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World Health Organization Says Cellphones Cause Cancer ... Oh, And They're Killing Off the Bees As Well
The World Health Organization just issued a report stating that cellphones are "possibly carcinogenic to humans".
Specifically, WHO found "an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use".
The WHO report notes that a previous study showed increased risk with increased cellphone use, and recommends taking actions - such as using hands-free equipment - to reduce exposure to the electromagnetic fields produced by cellphones.
CNN points out:
The agency now lists mobile phone use in the same "carcinogenic hazard" category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.It should be noted that WHO's findings are not strictly limited to cellphones. Specifically, the report discusses:
The type of radiation coming out of a cell phone is called non-ionizing. It is not like an X-ray, but more like a very low-powered microwave oven.
"What microwave radiation does in most simplistic terms is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain," Black said. "So in addition to leading to a development of cancer and tumors, there could be a whole host of other effects like cognitive memory function, since the memory temporal lobes are where we hold our cell phones."
Results from the largest international study on cell phones and cancer was released in 2010. It showed participants in the study who used a cell phone for 10 years or more had doubled the rate of brain glioma, a type of tumor. To date, there have been no long-term studies on the effects of cell phone usage among children.
"Children's skulls and scalps are thinner. So the radiation can penetrate deeper into the brain of children and young adults. Their cells are at a dividing faster rate, so the impact of radiation can be much larger." said Black of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.***
Manufacturers of many popular cell phones already warn consumers to keep their device away from their body.
radio frequency electromagnetic fields, such as those emitted by wireless communication devices.As such, the WHO report may give ammunition to those who oppose non-essential radio frequency electromagnetic fields, such as California residents who oppose the installation of "smart meters" by the local power company. The smart meters wirelessly beam electric usage information to the power company. The utility installed the smart meters on all customers' homes (without their consent) in order to save the cost of having workers manually check electric meters.
For those who are surprised that an electromagnetic fields can affect the human body, you are behind the times. As I noted last month:
Bad for the Bees
It is well-known that humans and animals have many electric currents inside of us, and that we interact with electric fields and electric currents outside of our bodies. For example, the pumping of our hearts is driven by an electrical system, and EKGs measure the electrical activity in our heart:The [EKG]works mostly by detecting and amplifying the tiny electrical changes on the skin that are caused when the heart muscle "depolarizes" during each heart beat.Electrocution can kill by disrupting the heart's electrical system.
Our brains are also largely electrical systems, and EEGs measure electrical activity in our brain:Electroencephalography (EEG) is the recording of electrical activity along the scalp produced by the firing of neurons within the brain. In clinical contexts, EEG refers to the recording of the brain's spontaneous electrical activity over a short period of time ....Both EKGs and EEGs use sensors on the outside of our bodies (on the skin) to measure electrical activity occurring inside our bodies.
Some animals can directly sense electric currents and electric fields of their prey, or produce electricity to stun or kill their prey. As About.com notes:Electric fields are used in numerous ways by animals. Electric eels and some rays have modified muscle cells that produce an electric charge strong enough to shock and sometimes kill their prey. Other fish use weaker electric fields to navigate murky waters or to monitor their surroundings. For instance, bony fish and some frogs have a lateral line, a row of sensory pores in the skin, that enables them to detect electrical current in water.The California Academy of Sciences points out:Sharks are almost as precise as the best physics laboratories in the country when it comes to sensing tiny electric effects. They can use this "sixth sense" to find food and even mates, since all living animals create their own electric fields. When a fish swims, or even moves its gills, it creates a change in the surrounding electric field that sharks can detect ....There are many other examples of our interaction with electromagnetism.
Cellphones aren't just potentially hazardous to us.
As Digital Trends recently reported:
(There are a number of other reasons bees are dying, as well.)
Researcher Daniel Favre of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has found that wireless signals cause honeybees to become so disoriented that they finally just die. [Link] Favre’s team conducted 83 separate experiments that tested bees’ reactions to a nearby cellphone.
The team found that honeybees made 10 times the amount of noise when a cell phone made or received a call than they did when the phone was in off or standby mode. As Fast Company reports, this noise (generally known as “worker piping”) usually signals the bees to leave the hive. But when the reaction is triggered by a cellular signal, the bees just became tragically befuddled.
So, what about a cell phone signal makes bees suicidally crazy? As Favre’s report explains: “Worker piping in a bee colony is not frequent, and when it occurs in a colony, that is not in a swarming process, no more than two bees are simultaneously active…The induction of honeybee worker piping by the electromagnetic fields of mobile phones might have dramatic consequences in terms of colony losses due to unexpected swarming.”
It’s the “dramatic…colony losses” part that everyone should be concerned about. Honeybees are responsible for pollinating about 70 percent of the 100 or so crops on the entire planet that humans use for food.
So-called “colony collapse disorder” among the world’s bee population has been recorded since 1972. But it wasn’t until 2006 that the drop in the bee population took a nosedive, with beekeepers noting a 30 to 90 percent loss of their bee colonies, up from 17 to 20 percent in previous years.
Favre’s study corroborates a 2008 report that showed that honeybees would not return to their hive when a cell phone was placed nearby, which sparked the theory that wireless signals are the problem.
Update: Dr. Meryll Nass points out:
Several weeks a go a paper out of China provided powerful epidemiologic evidence for cell phone use and parotid gland tumors. (This salivary gland is located just below and in front of the ear.) Other tumors that have been linked to cell phone use include acoustic neuroma (a common, benign tumor of the cranial nerve to the inner ear), glioblastoma multiforme (a very malignant brain tumor seen most often in older ages) and meningioma (usually benign tumors of the brain and spinal cord lining). Although benign, these tumors still require very delicate brain surgery, and may still kill the patient.
It appears the tide has turned on this contentious issue.
