Archive for September, 2010

Coup Attempt In Equador

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Reports of a protest by the Police have turned to a Coup attempt with President Correa injured and was in a hospital surrounded by hostile police. Apparently the military rescued President Correa. The military claims to support the President. Some are blaming the former president Gutierrez for attempting a Coup. Reports below.

This is from Xinhua News Service

Former president plots coup, says Ecuador’s deputy FM 2010-10-01 04:49:50

BOGOTA, Sept. 30 (Xinhua) — Ecuador’s Deputy Foreign Minister Quinto Lucas accused on Thursday the former Ecuadorian president, Lucio Gutierrez, of plotting a coup against incumbent President Rafael Correa.

During a telephone interview with Colombian local radio station RCN, Correa said that “there are sections of the political opposition, mainly former president Gutierrez who is responsible for this coup attempt.”

Lucas said “it is a protest carried out by the police, but there are interests to transform it into a coup. This is what we are denouncing.”

Lucas said that the government has decided to talk with the policemen.
Editor: Mu Xuequan

This from Sky News Service

Ecuador President Hurt During ‘Coup Attempt’

12:14am UK, Friday October 01, 2010

David Williams, Sky News Online
A state of emergency has been declared in Ecuador after President Rafael Correa was hurt during protests led by members of his security forces.

Unrest in Ecuador

Ecuador’s foreign minster claims the unrest is orchestrated by ‘ill-informed’ police

Police angered at plans to limit their pay burned tyres in the streets of Quito, while witnesses described seeing looting across the city.

Scores of soldiers swarmed over the landing strip of the international airport in the capital to quell the trouble.

Security Minister Miguel Carvajal described the uprising as an attempted coup.

He added that the military would now take over the functions of police taking part in the rebellion.

All international flights were cancelled after troops exerted a shutdown in confused and chaotic scenes.

The Peruvian President ordered the immediate closure of his country’s border with Ecuador due to the unrest.

Mr Correa was hurt as he took to the streets to confront the protesters in the capital.

Police reportedly teargassed supporters who gathered outside a hospital where he is being kept, apparently under duress.

“This is not Honduras. Correa is president,” protesters chanted, walking through the smoke, in reference to a 2009 coup in the Central American nation.

He has become a figure of hatred as he considers drastic action while battling members of his own party in a deadlocked Congress.

The left-wing leader is believed to be planning to dissolve the legislature after his proposals aimed at slashing state costs were blocked.

The move, which adheres to the updated constitution passed only two years ago, would allow him to rule by decree until new presidential and parliamentary elections can be held.

Although scenes of unrest and political instability are common within the country, they are the first President Correa has faced since taking power.

Resident Robin Slater, owner of Quito-based travel company Sangay Touring, told Sky News from the capital: “The trouble we’ve got right now is that all the airwaves, both the radio and television, have been taken over by the government, which is a bit suspicious because we can’t find out what’s happening.”

Workers and school children in the city of Guayaquil were also sent home during the trouble, which the country’s foreign minster claimed was orchestrated by “ill-informed” police.

Street protests toppled three presidents during economic turmoil in the decade before he assumed office.

A statement from the White House said the US Government was watching the situation closely and gave Mr Correa its full backing.

This is from the Field

Coup Attempt in Ecuador Is a Result of Sec. Clinton’s Cowardice in Honduras
Posted by Al Giordano - September 30, 2010 at 5:49 pm

By Al Giordano

Oh, crap. Another year, another coup in Latin America. And while today’s attempt by police forces in Ecuador went so far as to fire tear gas at elected president Rafael Correa, the military brass in the South American country have sided with the democratic order - its top general is on TV right now strongly backing the elected government - and this one isn’t likely to go as well for the anti-democracy forces as last year’s did in Honduras.

First, because the Ecuadorean people are far more advanced in social and community organization than their counterparts in Honduras were last year. Second, because the events last year in Honduras caused other center-left governments in the hemisphere to prepare for what everybody saw would be more coup attempts against them in more countries.

Additionally, we can expect in the coming hours that the police leaders responsible for todays events - you don’t need to understand Spanish to get a pretty good idea of what went down this morning by watching the above video - will be rounded up and brought to justice, as would happen in any other country, including the United States.

But, kind reader, do you know why this is even happening? Because the same unholy alliance of Latin American oligarchs who can’t stomach the rising wave of democracy in their countries - from the ex-Cubans of Miami to the ex-Venezuelans and others who have joined them in recent years - along with international crime organizations seeking new refuges and members of extreme rightist groups in the United States and elsewhere, saw their scheme work in 2009 in Honduras and took note of how quickly, after US President Barack Obama denounced the Honduras coup, his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began playing both sides of it.

It was this newspaper, through reporter Bill Conroy’s investigations, that broke the story last August that the State Department-controlled Millennium Challenge Corporation had poured extraordinary amounts of money into Honduras in the months leading up to the June 29, 2009 coup d’etat. And in story after story, we demonstrated with documented fact how Clinton’s Millennium Challenge Corporation went so far as to violate the ban on US aid to the Honduran coup regime. Clinton’s later endorsement of farcical presidential elections and her over-reaching attempts to pretend nothing had happened in Honduras are precisely the signals that were received by today’s coup plotters in Ecuador when they made a run at toppling the democratic government there.

At present, thankfully, the coup in Ecuador seems more likely to fail than to succeed. And there will be hell to pay for those behind it. But it didn’t have to get that far. That only happened because, last year, the US Secretary of State pulled off a kind of “silent coup” in US foreign policy while her commander in chief was buried with the urgent domestic tasks stemming off economic collapse and, as everyone knows, small nations get little attention almost always anyway.

This time, the White House would do well to put a much shorter leash on its Secretary of State, because her horrendous and unforgivable anti-democratic behavior regarding the Honduras coup only fueled, and continues to fuel, understandable speculation that if the United States doesn’t walk its talk about opposing coups d’etat, then it must have been an active participant in plotting it. The mishandling of the Honduras situation last year did lasting damage to President Obama’s stated hopes to turn the page in US relations with its closest neighbors after decades of abuse and neglect. A single misstep by Secretary Clinton today and in the future regarding the events in Ecuador, like those she repeatedly made regarding Honduras, now that the hemispheric coup plotters have moved from Central America to larger South America, will further erode the cause of democracy in the entire hemisphere. I don’t trust her. Nobody south of the border does. And nor should you, Mr. President.

