Jeju Islanders protests Navy Base

SOURCE: Koohan Paik (kosherkimchee@yahoo.com)
SUBHEAD: The right-wing South Korean government will go to any length to bring US Navy base to island.  

By Bruce K. Gagnon on 26 February 2012 for Space 4 Peace
  (http://space4peace.blogspot.com/2012_02_26_archive.html)  

[IB editor's note: Bruce Gagnon was one of three featured speakers at the Kauai Alliance for Peace conference at the Kapaa Library on 2/21/12.]

   
Image above: Korean national police surround demonstrators at navel base construction site on Jeju island. From original article.

It was difficult for all of us to leave Gangjeong village. My last day in the village was filled with horror as the police surrounded the villagers and their kayaks and would not allow them to be put in the water.

Four villagers were arrested and a daylong back and forth struggle took place where villagers and supporters would not give up their attempts to pull a kayak free and quickly put them in the water trying to head toward the embattled rocky coastline that is now virtually sealed off with razor wire. Several people were hurt, as the police would swarm over any attempt to remove a kayak. Catholic Father Moon was knocked to the bottom of one scrum along with another revered villager who got his hand cut up.

A Frenchman named Benji, who has been in the village for months, was knocked down and repeatedly pounced on by the police. I saw the police push one man off a ramp who was filming the scene. Natasha Mayers (Maine artist) and Global Network board member Sung-Hee Choi were able to get one kayak into the water. Angie Zelter put on a life vest and jumped into the cold water and swam to the rocky coastline. Benji jumped in with half of a wet suit on to make sure she didn't drown.

At one point I was asked to help create a diversion by going into the middle of where the police were surrounding the kayaks and attempt to pull a kayak out while others took kayaks from a nearby boat house. This worked and I was exhausted after trying to pull a kayak free from the grips of the police for at least 10-15 minutes during my diversionary attempt. Earlier in the day yesterday about 30 of the villagers and remaining international supporters made the one-hour trip to Jeju City to hold a news conference demanding that the weak-kneed Governor Woo stand up to the Navy and protect the 450-year old village from destruction by the Navy.

A large number of media covered the news conference and then we moved across the street to the governor's office building but they locked us out. I've never seen such a thing where taxpaying citizens were locked out of their own government building - especially with the large media throng accompanying them.

After much Korean-style yelling and demanding they finally opened the door and allowed Mayor Kang, Dave Webb (UK), Atsushi Fujioka (Japan), me, and a translator to go up and deliver our letter to the governor's office. All day long I couldn't get out of my head the thought that South Korea is absolutely a police state. I think it is a sign of where we in the U.S. are quickly heading.

The South Korean people have been dealing with this reality for many years but we in the U.S. are hardly prepared for what this tastes like. I've just arrived at JFK airport in New York City after a 13-hour flight from Seoul. When I checked the Facebook page called No Navy Base on Jeju! I saw a tweet from Father Moon saying, "February 28 Gangjeong port blockade! Today, worse! They surrounded the kayak storage container.

Not even allowed to enter the sea, blocking fiercely! SWAT team has been deployed, who was mobilized at that time of Yongsan eviction crack down in 2009 [in Seoul]." The Navy has been bringing police in from Seoul by the hundreds at a time. They have no allegiance to Jeju Island and are conscripts doing their two-years of service.

So in the last two days about 30 people have been arrested for trying to protect the sacred coast of Gangjeong village. The villagers tell us that every day is like this - an endless struggle just to be able to stand on their own shoreline or now even have access to the water with a kayak! People keep asking what they can do to help. They should continue to call the South Korean embassy/consulate nearest to you. But most importantly more international delegations are urgently needed in the village.

When the international presence is strong the police have to back off some of their more aggressive treatment of the villagers. I can't urge strongly enough for activists around the world to discuss sending 2-3 folks from your community to Jeju for 7-10 days. We can help you make the necessary contacts there. Please discuss this great need in your local community. I can promise you it will be an experience that you will never forget.

The villagers are worn out and would be thrilled if you could bring them this kind of support.

Bruce K. Gagnon:
Coordinator Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652 Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502
globalnet@mindspring.com
www.space4peace.org http://space4peace.blogspot.com/ (blog)


Video above: Al Jazeera documentary on protests against US navel base on Jeju island, Korea. From (http://youtu.be/_aSJgZOkLlU).

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Korean Island of Peace 2/26/12

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Chinese municiple land grab

SUBHEAD: Chinese central government showdown with municipalities on property speculation bubble.

 By Bonnie Cao on 28 February 2012 for Bloomberg News - (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-28/chinese-lawmakers-showdown-over-property-curbs-simmers-after-wuhu-retreat.html)

 
Image above: Chinese poster art "New View in the Rural Village" by Xin Liliang, 1953. From (http://chineseposters.net/posters/e12-527.php).
 
China’s local municipalities will press on with efforts to ease property curbs that have slowed the land sales they rely on for revenue, even after two cities retreated in the face of opposition from the central government.

Wuhu and Foshan, smaller cities that get at least 30 percent of their revenue from selling sites, abandoned attempts to lift some restrictions that have hurt prices and sales. Premier Wen Jiabao has reiterated the government won’t waver from its measures to keep housing affordable.

“The local governments are testing the water, but the central government is saying we are not ready yet,” said Andy Rothman, CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets’ Shanghai-based China macroeconomic strategist, who expects officials in Beijing to start allowing their local counterparts to relax housing enforcements in the second quarter.

That is already happening. The southern city of Zhongshan, the hometown of Sun Yat-sen, the founder of modern China, increased a price cap on residential home sales in January, and the western city of Chongqing last month raised the minimum threshold where a property holding tax kicks in.
Tensions between the two levels of authority will be on show next week as officials gather in Beijing for the annual National People’s Congress starting March 5th.

Land sales fell 13 percent last year from 2010 to 1.9 trillion yuan ($302 billion), according to a SouFun Holdings Ltd. (SFUN) survey of 130 cities, threatening funding for roads, highways and rail lines.

More Complaints
“Smaller cities rely much more on the property industry than big cities, from land sales to deed tax,” said Liu Li-Gang, a Hong Kong-based economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. “We are probably going to hear a lot of complaints from small-city government officials during the NPC about how much their revenue and economy have suffered.”

China has more than 1,000 county-level governments and hundreds of city and municipal councils that get revenue from local taxes, land sales and central-government transfers because rules bar most of them from selling bonds. Land sales make up 30 percent of local government revenue and in some cities account for more than half, according to a June 2011 report by Zurich- based UBS AG.

Policies related to the property sector -- including whether purchase restrictions in second- and third-tier cities should be relaxed, preferential policies for first-time buyers, and plans to extend the property tax experiment to more cities - - “will surely be debated” at the NPC, according to economists at Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit.

Fine-Tuning
“We believe the central government will not ease its major property tightening measures,” the economists led by Lu Ting wrote in the report. “However, the government could step up its fine-tuning on several fronts.”

Changes may include further lowering mortgage rates and down-payment ratios for first-home buyers and encouraging developers to build smaller homes by providing favorable policies on loans and land, the economists said.

The NPC is legally the highest governmental body in China. While the legislature, with about 3,000 members, is often derided as a rubberstamp parliament, its members are some of China’s most powerful politicians and executives, wielding power in their home provinces and weighing in on proposals such as whether to impose a nationwide property tax.

Wu Yajun, China’s richest woman and chairman of Beijing- based Longfor Properties Co. (960), is a member of the NPC.

Shrinking Revenue
China’s home prices grew 6 percent in 2010 after surging 25 percent the previous year when the government started imposing curbs, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Home sales rose 10 percent in 2011, the slowest pace in three years.

The government moved to stamp out speculation with measures including raising down-payment and mortgage-rate requirements, imposing property taxes for the first time in Shanghai and Chongqing, and home purchase restrictions in about 40 cities.

The result has been shrinking local government revenue. Land sales in Wuhu, a mid-size industrial city in the east and home to China’s sixth-largest automaker, fell 51 percent last year to 4.64 billion yuan from 2010, while they slumped 60 percent to 5.3 billion yuan in the northeastern industrial city of Dalian, according to SouFun, the nation’s biggest real estate website.

