Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Netanyahu Refuses EU Demands To Release Political Detainees

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC & Agencies | February 10, 2012

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, rejected demands presented by representatives of the European Union (EU) to release a number of Palestinian political prisoners under a confidence-building measure that would also increase popular support to president Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestine News Network reported that a number of EU counties also called for creating a “Blacklist” that would include the names of extremist Israeli settlers, in order to prevent them from traveling to EU countries. The settlers will likely be those who did not only attack Palestinians but also attacked Israeli soldiers and policemen.

The Israeli daily, Maariv, reported that Abbas and the Quartet Committee for Middle East peace (the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia), called on Israel to approve a request made by Abbas demanding the release of Palestinian detainees who have been imprisoned by Israel since before the Oslo Peace Agreement that was signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993.

According to Maariv, the envoys asked Netanyahu to release 123 detainees, members of the Fateh movement of Mahmoud Abbas, and other factions that are part of the PLO; this excludes, among other factions, detainees who are members of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.

It is worth mentioning that the same proposal was presented by EU Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, during her visit to the region last month.

Netanyahu refused the proposal and told Quartet envoys that now is not the time to release political prisoners to boost Palestinian support to president Abbas.

He added that the release of prisoners should not be a “demand, or one of preconditions” for the resumption of talks, but hinted that he might grant the Palestinian Security Forces more privileges in the in Area B in the West Bank. Area B is under full Israeli Security control.

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , | Leave a comment

Executive Excess in the New Gilded Age

What’s Driving Economic Inequality

By SARAH ANDERSON | CounterPunch | February 9, 2012

Let me begin with the good news. Our nation has tackled this problem before — and successfully so. A century ago, during the original “Gilded Age,” we experienced extremely high levels of inequality, levels comparable to those we are seeing today. Over the span of several decades, policymakers, backed by strong labor unions and other social movements, turned that inequality around. Through fair taxation and effective social programs and standards, we had achieved much lower levels of inequality by the middle of the twentieth century. We had laid the foundation for a strong and stable economy and put in place a middle class that was broader than any the world had ever seen. There is much to learn from that experience.

Executive compensation as a key driver of inequality

The Institute for Policy Studies has particular expertise in one aspect of our nation’s drift into deep and extreme inequality: executive compensation.

For nearly 20 years, we at IPS have been publishing an annual analysis of the upward spiral in CEO pay. Our Executive Excess series has helped track and explain this trend, which has contributed significantly to the rising share of national income that flows to our nation’s top 1 percent. Increases in executive compensation do not tell the whole story behind our growing economic divide, but they do offer an important lens into the broader problem.

Some select indicators of just how disproportionately large rewards for executives have become: The ratio between CEO and worker pay has risen from 42-to-1 in 1980 to 107-to-1 in 1990 to 325-to-1 in 2010.1

Average compensation for S&P 500 CEOs reached $10.8 million in 2010, more than six times the level for large company CEOs in 1980, after taking inflation into account, and triple the level in 1990.2

Executives and financial professionals account for 70 percent of the increase in the share of national income going to the top 0.1 percent between 1979 and 2005.3 Combined compensation for the top five executives by corporate enterprise increased as an average percentage of corporate profits from 5 percent in the period 1993-1995 to nearly 10 percent in the period 2001-2003.4

Why should policymakers be concerned about excessive executive compensation?

1. Excessive compensation encourages executive behavior that harms the broader economy

Over nearly two decades, my colleagues and I at the Institute for Policy Studies have examined how extremely high levels of compensation affect executive behavior. Such massive jackpots, we’ve found, give executives incentives to behave in ways that may boost short-term profits and expand their own paychecks at the expense of our nation’s long-term economic health.

Among our research findings:

  • In last year’s annual Executive Excess report, we looked at the intersection between executive compensation and tax dodging. We found that among the top 100 highest-paid CEOs in 2010, 25 had made more in personal compensation than their companies had paid in federal income taxes.5
  • In 2010, we found that CEOs of the 50 firms that had laid off the most workers since the onset of the economic crisis had made nearly $12 million on average, 42 percent more than the CEO pay average at S&P 500 firms as a whole.6
  • In 2009, we found that the top five executives at the 20 banks that had accepted the most federal bailout dollars had averaged $32 million each in personal compensation during the three years leading up to the 2008 meltdown.7
  • In 2004, we found that CEOs at companies which had outsourced the most U.S. jobs to other countries were rewarded with bigger paychecks than their peers. Average CEO compensation at the 50 firms that had outsourced the most service jobs increased by 46 percent in 2003, compared to a 9 percent average increase for all large company CEOs. Top outsourcers earned an average of $10.4 million, 28 percent more than the average CEO compensation of $8.1 million.8
  • In 2002, we found that top executives at 23 companies under government investigation for their accounting practices had earned far more during the preceding three years than average CEOs. CEOs at the firms under investigation had earned an average of $60.1 million during 1999-2001, 65 percent more than the average of $36.5 million for all leading executives for that period.9

Tax dodging, mass layoffs, reckless financial deals, offshoring jobs, “creative accounting”—all of these appear to boost CEO pay. But they have dealt one body blow after another to the American middle class, leaving a deeply skewed distribution of income and wealth.

