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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Useful Oxy Morons

Don't laugh, these people are serious

More delusional framing of the issues that make the world what it is from the Masters of the Universe, this time from the place where old times are not forgotten- just misremembered.

There’s no screaming on the first great song of the bailout era. No audible rage. No tears. Instead, on “Shuttin’ Detroit Down,” the country star John Rich, singing evenly, sounds perfectly levelheaded, as if he’d thought through his position thoroughly and acquired the peace of the righteous...

...even though Mr. Rich’s subject matter is au courant, his tropes are familiar country tugs of war: urban versus rural, modern versus traditional, white collar versus blue. The most bracing moment on “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” comes not when Mr. Rich points a finger at those “living it up on Wall Street in that New York City town,” but when he reflects on the little guy: “Well that old man’s been working in that plant most all his life/ Now his pension plan’s been cut in half and he can’t afford to die,” his voice dropping a half-step on the last word to indicate where the real locus of tragedy resides.

But in many ways “Detroit” has less to do with “Okie” and more to do with the left-wing protest music of that era. That it comes from the other side of the aisle seems a minor detail. “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” is skeptical of big business as well as big government — “D.C.’s bailing out them bankers as the farmers auction ground” — keeping a song that’s postpartisan, at least on the surface, consistent with right-wing thinking.

This isn’t Mr. Rich’s first dalliance with Republican talking points. Last year he stumped for Fred Thompson before throwing his support behind Senator John McCain and recording a rally song, “Raising McCain,” a far less imaginative slice of propaganda. (“He got shot down/in a Vietnam town/fighting for the red, white and blue.” )

Now that Republicans are underdogs, it’s a particularly good time to be a conservative agitator, and Mr. Rich is seizing the moment...

Yes, those Right-wing, anti-Big Government, anti-Big Business Republicans.

Not socialists, National Socialists.

Don't laugh, these people are serious. It's not that the people promoting this have bad memories. After all, the banksters that own Mr. Rich are getting bailed out, too. They simply think you do.

Sadly, somebody does, or this crap would be laughed right off the air.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I Want Yours

Call it Uncle Sam's hedge fund. The rescue of the American financial system proposed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is, in all but name, a gigantic hedge fund. The government would lend vast sums to private investors to enable them to buy loss-ridden assets at discounts from banks with the prospect of making sizable profits. If that's not a hedge fund, what would be? The hope is that the $14 trillion U.S. banking system would expand lending if it could get rid of many of the lousy securities and loans already on its books...

That being The Washington Pravda, Mr. Samuelson goes on to tell us how it's ...not as crazy as it sounds.

No, sir. We're not as dumb as you and the rest of the Village think we are.

Another myth that the Village is trying to propagate is that the only opposition to the bankster takeover of the Treasury comes from down home, McCainiac, Right wing populists who are anti-Big Government and anti-Big Business.

Like this guy, I guess.

Here's a quick flash to the main$tream. The Republicans are and have always been the party of Big Government and Big Business. It's just the Democrats have also been bought out now. Paulson or Geithner, both owned, and only the gullible would think otherwise.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few like that. Bu$hie's core "30%" of the electorate. The Oborg Assimilated, too. It's enough to ensure interesting times for the foreseeable future.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Multinational Corporation

TORONTO — A vast electronic spying operation has infiltrated computers and has stolen documents from hundreds of government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, Canadian researchers have concluded.

In a report to be issued this weekend, the researchers said that the system was being controlled from computers based almost exclusively in China,
["almost exclusively" when a quarter of the pirate servers are based in California? Frame things much?] ...but that they could not say conclusively that the Chinese government was involved.

The researchers, who are based at the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto, had been asked by the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader whom China regularly denounces, to examine its computers for signs of malicious software, or malware.

Their sleuthing opened a window into a broader operation that, in less than two years, has infiltrated at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries, including many belonging to embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices, as well as the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London and New York.

The researchers, who have a record of detecting computer espionage, said they believed that in addition to the spying on the Dalai Lama, the system, which they called GhostNet, was focused on the governments of South Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

Intelligence analysts say many governments, including those of China, Russia and the United States, and other parties use sophisticated computer programs to covertly gather information.

...Still going strong, the operation continues to invade and monitor more than a dozen new computers a week, the researchers said in their report, “Tracking ‘GhostNet’: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network.” They said they had found no evidence that United States government offices had been infiltrated, although a NATO computer was monitored by the spies for half a day and computers of the Indian Embassy in Washington were infiltrated.

The malware is remarkable both for its sweep — in computer jargon, it has not been merely “phishing” for random consumers’ information, but “whaling” for particular important targets — and for its Big Brother-style capacities. It can, for example, turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of an infected computer, enabling monitors to see and hear what goes on in a room. The investigators say they do not know if this facet has been employed.

The researchers were able to monitor the commands given to infected computers and to see the names of documents retrieved by the spies, but in most cases the contents of the stolen files have not been determined. Working with the Tibetans, however, the researchers found that specific correspondence had been stolen and that the intruders had gained control of the electronic mail server computers of the Dalai Lama’s organization.

The electronic spy game has had at least some real-world impact, they said. For example, they said, after an e-mail invitation was sent by the Dalai Lama’s office to a foreign diplomat, the Chinese government made a call to the diplomat discouraging a visit. And a woman working for a group making Internet contacts between Tibetan exiles and Chinese citizens was stopped by Chinese intelligence officers on her way back to Tibet, shown transcripts of her online conversations and warned to stop her political activities.

The Toronto researchers said they had notified international law enforcement agencies of the spying operation, which in their view exposed basic shortcomings in the legal structure of cyberspace. The F.B.I. declined to comment on the operation.

...Although the Canadian researchers said that most of the computers behind the spying were in China, they cautioned against concluding that China’s government was involved. The spying could be a nonstate, for-profit operation, for example, or one run by private citizens in China known as “patriotic hackers.”

“We’re a bit more careful about it, knowing the nuance of what happens in the subterranean realms,” said Ronald J. Deibert, a member of the research group and an associate professor of political science at Munk. “This could well be the C.I.A. or the Russians. It’s a murky realm that we’re lifting the lid on.”

...Infection happens two ways. In one method, a user’s clicking on a document attached to an e-mail message lets the system covertly install software deep in the target operating system. Alternatively, a user clicks on a Web link in an e-mail message and is taken directly to a “poisoned” Web site.

The researchers said they avoided breaking any laws during three weeks of monitoring and extensively experimenting with the system’s unprotected software control panel. They provided, among other information, a log of compromised computers dating to May 22, 2007.

They found that three of the four control servers were in different provinces in China — Hainan, Guangdong and Sichuan — while the fourth was discovered to be at a Web-hosting company based in Southern California...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

It all depends on what the definition of "in touch" means

If you define being "in touch" as blowing a better bubble, why, the resources of the U.S. Treasury are exactly what you need to show some skin:

The "clap louder for Tinkerbell" crowd thinks its all in our minds.

They also want to keep your savings in the casino [via Susie Madrak]. To them it's an integral part of the "recovery"- being able to bet the US Treasury as well as every cent you have or will ever make on the table.

They think that a bubble is a substitute for a real stimulus.

When in reality it's just a shell of hot gas.

So go on ahead and get that new adjustable rate mortgage. Things are only going to get better, right? You listen to your financial advisors, to your stock broker and bankster friends, and you'll put all your money back in the market, which is now backed by the U.S. government. The Chinese government, likely, too.

What could go wrong for in touch people?

New Strategery for the Great Society Deal

Lyndon Baines Obama embraces a non-escalation escalation, and tries on Rudy 9u11iani's favorite dress:

...So let me be clear: al Qaeda and its allies – the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks – are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the U.S. homeland from its safe-haven in Pakistan...

Obama announces fealty to the Pentagon, with Poppy and Slick Willie's puppeteers pulling the strings

Obama looks uncomfortable, as you would too with both of those hands up your colon.

...Gates has hinted that the withdrawal of combat brigades will be accomplished through an administrative sleight of hand rather than by actually withdrawing all the combat brigade teams...

"They will be called advisory and assistance brigades," said Gates. "They won't be called combat brigades."

