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Monday, 24 November 2008

Lost Man of La Mancha

This is one of the best visual metaphors for George Bush and his time on the world stage; isolated, lost, baffled, with no idea what is going on.
Click on image for a larger version

(Yes, there is a La Mancha in Peru.)


Short Schiff: "The party is over for the United States"

This is incredible (h/t Newshoggers).  Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital was making the rounds in 2006-2007, warning of the impending doom and telling everyone that the financials were "toxic." Other guests were actually laughing at him.  Appropriately, one of them was Arthur Laffer, who, in hindsight, looks and sounds like a complete moron.  Did you know that "monetary policy is spectacular"? Laffer also appears not to understand the difference between paper wealth created by inflated equity bubbles, and … actual wealth.  

But, really, you've just got a hear some of these idiots in August of 2007: "I think the Dow is going to hit 16,000!" "The worst is over!"

It would be impressive if any of the tools who appear in this montage actually have any business left.  If, that is, their own clients haven't hanged them from the nearest light post.  I wonder if any of these jokers called up Schiff and apologized for saying that he was wrong.

Lies, Spies, and Shifty Allies

U.S. Snooped on Tony Blair, Iraqi President

A former communications intercept operator says U.S. intelligence snooped on the private lives of two of America's most important allies in fighting al Qaeda: British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Iraq's first interim president, Ghazi al-Yawer.

David Murfee Faulk told ABCNews.com he saw and read a file on Blair's "private life" and heard "pillow talk" phone calls of al-Yawer when he worked as an Army Arab linguist assigned to a secret NSA facility at Fort Gordon, Georgia between 2003 and 2007.

Well, how else are you going to know that your allies are really your allies?  By what they say in public?  Please.

Besides, you can understand the generalized concern the NSA might have regarding someone who would take "intelligence and facts" and fix them around the preordained policy of another country, and then scapegoat his own intelligence services when it turned out that the "facts" used to justify an illegal war were completely fictitious.  Swirl in the highly suspicious death of a respected weapons inspectors who was making a stink about phony intelligence, and, why, you have all the traits of a conniving, murderous, lying sack of shit.

I mean, who could trust a guy like that?


Fed "Frozen Credit" Loans Top $7.4 Trillion

banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale. 
-- Thomas Jefferson

The numbers have been rendered meaningless, and it appears that the Fed will print as much funny money as required to keep Wall Street buoyed, even as Congress balks at $25 billion for the struggling automakers.  Really, that sudden appearance of "fiscal responsibility" is starting to look plain silly and entirely inconsequential in light of the fact that the Fed will pledge $7.4 trillion to any, and most assuredly an unknown number of financial institutions.
The U.S. government is prepared to lend more than $7.4 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers, or half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, to rescue the financial system since the credit markets seized up 15 months ago.

The unprecedented pledge of funds includes $2.8 trillion already tapped by financial institutions in the biggest response to an economic emergency since the New Deal of the 1930s, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The commitment dwarfs the only plan approved by lawmakers, the Treasury Department’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Federal Reserve lending last week was 1,900 times the weekly average for the three years before the crisis.
The largesse directed toward Wall Street by the Fed is simply staggering.  This after the CDO/CDS ponzi scheme has already wiped out $23 trillion in equity, or, as Bloomberg notes, "38 percent of the [...]More

Pentagon Psy-Oping Somali Piracy

As Islamic insurgents in Somalia gain greater ground against US-backed Ethiopian forces and the installed, yet wholly dysfunctional "government" in Mogadishu, it didn't take much imagination to see that the US military would be looking for some new justification for military intervention in the horn of Africa. US proxies are losing ground, Ethiopia wants to withdraw its forces, probably wondering what the hell they're still doing there and realizing that the Islamic Courts Union is never going to go away.

The flare-up of Somali piracy may fit the bill nicely and that reliable Pentagon sluice, CNN, serves up an early dose of Pentagon concern.
U.S. military officials expressed concern Monday that Somali militants believed to be potentially affiliated with al Qaeda may become involved in the hijacking of a supertanker off eastern Africa.

"Al-Shabab is a violent and brutal extremist group with a number of individuals affiliated with al Qaeda," the department said on its Web site. "Many of its senior leaders are believed to have trained and fought with al Qaeda in Afghanistan."

"We're certainly concerned about the interest of Islamic extremists in piracy," said a U.S. military official monitoring developments Monday.

"We need to learn more about what al-Shabab is up to. Whatever influence al-Shabab is interested in, is troublesome" he said.
Reports came in last week that Islamic insurgents were organizing against the pirates for [...]More

Profiteers Threaten Medicare Solvency

We are always told that private business efficiently delivers smooth, well-operating services and top notch products, wherein their business models function like the workings of a fine Swiss watch.  The "marketplace," you see, is like an invisible hand ballet of maximally cost-effective consumption.

With that myth in place, I ask you, who cannot be shocked, shocked! by this?
Private health insurance plans, which serve nearly a fourth of all Medicare beneficiaries, have increased the cost and complexity of the program without any evidence of improving care, researchers say in studies to be published Monday.

