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Editor, The Konformist
Steamshovelpress.com is back! New web content! New book product! New conference information! PLUS: a new, daily, twitterish quip: "Parapolitics Offhand!"
Now available on CD and through US Mail only: Popular Parapolitics, 219 pages, illustrated, of comentary on the nexus of parapolitics and popular culture. $15 post paid from Kenn Thomas, POB 210553, St. Louis, MO 63121.
"It's Loud, It's Ugly, It Won't Go Away"
In honor of Motley Crue announcing its next tour will be their last (and unlike other artists, they appear to really mean it) The Konformist salutes them by reprinting this Rolling Stone magazine cover of them from 1987. The headline rings even more true now than it did 26 years ago: "It's loud, it's ugly, it won't go away."
BRICS Nations Plan New Bank to Bypass World Bank, IMF
Mike Cohen & Ilya Arkhipov - Mar 26, 2013
The biggest emerging markets are uniting to tackle under-development and currency volatility with plans to set up institutions that encroach on the roles of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The leaders of the so-called BRICS nations -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- are set to approve the establishment of a new development bank during an annual summit that began today in the eastern South African city of Durban, officials from all five nations say. They will also discuss pooling foreign-currency reserves to ward off balance of payments or currency crises.
"The deepest rationale for the BRICS is almost certainly the creation of new Bretton Woods-type institutions that are inclined toward the developing world," Martyn Davies, chief executive officer of Johannesburg-based Frontier Advisory, which provides research on emerging markets, said in a phone interview. "There's a shift in power from the traditional to the emerging world. There is a lot of geo-political concern about this shift in the western world."
The BRICS nations, which have combined foreign-currency reserves of $4.4 trillion and account for 43 percent of the world's population, are seeking greater sway in global finance to match their rising economic power. They have called for an overhaul of management of the World Bank and IMF, which were created in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in 1944, and oppose the practice of their respective presidents being drawn from the U.S. and Europe.
"We need to change the way business is conducted in the international financial institutions," South African International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said in a March 15 speech in Johannesburg. "They need to be reformed."
The U.S. has failed to ratify a 2010 agreement to give more sway to emerging markets at the IMF, while it secured Jim Yong Kim, an American, as head of the World Bank last year over candidates from Nigeria and Colombia.
Finance ministers and central bank governors from the BRICS nations, who met in Durban today, agreed to set up currency crisis fund of about $100 billion, Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega told reporters today. He didn't give details of proposed funding for the new bank, which Brazil wants established by 2014. The nation's leaders are due to sign a final accord tomorrow.
Goldman Sachs Asset Management Chairman Jim O'Neill coined the BRIC term in 2001 to describe the four emerging powers he estimated would equal the U.S. in joint economic output by 2020. Brazil, Russia, India and China held their first summit four years ago and invited South Africa to join their ranks in December 2010.
Trade within the group surged to $282 billion last year from $27 billion in 2002 and may reach $500 billion by 2015, according to data from Brazil's government. Foreign direct invesment into BRICS nations reached $263 billion last year, accounting for 20 percent of global FDI flows, up from 6 percent in 2000, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said on its website yesterday.
"If they announce a BRICS bank it will be quite something," O'Neill said in an e-mailed reply to questions on March 15. "At a minimum it symbolizes they can achieve something as political group and means lots of other things could follow in the future. It also means that they will have their own kind of special World Bank, which may aid infrastructure and trade projects."
While BRICS leaders may approve the creation of a development bank in principle at the summit, details on funding and operations may take longer to finalize.
Russia favors capping each side's initial contribution at $10 billion, Mikhail Margelov, President Vladimir Putin's envoy to Africa he said in a March 15 interview in Moscow.
"It will be some time before it will be feasible for this bank to start financing say, a railway project," Simon Freemantle, an analyst at Standard Bank Group Ltd., Africa's biggest lender, told reporters in Durban yesterday. "That is some way out."
Interest rates near zero in the U.S., Japan and Europe have fueled foreign investors' appetite for higher-yielding assets, driving up currencies from Brazil to Turkey. Brazil has warned of a global currency war as nations take reciprocal action to weaken their currencies and protect export industries.
Brazil's real has gained 1.9 percent against the dollar since the beginning of the year, while South Africa's rand has dropped 8.7 percent in the period.
