Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Who really controls 'merika

Carlin the Great, again:

You can't be disappointed unless you've been appointed first

Greenwald has little respect for the DINOcrats who suggest we, you know, get with the program:

...it's hardly unreasonable to object when someone runs for high political office based on clear and repeated promises that they have squarely violated. Whatever else is true, watching Obama embrace extremist policies can still be "disappointing" even if one isn't surprised that he's doing it. I could understand and accept a lot more easily this blithe acquiescence to Obama's record if it weren't for the fact that progressives and Democrats spent so many years screaming bloody murder over Bush's use of indefinite detention, military commissions, state secrets, renditions, and extreme secrecy -- policies Obama has largely and/or completely adopted as his own. One can't help but wonder, at least in some cases, how genuine those objections were, as opposed to their just having been effective tools to discredit a Republican president for partisan and political gain.

Of course, it's considered impolite to speak in the Village about the fact that the Democratic wing of the Democratic party is in revolt over Barack Obama’s troop surge. They don't seem to have trouble writing about it in London, though:

Barack Obama's much-vaunted eloquence faces the biggest test of his presidential career this week when he takes to the stage at West Point military academy to explain to a nation that thought it had elected an anti-war president why he is escalating the conflict in Afghanistan...

...he is expected to announce that he is sending about 30,000 more troops. This will push up American forces to 100,000 and the total number of allied forces to almost 140,000, as many troops as the Soviet Union had in Afghanistan.

...“I think the operative question is why we’re there,” said Anna Eshoo, a Democratic congresswoman who sits on the House intelligence committee. “That’s what I’ll be wanting to hear from the president.”

Eshoo, who represents a seat in California where unemployment is at a post-war high of 12.5%, is one of a growing number of voices in the party questioning whether the nation can afford the war.

The annual bill for the extra troops is estimated at $30 billion (£18.2 billion), on top of the $10 billion-a-month the war is costing. “We’re still not out of Iraq and we’re getting deeper into Afghanistan, both of which are hugely expensive,” she said.

She has joined David Obey, a Democratic congressman from Wisconsin, to introduce legislation that would impose a surtax on all taxpayers to fund the war. “It doesn’t seem fair that the sacrifice is being made only by military and their families,” she said.

In a sign of White House concern over the issue Obama invited Peter Orszag, the budget director, to sit in on his final round of deliberations on the Afghanistan strategy last week. “There is serious unrest in our caucus ... can we afford this war?” said Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker.

Obey’s proposal would impose a 1% surtax on anyone earning less than $150,000 a year, and up to 5% on those earning more. It was an idea put into practice by President Lyndon Johnson, who brought in a temporary 10% surtax to help pay for the Vietnam war...

Hey Hey Hey
Ho Ho Ho
How many kids did you kill today
you ho?

Yes indeed, I can't think of a better way to make sure the 21st century equivalent of Richard M. Nixon wins the White House in 2012.

If they can't keep it in Vegas, we should regulate it like Vegas

It's that simple.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Maria Cantwell wants to use state gambling laws to regulate parts of Wall Street, saying someone needs to police financial markets where "casino capitalism" involving highly speculative trades she likens to sophisticated betting continue unabated and threaten to create yet another financial crisis...

Cantwell wants to repeal parts of a 2000 law that barred states from using their gambling laws to help rein in the nearly $600 trillion derivatives market.

The senator's effort comes as Congress is starting to consider tightening federal regulation of financial markets in the wake of the current economic downturn. Cantwell said she's not convinced Congress will take strong enough action and, as a backup, wants to give state attorneys general the power to act.

"They are the last line of defense," Cantwell said. "I don't want them neutered."

Derivatives essentially began as a form of insurance, offering a hedge for such companies as airlines that wanted to lock in the cost of jet fuel to avoid sharp increases. Over the years, however, derivatives became more exotic, allowing investors to place what were essentially side bets on such things as whether people would default on their mortgages or whether the price of oil or natural gas would go up or down...

Yes, that's $600 trillion, people. S600,000,000,000,000.00. It's the root of our recession/ depression/ repression. Regulating the Masters of the Universe would end their mastery, which is why Senator Cantwell would do well to avoid small airplanes if she can not be bought.

Set Up for the Hit

From Numerian to Ian to Avedon and Diane people are beginning to realize if Dubai won't pay, it's mostly the 'merikan banksters- or more precisely their financial backers, you and me, who are left sucking the Emirates' tailpipe.

Basically, it's

...the United States sliding into the same trap John Perkins described in "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man"... it has the feel of something deliberate.

What, the Masters of the Universe setting up the 'merikans for another run on the Treasury? Say it ain't so, Helicoper Ben.

The Fed isn't talking to anyone about where the money goes, though:

...The head of the US central bank said Saturday he was "concerned" by some congressional proposals aimed at regulating the US financial system that infringe upon the powers of the Federal Reserve.

"I am concerned, however, that a number of the legislative proposals being circulated would significantly reduce the capacity of the Federal Reserve to perform its core functions," Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke wrote in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post...

Thus the Masters of the Universe maintain their Lordship, whilst the slaves- that's you and me- stroke the oars to the beat of their drum.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A not so veiled warning

...do what you're told or else there's no telling who the Praetorians will let through.

Next time, it's Lady GaGa.

After all, it's happened before.

I think we know the answer to Chavez's question to Obama: "Are you a prisoner?"

...It's no coincidence that as the United States loses its global preeminence, constitutional rights are under full assault. In the heart of the schoolyard bully lives the fear of a bigger, meaner bully. The bully gives no quarter, tolerates no opposition, sneers down his enemies and when necessary, goes nuclear. This is the fearful position of the United States in 2009. Obama's America is a nation adrift, without moral compass, armed to the teeth.

Over the past half century, the United States has turned its aggression outward against such counties as Vietnam, Bosnia, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan. This insatiable appetite for aggression ultimately turns inward, manifesting as domestic repression and the kind of violence we witnessed this month in Killeen, Texas. Surveillance of private citizens has become more comprehensive and sophisticated. The internet is more restricted with websites and blogs watched for "offensive" content. Meaningful political protest, as in Pittsburgh, is extinguished. As Naomi Wolf points out in her book The End of America (2007), "The Department of Homeland Security's surveillance apparatus is certainly aimed at prosecuting the war on terror. But it may also be aimed at us, for domestic political purposes."

So this is how "the land of the free and the home of the brave" devolves. This is how we become a neutered people, no longer holding our leaders to account, no longer seeming to care that our constitution has become just another piece of paper.

It is a betrayal that President Obama continues to "render" foreign nationals to countries where they suffer the very torture that candidate Obama railed against. In September, 2006, Sen. Obama spoke these words on the floor of the U.S. Senate,

...restricting somebody's right to challenge their imprisonment indefinitely is not going to make us safer. In fact, recent evidence shows it is probably making us less safe.

Now this same Barack Obama presides over indefinite detention without habeas corpus for thousands of prisoners being held by this country in Afghanistan. Most of the unspeakable policies initiated under Bush continue in the Obama administration. Where is the change we were promised?

Last April, President Obama attended the Summit of the Americas hosted by the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. At the end of what turned out to be a rather humiliating meeting for the United States, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez coyly asked Obama, "Are you a prisoner?" Chavez's words were shrugged off, but there was poignant truth in them. Latin American leaders know too well what it is to be under the control of the military. Is this the predicament in which our new president finds himself?

No more than the rest of the world, Hugo.

Friday, November 27, 2009

"Without regulation, capitalist exploitation will devolve into slavery."

-Joe Cannon has no respect for the Reptilians who have lost money in Dubai.

George Patrick doesn't, either.

...Here are a few excerpts from that piece -- and if anyone out there can shove these words under the noses of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, I'd be grateful:

The question is: What in God's name are they doing there? Dubai is a slave society.

Whatever the law may say, there are whole areas of Dubai City given over to dozens of brothels where ten thousand women from Eastern Europe, the Far East, and Sub-Saharan Africa are held as sex slaves.