On May 27 the Council of Europe adopted Resolution 1815 (2011):
The potential dangers of electromagnetic fields and their effect on the environment-- whose text can be read here.What to do? Luckily, there are easy fixes. Keep the phone away from your body, with an earpiece/headset or bluetooth device, since exposure is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from your tissues. (Even the package inserts tell you to keep the phone away; do you still have the information that came with your cell phone?) Use landlines (even better if they are not wireless). Or texting. Or email.
A peculiarity of US law: citizens are not allowed to reject the siting of cell phone towers on the basis of health risk for anything other than thermal effects.* Let me restate that. The law is a pre-emptive strike against the kinds of scientific research that now point to adverse effects of radiofrequency radiation (including microwaves) in addition to, and different from, the effect of heating up tissue. The law basically assumes such effects cannot exist, and prevents citizens from using such effects to fight cell tower installations.
With this law in mind, the local school superintendent recently announced that a cell tower would be placed at our high school, currently a dead zone for cell phones. If it doesn't cook you, the US Government has made it safe, by decree.
Unlimited service may give us new freedoms, but it has its own price.
Billion Dollar Fund Managers Agree: The Government Never Fixed the Underlying Economic Problems, So We'll Have Another Crash
While the snake oil salespeople at the retail investing level and the bobble heads on the kool aid selling financial channels have been saying for years that we're in a "recovery" (albeit a slow one), billion dollar fund managers say that nothing has changed and we'll have another crash.As Bloomerg reports:
Mark Mobius, executive chairman of Templeton Asset Management’s emerging markets group, said another financial crisis is inevitable because the causes of the previous one haven’t been resolved.
“There is definitely going to be another financial crisis around the corner because we haven’t solved any of the things that caused the previous crisis,” Mobius said ...“Are the derivatives regulated? No. Are you still getting growth in derivatives? Yes.”
The total value of derivatives in the world exceeds total global gross domestic product by a factor of 10, said Mobius, who oversees more than $50 billion. With that volume of bets in different directions, volatility and equity market crises will occur, he said.The global financial crisis three years ago was caused in part by the proliferation of derivative products tied to U.S. home loans that ceased performing, triggering hundreds of billions of dollars in writedowns and leading to the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September 2008.
Jeffrey Gundlach notes that we've still got a quadrillion dollar derivative overhang which dwarfs the size the of real global economy, the government hasn't done anything to fix the basic problems in our economy, and so we'll have another crash:
Ultimately creditors and investors are at the behest of a central bank and policymakers that will rob them of their money.
Pimco co-CEO Mohamed El-Erian predicts that "financial repression" in the form of a negative real rate of return for savers is coming to America.The New York Times reports:
Even some senior Wall Street executives acknowledge the lack of change surprises them, given how poorly the industry performed last fall and the degree of government support necessary to keep it from collapsing.
“There was a general feeling that an enormous amount of additional regulation should be put in place to prevent what happened that weekend from happening again,” said Byron Wien, vice chairman of Blackstone Advisory Services and the former chief investment strategist for Morgan Stanley and Pequot Capital. “So far, we haven’t seen a lot of action.”
Robert J. Shiller, the Yale University economics professor who predicted the dot-com crash and the housing bust, said the window for change may be closing. “People will accept change at a time of crisis, but we haven’t managed to do much, and maybe complacency is coming back,” Professor Shiller said. “We seem to be losing momentum.”
Kenneth C. Griffin, founder and chief executive of the Citadel Investment Group, a Chicago-based hedge fund that manages $13 billion, said that regulators and lawmakers needed to impose rules so failing banks could be shut, rather than allowed to operate indefinitely with taxpayer support.
“We’ve taken a lot of steps for the worse, and not for the better, in terms of the structural underpinnings of our capital markets,” Mr. Griffin said. “We have to change the rules and correct the fundamental flaws in the financial system.”
While the big boys try to sell the "dumb money" on a recovery under a "greater fool" theory, the smart money knows the score.
Experts have long said that Tepco's projections for containing the nuclear crisis this year were unrealistic. Now, even Tepco is admitting that things won't be stabilized this year. As Kyodo News reports:
Stabilizing the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant by the end of the year may be impossible, senior officials at Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday, throwing a monkey wrench into plans to let evacuees return to their homes near the plant.
On May 12, it was confirmed that a meltdown had occurred at the No. 1 reactor, forcing the utility to abandon the water entombment idea and try to install a new cooling system that decontaminates and recycles the radioactive water flooding the reactor's turbine building instead.
Given that the contaminated water has leaked from the No. 1 reactor's containment vessel, a Tepco official said, "We must first determine where it is leaking and seal it."
The official added, "Unless we understand the extent of the damage, we don't even know how long that work alone would take," noting the need for one or two months more than previously thought to establish an entirely new cooling system.
In other words, Tepco has no idea how long it will take to contain the leaking reactors.
As has been obvious from the start, Tepco has also covered up vital information. Now, even the Japanese government is lambasting Tepco for its secrecy. As Kyodo News notes:
Tokyo Electric Power Co. did not fully disclose radiation monitoring data after its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the government revealed Friday. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, after being informed by Goshi Hosono, a special adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, told reporters that he instructed Tepco to sort out the data, make it public and make doubly sure no more information-withholding occurs.
Coming a day after he blasted Tepco's flip-flop over the injection of seawater into the plant's reactor 1, Edano said the government "cannot respond to this matter on the premise" that no more undisclosed information will emerge.
"There is a distinct possibility that there is still more," he said, urging Tepco to accurately and swiftly report the truth to the government.
Hosono also noted Tepco's delay in revealing this fact, 2? months after the nuclear crisis started.
The government will look into how this happened, the two officials said.
You've already heard that 3 of the Fukushima reactors melted down within hours of the earthquake.
