Friday, 22 August 2014

Headlines

Government leaders are expected to agree in November that the world's top banks must issue special bonds to increase the amount of capital which can be tapped in a crisis instead of calling on taxpayers to come to the rescue, industry and G20 officials said.

## Airline Death Spiral ##

## Fault lines/flashpoints/powder kegs/military/war drums ##

## Global unrest/mob rule/angry people/torches and pitchforks ##

## Energy/resources ##
Rising population, intense heat and claims of terror attacks on infrastructure means demand is now 20% more than capacity
Puerto Rico managed to keep its electricity flowing this week – but creditors made it clear that the crisis enveloping the island's power utility is far from over.
As long as we have well-maintained roads... -- RF
Aquifers provide us freshwater that makes up for surface water lost from drought-depleted lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. We are drawing down these hidden, mostly nonrenewable groundwater supplies at unsustainable rates in the western United States and in several dry regions globally, threatening our future.

## Got food? ##

## Environment/health ##

## Intelligence/propaganda/security/internet/cyberwar ##

## Systemic breakdown/collapse/unsustainability ##

## Japan ##

## China ##
Unreasonably high salaries for executives of major state-owned enterprises must be adjusted, President Xi Jinping said yesterday.
Falling property prices in China’s eastern city of Wenzhou triggered 6.4 billion yuan ($1 billion) of bad loans as buyers abandoned homes and stopped making mortgage payments, the Economy & Nation Weekly reported.

## UK ##
Households are now saving around 4.8% of their income compared to 9.9% forty years ago

## US ##
As I've repeatedly observed, the nuclear family is just a short-lived phenomenon made possible by cheap energy. -- RF
The Missouri city, reeling from protests, has a financial system based on payday loans and pawn shops, and that’s part of the problem

And finally...

Dirty attacks on "Dirty Politics"

The attacks on Nicky Hager and their flaws
Article: Branko Marcetic


22 August,2014

It’s all made up and can’t be proven. But if it can, then it doesn’t matter, because it’s not that big a deal. Besides, everyone does it. These are just some of the rebuttals launched at Nicky Hager since his book, Dirty Politics, revealed the unsavoury underside of National Party politics. Figures on the right, from government ministers and broadcasters to the subject of the book himself, Cameron Slater, have lined up to launch a volley of attacks on the book and discredit its arguments.

But apart from the self-contradictory attempts to dismiss its actual content – the difficulty of which is reflected in the government’s shifting positions – these same commentators on the right have tried to sully the motives and journalistic character of both the book and Hager himself. Amongst the flurry of controversy, three arguments in particular have stuck out: that Hager is part of a wider left-wing smear campaign; that he’s profiting from stolen material; and that he’s engaging in exactly the same kind of dirty politics he’s decrying.

For a variety of reasons, none of these arguments are convincing.

Argument #1: Dirty Politics is part of a left-wing smear campaign

In a number of places, the Prime Minister has accused of the book of being part of what he called a “well and truly orchestrated, left-wing smear campaign” aimed at the National government and its key figures.

Speaking the morning after the book’s release, Key told reporters:

Frankly, if there’s dirty politics in New Zealand, it’s actually coming from the left…What we’ve had from them this week is we’ve had Dotcom putting up a video of young people chanting. We’ve had effigies being burnt and displayed on the internet. We’ve had billboards being wrecked. We’ve had a parody out there on the [internet]. And now we’ve had this book of baseless allegations.”

The first incident referenced here is the Internet Mana Party video featuring Kim Dotcom speaking to a group of students chanting “F*** John Key”. The second incident refers to a video put online by a group called Vote Him Out, showing students burning an effigy of the Prime Minister, which both he and Cameron Slater swiftly tried to link to Kim Dotcom. The final evidence Key cites is a satirical song critical of him and the National Party that was written and performed by a Wellington blues musician.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister again tried to link these incidents together in an interview with Guyon Espiner on Radio New Zealand, calling the book’s allegations against Judith Collins part of a smear campaign, which began the week with “F. U. videos” and “went into burning effigies.”

