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​‘British PM backs the Ukrainian Nazis and threatens Moscow with a new war’ – open letter to Cameron


Published time: July 31, 2014 20:52

Until now, the warmongering campaign was led by US politicians and European officials who encouraged the Ukrainian Nazis they brought to power in Kiev to commit mass crimes against the people of eastern Ukraine – in order to drag Russia into the hostilities.

It’s the first time the leader of a key European country has called for a war against Russia. Against this backdrop, the Ukrainian army launched an operation to annihilate Lugansk and Donetsk, along with their residents.

It’s déjà vu. Back in 1938, Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister at the time, tried to nudge and cajole European leaders into giving their blessing to the German Nazis’ campaign against the USSR. Likewise today, the current British prime minister unequivocally backs the Ukrainian Nazis, aggressively pushing his European counterparts to “fundamentally change our approach to Russia” and threatening Moscow with a new war. This letter is an attempt to avert a new world war.

Let’s take a closer look at your statements, Mr. Cameron.

1. Your claim that “the growing weight of evidence points to a clear conclusion: that MH17 was blown out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile fired from a rebel-held area” is unsubstantiated. On the contrary, every day we are seeing more evidence emerging that supports Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statement made right after the crash that the plane was downed by Ukraine’s military.

Flowers and a teddy bear, left by parents of an Australian victim of the crash, laid on a piece of the Malaysia Airlines plane MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabove), in the Donetsk region. (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)Flowers and a teddy bear, left by parents of an Australian victim of the crash, laid on a piece of the Malaysia Airlines plane MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabove), in the Donetsk region. (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)

You must be aware of the clear evidence released by the Russian Defense Ministry (and earlier by a Spanish air traffic controller in Kiev and local eyewitnesses) that a Ukrainian fighter jet was in close proximity to MH17. The data on the build-up of air-defense systems and their increased activity around the crash site area, as well as the forced diversion of the plane from its regular flight path right into a trap set up by the Ukrainian army, clearly indicate that this crime had been planned well in advance.

The fabrication by Ukraine’s Security Service of allegedly intercepted phone calls to implicate the militia is even more glaring evidence that this crime was planned beforehand by the Ukrainian intelligence agencies controlled, as you well know, by the CIA. The sole purpose was to provoke European countries into going to war with Russia, which they planned to accuse of shooting down the plane. And you, Mr. Prime Minister, are part of this despicable provocation.

2. Relying on pseudo-facts, you put forward an unfair and illegitimate accusation, saying that “this is a direct result of Russia destabilizing a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias, and training and arming them. We must turn this moment of outrage into a moment of action.” But it was your actions, distinguished leaders of NATO member states, which led to this tragedy. You and your allies supported the armed uprising and the coup in Ukraine staged by nationalist groups.

You probably get reports on the massacres that the authorities you support carry out against civilians in Ukraine. If you are not aware of them, I strongly advise you to read the White Book on crimes in Ukraine. The blood of the women and children burned alive in Odessa, the blood of thousands of civilians killed in Mariupol, Slavyansk, Kramatorsk, Lugansk, Donetsk and other Ukrainian towns and cities is on your protégés’ hands.

Ukrainian servicemen stand next to an armoured vehicle topped with a Ukrainian flag as they take up a position near the eastern city of Debaltceve, in the region of Donetsk (AFP Photo / Genya Savilov)Ukrainian servicemen stand next to an armoured vehicle topped with a Ukrainian flag as they take up a position near the eastern city of Debaltceve, in the region of Donetsk (AFP Photo / Genya Savilov)

You ignored reports of mass slaughter committed by the Ukrainian authorities – until your own nationals became its victims. Likewise, you have failed to bring up the daily shelling of cities in eastern Ukraine with cluster and white phosphorous bombs and deliberate destruction of essential public utilities. Now the Ukrainian authorities you are supporting have the blood of your citizens on their hands, too, after they lured the Malaysian plane into a trap and downed it. I am sure it will come as a surprise to you that the Ukrainian military are trained by American and European instructors, while the CIA takes part in planning punitive operations against the people of eastern Ukraine.

