Sunday, January 31, 2010

jpmorgan vs. goldman sachs

HuffPo | We are witnessing an epic battle between two banking giants, JPMorgan Chase (Paul Volcker) and Goldman Sachs (Geithner/Summers/Rubin). Left strewn on the battleground could be your pension fund and 401K.

The late Libertarian economist, Murray Rothbard, wrote that U.S. politics since 1900, when William Jennings Bryan narrowly lost the presidency, has been a struggle between two competing banking giants, the Morgans and the Rockefellers. The parties would sometimes change hands, but the puppeteers pulling the strings were always one of these two big-money players. No popular third party candidate had a real chance at winning, because the bankers had the exclusive power to create the national money supply and therefore held the winning cards.

In 2000, the Rockefellers and the Morgans joined forces, when JPMorgan and Chase Manhattan merged to become JPMorgan Chase Co. Today the battling banking titans are JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, an investment bank that gained notoriety for its speculative practices in the 1920s. In 1928, it launched the Goldman Sachs Trading Corp., a closed-end fund similar to a Ponzi scheme. The fund failed in the stock market crash of 1929, marring the firm's reputation for years afterwards. Former Treasury Secretaries Henry Paulson, Robert Rubin, and Larry Summers all came from Goldman, and current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner rose through the ranks of government as a Summers/Rubin protégé. One commentator called the U.S. Treasury "Goldman Sachs South."

Goldman's superpower status comes from something more than just access to the money spigots of the banking system. It actually has the ability to manipulate markets. Formerly just an investment bank, in 2008 Goldman magically transformed into a bank holding company. That gave it access to the Federal Reserve's lending window; but at the same time it remained an investment bank, aggressively speculating in the markets. The upshot was that it can now borrow massive amounts of money at virtually 0% interest, and it can use this money not only to speculate for its own account but to bend markets to its will.

But Goldman Sachs has been caught in this blatant market manipulation so often that the JPMorgan faction of the banking empire has finally had enough. The voters too have evidently had enough, as demonstrated in the recent upset in Massachusetts that threw the late Senator Ted Kennedy's Democratic seat to a Republican. That pivotal loss gave Paul Volcker, chairman of President Obama's newly formed Economic Recovery Advisory Board, an opportunity to step up to the plate with some proposals for serious banking reform. Unlike the string of Treasury Secretaries who came to the government through the revolving door of Goldman Sachs, former Federal Reserve Chairman Volcker came up through Chase Manhattan Bank, where he was vice president before joining the Treasury. On January 27, market commentator Bob Chapman wrote in his weekly investment newsletter The International Forecaster:

A split has occurred between the paper forces of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase. Mr. Volcker represents Morgan interests. Both sides are Illuminists, but the Morgan side is tired of Goldman's greed and arrogance... Not that JP Morgan Chase was blameless, they did their looting and damage to the system as well, but not in the high handed arrogant way the others did. The recall of Volcker is an attempt to reverse the damage as much as possible. That means the influence of Geithner, Summers, Rubin, et al will be put on the back shelf at least for now, as will be the Goldman influence. It will be slowly and subtly phased out... Washington needs a new face on Wall Street, not that of a criminal syndicate.

Goldman's crimes, says Chapman, were that it "got caught stealing. First in naked shorts, then front-running the market, both of which they are still doing, as the SEC looks the other way, and then selling MBS-CDOs to their best clients and simultaneously shorting them."

Volcker's proposal would rein in these abuses, either by ending the risky "proprietary trading" (trading for their own accounts) engaged in by the too-big-to-fail banks, or by forcing them to downsize by selling off those portions of their businesses engaging in it. Until recently, President Obama has declined to support Volcker's plan, but on January 21 he finally endorsed it.

a life well lived...,

i am the price system...,

Bloomberg | The idea of secret banking cabals that control the country and global economy are a given among conspiracy theorists who stockpile ammo, bottled water and peanut butter. After this week’s congressional hearing into the bailout of American International Group Inc., you have to wonder if those folks are crazy after all.

Wednesday’s hearing described a secretive group deploying billions of dollars to favored banks, operating with little oversight by the public or elected officials.

We’re talking about the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, whose role as the most influential part of the federal-reserve system -- apart from the matter of AIG’s bailout -- deserves further congressional scrutiny.

The New York Fed is in the hot seat for its decision in November 2008 to buy out, for about $30 billion, insurance contracts AIG sold on toxic debt securities to banks, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co., Societe Generale and Deutsche Bank AG, among others. That decision, critics say, amounted to a back-door bailout for the banks, which received 100 cents on the dollar for contracts that would have been worth far less had AIG been allowed to fail.

That move came a few weeks after the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department propped up AIG in the wake of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s own mid-September bankruptcy filing.

Saving the System
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was head of the New York Fed at the time of the AIG moves. He maintained during Wednesday’s hearing that the New York bank had to buy the insurance contracts, known as credit default swaps, to keep AIG from failing, which would have threatened the financial system.

The hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform also focused on what many in Congress believe was the New York Fed’s subsequent attempt to cover up buyout details and who benefited.

By pursuing this line of inquiry, the hearing revealed some of the inner workings of the New York Fed and the outsized role it plays in banking. This insight is especially valuable given that the New York Fed is a quasi-governmental institution that isn’t subject to citizen intrusions such as freedom of information requests, unlike the Federal Reserve.

This impenetrability comes in handy since the bank is the preferred vehicle for many of the Fed’s bailout programs. It’s as though the New York Fed was a black-ops outfit for the nation’s central bank.

look familiar?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

the exchange speaks for itself...,

is the imf gonna have to choke a greece?

NYTimes | European leaders are quietly considering whether to come to the aid of their troubled neighbor Greece amid fears that the nation might default on its debts and unleash another round of financial crisis.

Only a month after Dubai was rescued by its neighboring emirate Abu Dhabi, Germany, France and other European powers are discussing whether Greece might need a bailout too.

After a decade of debt-fueled profligacy, Greece is confronting what amounts to a run on the bank. And, despite repeated assurances from Athens, the nation’s strained finances have put already jittery financial markets on edge. On Thursday, the worries stretched all the way to Wall Street, where the stock market sank 1.1 percent.

Some economists worry that Greece’s troubles could have deep and lasting repercussions for Europe. The crisis poses complex challenges for the euro, which Greece adopted in 2001. The currency sank to a six-month low against the dollar and yen on Thursday.