Local governments spearheaded a construction boom under a 4 trillion yuan stimulus program started in November 2008 after global credit markets seized in the wake of the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holding Inc. in September that year.

Backing Down
Property became the pillar industry in most second- and third-tier cities than in Beijing and Shanghai, which have more diversified industries and are considered more affluent, according to Mizuho Securities Asia Ltd.

“Desperate diseases require desperate remedies,” said Shen Jian-guang, a Hong Kong-based economist at Mizuho Securities. “Had the government not introduce the nationwide property tightening, it would be hard to control the risks of asset bubbles. But today smaller cities are feeling the bigger impact from the policies.”

First-tier cities include wealthier Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou and Shenzhen in southern China, according to the statistics bureau. The second tier includes provincial capitals and the third includes smaller cities.

Wuhu in Anhui province had planned to waive a deed tax and subsidize some purchases, becoming the first Chinese city this year to signal its intention to ease property measures. The decision was halted three days after the Feb. 9 announcement, in a move reminiscent of Foshan, in the south, which in October shelved plans to ease limits on home purchases one day after its announcement.

‘A Blind Eye’
China’s home prices in January recorded their worst performance in at least a year, with none of the 70 cities monitored by the government posting month-on-month gains. China stopped releasing national average property prices in favor of individual cities in January 2011.

The eastern city of Wenzhou posted the biggest drop, with home prices declining 7.6 percent in January from the same period last year, according to the statistics bureau. A credit squeeze on smaller businesses in the city prompted a visit and pledge of financial aid from Wen in October.
There are signs the central government may be allowing some modest forms of property curbs relaxation. It “turned a blind eye” in the case of Zhongshan and Chongqing’s “policy fine- tuning,” according to CIMB-GK Securities Research Pte.

Mild Easing Allowed
“Local government officials are trying to read the mind of the central authority,” said Johnson Hu, a Hong Kong-based property analyst at CIMB-GK. “It seems cautious, mild easing moves are allowed, while drastic relaxations are likely to be called off.”

Major Chinese cities also are attempting some form of easing. Shanghai on Feb. 22 reiterated its property curbs remain in place after a newspaper affiliated with the state-run Xinhua news agency reported the city will tweak its definition of locals to allow a broader pool of people to buy second homes.

Shanghai stated yesterday that the definition of locals excludes residence permit holders. That would leave out 671,000 in the city of 20 million who were issued residence permits as of March 2009, China Business News reported.

The measure tracking property stocks on the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index (SHCOMP) fell 3 percent at the close, the most in three months. China Vanke Co. (000002), the biggest listed developer on mainland exchanges, declined 2.8 percent to 8.28 yuan in Shenzhen trading, while its biggest rival Poly Real Estate Group Co. slid 3.3 percent to 11.1 yuan in Shanghai.

No Major Policies
“It’s very unlikely for the housing ministry to make any major policy moves ahead of the NPC, while local governments just can’t wait,” said Peter Bai, a Beijing-based property analyst at China International Capital Corp., the country’s biggest investment bank. The jostling between local and central governments will last for at least half a year, he added.

China’s central bank cut the amount of cash that banks must set aside as reserves for the second time in three months on Feb. 18. It also pledged on Feb. 8 to ensure that “loan demand from first-home families” is met, echoing a housing ministry comment in December that it will prioritize loans for first-home buyers.

“The central government wants to retain control of this easing process; they don’t want each city going off and operating on its own level,” said CLSA’s Rothman. “They need to be convinced that they have enough evidence that policies have worked before they start relaxing them.”


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Americans can't afford food

SUBHEAD: Study finds a growing number of Americans cannot afford a proper diet. By Alexander Eichler on 29 February 2012 for Huffington Post - (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/28/afford-food-hunger_n_1308020.html) Image above: What's for dinner? Top Ramen noodles again. From (http://ramenrater.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/nissin-top-ramen-oriental-flavor).

Here in the United States, growing numbers of people can't afford that most basic of necessities: food.

More Americans said they struggled to buy food in 2011 than in any year since the financial crisis, according to a recent report from the Food Research and Action Center, a nonprofit research group. About 18.6 percent of people -- almost one out of every five -- told Gallup pollsters that they couldn't always afford to feed everyone in their family in 2011.

One might assume that number got smaller wrapped up with the national unemployment rate falling for several consecutive months. In actuality, the reverse proved true: the number of people who said they couldn't afford food just kept rising and rising.

The findings from FRAC highlight what many people already know: The economic recovery, in theory now more than two years old, has done little to keep millions of Americans out of poverty and deprivation. Incomes for many haven't kept pace with the cost of living, and for a large swath of the country, things today are as bad as ever, or worse.

Forty-six million people lived below the poverty line as of 2010, a record number, according to the Census Bureau, and one that's not even as high as some other estimates would have it. Take a further step back and the situation appears even more dire. About 45 percent of people in the U.S. have reported not being able to cover their basic living expenses, including food, shelter and transportation, according to the group Wider Opportunities for Women.

The official poverty rate is about 15 percent, but over two-fifths of Americans have so little saved that one financial emergency is all it would take to put them in poverty, according to the Corporation for Enterprise Development.

These high rates of financial insecurity -- a consequence of the weak job market, and the prevalence of jobs that don't pay very well -- are making themselves felt at the level of everyday spending.

Recently, for example, a Center for Housing Policy study found that a growing number of middle-income owners and renters are paying more than half their earnings just to keep a roof over their heads. And as of 2009, almost one in five Americans over 50 years old were skipping on doctor visits, switching to cheaper medications or forgoing some medicines entirely out of financial necessity, according to a recently published study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a think tank.

As for widespread hunger of the kind recorded by FRAC, research shows that the entire country ends up paying one way or another. While the people who can't afford food are obviously suffering the worst, the social costs incurred -- from the money spent to keep food pantries open to the lifelong diminished earning power of impoverished children -- come to about $167 billion a year, or $542 for every man, woman and child in the country.

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Seattle Permaculture

SUBHEAD: The city’s new park will be filled with edible plants, and everything from pears to herbs will be free for the taking. By Clair Leschin-Hoar on 28 February 2012 for Take Part - (http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/02/21/its-not-fairytale-seattle-build-nations-first-food-forest) Image above: An existing community garden in Seattle, Washington. From (http://www.ourcollectivegood.com/animals-ecology-wildlife/its-not-a-fairytale-seattle-to-build-nations-first-food-forest/).

Seattle’s vision of an urban food oasis is going forward. A seven-acre plot of land in the city’s Beacon Hill neighborhood will be planted with hundreds of different kinds of edibles: walnut and chestnut trees; blueberry and raspberry bushes; fruit trees, including apples and pears; exotics like pineapple, yuzu citrus, guava, persimmons, honeyberries, and lingonberries; herbs; and more. All will be available for public plucking to anyone who wanders into the city’s first food forest.

“This is totally innovative, and has never been done before in a public park,” Margarett Harrison, lead landscape architect for the Beacon Food Forest project, tells TakePart. Harrison is working on construction and permit drawings now and expects to break ground this summer.

The concept of a food forest certainly pushes the envelope on urban agriculture and is grounded in the concept of permaculture, which means it will be perennial and self-sustaining, like a forest is in the wild. Not only is this forest Seattle’s first large-scale permaculture project, but it’s also believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.

“The concept means we consider the soils, companion plants, insects, bugs—everything will be mutually beneficial to each other,” says Harrison.

That the plan came together at all is remarkable on its own. What started as a group project for a permaculture design course ended up as a textbook example of community outreach gone right.

Friends of the Food Forest undertook heroic outreach efforts to secure neighborhood support. The team mailed over 6,000 postcards in five different languages, tabled at events and fairs, and posted fliers,” writes Robert Mellinger for Crosscut.

Neighborhood input was so valued by the organizers, they even used translators to help Chinese residents have a voice in the planning.

So just who gets to harvest all that low-hanging fruit when the time comes?

“Anyone and everyone,” says Harrison. “There was major discussion about it. People worried, ‘What if someone comes and takes all the blueberries?’ That could very well happen, but maybe someone needed those blueberries. We look at it this way—if we have none at the end of blueberry season, then it means we’re successful.”