Obama’s decision to go along with the military proposal for a "transition force" of 35,000 to 50,000 troops thus represents a complete abandonment of his own original policy of combat troop withdrawal and an acceptance of what the military wanted all along - the continued presence of several combat brigades in Iraq well beyond mid-2010.

National Security Council officials declined to comment on the question of whether combat brigades were actually going to be left in Iraq beyond August 2010 under the policy announced by Obama Feb. 27...

[tip o'teh tinfoil to chlamor]

Slick Dick trick, that: Iraq will not have combat troops, just advisors. Now where have I heard of that one before? And why do I feel that history is not just rhyming, but rhyming badly?

Friday, March 27, 2009

"Unilateral Geoengineering"

Just go read it. They're really talking about doing it-moreso. They're not asking anyone about it, except each other. They're serious.

The Masters of the Universe Ignore the Obvious Again

Dr. Krugman is more than willing to spell it out for them:

On Monday, Lawrence Summers, the head of the National Economic Council, responded to criticisms of the Obama administration’s plan to subsidize private purchases of toxic assets. “I don’t know of any economist,” he declared, “who doesn’t believe that better functioning capital markets in which assets can be traded are a good idea.”

Leave aside for a moment the question of whether a market in which buyers have to be bribed to participate can really be described as “better functioning.” Even so, Mr. Summers needs to get out more. Quite a few economists have reconsidered their favorable opinion of capital markets and asset trading in the light of the current crisis.

But it has become increasingly clear over the past few days that top officials in the Obama administration are still in the grip of the market mystique. They still believe in the magic of the financial marketplace and in the prowess of the wizards who perform that magic.

The market mystique didn’t always rule financial policy. America emerged from the Great Depression with a tightly regulated banking system, which made finance a staid, even boring business. Banks attracted depositors by providing convenient branch locations and maybe a free toaster or two; they used the money thus attracted to make loans, and that was that.

And the financial system wasn’t just boring. It was also, by today’s standards, small. Even during the “go-go years,” the bull market of the 1960s, finance and insurance together accounted for less than 4 percent of G.D.P. The relative unimportance of finance was reflected in the list of stocks making up the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which until 1982 contained not a single financial company.

It all sounds primitive by today’s standards. Yet that boring, primitive financial system serviced an economy that doubled living standards over the course of a generation.

After 1980, of course, a very different financial system emerged. In the deregulation-minded Reagan era, old-fashioned banking was increasingly replaced by wheeling and dealing on a grand scale. The new system was much bigger than the old regime: On the eve of the current crisis, finance and insurance accounted for 8 percent of G.D.P., more than twice their share in the 1960s. By early last year, the Dow contained five financial companies — giants like A.I.G., Citigroup and Bank of America.

And finance became anything but boring. It attracted many of our sharpest minds and made a select few immensely rich.

Underlying the glamorous new world of finance was the process of securitization. Loans no longer stayed with the lender. Instead, they were sold on to others, who sliced, diced and puréed individual debts to synthesize new assets. Subprime mortgages, credit card debts, car loans — all went into the financial system’s juicer. Out the other end, supposedly, came sweet-tasting AAA investments. And financial wizards were lavishly rewarded for overseeing the process.

But the wizards were frauds, whether they knew it or not, and their magic turned out to be no more than a collection of cheap stage tricks. Above all, the key promise of securitization — that it would make the financial system more robust by spreading risk more widely — turned out to be a lie. Banks used securitization to increase their risk, not reduce it, and in the process they made the economy more, not less, vulnerable to financial disruption.

Sooner or later, things were bound to go wrong, and eventually they did. Bear Stearns failed; Lehman failed; but most of all, securitization failed.

Which brings us back to the Obama administration’s approach to the financial crisis.

Much discussion of the toxic-asset plan has focused on the details and the arithmetic, and rightly so. Beyond that, however, what’s striking is the vision expressed both in the content of the financial plan and in statements by administration officials. In essence, the administration seems to believe that once investors calm down, securitization — and the business of finance — can resume where it left off a year or two ago.

To be fair, officials are calling for more regulation. Indeed, on Thursday Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, laid out plans for enhanced regulation that would have been considered radical not long ago.

But the underlying vision remains that of a financial system more or less the same as it was two years ago, albeit somewhat tamed by new rules.

As you can guess, I don’t share that vision. I don’t think this is just a financial panic; I believe that it represents the failure of a whole model of banking, of an overgrown financial sector that did more harm than good. I don’t think the Obama administration can bring securitization back to life, and I don’t believe it should try.

Thank you for once again stating the obvious for the Masters of the Universe, Dr. Krugman. Yours is one of the few rational voices loud enough to penetrate the walls of the financial Olympus they live in.

Just try to stay out of small airplanes, please!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What's a little poison between friends?

a.k.a. 2-(4-isopropyl-4-methyl-5-oxo-2-imidazolin-2-yl)nicotinic Acid

...The U.S. Border Patrol plans to poison the plant life along a 1.1-mile stretch of the Rio Grande riverbank as soon as Wednesday to get rid of the hiding places used by smugglers, robbers and illegal immigrants.

If successful, the $2.1 million pilot project could later be duplicated along as many as 130 miles of river in the patrol’s Laredo Sector, as well as other parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Although Border Patrol and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials say the chemical is safe for animals, detractors say the experiment is reminiscent of the Vietnam War-era Agent Orange chemical program and raises questions about long-term effects.

“We don’t believe that is even moral,” said Jay Johnson-Castro Sr., executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, located at Laredo Community College, adjacent to the planned test area.

“It is unprecedented that they’d do it in a populated area,” he said of spraying the edge of the Rio Grande as it weaves between the cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

Border Patrol agent Roque Sarinana said the pilot project aims to find the most efficient way to keep agents safer and better protect the nation’s border. “We are trying to improve our mobility and visibility up and down the river,” Sarinana said.

...Members of the Laredo City Council have raised concerns about the spraying program and called on Mexico President Felipe Calderon to intervene.

Mexican officials are raising concerns the herbicide could threaten the water supply for Nuevo Laredo.

A U.S. government outline of the project indicates the Border Patrol is going to test three methods to rid the 1.1-mile bank of river of carrizo cane, which has thick stalks that form tight, isolated trails that can be dark and all but invisible from higher up on the bank.

One method calls for the cane to be cut by hand and the stumps painted with the herbicide, Imazapyr.

Another involves using mechanical equipment to dig the cane out by the roots. It is unclear if herbicides would be necessary in this scenario.

The third and most controversial removal method calls for helicopters spraying Imazapyr directly on the cane — repeatedly — until all plant life in the area is poisoned...

[via truthout]

But it's totally harmless! The Government wouldn't lie, would it? Well, it might miscommunicate a bit to encourage the private contractors that I'm sure will make a bundle off of this economically stimulating enterprise.

Heterocyclic aromatic amine pesticide use and human cancer risk: results from the U.S. Agricultural Health Study. Int J Cancer. 2009 Mar 1;124(5):1206-12.

...Imazethapyr, a heterocyclic aromatic amine, is a widely used crop herbicide first registered for use in the United States in 1989. We evaluated cancer incidence among imazethapyr-exposed pesticide applicators enrolled in the Agricultural Health Study (AHS). The AHS is a prospective cohort of 57,311 licensed pesticide applicators in the U.S., enrolled from 1993-1997. Among the 49,398 licensed pesticide applicators eligible for analysis, 20,646 applicators reported use of imazethapyr and 2,907 incident cancers developed through 2004. Imazethapyr exposure was classified by intensity-weighted lifetime exposure days calculated as [years of use x days per year x intensity level]. Poisson regression analysis was used to evaluate the relationship between imazethapyr exposure and cancer incidence. We found significant trends in risk with increasing lifetime exposure for bladder cancer (p for trend 0.01) and colon cancer (p for trend 0.02). Rate ratios (RRs) were increased by 137% for bladder cancer and 78% for colon cancer when the highest exposed were compared to the nonexposed... These findings provide new evidence that exposure to aromatic amine pesticides may be an overlooked exposure in the etiology of bladder and colon cancer. The use of imazethapyr and other imidazolinone compounds should continue to be evaluated for potential risk to humans.

But It's Okay When We Do It

That's what we all need, a regular guy President you'd want to sit down and have a beer with, right?