Update: Narco News has translated today’s Statement from the Office of President Rafael Correa.

Update II: If it holds, this will be the first time in the history of the hemisphere that the Armed Forces of a country stood up against a coup d’etat from the first moment. Now, that would be democracy at work.

Update III: The situation in Ecuador today is further complicated by the disillusion that the very social forces that elected President Correa have with his actions in office. The CONAIE (Federation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) is the leading national indigenous movement with strong alliances with labor and other social forces) held a press conference today to say that it is neither with the police forces nor with President Correa. The CONAIE and its hundreds of thousands of participants is not only responsible for Correa’s election, but its mobilizations caused the rapid-fire resignations of previous presidents of Ecuador in this century.

The situation thus also shines a light on the growing rift in the hemisphere between the statist left and the indigenous left and related autonomy and labor movements. The CONAIE is basically saying to Correa, “you want our support, then enact the agenda you were elected on.” Whether one sees this as a dangerous game of brinkmanship or something that actually strengthens Correa’s hand by placing him in the middle zone ideologically, it is worth seeing this at face value and beware of getting led astray by some of the usual suspect conspiracy theorists of the statist left who are predictably out there barking that the CONAIE is somehow an agent of imperialism, dropping rumors of US AID funding but never seeming to exhibit the hard evidence. Sigh. What Johnny-One-Notes! They wouldn’t know nuance if it slapped them in the face. For them, you either line up lock-step with THE STATE (if it is “their” state) or you’re a running dog of capitalism. That kind of Stalinist purge mentality should have died with the previous century.

The CONAIE’s grievances happen to be very legitimate. Of course, they do not justify a coup d’etat, but the CONAIE is not participating in or supporting the coup d’etat. It is saying to Correa; we’ll have your back, when you have ours. This, like the Armed Forces support for Correa, is also a historical first in the region. And the plot thickens…

Update IV: A boilerplate statement from the US State Department:

We are closely following events in Ecuador. The United States deplores violence and lawlessness and we express our full support for President Rafael Correa, and the institutions of democratic government in that country.

We urge all Ecuadorians to come together and to work within the framework of Ecuador’s democratic institutions to reach a rapid and peaceful restoration of order.

Now let’s see if they walk that talk…

Update V: 9:30 p.m. Quito: Ecuadorean military troops have just rescued President Correa from the police hospital where he was sequestered all day. Looks like it was a pretty violent battle, but multiple media on the scene are reporting that the president is safe and the Armed Forces stuck with the democratic order.

Roman Republic And The USA

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Caesar said that he liked having a reputation for leniency because it inclined his enemies to surrender rather than fight.
(From Page 50 Lintott “Violence in Republican Rome”)

Cicero said “For when we see or hear of some atrocity being committed every hour, even those of us who are most gentle by nature lose all sense of humanity from our hearts, when distress is ever present.”
(Ibid Page 51).

When Caesar gave his apologia for starting the civil war he claims he had to fight because he and the tribunes had been treated unjustly. Since the rights of the tribunes depended ultimately on the self help of the Plebs, and as their protector it was Caesar’s duty to fight. I am paraphrasing Lintott here. in his book on Roman Violence.

In the Roman Republic the principal of self help was one that was developed in a society without a police force. Amicitia, vindico, ultio, tutus and dignitas or friendship, vengeance, punishment, expediency, and dignity all played into how justice was achieved. Force could be used to achieve ones goals as long as they did not go overboard in disrupting the civil peace and god forbid, endanger the Roman Res publica. The Civil Wars did that and led to the imperial reign of Augustus.

Romans saw nothing wrong with seeking to punish those who had personally wronged one. It was the private realm crossing over into the public realm that from the time of the death of the Gracchi brothers had gradually gathered steam until the final destruction of the Republic in the Civil Wars. Although at the time it may not have seemed so to the average man in the street. For them it was just the way things were done. It was the complaints of the weary soldiery or the famine aggrieved citizenry in times of prolonged warfare that meant something to the man in the street or the plebeians.

For the patricians, the civil wars meant the end of a way of life. Property and lives were proscribed by the Second Triumvirate seeking revenge for those responsible for the death of Caesar, the man of the people. This Lex Titia was the final end of the Republic when critical powers of the Senate and the Consuls were given to the Triumvirs.

Ultimately the end of the wars with the victory of Octavian resulted in a relieved citizenry. No major rebellions came after the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra. The consensus seemed to be that the smartest dog had won and the Romans were all about success in battle. With the capture of Egypt, Octavian had the biggest prize of all, the wealthiest nation of Alexander’s descendants. The party was on and Rome was enriched with the wealth of the spoils.

What does this have to do with America in the 21st century. Well there was a time when to be considered an educated person you learned Latin and Greek. Tacitus, Livy, Herodotus, Thucydides, Virgil, and Horace were all read. A well educated person could quote from these Greek and Roman Classics and reference them in poetry and literature. Skill in rhetoric was the ultimate goal of education in the classical world and again in the early days of America when the colonies were considering independence.

Excerpts from an article on the Founding Fathers of the USA:

“The typical education of the time began in what we would call the 3rd Grade—at about age eight. Students who actually went to school were required to learn Latin and Greek grammar and, later, to read the Latin historians Tacitus and Livy, the Greek historians Herodotus and Thucydides, and to translate the Latin poetry of Virgil and Horace. They were expected to know the language well enough to translate from the original into English and back again to the original in another grammatical tense. Classical Education also stressed the seven liberal arts: Latin, logic, rhetoric (the “trivium”), as well as arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music (the “quadrivium”).”

“These men,” says Simmons, discussing the Philadelphia debates in 1787, “had read and digested Polybius, Aristotle, and Cicero, and they used the ancient luminaries to frame and illustrate their ideas before the assembly…These heated yet erudite debates, along with the Federalist Papers, fairly pullulate both with subtle classical allusions—with which Madison, Hamilton, and Jay assumed readers to be tolerably familiar—and direct references to the leagues—Amphictyonic, Achaean, Aetolian, Lycian—formed by the ancient Greeks in order to achieve political and physical security.”

Not only are the Federalist Papers replete with classical references, but the pseudonyms each of the writers chose for themselves were all taken from the writers of classical times.”