The Prime Minister’s attempt to link these disparate events is hampered by the fact that there is absolutely zero evidence they’re connected in any way. Unlike the direct links between Cameron Slater and various figures in the National Party and government demonstrated by Hager, it’s clear that each of the videos Key is complaining about were made by individuals who had nothing to do with each other. Other than the fact that the videos are anti-Key, come broadly from the left and were cited by the Prime Minister, the idea that they have anything more in common is laughable.

More importantly, the examples cited by Key pale in comparison to the kind of outrageous activities described by Hager in his book. On the right we have allegations of: the Prime Minister’s press secretary unlawfully accessing information from Labour party computers; a government minister feeding personal information about a political opponent to expose him to attack; a staffer in the Prime Minister’s office tipping off a blogger about a politically damaging OIA request; and many sleazy accounts of attempts to gather embarrassing details on politicians’ sex lives.

On the left we have: some students chanting an obscenity; other students setting fire to an effigy; vandalised billboards, an election year tradition and hardly something National have a monopoly on; and a parody video that’s barely discernable from the typical campaign ads lobbed by parties during elections.

If someone on the left was using this to orchestrate a smear campaign, they were doing a terrible job.

Argument #2: Hager is profiting from stolen material

Upon first being challenged with the claims from Hager’s book, Judith Collins replied that Hager had used “stolen emails to further slur me, and, more importantly, the Prime Minister and the people in his office.” The emails, after all, had originally been hacked from Slater’s computer by an unknown source.

The use of the term “stolen emails” by the Justice Minister is a pointed one, meant to cast aspersions on Hager’s journalistic credentials and his intentions, giving the book a sordid feel. Not only that, but it also casts doubt on the legality of the book. As she went on to say: “That is deplorable behaviour, and I am sure the legal situation he’s in is quite interesting.” Hager wasn’t acting as a journalist, but as an attack blogger, and had broken the law in his zeal.

However, unlike Slater’s collusion with Jason Ede to snoop around in the Labour Party’s computers, there’s no evidence that Hager was involved in any way in obtaining the hacked emails. He was leaked the emails after the fact, and then published them selectively in the public interest. The obtaining of the emails by the original source may have been illegal, but thanks to the Bill of Rights Act’s protection of freedom of expression, Hager is well within his rights to publish the information.

As for the attempt to attach an association of grubbiness to Hager’s work, it’s useful to note that what Hager did happens routinely every day around the world. It’s called journalism: someone breaks the law or violates an oath by passing secret information on to a reporter, who then writes a story about it. It’s why Peter Dunne had to resign as a Minister after he was found to have discussed leaking the Kitteridge report last year, but the reporter who he leaked it to, Andrea Vance, went relatively unbothered. It’s also why, while the US government tries in vain to have Edward Snowden extradited to stand trial for his leak of NSA files, the websites and newspapers which published them have received praise and are untouchable by their respective governments.

The whole affair does, however, point to the lak of logic in the High Court’s recent decision that books are essentially not journalism. A High Court judge ruled on 19 June that only news articles enjoy journalistic legal protections, and so an author of a journalistic book could be compelled to reveal her or his sources. This now puts Hager at risk of being forced to reveal the identity of his source for Dirty Politics if a criminal investigation is launched. Absurdly, if he had taken the 14 chapters of his book and instead published them as 14 separate articles in a newspaper or magazine, he would not be.

Argument #3: Hager himself is engaging in dirty politics

Nicky has clearly breached my privacy,” Slater complained to the Herald. “The guy is a sanctimonious hypocrite,”

Obviously, the irony has not escaped you that you attack people for leaked emails, and yet your entire book’s based on leaked emails,” Mike Hosking said to Hager the day after the book’s release.

Even an editorial on Stuff suggested there was something untoward about Hager “using hacked emails from Slater’s private computer while also strongly believing that for his opponents to do the same would be the worst case of dirty tricks.”

The idea that Hager himself has done the very thing his book crusades against seems to be pervasive one. But just as with the difference between a parody video made by a musician and government officials working with some in the media to defame opponents, there is an ocean that separates Hager’s book from what Slater was doing.

As his critics concede when they accuse him of being “selective” with the emails he’s used, Hager has only used those emails which are newsworthy and are in the public interest – in other words, those emails which relate to the National government’s collusion in orchestrating attacks on their political rivals. Despite the fact that Hager had six years’ worth of Slater’s emails to work with, the book features no details about Slater’s sex life, what he gets up to in his spare time, or other irrelevant personal information. In fact, the recent email dumps by the original source, which aren’t as discerning, have made Hager’s selectiveness abundantly clear.

