Think

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Perched

UK - Bickering At The Top About Economic Crisis

The UK is facing its worst economic crisis in 60 years, Chancellor Alistair Darling has admitted.

He told the Guardian newspaper that the economic downturn would be more "profound and long-lasting" than most people had feared.

Using strong language, Mr Darling acknowledged voters were angry with Labour's handling of the economy.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne said Mr Darling had "let the cat out of the bag" about the state of the economy.

The chancellor admitted the government had "patently" failed to get its message across that it understood people's concerns about rising living costs and growing job insecurity.

He said that voters were "pissed off" with Labour's handling of the economy, a key issue at the next election, and said it was "absolutely imperative" that ministers communicated their intentions better.

"This coming 12 months will be the most difficult 12 months the Labour Party has had in a generation, quite frankly."

When asked why he had been so frank, Mr Darling told BBC News: "It's important I tell people in this country that we, along with every other country in the world, face a unique set of circumstances where you've got the credit crunch coming at the same time with high oil and food prices."

But he said the current government differed from past ones because it is prepared to "take action to help the economy and to help people get through this difficult time".

He cited the rescue package provided for Northern Rock and tax rebates due at the end of next month as examples of assistance offered by the government.

How the government is trying to kick-start the housing market

Ministers are expected to announce a package of measures next week to kick-start the moribund housing market.

The chancellor has been criticised for sending contradictory signals over possible measures to assist homebuyers, particularly the prospect of a temporary suspension of stamp duty on home purchases.

In a wide-ranging Guardian interview, Mr Darling said Labour had to rediscover its "zeal" if it wanted to be re-elected for a fourth term.

But he admitted that was "a huge problem for us at the moment".

Mr Darling hinted at tensions within Gordon Brown's Cabinet, saying there were "lots of people who'd like to do my job" and "no doubt, actively doing it", although he appeared to rule out an autumn Cabinet reshuffle.

The chancellor's remarks come after a summer of unremittingly bad economic news.

House prices are falling at their fastest rate in 18 years, leading to fears of a wave of repossessions.

Mortgage lending has slowed dramatically due to the credit crunch while key indicators have suggested that the economy could be poised to go into recession.

The economy showed no growth in the second quarter of the year while building firms and retailers have laid off thousands of staff amid fears that the economy will deteriorate further.

A member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee said on Friday that radical action was needed to ensure the crisis did not get worse and warned of a sharp rise in unemployment.

Mr Osborne said: "Who is telling the truth at the top of government?

"The prime minister says the economic situation isn't as bad people think and that Britain is well placed to weather the economic storm but the chancellor says we are at a 60-year low.

"Gordon Brown has briefed out stories that he has an economic recovery plan all worked out, meanwhile the chancellor says the downturn will be more profound and long-lasting than people thought.

"It's not clear whether Alistair Darling meant to tell us the truth about the mess 10 years of a Labour government has left our economy in, but he has certainly let the cat out of the bag."

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said the government had been inconsistent with its message.

"Until very recently there was no problem, there was a state of denial, Britain was the strongest country in the western world, any problems we had were from overseas," he said.

"Now suddenly we've lurched into Apocalypse Now, the return of the Great Depression."

The Treasury said the chancellor's comments were "entirely consistent" with his previous statements.

A spokesman said: "These are the same difficult economic circumstances that every other country in the world is having to deal with.

"But with employment levels near record highs, interest rates that are historically low and the past decade of rising incomes and job creation, the UK is well placed to deal with this."

Source - BBC

Serene


Russian Oil Threats

Fears are mounting that Russia may restrict oil deliveries to Western Europe over coming days, in response to the threat of EU sanctions and Nato naval actions in the Black Sea. Any such move would be a dramatic escalation of the Georgia crisis and play havoc with the oil markets. Reports have begun to circulate in Moscow that Russian oil companies are under orders from the Kremlin to prepare for a supply cut to Germany and Poland through the Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline. It is believed that executives from lead-producer LUKoil have been put on weekend alert. "They have been told to be ready to cut off supplies as soon as Monday," claimed a high-level business source, speaking to The Daily Telegraph. Any move would be timed to coincide with an emergency EU summit in Brussels, where possible sanctions against Russia are on the agenda.

Any evidence that the Kremlin is planning to use the oil weapon to intimidate the West could inflame global energy markets. US crude prices jumped to $119 a barrel yesterday on reports of hurricane warnings in the Gulf of Mexico, before falling back slightly.

Global supplies remain tight despite the economic downturn engulfing North America, Europe and Japan. A supply cut at this delicate juncture could drive crude prices much higher, possibly to record levels of $150 or even $200 a barrel.

With US and European credit spreads already trading at levels of extreme stress, a fresh oil spike would rock financial markets. The Kremlin is undoubtedly aware that it exercises extraordinary leverage, if it strikes right now.

Such action would be seen as economic warfare but Russia has been infuriated by Nato meddling in its "backyard" and threats of punitive measures by the EU. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday accused EU diplomats of a "sick imagination".

Armed with $580bn of foreign reserves (the world's third largest), Russia appears willing to risk its reputation as a reliable actor on the international stage in order to pursue geo-strategic ambitions.

"We are not afraid of anything, including the prospect of a Cold War," said President Dmitry Medvedev.

The Polish government said yesterday that Russian deliveries were still arriving smoothly. It was not aware of any move to limit supplies. The European Commission's energy directorate said it had received no warnings of retaliatory cuts.

Russia has repeatedly restricted oil and gas deliveries over recent years as a means of diplomatic pressure, though Moscow usually explains away the reduction by referring to technical upsets or pipeline maintenance.

Last month, deliveries to the Czech Republic through the Druzhba pipeline were cut after Prague signed an agreement with the US to install an anti-missile shield. Czech officials say supplies fell 40pc for July. The pipeline managers Transneft said the shortfall was due to "technical and commercial reasons".

Supplies were cut to Estonia in May 2007 following a dispute with Russia over the removal of Red Army memorials. It was blamed on a "repair operation". Latvia was cut off in 2005 and 2006 in a battle for control over the Ventspils terminals. "There are ways to camouflage it," said Vincent Sabathier, a senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"They never say, 'we're going to cut off your oil because we don't like your foreign policy'."

A senior LUKoil official in Moscow said he was unaware of any plans to curtail deliveries. The Kremlin declined to comment.

London-listed LUKoil is run by Russian billionaire Vagit Alekperov, who holds 20pc of the shares. LUKoil produces 2m barrels per day (b/d), or 2.5pc of world supply. It exports one fifth of its output to Germany and Poland.

Although Russia would lose much-needed revenue if it cut deliveries, the Kremlin might hope to recoup some of the money from higher prices. Indeed, it could enhance income for a while if the weapon was calibrated skilfully. Russia exports roughly 6.5m b/d, supplying the EU with 26pc of its total oil needs and 29pc of its gas.

A cut of just 1m b/d in global supply – and a veiled threat of more to come – would cause a major price spike.

It is unclear whether Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or other Opec producers have enough spare capacity to plug the shortfall. "Russia is behaving in a very erratic way," said James Woolsey, the former director of the CIA. "There is a risk that they might do something like cutting oil to hurt the world's democracies, if they get angry enough."

Mr Woolsey said the rapid move towards electric cars and other sources of power in the US and Europe means Russia's ability to use the oil weapon will soon be a diminishing asset. "Within a decade it will be very hard for Russia to push us around," he told The Daily Telegraph.

It is widely assumed that Russia would cut gas supplies rather than oil as a means of pressuring Europe. It is very hard to find alternative sources of gas. But gas cuts would not hurt the United States. Oil is a better weapon for striking at the broader Western world.

The price is global. The US economy could suffer serious damage from the immediate knock-on effects.

While the Russian state is rich, the corporate sector is heavily reliant on foreign investors. The internal bond market is tiny, with just $60bn worth of ruble issues.

