Loyalty without truth
is a trail to tyranny.
|Wednesday, 2 January 2008 at 18h 18m 8s|
What economic gifts will 2008 bring
Floyd Norris puts the economic dilemma of 2008 as follows:
In 2008, the biggest issue for Wall Street and the banks will be assessing the damage. Can the securitization market recover, and
continue to provide financing for everything from credit cards to corporate loans? Or will its failure in the area of subprime loans
spread, leaving it discredited and other parts of the economy desperate for cash?
On the answer to that question may hinge the answer to whether the latest financial crisis will pass with little impact on the real
economy, or whether it will pull down all the parts of the economy that enabled most investors to have a good year while their
brokers were suffering.
[SOURCE: Floyd Norris | New York Times | 2 January
|Sunday, 30 December 2007 at 1h 28m 53s|
Navy JAG Andrew Williams Letter to Editor
Here's why Navy JAG Andrew Williams resigned in
The final straw for me was listening to General Hartmann, the highest-ranking military lawyer in
charge of the military
commissions, testify that he refused to say that waterboarding captured U.S. soldiers by Iranian
operatives would be torture.
His testimony had just sold all the soldiers and sailors at risk of capture and subsequent torture
down the river. Indeed, he would
not rule out waterboarding as torture when done by the United States and indeed felt evidence
obtained by such methods could
be used in future trials.
Thank you, General Hartmann, for finally admitting the United States is now part of a long
tradition of torturers going back to the
In the middle ages, the Inquisition called waterboarding “toca” and used it with great success. In
colonial times, it was used by
the Dutch East India Company during the Amboyna Massacre of 1623.
Waterboarding was used by the Nazi Gestapo and the feared Japanese Kempeitai. In World War II, our
grandfathers had the
wisdom to convict Japanese Officer Yukio Asano of waterboarding and other torture practices in
1947, giving him 15 years hard
Waterboarding was practiced by the Khmer Rouge at the infamous Tuol Sleng prison. Most recently,
the U.S. Army court martialed
a soldier for the practice in 1968 during the Vietnam conflict.
General Hartmann, following orders was not an excuse for anyone put on trial in Nuremberg, and
it will not be an excuse for
you or your superiors, either.
Despite the CIA and the administration attempting to cover up the practice by destroying
interrogation tapes, in direct violation
of a court order, and congressional requests, the truth about torture, illegal spying on Americans
and secret renditions is coming
[SOURCE: Think Progress | 29 December
Williams | Letter to
Editor The Peninsula Gateway : Gig Harbor, WA |
26 December 2007]
|Sunday, 30 December 2007 at 16h 17m 2s|
Bush signs the CHIP bill
After vetoing the bill twice which included increasing Tobacco taxes so that 4 million more children could be included.
was too much for the White House and the Republicans.
The Democratic-pushed bills would have expanded the program by $35 billion. Bush said the legislation did not put the neediest
children first. He opposed the tax increase and, more broadly, fought against what he saw as a movement toward more
government health coverage.
The joint federal-state program currently provides benefits to roughly 6 million people, mostly children. Democratic lawmakers
still want to expand enrollment and are negotiating with some Republicans leaders on another try.
[SOURCE: Ben Feller AP Writer 30 December 2007 Boston Globe ]
The Republicans explain the reasons for the 2 veteos:
- the program will still serve those that it should: children from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but
cannot afford private insurance.
- they don't want to increase taxes
- they don't want to "inhibit" market forces by creating a government program
All of the above reasons are ludicrous political cover for the slavish devotion to predatory private insurance corporations. When
institutions evolve which develop privileged positions within the hierarchy of distribution, a society must reflect on the actual
benefits to the larger society. If the institutions in question are providing less than adequate service at increasing costs, it is
obvious that the said institutions have become predatory to the socio-economic system at large.
Businesses and individuals would all benefit from nationalized health insurance, because a pool of funds from the entire citizenry
enables cost efficiencies that are otherwise impossible when the market is segmented into various types of individuals : young,
old, healthy, and persons with terminal illnesses or costly diseases (cancer, heart ailments, asthma, diabetes). Instead the costs
of misallocating resources to those who can afford them, and covering those who cannot, are passed on to the consumers -- ie,
those who pay insurance premiums.
In other words, the costs of insurance company inefficiency and 30% overhead are bourne by ratepayers. These are the "market
forces" the Republicants don't want to "inhibit". The corporatists are really just apologists for predatory institutions that put
money in their retirement funds.
|Sunday, 30 December 2007 at 15h 53m 26s|
Ron Paul rips Fox News
Ron Paul said the decision to exclude him from a debate on Fox News Sunday the weekend before the New Hampshire Primary is
proof that the network “is scared” of him.
“They are scared of me and don’t want my message to get out, but it will,” Paul said in an interview at a diner here. “They are
propagandists for this war and I challenge them on the notion that they are conservative.”
[SOURCE: James Pindell 30 December 2007 Boston Globe]
|Sunday, 30 December 2007 at 5h 15m 14s|
Fixed rate mortgage expirations in Britain
The home mortgage crisis is not only in the United States.
Last month, the Financial Services Authority estimated that 1.4 million homeowners faced a
potentially devastating hike in repayments when their fixed-rate mortgage terms expired in 2008:
the authority said it feared many would "find it difficult, if not impossible, to refinance their
mortgages on favourable terms, leaving them facing a significantly higher rate on their borrowings,
which will prove too much for them to afford".
[SOURCE: Joanna Moorhead 29 December 2007 The London
|Sunday, 30 December 2007 at 4h 59m 20s|
Let's not forget about Kurdistan
Just in case you forgot about Kurdistan. Turkey has been bombarding Kurdistan, with the implicit
permission of the United States. The green area is the area where the Kurds reside. Almost all of
Western Turkey is involved, a little bit of Iran, and a small piece of Northern Iraq. In fact,
very little of Kurdish land is actually in Iraq. Easily 60% is on Turkish soil.
