Tim Shorrock – Wed Dec 15, 10:39 pm ET

NEW YORK – As American commanders meet this week for the Afghanistan review, Obama is hiring military contractors at a rate that would make Bush blush. Tim Shorrock on the Blackwater heirs.

As the United States expands its secretive air war and Special Operations missions around the world, it is growing increasingly reliant on a new breed of specialized contractors that is virtually unknown to the American public, yet is hired to carry out vital U.S. missions abroad.

Call them second-generation Blackwaters—the newest players in the largest military outsourcing program in American history.

Although the use of private contractors in the theater of war has been extremely controversial, the Obamaadministration has greatly expanded the outsourcing of key aspects of the U.S.-led counterinsurgency wars in the Middle East and Africa.

Companies such as Blackbird Technologies, Glevum Associates, K2 Solutions, and others have won hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military and intelligence contracts in recent years to provide technology, information on insurgents, Special Forces training, and to rescue personnel.

Some observers fear that the widespread use of contractors for U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Horn of Africa could deepen the secrecy surrounding the American presence in those regions, making it harder for Congress to provide proper oversight.

Even in Iraq, where the U.S. has ended combat operations, the government is “greatly expanding” its use of private security companies, creating “an entirely new role for contractors on the battlefield,” Michael Thibault, the co-chairman of the federal Commission on Wartime Contracting, recently warned Congress.

Among the companies getting contracts is Blackbird, which is staffed by former CIA operatives, and is a key contractor in a highly classified program that sends secret teams into enemy territory to rescue downed or captured U.S. soldiers.

Glevum, meanwhile, fields a small army of analysts in Iraq and Afghanistan who provide the U.S. military with what the company opaquely describes as “information operations and influence activities.”

And K2 is a highly sought-after subcontractor and trainer for the most secretive units of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, including the SEAL team that rescued the crew of the Maersk Alabama from a gang of pirates last year. It is based near the Army’s Special Forces headquarters in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and was founded by Lane Kjellsen, a former Special Forces soldier.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander of conventional and special forces in the war zones, is using contractors because “he wants an organization that reports directly to him,” said a former top aide to the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, the umbrella organization for all Special Forces. “Everyone knows Petraeus can’t execute his strategy without the private sector.” The former aide spoke on the condition that he not be identified, saying his career could be jeopardized if he went public. The International Security Assistance Force, the general’s home command, did not respond to a request for comment.

The use of contractors could become a serious problem if controversies about them are not addressed, a senior British official warned during a recent visit to Washington. Pauline Neville-Jones, the U.K.’s minister of state for security and counterterrorism (and a former executive with QinetiQ PLC, a major intelligence contractor), told an audience at the Brookings Institution that “we have something of a crisis in Afghanistan” partly because of the “largely unregulated private sector security companies performing important roles” there.

The Pentagon’s Central Command had nearly 225,000 contractors working in Iraq and Afghanistan and other areas at last count, doing tasks ranging from providing security to base support. Intelligence agencies such as the CIA and the National Security Agency field thousands more under classified contracts that are not publicly disclosed, but extend into every U.S. military command around the world. (According to reports in The Nation and elsewhere, Blackwater, which is now known as Xe, has contracted to send personnel into Pakistan to fight with the Joint Special Operations Command, although a command spokesman said the reports were “totally wrong.”)

In response to a question from The Daily Beast, Neville-Jones said that American and British forces must work out “the operational rules and roles that they have when they are in the frontline.” Unless that happens, “We are in danger of getting up against Geneva Convention problems and failure to observe fundamental rules of war.”

A spokesman for SOCOM would not say exactly how many people work on its contracts, but did say that between 2001 and 2009, SOCOM’s budget has grown from about $3 billion to about $10 billion. Neither SOCOM nor Special Operations forces outsource combat operations, the spokesman said. “About the only contractors Special Operations forces might have with them on operations are interpreters,” he said.

However, private contractors are now fulfilling vital functions previously done by the military itself.

Blackbird is a case in point. Based in Herndon, Virginia, a stone’s throw from the CIA, Blackbird deploys dozens of former CIA operatives and provides “technology solutions” to military and intelligence agencies. Much of the company’s revenue—including a $450 million contract awarded last year by the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command—comes from the deployment of special teams and equipment into enemy territory to rescue American soldiers who have been captured by Taliban or al Qaeda units or have stranded after losing their helicopters in battle.