For South Africa, which makes up just 2.5 percent of total gross domestic product in BRICS, the summit is a way to showcase its role as an investment gateway to Africa. President Jacob Zuma has invited 15 African heads of state, including Egypt's Mohamed Mursi and Ethiopia's Hailemariam Desalegn, for talks with the BRICS leaders at the summit. For most of the BRICS leaders, it's also the first opportunity to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping after his appointment on March 17.
"We will discuss ways to revive global growth and ensure macroeconomic stability, as well as mechanisms and measures to promote investment in infrastructure and sustainable development," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement yesterday.
To contact the reporters on this story: Mike Cohen in Cape Town at mcohen21@...; Ilya Arkhipov in Moscow at iarkhipov@...
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@...
Sociology of Conspiracies
Latest Class given by Peter Phillips at SSU
Program: Academic Credit: Summer 2013, Sonoma State University
SOCI 497: Sociology of Conspiracies is an academic upper division class on the history and cultural understandings of conspiracies by elites and the powerful in society.
We will ask the question do elites and the powerful make plans and take actions that may harm others or democracy. We will study the theories State Crimes Against Democracy (SCAD) and Power Elite Theory. We will explore how people in the US have long held conspiracy theories going back to the Revolutionary War. We will take a look at contemporary efforts by elites to use media to discredit research regarding the orgins of 20th wars, political assassinations, 9/11, and US election fraud. We will focus on solid academic research for discussion and challenge those who explainations for events goes beyond available evidence.
Conspiracy Theory, Lance deHavenSmith, University of Texas Press, 2013
9/11 and American Empire, Intellectuals Speak Out, David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott, Olive Branch Press, 2007
And a Course Reader
The Course will include Guest lectures, Films and Discussion on this very important topic for Democracy.
Instructor: Peter Phillips
Credit: 4 units
Peter Phillips Ph.D is a Professor in the Sociology Department at SSU. Phillips has written and lectured extensively on the Power Elite, Transnational Corporate Class, and Conspiracies. He is the author and editor of seventeen books on Censorship and the Interlocks of Elites in the world.
12 mtgs: M-Th, Jul 15-Aug 1, 1:00 PM -5:50 PM
Salazar Hall 2019
SOCI 497; #1127; 4 units; $1280
Summer Housing Available During the Class
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Greg Bishop of The Excluded Middle & Kenn Thomas of Steamshovel Press
The Millennium Falcon
What, Me Worry?
Nearly 1 in 10 Americans would have sex with a robot
A recent survey conducted by the Huffington Post and YouGov shows that we're surprisingly open to the idea of having carnal relations with mechanical companions.
And the poll was fairly legit. YouGov surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults from February 20th to 21st, and the sample group factored in demographic characteristics like age, race, gender, education, income, interest in politics, and religion...
In response to questions about robotic sex partners, here's what they found:
Eighteen percent of respondents indicated that they believed sexbots will be available by 2030. Nine percent indicated that they would have sex with a robot if they could (though perhaps they wouldn't have been keen on admitting that if they could).
Sex with a robot raises some thorny ethical questions including whether a married person who hooked up with a robot would be guilty of infidelity. What did the poll find? Forty-two percent of Americans indicated that such a dalliance would constitute cheating. Another 31 percent said it wouldn't, and 26 percent said they were unsure. Respondents under age 30 were almost as likely to say it wouldn't be cheating (34 percent) as that it would (36 percent). Americans over age 65 were far more likely to say that it would, by a 52 percent to 24 percent margin.
Vatican department shares Rome palazzo with gay sauna
12 March 2013
A historic palazzo in Rome that houses a key Vatican department is also the home of a well-known gay sauna.
The Holy See paid 20m euros (£17.5m) in 2008 for around 20 apartments in the building for the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.
Its Prefect Emeritus, Cardinal Ivan Dias, is one of the priestly residents.
The proximity to Europa Multiclub, billed as Italy's top gay sauna, has drawn comment due to the Vatican's strict stance on gay partnerships.
The facility boasts a Turkish bath, Finnish sauna, whirlpools and massages.
Also on offer are "bear parties", which are advertised on its website with a video of a man stripping down before donning clerical attire.
