments and degenerative conditions

Like so many pet owners, I just didn't think to question my dog's food until something went wrong. But when I did, I stumbled upon a battlefield, with commercial petfood manufacturers on one side and those who advocate a more natural diet for pets on the other. Pet-food makers say processed pet food is safe and nutritious; natural feeders argue that commercial food, being mainly composed of cooked cereal grains, is inappropriate for animals that evolved to eat raw meat and bones. I simply wanted to know what I should be feeding my dog. Asking vets seemed a sensible approach but many were reluctant to be drawn on the issue.

Roger Meacock, however, was one vet who was happy to talk at length. He was also unashamedly in the natural diet camp: 'You only need to look at David Attenborough programmes to know that wild dogs eat carcasses. They catch live animals or scavenge carrion; they don't attack wheat fields, they don't dig up potatoes, they don't cook, they don't add preservatives or flavour enhancers . . . if it doesn't happen in the wild we shouldn't be doing it for them.' If it's that obvious, why the confusion? Meacock says: 'Pet-food manufacturers would have us believe dogs are not carnivores but omnivores. This deliberate misclassification flies in the face of all the scientific evidence.'

The pet-food industry is dominated by a handful of multinational corporations and is estimated globally to be worth £30 billion a year. Profits are maintained by using the cheapest possible ingredients that regulations will allow. In North America, 'mammalian meat and bone meal', a key animal component in pet food, has been shown to include the ground-up remains of euthanised cats and dogs - flea collars, name tags, microchips and all. Pet-food manufacturers like to point out that our pets are living longer than ever, and argue this is because of improved nutrition.

Meacock has little time for this claim: 'Human beings today are living longer than ever but if KFC and Burger King tried to take the credit they'd be met with utter disbelief.' He believes huge advances in veterinary care, particularly in immunisation, have extended animals' lives despite their processed diets. 'I tend to see a lot of dogs with cancer or arthritis or allergies,' said Meacock. 'The main part of what I do is taking them off a commercial diet and putting them on to a raw diet, and that is where I see the biggest difference. I've had dogs which have been expected to die and they've left me with a clean bill of health simply because I've put them on the raw diet.' Pete Coleshaw is a recently retired vet with decades of experience from his practice in Staffordshire. He sees the cereal content of many commercial pet foods as the problem: 'Dogs and cats are not meant to eat large amounts of highly fermentable starch. They have not struggled to survive for millions of years on a diet of meat and bones; they have thrived.'

A month or so after Dave's seizures started we noticed his physical condition was deteriorating. His coat had become ragged, his gums were pale and he had recurring diarrhoea, persistent rashes and skin irritations. I felt I had nothing to lose by trying Dave on a more natural diet. There are enough scare stories out there - about bacteria and choking on bones, for instance - to make changing to a raw diet a very anxious time. The majority of these stories can be traced back to people or companies selling processed pet food. The idea of Dave choking on a bone played on my mind but vet Richard Allport commented: 'Nothing is risk-free in life but I think the risk of not feeding raw bones is far higher than the risk of feeding raw bones.'

One of the risks of not feeding raw meat is gum disease. Some 85 per cent of dogs over the age of three now have gum disease or tooth decay. A raw bone is nature's toothbrush for a dog. A criticism levelled at raw feeding is that its not 'scientifically proven'. True, unless you are prepared to accept several million years of evolution as a scientific experiment. And a closer look at the 'scientific' testing behind processed pet food reveals it to be about as useful as 'the science bit' in shampoo adverts. 'Complete and balanced' is the gold-standard claim on a pet food, but what does it actually mean? The specific combination of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and trace elements that a 'complete' food must contain are derived from feeding trials carried out in the United States under the guidance of the Association Of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), an organisation seemingly influenced by the petfood industry.
 
Coleshaw explained: 'AAFCO feeding trials consist of at least eight dogs being fed the same diet for 26 weeks. During this time, 25 per cent of the dogs can be removed from the test and the dogs eating the food can lose up to 15 per cent of their weight and condition; the food will still pass the test and be labelled "complete and balanced".' That doesn't sound quite so reassuring, does it?