More can be found below.

I was unfortunate. In my elementary school they stopped teaching Latin and Greek. I was taught Spanish, at the time a language I had no use for. Who spoke Spanish in 1960’s New England?

I am attempting to read this “Violence in Republican Rome” and it is replete with quotes in Latin. I can barely grasp what the author is saying. It was written in 1968 at Oxford, when apparently the modernist revolution in languages and education hadn’t arrived. I pick up a current history book and it is a rare phrase that is left in the original Latin or Greek.

So what am I saying? The age of giants has left us behind? Are we like Augustian Rome, a sham Republic? It seems so. We have entered our own imperial period, or perhaps we are about to. The Roman Republic lasted in our eyes about 500 years. In Roman eyes it ended with the fall of Rome, or perhaps Constantinople. But the ideals of the Republic lingered on and people through history have looked to Rome and Greece as models for democratic and republican governments. Certainly the founding fathers did. It would behoove us to look to history and the lessons of that time when Caesar crossed the Rubicon and defending the people from the elites destroyed the Republic upon which the freedom of the Roman People depended as faulty and creaky as it was.

Are we about to see the same happen here? Or has it already happened. Are we a Republic only in name? Many are those who call this nation an oligarchy from both the right and the left. The parallels are not exact, but they could be close. Rome kept a proforma Republican government for centuries after it had no longer existed, at least in modern eyes. The consensus was that if it worked then don’t knock it and it worked for over 1000 years. That is a hell of a long time. The USA has only existed for 234 years as an independent entity.

It is an interesting subject. The fall of the Republic. There was for centuries the belief that a King was the only defender of the liberties of the people that could be relied upon. The theory was that someone had to be above the ‘interests’ to defend the people and only a king could do that. Interesting how that theory has come into disrepute ever since the Americans hung old King George in Effigy. Even before that when King Charles lost his head. The modern world is built upon the shoulders of the generations before us. We cannot forget that. If we are to keep a republic, socialist or capitalist, either system, but with rule by the people then the ‘interests’ cannot be allowed to prevail. By interests I mean the corporate elites. Otherwise we might as well have a king and trust in his ability to defend our rights.


Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Yesterday I wanted to go to a demonstration. It was to protest the FBI raids on anti-war activists in Minnesota and Chicago. I had to go to dialysis and I could have made it time wise but I had a splitting headache and felt exhausted which sometimes happens after dialysis. I considered taking mass transit, it would have taken me almost 2 hours to get there. I could drive in 45 minutes. I would have to bring my evening supply of pills and find someplace to eat. If I was arrested at the demonstration, always a possibility, I would have been screwed. I had planned on bringing a list of my medications, but what were the chances of the jail having all 12 or so that I took daily? Plus if I was arrested would I get processed out in time for my next dialysis? I have been in the LA twin towers jail and it takes 4 or 5 days normally to cycle in and out of there. Getting arrested was not an option.

I got in the car to go, then I heard on the radio that it was almost 100 degrees out in downtown Los Angeles where the demonstration was to be held outside the federal building. That was the clincher for me. I am not a heat person. When it gets above 90 I don’t function well and when it closes in on 100 I have to be in air conditioning or at the beach. That is why I live 11 blocks from the ocean. When it was 98 in LA it was 85 here in Long Beach, a tolerable temperature. So I turned around and headed home. My head was pounding and I went to bed and slept for about 3 hours, by then it was too late to go to any of the events I had planned on attending, the demonstration and a lecture at the LA main library. I was depressed. This kidney failure not only has me unable to travel more than a day away from where I live, but it also has limited what I can do on days when I have dialysis. I really am disabled, in more than just a metaphoric manner. This really impinges on my ability to act.

It means I have to plan ahead for any activity that is not local. I can travel around Long Beach where I live, go visit my girlfriend, a 30 minute drive away, and even go to Hollywood if I time it right and go on days when I am not having dialysis. On my dialysis days there is no guarantee that I will be physically able to go much further than from the clinic to my apartment. That is a drag.

Even though outwardly I may appear to be fine, and I even lost weight, this being tied to a locale, attached 3 days a week to a machine, its debilitating. So I have to limit my politics to the extremely local, my town, maybe Los Angeles on my good days. Perhaps I should run for city council, or dog catcher. No, I am disabled and couldn’t catch dogs on my dialysis days. My best bet is to stick to the computer and put my words on line and be active that way. My days on the streets protesting are numbered. If I do go out to protest I will have to call the cops ahead of time and tell them what medications I need in case of arrest. What kind of anarchist does that? It is time for me to sit back and let a new generation of protesters take to the streets. So where are they? Come out my youthful dreamers, come out and play in the streets of America.

Protest FBI Raids Today, Former CIA Speaks, Heatwave

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Today Tuesday September 28 at 5 PM downtown LA Federal Building 300 North Los Angeles Street. This is to protest the recent raids on political activists in the Midwest by the FBI. I will not be attending. It is recommended that protestors show up a little early to catch the workers as they leave the building.

For more info on protests in other locations

Later at 7 PM there will be an interesting free talk at the downtown LA main library in the Mark Tabor Auditorium on what US relations would be like in the middle east if there were no Islam. In other words what would the dynamics of the situation be? Graham Fuller is giving the talk based on his recent book “A World Without Islam”. Fuller is a former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA in charge of long-range strategic forecasting. He is currently adjunct professor of history at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. This should be interesting and I am not planning on attending.

For more info on the theory:

It has been hot here in southern California. Yesterday hit record highs of 113 in downtown Los Angeles. It was 92 here in Long Beach officially but my car registered 107 at 3:30. Today it is cloudy in the morning and hopefully it will be a cooler day for the protests.

For more on heat

Due to the heat and my dialysis today which has left me with a pretty severe headache, I am not attending the protests. I had originally intended to go, but unfortunately when I have dialysis on the same day I can never predict what I will feel like after I am done. In this case I am too tired to drive an hour in traffic to downtown Los Angeles.

California Propositions Yes On 19, No On 23

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Living in California, I get to vote on Propositions with just about every election. If you dear reader live in California also and are old enough to vote then I would make a couple of suggestions. One is that you consider voting yes on Prop 19. I don’t smoke marijuana but I did in my youth and found it to be relatively enjoyable. Now I don’t exactly know why they want to limit pot smoking to age 21 and over since in my case by the age of 21 I had grown tired of it and stopped smoking the stuff for the most part. Personally I think the minimum age should be 18. Although I am not in favor of smoking in general because of the health effects of smoking on the lungs. This is a matter of personal choice and should be left to the individual with regulation similar to alcohol.

