Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Welcome to the New Depression

There are eminently-sensible arguments in favour of zero economic growth, but the greatest benefits that such a condition may well foster would seem to be best-attained via a series of thoughtful and orderly structural changes to national and world economies.

Then there is the type of severely-curbed economic growth that a crisis created by a lethal combination of (1) decades of casino capitalism (fostered by radically-weakened financial controls) and (2) record levels of public and consumer debt appears to have created in our midst.

0.6% growth with a forecast for further growth to remain anaemic for the foreseeable future?

Millions of homes already repossessed with many more likely to follow?

Unemployment on the rise?

Forget about recession: welcome to the New Depression!

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And behold, a White Horse...

It's not actually in the Book of Revelations, but my own home-spun sort of folk wisdom tells me that when eminently conservative folk like the FT's Gideon Rachman start expressing these sorts of opinions, it's time to take cover:

Soccer crowds in England like to abuse match referees by chanting: “You don’t know what you’re doing.” If protesters had been able to get near the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, they could justifiably have aimed the same chant at the world leaders who assembled in the Alps...

...competition for food, water and energy could also provoke conflict between countries. One session at Davos was devoted to the prospect of drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic. It heard that military activity in the area is increasing, as eight rival countries – including Russia, the US, Canada and Norway – gear up to assert their claims over the fossil fuels that lie beneath the melting Arctic ice.

The theme of this year’s World Economic Forum was meant to be “collaborative innovation”. It is difficult to think of anything less collaborative or innovative than a new era of resource wars.

Is Northern Rock Just the Tip of a Humungous Financial Iceberg?

With the news that the UK's New Labour government is planning to introduce secret public bail-outs of ailing financial institutions, presumably because public disclosure of such things will cause further destabilizing runs on banks and financial institutions, the question must be asked: just how bad is the situation in finance and banking in reality?

A huge bill of sale appears to be due after a quarter-century of ideologically-driven, laissez-faire casino capitalism über alles policymaking in which there has been far too little public oversight and far too much sleight-of-hand wheeling-and-dealing across the board(room). Instead of propping up the crumbling facade with clandestine deals involving public funds, it would be more useful to face these issues head-on and admit to the mistakes that have been made so that improved financial regulation and more sober economic policies can be adopted in future.

An acknowledgement that there were good reasons for many of the financial regulations that have been ruthlessly and systematically stripped away since the onset of the Reagan/Thatcher era would be a helpful start.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Soros on World Financial Crisis

The sage that is George Soros, probably the only billionaire that Information Landmine considers worthy of respect and admiration, offers his astute observations on the latest world financial crisis in an article written for today's Financial Times.

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Ice-T Was Right: "Freedom Of Speech, Just Watch What You Say"

Indeed, or it may mean that broadcasters choose to cut off your right to use what used to be the "public" airwaves, because now they can legally exclude candidates from debates on whatever arbitrary basis they choose, thus suffocating any attempt to effectively express dissenting opinions on a broad platform.

The fact that these broadcasters are mostly owned and controlled by mega-corporations with their own sets of political and economic interests to promote and defend - interests which are often at odds with those of the citizenry - means that this latest court ruling represents another nail in the coffin of our republican form of government.

And where were Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards on this fiasco when it came time to make a principled stand for liberty, democracy and the right to freedom of expression? If they had any commitment to such principles, shouldn't they have refused to participate in such a sham themselves? The answer, my friend, is blowin' on an ill wind.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Straits of Hormuz = Gulf of Tonkin?

It certainly seems possible, as illustrated by this article by Kristina Borjesson over at BuzzFlash.

As a side note, would it surprise anyone if "Fillipino Monkey" turned out to be none other than Dick Cheney himself? Perhaps he's sitting in front of a ham radio kit with a bottle of Jägermeister at Ollie North's old desk in the White House basement right now as you read this.

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Clarkson: "I was wrong and I have been punished "

Who amongst us can honestly say that they haven't, at some point, sat there watching Jeremy Clarkson on one of his ill-informed tirades against cyclists, the environment, vegetarians, etc. and begged providence for him to get hit by a flying SUV, lifted off the ground by a freak tornado that can be shown with 99% certainty to be a result of global warming? Certainly not me.

This isn't it, but hopefully it'll keep ya'll going until that day comes.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Get to the chopper. We don't have much time...

Via boingboing, I've been reading the excellent blog of the multi-talented Jon Taplin. Particularly liked this:

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And If You Really Want to Know...