Russian companies raise their funds on the world capital markets. Foreigners own half of the $1 trillion debt. Michael Ganske, Russia expert at Commerzbank, said the country was now facing a liquidity crunch. "Local investors are scared. They can see the foreigners leaving, so now they won't touch anything either. The impact on the capital markets is severe," he said.

Source - Telegraph

XY


Integrity - Failure # 10

Integrity Bank of Alpharetta, Georgia, was closed by U.S. regulators today, the 10th bank to collapse this year amid a surge in soured real-estate loans stemming from the worst housing slump since the Great Depression.

Integrity Bank, with $1.1 billion in assets and $974 million in deposits, was shuttered by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Regions Financial Corp., Alabama's biggest bank, will assume all deposits from Integrity, which was run by Integrity Bancshares Inc.

The failed bank's five offices will open on Sept. 2 as branches of Regions, the FDIC said.

"Depositors will continue to be insured with Regions Bank so there is no need for customers to change their banking relationship to retain their deposit insurance,'' the FDIC said.

Banks are being closed at the fastest pace in 14 years as financial companies report more than $505 billion in writedowns and credit losses since 2007. California lender IndyMac Bancorp Inc., which had $32 billion in assets, was closed July 11 in the third-largest bank seizure, contributing to a 14 percent drop in the U.S. deposit insurance fund that had $45.2 billion at the end of the in the second quarter.

Regions will buy about $34.4 million in assets and will pay the FDIC a premium of 1.01 percent to assume the failed bank's deposits, the FDIC said. The FDIC estimates the cost of the Integrity failure to its deposit-insurance fund will be $250 million to $300 million.

Told to Raise Capital

Integrity was ordered by federal and state regulators in May to present a capital-raising plan within 60 days. At the time, the company had been trying without success for at least eight months to raise $40 million after loans to residential and commercial developers were hurt by the collapse of the real estate market.

"Banks must meet certain regulatory minimums to ensure safety and soundness,'' Georgia bank commissioner Rob Braswell said in a telephone interview. "When those minimums are not able to be met and solvency is in jeopardy, we have no choice but to close the institution and to place it into receivership.''

Integrity Bancshares, which sold for more than $14 a share in January 2007, closed today at 4 cents in over-the-counter trading.

The FDIC insures deposits of up to $100,000 per depositor per bank, and up to $250,000 for some retirement accounts at 8,451 institutions with $13.3 trillion in assets.

'Problem' Banks

The FDIC this week said 117 banks are classified as "problem'' in the second quarter, a 30 percent jump from the first quarter. The agency doesn't identify "problem'' lenders.

"More banks will come on the list as credit problems worsen,'' FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said at an Aug. 26 Washington news conference.

The credit market turmoil may topple some of the nation's biggest banks, Kenneth Rogoff, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, said in Singapore Aug. 19.

"Like any shrinking industries, we are going to see the exit of some major players,'' Rogoff told Bloomberg, declining to name the banks he expects to fail.

"We're really going to see a consolidation even among the major investment banks.''

Before today's action, the FDIC had closed 36 banks since October 2000, according to a list at fdic.gov. The U.S. shut 11 banks in 2002, the highest in the period. In 1994 the government had closed a dozen institutions by the end of August.

U.S. regulators this year also closed Columbian Bank and Trust of Topeka, Kansas, on Aug. 22; First Priority Bank of Bradenton, Florida, on Aug. 1; Reno-based First National Bank of Nevada and Newport Beach, California-based First Heritage Bank in July; Staples, Minnesota-based First Integrity Bank and ANB Financial in Bentonville, Arkansas, in May; Hume Bank in Hume, Missouri, in March; and Douglass National Bank in Kansas City, Missouri, in January.

Source - Bloomberg

Inside The Volcano


Iran Attack Imminent?

The Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf is reporting that an attack on Iran is expected. Apparantly, the Dutch intelligence agency AIVD has conducted an ultra secret operation in Iran with the purpose of infiltrating and sabotaging the weapons industry in Iran. They have cancelled the operation, apparently because of an imminent attack on Iran:

"The Dutch intelligence agency AIVD has conducted an ultrasecret operation in Iran with the purpose of infiltrating and sabotaging the weapons industry in the islamic republic.

The operation, deemed extremely succesfull, has recently been cancelled because of an imminent aerial attack on Iran. Targets include sites that are connected to the Dutch spying.

...

One of the involved agents, that has infiltrated the Iranian industry under supervision of the AIVD, has been called back recently because the US has made the decision to attack Iran with unarmed aircrafts within weeks. Potential targets include not only nuclear facilities, but also military installations that have been mapped by the AIVD. Information from the AIVD-operation has been shared with the American Intelligence Agency CIA, according to sources."

I am not sure how valid the report is, but this would be one hell of an october surprise. Since these are aerial operations with unarmed airplanes, I am not sure if this would result in a full scale war, but this might be the beginning of one.

Source - Daily Kos

Thursday, August 28, 2008

4

Russian Reactions

Moscow has issued an extraordinary warning to the West that military assistance to Georgia for use against South Ossetia or Abkhazia would be viewed as a "declaration of war" by Russia.

The extreme rhetoric from the Kremlin's envoy to NATO came as President Dmitry Medvedev stressed he will make a military response to US missile defence installations in eastern Europe, sending new shudders across countries whose people were once blighted by the Iron Curtain.

And Moscow also emphasised it was closely monitoring what it claims is a build-up of NATO firepower in the Black Sea.

The incendiary warning on Western military involvement in Georgia - where NATO nations have long played a role in training and equipping the small state - came in an interview with Dmitry Rogozin, a former nationalist politician who is now ambassador to the North Atlantic Alliance.

"If NATO suddenly takes military actions against Abkhazia and South Ossetia, acting solely in support of Tbilisi, this will mean a declaration of war on Russia," he stated.

Yesterday he likened the current world crisis to the fevered atmosphere before the start of the First World War.

Rogozin said he did not believe the crisis would descend to war between the West and Russia.

But his use of such intemperate language will be seen as dowsing a fire with petrol.

Top military figure Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, president of the Academy of Geopolitical Studies in Moscow, alleged that the US and NATO had been arming Georgia as a dress rehearsal for a future military operation in Iran.

"We are close to a serious conflict - U.S. and NATO preparations on a strategic scale are ongoing. In the operation the West conducted on Georgian soil against Russia - South Ossetians were the victims or hostages of it - we can see a rehearsal for an attack on Iran."

He claimed Washington was fine tuning a new type of warfare and that the threat of an attack on Iran was growing by the day bringing "chaos and instability" in its wake.

With the real architect of the worsening Georgian conflict - prime minister Vladimir Putin - remaining in the background, Medvedev followed up on Rogozin's broadside with a threat to use the Russian military machine to respond to the deployment of the American anti-missile defence system in Poland and the Czech republic.

Poland agreed this month to place ten interceptor missiles on its territory, and Moscow has already hinted it would become a nuclear target for Russia in the event of conflict.

"These missiles are close to our borders and constitute a threat to us," Medvedev told Al-Jazeera television. "This will create additional tension and we will have to respond to it in some way, naturally using military means."

The Russian president said that offering NATO membership to Georgia and Ukraine, two former Soviet republics, would only aggravate the situation.

Moscow has consistently expressed its opposition to the U.S. missile shield, saying it threatens its national security.

The U.S. claims the shield is designed to thwart missile attacks by what it calls "rogue states," including Iran.

Meanwhile, Russia - seen by the West as flouting international law - today demanded NATO abide by an obscure agreement signed before the Second World War limiting its warships in the Black Sea.

"In light of the build-up of NATO naval forces in the Black Sea, our fleet has also taken on the task of monitoring their activities," said hawkish deputy head of Russia's general staff, Anatoly Nogovitsyn.

The Montreux Convention, as it is called, sets a weight restriction of 45,000 tonnes on the number of warships that countries outside the Black Sea region can deploy in the basin.