Dave's illness meant a lot of visits to a lot of different vets and every surgery waiting-room was adorned with displays for processed pet food. If these processed foods are so inappropriate, why are they sold or endorsed by so many vets? Some people believe there is a grand conspiracy between pet-food manufacturers and vets. However, I'm pretty sure this isn't the case. All the vets that helped us with Dave were fantastic. If they thought commercial food was making him sick I know they would have said so. Richard Allport said: 'This has really come about not because vets decided to do it, but because of the marketing campaigns of the pet-food companies. What saddens me is that my profession, which I like to think is ethical, has been taken in by this.' 

The pet-food industry is heavily embedded in the veterinary profession. It runs courses that give veterinary nurses qualifications in animal nutrition; it publishes textbooks on nutrition and hands them out free to veterinary students. And, as Allport explained, it doesn't stop there. 'In many cases, the salaries of lecturers in nutrition in veterinary colleges are paid by the pet-food companies,' he said. 'So most students today don't get any information about anything other than commercial pet food.' If I were a veterinary student, this would make me very angry indeed. Vet schools obviously need their departments funded. Universities admit the money from pet-food companies is important but also regularly proclaim their independence when it comes to nutritional teaching.

True independence, however, is hard to argue when FOI disclosures reveal contractual clauses like this: 'The University agrees that Royal-Canin will be allowed to provide expertise and material for integration into the agreed university courses on basic and clinical nutrition teaching.' Pete Coleshaw believes 'it's a constant indoctrination into commercial pet nutrition'. The acceptance of processed pet food is so ingrained in veterinary teaching nowadays, it is unlikely to change in the near future, but people such as Coleshaw show it is never too late to teach an old vet new tricks.  'I'm a late convert,' he said, 'and I've had clients say to me, "Yes but you told me ten years ago to feed a commercial food." My answer to that is to hold my hands up and say I was wrong, I swallowed the company line and believed it - I don't any more.' Since then he hasn't looked back: 'By the time I left the practice we had the best part of 100 dogs all rawfed, and all of them were absolutely thriving. I'd see them out on dog walks and get very positive feedback from every owner.' Between them, the vets I spoke to had more than 2,000 dogs and cats on natural diets, and business was booming.

Sadly we ran out of time with Dave and he had one big seizure too many, but that's not to say the dietary change was a failure - quite the opposite. In the three months we had him on a wild-type diet we saw some remarkable improvements in his overall health and condition. Within days his coat became superglossy and he lost that dog smell we had assumed was normal. His teeth became whiter, his bad breath disappeared, his skin allergies cleared, his energy levels picked up and his eyes brightened. For a while, even the severity of his seizures was reduced and he recovered from them in hours rather than days. We really can't say if a processed diet caused Dave's illness but it certainly didn't help. A developing young carnivore being fed a diet of less than five per cent meat may well have the odds stacked against him.

We have a new puppy arriving next month - Wilf - and I want to give him the best start in life, so that means a raw diet from day one. The pet-food industry tends to dismiss the evidence of tens of thousands of healthy dogs on raw diets as 'anecdotal', but I'd rather be another anecdote with a healthy dog than another clinical statistic sat in a waiting room. Some will question the views of Meacock and Allport. Yet both are fully qualified and respected vets, vocal members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and frequent contributing writers to the Veterinary Times. As Roger Meacock says: 'There's an old phrase, "Fit as a butcher's dog." Doesn't that say it all?'"

Khalil Gibran


"Said a philosopher to a street sweeper, “I pity you. Yours is a hard and dirty task.” And the street sweeper said, “Thank you, sir. But tell me, what is your task?” And the philosopher answered saying, “I study man's mind, his deeds and his desires.” Then the street sweeper went on with his sweeping and said with a smile, “I pity you too.”
- Khalil Gibran

Chris Floyd, "Domestic Disturbance: FBI Raids Bring the Terror War Home"

"Domestic Disturbance: FBI Raids Bring the Terror War Home"
by Chris Floyd

"I'm sure that if I had met Paul Craig Roberts 25 years ago - or indeed, had even known of his existence - I would have felt strongly antagonistic toward this Reagan Administration apparatchik and all that he stood for. And for all I know, if I met him today, I still might find that we were at loggerheads on some issues, maybe many issues. But I must say there are few people out there today speaking truth about power with the unblinking, unvarnished ferocity of Roberts. (And as I've noted here before, it is speaking truth about power - not the old cliché of "speaking truth to power" - that we so desperately need. There's no point in speaking truth to power - power already knows the truth of its monstrous crimes, and it doesn't give a damn.) Time and again, I've started to write a post about some outrage only to find that Roberts has already been there, laying into the issue with a flaming brand.