Gail Collins:

... Tim Geithner — Really cool guy. Super job on that bank bailout thing. Look at the way the stock market jumped. Way better Treasury secretary than last week’s Tim Geithner, who seemed a lot ... shorter.

Barack Obama — Kinda boring. Did you see the news conference? Same thing over and over again. Not that we mind. In these troubled times, we like stability. Thank God we didn’t elect somebody who was all charisma and exciting speeches.

Eliot Spitzer — He was the only one who got it, really got it, about A.I.G. before the big collapse. Great New York attorney general. What ever happened to him?

TALF (Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility) — This is the thing Tim Geithner is doing, and, you know, whatever Tim wants ... We like TALF much, much better than TARP, which was the brainchild of former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, who had that dumb idea about buying up all the bank’s toxic assets. Which is what Tim is going to do, except it’s going to be way cooler...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

From the Department of Framing the Argument

The New York Pravda this morning about the Oborg Prime Unit's lecture last night:

...The session in the East Room came at a volatile moment for the new president as he sought to quell Democratic misgivings about his ambitious economic agenda and deflect strong Republican opposition...

Of course, what his detractors on the Left are saying isn't that his agenda is too ambitious, it's that it's not ambitious enough.

Krugman speaks for many. The plan is designed to simply blow more bubbles, not resolve the underlying insability. Sooner or later, real market values will assert themselves with a vengence no matter how much Uncle $ugar sweetens the toxic waste of the speculators. Under the Obama plan, they're trying to get the speculators back in the game to drive up market prices by backing the Big Shitpile with the United States Treasury.

All that's going to do is open the doors of the Treasury to the pirates. Wider.

The main$tream media tries to frame the issue to make it seem the Democrats are siding with the Republicans. Well, the DINOcrats might be. But most the rest of us simply want the government to call a zombie a zombie, give it a head shot, bury the waste, and set up shop until the system recovers enough for private sharholders to buy back the banks.

Anything else- like the Oborg plan- simply propagates the virus.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

But in which direction?

The Oborg Prime sees signs of progress.

Progress, that is, if you see an attempt to create a government-fueled financial bubble as something to move toward.

The banksters will wreck it again if there is any profit in it for them.

If you'll be his friend, he'll give you a dollar

Or several. No risk.

No real solution of the problem, either.

The real problem?

...that Goldman Sachs holds an unelected place inside the government.

Among others.

...We let the banks get out of control and the cost will be enormous; our debt/GDP ratio will in all likelihood rise from around 40% to over 80%. We cannot afford to have the same problem again. We must break the power of banks before they break us all. And if you don’t think banks can do that much damage to economies, just look around outside the United States - the world is full of countries where growth is slowed or distorted by a financial system that becomes too powerful. This is not about tweaking the existing U.S. regulatory system; it is about complete change and - in many senses - turning back the clock to a financial system that was simpler, smaller, and much less dangerous.

Spring storm

A blast on the far side of the sun, the first since February.

SOHO observed a solar storm blast off to the left of the Sun (Mar. 17-19, 2009) over a two-day period. It appears to have originated on the far side of the Sun. In general, these coronal mass ejection (CME) explosions are fairly common, but with the Sun bumping along the bottom of its 11-year activity cycle, we have seen only a few storms over the past month. In this coronagraph still image, the Sun and some of its atmosphere are covered by an occulting disk so that we can see faint features in the surrounding corona. We superimposed an extreme UV Sun image also from SOHO taken at the nearly the same time to show its size.

Monday, March 23, 2009

"Something's happening here..."

What it is seems exactly clear.


...the plan is to use taxpayer funds to drive the prices of bad assets up to “fair” levels. Mr. Paulson proposed having the government buy the assets directly. Mr. Geithner instead proposes a complicated scheme in which the government lends money to private investors, who then use the money to buy the stuff. The idea, says Mr. Obama’s top economic adviser, is to use “the expertise of the market” to set the value of toxic assets.

But the Geithner scheme would offer a one-way bet: if asset values go up, the investors profit, but if they go down, the investors can walk away from their debt. So this isn’t really about letting markets work. It’s just an indirect, disguised way to subsidize purchases of bad assets.

The likely cost to taxpayers aside, there’s something strange going on here. By my count, this is the third time Obama administration officials have floated a scheme that is essentially a rehash of the Paulson plan, each time adding a new set of bells and whistles and claiming that they’re doing something completely different. This is starting to look obsessive.

But the real problem with this plan is that it won’t work...

Elections do have consequences. In this one, we had the alternative of accepting the same old policymakers that ruined the country in the Bu$h administration. Or, we could elect a bold, fresh new Democratic face. In other words, we could allow ourselves to be flat out speared by the banksters, or swallow their shiny new Hopeful bait, hook, line, and sinker.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

All Quieter on the Solar Front

The blips of February are gone, and the sun has returned to a quiet state except for a transient disturbance early today.

The increase in ambient cosmic radiation suggests its magnetic field strength hasn't reached a minimum yet either.

That's two years of quiet. That's fascinating in an uneasy sort of way.


Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away;
Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air.
You'd better watch out!
There may be dogs about
I looked over Jordan, and I've seen
Things are not what they seem.

That's what you get for pretending the danger's not real.
Meek and obedient you follow the leader
Down well trodden corridors into the valley of steel.
What a surprise!
A look of terminal terror in your eyes.
Now things are really what they seem.
No, this is not a bad dream.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
He lays me down to lie
Through pastures green He leadeth me the silent waters by.
With bright knives He releaseth my soul.
He maketh me to hang on hooks in high places.
He converteth me to lamb cutlets,
For lo, He hath great power, and great hunger.
When cometh the day we lowly ones,
Through quiet reflection, and great dedication
Master the art of karate,
Lo, we shall rise up,
And then we'll make the bugger's eyes water.

Bleating and babbling we fell on his neck with a scream.
Wave upon wave of demented avengers
March cheerfully out of obscurity into the dream.

Have you heard the news?
The dogs are dead!
You better stay home
And do as you're told.
Get out of the road if you want to grow old.

[tip o'teh tinfoil to Ed Encho]

Sockpuppet Scapegoats

The expendible, of course, while the real pirates get away with the booty.

...Here’s the problem with all the hoopla over the $135 million in AIG bonuses: This sum is only less than 0.1 per cent – one thousandth – of the $183 BILLION that the U.S. Treasury gave to AIG as a “pass-through” to its counterparties. This sum, over a thousand times the magnitude of the bonuses on which public attention is conveniently being focused by Wall Street promoters, did not stay with AIG. For over six months, the public media and Congressmen have been trying to find out just where this money DID go. Bloomberg brought a lawsuit to find out. Only to be met with a wall of silence.

Until finally, on Sunday night, March 15, the government finally released the details. They were indeed highly embarrassing. The largest recipient turned out to be just what earlier financial reports had rumored: Paulson’s own firm, Goldman Sachs, headed the list. It was owed $13 billion in counterparty claims. Here’s the picture that’s emerging. Last September, Treasury Secretary Paulson, from Goldman Sachs, drew up a terse 3-page memo outlining his bailout proposal. The plan specified that whatever he and other Treasury officials did (thus including his subordinates, also from Goldman Sachs), could not be challenged legally or undone, much less prosecuted. This condition enraged Congress, which rejected the bailout in its first incarnation.

It now looks as if Paulson had good reason to put in a fatal legal clause blocking any clawback of funds given by the Treasury to AIG’s counterparties. This is where public outrage should be focused...

With the usual worms in the compost. It's nice to see where Poppy's boys fit into this. It's all still working out very well for them, isn't it, Babs?

[tip o'teh tinfoil to Lambert again]

Hey Paul Krugman

Where the Hell are you man?

I believe that's him in the washroom throwing up:

...The Geithner plan has now been leaked in detail. It’s exactly the plan that was widely analyzed — and found wanting — a couple of weeks ago. The zombie ideas have won...

All He Needed Was a Saxophone

More Clintonista than Slick Willie-

[via Bag News Notes]

Sure, just saying you're going to act really makes it so. For actors, anyway.

Meanwhile, the play has the overwhelming feel of a set-up, and some of the actors seem to realize it-

Dodd has become a point of focus in the AIG bonus story after he inserted language in the last economic stimulus bill that allowed the bonuses to be awarded to employees of the insurance giant. Dodd said he added the language at the request of the Obama Administration...