3.“If President Vladimir Putin stops the support to the fighters in eastern Ukraine and allows the Ukrainian authorities to restore order, this crisis can be brought to an end,” you insist. No doubt, in this case the end would simply mean annihilation or exile of all Ukrainian citizens who disagree with the ruling regime.

4. In saying the rebels do not represent the people of Ukraine, you act as an advocate of the Ukrainian authorities who simply deny dissenters the right to be called Ukrainian citizens. Basically, it means you support ethnic purges and killings of civilians. In this case, you push Kiev to commit more crimes.

5. “We should not need to be reminded of the lessons of European history.” Absolutely, Mr. Cameron. By making these sweeping accusations and fomenting a war, you seem to take upon yourself the right to pit nations against each other, to pass judgments on other countries and rule the world through lies and violence.

That’s exactly the behavior of your predecessors, Mr. Chamberlain and other Europeans leaders. They supported Hitler and pushed him towards a war against the USSR; they destroyed Iraq on a false pretext of weapons of mass destruction, and bombed Belgrade. Libya is a more recent example where you had your own role to play. Your crimes have claimed the lives of millions of innocent civilians, including the passengers of the jetliner that was shot down by your protégés, seeking to provoke a new wave of crimes against humanity.

I do agree with you that we must conduct a full investigation into the accident. Just as you have requested, Russia has made fully available its own data related to the accident, and assisted in collecting evidence and searching for the bodies.

We handed this data over to your experts, who will hopefully conduct an unbiased probe into the real cause of the crash.

We hope you will find out why the Ukrainian authorities are hastily deleting all the data from the radars deployed along the plane’s flight path, and get the testimony of Ukraine’s air traffic controllers who are forbidden to make any statements on the issue by the Ukrainian Security Service.

Finally, you’re saying that we must establish proper, long-term relations between Ukraine, the EU and Russia and that the path for the future now depends on how Russia responds to this tragedy. The Russian leadership has responded in exactly the way that you’ve requested. We are calling upon the warring parties to immediately stop the hostilities and begin negotiations.

Actually, this is exactly what Russia did during the anti-terrorist operations in the Chechen Republic.

We apologize for the strong language but we’ve really had enough.

Sergey Stepashin

Prime Minister of Russia, 1999

Interior Minister of Russia, 1998

Justice Minister of Russia, 1997

Head of Federal Security Service, 1994-1995

Sergey Glazyev

Full Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Aide to the Russian President
Thu, July 31, 2014 - 10:00 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

PACIFIC RIM QUAKE SWARM--New Zealand Gets a 7.2 & Alaska an 8.0


Pacific Ring fires up


A magnitude-8 earthquake has struck in the northern Pacific but is not linked to this morning's 7.2 quake closer to New Zealand, GeoNet says.

The North Pacific quake was off the coast of the Rat Islands, about 2000 kilometres west of the Alaskan peninsula at 8.53am (NZ time).

It was initially recorded as a magnitude 7.2 quake but this was revised to magnitude 8 a short time later. It was at a depth of 114km. A tsunami warning was issued for coastal areas of Alaska.

It followed a 7.2 earthquake south of Raoul Island at 7.19am, which DOC staff on the island described as a "rocking good time".

That quake was initially reported to be 5km deep, but was revised to 30km.

Raoul Island is part of the Kermadec Island group, about 1100km northeast of New Zealand.

GeoNet duty seismologist Caroline Holden said the timing of the quakes was interesting but there was nothing to relate them other than both occurred in the Ring of Fire.

The Ring of Fire is a 40,000km horseshoe-shaped area of the Pacific Ocean, where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

Of the Raoul Island quake, Holden said it was too small to trigger a significant tsunami, though the situation was being monitored.

Civil Defence said there was no tsunami threat to New Zealand.

The quake also caused two "ghost quake" readings for New Zealand's North Island, Holden said.

The "ghost" quakes - recorded near Palmerston North and on the East Cape - were monitors being tricked by the more-distant Kermadec shake.

According to GeoNet's initial reports, one magnitude-5 quake was centred near Feilding, north of Palmerston North, at 7.21am. It was described as a "moderate" quake. Also at 7.21am, Geonet gave a false reading of a "severe" 5.2 quake near Te Araroa on the East Cape.