...what truly awful taste in music the candidates (and some of their most loyal supporters who show up at their rallies) apparently have, click here to find out. One of John McCain's choices, in particular, achieves the dubious double of being both horribly crass and knowingly inflammatory at the same time. Barack Obama, meanwhile, at least gets a bit of respect from Information Landmine for the Curtis Mayfield tune.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

If You REALLY Wanted To Know Who Fiddy Endorses for Prez...

... here's the 411, along with a lot of other celebrity presidential endorsements.

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Oh dear.

The blogosphere (or at least the parts of it that bother themselves with the US Primaries) has recently been set alight by this story about Ron Paul and his (offensive) newsletters. Other stories about his support amongst white supremacists had surfaced before, but had usually been dismissed by the line that all campaigns, especially anti-government and anti-surveillance ones, tended to attract cranks, and that this didn't necessarily say much about the people running them (a line I always felt was pretty reasonable).

This is a little different. James Kirchik bothered to dig up many of Ron Paul's old newsletters:

Of course, with few bylines, it is difficult to know whether any particular article was written by Paul himself. Some of the earlier newsletters are signed by him, though the vast majority of the editions I saw contain no bylines at all. Complicating matters, many of the unbylined newsletters were written in the first person, implying that Paul was the author.

But, whoever actually wrote them, the newsletters I saw all had one thing in common: They were published under a banner containing Paul's name, and the articles (except for one special edition of a newsletter that contained the byline of another writer) seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him--and reflected his views. What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.

Whilst I'd always considered the fact that Ron Paul and pals "are nothing like the urbane libertarians who staff the Cato Institute" to be something of an asset, this stuff is really pretty unpleasant. As Kirchik mentions, its impossible to know how much of this stuff was written by Paul as opposed to ghostwriters, but the fact that it was going out regularly under his name seems pretty damning: is difficult to imagine how Paul could allow material consistently saturated in racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy-mongering to be printed under his name for so long if he did not share these views. In that respect, whether or not Paul personally wrote the most offensive passages is almost beside the point. If he disagreed with what was being written under his name, you would think that at some point--over the course of decades--he would have done something about it.

This of course doesn't make him that much more objectionable than the rest of the Republican crowd (albeit somewhat less sophisticated), and he's not going to win the nomination anyway, but I am feeling a little silly for getting so worked up.

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Who's Talking Sense?

Why, The San Francisco Chronicle's Jon Carroll, of course. I couldn't have said it better myself.

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Shock: War Criminal Cashes In

New Labour's "ethical foreign policy" reaches its inevitable conclusion.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"War On Terror" Even More of a Sham Than We Thought?

This article by investigative reporter Kristina Borjesson certainly raises some disturbing - and all-too-plausible - possibilities about what the criminal, fear-mongering, fascist government of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their allies may have been up to over the past six-and-a-half years of their supposed "War On Terror".

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The Commisar Vanishes, Part II

What to do with the awkward US presidential candidates on both sides of the Democratic vs. Republican divide who oppose the status quo? Why, rub them out of the campaign and pretend they don't exist, of course. So goodbye, then, Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel and Ron Paul: it was nice barely knowing you.


For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Greens protest the exclusion of antiwar candidates from Democratic and Republican primary debates

Barring of Kucinich, Gravel, and Paul amounts to censorship of candidates whose positions are unacceptable to the Democratic and Republican parties, major media, and their corporate sponsors, say Greens

First Green presidential candidates' debate set for San Francisco on Sunday, January 13

WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party leaders and candidates protested the exclusion of Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel, and Ron Paul from primary presidential debates sponsored by major news organizations.

Greens noted that Mr. Kucinich, Mr. Gravel, and Mr. Paul hold strong positions against the Iraq war and other Bush policies, in agreement with most Americans but contrary to the positions of other Democrats and Republicans running for the White House.

Mr. Kucinich, like the Green Party, favors single-payer national health care, unlike his fellow Democratic presidential candidates and the major media, which rely on corporate campaign contributions and advertising dollars from insurance firms, HMOs, and pharmaceutical manufacturers. Mr. Kucinich was excluded from an ABC TV debate on January 5.

The six candidates for the Green Party's presidential nomination, all of whom oppose the war, will be featured in upcoming Green debates. The first debate will take place in San Francisco on January 13 <>. The nomination will be decided at the Green Party's 2008 national convention, July 10-13 in Chicago.