And so it was today, when I came in from a gorgeous autumn afternoon - one of those bright, crisp, golden days that break through the English gloom like some rare flower - and saw the stories about the FBI raids on antiwar activists across the United States. I know that domestic duties - that is to say, the actual living of one's life, the common and deeply meaningful byt that lies far beyond the howling madness of power - would as usual keep me from writing until the wee hours, but I thought: I'll have to take this up later, I think I have something to say about this.

But by the time that night had come, and duties were done, and loved ones were asleep, I found that, once again, Roberts was already on the case. He too had something to say - everything that I was going to say, in fact, and more. So I'll just let Roberts speak the truth, beginning with his title: "It is Official: The US is a Police State":  "Now we know what Homeland Security (sic) secretary Janet Napolitano meant when she said on September 10: "The old view that ‘if we fight the terrorists abroad, we won’t have to fight them here’  is just that — the old view."  The new view, Napolitano said, is "to counter violent extremism right here at home." "Violent extremism" is one of those undefined police state terms that will mean whatever the government wants it to mean. In this morning’s FBI foray into the homes of American citizens of conscience, it means antiwar activists, whose activities are equated with "the material support of terrorism," just as conservatives equated Vietnam era antiwar protesters with giving material support to communism.

Antiwar activist Mick Kelly, whose home was raided, sees the FBI raids as harassment to intimidate those who organize war protests. I wonder if Kelly is underestimating the threat. The FBI’s own words clearly indicate that the federal police agency and the judges who signed the warrants do not regard antiwar protesters as Americans exercising their Constitutional rights, but as unpatriotic elements offering material support to terrorism. "Material support" is another of those undefined police state terms. In this context the term means that Americans who fail to believe their government’s lies and instead protest its policies, are supporting their government’s declared enemies and, thus, are not exercising their civil liberties but committing treason."

I agree that the threat goes far beyond mere harassment. Roberts goes on to spell out one of the first thoughts I had on reading these stories: that those who are accused of the slightest association with "terrorism" - on little evidence, on manufactured evidence, or no evidence whatsoever - are now subject to the merciless, lawless mechanisms of the Terror War state: "As this initial FBI foray is a softening up move to get the public accustomed to the idea that the real terrorists are their fellow citizens here at home, Kelly will get off this time.  But next time the FBI will find emails on his computer from a "terrorist group" set up by the CIA that will incriminate him. Under the practices put in place by the Bush and Obama regimes, and approved by corrupt federal judges, protesters who have been compromised by fake terrorist groups can be declared "enemy combatants" and sent off to Egypt, Poland, or some other corrupt American puppet state — Canada perhaps — to be tortured until confession is forthcoming that antiwar protesters and, indeed, every critic of the US government, are on Osama bin Laden’s payroll."

Of course, they can also just be killed outright, without charges, without due process, at the lawless whim of the president or one of his designated minions - or indeed, one of the literally thousands of people, many of them foreigners, that the United States government now pays to roam various regions of the earth killing people: blowing them up in their houses, murdering them in their beds, machine-gunning their children, drone-bombing their neighborhoods, knifing them on street corners, pushing them out of windows, poisoning them in restaurants, whatever. Just this week, the lawyers of the Peace Laureate were in federal court trying zealously to quash a civil lawsuit that would threaten the president's unrestricted power to kill American citizens without the slightest pretense of due process, if he feels like it.

(It is astonishing - unbelievable - that one could even write such a sentence, that this is the kind of state we live in. That is, it would be astonishing and unbelievable - if I hadn't been writing sentences just like it for almost nine years, since my first piece on George Bush's  assertion of this universal power of life and death, back in November 2001.)

Roberts notes the deeper implications of the "terrorism" taint that the government of the Peace Laureate is now smearing across the antiwar movement: "Almost every Republican and conservative and, indeed, the majority of Americans will fall for this, only to find, later, that it is subversive to complain that their Social Security was cut in the interest of the war against Iran or some other demonized entity, or that they couldn’t have a Medicare operation because the wars in Central Asia and South America required the money.