"Can NATO indefinitely build up its forces and means there? It turns out it cannot," said Nogovitsyn.

NATO has said it is undertaking pre-arranged exercises in the Black Sea involving US, German, Spanish and Polish ships. Two other US warships sailed to Georgian waters with humanitarian aid.

Georgia is poised to sever diplomatic relations with Russia, or reduce them to a bare minimum.

"We will drastically cut our diplomatic ties with Russia," said a top official.

President Mikhail Saakashvili said he was frightened to leave Georgia to attend the EU summit on the crisis.

"If I leave Georgia, the Russians will close our airspace and prevent me from returning home," he said.

Russia sought Chinese backing for its action - but the Communist regime in Beijing appeared reluctant to offer support, instead issuing a statement saying it was "concerned" about recent developments.

NATO called for Russia to reverse its decision on recognition for the two enclaves, both Georgian under international law.

But the new 'president' of South Ossetia, Eduard Kokoyty, called for Russian military bases on his territory.

French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner warned today that a marauding Russian bear could trample over other ex-Soviet states.

"That is very dangerous," he said, pointing at Ukraine and Moldova.

Source - This Is London

Pheele

Massive Intervention In Currencies

Finance officials from the U.S., Japan and Europe in mid-March drew up plans to strengthen the U.S. dollar following troubles at Bear Stearns Cos., Nikkei English News reported, citing unnamed sources.

The intervention designed by the U.S. Treasury Department, Japan's Finance Ministry and the European Central Bank called for the central banks to purchase dollars and sell euros and yen, with Japan providing the yen needed for the currency swap if the greenback's value dropped significantly, the news service said.

The three groups, which considered making an emergency statement through the Group of Seven industrial nations, did not stipulate a specific exchange rate for the potential intervention, nor did they detail the amount of money to be used, Nikkei said.

ECB spokeswoman Eszter Miltenyi and Treasury spokeswoman Brookly McLaughlin declined to comment on the report.

Source - Bloomberg

Highlighting

Water Bottles

For the first time, a branch of the U.S. government has admitted that the common industrial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) may pose a health risk.

BPA is a crucial ingredient in the hard, clear polycarbonate plastic found in water and baby bottles. It is also used to make liners for food and infant formula cans. BPA has been shown to seep out of these containers and into food or liquids, and 90 percent of U.S. residents carry it in their bodies.

The National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health concluded in April that there is "some concern" that BPA may cause problems in fetuses, babies and children, including breast or prostate cancer, early onset of female puberty, attention deficit disorder and other problems of the reproductive and neurological systems.

"Some concern" is the middle of five rankings available to the National Toxicology Program, with none at one end and extreme at the other.

The National Toxicology Program's findings "[reflect] a significant body of science showing that BPA may play a larger role than previously thought in a host of common health problems, including prostate cancer, breast cancer and early puberty," said Anila Jacob, senior scientist at Environmental Working Group.

"More research is needed to better understand [BPA's] implications for human health," the report reads. "However, because these effects in animals occur at bisphenol A exposure levels similar to those experienced by humans, the possibility that bisphenol A may alter human development cannot be dismissed."

In spite of the report's cautious wording, BPA expert Frederick vom Saal said that it is "very, very much in line" with a statement signed by 38 scientists in 2007, warning that BPA could be harming infant development.

"This is going to ripple around the world," vom Saal said. "The bottom line is there really is a convergence of opinion that is occurring."

Source - Natural News

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Smiley


Debunking "Tragedy Of The Commons"

Will shared resources always be misused and overused? Is community ownership of land, forests and fisheries a guaranteed road to ecological disaster? Is privatisation the only way to protect the environment and end Third World poverty? Most economists and development planners will answer “yes” — and for proof they will point to the most influential article ever written on those important questions.

Since its publication in Science in December 1968, “The Tragedy of the Commons” has been anthologised in at least 111 books, making it one of the most-reprinted articles ever to appear in any scientific journal. It is also one of the most quoted: a recent Google search found “about 302,000” results for the phrase “tragedy of the commons”.

For 40 years it has been, in the words of a World Bank discussion paper, “the dominant paradigm within which social scientists assess natural resource issues” (Bromley and Cernea 1989: 6). It has been used time and again to justify stealing indigenous peoples’ lands, privatising health care and other social services, giving corporations ``tradable permits'' to pollute the air and water, and much more.

Noted anthropologist Dr G.N. Appell (1995) writes that the article “has been embraced as a sacred text by scholars and professionals in the practice of designing futures for others and imposing their own economic and environmental rationality on other social systems of which they have incomplete understanding and knowledge”.

Like most sacred texts, “The Tragedy of the Commons” is more often cited than read. As we will see, although its title sounds authoritative and scientific, it fell far short of science.

Garrett Hardin hatches a myth

The author of “The Tragedy of the Commons” was Garrett Hardin, a University of California professor who until then was best known as the author of a biology textbook that argued for “control of breeding” of “genetically defective” people (Hardin 1966: 707). In his 1968 essay he argued that communities that share resources inevitably pave the way for their own destruction; instead of wealth for all, there is wealth for none.

He based his argument on a story about the commons in rural England.

(The term “commons” was used in England to refer to the shared pastures, fields, forests, irrigation systems and other resources that were found in many rural areas until well into the 1800s. Similar communal farming arrangements existed in most of Europe, and they still exist today in various forms around the world, particularly in indigenous communities.)

“Picture a pasture open to all”, Hardin wrote. Herders who want to expand their personal herd will calculate that the cost of additional grazing (reduced food for all animals, rapid soil depletion) will be divided among all, but they alone will get the benefit of having more cattle to sell.

Inevitably, “the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd”. But every “rational herdsman” will do the same thing, so the commons is soon overstocked and overgrazed to the point where it supports no animals at all.

Hardin used the word “tragedy” as Aristotle did, to refer to a dramatic outcome that is the inevitable but unplanned result of a character’s actions. He called the destruction of the commons through overuse a tragedy not because it is sad, but because it is the inevitable result of shared use of the pasture. “Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.”

Where’s the evidence?

Given the subsequent influence of Hardin’s essay, it’s shocking to realise that he provided no evidence at all to support his sweeping conclusions. He claimed that the “tragedy” was inevitable — but he didn’t show that it had happened even once.

Hardin simply ignored what actually happens in a real commons: self-regulation by the communities involved. One such process was described years earlier in Friedrich Engels’ account of the “mark”, the form taken by commons-based communities in parts of pre-capitalist Germany:

“[T]he use of arable and meadowlands was under the supervision and direction of the community …

“Just as the share of each member in so much of the mark as was distributed was of equal size, so was his share also in the use of the ‘common mark’. The nature of this use was determined by the members of the community as a whole. …

“At fixed times and, if necessary, more frequently, they met in the open air to discuss the affairs of the mark and to sit in judgment upon breaches of regulations and disputes concerning the mark.” (Engels 1892)

Historians and other scholars have broadly confirmed Engels’ description of communal management of shared resources. A summary of recent research concludes:

“[W]hat existed in fact was not a ‘tragedy of the commons’ but rather a triumph: that for hundreds of years — and perhaps thousands, although written records do not exist to prove the longer era — land was managed successfully by communities.” (Cox 1985: 60)

Part of that self-regulation process was known in England as “stinting” — establishing limits for the number of cows, pigs, sheep and other livestock that each commoner could graze on the common pasture. Such “stints” protected the land from overuse (a concept that experienced farmers understood long before Hardin arrived) and allowed the community to allocate resources according to its own concepts of fairness.

The only significant cases of overstocking found by the leading modern expert on the English commons involved wealthy landowners who deliberately put too many animals onto the pasture in order to weaken their much poorer neighbours’ position in disputes over the enclosure (privatisation) of common lands (Neeson 1993: 156).

Hardin assumed that peasant farmers are unable to change their behaviour in the face of certain disaster. But in the real world, small farmers, fishers and others have created their own institutions and rules for preserving resources and ensuring that the commons community survived through good years and bad.