Until recently, the task of rescuing American soldiers was largely carried out by the military’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency. But Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has recommended that the agency’s parent command in Virginia be closed. If the recovery agency is shut down, Blackbird would likely pick up the rescue business as it is outsourced. In that case, recovery of captured or stranded American soldiers “won’t be a military command anymore; it will be a business,” said the former Special Operations command aide (an agency spokesman said, “It’s too early to say what will happen.”)

Blackbird is run by CEO Peggy Styer, an investor once labeled a “serial defense entrepreneur” by CNN. Last year, she hired Cofer Black, the former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, to a senior position. (Black hired and managed some of the first private operatives to enter Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, and later joined Blackwater.) Perhaps anticipating a pickup in future business, a venture-capital fund launched by Styer and two other Blackbird founders recently raised $21 million on Wall Street. Blackbird did not return phone calls or emails.

Glevum Associates, for its part, has won contracts for controversial intelligence-gathering work.

The Boston-based company was founded in 2006 by Andrew Garfield, a former British intelligence officer with counterinsurgency experience in Northern Ireland. Garfield first gained public notice in 2004, when he was a key player in the Lincoln Group, a defense contractor that became notorious for engaging in a covert psychological operation to plant stories in the Iraqi press that put a positive spin on America and the U.S. war effort in Iraq. (Covert psychological operations are known in the trade as psy-ops.)

Garfield won his first contracts for Glevum as an adviser to the U.S. military in Iraq. Drawing on his experience in Northern Ireland, his company began researching the views of Iraqi citizens toward the U.S. military. At the time, “no one was doing systematic target audience research,” he told me in an interview.

Glevum’s contribution to counterinsurgency efforts is a trademarked program called “Face-to-face Research Analysis” that combines intelligence collection with polls and interviews, primarily for the Army’s Human Terrain System—a system that some American social scientists have described as unethical because information gleaned from anthropological researchers ultimately can be used to kill people.

Garfield denies the charge. The U.S. military, he told me, can’t “connect opinions to location.” Rather, the military uses his information “to focus their operations the right way and to provide solutions that Afghans would choose.” Several experts on the program said it’s impossible to divorce it from other—bloodier—counterinsurgency efforts. “HTS has been an intelligence-funded program from the beginning,” said John Stanton, a Virginia military analyst who has written extensively about the system.

(Glevum’s corporate partners include primary contractors BAE Systems and ManTech International. K2, which declined to comment, also wins much of its classified work as a subcontractor for larger companies such as Boeing and CACI.)

Garfield pushes back against the notion that Glevum Associates bears any resemblance to Blackwater, which became synonymous with corruption and incompetence for a series of incidents that included shooting innocent civilians and smuggling illegal weapons. “Whenever people think of contractors now, they think of Blackwater,” said Garfield. “Well, if you hire a cheap plumber, don’t be surprised when the plumbing breaks.”

Tim Shorrock is a Washington-based investigative journalist and the author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, published in 2008 by Simon & Schuster. His articles have appeared in The Atlantic, Salon, Mother Jones, The Nation and many other publications at home and abroad. He can be reached through his website at timshorrock.com.

The Sounds Of Silence: Reactions To Political Despair

By Bernard Weiner

08 December, 2010
Crisispapers.org

Hello darkness, my old friend…

Simon & Garfunkel,
“The Sounds of Silence”

By nature, I’m usually an optimist. I’ve experienced and studied enough history to understand its cyclical nature and its ability to house enormous positive/negative contradictions. The worst of times can also lead to the best of times. What goes around can come around. Every cloud can have a silver lining. Etc.

But those more positive views are overshadowed these days by a quickly darkening horizon. Hemingway’s “shitstorm” has arrived, with a vengeance. As with so many citizens dedicated to positive activism, I am politically discouraged, demoralized, depressed. We want to find solace and hope enough to pull us through the pit of despair yet again, but instead we run headlong into a brick wall of voters’ voluntary ignorance, a growing authoritarian fascism, continuing imperialist military policies, an appalling lack of backbone in our leaders, politicians and pundits who brazenly lie and get away with it.

This has happened so often in the past several years that we find ourselves beset by futility, dejection, despondancy. Nothing seems to work to turn our self-destructive system from disaster.

In short, American society seems to be well and truly f’d, with few escape routes evident. Consider just seven examples:

1. “RULERS” & THE REAL RULERS

To a significant degree, it doesn’t seem to matter which political party is seemingly in control. The dysfunctional rot is so deep, the habitual patterns so ingrained, the lying and manipulation so widespread, the corporate master$ so powerful that meaningful change seems impossible. To them, a little reform-tinkering around the edges is tolerable, but don’t even think about major structural reconstructions.