By contrast, excepting the OIA request on Phil Goffe’s briefing by the SIS, this is exactly the kind of information Slater, Ede and others were interested in. They weren’t after information that would reveal wrongdoing or corruption by political elites. The vast majority of their concerns involving digging up scurrilous information on politicians’ sex lives, catching them behaving badly on their off-hours, and using covertly obtained information to disrupt campaigns. Instead of revealing the wrongdoing of those in power, Slater’s work (and that of the officials he collaborated with) aimed to embarrass politicians with seedy details about their personal lives.

In addition to this, equating the conduct of a hacker to that of a staff member from the Prime Minister’s office is treading dangerous ground. Typically, governments are meant to hold themselves to a higher standard than your average citizen, let alone an anonymous computer hacker. While that might not make the actions of the hacker legal or morally sound, such violations are rightly considered more outrageous when they came from a democratically elected, taxpayer-funded government.


Because the government is unable to refute the actual content of the book - given that it’s well-documented, and a number of the parties involved have actually admitted to some of the charges - they and their supporters have resorted to an age-old political trick: attack the messanger in order to discredit the message. If they plan to keep doing so, however, they would do well to come up with more convincing arguments than these.



John Key’s Groundhog day II

Written
TheStandard,
22 August, 2014
Another day and more bad press for National over dirty politics. John Key is now claiming, without irony, that an assault on our democracy is occurring. There is, but not from the sources that he claims.  The attack on our democracy has come from the National Party who has politicised the public service, abused its relationship with the press, and fed sensitive information to an attack blogger who has then smeared away to his heart’s content.
Herald Digipoll has recorded a significant drop in support for John Key and a significant gain for David Cunliffe in the preferred PM stakes.  It appears that more and more citizens are realising that the attacks on Cunliffe are part of a dark ops smear campaign from within the Beehive.  As David gets more public exposure I expect support for him to grow.  And if he performs as well as he did in this Herald video interview then he and Labour will do well.
Yesterday there was a lot of analysis of Key’s knowledge that sensitive information concerning Phil Goff was declassified and handed to Cameron Slater.  I thought that we had the smoking gun proving that Key knew about the OIA release by the SIS to Cameron Slater.  But Enough is Enough pointed out that the evidence was not quite there.
A plain reading of the letters released by Tony Manhire Felix Marwick yesterday clearly suggested that Key, as opposed to his office, had been briefed on the decision to release the SIS documents to Cameron Slater.  But then Ombudsman Beverley Wakam and former SIS chief Warren Tucker came out and claimed that the language used in both letters is a particularly Wellington form of English and that it meant Key’s office was briefed and not him personally despite the clear plain english used.
So can John Key honestly claim that he did not know about the decision to declassify and release sensitive and politically loaded SIS documents to Cameron Slater?
The Herald has reported this morning on the following video which is from a press conference back in 2011.
Key is quoted as saying:
What happened is Warren Tucker didn’t come to me, he went to his legal adviser and his legal advisers told him this is the process they have to follow and when he was going through that process it was at that point he told me he’d release it because he has to tell me that under the no-surprises doctrine.”
Another aspect to the story that is now very clear is that Tucker released the document to Slater only because Key had referred to the document publicly.  Tucker’s letter to Slater says “the [NZSIS] would not normally release such information because disclosure may breach the confidentiality of advice tendered by officials. In this case, however, the existence and some of the content of such briefings have already been made public.”

So Key’s claim that Slater’s OIA request did not come over his desk has to be wrong.  And his role in the actual release needs to be investigated further.
Of course this debate avoids the bleedingly obvious.  By refusing to do anything except conceding reluctantly that Collins’ actions were unwise Key is effectively sanctioning the Dirty Politics exposed in the book.  People should lose their jobs, starting with Collins, and continuing with chief of staff Wayne Eagleston and continuing with Jason Ede.  Their continued presence on various payrolls shows what Key thinks about their tactics and behaviour.