Elsewhere, Frank Rich continues to try to warn the captain of the Titanic about the difference between ice cubes and icebergs:

A charming visit with Jay Leno won’t fix it. A 90 percent tax on bankers’ bonuses won’t fix it. Firing Timothy Geithner won’t fix it. Unless and until Barack Obama addresses the full depth of Americans’ anger with his full arsenal of policy smarts and political gifts, his presidency and, worse, our economy will be paralyzed. It would be foolish to dismiss as hyperbole the stark warning delivered by Paulette Altmaier of Cupertino, Calif., in a letter to the editor published by The Times last week: “President Obama may not realize it yet, but his Katrina moment has arrived.”

...The White House seemed utterly blindsided by the public’s revulsion at the moneyed insiders’ culture illuminated by Daschle’s post-Senate career. Yet last week’s events suggest that the administration learned nothing from that brush with disaster.

Otherwise it never would have used Lawrence Summers, the chief economic adviser, as a messenger just as the A.I.G. rage was reaching a full boil last weekend. Summers is so tone-deaf that he makes Geithner seem like Bobby Kennedy.

Bob Schieffer of CBS asked Summers the simple question that has haunted the American public since the bailouts began last fall: “Do you know, Dr. Summers, what the banks have done with all of this money that has been funneled to them through these bailouts?” What followed was a monologue of evasion that, translated into English, amounted to: Not really, but you little folk needn’t worry about it.

Yet even as Summers spoke, A.I.G. was belatedly confirming what he would not. It has, in essence, been laundering its $170 billion in taxpayers’ money by paying off its reckless partners in gambling and greed, from Goldman Sachs and Citigroup on Wall Street to Société Générale and Deutsche Bank abroad.

Summers was even more highhanded in addressing the “retention bonuses” handed to the very employees who brokered all those bad bets. After reciting the requisite outrage talking point, he delivered a patronizing lecture to viewers of ABC’s “This Week” on how our “tradition of upholding law” made it impossible to abrogate the bonus agreements. It never occurred to Summers that Americans might know that contracts are renegotiated all the time — most conspicuously of late by the United Automobile Workers, which consented to givebacks as its contribution to the Detroit bailout plan. Nor did he note, for all his supposed reverence for the law, that the A.I.G. unit being rewarded with these bonuses is now under legal investigation by British and American authorities.

...David Axelrod tried to rationalize the lagging response when he told The Washington Post last week that “people are not sitting around their kitchen tables thinking about A.I.G.,” but are instead “thinking about their own jobs.” While that’s technically true, it misses the point. Of course most Americans don’t know how A.I.G. brought the world’s financial system to near-ruin or what credit-default swaps are. They may not even know what A.I.G. stands for. But Americans do make the connection between their fears about their own jobs and their broad understanding of the A.I.G. debacle.

They know that the corporate bosses who may yet lay them off have sometimes been as obscenely overcompensated for failure as Wall Street’s bonus babies. As The Wall Street Journal reported last week, chief executives at businesses as diverse as Texas Instruments and the home builder Hovnanian Enterprises have received millions in bonuses even as their companies’ shares have lost more than half their value.

...What made Jon Stewart’s takedown of Jim Cramer resonate was less his specific brief against CNBC’s cheerleading for bad stocks than his larger indictment of the gaping economic inequality that defined the bubble. As Stewart said, there were “two markets” — the long-term market that Americans earnestly thought would sustain their 401(k)’s, and the fast-moving, short-term “real market” in the back room where high-rolling insiders wagered “giant piles of money” and brought down everyone with them.

...Inquiring Americans have the right to know why it took six months for us to learn (some of) what A.I.G. did with our money. We need to understand why some of that money was used to bail out foreign banks. And why Goldman, which declared that its potential losses with A.I.G. were “immaterial,” nonetheless got the largest-known A.I.G. handout of taxpayers’ cash ($12.9 billion) while also receiving a TARP bailout. We need to be told why retention bonuses went to some 50 bankers who not only were in the toxic A.I.G. unit but who left despite the “retention” jackpots. We must be told why taxpayers have so little control of the bailed-out financial institutions that we now own some or most of. And where are the M.R.I.’s from those “stress tests” the Treasury Department is giving those banks?

...Another compelling question connects all of the above: why has there been so little transparency and so much evasiveness so far? The answer, I fear, is that too many of the administration’s officials are too marinated in the insiders’ culture to police it, reform it or own up to their own past complicity with it.

The “dirty little secret,” Obama told Leno on Thursday, is that “most of the stuff that got us into trouble was perfectly legal.” An even dirtier secret is that a prime mover in keeping that stuff legal was Summers, who helped torpedo the regulation of derivatives while in the Clinton administration. His mentor Robert Rubin, no less, wrote in his 2003 memoir that Summers underestimated how the risk of derivatives might multiply “under extraordinary circumstances.”

Given that Summers worked for a secretive hedge fund, D. E. Shaw [.pdf], after he was pushed out of Harvard’s presidency at the bubble’s height, you have to wonder how he can now sell the administration’s plan for buying up toxic assets with the help of hedge funds. It will look like another giveaway to his own insiders’ club. As for Geithner, people might take him more seriously if he gave a credible account of why, while at the New York Fed, he and the Goldman alumnus Hank Paulson let Lehman Brothers fail but saved the Goldman-trading ally A.I.G.

As the nation’s anger rose last week, the president took responsibility for what’s happening on his watch — more than he needed to, given the disaster he inherited. But in the credit mess, action must match words. To fall short would be to deliver us into the catastrophic hands of a Republican opposition whose only known economic program is to reject job-creating stimulus spending and root for Obama and, by extension, the country to fail. With all due deference to Ponzi schemers from Madoff to A.I.G., this would be the biggest outrage of them all.

As long as Obama is owned by the same players that own the Republicans, no real solution will be found. The Republicans aren't competing for popular support in other than a simple minded, off hand sort of way. They're competing for access- indeed, monopoly- of the river of money that Washington controls. But they're poised to use the anger of those who think there is one political side or another that will debug the Great Depression v.2.


The outrage is just beginning. Especially since more and more people are correctly regarding their government as sockpuppets for pirates.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pirate Strategery

Hedge Funds and the Global Economic Meltdown from Judd Bagley on Vimeo.

WTF? Battlestar Rippedofftica

A finale that could have been written by MKULTRA. In fact, it probably was.

First hour: awesome, right through the point Starbucks jumps to paleo Earth using co-ordinates from Dylan's "Watchtower".

Then, an incredibly disappointing last hour.

I hate it when otherwise intelligent people buy into the "we were happier in simpler times" meme.

"If only they had never discovered fire I'm sure I'd be happier", he thinks. "Better fed, too."

Perhaps if Laura had been eaten by a smilodon or Ellen had been ripped apart by a pack of dire wolves or Six had immediately been flatlined by malaria or yellow fever the Old Man would've second guessed their decision to abandon technology and follow the Path of the Enlightened Toasters.

Or at least have given Lampkin a few techies to kite off in the opposite direction of the Centurions. After they'd left, of course.

As I've said elsewhere just for the record, the G-d of the Cylons, and by default of the Capricans, that was happy when the remnant of the human race wanted to revert to paleolithic simplicity is not a benevolent being.

Sign me up for the Opposition. Prometheus needs rescuing, and I'm on Herc's side, not heyZeus's. So say you all.

Dr. Doom Speaks

You listen.

Americans lived in a "Made-off" and Ponzi bubble economy for a decade or even longer. Madoff is the mirror of the American economy and of its over-leveraged agents: a house of cards of leverage over leverage by households, financial firms and corporations that has now collapsed in a heap.

When you put zero down on your home, and you thus have no equity in your home, your leverage is literally infinite and you are playing a Ponzi game.

And the bank that lent you, with zero down, a NINJA (no income, no jobs and assets) liar loan that was interest-only for a while, with negative amortization and an initial teaser rate, was also playing a Ponzi game.

And private equity firms that did over a $1 trillion of leveraged buyouts (LBOs) in the last few years with a debt-to-earnings ratio of 10 or above were also Ponzi firms playing a Ponzi game.

A government that will issue trillions of dollars of new debt to pay for this severe recession and socialize private losses may risk becoming a Ponzi government if--in the medium term--it does not return to fiscal discipline and debt sustainability.