Some Dubai married men keep foreign sex slaves in special apartments popularly known as "shag pads." If a desperate captive woman flees, the "owner" - in an echo of the "runaway slave" advertisements in pre-Civil War USA - will run an "absconding servant" advertisement in Dubai newspapers.

Foreign working men, if not exactly enslaved, are the next thing to it. The luxury hotels and apartments of Dubai where the celebrities live pampered lives are built by labourers (mostly from India) who are paid starvation wages - often months in arrears - amidst regular threats of violence.

Then there are the child slaves. Outside the city, there are farms where 6,000 boys, often kidnapped as babies, are held in bondage to serve as jockeys in the immensely popular camel races. They are frequently starved to keep their race weight down.

Protection for these grossly abused fellow humans is nonexistent. They don't seem to be viewed as humans at all. They are mere things to be used and discarded.

Gee -- and you were probably under the impression that Angelina cared about children. Naw. She doesn't give a shit about exploited kids. In fact, she tossed her money at the world's worst child abusers.

By the way, the above-quoted piece does not mention that the foreign workers brought into Dubai routinely have their passports taken away from them by their employers. Moreover, Dubai is one of the few countries which still maintains debtor prisons: If you can't make your mortgage payments, you go to jail...

You can bet the Emirates will not go to their own jail, having learned from Halliburton that international laws are simply devices for the oligarchs to use to control everyone else.

Pwning the Policy

As if there was a need for more proof who's really running the show: the Senatorial DINOcrats and Reptilians all agree Tim Geithner's a political liability for Those Who Rule. So who gets talked up for the job of Secretary of the Treasury?

Why, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase.

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Several U.S. policy makers consider J.P. Morgan Chase Chief Executive Jamie Dimon as a potential successor to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the New York Post reported Monday.

The report comes after Geithner rejected calls to resign during testimony last week before the Joint Economic Committee, one of the rare congressional panels with both House and Senate members...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Let Us Give Thanks for Plausible Deniability

That would be the White House's position of Der Deliberator:

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater's involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

The White House did not return calls or email messages seeking comment for this story. Capt. John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation, "We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature." A defense official, on background, specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. "We don't have any contracts to do that work for us. We don't contract that kind of work out, period," the official said. "There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services."

The previously unreported program, the military intelligence source said, is distinct from the CIA assassination program that the agency's director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. "This is a parallel operation to the CIA," said the source. "They are two separate beasts." The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the United States has not declared war--knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan. In 2006, the United States and Pakistan struck a deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given permission. Officially, the United States is not supposed to have any active military operations in the country.

Blackwater, which recently changed its name to Xe Services and US Training Center, denies the company is operating in Pakistan. "Xe Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction oversight for the U.S. Government," Blackwater spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement to The Nation, adding that the company has "no other operations of any kind in Pakistan."

A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the military intelligence source's claim that the company is working in Pakistan for the CIA and JSOC, the premier counterterrorism and covert operations force within the military. He said that Blackwater is also working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an Islamabad-based security firm that puts US Blackwater operatives on the ground with Pakistani forces in counter-terrorism operations, including house raids and border interdictions, in the North-West Frontier Province and elsewhere in Pakistan. This arrangement, the former executive said, allows the Pakistani government to utilize former US Special Operations forces who now work for Blackwater while denying an official US military presence in the country. He also confirmed that Blackwater has a facility in Karachi and has personnel deployed elsewhere in Pakistan. The former executive spoke on condition of anonymity.

His account and that of the military intelligence source were borne out by a US military source who has knowledge of Special Forces actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When asked about Blackwater's covert work for JSOC in Pakistan, this source, who also asked for anonymity, told The Nation, "From my information that I have, that is absolutely correct," adding, "There's no question that's occurring."

"It wouldn't surprise me because we've outsourced nearly everything," said Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, when told of Blackwater's role in Pakistan. Wilkerson said that during his time in the Bush administration, he saw the beginnings of Blackwater's involvement with the sensitive operations of the military and CIA. "Part of this, of course, is an attempt to get around the constraints the Congress has placed on DoD. If you don't have sufficient soldiers to do it, you hire civilians to do it. I mean, it's that simple. It would not surprise me..."

Much, much more is in Jeremy Scahill's post in The Nation.

Ozymandias has a desert home for them, too.

Via Atrios, it seems Halliburton relocated to the right spot:

...When there are bad loans to be made, apparently Citi never sleeps...

One wonders if the infamously draconian emirate debt laws apply to itself.

What if she''s correct?

Perino: "We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term"

It's only a terrorist attack if it was planned entirely by terrorists.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Best Republican President of the 21st Century

Jeff Cohen:

...With Obama pushing a huge troop escalation in Afghanistan, history may well repeat itself with a vengeance. And it's not just the apt comparison to LBJ, who destroyed his presidency on the battlefields of Vietnam with an escalation that delivered power to Nixon and the GOP.

There's another frightening parallel: Obama seems to be following in the footsteps of Bill Clinton, who accomplished perhaps his single biggest legislative "triumph" - NAFTA - thanks to an alliance with Republicans that overcame strong Democratic and grassroots opposition.

It was 16 years ago this month when Clinton assembled his coalition with the GOP to bulldoze public skepticism about the trade treaty and overpower a stop-NAFTA movement led by unions, environmentalists and consumer rights groups. How did Clinton win his majority in Congress? With the votes of almost 80 percent of GOP senators and nearly 70 percent of House Republicans. Democrats in the House voted against NAFTA by more than 3 to 2, with fierce opponents including the Democratic majority leader and majority whip.

To get a majority today in Congress on Afghanistan, the Obama White House is apparently bent on a strategy replicating the tragic farce that Clinton pulled off: Ignore the informed doubts of your own party while making common cause with extremist Republicans who never accepted your presidency in the first place...

These aren't the 'droids you're looking for

The Force has a strong influence on the weak-minded:

... “In 2000, the [Clinton administration-backed] Commodity Futures Modernization Act (CFMA) … barred the regulation of credit default swaps and other derivatives.” Why did the financial geniuses of the Clinton administration seek to prevent that obviously needed regulation? Because the Clintonistas believed the Wall Street guys knew what they were doing and that what was good for them was good for us lesser folk. As Summers, who is the top economic adviser in the Obama White House, put it in congressional testimony back then: “The parties to these kinds of contracts are largely sophisticated financial institutions that would appear to be eminently capable of protecting themselves from fraud and counterparty insolvencies.”

...The inspector general’s report notes that AIG, because of the deregulatory law that Summers and Geithner pushed through, was “able to sell swaps on $72 billion worth of CDOs to counterparties without holding reserves that a regulated insurance company would be required to maintain.” But why, then, is Summers once again running the show with Geithner when both have made careers of exhibiting total contempt for the public interest? Because there is no accountability for the high rollers of finance, no matter who happens to be president.

Not Mine

Just another data point to suggest the more things Change the more they stay the strange:

After reviewing the Bush-era policy, the Obama White House has decided to maintain the prior administration's refusal to sign an international treaty banning land mines, according to published reports.

"More than 150 countries have agreed to the Mine Ban Treaty's provisions to end the production, use, stockpiling and trade in mines," the Associated Press noted. "Besides the United States, holdouts include: China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Russia."

"We made our policy review and we determined that we would not be able to meet our national defense needs, nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we sign this convention," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly reportedly said...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Audacity of Plagarism

You know, he's got lots smoother delivery, but the One could at least change the script.

Jon Schwarz

Barack Obama today:

"I will be making an announcement to the American people about how we intend to move forward [in Afghanistan]...it is my intention to finish the job."

George W. Bush on June 18, 2005:

"We're moving forward [in Iraq]...When America says we'll do something, we are going to do it and finish the job."

One of Them

Avedon asks a good question:

Krugman thinks the administration listens to Wall Street fear-mongering too much. Because Wall Street says we should be afraid of the dangers of spending money on America (instead of just giving it to them). So, is Obama really that stupid, or is he just One Of Them?