Bruno, "a hairy, overweight pastor of souls, is free to the music of his clergyman, remaining in a thong, because he wants to expose body and soul", the website says.
The Vatican has declined to comment on the proximity of the sauna to the headquarters of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples - which is responsible for missionary activities - but Cardinal Dias has previously said that gays and lesbians can be cured of their "unnatural tendencies" through the "sacrament of penance"...
How George Bush won the war in Iraq - really!
If you thought it was "Blood for Oil"--you're wrong. It was far, far worse.
By Greg Palast for Vice Magazine
Friday, 29. March 2013
Because it was marked "confidential" on each page, the oil industry stooge couldn't believe the US State Department had given me a complete copy of their secret plans for the oil fields of Iraq. Actually, the State Department had done no such thing. But my line of bullshit had been so well-practiced and the set-up on my mark had so thoroughly established my fake identity, that I almost began to believe my own lies.
I closed in. I said I wanted to make sure she and I were working from the same State Department draft. Could she tell me the official name, date and number of pages? She did.
Bingo! I'd just beaten the Military-Petroleum Complex in a lying contest, so I had a right to be stoked.
After phoning numbers from California to Kazakhstan to trick my mark, my next calls were to the State Department and Pentagon. Now that I had the specs on the scheme for Iraq's oil that State and Defense Department swore, in writing, did not exist I told them I'd appreciate their handing over a copy (no expurgations, please) or there would be a very embarrassing story on BBC Newsnight.
Within days, our chief of investigations, Ms Badpenny, delivered to my shack in the woods outside New York a 323-page, three-volume programme for Iraq's oil crafted by George Bush's State Department and petroleum insiders meeting secretly in Houston, Texas.
I cracked open the pile of paper and I was blown away.
Like most lefty journalists, I assumed that George Bush and Tony Blair invaded Iraq to buy up its oil fields, cheap and at gun-point, and cart off the oil. We thought we knew the neo-cons true casus belli: Blood for oil.
But the truth in the confidential Options for Iraqi Oil Industry was worse than "Blood for Oil". Much, much worse.
The key was in the flow chart on page 15, Iraq Oil Regime Timeline & Scenario Analysis:
"...A single state-owned company ...enhances a government's relationship with OPEC."
Let me explain why these words rocked my casbah.
I'd already had in my hands a 101-page document, another State Department secret scheme, first uncovered by Wall Street Journal reporter Neil King, that called for the privatisation, the complete sell-off of every single government-owned asset and industry. And in case anyone missed the point, the sales would include every derrick, pipe and barrel of oil, or, as the document put it, "especially the oil".
That plan was created by a gaggle of corporate lobbyists and neo-cons working for the Heritage Foundation. In 2004, the plan's authenticity was confirmed by Washington power player Grover Norquist. (It's hard to erase the ill memory of Grover excitedly waving around his soft little hands as he boasted about turning Iraq into a free-market Disneyland, recreating Chile in Mesopotamia, complete with the Pinochet-style dictatorship necessary to lock up the assets while behind Norquist, Richard Nixon snarled at me from a gargantuan portrait.)
The neo-con idea was to break up and sell off Iraq's oil fields, ramp up production, flood the world oil market and thereby smash OPEC and with it, the political dominance of Saudi Arabia.
General Jay Garner also confirmed the plan to grab the oil. Indeed, Garner told me that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld fired him, when the General, who had lived in Iraq, complained the neo-con grab would set off a civil war. It did. Nevertheless, Rumsfeld replaced Garner with a new American viceroy, Paul Bremer, a partner in Henry Kissinger's firm, to complete the corporate takeover of Iraq's assets "especially the oil".
But that was not to be. While Bremer oversaw the wall-to-wall transfer of Iraqi industries to foreign corporations, he was stopped cold at the edge of the oil fields.
How? I knew there was only one man who could swat away the entire neo-con army: James Baker, former Secretary of State, Bush family consiglieri and most important, counsel to Exxon-Mobil Corporation and the House of Saud.
(One unwitting source was industry oil-trading maven Edward Morse of Lehman/Credit Suisse, who threatened to sue Harper's Magazine for my quoting him. Morse denied I ever spoke with him. But when I played the tape from my hidden recorder, his memory cleared and he scampered away.)