2. Extreme CEO-worker pay gaps undermine business enterprise effectiveness

Our nation’s long-term economic health depends to a great extent on the effectiveness of our U.S. enterprises. A growing body of research indicates that extreme inequality within firms leaves enterprises less productive and effective. A Stanford University review of several studies found that organizations with highly differentiated pay between top and bottom earners tended to experience a decline in employee morale and job satisfaction.10 Another study showed that in corporations with relatively narrow pay gaps, employees tended to produce higher quality products.11 Additional research indicates that wide pay gaps lead to higher employee turnover rates.12

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, limits his cash compensation to no more than 19 times the average for workers at his firm. In the Harvard Business Review, he wrote “Because of the yawning gap between the leaders and the led, employee morale is suffering, talented performers’ loyalty is evaporating, and strategy and execution is suffering at American companies.”13

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management theory, pointed out in the early 1980s that in any hierarchy, every level of bureaucracy must be compensated at a higher rate than the level below. The more levels, the higher the pay at the top. This gives CEOs a personal interest in maintaining rigid hierarchies that are disempowering for workers. Drucker’s solution was to limit executive pay to no more than 20 times the compensation of their employees.14 A landmark Brookings Institution report by David Levine supported this general view, stating “large differences in status can inhibit participation.”15

Jim Collins, the author of several best-selling books on management science, spent five years trying to determine “what it takes” to turn an average company into a “great” one. He eventually identified 11 firms that had successfully generated off-the-charts stock returns over 15 years. Not a single one had a high-paid CEO. A celebrity CEO, Collins wrote, turns a company into “one genius with 1,000 helpers.”16

Recent reforms to address excessive executive compensation

Executive pay is not just an issue for shareholders. As the Wall Street meltdown made vividly clear, excessive pay packages contribute to a reckless corporate culture that endangers the well-being of the broader public. Responsible action is needed to encourage more rational pay practices.

Dodd-Frank Pay Reforms: In the wake of the 2008 crash, Congress did include a number of modest executive compensation provisions in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. One of the most innovative of these provisions, Section 953b, requires all U.S. corporations to compute and report the ratio between CEO and median employee pay. This disclosure requirement will improve information available for shareholders and the public on a metric fundamental to enterprise success. Hopefully, it will also encourage corporate boards to narrow this gap by raising median worker pay and/or reducing pay at the top.17

However, in the face of an intense backlash from corporate lobby groups, the SEC has delayed implementation of this new law. Regulators are facing strong pressure to water down several additional Dodd-Frank pay provisions, including Section 956, which would give regulators the power to prohibit pay packages for financial executives that encourage inappropriate risks.

Limits on the Tax Deductibility of Executive Pay:
 Congress also set an important precedent in the Troubled Asset Relief Program by establishing a $500,000 cap on the tax deductibility of executive compensation at bailout firms. A similar provision was included in the 2010 health care reform legislation with regard to health insurance companies. These provisions took an important step towards filling a loophole in the tax code that encourages excessive pay.

Currently, there are no meaningful limits on how much corporations can deduct from their taxes for the expense of executive compensation. The more they pay their CEO, the more they can deduct from their taxes. Other taxpayers bear the brunt of this loophole, either through the increased taxes needed to fill the revenue gaps or through cutbacks in public spending. A tax deductibility cap on executive compensation should be established for all corporations. Ideally, it would deny all firms tax deductions on any executive pay that runs over 25 times the pay of a firm’s lowest-paid employee or $500,000, whichever is higher.

A broader agenda to reverse extreme inequality

While Congress has made some small steps forward in recent years, much more needs to be done to rein in executive pay, as part of a broader effort to reverse extreme inequality. This broad agenda will need to include initiatives to lift up the bottom through living wages and more accessible high-quality health care and education, as well as efforts to address corporate concentration, campaign finance laws, and other obstacles to shared prosperity. But a look back at the previous era’s efforts to tackle inequality reveals that one of those reformers most important tools was progressive taxation.

In the middle of the last century, the U.S. tax system did a great deal to offset maldistributions of income and wealth. A major reason corporate boards did not compensate executives at such exorbitant levels during that period was that the bulk of that excessive pay would have simply been taxed away.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, the top marginal tax rate on income over $400,000 a year (the equivalent of less than $3 million today) faced a tax rate just over 90 percent. During that time, the share of the nation’s total pre-tax income going to the top 1% hovered around 10 percent, according to one academic study.18 As taxes on the wealthy have declined over the past 50 years, we’ve seen a steady increase in wealth and income concentration at the top. Today, with a top marginal rate of only 35 percent, the top 1% enjoy more than 20 percent of the nation’s income.19 Not only did the “high-tax” decades coincide with lower inequality rates, they were also marked by relatively high GDP growth rates.

