0,1% > 90%

The increase in inequality in the western world is a theme that is increasingly discussed. Occasionally you come into a statistic that in a very simple way explains the degree of inequality that has been “achieved”. The Economist publishes this chart where it is easily visible that the top 0.1% of the USA population in terms of wealth owns as many assets as the bottom 90%. As the chart ends in in 2013, you can safely assume that the situation is now worse (or “better”)?

“The authors examine the share of total wealth held by the bottom 90% of families relative to those at the very top. In the late 1920s the bottom 90% held just 16% of America’s wealth—considerably less than that held by the top 0.1%, which controlled a quarter of total wealth just before the crash of 1929. From the beginning of the Depression until well after the end of the second world war, the middle class’s share of total wealth rose steadily, thanks to collapsing wealth among richer households, broader equity ownership, middle-class income growth and rising rates of home-ownership. From the early 1980s, however, these trends have reversed. The top 0.1% (consisting of 160,000 families worth $73m on average) hold 22% of America’s wealth, just shy of the 1929 peak—and almost the same share as the bottom 90% of the population.

Fracking Fraud

In Shale Fraud Created by Wall Street, The Burning Platform (TBP) analyzes and exposes some key facts about the “fracking revolution” that are usually hidden from the public due to, according to TBP, the hype fostered by Wall Street. As Shale Bubble reports, “the Reality is that the so-called shale revolution is nothing more than a bubble, driven by record levels of drilling, speculative lease & flip practices on the part of shale energy companies, fee-driven promotion by the same investment banks that fomented the housing bubble, and by unsustainably low natural gas prices. Geological and economic constraints – not to mention the very serious environmental and health impacts of drilling – mean that shale gas and shale oil (tight oil) are far from the solution to our energy woes”. USA energy independence will certainly not come from fracking.

Excerpts:

KEY FINDINGS, SHALE GAS

      • High productivity shale gas plays are not ubiquitous: Just six plays account for 88% of total production.
      • Individual well decline rates range from 80-95% after 36 months in the top five U.S. plays.
      • Overall field declines require from 30-50% of production to be replaced annually with more drilling – roughly 7,200 new wells a year simply to maintain production.
      • Dry shale gas plays require $42 billion/year in capital investment to offset declines. This investment is not covered by sales: in 2012, U.S. shale gas generated just $33 billion, although some of the wells also produced liquids, which improved economics.

KEY FINDINGS, TIGHT OIL (SHALE OIL)

      • More than 80 percent of tight oil production is from two unique plays: the Bakken and the Eagle Ford.
      • Well decline rates are steep – between 81 and 90 percent in the first 24 months.
      • Overall field decline rates are such that 40 percent of production must be replaced annually to maintain production.
      • Together the Bakken and Eagle Ford plays may yield a little over 5 billion barrels – less than 10 months of U.S. consumption.

KEY FINDINGS, THE FINANCIAL PICTURE

    • Wall Street promoted the shale gas drilling frenzy which resulted in prices lower than the cost of production and thereby profited [enormously] from mergers & acquisitions and other transactional fees.
    • Industry is demonstrating reticence to engage in further shale investment, abandoning pipeline projects, IPOs and joint venture projects.
    • Shale gas has become one of the largest profit centers in some investment banks, in direct parallel with the decline of natural gas prices.
    • Due to extreme levels of debt, stated proved undeveloped reserves (PUDs) may have been out of compliance with SEC rules at some shale companies because of the threat of collateral default for some operators.

Typewriter Salvation

Typrewriter

Armstrong Economics and The Guardian both report of the latest breakthrough in anti-eavesdropping, anti-NSA technology: the typewriter. Depending on how old you are, you might not even have seen, much less used, one. Well, it is a device that allows you to type letters, documents, in a non-electronic environment, the way it was done well into the 1960s, a device that, until the NSA finds an AI-based way to detect subtle changes in air pressure caused by fingers typing a continent away might be the best solution for those that need to share sensitive written information and who, at the same time value privacy, an endangered species, unfortunately.

The Bundestag is leading the way:

“The head of the Bundestag’s parliamentary inquiry into NSA activity in Germany said in an interview with the Morgenmagazin TV programme that he and his colleagues were seriously thinking of ditching email completely.”

“Asked “Are you considering typewriters” by the interviewer on Monday night, the Christian Democrat politician Patrick Sensburg said: “As a matter of fact, we have – and not electronic models either”. “Really?” the surprised interviewer checked. “Yes, no joke,” Sensburg responded.”

Typewriters in,  America’s prestige out.