Yomiuri Daily reports today that not only the pressure vessels (the innermost barrier) but also the containment vessels (the outer barrier) of reactors 1 and 3 were also damaged within hours of the quake:
Not only the pressure vessels, but the containment vessels of the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were probably damaged within 24 hours of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s analysis of the nuclear crisis.
A senior nuclear regulatory official in the United States said Thursday he believed there was a "strong likelihood" of serious core damage and core melt at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant in the days immediately after the crisis began.
"There were numerous indications of high radiation levels that can only come from damaged fuel at those kinds of levels," said Bill Borchardt, executive director for operations at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "So we felt pretty confident that there was significant fuel damage at the site a few days into the event."
The NRC also had "suspicions" about the conditions of the spent fuel pools, Borchardt said after a speech at the Japan Society in New York.
Based on that assumption, he said, the NRC recommended that U.S. residents in Japan stay 80 km away from the crippled power plant, which was far beyond the Japanese government's recommendation for residents within a 20-km radius to evacuate.
While most of the problems have been at reactors 1, 2 and 3 (which were all operating when the earthquake hit) and reactor 4 (where spent fuel rods have been leaking), there have also been problems at reactor number 5 as well. Specifically, as NHK writes:
The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says temperatures in the Number 5 reactor and its spent fuel storage pool have risen due to pump failure. The reactor has been in a state of cold shutdown.
Tokyo Electric Power Company says it found at 9 PM on Saturday that a pump bringing seawater to cooling equipment for the reactor and pool had stopped working.
TEPCO says temperatures have been rising since then.
To make matters worse, Typhoon Songda has brought heavy rains to Fukushima. As Al Jazeera notes:
The typhoon has already brought heavy rain to the Fukushima region and there is still more to come. This has prompted worries that runoff water may wash away radioactive materials from the land into the Pacific Ocean.
The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has been pouring synthetic resins over the complex in an attempt to stabilise the plant. More work needs to be done, not just now but also to ensure that future typhoons would not spread radioactive materials into the environment.
As Raw Story reported:
Officials from the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) are apologizing in advance for the fact that the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant is not ready for the high winds and heavy rain of Typhoon Songda, a massive storm that could make landfall in Japan as early as Monday.
The BBC quotes a TEPCO official as saying, "We have made utmost efforts, but we have not completed covering the damaged reactor buildings. We apologize for the lack of significant measures against wind and rain."
Buildings housing the plant's nuclear reactors are still standing open in the wake of crippling hydrogen explosions that followed Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The approaching storm could scatter highly radioactive materials into the air and sea. Plant operators are currently spreading "anti-scattering agents" around the buildings housing reactors one and four.
Radiation released by the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has caused soil contamination matching the levels seen in the Chernobyl disaster in some areas, a researcher told the government's nuclear policy-setting body Tuesday.
The size of the contaminated areas in the Fukushima crisis is one-tenth to one-fifth of those polluted in the Chernobyl disaster, Kawata said.
It's not just the soil, it's also the seafloor. NHK notes that radiation has been found in the entire 300 kilometer (186 mile) region of the coast tested near Fukushima.
And Harvey Wasserman notes that there may have been 10 times more radiation released into the ocean than by Chernobyl:
New readings show levels of radioisotopes found up to 30 kilometers offshore from the on-going crisis at Fukushima are ten times higher than those measured in the Baltic and Black Seas during Chernobyl.***
"When it comes to the oceans, says Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceonographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, "the impact of Fukushima exceeds Chernobyl."
For all the focus on land-based contamination, the continuing flood of radioactive materials into the ocean at Fukushima could have the most problematic long-term impacts. Long-term studies of radiological impacts on the seas are few and far between. Though some heavy isotopes may drop to the sea bottom, others could travel long distances through their lengthy half-lives. Some also worry that those contaminants that do fall to the bottom could be washed back on land by future tsunamis.
"After Chernobyl, fallout was measured," says Buesseler, "from as far afield as the north Pacific Ocean."
A quarter-century later the international community is still trying to install a massive, hugely expensive containment structure to suppress further radiation releases in the wake of Chernobyl's explosion.
Such a containment would be extremely difficult to sustain at seaside Fukushima, which is still vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis. To be of any real use, all six reactors and all seven spent fuel pools would have to be covered.
But avenues to the sea would also have to be contained. Fukushima is much closer to the ocean than Chernobyl, so more intense contamination might be expected. But the high radiation levels being measured indicate Fukushima's most important impacts may be on marine life.
The US has ceased measuring contamination in Pacific seafood. But for centuries to come, at least some radioactive materials dumped into the sea at Fukushima will find their way into the creatures of the sea and the humans that depend on them.
To add insult to injury, Zero Hedge notes that oil is also spilling into the ocean near Fukushima:
Just because mega-radioactive water leakage was not enough. From Xinhua: "Operator of the troubled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant found that oil has been leaking into the sea close to the facility, the Kyodo News reported Tuesday. The operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said the oil leaks were possibly from nearby oil tanks that may have been damaged in the March earthquake and tsunami, and it would set up oil fences to prevent the liquid from pouring into the Pacific Ocean." Oh, but they only discovered this now? Odd how it took nearly 3 months for those oil tanks to rupture and start spilling into the water.
Update: While an explosion occurred near reactor 4 today, that appears to be the least of the problems at the Fukushima nuclear complex.
What should we invest in?
Given the extreme uncertainty in the investing environment, and given that housing, employment and wages, and some of the other fundamental economic measures are flashing warning signs, this is not a simple question.
I have written thousands of essays examining the great inflation versus deflation debate (here's the latest). I can see both sides of the argument, as well as arguments for inflation and deflation at the same time. And see this essay by Shah Gilani on Chinese inflation.
“Three or four years into the future I think we could be in a hyperinflation, within the current year you’re going to see much higher inflation than most people are looking at,” Williams told MarketWatch.
Williams said that his definition of hyperinflation would be a situation in which a $100 dollar bill would become more functional as a piece of toilet paper than a store of value.