Of course, it’s precisely the major structural changes that are absolutely necessary if the U.S. is somehow to avoid catastrophe and emerge back into the light. Similarly, the world must start moving immediately to try to ameliorate the worst aspects of human-caused global climate change before it’s too late. Indeed, it may already be too late. CheneyBush, who effectively turned over the Department of Energy to lobbyists for polluting industries, wasted eight long years doing nothing to diminish the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

A huge number of Americans know all this in their bones, but feel powerless to do anything about it. They’re just happy to get through another week,another month, without falling off the economic or psychological cliffs. Anger and resentment roil beneath the surface, and occasionally boil over into the public debate, but little more happens than throwing out the old bums so the new bums can take over. In this case, even if it’s evident that the Democrats are not nearly as bad as the Republicans — indeed, polls show that most Americans favor Democratic initiatives — still the system almost seems designed to yield little if any real progress. FUBAR is the new normal.

The forces of regression, the corporatist elites and their purchased political lackeys, used to talk the talk of compromise and “general welfare.” Now, however, they are quite open about their real aim: to take society backwards past the Great Society, past the New Deal, to the Robber Baron days of the late-19th century, a time when government had no regulatory say-so over individual and corporate greed agendas and actions, when taxes on corporate profits were non-existent, when capitalists were allowed (nay, encouraged) to avoid any restraints on their behavior, when the less well-off were left to their own devices to survive, or not.

In his autobiography, President Theodore Roosevelt put his finger on the hidden powers running the county, in this section from his Progressive Party’s platform:

“Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people….To destroy this invisible government, to befoul this unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of statesmanship.”

Then as now, these corporate forces got the best politicians money could buy. And here we go into that soup again, with an ideological majority on the Supreme Court supplying the legal rationalizations for corporate control of our political system, with the stenographic mass-media offering unrelenting agitprop campaigns on behalf of the elite’s agenda. In an age where there is precious little investigative journalism to reveal what the government and corporations are actually doing, is it any wonder that underground outfits such as WikiLeaks step forward to fill the vacuum?

2. CLASS WAR, SOUNDS OF SILENCE

What’s transpiring is classical class warfare, domestically and worldwide amidst the worst recession since the catastrophe of the 1930s Great Depression. Capitalism is imploding, and its built-in weaknesses and contradictions are becoming more and more obvious to ordinary citizens.

The gulf between the wealthiest citizens and the middle/working class is growing by leaps and bounds, especially so during the past three decades. The richest grow geometrically richer, more powerful, more convinced of their entitlement, less interested in and concerned about those beneath them. Intellectually, the rich know that they would do better in the long run — making even more money — if the poor and middle class had decent-paying jobs, that enabled them to buy more products and thus generate demand in a hurting economy

But that’s the long run. These guys tend not to consider the long run. (Dubya’s solipsistic answer to the question of what he thought his legacy would be: “I’ll be dead.”) The only thing that seems to matter to them is the short-term Bottom Line. How much profit did I make this month? This quarter?

A key tipping point for this decades-long class warfare of the rich vs. the working class can be found in President Reagan’s decision to break the air traffic controllers’ union when it initiated a strike in 1981. Reagan’s maneuver was an audacious gamble to head backwards in terms of economic and social justice, and it paid off. The weak, disorganized Left at the time was unable to mount a concerted, effective campaign against Reagan’s union-busting move, and the public didn’t seem to care. The lesson was learned: going backwards works.

Compare those “sounds of silence” in America then and now with how citizens in other countries are reacting to the draconian “austerity” policies in Europe. In Spain and Greece and France and Belgium and Ireland, citizens in great numbers appear to understand that the “austerity” measures being promulgated are aimed to hit the lower and middle classes while the corporate masters are permitted to continue raking in their enormous profits and bonuses. These class-war realizations have led to millions of European protesters in the streets, some of them in their anger lashing out against the banks, politicians and police.

But in America, even as the American Dream is vanishing for their children right before their eyes, those in the shrinking middle class remain in a kind of social narcolepsy while even two-job families are having trouble keeping their heads above water. The conservative-oriented mass-media propaganda machine has done its job well, and the streets are silent. The distortions and lies of the extreme Republicans and their media enablers have led millions of shell-shocked middle-class citizens — whose incomes have remained essentially static for nearly 30 years — to vote time and time again against their own financial interests. All this while social-conservative leaders encourage these frustrated Americans to focus their anger and resentments on homosexuals, blacks and browns, immigrants, Muslims, the Other, et al.

