Thursday, December 6, 2012

Today's links

1--Congressman Jack Brooks, Rex ’84 and the Iran-Contra affair, WSWS

At one point during North’s testimony, Congressman Brooks, a member of the joint committee, sought to raise the issue of the officer’s work at the National Security Council on a project that pre-dated Iran-Contra. This had been described in an article in the Miami Herald, the only newspaper to report it, as Operation Rex ’84, a plan to suspend the US Constitution, declare martial law, establish a “parallel government” of US military and intelligence operatives, and round up potential opponents of a US war with Nicaragua. The plan was to be activated in the event that the Reagan administration decided to invade the Central American country.

In the jargon of the military-intelligence apparatus, this plan to establish a military dictatorship in America and jail hundreds of thousands of people because of their political views was known as an exercise in ensuring “continuity of government...

The significance of this event today is even greater. In the years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the preparation of police-state operations against the American people has greatly intensified, using the pretext of the “war on terror”—even while the US government utilizes the very same reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces, its supposed enemy, to attack regimes like those in Libya and Syria, which have fallen afoul of Washington.

There is no doubt that the mass detention program in which Oliver North was involved not only is still in existence, but has been made far more sweeping in its scope and powers. Operation Rex ’84 is child’s play compared to the PATRIOT Act, the Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon’s Northern Command (the first ever headquarters for military operations inside the continental United States), the establishment of military tribunals, Guantanamo Bay, pervasive domestic spying and surveillance of all communications, and the assertion of a presidential right to order the assassination of any person, including American citizens, anywhere in the world.

It is not only a matter of detaining potential opponents of an American war of aggression overseas. It is a matter of suppressing mass social unrest within the United States itself, generated by the catastrophic crisis of American and world capitalism.

2--US-backed Muslim Brotherhood unleashes bloody crackdown in Cairo, WSWS

Mursi is unleashing this wave of repression with the full support of the US government and its European allies. They have hailed Mursi for his reliability during last month’s brutal Israeli onslaught against Gaza and the suppression of the Palestinians and given him a blank check for the repression his regime is now unleashing.

After Mursi worked to isolate the Gaza Strip during the offensive, the New York Times wrote that Obama felt he had a “connection” with Mursi developed over six phone calls. It added that Obama had decided to “invest heavily” in Mursi.

In an official statement, British Foreign Secretary William Hague also signaled his support for Mursi. He said, “The UK remains committed to supporting Egypt’s political transition and strengthening democracy. We are in close contact with both the Egyptian authorities and leaders of the opposition.”

On Tuesday Essam al-Haddad, Mursi’s assistant for foreign affairs and member of the MB’s Guidance Bureau, met on Tuesday in Washington with US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. The US embassy in Cairo issued a statement on Wednesday on its Facebook page saying: “The two officials reaffirmed the strategic relationship between the United States and Egypt.”

3---Leveson whitewash of Murdoch’s UK media empire, WSWS

On Monday, UK Labour MP Chris Bryant stated that News International’s Management and Standards Committee had stopped cooperating in May with the investigation into phone-hacking and other illegal activities at Rupert Murdoch’s now defunct News of the World.

Using parliamentary privilege, he suggested this was because evidence had emerged that could implicate the billionaire oligarch and his son, James, in criminal practices. News International had been happy to help the police investigation by “chucking overboard” journalists, Bryant said, as long as “the proprietor’s feet didn’t get wet.”

Bryant asserted that News International had destroyed a laptop to conceal evidence of an illegal payment by Murdoch’s Sun newspaper in 2005 for photographs of former Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein in his underwear. Bryant said that the illegal payment, involving a US soldier in California, meant that “at some point there will be charges brought against senior directors, quite possibly including James and Rupert Murdoch, as part of the body corporate.”

The fact that even a possible criminal prosecution of Murdoch and son was raised only on this single question, and in the United States at that, underscores the fraud perpetrated by the Leveson Inquiry, set up in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

The inquiry, which reported last week, was touted as a response to evidence of “industrial scale criminality” at News International. The Murdoch press illegally hacked into the private phone conversations of hundreds, if not thousands, of people and bribed police and politicians to cover up their crimes. But to date, just 19 people have been charged with any offence. Most are journalists, including former News of the World editors Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, who are not expected to stand trial until September 2013.