No one serves Morgoth in the very begining. Even Sauron was not so.

Whether the One will reach his limit as Lyndon Baines Obama, or do what Johnson could not (but Clinton could and did) and embrace the Company for a second term remains to be seen.

My bet is he'll not only sell his soul, he'll take out second and third mortgages (if he can swing 'em) on that beotch.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Let It Go


...The assassination of John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States, took place on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time (18:30 UTC) in Dealey Plaza. Kennedy was fatally shot while riding with his wife Jacqueline in a Presidential motorcade. The ten-month investigation of the Warren Commission of 1963–1964, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) of 1976–1979, and other government investigations concluded that the President was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald who himself was murdered before he could stand trial. This conclusion was initially met with support among the American public, but polls conducted from 1966 show as many as 80% of the American public hold beliefs contrary to these findings...

Got to love that phrase "... initially met with support among the American public".

Which American public is that of which you speak, sir?

Bill Hicks got this right:

If you've got a couple hours, you might check this out:

Yet another squamous acolyte

... convinced he will be eaten last.

The Low Spark of High Heeled Warfighters

There's always a new sound playing across the land, and if 'merikans didn't have the attention span of a goldfish they might remember where they heard it before:

...Culture is politics. Palin is at the red-hot center of age-old American resentments that have boiled up both from the ascent of our first black president and from the intractability of the Great Recession for those Americans who haven’t benefited from bailouts. As Palin thrives on the ire of the left, so she does from the disdain of Republican leaders who, with a condescension rivaling the sexism they decry in liberals, belittle her as a lightweight or instruct her to eat think-tank spinach.

The only person who can derail Palin is Palin herself. Should she not self-destruct, she will doom G.O.P. hopes of a 2012 comeback. But the rest of the country cannot rest easy. The rage out there is larger than Palin and defies partisan labeling. Her ever-present booster Continetti, writing in The Weekly Standard, suggested that she recast the century-old populist outrage of William Jennings Bryan by adopting the message “You shall not crucify mankind upon the cross of Goldman Sachs.” If Obama can’t tamp down that rage across the political map, Palin will at the very least pave the way for a demagogue with less baggage to pick up her torch.

Of course, the banksters are getting hip to that rage, since it's bad for their bottom line. But just in case they haven't, or aren't ready to spend the bucks to deal with it, the Editors of Pravda, a Company organ if there ever was one, have been kind enough to write it on the sidewalk for them:

...It is widely and correctly understood that Wall Street, with Goldman as a leader and with regulators in thrall, helped to inflate and profited from a credit bubble that burst and cost tens of millions of Americans their jobs, incomes, savings and home equity. American taxpayers continue to stand behind the bailouts and other government interventions that have stabilized the financial system, including Goldman, enabling the firm to post blowout profits in 2009 and to set aside $16.7 billion for bonuses so far this year.

Goldman does not see it that way. It says it never really needed government aid to survive the financial crisis. In that telling, taxpayer dollars have not helped to generate its post-crash profits, and anger over bonuses is jealousy over the good fortune of others.

That is absurd. Goldman has repaid its initial $10 billion bailout allotment, but that is only a sliver of its taxpayer support. The firm was paid $12.9 billion, for example, in the bailout of American International Group, and a report by the bailout’s inspector general refutes Goldman’s claim that it did not need the money. Perhaps the biggest continuing prop is that the government clearly considers Goldman too big to fail, which means that taxpayers are on the hook if Goldman faces the abyss again...

That's assuming, of course, that Goldman-Sachs doesn't only face the abyss when it's a profitable scenario to face the abyss. This is one vampire squid big enough to face down whatever looks back out at them. After all, it's got the Treasury behind it.

One speculates that there are other government organs backing, or ready to back, this club of boys from Yale et alia. For your consideration, the Company shareholders float another screed from the sidewalk for the Skull and Bones crowd that bother to glance at the gray lady, just in case the reality of it all hasn't sunk in:

...Wall Street banks are under regulatory pressure, and come election time, if unemployment is still above 10 percent and Wall Street is still paying itself big bonuses, lawmakers’ wrath might force broader pay curbs, tougher restrictions on what banks can do, or even a break up of the biggest banks.

They are already losing business because of their toxic reputations. One recent Goldman deal, for instance, to buy cheap assets from Fannie Mae, the hobbled mortgage lender, was blocked by the Treasury because it couldn’t be seen to be helping Wall Street benefit once again from the crisis. Critics say the negative media chatter is dragging on their share price.

Now, the main securities industry trade organization has hired Brunswick, a powerhouse public relations firm, to burnish the banks’ image, and banks are urging their staffs to cut down on conspicuous consumption and are canceling Christmas parties in an attempt to turn the reputational tide.

It is a tough brief, even for Manhattan’s skilled public relations industry. Last week, New York State’s comptroller reported that Wall Street profits this year are on track to exceed the record set at the height of the credit bubble. So what to do?

The Pravda Editors have their list of suggestions. But one is certain there are other disinformation specialists with the Company who might take an active interest in making sure the bankrollers of the war machine keep their tentacles into everything. After all, aside from the Old Ones of Wall Street the black hole of endless war has been the most efficient money sink we have.

They have something to teach each other.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It Lives

Pay No Attention to that Repo Man Behind the Curtain

The Great Recession is Over!

The Way It's 'Pozed to Be

Bob Herbert doesn't get the program:

In many ways, it’s like a ghost town. It’s eerily quiet. Driving around in the middle of the afternoon, in a city that once was among the most productive on the planet, you see very little traffic, minimal commercial activity, hardly any pedestrians.

What you’ll see are endless acres of urban ruin, block after block and mile after mile of empty and rotting office buildings, storefronts, hotels, apartment buildings and private homes. It’s a scene of devastation and disintegration that stuns the mind, a major American city that still is home to 900,0000 people but which looks at times like a cross between postwar Berlin and the ruin of an ancient civilization.

Detroit was the arsenal of democracy in World War II and the incubator of the American middle class. It was the city that taught mass production to the rest of the world. It was a place that made cars, trucks and other tangible products, not derivatives. And it was the architect of the quintessentially American idea of putting people to work and paying them a decent wage. It’s frightening to think seriously about what we’ve allowed to happen to this city and what is now happening to the middle class and the American economy as a whole...

...The popular narrative of what happened to Detroit contains a great deal of truth but its focus is too narrow to account for the astonishing decline of this former industrial colossus. Yes, there were the riots of 1967, and white flight; and political leadership that was not just shortsighted but at times embarrassingly incompetent and corrupt. And, yes, the auto industry was a case study in self-destruction.

...Detroit was still viable enough for the Republican Party to hold its convention here in 1980, when it nominated Ronald Reagan. And it was not the riots, but the devastating recession of the early ’80s that really knocked the city senseless. “That’s when the place really cracked,” said Mr. Shaiken, “and that was about aggressive globalization and the lack of an industrial policy, not the riots.”

Detroit and its environs are suffering the agonies of the economic damned because of policies, crafted at the highest national and corporate levels, that resulted in the implosion of crucially important components of America’s manufacturing base. Those decisions have had a profound effect on the fortunes not just of Detroit, or even Michigan, but the entire U.S. economy.

“We’ve been living with the illusion that manufacturing — making things — is so 20th century,” said Mr. Shaiken, “and that we could succeed by concentrating, for example, on complex financial instruments while abandoning the industrial base that sustained so many American families.”

The idea that the fallout from the wrongheaded economic concepts of the past 30 or 40 years could be contained, with the damage limited to the increasingly troubled urban areas while sparing prosperous suburbia, has now proved as phony as Bernie Madoff’s fortune. Americans, whether they live in big cities, suburban towns or rural areas, need jobs, and when those jobs are eliminated (for whatever reasons — technological advances, globalization) without being replaced, the national economy is guaranteed at some point to hit a wall...