“This is a time when you want to preserve your wealth and assets because inflation will knock the value out of it,” he added, advising that people buy physical gold and assets other than the U.S. dollar.
“Then when the hyperinflation hits you’ll see disruption of normal commerce, you won’t have enough $100 dollar bills to buy what you want,” said Williams, adding that items to barter with, such as a bottle of scotch, would be more valuable than actual cash, even in large quantities.
Of course, even if hyperinflation never hits, food prices are forecast to rise. As such, the price of the grains with which fine liquor is made will probably increase, and so will the price of the beverage should rise as well.
Sake as a Japanese Luxury Good
There is some segment of the population that is always going to have a lot of disposable income, even in these times.
Indeed, the gap between the affluent and everyone else has been growing so fast that it is bigger than it has been since 1917 ... before the Great Depression.
As Reuters noted last year:
Ajay Kapur, a Deutsche Bank strategist [and] former Citigroup strategist created a stir five years ago when he built an investment strategy around his thesis that essentially divided the world into two camps: the rich and the rest.
Kapur told clients in 2005 that the United States and a handful of other economies were developing into "plutonomies" where the wealthy few powered economic growth and consumed much of its bounty, while the "multitudinous many" shared the leftovers.
Plutonomies come around only once or twice a century, he argued -- 16th century Spain, 17th century Holland, the Gilded Age. The last time it happened in the United States was during the "Roaring 1920s".
Some shrewd investment advisors have recommended buying rare art and fine wines to cater to the wealthy few.
Given the widespread fear of the Japanese nuclear meltdown - whether you think it's founded or not - high-end sake made before the March 11th earthquake might be a smart investment.
There are a number of Japanese billionaires. And Japan has more millionaires than any country in the world other than the U.S. At least some of these well-heeled folks have a taste for sake . And wealthy people from other countries have a taste for Japanese beverages as well.
And they would likely pay top dollar to buy their favorite sakes made before the nuclear meltdown started, to make sure that they're not exposed to any radiation.
A number of people have repatriated from Japan in order to avoid the devastation from the earthquake, the tsunami and the economic downturn.
There are also rumors that some of the wealthiest Japanese have moved to China, the U.S. or elsewhere. As Reuters noted on March 16th:
Thousands of people desperate to escape Japan's deepening nuclear crisis have inundated private jet companies with requests for evacuation flights, sending prices surging as much as a quarter.
Workers are fleeing for Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and as far afield as Australia and the United States as power outages and shortages of basic supplies compound the misery after Friday's 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
Expats will certainly be eager for a "taste of home" in the form of good sake and other Japanese luxury items.
Like wine, sake doesn't last forever. Dry, high-alcohol sakes last the longest. Both heat and light will degrade the flavor of sake over time, so sake should be stored in the cool and dark.
Premium sakes usually have the "daiginjo", "junmai", "ginjo", "koshu", or "genshu" classification on the label. Daiginjo is generally the most expensive sake, requiring the brewer to polish each grain of rice down to half its original size before brewing.
Hard Alcohol Lasts Longer
Because sake doesn't last all that long, an even smarter investment might be traditional Japanese versions of hard alcohol.
Shochu (pronounced as “show-chew”) is the traditional Japanese hard liquor.
Typically brewed from potatoes or wheat, shochu can also be brewed from rice, raw sugar, or even ... wait for it ... wasabi. Shochu is typically 25 to 35 percent alcohol.
Okinawa - the birthplace of Karate - has its own, stronger version of shochu called awamori (pronounced “ah-wah-mo-ri”), which ranges from 35 to 45 percent alcohol. So highly regarded is awamori among some Japanese connoisseurs that sake expert John Gauntner writes:
It was said that while wealthy people might entrust their money to others, they would always keep the keys to their awamori cellar with them.
Shochu, and especially awamori, should last a long time. And they fit into John Williams' booze and gold recommendation.
Note: Okinawa is over 1,000 miles from Fukushima. But the potatoes, wheat, rice or other base materials could come from closer to the site of the reactors or to other types of contamination from the Japanese disaster. More importantly, perception is key, and pre-Fukushima alcohol will likely carry a premium.
I am not an investment adviser and this should not be taken as investment advice
Preface: Some defendants are no longer allowed to see the "secret evidence" which the government is using against them. See this and this.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that judges can throw out cases because they don't like or believe the plaintiff ... even before anyone has had the chance to conduct discovery to prove their case. In other words, judges' secret biases can be the basis for denying people their day in court, without even having to examine the facts. Judges are also becoming directly involved in politics with the other branches of government.
Claims of national security are being used to keep the shenanigans of the biggest banks and corporations secret, and to crush dissent.
But this essay focuses on something else: the fact that the laws themselves are now being kept secret.
America is supposed to be a nation of laws which apply to everyone equally, regardless of wealth or power.
Founded on the Constitution and based upon the separation of powers, we escaped from the British monarchy - a "nation of men" where the law is whatever the king says it is.
However, many laws are now "secret" - known only to a handful of people, and oftentimes hidden even from the part of our government which is supposed to make laws in the first place: Congress.
The Patriot Act
Congress just re-authorized the Patriot Act for another 4 years.
However, Senator Wyden notes that the government is using a secret interpretation of the Patriot Act different from what Congress and the public believe. Senator Wyden's press release yesterday states:
Speaking on the floor of the U.S Senate during the truncated debate on the reauthorization of the PATRIOT ACT for another four years, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) – a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- warned his colleagues that a vote to extend the bill without amendments that would ban any Administration’s ability to keep internal interpretations of the Patriot Act classified will eventually cause public outrage.As TechDirt points out:
Known as Secret Law, the official interpretation of the Patriot Act could dramatically differ from what the public believes the law allows. This could create severe violations of the Constitutional and Civil Rights of American Citizens.