4--The Coming Crash of America, PCR, counterpunch

The Federal Reserve’s policy is focused on saving the banks, not on saving the economy. The Federal Reserve is purchasing not only new Treasury bonds issued to finance the more than one trillion dollar annual federal deficit but also the banks’ underwater financial instruments, taking them off the banks’ books and putting them on the Federal Reserve’s books.

Normally, debt monetization of this amount results in rising inflation, but the money that the Federal Reserve is creating in its attempt to manage the public debt and the banks’ private debt is hung up in the banking system as excess reserves and is not finding its way into the economy. The banks are too busted to lend, and consumers are too indebted to borrow.

However, the debt monetization poses a second threat that is capable of biting the US economy and consumer living standards very hard. Foreign central banks, foreign investors in US stocks and financial instruments, and Americans themselves observing the Federal Reserve’s continuous monetization of US debt cannot avoid concern about the dollar’s value as the supply of ever more dollars continues to pour out of the Federal Reserve.

Already there is evidence of central banks and individuals moving out of dollars into gold and silver bullion and into other currencies of countries that are not hemorrrhaging debt and money. According to John Williams of, the US dollar as a percentage of global holdings of reserve assets has declined from 36.6% in 2006 to 28.7% in 2012. Gold has increased from 10.5% to 12.8% and other foreign currencies except the euro increased from 38.4% to 44.4%.

Russia, China, Brazil, India, and South Africa intend to conduct trade among themselves in their own currencies without use of the dollar as reserve currency.

The EU countries conduct their trade with one another in euros, and although not reported in the US media, Asian countries are discussing a new common currency for trade among themselves.
The world is abandoning the use of the dollar to settle international accounts, and the demand for dollars is falling as the Federal Reserve increases the supply of dollars.

5--Foreclosure starts drop 21.9% on mortgage servicing settlement, housingwire

The National Mortgage Settlement and provisions it outlined for mortgage servicers may have accounted for a steep 21.9% drop in foreclosure starts in October, according to Lender Processing Services' Mortgage Monitor.
Year-over-year, October's foreclosure starts were even lower, down 47.8% from the same month in 2011. ....
At the same time, prices are going up nationwide, with prices up 3.6% year-over-year in September and on track to gain 5% to 7% this year alone..

Still, the housing market is far from recovery, LPS points out. In fact, by the firm's own estimations, the market is now churning sales at half the pace established during the peak of the housing market.

There have been about 4.1 million sales over the past 12 months, compared to 8.2 million in the fall of 2005, LPS said. Furthermore, about a third of the sales in the past 12 months, approximately 1.3 million, were considered distressed. That is well above the 226,000 sales recorded in 2005. And prices, while improving, are still 23% below peak levels, according to LPS.

6---Consumers Have Powerful Weapons Against Wall Street’s Bad Practices, Pam Martens

A study conducted by Edward N. Wolff for the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College in March 2010 made the following findings:
The richest 1 percent received over one-third of the total gain in marketable wealth over the period from 1983 to 2007. The next 4 percent also received about a third of the total gain and the next 15 percent about a fifth, so that the top quintile collectively accounted for 89 percent of the total growth in wealth, while the bottom 80 percent accounted for 11 percent.
Debt was the most evenly distributed component of household wealth, with the bottom 90 percent of households responsible for 73 percent of total indebtedness.
Wealth concentration in too few hands while the general populace is saddled with too much debt to buy the goods and services produced by the corporations, is a replay of the conditions leading to the crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression.
Writing in his book, “The Worldly Philosophers,” Robert Heilbroner explained the situation leading up to the depression of the 1930s:
“The national flood of income was indubitably imposing in its bulk, but when one followed its course into its millions of terminal rivulets, it was apparent that the nation as a whole benefited very unevenly from its flow. Some 24,000 families at the apex of the social pyramid received a stream of income three times as large as 6 million families squashed at the bottom — the average income of the fortunate families was 630 times the average income of the families at the base…And then there was the fact that the average American had used his prosperity in a suicidal way; he had mortgaged himself up to his neck, had extended his resources dangerously under the temptation of installment buying, and then had ensured his fate by eagerly buying fantastic quantities of stock – some 300 million shares, it is estimated – not outright, but on margin, that is, on borrowed money.”
In both eras, Wall Street ceased being an allocator of capital to worthy enterprises and became an institutionalized system of rigged wealth transfer. ...
The end game of this massive wealth concentration is long-term deflation, economic misery and multiple generations who will look back on us as the hapless society who couldn’t tame the Wall Street greed machine for want of a plan.

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