Weirdly, I was uncovering that the US oil industry was using its full political mojo to prevent their being handed ownership of Iraq's oil fields. That's right: The oil companies did NOT want to own the oil fields and they sure as hell did not want the oil. Just the opposite. They wanted to make sure there would be a limit on the amount of oil that would come out of Iraq.
There was no way in hell that Baker's clients, from Exxon to Abdullah, were going to let a gaggle of neo-con freaks smash up Iraq's oil industry, break OPEC production quotas, flood the market with six million barrels of Iraqi oil a day and thereby knock its price back down to $13 a barrel where it was in 1998.
Big Oil simply could not allow Iraq's oil fields to be privatised and taken from state control. That would make it impossible to keep Iraq within OPEC (an avowed goal of the neo-cons) as the state could no longer limit production in accordance with the cartel's quota system..
The problem with Saddam was not the threat that he'd stop the flow of oil he was trying to sell more. The price of oil had been boosted 300 percent by sanctions and an embargo cutting Iraq's sales to two million barrels a day from four. With Saddam gone, the only way to keep the damn oil in the ground was to leave it locked up inside the busted state oil company which would remain under OPEC (i.e. Saudi) quotas.
The James Baker Institute quickly and secretly started in on drafting the 323-page plan for the State Department. In May 2003, with authority granted from the top (i.e. Dick Cheney), ex-Shell Oil USA CEO Phil Carroll was rushed to Baghdad to take charge of Iraq's oil. He told Bremer, "There will be no privatisation of oil END OF STATEMENT." Carroll then passed off control of Iraq's oil to Bob McKee of Halliburton, Cheney's old oil-services company, who implemented the Baker "enhance OPEC" option anchored in state ownership.
Some oil could be released, mainly to China, through limited, but lucrative, "production sharing agreements".
And that's how George Bush won the war in Iraq. The invasion was not about "blood for oil", but something far more sinister: blood for no oil. War to keep supply tight and send prices skyward.
Oil men, whether James Baker or George Bush or Dick Cheney, are not in the business of producing oil. They are in the business of producing profits.
And they've succeeded. Iraq, capable of producing six to 12 million barrels of oil a day, still exports well under its old OPEC quota of three million barrels.
The result: As we mark the tenth anniversary of the invasion this month, we also mark the fifth year of crude at $100 a barrel.
As George Bush could proudly say to James Baker: Mission Accomplished!
Palast is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC Newsnight Review.
Judge orders morning-after pill available without prescription
Fri April 5, 2013
A federal judge in Brooklyn, New York, has ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make the morning-after birth control pill available to people of any age without a prescription.
The order overturned a 2011 decision by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to require a prescription for girls under 17.
The FDA said it couldn't comment on an ongoing legal matter. But the U.S. Justice Department indicated an appeal of the ruling was under consideration. "The Department of Justice is reviewing the appellate options and expects to act promptly," department spokeswoman Allison Price said.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended last year that oral contraceptives be sold over the counter in an effort to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in the United States. Opponents of prescription requirements say prescriptions can delay access to the drug.
In 2011, Teva Women's Health Inc., maker of Plan B One-Step, had asked the FDA to make the drug available without prescription to all sexually active girls and women. Sebelius overruled the FDA's recommendation, saying, "I do not believe enough data were presented to support the application."
On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman said in his order, "The decisions of the Secretary with respect to Plan B One-Step and that of the FDA with respect to the Citizen Petition, which it had no choice but to deny, were arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable."
Friday's order came in response to a lawsuit launched by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The group was seeking to expand access to all brands of the morning-after pill over the counter, such as Plan B One-Step and Next Choice, so that women of all ages would be able to purchase them without a prescription.
"Today science has finally prevailed over politics," Nancy Northup, the center's president and CEO, said in a statement. "This landmark court decision has struck a huge blow to the deep-seated discrimination that has for too long denied women access to a full range of safe and effective birth control methods."
In a press briefing, Northup said that according to the order, within 30 days, the pill would be available over the counter without "point of sale restrictions," such as needing to show identification or being a certain age.
There may be other settings besides drugstores where the morning-after pill will be sold, Susan Wood, associate professor at the George Washington University's School of Public Health and Health Services, told reporters.
"We no longer have to find, on a Sunday morning or a Saturday night, an open pharmacy counter with a pharmacist on duty," she said.