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Triumph of the Generalist

SUBHEAD: A overview of attempts at farming & homesteading encyclopedias.  

By Sharon Astyk on 27 February 2012 for Casaubon's Book -  
(http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2012/02/triumph_of_the_generalist_read.php)


Image above: Photo of farmer reading Progessive Farmer, by George Ackerman, 1931. From (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ackerman_farmer.jpg).
 
I admit it, I'm a generalist in a world of specialists, and I always have been. Looking back on my career history, for example, I see the way I attempted to make the academic model of specialization adapt to my own taste for generalism - my doctoral project was a little bit insane, integrating demography, history, textual analysis and half a dozen other disciplines across a 250 year timeline - just the sort of thing advisers hate to see.

The polite word was "ambitious" but "nuts" is probably more accurate. As you can probably guess from the title of this blog (for those who haven't read George Eliiot, Casaubon is trying to write the ultimate unified theory of everything - and failing miserably), both the joys and dangers of generalism are something I try and keep in mind.

Having left academia behind, it is perhaps natural that I would find myself a career as a generalist- as a writer covering a wide range of subjects and as a farmer, the ultimate generalist. Agriculture requires a wide-ranging set of skills vaster than almost any field I can imagine, and while one becomes deeply expert in some parts of the work, it is still necessary, even imperative, to constantly be gaining some superficial understanding of a host of new things.

The generalist is jack of many trades, but master of few. That's not a criticism. Being good enough at things is often sufficient for most of a life - particularly an agricultural life. I don't need to be able to handle the most complex medical crises in my animals - only able to handle the day to day ones that come up regularly. It is fine with me to call the vet for the hard stuff. I don't need to be able to knit objects of incredible, perfect artistry - only to be able to make enough mittens to keep the kids' hands warm.

I can get a mechanic when something seriously breaks down, but need to keep the tiller in order for most common problems, can propagate most plants, but leave the germination of rosemary seed to others. I can make a passable fruit tree graft, build a bentwood fence that will mostly keep things in or out and produce bread that will never pass for european artisanal, but that tastes awfully good. I'd like to get better at many of these things, but I don't NEED to - the comfortable level of passable generalism is sufficient for much.

Not long ago, I was asked by a publisher if I would consider writing a farming/homesteading encyclopedia, and I declined, although it was an interesting idea. Still, I think much of that ground has been covered or is being covered by others, and I'm working on another project at this moment. It did, however, make me think about the way the ground has been covered in the past.

These overview books on starting up a smallholding/homestead/small farm/urban sustainable oasis are often the first books any of us come to, precisely because we need that encyclopedic breadth so badly - eventually we may need to know more about growing melons or delivering a calf or butchering a rabbit or canning pickles - in fact, most of us end up with specialist books on all these things. But at first the best of these books give you a picture of the whole range of the work you are entering into - and that's what a lot of us need. When they are really good, they also come with enough thoughtful detail that even experienced farmers and homesteaders learn a lot from looking through them.

The criteria I use to evaluate them are these. First, can you follow the instructions enough to actually accomplish the things they show you? Second, do you get misinformation or inadequate information from them - in their attempt to be concise, do they leave critical things out? Next, are they enjoyable to read? Finally, are they books worth buying and having on your shelves - that is, once you move past the beginner stage, will you still go back to them?

 Encyclopedia of Country Living  
(http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Country-Living-Carla-Emery/dp/1570615535)
Carla Emery's book is, of course, the be-all, end-all of encyclopedic farming, food and homesteading references. Full disclosure - Carla was a personal friend and I was involved in the revisions for the 10th edition (along with a lot of people at the Homesteading Today forums). Even given my bias in Carla's favor, it is the most complete reference out there - if sometimes idiosyncratic. Moreover, its focus on recipes - ie, it will teach you how to make a BLT starting with wheat seeds, a pregnant sow, a hen and a long row of empty garden - really makes the "food to table" connection clear.

That said, this is a BIG book, and a friendly, chatty, idiosyncratic book - one that attempts to do two simultaneous things - talk to you like a neighbor would and cover the landscape. Most encyclopedic texts don't try both - and it can occasionally be hard to find what you are looking for, but the book is so warm and friendly and fun to read or just meander through that I can't wish for less that was personal. It is manifestly possible to do many of the things that Carla suggests with her book - I know people who have butchered their first pig that way, or milked the first goat with the book in one hand. Carla has been helping people actually do for themselves for a long time.

For the 10th edition, Carla attempted to really sort through all the thousands of recipes and update it with a lot of help, and it really is a good job. Still, there are some recipes left that aren't that great and a few incoherencies, but if you were to buy one farming or homesteading book, this would be it.
I wouldn't recommend just one - in fact, I have come to think that Carla's Encyclopedia actually is even better with a companion book, and I know just the book. Carla's book is a product of the fist back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s (in fact it is just about as old as I am) - if there's a new back to the land movement now, as some have claimed,

 The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading
 (http://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Guide-Homesteading-Encyclopedia-Independent/dp/161608135X)
Nicole Faire's  book is the logical companion to Carla's book. This book filled with pictures (and very, very good pictures at that!) is truly a collection of encyclopedia entries - from "how do I make a homemade tasty toothpaste?" to "how do I thatch a roof?" Everything from first aid for a range of medical conditions to making tools, fiber crafts and food storage is covered here, in brief and with images.

Most of the entries are brief enough that you probably won't use them as a primary reference - for example the explanation of how to knit or crochet is totally inadequate and the pictures don't really even tell you what you are seeing. Some entries are more complete than others and more detailed.
Sometimes you can do things from the book, sometimes all this is is sufficient information to make you want to find a better book. But even someone who has been doing this for more than a decade (me) and counts herself as reasonably famliar with much of this stuff learned new things from this book - and was intrigued enough with the basic explanation to want to follow up with more detail from one of my collection of specialists. This is a good and interesting book, and together with Carla's Encyclopedia, is probably the best two-piece basic reference I can think of.

I love the idea of John Seymour, and I want to use; 


The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It
  (http://www.amazon.com/Self-sufficient-Life-How-Live/dp/0789493322)
as a reference, but I find that I rarely turn to it for that - it is more for inspiration. It isn't the Britishness of it - other guides to British-style smallholdings hold my interest, but much as I like Seymour's writing in itself, I find it very hard to follow his instructions for most things - I don't find him clear at all.

He tends to make flat statements like "spray potatoes with bordeaux mixture in April." Why? Why should I spray them? What's bordeaux mixture (ok, I know that, and I can guess why he suggests I spray them, but many beginners won't - and I don't spray my potatoes or need to.) Some sections of the book are excellent (his illustrations of how to fell a tree are better than any encyclopedic book I know, his description of scything is pretty good and almost followable), and the illustrations are visually very appealing.

I know a number of people who have done major homesteading operations from Carla Emery's book - every time I try to follow John Seymour's instructions in the same way in order to butcher, preserve, garden, etc... I find myself wondering "but wait, what about..." I really do like his work, but either British beginners already have a culturally embedded memory of who to cut up a chicken or he leaves a lot of things out. Still, I do refer to it sometimes and I'm glad I own the book - but I don't think I'd list it as truly necessary. I see his books as more useful for conveying a picture of the British farm past than for the homestead present. For this they are deeply enjoyable and very readable.
In the 1980s, Readers Digest put together several books on Homesteading and small farming, all of which are back in print in new editions now

Back to Basics: Traditional American Skills 
 (http://www.amazon.com/Back-Basics-Traditional-American-Skills/dp/0895779390)
being the most famous of them, but there are several related books. These are the opposite of the previous three books, all of which allow the author's personality to shine through - these are true encyclopedias, written in the dry abstract.

That said, they can be useful - they are well illustrated or have good photos and cover a fairly reliable landscape. Want to build a sauna? Make a raft? Graft fruit trees? Make a basket? Braid cornhusks? Learn regional US cooking? Put up fencing? As a straight reference, they give more information and clearer instructions than any of the previous references - you can always pretty much DO what they show you from the instructions. The books lack the chatty personal element, and once you know the basics of these projects, you will surpass them pretty quickly, but the sheer functionality of the books is useful - a great adjunct to some of the others.