Americans are the most gullible people who ever existed. They tend to support the government instead of the Constitution,  and almost every Republican and conservative regards civil liberty as a coddling device that encourages criminals and terrorists. The US media, highly concentrated in violation of the American principle of a diverse and independent media, will lend its support to the witch hunts that will close down all protests and independent thought in the US over the next few years. As the Nazi leader Joseph Goebbels said, "think of the press as a great keyboard on which the Government can play."

But this is not all. Roberts had yet another piece out this weekend that also spoke to the accelerating corruption that seems to be raging through the American political system - and the American populace - like some vomitous fever that nothing can quell: "The Collapse of Western Morality." He begins, however, by setting the historical context: "Yes, I know, as many readers will be quick to inform me, the West never had any morality. Nevertheless things have gotten worse. In hopes that I will be permitted to make a point, permit me to acknowledge that the US dropped nuclear bombs on two Japanese cities, fire-bombed Tokyo, that Great Britain and the US fire-bombed Dresden and a number of other German cities, expending more destructive force, according to some historians, against the civilian German population than against the German armies, that President Grant and his Civil War war criminals, Generals Sherman and Sheridan, committed genocide against the Plains Indians, that the US today enables Israel’s genocidal policies against the Palestinians, policies that one Israeli official has compared to 19th century US genocidal policies against the American Indians, that the US in the new 21st century invaded Iraq and Afghanistan on contrived pretenses, murdering countless numbers of civilians, and that British prime minister Tony Blair lent the British army to his American masters, as did other NATO countries, all of whom find themselves committing war crimes under the Nuremberg standard in lands in which they have no national interests, but for which they receive an American pay check.

I don’t mean these few examples to be exhaustive. I know the list goes on and on. Still, despite the long list of horrors, moral degradation is reaching new lows. The US now routinely tortures prisoners, despite its strict illegality under US and international law, and a recent poll shows that the percentage of Americans who approve of torture is rising. Indeed, it is quite high, though still just below a majority.

And we have what appears to be a new thrill: American soldiers using the cover of war to murder civilians. Recently American troops were arrested for murdering Afghan civilians for fun and collecting trophies such as fingers and skulls. This revelation came on the heels of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s alleged leak of a US Army video of US soldiers in helicopters and their controllers thousands of miles away having fun with joy sticks murdering members of the press and Afghan civilians. Manning is cursed with a moral conscience that has been discarded by his government and his military, and Manning has been arrested for obeying the law and reporting a war crime to the American people.

US Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican, of course, from Michigan, who is on the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, has called for Manning’s execution. According to US Rep. Rogers it is an act of treason to report an American war crime. In other words, to obey the law constitutes “treason to America.”

The US government, a font of imperial hubris, does not believe that any act it commits, no matter how vile, can possibly be a war crime. One million dead Iraqis, a ruined country, and four million displaced Iraqis are all justified, because the “threatened” US Superpower had to protect itself from nonexistent weapons of mass destruction that the US government knew for a fact were not in Iraq and could not have been a threat to the US if they were in Iraq. Yes, in the transvaluation of all values that is the American power cult, this is where we are: genuine morality is illegal, compassion is outlawed, dissent is treason, and justice is a crime."

Midnight has come and gone. The golden day is a memory; they speak of rain tomorrow. In the face of all these mounting horrors, I keep thinking of byt, of Pasternak, and some words I wrote a few years ago. I think I'll end with them. "Within his conventional narrative of shattering passions and historic upheavals, Pasternak subtly diffuses a deeply subversive philosophy that overthrows power structures and modes of thought that have dominated human life for thousands of years. Yet remarkably, this far-reaching, radical notion is based on one of the most humble concepts and lowly words in the Russian language: byt.

The word has no precise equivalent in English, but in general it means the ordinary "stuff" of life: the daily round, the chores, the cares and duties, the business and busyness that drives existence forward... In contrast to this mundane and deadening level stands the realm of the transcendent: the "great questions" of life, the grand abstractions – nation, faith, ideology, honor, prosperity, family, security, righteousness, glory – for which millions fight and die. It's the world of power, fueled by the dynamic of dominance and servitude – a dialectic that governs relationships in every realm: political, economic, religious, artistic, personal. Everywhere, hierarchies abound, even among the most professedly egalitarian groups, from monasteries to movie sets, from ashrams to activist collectives. Everywhere we find, in Leonard Cohen's witty take, "the homicidal bitchin'/That goes down in every kitchen/To determine who will serve and who will eat."