Why does the herder want more?

Hardin’s argument started with the unproven assertion that herders always want to expand their herds: “It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons… As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain.”

In short, Hardin’s conclusion was predetermined by his assumptions. “It is to be expected” that each herder will try to maximise the size of their herd — and each one does exactly that. It’s a circular argument that proves nothing.

Hardin assumed that human nature is selfish and unchanging, and that society is just an assemblage of self-interested individuals who don’t care about the impact of their actions on the community. The same idea, explicitly or implicitly, is a fundamental component of mainstream (i.e. pro-capitalist) economic theory.

All the evidence (not to mention commonsense) shows that this is absurd: people are social beings, and society is much more than the arithmetic sum of its members. Even capitalist society, which rewards the most anti-social behaviour, has not crushed human cooperation and solidarity. The very fact that for centuries “rational herdsmen” did not overgraze the commons disproves Hardin’s most fundamental assumptions — but that hasn’t stopped him or his disciples from erecting policy castles on foundations of sand.

Even if the herder wanted to behave as Hardin described, they couldn’t do so unless certain conditions existed.

There would have to be a market for the cattle, and herders would have to be focused on producing for that market, not for local consumption. The herder would have to have enough capital to buy the additional cattle and the fodder they would need in winter. The herder would have to be able to hire workers to care for the larger herd, build bigger barns, etc. And the herder's desire for profit would have to outweigh their interest in the long-term survival of their community.

In short, Hardin didn’t describe the behaviour of herders in pre-capitalist farming communities — he described the behaviour of capitalists operating in a capitalist economy. The universal human nature that he claimed would always destroy common resources is actually the profit-driven “grow or die” behaviour of corporations.

Will private ownership do better?

That leads us to another fatal flaw in Hardin’s argument: in addition to providing no evidence that maintaining the commons will inevitably destroy the environment, he offered no justification for his opinion that privatisation would save it. Once again he simply presented his own prejudices as fact:

“We must admit that our legal system of private property plus inheritance is unjust — but we put up with it because we are not convinced, at the moment, that anyone has invented a better system. The alternative of the commons is too horrifying to contemplate. Injustice is preferable to total ruin.”

The implication is that private owners will do a better job of caring for the environment because they want to preserve the value of their assets. In reality, scholars and activists have documented scores of cases in which the division and privatisation of communally managed lands had disastrous results. Privatising the commons has repeatedly led to deforestation, soil erosion and depletion, overuse of fertilisers and pesticides, and the ruin of ecosystems.

As Karl Marx wrote, nature requires long cycles of birth, development and regeneration, but capitalism requires short-term returns.

“[T]he entire spirit of capitalist production, which is oriented towards the most immediate monetary profits, stands in contradiction to agriculture, which has to concern itself with the whole gamut of permanent conditions of life required by the chain of human generations. A striking illustration of this is furnished by the forests, which are only rarely managed in a way more or less corresponding to the interests of society as a whole …” (Marx 1998: 611n)

Contrary to Hardin’s claims, a community that shares fields and forests has a strong incentive to protect them to the best of its ability, even if that means not maximising current production, because those resources will be essential to the community’s survival for centuries to come. Capitalist owners have the opposite incentive, because they will not survive in business if they don’t maximise short-term profit. If ethanol promises bigger and faster profits than centuries-old rain forests, the trees will fall.

This focus on short-term gain has reached a point of appalling absurdity in recent best-selling books by Bjorn Lomborg, William Nordhaus and others, who argue that it is irrational to spend money to stop greenhouse gas emissions today, because the payoff is too far in the future. Other investments, they say, will produce much better returns, more quickly.

Community management isn’t an infallible way of protecting shared resources: some communities have mismanaged common resources, and some commons may have been overused to extinction. But no commons-based community has capitalism’s built-in drive to put current profits ahead of the wellbeing of future generations.

A politically useful myth

The truly appalling thing about “The Tragedy of the Commons” is not its lack of evidence or logic — badly researched and argued articles are not unknown in academic journals. What’s shocking is the fact that this piece of reactionary nonsense has been hailed as a brilliant analysis of the causes of human suffering and environmental destruction, and adopted as a basis for social policy by supposed experts ranging from economists and environmentalists to governments and United Nations agencies.

Despite being refuted again and again, it is still used today to support private ownership and uncontrolled markets as sure-fire roads to economic growth.

The success of Hardin’s argument reflects its usefulness as a pseudo-scientific explanation of global poverty and inequality, an explanation that doesn’t question the dominant social and political order. It confirms the prejudices of those in power: logical and factual errors are nothing compared to the very attractive (to the rich) claim that the poor are responsible for their own poverty. The fact that Hardin’s argument also blames the poor for ecological destruction is a bonus.

Hardin’s essay has been widely used as an ideological response to anti-imperialist movements in the Third World and discontent among indigenous and other oppressed peoples everywhere in the world.

“Hardin’s fable was taken up by the gathering forces of neo-liberal reaction in the 1970s, and his essay became the ‘scientific’ foundation of World Bank and IMF policies, viz. enclosure of commons and privatisation of public property. … The message is clear: we must never treat the earth as a ‘common treasury.’ We must be ruthless and greedy or else we will perish.” (Boal 2007)

In Canada, conservative lobbyists use arguments derived from Hardin’s political tract to explain away poverty on First Nations’ [Indigenous Canadians'] reserves, and to argue for further dismantling of Indigenous communities. A study published by the influential Fraser Institute urges privatisation of reserve land:

“[T]hese large amounts of land, with their attendant natural resources, will never yield their maximum benefit to Canada’s native people as long as they are held as collective property subject to political management. … collective property is the path of poverty, and private property is the path of prosperity.” (Fraser 2002: 16-17)

This isn’t just right-wing posturing. Canada’s federal government, which has refused to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, announced in 2007 that it will “develop approaches to support the development of individual property ownership on reserves”, and created a C$300 million fund to do just that.

In Hardin’s world, poverty has nothing to do with centuries of racism, colonialism and exploitation: poverty is inevitable and natural in all times and places, the product of immutable human nature. The poor bring it on themselves by having too many babies and clinging to self-destructive collectivism.

The tragedy of the commons is a useful political myth — a scientific-sounding way of saying that there is no alternative to the dominant world order.

Stripped of excess verbiage, Hardin’s essay asserted, without proof, that human beings are helpless prisoners of biology and the market. Unless restrained, we will inevitably destroy our communities and environment for a few extra pennies of profit. There is nothing we can do to make the world better or more just.

In 1844 Friedrich Engels described a similar argument as a “repulsive blasphemy against man and nature”. Those words apply with full force to the myth of the tragedy of the commons.

Works cited in this article:

1. Appell, G. N. 1993. Hardin’s Myth of the Commons: The Tragedy of Conceptual Confusions, http://tinyurl.com/5knwou
2. Boal, Iain. 2007. “Interview: Specters of Malthus: Scarcity, Poverty, Apocalypse”. Counterpunch, September 11, 2007, http://tinyurl.com/5vepm5
3. Bromley, Daniel W. and Cernea Michael M. 1989. The Management of Common Property Natural Resources: Some Conceptual and Operational Fallacies. World Bank Discussion Paper, http://tinyurl.com/5853qn
4. Cox, Susan Jane Buck. 1985, “No Tragedy on the Commons”. Environmental Ethics 7, http://tinyurl.com/5bys8h
5. Engels, Friedrich. 1892. “The Mark”, http://tinyurl.com/6e58e7
Engels, Friedrich. 1844. Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy, http://tinyurl.com/5p24t5
6. Fraser Institute. 2002. Individual Property Rights on Canadian Indian Reserves, http://tinyurl.com/5pjfjj
7. Hardin, Garrett. 1966. Biology: Its Principles and Implications. Second edition. San Francisco. W.H. Freeman & Co.
8. Hardin, Garrett. 1968. “The Tragedy of the Commons”, http://tinyurl.com/o827
9. Marx, Karl. [1867] 1998. Marx Engels Collected Works Vol. 37 (Capital, Vol. 3). New York: International Publishers.
10. Neeson, J.M. 1993. Commoners: Common Right, Enclosure and Social Change in England, 1700-1820. Cambridge University Press.

