Saturday, October 08, 2011

The union of concerned Frauds

Anthony Watts, a prominent climate skeptic, has been having some fun:

Reader DJ writes in Tips & Notes: "Since becoming a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists when I found out all you needed was a valid credit card, my curiosity about who and what they really are has spiked."

I decided to put that theory to the test. I am very proud to announce that a member of my family has been accepted into this prestigious organization. With pride, I present new UCS member, Kenji Watts:

Yes, Kenji is our dog. Apparently, the claim is true, all that is required to be a member of the illustrious group of “concerned scientists” is a valid credit card. No discerning questions were asked of me when I prepared Kenji’s application and no follow up check after the application was done. I simply put in his name, address, and provided a valid credit card that matched the address.

So the real question is: How many real “concerned scientists” are there in UCS? Membership is apparently not any more discerning than the ability to send money.

I’m disappointed the Guardian hasn’t called for a quote on this story citing “leading U.S. Scientists”:



The 54 trillion dollar question: Is Obama on his way out?

As America approaches the third anniversary of Barack Obama’s historic election victory, the country is mired in economic gloom.

Expectations were absurdly high in the autumn of 2008, stoked up not least by the victor’s own campaign team. Yet Americans now seem bemused by how, exactly, it could all have gone so wrong.

In the run-up to his election victory, Mr Obama won praise for keeping quiet about the economy. It was the time of the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers, and the financial situation was shifting quickly: since it was hard for anyone to predict what would come next, silence seemed wise. However, some suspected that this reticence betrayed something worse than caution: cluelessness.

Installed in the White House, the new President chose Washington insiders such as Timothy Geithner (a former central banker) to be Treasury Secretary, and Larry Summers (who had held that post under Bill Clinton) to be his chief economics adviser.

Both men had, in different ways, been complicit in the policy mistakes that had devastated the U.S. economy. Their appointment suggested the Obama administration would have no new, radical ideas to improve the economy. That has turned out to be so. The old problems have persisted, and in some cases have become worse.

After three years, the U.S. national debt is a breathtaking $14.8 trillion. The total debt, including what households owe, is over $54 trillion.

Growth is negligible. Unemployment is 9.1 per cent, and the leading bank Goldman Sachs predicts it will rise to 9.5 per cent by the middle of next year — just as Mr Obama begs American voters to re-elect him.

There were 115,730 job cuts in September, double the number in August, and the highest monthly figure since April 2009. Around 70 per cent of those losses were from the U.S. Army, which cut 50,000 people, and the Bank of America, which shed 30,000.

The administration consoles itself that, on the other hand, 76,551 people obtained new jobs last month, but that was down almost 50,000 from the same month last year.

Few aspects of the economic disaster over which Mr Obama is presiding are more telling, or more tragic, than home repossessions. Foreclosures in August were 33 per cent up month-on-month, at 78,000. In 2010 there were 2.9 million, and another 1.2 million in first half of 2011.

Travelling this week around north-east America, between New York and Washington, I saw the unmistakable signs of poverty, industrial dereliction, social problems and decay all over the place.

Whole streets of houses are boarded up; factories closed; pawnbrokers flourish.

Ben Bernanke, head of America’s central bank, said this week that ‘the recovery is closer to faltering’. If this is how bad life is before it falters, God help America.

How have things come to this, after the ‘audacity of hope’ that accompanied the election of Mr Obama?

Quite simply, he and Mr Geithner (joined, until his resignation last year, by Mr Summers) have followed the wrong economic policy ever since they set foot in office.

Like socialists the world over, they believed America could spend its way out of recession. However, nothing has been done to improve productivity, or to assist the creation of wealth. In fact, much has been achieved in the opposite direction by making America a more regulated society, suffocating enterprise and discouraging work.

Their first plan was a stimulus package of $787 billion. It has not created a single job, but has simply added to America’s indebtedness. Its failure partly explains the political fight now raging over Mr Obama’s $447 billion jobs Bill — a desperate attempt to get unemployment down before next year’s presidential election.

While Republicans doubt it will work, there are widespread fears that it will increase the tax burden on those Americans most likely to create the wealth the country needs. For the President is proposing higher taxes on incomes over $250,000 in order to fund his job creation package, as well as extra taxes on the oil and gas industry.

These crippling tax rises are just part of a $1.5 trillion plan advocated by Mr Obama over the next ten years, which Republican critics say will fall on wealth creators and, therefore, on job creators.

The Right-of-centre Heritage Foundation says that the top 10 per cent (those earning more than $114,000 a year) already pay 70 per cent of all income tax while earning only 45 per cent of total income. Even Democrats in wealthier states are worrying about the negative effects.

The truth is that, like the Labour Party in Britain, Mr Obama can’t break his addiction to spending other people’s money. As a result, his policies are starting to hurt — without having any positive effect on the economy.

As for Mr Obama himself, he seems to be concentrating on fund-raising for his re-election campaign rather than endeavouring to rescue the country’s economy.

According to a new poll for the Washington Post, only 58 per cent of Democrats think he will be re-elected and 61 per cent of all voters disapprove of the way he is running the economy.

His only glimmer of hope is the weakness of his Republican opponents, with 76 per cent of Americans disapproving of the way they are conducting themselves. This is evidenced, for example, by the refusal of Republican Majority Leader in Congress, Eric Cantor, to hold a vote on the jobs Bill.

Worryingly for Mr Obama, many Democrats think he’ll be a one-term president. Some even wish he might stand aside and endorse Hillary Clinton as his successor — on the grounds that the economic crisis facing America is insuperable.