And, of course the pillaging continues even though you're more likely to hear about who shot whom in the hood than what the white men in suits are doing here:

...Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is struggling to save his city from fiscal calamity. Unemployment is at a record 28% and rising, while home prices have plunged 39% since 2007. The 66-year-old Bing, a former NBA all-star with the Detroit Pistons who took office 10 months ago, faces a $300 million budget deficit—and few ways to make up the difference.

Against that bleak backdrop, Wall Street is squeezing one of America's weakest cities for every penny it can. A few years ago, Detroit struck a derivatives deal with UBS (UBS) and other banks that allowed it to save more than $2 million a year in interest on $800 million worth of bonds. But the fine print carried a potentially devastating condition. If the city's credit rating dropped, the banks could opt out of the deal and demand a sizable breakup fee. That's precisely what happened in January: After years of fiscal trouble, Detroit saw its credit rating slashed to junk. Suddenly the sputtering Motor City was on the hook for a $400 million tab...

The rape of America coninues. Of course, real 'merikans don't just lay back and accept it. They join in and spread the violence around in a way the locals won't object to boiling the frog nice and slow.

Mr. Herbert, since you keep coming up to the board with the right figures, let me add it up for you. It's not your fault you don't get it. There is some forethought to what's going on in America and the world.

Chaos is the plan.

Friday, November 20, 2009

You Think? They certainly didn't

What does one say?

U.S. Fears Iraq Development Projects May Go to Waste

What, all those schools where KBR painted all the windows might not be used? All those museums they allowed to be looted won't be visited? Or maybe

...a cutting-edge, $270 million water treatment plant in Nasiriya that works at a fraction of its intended capacity because it is too sophisticated for Iraqi workers to operate, to a farmers’ market that farmers cannot decide how to share, to a large American hospital closed immediately after it was handed over to Iraq because the government was unable to supply it with equipment, a medical staff or electricity...

But never worry. Dick Cheney's sure the money to build all these went into good hands.

Cuddles with the Squids


... the A.I.G. rescue was part of a pattern: Throughout the financial crisis key officials — most notably Timothy Geithner, who was president of the New York Fed in 2008 and is now Treasury secretary — have shied away from doing anything that might rattle Wall Street. And the bitter paradox is that this play-it-safe approach has ended up undermining prospects for economic recovery. For the job of fixing the broken economy is far from done — yet finishing the job has become nearly impossible now that the public has lost faith in the government’s efforts, viewing them as little more than handouts to the people who got us into this mess.

About the A.I.G. affair: During the bubble years, many financial companies created the illusion of financial soundness by buying credit-default swaps from A.I.G. — basically, insurance policies in which A.I.G. promised to make up the difference if borrowers defaulted on their debts. It was an illusion because the insurer didn’t have remotely enough money to make good on its promises if things went bad. And sure enough, things went bad.

So why protect bankers from the consequences of their errors? Well, by the time A.I.G.’s hollowness became apparent, the world financial system was on the edge of collapse and officials judged — probably correctly — that letting A.I.G. go bankrupt would push the financial system over that edge. So A.I.G. was effectively nationalized; its promises became taxpayer liabilities...

...these seemingly safe choices have now placed the economy in grave danger.

For the economy is still in deep trouble and needs much more government help. Unemployment is in double-digits; we desperately need more government spending on job creation. Banks are still weak, and credit is still tight; we desperately need more government aid to the financial sector. But try to talk to an ordinary voter about this, and the response you’re likely to get is: “No way. All they’ll do is hand out more money to Wall Street.”

So here’s the real tragedy of the botched bailout: Government officials, perhaps influenced by spending too much time with bankers, forgot that if you want to govern effectively you have retain the trust of the people. And by treating the financial industry — which got us into this mess in the first place — with kid gloves, they have squandered that trust.

Whether or not this was timid restructuring or an actual criminal collusion may become evident on the progress of this lawsuit.

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Bank of America Corp., UBS AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co. were sued by a California public utility over claims they rigged sales of municipal derivatives and shared illegal profits through kickbacks.

The lawsuit, filed by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, is based on federal and state antitrust claims. It alleges Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America and more than a dozen other banks conspired to pre-select winners of municipal derivative auctions, coordinated their pricing, and accepted kickbacks disguised as fees from co-conspirators.

The allegations resemble those made by a U.S. grand jury in New York last month, according to the lawsuit filed Nov. 12 in federal court in Sacramento. CDR Financial Products Inc. founder David Rubin and two employees of the Beverly Hills, California- based company were indicted for allegedly accepting kickbacks on investments sold to local governments. CDR is also named as a defendant in the Sacramento case.

The banks engaged in “allocating customers and markets for municipal derivatives, rigging the bidding process by which municipal bond issuers acquire municipal derivatives, and conspiring to manipulate the terms that issuers received,” according to the lawsuit...

Not everyone in the government is owned by the vampire squid, but if this lawsuit is dismissed it is possible those that matter are.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Hitchhiker's First Rule

Don't panic.

The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.

The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.

The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation's latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies...

[tip o'teh tinfoil]

Said underestimate if you care to dig it out.

...The fear is that panicky markets can cause enormous damage – panic-buying that prompts fights over resources, which in turn could lead to power cuts in some places and other such mayhem. But so far in facing this huge challenge, our political/economic system seems unable to cope with reality. We are forced to carry on living in an illusion that we have so much time to adapt to post-oil that we don't even need to be talking or thinking much about what a world without plentiful oil would look like. Reality has become too dangerous...

A simpler answer is that those who would rule are making and plan on making a killing as the last drops of fossil fuel are burned and the greater portion of humanity is consigned into a post-industrial neo-feudal existence.

On the Aristocracy of Aversion

First, via Lambert and The Big Picture , Goldman Sachs has discovered a way to protect itself and the right sort of people against H1N1.

Second, check out what Catherine Austin Fitts has to say about the relationship of the stock market to the popsicle index. Among other things, it's tasteful, enjoyable, detailed, and very readable...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Acid Seas

This is another reason why blocking the sunlight is an idiot answer to carbon pollution:

The Earth’s oceans, which have absorbed carbon dioxide from fuel emissions since the dawn of the industrial era, have recently grown less efficient at sopping it up, new research suggests.

Emissions from the burning of fossil fuels began soaring in the 1950s, and oceans largely kept up, scientists say. But the growth in the intake rate has slowed since the 1980s, and markedly so since 2000, the authors of a study write in a report in Thursday’s issue of Nature.

The research suggests that the seas cannot indefinitely be considered a reliable “carbon sink” as humans generate heat-trapping gases linked to global warming.

The slowdown in the rise of the absorption rate resulted from a gradual change in the oceans’ chemistry, the study found. “The more carbon dioxide the ocean absorbs, the more acidic it becomes and the less carbon dioxide it can absorb,” said the study’s lead author, Samar Khatiwala, a research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“It’s a small change in absolute terms,” Dr. Khatiwala said. “What I think is fairly clear and important in the long term is the trend toward lower values, which implies that more of the emissions will remain in the atmosphere.”

To calculate the slowdown, Dr. Khatiwala and his collaborators created a mathematical model using tens of thousands of measurements of seawater collected over the past 20 years, including temperature, salinity and the presence of manufactured chlorofluorocarbons as a reflection of industrial activity.

They then worked backward with the data to create a formula that estimated the accumulation of human-generated carbon dioxide in the oceans from 1765, the opening of the industrial era, to 2008.

Even as human-generated emissions of carbon dioxide increase, the oceans’ uptake rate growth appears to have dropped by 10 percent from 2000 to 2007, Dr. Khatiwala said.

The last major research effort to measure industrial carbon uptake in the oceans was published in a 2004 Science study led by Christopher Sabine.

His methodology was different but arrived at similar conclusions.

Dr. Sabine used carbon dioxide measurements taken by more than 100 cruise ships to come up with a single figure: the oceans’ total industrial carbon uptake until 1994.

Dr. Khatiwala’s approach provides estimates of ocean carbon storage for every year from 1765 to 2008...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Apocalypse wow

When the self proclaimed experts get their facts wrong, it's no wonder people just have a hard time understanding what to think.

