Some years ago, I met a major in American intelligence, a member of the "Red Cell Unit." As he explained it to me, his unit was actually charged with assessing other spy shops by offering other views, critiquing intelligence estimates, and perhaps even evaluating security systems like the specialists who test airport systems by probing for their soft spots and vulnerabilities, and seeing if thy can beat them. This officer had been sent as one more gung-ho officer into the war in Iraq only to return, like many, if not disillusioned, aware that all was not working well. He was actually involved in guarding so called HVT's (imprisoned High Value Targets), including Saddam Hussein himself. The officer came to respect Hussein for his intelligence before his untimely demise with a rope around his neck. Saddam's many crimes and errors were often dwarfed by our own. The United States today has a vast intelligence apparatus on the ground, in the sky and even in space. Technically, it puts to shame the old Soviet Union's ability to monitor what people are doing and saying. The US system sucks up millions of terabytes of data daily, but that doesn't mean that what is reported is understood: The analysts seek to make sense of it, but the policy makers are often so locked into templates of action and preformulated strategies that insure the input doesn't lead to course corrections or changes in direction. The policy makers operate with a kind of intellectual "locked-in" disease that freezes out new ideas.
Some pundits are excusing Mitt Romney's comment about why Palestinians are so much poorer than Israelis as a slip of the tongue caused by a shortage of staff on his overseas trip, but the Republican presidential candidate makes the same point in his book, No Apology, which he claims to have written himself: While discussing his thoughts about world travel, he wrote, "I wondered how such vast differences could exist between countries that were literally next door to each other. How could Americans be so rich and Mexicans so poor? How could Israelis have created a highly developed, technology based economy while their Palestinian neighbors had not yet even begun to move to an industrial economy?"In his book, Romney praised the writings of Harvard professor David Landes, who in Wealth and Poverty of Nations said "culture makes all the difference."Romney added that "What people believe, value, strive for, and sacrifice profoundly shape the nature of their society and affect its prosperity and security. So while America's abundant natural resources certainly facilitated its ascent, it is America's culture that enabled the nation to become and remain the most powerful and beneficent country in the history of humankind." Then, Romney cited some cultural aspects possessed by countries that prosper, contrasted with those that don't, including a strong work ethic, creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, cooperation, commitment to education, faith in God, devotion to family, patriotism, honor, trust in law, and respect for life. "There are cultures where life is cheap, but thankfully, ours is not one of them," Romney wrote.
We have seen the situation in Syria ratcheted as violence spilled into the streets of Damascus this month. A NATO and Russian military buildup is underway in the Eastern Mediterranean and Iran has threatened to intervene, should any external powers attack Syria. Syria clearly is the epicenter of an international confrontation seeing the US, NATO, Israel, Gulf Cooperation Council confronting Russia, China, and Iran. An intensified media war comes with the battle in Syria to topple the government. The function of the media should not be underestimated. Global Research has worked to bring its readers critical news, information, and analyses to reverse the tide of mainstream media disinformation. We have been the important reference of first choice for many of our readers in our coverage of topics like Syria, Libya, Iraq, Palestine, Fukushima, Latin America, Occupy Wall Street, the global economic crisis, and the financial meltdown in America. Global Research's work is critical in the face of mainstream media disinformation, and we have managed to remain independent, acting as a vital information portal, but we still need all the help we can get. Without the support of our valued readers, the Global Research websites would not exist or grow. Spread the message, tell friends, introduce Global Research to discussion groups and classes, distribute our stories, post them on your blogs and social media pages. We have been able to develop our activities thanks to the contribution of Global Research readers. For those who are willing and able, we ask you to support our projects and battle to get critical, unreported stories and information out as a means to challenge the tide of misinformation being used as a smokescreen for imperialism and war.