3. THE SHOCK DOCTRINE

What’s going on right now in America and around the globe is in perfect harmony with what Naomi Klein wrote about in her groundbreaking 2008 book ##”The Shock Doctrine: Disaster Capitalism.” (http://www.crisispapers.org/essays8w/klein.htm )

Here’s a quick summary of her central point: The corporate masters can’t always act the way they really want to in re-ordering society because such impediments as democracy and government regulations get in their way. But a societal cataclysm — whether arranged by the elites or their merely taking advantage of these major social traumas — these elites can move much faster, often devoid of governmental scrutiny, to sweep the slate clean and start from scratch building an infrastructure and economy that favors their ambitions and profit margins.

Recent examples: the U.S. after 9/11, the bombing and occupation of Iraq in 2003, the South Asia tsunami in 2004, and the post-Katrina rebuilding along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts in 2005. When such traumatic events occur, creating fear and confusion in the public, all kinds of zoning and inspection and bidding rules are waived. Often communities on prime real estate are relocated by governmental edict; fishing villages are wiped out, but rather than rebuilding them, highrise tourist hotels are constructed. The massive reconstruction work is handled, surprise!, by huge corporate entities like Bechtel and Halliburton, with security by Blackwater.

Needless to say, those corporations, in ideological league with Republican policies, then scratch the backs of the GOP by providing them with constant, massive campaign donations. It’s a closed loop, aiding everyone inside it, but leaving millions outside having to deal with the negative ramifications of the shock-doctrine decisions.

But that’s “old history,” we are told. That kind of thing surely doesn’t happen today. Right!

As Bush exited the White House, he handed Obama a plate piled high with crises and catastrophes, most of them stemming from the Republican aversion to governmental oversight of corporate power. No successor could have handled that situation without paying a hefty political price. Bush bailed out the financial (“too big to be permitted to fail”) giants; Obama easily slipped into the same policy, and appointed to high positions the same advisors who were responsible for the crash (Geithner, Bernacke, Summers, et al.). It was “shock-doctrine” time: opportunities for the wealthy and powerful to become more wealthy and powerful.

With the economic depression (as was the case later with the huge BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico), the result was to harm ordinary citizens while building up corporate power and profits. The Wall Street financial houses, and other large corporations that were bailed out with public funds, are once again doing pretty much what they were doing prior to the collapse, and have amassed humungous amounts of cash. Along with the health insurers and Big Pharma, the corporate giants have figured out ways to work around the various piddling reform bills that were passed, etc. And ordinary citizens? Twenty million can’t find employment! We’re witnessing the creation of a permanent, badly trained underclass, and there still is no concerted emergency effort to focus on job-creation, not even by the supposedly worker-friendly Obama and the Democrats.

4. A TYPICAL POLITICIAN: LOST IN THE BELTWAY

Which brings us to the President. Obama suggested that he wanted to be a “transformational” president, taking on the powers that be in the creation of a new, more equitable society. He knew the right things to say to generate massive support, and he may even have believed a lot of what he was promising. (I do believe that much of his heart is in the right place.) But once he arrived in the White House, he reverted to his default position: a typical centrist, triangulating, “pragmatic” politician, largely in lockstep with the corporatist agenda.

True, the Republicans made it impossible for him to get much meaningful reform passed. Devoid of a positive program to offer, their only goal has been to destroy his presidency and return themselves to power . Obama rarely seemed willing to fight for any of his initiatives. He could have, like FDR, taken on his enemies openly and consistently, and with his bully pulpit and passionate momentum raised a political army behind him. But, as with Bill Clinton’s presidency, too often, Obama seems so hungry for any little reform he can call a “victory” that he compromises before any battle has been joined, or else offers some compromise for free without using it for political leverage in negotiations.

In short, despite the many positive bills he’s been able to pass, Obama and his chief advisors have proven to be novices at the bare-knuckle street-fighting required in today’s halls of Congress and so they are consistently rolled by the Republicans. His GOP opponents are open in what they want: full and total power. Obama isn’t sure what he wants or how to obtain it. If he had passion about anything before he became president, he certainly doesn’t evidence it today. He seems content merely to survive another day, while the other side chips away at his remaining power bit by bit.