This, we are given to understand, is the real world, the important world, far above the tawdry, tedious humdrum that fills the dead hours between epiphanies and exaltations. The Russian Revolution is of course one of history's great manifestations of this dynamic, where the "transcendent," world-shaking abstractions of ideology and high politics (imperialism, capitalism, revolution, Bolshevism) uprooted whole nations and produced suffering and dehumanization on an almost unimaginable scale. The modern era's "War on Terror" bids fair to surpass the Revolution in this regard, with its wildly inflated rhetoric and grand abstractions, its epiphanies of violence and exaltations of terror – on both sides – inflaming a conflict that has already devoured nations and destabilized the entire globe. The dominance paradigm – so thoroughly worked into our consciousness, so ever-present in our interactions, large and small, public and private – is the engine driving this vast machinery of death and ruin.

But below this "higher plane" lies the reality of byt. Far from the soul-killing muck that Nabokov found so distasteful, in Pasternak's hands the true nature of byt is revealed: creative, sustaining, nurturing, an infinite source of meaning. For the most part, the novel conveys this indirectly, in passages where Pasternak shows us byt in action – people going about their work, having quiet conversations, preparing food, fixing stoves, tending gardens, washing floors – or in the richly detailed backgrounds and descriptions given for minor characters who pop up briefly in the narrative then are rarely, perhaps never, seen again.

Over the years, some critics have decried these passages as the clumsy strokes of a fictional amateur, a poet gamely trying and failing to match the rich plenitude of Tolstoy's novels. (And to be fair, the English translations of the novel, though serviceable, are hobbled by clunky prose that ill-serves the original Russian.) But surely Pasternak, a writer of immense talent and intelligence, knew exactly what he was doing with these portions of the novel. The "clumsy" strokes that brake and complicate the grand narrative are central to the book's meaning. "Zhivago" means "the living," its root word is "life." And life is immense, comprising every aspect, every atom of reality. "Life, always one and the same, always incomprehensibly keeping its identity, fills the universe and is renewed in every moment in innumerable combinations and metamorphoses," as Zhivago says at one point. It is in the careful observation and deeply felt experiencing of the details of daily life that the meaning of existence can be found – or rather, consciously created....

One last passage from Zhivago provides a striking encapsulation of this, although a word should be said about the Christian symbolism it employs – a symbolism worked deeply into the plan and language of the entire novel. As Pasternak told one interviewer, the religious symbols were "put into the book the way stoves go into a house – to warm it up. Now they would like me to commit myself and climb into the stove." Later he added: "The novel must not be judged on theological lines. Nothing is further removed from my understanding of the world. One must live and write restlessly, with the help of new reserves that life offers. I am weary of this notion of faithfulness to a point of view at all cost. The great heroic devotion to one point of view is very alien to me – it's a lack of humility. "

Here Pasternak, like his Zhivago, resists adherence to any party line, even one that he finds enormously congenial, like Christianity. It is not in pious certainties but in the humble, shifting, temporary coalescences of everyday existence, in byt, that some measure of always-imperfect, always-provisional meaning can be found. But the languages of faith – structures that for centuries were the chief embodiment and expression of the human yearning for illumination, encounter and escape from the brutalities of dominance and servitude – can still serve as vehicles to convey a deeper reality, as Pasternak shows here, in the voice of one of his characters, the philosopher Nikolai Vendenyapin:

"I think that if the beast who sleeps in man could be held down by threats – any kind of threat, whether of jail or retribution after death – then the highest emblem of humanity would be the lion-tamer with his whip, not the preacher who sacrificed himself. But don't you see, this is just the point – what has for centuries raised man above the beast is not the cudgel but an inward music: the irresistible power of unarmed truth, the attraction of its example. The idea that underlies this is that communion between mortals is immortal, and that the whole of life is symbolic because the whole of it has meaning." Immortal communion, in the transient, private, churning flow of byt: this is what Pasternak offers as an alternative to the violent estrangement of the "overworld," to its violence and fear, its bombast and lies. This lowly word could bring down empires, and stands in defiance of death itself."