Did the University of Colorado Release James Holmes from its Watch before Looking at Him? Last year, when a first-year graduate student found himself "very distracted because of many reasons," he wrote to Yahoo! Answers for help: "I cannot continue with this anymore before I have any mental problem. Please help." Yahoo's answer: "Different schools have different policies. You can call the Registrar, or you can call your counselor. Sorry, but I don't have magic powers. Yes, I tend to think higher education is not for you." We might expect such irresponsible indifference from an online answer mill, but from everything we've been hearing,the first year graduate student at the University of Colorado Denver, who went on a murder spree last Friday at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises," killing 12 and wounding 57, received no better guidance from a major and respected university. The picture we're getting is of a young man who was increasingly isolated and strange in his actions, darting in and out of class without speaking to anyone, and unable to function academically. His horrendous destruction, bizarre appearance, delusional identification, and his near catatonic appearance at his first court appearance, suggest that James Homes has been suffering from psychotic illness. Data from last year's "Consortium Mental Health and Counseling Study," conducted at Penn State, confirmed what most of us have already sensed: Higher education today is extremely stressful.
Robert Maxwell and Jack Lyons, two of the most notorious figures in British corporate history, helped Mitt Romney build his $250 million fortune, it can be disclosed. Maxwell, the late owner of Mirror Newspapers, invested $2 million in Mr Romney's first private equity fund, which launched the controversial career in finance that the Republican presidential challenger now cites as proof of his ability to lead the US to prosperity. He was recruited by Lyons, a late colleague of Mr Romney's at Bain & Company and one of the "Guinness Four" who were convicted in 1990 over the infamous share trading fraud at the drinks firm. Lyons and his family invested almost $3 million in Mr Romney's fund. Both Lyons and Maxwell kept their money in tax havens. The discovery of their financial links to Mr Romney comes amid mounting pressure on the former Massachusetts governor to disclose details of his own offshore holdings, including a Swiss bank account. Amid an onslaught of attacks from Barack Obama, Mr Romney has repeatedly refused to release tax returns predating 2010. Mr Obama's campaign claims the documents may show that Mr Romney has repeatedly refused to release tax returns predating 2010. Mr Obama's campaign claims the documents may show that Mr Romney profited from the destruction of companies bought by his private equity firm, or paid even less than his current 15 per cent tax rate, thanks to his foreign accounts. The disclosure of the Lyons/Maxwell links also sheds light on one of the worst periods in the history of Bain, where Mr Romney was a senior management consultant. Its London office was ensnared in the Guinness scandal, after being paid millions of pounds in fees for advising the drinks company.
Critics of the Israel lobby's influence in US politics often say, tongue in cheek, that Israel should be named the 51st state. But this presidential election season, that sentiment comes close to the reality of how the Republican Party is treating the country. Israel, like the 50 states in the US, will be a source for votes and money and a backdrop for presidential campaigning. The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) has partnered with an Israeli group to encourage Israelis who are American citizens, including West Bank settlers, to vote in the 2012 elections. The effort is also being promoted by a group called Republicans Abroad Israel. The partnership, and presidential candidate Mitt Romney's plan to visit Israel in late July, makes clear that the Republicans will use President Barack Obama's policy towards Israel as a cudgel to score political points and woo Jewish voters and donors, though most American Jews vote Democratic. The politicking about how Obama is an "anti-Israel" president obscures the reality that Obama has not touched the sacrosanct US-Israeli alliance, and has continued to lavish aid and diplomatic support to the Jewish state. Approximately 250,000 American citizens live in Israel, and many of them lean right. According to the Los Angeles Times, 75 percent of Americans in Israel voted for John McCain in the 2008 election, essentially the same share of American Jews who voted for Obama overall. RJC and a group called iVoteIsrael, whose mission is to encourage Americans who are also Israeli citizens to vote in US elections based on"who will support and standby Israel," held a number of events in Jerusalem in early July promoting their campaign. RJC executive director Matt Brooks and Ari Fleischer, an RJC board member and the former press secretary for George W Bush, were the ringleaders of this effort, and they wasted no time criticizing Obama's Israel policy.