5. BLOODY WALLPAPER

Part of the reason the Left is in despondent disarray is Obama’s adoption of the worst policies of his predecessor regarding the two wars he’s inherited, his imitation of CheneyBush in so many ways in the “war on terror,” his unspeakable policies with regard to civil liberties (okaying continued data-mining of our emails, computer files, phone calls), his continued amassing of presidential powers without any checks and balances (e.g., the power to order assassinations of U.S. citizens without any judicial or legislative input or review).

Effectively, Obama’s foundational flaw is an acceptance of the neo-con philosophy of “benevolent U.S. hegemony” over much of the world. But if U.S. leaders should have learned anything from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Vietnam), it is the limits of Superpower military adventuring in a world of asymmetrical warfare. America has become a muscle-bound bully in a world that has moved on from accepting that imperialist/colonialist way of dominating the globe. Cheney and Bush simply smashed their “hard imperialism” way to dominance (“shock and awe”). Obama seems to realize that “soft imperialism” — the fist wrapped in diplomatic velvet — often can be much more successful. But both approaches remain imperialist/exceptionalist in nature, and the world doesn’t operate that way anymore. There’s an enormous price in blood and treasure to be paid for such militarist arrogance.

By swallowing the essence of neo-con philosophy, Obama has wasted trillions of dollars in wars that cannot be won. America’s opponents can continue such guerrilla warfare forever, bleeding our treasury and will. Death by a thousand cuts. Those monies are needed at home, especially so during the worst recession in 70 years.

The U.S. is now in its 10th year of war in Afghanistan, fighting for a regime that is thoroughly corrupt and does not have the support of its people. If this sounds like Vietnam all over again, your instincts are correct. Better to get out now and pay the momentary political price for bad policy rather than to have to get out later, in embarrassed haste and after draining the Treasury of another couple of trillion dollars.

These wars, fought more or less off-budget by a mercenary army, have continued in stalemate for so long that they have become for most Americans unseen and ordinary, off to the side of most citizens’ daily existence. They are our bloody wallpaper, just there in the background. The Vietnam War, on the other hand, was fought with a drafted army, which meant that nearly everyone at home knew someone fighting and dying in that Southeast Asian land.

Can Obama alter these foreign/military policies and get the U.S. back on a more realistic track? Perhaps he could have done so over the past two years, but he’s so politically damaged at this point that he probably will just hunker down with the same policies and try to ride it out. Another opportunity lost for a would-be “transformational” president.

6. BEYOND KNOW-NOTHINGISM

It’s not just the Republicans’ perfidy and/or Obama’s timidity that fuels the despair of so many progressives. What bothers me, for example, is not even the know-nothing tone of the Tea Partiers and their non-curious ilk. No, what’s even more depressing is the voluntary ignorance of a huge slice (maybe one-third) of the polity. They choose to ignore reality, to close their eyes to fact, to deny scientific data. I’m reminded of the CheneyBush aide who said “when we act, we create our own reality.”

Part of that ignorance derives from fundamentalist belief (if I didn’t read it in the Bible, it’s not true), part from poor education, part from a deliberate choice to shut down part of the brain (read: Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell, Ken Buck, Sharron Angle, Carl Paladino, Jim DeMint, James Inhofe, et al.), part from a political decision to keep the liberal opposition from defining the parameters of reality.

But regardless of the motivation, when one of the two major political parties decides to base its policies on ignorance, delusion and denial, democracy is in major trouble. That decision bothers liberals but it doesn’t matter to the extremist Republicans since they don’t really support democracy anyway. They are hard-wired for and feel more comfortable with variants of authoritarian rule.

One would have thought that the Democrats would value airing out the truth. But, when it comes right down to it, they’ve been secretive, hiding their misdeeds, making it difficult for journalists and researchers to figure out how policies are made. Remember I.F. Stone’s first rule: “All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.”

The current WikiLeaks cables dump — which day by day reveal the hidden policies motivating America’s dangerous military and foreign policies — could have been dismissed as “old news” or “raw” speculation or something, thus diluting some of their impact. But instead the administration, looking guilty and fearful, went into full-bore fright mode, ordering federal employees not to look at the cables at work or when at home. Censorship is always a bad move. They don’t want government workers and troops and ordinary citizens to see how their political sausage is made, and the greed/imperialism motivations behind American decision-making. Thus the attempts to block or close down the website, the calls by rightwing extremists to attack the messenger rather than to plumb the messages, even going so far as to call for the assassination of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. These are symptoms of a weak, failing culture, unable to deal with its own history. (And let it be reiterated that had the major mass-media fulfilled their professional journalistic functions — to dig, to question, to investigate — there might not be a WikiLeaks.)