The wannabe tyrants of Wall Street

Disdainful and conspiracy-minded, the protesters claiming to speak for all Americans are acting like teenage despots

The Occupy Wall Street campaigners sure have a lot of attitude. Like self-victimising teenage tyrants, the protesters camped out in New York’s financial district for the past three weeks have spent much of that time complaining that nobody is paying attention to them, that they’re being bullied and that, when it comes to America’s future, it’s their way or the highway.

From the outset, the protesters complained about a ‘media blackout’ and ‘police brutality’. So keen are they to put themselves on a par with the revolts in the Arab world that they have convinced themselves that the US media is being kept away from the scene by powerful forces and that the cops are on standby for violent clampdowns on a regime-threatening protest movement.

True, the relatively small-scale protests have not warranted the NYPD’s ridiculously large deployments, and the cops’ nervous reactions have added fuel to the protesters’ victim-image. But it’s hardly been brutal. And contrary to the complaints of a lack of attention, no follower of the American ‘mainstream media’ could have avoided news of the protests in the past few weeks. A Google search on the very first day of the Wall Street Occupation (Saturday 17 September) brought up coverage from the New York Times, ABC, MSNBC, CBS, Fox and more.

Certainly, the media attention has not matched the protesters’ overblown sense of self-importance – that would be an impossible feat. Sure, the protest is gaining some momentum. There have been a number of copycat protests in other American cities and a march on Brooklyn Bridge last weekend led to hundreds of arrests. This was after a video of a policeman dousing two protesters in pepper spray went viral and garnered sympathy for the protesters. On Wednesday, several prominent unions announced their solidarity and marched together with the Occupy Wall Street movement. The demonstration attracted thousands. It was the biggest turnout so far.

Yet despite this dramatic scenery (widely covered by the mainstream press, one might add), what of the protesters’ slogan that ‘we are the 99 per cent’? Like any mantra, the more they repeat it, the more convinced they are that it is the truth. But in fact, this is simply the oldest despotic trick in the book: to take it upon yourself to define the interests of all citizens and then declare yourself their righteous protector.

The so-called General Assembly set up by campaign organisers issues decrees agreed on by whatever group of right-on radicals happens to be around at the time of the meetings in the Financial District. This is a ‘leaderless protest movement’, but those involved apparently see themselves as patrons of simpletons. ‘The working class in this country has been brainwashed by MSM, Fox News, and the right-wing propaganda machine’, says one writer on the protest movement’s website. ‘We need to de-programme people against the brainwashing they’ve experienced.’

In other words, the ‘99 per cent’ don’t know what’s good for them. Enter the MacBook-armed, middle-class warriors who want their student debt cancelled. Whether you know – or like – it or not, they know what you need. And anyone who doesn’t get their multifarious point has, we are told, clearly been brainwashed into robotic compliance with a society based on mass consumption.

To be fair, it really is difficult to grasp the protesters’ point. Since they have a commitment to drawing up endless lists of grievances (for instance the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City lists over 20 complaints and has a footnote that says ‘These grievances are not all-inclusive’), the protesters’ aims are indeed confounding. From the death penalty to the environment, from the arms trade to healthcare – the Wall Street Occupation has become a Movement Against Everything.

Rather than seeing their lack of coherence as a limitation, the protesters embrace it as a new form of enlightened ‘direct democracy’. Also, it allows the protesters to refuse to be held accountable for each others’ views. Instead, when one person uses the protest movement’s platform to insult the entire American working class, another can just turn around and say it’s ‘not representative of the whole’.

One recurring view, however, is that Everything is the Corporations’ fault – it’s that one per cent steering every element of society to their own advantage. Not only are corporations ‘holding students hostage’ with thousands of dollars in debt, they have also ‘perpetuated inequality in the workplace’, ‘poisoned the food supply’ and profited from animal torture. In the conspiratorial saga conjured up by the anti-capitalist Wall Street protesters, The Corporation is a faceless, evil force that puppeteers the government, citizens, the media, the legal system and just about any other social force.

The protesters’ wild imagination about the octopus-like Corporation spreading its tentacles into every sphere of life indicates that they have little belief in human agency. Instead we’re all in the grip of powerful forces and there’s little we can do about it. As one placard in Zuccotti Park read: ‘We are the stupid and ignorant nation.’ Thankfully, the Financial District campers have seen through the corporate BS and can now enlighten the rest of us.

For all their talk of anti-capitalism and promoting ‘workers’ solidarity’, the Wall Street protesters are only interested in commandeering the future of America according to their own narrow interests. And when the masses fail to join this attention-seeking movement, the new tyrants of Wall Street are not likely to be surprised: they’ll just figure it’s because Americans are in thrall of the Corporations.



The American economy is increasingly going underground

And that's most usually a Third world phenomenon

As some of you know, I own a 66 Dodge Polara that I've spent several years and several thousand dollars restoring.

Owning an old car like that requires a trustworthy, inexpensive mechanic to work on it. When I bought my old clunker I was referred to one in Hialeah. Over the years my mechanic did a lot of work on my cacharro, including rebuilding the engine. I became quite friendly with him and during my visits to his shop I passively observed the difficulty of running a shop like his. Permits, insurance, inspectors, certifications, etc. etc. All of that plus the usual overhead like rent and payroll.

Well, long story short, my old car was parked in the garage without moving for an extended period of time. I finally got around to calling the mechanic to let him know I was coming in and he told me he had closed up shop, he'd come to me instead.

Now, this is typical of what's going on with small business. It's being driven underground. The current business environment is prohibitive to set up and keep up a shop. This is not the first time I've seen this. The guy that sold me the audio system for the same car became a friend and he always complained about the same permitting and inspection issues. Last time I saw him he said, "it's not worth it, I'd rather just go mobile and drive around to referrals in an unmarked van."

As these businesses go underground the remaining above-ground bricks and mortar shops will bear an increasing burden and eventually more of them will go underground too. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. We're regulating commerce to death.



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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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