It's hard to take professional bloviators seriously. So let me engage in some amateur bloviating. Although, unlike President Gore, I actually have a professional degree in a biological science.

Fact: carbon dioxide pollution damages the environment above and beyond global warming. Think acidification of the oceans. Think destruction of global fisheries, and coral reefs, and interuption of the role of the oceans as a sink for carbon emissions that will only accelerate the damage.

Fact: greenhouse effects due to carbon dioxide are dangerous depending on what the Sun is doing. During active solar years, you have things like Katrina and the endless parade of hurricanes we saw every summer in the first half of this decade. But we've had an abnormally extended solar minimum for the last 3 years- and no real hurricanes to hit the United States to speak of this year.

Hypothesis: the greenhouse effect of the current high carbon dioxide atmosphere might drown the coasts in normal years of solar activity but block the development Ice Ages during extended quiet times for the sun. That is one awful tradeoff. It is no justification for the carbon emissions of industrial socieies. High CO2 is dangerous. It should be controlled and lowered through biogenic fixation.

Think trees.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Unfortunately, the check bounced

"...You Can Take That To The Bank"

Just like the promise for single payer, and others, one supposes.

But that's in the budget, right?

It's nice to know Obama is making a bipartisan effort to save money.

I am sure Diane Feinstein and Joe Lieberman are going to call for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq as part of the effort to cut costs...

Majority Rule Depends on Who is the Majority

Avedon notes that a difference exists in the way things work now than when Der Decider was in the Oval Office with his Reptilian Congress.

CA Berkeley:

The Roll Call reporter this morning on CSPAN with Rep. Jan Schakowsky D-IL, Steven Dennis, called the silent filibuster that we have seen this session the new normal. This completely dismissed the idea that the majority should rule. Does that reporter hate freedom?

This places the tactic of one Senator rising to object to the motion to proceed to anything in the Senate as the way it is always going to be.

Not a delaying tactic.

The new normal...

Until the Reptilians rule is a little more overt, again, anyway.

Schrodinger's Guilt

Just go read Fafnir.

Still in Denial of Why We Fight

Frank Rich can't- or won't- put his finger on Amerikan motivations in Afghanistan, but highlights the logical inconsistencies of the hawks:

...the mass murder at Fort Hood didn’t happen in isolation. It unfolded against the backdrop of Obama’s final lap of decision-making about Afghanistan. For all the right’s jeremiads, its own brand of political correctness kept it from connecting two crucial dots: how our failing war against terrorists in Afghanistan might relate to our failure to stop a supposed terrorist attack at home. Most of those who decried the Army’s blindness to Hasan’s threat are strong proponents of sending more troops into our longest war. That they didn’t mention Afghanistan while attacking the entire American intelligence and defense apparatus in charge of that war may be the most telling revelation of this whole debate.

The reason they didn’t is obvious enough. Their screeds about the Hasan case are completely at odds with both the Afghanistan policy they endorse and the leadership that must execute that policy, including Gen. Stanley McChrystal. These hawks, all demanding that Obama act on McChrystal’s proposals immediately, do not seem to have read his strategy assessment for Afghanistan or the many press interviews he gave as it leaked out. If they had, they’d discover that the whole thrust of his counterinsurgency pitch is to befriend and win the support of the Afghan population — i.e., Muslims. The “key to success,” the general wrote in his brief to the president, will be “strong personal relationships forged between security forces and local populations.”

McChrystal thinks we might even jolly up those Muslims who historically and openly hate America. “I don’t think much of the Taliban are ideologically driven,” he told Dexter Filkins of The Times. “In my view their past is not important. Some people say, ‘Well, they have blood on their hands.’ I’d say, ‘So do a lot of people.’ I think we focus on future behavior.”

Whether we could win those hearts and minds is, arguably, an open question — though it’s an objective that would require a partner other than Hamid Karzai and many more troops than even McChrystal is asking for (or America presently has). But to say that McChrystal’s optimistic — dare one say politically correct? — view of Muslim pliability doesn’t square with that of America’s hawks is the understatement of the decade.

As their Fort Hood rhetoric made clear, McChrystal’s most vehement partisans don’t trust American Muslims, let alone those of the Taliban, no matter how earnestly the general may argue that they can be won over by our troops’ friendliness (or bribes). If, as the right has it, our Army cannot be trusted to recognize a Hasan in its own ranks, then how will it figure out who the “good” Muslims will be as we try to build a “stable” state (whatever “stable” means) in a country that has never had a functioning central government? If our troops can’t be protected from seemingly friendly Muslim American brethren in Killeen, Tex., what are the odds of survival for the 40,000 more troops the hawks want to deploy to Kabul and sinkholes beyond?

About the only prominent voice among the liberal-bashing, Obama-loathing right who has noted this gaping contradiction is Mark Steyn of National Review. “Members of the best trained, best equipped fighting force on the planet” were “gunned down by a guy who said a few goofy things no one took seriously,” he wrote. “And that’s the problem: America has the best troops and fiercest firepower, but no strategy for throttling the ideology that drives the enemy — in Afghanistan and in Texas.” You have to applaud Steyn’s rare intellectual consistency within his camp. One imagines that he does not buy the notion that our Army, however brilliant, has a shot at building “strong personal relationships” with a population that often regards us as occupiers and infidels.

In a week of horrific news, it was good to hear at the end of it that Obama is dissatisfied with the four Afghanistan options he has been weighing so far. The more time he deliberates, the more he is learning that he’s on a fool’s errand with no exit. After Karzai was spared a runoff last month and declared the winner of the fraud-infested August “election,” Obama demanded that he address his government’s corruption as a price for American support. Only days later the Afghan president mocked the American president by parading his most tainted cronies on camera and granting an interview to PBS’s “NewsHour” devoted to spewing his contempt for his American benefactors.

Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and, until recently, a State Department official in Afghanistan, could be found on MSNBC on Thursday once again asking the question no war advocate can answer, “Do you want Americans fighting and dying for the Karzai regime?” Hoh quit his post on principle in September despite the urging of colleagues, including our ambassador there, Karl W. Eikenberry, that he stay and fight over war policy from the inside. But Hoh had lost confidence in our strategy and would not retract his resignation. Now he has been implicitly seconded by Eikenberry himself. Last week we learned that the ambassador, a retired general who had been the top American military commander in Afghanistan as recently as 2007, had sent two cables to Obama urging caution about sending more troops.

We don’t know everything in those cables. What we do know is that American intelligence continues to say that fewer than 100 Qaeda operatives can still be found in Afghanistan. We also know that the Taliban, which are currently estimated to number in the tens of thousands, can’t be eliminated. As McChrystal put it to Filkins, there is no “finite number” of Taliban, so there’s no way to vanquish them. Hence his counterinsurgency alternative, which could take decades, costing untold billions and countless lives.

Perhaps those on the right are correct about Hasan, and he is just one cog in an apocalyptic jihadist plot that has infiltrated our armed forces. If so, then they have an obligation to explain how pouring more troops into Afghanistan would have stopped Hasan from plotting in Killeen. Don’t hold your breath. If we have learned anything concrete so far from the massacre at Fort Hood, it’s that our hawks, for all their certitude, are as utterly confused as the rest of us about who it is we’re fighting in Afghanistan and to what end.

This confusion results from the denial that we could be fighting for anything beyond petrochemicals, opium, fat Pentagon contracts, and imperial ambition. These are the great unspoken constants of Amerikan foriegn policy. They will only get you washed from the pages of Pravda if you speak them there...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No Surprise At All

In two recent posts at Consortium News, Robert Parry reviews the recently released data that shows both how the Gipper couldn't have won one without some collusion of the Company and Iran and the extent to which the Village will go to make all seem to be Business as Usual.

Such was the situation in late 1992 as America reached an important turning point for whether the people would get to understand their recent history or not. A bipartisan House task force wanted to debunk allegations that Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1980 had sabotaged President Jimmy Carter’s negotiations with Iran about freeing 52 Americans, who were taken hostage 30 years ago this week.