Storey's Basic Country Skills
 (http://www.amazon.com/Storeys-Basic-Country-Skills-Self-Reliance/dp/1580172024/ref=sr_1_1)
 is the most boring useful book on the planet - from its visually unappealing cover to its pages with plenty of white space lest your eyes be over-excited by something interesting, it is a hard book to really look at. I don't usually complain about the formatting of books, but this one is so unpleasant to look at and read that I rarely open it, even though there's some good stuff in there.

The book brings in experts to produce each section, and there are some really good people in there. Louise Riotte's Wetland gardening section is something I really have found useful. Stephen Bushway has produced the best section on woodburning and wood heat in any book not wholly about this subject. The range of projects is good, and there's a heavy emphasis on home repair which most of the books lack. If you can get past the fact that it is actively unpleasant to read - as big and heavy as Carla's book with none of the charm and humor - it is a useful thing to have around.
If you are planning on doing this on a smaller scale, either urban or suburban,  
The Backyard Homestead
 (http://www.amazon.com/Backyard-Homestead-Produce-food-quarter/dp/1603421386)
edited by Carleen Madigan has a neat focus - exactly how much can you produce in a small space by optimizing. That said, its focus is also oddly narrow - it doesn't talk about water issues, it says goats can't fit in your backyard (ummm...), and it has I think most of the disadvantages of encyclopedic books, without most of the advantages - it is almost impossible to follow the directions successfully, and it has only enough information to intrigue - but little to offer someone with more advanced knowledge I don't think highly of this volume, even though I want to like it - if all you are interested in is food, however, this is probably a good very basic work, but take it out of the library.

 Integral Urban House  
(http://www.amazon.com/Integral-Urban-House-Self-Reliant-Living/dp/0871562138)
The 1970s-era by the Farallones Institute was re-released in 2008, and in many ways is still a really important book - the focus on urban sustainability was prescient and it is very good in a lot of ways - that said, it is also very dated and could stand to be radically revised and updated. The book is derived from the direct experience of an urban collective, and seems ripe for revision - I'd add this to any urban homesteader's list of important books, recognizing, however, that it is extremely dated. Still, in many ways it has a freshness missing from the more polished but less useful _Backyard Homestead_ book.

The Self-Sufficient-ish Bible  
(http://www.amazon.com/Self-Sufficient-ish-Bible-Eco-living-Century/dp/034095101X)
Andy and Dave Hamilton's is a really nice book, and has a nice, contemporary and thoughtful feel - I love that besides "do it yourself" they include ethical banking and purchasing. freeganism and other ways of economic disconnection. The book is definitely geared to more urban life - community gardening, rather than your own yard, livestock only gets a few pages and focuses on the small,. and the urban low-cost decor section seems a little over-emphasized, but basically it is really nice book with a lovely emphasis on reuse and repurposing. I like it a lot. and I enjoy its aesthetic. When it lists a project, you can always actually do that project from the descriptions here


 Householder's Guide to the Universe
(http://www.amazon.com/Householders-Guide-Universe-Calendar-Basics/dp/0982569157),
If there's a non-rural successor to Carla Emery, it is definitely Harriet Fasenfest. I've written before about how much I like her book, but it deserves a mention here, because it has what Carla's book has - that chatty, funny, "I'm your neighbor and we're talking over the back fence about this stuff that we're trying to figure out" quality. There's a lot here - including both absolute basics for the kitchen and household and also much to make use of for more advanced folks. Following Fasenfest's instructions is a delight - probably no other author here is as clear and complete. If she says you can do it, you can be sure you can.

So which of these books do I need to own? Well, I don't own all of them, but I find that there's a place for half-a-dozen of these books on my shelves - they all have different strengths, because after all, so do their authors. Different authors see different elements as central - ultimately most publishers won't let you publish anything the size of a Britannica, even if (like me) you could write that much - so choices must be made.

More about cows or more about community gardens? More about housebuilding and insulation or more about getting along without money? These are the kind of choices all authors make and ultimately, no one book can cover the landscape for all we'll need - even all we need to begin. There are some that come close, but the happiest outcome are shelves that have a few of these covering a wide range of possibilities.


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Our Future of Debt Slavery - Part 3

SUBHEAD: The time may come when many of us are forced to either fight for our freedom or learn to live with our chains. By Ashvin Pandurangi on 22 February 2012 for Automatic Earth - (http://theautomaticearth.org/Finance/our-depraved-future-of-debt-slavery-part-iii.html) Image above: June 1941 Erie County, Pennsylvania. "Each group of ten trailers in the FSA camp at Erie has a trailer service unit, water faucet, slop sink, and garbage pail". From original article.

There have been many forms of “debt slavery” throughout history, and almost everyone is chained to the oppressive financial, corporatist system now in one way or another. Although, this fact has not even remotely sunk in for millions of people who, unfortunately, have absolutely no clue how bad it can get. The real issue here, however, is not necessarily what people will have to do to survive the upcoming storms. Rather, it is what they will be forced to do to remain a functioning part of the system under threat of excessive monetary punishment, physical confinement or violence to them and/or those close to them. So, one must be financially/coercively attached to the system to be a “debt slave”.

If you are allowed to voluntarily downsize your living standards and retain some freedom of movement/action, then you are not really a slave. And that's not meant to demean the existential struggle of the chronically unemployed and/or homeless people living on the streets or in the subway, whose numbers are bound to increase and many of whom will die of sickness, cold and hunger, but it's hard to say that they are “attached” to our economic system of complicity and coerced participation. The most obvious way this slavish attachment forms is through personal debts/obligations.

That’s why it’s very important to pay off your mortgage(s), car loans, student loans, outstanding balances on past bills, etc., throw away your credit cards and generally avoid taking on debt at all costs. However, that is not a panacea for avoiding debt slavery by any means. One reason is that, as mentioned in Part I, creditors and third party debt collectors may literally conjure up debts for people who never agreed to take on those debts, by failing to account for payments, illegally jacking up interest rates, retro-actively inserting penalty clauses and other similar tactics. Or, they may simply doctor up brand new “contracts” that never existed.

The U.S. financial industry and government “regulators”, at both the federal and state level, have already taken the first steps towards such practices through the illegal transfer of mortgage titles in the MERS system and the “robosigning” of fraudulent loan documents by law firms employed by the major banks, which sought to “prove” ownership of such titles and therefore the right to foreclose. Once these illegal foreclosures came to the mainstream public’s attention, the federal government launched a sham investigation and effectively forced state attorney generals and prosecutors to go along with a tiny and symbolic settlement, which will primarily be funded by taxpayer money.

Jose Suarez explores this issue for the Huffington Post and brings up some key points:

Banks Take It Easy, While Miami Struggles Against Foreclosures

However, the settlement will only help a small percentage of the millions of Americans who still are deeply underwater on their mortgages. Victims of fraudulent foreclosure robo-signings look to receive only about $2,000 in compensation.

That amount is paltry compared to the amount of pain, desperation, and despair of millions of Americans, and so many Floridians, dangling precariously at the unlikely mercy of banks and their improper, illegal foreclosure processes. $2,000 wouldn't even come close to covering moving expenses or the "first, last and security deposits" for folks forced to downsize from their own homes to rentals.

Another highly troubling aspect of the settlement is the potential spike in new foreclosures predicted by various real estate and financial industry analysts. The banks were delaying foreclosing on great numbers of homes until details of the settlement were finalized. They may not power up the illegal "robo-signing" machines again, but they are now clear to fire out the foreclose notices.

This is the buzz I hear from real estate professionals in South Florida these days. While it certainly has a big impact on their day-to-day business, a bigger question is: How will these trends affect the momentum of the overall economy? The tentative recovery has yet to reach a large portion of the individuals hit first and hardest by the recession; these residents, in particular, are still struggling mightily -- and yet another downturn could be exponentially catastrophic for many of these families.

The settlement frees the banks from any potential civil charges from the 49 states, though individuals can try to sue (in the chance you had the time and resources), and federal and state officials may wish to pursue criminal charges against the banks. But don't bet on the latter, unless you're interested in "wrist slaps." Snug relationships between so many politicians and big businesses, especially the banks, are telling.