A recent report by the Congressional Budget Office found similar trends towards rising inequality in after-tax income during the period 1979-2007. According to their calculations, the top 1 percent of the population with the highest income saw an increase in their average real after-tax household income of 275 percent during this period, compared to only 65 percent for the rest of the highest quintile (the 81st through 99th percentiles); 37 percent for the population in the middle of the income scale (the 21st through 80th percentiles); and 18 percent for the lowest quintile.20

Preferential treatment and loopholes have allowed the richest Americans to pay far less than the statutory tax rates. The richest 400 U.S. taxpayers have seen their effective tax rate decline from over 40 percent of their income in 1961 to just 18.1 percent in 2010.21 In 2009, the most recent data available, 1,500 millionaires paid no income taxes, largely because they made use of off-shore tax schemes, according to the Internal Revenue Service.22

Key elements of tax reform to reverse extreme inequality

This section draws heavily from the forthcoming book by my Institute for Policy Studies colleague Chuck Collins, 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It (Berrett-Koehler, March 2012).

New income tax brackets for the 1 percent. Under our current tax rate structure, households with incomes over $350,000 pay the same top income tax rate as households with incomes over $10 million. In the 1950s, there were 16 additional tax rates over the highest rate (35 percent) that we have today.

A tax on financial speculation. The richest 1 percent of Americans contributed to the 2008 economic meltdown by moving vast amounts of wealth into the speculative shadow banking system. Our society is still paying the mammoth social costs of this meltdown — through home foreclosures, unemployment, and the destruction of personal savings. A modest federal tax on every transaction that involves the buying and selling of stocks and other financial products would both generate substantial revenue and dampen short-term speculation. For ordinary investors, the cost would be negligible. A financial speculation tax would amount to a tiny insurance fee to protect against financial instability.

A higher tax rate on income from wealth. Giving tax advantages to income from wealth also encourages short-term speculation. With carefully structured rate reform, we can end this preferential treatment for capital gains and dividends and, as Warren Buffett and other analysts have noted, encourage long-term investing.

A progressive estate tax on the fortunes of the 1 percent. The wealthiest Americans have all benefited from generations of investments in pubic goods that have left the United States with an infrastructure — in everything from education and roads to dispute resolution — that enables wealth creation. Our wealthy have a responsibility to give back to the society that has given them so much. The current estate tax on inherited wealth stands at 35 percent and only applies to estates over $5 million ($10 million for a couple). Congress could raise additional revenue from those with the greatest capacity to pay by establishing a progressive estate tax with graduated rates and a 10 percent surtax on the value of an estate above $500 million, or $1 billion for a couple.

An end to tax haven abuse. By one estimate, the use of tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals costs the federal treasury $100 billion a year.23 These havens are transferring wealth out of local communities into the foreign bank accounts of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful.24 Tax havens, or more accurately “secrecy jurisdictions,” can also facilitate criminal activity, from drug money laundering to the financing of terrorist networks.

A wealth tax on the top 1 percent. A “net worth tax” could be levied on household assets, including real estate, cash, investment funds, savings in insurance and pension plans, and personal trusts. Such a tax could be calibrated to tax wealth only above a certain threshold. For example, France’s solidarity tax on wealth only kicks in on asset value in excess of $1.1 million.

The elimination on the cap on social security withholding taxes. Extending the payroll tax to cover all wages, not just wage income up to $110,100, would be an important step. Some of our richest Americans are done paying withholding taxes in January, while ordinary working people pay all year.

Conclusion

Our current levels of extreme inequality did not suddenly appear. They have grown steadily over the past 30 years. Reversing this inequality trend will be a long-term challenge. But we have transformed a highly divided nation into a more stable and equitable society before. We can certainly do it again.

Sarah Anderson is director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Global Economy Project.