“Greece failing is not an option, and lots of people think that we will have to intervene at some stage,” said one European finance official, who was not permitted to speak publicly on the matter. “It doesn’t have to happen, and we hope it won’t, but it would be better than seeing a default.”

The shape and scale of a bailout package, if any, has yet to be determined, according to officials in several European capitals. Whether the International Monetary Fund might become involved is uncertain. Some European leaders want Europe to fix this problem itself, while others are open to working with the I.M.F.

human connectome project

MIT | C. elegans, a tiny worm about a millimeter long, doesn’t have much of a brain, but it has a nervous system — one that comprises 302 nerve cells, or neurons, to be exact. In the 1970s, a team of researchers at Cambridge University decided to create a complete “wiring diagram” of how each of those neurons are connected to one another. Such wiring diagrams have recently been christened “connectomes,” drawing on their similarity to the genome, the total DNA sequence of an organism. The C. elegans connectome, reported in 1986, took more than a dozen years of tedious labor to find.

Now a handful of researchers scattered across the globe are tackling a much more ambitious project: to find connectomes of brains more like our own. The scientists, including several at MIT, are working on technologies needed to accelerate the slow and laborious process that the C. elegans researchers originally applied to worms. With these technologies, they intend to map the connectomes of our animal cousins, and eventually perhaps even those of humans. Their results could fundamentally alter our understanding of the brain.

Mapping the millions of miles of neuronal “wires” in the brain could help researchers understand how those neurons give rise to intelligence, personality and memory, says Sebastian Seung, professor of computational neuroscience at MIT. For the past three years, Seung and his students have been building tools that they hope will allow researchers to unravel some of those connections. To find connectomes, researchers will need to employ vast computing power to process images of the brain. But first, they need to teach the computers what to look for.

A tangled web
Piecing together connectomes requires analyzing vast numbers of electron microscopic images of brain slices and tracing the tangled connections between neurons, each of which can send projections to other cells several inches away.

At the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, Germany, neuroscientists in the laboratory of Winfried Denk have assembled a team of several dozen people to manually trace connections between neurons in the retina. It’s a painstaking process — each neuron takes hours to trace, and each must be traced by as many as 10 people, in order to catch careless errors. Using this manual approach, finding the connectome of just one cubic millimeter of brain would take tens of thousands of work-years, says Viren Jain, who recently completed his PhD in Seung’s lab. Fist tap Big Don.

office of strategic deception

Wired | The Defense Department needs to get better at lying and fooling people about its intentions. That’s the conclusion from an influential Pentagon panel, the Defense Science Board (DSB), which recommends that the military and intelligence communities join in a new agency devoted to “strategic surprise/deception.”

Tricking battlefield opponents has been a part of war since guys started beating each other with bones and sticks. But these days, such moves are harder to pull off, the DSB notes in a January report (.pdf) first unearthed by “In an era of ubiquitous information access, anonymous leaks and public demands for transparency, deception operations are extraordinarily difficult. Nevertheless, successful strategic deception has in the past provided the United States with significant advantages that translated into operational and tactical success. Successful deception also minimizes U.S. vulnerabilities, while simultaneously setting conditions to surprise adversaries.”

The U.S. can’t wait until it’s at war with a particular country or group before engaging in this strategic trickery, however. “Deception cannot succeed in wartime without developing theory and doctrine in peacetime,” according to the DSB. “In order to mitigate or impart surprise, the United States should [begin] deception planning and action prior to the need for military operations.”

Doing that will not only requires an “understanding the enemy culture, standing beliefs, and intelligence-gathering process and decision cycle, as well as the soundness of its operational and tactical doctrine,” the DSB adds. Deception is also “reliant … on the close control of information, running agents (and double-agents) and creating stories that adversaries will readily believe.”


Physorg | 'Grid cells' that act like a spatial map in the brain have been identified for the first time in humans, according to new research by UCL scientists which may help to explain how we create internal maps of new environments.

The study is by a team from the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and was funded by the Medical Research Council and the European Union. Published today in Nature, it uses brain imaging and virtual reality techniques to try to identify grid cells in the human brain. These specialised neurons are thought to be involved in spatial memory and have previously been identified in rodent brains, but evidence of them in humans has not been documented until now.

Grid cells represent where an animal is located within its environment, which the researchers liken to having a satnav in the brain. They fire in patterns that show up as geometrically regular, triangular grids when plotted on a map of a navigated surface. They were discovered by a Norwegian lab in 2005 whose research suggested that rats create virtual grids to help them orient themselves in their surroundings, and remember new locations in unfamiliar territory.

Study co-author Dr Caswell Barry said: "It is as if grid cells provide a cognitive map of space. In fact, these cells are very much like the longitude and latitude lines we're all familiar with on normal maps, but instead of using square grid lines it seems the brain uses triangles.

Lead author Dr Christian Doeller added: "Although we can't see the grid cells directly in the brain scanner, we can pick up the regular six-fold symmetry that is a signature of this type of firing pattern. Interestingly, the study participants with the clearest signs of grid cells were those who performed best in the virtual reality spatial memory task, suggesting that the grid cells help us to remember the locations of objects."

Professor Neil Burgess, who leads the team, commented: "The parts of the brain which show signs of grid cells - the hippocampal formation and associated brain areas - are already known to help us navigate our environment and are also critical for autobiographical memory. This means that grid cells may help us to find our way to the right memory as well as finding our way through our environment. These brain areas are also amongst the first to be affected by Alzheimer's disease which may explain why getting lost is one of the most common early symptoms of this disease."

Friday, January 29, 2010

carbon currency?

August Review | Critics who think that the U.S. dollar will be replaced by some new global currency are perhaps thinking too small.

On the world horizon looms a new global currency that could replace all paper currencies and the economic system upon which they are based.

The new currency, simply called Carbon Currency, is designed to support a revolutionary new economic system based on energy (production, and consumption), instead of price. Our current price-based economic system and its related currencies that have supported capitalism, socialism, fascism and communism, is being herded to the slaughterhouse in order to make way for a new carbon-based world.

It is plainly evident that the world is laboring under a dying system of price-based economics as evidenced by the rapid decline of paper currencies. The era of fiat (irredeemable paper currency) was introduced in 1971 when President Richard Nixon decoupled the U.S. dollar from gold. Because the dollar-turned-fiat was the world’s primary reserve asset, all other currencies eventually followed suit, leaving us today with a global sea of paper that is increasingly undesired, unstable, unusable.