A country that has--for over 25 years--spent more than income and thus run an endless string of current account deficit--and has thus become the largest net foreign debtor in the world (with net foreign liabilities that are likely to be over $3 trillion by the end of this year)--is also a Ponzi country that may eventually default on its foreign debt if it does not, over time, tighten its belt and start running smaller current account deficits and actual trade surpluses.

Whenever you persistently consume more than your income year after year (a household with negative savings, a government with budget deficit, a firm or financial institution with persistent losses, a country with a current account deficit) you are playing a Ponzi game. In the jargon of formal economics, you are not satisfying your long-run inter-temporal budget constraint as you borrow to finance the interest rate on your previous debt, and are thus following an unsustainable debt dynamics that eventually leads to outright insolvency.

According to Hyman Minsky and economic theory, Ponzi agents (households, firms, banks) are those who need to borrow more to repay both principal and interest on their previous debt; i.e., Minsky's "Ponzi borrowers" cannot service either interest or principal payments on their debts. They are called "Ponzi borrowers" as they need persistently increasing prices of the assets they invested in to keep on refinancing their debt obligations.

By this standard, U.S. households whose debt relative to income went from 65% 15 years ago, to 100% in 2000, to 135% today were playing a Ponzi game.

And an economy where the total debt to GDP ratio (of households, financial firms and corporations) is now 350% is a Made-Off Ponzi economy. And now that home values have fallen 20% (and they will fall another 20% before they bottom out) and equity prices have fallen over 50% (and may fall further), using homes as an ATM to finance Ponzi consumption is not feasible any more. The party is over for households, banks and non-bank highly leveraged corporations.

The bursting of the housing bubble, the equity bubble, the hedge funds bubble and the private equity bubble showed that most of the "wealth" that supported the massive leverage and overspending of agents in the economy was a fake bubble-driven wealth. Now that these bubble have burst, it is clear that the emperor had no clothes, and that we are the naked emperor. A rising bubble tide was hiding the fact that most Americans and their banks were swimming naked; and the bursting of the bubble is the low tide that shows who was naked.

Madoff may now spend the rest of his life in prison. U.S. households, financial and non-financial firms, and government may spend the next generation in debtor's prison having to tighten their belts to pay for the losses inflicted by a decade or more of reckless leverage, over-consumption and risk-taking.

Americans, let us look at ourselves in the mirror: Madoff is us and Mr. Ponzi is us!

Bipartisanship Privateers

WASHINGTON — The White House stopped short on Friday of endorsing legislation to severely tax bonuses paid to executives of companies that accepted taxpayer bailout funds.

Administration officials said instead that President Obama would assess the potential effect of the bill that emerged from Congress on efforts to stabilize the financial system.

At the same time, as Wall Street executives anxiously pondered the ramifications of the measure quickly passed by the House this week, some Senate Republicans began to voice opposition to the legislation, saying it was hasty and abusive...

Of course, it's okay to terminate contracts of hundreds of thousands of American workers. That has no effect on the $ystem, right? But you must honor those contracts, even if the privateers don't work at AIG anymore.

Because they're Company boys and girls.

Meanwhile, more people question the rectitude of the righteous regulators:

...The relationship between AIG and Goldman goes back long enough that one would think that Goldman would know, having bought so much of this "insurance" or whatever it was, whether the "products" were ...er...real or feasible at all. Indeed, Goldman and AIG almost merged a few years ago, but Spitzer notes that the unknown black hole of AIG's business practices were probably what prevented it. Still, that didn't stop the incestuous dealings; it almost makes one think that this whole thing was a setup.

This is country that Spitzer is familiar with; he has been a terrible liability to entities that, under the Bush administration, were allowed to literally gut the country and its citizens. All of this seems to have been part of the Bush Administration's own Ponzi Scheme, which figured that the illusion of an ownership society, terrified of the "terraism" and steeped in the me, me, me, culture would look the other way while they finished clearing out the vault. Beyond that, it's clear that the media hyped housing bubble encouraged the house flip mentality and the idea that anyone could be rich. The idea of the lottery dropping on our own heads made us more protective of the rich, because we might one day be one....or look, we could be one with no money down, if we could just balance that on this, and flip that house!!

Every week came a new offer from our bank or credit card to just put the enclosed check into the bank for a $50,000 loan, unsecured and with a low APR!! Who would know that those same banks would go out of their way to cause a day or week default by changing the cycle or stopping refusing cards that went over-limit, in order to charge fees and raise the rates. Who could know that the fine print on all those little fliers talking about privacy rights and how they are selling all of our information, also said that by-the-way the interest rate is now 25% and the minimum payment has tripled! Default on that and likely AIG has sold insurance to your lending institution that should repay them for making the bad loan in the first place....no money down mortgages? No problem....its the same story. This is the ownership society and we all need to own alot of stuff. It is... what did he say?...uniquely American!

Spitzer was questioning this back in February 2008 when he wrote his Valentine to predatory lenders in the Washington Post. He detailed that Attorneys General across the country had entered into litigation in an attempt to protect the people of their states from predatory lending. The response from the federal government was astounding!

What did the Bush administration do in response? Did it reverse course and decide to take action to halt this burgeoning scourge? As Americans are now painfully aware, with hundreds of thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure and our markets reeling, the answer is a resounding no.

Not only did the Bush administration do nothing to protect consumers, it embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented campaign to prevent states from protecting their residents from the very problems to which the federal government was turning a blind eye...

In 2003, during the height of the predatory lending crisis, the OCC invoked a clause from the 1863 National Bank Act to issue formal opinions preempting all state predatory lending laws, thereby rendering them inoperative. The OCC also promulgated new rules that prevented states from enforcing any of their own consumer protection laws against national banks. The federal government's actions were so egregious and so unprecedented that all 50 state attorneys general, and all 50 state banking superintendents, actively fought the new rules.

But the unanimous opposition of the 50 states did not deter, or even slow, the Bush administration in its goal of protecting the banks. In fact, when my office opened an investigation of possible discrimination in mortgage lending by a number of banks, the OCC filed a federal lawsuit to stop the investigation.

It's nice to see the bonding of the contentious pirates that rule. After all, Company unity is what makes the Amerika Empire work.

Friday, March 20, 2009

DIversionary Tactic for the Financial Shock Doctrine

Even The Washington Pravda is asking Does Geithner Get It?

But the greater question is: Does America? Paul Craig Roberts:

Professor Michael Hudson (CounterPunch, March 18) is correct that the orchestrated outrage over the $165 million AIG bonuses is a diversion from the thousand times greater theft from taxpayers of the approximately $200 billion “bailout” of AIG. Nevertheless, it is a diversion that serves an important purpose. It has taught an inattentive American public that the elites run the government in their own private interests.

Americans are angry that AIG executives are paying themselves millions of dollars in bonuses after having cost the taxpayers an exorbitant sum. Senator Charles Grassley put a proper face on the anger when he suggested that the AIG executives “follow the Japanese example and resign or go commit suicide.”

Yet, Obama’s White House economist, Larry Summers, on whose watch as Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration financial deregulation got out of control, invoked the “sanctity of contracts” in defense of the AIG bonuses.

But the Obama administration does not regard other contracts as sacred. Specifically: labor unions had to agree to give-backs in order for the auto companies to obtain federal help; CNN reports that “Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed Tuesday [March 10] that the Obama administration is considering a controversial plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance”; the Washington Post reports that the Obama team has set its sights on downsizing Social Security and Medicare.

According to the Post, Obama said that “it is impossible to separate the country’s financial ills from the long-term need to rein in health-care costs, stabilize Social Security and prevent the Medicare program from bankrupting the government.”

After Washington’s trillion dollar bank bailouts and trillion dollar gratuitous wars for the sake of the military industry’s profits and Israeli territorial expansion, there is no money for Social Security and Medicare.

The US government breaks its contracts with US citizens on a daily basis, but AIG’s bonus contracts are sacrosanct. The Social Security contract was broken when the government decided to tax 85% of the benefits. It was broken again when the Clinton administration rigged the inflation measure in order to beat retirees out of their cost-of-living adjustments. To have any real Medicare coverage, a person has to give up part of his Social Security check to pay Medicare Part B premium and then take out a private supplemental policy. The true cost of Medicare to beneficiaries is about $6,000 annually in premiums, plus deductibles and the Medicare tax if the person is still earning.