However GeoNet later tweeted "A 7.2 quake in the Kermadecs has upset our system this morning! Two large 'ghost quakes' posted in the North Island are not real."

At 9.10am, a 4.4 magnitude quake was recorded 35km northeast of Te Araroa in the East Cape.

It was at a depth of 90km, GeoNet said.

Department of Conservation Raoul Island ranger Paul Rennie said DOC had four staff and two volunteers on Raoul island but they were all accounted for and unharmed.

"They described it as a rocking good time," he said.

"In terms of where they are at the moment, there are no reports of damage but they will be going out and assessing if there is any this morning."
Mon, June 23, 2014 - 6:40 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

RELEASE! Book & CD Signing Expo & Variety Show @ Wurst Bar Ypsi - Sunday, June 22nd - 6-11 pm

UPDATED 7/3/14 - Link to Video/Part 1

Local Author Presents Book & CD Signing Expo & Variety Show

Craig A. Combs of Sacred Star Productions will once again be teaming up with Dark Elf Entertainment and WDEE-TV, this time to present a book and CD signing expo and variety show on Sunday, June 22nd from 6:00-11:00 pm at the newly remodeled Wurst Bar, located at 705 West Cross Street in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Combs, who authored his own poetry anthology in 2011 called Taking Tea in the Black Rose, will produce and emcee the variety show.

This one-of-a-kind event, titled RELEASE!, will showcase 14 published writers, musicians, and illustrators both in a casual, one-on-one setting, as well as live on stage in a series of four separate music and spoken word performance sets. The two formats will alternate throughout the evening, giving participants and the public a chance to interact with one another on various levels.

Participating artists include:

David Jibson -- Maray Fuego
John Louis Good -- Hod Doering
Phillip Arrington -- Jennifer Maddox
Matt Lindeman -- Edward Morin
John F. Buckley -- Dave Nash Peterson
Brittany Sanford -- Craig A. Combs
Jeff Trax -- Heather Northway

The Expo is open to the public, and admission is FREE. All ages are welcome until 9 pm, after which only adults over 21 will be permitted. There will also be giveaways throughout the evening and a raffle drawing starting at 8:50 pm. For more details or to inquire about a future Sacred Star Productions event, email Craig Combs at craigacombs[at]me[dot]com. Contact the Wurst Bar by phone at (734) 485-6720, find them on the web at, or visit their Facebook event page at

This is what The Detroit Free Press had to say about the Wurst Bar in their article, “Freep 5: Great eats - and great craft beers”:

“This place has all the right moves, from the punny name to the burgers-n-dogs menu. Located across from the campus of Eastern Michigan University, the Wurst Bar has an aesthetic of part college dive, part sports bar, and part hipster hunting lodge. It can be a bit disconcerting for the first-time visitor, but once the brews and eats start flowing, it’s easy to get over. Wurst’s menu includes house-made, split-top brioche or pretzel buns in which are nestled sausages that run the gamut from the standard brat (poached in PBR, natch) to venison potato, rattlesnake chorizo, or bison-lamb-swiss merguez sausages, then topped with your choice of kraut, kimchi, caramelized onions, and spicy or sweet peppers. Burgers are ground from brisket and dipped in what Wurst calls “proprietary Umami rich sauce” — whatever it is, it’s aptly described and begs for a beer chaser. Burger toppings range from pimento cheese to bratwurst to lobster. There are vegan options as well. Best of all, there are both regular and sweet potato tater tots. And the beers? The Wurst Bar has 12 [more like 20+ now] craft taps that change almost daily.”—

Craig A. Combs
Producer/Promoter—Sacred Star Productions
Facebook link:
Fri, June 13, 2014 - 8:27 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

"The Cross St. Chronicles" Presents Its Season Finale @ Ugly Mug - Tuesday, June 10th at 6:45 PM

UPDATE 17 JUNE 2014:

UPDATE 10 JUNE 2014:
Tonight Sacred Star Productions will be presenting the Season Finale of "The Cross St. Chronicles" Variety Show at the Ugly Mug Cafe at 317 W. Cross Street in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The show will begin promptly at 6:45 pm, and admission is FREE!