Trading in human slaves

The ISIS Auction Market


According to Arabic sources, #ISIS / Da3sh have opened an Auction Market in #Mosul where Yazidi and Christian women taken as slaves are sold. Prices go from 500 to 1,000 dollars with a pledge to have them convert into a different faith. #Syria #Iraq


Part of the actual political program of ISIS and the forces which they represent is emerging--re-enslavement. Markets with slaves also showed up during the brief "independence" of Chechnya, which was also supported by the West and led by some of the mujaheddin veterans of the Afghan war before moving against Syria.

A policy of destruction and mayhem

While arming continuing to arm ISIS's "moderate" allies in Syria, no doubt!
---SMR


The truth behind the "sudden" and geopolitically convenient discovery of ISIS' threat in Iraq and Syria: two goals:

1. To get US forces back into Iraq--even if without the Status of Forces Agreement, which Maliki refused to sign back in 2010; now Maliki is out with the help of the Kurdish faction in the Parliament who voted just among themselves for the new Iraqi president, who quickly nominated a new prime minister.

2.
To allow for over US intervention in Syria.

In a briefing with reporters Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf would not rule out a U.S. campaign against ISIS in Syria. And Kerry said in his statement that the U.S. would "confront ISIL wherever it tries to spread its despicable hatred."

See http://syria360.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/us-operating-on-both-sides-of-syrian-iraqi-border/


And, US own admission:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/obamas-mission-against-isis-just-131607976.html
---Vladimir Suchan
 
U.S. General Says Raiding Syria Is Key to Halting ISIS
WASHINGTON — The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria cannot be defeated unless the United States or its partners take on the Sunni militants in Syria, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday



21 August, 2014


This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated,” said the chairman, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, in his most expansive public remarks on the crisis since American airstrikes began in Iraq. “Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no.”


But General Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who both spoke at a Pentagon news conference, gave no indication that President Obama was about to approve airstrikes in Syria.


General Dempsey also was circumspect in describing the sort of broad effort that would be required to roll back ISIS in Syria and Iraq.


It requires a variety of instruments, only one small part of which is airstrikes,” he said. “I’m not predicting those will occur in Syria, at least not by the United States of America. But it requires the application of all of the tools of national power — diplomatic, economic, information, military.”


Even so, General Dempsey’s comments were notable because he is the president’s top military adviser and had been among the most outspoken in describing the risks of ordering airstrikes in Syria when the civil war there began.


In the current battle with ISIS inside Iraq, Mr. Obama’s military strategy has been aimed at containing the militant organization rather than defeating it, according to Defense Department officials and military experts. Pressed on whether the United States would conduct airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria, Mr. Hagel said that “we’re looking at all options.”


Any use of air power involves risk, including the possibility that innocent civilians may be hurt or killed, or that a piloted aircraft might be shot down. Airstrikes in Syria would also draw the White House more deeply into a conflict from which it has sought to maintain some distance. But there is also risk in not acting, because it is very difficult to defeat a militant group that is allowed to maintain a sanctuary.


In planning its campaign against ISIS, American military officers have been contending with a highly mobile force that can move across the Iraq-Syria border with impunity.


To the consternation of American officials, ISIS has been using captured American equipment, including Humvees and at least one heavily armored troop transport vehicle. American intelligence officials have reported that the group has seized 20 Russian T-55 tanks in Syria, armor that ISIS could try to employ in western Iraq.


According to one American intelligence estimate, ISIS could not be easily defeated by killing its top leadership. Given its decentralized command and control, experienced militants could easily replenish its upper ranks.


If there is anything ISIL has learned from its previous iterations as Al Qaeda in Iraq, it is that they need succession plans because losing leaders to counterterrorism operations is to be expected,” said one intelligence official, using an alternative name for the group. “Their command and control is quite flexible as a result.”


American officials caution that intelligence experts are still assessing ISIS’s current strength and that pinning down the precise number of its fighters is difficult, in part because it is not easy to identify who is a core member of the group and who might be sympathizers fighting alongside them.


Estimates of the number of fighters that might be affiliated with ISIS vary from more than 10,000 to as many as 17,000. That includes an initial vanguard of about 3,000 who swept into Mosul from Syria in early June and ISIS reinforcements from Syria since that time, as well as thousands of new foreign recruits and thousands of Iraqi Sunnis, like Baathists, who at least for now are allied with ISIS.