 

 

Smedley Butler revisited

 

 

According to Wikipedia “Smedley Darlington Butler (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940) was a United States Marine Corps major general, the highest rank authorized at that time, and at the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I. Butler is well known for having later become an outspoken critic of U.S. wars and their consequences, as well as exposing the Business Plot, a purported plan to overthrow the U.S. government.” In 1935 he published a book that with the title “War is a racket” defended the thesis that the USA waged wars with the main purpose of protecting Wall Street and corporate America.

SmartKnowledgeU has produced a modern version of the same thesis expressed in a simple map that requires little comment.

 

The American Deep State

The expression “Deep State” originated in Turkey, and it designates “a group of influential anti-democratic coalitions within the Turkish political system, composed of high-level elements within the intelligence services (domestic and foreign), Turkish military, security, judiciary, and mafia”, that compose a state within the state. The turkish Deep State appeared with the Kemal Ataturk revolution of 1923.

“Deep State” is an increasingly popular expression used to describe the powers behind the state, the set of forces that exercise power beyond and above a country’s government and constitution, in this case the American Constitution.

In this interview with Bill Moyers, Mike Lofgren, a congressional staff member for 28 years, talks about what he calls Washington’s “Deep State,” in which elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests. “It is how we had deregulation, financialization of the economy, the Wall Street bust, the erosion or our civil liberties and perpetual war,”

As one of the commentaries on the interview says: “Mike Lofgren manages to say what conspiracy theorists have been saying for years…without sounding like a conspiracy theorist.”

Lofgren also tackles the same issue in the essay, Anatomy of the Deep State. After describing in detail its components and operational methods, he ends his article with an optimist note, as if there was still time (and means) to dismantle it. Unfortunately, we do not share his optimism. We fear that the Deep State and its owners are here to stay. Nevertheless, having been a partial insider, Mike Lofgren makes a good service by offering this apt description of the american Deep State, the true operational power of America.

Some excerpts:

“How did I come to write an analysis of the Deep State, and why am I equipped to write it? As a congressional staff member for 28 years specializing in national security and possessing a top secret security clearance, I was at least on the fringes of the world I am describing, if neither totally in it by virtue of full membership nor of it by psychological disposition. But, like virtually every employed person, I became, to some extent, assimilated into the culture of the institution I worked for, and only by slow degrees, starting before the invasion of Iraq, did I begin fundamentally to question the reasons of state that motivate the people who are, to quote George W. Bush, “the deciders.””

“Cultural assimilation is partly a matter of what psychologist Irving L. Janis called “groupthink,” the chameleon-like ability of people to adopt the views of their superiors and peers….As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.””

“The Deep State does not consist of the entire government. It is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department. I also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street. All these agencies are coordinated by the Executive Office of the President via the National Security Council. Certain key areas of the judiciary belong to the Deep State, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose actions are mysterious even to most members of Congress. Also included are a handful of vital federal trial courts, such as the Eastern District of Virginia and the Southern District of Manhattan, where sensitive proceedings in national security cases are conducted. The final government component (and possibly last in precedence among the formal branches of government established by the Constitution) is a kind of rump Congress consisting of the congressional leadership and some (but not all) of the members of the defense and intelligence committees. The rest of Congress, normally so fractious and partisan, is mostly only intermittently aware of the Deep State and when required usually submits to a few well-chosen words from the State’s emissaries.”

“Washington is the most important node of the Deep State that has taken over America, but it is not the only one. Invisible threads of money and ambition connect the town to other nodes. One is Wall Street, which supplies the cash that keeps the political machine quiescent and operating as a diversionary marionette theater. Should the politicians forget their lines and threaten the status quo, Wall Street floods the town with cash and lawyers to help the hired hands remember their own best interests. The executives of the financial giants even have de facto criminal immunity. On March 6, 2013, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder stated the following: “I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.” This, from the chief law enforcement officer of a justice system that has practically abolished the constitutional right to trial for poorer defendants charged with certain crimes. It is not too much to say that Wall Street may be the ultimate owner of the Deep State and its strategies, if for no other reason than that it has the money to reward government operatives with a second career that is lucrative beyond the dreams of avarice — certainly beyond the dreams of a salaried government employee. [3]