This settlement essentially gives the banks free license to go on a rampage of financial harassment and foreclosure without any interference from state governments. That’s why it was noted in Part II that traditional protections found in contract law have been rendered completely worthless for the vast majority of people on this planet, including all but the wealthiest individuals in the West. These protections were rooted in decades of British common law that developed through judicial precedents during the so-called “Enlightenment” era. They offered the average white male citizen a way to protect himself from having to make payments or perform under a contract if it was generally secured in one of the following ways:

1) Duress (economic or physical) – i.e. You are put in a position, physically or monetarily, in which you have no other choice but to agree to the terms of a contract.

2) Fraud/misrepresentation – i.e. You agree to the terms of a contract based on a material misrepresentation or omission of facts.

3) Unconscionability – i.e. You are a disadvantaged party (very asymmetrical knowledge of the business) to a contract which contains extremely unfair terms on its face.

If a court established one of these situations to exist in any given case, then the complaining party had a right to void the contract. The problem for victimized debtors now is that the legal system only performs this protective function well when the economy is growing and wealthy private interests can claim an increasingly large share of the pie despite these common law hurdles-turned-artifacts. In an era of widespread economic contraction and deleveraging by consumers and businesses, the large private interests will instead seek to extract value through the seizing of assets (“foreclosure” implies a legitimate process) and the subjugation of distressed debtors.

Human labor, after all, is simply a form of energy that can be applied to various inputs and productive processes, including the harvesting of other energy sources and the development of infrastructure necessary for large-scale societies. Most middle to upper-middle class Americans have forgotten all about the labor expended and the lives lost by their not-so-distant ancestors in the course of such work. Yet, they may very well be forced into laying railway tracks and mining coal or constructing/repairing roads, highways, bridges and canals in the near future. College and graduate students steeped in debt who are expecting cushy office jobs that no longer exist will find out they have effectively been sold into slavery by their system of “education”.

At a time when the net energy returns afforded by the extraction of fossil fuels is quickly disappearing, the industrial corporate elites will once again rely on what can only be called “slave labor” to perpetuate a system of large-scale exploitation and wealth extraction. This time these pools of labor will not only be confined to minority groups or third world countries, and we will all find out just how little control we have over our own lives and our own bodies. When faced with the threat of arbitrary imprisonment and/or being stripped of all your earthly possessions, it will be very difficult to resist making a deal of debt servitude with the Devil.

Where can any of these people turn to for relief or protection? Can they seek help from their local police departments or court systems? Traditionally, those have been potential avenues for at least a modicum of justice. Soon, however, even these institutions will be well into the process of being privatized in the name of “fiscal responsibility” and “market efficiency”, which is really code for corporate control over all facets of the modern state. Wealthy corporate conglomerates will not only have seized the “power of the purse”, but also the state’s dispute resolution mechanisms and its monopoly to use coercion and violence in pursuit of vaguely-defined goals.

When a sizeable portion of the police force in any major city is trained, armed and managed by private security firms such as Erik Prince’s Blackwater (now known as… Academi), we may find it rather difficult to defend our homes, assets, friends and families from the wrath of our financial oppressors. They will be our creditors and debt collectors, as well as our judges, juries and executioners. One does not only become a debt slave by being underwater on private debts, though.

As we are clearly seeing in the Eurozone periphery, external public debts that are in the process of being redeemed through austerity and “structural reform” can be a force equally capable of enslavement. If you are any worker, taxpayer and/or retiree living in the shadows of the wealthiest members of society, then you are rapidly losing your freedom as I write these words. Your savings and disposable incomes are being run down to pay the salaries and bonuses of corporate executives and directors, while your democratic elections have taken an indefinite leave of absence and your government will be confronting your resistance with steel cages and the barrel of a gun.

At the same time, the Eurozone crisis perhaps offers us some signs of hope, albeit ones that are few and far between. First and foremost is the fact that the process of systemic credit collapse in our highly inter-connected environment can occur at a pace that is not necessarily capable of being out-paced by those who seek to take full advantage of it, or in ways that are completely unexpected by them. We see this revealed in the repeated inability of the IMF, EU and ECB (and their corporate masters) to come up with policies that will keep Greece in the monetary union and prevent contagion from spreading to other peripheral markets.

It is also true that extensive systems of slavery can only sustain themselves with a certain amount of complicity and passive acceptance within the population. When it is a clear majority of people in a given location, rather than a minority, who are being pushed into slavery, there will most certainly be forceful pockets of resistance and the slave masters will require the slaves’ help to squash these movements. Indeed, that is exactly what we saw in European countries occupied by Nazi Germany, and even then many of the resistance movements made significant headway towards unlocking their peoples’ chains.

The slave masters will especially require the unwavering support of civil servants tasked with carrying out orders of oppression from above. In Greece, we recently witnessed the country’s largest police union issue a statement of its intention to refuse to continue aiding the elites in the enslavement of the Greek people, and even threatened to issue symbolic arrest warrants for Troika officials stationed in the country. It is not hard to imagine similar occurrences in Portugal, Spain, Italy and even Ireland, as their policemen and women are squeezed of pensions and salaries, and forced to face the reality of their role as slaves to the system.

Closer to the “core”, there were also acts of defiance in Brussels, Belgium by firefighters who sprayed foam from their hoses onto central streets and government buildings. In a separate display, these protesting firefighters also hosed down the Prime Minister’s office and the police units protecting it. Perhaps we can expect these pockets of official resistance to grow larger over time and act as a barrier between the corporatist slave masters and the populations they seek to enslave. Which then begs the question - what will the military forces of Westerns countries do? Will they remain a cohesive, unified force that carries out orders as they have been for many years now, or will pockets of resistance materialize within their ranks as well?

It is a mistake to assume that the men and women in the U.S. military, for example, are guaranteed to bring slavery and death to their own people when they are commanded to. As USA Today reported, people who actively work for the military donate more to Ron Paul’s campaign more than any other candidate, and he is certainly not someone known for advocating imperialism and oppressive government authority. That reflects an attitude that is anything but closed-minded and uncritical of current policy trends. So, while the global population’s future of debt slavery is a very real and ongoing threat, there are also reasons to believe it may not sustain itself for very long.

Then again, the number of slaves is growing by the day and the time may come when many of us are forced to either fight for our freedom or learn to live with our chains. These are obviously very serious issues and very serious possibilities. It is no longer acceptable for anyone to pretend that the concept of systemic slavery in the developed, “civilized” world has been relegated to the history books. It took the upheaval of the Great Depression and the Second World War to truly rid the U.S. of its enslavement of African Americans only 60-70 years ago. What will it take for the indebted masses now? And is anyone really willing to find out?

See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Our Future of Debt Slavery - Part 1 2/26/12 Ea O Ka Aina: Our Future of Debt Slavery - Part 2 2/27/12 .

Obama's silent pipeline nod

SUBHEAD: TransCanada begins construction on parts of XL pipeline not needing State Department approval.  

By Brian Merchant on 27 February 2012 for TreeHugger -  
(http://www.treehugger.com/fossil-fuels/transcanada-begins-construction-keystone-xl-obama-approves.html)

 
Image above: Demonstration in Washington DC to stop Keystone XL pipeline construction. From original article.

Despite a major popular movement rising up against it—and the denial of its permit by the White House—the Keystone XL is now under construction. No, pesky little details like lacking a permit from the State Department aren't going to stop TransCanada from building a massive oil pipeline through the heart of the United States. The Canadian corporation has decided to begin construction on the part of the pipeline that doesn't cross international borders, from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Port Arthur, Texas.
And, to the shock of many of his supporters, Obama endorsed the plan.
Here's the Guardian:
by splitting the project in two, TransCanada seems to have discovered a workaround to enable pipeline construction to go ahead – and the Obama administration moved swiftly to show it was on board with the plan.
"We support the company's interest in proceeding with this project, which will help address the bottleneck of oil in Cushing that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production," the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, told reporters. He said building the pipeline would help create jobs.
Recent polling showed that most Americans approve of the pipeline—though as soon as they learn about its environmental impacts, they overwhelmingly disapprove—and combined with rising gas prices and attacks from the right, Obama has evidently decided to shrink from the fight.