But the study, to be published in the journal Health Affairs, says that 48 percent of the additional enrollment comes from a type of plan that mimics traditional Medicare and generally does little to coordinate care…

In a separate article, two analysts from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, Carlos Zarabozo and Scott Harrison, said that growth in private plans had driven up costs because the government pays them 13 percent more on average than what it would spend for the same beneficiaries in traditional Medicare.“

The higher payment rates have financed what is essentially a Medicare benefit expansion for Medicare Advantage enrollees, without producing any overall savings for the Medicare program, and with increased costs borne by all beneficiaries and taxpayers."
Of course, what we really know is that one of the most efficient activities engaged by behemoth industries like health insurance is lining up to suck on the taxpayer teat.  Industries in this country have been demonstrating this alacrity quite a lot lately.

These studies were commissioned by Barack Obama, who clearly realizes the scam [...]More

Friday, 21 November 2008

Russia Moves on Latin American Front

The Bush legacy in Latin America has been primarily one of loss and ouster.  Indeed, it seems hard to recall any presidential reign that has seen more protest, defiance and political comeupence than Latin America has ladled out during Bush's terms in office.  The desultory and failed coup that sought to oust Chavez in 2002 seemed only to lead to a string of electoral successes for leftist governments, which were voted into office, often overwhelmingly so.  Subsequently, and most recently, various US "diplomatic" officials and supposed "peace corps" troops were expelled or withdrawn from Venezuela and Bolivia, after it became obvious that US officials were funding and fomenting rebellion in Bolivia, while Ortega's government in Nicaragua stood in solidarity by postponing acceptance of a new US envoy to that country. 

As we have oft-noted here, Bush administration policy has almost always had the exact opposite effect to that intended.  In fact, the entire effort toward establishing the glorious vision of "benevolent global hegemony" has resulted in nothing but deprecation of American power across the globe, even as the Washington establishment continues to opt for an even greater militaristic posture.  Really, it seems that that is all they have left, and they know it.

After the failed coup to oust Chavez, both Russia and Venezuela sought almost immediately to close ties; oil deals, arms deals, joint military exercises.  That they have done so, with such great aplomb, has been undoubtedly of grave concern in Washington, which still can't stand the sight of perceived global rivals getting along, especially in America's backyard.  The effrontery is grand.

And now, as Bush departs his own shriveling stage, Russian president Dmitri Medvedev is [...]More

Massive Sadrist Protest in Baghdad

Click on image for a larger version
Now that the Bush administration and Maliki's government have signed the SOFA, which explicitly calls for full withdrawal of all US troops by the end of 2011, that agreement still does not sit well with the Shiite faction of Moqtada al Sadr.  Of course, the reason is clear: that is still three more years of a decidedly unpopular occupation, something most Iraqis have wanted an end to for years already.
Tens of thousands of followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr packed a central Baghdad square Friday, where they protested a U.S.- Iraq security agreement and likened Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to fallen dictator Saddam Hussein.

Sheik Abdul Hadi al Mohammadawi read a nationalistic speech on behalf of Sadr urging a rejection of any pacts with the U.S., charging that approving one would infringe on Iraqi sovereignty.

The crowd chanted, "Leave, leave, occupier."
Meanwhile, and after a brief respite during which the world wasn't burning American flags and effigies of George Bush, Iraqis resumed the now familiar habit and set images of Bush ablaze.More

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Death and Politics

"If a retailer has not gotten involved with this, if he has not spent money on this election, if he has not sent money to Norm Coleman and these other guys," then those retailers "should be shot; should be thrown out of their goddamn jobs."
CEO, Home Depot

One really has to wonder what election campaign this guy was watching.  Clearly, it was not the one that saw Wall Street lavishing more money on Obama than McCain.


"Business Obstacles" Boot Pritzker from Commerce

Obama campaign finance chair Penny Pritzker was being touted as a possible Commerce secretary in the new administration, apparently by people who had no idea who the woman is and what she represents.  But an excellent Flashpoints radio interview (29 min in) with banking investigator Tim Anderson aver listeners of the truth of Penny and her sub-prime mortgage interests in Superior Bank, now defunct.  Pritzker's Superior Bank was the "number one sub-prime lender in the country," and the "number one predatory lender of the land."

Clearly, this was going to become an issue in any Senate hearing, and rightly so.  Pritzker would likely have been skewered by this, if for no other reason than to paint Obama with more Wall Street taint, something of which he has no shortage already.

However, is now appears that Pritzker will not be making the trek to Commerce, because of "business obstacles."  Indeed.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Back With a Vengence

After smashing down 427.47 points, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) hit 7997.28 at end of trading today, November 19, 2008.  You have to go back to November, 1997 before you see the DJI at that level.More

Obama's AG and Banana Republic Death Squads

As we watch the dismal spectacle of Obama dredging up moldering remains of the Clinton administration, one cannot help but wonder whether, like Bush II, Obama's administration will come to be known as Clinton II.  I doubt very much that this is the change supporters were dreamily imagining whenever Obama uttered his campaign catch phrase.