I have served on the Senate Intelligence Committee for ten years, and I don’t take a backseat to anybody when it comes to the importance of protecting genuinely sensitive sources and collection methods. But the law itself should never be secret – voters have a need and a right to know what the law says, and what their government thinks the text of the law means, so that they can decide whether the law is appropriately written and ratify or reject decisions that their elected officials make on their behalf.
It's not just the public that's having the wool pulled over their eyes. Wyden and [Senator] Udall are pointing out that the very members of Congress, who are voting to extend these provisions, do not know how the feds are interpreting them:Here's Wyden's speech on the Senate floor.As members of the Senate Intelligence Committee we have been provided with the executive branch's classified interpretation of those provisions and can tell you that we believe there is a significant discrepancy between what most people - including many Members of Congress - think the Patriot Act allows the government to do and what government officials secretly believe the Patriot Act allows them to do.
By far the most important interpretation of what the law means is the official interpretation used by the U.S. government and this interpretation is - stunningly -classified.
What does this mean? It means that Congress and the public are prevented from having an informed, open debate on the Patriot Act because the official meaning of the law itself is secret. Most members of Congress have not even seen the secret legal interpretations that the executive branch is currently relying on and do not have any staff who are cleared to read them. Even if these members come down to the Intelligence Committee and read these interpretations themselves, they cannot openly debate them on the floor without violating classification rules.
The Surveillance State and Unauthorized Wars
Former constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald noted last week:
The government's increased ability to learn more and more about the private activities of its citizens is accompanied -- as always -- by an ever-increasing wall of secrecy it erects around its own actions. Thus, on the very same day that we have an extension of the Patriot Act and a proposal to increase the government's Internet snooping powers, we have this:
The Justice Department should publicly release its legal opinion that allows the FBI to obtain telephone records of international calls made from the U.S. without any formal legal process, a watchdog group asserts.***
The decision not to release the memo is noteworthy... By turning down the foundation's request for a copy, the department is ensuring that its legal arguments in support of the FBI's controversial and discredited efforts to obtain telephone records will be kept secret.
What's extraordinary about the Obama DOJ's refusal to release this document is that it does not reveal the eavesdropping activities of the Government but only its legal rationale for why it is ostensibly permitted to engage in those activities. The Bush DOJ's refusal to release its legal memos authorizing its surveillance and torture policies was unquestionably one of the acts that provoked the greatest outrage among Democratic lawyers and transparency advocates (see, for instance, Dawn Johnsen's scathing condemnation of the Bush administration for its refusal to release OLC legal reasoning: "reliance on 'secret law' threatens the effective functioning of American democracy" and "the withholding from Congress and the public of legal interpretations by the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) upsets the system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government."
The way a republic is supposed to function is that there is transparency for those who wield public power and privacy for private citizens. The National Security State has reversed that dynamic completely, so that the Government (comprised of the consortium of public agencies and their private-sector "partners") knows virtually everything about what citizens do, but citizens know virtually nothing about what they do (which is why WikiLeaks specifically and whistleblowers generally, as one of the very few remaining instruments for subverting that wall of secrecy, are so threatening to them). Fortified by always-growing secrecy weapons, everything they do is secret -- including even the "laws" they secretly invent to authorize their actions -- while everything you do is open to inspection, surveillance and monitoring.
This dynamic threatens to entrench irreversible, absolute power for reasons that aren't difficult to understand. Knowledge is power, as the cliché teaches. When powerful factions can gather unlimited information about citizens, they can threaten, punish, and ultimately deter any meaningful form of dissent ...
Conversely, allowing government officials to shield their own conduct from transparency and (with the radical Bush/Obama version of the "State Secrets privilege") even judicial review ensures that National Security State officials (public and private) can do whatever they want without any detection and (therefore) without limit or accountability. That is what the Surveillance State, at its core, is designed to achieve: the destruction of privacy for individual citizens and an impenetrable wall of secrecy for those with unlimited surveillance power. And as these three events just from the last 24 hours demonstrate, this system -- with fully bipartisan support --- is expanding more rapidly than ever.
So patently illegal is Obama's war in Libya as of today that media reports are now coming quite close to saying so directly; see, for instance, this unusually clear CNN article today from Dana Bash. As a result, reporters today bombarded the White House with questions about the war's legality, and here is what happened, as reported by ABC News' Jake Tapper:
Talk about "secret law." You're not even allowed to know the White House's rationale (if it exists) for why this war is legal. It simply decrees that it is, and you'll have to comfort yourself with that. That's how confident they are in their power to operate behind their wall of secrecy: they don't even bother any longer with a pretense of the most minimal transparency.
Secret laws are not a brand new problem.
As I've previously noted:
Scott Horton - a professor at Columbia Law School and writer for Harper's - says of the Bush administration memos authorizing torture, spying, indefinite detention without charge, the use of the military within the U.S. and the suspension of free speech and press rights:We may not have realized it at the time, but in the period from late 2001-January 19, 2009, this country was a dictatorship. The constitutional rights we learned about in high school civics were suspended. That was thanks to secret memos crafted deep inside the Justice Department that effectively trashed the Constitution. What we know now is likely the least of it.
Yale law professor Jack Balkin agrees, writing that the memos promoted "reasoning which sought, in secret, to justify a theory of Presidential dictatorship." Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley says that the memos are the "very definition of tyranny". And former White House counsel John Dean says "Reading these memos, you've gotta almost conclude we had an unconstitutional dictator."
State of Emergency Cuts the Constitutional Government Out of the Picture
The United States has been in a declared state of emergency from September 2001, to the present. Specifically, on September 11, 2001, the government declared a state of emergency. That declared state of emergency was formally put in writing on 9/14/2001:So continuity of government laws were enacted without public or even Congressional knowledge, and neither the public or even Congress members on the Homeland Security Committee - let alone Congress as a whole - are being informed of whether they are still in effect and, if so, what laws govern.That declared state of emergency has continued in full force and effect from 9/11 to the present. President Bush kept it in place, and President Obama has also.A national emergency exists by reason of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, New York, New York, and the Pentagon, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, I hereby declare that the national emergency has existed since September 11, 2001 . . . .