By allowing construction to begin on this segment and postponing comprehensive approval, Obama is trying to protect both his flanks—he's trying to resist the full-fledged wrath of green groups while simultaneously catering to the right's "jobs and energy" talking points. But he's also tacitly suggesting that approval of the entire pipeline is inevitable, and green groups like the Sierra Club are calling the plan "a dirty trick". One thing is for certain: the nature of the fight has changed, and the anti-pipeline movement will need a new set of tactics—like, perhaps, teaming up with the Tea Party?


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Wikileaks reveals private intel secrets

SUBHEAD: Private intelligence company Stratfor's confidential emails to be published by the millions. By Stephen Grey on 26 February 2012 in Huffington Post - (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/26/wikileaks-stratfor-emails-published_n_1302821.html) Image above: Detail of painting "The Plan" by Mark Bryan, 2007. From (http://www.artofmarkbryan.com/The_Plan.html).

On Sunday evening, WikiLeaks reported that it is publishing over 5 million emails from between 2004 and 2011 from the intelligence company Stratfor (see article below). The emails are part of what WikiLeaks calls "The Global Intelligence Files."

Stratfor is an Austin, Texas-based geopolitical risk analysis company that has been called a "shadow CIA." Last December, Stratfor confirmed that email addresses had been stolen from the firm's database.

WikiLeaks' press release outlines what it claims to glean from the information:

[The files] reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods.

Additionally, according to WikiLeaks, the files purportedly contain "information about the US government's attacks against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Stratfor’s own attempts to subvert WikiLeaks."

Read Reuters' full report below:

Stratfor describes itself as a subscription-based provider of geopolitical analysis with an intelligence-based approach to gathering information.

WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange told Reuters: "Here we have a private intelligence firm, relying on informants from the US government, foreign intelligence agencies with questionable reputations, and journalists."

"What is of grave concern is that the targets of this scrutiny are, among others, activist organisations fighting for a just cause."

Stratfor's chief executive officer and founder, George Friedman warned on Jan. 11 that emails had been stolen but said the thieves would be hard pressed to find anything significant.

"God knows what a hundred employees writing endless emails might say that is embarrassing, stupid or subject to misinterpretation... As they search our emails for signs of a vast conspiracy, they will be disappointed."

The source of the emails was not disclosed, but the publication follows the hacking of the company's computer servers last December by individuals claiming to be linked to the Anonymous cyber-activist group.

After Stratfor's computers were hacked into at least twice last December, the credit card details of more than 30,000 subscribers to Stratfor publications were posted on the Internet, including those of former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and vice president Dan Quayle.

An FBI investigation is already underway into the hack last December. Friedman said his staff were cooperating with the FBI in the investigation.

"Of course we have relationships with people in the U.S. and other governments and obviously we know people in corporations, and that will be discovered in the emails. But that's our job.

"We are what we said we were: an organization that generates its revenues through geopolitical analysis. At the core of our business, we objectively acquire, organize, analyze and distribute information."

WikiLeaks released secret video footage and thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2010, infuriating the U.S. government.

Australian-born Assange, 40, is currently under house arrest in Britian and fighting extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged sex crimes.


The Global Intelligence Files By Wikileak Staff on 27 February 2012 in Wikileaks.org - (http://wikileaks.org/the-gifiles.html) Today, Monday 27 February, WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files – more than five million emails from the Texas-headquartered "global intelligence" company Stratfor. The emails date from between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods, for example :

"[Y]ou have to take control of him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control... This is intended to start our conversation on your next phase" – CEO George Friedman to Stratfor analyst Reva Bhalla on 6 December 2011, on how to exploit an Israeli intelligence informant providing information on the medical condition of the President of Venezuala, Hugo Chavez.

The material contains privileged information about the US government’s attacks against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Stratfor’s own attempts to subvert WikiLeaks. There are more than 4,000 emails mentioning WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. The emails also expose the revolving door that operates in private intelligence companies in the United States. Government and diplomatic sources from around the world give Stratfor advance knowledge of global politics and events in exchange for money. The Global Intelligence Files exposes how Stratfor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world.

The material shows how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients. For example, Stratfor monitored and analysed the online activities of Bhopal activists, including the "Yes Men", for the US chemical giant Dow Chemical. The activists seek redress for the 1984 Dow Chemical/Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India. The disaster led to thousands of deaths, injuries in more than half a million people, and lasting environmental damage.

Stratfor has realised that its routine use of secret cash bribes to get information from insiders is risky. In August 2011, Stratfor CEO George Friedman confidentially told his employees : "We are retaining a law firm to create a policy for Stratfor on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. I don’t plan to do the perp walk and I don’t want anyone here doing it either."

Stratfor’s use of insiders for intelligence soon turned into a money-making scheme of questionable legality. The emails show that in 2009 then-Goldman Sachs Managing Director Shea Morenz and Stratfor CEO George Friedman hatched an idea to "utilise the intelligence" it was pulling in from its insider network to start up a captive strategic investment fund. CEO George Friedman explained in a confidential August 2011 document, marked DO NOT SHARE OR DISCUSS : "What StratCap will do is use our Stratfor’s intelligence and analysis to trade in a range of geopolitical instruments, particularly government bonds, currencies and the like". The emails show that in 2011 Goldman Sach’s Morenz invested "substantially" more than $4million and joined Stratfor’s board of directors. Throughout 2011, a complex offshore share structure extending as far as South Africa was erected, designed to make StratCap appear to be legally independent. But, confidentially, Friedman told StratFor staff : "Do not think of StratCap as an outside organisation. It will be integral... It will be useful to you if, for the sake of convenience, you think of it as another aspect of Stratfor and Shea as another executive in Stratfor... we are already working on mock portfolios and trades". StratCap is due to launch in 2012.

The Stratfor emails reveal a company that cultivates close ties with US government agencies and employs former US government staff. It is preparing the 3-year Forecast for the Commandant of the US Marine Corps, and it trains US marines and "other government intelligence agencies" in "becoming government Stratfors". Stratfor’s Vice-President for Intelligence, Fred Burton, was formerly a special agent with the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and was their Deputy Chief of the counterterrorism division. Despite the governmental ties, Stratfor and similar companies operate in complete secrecy with no political oversight or accountability. Stratfor claims that it operates "without ideology, agenda or national bias", yet the emails reveal private intelligence staff who align themselves closely with US government policies and channel tips to the Mossad – including through an information mule in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Yossi Melman, who conspired with Guardian journalist David Leigh to secretly, and in violation of WikiLeaks’ contract with the Guardian, move WikiLeaks US diplomatic cables to Israel.

Ironically, considering the present circumstances, Stratfor was trying to get into what it called the leak-focused "gravy train" that sprung up after WikiLeaks’ Afghanistan disclosures :

"[Is it] possible for us to get some of that ’leak-focused’ gravy train ? This is an obvious fear sale, so that’s a good thing. And we have something to offer that the IT security companies don’t, mainly our focus on counter-intelligence and surveillance that Fred and Stick know better than anyone on the planet... Could we develop some ideas and procedures on the idea of ´leak-focused’ network security that focuses on preventing one’s own employees from leaking sensitive information... In fact, I’m not so sure this is an IT problem that requires an IT solution."

Like WikiLeaks’ diplomatic cables, much of the significance of the emails will be revealed over the coming weeks, as our coalition and the public search through them and discover connections. Readers will find that whereas large numbers of Stratfor’s subscribers and clients work in the US military and intelligence agencies, Stratfor gave a complimentary membership to the controversial Pakistan general Hamid Gul, former head of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, who, according to US diplomatic cables, planned an IED attack on international forces in Afghanistan in 2006. Readers will discover Stratfor’s internal email classification system that codes correspondence according to categories such as ’alpha’, ’tactical’ and ’secure’. The correspondence also contains code names for people of particular interest such as ’Hizzies’ (members of Hezbollah), or ’Adogg’ (Mahmoud Ahmedinejad).

Stratfor did secret deals with dozens of media organisations and journalists – from Reuters to the Kiev Post. The list of Stratfor’s "Confederation Partners", whom Stratfor internally referred to as its "Confed Fuck House" are included in the release. While it is acceptable for journalists to swap information or be paid by other media organisations, because Stratfor is a private intelligence organisation that services governments and private clients these relationships are corrupt or corrupting.