The deathly economic state of today’s world is a direct reflection of the sum of its sick and dying currencies, but this could soon change.

Forces are already at work to position a new Carbon Currency as the ultimate solution to global calls for poverty reduction, population control, environmental control, global warming, energy allocation and blanket distribution of economic wealth.

Unfortunately for individual people living in this new system, it will also require authoritarian and centralized control over all aspects of life, from cradle to grave.

What is Carbon Currency and how does it work? In a nutshell, Carbon Currency will be based on the regular allocation of available energy to the people of the world. If not used within a period of time, the Currency will expire (like monthly minutes on your cell phone plan) so that the same people can receive a new allocation based on new energy production quotas for the next period.

Because the energy supply chain is already dominated by the global elite, setting energy production quotas will limit the amount of Carbon Currency in circulation at any one time. It will also naturally limit manufacturing, food production and people movement.

Local currencies could remain in play for a time, but they would eventually wither and be fully replaced by the Carbon Currency, much the same way that the Euro displaced individual European currencies over a period of time.

Sounds very modern in concept, doesn’t it? In fact, these ideas date back to the 1930’s when hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens were embracing a new political ideology called Technocracy and the promise it held for a better life. Even now-classic literature was heavily influenced by Technocracy: George Orwell’s 1984, H.G. Well’s The Shape of Things to Come and Huxley’s “scientific dictatorship” in Brave New World.

This paper investigates the rebirth of Technocracy and its potential to recast the New World Order into something truly “new” and also totally unexpected by the vast majority of modern critics.

progress without gdp led growth

Ecologist | Deutsche Bank economist Pavan Sukhdev is heading up the groundbreaking TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) report and doing for nature what Sir Nicholas Stern did for climate change - valuing it. Listen to the interview.

Tom Levitt: Why are we putting a value on nature, why don't we just close off and protect it?

Pavan Sukhdev: The Ecologist may say that but there are a hundred thousand other people who are social NGOs and politicians looking for votes at the next election who will say, ah ha! that is just an ecologist talking who loves nature and does not care for your well-being because guess what I have built a railroad, built a bridge, given you a job and provided you with an electricity connection. 

That is the person the Ecologist needs to answer, by saying ecology - in other words natural capital - used properly can also give you the jobs that you seek.

Forest maintained can also provide the poor with the fresh water that they want and guess what, yes you need to build bridges but you can do that in a way that is more earth-friendly, less carbon intensive in manufacture and creates some local opportunity as opposed to just profits for the builders who built the bridge. 

You have to have counter arguments that are being made explicitly or implicitly because sometimes this is not even said and people just go-ahead and destroy and there is no question of listening to the ecologist because he is "just a greenie who loves nature".

People are not even looking at the economic value of the conservation alternative or the natural capital value of nature.

TL: Do you think politicians and economists actually understand the terms 'ecosystem services' and 'biodiversity'?

PS: A lot of them do. You can go back to Obama's acceptance speech when he talked about: ‘harnessing the power of the wind and the waves, harnessing sunlight, freeing ourselves from the shackles of oil’.

He was talking about a better understanding of nature and what it brings to us and how we can leverage it into our economies better instead of the way we do it now, which is to dig it from the ancient sunlight buried millions of years ago.

as above, so below...,

NYTimes | Researchers in Japan have shown that a slime mold can design a network that is as efficient as one developed by humans over many years: the Tokyo rail system. Furthermore, the slime mold can build its network in a day.

A slime mold is what scientists refer to as a single-celled amoeboid organism. When foraging for food, it spreads out as an amorphous mass and then builds tubular connections between the food sources.

It may be just a blob, but it is a smart one. “We’ve found an unexpected high ability of information processing in this organism,” said Toshiyuki Nakagaki, a researcher at Hokkaido University who has long studied slime molds.

“I wanted to pose a complicated program to this slime mold, to design a large network,” Dr. Nakagaki said. “This kind of program is not so easy, even for humans.”

So he and his colleagues set up an experiment where they laid out 36 bits of food in a pattern corresponding to cities in the Tokyo area and put a slime mold, Physarum polycephalum, at the spot corresponding to Tokyo.

As they report in Science, after 26 hours the slime mold had created a series of tubular connections that matched, to a great extent, the rail links among these cities. The researchers found that the slime mold network was as efficient as the rail network, it tolerated breaks in the connections just as well, and it was created at reasonable cost to the organism.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

planet of slums

Verso | According to the united nations, more than one billion people now live in the slums of the cities of the South. In this brilliant and ambitious book, Mike Davis explores the future of a radically unequal and explosively unstable urban world.

From the sprawling barricadas of Lima to the garbage hills of Manila, urbanization has been disconnected from industrialization, even economic growth. Davis portrays a vast humanity warehoused in shantytowns and exiled from the formal world economy. He argues that the rise of this informal urban proletariat is a wholly original development unforeseen by either classical Marxism or neo-liberal theory.

Are the great slums, as a terrified Victorian middle class once imagined, volcanoes waiting to erupt? Davis provides the first global overview of the diverse religious, ethnic, and political movements competing for the souls of the new urban poor. He surveys Hindu fundamentalism in Bombay, the Islamist resistance in Casablanca and Cairo, street gangs in Cape Town and San Salvador, Pentecostalism in Kinshasa and Rio de Janeiro, and revolutionary populism in Caracas and La Paz.

Planet of Slums ends with a provocative meditation on the “war on terrorism” as an incipient world war between the American empire and the slum poor.

“In this trenchantly argued book, Mike Davis quantifies the nightmarish mass production of slums that marks the contemporary city. With cool indignation, Davis argues that the exponential growth of slums is no accident but the result of a perfect storm of corrupt leadership, institutional failure, and IMF-imposed Structural Adjustment Programs leading to a massive transfer of wealth from poor to rich. Scourge of neo-liberal nostrums, Davis debunks the irresponsible myth of self-help salvation, showing exactly who gets the boot from ‘bootstrap capitalism.’ Like the work of Jacob Riis, Ida Tarbell, and Lincoln Steffans over a century ago, this searing indictment makes the shame of our cities urgently clear.” — Michael Sorkin

From Planet of Slums
“What is clear is that the contemporary mega-slum poses unique problems of imperial order and social control that conventional geopolitics has barely begun to register. If the aim of the “war on terrorism” is to pursue the erstwhile enemy into his sociological and cultural labyrinth, then the poor peripheries of developing cities will be the permanent battlefields of the twenty-first century.