As for Prop 23, this is a oil industry financed attempt to block green legislation in California. The infamous Koch Industries is spending a lot of money in this campaign. California last had a 5.5% unemployment rate in 2007 before the recession hit. Based on this we would not be able to enact the greenhouse legislation until we are at the peak of economic growth which may not be for several years. This will handicap the states ability to address the environmental issues that are a major concern for citizens of this state.

FBI Raids On Anti War Activists, Internet Spying & Infiltration Of Protest Groups

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Not a single mainstream media source seems to have picked up this most recent series of FBI abuses of civil rights. There are reports below of FBI raids on anti war activists, of FBI spying which is from a Justice Department report, and of FBI surveillance of the internet. Quite a day for the FBI and a sad day for civil rights in America.

From Digital Journal

FBI raids hope to link anti-war protesters to terrorism
By Stephanie Dearing.

The FBI conducted multiple raids Friday, targeting the homes and offices of anti-war activists in Minneapolis and Chicago.
The raids, characterized by one lawyer as “patently political” focused on people who organized anti-Iraq war protests, as well as protests that took place two years ago in St. Paul during the Republican National Convention, reported the New York Times. A total of eight warrants were executed. FBI spokesman Steve Warfield said

“They were seeking evidence related to an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation. They are looking at activities connected to the material support of terrorism.”

World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) reported that no-one was arrested in the raids, but the people being investigated were issued with subpoenas to appear before the Grand Jury in Chicago in October. WSWS also said there were unconfirmed reports of raids conducted on activists in Michigan and North Carolina.
Pioneer Press said five activists in Minneapolis were targeted, with suspicion that the anti-war activists have ties to terrorist organizations in Columbia and the Middle East. Warfield is quoted as saying

“There is no imminent threat to the community, and we’re not planning any arrests at this time.”

Those served with search warrants in Minneapolis are believed to be Mick Kelly, Jess Sundin, Anh Pham, Sarah Martin, Tracy Molm and Steff Yorek. In Chicago, Hatem Abudayyeh, Thomas Burke, Stephanie Weiner and Joseph Losbaker.
The early morning raids were conducted with the help of SWAT teams, reported Pioneer Press. A lawyer for Minneapolis-based Mick Kelly said the search warrant focused on his client’s travels to the Middle East and Columbia, as well as his

“ability to pay for his own travel within the United States or to Palestine or Colombia from the year 2000 until today. And this has to do with any contact with FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and Hezbollah, all of which are FTOs (Foreign Terrorist Organizations).”

Activists raided in Chicago told the Chicago Tribune the warrants were similar to those executed in Minneapolis. The activists deny any wrongdoing, and lawyer for one of the Chicago activists told the Associated Press her clients were

“… committed to social justice. That is not a crime in this country.”

One Minneapolis activist who was targeted in the searches was Jess Sundin. She told the Associated Press she thought her activism against the US funding given to Columbia and Israel, combined with her group’s activism against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the reasons she had been centered out, saying

“It’s kind of outrageous that citizens of the United States could be targeted like this.”

Kelly claimed the FBI was (sic)

“… harrassing anti-war organizers and leaders, folks who opposed U.S. intervention in the Middle East and Latin America.”

The Huffington Post reported Warfield said he couldn’t provide specific information about the search warrants because the case was “ongoing.”
Two of those raided, Sundin and Kelly, are said to be associated with the Chicago-based Freedom Road Socialist Organization. They also organized a peaceful mass rally that took place in St. Paul two years ago. The rally had an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 participants. Both Sundin and Kelly were arrested during the Republican Convention in 2008, along with 800 other people.”

Read more:

This is from the ACLU Site

Justice Department Report Finds FBI Spied on American Protestors

Earlier this week, we learned that yet another Department of Justice
(DOJ) Inspector General (IG) report has found malfeasance in the FBI.
This time, the IG found the bureau spying on American citizens engaged
in protests and other activities protected by the First Amendment. These
investigations have led to several activists being inappropriately placed
on terrorist watchlists.

The IG’s investigation was prompted by an ACLU Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA) request, which uncovered evidence in 2006 that the FBI was
chilling political association by improperly investigating peaceful
advocacy groups like Greenpeace and People for the Ethical Treatment
of Animals (PETA).

The report concludes that the FBI was not spying on groups because of
their political views. Rather, it was investigating them because they
suspected the groups might commit crimes, which was okay under the FBI
rules that existed at the time. By that logic, everyone can be subject
to FBI investigation and possibly be included on a terrorist

The report found FBI investigations were often opened based on
“factually weak” or even “speculative” justifications, and were often
kept open even after it was clear there was no criminal activity. We
can attribute this low bar to Attorney General guidelines for opening
investigations, which were gradually weakened during the Bush

In 2002, the guidelines under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft
required only the “possibility” of a federal crime. This guideline led
activities like the FBI infiltrating a peace group that was doing
nothing more nefarious than handing out anti-war leaflets in downtown

>> Learn more about spying on First Amendment activities.

This is from Global Research
“Spying on Americans: The FBI’s “Quantico Circuit” — Still Spying, Still Lying
by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, April 9, 2008

Tuesday’s Washington Post reports that FBI investigators “with the click of a mouse, [can] instantly transfer key data along a computer circuit to an FBI technology office in Quantico.”

Last month I wrote that evidence of the Bureau’s massive spying operations on Americans had been uncovered and “that a new FISA whistleblower has stepped forward with information about a major wireless provider apparently granting the state unrestricted access to all of their customers’ voice communications and electronic data via a so-called ‘Quantico Circuit’.”

According to whistleblower Babak Pasdar, a telecom carrier he worked for as a security consultant, subsequently named as Verizon by the Post, said the company maintained a high-speed DS-3 digital line that allowed the Bureau and other security agencies “unfettered” access to the carrier’s wireless network, including billing records and customer data “transmitted wirelessly.”

Verizon denied the report that the FBI has open access to its network; a denial belied by documents obtained by the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation describing the Bureau’s Digital Collection System.