Treasury Secretary Geithner, the fox in charge of the hen house, has resolved the problem for us. He is going to withhold $165 million (the amount of the AIG bonuses) from the next taxpayer payment to AIG of $30,000 million. If someone handed you $30,000 dollars, would you mind if they held back $165?

PR flaks have rechristened the bonus payments “retention payments” necessary if AIG is to retain crucial employees. This lie was shot down by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who informed the House Committee on Financial Services that the payments went to members of AIG’s Financial Products subsidiary, “the unit of AIG that was principally responsible for the firm’s meltdown.” As for retention, Cuomo pointed out that ”numerous individuals who received large ‘retention’ bonuses are no longer at the firm”.

Eliot Spitzer, the former New York Governor who was set-up in a sex scandal to prevent him investigating Wall Street’s financial gangsterism, pointed out on March 17 that the real scandal is the billions of taxpayer dollars paid to the counter-parties of AIG’s financial deals. These payments, Spitzer writes, are “a way to hide an enormous second round of cash to the same group that had received TARP money already.”

Goldman Sachs, for example, had already received a taxpayer cash infusion of $25 billion and was sitting on more than $100 billion in cash when the Wall Street firm received another $13 billion via the AIG bailout.

Moreover, in my opinion, most of the billions of dollars in AIG counter-party payments were unnecessary. They represent gravy paid to firms that had made risk-free bets, the non-payment of which constituted no threat to financial solvency.

Spitzer identifies a conflict of interest that could possibly be criminal self-dealing. According to reports, the AIG bailout decision involved Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, formerly of Goldman Sachs, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, and Timothy Geithner, former New York Federal Reserve president and currently Secretary of the Treasury. No doubt the incestuous relationships are the reason the original bailout deal had no oversight or transparency.

The Bush/Obama bailouts require serious investigation. Were these bailouts necessary, or were they a scam, like “weapons of mass destruction,” used to advance a private agenda behind a wall of fear? Recently I heard Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, a member of a congressional bailout oversight panel, say on NPR that the US has far too many banks. Out of the financial crisis, she said, should come consolidation with the financial sector consisting of a few mega-banks. Was the whole point of the bailout to supply taxpayer money for a program of financial concentration?

Yah think?


...I’ll leave to others the question of who knew or should have known that the bonus firestorm was coming; but it’s part of a pattern. At every stage, Geithner et al have made it clear that they still have faith in the people who created the financial crisis — that they believe that all we have is a liquidity crisis that can be undone with a bit of financial engineering, that “governments do a bad job of running banks” (as opposed, presumably, to the wonderful job the private bankers have done), that financial bailouts and guarantees should come with no strings attached.

This was bad analysis, bad policy, and terrible politics. This administration, elected on the promise of change, has already managed, in an astonishingly short time, to create the impression that it’s owned by the wheeler-dealers. And that leaves it with no ability to counter crude populism.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Military Industrial Complex Sunscreen to Halt Global Warming

If our CO2 emissions turn up the heat, we'll just turn down the thermostat by living in the shade.

An intelligent comment from AJ:

"This is bar none the worst idea I have ever heard. The whole climate change problem stems directly from the law of unintended consequences. While some of these outlandish ideas might actually fix the problems they are intended to address, they are also guaranteed to create a host of other problems that we couldn't possibly hope to foresee."

That is very well said.

Speaking as a pro-environment liberal progressive, I find this apalling when Al Gore or the TED intelligentsia wax poetic about it too.

Global warming is real. It's so real it may be responsible for ending the Little Ice Age of the last millenium. It promises much chaos if the poles permanently melt over the next century, but nothing compared to the chaos another Ice Age might cause if they screw up the environment by shutting out too much sunlight.

Yes, 20 meters of water over Manhattan by 2100 would be a disaster. But a kilometer of glacial ice over every city north of the Ohio River would effectively end modern civilization, too.

Melting the poles is to be avoided, but it's not incompatible with life. Some of the most biologically diverse periods in geological history have been when the poles were melted. Massive disruption and relocations of coastal populations over a generation would happen, but fertile areas in the Northern United States, Canada, and Siberia would remain. In fact, they would expand northward, as there's a lot of new arable land that would thaw.

Civilization would adjust- barring powerful fools with nukes and Little Boots complexes.

Only idiots would intentionally block the sun to avert global warming. The cure would be far more deadly than the disease. Unfortunately there are idiots ruling everywhere. It almost seems requisite for the job description.

Who are these "people" of which you speak?

“Their mythology starts with the false premise that these are irreplaceable geniuses.”

Well, maybe if you are a product of Regent University the Bu$hie Bunnypants hired.

To which the Mouth of Bu$hCo speaks:

"...it seems that Dana Perino, former President Bush’s press secretary, didn’t receive the memo. On C-Span’s Washington Journal on Sunday, Perino defended the bonuses:

PERINO: And the people who are working there that are middle-class people, are expecting to get this bonus. If they do not get it, maybe they won’t be motivated enough to try to help the company turn around and getting the company to turn around and be more profitable is important for all of us.

Perino then chastised the “rhetoric in Washington” that “can try to make things so black and white, and make things sound so easy — demonize people when I don’t think that that’s fair.”

Especially when 11 of the executives who earned $1 million or more don't even work at AIG any more.

Now that the stars have changed again, these Old Ones are out on the streets. One supposes, like David Addington or Alberto Gonnzales, these stalwarts are having a hard time finding jobs elsewhere. Apparently Atilla the Hun just isn't hiring anymore.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Emergent Market Banksterism for Herd Identity

The indignation goes viral, but they're raging over the tip of the iceberg.

It is organized crime, though. Think of Shystee's Emergent Conspiracy Theory, though, and not Don Corleone. The worst banksters are as easy to spot among all the players as a single zebra in a stampeding herd.

Of course, if you break up the herd, you make it easier to pick out the leaders.

Meg White at Buzzflash:

...perhaps we can save a million here or there by stopping at least some of these bonuses before the checks go out. But that won't solve the main problem of getting these clowns out of a place where they can keep taking undue risks with the American economy and taxpayer money. They should be fired, regardless of what happens with their bonus bucks.

Strangely enough, it's The Wall Street Pravda, pissed that the bonuses of its favorites are under fire and jealous at the Company that played everyone, that comes closest to fingering the Dons:

...Taxpayers have already put up $173 billion, or more than a thousand times the amount of those bonuses, to fund the government's AIG "rescue." This federal takeover, never approved by AIG shareholders, uses the firm as a conduit to bail out other institutions. After months of government stonewalling, on Sunday night AIG officially acknowledged where most of the taxpayer funds have been going.

Since September 16, AIG has sent $120 billion in cash, collateral and other payouts to banks, municipal governments and other derivative counterparties around the world. This includes at least $20 billion to European banks. The list also includes American charity cases like Goldman Sachs, which received at least $13 billion. This comes after months of claims by Goldman that all of its AIG bets were adequately hedged and that it needed no "bailout." Why take $13 billion then? This needless cover-up is one reason Americans are getting angrier as they wonder if Washington is lying to them about these bailouts.
* * *

Given that the government has never defined "systemic risk," we're also starting to wonder exactly which system American taxpayers are paying to protect. It's not capitalism, in which risk-takers suffer the consequences of bad decisions. And in some cases it's not even American. The U.S. government is now in the business of distributing foreign aid to offshore financiers, laundered through a once-great American company...

The politicians also prefer to talk about AIG's latest bonus payments because they deflect attention from Washington's failure to supervise AIG. The Beltway crowd has been selling the story that AIG failed because it operated in a shadowy unregulated world and cleverly exploited gaps among Washington overseers. Said President Obama yesterday, "This is a corporation that finds itself in financial distress due to recklessness and greed." That's true, but Washington doesn't want you to know that various arms of government approved, enabled and encouraged AIG's disastrous bet on the U.S. housing market.

Scott Polakoff, acting director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, told the Senate Banking Committee this month that, contrary to media myth, AIG's infamous Financial Products unit did not slip through the regulatory cracks. Mr. Polakoff said that the whole of AIG, including this unit, was regulated by his agency and by a "college" of global bureaucrats...