Remember when, in the wake of the 9/11 attack, the Patriot Act was controversial, held up as the symbolic face of Bush-Cheney radicalism, and widely lamented as a threat to core American liberties and restraints on federal surveillance and detention powers? Yet now, the Patriot Act is quietly renewed every four years by overwhelming majorities in both parties, despite substantial evidence of serious abuse, and almost nobody is bothered by it any longer. That's how extremist powers become normalized: They just become such a fixture in our political culture that we are trained to take them for granted, to view the warped as normal. Here are several examples from the last couple of days illustrating that same dynamic. None seems overwhelmingly significant on its own, but that's the point: After Dick Cheney criticized John McCain this weekend for having chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate, this was McCain's retort: "Look, I respect the vice president. He and I had strong disagreements as to whether we should torture people or not. I don't think we should have. I realize insincere expressions of respect are rote ritualism among American elites, but still, McCain's statement amounts to this: Dick Cheney authorized torture and I respect him. How can that be an acceptable sentiment to express? Of course, it's even more notable that political officials whom everyone knows authorized torture are walking around free, respected and prosperous, completely shielded from all criminal accountability. "Torture"has been permanently transformed from an unspeakable taboo into a garden variety political controversy, where it shall long remain.
Remember when, in the wake of the 9/11 attack, the Patriot Act was controversial, held up as the symbolic face of Bush/Cheney radicalism, and widely lamented as a threat to core American liberties and restraints on federal surveillance and detention powers? Yet now, the Patriot Act is quietly renewed every four years by overwhelming majorities in both parties, despite substantial evidence of serious abuse, and almost nobody is bothered by it any longer. That's how extremist powers become normalized: They just become such a fixture in our political culture that we are trained to take them for granted, to view the warped as normal. Here are several examples from the last couple of days, illustrating that same dynamic, none seems overwhelmingly significant on its own, but that's the point: After Dick Cheney criticized John McCain this weekend for having chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate, this was McCain's retort: "Look, I respect the vice president. He and I had strong disagreements as to whether we should torture people or not. I don't think we should have. Isn't it amazing that the first sentence there "I respect the vice president" can precede the next one: "He and I had strong disagreements as to whether we should torture people or not" without any notice or controversy? I realize incincere expressions of respect are rote ritualism among American political elites, but still, McCain's statement amounts to this pronouncement: Dick Cheney authorized torture, he is a torturer, and I respect him. How can that be an acceptable sentiment to express? Of course, it's even more notable that political officials, whom everyone knows authorized torture are walking around free, respected and prosperous, completely shielded from all criminal accountability.
There is much more to the conflict in Syria than meets the eye. Syria is currently the scene of a cold war between the US, NATO, Israel, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on one side, and Russia, China, Iran, and the Resistance Bloc on the other hand. Amidst the fighting between the Syrian government and anti-government forces, an intense intelligence war has also been taking place. Germany's foreign intelligence service, the "Bundes Nachrichtendienst (BND), (Federal Intelligence Service), has been pointing its finger at Al-Qaeda for the bombings in Syria. This, however, has the effect of hiding and detracting the role that the intelligence services of the US and its allies have played. By crediting Al-Qaeda, the "Bundes Nachrichtendienst" is helping get Washington and its allies off the hook. Albeit Al-Qaeda is far more than just a US intelligence asset, the organization and label of Al-Qaeda is a catch-all term that is used to camouflage the operations of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other affiliated intelligence services. Syrian intellectuals and scientists have also been reportedly assassinated in Damascus. Like in Iraq and Iran, it is probably the work of Israel's Mossad, and part of Tel Aviv's policy of crippling scientific and technological advancement in enemy states. Informed sources in Washington have already clarified that Israel is helping the "Free Syrian Army" and actively participating in the intelligence war against Syria. An unnamed US official has confirmed to David Ignatius that both the CIA and Mossad are involved in Syria. In his own words: Scores of Israeli intelligence officers are also operating along Syria's border, though they are keeping a low profile.