Source - Ian Angus

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Waterlilly

Divine

Have you ever noticed that herds of grazing animals all face the same way?

Images from Google Earth have confirmed that cattle tend to align their bodies in a north-south direction.

Wild deer also display this behaviour - a phenomenon that has apparently gone unnoticed by herdsmen and hunters for thousands of years.

In the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences, scientists say the Earth's magnetic fields may influence the behaviour of these animals.

The Earth can be viewed as a huge magnet, with magnetic north and south situated close to the geographical poles.

Many species - including birds and salmon - are known to use the Earth's magnetic fields in migration, rather like a natural GPS.

A few studies have shown that some mammals - including bats - also use a "magnetic compass" to help their sense of direction.

Dr Sabine Begall, from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, has mainly studied the magnetic sense of mole rats - African animals that live in underground tunnels.

"We were wondering if larger animals also have this magnetic sense," she told BBC News.

This sense may be quite widespread in the animal kingdom

Dr Begall and colleagues first decided to study the natural behaviour of domestic cattle.

The researchers surveyed Google Earth images of 8,510 grazing and resting cattle in 308 pasture plains across the globe.

"Sometimes it took hours and hours to find some pictures with good resolution," said Dr Begall.

The scientists were unable to distinguish between the head and rear of the cattle, but could tell that the animals tended to face either north or south.

Their study ruled out the possibility that the Sun position or wind direction were major influences on the orientation of the cattle.

Dr Begall said: "In Africa and South America, the cattle (were) shifted slightly to a more north-eastern-south-western direction.

"But it is known that the Earth's magnetic field is much weaker there," she explained.

The researchers also recorded the body positions of 2,974 wild deer in 277 locations across the Czech Republic.

Their fieldwork revealed that the majority of grazing and resting deer face northward. About one-third of the deer faced southward.

"That might be some kind of anti-predatory behaviour," speculated Dr Begall.

Willy Miller - a Scottish cattle farmer - remarked: "I've never noticed that my cows all face the same way."

Cows are social animals: "[They] all sit down before it rains [and] huddle together in a circle formation during blizzards. But from a cow's point of view, that's just sensible," he told BBC News.

Professor John Phillips, a sensory biologist from Virginia Tech University, US, commented that this sixth magnetic sense might be "virtually ubiquitous in the animal kingdom".

He added: "We need to think about some really fundamental things that this sensory ability provides in animals." The challenge remains for scientists to explain how the animals behave in this way - and if Scottish cattle are the exception to the rule!

Source - BBC

Slumber

Fannie/Freddie - The Secret

Voters aren't likely to hear much before the election about plans to end government support for two giants in home finance, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Yet like house prices, the federally backed entities are on the skids – as is the whole idea of Washington continuing to aid investment in a market often treated like a big bet.

But a political campaign is the perfect time to ask candidates what should become of Fannie and Freddie – and the implied federal credit they enjoy that allows them to borrow at low rates, buying and reselling "bundled" mortgages on global securities markets on behalf of private investors.

Politicians don't want to face such an issue, as it strikes at the heart of federal support for a now-precarious home mortgage scheme that benefits mainly the middle class.

But such a question must be asked as share prices for these "government-sponsored enterprises" have plummeted in recent weeks and the two face difficulty in selling debt. The crisis over their existence may come to a head before November.

The primary cause is uncertainty over the vulnerability of their multi-trillion portfolio to the rising number of home loans that never should have been made to risky buyers. But since July 30, when Congress gave the US Treasury a blank check to buy a controlling share, if need be, in the two if they falter, investors have also become uncertain over how much of a haircut they would take if – or once – Treasury takes over these enterprises.

The authority given for a potential purchase of Fannie and Freddie is turning into a self-fulfilling reality. Famed investor Warren Buffet says, "the game is over." Meanwhile, the big secret is Treasury's post-takeover plan for the two and what Congress also might expect.

Will the two entities be temporarily nationalized, broken up into small companies and sold off – with no implied federal credit? Will a much-smaller version of the two be created to support home-buying for only the poorest Americans?

These are not small questions for the housing and financial markets. Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee about half of the $12 trillion mortgage market, not so much out of public need but because they've learned how to lobby Congress to keep them growing – on behalf of shareholders.

Taxpayers need answers if billions are to be required in a potential crisis or if Congress and Treasury plan to maintain Fannie and Freddie in their present form. Yet debate in the campaign is negligible.

The Depression-era days when a market for reselling mortgages needed federal help are over. And Fannie and Freddie don't lower interest rates enough to justify the risk they pose to financial markets if they were to implode.

Nor should a government-backed entity be allowed to use its profits to lobby lawmakers on behalf of shareholders or be able to pressure the housing industry into lobbing on its behalf.

Americans have been misled by decades of government help for mortgages to count on their homes as a piggy bank rather than simply as a house to live in. Now a historic decline in prices is a wake-up call for a debate on whether home ownership deserves to be a drain on tax dollars. Fannie and Freddie are ripe for such a debate.

Source - CS Monitor

Soul

Fannie/Freddie & China

A failure of U.S. mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could be a catastrophe for the global financial system, said Yu Yongding, a former adviser to China's central bank.

"If the U.S. government allows Fannie and Freddie to fail and international investors are not compensated adequately, the consequences will be catastrophic,'' Yu said in e-mailed answers to questions yesterday. "If it is not the end of the world, it is the end of the current international financial system.''

Freddie and Fannie shares touched 20-year lows yesterday on speculation that a government bailout will leave the stocks worthless. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson won approval from the U.S. Congress last month to pump unlimited amounts of capital into the companies in an emergency.

China's $376 billion of long-term U.S. agency debt is mostly in Fannie and Freddie assets, according to James McCormack, head of Asian sovereign ratings at Fitch Ratings Ltd. in Hong Kong. The Chinese government probably holds the bulk of that amount, according to McCormack.

Industrial & Commercial Bank of China yesterday reported a $2.7 billion holding. Bank of China Ltd. may have $20 billion, according to CLSA Ltd., the Hong Kong-based investment banking arm of France's Credit Agricole SA. CLSA puts the exposure of the six biggest Chinese banks at $30 billion.

'Beyond Imagination'

"The seriousness of such failures could be beyond the stretch of people's imagination,'' said Yu, a professor at the Institute of World Economics & Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. He didn't explain why he held that view.

China's government hasn't commented on Fannie and Freddie.

Yu is "influential'' among government officials and investors and has discussed economic issues with Premier Wen Jiabao this year, said Shen Minggao, a former Citigroup Inc. economist in Beijing, now an economist at business magazine Caijing.

Investor confidence in Fannie and Freddie has dwindled on speculation that government intervention is inevitable. Washington-based Fannie has fallen 88 percent this year, while Freddie of McLean, Virginia, has slumped 91 percent.

Paulson got the power to make purchases of the two companies' debt or equity in legislation enacted July 30 that was aimed at shoring up confidence in the businesses. He has said the Treasury doesn't expect to use that authority.

The two companies combined account for more than half of the $12 trillion U.S. mortgage market.

Source - Bloomberg

Monday, August 25, 2008

Phlower

Hidden "War"

The existence of a secret, CIA-run prison on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean has long been a leaky secret in the “War on Terror” and recent revelations in TIME — based on disclosures by a “senior American official” (now retired), who was “a frequent participant in White House Situation Room meetings” after the 9/11 attacks, and who reported that “a CIA counter-terrorism official twice said that a high-value prisoner or prisoners were being interrogated on the island” — will come as no surprise to those who have been studying the story closely.