That alleged act of treachery, making Carter look weak and inept, set the stage for Reagan’s landslide victory on Nov. 4, 1980, exactly one year to the date after the hostages were seized. But the suspicions about this so-called October Surprise case only reached a critical mass in 1991-92 after several years of disclosures about the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scheme.

Despite Republican denials about any secret pre-election 1980 dealings with Iran – and the anger that the allegations drew from influential neoconservatives in the Washington press corps – a House task force was created to examine the case, although without much enthusiasm and mostly with an eye toward debunking the suspicions...

As Parry outlines, they did this quite effectively, and in doing so re-wrote a significant chapter in the history of the empire.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Only the DINOcrats Could Kill Social Security

Yes, it figures that Feinstein and Lieberman working together could actually whack the third rail of American politics:

...Senators from both parties on Tuesday put new pressure on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to turn the power to trim entitlement benefits over to an independent commission.

Seven members of the Senate Budget Committee threatened during a Tuesday hearing to withhold their support for critical legislation to raise the debt ceiling if the bill calling for the creation of a bipartisan fiscal reform commission were not attached. Six others had previously made such threats, bringing the total to 13 senators drawing a hard line on the committee legislation...

...Among its chief responsibilities would be closing the gap between tax revenue coming in and the larger cost of paying for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits...

Congress is under pressure to raise the cap on what the federal government can borrow by mid-December. If the debt ceiling is not raised above its current $12.1 trillion mark by then, the government will exceed its borrowing limits and will be forced to default on the debt. Economists have warned that the inevitable result would be a lowering of the U.S. credit rating, triggering substantial increases in the interest rates the government is already paying.

Raising the debt ceiling has become one of a handful of “must-pass” pieces of legislation Congress regularly considers without the usual partisan posturing, and often without much debate.

But before Tuesday’s hearing was over, Sens. Conrad, Gregg, Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) publicly vowed to vote against raising the debt ceiling if a budget reform commission bill doesn’t come along with it...

Cry "Havoc!" and unleash the dogs of default.

As Cruickshank says:

...Cuts in Social Security and Medicare will not only ripple through the economy in the form of reduced spending, they'll also ripple through younger generations, who will fill the gap lost by the cutting of government benefits with money out of their own pockets to help their elderly relatives make ends meet and get the treatment they need.

Feinstein is embracing Hooverism, putting Democratic gains at risk, and threatening to make our economic crisis permanent. Of course, in doing so she's merely going with the flow in both DC and Sacramento, so it's not like she's some kind of outlier...

No Wood for eReptile Disorders

You could say it's tit for tat for the Stupak among us:

...I have a moral objection to paying for any kind of erectile dysfunction medicine in the new health reform bill and I think men who want to use it should just pay for it out of pocket. After all, I won't ever need such a pill. And anyway, it's no biggie. Just because most of them can get it under their insurance today doesn't mean they shouldn't have it stripped from their coverage in the future because of my moral objections...

...Many of the men who are prescribed this medication are on Medicare, so I think it should be stripped out of that coverage as well...

Drying Up the Netroots Left

Over at Firedoglake they're joing Kos in encouraging progressives to stop sending money to the Democratic National Committee.

Over the DNC's refusal to back gay rights more strongly.

Well. That's a good cause, because let's face it, gays deserve every right to be able to openly love and marry and be as miserable as everyone else.

But. Obama still supports the Endless War on Terra unquestioningly, sends half measures to prop up the economy that only help the banksters, refuses to really regulate the banksters, and sets up Trojan Horse health plans that allow the banksters to tax everyone without the middleman of the Feds, thus aiding and abetting endless global suffering and yes, death. He continues the whole time to spout obvious soporific lies about Hope and Change.

And all that doesn't make the Democratic netroots organize to do anything but ban the commenters who point it out.

But not supporting people's rights to hump anyone they please who wants to be humped, that makes Kos and Jane mad enough to do something.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More Meat for Moloch

Only 34,000 more!

What you didn't know about the War.

Not a jobs program at all

Despite the conventional wisdom of the Company pundits by their own petard they get the hoist:

There is a major national ad campaign, funded by the oil industry and other usual suspects, to convince the public that measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and slow global warming will result in massive job loss. This ad campaign warns of slower growth and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, possibly even millions of jobs, if some variation of the current proposals being debated by Congress get passed into law.

In fact, standard economic models do show that measures designed to reduce GHG by raising energy prices will lead to some cost in terms of slower economic growth. And slower economic growth implies fewer jobs, although the impact will almost certainly be less than indicated in these scare stories.

However, the oil industry’s scare stories about job loss are never put it in any context. In these models, any government measure that interferes with market outcomes almost by definition reduces efficiency, leading to less economic growth and fewer jobs. Efforts to slow global warming fall in this category, but so does almost everything else and many items in the everything else category have a much larger impact.

For example, defense spending means that the government is pulling away resources from the uses determined by the market and instead using them to buy weapons and supplies and to pay for soldiers and other military personnel. In standard economic models, defense spending is a direct drain on the economy, reducing efficiency, slowing growth and costing jobs...

Measure to slow greenhouse gas emissions by investing in development of carbon-neutral solar based renewable energy resources most certainly don't increase job loss. Far from it. Carbon emissions can be reduced without increasing the cost of fuel at the pump, which will skyrocket in cost anyway as the oil reserves are depleted.

Because, you see, the government does do somethings quite well: manage peer-reviewed research, for one thing. The NIH, for example, has been and will continue to be an engine for biotechnology and biomedical innovation that has nothing to do with an imperial war machine.

But this war?

...A few years ago, the Center for Economic and Policy Research commissioned Global Insight, one of the leading economic modeling firms, to project the impact of a sustained increase in defense spending equal to 1.0 percentage point of GDP. This was roughly equal to the cost of the Iraq War.

Global Insight’s model projected that after 20 years the economy would be about 0.6 percentage points smaller as a result of the additional defense spending. Slower growth would imply a loss of almost 700,000 jobs compared to a situation in which defense spending had not been increased. Construction and manufacturing were especially big job losers in the projections, losing 210,000 and 90,000 jobs, respectively.

The scenario we asked Global Insight to model turned out to have vastly underestimated the increase in defense spending associated with current policy. In the most recent quarter, defense spending was equal to 5.6 percent of GDP. By comparison, before the September 11th attacks, the Congressional Budget Office projected that defense spending in 2009 would be equal to just 2.4 percent of GDP. Our post-September 11th build-up was equal to 3.2 percentage points of GDP compared to the pre-attack baseline. This means that the Global Insight projections of job loss are far too low.

The impact of higher spending will not be directly proportionate in these economic models. In fact, it should be somewhat more than proportionate, but if we just multiple the Global Insight projections by 3, we would see that the long-term impact of our increased defense spending will be a reduction in GDP of 1.8 percentage points. This would correspond to roughly $250 billion in the current economy, or about $800 in lost output for every person in the country.

The projected job loss from this increase in defense spending would be close to 2 million. In other words, the standard economic models that project job loss from efforts to stem global warming also project that the increase in defense spending since 2000 will cost the economy close to 2 million jobs in the long run...

Why, yes, there are some jobs created due to the war. Building trucks, for example. But those jobs are a pittance compared to the resources squandered and the better jobs that can never come to exist because of an endless war.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

He Obviously Didn't Get the Memo

Or maybe he doesn't realize Washington is owned by the Company and led by Robert Gates for Poppy's Yale class.

...The U.S. ambassador in Kabul sent two classified cables to Washington in the past week expressing deep concerns about sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until President Hamid Karzai's government demonstrates that it is willing to tackle the corruption and mismanagement that has fueled the Taliban's rise, senior U.S. officials said.

Karl W. Eikenberry's memos, sent as President Obama enters the final stages of his deliberations over a new Afghanistan strategy, illustrated both the difficulty of the decision and the deepening divisions within the administration's national security team. After a top-level meeting on the issue Wednesday afternoon -- Obama's eighth since early last month -- the White House issued a statement that appeared to reflect Eikenberry's concerns.