NOTES

1 Figures from 1980 and 1990 are from BusinessWeek, April 26, 1993. Figure for 2010 is from Sarah Anderson, Chuck Collins, Scott Klinger, Sam Pizzigati, “Executive Excess 2011: The Massive CEO Rewards for Tax Dodging,” Institute for Policy
2 Ibid.
3 The share of national income (excluding capital gains) received by the top 0.1 percent increased from 2.83 percent in 1979 to 7.34 percent in 2005. Source: Jon Bakija, Adam Cole, and Bradley T. Heim, “Jobs and Income Growth of Top Earners and the Causes of Changing Income Inequality: Evidence from U.S. Tax Return Data,” National Bureau of Economic Research, October 2010. Available at: http://www.nber.org/public_html/confer/2010/PEf10/Bakija_Heim_Cole.pdf
4 Lucian A. Bebchuk and Yaniv Grinstein, “The Growth of Executive Pay,” Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Summer 2005. Available at: http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/bebchuk/pdfs/Bebchuk-Grinstein.Growth-of-Pay.pdf
5 Sarah Anderson, Chuck Collins, Scott Klinger, and Sam Pizzigati, “Executive Excess 2011: The Massive CEO Rewards for Tax Dodging,” Institute for Policy Studies, August 31, 2011. Available at: http://www.ips-dc.org/reports/executive_excess_2011_the_massive_ceo_rewards_for_tax_dodging/
6 Sarah Anderson, Chuck Collins, Sam Pizzigati, and Kevin Shih, “Executive Excess 2010: CEO Pay and the Great Recession,” Institute for Policy Studies, September 1, 2010. Available at: http://www.ips-dc.org/reports/executive_excess_2010
7 Sarah Anderson, John Cavanagh, Chuck Collins, and Sam Pizzigati, “Executive Excess 2009: America’s Bailout Barons,” Institute for Policy Studies, September 2, 2009. Available at: http://www.ips-dc.org/reports/executive_excess_2009
8 Sarah Anderson, John Cavanagh, Chris Hartman, and Scott Klinger, “Executive Excess 2004: Campaign Contributions, Outsourcing, Unexpensed Stock Options and Rising CEO Pay,” Institute for Policy Studies, August 31, 2004. Available at: http://www.ips-dc.org/reports/executive_excess_2004
9 Sarah Anderson, John Cavanagh, Chris Hartman, Scott Klinger, and Holly Sklar, “Executive Excess 2002: CEOs Cook the Books, Skewer the Rest of Us,” Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy, August 26, 2002. Available at: http://www.ips-dc.org/reports/executive_excess_2002_ceos_cook_the_books_skewer_the_rest_of_us
10 Jeffrey Pfeffer, “Human Resources from an Organizational Behavior Perspective: Some Paradoxes Explained,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 21, 2007. Available at: http://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jep.21.4.115
11 Douglas Cowherd and David Levine, “Product Quality and Pay Equity Between Lower-Level Employees and Top Management,” Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 37, 1992. Available at: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m4035/is_n2_v37/ai_12729185/
12 Matt Bloom and John Michel, “The Relationships Among Organizational Context, Pay Dispersion, and Managerial Turnover,” Academy of Management Journal, 2002. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/pss/3069283 See also James Wade, Charles O’Reilly III and Timothy Pollock, “Overpaid CEOs and Underpaid Managers: Fairness and Executive Compensation,” Organization Science, 2006. Available at: http://test.scripts.psu.edu/users/t/x/txp14/pdfs/os06.pdf
13 John Mackey, “Why Sky-High CEO Pay Is Bad Business,” Harvard Business Review, June 17, 2009. Available at: http://blogs.hbr.org/hbr/how-to-fix-executive-pay/2009/06/why-high-ceo-pay-is-bad-business.html
14 Peter F. Drucker, The Changing World of the Executive. New York: Times Books, 1982, p. 22.
15 David I. Levine, Reinventing the workplace: how business and employees can both win. Brookings Institution Press, April 1, 1995, p. 53.
16 Jim Collins, “Good to Great,” Fast Company, October 2001. Available at: http://www.jimcollins.com/article_topics/articles/good-to-great.html
17 See: Institute for Policy Studies Comments to the SEC on Section 953(b) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, March 16, 2011. Available at: http://www.sec.gov/comments/df-title-ix/executive-compensation/executivecompensation-62.pdf
18 Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, “Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118(1), 2003. Updated at http://emlab.berkeley.edu/users/saez.
19 Ibid.
20 Congressional Budget Office, “Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007,” October 2011. Available at: http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/124xx/doc12485/10-25-HouseholdIncome.pdf
21 Sam Pizzigati, “The New Forbes 400— and Their $1.5 Trillion,” Institute for Policy Studies, September 25, 2011. Available at: http://inequality.org/forbes-400-15-trillion.
22 Amy Bingham, “Almost 1,500 millionaires Do Not Pay Income Tax,” ABC News, August 6, 2011. Available at: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/1500-millionaires-pay-income-tax/story?id=14242254#.TrwQYWDdLwN
23 U.S. Senate, “Tax Haven Banks and U.S. Tax Compliance,” Staff report, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, July 17, 2008. See: http://hsgac.senate.gov/public/_files/071708PSIReport.pdf
24 Nicholas Shaxson, Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens, 2010. See: http://treasureislands.org/

This article is adapted from Sarah Anderson’s testimony to the Senate Budget Committee on Inequality, Mobility, and Opportunity, from Sarah Anderson, Global Economy Program Director

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

US: Congress Trying to Fast-Track Domestic Drone Use, Sideline Privacy

ACLU | February 6, 2012

Congress is poised to give final passage to legislation that would give a big boost to domestic unmanned aerial surveillance — aka “drones.”

As we explained in our recent report, drone technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, and there is a lot of pent-up demand for them within the law enforcement community. But, domestic deployment of unmanned aircraft for surveillance purposes has largely been blocked so far by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is rightly concerned about the safety effects of filling our skies with flying robots (which crash significantly more often than manned aircraft).