The news will, however, be an embarrassment to the US government, which has persistently denied claims that it operated a secret “War on Terror” prison on Diego Garcia, and will be a source of even more consternation to the British government, which is more closely bound than its law-shredding transatlantic neighbour to international laws and treaties preventing any kind of involvement whatsoever in kidnapping, “extraordinary rendition” and the practice of torture.

This is not the first time that TIME has exposed the existence of a secret prison on Diego Garcia. In 2003, the magazine broke the story that Hambali, one of 14 “high-value detainees” transferred to Guantánamo in September 2006, was being held there, and in the years since confirmation has also come from other sources. Twice, in 2004 and 2006, Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star US general, who is now professor of international security studies at the West Point military academy, revealed the prison’s existence. In May 2004, he blithely declared on MSNBC’s Deborah Norville Tonight, “We’re probably holding around 3,000 people, you know, Bagram air field, Diego Garcia, Guantánamo, 16 camps throughout Iraq”, and in December 2006 he spoke out again, saying, in an NPR interview with Robert Siegel, “They’re behind bars … we’ve got them on Diego Garcia, in Bagram air field, in Guantánamo.”

The prison’s existence was also confirmed by Dick Marty, a Swiss senator who produced a detailed report on “extraordinary rendition” for the Council of Europe in June 2007 (PDF) and by Manfred Novak, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, in March 2008. Having spoken to senior CIA officers during his research, Marty told the European Parliament, “We have received concurring confirmations that United States agencies have used Diego Garcia, which is the international legal responsibility of the UK, in the ‘processing’ of high-value detainees”, and Manfred Novak explained to the Observer that “he had received credible evidence from well-placed sources familiar with the situation on the island that detainees were held on Diego Garcia between 2002 and 2003”. The penultimate piece of the jigsaw puzzle came in May, when El Pais broke the story that “ghost prisoner” Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, whose current whereabouts are unknown, was imprisoned on the island in 2005, shortly after his capture in Pakistan — although the English-speaking press failed to notice.

Despite these previous disclosures, TIME’s article by Adam Zagorin is particularly striking because of the high-level nature of the source, and his admission that “the CIA officer surprised attendees by volunteering the information, apparently to demonstrate that the agency was doing its best to obtain valuable intelligence”. In addition, the source noted that “the US may also have kept prisoners on ships within Diego Garcia’s territorial waters, a contention the US has long denied”.

Zagorin also spoke to Richard Clarke (at the time the National Security Council’s Special Advisor to President Bush regarding counter-terrorism), who explained, “In my presence, in the White House, the possibility of using Diego Garcia for detaining high value targets was discussed.” Although Clarke “did not witness a final resolution of the issue”, he added, “Given everything that we know about the administration’s approach to the law on these matters, I find the report that the US did use the island for detention or interrogation entirely credible” and he also pointed out that using the island for interrogations or detentions without British permission “is a violation of UK law, as well as of the bi-lateral agreement governing the island”.

Zagorin’s source did not name the prisoners, but it seems clear that the period he was referring to (“2002 and possibly 2003”) was when three particular “high-value detainees” — Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh — are reported to have been held on the island, and it seems entirely plausible, therefore, that after these three were transferred to another secret CIA facility in Poland, the prison was used not only to hold Hambali, but also to hold the two other “high-value detainees” captured with him — Mohammed bin Lep (aka Lillie) and Mohd Farik bin Amin (aka Zubair). The addition of Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, who, it seems, may have been held into 2006, not only confirms that a secret prison existed, but that it was possibly in use for four years straight.

These damaging revelations seal Diego Garcia’s reputation as a quagmire of injustice. A British sovereign territory — albeit one that was leased to the United States nearly 40 years ago, when the islanders were shamefully discarded by the British government and exiled to face destitution and death by misery in Mauritius — Diego Garcia has long been a source of shame to opponents of modern colonial activity. Until now, however, the only admission that any activities connected with the “War on Terror” had taken place on the island came in February 2008, when, after years of denials on the part of the British government, David Miliband, the foreign secretary, finally conceded that requests for information from his US counterparts had revealed that, in 2002, two rendition flights had refuelled on the island. “In both cases”, Miliband stated with confidence, “a US plane with a single detainee on board refuelled at the US facility in Diego Garcia. The detainees did not leave the plane, and the US Government has assured us that no US detainees have ever been held on Diego Garcia”.

The British government had been provoked to action by critics within the UK, in particular the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition, led by the Tory MP Andrew Tyrie, and the legal action charity Reprieve, which represents 30 prisoners in Guantánamo, but the story appeared to grind to a halt when Michael Hayden, the CIA’s director, stepped forward to deny that Diego Garcia had ever been used as a “War on Terror” prison.

“That is false,” General Hayden said when asked if a secret prison had existed on Diego Garcia, adding, as the New York Times put it, that “neither of the two detainees carried aboard the rendition flights that refuelled at Diego Garcia ‘was ever part of the CIA’s high-value terrorist interrogation program.’” He also explained that one of the detainees “was ultimately transferred to Guantánamo”, while the other “was returned to his home country”, which was identified by US State Department officials as Morocco. “These were rendition operations,” he added, “nothing more”.

In July 2008, however, the story resurfaced once more, as David Miliband reported the results of his latest request for information from his US counterparts. This concerned a list of rendition flights, which, in the opinion of Reprieve and the All-Party Parliamentary Group, may also have passed through British territory, but the foreign secretary was confident that there was no further evidence to be mined, stating, “The United States Government confirmed that, with the exception of two cases related to Diego Garcia in 2002, there have been no other instances in which US intelligence flights landed in the United Kingdom, our Overseas Territories, or the Crown Dependencies, with a detainee on board since 11 September 2001.”

Yet again, the assurances of his US colleagues did nothing to assuage the critics. Reprieve noted that the British government “intentionally failed to ask the right questions of the US, and accepted implausible US assurances at face value” and added, presciently, “This remains a transatlantic cover-up of epic proportions. While the British government seems content to accept whatever nonsense it is fed by its US allies, the sordid truth about Diego Garcia’s central role in the unjust rendition and detention of prisoners in the so-called ‘War on Terror’ cannot be hidden forever.”

Just three days after David Miliband’s last attempt to draw a line under the story, the British Foreign Affairs Select Committee published its latest report on the British Overseas Territories (PDF), and was scathing about Diego Garcia, declaring that “it is deplorable that previous US assurances about rendition flights have turned out to be false. The failure of the United States Administration to tell the truth resulted in the UK Government inadvertently misleading our Select Committee and the House of Commons. We intend to examine further the extent of UK supervision of US activities on Diego Garcia, including all flights and ships serviced from Diego Garcia.”

TIME’
s latest revelations, of course, leave the US administration looking like bald-faced liars and the British government looking like myopic dupes. Whether Michael Hayden was also duped is not known, but his strenuous denial, just five months ago, that a secret prison existed, which was staffed by his own employees, will do nothing for the credibility of the US administration, which likes to pretend that it does not torture and has nothing to conceal, but is persistently discovered not only being economical with the truth, but also behaving exactly as though it has guilty secrets to hide.

Whether this scandal will awaken much indignation in the US public remains to be seen, but it is hugely damaging to the British government, which is legally responsible for the activities that take place on its territory, however much it likes to hide behind “assurances” from its leaseholders that they have done nothing wrong.

It scarcely seems possible, but Diego Garcia’s dark history has suddenly grown even darker.

Source - Links

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dear

Cruelty To Animals - Mechanized Madness

The green pastures and idyllic barnyard scenes of years past are now distant memories. On today's factory farms, animals are crammed by the thousands into filthy windowless sheds, wire cages, gestation crates, and other confinement systems. These animals will never raise their families, root in the soil, build nests, or do anything that is natural to them. They won't even feel the sun on their backs or breathe fresh air until the day they are loaded onto trucks bound for slaughter.