Recent indications are that Obama will give the nod to Eric Holder as Attorney General.  While the Holder suggestion has been tossed around within the context of Clinton's last minute pardon of Mark Rich, there is another, far more unseemly, circumstance the country ought to be concerned about regarding the potential new AG: his defense of Chiquita Brands International on charges of collaboration with right wing, para-military death squads in Columbia.  This is of special note considering the stink Democrats have been making regarding the free trade agreement the Bush administration has been pushing for these many months now.

Mario Murillo, at MAMA Radio, sends up Holder in this piece, and further demands this potential nomination be stopped.  I couldn't agree more and Obama needs to stop digging for "talent" in the refuse of the Clinton legacy.  Surely, there are better places to look.

Skipping the introductory remarks, I'll get right to meat of Murillo's excellent article.
Human Rights Contradictions Evident With Obama’s Attorney General Pick
Holder’s Links to Chiquita Brands International Not a Good Sign for Justice For the Victims of Paramilitary Terror

By Mario A. Murillo
(Bogotá, Colombia)

What is not being

Lieberman: White House Suck-up

Joe Lieberman, simpering White House toady.
The more substantive argument against Lieberman retaining his chair on the Senate Homeland Security Committee has been that he has used his position to resist investigation and oversight of the Bush administration.  As much as one might be inclined toward the view, this does not represent flabby-cheeked incompetence, but rather, an obvious decision to avoid holding the White House accountable across multiple fronts.  Lieberman is an abject failure in this regard, and the Democrats should have doused him with the buckets of disdain he so richly deserves.

The Public Record has a good summary of Lieberman's notions of governance and oversight, with a nice review of the salient issue.
In contrast to his House counterpart, Rep. Henry Waxman, who has chaired dozens of high-profile hearings on the Bush administration’s wrongdoing the past two years, Sen. Lieberman has not held a single hearing on Executive Branch malfeasance nor has he issued any subpoenas demanding information from the administration.

That means Lieberman’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has passed over for hearings issues such as warrantless domestic surveillance, Iraq contracting fraud, “enhanced interrogation” of detainees, and the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina.

Lieberman has seemed determined to ignore issues that put Bush – and especially his “war on terror” – in a negative light. In 2007, Lieberman did hold one hearing on "reconstruction challenges in both Iraq and Afghanistan."

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Cheney, Gonzalez Indicted in Texas

[Update below]

The Brownsville Herald is reporting that Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales and "other public officials" have been indicted by a Texas grand jury, not for the obvious crimes those two have engaged over the years, but for something completely different.
A Willacy County grand jury under District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra returned multi-count indictments Monday against Vice President Dick Cheney, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, plus several other public officials.

The indictment accuses Cheney and Gonzales of engaging in organized criminal activity. It criticizes Cheney's investment in the Vanguard Group, which holds interests in the private prison companies running the federal detention centers. It accuses Cheney of a conflict of interest and "at least misdemeanor assaults" on detainees by working through the prison companies.

Gonzales is accused of using his position while in office to stop an investigation into abuses at the federal detention centers.

Another indictment charges state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. with profiting from his public office by accepting honoraria from prison management companies.

Also indicted are state District Judges Janet Leal, state District Judge Migdalia Lopez, The GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Corporation), former U.S. Attorney Mervyn Mosbacher, Gus Garza and Gilberto Lozano.

They all face a stream of criminal charges including abuse of office, profiting from office, and murder.
This is really [...]More

Monday, 17 November 2008

Somali Pirates Pinch Saudi Oil Tanker

Somali pirates are pushing the envelope of their high seas operations and have just hijacked a Saudi oil supertanker.  This will not go easily into night, and perhaps the Somalis have imperiled their entire operation with this rather injudicious appropriation.
In a dramatic escalation of high seas crime, Somali pirates hijacked a Saudi supertanker loaded with crude hundreds of miles off the coast of East Africa -- defeating the security web of warships trying to protect vital shipping lanes.

The takeover demonstrates the bandits' heightened ambitions and capabilities: Never before have they seized such a giant ship so far out to sea. Maritime experts warned the broad daylight attack, reported by the U.S. Navy on Monday, was an alarming sign of the difficulty of patrolling a vast stretch of ocean key to oil and other cargo traffic.

The MV Sirius Star, a brand new tanker with a 25-member crew, was seized at about 10 a.m. Saturday more than 450 nautical miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya, the Navy said. The area lies far south of the zone where warships have increased their patrols this year in the Gulf of Aden, one of the busiest channels in the world, leading to and from the Suez Canal, and the scene of most past attacks.

The massive supertanker would seem to present a daunting target for the pirates, who usually operate in small speedboats. At 1,080 feet, it is the length of an aircraft carrier and can carry about 2 million barrels of oil.
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