As we also explained in our report, the FAA is under pressure to loosen the reins and permit broader deployment of drones by government agencies.

One result of that pressure is this legislation (H.R. 658 — see conference report for more details), which authorizes appropriations for the FAA through fiscal 2014. Unfortunately, nothing in the bill would address the very serious privacy issues raised by drone aircraft. This bill would push the nation willy-nilly toward an era of aerial surveillance without any steps to protect the traditional privacy that Americans have always enjoyed and expected.

Congress — and to the extent possible, the FAA — need to impose some rules (such as those we proposed in our report) to protect Americans’ privacy from the inevitable invasions that this technology will otherwise lead to. We don’t want to wonder, every time we step out our front door, whether some eye in the sky is watching our every move.

On Friday, the House gave final passage to the legislation. House approval came on a quite partisan vote, with most Republicans in favor and most Democrats opposing. The Senate is scheduled to take up the bill later today.

Here are details on what the bill would do in terms of drones:

  • Require the FAA to simplify and speed up the process by which it issues permission to government agencies to operate drones. It must do this within 90 days. The FAA has already been working on a set of proposed regulations to loosen the rules around drones, reportedly set for release in the spring of 2012.
  • Require the FAA to allow “a government public safety agency” to operate any drone weighing 4.4 pounds or less as long as certain conditions are met (within line of sight, during the day, below 400 feet in altitude, and only in safe categories of airspace).
  • Require the FAA to establish a pilot project within six months to create six test zones for integrating drones “into the national airspace system.”
  • Require the FAA to create a comprehensive plan “to safely accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.” “Civil” drones means those operated by the private sector; currently it is all but impossible for any non-government entity, except for hobbyists, to get permission to fly drones (for-profit use of drones is banned). Industry groups and their congressional supporters see this as a potential area for growth. Congress specifies that the plan must provide for the integration of drones into the national airspace system “as soon as practicable, but not later than September 30, 2015.” The FAA has nine months to create the plan. The FAA is also required to create a “5-year roadmap for the introduction” of civil drones into the national airspace.
  • Require the FAA to publish a final rule within 18 months after the comprehensive plan is submitted, “that will allow” civil operation of small (under 55 pounds) drones in the national airspace, and a proposed rule for carrying out the comprehensive plan.

The bottom line is: domestic drones are potentially extremely powerful surveillance tools, and that power — like all government power — needs to be subject to checks and balances. We hope that Congress will carefully consider the privacy implications that this technology can lead to.

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment

Climate Science Goes Megalomaniacal

Why Geo-Engineering Is Like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

By FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY | February 9, 2012

A February 6 report in the Guardian describes budding efforts to displace decarbonizing with geo-engineering as the goal for reducing the predicted catastrophic effects of global warming.  At present, these efforts are being funded by mega-wealthy private citizens like Bill Gates, but some traditional environmentalists as well as some decarbonizers are becoming worried that climate theory is setting off in a new direction.  Perhaps that is why the story appeared in the Guardian of all places.  Instead of its usual uncritical climate gushiness, the Guardian delves into the smarmier side of climate science — its dependence on money.

Their dependence on money is a subject proponents of anthropogenic global warming avoid like the plague, even though they are wont to accuse anyone who disagrees with them as being in the pay of the fossil fuel companies.   The Guardian report is important, because it inadvertently shines a light on how the intersection of money and groupthink among insular cohesive groups sharing a common interest is discrediting climate science in particular, but also science in general. (I am not introducing groupthink as a casual buzz word but in the context the distinguished psychologist Irving Janis used in his classic book Groupthink.  Anyone who believes groupthink is not a problem in the insular self-righteous climate science community, should read the Hockey Stick Illusion or wade through just a few of the infamous emails hacked from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.)

Obviously, geo-engineering the earth’s climate would be a big deal, culturally as well as scientifically.  It would make the pyramids, the Manhattan Project or the Apollo Program look puny and intellectually trivial in comparison.  By necessity, indeed by definition, geo-engineering would be forever dependent on analyses of the outputs of computerized global climate models (GCMs), because we can not put anything as complex as the world’s atmosphere on a lab bench or in a wind tunnel for testing.  Computer models, like all scientific theories, are mental constructs of reality — really analogies — to represent and cope with that reality.  The first point to note is that no model can be perfect or exact in its representation of reality.  All models are imperfect and therefore mutable, as the historian Thomas Kuhn, among others, explained in his classic, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  All scientific models must be continually tested to ensure their predictions match up to external conditions, and as the precision of observations increases, sooner of later, all scientific models become creaky and eventually need to be replaced with a newer construction to better explain a reality that is always receding as one seems to get closer to it by making more precise observations.