When these allegations first surfaced they were stonewalled by major media. Nevertheless, the reports continued and we now have learned that electronic connections between major telecom firms and FBI personnel scattered across the country provide the Bureau with real-time access to who is speaking to whom, the time and duration of each call as well as the locations of those so targeted.

Despite half-hearted protests by Congress, the FBI’s budget for these operations have increased significantly. According to Post reporter Ellen Nakashima,

“The bureau says its budget for the collection system increased from $30 million in 2007 to $40 million in 2008. Information lawfully collected by the FBI from telecom firms can be shared with law enforcement and intelligence-gathering partners, including the National Security Agency and the CIA. Likewise, under guidelines approved by the attorney general or a court, some intercept data gathered by intelligence agencies can be shared with law enforcement agencies.”(Ellen Nakashima, “FBI Transfers via Telecoms Questioned,” The Washington Post, Tuesday, April 8, 2008; A03)”

The Limits To Growth And Happy Meals

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Alternative energy sources are relatively clean but are the practical? Soon that question may be irrelevant as we are forced due to depletion of fossil fuels into alternatives.

But the question comes up as to limits to growth. Richard Heinberg postulates that the Peak Oil limits reached in 2006-2008 drove prices up to their peak in the summer 2008, which was not just a result of speculation but actual production limits that increased prices due to rising demand and a less elastic supply. Speculation was merely taking advantage of a fundamental situation. Heinberg refers to a recent paper by economist James Hamilton of the University of California, San Diego, titled “Causes and Consequences of the Oil Shock of 2007-08,” which presents the conclusion that energy price spikes go hand in hand with subsequent recessions.
I am not sure I agree with that conclusion, but I am sure that Heinberg’s reference to the “Limits To Growth” report of the Club of Rome back in 1972, brought him in line with my own thinking on the matter. Although I am of the opinion that what we have is more a miss allocation of resources than anything else. There is some validity to his point and I quote him below.

This is from the Post Carbon Institute

“In essence, humanity faces an entirely predictable peril: our population has been growing dramatically for the past 200 years (expanding from under one billion to nearly seven billion today), while our per-capita consumption of resources has also grown. For any species, this is virtually the definition of biological success. And yet all of this has taken place in the context of a finite planet with fixed stores of non-renewable resources (fossil fuels and minerals), a limited ability to regenerate renewable resources (forests, fish, fresh water, and topsoil), and a limited ability to absorb industrial wastes (including carbon dioxide). If we step back and look at the industrial period from a broad historical perspective that is informed by an appreciation of ecological limits, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that we are today living at the end of a relatively brief pulse—a 200-year rapid expansionary phase enabled by a temporary energy subsidy (in the form of cheap fossil fuels) that will inevitably be followed by an even more rapid and dramatic contraction as those fuels deplete.

The winding down of this historic growth-contraction pulse doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the world, but it does mean the end of a certain kind of economy. One way or another, humanity must return to a more normal pattern of existence characterized by reliance on immediate solar income (via crops, wind, or the direct conversion of sunlight to electricity) rather than stored ancient sunlight.”

The New Economics Foundation has produced its “Happy Planet Index” which presents an alternative to GDP as the standard by which nations evaluate their relative position in the world. According to their index, which I don’t entirely understand but is also tied into the “Limits To Growth” ideology, Costa Rica is the happiest place on the planet having a reproductive footprint of 2.3 hectares per person. Sustainability is 2.1 hectares per person, the planet as a whole is at 2.3 hectares per person which means we are running ahead of sustainability, probably related to that 200 year energy rush we have been on. The USA, China and India have been increasing their footprints and lowering their happiness quotient over the past 15 years or so. Below is an excerpt from their site.

“The Index doesn’t reveal the ‘happiest’ country in the world. It shows the relative efficiency with which nations convert the planet’s natural resources into long and happy lives for their citizens. The nations that top the Index demonstrate that it is possible to achieve high life satisfaction and long life expectancy without over-stretching the planet’s resources.

The HPI shows that around the world, high levels of resource consumption do not reliably produce high levels of well-being. It also reveals that there are different routes to achieving comparable levels of well-being. The model followed by the West can provide widespread longevity and variable life satisfaction, but it does so only at a vast and ultimately counter-productive cost in terms of resource consumption.”

This is their site

What makes me a little suspicious is the groups that support them like the Conservative Party in Great Britain. But then this is the more centrist new Conservative Party and they are more like the Democrats today than any other American party. It also makes me think that the more sophisticated corporate elites are now pushing this happiness quotient as translated into public service as translated by American Express as their new commercials promoting exactly that. Whatever, we can expect to see more of this downsizing of expectations, using human potential energy to solve imminent social problems with a little blood, sweat and tears, as a new path to happiness.
There are some more immediate problems that come between us and our downsized paradise. We have debt to worry about as we downsize to the new lower energy consumption world.
I am quoting a market guru Rex Nutting see below.

From Wall Street Journal Market Watch

“It’s the ultimate trickle-down economics. It takes ever-increasing consumption by those of us in the developed world to keep the hands of the developing world busy and their bellies full. We’ve outsourced the production, but not the consumption, except for a few crumbs.

But because we’ve outsourced the productive jobs, many of us in the developed world can’t afford to increase our consumption. The answer? More debt to pay for more stuff to keep the economy growing.

Debt is merely a claim on tomorrow’s real wealth — actual productive assets and actual goods and services. Unfortunately, paper wealth (debt) has grown faster than real wealth, which is constrained by those silly laws of physics.”

Greed is good will be replaced with the mantra, debt is good. This entrapment to debt makes us unhappy. Therefore we need to find an alternative to going into debt. I say we declare a jubilee and when all the banks fail, wall street crumbles, businesses close, we simply do what the Argentine people did and occupy the businesses and run them in the name of the people, i.e. socialize them. After all when capital fails in the heart of capital, who is going to stop us from socializing?

There is the issue of the embodied cost of energy. Civilization costs us more than just what we use today. It costs us all the energy that it took to get us to today. This might cause us to wonder how happy our happy meal really is. But think about China where they have 350 million people coming on line in their cities over the next 15 years. What are they going to do when you take into account the embodied cost of energy?