On September 10, 2010, President Obama declared:The Washington Times wrote on September 18, 2001:
Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. 1622(d), provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. Consistent with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register the enclosed notice, stating that the emergency declared with respect to the terrorist attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, is to continue in effect for an additional year.
The terrorist threat that led to the declaration on September 14, 2001, of a national emergency continues. For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue in effect after September 14, 2010, the national emergency with respect to the terrorist threat.***
Simply by proclaiming a national emergency on Friday, President Bush activated some 500 dormant legal provisions, including those allowing him to impose censorship and martial law.
Continuity of Government ("COG") measures were implemented on 9/11. For example, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, at page 38:At 9:59, an Air Force lieutenant colonel working in the White House Military Office joined the conference and stated he had just talked to Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. The White House requested (1) the implementation of continuity of government measures, (2) fighter escorts for Air Force One, and (3) a fighter combat air patrol over Washington, D.C.***
The Washington Post reported in March 2002 that "the shadow government has evolved into an indefinite precaution." The same article goes on to state:Assessment of terrorist risks persuaded the White House to remake the program as a permanent feature of 'the new reality, based on what the threat looks like,' a senior decisionmaker said.As CBS pointed out, virtually none of the Congressional leadership knew that the COG had been implemented or was still in existence as of March 2002:Key congressional leaders say they didn’t know President Bush had established a “shadow government,” moving dozens of senior civilian managers to secret underground locations outside Washington to ensure that the federal government could survive a devastating terrorist attack on the nation's capital, The Washington Post says in its Saturday editions.Similarly, the above-cited CNN article states:
Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) told the Post he had not been informed by the White House about the role, location or even the existence of the shadow government that the administration began to deploy the morning of the Sept. 11 hijackings.
An aide to House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) said he was also unaware of the administration's move.
Among Congress's GOP leadership, aides to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.), second in line to succeed the president if he became incapacitated, and to Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (Miss.) said they were not sure whether they knew.
Aides to Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.) said he had not been told. As Senate president pro tempore, he is in line to become president after the House speaker.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, said Friday he can't say much about the plan.
"We have not been informed at all about the role of the shadow government or its whereabouts or what particular responsibilities they have and when they would kick in, but we look forward to work with the administration to get additional information on that."
Indeed, the White House has specifically refused to share information about Continuity of Government plans with the Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. Congress, even though that Committee has proper security clearance to hear the full details of all COG plans.
Specifically, in the summer 2007, Congressman Peter DeFazio, on the Homeland Security Committee (and so with proper security access to be briefed on COG issues), inquired about continuity of government plans, and was refused access. Indeed, DeFazio told Congress that the entire Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. Congress has been denied access to the plans by the White House (video; or here is the transcript). The Homeland Security Committee has full clearance to view all information about COG plans. DeFazio concluded: "Maybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right”.
As University of California Berkeley Professor Emeritus Peter Dale Scott warned:
Indeed, continuity of government plans are specifically defined to do the following:
If members of the Homeland Security Committee cannot enforce their right to read secret plans of the Executive Branch, then the systems of checks and balances established by the U.S. Constitution would seem to be failing.
To put it another way, if the White House is successful in frustrating DeFazio, then Continuity of Government planning has arguably already superseded the Constitution as a higher authority.
- Those within the new government would know what was going on. But those in the “old government” – that is, the one created by the framers of the Constitution – would not necessarily know the details of what was happening
- Normal laws and legal processes might largely be suspended, or superseded by secretive judicial forums
See this, this and this.
- The media might be ordered by strict laws – punishable by treason – to only promote stories authorized by the new government
In 2007, President Bush issued Presidential Directive NSPD-51, which purported to change Continuity of Government plans. NSPD51 is odd because:Beyond cases of actual insurrection, the President may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack, or to any ‘other condition.’ Changes of this magnitude should be made only after a thorough public airing. But these new Presidential powers were slipped into the law without hearings or public debate.
Postscript: As I've repeatedly noted, economics, politics and law are inseparable and intertwined. As Aristotle pointed out thousands of years ago, "The only stable state is the one in which all men are equal before the law." Without the rule of law, the state crumbles, and the government bonds and other investments crumble with it.
As I wrote last year:
What's the hole that is swallowing up the economy? The failure to follow the rule of law.
The rule of law is the basis for our social contract. Indeed, it is the basis for our submission to the power of the state.
We are supposed to be a nation of laws, not of men. That's what humanity has fought for ever since we forced the king to sign the Magna Carta.Indeed, lawlessness - the failure to enforce the rule of law - is dragging the world economy down into the abyss.
Under the right conditions, tornadoes can pick up fires and form temporary fire tornadoes.
Videos of fire tornadoes:
The Discovery Channel explains fire tornadoes:
You can have water tornadoes as well:
Twin water tornadoes:
People want to assume that when someone in power messes up - especially someone who appears incompetent - it was just a mistake.
For example, folks can't believe that an incompetent president could carry out scoundrelly deeds.
But as I wrote 5 years ago:
I noted last year:"Generally, US foreign policy is remarkably consistent and cohesive, a deadly success, given the interests it represents. Those who see it as repeatedly befuddled are themselves revealing their own befuddlement.This strategy of "playing dumb" and acting incompetent has, in fact, long been employed by leaders on both the left and the right. Many liberals and old fashioned conservatives have been suckered by this dumb and dumber act.