WikiLeaks has also obtained Stratfor’s list of informants and, in many cases, records of its payoffs, including $1,200 a month paid to the informant "Geronimo" , handled by Stratfor’s Former State Department agent Fred Burton.

WikiLeaks has built an investigative partnership with more than 25 media organisations and activists to inform the public about this huge body of documents. The organisations were provided access to a sophisticated investigative database developed by WikiLeaks and together with WikiLeaks are conducting journalistic evaluations of these emails. Important revelations discovered using this system will appear in the media in the coming weeks, together with the gradual release of the source documents.


Anonymous hacks StratFor Inc By Jim Finkle on 30 December 2011 for the Chicago Tribune - (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-rt-us-usa-cyberattack-stratfortre7bt10z-20111230,0,6489174.story) reposted from (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2011/12/hackers-go-after-gung-ho-sites.html). Hackers affiliated with the Anonymous group published hundreds of thousands of email addresses they claimed belong to subscribers of private intelligence analysis firm Strategic Forecasting Inc. The list, published late on Thursday, includes email addresses appearing to belong to people working for large corporations, the U.S. military and major defense contractors - information that hackers could potentially use to target them with virus-tainted emails in an approach known as "spear phishing." The Antisec faction of Anonymous last weekend disclosed that it had hacked into the firm, which is widely known as Stratfor and is also dubbed a "shadow CIA" because it gathers open-source intelligence on international crises. The hackers had promised to cause "mayhem" by releasing stolen data from the private group. Stratfor issued a statement confirming that the published email addresses had been stolen from the company's database, saying it was helping law enforcement probe the matter and conducting its own investigation. "At Stratfor, we try to foster a culture of scrutiny and analysis, and we want to assure our customers and friends that we will apply the same rigorous standards in carrying out our internal review," the statement said. "There are thousands of email addresses here that could be used for very targeted spear phishing attacks that could compromise national security," said John Bumgarner, chief technology officer of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a non-profit group that studies cyber threats. The Pentagon said it saw no threat so far. "We are not aware of any compromise to the DOD information grid," said Lieutenant Colonel Jim Gregory, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, or DOD. In a posting on the data-sharing website pastebin.com, the hackers said the list included some information from about 75,000 customers of Stratfor and approximately 860,000 people who had registered to use its site. It said that included some 50,000 email addresses belonging to the U.S. government's .gov and .mil domains. The list also included addresses at contractors including BAE Systems Plc, Boeing Co, Lockheed Martin Corp and several U.S. government-funded labs that conduct classified research in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Idaho Falls, Idaho; and Sandia and Los Alamos, New Mexico. Corporations on the list include Bank of America, Exxon Mobil Corp, Goldman Sachs & Co and Thomson Reuters. The entries included scrambled versions of passwords. Some of them can be unscrambled using databases known as rainbow tables that are available for download over the Internet, according to Bumgarner. He said he randomly picked six people on the list affiliated with U.S. military and intelligence agencies to see if he could crack their passwords. He said he was able to break four of them, each in about a second, using one rainbow table. .

Our Future Debt Slavery - Part 2

SUBHEAD: People could be forced into peonage contracts by creditors or 3rd party debt collectors. By Ashvin Pandurani on 26 February 2012 for Automatic Earth - (http://theautomaticearth.org/Finance/our-depraved-future-of-debt-slavery-part-ii.html) Image above: John and Louise Dyson, aged Farm Security Administration borrowers. Mr. Dyson was born into slavery over eighty years ago. Mrs. Dyson is the mother of fifteen children. From original article.

"Debt" has been used as a means of slavery throughout human history, in ancient societies dating as far back as thousands of years ago, such as those in Mesopotamia, Egypt, North/South America, etc. Debtors in these societies would be forced to relinquish their crops, land, freedom and even their wives and children to satisfy unpaid debts. Such extravagant periods of debt creation often culminated in the necessity for systemic debt forgiveness (or "Jubilee") by the decree of chiefs, emperors and kings to simply maintain some sense of social order [see Debt: The First 5000 years].

However, the decree of the all-powerful ruler no longer exists in these traditional forms, in which the rulers and landed aristocracy could easily maintain their power through force even after all lower classes’ debts were wiped out. Instead, our modern network of nation-states requires a continuous level of economic and financial coercion to exert discipline and maintain the status quo relationships of wealth, power and dominance [see The Debt-Dollar Discipline].

As explained in Our Depraved Future of Debt Slavery (Part I), our global society is facing conditions of systemic dependency, greed and malice very similar to those which existed in the American South of the late 19th century, which created a system of slavery for blacks just as ruthless as that which existed before the Civil War. The modern industrial and financial elites cannot tolerate any policies of systemic debt forgiveness, since almost all of their wealth is invested in instruments tied to those debts (including the underlying currencies).

At the same time, they cannot continue extracting surplus value when large segments of the developed world’s population remain saturated with debt, which acts to suppress aggregate demand for goods, services and capital investment. In order to continue making profits, then, they must have extensive access to very cheap labor and fixed capital inputs. They must transform the consuming classes of the first world into indentured servants and slaves through already established channels of financial and political oppression, and also pick up productive assets for "pennies on the dollar".

Last time, we looked at one obvious way in which the modern slave state has been forming – the rise of the privatized prison-industrial complex which has become a venue for detaining ever-larger numbers of people in the poorest and most socially manipulated classes of our society, such as low-level drug users and dealers. These prisoners provide a constant stream of enslaved labor to wealthy corporate interests, just like the convict leasing system of the late 19th and early 20th centuries used primarily for African-Americans.

Vast amounts of money and resources are devoted by state and federal government agencies towards maintaining a perpetual "war on drugs" that merely reinforces the very profitable industry of drug addiction, use, trafficking, punishment and imprisonment in a vicious cycle. More recently, though, we have managed to manufacture another perpetual threat/response paradigm which provides the justification for modern enslavement – the "war on terror".

Everyone should now be aware of the argument that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allows the U.S. federal government, in coordination with the U.S. military, state governments and a sprawling intelligence network, to indefinitely detain any person in any place, including U.S. citizens, suspected of participating in or aiding “terrorist activities” without any due process of law (such as formal charges and trials).

Without getting into disputes over legal interpretations of the Act or its constitutionality, it is still undisputed that this type of legislation, which is in the company of such notables as the Patriot Act, represents a clear trend towards suppressing domestic dissent and expediting the mechanisms of incarceration. When peoples of a society are burdened with vast amounts of unpayable debts, it is predictable that they will eventually protest against those debts in whatever ways they can, ranging from intentional defaults to physical resistance.

Just look at Greece, where the people are being forced to take on more external debts (with interest) through their government as these debts become increasingly difficult to pay back, and while the benefits all run to a small group of elites. They are made to suffer through brutal austerity so that they can stay in debt, just like the recidivist drug addict stays in the prison system. Inevitably, such a state of affairs leads to violent riots and protests by the masses, which, in turn, lead to violent reactions by the state, which then feed back into more violence by the people.

It is a symptom of debt slavery that has plagued societies for centuries and has even led some of them to outlaw the issuance of interest-bearing debt altogether. As stated before, though, such a path does not compute for the powerful creditors and their beneficiaries today, which is why the last thing the Eurocrats will discuss at their now weekly Summits is a policy of systemic debt forgiveness (the PSI deal does not even come close to counting). Even the Troika itself has admitted that Greece’s debt/GDP could very well remain at 160% for the next decade despite bailouts, austerity and “voluntary” debt swaps.

If you woke up tomorrow and were told that many of the Greek protestors/rioters, along with lower class tax evaders/debtors, were now being indiscriminately and indefinitely detained without judicial process and that uniformed soldiers and tanks were being deployed to the streets of Athens, would you be very surprised? I’d hazard a guess that most people who follow the news wouldn’t be, but they would still call you a fanatical nutcase if you suggested anything similar could happen in America, the "land of the free".

That is despite the fact that our private and public debt (per capita) situation is worse than that of Greece, and our level of unchecked executive authority is much, much worse. In the post-Reconstruction south, state laws were re-written and federal laws were ignored when it came to increasing the levels of incarceration and debt servitude (peonage) among blacks. Today, federal laws have all but usurped the police powers reserved to the states under the 10th amendment and become the primary mechanisms of enslavement.