From The Post Carbon Institute

“A typical Chinese urban resident consumes 3 times as much commercial energy as a rural resident (in total energy terms, rural residents consume more, but the majority is inefficiently combusted biomass, which is often ignored in energy reporting). Consequently, the Chinese government is looking to require cities to develop low-carbon action plans to respond to growing urban energy needs. For the most part, these low-carbon action plans focus on ways to reduce the growth of current energy consumption and to supplant some portion of it with non-fossil energy sources.

But is a focus on current energy consumption enough? Analyzing the current energy consumption of a city alone can lead to conclusions that urban areas, particularly dense urban areas, are relatively efficient, largely because per-capita current energy consumption is lower than in dispersed urban or suburban arrangements. This is indeed often the case. But what is not measured as part of the energy impact of urban areas is the built space itself—the streets, pavement, buildings, utilities, tunnels, etc.—that are required to maintain such a dense arrangement of humans, nor does it take into account the energy used to manufacture, transport, and sell the array of consumption goods and services that urban residents purchase. Since urban areas exist for people, looking at the urban energy footprint from the point of view of its inhabitants’ impact can provide additional insight into the nature of urban energy use.”

If we look at the embodied cost no place is energy independent, not even Iceland with its geothermal and Sweden with its hydro electric and nuclear. Then if you think about the US trade with China we have to consider the CO2 emissions embodied in every transaction.

From Science Direct

Socialism in the future will have to take into account the requirements of a planet that has passed peak resource production. We have a lot of inequities but part of the problem is that western lifestyles were unsustainable at the level of western consumption. We will have to lower consumption and increase equalized distribution at the same time. There are plenty of basic resources for production on a lower energy level if we make sure that we don’t destroy our basic capacity to produce the necessities like food, water and shelter. The future might not be as extravagant in terms of personal consumption in the western nations but for the world as a whole it may be a happier and more egalitarian place.

Perhaps we need to relearn some of the technologies of the early industrial revolution, there were many developments that were labor saving yet not energy intensive. Think of the cotton gin and the mechanical reaper, which was mechanized with a steam engine before the internal combustion engine was used. In the 18th century there were many advances in agriculture that were not dependent on fossil fuels.

From Wiley Online Library

We have an opportunity to create a new and lower energy world looking at the advances of the past and picking the ones that are appropriate for our future. As far as I can tell from Samuel Johnson, the 18th century wasn’t a terribly unhappy place although it did produce a couple of fine revolutions. Really, lets get back to the future.

Plutonomy: Citigroup Pitches Its Elite Clients

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

I was looking up an unrelated subject when I found this bit of elite reportage, for the 100,000 or so in the top .1% that they speak of below and those aspiring to that class of elite plutocrats. This is 5 years old and we know that some of their projections are wrong but the ultimate conclusion that there is a plutonomy that holds the major part of the wealth in the USA seems to be true. I have reproduced portions of this analysis here below. I think any comments would be superfluous, this celebration of elite wealth speaks for itself. We all know what is to be done, get out your steak knives folks, time to eat the rich. Here are a few excerpts below.

Equity Strategy
Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances
Otober 16, 2005
Ajay Kapur, CFA
Niall Macleod
Narendra Singh
The World is dividing into two blocs - the Plutonomy and the rest. The U.S., UK, and Canada are the key Plutonomies- economies powered by the wealthy. Continental Europe (ex-Italy) and Japan are in the egalitarian bloc.

Equity risk premium embedded in “global imbalances” are unwarranted. In plutonomies the rich absorb a disproportionate chunk of the economy and have a massive impact on reported aggregate numbers like savings rates, current account deficits, consumption levels, etc. This imbalance in inequality expresses itself in the standard scary “ global imbalances”. We worry less.

There is no “average consumer” in a Plutonomy. Consensus analyses focusing on the “average” consumer are flawed from the start. The Plutonomy Stock Basket outperformed MSCI AC World by 6.8% per year since 1985. Does even better if equities beat housing. Select names: Julius Baer, Bulgari, Richemont, Kuoni, and Toll Brothers.

In a plutonomy there is no such animal as“the U.S. consumer” or“the UK consumer”, or indeed the“Russian consumer”. There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take.
There are the rest, the“non-rich”, the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie. Consensus analyses that do not tease out the profound impact of the plutonomy on spending power, debt loads, savings rates (and hence current account deficits), oil price impacts etc, i.e., focus on the“average” consumer are flawed from the start. It is easy to drown in a lake with anaverage depth of 4 feet, if one steps into its deeper extremes. Since consumption accounts for 65% of the world economy, and consumer staples and discretionary sectors for 19.8% of the MSCI AC World Index, understanding how the plutonomy impacts consumption is key for equity market participants.


Let’s dive into some of the details. As Figure 1 shows the top 1% of households in the U.S., (about 1 million households) accounted for about 20% of overall U.S. income in 2000, slightly smaller than the share of income of the bottom 60% of households put together. That’s about 1 million households compared with 60 million households, both with similar slices of the income pie! Clearly, the analysis of the top 1% of U.S. households is paramount. The usual analysis of the“average” U.S. consumer is flawed from the start. To continue with the U.S., the top 1% of households also account for 33% of net worth, greater than the bottom 90% of households put together. It gets better (or worse, depending on your political stripe) - the top 1% of households account for 40% of financial net worth, more than the bottom 95% of households put together. This
is data for 2000, from the Survey of Consumer Finances (and adjusted by academic Edward Wolff). Since 2000 was the peak year in equities, and the top 1% of households have a lot more equities in their net worth than the rest of the population who tend to
have more real estate, these data might exaggerate the U.S. plutonomy a wee bit.

Was the U.S. always a plutonomy - powered by the wealthy, who aggrandized larger chunks of the economy to themselves? Not really. For those interested in the details, we recommend“Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich” by
Kevin Phillips, Broadway Books, 2002.

For more of this report and the accompanying graphs

Venezuela Millennium Reports And Anarchist Critique

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Venezuela, some people think it is a socialist paradise others see it as simply another state capitalist regime. Below are excerpts from a series of reports on Venezuela. My own conclusion is that the coverage of events in Venezuela depend a lot on the perspective of the media source reporting. I won’t even go into the distortions presented by establishment media like NPR, the views presented here, the first from a Venezuelan government source, the second and third from sympathetic sources and the last from a critical perspective of the anarchist left. Not having been to Venezuela I cannot say much about the situation there, but it seems that for the average worker things are improving. But for the critical thinker, this may not be the paradise it seems.