The second point to note is that GCMs are complex mathematical constructs made by like-minded or group-thinking minds. They are not the products of individuals.  This requires a consensus-based mentality and the intense communal effort required to build these models reinforces that mentality.  The need to raise money to pay for these models further intensifies the communal outlook. Consensus building, and especially the invocation of consensual authority, shapes the mentality of contemporary climate scientists in a very different way from the conceptions of physics that shaped the individual mental outlooks during the experiments that produced the models of the atom that competed for acceptance during the first half of the twentieth century.  The great physicist who invented the first model of the atom, Niels Bohr, for example, used to introduce his lectures by saying everything he was about to say was wrong. By that he meant no theory is eternal.

You will not hear Bohr’s kind of humility, tolerance, or encouragement of dissent and debate from dogmatic proponents of global warming like Michael Mann or James Hansen, ironically, both physicists, even though the GCMs they are basing their sense of authority on have not been validated with empirical data (or in the case of Mann’s infamous Hockey Stick, have been shown to be statistically flawed).  The dogmatic sense of certainty exhibited by goupthinking climate scientists exists despite the fact that the comprehensive data needed to test the GCM models for matchups to the environment simply do not exist.  Yet, this uncertainty is not at all unlike that which created the far more open-minded debate among the advocates of different atomic models, like Bohr, Schrödinger, or Heisenberg in the early Twentieth Century.  So, the authority of the GCMs needed to justify geo-engineering must be based on unvalidated assumptions about reality — really conjectures which are now stated as dogma, like, for example, the crucial quantification of the sensitivity of the warming response to changes in CO2 levels.

But there is more to the speculative analytical pathway leading climate science into the geo-engineering cul de sac, which brings me to my third point.  To justify the huge public expenditures and diversion of resources needed to geo-engineer the world, it will be necessary to perform cost-effectiveness analyses of the predicted benefits in a political context to convince policy makers of the need to undertake such a drastic and costly course of action.   Although the Guardian does not mention it, I have met some global warming alarmists (all card-carrying decarbonizers) who are already advocating that we combine the output of the GCMs with econometric models of the global economy to predict the global relationship between the monetary inputs to the economic benefits of global temperature reduction via solutions like carbon sequestration, etc. If you want to know how accurate econometric models are, just ask Alan Greenspan.  This kind of operation, clearly, would be like piling a house of cards on top of a house of cards.

Yet, the econometric-GCM mansion of cards is probably inevitable.  It is a tiny logical step for advocates of geo-engineering to link their theoretical GCMs to econometric models, and given the money needed (and the sacrifices that would be made elsewhere), cost-benefit analyses will eventually become necessary.  A policy decision to launch a “Manhattan Plus” project to geo-engineer the earth’s climate based on analyses of the output of such poorly understood computer models (GCMs and econometric) would go beyond madness and descend into megalomania.  The Guardian report inadvertently makes the madness quite clear: some climate scientists are calling for a political consensus to geo-engineer the globe, because the world cannot reach a political agreement on the vastly simpler problem of simply reducing carbon emissions.  Such an argument is at once illogical and bizarre.  Perhaps this yawning disconnect is why this report appeared in the Guardian, usually the most rabid pro global-warming mainstream newspaper in the world.

But of course, the megalomania implicit in geo-engineering has nothing to do with madness; it is about a group of like-minded intelligent people trying to feather their nest by creating a cash cow to do what they think is right and good. This is something I saw every day in the Pentagon.

Indeed, creating cash cows in the name of the greater good is the essence of the Pentagon’s game.  My 28 years experience in the Pentagon made me quite familiar with the steps needed to create the financial equivalent of a self-licking ice cream cone: (1) Inflate a threat to scare the bejeezus out of the people and induce politicians to unleash a torrent of publicly-funded money; (2) then, front-load a solution to neutralize that threat by overstating its benefits, understating its costs, and downplaying the uncertainties surrounding what is at best a poorly understood course of action; and then, (3) politically engineer a social safety net by spreading the money (grants and contracts) around the polity to lock in the constituent dependencies needed to keep the money flowing after the inevitable problems begin to surface.

Incidentally, the geo-engineering game, if publicly funded, will be manna from heaven for the US hi-tech weapons industry, which cannot compete commercially, but is in need of diversification, because of marginal cutbacks in the rate of future growth in the Pentagon’s budget.  You can bet what little is left of your IRA that defense mega-giants like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrup Grumman will be attracted to the cash flow potential of geo-engineering like flies to honey, should a serious geo-engineering effort begin to materialize.

Speaking of the similarities between the advocates of geo-engineering to the inhabitants of the Pentagon and the defense industry — consider, as an example, the resemblance of using computer simulations to cope with the uncertainties of geo-engineering to the use of computer simulations in the now deeply troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Bear in mind, the Pentagon wrote the script for  basing high-cost decisions with long term consequences on highly complex, poorly-understood computer driven simulations, while short-shrifting testing.  It has more experience in modeling than just about any organization in the world.  It began cost-effectiveness modeling on computers in the mid 1960s and has continued with increasing intensity ever since.  Nevertheless, the unfolding debacle of the  F-35 has taken these kinds of simulations to a new level of disaster: No less an authority that Frank Kendall, the acting Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition said recently that the F-35 program was started with the idea of putting it into production before it was fully tested under ”the optimistic prediction that we were good enough at modeling and simulation that we would not find problems in flight test.” …  He characterized this decision as “acquisition malpractice” … that … “was wrong, and now we are paying for that.”  Of course, Kendall’s use of “we” is a wee bit disingenuous, because it is the taxpayer not the Pentagon who is footing the malpractice bill.