"The President believes that we need to make clear to the Afghan government that our commitment is not open-ended," the statement said. "After years of substantial investments by the American people, governance in Afghanistan must improve in a reasonable period of time."

On the eve of his nine-day trip to Asia, Obama was given a series of options laid out laid out by military planners with differing numbers of new U.S. deployments, ranging from 10,000 to 40,000 troops. None of the scenarios calls for scaling back the U.S. presence in Afghanistan or delaying the dispatch of additional troops...

...the cables from Eikenberry, a retired four-star general who in 2006-2007 commanded U.S. troops in Afghanistan, have rankled his former colleagues in the Pentagon -- as well as Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, defense officials said. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has stated that without the deployment of an additional tens of thousands of troops within the next year, the mission there "will likely result in failure."

Eikenberry retired from the military in April as a senior general in NATO and was sworn in as ambassador the next day. His position as a former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is likely to give added weight to his concerns about sending more troops and fan growing doubts about U.S. prospects in Afghanistan among an increasingly pessimistic public and polarized Congress...

...The ambassador also has worried that sending tens of thousands of additional American troops would increase the Afghan government's dependence on U.S. support at a time when its own security forces should be taking on more responsibility for fighting. Before serving as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Eikenberry was in charge of the Afghan army training program...

...Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have backed a major increase in U.S. forces to drive the Taliban from populated areas and provide Afghan security forces and the government the space to snuff out corruption and undertake development projects. They have argued that only a large-scale counterinsurgency effort can produce a strong Afghan government capable of preventing the country from once again become an al-Qaeda haven...

...The most ambitious option Obama received Wednesday calls for 40,000 additional U.S. troops, as outlined by McChrystal in his stark assessment of the war filed in late August.

Military planners put the additional annual cost of McChrystal's recommendation at $33 billion, although White House officials say the number is probably closer to $50 billion. The extra troops would allow U.S. forces to attempt to take back and hold several Taliban havens in the southern and eastern regions of Afghanistan.

One compromise option put forward by the Pentagon, with the backing of Gates, would deploy an additional 30,000 to 35,000 U.S. troops -- fewer than McChrystal's optimal number to carry out his strategy -- and rely on NATO allies to make up the 5,000- to 10,000-troop difference...

Nothing like a compromise that gives you 90% of what you want up front, is there, Mr. Gates?

And Hillary? She's doing for the antiwar progressives what her hubby and Larry Summers did for the economy when they torpedoed Glass-Steagall exactly ten years ago.

Taking Away Your Name

The assimilation of No. 6 into the Village is complete:

...Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ” and also appeared in “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Thin Red Line,” is cast as No. 6. He still has not seen the original version of “The Prisoner” for fear of absorbing too much of McGoohan’s bravura performance...

McGoohan cast his entire fortune from being the star of "Secret Agent" into "The Prisoner", which BBC soon took off the air despite its popularity.

These days, the Village has grown.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Only Nixon Could Go to China

The only thing we have to fear
is the fear that Wall Street, itself,
won't have enough money to speculate with!

One wonders if only Obama can kill the New Deal completely.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Dennis Voted "No"

Which pretty much ought to tell you something:

We have been led to believe that we must make our health care choices only within the current structure of a predatory, for-profit insurance system which makes money not providing health care. We cannot fault the insurance companies for being what they are. But we can fault legislation in which the government incentivizes the perpetuation, indeed the strengthening, of the for-profit health insurance industry, the very source of the problem. When health insurance companies deny care or raise premiums, co-pays and deductibles they are simply trying to make a profit. That is our system.

Clearly, the insurance companies are the problem, not the solution. They are driving up the cost of health care. Because their massive bureaucracy avoids paying bills so effectively, they force hospitals and doctors to hire their own bureaucracy to fight the insurance companies to avoid getting stuck with an unfair share of the bills. The result is that since 1970, the number of physicians has increased by less than 200% while the number of administrators has increased by 3000%. It is no wonder that 31 cents of every health care dollar goes to administrative costs, not toward providing care. Even those with insurance are at risk. The single biggest cause of bankruptcies in the U.S. is health insurance policies that do not cover you when you get sick.

But instead of working toward the elimination of for-profit insurance, H.R. 3962 would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care. In H.R. 3962, the government is requiring at least 21 million Americans to buy private health insurance from the very industry that causes costs to be so high, which will result in at least $70 billion in new annual revenue, much of which is coming from taxpayers. This inevitably will lead to even more costs, more subsidies, and higher profits for insurance companies—a bailout under a blue cross.

By incurring only a new requirement to cover pre-existing conditions, a weakened public option, and a few other important but limited concessions, the health insurance companies are getting quite a deal. The Center for American Progress’ blog, Think Progress, states, “since the President signaled that he is backing away from the public option, health insurance stocks have been on the rise.” Similarly, healthcare stocks rallied when Senator Max Baucus introduced a bill without a public option. Bloomberg reports that Curtis Lane, a prominent health industry investor, predicted a few weeks ago that “money will start flowing in again” to health insurance stocks after passage of the legislation. Investors.com last month reported that pharmacy benefit managers share prices are hitting all-time highs, with the only industry worry that the Administration would reverse its decision not to negotiate Medicare Part D drug prices, leaving in place a Bush Administration policy.

During the debate, when the interests of insurance companies would have been effectively challenged, that challenge was turned back. The “robust public option” which would have offered a modicum of competition to a monopolistic industry was whittled down from an initial potential enrollment of 129 million Americans to 6 million. An amendment which would have protected the rights of states to pursue single-payer health care was stripped from the bill at the request of the Administration. Looking ahead, we cringe at the prospect of even greater favors for insurance companies.

Recent rises in unemployment indicate a widening separation between the finance economy and the real economy. The finance economy considers the health of Wall Street, rising corporate profits, and banks’ hoarding of cash, much of it from taxpayers, as sign of an economic recovery. However in the real economy—in which most Americans live—the recession is not over. Rising unemployment, business failures, bankruptcies and foreclosures are still hammering Main Street...

Yet Pravda reiterates the litany: the Recession is over. Who are you gonna believe, the banksters or your lyin' eyes?

A deal at any cost

Ian Welsh is livid- and if he's right about what the Oborg have wrought, we all have reason to be:

...By now you’ve probably heard about the Stupack amendment, which would make it illegal for any insurance offered on the exchanges set up by the health care reform bill to cover abortion services. It is being allowed to the floor by the leadership, and indications are that there may be enough votes for it to pass. If it were to remain in the final bill, it would strip practical access to abortion from millions of women, a number which would increase when the exchanges open to businesses.

Recently we have also seen the proposal to tie prices for procedures to Medicare +5% fail. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has reported that the public option will likely only get 6 million enrollees and will cost more than private offerings because it will get more sick people than private plans since it won’t anti-select, has no auto-enrollment, and won’t have any scale advantages for bargaining since it will have so few people and not be linked to Medicare.

Meanwhile the bill itself will force people to buy insurance, provides inadequate subsidies, and falls hardest on the middle class and young people—forcing them to spend a huge chunk of their discretionary income on average, and doubtless pushing many families into bankruptcy (plenty are on the verge, it is impossible to imagine that this won’t push them over the edge).

And yet it is still supported by the same people who supported it all along. Apparently nothing can happen which would cause them not to support it.

This is the sort of “deal at any cost” thinking which bloggers used to decry. I find it amazing. Absolutely amazing. For any provision which is called “public option”, no matter how weak, folks are apparently willing to swallow hard and get over any number of deficiencies...

Designed to fail, just the way it- and the progressive movement- is supposed to once the banksters have the money.

"God's work"

But nobody asks exactly which God...

Tiabbi caught another one like this a couple day ago via Bloomberg:

“The injunction of Jesus to love others as ourselves is an endorsement of self-interest,” Goldman’s Griffiths said Oct. 20, his voice echoing around the gold-mosaic walls of St. Paul’s Cathedral, whose 365-feet-high dome towers over the City, London’s financial district. “We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieving greater prosperity and opportunity for all.”