Following a couple last-minute lineup adjustments, I'm pleased to announce that you are all in for a really great show tonight! Due to a serious auto accident he was involved in last week, Tyler Common will unfortunately not be performing tonight. However, we do have a special musical guest in town, Maray Fuego, who has offered to step in and work some magic on-stage for us in his stead. She is a multi-talented singer-songwriter and accordionist who has taken the concept of the wandering minstrel to a whole new level of fun, and I'm very pleased to welcome her to the Chronicles stage on this very special night.

Be sure to get there early to get a good seat for the show. The updated poster has been attached for your consideration, so please forward that if possible to anyone who might be interested in attending, or post it to your social media site.

See you there!

Craig ― Producer/Promoter


Tis that season...the end-of-season season...after all.



Craig Combs of Sacred Star Productions is pleased to present the final installment of his monthly music & spoken word variety show series, which will take place Tuesday, June 10th, from 6:45-9:00 pm at the Ugly Mug Cafe & Roastery, located at 317 W. Cross Street in Ypsilanti, MI. The show will be video recorded by Dark Elf Entertainment and publicly broadcast as four weekly episodes on starting a week after the event.

On the second Tuesday of each month, The Cross St. Chronicles Variety Show has featured four to five musicians and spoken word artists from Southeast Michigan and Northwest Ohio. This month’s edition will once again be hosted by Michigan poet and author Craig A. Combs, and the advertised lineup for this all-ages event will feature sets from three Southeast Michigan music artists—including acoustic folk/pop trio Rustic Union, and two talented singer-songwriters, Matt Lindeman and Tyler Common. Combs is also excited to announce that one of his favorite poets from Toledo, Cindy Bosley, will help him represent the spoken word end of things that evening.

To celebrate the Season Finale, this month’s Open Mic will be replaced by a "Chronicles in Review" segment, spotlighting performers who’ve been featured in previous installments of The Cross St. Chronicles. This set will close out the show with four published writers—Edward Morin, R.J. Fox, Phillip Arrington, and J. Joseph Kane—who will each read for ten minutes. The show will begin fifteen minutes earlier than usual at 6:45 pm and will also include a special guest appearance by local songwriter and accordionist, Maray Fuego, in place of the break.

This is a family-friendly event, and admission is FREE to everyone. To contact the host venue, the Ugly Mug Cafe & Roastery, call (734) 484-4684 or find them on the web at Anyone interested in being featured in a future Sacred Star Productions event should contact Craig Combs at craigacombs[at]me[dot]com.

To watch the full video stream of last month’s show, please visit:
To view the Ugly Mug’s Facebook event page, click:

Craig A. Combs
Producer/Promoter—Sacred Star Productions
Tue, June 3, 2014 - 12:13 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Poets, Greater Alexander & Pollo Loco Rock the Mug!

Link to the May 13th "Cross St. Chronicles" Variety Show @ Ugly Mug Cafe in Ypsilanti, MI.


On Tuesday, May 13, 2014, the Ugly Mug Cafe & Roastery, located at 317 West Cross Street in Ypsilanti, Michigan, played host to Sacred Star Productions' [] fifth installment of their monthly music & spoken word variety show series, which takes place the second Tuesday of every month from 7:00-9:00 PM. The show was filmed by Dark Elf Entertainment of Ypsilanti and will be publicly broadcast as four weekly episodes on, as well as full-length on this Vimeo channel.

Each month, through June 10th, "The Cross St. Chronicles" Variety Show will spotlight four to five musicians and spoken word artists from across the SE Michigan/NW Ohio region. The show is produced and emceed by Michigan Poet Craig A. Combs―author of Taking Tea in the Black Rose, his poetry anthology published in 2011. The complete lineup for this event went as follows:

Craig A. Combs
J. Joseph Kane
Greater Alexander
The Pollo Loco Latin-American Folk Ensemble:
Elvin Ferreira - Guitar, Backup Vocals; Liz Shar - Vocals & Percussion; Jeff Cuny - Contrabass; and Miguel Gutierrez - Percussion

Ray W.
Matt Lindeman

Anyone who is interested in taking part in a future Sacred Star Productions event should contact Craig Combs at craigacombs[at]me[dot]com. In commemoration of our Season Finale, next month's Open Mic will be replaced by a "Chronicles in Review" segment to close the show. Be advised, that show begins 15 minutes earlier than usual at 6:45 pm.