Venezuela in English

News and information from Venezuelan sources and voices
Venezuela to Achieve Millennium Development Goals

Venezuela is making great efforts to reach the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which were discussed this week at the UN General Assambly in New York. In the past decade, the South American nation has eliminated illiteracy, cut extreme poverty in half, enrolled more children in school, reduced infant mortality and controlled the spread of HIV/AIDS, announced Jorge Valero, the Venezuelan permanent representative to the UN, on Tuesday.

Venezuela’s poverty rate fell from 49% to around 24% in late 2009, extreme poverty was reduced in half between 2003 and 2009 and the country’s unemployment rate fell from 15% in 1998 to 6.6% in 2009.

In 2005, Venezuela was declared a territory free of illiteracy by UNESCO.

Venezuela is free from the “tyranny” of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), affirmed Valero, noting that the country utilizes state policies to “promote independent and autonomous development”.

T/ Correo del Orinoco International

Venezuela on Track to Meet UN Millennium Goals

By Chris Carlson –
Mérida, October 18, 2007 ( Thanks to the implementation of socially-oriented policies, Venezuela is one of the countries most likely to reach the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for 2015, government officials announced yesterday. They also pointed to a reduction in unemployment and strong economic growth projected for 2007 as indicators of the success of government policies.

Venezuelan Minister of Education Adán Chavez explained that in terms of human development, which includes health, education, and per capita income, Venezuela has seen significant progress since the year 2001. In terms of reducing poverty, Chavez assured that Venezuela would meet the Millennium Goals before the year 2015.

The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a blueprint of eight development goals agreed on by the 192 United Nations member states to achieve by the year 2015. The goals focus on eradicating poverty and providing universal primary education and health care to all people, as well as ensuring environmental sustainability.

The minister also pointed to a significant decrease in the inflation rate and a decrease in unemployment for the month of September to 8.3 percent. According to the National Institute of Statistics, unemployment is down from 9.5 percent in September of 2006, meaning an increase of nearly 140,000 people employed in the formal sector over the last year.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also released numbers this week for 2007 and 2008, placing Venezuela as the country with the highest growth in Latin America. The IMF put the GDP growth rate for Venezuela this year at 8 percent, above Argentina (7.5 percent), Peru (7 percent), Colombia (6.6 percent), Chile (5.9 percent), Brazil (4.4 percent), and Mexico (2.9 percent).

From Terra Viva

By Humberto Márquez

CARACAS, Sep 8 (IPS) - Not even the debate on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), specific poverty reduction targets adopted by the international community in 2000, has escaped the political polarisation that divides Venezuela between the supporters and detractors of President Hugo Chávez.

The government is upset that in its assessment of Venezuela’s progress towards the MDGs, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) cited the 2002 infant mortality rate.

Education Minister Aristóbulo Istúriz, the head of the ministerial cabinet’s social team, noted that the 2002 infant mortality rate of 17.3 per 1,000 live births was cited “without mentioning the political events that had an impact on that statistic.”

In April 2002, Chávez was removed from office for two days by a short-lived coup d’etat, and in December of that year, the opposition movement began a two-month general strike that brought the oil industry - the backbone of the Venezuelan economy - to its knees and caused economic losses of more than 10 billion dollars.

They noted that in the past two years, 17 million of Venezuela’s 26 million people have benefited from the “Barrio Adentro” (Into the Neighbourhood) programme that has brought primary health care, provided by 15,000 Cuban doctors, and the free delivery of 120 different medicines to poor urban and rural areas.

With respect to the first MDG, halving the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day, ECLAC reported that Argentina, with 16.9 percent extreme poverty in 2004 (compared to 8.2 percent in 1990), and Venezuela (22.2 percent in 2004 compared to 14.6 percent in 1990) are lagging behind in Latin America.

Istúriz and Armada protested to ECLAC Executive Secretary José Luis Machinea that the report was “biased” and did not reflect the real situation in the country, and that it “has begun to be used by third parties as part of the smear campaign” against the government.

Istúriz said “The report is based on statistics that do not take into account the ‘missions’,” the government’s name for the social programmes implemented in the past two years.

ECLAC officials admitted that its report, “The Millennium Development Goals in the Context of Latin America and the Caribbean”, was based on statistics from 2003 or earlier, which were used to formulate projections for 2005, said Venezuelan officials.


Venezuela: Vetelca - the story of the first ever Bolivarian factory

This report originally appears in issue #57 of Venezuelan anarchist newspaper El Libertario. It is a detailed examination of the events behind the mobile telephone manufacturer Vetelca.

On 10th May, 2009, President Hugo Chávez appeared on national television from the El Tigre region of Barinas state in order to announce to the nation the availability of a mobile telephone made under the supervision of the Bolivarian government.

China is the business partner of the Bolivarian state in the public-private partnership company, Venezolana de Telecomunicaciones (Vetelca), established in the free economic zone of Paraguaná, Falcón state, in January 2009. Official reports tell us that production was started by “a total of 140 workers, 80% of which are women who live in the zone and who were chosen by various local community councils to work in the plant”. Their first objective is to deliver 10,000 units to Movilnet [the state-owned telecommunications company - translator], to be sold from Mothers’ Day onwards, as President Chávez had promised.

The workers’ version
Levy Revilla Toyo (is) one of 56 workers (of both sexes) who were sacked from the factory.

On 1 May – the international day of the worker – assembly of Los Vergatorios began. “We had to work into the small hours of the night,” Revilla testifies. “Everything was very poorly organised, which led to many of my workmates fainting and passing out due to hunger and difficulties with transportation”.

However, the workers were rewarded with a productivity bonus and – with the models ready in just 10 days - the satisfaction of having honoured the President’s word. (W)orkers started to elect ”delegados de prevención” [roughly equivalent to health & safety representatives in the UK – trans.], despite the diverse, destructive obstacles placed in front of them by the board of directors.

On 7 July, eight Vetelca workers were sacked, including all three ”delegados” that had been elected via workers’ assembly. The fired workers were resolute in the necessity of defending their rights; however, when they visited the factory in order to corroborate their complaints, they were informed of the following: “the workers [here] are students, and their salary isn’t a salary but a maintenance stipend; [moreover] said workers don’t have an organisational structure”. Later, management would request the presence of the National Guard onsite, while accusing the sacked workers – in terms which by now are all too familiar – of being counter-revolutionaries.