I think maybe Griffith and Goldman got the source for their ideas a little off...

More troops, lots more troops, or everyone they can get their hands on

I am so reassured the One is for moderation. But somehow it think they're not going to be happy until they exercise the third option listed above:

... The options include Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s request for roughly another 40,000 troops; a middle scenario sending about 30,000 more troops; and a lower alternative involving 20,000 to 25,000 reinforcements, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Officials hope to present the options to Mr. Obama this week before he leaves on a trip to Asia.

While some civilian and military officials believe Mr. Obama is seeking a middle ground in the debate over Afghanistan, aides denied he has made any decision or is leaning toward any of the options. Still, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates appears to be supportive of the middle option, some officials said, and his view is thought to be pivotal because of Mr. Obama’s respect for him and his status as a holdover from a Republican administration.

The three options define the contours of a debate that has played out in public for more than two months. General McChrystal, the top American and allied commander in Afghanistan, and his advocates argue the war cannot be won without a major infusion of forces to protect the population and ultimately turn it against the Taliban. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and others oppose a buildup in a war they believe cannot be won through conventional means and that diverts attention from Pakistan, where Al Qaeda is primarily located. There are currently 68,000 American troops in Afghanistan.

The range of alternatives under discussion suggests that the president has rejected the extremes on either end. He appears inclined to send more troops — with the only question being how many — and seems not to be seriously considering General McChrystal’s highest proposal of 80,000 more troops...

So good of the Centurions to be willing to slide down their estimate from 80,000 to 40,000. So reasonable of the Moderate One to only be thinking of 30,000. So much moderate and reasonable and middle of the road carnage and mayhem in a land ruled by vicious drug cartels and religious fanatics, many of our own making, who'll we'll be fighting too.

Such a reasonable solution to the real economic problem we face.

...Unemployment surged from 9.8 percent in September to 10.2 percent last month, its highest level since 1983. At the same time, the economy lost 190,000 more jobs. That means employers have eliminated 7.3 million positions since the recession began in December 2007.

As dreadful as they are, the headline numbers understate the severity of the problem. They also obscure an even grimmer fact: Unless there is more government support, it will take several years of robust economic growth — by no means a sure thing — to recoup the jobs that have been lost.

The unemployment rate includes only jobless people who have looked for work in the past four weeks. The underemployment rate — which also includes jobless workers who have not recently looked for work and part-timers who need full-time work — reached 17.5 percent in October. And the long-term unemployment rate — the share of the unemployed population out of work for more than six months — also continues to set records. It is now 35.6 percent.

The official job-loss data also fail to take note of 2.8 million additional jobs needed to absorb new workers who have joined the labor force during the recession. When those missing jobs are added to the official total, the economy comes up short by 10.1 million jobs...

The natives are getting decidedly restless. The Village by and large somehow equates the outrage on the Right with the outrage on the Left and pretends that fake dichotomy is what fuels every issue. When the outrage is simply the outrage of a people realizing they are being scammed and enslaved:

...The Obama administration does not seem to understand that this rage, left unaddressed, could consume it. It has pushed aside the entreaties of many — including Paul Volcker, the chairman of the White House’s own Economic Recovery Advisory Board — to break up too-big-to-fail banks. Those behemoths, cushioned by the government’s bailouts, low-interest loans and guarantees, are back making bets that put the entire system at risk. Yet last Sunday, we once again heard the Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, on “Meet the Press” dodging questions about the banks in general and Goldman in particular with unpersuasive bromides. “We’re not going to let the system go back to the way it was,” he said.

Surely he jests. On Monday morning, a business-savvy Democratic senator, Maria Cantwell of Washington, publicly questioned Geithner’s fitness for his job, given his support of loopholes in proposed regulations of the derivatives that enabled last year’s collapse. On Tuesday, Congressional Democrats, with the White House’s consent, voted to gut the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the post Enron-WorldCom law passed in 2002 to prevent corporate accounting tricks and fraud. Arthur Levitt, the former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman, told me on Friday it was “surreal” that Democrats were now achieving the long-held Republican goal of smashing “the golden chalice” of reform. If investors cannot have transparency, Levitt said, “the whole system is worthless.”

The system is going back to the way it was with a vengeance, against a backdrop of despair. As the unemployment rate crossed the 10 percent threshold at week’s end, we learned that bankers were helping themselves not just to bonuses as large as those at the bubble’s peak but to early allotments of H1N1 vaccine. No wonder 62 percent of those polled by Hart Associates in late September felt that “large banks” had been helped “a lot” or “a fair amount” by “government economic policies,” but only 13 percent felt the “average working person” had been. Unemployment ranked ahead of the deficit and health care as the No. 1 pocketbook issue in the survey, with 81 percent saying the Obama administration must take more action...

Yes, you read that right. Wall Street no longer has to even pretend it's telling its shareholders the truth. Perhaps more the fitting in an economy where the banks are increasingly the only ones who own anything. The fact is that they couldn't believe each other any more in the first place is what precipitated this crisis under Bu$hCo, but now that Anyone Who Matters has a guaranteed bailout, one supposes it doesn't really matter.

All that remains is for the One to cross his own private Rubicon and ordain a service solution to all these unproductive drains on the banks... meaning the unemployed.

One supposes he figures by the time he does the people will be so strung out and wrung out they'll simply don the uniforms and march off to fight Terra like good little citizens of the empire state.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The House of Smoke and Mirrors

Good stuff on Common Dreams tonight.

Sandy LeonVest:

...The performance is degenerating. The public is beginning to understand what the political players knew all along - that this three ring circus was never meant to be more than a sideshow.

Americans have been forced to bear witness to embarrassing public displays of angst over their government spending a paltry $85 billion (or so) annually on health care for millions of Americans when about 20 times that amount has been gifted to the still-unaccountable robber barons responsible for the ongoing financial crisis.

Today, anyone not in a comatose state has surely grown tired of the smoke and mirrors. Surely Americans have noticed the eerie disconnect between the carefully staged healthcare ‘debate' with its fixation on the cost of an increased government role, and the nonexistent debates on the (far more costly) war in Afghanistan or the obscenely expensive government program to bail out Wall Street.

It was against this surreal backdrop that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to support an even more frail version of what never was a particularly ‘robust public option' for health care consumers in the first place. The move marked not the beginning, but the continuation of an unraveling process that began before the ‘health care debate' ever got off the ground...

Donna Smith:

...Passing a healthcare reform bill that does not provide me with better access to care or protection from bankruptcy and financial ruin is not what I asked you all to do. Stripping away all reference to a progressively financed, single standard of high quality healthcare for all - also known as single-payer -- is done only to more deeply ensconce the deep pocketed interests in healthcare: the private, for-profit insurance giants, the big pharmaceuticals, the medical equipment companies, the hospital corporations and all the other making huge profits as thousands die needless deaths.

Healthcare is a basic human right. Granting that right is not something to be calculated differently in swing Congressional districts, off-year election strategy or second-Presidential term planning. It is your duty to me, to my fellow citizens and to your nation.

And you are marching away from reality when you think all the hard-working people who counted on you to make this a better healthcare system will not notice when you deliver insurance purchase mandates and a corporate bail-out that will dwarf the Wall Street trillions you've already justified.

When you pass whatever you finally pass, the people will hold you accountable as surely as night follows day. We'll be watching - you can bet on that. And to the 10.2 percent (and that's just those still counted in the numbers of the unemployed), wouldn't it be grand if after losing your job you still knew your healthcare was safe? That could be and should be what your government did for you. Unfortunately and tragically, it doesn't appear that is the road they are brave enough to take on our behalf...

Something passed the House tonight. Time will clarify exactly what it is and what it does. The main$tream media surely won't.

Men Who Beam at Goats

You didn't think they just stared at them, did you?

Apparently aside from the look-but-don't-touch alone policy, the rest of the movie hits pretty close to the mark.

And, incidently, so much for the non-lethal weapons schtick.