This is an all-ages event, and admission is FREE to everyone. To contact the host venue, the Ugly Mug Cafe & Roastery, call (734) 484-4684 or find them on the web at

Special Thanks to:
Kayj Michelle ― Ugly Mug Cafe Events Manager & the entire Ugly Mug staff
Tony Dixon & Ray Brockette ― WDEE-TV Videographers ―

"Terrapin Crossroads" from KEYS for the Rex Foundation provided courtesy of Keller Williams
Jerry Garcia & Robert Hunter ©1977 ― Ice Nine Publishing, Inc. (ASCAP)
For more information on this recording and the Rex Foundation, please visit or


Run time 1:54:40 (approx.)
Mon, May 19, 2014 - 8:07 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Ugly Mug Cafe Hosts a Vibrant Blend of Live Music & Poetry

Facebook event page:


On May 13th at 7:00 pm local author and event producer Craig A. Combs of Sacred Star Productions will present his monthly installment of “The Cross St. Chronicles” Variety Show & Open Mic series at the Ugly Mug Cafe in Ypsilanti, which will showcase two very talented musicians from Southeast Michigan: published singer/songwriter Greater Alexander from the Detroit area and experimental solo guitarist Elvin Ferreira from Livonia, who will be presenting an eclectic musical set along with his newest project, the Pollo Loco Latin-American Folk Ensemble. This edition of The Chronicles will also feature some intriguing word smithery by poet J. Joseph Kane, also from Livonia, as well as a provocative reading from the event’s own MC and promoter, Craig A. Combs of Ypsilanti.

Local recording artist Greater Alexander is making waves in the music industry. Being a singer/songwriter in Detroit isn’t always easy, but that hasn’t deterred this bearded philosopher. Often compared to Cat Stevens and Jack Johnson, his raw, natural style has garnered attention and a solid fan base. Having experimented with various genres, Greater found his own voice in 2010, pulling inspiration from the organic recordings of the late 60s and early 70s.

With some urging from his friend Ian Sigmon, Greater’s first album, Positive Love, was released in December 2012 and includes his friends’ top 10 favorites, among which “Any Way Out of It” was resoundingly the crowd favorite, along with the album’s title track, “Positive Love.” His next album, Bag of Bones, is slated for release in mid-2014.

Elvin Ferreira has always been known in the local music scene as quite a trailblazer, one who does things his own way, and this courageous approach has taken him on quite a colorful journey of experimentation with many different genres and styles over the past few years, from blues to jam-rock, and even jazz. A resident of Livonia, he is also a recent graduate of Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music.

For his upcoming performance at the Ugly Mug, Elvin has teamed up with Liz Shar, Miguel Gutierrez, and Jeff Cuny to form Detroit’s newest Latin-American Folk Ensemble, Pollo Loco. Together they will bring to the stage an acoustic blend of traditional folk music from Peru, Chile, and other South American regions, along with some unique Afro-Latin rhythms from the Caribbean. Their set promises to be one you will not soon forget.

J. Joseph Kane is a tension, a copyeditor for the literary magazine Midwestern Gothic and a Writer-in-Residence for the InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit. His poems and stories have found good company in a variety of homes, including The Newer York, Clapboard House, Elimae, RHINO, Cricket Online Review, Central Review, Psychic Meatloaf, Right Hand Pointing, Admit2, The Splinter Generation, and the Lilly Press anthology River Poems.

Also a resident of Livonia, Kane can be seen and heard around the region performing his work in spoken word form at such haunts as the Plymouth Coffee Bean Company in Plymouth and the Skazat! Poetry Series at Sweetwaters in Ann Arbor. He is an avid promoter and supporter of all things poetry and definitely has a remarkable way of bending the ear as well as the mind.