It goes without saying that the uncertainties limiting our understanding of our ability to model the future consequences of a decision to design and produce the F-35 are trivial compared to those of geo-engineering the entire climate system.  But humility is not in order, because geo-engineers, like milcrats and defense contractors, will be spending other people’s money.

FRANKLIN “CHUCK” SPINNEY is a former military analyst for the Pentagon. He currently lives on a sailboat in the Mediterranean and can be reached at chuck_spinney@mac.com

Source

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 7 Comments

‘Seoul trade with Iran will continue despite sanctions’

Press TV – February 9, 2012

A top official at Korea’s banking sector says Seoul’s trade flow with Iran will not be constricted by western sanctions despite causing a halt in cooperation with Iran’s Bank Tejarat.

“We halted wire transfers of cash to accounts of Bank Tejarat, but this doesn’t hurt exporters at all. Most of exporters take payments from the Central Bank of Iran anyway,” Korea Herald reported Jeon Gwang wook head of the foreign exchange desk at the Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) as saying.

Jeon added that the extended sanctions are unlikely to slow trade flows with Iran as most Korean exporters can still make settlements with Iran’s Central Bank using accounts based on the won (Korea’s national currency).

On December 31, 2011, US President Barack Obama signed into law new sanctions against Iran, which seek to penalize foreign institutions that do business with Iran’s central bank and oil sector.

Under pressure by US-led sanctions against Tehran, two state-run South Korean banks, Woori Bank and the Industrial Bank of Korea, halted transactions with Iran’s Bank Tejarat as of January 23.

The US demands that Seoul halt trade activities with Iran which would reportedly jeopardize over $7 billion in South Korea’s annual exports and about 10 percent of its crude imports.

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Former Irish hunger striker’s message for Khader Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner 55 days on hunger strike

By Ali Abunimah – The Electronic Intifada – 02/09/2012

Tommy McKearney, one of the participants of the legendary 1980-81 Irish hunger strikes has sent a video message of solidarity to Khader Adnan and his family.

Adnan, a Palestinian, has been on hunger strike ever since his 17 December detention without charge or trial by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank.

In the 3-minute video, McKearney begins his comments with these words:

My name is Tommy McKearney. I’m a former member of the IRA. Thirty two years ago I was on hunger strike for 53 days in the H Blocks. Today Khader Adnan will be 54 days on hunger strike. Held by the Israeli government on administrative detention, in other words without charge or conviction, he is battling against atrocious conditions and a very unjust system. His life is ebbing away in a very cruel and harsh regime. His conditions are hard, difficult and awful. The world must intervene to save this man’s life in the name of humanity, in the name of decency, in the name of justice and legality.

Fifty-four days on hunger strike his body is beginning to collapse. We can’t say for sure whether this man will be alive tonight or tomorrow night because at this stage he has passed a critical point in which a human body can survive without food or nourishment. His pain is enormous, but his plight is deplorable…

McKearney was among a group of seven Irish Republican prisoners who went on hunger strike at the notorious British-run Maze Prison in 1980. The following year 23 more prisoners, went on hunger strike. The strikes were sparked by punitive British conditions against political prisoners.

Ten of the men fasted until death, perhaps the best known of whom was Bobby Sands who died on 5 May 1981 after 66 days on hunger strike. Sands was 27 years old. The Irish hunger strikes attracted world-wide sympathy and became a symbol of the Irish struggle.

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Video | 5 Comments

Santorum warns of “Eurabia,” issues call to “evangelize and eradicate” Muslims

By Max Blumenthal | Al Akhbar | January 5, 2012

… In 2007, a few months after Santorum was ousted from the Senate in a landslide defeat, he accepted an invitation from right-wing provocateur David Horowitz to speak at “Islamo-Fascism Campus Awareness Week.” As I documented in my video report on Horowitz’s appearance at Columbia University that year, “Islamo-Fascism” week was a naked ploy to generate publicity for the frenetically self-promoting Horowitz while demonizing Muslim-Americans as a dangerous fifth column who required constant government monitoring and possibly worse. The event was so extreme that even Jewish groups like Hillel known for promoting Zionism on campus rejected it.

There is no video documentation or transcript of Santorum’s speech at Horowitz’s “Islamo-Fascism Awareness” event. However, I was able to find a transcript of a speech Santorum delivered at Horowitz’s invitation in March 2007. During his address, the ex-Senator declared the need to “define the enemy,” but he made little effort to distinguish between the general population of Muslims and violent Islamic extremists. If anything, he seemed to conflate the two.