“Night after night, hornet-like helicopter gun-ships stalk enigmatic enemies in the narrow streets of the slum districts, pouring their hellfire into shanties or fleeing cars. Every morning the slums reply with suicide bombers and eloquent explosions. If the empire can deploy Orwellian technologies of repression, its outcasts surely have the gods of chaos on their side.

wetwork in yemen...,

WaPo | U.S. military teams and intelligence agencies are deeply involved in secret joint operations with Yemeni troops who in the past six weeks have killed scores of people, among them six of 15 top leaders of a regional al-Qaeda affiliate, according to senior administration officials.

The operations, approved by President Obama and begun six weeks ago, involve several dozen troops from the U.S. military's clandestine Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), whose main mission is tracking and killing suspected terrorists. The American advisers do not take part in raids in Yemen, but help plan missions, develop tactics and provide weapons and munitions. Highly sensitive intelligence is being shared with the Yemeni forces, including electronic and video surveillance, as well as three-dimensional terrain maps and detailed analysis of the al-Qaeda network.

As part of the operations, Obama approved a Dec. 24 strike against a compound where a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, was thought to be meeting with other regional al-Qaeda leaders. Although he was not the focus of the strike and was not killed, he has since been added to a shortlist of U.S. citizens specifically targeted for killing or capture by the JSOC, military officials said. The officials, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operations.

The broad outlines of the U.S. involvement in Yemen have come to light in the past month, but the extent and nature of the operations have not been previously reported. The far-reaching U.S. role could prove politically challenging for Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who must balance his desire for American support against the possibility of a backlash by tribal, political and religious groups whose members resent what they see as U.S. interference in Yemen.

The collaboration with Yemen provides the starkest illustration to date of the Obama administration's efforts to ramp up counterterrorism operations, including in areas outside the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones.

"We are very pleased with the direction this is going," a senior administration official said of the cooperation with Yemen.

Obama has ordered a dramatic increase in the pace of CIA drone-launched missile strikes into Pakistan in an effort to kill al-Qaeda and Taliban members in the ungoverned tribal areas along the Afghan border. There have been more such strikes in the first year of Obama's administration than in the last three years under President George W. Bush, according to a military officer who tracks the attacks.

Obama also has sent U.S. military forces briefly into Somalia as part of an operation to kill Saleh Ali Nabhan, a Kenyan sought in the 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned resort in Kenya.

Republican lawmakers and former vice president Richard B. Cheney have sought to characterize the new president as soft on terrorism after he banned the harsh interrogation methods permitted under Bush and announced his intention to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


Boston | Howard Zinn, the Boston University historian and political activist who was an early opponent of US involvement in Vietnam and whose books, such as "A People's History of the United States," inspired young and old to rethink the way textbooks present the American experience, died today in Santa Monica, Calif, where he was traveling. He was 87.

His daughter, Myla Kabat-Zinn of Lexington, said he suffered a heart attack.

"He's made an amazing contribution to American intellectual and moral culture," Noam Chomsky, the left-wing activist and MIT professor, said tonight. "He's changed the conscience of America in a highly constructive way. I really can't think of anyone I can compare him to in this respect."

Chomsky added that Dr. Zinn's writings "simply changed perspective and understanding for a whole generation. He opened up approaches to history that were novel and highly significant. Both by his actions, and his writings for 50 years, he played a powerful role in helping and in many ways inspiring the Civil rights movement and the anti-war movement."

For Dr. Zinn, activism was a natural extension of the revisionist brand of history he taught. "A People’s History of the United States" (1980), his best-known book, had for its heroes not the Founding Fathers -- many of them slaveholders and deeply attached to the status quo, as Dr. Zinn was quick to point out -- but rather the farmers of Shays' Rebellion and union organizers of the 1930s.

As he wrote in his autobiography, "You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train" (1994), "From the start, my teaching was infused with my own history. I would try to be fair to other points of view, but I wanted more than 'objectivity'; I wanted students to leave my classes not just better informed, but more prepared to relinquish the safety of silence, more prepared to speak up, to act against injustice wherever they saw it. This, of course, was a recipe for trouble."

wannabe teabagger "plumbers" get punked

NOLA | Alleging a plot to tamper with phones in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O'Keefe, 25, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group's credibility.

Also arrested were Joseph Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan, all 24. Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, who is the acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana. All four men were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.

An official close to the investigation said one of the four was arrested with a listening device in a car blocks from the senator's offices. He spoke on condition of anonymity because that information was not included in official arresting documents.

According to the FBI affidavit, Flanagan and Basel entered the federal building at 500 Poydras Street on Monday about 11 a.m., dressed as telephone company employees, wearing jeans, fluorescent green vests, tool belts and hard hats. When they arrived at Landrieu's 10th-floor office, O'Keefe was already in the office and had told a staffer he was waiting for someone to arrive.

When Flanagan and Basel entered the office, they told the staffer they were there to fix phone problems. At that time, the staffer, referred to only as Witness 1 in the affidavit, observed O'Keefe positioning his cell phone in his hand to videotape the operation. O'Keefe later admitted to agents that he recorded the event.

After being asked, the staffer gave Basel access to the main phone at the reception desk. The staffer told investigators that Basel manipulated the handset. He also tried to call the main office phone using his cell phone, and said the main line wasn't working. Flanagan did the same.

They then told the staffer they needed to perform repair work on the main phone system and asked where the telephone closet was located. The staffer showed the men to the main General Services Administration office on the 10th floor, and Flanagan and Basel went in. There, a GSA employee asked for the men's credentials. They said they left them in their vehicle.

The U.S. Marshal's Service apprehended all four men shortly thereafter.

Landrieu said: "This is a very unusual situation and somewhat unsettling for me and my staff. The individuals responsible have been charged with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purposes of committing a felony. I am as interested as everyone else about their motives and purpose, which I hope will become clear as the investigation moves forward."

Landrieu's Republican counterpart, Sen. David Vitter, called for a racketeering investigation against New Orleans-founded ACORN last year in the wake of O'Keefe's videos.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

still busy making up isht....,

Newsweek | Economists aren't typically an emotional bunch. The dismal science attracts more sober-suited math geeks than poetic seekers. But in Atlanta earlier this month, the annual meeting of the American Economic Association was home to more soul-searching than number crunching. Hundreds of the profession's most eminent thinkers turned out to hear panel after panel discuss how, exactly, they'd gotten things so wrong. Why did most of the world's top economists fail to forecast the financial crisis? Should the teaching of economics in universities be entirely rethought? While past stars at the AEA have been conservative, finance--oriented intellectuals like Eugene Fama, this year's meeting belonged to the liberal realists—Paul Krugman, Robert Shiller, and the man of the hour, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz. Stiglitz delivered a keynote debunking the profession's key tenet—namely, that markets can be trusted. Leading into the crisis, Stiglitz said, "markets were not efficient and not self-correcting, and now huge costs in the trillions of dollars are being borne by every part of society."