7. VIOLENCE AND THUGGERY

For the past several years, with most leaders remaining silent, American politics has been suffused with threats of violence, actual violence, uncalled-for suggestions of mayhem directed against the President, moves to remove legal protections from the Constitution, threats directed as Muslim-Americans or other minorities, talk of secession and nullification and McCarthyite hearings, Tea Party rallies with citizens proudly bringing their semi-automatic arms, etc. This coarseness of speech, this thuggish behavior, has been encouraged by rightwing propagandists and pundits (Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Matt Drudge, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Sarah Palin, et al.), and even winked-at by mainstream Republican columnists, candidates and Congressional leaders.

By and large, this development of a growing native fascism, has been ignored by traditional political and religious and academic leaders, perhaps hoping that this movement will go away on its own. But authoritarianism can happen here, and we’re right in the midst of its early growth phase. If it’s not stopped in its tracks now, we can anticipate the full panoply of rightwing terrorism: paramilitary squads out for revenge or pressuring or exacting violence against liberal opponents or certain ethnic groups, more assassinations of doctors performing abortions or teaching family planning, censorship agents, militias allied with rightist church factions, witch-hunting Congressional panels, and so on.

Well, let’s just end this summary here. The history I’m recounting is too depressing to continue for very long. We are in the midst of a terrible moral whirlpool in this country, with dire implications for our democratic republic, and for us as individuals fighting to right our listing ship of state.

So, what is to be done? How should liberals and moderates and progressives respond? Go to bed and pull the covers over our heads? Join a meditative ashram in the Himalayas? Spend more time venting at the shrink’s? In short, abandon the playing field to the enemy while we flail about and participate in leftwing circular firing squads?

My answer, as it always is when dealing with political funks, is to prepare for revolution while fighting for attainable, probably small victories. Democracy is not a spectator sport; it involves pain, rejection, endless struggle, two steps forward and one step back, two steps backward and one step forward, etc. etc.

Action can be an effective antidote for despair. Working on behalf of others leads to more care and appreciation of one’s own life-direction. The confusion of depression is a ripe time to build, to explore, to be more creative about our approaches. And above all, to organize, Organize, ORGANIZE so that when the tectonic political plates finally start to shift, the Movement is in place and ready to act.

Copyright 2010 by Bernard Weiner.

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment: crisispapers@hotmail.com.

  • Robert Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written thirteen books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, Supercapitalism, and his most recent book, Aftershock. His “Marketplace” commentaries can be found on publicradio.com and iTunes.

    The President’s Last Stand Is No Stand At All: Why the Tax Deal is an Abomination

    TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2010

    The deal the President struck with Republican leaders is an abomination.

    It will cost $900 billion over the next two years — larger than the bailout of Wall Street, GM, and Chrysler put together, larger than the stimulus package, larger than anything that’s come out of Washington in years.

    It makes a mockery of deficit reduction. Worse, the lion’s share of that $900 billion will go to the very rich. Families with incomes of over $1 million will reap an average of about $70,000, while middle-class families earning $50,000 a year will get an average of around $1,500. In addition, the deal just about eviscerates the estate tax — yanking the exemption up to $5 million per person and a maximum rate of 35 percent.

    And for what?

    Wealthy families won’t spend nearly as large a share of what they get out of this deal as will middle-class and working-class families, so it doesn’t do much to stimulate the economy.

    The deal further concentrates income and wealth in America — when it’s already more concentrated than at any time in the last 80 years.

    The bits and pieces the President got in return — extended unemployment benefits, a continuation of certain small tax benefits for the middle class — are peanuts. After last week’s awful jobs report, Senate Republicans would have been forced to extend unemployment insurance anyway.

    It’s politically nuts. Polls showed most Americans are against extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

    It would have been a defining issue for the President to use to show whose side he’s on (the middle and working class) and whose side the Republicans are on (not the middle and working class). And given that the House turns over to Republicans in January, the President probably won’t have another chance like this one.

    It loses him even more of his “base” — by which I mean people who think of themselves as Democrats and are committed to the ideal of equal opportunity and don’t want the nation to become even more of a plutocracy.

    It makes him look weak — Republicans got everything they wanted. And when a President looks weak, he is weak.

    House and Senate Democrats should reject this abomination.

    The President should get himself new advisors.