So far, the military strategy that the Obama administration has employed to confront ISIS has been limited in scope. Since Aug. 8, the United States has carried out 90 airstrikes to halt the militant group’s advance to Erbil, to help Kurdish and Iraqi government forces retake the Mosul Dam and to protect Yazidi civilians trying to escape from Mount Sinjar.


While American air power appears to have been relatively successful in those limited missions, some military officials say that the only way to deal a major setback to such a mobile adversary is to attack ISIS fighters throughout the battlefield.


John R. Allen, the retired Marine Corps general who led American and allied forces in Afghanistan, said the United States needed to build up the capacity of indigenous forces in the region to take on ISIS, but he stressed that there was also an important role for American air power.


For now, attacking ISIS command and control sites, support areas and critical pathways can do a great deal to begin the process of dismantling the organization,” he said.


Those that have been on the receiving end of ISIS’s attacks believe more action is needed.


ISIS needs to be fought in all areas, in both Iraq and Syria,” said Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Iraq’s Nineveh Province, which is now mostly held by ISIS. “The problem is finding a partner on the ground that can work with them because the jets can’t finish the battle from the sky.”


Those within Syria who have fought ISIS also have expressed hopes for intervention. When ISIS fighters tried to take land from the Shueitat tribe in eastern Syria, its men took up arms and fought back — a show of defiance that the extremist group did not forget.


This month, ISIS retaliated, capturing and killing hundreds of tribe members, some of them slaughtered with knives in the street. Wounded and chased from his village, one survivor reached by phone on Thursday said he could not understand why the United States was bombing ISIS in Iraq but not in Syria, where the group has for more than a year built its base and amassed weapons and fighters.


I wish we could ask the Americans to hit their bases wherever they exist,” said the man, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.


When the United States began airstrikes in Iraq this month, senior Obama administration officials went out of their way to underscore the limited nature of the action.


This was not an authorization of a broad-based counterterrorism campaign,” a senior Obama administration official told reporters at the time.


"To the consternation of American officials, ISIS has been using captured American equipment, including Humvees and at least one heavily...


But the beheading of an American journalist and the possibility that more American citizens being held by the group might be slain has prompted outrage at the highest levels of the United States government.


Mr. Obama has harshly condemned the slaying, and on Wednesday Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement declaring that the group should be confronted “wherever it tries to spread its despicable hatred” and “must be destroyed.”


Such strong statements have widened the gap between the harsh denunciations of ISIS and the strategy that the White House has so far employed to confront the group.


And Mr. Hagel said Thursday that while American airstrikes had made a difference thus far in slowing the ISIS advance in Iraq, he expected that the militants would regroup and stage another offensive.


The Obama administration has ruled out sending ground troops into combat in Iraq. Administration officials have also continued to insist that much of the strategy is political: the establishment of a more diverse Iraqi government that would give a prominent role to Sunnis in the hope that it would make Sunni communities less hospitable hosts for ISIS militants.


But other options are being considered, including increasing the scope and frequency of airstrikes.


You can hit ISIS on one side of a border that essentially no longer exists, and it will scurry across, as it may have already,” said Brian Katulis, a national security expert with the Center for American Progress, a Washington research organization with close ties to the White House.


As proven during the initial American military mission to rout Al Qaeda and the Taliban from Afghanistan after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, American airstrikes would be more effective if small teams of Special Operations forces were deployed to identify ISIS targets and call in attacks.


Deploying such teams is believed to be one option the Pentagon is considering. Another step that some experts say will be needed to challenge the militant groups is a stepped-up program to train, advise and equip the moderate opposition in Syria as well as Kurdish and government forces in Iraq.


During his news conference, Mr. Hagel insisted that the United States was pursuing a long-term strategy against ISIS because it clearly posed “a long-term threat,” and at one point invoked the Sept. 11 attacks.


But both Pentagon leaders reflected the prevailing view within the Obama administration — that the United States should not move aggressively to counter ISIS without participation from allies in the region


From the Guardian

Pentagon: Isis is 'beyond anything we've seen' and must be contained

Defence chiefs describe militants as ‘apocalyptic’ group that will need to be defeated but maintain limited strikes are sufficient