The hand-wringing will continue this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Last year the buzz at Davos focused on how to pull the world back from the brink. But the key topic this time will be the crisis of conscience in economics itself. For the first time in decades, the profession is rethinking all the big questions. How do we create growth? How do we raise employment? How do we spread wealth? At least since Reagan, the consensus was that you just had to make the pie grow, and the best way to do that was to unshackle markets and investors, and then get out of the way. Wealth, and thus health, happiness, and all other good things, would eventually trickle down to all.

growth isn't possible

NEF | As economist Herman Daly once commented, he would accept the possibility of infinite growth in the economy on the day that one of his economist colleagues could demonstrate that Earth itself could grow at a commensurate rate.

Whether or not the stumbling international negotiations on climate change improve, our findings make clear that much more will be needed than simply more ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This report concludes that a new macro economic model is needed, one that allows the human population as a whole to thrive without having to relying on ultimately impossible, endless increases in consumption.

Four years on from nef's Growth isn’t Working, this new report goes one step further and tests that thesis in detail in the context of climate change and energy. It argues that indefinite global economic growth is unsustainable. Just as the laws of thermodynamics constrain the maximum efficiency of a heat engine, economic growth is constrained by the finite nature of our planet’s natural resources (biocapacity).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

most reactionary president since nixon?

Guardian | The unthinking adulation Obama received would have turned the most level-headed man into an egomaniac. In his first year, he acted as if it was enough not to be Bush, as if his charisma and oratorical brilliance could persuade dangerous leaders to change their behaviour. He cannot believe that after a year of failure. He abandoned Bush's missile defence programme in an attempt to charm Putin and received no concessions in return. Similarly, his creeping to Ahmadinejad has not produced any diplomatic rewards. Kissinger and Nixon were terrifying figures, who, in the name of "realism", endorsed regimes that persecuted opponents from East Timor to Chile. Obama, by contrast, doesn't frighten anyone.

I am glad to see that he turned away last week from the advisers who urged him not to reform Wall Street. Perhaps he is preparing a similar U-turn in foreign policy. In the past month, there have been tentative signs of a change of emphasis. In his Nobel peace prize lecture, he was unequivocal in his support for universal rights and departed from his prepared text to assert that, after all, he was on the side of the Iranian revolutionaries. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has finally managed to speak out in plain language against the censorship of the web by China, Egypt and other dictatorships.

Let us hope that these swallows herald a summer, because if they do not we will be stuck with an American president who combines the weakness of Jimmy Carter with the morals of Richard Nixon.

italy's african heroes

NYTimes | This month, rioting by African immigrants broke out in Rosarno, in southern Italy, after at least one immigrant was shot with an air rifle. The riots were widely portrayed as clashes between immigrants and native Italians, but they were really a revolt against the ’Ndrangheta, the powerful Calabrian mafia. Anyone who seeks to negate or to minimize this motive is not familiar with these places where everything — jobs, wages, housing — is controlled by criminal organizations.

The episode in Rosarno was the second such uprising against organized crime in Italy in the last few years. The first took place in 2008 in Castel Volturno, a town near Naples, where hit men from the local mob, the Camorra, killed six Africans. The massacre was intended to intimidate, but it set off the immigrants’ anger instead.

In Castel Volturno, the immigrants work in construction. In Rosarno, they pick oranges. But in both places the mafias control all economic activity. And the only ones who’ve had the courage to rebel against them are the Africans.

An immigrant who lands in France or Britain knows he’ll have to abide by the law, but he also knows he’ll have real and tangible rights. That’s not how it is in Italy, where bureaucracy and corruption make it seem as if the only guarantees are prohibitions and mafia rule, under which rights are nonexistent. The mafias let the African immigrants live and work in their territories because they make a profit off them. The mafias exploit them, but also grant them living space in abandoned areas outside of town, and they keep the police from running too many checks or repatriating them.

The immigrants are temporarily willing to accept peanut wages, slave hours and poor living conditions. They’ve already handed over all they owned, risked all they had, just to get to Italy. But they came to make a better life for themselves — and they’re not about to let anyone take the possibility of that life away.

There are native Italians who reject mafia rule as well, but they have the means and the freedom to leave places like Rosarno, becoming migrants themselves. The Africans can’t. They have to stand up to the clans. They know they have to act collectively, for it’s their only way of protecting themselves. Otherwise they end up getting killed, which happens sometimes even to the European immigrant workers.

It’s a mistake to view the Rosarno rioters as criminals. The Rosarno riots were not about attacking the law, but about gaining access to the law.

Monday, January 25, 2010

political ponerology

RedPill | "Ponerology" is the study of evil, from the greek word for evil, Poneros. Evil can be studied outside of theology, in the same way ethics can. Author Michael Shermer discusses this in his book "The Science of Good and Evil". The basic premise is that the desire to help others is hard-wired into the species, in order to help preserve it. However, Shermer misses the fact that 0.8% of the population, the psychopaths, do not have this desire.

Political Ponerology studies how psychopaths take over political systems, which is then called a Pathocracy. (The term psychopath has a more specific meaning than sociopath, which is a more colloquial term.) The Polish author, Andrew Lobaczewski, was part of a group of psychologists in Poland who were secretly studying pathocracies while under Soviet rule. They were doing this research in fear of discovery and harsh punishment. Psychopaths don't like being studied and are afraid of being discovered. He escaped to the U.S.A. and showed a manuscript to an influential fellow Pole, who praised the work, but somehow got the book suppressed for many years. This Pole is Zbigniew Brzezinski, Obama's Foreign Policy Secretary, whom I've written about before. He authored a book about the U.S. strategy for controlling the oil in Eurasia.

In the book "Without Remorse: The Disturbing World of Psychopaths Among us", psychologist Robert Hare explains that born psychopaths comprise about 0.8% of the population and are not "insane" - they understand what society considers "right" and "wrong", understand the consequences of their actions, but have no conscience, remorse, guilt, nor empathy. They are completely callous and self serving, but they have free will and make conscious choices.