Guess what percentage of Americans know military spending is increasing, and keep guessing some more, because pollsters are unlikely to ask that question. A year and a half ago, a poll found that Americans drastically underestimate how high US military spending is. This fits with consistent polling showing slim majority support for cutting military spending, but strong support for major military cuts when the people polled are told what the current budget is. Setting aside, however, the absolute size of the US military budget, its size in comparison to the rest of the federal budget, are people able to process the fact that it's been growing every year for the past 15 years, in the face of the steady news reports that it's shrinking. The Office of Management and Budget can be expected again this week to claim that military spending is low as a percentage of GDP, but the idea that we should spend more on war, because we can, is probably best left to psychiatrists to handle. Meanwhile, three GOP senators are touring the country, warning that 'mythical' military cuts will endanger us and hurt our socialistic jobs program. Here are some basic facts missing from the discussion: Money invested in non military programs or even in tax cuts for non billionaires creates more jobs than does military spending, enough to justify the expense of a conversion program to retrain and retool. In much of the world, spending money on killing people in order to produce jobs is viewed as sociopathic. Candidate Obama promised to increase military spending and size, and President Obama has done so: Military spending has increased dramatically in the past decade!
People are asking , "What's with Mitt Romney's trip to the London Olympics?" He has made so many gaffes that the Daily Mail's political editor asked: "Do we have a new Dubya on our hands?"That question is most important for the American voter. What drove Dubya were anxiety and fear, much of which he masked with his tough guy swagger and rhetoric, and with his disarming sense of humor. When asked direct questions by the press, however, Bush would often freeze like a deer in the headlights. His slips of the tongue became the stuff of talk show hosts, magazine articles and even books. Now we have Mitt Romney, the putative Republican candidate for president in the 2012 election. His gaffes are different from the 43rd president's, they don't involve mispronouncing words or frequently issuing nonsensical sentences. They are more social gaffes, ones that seem to be made without much thought, if any. Bush was trying to say thing he couldn't say. Romney is not trying to say anything in particular, other than answer questions or make comments when called upon to do so. In fact he is too casual, and what comes out is often carelessly hostile. When Brian Williams asked him what he thought of the London games, Romney first tried to answer the question directly, something most politicians usually don't do. He said, "It's hard to know just how well it will turn out." He then began to talk about his own work, running the 2002 SLC winter Olympics in what seemed like a canned response. What strikes me is the confidence with which he spoke, and the remarkable lack of thought he exhibited. This has become a pattern for him, and not just on this trip, but it is more noticeable than before, because he is largely left to his own devices, without prepared remarks that he could use in informal conversation.
Mitt Romney is taking his show on the road: After humiliating himself in London, the next stop will be Israel. Romney is scheduled to arrive in the country on July 29, and will waste no time getting down to the business of fundraising for his presidential campaign. On the morning of July 30, a fundraiser with Jewish donors will be held at the famous King David hotel in Jerusalem, but while the event will capture headlines for the moment, donors with feelings of love for the militaristic, expansionist Israeli government have long been providing cash to fuel Romney's presidential ambitions. These donors, some Jewish and others right wing Christians, are determined to kick President Barack Obama out of the White House for what they see as his hostile policy towards Israel. This, despite the fact that Obama has backed Israel "in a way that could hardly be compared to any previous administration," according to the Israeli defense minister. But donors are giving money to the Romney camp to ensure that no public criticism of Israeli settlements is voiced, and that the Netanyahu government has a free hand to deal with Iran as it pleases. Here's a look at three Romney donors who are forking over boatloads of cash with Israel in mind: Sheldon Adelson. Perhaps the most notorious Republican donor of 2012, this casino mogul propped up Newt Gingrich's ill fated run in the GOP primaries with millions of dollars in donations to the candidate's super PAC. When Gingrich foundered in the primaries, Adelson turned to Romney, meeting with the candidate in Las Vegas in May and donating $10 million to the pro Romney Restore Our Future super PAC in June. Adelson, who is worth $25 billion and is under investigation by the US government for alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, has reportedly pledged to give Romney's campaign up to $100 million.