The bureaucrats’ version
On 29 July, 2009, Jesse Chacón, Science and Technology Minister, visited the Vetelca factory in an attempt to calm winds of discontent amongst its personnel. The official press release notes…that this is “a socialist model of production, with ‘integrated’ workers who rotate posts on a daily basis, therefore getting to know every stage of assembly and getting to understand the plant’s operations in their totality. Moreover, they participate in the planning of production, in stark contrast to the capitalist model.”

Carlos Audrines, Vetelca President…explained that Vetelca is not registered as a company, and it is for this reason that there are no contracts. Once this is in place and Vetelca is granted company status, the next stage will be to consolidate a security department, ‘since the word ‘union’ does not fit within a socialist company, because this would contradict the principle in which we are all equal. Within a socialist system there is no need for a union,’ Aubrines added.”

As for Vetelca, despite its grandiose descriptions by high up Bolivarian functionaries, it is but a crude outsourcing operation which serves the purposes of the mobile phone company of the Venezuelan state. Audrines himself confirms this in an interview: “Vetelca’s sole purpose is to satisfy the product demands of Movilnet”. Movilnet determines the quantity of telephones to be assembled, their deadline and their model name at retail level, three decisions in which the workers – or, in the Minister’s words, the salaried volunteers - have no role.

Finally, Audrines’ admission that Vetelca won’t allow union organisation - “due to it being contrary to socialism” – speaks for itself.”

Obama’s Economic Advisors Change, Afghan Policy Battles

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Most of the commentary on Obama’s economic changes I have read are fairly pessimistic. He should bring in someone like Krugman or Reich but he is probably going to go with a former corporate type. I am no insider so I have no idea what the President is thinking. He does need to give people hope that he has things under control, or at least is taking measures to bring about the economic prosperity that Americans crave.

I am not so sure that is what we need, at least not without some restructuring. A return to the excesses of the Bush years is no solution. Simply continuing as before with big polluting cars, energy wasting housing, exurbs and suburbs dependent on those big polluting cars is not the way to go. What we do need is a change in direction. Creating a green economy with the energy of the future is the intelligent action. Cleaning up the mess made in the last couple of centuries should take a lot of time and energy if it is properly incorporated in the economy.

The President is right in pushing for a green energy future. Solar, wind and wave power are only a few of the more obvious sources of power. The USA needs to tighten up in its recycling, insulation and mass transit. All these are things the President can emphasize. Creating a federal jobs program is one way to get people off the unemployment rolls. Bring unemployment down and the American people will be happy.

From MarketWatch

“Summers’ end brings little hope of change in economic policy
Obama miscues leave little room for maneuver

By Darrell Delamaide

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) —

Obama is considering replacing Lawrence Summers, who announced plans to leave the president’s economics team, with a senior corporate executive.

Whoever the successor, their hands will be tied

One thing we have learned about Obama’s economic appointments is the fewer, the better – he has not had a lucky hand.

And now one of the first names floated as a possible successor to Summers is Ann Fudge, a former chief executive of Young and Rubicam. The White House wants a female with CEO experience, according to the Beltway buzz, to demonstrate that Obama is not anti-business – a logic so stunningly superficial that the rumor has instant credibility.

Other potential women candidates mentioned in the Washington rumor mill include Ann Mulcahy, former Xerox CEO, and economist Laura Tyson, who held both the NEC job and the CEA chairmanship under Clinton.

The fact is that a string of mistakes in economic policy have left the administration with little room to maneuver no matter who takes Summers’ place. The only hope for the economy at this point is a second round of quantitative easing at the Fed – the QE2 that the market now considers relatively certain after the Federal Open Market Committee’s communiqué this week.

Unless Obama were to do something uncharacteristically bold and appoint a progressive like Robert Reich or Paul Krugman, there is little hope that the administration would undertake any new economic policy that would change anything.

Even appointing Fudge or Mulcahy might be too venturesome, and the White House could end up just promoting one of Summers’ deputies, Jason Furman or Diana Farrell. Furman at least has a doctorate in economics and was a Stiglitz protégé at the CEA. Farrell worked at Goldman Sachs and McKinsey and is not an economist.

At this point, the best we can hope for in Summers’ replacement is that he or she does no harm.”

There is another issue, that is Obama’s war in South Asia. Palki-Afi-stans is one war being fought against an enemy using classic guerrilla warfare tactics. The theory is to wear down the resistance of the occupier by getting them to overextend themselves with is exactly what the USA has done.

From StarTibune Minneapolis/St. Paul

“Obama’s war within the war

New book documents bitter fights over Afghan strategy.


Last update: September 22, 2010 - 11:00 PM

WASHINGTON - A new book by Bob Woodward depicts months of discord, quarreling and turf wars within the Obama administration as it thrashed out the policy it would pursue in Afghanistan, but senior White House officials said Wednesday that they were satisfied with the image it presents of the president.

The book depicts an administration deeply torn over the war in Afghanistan even as the president agreed to triple troop levels there. Obama’s top White House adviser on Afghanistan and his special envoy for the region are described as believing the strategy will not work.

The president concluded from the start that “I have two years with the public on this” and pressed advisers for ways to avoid a big escalation, the book says. “I want an exit strategy,” he implored at one meeting. He eventually dictated a classified six-page “terms sheet” that sought to limit U.S. involvement, and set July 2011 as the starting date for a withdrawal.

Privately, he told Vice President Joe Biden to push his alternative strategy opposing a big troop buildup in meetings, and while Obama ultimately rejected it, he set the withdrawal timetable because, “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”"

Obama also gave Colin Powell an opportunity to advise him on how to handle the war in Afghanistan. He should have taken Biden’s advice and ended the military commitment in Afghanistan. There is no way to win there unless you are willing to get in bed with the locals and live there. I don’t think the USA is willing to do that, it is not politically acceptable for the Democrats and we are at least 2 years away from a Republican administration. The USA is stuck being an imperial power with a president who feigns to have a conscience. That got the Progressive wing behind him but his idea of a conscience is to accept the nobel peace prize while he announces an increase in the troops in Afghanistan. It is a consciousness of power. How that deserves a peace prize is beyond me.

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