Published author and poet, Craig A. Combs, is a Michigan native and resident now in his third decade as an independent writer. Since the publication of his first anthology in the fall of 2011, under the title Taking Tea in the Black Rose: Singing Through the Shadows Until We're Dancing in the Light, he continues to push the envelope in the arena of creative writing with thoughtful works of natural beauty and pioneering ideas that leave his audience with an equal sense of tenderness and childlike fascination.

With an ever-curious mind this author unapologetically pursues a life vision of openness and conscious seeking, displaying a rare talent for drawing out the deepest emotional sensitivities of his audiences. What he reveals to them through this dialectic process becomes their exclusive reward, a timeless souvenir that can never be taken away.

The “Cross St. Chronicles” Variety Show will be followed by a half-hour Open Mic segment, so please come out and join us at the Ugly Mug on Tuesday, May 13th at 7:00 pm. All ages are welcome, and admission to the event is FREE. See you there!

Facebook event page:
Thu, May 1, 2014 - 12:33 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

The "Hear and Now" Variety Show in the Garage @ YDL-Whittaker Road - 24Apr2014

Sacred Star Productions Celebrates National Poetry Month

Link to video here:

April is National Poetry Month, and Sacred Star Productions presented this show in celebration of this very special occasion, but also in conjunction with the national touring exhibition, “Our Lives, Our Stories: America’s Greatest Generation”, which our local library has been so fortunate to host from now through May 25th, thanks in part to the generosity of the Minnesota Historical Society, Mid-America Arts Alliance, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

On Thursday, April 24 at 7:00 PM, the garage at the Whittaker Road library (5577 Whittaker Road) was transformed into a performance space, where 5 featured artists performed poetry and music. Combs, the producer and promoter of this event, also performs regularly at the Ugly Mug Cafe and produces their monthly “Cross St. Chronicles” variety show and open mic series.

The variety show, entitled “Hear and Now: Merging Trend & Tradition through Music & the Spoken Word,” included performances by:

Craig A. Combs: Event producer and promoter, poet, and author of Taking Tea in the Black Rose
Julie Babcock: University of Michigan English lecturer, published short story writer, and poet
Luis Anderson: Ann Arbor poet, short story writer, and solo musician
Jess Salisbury: EMU student and singer-songwriter
Cold Tone Harvest: Southeast Michigan folk-rock trio―singer-songwriter Andrew Sigworth, bassist Ozzie Andrews, and drummer and banjo player Brian Williams -

The event also included a Lightning Round of entertainment to close out the show, which showcased both poets and songsters from around the area who each performed a five-minute set. They were Todd Askew, Michael Hylton, John Louis Good, Dave Wanty, David Ward, and Matt Lindeman.

This video was recorded by Brad Perkins and Dan Blades of Worm Farm Recordings of Ypsilanti. Additional music track "Tied Down To You" was provided courtesy of Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys and Earthwork Music (c) 2012.

Link to video here:

Additional information on events at the Ypsilanti District Library is available at

Run time: 1:59:11 (approx.)
Mon, April 28, 2014 - 12:44 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

"Hear and Now" Variety Show at Ypsilanti Library-Whittaker Road - 24 April 2014 @ 7 PM

April is National Poetry Month, so to celebrate, Sacred Star Productions will present a music and spoken word variety show in the Garage at the Ypsilanti District Library, located at 5577 Whittaker Road, on Thursday evening, April 24th, from 7-9 PM. This special event is titled “Hear and Now: Merging Trend & Tradition Through Music & the Spoken Word” and is being presented in tandem with the NEH's traveling exhibit, “Our Lives, Our Stories: America’s Greatest Generation”. This is an all-ages event, and admission is FREE.

Featuring: Cold Tone Harvest - SE MI folk-rock trio... Julie Babcock: U of M English lecturer, poet... Luis Anderson: Ann Arbor poet, solo musician... Jess Salisbury: EMU student, singer-songwriter... Craig A. Combs: Michigan author/poet, event producer... Plus other area poets & musicians

Cost: FREE

Email the promoter at craigacombs [at] me [dot] com for more details or visit .