Colonialism is a word associated with the 19th and 20th centuries, with an outside force, usually European coming into a country, destroying and uprooting the culture and people, with the main goal being the extraction of resources for the gain of the mother country. It is defined as the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically. Yet this definition of colonialism can be expanded from examining the external to examining the internal. For what may be the first time in US history, internal colonialism is occurring as the very facades of democracy and the economic system begin to fall apart, and the elites begin to colonize internally. The internal colonization of America by elites ca be seen most starkly in the financial sector, specifically in the 2007-2009 economic crisis, the effects of which are still being felt. There was mass panic about the near global economic collapse, which allowed financial corporations to convince the government to bail them out to the tune of $12.8 trillion. Yet, once the dust cleared, the very banks that caused the crisis in the first place only grew larger. Bloomberg noted in April of this year that Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup had combined assets that amounted to 43 percent of US output in 2007, but after the crisis, those same banks now held $8.5 trillion in assets at the end of 2011, equal to 56 percent of the US economy, meaning that their combined percentage of the economy had increased by thirteen percent. While the near collapse of the economy led to large amounts of growth for the banks, and massive bonuses, it had a devastating impact on average Americans. While one can generalize about the number of jobs and houses lost, it is much more telling to look at the actual numbers.
A report published on Sunday in Haaretz reveals that US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon has presented Washington's contingency plans for a possible attack on Iran to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, once the nuclear negotiations reach an impasse. However, the report was immediately denied by a top Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said, Nothing in the article is correct. Donilon did not meet the prime minister for dinner, he did not meet him one on one, nor did he present operational plans to attack Iran. A quick justification for this denial could be that such a contingency plan was not supposed to be publicized, and should have remained confidential for as long as necessary. Still, there is no denial that Washington and Israel are two sides of a coin, and it is manifest that they have in their political wheeling and dealing formed a united front against Iran. US GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has recently paid a visit to Israel to marshal up support of the Israelis on the one hand, and express his unswervingly servile commitment to Israel, including his anti-Iran stance on the other. Dan Senor, a top foreign policy adviser for the GOP presidential candidate, says that Romney would support Israels decision to launch a military strike against Iran to keep that country from achieving nuclear capabilities, but hopes diplomatic and military measures will dissuade Tehran from pursuing its path toward nuclear acquisition. Furthermore, he told reporters ahead of the speech, planned for late Sunday near Jerusalem's Old City, "If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing the capability, the governor would respect that decision." With a more somber tone, however, Romney himself has repeatedly said that he has a "zero tolerance" policy toward Iran obtaining the capability to build a nuclear weapon.
After several months of talking diplomacy, while simultaneously strenghtening rebel forces in Syria and demonizing the Damascus government, the Obama Administration has openly decided to go for the kill. Violent regime change will not happen immediately, but it is obviously President Obama's goal. The White House is now "redoubling efforts to rally a coalition of like-minded countries to forcibly bring down the government of President Bashar al-Assad," the New York Times reported July 21. "Administration officials have been in talks with officials in Turkey and Israel over how to manage a Syrian government collapse." McClatchy Newspapers stated July 23 that "Despite reports last week that suggested rebel forces were on the verge of major triumphs in Syria, the last few days of fighting there show that a long battle still looms. Forces loyal to Assad in recent days have tightened their grip on the Lebanese border, re-established control over at least one neighborhood in Damascus and perhaps reached an accommodation with the country's Kurds that will free up more troops for battle." According to the US and its NATO allies, the Damascus regime is engaging in a one-sided, murderous war against its own people, who simply seek democracy. At the same time, the Tehran government is characterized as a "Terrorist" regime intent upon building and using nuclear weapons in order to destroy Israel and rule the Middle East. The US news media, as expected, propagates without question Washington's campaign against Syria and Iran. The United States suggests that its principal reason for seeking regime change in Syria is to promote "democracy", a tarnished rationale often employed in recent decades to undermine or destroy governments that displease the US superpower, such as in Iran in the 1950's, the Dominican Republic in the 1960's Chile in the 1970's, Nicaragua in the 1980's, Yugoslavia in the 1990's, Iraq in the 2000's, and Libya in the 2010s, among other instances.