Michael Barnholden’s book, Reading the Riot Act: A Brief History of Rioting in Vancouver, explains how the original “Riot Act” passed by the British Parliament in 1714 has been put into effect since that time, and how it is still active law in Canada. The act gave enormous amounts of discretion to the executive arm of government in identifying and detaining “rioters”. In his review of the book, Max Sartin points to the socioeconomic premise underlying the Riot Act that was insightfully indentified by Barnholden.

The Rain Review of Books

"All of the riots, from those characterized by racism to those attributed to drunkenness at sporting events, are said by Barnholden to have a connecting thread in the exploitation inherent to the capitalist economy and the need of the ruling class to garner the consent of its subjects when possible or their submission by force when necessary. The legal definition of a riot and its presentation by the media are functional to the interests of the ruling elite, at the expense of the working class, including the unemployed and prisoners.

Barnholden frames the question in terms of human rights versus property rights, damage to property taking precedence over harm to human beings. The author’s concept of human rights isn’t defined in the book, leaving open the question of whether such rights, or the very idea of rights itself may be just another legal technicality, like the definition of a riot, subject to the whims of those in power.

Barnholden himself points out that "a job is the only guarantee within capitalist society of the basic human rights of food and shelter, and there is no right to that". But he also describes a paycheque as an element of coercion. Employment under a manager is exploitive and oppressive, but it’s the only way to achieve certain basic necessities of life, which as human beings we supposedly have a right to access. But we have no right to employment (which is also "wage slavery") and so our most basic rights become meaningless."

Barnholden gets to the root of why economic coercion under a capitalist system can easily turn into outright slavery, enforced by the corporatist state. There is absolutely no reason why the Riot Act in its most subjective form cannot once again be adopted by the U.S. and other Western nations as an additional means to threaten an increasingly distrustful population with incarceration, and to carry out that threat when necessary. In fact, current trends suggest this is exactly what will happen.

The protections afforded U.S citizens in their Constitution against arbitrary oppression by the federal government have been undermined in just about every way possible since 9/11. That is indeed a scary reversal from the post-Civil War era, because it means that state and local governments are helpless to protect their own citizens from federal encroachment. This is especially true at a time when state governments are also wading deep in pools of stale debt, and must sell out their citizens to get temporary financial aid, which first makes its way into political pockets and then straight to the major banks.

The indefinite detentions of the West in modern times began under the Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF), enacted before the invasion of Afghanistan, but now the NDAA has put Congress’ official stamp of approval on the very broad interpretation that was afforded the AUMF by the Bush Administration. The federal courts (including the Supreme Court) have been extremely reluctant to challenge any of these unconstitutional executive powers, and indeed have sanctioned them in many cases.

With that legal framework for the federal and state executive branches in mind, it’s not hard to see how people could eventually be forced into peonage contracts by their private creditors or third party debt collectors. The truth is that both traditional contract law concepts such as "fraud/misrepresentation", "economic/physical duress", "unconscionability", etc., which sought to protect disadvantaged parties from exploitation, and Constitutional protections against the ex-post revision of private contracts have been thrown into the trash bin of history.

In the final part of this series, we will see how legally enforced contracts of debt servitude could become a defining feature of developed world populations in the near future. Indeed, the concept has already been deeply planted across the Western world in very important ways. This will be a means of maintaining a system of debt slavery without literally imprisoning all debtors. However, none of these outcomes are guaranteed to be sustained over time, and so we will also explore why these populations may ultimately be able to shape their own futures, free from the burden of perpetual indebtedness.

See also: See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Our Future of Debt Slavery - Part 1 2/26/12 Ea O Ka Aina: Our Future of Debt Slavery - Part 3 2/28/12

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Fog of Mendacity

SUBHEAD: You'll know we gotten to energy independence while walking to your new job weeding the potato fields. By James Kunstler on 27 February 2012 for Kunstler.com - (http://kunstler.com/blog/2012/02/a-fog-of-mendacity.html) Image above: Detail of painting "The Atrraction" by Mark Bryan, 2006. From (http://www.artofmarkbryan.com/The_attraction.html). Those frightening sounds, sights, and odors on the wind this foreboding snowless winter - like emanations from some back ward of a global psychiatric hospital - are the signs of a nation going completely mad. The traumatic rise of oil prices above the $100 level is one irritant, prompting a range of people-who-oughta-know-better to gibber and fulminate as though they'd been locked in the nation's attic since Thanksgiving with nothing to do but play with a box of pencils. Meanwhile, several absurd "narratives" circulate around the mainstream media that are sure to cause this country more trouble - as any set of pernicious untruths will.
One popular new lie is that US oil production is suddenly so robust that America is about to become a leading world oil exporter again - which is completely untrue. The lie arises at the intersection of wishful thinking and the willful misuse of statistics. It was trumpeted by the appallingly credulous Tom Friedman in his Sunday New York Times column, of all places, and it shows how effective the oil and gas industry's propaganda campaign has been.
A lot of the wishing comes out of the shale oil and shale gas sectors. Those TV commercials you see around the news hours on the cable networks are designed to extract investment capital from elderly people who have been swindled in the bond markets and don't know where to stick their dwindling retirement funds. Shale oil and gas must seem like a good bet to them, especially the ones marooned in retirement housing clusters in dismal places like Arizona and Florida, where not being able to drive is a virtual death sentence.
The US government is in on this propaganda offensive, especially the Department of Energy's Energy Information Agency (EIA), which routinely issues overly optimistic reports about future oil production. The political spin is a quixotic effort to promote another commonly touted lie about the future: that the US is approaching a point of "energy independence." You'll know we got there when you have to walk to your new job weeding the potato fields. The mendacity behind this propaganda is strictly the wish of politicians to avoid telling voters the truth, out of sheer cowardice for the consequences. US Energy Secretary Steven Chu will go down in history as a pathetically passive quisling, who thought he was honest and patriotic by standing in the background and keeping his mouth shut.
In fact, a lot of the propaganda behind the current madness is based on the incapacity of Americans to imagine daily life without all the cars. One very active drummer on the propaganda scene is John Hofmeister, former CEO of Shell Oil. About a week ago he debated Tad Patzek, a petroleum engineer from the University of Texas. Hofmeister's rap is based on one central fallacious idea: that American life can only continue if we keep all the cars and trucks running. Any other outcome is unthinkable, off the table. To put a finer point on it, he insists that our national identity and destiny are tied to "personal transportation," code for car dependency. The debate was therefore absurd and Patzek was way too polite. He never challenged Hofmeisiter's core idea.
The public's gross misunderstanding of these issues arises over a set of mis-statements made in recent years especially focusing on the Bakken shale oil basin on North Dakota, the various shale gas plays around the country, and the tar sands of Canada (which so many spinmeisters seem to regard as belonging to the United States). The true state of the US oil industry is that we only barely stalled a 40-year decline in oil production by throwing massive amounts of money (capital) at oil reserves that are very expensive and difficult to get. In so far as we've entered the terminal stage of a long debt cycle, one thing we can be sure of is a shrinking pool of real capital investment. Hence the frantic propaganda effort to funnel remaining available money into the shale plays.
A companion fantasy to all this is that the US has a hundred year supply of natural gas. President Obama is guilty of this whopper. (One commentator, financier Bert Dohmen, made the ridiculous claim in a recent podcast on the Financial Sense News Network, that the US has a thousand year supply.) These are the kinds of irresponsible statements that will eventually inflame a public yet again swindled by authorities they desperately want to trust. The truth is we probably have perhaps a seven-year supply of shale gas, and maybe 20 of all gas including the regular old conventional gas. And even that could easily be reduced by the disorders in capital formation now underway in the destabilizing banking sector.
In any case, all this wishing and lying is about to collide with price volatility to make the American voting public absolutely batshit crazy with dread and anger. That, of course, will only prompt more lying, whopper-spinning, and grievance-flogging in the political arena. It will be nearly impossible for the public to evaluate reality. In the meantime, those disorders in banking and financial markets are close to running out of control. Events are tending ever closer to criticality. I believe they will be expressed in political violence around the major party conventions this summer. Those will be interesting fog-lifting weeks.