Sometimes the policymakers themselves seize upon incompetence as a cover. [For example, when the Iran-Contra affair was discovered, President Reagan pleaded incompetence.] His admission of incompetence was eagerly embraced by various analysts and pundits who prefer to see their leaders as suffering from innocent ignorance rather than deliberate deception. Subsequent testimony by his subordinates, however, revealed that Reagan was not as dumb as he was pretending to be, and that he had played an active and deciding role in the entire Iran-contra affair.
No less a political personage than Henry Kissinger repeatedly pretended to innocent ignorance and incompetence when confronted with the dirty role he and his cohorts played . . . ."
Let's take a look at the actual history of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld for insight into whether they are incompetent leaders.
After Bush lost his bid for congress because he was perceived as an over-educated, "spoiled rich kid from back East", he cultivated a bumbling, "good old boy" image, and then started winning his political elections. That's right: Bush actually cultivated a bumbling, misspeaking mannerism.
Moreover, President Bush proposed painting a U.S. surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire from Iraqi military, as a way to justify war against Iraq. Is this the kind of proposal that someone who is incompetent would make, or is it the kind of thing a conscious deceiver would suggest?
Rumsfeld and Cheney are also long-time experts at using deception to justify their military and political goals. They were, in fact, the folks who intentionally hyped the Soviet threat during the Cold War so that the defense contractors would make a killing and the U.S. would have a suitably scary "bad guy" to rally against (see this article). These guys, like other neocons, are students of Machiavelli.
Remember how the TV character Detective Columbo pretended he was bumbling and dumb, so that people would underestimate him? Or remember the TV show Matlock, where Andy Griffith pretended to be a slow-witted country lawyer in order to put people off their guard?
I would argue that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have also used this same trick: playing dumb.
Prominent liberal figures and 0ld-fashioned conservatives have tried to warn others of the ploy. For example, liberal guru George Lakoff wrote an article in 2006 called "Bush Is Not Incompetent" which demonstrates that the Bush administration has been incredibly successful in implementing its agenda (the article is well worth reading for its evidence that Bush is not incompetent; however, I believe Lakoff confuses neoconservatism with true conservatism).
Similarly, in an article entitled "Bush Didn’t Bungle Iraq, You Fools", veteran investigative reporter Greg Palast says that the administration got exactly what it wanted from the Iraqi war. And popular liberal writer William Pitt says "the 'incompetence' thing is nonsense . . . Can anyone still think this was all by accident?". Pitt recognizes that the White House, rather than being incompetent, has gotten exactly what they wanted all along -- to invade Iraq, get a foothold in the Middle East and to get control of the oil.
Indeed, the neocons have openly advocated civil war and instability in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries as a long-range strategic plan.
Countries need to lie about their enemies in order to demonize them sufficiently so that the people will support the war.
That is why intelligence "failures" - such as the following - are so common:
- The U.S. Navy's own historians now say that the sinking of the USS Maine -- the justification for America's entry into the Spanish-American War -- was probably caused by an internal explosion of coal, rather than an attack by the Spanish.
- It is also now well-accepted that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident which led to the Vietnam war was a fiction (confirmed here).
- And two lies were used to justify the 1991 Gulf War: the statement that Iraqis murdered Kuwaiti babies and the statement that a quarter of a million Iraqi troops were massed on the border with Saudi Arabia (see also this article)(technically, the statement about Kuwaiti babies did not come from the U.S. government, but from a public relations firm hired by the government).
Obama's Economic Incompetence
Obama - like Bush before him - also appears to be totally incompetent with regard to the economy. He hasn't been able to rein in the giant banks or significantly lower unemployment. Obama is following disproven models, and has appointed economists who either helped cause the crisis in the first place, or who have drunk the kool-aid of failed economic theory.
But Obama has actually been serving "his constituency": Goldman Sachs and the other Wall Street giants which funded his campaign.
And as I pointed out last year, top economists running the Fed and advising Obama don't miss the dangers to the economy due to negligence, but because they are rewarded for doing so:
Most economists don't exercise any independent thinking because economists are trained to ignore reality:
And I have pointed out numerous times that economists and advisors have a financial incentive to use faulty models. For example, I pointed out last month:
The decision to use faulty models was an economic and political choice, because it benefited the economists and those who hired them.
For example, the elites get wealthy during booms and they get wealthy during busts. Therefore, the boom-and-bust cycle benefits them enormously, as they can trade both ways.
Specifically, as Simon Johnson, William K. Black and others point out, the big boys make bucketloads of money during the booms using fraudulent schemes and knowing that many borrowers will default. Then, during the bust, they know the government will bail them out, and they will be able to buy up competitors for cheap and consolidate power. They may also bet against the same products they are selling during the boom (more here), knowing that they'll make a killing when it busts.
But economists have pretended there is no such thing as a bubble. Indeed, BIS slammed the Fed and other central banks for blowing bubbles and then using "gimmicks and palliatives" afterwards.
It is not like economists weren't warning about booms and busts. Nobel prize winner Hayek and others were, but were ignored because it was "inconvenient" to discuss this "impolite" issue.
Likewise, the entire Federal Reserve model is faulty, benefiting the banks themselves but not the public.
However, as Huffington Post notes:
The Federal Reserve, through its extensive network of consultants, visiting scholars, alumni and staff economists, so thoroughly dominates the field of economics that real criticism of the central bank has become a career liability for members of the profession, an investigation by the Huffington Post has found.
This dominance helps explain how, even after the Fed failed to foresee the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, the central bank has largely escaped criticism from academic economists. In the Fed's thrall, the economists missed it, too.
"The Fed has a lock on the economics world," says Joshua Rosner, a Wall Street analyst who correctly called the meltdown. "There is no room for other views, which I guess is why economists got it so wrong."The problems of a massive debt overhang were also thoroughly documented by Minsky, but mainstream economists pretended that debt doesn't matter.
And - even now - mainstream economists are STILL willfully ignoring things like massive leverage, hoping that the economy can be pumped back up to super-leveraged house-of-cards levels.