“…avatars of the Deep State — the White House advisers who urged Obama not to impose compensation limits on Wall Street CEOs, the contractor-connected think tank experts who besought us to “stay the course” in Iraq, the economic gurus who perpetually demonstrate that globalization and deregulation are a blessing that makes us all better off in the long run — are careful to pretend that they have no ideology. Their preferred pose is that of the politically neutral technocrat offering well considered advice based on profound expertise. That is nonsense. They are deeply dyed in the hue of the official ideology of the governing class, an ideology that is neither specifically Democrat nor Republican. Domestically, whatever they might privately believe about essentially diversionary social issues such as abortion or gay marriage, they almost invariably believe in the “Washington Consensus”: financialization, outsourcing, privatization, deregulation and the commodifying of labor. Internationally, they espouse 21st-century “American Exceptionalism”: the right and duty of the United States to meddle in every region of the world with coercive diplomacy and boots on the ground and to ignore painfully won international norms of civilized behavior. To paraphrase what Sir John Harrington said more than 400 years ago about treason, now that the ideology of the Deep State has prospered, none dare call it ideology.That is why describing torture with the word “torture” on broadcast television is treated less as political heresy than as an inexcusable lapse of Washington etiquette: Like smoking a cigarette on camera, these days it is simply “not done.””

Silicon Valley is a vital node of the Deep State as well. Unlike military and intelligence contractors, Silicon Valley overwhelmingly sells to the private market, but its business is so important to the government that a strange relationship has emerged. While the government could simply dragoon the high technology companies to do the NSA’s bidding, it would prefer cooperation with so important an engine of the nation’s economy, perhaps with an impliedquid pro quo.”

“That the secret and unaccountable Deep State floats freely above the gridlock between both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue is the paradox of American government in the 21st century: drone strikes, data mining, secret prisons and Panopticon-like control on the one hand; and on the other, the ordinary, visible parliamentary institutions of self-government declining to the status of a banana republic amid the gradual collapse of public infrastructure.”

“The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure and political dysfunction. Washington is the headquarters of the Deep State, and its time in the sun as a rival to Rome, Constantinople or London may be term-limited by its overweening sense of self-importance and its habit, as Winwood Reade said of Rome, to “live upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face.” “Living upon its principal,” in this case, means that the Deep State has been extracting value from the American people in vampire-like fashion.”

Prescient George Carlin

Many of us have spent time in the USA, a country for which we have harbored kind thoughts and fond memories. But in the age of the NSA spying even on the closest allies, in the age of american drones killing civilians in a routine fashion, in the age where Wall Street and its tool, the Federal Reserve, have induced, first, a global financial crisis and, then, are intent on destroying whatever is left of the middle class thru a gigantic reverse Robin Hood transfer of wealth via zero interest rates and QE, in the age where the USA has the highest debt levels in its history (except peak of WWII) and does not plan to do anything to stop abusing the “exorbitant privilege” of having the, so far, world’s reserve currency, in the age where the USA involves itself in, or even promotes, uncountable wars, declared or not, for purposes that nothing have to do with national security, terrorist menace, justice, or the betterment of the life of its own citizens, in this age…there are many that believe that the America they once knew, either never existed (very likely), or is long gone.

Why has the country, once assumed to be the “land of the free”, changed so much? Or has it? Perhaps what is today visible to many was once only visible to a few. One of them is the already deceased comedian and author George Carlin, who, in this video, filmed in 2005, analyzes the “American Dream”. In 2013 it is not only not dated but insightful and prescient.

TYReads about NDAA “program 1033”

A hidden process, perhaps related to the rising inequality in american society, is discussed by The Guardian in America’s police are looking more and more like the military where it explores how, quietly, America’s government is militarizing it’s own homeland, expecting perhaps, widespread civil unrest. Some excerpts:

“A little-known Pentagon program has been quietly militarizing American police forces for years.”

“In the fine print of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 1997, the “1033 program” was born. It allows the Defense Department to donate surplus military equipment to local police forces.”

“Though the program’s existed since the 1990s, it has expanded greatly in recent years, due, in part, to post-9/11 fears and sequestration budget cuts. The expanse, however, seems unnecessary given that the Department of Homeland Security has already handed out $34bn in “terrorism grants to local polices forces – without oversight mind you – to fund counter-terrorism efforts.”

“...the program is transforming our police into a military. The results of such over-militarized law enforcement are apparent from the dispersion of Occupy protesters in Oakland to the city-wide lockdown in Boston.”

“But when local police forces carry assault weapons and patrol America’s main streets with tanks and drones, the lines blur between the military and law enforcement. The growing militarization of the United States appears to be occurring at home as well as abroad, a phenomenon which is troublesome and sure to continue without decisive action. Scaling back the 1033 program is a much-needed start and would cast some light on the blurring line between military forces and the local police who are meant to protect and serve.”