And his agency wasn't the only federal regulator. AIG's Financial Products unit has been overseen for years by an SEC-approved monitor. And AIG didn't just make disastrous bets on housing using those infamous credit default swaps. AIG made the same stupid bets on housing using money in its securities lending program, which was heavily regulated at the state level. State, foreign and various U.S. federal regulators were all looking over AIG's shoulder and approving the bad housing bets...

There is a word for what went on in the last years of the Bu$h administration.

It's called a feeding frenzy.

But this frenzy was planned by the sharks that walked away with the alligator skin wingtips.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Only Paranoiacs Distrust Their Ruling Class...

So scoff our betters, of course, via a paranoiac hangout-

The highest levels of the Obama administration are infested with members of a shadowy, elitist cabal intent on installing a one-world government that subverts the will of the American people.

It sounds crazy, but that’s what a group of very persistent conspiracy theorists insists, and they point to President Obama’s nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, as the latest piece of evidence supporting their claims.

It turns out that Sebelius – like top administration economists Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers and Paul Volcker, as well as leading Obama diplomats Richard Holbrooke and Dennis Ross – is a Bilderberger. That is, she is someone who has participated in the annual invitation-only conference held by an elite international organization known as the Bilderberg group...

Past participants have included Margaret Thatcher, who attended the 1975 meeting at Turkey’s Golden Dolphin Hotel, former media mogul Conrad Black, who has been to more than a dozen conferences, and Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, King Juan Carlos of Spain and top officials of BP, IBM, Barclays and the Bank of England...

The fulminating is aggravated by Obama's preference for surrounding himself with well-credentialed, well-connected, and well-traveled elites. His personnel choices have touched a populist, even paranoid nerve among those who are convinced powerful elites and secret societies are moving the planet toward a new world order.

Their worldview, characterized by a deep and angry suspicion of the ruling class rather than any prevailing partisan or ideological affiliation, is widely articulated on overnight AM radio shows and a collection of Internet websites...<

Now, there is no question the One has surrounded himself with "...well-credentialed, well-connected, and well-traveled elites". No red flags, there, from the people at Politico. There seems to be no problem with acknowledging the "ruling class", either. What our journalistic elite seem to have problems with is the sense of "deep and angry suspicion" out here where the far left wing of cyberspace meets the far right and agrees the Constitution is in deep, deep trouble.

We feel this way for many of the same reasons. Elites fit better in an Empire than a Republic. We didn't like Bu$hCo-Cheneyburton carrying "the white man's burden". Should we be more comfortable with a pseudo African-Amerikan figurehead Leader than a pseudo South Texas oilman?

But let's allow a little illumination of the Illuminati. They don't sit up at night plotting to take over the world. Our betters simply think a lot about how to make as much money as they possibly can, in a world more crowded and with less resources to exploit every day. Naturally, they prefer the company and association of people with the Right Stuff.

They don't plot to take over your world, but they'd prefer you kept your place, serving them in theirs.

They don't have to plot to take over our world. They already own it. They already own you.

They're the ruling class, and we are the ruled.

Drone Wars

Can cylons be far behind?

A missile fired by an American drone killed at least four people late Sunday at the house of a militant commander in northwest Pakistan, the latest use of what intelligence officials have called their most effective weapon against Al Qaeda.

And Pentagon officials say the remotely piloted planes, which can beam back live video for up to 22 hours, have done more than any other weapons system to track down insurgents and save American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan...

And the four people killed late Sunday at the home of a militant commander? Militants? Combatants? Civilians? Innocent? Guilty? Or just more statistics?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Masters of War

The Undead walk among us.

WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday that Americans are less safe now that President Barack Obama has overturned Bush terrorism-fighting policies and that nearly all the Republican administration's goals in Iraq have been achieved...

Bob Dylan had a few things to say about Darth Cheney's type of people.

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead

"You are special, yes you really are..."

Of course, some are more special than others.

As my kids used to ask long ago, "Because Why?"

In a world where the main$tream asserts real conspiracies don't exist, several top AIG executives are being indicted for fraud and conspiracy.

Perhaps more interesting are the unindicted co-conspirators, such as Maurice ``Hank'' Greenberg, former chief executive officer of AIG, who's being sued for misappropriation of millions, and who's also working nowadays for Starr International. That's a multinational corporation run by the Starr family- and as you might have guess, Monicagate prosecutor Ken Starr is part of that blood. Maurice Greenberg was apparently once floated as a potential appointment director of the CIA in 1995.

But it gets even weirder. Most of the primary links down this rabbithole have vaporized, as you can see from that RI board post.

...AIG was founded by OSS operative Cornelius V. Starr (2 R’s), the uncle of Clinton’s friend Kenneth Starr. AIG was created for and is currently a front which provides cover for intelligence community illicit operations. In 2001, AIG owned a Risk Management firm called Kroll Associates.

Kroll played a major role in the events of September 11th, and continues to this day to enable events like the 7-7 and 7-21 bombings in the London Tube system… they then go on TV and provide “expert” counterterrorism testimony to the goldfish at home tuned into FoxNews and the like.

While Kroll provided the necessary operational capability, in part, for what was perpetrated; AIG and Marsh were focused on participating in both short and long-term money schemes. Kroll’s Jerome Hauer (a long time personal friend of ex-FBI Counterterrorism & Osama bin Laden expert John O’Neill) hired O’Neill as head of security for the WTC.

Kroll had also managed the bunker in WTC 7 for Guiliani, and Kroll’s board of directors shared one peculiar member in common with AIG; that being Frank G. Wisner Jr., son of OSS co-Founder Frank Wisner. I won’t go into the history of the OSS, Reinhard Gehlen, or the Council on Foreign Relations / Dulles affiliation with its creation, but I can recommend an excellent book, wherein its relevance is comprehensively documented; the title you’re looking for is: The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA by Burton Hersh (and printed in 1992)...

This rabbit hole gets very deep very quickly: AIG seems to have been moving money around covertly for the CIA since its inception and involved in every dirty dealing ever since.

Although you have a hard time following links in this story: there seems to be a high rate of drift. The bare bones of the connections are still plain to see. That is, if you are inclined to believe a board on a site mostly concerned with UFOs and things that go bump in the night.

One speculates that AIG won't be allowed to fail, although it may be transformed into something different, if only to throw off the trail of blood.

Return of the Zombified Market Avengers

Via Atrios

HORSHAM, England (Reuters) - The Treasury will offer more details in the coming week about how proposed public-private partnerships to take bad assets off banks' books will work, a senior department official said on Saturday.

The proposal for such partnerships was first made by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in February but the lack of detail about them at the time disappointed financial markets led to a sharp drop in stock prices.

Many analysts say the problem of toxic assets -- particularly mortgages gone bad as a result of the U.S. housing bust -- is at the heart of banks' reluctance to lend and must be dealt with before credit markets can operate normally again.

The Treasury official told reporters it wants to put out enough information in the coming week so that potential participants can better judge the proposal and it wants to indicate the timeframe within which it is expected to become operational.

Geithner, who was in southern England to meet finance ministers from Group of 20 nations, had indicated that something was likely soon but gave no details...

You, too, can be a weiner.

The Company doesn't care whether or not the recovery is real, only if the $ystem can make the Undead Empire walk.

"... they create desolation and call it peace."


Chris Floyd dissects the rise of the New Americans among the Oborg, and of course, it's all good.

...despite the glaring transparency of the NYT's stovepiping duties, it is still instructive to watch these operations in action now and then, if only to keep one's bullshit detector in fighting trim. And a story by Thom Shanker highlighted in the Times on Saturday provides an excellent example of this venerable and pernicious process.

The nugget of "news" in the story was unsurprising -- but its implications were no less disturbing for that. Shanker, in the usual cringing courtier mode of our higher media, funnels the usual unexamined, unquestioned spin of the usual anonymous "senior official" to let the rabble know that the poobahs on the Potomac are gearing up to fight even more wars simultaneously all over the globe. Specifically, what we have is -- as Shanker puts it in the inelegant prose that characterizes most NYT pieces - a "rethink [of] what for more than two decades has been a central premise of American strategy: that the nation need only prepare to fight two major wars at a time."