  • 13 Nov 2010 – BK Lim  (Oil Company Geologist)

    The MC 252 well has been officially shut since 15 July (BP’s press release and website announcement). As late as Sept 2010, the world was still publicly assured that the bottom kill by the relief wells was the surest and most reliable way of killing (permanently) the oil leak from the reservoir. BP and Thad Alan publicly declared the rogue well was “successfully and permanently” cemented at 18,000 ft below mudline (bml) by the relief wells that started unannounced on 15 Sept 2010. Are these just empty rhetoric and part of BP’s elaborate Mass Deception Act?

    First of all, please be informed that the oil leak from the reservoir was never killed and could never be killed. The late Matt Simmons paid with his life to bring us that message. And the world repaid him with words of ridicule in technical blogs around the world.

    ~~~~~~~quote~~~~~~

    Peak oiler, energy blogger, and chemical engineer Robert Rapier has published aseries of critical evaluations of Simmons’ work, the most recent of which was published — of all places (!) — inThe Oil Drum website. The TOD article takes a close look at some of Simmons’ recent statements about the oil spill in the Gulf. A careful reader will come away with the clear conclusion that Simmons’ credibility is in tatters, blowing in the breeze. Only the truest of Simmons true believers in TOD comments persists in defending the recent incredible and fantastic statements that Simmons had made to the press.

    Matt-Simmons-has-had-quite-ride

    ~~~~end of quote ~~~~~~

    We have been lied to, thru and thru. It is very obvious why the activities (besides ramming up the recovery costs to capitalize on the idling rigs) did not decrease after the official “shut down date of 15 July”. The gas-oil spill continues unabated till this day. The capping of well A was just a “dog & pony show” to fool the world. There is a constant need to spray chemicals to disperse and to coagulate the oil and methane leaking into the gulf, to cover up the magnitude of the disaster.

    The deception is obvious when BP had to disguise the chemical spraying operations as “Cement OPS” and “Rig Move”; inspection of the grouted seafloor as “biological survey” and intended explosion operations as “gooseneck ops” just to name a few. Any worker can tell that these ROV videos are not recording what the label says. Why is the US government still in denial and the main media completely silent? The official spin is that we do not need anymore bad news to derail the financial recovery. This is just as bad as Burma’s Generals with their chests full of fake medals. (See Burma Bummer – by Dean Johns). Would a few more disasters spur the economy?

    Admittedly one crow does not make a new sun rise. But tens of concrete evidences of criminality and still no prosecution? People of the humane First World were shocked by the immense sufferings and atrocities committed by the authoritarian regimes of Burma, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Somalia and many other 3rd world countries. Powerful first world countries are unwilling to act for various political and economic reasons. But genocide being carried by a multinational corporate right in the backyard of the world’s most powerful nation and blatantly ignored by the world’s main media? What the hell is going on? Does the world not care a single bit on the mass destruction of the marine life and condemnation of millions to a life of the walking dead? And we call ourselves civilized? Hilter would pale in comparison.

    Capping the well and bottom-killing it with relief wells were the wrong moves. See The High Risk Of Capping BP’s Gushing Well. Despite sending them all the emails and copies of my articles, BP and those in control never responded and never listened. Now we are living out a mega disaster with urgency as the worst is yet to come.

    The evidences at hand clearly debunk that hollow premature victory cry on 19 Sept10. Would BP admit defeat at the hands of Mother Nature? No. Keeping with the same reckless spirit that drove the Macondo Wells to destruction and disaster, BP is now speeding the world into an irreversible ecological catastrophe; one that will start us on the express highway to the eventual destruction of world civilization. Not the planet itself as Mother Earth is more resilient than the human beings renting the living accommodation on its land surface.

    The images of mass destruction and deception in the Gulf are brought to you by concerned citizens of the world. See for yourself, the future of this planet flashing before your eyes in the comfort of your living room. You have been forewarned. In generations to come, you have to answer to your children why nothing had been done to avert their untold miseries.

    (Pictures are updated from time to time in no particular order …last update 13 Nov 2010).