Animals on today's factory farms have no legal protection from cruelty that would be illegal if it were inflicted on dogs or cats: neglect, mutilation, genetic manipulation, and drug regimens that cause chronic pain and crippling, transport through all weather extremes, and gruesome and violent slaughter. Yet farmed animals are no less intelligent or capable of feeling pain than are the dogs and cats we cherish as companions.

The factory farming system of modern agriculture strives to maximize output while minimizing costs. Cows, calves, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and other animals are kept in small cages, in jam-packed sheds, or on filthy feedlots, often with so little space that they can't even turn around or lie down comfortably. They are deprived of exercise so that all their bodies' energy goes toward producing flesh, eggs, or milk for human consumption. The giant corporations that run most factory farms have found that they can make more money by cramming animals into tiny spaces, even though many of the animals get sick and some die. Industry journal National Hog Farmer explains, "Crowding Pigs Pays," and egg-industry expert Bernard Rollins writes that "chickens are cheap; cages are expensive."

They are fed drugs to fatten them faster and to keep them alive in conditions that would otherwise kill them, and they are genetically altered to grow faster or to produce much more milk or eggs than they would naturally. Many animals become crippled under their own weight and die within inches of water and food.

While the suffering of all animals on factory farms is similar, each type of farmed animal faces different types of cruelty.
  • Chickens killed for their flesh in the United States are bred and drugged to grow so quickly that their hearts, lungs, and limbs often can't keep up.
  • Hens used for eggs live six or seven to a battery cage the size of a file drawer, thousands of which are stacked tier upon tier in huge, filthy warehouses.
  • Cattle are castrated, their horns are ripped out of their heads, and third-degree burns (branding) are inflicted on them, all without any pain relief.
  • Cows used for their milk are drugged and bred to produce unnatural amounts of milk; they have their babies stolen from them shortly after birth and sent to notoriously cruel veal farms so that humans can drink the calves' milk.
  • Mother pigs on factory farms are confined to crates so small that they are unable to turn around or even lie down comfortably.
  • Fish on aquafarms spend their entire lives in cramped, filthy enclosures, and many suffer from parasitic infections, diseases, and debilitating injuries. Conditions on some farms are so horrendous that 40 percent of the fish may die before farmers can kill and package them for food.
  • Turkeys' beaks and toes are burned off with a hot blade. Many suffer heart failure or debilitating leg pain, often becoming crippled under the weight of their genetically manipulated and drugged bodies.
When they have finally grown large enough, animals raised for food are crowded onto trucks and transported over many miles through all weather extremes to the slaughterhouse. Those who survive this nightmarish journey will have their throats slit, often while they are still fully conscious. Many are still conscious when they are plunged into the scalding water of the defeathering or hair-removal tanks or while their bodies are being skinned or hacked apart.

Take a stand against cruelty to animals: By switching to a vegetarian diet, you will save more than 100 animals a year.

Source - GoVeg

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sealed

Psychopaths Rule

“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it.” – John Lennon, before his murder by Mark David Chapman

When Gandhi was asked his opinion of Western civilization he said it would be a good idea. But that oft-cited quote, is misleading, assuming as it does that civilization is an unmitigated blessing.

Civilized people, we are told, live peacefully and cooperatively with their fellows, sharing the necessary labour in order to obtain the leisure to develop arts and sciences. And while that would be a good idea, it is not a good description of what has been going on in the so-called advanced cultures during the past 8,000 years.

Civilization, as we know it, is largely the creation of psychopaths. All civilizations, our own included, have been based on slavery and “warfare.” Incidentally, the latter term is a euphemism for mass murder.

The prevailing recipe for civilization is simple:

1) Use lies and brainwashing to create an army of controlled, systematic mass murderers;

2) Use that army to enslave large numbers of people (i.e. seize control of their labour power and its fruits);

3) Use that slave labour power to improve the brainwashing process (by using the economic surplus to employ scribes, priests, and PR men). Then go back to step one and repeat the process.

Psychopaths have played a disproportionate role in the development of civilization, because they are hard-wired to lie, kill, injure, and generally inflict great suffering on other humans without feeling any remorse. The inventor of civilization — the first tribal chieftain who successfully brainwashed an army of controlled mass murderers—was almost certainly a genetic psychopath. Since that momentous discovery, psychopaths have enjoyed a significant advantage over non-psychopaths in the struggle for power in civilizational hierarchies — especially military hierarchies.

Military institutions are tailor-made for psychopathic killers. The 5% or so of human males who feel no remorse about killing their fellow human beings make the best soldiers. And the 95% who are extremely reluctant to kill make terrible soldiers — unless they are brainwashed with highly sophisticated modern techniques that turn them (temporarily it is hoped) into functional psychopaths.

In On Killing, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has re-written military history, to highlight what other histories hide: The fact that military science is less about strategy and technology, than about overcoming the instinctive human reluctance to kill members of our own species. The true “Revolution in Military Affairs” was not Donald Rumsfeld’s move to high-tech in 2001, but Brigadier Gen. S.L.A. Marshall’s discovery in the 1940s that only 15-20% of World War II soldiers along the line of fire would use their weapons: “Those (80-85%) who did not fire did not run or hide (in many cases they were willing to risk great danger to rescue comrades, get ammunition, or run messages), but they simply would not fire their weapons at the enemy, even when faced with repeated waves of banzai charges” (Grossman, p. 4).

Marshall’s discovery and subsequent research, proved that in all previous wars, a tiny minority of soldiers — the 5% who are natural-born psychopaths, and perhaps a few temporarily-insane imitators—did almost all the killing. Normal men just went through the motions and, if at all possible, refused to take the life of an enemy soldier, even if that meant giving up their own. The implication: Wars are ritualized mass murders by psychopaths of non-psychopaths. (This cannot be good for humanity’s genetic endowment!)

Marshall’s work, brought a Copernican revolution to military science. In the past, everyone believed that the soldier willing to kill for his country was the (heroic) norm, while one who refused to fight was a (cowardly) aberration. The truth, as it turned out, was that the normative soldier hailed from the psychopathic five percent. The sane majority, would rather die than fight.

The implication, too frightening for even the likes of Marshall and Grossman to fully digest, was that the norms for soldiers’ behaviour in battle had been set by psychopaths. That meant that psychopaths were in control of the military as an institution. Worse, it meant that psychopaths were in control of society’s perception of military affairs. Evidently, psychopaths exercised an enormous amount of power in seemingly sane, normal society.

How could that be? In Political Ponerology, Andrzej Lobaczewski explains that clinical psychopaths enjoy advantages even in non-violent competitions to climb the ranks of social hierarchies. Because they can lie without remorse (and without the telltale physiological stress that is measured by lie detector tests) psychopaths can always say whatever is necessary to get what they want. In court, for example, psychopaths can tell extreme bald-faced lies in a plausible manner, while their sane opponents are handicapped by an emotional predisposition to remain within hailing distance of the truth. Too often, the judge or jury imagines that the truth must be somewhere in the middle, and then issues decisions that benefit the psychopath. As with judges and juries, so too with those charged with decisions concerning who to promote and who not to promote in corporate, military and governmental hierarchies. The result is that all hierarchies inevitably become top-heavy with psychopaths.

Source - The Canadian

Blues

Unreported Chinese Massacres In Tibet

Chinese security forces opened fire on a crowd this week in eastern Tibet and may have killed 140 people, the Dalai Lama told a French daily on Thursday.

"The Chinese army again fired on a crowd on Monday August 18, in the Kham region in eastern Tibet," he told Le Monde. "One hundred and forty Tibetans are reported to have been killed, but the figure needs to be confirmed."

He said that since March, when China cracked down on protests against Chinese rule in the Himalayan territory, "reliable witnesses say that 400 people have been killed in the region of (Tibetan capital) Lhasa alone."

"Killed by bullets, even though they were protesting without weapons. Their bodies were never given back to their families," said the Tibetan spiritual leader who is in France for a 12-day visit.