Event details may change at any time, always check with the event organizer when planning to attend this event or purchase tickets.
Sat, April 19, 2014 - 1:44 PM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

Western Lawmakers Gather in Utah to Talk Federal Land Takeover


It’s time for Western states to take control of federal lands within their borders, lawmakers and county commissioners from Western states said at Utah’s Capitol on Friday.

More than 50 political leaders from nine states convened for the first time to talk about their joint goal: wresting control of oil-, timber -and mineral-rich lands away from the feds.

"It’s simply time," said Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, who organized the Legislative Summit on the Transfer for Public Lands along with Montana state Sen. Jennifer Fielder. "The urgency is now."

Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, was flanked by a dozen participants, including her counterparts from Idaho and Montana, during a press conference after the daylong closed-door summit. U.S. Sen. Mike Lee addressed the group over lunch, Ivory said. New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington also were represented.

The summit was in the works before this month’s tense standoff between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management over cattle grazing, Lockhart said.

"What’s happened in Nevada is really just a symptom of a much larger problem," Lockhart said.

Fielder, who described herself as "just a person who lives in the woods," said federal land management is hamstrung by bad policies, politicized science and severe federal budget cuts.

"Those of us who live in the rural areas know how to take care of lands," Fielder said, who lives in the northwestern Montana town of Thompson Falls.

"We have to start managing these lands. It’s the right thing to do for our people, for our environment, for our economy and for our freedoms," Fielder said.

Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke said Idaho forests and rangeland managed by the state have suffered less damage and watershed degradation from wildfire than have lands managed by federal agencies.

"It’s time the states in the West come of age," Bedke said. "We’re every bit as capable of managing the lands in our boundaries as the states east of Colorado."

Ivory said the issue is of interest to urban as well as rural lawmakers, in part because they see oilfields and other resources that could be developed to create jobs and fund education.

Moreover, the federal government’s debt threatens both its management of vast tracts of the West as well as its ability to come through with payments in lieu of taxes to the states, he said. Utah gets 32 percent of its revenue from the federal government, much of it unrelated to public lands.

"If we don’t stand up and act, seeing that trajectory of what’s coming … those problems are going to get bigger," Ivory said.

He was the sponsor two years of ago of legislation, signed by Gov. Gary Herbert, that demands the federal government relinquish title to federal lands in Utah. The lawmakers and governor said they were only asking the federal government to make good on promises made in the 1894 Enabling Act for Utah to become a state.

The intent was never to take over national parks and wilderness created by an act of Congress Lockhart said. "We are not interested in having control of every acre," she said. "There are lands that are off the table that rightly have been designated by the federal government."

A study is underway at the University of Utah to analyze how Utah could manage the land now in federal control. That was called for in HB142, passed by the 2013 Utah Legislature.

None of the other Western states has gone as far as Utah, demanding Congress turn over federal lands. But five have task forces or other analyses underway to get a handle on the costs and benefits, Fielder said.

"Utah has been way ahead on this," Fielder said.
Sat, April 19, 2014 - 7:00 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment

What's the Difference Between Fascism, Communism and Crony-Capitalism? Nothing


Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

The essence of crony-capitalism is the merger of state and corporate power--the definition of fascism.

When it comes to the real world, the difference between fascism, communism and crony-capitalism is semantic. Let's start with everyone's favorite hot-word, fascism, which Italian dictator Benito Mussolini defined as "the merger of state and corporate power." In other words, the state and corporate cartels are one system.

Real-world communism, for example as practiced in the People's Republic of China, boils down to protecting a thoroughly corrupt elite and state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The state prohibits anything that threatens the profits (and bribes) of SOEs--for example, taxi-apps that enable consumers to bypass the SOE cab companies.

What A Ban On Taxi Apps In Shanghai Says About China's Economy

The Chinese mega-city of Shanghai has been cracking down on popular taxi-booking apps, banning their use during rush hour. Until the apps came along, the taxi companies, which are government owned, set the real price for fares and collected about 33 cents each time someone called for a cab. That can add up in a city the size of Shanghai. Wang says the apps bypassed the old system and cut into company revenues.