Jody Grage, treasurer of the Green Party of the United States: "In democratic elections, voters have a right to be informed about all the candidates whose names they'll see on the ballot. Fox and ABC TV have violated the public interest and their licenses to use the publicly owned airwaves. They're acting like the official news bureaus of dictatorships."

Jason Wallace, peace activist, Iraq War veteran, and Green candidate for Congress in Illinois (11th district) <>: "It's no accident that Kucinich, Gravel, and Paul -- the most vocal opponents of the Iraq invasion -- are getting shut out of the debates. While the Democratic and Republican parties and big media conglomerates try to close down serious public discussion over the Iraq war, the Green Party's 'Peace Slate' will continue to represent the opinion of most Americans, whom poll after poll have shown oppose the war. On Election Day 2008, the only truly antiwar candidates on the ballot will be from the Green Party or another third party or will be independent."

Rodger Jennings, Green candidate for Congress in Illinois (12th District) <>: "The Democratic and Republican parties and media companies like Fox and ABC have censored the opinions of the majority of Americans, who want to see a quick end to the Iraq War. It's revealing that Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee won in Iowa. Among the frontrunners within their respective parties, they've been the most critical of President Bush's foreign policies. But Mr. Huckabee has only criticized the Bush Administration's strategic blunders in Iraq, rather the war itself. While Mr. Obama has opposed the war, he only favors a vague and delayed timetable for partial withdrawal of troops, which suggests that the occupation will continue in some form regardless of which Democratic frontrunner might be elected in November. Mr. Obama has also added his voice to the military threat against Iran, and says nothing about holding the Bush Administration and war profiteers accountable for their crimes. Unfortunately, voters are being denied the chance to hear the real antiwar candidates and are being told that Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel, and Ron Paul shouldn't be taken seriously."

John Walsh, Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party delegate to the Green Party's National Committee: "In recent elections, the Commission on Presidential Debates, the corporate-owned body controlled by the two established parties, has only allowed Democratic and Republican presidential candidates and has barred Green, independent, and other candidates from participating. We urge all Americans -- especially those who oppose bipartisan warhawk policies on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran -- to speak out in demand of fair elections and election coverage, and inclusion of all qualified candidates in the debates, regardless of their positions or party memberships."

Welcome once again to totalitarian capitalism, American-style.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

You can get an impeachment piece in the MSM...

... so long as it's utterly defeatist. An op-ed piece from George McGovern in the Washington Post about the need for Bush/Cheney impeachment, makes a load of valid points, before telling us that it'll probably never happen. Fair enough, but surely it would have been helpful to at least mention the Wexler bill, or am I missing something?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

More good stuff...

Had vaguely heard of Dean Baker before, but it turns out I really should have been paying more attention. Now that John Kenneth Galbraith's dead, someone's got to call the BS on conventional economic wisdom in the US, and this guy looks to be doing a sterling job. Here's a sample from his thoughts on Nanny State Conservatives:

The conservative framing of issues is so deeply embedded that it has been widely accepted by ostensibly neutral actors, such as policy professionals or the news media that report on national politics. For example, news reports routinely refer to bilateral trade agreements, such as NAFTA or CAFTA, as “free trade” agreements. This is in spite of the fact that one of the main purposes of these agreements is to increase patent protection in developing countries, effectively increasing the length and force of government-imposed monopolies. Whether or not increasing patent protection is desirable policy, it clearly is not “free trade.”

It is clever policy for proponents of these agreements to label them as “free trade” agreements (everyone likes freedom), but that is not an excuse for neutral commentators to accept this definition. Back in the 1980s, President Reagan named the controversial MX missile system the “Peacekeeper” to make it more palatable to the public. Thankfully, the media continued to use the neutral “MX” name to describe the missile system. However, when it comes to trade agreements, the media have been every bit as anxious to use the term “peacekeeper” as the proponents of the agreements, using the expression “free trade” almost exclusively to describe these agreements. (In using this term, reporters disregard their normal concern about saving space, since “trade agreement” takes less space than “free-trade agreement.”)

In fact, the media have even gone one step further — they routinely denounce the opponents of these trade agreements as “protectionists.” This would be like having the New York Times refer to the opponents of the MX missile as “warmongers” in a standard news story covering the debate over the new missile. You’re doing pretty well in a public debate when you get the media to completely accept your language and framing of issues. It’s not easy winning the argument over the MX, when the media and policy experts describe opponents of the missile as “warmongers.”


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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Hans Christian Andersen Would Be Proud

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