France is struggling to mend ties with China after President Nicolas Sarkozy angered Beijing by threatening to boycott the opening of the Olympic Games following the Chinese crackdown in Tibet.

Sarkozy did however finally attend the ceremony in Beijing on August 8.

Source - Agence France-Presse

Stealth


UN Bans Criticism Of Islam

The Human Rights Council at the United Nations has now banned any criticism regarding Sharia Law and human rights in the Islamic World.

According to President Doru Romulus Costea - and following the efforts of delegates from Egypt, Pakistan and Iran - the Council will no longer tolerate criticism of either Sharia or specific fatwas in the name of human rights.

In many parts of the Islamic world, it is becomingly increasing clear not only that the Koran (the written record of the original oral transmissions of Mohammad’s life teachings) and the Hadith (the later delineations of those teachings) are considered sacrosanct in their perfection, but also the various implementations of these teachings, known as Sharia Law.

No evolution or refinements are required. No matter that nearly every multitudinous Muslim sect or group has a differing interpretation of this God-given Sharia Law. Nor that the stoning to death of women, beheading of men, and all the 6th century niceties of feudal Arabia are still part and parcel of the immovable Islamic tradition. Never mind that Sunni will decimate Shia - and vice versa - over differences of interpretations far more modest than those between (modern) Catholics and Protestants, between Hindus and Buddhists. Islamic sect can war on Islamic sect, Arab can criticize Arab.

Because Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and all other religions are imperfect, they are fair game for any and all attacks. Since Israel, Zionism, America and the Western World were created and developed outside the Islamic World and its divine perfection, they are likewise subject to criticism.

Now, not only has the Islamic God forbidden outside criticism of the Sharia Law, but the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) is its enjoined messenger on earth.

Of course, observers of the HRC should not be surprised. The ostensibly prestigious body has become a revolving door for countries with an ambivalent (or even well nigh invisible) relationship with freedom and democracy. In the two years following its replacement of the equally dictatorship-friendly Human Rights Commission, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Egypt, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia have all been elected to the Council. As a majority of the Council’s resolutions are concerned with Israel, it would effectively cease functioning were it not for its compulsive focus on the Jewish state.

Due to this resolution the Council - and thus, perversely, the UN - is endorsing a worldview in which human interpretation and understanding has been placed beyond the pale of critical thinking and investigation as long as it’s part of Sharia Law or the Islamic tradition. Perhaps we should rename the United Nations and call it the “Nations of Islam - United in Unique and Ineffable Perfection.” Sounds appropriate.

Source - Europe News

Red


Global Chess

1. Russia Suspends Military Ties With NATO

Russia has informed Norway that it plans to suspend all military ties with NATO, Norway’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

The report comes a day after NATO foreign ministers said they would make further ties with Russia dependent on Moscow making good on a pledge to pull its troops back to pre-conflict positions in Georgia. However, they stopped short of calling an immediate halt to all cooperation.

The Nordic country’s embassy in Moscow received a telephone call from “a well-placed official in the Russian Ministry of Defense,” who said Moscow plans “to freeze all military cooperation with NATO and allied countries,” Espen Barth Eide, state secretary with the Norwegian ministry said.

Eide told The Associated Press that the Russian official notified Norway it will receive a written note about this soon. He said Norwegian diplomats in Moscow would meet Russian officials on Thursday morning to clarify the implications of the freeze.

“It is our understanding that other NATO countries will receive similar notes,” Eide said. The ministry said the Russian official is known to the embassy, but Norway declined to provide a name or any further identifying information.

A Kremlin official declined to comment on the report. But the Interfax news agency, citing what it called a military-diplomatic source in Moscow whom it did not identify, reported that Russia is reviewing its 2008 military cooperation plans with NATO.

Officials at NATO headquarters in Brussels said Moscow had not informed the alliance it was taking such a step.

Washington described the reported move as unfortunate.

Source - Guardian

2. Russian Base In Syria?

The Russian aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov” is ready to head from Murmansk towards the Mediterranean and the Syrian port of Tartus. The mission comes after Syrian President Bashar Assad said he is open for a Russian base in the area. The “Admiral Kuznetsov”, part of the Northern Fleet and Russia’s only aircraft carrier, will head a Navy mission to the area. The mission will also include the missile cruiser “Moskva” and several submarines, Newsru.com reports.

President Assad in meetings in Moscow this week expressed support to Russia’s intervention in South Ossetia and Georgia. He also expressed interest in the establishment of Russian missile air defence facilities on his land.

The “Admiral Kuznetsov” also last year headed a navy mission to the Mediterranean. Then, on the way from the Kola Peninsula and south, it stopped in the North Sea where it conducted a navy training exercise in the immediate vicinity of Norwegian offshore installations.

Source - Macedonia Online

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lullaby

Reflexology

What is reflexology?

With its roots believed to date from ancient Egypt, reflexology is the technique of applying gentle pressure to reflex areas on the feet or hands to bring about a state of deep relaxation and to stimulate the body's own healing processes.

It is a safe, natural therapy for all ages that can boost energy, help the immune system and create a stronger body and calmer mind. Did you know that when you apply reflexology, you stimulate 7,000 nerves in the feet?

How does it work?

The theory underlying reflexology is that the organs, the nerves, glands and other parts of the body are connected to reflex points on the feet and hands. These areas are found on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands, as well as on the top and sides of the feet and hands.

By stimulating these areas using a compression technique and a form of massage with your thumbs, fingers and hands, you can create a direct response in a related body area.

For example, by working on the head reflex (which is found on the big toe) you can activate the body's own healing processes to help alleviate headaches. The right foot and hands represent the right side of the body, while the left foot and hand represent the left side.

The feet are most commonly worked on because practitioners feel they are normally more responsive to treatment than hands. As they contain a larger treatment area, the reflex points are easier to identify and the feet are more sensitive to treatment because they are usually covered by shoes.

What doesn't it do?

Reflexology is not a therapy used to diagnose illness. It is not a medical treatment and does not cure - only the body can do that. Instead it facilitates healing within the body.

Get in the zone

Zone therapy is the foundation of modern reflexology, whereby reflexologists apply pressure to, or massage-specific areas of the feet or hands stimulating circulation and nerve impulses to promote healing throughout the zones of the body.

The body is divided into ten longitudinal zones that provide a simple numbering sequence. Each toe falls into one zone and there are five zones in each foot. Zones are distributed up the body like slices, and when you work on the feet you are automatically working through the whole body.

Within these zones, energy runs up and down between all parts of the body. This energy connection should be free-flowing so that all parts of the body - organs, muscles, nerves, glands and blood supply - work in harmony and at the the optimum level for good health.

If there is a block of the body's energy, it will have an effect on any organ or part of the body within that particular zone. If a reflexologist finds sensitivity in one spot of the feet or hands, this indicates an imbalance in the entire length of that zone.

Reflexology and foot circulation

Stress, tension, poor posture and badly fitting shoes all restrict blood flow, creating a sluggish circulatory and lymphatic system. This could mean an infection such as athlete's foot or a foot or a leg ulcer may take weeks to clear.

When blood flow or lymphatic circulation is poor, it is hard for oxygen-rich blood, nutrients and white blood cells to reach various areas of the foot to fight infection, digest germs and remove toxins. Regular reflexology can help to develop healthy feet as well as improve overall body circulation.

Reflexology and the skeleton

It can help the distribution and absorption of Vitamin D and minerals into the bones, to promote a healthy skeleton. It can also ease aching joints associated with arthritis, improving mobility and helping to heal fractures.

The 12 benefits of reflexology

• Encourages the body to heal disorders
• Relieves the effects of stress
• Improves the immune system
• Assists post-operative recovery
• Encourages better circulation
• Improves bowel movements
• Eliminates waste products from the body
• Relieves pain
• Clears the body of toxins
• Improves nerve stimulation
• Promotes general relaxation
• Creates stronger bonds with children

Source - Daily Mail

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