Much has been made of China's embrace of capitalism, but — along with transportation — the government still dominates key sectors, including energy, telecommunications and banking. Wang says vested government interests won't give them up easily.

How else to describe this other than the merger of state and corporate power? Any company the state doesn't own operates at the whim of the state.

Now let's turn to the crony-capitalist model of the U.S., Japan, the European Union and various kleptocracies around the globe. For PR purposes, the economies of these nations claim to be capitalist, as in free-market capitalism.

Nothing could be further from the truth: these economies are crony-capitalist systems that protect and enrich elites, insiders and vested interests who the state shields from competition and the law.

The essence of crony-capitalism is of course the merger of state and corporate power. There are two sets of laws, one for the non-elites and one for cronies, and two kinds of capitalism: the free-market variety for small businesses that are unprotected by the state and the crony variety for corporations, cartels and state fiefdoms protected by the state.

Since crony-capitalism is set up to benefit parasitic politicos and their private-sector cartel benefactors, reform is impossible. Even the most obviously beneficial variety of reform--for example, simplifying the 4 million-word U.S. tax code--is politically impossible, regardless of who wins the electoral equivalent of a game show (i.e. Demopublicans vs. Republicrats).

The annual cost of navigating the tax code comes to about $170 billion:

Since 2001, Congress has enacted about one new change to the tax law per day. Pathetic, isn’t it? This tax code is a burden and a fiasco and deeply unpatriotic. As Olson’s Taxpayer Advocate Service notes, this code helps tax evaders; hurts ordinary, honest taxpayers; and corrodes trust in our system.

Here's why the tax code will never be simplified: tax breaks are what the parasitic politicos auction off to their crony-capitalist benefactors. Simplify the tax code and you take away the the intrinsically corrupt politicos' primary source of revenue: accepting enormous bribes in exchange for tax breaks for the super-wealthy.

You would also eliminate the livelihood of an entire industry that feeds off the complexities of the tax code. Tax attorneys don't just vote--they constitute a powerful lobby for the Status Quo, even if that Status Quo is rigged, unjust, wasteful, absurd, etc.

It's not that hard to design a simple and fair tax code. Setting aside the thousands of quibbles that benefit one industry or another, it's clear that a consumption-based tax is easier to collect and it promotes production rather than consumption: two good things.

As for a consumption tax being regressive, i.e. punishing low-income households, the solution is very straightforward: exempt real-food groceries (but not snacks, packaged or prepared foods such as fast-food), rent, utilities and local public transportation--the major expenses of low-income households.

1. A 10% consumption tax on everything else would raise about $1.1 trillion, or almost 2/3 of total income tax revenues, not counting payroll taxes (15.3% of all payroll/earned income up to around $113,000 annually, paid half-half by employees and employers), which generate about one-third of all Federal tax revenues and fund the majority of Social Security and a chunk of Medicare.

As for the claim that a 10% consumption tax would kill business--the typical sales tax in California is 9+%, and that hasn't wiped out consumption.

2. The balance could be raised by a progressive tax on unearned income, collected at the source. Most of the income of the super-wealthy is unearned, i.e. dividends, investment income, interest, capital gains, stock options, etc. As a result, a tax on unearned income (above, say, $10,000 annually to enable non-wealthy households to accrue some tax-free investment income) will be a tax on the super-wealthy who collect the vast majority of dividends, interest, capital gains and investment income.

A rough estimate would be 20% of all unearned income.

This would "tax the rich" while leaving all earned income untaxed, other than the payroll tax, which is based on the idea that everyone should pay into a system that secures the income of all workers. This would incentivize productive labor and de-incentivize speculation, rentier skimming, etc.

The corporate tax would be eliminated for several reasons:

1. It is heavily gamed, rewarding the scammers and punishing the honest

2. All income from enterprises is eventually distributed to individuals, who would pay the tax on all unearned investment income.

But such common-sense reform is politically impossible. That's why the answer to the question, what's the the difference between fascism, communism and crony-capitalism is nothing.
Wed, April 16, 2014 - 11:57 AM — permalink - 0 comments - add a comment
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