    9 Nov10 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utmcsJ5CDKg

    9 Nov10 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVQZr1OQcEQ

    9 Nov 10 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgje868NAUs

    10Nov10 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaa6wy55aA8

    10Nov10 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8D_aEc1ti0

    10Nov10 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SF5pWTvu5L4

    05Nov10 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8ftMwI4Y9w

    05Nov10 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZytL6IZFqM

    21Oct10 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7twypJ0QRCQ&feature=related

    From BK Lim find his Article   here

    11 Nov 2010 – dedicated to Sharyn Burley & Gary Simmons for their efforts to spread the truth.

    There have been consistent rumors since the disaster broke out that BP had drilled two wells. Figure 135-1 shows 2 different well heads placed side by side. Lately we have also seen the corrosive effects of the “potent mixture” that is pouring out not only from the broken wells but also through the crevices in the seafloor. Naturally the vessels working the longest would suffer the most corrosion. See the many you-tube video postings on the “rumors” of hull corrosion. The difference in the “age” of the two wells is most telling if you examine in close up view the yellow marker band. Test your observation and investigative skills on the number of differences between these two well heads.

    Naturally 2 well heads means 2 well locations which also mean at least 2 wells were drilled, right? However, it might be difficult for some to grasp this obvious logic. See figure 135-2 on the official email reply from BP Press office in UK.

    “There was only ever one well drilled on the MC252 lease”….. BP Press Office, London

    In case there are doubts the “newer and less corroded” well head at well B location is real, figure 135-3 gives the full details of the well location complete with the signature deceptive movement of the well head. If these videos are fakes or video of other well heads in other parts of the world (not from the Macondo Lease itself as asserted by BP) then the many people who recorded and posted these videos independently on the you-tube, must have been robotically controlled and synchronized within seconds to come out with amazingly identical adulteration.

    Just as in genetic decoding in DNA analyses, all mutations leave a pattern of coding errors; a distinct departure from any random errors. We have seen the “flying ROVs”, “time-travel drilling rigs” and many wonderful “time-space magic” technology introduced by BP and company. But can you actually transport a well-head embedded in the seabed through 557ft in less than 16 seconds? We must ask BP to reveal this important technology. If the world is going to be destroyed by all these senseless mass destructive activities, we may need to transport the White House to a safer location. Or we may need to transport ourselves out of this world to another planet. So BP please help, in the name of HUMANITY!

    01-Aug-10..….Well A Inspection, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEKyWhPDmwQ

    03-Sep-10………..BOP Recovery, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hnR16azv0Q

    02-Nov-10.Well Head Inspection, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2It7vcsQg7s

    26-Oct-10……Well A Inspection, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cJZyO7NzWY

    29-Oct-10……Well A Inspection, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtS0dh_Y1M4

    What makes this finding so extraordinary is that it came from a citizens’ initiative -TESTING THE WATERS – which was formed by Gulf Coast residents who simply want to know if their beaches are oil free, the water is clean enough to swim in, and the seafood is safe to eat.

    Isn’t this what government is supposed to do? Test the water! They test it for everything else, and yet getting regular testing like this done seems to take an act of GOD.

    Does BP have such a lock on the entire governmental system responsible for such testing, interpreting and reporting needed results like these that we still do not hear from EPA, FL DEP, NOAA, Coast Guard, etc.

    So, here we have individual citizens putting up their own private money to fund essential testing from a public health and safety standpoint. Isn’t this what are tax dollars are for? If so, what are they doing with the tax revenue besides promoting the BP marketing campaign. You know, the one that lulls you to sleep with the cyborg mouthing the words:

    The seafood is safe to eat … don’t worry.

    The water is safe to swim in … be happy.

    The beaches are oil-free … come and relax.

    Perhaps it’s time we all held those government authorities and departments accountable for at least doing their bare minimum jobs. Obviously, they have chosen to not hold BP responsible for anything.

    Source:  BK Lim

    Three days after posting the “A New Drilling Rig At Macondo Site” on 31 Oct 2010, the West Sirius moved out of the Macondo Site on the morning of 2 Nov 2010. See figure 131-a. West Sirius is currently sitting at location Lon/Lat: -90.022827 / 28.582331 on 11/5/2010 3:07:39 AM (UTC). Why would BP move the West Sirius to the Macondo site in late October only to move out a week later to a location 165 km away? This is not normal. A multimillion dollar rig does not just drop by at the site just to say “hello” to the DD2.

    Even stranger, DD3 is no longer in existence. Three days ago, you can still search for DD3’s locationhttp://www.marinetraffic.com but not any more. DD3’s position seems to have gone “under cover”. However, it seems that DD3 has gone back to Relief Well C position.

    As at 4th Nov 2010, DD2 is at Well A with the Hos Iron Horse nearby. Discoverer Enterprise is still at the foothill of the shelf edge, 7 miles NW of well A where DD3 was working since leaving Relief Well C in late Sept.

    So what is going on at the Macondo’s site?

    Source:   B.K. Lim