History has been disproportionately shaped by psychopaths - it makes sense that wars happen because of psychopaths. However, not only overt war-mongers had to have been psychopaths, but every stinking empire-hungry conqueror and power-hungry leader in history had to have been one - including the first caveman who convinced his fellow cavemen to take over the next cave by force. The sorry state of today's world with the seemingly intractable poverty and hunger despite our technological prowess is most easily explained by the fact that governments are pathocracies.

wilhelm reich in hell

RAW | As every schoolchild once knew - back in the reactionary days when schoolchildren were expected to know something -- the U.S. Constitution ordains that there shall be "no laws" abridging freedom of speech or of the press. There is considerable internal evidence in the Constitution, and external evidence in the other writings of the authors of the Constitution, to support the contention that the creators of the Republic were versatile in their handling of language and very precise in their usage. One would assume that when they wrote "no laws" they meant "no laws." Nonetheless, the U.S. Supreme Court sits every year and determines, in various cases, if certain laws abridging freedom of speech and of the press are or are not in violation of the Constitution. As the late justice Hugo Black said sardonically on one occasion, the majority opinion of the Court appears to be that "no laws" means "some laws."

Like Justice Black, I am a plain blunt man and not sophisticated enough to understand the recondite arguments by which the Supreme Court has arrived at the opinion that "no laws" means "some laws." Justice Black said that his problem was that he was a simple farm-boy and "no laws" in English seemed to him to mean "no laws." I'm not sure what my problem is, but I also have the naive view that "no laws" means "no laws."

It was with some horror, and considerable indignation, then, that I reacted to the news, in 1957, that the U.S. Government had seized all the scientific books and papers of Dr. Wilhelm Reich and burned them in an incinerator in New York City. This was only twelve years after the U.S. had fought a prolonged and bitter war against Nazi Germany and I had been raised on anti-Nazi propaganda in which the Nazi "crime against freedom" in burning books had been stressed as much as their crimes against humanity in killing people. I was astounded and flabbergasted that the U.S. government was imitating its former enemy to the extent of actually burning scientific papers it found heretical.

One result of all such Inquisitorial behavior, which Inquisitors never seem to expect even though it is historically predictable, is that some people get curious about books they are forbidden to read. I spent a lot of time, in 1957-58, hunting for people who owned copies of Dr. Reich's books and doing exactly what the Inquisitors had wished to prevent me from doing -- reading the verboten books and forming my own judgement on the validity or lack of validity in Dr. Reich's various theories.....

journeys into the abyss

Guardian | Henri Michaux published three books between 1956 and 1959 dealing with his experiences with mescaline - Miserable Miracle, L'infini turbulent and Paix dans les brisements. He also confronted us with a disturbing series of sketches - most of them in black and white, and a few in colour - executed shortly after each of his experiences. His prose, his poems and his sketches are intimately related, for each medium of expression reinforces and illuminates the others. The sketches are not simply illustrations of the texts.

Michaux's painting has never been a mere adjunct to his poetry: the two are at once autonomous and complementary worlds. In the case of the "mescaline experience", lines and words form a whole almost impossible to break down into its component elements. Forms, ideas and sensations intertwine as though they were a single, dizzyingly proliferating entity. In a certain sense, the sketches, far from being illustrations of the written word, are a sort of commentary. The rhythm and the movement of the lines bring to mind a kind of curious musical notation, except that we are confronted not with a method of recording sounds but with vortexes, gashes, interweavings of being. Incisions in the bark of time, halfway between the ideograph and the magical sign, characters and forms "more palpable than legible", these sketches are a criticism of poetic and pictorial writing, that is to say, a step beyond the sign and the image, something transcending words and lines.

Painting and poetry are languages that Michaux has used to try to express something that is truly inexpressible. A poet first, he began to paint when he realised that this new medium might enable him to say what he had found it impossible to say in his poetry. But is it a question of expression? Perhaps Michaux has never tried to express anything. All his efforts have been directed at reaching that zone, by definition indescribable and incommunicable, in which meanings disappear. A centre at once completely empty and completely full, a total vacuum and a total plenitude. Michaux's oeuvre - his poems, his real and imaginary travels, his painting - is an expedition winding its way toward some of our infinities - the most secret, the most fearful, and at times the most derisive ones.

Michaux travels via his languages: lines, words, colours, silences, rhythms. And he does not hesitate to break the back of a word, the way a horseman does not hesitate to wind his mount. Language as a vehicle, but also language as a knife and a miner's lamp. Their utility is paradoxical, however, since they are not employed to foster communication, but rather pressed into the service of the incommunicable. The extraordinary tension of Michaux's language stems from the fact that it is an undoubtedly effective tool, but its sole use is to bare something that is completely ineffective by its very nature: the state of non-knowledge that is beyond knowledge, the thought that no longer thinks because it has been united with itself, total transparency, a motionless whirlwind.

Miserable Miracle opens with this phrase: "This book is an exploration. By means of words, signs, drawings. Mescaline, the subject explored." When I had read the last page, I asked myself whether the result of the experiment had not been precisely the opposite: the poet Michaux explored by mescaline. An exploration or an encounter? An encounter with mescaline: an encounter with our own selves, with the known-unknown. A great gift of the gods, mescaline is a window through which we look out upon endless distances where nothing ever meets our eye but our own gaze. There is no I: there is space, vibration, perpetual animation. Battles, terrors, elation, panic, delight: is it Michaux or mescaline? It was all already there in Michaux, in his previous books. Mescaline was a confirmation. Michaux can say: I left my life behind to catch a glimpse of life.

It all begins with a vibration. An imperceptible movement that accelerates minute by minute. Wind, a long screeching whistle, a lashing hurricane, a torrent of faces, forms, lines. Everything falling, rushing forward, ascending, disappearing, reappearing. A dizzying evaporation and condensation. Bubbles, more bubbles, pebbles, little stones. Rocky cliffs of gas. Lines that cross, rivers meeting, endless bifurcations, meanders, deltas, deserts that walk, deserts that fly. Disintegrations, agglutinations, fragmentations, reconstitutions. Shattered words, the copulation of syllables, the fornication of meanings. Destruction of language. Mescaline reigns through silence - and it screams! A return to vibrations, a plunge into undulations. Repetitions: mescaline is an "infinity-machine". Nothing is fixed. Avalanches, the kingdom of uncountable numbers, accursed proliferation. Gangrenous space, cancerous time.