As the Wall Street Journal article notes:As they did in the two revolutions in economic thought of the past century, economists are rediscovering relevant work.It is only "rediscovered" because it was out of favor, and it was only out of favor because it was seen as unnecessarily crimping profits by, for example, arguing for more moderation during boom times.
The powers-that-be do not like economists who say "Boys, if you don't slow down, that bubble is going to get too big and pop right in your face". They don't want to hear that they can't make endless money using crazy levels of leverage and 30-to-1 levels of fractional reserve banking, and credit derivatives. And of course, they don't want to hear that the Federal Reserve is a big part of the problem.
Indeed, the Journal and the economists it quotes seem to be in no hurry whatsoever to change things:The quest is bringing financial economists -- long viewed by some as a curiosity mostly relevant to Wall Street -- together with macroeconomists. Some believe a viable solution will emerge within a couple of years; others say it could take decades.
Saturday, PhD economist Michael Hudson made the same point:I think that the question that needs to be asked is how the discipline was untracked and trivialized from its classical flowering? How did it become marginalized and trivialized, taking for granted the social structures and dynamics that should be the substance and focal point of its analysis?...
To answer this question, my book describes the "intellectual engineering" that has turned the economics discipline into a public relations exercise for the rentier classes criticized by the classical economists: landlords, bankers and monopolists. It was largely to counter criticisms of their unearned income and wealth, after all, that the post-classical reaction aimed to limit the conceptual "toolbox" of economists to become so unrealistic, narrow-minded and self-serving to the status quo. It has ended up as an intellectual ploy to distract attention away from the financial and property dynamics that are polarizing our world between debtors and creditors, property owners and renters, while steering politics from democracy to oligarchy...
[As one Nobel prize winning economist stated,] "In pointing out the consequences of a set of abstract assumptions, one need not be committed unduly as to the relation between reality and these assumptions."This attitude did not deter him from drawing policy conclusions affecting the material world in which real people live. These conclusions are diametrically opposed to the empirically successful protectionism by which Britain, the United States and Germany rose to industrial supremacy.
Typical of this now widespread attitude is the textbook Microeconomics by William Vickery, winner of the 1997 Nobel Economics Prize:"Economic theory proper, indeed, is nothing more than a system of logical relations between certain sets of assumptions and the conclusions derived from them... The validity of a theory proper does not depend on the correspondence or lack of it between the assumptions of the theory or its conclusions and observations in the real world. A theory as an internally consistent system is valid if the conclusions follow logically from its premises, and the fact that neither the premises nor the conclusions correspond to reality may show that the theory is not very useful, but does not invalidate it. In any pure theory, all propositions are essentially tautological, in the sense that the results are implicit in the assumptions made."Such disdain for empirical verification is not found in the physical sciences. Its popularity in the social sciences is sponsored by vested interests. There is always self-interest behind methodological madness. That is because success requires heavy subsidies from special interests, who benefit from an erroneous, misleading or deceptive economic logic. Why promote unrealistic abstractions, after all, if not to distract attention from reforms aimed at creating rules that oblige people actually to earn their income rather than simply extracting it from the rest of the economy?
These aren't the only areas where the "incompetence" card was played.
Not only have our government "leaders" in the Fed, Treasury, Congress and White House ignored the real world, they have taunted it - like monkeys who pull the tail of the lion and then [act] surprised when the lion attacks:
- Let the largest U.S. banks go bankrupt repeatedly due to wild speculation, then blessed the speculation and helped cover up the bankruptcies
- Privatized profits and socialized losses, trashed the real value of the dollar, and let corruption run rampant
- Covered up all of the fraud which led to the crisis
- Rewarded looting by the big banks
- Given trillions in bailout or other emergency funds to private companies, but then refusing to disclose to either the media, the American people or even Congress where the money went
- Blown bubble after bubble
- Plundered the treasury to effect "a massive redistribution of wealth to the bank shareholders and their top executives"
- Allowed high-frequency trading to completely warp the markets
- Waged unnecessary wars all over the world, so that even our top military commanders are begging to slash defense costs, and otherwise buried our nation under mountains of debt (see this, this, this, this, this and this)
Cenk Uygur pointed out:
The New York Times reported ... that we sent in 36 U.S. Special Forces troops to get Osama bin Laden when we knew he was in Tora Bora. By contrast, we sent nearly 150,000 soldiers to get Saddam Hussein. In case you're keeping count at home, we got Saddam and we didn't get Osama. What does that tell you about this administration’s priorities? This goes beyond incompetence. If you send only 36 soldiers to get somebody in the middle of Afghanistan, it means you don’t want to get him...And former Federal Prosecutor, Office of Special Investigations, U.S. Department of Justice under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan; former U.S. Army Intelligence officer, and currently a widely-sought media commentator on terrorism and intelligence services (John Loftus) says:
Osama had about 1,500-2,000 well-armed, well-trained men in the region. 36 guys to get 2,000? Why would we let ourselves be outgunned like that?...
There is an inescapable fact – if you put this little effort into capturing someone, it means you don’t want to capture him.
If people inside the administration actually held back from capturing Osama bin Laden when we had him cornered, it borders on treason.
The information provided by European intelligence services prior to 9/11 was so extensive that it is no longer possible for either the CIA or FBI to assert a defense of incompetence.Postscript: If you still don't believe a bumbler like Bush could have really been a rascal, remember that Colin Powell's Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson said:
The vice president and the secretary of defense created a "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" that hijacked U.S. foreign policy.(Just like they've hijacked foreign policy in the U.S. for nearly 40 years.)
Similarly, if you think Obama is incompetent in fixing the economy and reining in Wall Street, remember that Harold Bradley - who oversees almost $2 billion in assets as chief investment officer at the Kauffman Foundation - said:
“We are in a cabal... five or six players ... own the regulatory apparatus. everybody is afraid to regulate them"
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