No, what we need now, says Shanker's Anonymous Militarist, is the ability to fight every damn body every damn where in every damn kind of way. Not just a two-front war, but three-front wars, four-front wars, counterinsurgencies, police actions, nation-building (with the preceding nation-destroying, of course), on and on, all at the same time.

Nowhere -- absolutely nowhere -- does the story give the slightest space for even the briefest consideration of a viewpoint that questions in even the mildest way the assumption that the United States should and must be prepared at all times to wage war on multiple fronts all over the world, forever. No, this "need" is simply a given -- for Thom Shanker, for the New York Times, and for the bipartisan Beltway elite...

Retaining the Best and the Brightest Thieves

WASHINGTON — The American International Group, which has received more than $170 billion in taxpayer bailout money from the Treasury and Federal Reserve, plans to pay about $165 million in bonuses by Sunday to executives in the same business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year.

Word of the bonuses last week stirred such deep consternation inside the Obama administration that Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner told the firm they were unacceptable and demanded they be renegotiated, a senior administration official said. But the bonuses will go forward because lawyers said the firm was contractually obligated to pay them.

The payments to A.I.G.’s financial products unit are in addition to $121 million in previously scheduled bonuses for the company’s senior executives and 6,400 employees across the sprawling corporation. Mr. Geithner last week pressured A.I.G. to cut the $9.6 million going to the top 50 executives in half and tie the rest to performance.

The payment of so much money at a company at the heart of the financial collapse that sent the broader economy into a tailspin almost certainly will fuel a popular backlash against the government’s efforts to prop up Wall Street. Past bonuses already have prompted President Obama and Congress to impose tough rules on corporate executive compensation at firms bailed out with taxpayer money.

A.I.G., nearly 80 percent of which is now owned by the government, defended its bonuses, arguing that they were promised last year before the crisis and cannot be legally canceled. In a letter to Mr. Geithner, Edward M. Liddy, the government-appointed chairman of A.I.G., said at least some bonuses were needed to keep the most skilled executives.

“We cannot attract and retain the best and the brightest talent to lead and staff the A.I.G. businesses — which are now being operated principally on behalf of American taxpayers — if employees believe their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury,” he wrote Mr. Geithner on Saturday...

They say an honest politician is one who stays bought, and it certainly looks like the banksters got a good deal in the Oborg.

“the largest middle-class tax increase in history.”

Packaging does not neccessarily resemble content.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is signaling to Congress that the president could support taxing some employee health benefits, as several influential lawmakers and many economists favor, to help pay for overhauling the health care system.

The proposal is politically problematic for President Obama, however, since it is similar to one he denounced in the presidential campaign as “the largest middle-class tax increase in history.” Most Americans with insurance get it from their employers, and taxing workers for the benefit is opposed by union leaders and some businesses.

In television advertisements last fall, Mr. Obama criticized his Republican rival for the presidency, Senator John McCain of Arizona, for proposing to tax all employer-provided health benefits. The benefits have long been tax-free, regardless of how generous they are or how much an employee earns. The advertisements did not point out that Mr. McCain, in exchange, wanted to give all families a tax credit to subsidize the purchase of coverage.

At the time, even some Obama supporters said privately that he might come to regret his position if he won the election; in effect, they said, he was potentially giving up an important option to help finance his ambitious health care agenda to reduce medical costs and to expand coverage to the 46 million uninsured Americans...

As with the Bu$h administration, there are always the Some and They, the measured pragmatists telling everyone how it really ought to be done.

Unless there's a great political groundswell all your health benefits are about to be taxed. And if there is a popular opposition against it, the One will get on the tube and tell everybody, why, this wasn't his idea, but some nameless faceless person in his Administration, and of course he won't let it happen.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Not gone, just walked off to look for America

[thanks to Mr. Fish]

Meet the New Boss

Overtly Kinder, gentler, speech using more Hope, but really pretty much same as the old boss:

The Obama administration said Friday that it would abandon the Bush administration’s term “enemy combatant” as it argues in court for the continued detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in a move that seemed intended to symbolically separate the new administration from Bush detention policies.

But in a much anticipated court filing, the Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration...

What is this "won't be fooled again" of which you speak?

Another Notch in the Gun

Earlier this week this created a momentary alert in the left wing of cyberspace. Seymour Hersch:

..."Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command -- JSOC it’s called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. ...

"Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths.

"Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.

"It’s complicated because the guys doing it are not murderers, and yet they are committing what we would normally call murder. It’s a very complicated issue. Because they are young men that went into the Special Forces. The Delta Forces you’ve heard about. Navy Seal teams. Highly specialized.

"In many cases, they were the best and the brightest. Really, no exaggerations. Really fine guys that went in to do the kind of necessary jobs that they think you need to do to protect America. And then they find themselves torturing people..."

Now one wonders if this wing still does not report to anybody, whether they've returned to plausible deniablity mode, or whether they're still reporting to the same people they have for the last 10 years.

What one doesn't wonder at is the total lack of official outrage. It's only here in the wilds of cyberspace you can find people even talking about it. In the more main$tream boards it's "Sy Hersch was all wrong about Iran, why should we believe him now".

But was he, really, any more than Clinton was wrong about the Y2K danger? In both cases people got motivated to action, and something bad didn't happen. Quite likely because people got motivated to act.

This issue, though, faces the same kind of progressive inertia now that every other issue the Oborg disregard.

Plausible deniablity from those in denial mode. It's the Economy, stupid. Certainly it's the stupid the Company find useful idiots.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Struggle

Glen Ford at the Black Agenda Report says what really needs to be said.

Lots of folks on the left, it is now apparent, no longer seek anything more than to bask in the sunshine of Barack Obama’s smile. No matter how much national treasure their champion transfers to the bankster class, and despite his exceeding George W. Bush in military spending, so-called progressives for Obama continue to celebrate their imagined emergence as players in the national political saga. Having in practice foresworn resistance to Power, they relish in bashing the non-Obamite Left...

Left Obamites only weakly “criticize” and virtually never “resist” Obama’s rightist policies and appointments in the crucial military and economic arenas – which was, first, the fear and, later, the main complaint of the non-Obamite Left. The Obama Effect is to neutralize Blacks and the Left (Blacks being the main electoral base of the American Left) by capturing their enthusiasm for Obama’s own corporate purposes. Obama and his Democratic Leadership Council allies (and their corporate masters) monopolize the “motion,” all the while shutting out even mildly Left voices (as in the recent White House Forum on Health, from which single payer health care advocates were initially barred). Blacks and the Left have not been in any kind of effective forward “motion” since Election Day. As we shall see, Burnham’s definition of “motion” does not involve confronting Power, but rather, attaching oneself to it.

“Whatever kind of “evil” Hillary and Bill are, Obama is.”

Policy-wise, Obama no more “represents a substantial, principally positive political shift” than his political twin, Hillary – again, color aside...

Obama is “just another steward of capitalism, more attractive than most, but not an agent of fundamental change.” This has been easily observed, since Blacks and the Left have allowed Obama to act upon his corporate and imperial instincts, unimpeded by even the mildest counter-pressures. His presidency takes shape to the Right of Democratic congressional leaders, who have made more noise over Obama’s Iraq trickle-out and his clear threats to Social Security and other “entitlements,” than have many Left Obamites.

Obama is not simply “bound to disappoint” – he has already been cause for great disappointment, even among those of us who scoped his essential corporatist nature years ago. Who would have predicted that he would play the most eager Gunga Din for the bizarre Bush/Paulson bank bailout decree, last year? Who would have foreseen that Obama would retain the loathsome international criminal Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense? That he would continue Bush’s policies on Africa – Zimbabwe, Sudan, Somalia, AFRICOM – without missing a beat? That he would so quickly offer to put Social Security “on the table” for “reform” (in the Republican sense of the term)?

...Obama’s military budget, bigger than Bush’s, his escalation in Afghanistan/Pakistan, the unraveling of his Iraq “withdrawal” promises, and his provocations in Africa all signal that this president has no intention of relinquishing the goal of global U.S. hegemony. To paraphrase his famous statement on war, “I’m not opposed to imperialism, just dumb imperialism...”

Obama is a Company Man. The Recovery is aimed at the Market. But strangely enough, a Recovery aimed at the Market will not lead the Market to recovery.

We have a $ystemic virus, and the to curve the disease, the $ystem must be abandoned.