Battered by the gale of mescaline, sucked up by the abstract whirlwind, the modern westerner finds absolutely nothing to hold on to. He has forgotten the names, God is no longer called God. The Aztec or the Tarahumara had only to pronounce the name, and immediately the presence would descend, in all its infinite manifestations. Unity and plurality for the ancients. For us who lack gods: pullulation and time. All we have left is "causes and effects, antecedents and consequences". Space teeming with trivialities. Miserable miracle.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

right-wing flame war (ditching racists and fascists is hard to do)

NYTimes | By virtue of his willingness to do and share research, his personal embrace of a hawkish, populist anger and his extraordinary Web savvy, Johnson quickly turned Little Green Footballs (or L.G.F., as it is commonly known) into one of the most popular personal sites on the Web, and himself — the very model of a Los Angeles bohemian — into an avatar of the American right wing. With a daily audience in the hundreds of thousands, the career sideman had moved to the center of the stage.

Now it is eight years later, and Johnson, who is 56, sits in the ashes of an epic flame war that has destroyed his relationships with nearly every one of his old right-wing allies. People who have pledged their lives to fighting Islamic extremism, when asked about Charles Johnson now, unsheathe a word they do not throw around lightly: “evil.” Glenn Beck has taken the time to denounce him on air and at length. Johnson himself (Mad King Charles is one of his most frequent, and most printable, Web nicknames) has used his technical know-how to block thousands of his former readers not just from commenting on his site but even, in many cases, from viewing its home page. He recently moved into a gated community, partly out of fear, he said, that the venom directed at him in cyberspace might jump its boundaries and lead someone to do him physical harm. He has turned forcefully against Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, nearly every conservative icon you can name. And answering the question of what, or who, got to Charles Johnson has itself become a kind of boom genre on the Internet.

“It’s just so illogical,” Geller told me heatedly not long ago. “I loved him. I respected him. But the way he went after people was like a mental illness. There’s an evil to that, a maliciousness. He’s a traitor, a turncoat, a plant. We may not know for years what actually happened. You think he changed his mind?”

uganda anti-gay bill backers in newark

TalktoAction | Street by street, block by block, organized by city ward, PrayforNewark's squads of church members are walking their city, praying for residents and businesses. Launched on Martin Luther King Day in 2008, its leaders claim their effort now fields enough volunteers to pray for almost every street in the New Jersey city. Endorsed by Newark's liberal mayor, PrayforNewark would seem a blessing for any city. What could be wrong with prayer ? But the effort is directly tied to an international movement that, as detailed in my new video documentary Transforming Uganda, played a significant role in organizing and inspiring Ugandan politicians who have backed the internationally notorious "kill the gays" bill, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill currently before Uganda's parliament.

The ecumenical coalition behind PrayforNewark is led by Rev. Bernard Wilks, whose Dominion Fellowship Ministries newsletters for PrayforNewark have repeatedly called for "enemy identification" and a document on the official PrayforNewark web site touts the "Seven Mountains" program which calls upon born-again, charismatic Christians to take dominion over key societal sectors such as business, government, media and education.

Given the benign-seeming exterior of PrayforNewark, it is likely that many Newark citizens involved in the effort are not fully aware of the ideological roots of PrayforNewark, or of its links to international entities tied to the Uganda bill.

PrayforNewark was founded by Newark suburb resident Lloyd Turner, who in October 2008 spoke at an Argentina conference of the International Transformation Network (ITN), whose CEO Ed Silvoso wrote, in his 2007 book, Transformation: Change the Marketplace and You Change the World, that homosexuality is caused by demon possession and that HIV and AIDS can be cured through faith healing and prayer. According to Silvoso, the entire national police force of the Philippines is being indoctrinated in this ideology.

bob hunter on fellowship foundation and uganda

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

museveni and bahati on anti-gay bill

americans role seen in uganda anti-gay push

NYTimes | Last March, three American evangelical Christians, whose teachings about “curing” homosexuals have been widely discredited in the United States, arrived here in Uganda’s capital to give a series of talks.

The theme of the event, according to Stephen Langa, its Ugandan organizer, was “the gay agenda — that whole hidden and dark agenda” — and the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family.

For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”

Now the three Americans are finding themselves on the defensive, saying they had no intention of helping stoke the kind of anger that could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior.

One month after the conference, a previously unknown Ugandan politician, who boasts of having evangelical friends in the American government, introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which threatens to hang homosexuals, and, as a result, has put Uganda on a collision course with Western nations.

Donor countries, including the United States, are demanding that Uganda’s government drop the proposed law, saying it violates human rights, though Uganda’s minister of ethics and integrity (who previously tried to ban miniskirts) recently said, “Homosexuals can forget about human rights.”

The Ugandan government, facing the prospect of losing millions in foreign aid, is now indicating that it will back down, slightly, and change the death penalty provision to life in prison for some homosexuals. But the battle is far from over.

Instead, Uganda seems to have become a far-flung front line in the American culture wars, with American groups on both sides, the Christian right and gay activists, pouring in support and money as they get involved in the broader debate over homosexuality in Africa.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

how corporate law inhibits social responsibility

MediaLens | I believe the battle against corporate abuse should be conducted in a more holistic way. We must inquire why corporations behave as they do, and look for a way to change these underlying motives. Once we have arrived at a viable systemic solution, we should then dictate the terms of engagement to corporations, not let them dictate terms to us. We must remember that corporations were invented to serve mankind. Mankind was not invented to serve corporations. Corporations in many ways have the rights of citizens, and those rights should be balanced by obligations to the public.

Many activists cast the fundamental issue as one of "corporate greed," but that's off the mark. Corporations are incapable of a human emotion like greed. They are artificial beings created by law. The real question is why corporations behave as if they are greedy. The answer is the design of corporate law.

We can change that design. We can make corporations more responsible to the public good by amending the law that says the pursuit of profit takes precedence over the public interest. I believe this can best be achieved by changing corporate law to make directors personally responsible for harms done.

Let me give you a sense of how director responsibility works in the current system. Under federal securities laws, directors are held personally liable for false and misleading statements made in prospectuses used to sell securities. If a corporate prospectus contains a material falsehood and investors suffer damage as a result, investors can sue each director personally to recover the damage. Believe me, this provision grabs the attention of company directors. They spend hours reviewing drafts of a prospectus to ensure it complies with the law. Similarly, everyone who works on the prospectus knows that directors' personal wealth is at stake, so they too take great care with accuracy.