Here are a few of the remarkable statements Santorum made at Horowitz’s event:

“What must we do to win? We must educate, engage, evangelize and eradicate.”

“Look at Europe. Europe is on the way to losing. The most popular male name in Belgium — Mohammad. It’s the fifth most popular name in France among boys. They are losing because they are not having children, they have no faith, they have nothing to counteract it. They are balkanizing Islam, but that’s exactly what they want. And they’re creating an opportunity for the creation of Eurabia, or Euristan in the future…Europe will not be in this battle with us. Because there will be no Europe left to fight.”

We should “talk about how Islam treats homosexuals. Talk about how they treat anybody who is found to be a homosexual, and the answer to that is, they kill them.”

“… the Shia brand of Islamist extremists [is] even more dangerous than the Sunni [version]. Why? Because the ultimate goal of the Shia brand of Islamic Islam is to bring back the Mahdi. And do you know when the Mahdi returns? At the Apocalypse at the end of the world. You see, they are not interested in conquering the world; they are interested in destroying the world.”

“The other thing we need to do is eradicate, and that’s the final thing. As I said, this is going to be a long war.”

The Islamophobic rant Santorum delivered at an event organized by a known bigot. … Full article

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Islamophobia, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Greece’s unions to hold two-day strike over cuts

Press TV – February 9, 2012

Greece’s two largest unions have announced a 48-hour strike over the new austerity measures endorsed by the government in return for bailout loans.

The unions, General confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY), announced on Thursday that their members will go on a two-day strike from Friday in protest at the controversial decision.

“We will hold a general strike on Friday and Saturday along with the civil servants’ union,” said a spokeswoman with GSEE which represents the private sector.

ADEDY’s Secretary General Ilias Iliopoulos described the measures as “painful” which will “create misery for youths, unemployed and pensioners do not leave us much room.”

“We are moving to a social uprising,” said Iliopoulos.

Greece has been the scene of repeated strikes since the country first resorted to bailouts from international lenders in 2010.

Leaders of the three parties backing Greece’s coalition government approved new austerity measures on Wednesday but failed to agree to creditors’ demands to make 300 million euros ($398 million) in pension cuts.

The country’s Prime Minister Lucas Papademos still hopes that the coalition leaders will strike a comprehensive deal by Thursday evening, his office said on Wednesday.

To secure a bailout package of 130 billion euros, Athens must first persuade the troika — the European Union (EU), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Central Bank (ECB) — that it will implement long-delayed reforms and make further spending cuts.

Greece’s current debt stands at 340 billion euros ($440 billion) — a sum that equals around 31,000 euros debt per person in the country of 11 million people.

The country has, accordingly, the biggest debt burden in proportion to the size of its economy in the entire 17-nation eurozone.

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

NGOs in Egypt: Promoting Democracy or Destabilization?

By Maidhc Ó Cathail | The Passionate Attachment | February 9, 2012

In a sneering report on the Egyptian investigation into foreign “democracy-promoting” NGOs, the Wall Street Journal opines:

In describing their evidence, most of which came from raids on the NGO offices in late December, the judges seemed to allude to a well-worn Egyptian conspiracy theory, often peddled by populist politicians, that the U.S. hopes to stoke sectarian conflict in Egypt as a prelude to an armed invasion.

The justices said they had found maps of Egypt marked with four divisions—a thinly veiled reference to supposed American plans to divide the country into competing religious and ethnic fiefdoms.

It appears that the writer is not familiar with the Yinon Plan. Back in 1982, Israeli strategist Oded Yinon wrote “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s,” which advocated the dissolution of all existing Arab states along ethnic or sectarian lines:

Egypt, in its present domestic political picture, is already a corpse, all the more so if we take into account the growing Moslem-Christian rift. Breaking Egypt down territorially into distinct geographical regions is the political aim of Israel in the Nineteen Eighties on its Western front. Egypt is divided and torn apart into many foci of authority. If Egypt falls apart, countries like Libya, Sudan or even the more distant states will not continue to exist in their present form and will join the downfall and dissolution of Egypt. The vision of a Christian Coptic State in Upper Egypt alongside a number of weak states with very localized power and without a centralized government as to date, is the key to a historical development which was only set back by the peace agreement but which seems inevitable in the long run.

Two of the NGOs — the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute — are affiliated with the National Endowment for Democracy, which also funds a third, the International Center for Journalists. Carl Gershman, the longtime president of the National Endowment for Democracy, formerly worked in the “research department” of the pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League. The fourth NGO, Freedom House, has no shortage of pro-Israelis on its board of trustees, including its vice-chair, former AIPAC executive director, Thomas Dine.

Perhaps the Egyptians have good reason to be wary of so many Israel partisans “promoting democracy” in their country.

~

See also:

Egyptians oppose US economic aid, says Gallup

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 705 other followers