The greatest crimes of human history are made possible by the most colorless human beings. They are the careerists. The bureaucrats. The cynics. They do the little chores that make vast, complicated systems of exploitation and death a reality. They collect and read the personal data gathered on tens of millions of us by the security and surveillance state. They keep the accounts of Exxon-Mobil, BP and Goldman Sachs. They build or pilot aerial drones. They work in corporate advertising and public relations. They issue the forms. They process the papers. Thy deny food stamps to some and unemployment benefits or medical coverage to others. They enforce the laws and the regulations, and they do not ask questions. Good. Evil. These words do not mean anything to them. They are beyond morality. They are there to make corporate systems function. If insurance companies abandon tens of millions of sick to suffer and die, so be it! If banks and sheriff departments toss families out of their homes, so be it. If the government shuts down schools and libraries, so be it. If the military murders children in Pakistan or Afghanistan, so be it. If commodity speculators drive up the cost of rice and corn and wheat, so that they are unaffordable for hundreds of millions of poor across the planet, so be it. If Congress and the courts strip citizens of basic civil liberties, so be it. If the fossil fuel industry turns the earth into a broiler of greenhouse gases that doom us, so be it. They serve the system. The god of profit and exploitation. The most dangerous force in the industrialized world does not come from those who wield radical creeds, but from legions of faceless bureaucrats who claw their way up layered corporate and governmental machines. They serve any system that meets their pathetic quota of needs!
Our allies at Council for a Livable World (CLW) have been doing good work on peace and disarmament issues for 50 years now. We have worked closely with them through many successes. They currently have a petition demanding an expeditious withdrawal from Afghanistan, a petition that we whole heartedly support. Below is what the council has to say about Afghanistan. I ask you to take a look at the Council's petition and consider signing it, and joining them in their work. Peace Action, the Council and other allied organizations become stronger when we work together for a more peaceful and just future. The news out of Afghanistan continues to be horrific: An American staff sergeant kills 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children, in a night time massacre near a US base. American soldiers destroy Muslim holy books at Bagram Air Base, with the revulsion in Afghanistan resulting in the deaths of eight American soldiers and numerous Afghans. Time and time again, Afghanistan turn their weapons against US and allied troops. To date, 2020 Americans have been killed and over 16,700 wounded. So far this year, 169 American troops have been killed and 1,519 wounded. According to the UN, last year's total of 3,021 Afghan civilians killed was the deadliest on record. While the majority were killed by Taliban insurgents, the presence of NATO troops is blamed as the cause. Enough is enough! As a former Advisory Team Leader in Vietnam, I demand that President Obama bring all American troops home from Afghanistan as expeditiously as possible. The war has been a disaster for both the United States and for Afghanistan!!
In 2007, as drought stricken Georgia watched its drinking water reserves dwindle, then governor Sonny Purdue took action. He organized a prayer service for rain. In similar fashion in 2011, as fires raged across Texas in one of the state's worst droughts, Governor Rick Perry designated Easter weekend "official days of prayer for rain" according to the Texas Tribune. Now, as the country endures fires, drought and record high temperatures, our leaders are on bended knee yet again. Earlier this month Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters he was saying an extra prayer for rain, but the latest science shows that the country's leaders are going to need a whole lot more than prayer. Vilsack for one, may be feeling the pressure. A backlash is growing against the Agriculture Secretary for comments he made in a recent press conference, when asked about whether or not climate change may be playing a role in this summer's torturous weather. Vilsack responded: "I'm not a scientist, so I'm not going to opine as to the cause of this. All we know is that right now there are a lot of farmers and ranchers who are struggling, and it's important and necessary for them to know, rather than trying to focus on what's causing this, what can we do to help them. Farmers don't want to know if there is a potential link between droughts affecting their livelihood and climate change? I'm pretty sure farmers like to plan ahead and knowing what may be coming down the road is extremely helpful, and Vilsack doesn't have to worry about "opining" on climate change, as Brad Johnson points out, the USDA, the department Vilsack heads, has a Climate Change Program Office that's staffed with top scientists. In case you were worried that our government is not thinking long term enough about our problems, Vilsack can reassure you. As he said: Long term, we obviously are engaged in research projects. We're obviously working with seed companies. Don't discount the capacity of the seed companies.
Your security is a joke, and you are the butt of it. When my daughter was small, and I read to her regularly, one illustrated book was a favorite of ours. In a series of scenes, it described frustrating incidents in the life of a young girl, each ending with the line, which my tiny daughter would boom out with remarkable force: "That makes me mad!" It was the book's title and a repetitively cathartic moment in our reading lives, and it came to mind recently as, in my daily reading, I stumbled across repetitively mind boggling numbers from everyday life of our National Security Complex. For our present national security moment, however, I might amend the book's punch line slightly to:"That makes no sense!" Now, think of something you learned about the Complex that fried your brain. Try the line yourself, and we'll get started: Are you, for instance, worried about the safety of America's "secrets"? Then you should breathe a sign of relief and consider this headline from a recent article on the inside pages of my hometown paper: "Cost to Protect US Secrets Doubles to Over $11 Billion." A government outfit few of us knew existed, the Information Security Oversight Office or ISOO, just released its "Report on Cost Estimates for Security Classification Activities for Fiscal Year 2011". Strangely, no price tag was given. However, on producing the report or maintaining ISOO, Unclassified portions, written in classic bureaucratese offer this precise figure for protecting our secrets, vetting our secrets protectors, and ensuring the safety of the whole shebang: $11.37 billion in 2011.
Ir recent data left any doubt, America's Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) dispatched it this morning: The American economy slowed sharply in the second quarter, adding to the weakest recovery of the post-war period. The BEA"s advanced estimate of economic growth found that real GDP rose at just 1.5% annual pace in the second three months of the year, down from 2.0% in the first quarter, and a surprisingly strong fourth quarter performance of 4.1%, the fastest three month spurt of the recovery. The advance estimate is subject to two revisions in coming months. Growth slowed across most major categories. Personal consumption grew at a more laggardly pace in the second quarter, relative to the first. Net exports shifted back to a drag on the economy as import growth outpaced exports, and the government remained an economic albatross. The federal government has reduced its contribution to output for all of the past year, and state and local governments have been a drag for 11 consecutive quarters. Investment added more growth than in the first quarter, thanks mostly to shifts in inventories. It was a weak report right the way through, though slightly better than markets expected. Nominal output rose at just a 3.1% annual pace in the second quarter, a very week performance, and down sharply from the 4.2% fourth quarter rate. The report should raise expectations for more Fed Action at its meeting next week, not least since the key prace gauges also showed significant weakness. The year on year change in the implicit price deflator for GDP and the PCE price index both slowed from the first quarter to the second, and came in below 2%. Take disinflation across the quarter, which brought inflation rates below 2%, combine it with weak nominal output performance, and a substantial slowdown in employment growth, and one has to give the Fed dismal marks yet again.
As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan." General Wesley Clark. While confrontation between Russia and the West was, until recently, confined to the polite ambit of international diplomacy, within the confines of the UN Nations Security Council, an uncertain and perilous situation is now unfolding in the Eastern Mediterranean. Allied forces, including intelligence and special forces have reinforced their presence on the ground in Syria following the UN stalemate. Meanwhile, coinciding with the UN Security Council deadlock, Moscow has dispatched to the Mediterranean a flotilla of ten Russian warships and escort vessels led by the Admiral Chabanenko anti submarine destroyer. Russia's flotilla is currently stationed off the Southern Syrian coastline. Back in August of last year, Russia's Deputy Minister Dmitri Rogozin warned that "NATO is planning a military campaign against Syria to help overthrow the regime of President Bashar alAssad with a long reaching goal of preparing a beachhead for an attack on Iran," in relation to the current naval deployment. Russia's navy chief, Vice Admiral Victor Chirkov, confirmed. However that while the Russian flotilla was carrying marines, the warships would not be engaged in Syria Tasks. The ships will perform "planned military manoeuvers", said the Russian Defense ministry." The US-NATO alliance has retorted to Russia's naval initiative, with a much larger naval naval deployment, a formidable Western armada, consisting of British, French and American warships, slated to be deployed later this summer in the Eastern Mediterranean, leading to a potential "Cold War style confrontation" between Russian and Western naval forces.