That's an example of how corporate behavior changes when directors are held personally responsible. Everyone in the corporation improves their game to meet the challenge. The law has what we call an in terrorem effect. Since the potential penalties are so severe, directors err on the side of caution. While this has not eliminated securities fraud, it has over the years reduced it to an infinitesimal percentage of the total capital raised. I propose that corporate law be changed in a similar manner--to make individuals responsible for seeing that the pursuit of profit does not damage the public interest.

To pave the way for such a change, we must challenge the myth that making profits and protecting the public interest are mutually exclusive goals. The same was once said about profits and product quality, before Japanese manufacturers taught us otherwise. If we force companies to respect the public interest while they make money, business people will figure out how to do both. The specific change I suggest is simple: add 26 words to corporate law and thus create what I call the "Code for Corporate Citizenship." In Maine, this would mean amending section 716 to add the following clause. Directors and officers would still have a duty to make money for shareholders, ... but not at the expense of the environment, human rights, the public safety, the communities in which the corporation operates or the dignity of its employees.

This simple amendment would effect a dramatic change in the underlying mechanism that drives corporate malfeasance. It would make individuals responsible for the damage companies cause to the public interest, and would be enforced much the same way as securities laws are now. Negligent failure to abide by the code would result in the corporation, its directors, and its officers being liable for the full amount of the damage they cause. In addition to civil liability, the attorney general would have the right to criminally prosecute intentional acts. Injunctive relief-which stops specific behaviors while the legal process proceeds-would also be available.

terror of the situation

economic cyborgs

Warsocialism | In The Absence of the Sacred, advertising executive and economist Jerry Mander uncovers the true nature of corporations:
The corporation is not as subject to human control as most people believe it is; rather, it is an autonomous technical structure that behaves by a system of logic uniquely well suited to its primary function: to give birth and impetus to profitable new technological forms, and to spread techno-logic around the globe.

We usually become aware of corporate behavior only when a flagrant transgression is reported in the news: the dumping of toxic wastes, the releasing of pollutants, the suppression of research regarding health effects of various products, the tragic mechanical breakdowns such as at Three Mile Island, in Bhopal, or in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Sometimes we become concerned about a large corporation closing a factory, putting 5,000 people out of work, and moving to another country.

Even when we hear such news, our tendency is to respond as if the behaviors described stem from the people within the corporate structure – people who are irresponsible, dishonest, greedy, or overly ambitious. Or else we attribute the problem to the moral decline of the times we live in, or to the failure of the regulatory process.

Seeing corporate behavior as rooted in the people who work within them is like believing that the problems of television are attributable solely to its program content. With corporations, as with television, the basic problems are actually structural. They are problems inherent in the forms and rules by which these entities are compelled to operate. If the problems could be traced to the personnel involved, they could be solved by changing the personnel. Unfortunately, however, all employees are obligated to act in concert, to behave in accordance with corporate form and corporate law. If someone attempted to revolt against these tenets, it would only result in the corporation throwing the person out, and replacing that person with another who would act according to the rules. Form determines content. Corporations are machines.
Corporations – by their very structure – are forced to exhibit Mander’s eleven inherent rules of behavior: The Profit Imperative, The Growth Imperative, Competition and Aggression, Amorality, Hierarchy, Quantification, Linearity and Segmentation, Dehumanization, Exploitation, Ephemerality, Opposition to Nature, and Homogenization. Form determines content. Corporations are machines.

Corporations do not “need” such things as clean air, justice, truth, beauty or love to survive. The only thing that large for-profit corporations “need” to survive is PROFIT. It is impossible for these corporations to forego significant monetary profits for moral reasons. If managers sacrifice significant profits to save important natural ecosystems or a community’s quality of life, they may be fired and/or subject to stockholder litigation. Management must bend itself to the corporate will and that will is to enrich the rich. Today, the richest 1 percent of America’s families controls 28 percent of the nation’s wealth and 60 percent of the nation’s corporate stock. (one-dollar, one-vote)

Thus, a large corporation may be seen as a man-made life form, a beast with a will of its own: an “economic cyborg.” Visualize a powerful creature that has humans for talons, a bank vault for a heart, computers for eyes and an insatiable need for PROFIT. The economic cyborg – a “terminator” – a machine in human disguise!

Economic cyborgs ingest natural materials (including people) in one end, and excrete un-natural products and waste (including worn-out people) out the other. Cyborgs have no innate morals to keep them from seducing our politicians, subverting our democratic processes or lying in order to achieve their own selfish objectives. Moreover, cyborgs are only nominally controlled by laws, because the people who make our laws are in turn controlled by these same cyborgs. Today in America, we live under the de facto plutocracy of the economic cyborgs. (one-dollar, one-vote)

Friday, January 22, 2010

the mixed signal of bourgeois brand management

WSJ | Summing up what she does for a living, Rogers says she plans events that “promote the Obama presidency” and make sure “the White House asset is reflective of who they [the Obamas] are.” In keeping with her corporate background and her Harvard M.B.A., Rogers uses words like “strategic plan” and “brand” when she describes how a constant string of lunches, parties and concerts can help her mission. “You have to think about it [the social secretary job], in my mind, almost like a business. Otherwise, you never get there. You get caught in linen hell and flower hell, list hell,” Rogers says as she reflects on the first series of high-profile events.

“We have the best brand on earth: the Obama brand,” Rogers says. “Our possibilities are endless.” Like all brands, the Obama brand has a “crown jewel,” she explains, and that crown jewel is the White House. Think of it like Unilever’s Dove, a consumer brand Rogers says she admires. Having started with a simple bar of soap, the utilitarian Dove brand now boasts such grooming products as shampoo, body wash and deodorant. In 2004, its “Campaign for Real Beauty” featuring plus-size and older models generated a flood of publicity, boosted sales and made the brand seem approachable and public-service-oriented. “You basically need to understand what your customers want and need,” Rogers says.

Brand Obama is a marketer’s dream, says Michael Sitrick, chairman of Sitrick and Company, a public-relations firm that specializes in handling sensitive situations and has worked with billionaire Ron Burkle and socialite Paris Hilton. Rogers and the rest of the Obama team have an idyllic American family to work with “straight out of a 1950s sitcom,” Sitrick says. They “really get it from a public-relations perspective.” Not since Jacqueline Kennedy redecorated the White House and used it as a showcase for arts and culture, which helped create the Camelot mystique, has a first family so captured popular fascination, first-lady historian Myra Gutin says. Dale hit the stacks and get's big dap for this one.