TYReads “A Plea for Caution From Russia”

A Plea for Caution From Russia by Vladimir V. Putin @ The New York Times In a rare oped by Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin pleads directly with the american people against USA intervention in Syria. The well crafted article stresses two ideas: 1) America is increasingly perceived not as a democracy, but as an aggressive entity that unilaterally uses brute force to intervene (foster?) in conflicts around the world without legal nor moral justification and 2) American exceptionalism is dangerous because it assumes America is inherently “superior”. He might have a point, or two.

American exceptionalism is the theory that states that the United States is “qualitatively different” from other nations. In this view, America’s exceptionalism stems from its emergence from a revolution, becoming what political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset called “the first new nation” and developing a uniquely American ideology, “Americanism“, based on liberty, egalitarianismindividualismrepublicanismpopulism and laissez-faire. This ideology itself is often referred to as “American exceptionalism.”

The theory of exceptionalism can be traced to Alexis de Tocqueville, the first writer to describe the United States as “exceptional” in 1831 and 1840. The term “American exceptionalism” has been in use since at least the 1920s. Even when there is no historical connexion, the similarities between the concept of “American exceptionalism” and that of the “Chosen People” are apparent.

Although the term does not necessarily imply superiority, many neoconservative and American conservative writers have promoted its use in that sense. To them, the United States is like the biblical shining “City upon a Hill“, and exempt from historical forces that have affected other countries.

The article by Vladimir Putin:

Recent events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.

Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.

From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.

No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.

The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.

We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.

A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.

I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive, as we agreed to at the Group of 8 meeting in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June, and steer the discussion back toward negotiations.

If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

America’s “high moral ground” in Syria

Little miracle: Two years ago, Shakira, whose name means thankful, was discovered badly burned in a bin following a drone attack in Pakistan

Drums of war again. Among unproved allegations of a chemical attack by the Syrian government against its own people, the USA is preparing to go to war, again, and topple the Syrian regime. Not that the Syrian regime is a model one and that deserves praise, but if the allegations of a chemical attack are false, why the relentless march forward of America towards war? There is a geostrategic reason behind it, one that we explored in our previous post Arab Spring, Arab Fall & where it all began, in which we described how Wesley Clark, already in 2001 shortly after the S11 attacks, discovered the blueprint of a plan for a domino-like makeover of most of the Middle East countries, a plan that looking back 12 years into the future, has been executed in all but Syria and Iran. The main beneficiary of such a plan is “the one that cannot be named”.

Syria is a special case though. It is the place where the forces opposing the banking oligarchy that controls the West have decided to make a stand. Not that they care much about the Syrian population, but they care about their interests. These forces are Russia, China and Iran.

America seems to be willing to risk a bigger confrontation and seems to be prepared to justify it with a False Flag operation, which is what the chemical attack allegations seem to be given the fact that the Syrian government, winning the war against “the rebels”, has little to gain and lots to lose by perpetrating such a crime. It would not be the first time and it will most likely not be the last given the nature of the present day USA.

A different issue is whether the USA has any high moral ground on which to base its case for war. We believe that it has none, the country and its owners discredited after the Iraq War based, also (?), on false allegations of use of weapons of mass destruction, and the continuous use of drones in bombing operations, undeclared wars in foreign countries not authorized by the american Congress, where thousands of civilians have been killed or severely injured, like the girl in the photo above, victim of a USA drone attack perpetrated in Pakistan in 2011. High moral ground or shifing moral sands?. The latter.

TYReads about Cognitive Infiltration

It seems we’ll have to get used to a new neologism, “Cognitive Infiltration”, after the Obama administration is proposing to pick Cass Sunstein to serve on the NSA Oversight Panel, the body responsible for reviewing allegations of NSA privacy abuses.

As The Washington Post reports in Obama pick for NSA review panel wanted paid, pro-government shills in chat rooms, “while at Harvard in 2008, Sunstein co-authored a working paper that suggests government agents or their allies “cognitively infiltrate” conspiracy theorist groups by joining ”chat rooms, online social networks or even real-space groups” and influencing the conversation.”

“Sunstein’s paper defined a conspiracy theory as “an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role,” and acknowledges that some conspiracy theories have turned out to be true. It also specifically notes that his plan of “cognitive infiltration” should only be used against false conspiracy theories that could be harmful to the government or society.”

“But even the suggestion that the government should infiltrate groups that are not actively participating in criminal acts is troubling. ”

“The paper also suggests that the government “formally hire credible private parties to engage in counterspeech.”

“A man with such a credulous view of government power might not be the best choice to review allegations of NSA privacy abuses.”

The man in his full glory trying to avoid uncomfortable questions: