30 December 2007

Forging the Market State

The Neoliberal Revolution
Forging the Market State
Edited by: Richard Robison

How did the economic and political ideas we know as 'neo liberalism' amalgamate and become the defining orthodoxy of our times?

In this book, Robison and his contributors explore the seemingly inexorable global spread of market economies and how neo-liberal agendas are accommodated or hijacked in collisions with authoritarian states and populist oligarchies across Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia, Russia and China.

At the same time, the book examines how the neo-liberal agenda is driven by shifting conflicts within, from a conflict between the 'rich and the markets' and by the neo-conservative challenge.

It asks about the neo-liberal future. With its inherent distrust of politics and fear of society does neo-liberalism ultimately require an illiberal state defined by techno-managerial rule or does it invariably invite descent into populist social contracts?

What sort of market state do neo-liberals want?
Neo-liberals like James Dorn of the Cato Institute now see democracies as potential threats to liberalism, incubators for the tyranny of a rent-seeking majority over the private interest. He noted that ‘Democratic government is no substitute for the free market...’ (1993: 601). Thus, for neo-liberal ‘true believers’, the ideal market state was one that essentially guaranteed individual property rights and contracts, and that might not be a democratic state.


The Strange History of Economics
Faith-Based Economics
Economic Indoctrination

Big Brother is watching your Viagra

Pfizer, producer of Viagra, and Purdue Pharma, the privately-held producer of OxyContin, have launched pilot programs tagging these drugs with Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, technology. Other drug companies are expected to make the switch as well.

"All Viagra that we're producing right now is being tagged with RFID tags," said Pfizer spokeswoman Peggy Staver. "By the end of the first quarter [2006,] I expect all the untagged inventory will have worked its way through the system."

With RFID, drugs in the U.S. can be traced from the manufacturer to the supplier and even to the customer, with the intent of weeding out counterfeits and tracking stolen shipments.

Microchips are installed in drug-bearing pallets so shipments can be traced across the country. In some cases, even the individual bottles are tagged. Bottle-tagging is more expensive, but it means that individual patients, or the thieves who stole their bottles, can be tracked.

There's no shortage of companies involved in the RFID business. Some of the larger players include IBM and Intel Corp, which focus on the connection between transmitters and receivers, and Symbol Technologies and privately-held Alien Technology, which produce the hardware.

There's nothing new about RFID, reportedly used in espionage since the 1940s, and it's already made its way into the retail industry to scrutinize the spending habits of consumers or manage inventory, depending on who you ask. In 2005, retail giant Wal-Mart started mandating RFID-tagging for its top 100 vendors."

Full story


Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is an automatic identification method, relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders.

An RFID tag is an object that can be applied to or incorporated into a product, animal, or person for the purpose of identification using radiowaves. Some tags can be read from several meters away and beyond the line of sight of the reader.

OxyContin is a time release formulation of the narcotic analgesic oxycodone.
An opium based drug or any drug with effects similar to those produced by opium or opium derivatives.

The world’s leading drug producer

In 2007, Afghanistan cultivated 193,000 hectares of opium poppies, an increase of 17% over last year.

The amount of Afghan land used for opium is now larger than the corresponding total for coca cultivation in Latin America (Colombia, Peru and Bolivia combined).

Favourable weather conditions produced opium yields (42.5 kg per hectare) higher than last year (37.0 kg/ha). As a result, in 2007 Afghanistan produced an extraordinary 8,200 tons of opium (34% more than in 2006), becoming practically the exclusive supplier of the world’s deadliest drug (93% of the global opiates market).

Leaving aside 19th century China, that had a population at that time 15 times larger than today’s Afghanistan, no other country in the world has ever produced narcotics on such a deadly scale.

From 8ooo hectares in 2001 as a result of the Taliban’s fatwa (religious ban) against heroin production to 193,000 hectares of opium poppies in 2007.

UN Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007 (PDF)

29 December 2007

Big Sister Is Watching You

This is the only good piece The National Review ever produced:

Big Sister Is Watching You
By Whittaker Chambers 1957

"Several years ago, Miss Ayn Rand wrote The Fountainhead. Despite a generally poor press, it is said to have sold some four hundred thousand copies. Thus, it became a wonder of the book trade of a kind that publishers dream about after taxes. So Atlas Shrugged had a first printing of one hundred thousand copies. It appears to be slowly climbing the best-seller lists.

The news about this book seems to me to be that any ordinarily sensible head could not possibly take it seriously, and that, apparently, a good many do. Somebody has called it: "Excruciatingly awful." I find it a remarkably silly book.

It is certainly a bumptious one. Its story is preposterous. It reports the final stages of a final conflict (locale: chiefly the United States, some indefinite years hence) between the harried ranks of free enterprise and the "looters." These are proponents of proscriptive taxes, government ownership, labor, etc., etc.

"Miss Rand, as the enemy of any socializing force, calls in a Big Brother of her own contriving to do battle with the other. In the name of free enterprise, therefore, she plumps for a technocratic elite (I find no more inclusive word than technocratic to bracket the industrial-financial-engineering caste she seems to have in mind). "


(Although it doesn´t seem as such a preposterous story as it might have done in 1957, not after a billion randian think-tanks, bankers, investors and fortune 500 CEO´s made "Atlas Shrugged" their bible and a global reality)

Behind the Spin

The Pakistan Peoples Party rejected government claims that a Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud was behind the assassination of its leader Benazir Bhutto, as the death toll from rioting rose to 32.

Baitullah Mehsud, a Pakistani Taliban commander is suspected of plotting the Dec. 27 suicide attack that killed Bhutto, the Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema told reporters yesterday. Mehsud denied the claim, Agence France-Presse reported, citing a spokesman.

The government ``is trying to divert the investigations into Bhutto's killing,'' Farhatullah Babar, her spokesman, said in a phone interview today. ``Mehsud had already denied he planned to assassinate Bhutto.''

Benazir Bhutto's spokeswoman Sherry Rehman says she saw a bullet wound in the Pakistani opposition leader's head when she bathed her body after her assassination.

Ms Bhutto's spokeswoman Sherry Rehman, who said she was in the former prime minister's motorcade at the time of the gun and suicide attack on Thursday, rejected Government claims that the death was caused when Ms Bhutto's head hit her sunroof.

"I was actually part of the party which bathed her body before the funeral," said Ms Rehman, who added that her car was used to transport Ms Bhutto to hospital.

"There was a bullet wound I saw that went in from the back of her head and came out the other side.

"We could not even wash her properly because the wound was still seeping. She lost a huge amount of blood,'' she said.

Ms Rehman accused the Government of mounting a cover-up over Ms Bhutto's death.

Pakistan: US, Musharraf and the Future of Democracy
Pakistan's flawed and feudal princess

(Today´s buzzword = "Al Qaeda")

28 December 2007

The World's Largest Private Equity Firms

Private Equity International magazine's ranking of the world's largest private equity firms.

The PEI 50 is the first ranking of private equity direct investment programmes by size to use a consistent methodology. Among other findings, Private Equity International has determined that PEI 50 firms have raised $551 billion in private equity direct-investment capital since 2002. Together, the firms have accounted for 75 percent of total private equity deal activity globally.

The top 10 constituent firms in PEI 50's 2007 rankings are as follows:

1. The Carlyle Group
2. Kohlberg Kravis Roberts
3. Goldman Sachs Principal Investment Area
4. The Blackstone Group
5. TPG
6. Permira
7. Apax Partners
8. Bain Capital
9. Providence Equity Partners
10. CVC Capital Partners

You may download a five-page PDF brochure, which includes a complete list of the PEI 50, by clicking here.

Wall St. Way: Smart People Seeking Dumb Money

The Piratization of America

The "piratizers" (as the privatizing lobby has come to be called) are out not merely to grab roads, bridges, and other pieces of the public infrastructure, but also to put corporations in charge of practically all government services.

What we have here is essentially an effort to displace government— removing the public from control of basic aspects of our lives. Among the targets that already are experiencing corporate takeovers:

■ Public schools
■ Hospitals
■ Postal service
■ Pensions
■ Parks
■ Police
■ Military forces
■ Welfare services
■ Child support enforcement
■ Tax collection
■ Courts/juries
■ Environmental protection

Hightower Lowdown

America's Black Budget & Manipulation Of Markets

OK. Let me start off with a story. When I became Assistant Secretary of Housing, I left Wall St. and went to Washington in 1989, and I walked into the FHA Jim, which at the time was a $300 billion portfolio of mortgage insurance, about 80% of that was single family. So it’s homes, homes that Americans buy, and it’s sort of broad middle class/lower middle class. And I walked in and I said to the guy who was supposed to be the Controller, and I said I’d like to see our financial statements.

So he delivered to my office about 20 pounds of books all on the budget, and I read it twice, and I called him and said “Look, I’ve read this thing twice – a couple of thousand pages – and I can’t find out how much we are making or losing in the single family fund.

“Well that’s because”, he said, “It’s not in the budget”. And I said, “Well where is it?” And he said, “Well the Accountants have it”. And I said, “Well where can I find them?” And he said, “They report to a different Assistant Secretary, you’re not allowed to speak to them”.

2001 we did an estimate, and it turned out that 85% of the first Bush administration budget [was] going to agencies that weren’t in compliance with the audited financial statements rules and reliable financial systems.

And throughout government in fiscal 1999 thru 2000/2001, there were reports of not only failure to produced audited financial statements, but about $3.4 trillion of undocumentable adjustments. Very, very significant. That works out to about $11,000 per American resident.

Now, when people say to me “What is $3.3 trillion of undocumentable adjustments?”, let me give you an example. In fiscal 2000, the Department of Defense had $2.3 trillion in undocumentable adjustments. OK now, there’s no way for us to know Jim, how much of that translates into cash. ‘Cause $2.3 trillion is more than total taxes paid in a year by … say tax payers in that year would have paid taxes of about $1.6 trillion. So, there’s no way to know if $2.3 trillion translates into how much cash, or how much cash is missing.

What we do know is that under the laws of the Constitution, which say money cannot be spent unless it is appropriated. It is essentially a violation of the Constitution to do that, with one exception. And this is where the black budget comes up. There are provisions under the National Security Act of 1947 and the CIA Act of 1949 for military and military intelligence to crawl money from outside of different agencies’ budgets, and spend it on non-transparent purposes. That’s sometimes why it’s called the “black budget”.

And what I found out both as Assistant Secretary of Housing, and then what I found with my company … and with the group of honest guys kicked out of HUD, was you had an agency whose legal purpose and political purpose was to help finance the mortgage markets, whose mortgage insurance programs were increasingly caught up in financing black budget operations. And this is very much tied to what’s going on in the mortgage markets.

Last year we appropriated $87 billion for Iraq, but the administration has repeatedly says it can’t explain where half of that money is going. It was interesting, one of the top reporters who followed the $3.3 trillion of missing money, I asked him the other day, I said, “Where do you think the $87 billion went to?” And they said, “Well, we think it went to finance the states’ deficits, because they were screaming about the states’ deficits, and then all of a sudden it stopped.”

We’ve had a complete implosion of internal financial controls in the governmental apparatus. $3.3 trillion missing from government is a financial coup-d’etat. You can keep a bubble going as long as you can finance it. And my guess is, again very much credited to Bill Murphy, what we’re watching is a securities operation both with the Federal agencies, the mortgage agencies, and the U.S. Treasury, which are financing a political economy. The money that comes in from those debt operations are being used for other than their lawful purposes.

Here’s the question: If we’re manipulating the gold market, who’s financing that? Who’s financing the money that it costs to manipulate the gold market? Well, if $2.3 trillion is missing in a year, that’s plenty enough to manipulate the gold market and a lot of other markets.

We’re running the economy to centralize wealth. We’re using what I call a negative return on investment Governmental apparatus, both the budget and the credit and regulation, to centralize bank deposits, centralize purchases, centralize investments. We’re centralizing political and economic power. And in the process of that, we’re doing not what I call privatization – privatization is when you transfer government assets to private investors at market price. "Piratization" is when you transfer government assets to private investors at significantly below market prices. So we’re going through the process of using the Governmental apparatus to centralize economic power and wealth in a way that shrinks the total pie. And Greenspan’s job is to put a pretty face on that. And the mortgage bubble’s job, and the U.S. Treasury securities fraud, is to finance that.

I think there are two scenarios. One is the bust, which is this thing keeps going as long as it can be financed by the U.S. governmental apparatus, and at some point, you know, as the Japanese and everyone else says we’re not buying any more of this, we’re not taking more dollars, the thing busts. And when it busts, what you’re going to have is, it’s going to be 1929 but worse. Because in 1929, there was a lot of social capital in America. It was a much kinder, gentler place I think than it is now. And you had many more people that knew how to grow their own food, or knew how to function. So one scenario is the bust.

The other scenario though Jim is the Orwellian scenario, which is we’ve reached a point, and I’ve written many articles about this, where rather than let financial assets adjust, the powers that be now have the control of the economy through the banking system and through the governmental apparatus, they can simply steal more money, keep financial assets, you know whether it’s the stock market pumped up, the derivatives going, or the gold price manipulated down. And they simply liquidate all living things rather than let the economy go bust. In other words, you can adjust to your economy not by letting the value of the stock market or financial assets fall, but you can use warfare and organized crime to liquidate and steal whatever it is you need to keep the game going. And that’s the kind of Orwellian scenario whereby you can basically keep this thing going, but in a way that leads to a highly totalitarian government and economy … corporate feudalism.

Catherine Austin Fitts
, former Assistant Secretary of Housing under President George H.W. Bush Prior to her appointment to the first Bush administration, Ms. Fitts served as Managing Director and Member of the Board of Wall Street investment bank, Dillon, Read & Co. She previously was President of The Hamilton Securities Group.

Full Story

U.S.'s Missing $Trillions Make Mainstream At Last
UQ Wire: What's Up With the Black Budget?
Blowback chronicles
"According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions," Rumsfeld

GAO says government failed yet another financial audit
By Dan Friedman - CongressDaily
December 17, 2007

For the 11th straight year, the federal government failed its financial audit, GAO announced Monday, in a widely anticipated finding that Comptroller General David Walker used to underscore the government's troubled fiscal health.

Just before his address, GAO issued a statement saying it could not express an opinion on the government's fiscal 2007 consolidated financial statements, mostly due to the Defense Department's "financial management problems."(Black budget)

Full Story

27 December 2007

Hedge Funds

Isn’t it time you stopped pretending to understand what a hedge fund is? We tell you all you need to know, in plain English.

The Running of the Hedgehogs
Hedge funds are a fad, but they show no evidence of passing—and we are now living in the wildest, most unrestrained financial moment in recent history.

The Smartest, the Meanest, the Best
Ranking the who's who of the hedge-fund elite.

The Significant Others
Who gets to marry a billionaire and where these wives come from.

Why Fees Won't Come Down
Competition, as any economics student will tell you, brings down prices. It works for computers, cell phones, and cars. So why not for hedge funds?
Long-Short Story Short
Alfred Winslow Jones invented what he called a “hedged fund.” The name’s been bastardized, and so has just about everything else about it.

City for Sale
For almost everything in New York, hedge-funders are the high bidders. And if you’ve got something to sell, what a wonderful thing that is.

The Kingdom of Hedgistan
Why hedge funds cluster in the world's most expensive habitats.

22 December 2007

Privatized Rainwater

CIA Torture Jet wrecks with 4 Tons of Cocaine

This Florida based Gulfstream II jet aircraft # N987SA crash landed on September 24, 2007 after it ran out of fuel over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula it had a cargo of several tons of Cocaine on board now documents have turned up on both sides of the Atlantic that link this Cocaine Smuggling Gulfstream II jet aircraft # N987SA that crashed in Mexico to the CIA who used it on at least 3 rendition flights from Europe and the USA to Guantanamo's infamous torture chambers between 2003 to 2005.

Daily Kos

The Chinese Wall Street

NYT "Morgan Stanley’s announcement Wednesday that it would sell a $5 billion stake in itself to the China Investment Corporation was a surprise not just for investors in the big investment bank. It also marks an abrupt shift in strategy for the $200 billion fund, and underlines the extent to which the government fund appears to be under the direct control of China’s leaders.

The investment fund declined to comment late Wednesday on its acquisition of nearly 10 percent of Morgan Stanley. But a person familiar with the fund’s activities said that the decision had been sudden and little expected by the fund’s staff.

“I am also surprised,” said the person, who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the deal.

The China Investment Corporation is under the control of China’s finance ministry, with some influence as well from the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank. There has been discussion in the Chinese government over whether even more foreign currency should be injected into the investment fund, as the People’s Bank of China continues to accumulate $1 billion a day as it buys up dollars to prevent the value of China’s currency from rising in international markets."

"In taking a major investment from the Chinese sovereign wealth fund, Morgan Stanley is following a model set by Citigroup and UBS, two other financial giants badly damaged by their exposure to securities backed by risky home loans. Citigroup sold a 4.9 percent stake to Abu Dhabi's investment arm, while UBS sold stakes to the Singapore government and an unidentified Middle Eastern investor."

China buys Wall Street

21 December 2007

Criminalizing the Antiwar Movement

Global Research
"The Executive Order entitled "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq" provides the President with the authority to confiscate the assets of whoever opposes the US led war.

A presidential Executive Order issued on July 17th, repeals with the stroke of a pen the right to dissent and to oppose the Pentagon's military agenda in Iraq.

The Executive Order entitled "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq" provides the President with the authority to confiscate the assets of "certain persons" who oppose the US led war in Iraq:

"I have issued an Executive Order blocking property of persons determined to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq or undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people."

In substance, under this executive order, opposing the war becomes an illegal act."


20 December 2007

Corporate Personhood

"Corporate lawyers (acting as both attorneys and judges) subverted our Bill of Rights in the late 1800's by establishing the doctrine of "corporate personhood" -- the claim that corporations were intended to fully enjoy the legal status and protections created for human beings.

We believe that corporations are not persons and possess only the privileges we willfully grant them. Granting corporations the status of legal "persons" effectively rewrites the Constitution to serve corporate interests as though they were human interests. Ultimately, the doctrine of granting constitutional rights to corporations gives a thing illegitimate privilege and power that undermines our freedom and authority as citizens. While corporations are setting the agenda on issues in our Congress and courts, We the People are not; for we can never speak as loudly with our own voices as corporations can with the unlimited amplification of money."

"When George W. Bush says that he wants to spread freedom to every corner of the earth, he means it.

But of course the president that turned Soviet-era gulags into secret CIA prisons in order to do God-knows-what to God-knows-whom isn't talking about individual freedom. He means corporate freedom -- freedom for the great multinationals to extract everything they can from the world's resources and labor without the hindrance of public interest laws, environmental regulations or worker protections.

Bush's vision of a free world actually looks just like the corporate globalization agenda pushed by a succession of American presidents in institutions like the World Trade Organization."


Patent on Global Food

19 December 2007

Labor's Global Push

WaPo Harold Meyerson
"We haven't been reacting quickly enough," says Guy Ryder, who heads a newly merged global union federation, the International Trade Union Confederation. "That's a fair criticism."

What labor hasn't reacted to quickly enough is simply, and hugely, the globalization of the economy. Over the past three decades, virtually every major business has become transnational, and the world labor force has doubled in size, chiefly because of the entry of the Chinese and Indian workforces. The share of the world's workers represented by unions, accordingly, has dramatically declined. So has the bargaining power of national unions with global employers.

Which is why a series of meetings this week at the AFL-CIO's conference center in Silver Spring is, one way or another, historic. In a kind of counter-Davos (the annual WEF gathering of world business elites in Switzerland), union leaders from 64 nations gathered under the umbrella of yet another new group, the Council of Global Unions, to begin what they hope will be the upgrading of distinct national union movements into one, considerably more powerful, global movement. At stake, ultimately, is whether our brave new world affords employees the right to share in global prosperity or whether, as is already the case in the United States, globalization is a tool that businesses use to imperil workers' wages and security.

The goal of the unionists at Silver Spring, says AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, is to move beyond their episodic international campaigns, to make labor as global as capital has become.

The vision of Karl Marx, shorn of its millennial socialism, is being actualized by the heirs of Samuel Gompers, who aspire to nothing more -- and nothing less -- than decent living standards under global capitalism. "

'Workers of the world, unite!' isn't ideological anymore," says SEIU President Andy Stern. "It's practical."


A Trade Union Guide to Globalization

18 December 2007

Shock & Awe

"The military posture and capability of the United States of America are, today, dominant. Simply put, there is no external adversary in the world that can successfully challenge the extraordinary power of the American military in either regional conflict or in “conventional” war as we know it once the United States makes the commitment to take whatever action may be needed. To be sure, the first phase of a crisis may be the most difficult–if an aggressor has attacked and U.S. forces are not in place. However, it will still be years, if not decades, before potential adversaries will be able to deploy systems with a full panoply of capabilities that are equivalent to or better than the aggregate strength of the ships, aircraft, armored vehicles, and weapons systems in our inventory. Even if an adversary could deploy similar systems, then matching and overcoming the superb training and preparation of American service personnel would still be a daunting task. "

PDF (National Defense University, 1996), XXIV.

17 December 2007

Rules for Corporate Warriors

How to Fight and Survive Attack Group Shakedowns

"Described as “one of [corporate] America’s leading crisis management experts,” Nick Nichols has spent 15 years waging trench warfare over environmental, food, drug and product safety issues on behalf of multinationals. Although most of what he discusses are public relations campaigns rather than actual corporate campaigns, this book helpfully explains the tactics corporations use to respond when targeted by a corporate campaign.

Nichols’ obvious intent is to pose as a kind of corporate Saul Alinsky (the title refers to Rules for Radicals, Alinksy’s own book), advising corporations under siege to avoid making the common mistake of becoming appeasers (“Nevilles”) who give in willingly to their attackers. The way to do that is to first convince his main audience — corporate executives — that if they have a problem, it’s not because the corporation has tread upon the public interest, but because they have become victimized by the “extremists” who have taken over the environmental and consumer movements. According to Nichols, activists are just as greedy as the next person, so appeasement only encourages them to demand further concessions.

He goes on to offer advice on how to put campaigners on the defensive by attacking their credibility, ridiculing them and making them believe they’ve been infiltrated. “Flash your brass knuckles,” he urges the desk-bound executive. Use the tactics of the movement against itself."

Multinational Monitor


14 December 2007

ABB, Rumsfeld and North Korea

"Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, sat on the board of a company which three years ago sold two light water nuclear reactors to North Korea - a country he now regards as part of the "axis of evil" and which has been targeted for regime change by Washington because of its efforts to build nuclear weapons.

Mr Rumsfeld was a non-executive director of ABB, a European engineering giant based in Zurich, when it won a $200m (£125m) contract to provide the design and key components for the reactors. The current defence secretary sat on the board from 1990 to 2001, earning $190,000 a year. He left to join the Bush administration.

The reactor deal was part of President Bill Clinton's policy of persuading the North Korean regime to positively engage with the west.

The sale of the nuclear technology was a high-profile contract. ABB's then chief executive, Göran Lindahl*, visited North Korea in November 1999 to announce ABB's "wide-ranging, long-term cooperation agreement" with the communist government."

Fred Kindle assumed the role of President and CEO on January 1, 2005. Kindle's most recently served as CEO of Sulzer Ltd. in 2004. Kindle received an engineering degree from ETH Zürich, and received his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Illinois, U.S.

Former CEOs:

* September 2002 - December 2004: Jürgen Dormann
* January 2001 - September 2002: Jörgen Centermann
* January 1997 - December 2000: Göran Lindahl
* 1987-1996: Percy Barnevik

Billionaires Up, America Down

by Holly Sklar
"When it comes to producing billionaires, America is doing great.

Until 2005, multimillionaires could still make the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans. In 2006, the Forbes 400 went billionaires only.

This year, you’d need a Forbes 482 to fit all the billionaires.

A billion dollars is a lot of dough. Queen Elizabeth II, British monarch for five decades, would have to add $400 million to her $600 million fortune to reach $1 billion. And she’d need another $300 million to reach the Forbes 400 minimum of $1.3 billion. The average Forbes 400 member has $3.8 billion.

When the Forbes 400 began in 1982, it was dominated by oil and manufacturing fortunes. Today, says Forbes, “Wall Street is king.”

Nearly half the 45 new members, says Forbes, “made their fortunes in hedge funds and private equity. Money manager John Paulson joins the list after pocketing more than $1 billion short-selling subprime credit this summer.”

The China Model

By Rowan Callick
"From Vietnam to Syria, from Burma to Venezuela, and all across Africa, leaders of developing countries are admiring and emulating what might be called the China Model. It has two components.
The first is to copy successful elements of liberal economic policy by opening up much of the economy to foreign and domestic investment, allowing labor flexibility, keeping the tax and regulatory burden low, and creating a first-class infrastructure through a combination of private sector and state spending.
The second part is to permit the ruling party to retain a firm grip on government, the courts, the army, the internal security apparatus, and the free flow of information.

A shorthand way to describe the model is: economic freedom plus political repression."

More on The China Model:

WaPo: A Shining Model of Wealth Without Liberty
James Mann argues that China is increasingly a political model for the world, combining an authoritarian system with successful wealth creation.

He notes that the Chinese middle class is content with or at least acquiescent to the current system, indicating “that a nation’s elite can be bought off with comfortable apartments, the chance to make money, and significant advances in personal, non-political freedoms (clothes, entertainment, sex, travel abroad).”

Open Democracy: The China model

11 December 2007

Fahrenheit 451

"A scheme to train firefighters in major cities to look out for terrorists has raised fears that their iconic standing in American society could be damaged.

Unlike police, firemen and paramedics do not need warrants to get into homes and other buildings during technical inspections of emergency facilities, making them particularly useful for spotting signs of terrorist planning.

The Homeland Security Department has been secretly testing a pilot scheme in New York in which firefighters are trained to identify suspicious material or behaviour. If successful, the programme will be extended to other large cities."

Telegraph UK

09 December 2007

The Origins of the Overclass

By Steve Kangas

"The wealthy have always used many methods to accumulate wealth, but it was not until the mid-1970s that these methods coalesced into a superbly organized, cohesive and efficient machine. After 1975, it became greater than the sum of its parts, a smooth flowing organization of advocacy groups, lobbyists, think tanks, conservative foundations, and PR firms that hurtled the richest 1 percent into the stratosphere.

The origins of this machine, interestingly enough, can be traced back to the CIA. This is not to say the machine is a formal CIA operation, complete with code name and signed documents. (Although such evidence may yet surface — and previously unthinkable domestic operations such as MK-ULTRA, CHAOS and MOCKINGBIRD show this to be a distinct possibility.) But what we do know already indicts the CIA strongly enough. Its principle creators were Irving Kristol, Paul Weyrich, William Simon, Richard Mellon Scaife, Frank Shakespeare, William F. Buckley, Jr., the Rockefeller family, and more. Almost all the machine's creators had CIA backgrounds.

During the 1970s, these men would take the propaganda and operational techniques they had learned in the Cold War and apply them to the Class War. Therefore it is no surprise that the American version of the machine bears an uncanny resemblance to the foreign versions designed to fight communism. The CIA's expert and comprehensive organization of the business class would succeed beyond their wildest dreams. In 1975, the richest 1 percent owned 22 percent of America’s wealth. By 1992, they would nearly double that, to 42 percent — the highest level of inequality in the 20th century.

How did this alliance start? The CIA has always recruited the nation’s elite: millionaire businessmen, Wall Street brokers, members of the national news media, and Ivy League scholars. During World War II, General "Wild Bill" Donovan became chief of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA. Donovan recruited so exclusively from the nation’s rich and powerful that members eventually came to joke that "OSS" stood for "Oh, so social!"

Another early elite was Allen Dulles, who served as Director of the CIA from 1953 to 1961. Dulles was a senior partner at the Wall Street firm of Sullivan and Cromwell, which represented the Rockefeller empire and other mammoth trusts, corporations and cartels. He was also a board member of the J. Henry Schroeder Bank, with offices in Wall Street, London, Zurich and Hamburg. His financial interests across the world would become a conflict of interest when he became head of the CIA. Like Donavan, he would recruit exclusively from society’s elite.

* Leaving one's profession to work for the CIA in a formal, official capacity.
* Staying in one's profession, using the job as cover for CIA activity. This undercover activity could be full-time, part-time, or on-call.
* Staying in one's profession, occasionally passing along information useful to the CIA.
* Passing through the revolving door that has always existed between the agency and the business world.

Historically, the CIA and society’s elite have been one and the same people. This means that their interests and goals are one and the same as well. Perhaps the most frequent description of the intelligence community is the "old boy network," where members socialize, talk shop, conduct business and tap each other for favors well outside the formal halls of government.

Many common traits made it inevitable that the CIA and Corporate America would become allies. Both share an intense dislike of democracy, and feel they should be liberated from democratic regulations and oversight. Both share a culture of secrecy, either hiding their actions from the American public or lying about them to present the best public image. And both are in a perfect position to help each other."


Michael Michalko

07 December 2007

The New King of Spin

CNN Rupert Murdoch is stepping down from his role as chairman of the British broadcaster BSkyB to make way for his son James, long seen as the tycoon's favored successor to take over his media empire.

James Murdoch's tenure at British Sky Broadcasting was viewed as a success.

James Murdoch, who has been appointed non-executive chairman of BSkyB, will also head up the Asian and European operations of News Corporation -- the parent company, News Corp. said in a statement Friday.

Murdoch will remain as CEO of News Corp., the world's third largest media conglomerate after Disney and Time Warner.

Based in New York, News Corp. also owns the Fox network, which includes Fox News, as well as broadcasters and newspapers around the world, including the Times and Sun newspapers in Britain.

It recently acquired the Wall Street Journal and is in the process of the completing a takeover of the paper's parent company, Dow Jones.

YouTube: Murdoch Admits He Tried to Shape Public Opinion on Iraq

06 December 2007

Puppet Masters

“This is not just another lobby organization”
Pehr G. Gyllenhammar

The European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) is probably the most powerful lobby group in Europe, that can be described as a club of 45 European CEOs, whose companies account for more than 450 million workers world wide and combined annual turnover of 1350 billion Euros.

The European Round Table of Industrialists was born out of a growing preoccupation with the state of the European economy in the early 1980s. Frequently diagnosed as “eurosclerosis”, the symptoms were an evident lack of dynamism, innovation and competitiveness in comparison with Japan and the United States. European markets, with the exception of agriculture, were still national, despite the Single Market objective set by the Treaty of Rome in 1957.

ERT today brings together around 45 chief executives and chairmen of major multinational companies of European parentage, covering a wide range of industrial sectors. Individuals join at the personal invitation of existing Members, which confers on ERT membership a personal rather than corporate character.

From left to right (top) :Karl Beurle (Thyssen), Carlo De Benedetti (Olivetti), Curt Nicolin (ASEA), Harry Gray (United Technologies), John Harvey - Jones (ICI), Wolfgang Seelig (Siemens), Umberto Agnelli (Fiat), Peter Baxendell (Shell), Olivier Lecerf (Lafarge Coppée), José Bidegain (Cie de St Gobain), Wisse Dekker (Philips).

From left to right (bottom) :
Antoine Riboud (BSN), Bernard Hanon (Renault), François-Xavier Ortoli (EC), Pehr G. Gyllenhammar (Volvo), Etienne Davignon (EC), Louis von Planta (Ciba-Geigy), Helmut Maucher (Nestlé).

Members since 1983

Transatlantic Leadership for a New Global Economy

"The Atlantic Council promotes constructive U.S. leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic community in meeting the international challenges of the
21st century.

For many years, the United States and its European partners were the unchallenged global economic leaders. They not only created the major international economic institutions but also represented the bulk of the wealth behind them. But traditional transatlantic economic leadership faces challenges on several fronts. Emerging economies last year for the first time ever surpassed the developed world in the total size of their national products – and they make up the lion’s share of total global growth.

At the same time, globalization has eroded western governments’ control over their own economies, making them increasingly vulnerable to economic forces outside their borders.

The power of “non- state actors” has grown – capital markets, multinationals, hedge funds, and private equity."

The Atlantic Council PDF

Project for a New American Century Statment of Principles

05 December 2007

04 December 2007

The Internet in China: A Tool for Freedom or Suppression?

"[T]wo of the most essential pillars that prop up totalitarian regimes are the secret police and propaganda," Smith said. "Yet for the sake of market share and profits, leading U.S. companies like Google, Yahoo, Cisco and Microsoft have compromised both the integrity of their product and their duties as responsible corporate citizens. They have aided and abetted the Chinese regime to prop up both of these pillars, propagating the message of the dictatorship unabated and supporting the secret police in a myriad of ways, including surveillance and invasion of privacy, in order to effectuate the massive crackdown on its citizens."

"Tragically, history shows us that American companies and their subsidiaries have provided the technology to crush human rights in the past. Edwin Black's book IBM and the Holocaust reveals the dark story of IBM's strategic alliance with Nazi Germany.

Thanks to IBM's enabling technologies, from programs for identification and cataloging to the use of IBM's punch card technology, Hitler and the Third Reich were able to automate the genocide of the Jews."

US State Department

The Globally Integrated Enterprise

The globally integrated enterprise is a term coined in 2006 in the name of Sam Palmisano, CEO of IBM Corp, used to denote a company that fashions its strategy, its management, and its operations in pursuit of a new goal: the integration of production and value delivery worldwide. State borders define less and less the boundaries of corporate thinking or practice.

"The multinational corporation (mnc),often seen as a primary agent of globalization,is taking on a new form,one that is promising for both business and society. From a business perspective,
this new kind of enterprise is best understood as “global”rather than “multinational.” PDF

The Coup against Hugo Chavez

Venezuela coup linked to Bush team
Specialists in the 'dirty wars' of the Eighties encouraged the plotters who tried to topple President Chavez

Bush Administration Behind
Failed Military Coup in Venezuela

The April 11, 2002 military coup in Venezuela was supported by the United States government. As early as last June, American military attaches had been in touch with members of the Venezuelan military to examine the possibility of a coup. During the coup, U.S military were stationed at the Colombia-Venezuela border to provide support, and to evacuate U.S. citizens if there were problems. According to intelligence analyst, Wayne Madsen, the CIA actively organized the coup. "The CIA provided Special Operations Group personnel, headed by a lieutenant colonel on loan from the U.S. Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to help organize the coup against Chavez,” he said.

The Documents
The Heritage Foundation and Venezuela
Rift deepens between U.S., Venezuela years after coup

03 December 2007

Justification for US Military Intervention in Cuba

Subject: Justification for US Military Intervention in Cuba

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the attached Memorandum for the Chief of Operations, Cuba Project, which responds to a request of that office for brief but precise description of pretexts which could provide justification for US military intervention in Cuba.

It is assumed that a single agency will be given the primary responsibility for developing military and para-military aspects of the basic plan. It is recommended that this responsibility for both overt and covert military operations be assigned the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A series of well coordinated incidents will be planned to take place in and around Guantanamo to give genuine appearance of being done by hostile Cuban forces.

A. Incidents to establish a credible attack:

(1) Start rumors (many). Use clandestine radio.
(2) Land friendly Cubans in uniform “over-the-fence” to stage attack on base.
(3) Capture Cuban (friendly) saboteurs inside the base.
(4) Start riots near the base main gate (friendly Cubans).
(5) Blow up ammunition inside the base: start fires.
(6) Burn aircraft on air base (sabotage).
(7) Lob mortar shells from outside of base into base.
(8) Capture assault teams approaching from the sea or vicinity of Guantanamo City.
(9) Capture militia group which storms base.
(10) Sabotage ship in harbor; large fires – naphthalene.
(11) Sink ship near harbor entrance. Conduct funerals for mock-victims.

A “Remember the Maine” incident could be arranged: We could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba. Casualty lists in US newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation.

We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington.

Hijacking attempts against civil air and surface craft should appear to continue as harassing measures condoned by the government of Cuba.

It is possible to create an incident which will demonstrate convincingly that a Cuban aircraft has attacked and shot down a chartered civil airliner enroute from the United States. The destination would be chosen only to cause the flight plan to cross Cuba. The passengers could be a group of college students off on a holiday.

An aircraft at Eglin AFB would be painted and numbered as an exact duplicate for a civil registered aircraft belonging to a CIA proprietary organization in the Miami area. At the designated time the duplicate would be substituted for the actual civil aircraft and would be loaded with selected passengers, all boarded under carefully prepared aliases. The actual aircraft would be converted to a drone.

The drone aircraft and the actual aircraft will be scheduled to allow a rendezvous south of Florida. From the rendezvous point the passenger-carrying aircraft will descend to minimum altitude and go directly into an auxiliary field at Eglin AFB where arrangements will have been made to evacuate the passengers and return the aircraft to its original status. The drone aircraft meanwhile will continue to fly the filed flight plan. When over Cuba the drone will be transmitting on the international distress frequency a “MAY DAY” message stating he is under attack by Cuban MIG aircraft. The transmission will be interrupted by destruction of the aircraft which will be triggered by radio signal.

Direct PDF links: here and here.

01 December 2007

UK 2017: Under Surveillance

"IT is a chilling, dystopian account of what Britain will look like 10 years from now: a world in which Fortress Britain uses fleets of tiny spy-planes to watch its citizens, of Minority Report-style pre-emptive justice, of an underclass trapped in sink-estate ghettos under constant state surveillance, of worker drones forced to take on the lifestyle and values of the mega-corporation they work for, and of the super-rich hiding out in gated communities constantly monitored by cameras and private security guards.

This Orwellian vision of the future was compiled on the orders of the UK's information commissioner - the independent watchdog meant to guard against government and private companies invading the privacy of British citizens and exploiting the masses of information currently held on each and every one of us - by the Surveillance Studies Network, a group of academics.

On Friday, this study, entitled A Report on the Surveillance Society, was picked over by a select group of government mandarins, politicians, police officers and academics in Edinburgh. It is unequivocal in its findings, with its first sentence reading simply: "We live in a surveillance society." The information commissioner, Richard Thomas, endorses the report. He says: "Today, I fear that we are, in fact, waking up to a surveillance society that is already all around us."

The academics who compiled the study based their vision of the future not on wild hypotheses but on existing technology, statements made about the intentions of government and private companies and studies by other think tanks, regulators, professional bodies and academics.

The report authors say that they believe the key theme of the future will be "pervasive surveillance" aimed at tracking and controlling people and pre-empting behaviour. The authors also say that their glimpse of the future is "fairly conservative. The future spelled out in the report is nowhere near as dystopian and authoritarian as it could be."

Here's how 2017 might look...

Facebook's Beacon More Intrusive Than Previously Thought

"A Computer Associates security researcher is sounding the alarm that Facebook's controversial Beacon online ad system goes much further than anyone has imagined in tracking people's Web activities outside the popular social networking site.

Beacon will report back to Facebook on members' activities on third-party sites that participate in Beacon even if the users are logged off from Facebook and have declined having their activities broadcast to their Facebook friends.

That's the finding published on Friday by Stefan Berteau, senior research engineer at CA's Threat Research Group in a note summarizing tests he conducted.

Of particular concern is that users aren't informed that data on their activities at these sites is flowing back to Facebook, nor given the option to block that information from being transmitted, Berteau said in an interview."