And now Israel is aiding the Turks in their use of Drones.
[SOURCE: Cecile Hennion 28 December 2007 Le Monde ]
Agents from the firm Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) tasked to make operational some Heron drones
(avions sans pilote), participated in operations led by Turkey in the North of Iraq,
the Turkish Daily News and Haaretz (published 27 December).
Since mid-December, Turkish air forces have multiplied their raids against the Kurdish groups PKK's
positions, killing between 150 and 175 of them, according to the Turks. Fighting against the
central authority in Ankara since 1984, the PKK has entrenched itself in the mountains of Northern
In May 2005, IAI announced the signing of a contract with Turkey for 190 million dollars in order
to buy the Heron drones. The presence of Israeli personnel as late as October 2007 was explained as
a "provisional solution." IAI accepted to rent the devices, writes Haaretz, placed in operation by
Israeli professionals, over a year for 10 million dollars.
Translated from the French by me.
|Saturday, 29 December 2007 at 1h 3m 7s|
The Office of Special Counsel
Office of Special Counsel Scott Bloch, who was recessed appointed to investigate
did a 7-level wipe on his computer and two other lap-tops. This means he deleted and wrote over
the disk drive random ones and zeroes 7 times.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent federal agency tasked with protecting the
rights of whistleblowers or other complainants that work for the federal government, investigating
whether or not government employees have properly followed restrictions on their political
activity, and defending the reemployment rights of returning war veterans.
On April 23, 2007, Scott Bloch, the head of the OSC, launched a wide investigation into the
political activities of Karl Rove. Allegedly, Rove, as well as other White House aides, had
violated federal law by giving partisan political presentations to government employees that
explicitly encouraged them to find ways to support Republican candidates. The investigation is
Scott Bloch, however, hasn't risen to his current position without controversies of his own.
Although no findings of fact have been released as of this writing, Bloch has been under
investigation since 2005 for improperly dismissing issues brought to the OSC's attention by
whistleblowers and then failing to protect said employees from retaliation.
Where things get interesting from a technical standpoint is when Bloch contacted an outside
company, Geeks on Call, for help with a technical issue nearly a year ago. Bloch claims that he
believed his computer was infected with a virus that was corrupting or deleting his files.
According to the Geeks on Call receipt, technicians visited Bloch and performed various services—
including what the company refers to as a seven-level hard drive wipe.
Read both sources for the full story
[QUOTED SOURCE: Joel Hruska 2
December 2007 Ars Technica]
[SOURCE: Elizabeth Williamson 30 November
2007 Washington Post ]
|Friday, 28 December 2007 at 20h 26m 25s|
The abyss that is becoming Pakistan
From a Washington Post article 5 months ago, titled America's Bad Deal With
Down in Flames
[SOURCE: Ahmed Rashid 17 June
2007 Washington Post]
The problem is exacerbated by a dramatic drop-off in U.S. expertise on Pakistan. Retired American
officials say that, for the first time in U.S. history, nobody with serious Pakistan experience is
working in the South Asia bureau of the State Department, on State's policy planning staff, on the
National Security Council staff or even in Vice President Cheney's office.
Current and past U.S. officials tell me that Pakistan policy is essentially being run from Cheney's
office. The vice president, they say, is close to Musharraf and refuses to brook any U.S. criticism
of him. This all fits; in recent months, I'm told, Pakistani opposition politicians visiting
Washington have been ushered in to meet Cheney's aides, rather than taken to the State Department.
No one in Foggy Bottom seems willing to question Cheney's decisions. Boucher, for one, has largely
limited his remarks on the crisis to expressions of support for Musharraf. Current and retired U.S.
diplomats tell me that throughout the previous year, Boucher refused to let the State Department
even consider alternative policies if Musharraf were threatened with being ousted, even though 2007
is an election year in Pakistan. Last winter, Boucher reportedly limited the scope of a U.S.
government seminar on Pakistan for fear that it might send a signal that U.S. support for Musharraf
was declining. Likewise, I'm told, he has refused to meet with leading opposition figures such as
former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf has exiled. (Boucher says he
has met with "people across the full political spectrum of Pakistan" during his nine visits there,
from government parties to Islamic radicals to Chaudhry's lawyer.) Meanwhile, Boucher's boss,
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, demands democracy and media freedom in Venezuela but
apparently deems such niceties irrelevant to Pakistan.
Thanks to America Blog
This story is also interesting. It links to a November interview on
a British show where
Benazir Bhutto says very casually that bin Laden was murdered by one of the Pakistani Generals.
She also discusses the overall situation in Pakistan just after the first assassination attempt in
October 2007 when a bomb exploded and killed 150 people, but she was able to escaped by jumping in
an armoured vehicle.
In the video below, she also says she is fighting against those "who want to rule by the bullet."
God bless your soul Benazir.
Now if you don't think Musharef would enable the assassination of Bhutto, then you need to consider
a few things. Musharef killed Ms. Bhutto's brother in 1996. Her father and her other brother were
also killed in incidents involving the Pakistani military going back to 1977 when General Muhammed
Zia outsted Ms. Bhutto's father.(Click here) The entire political family was taken out. I wonder if the
Bhutto's knew the Kennedy's.
|Friday, 28 December 2007 at 9h 8m 50s|
The press beats up a political thug
This story is a trip
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A government minister and his bodyguards rampaged through the offices of
a state television station Thursday, assaulting its news director before employees fought back
and took them hostage, officials and witnesses said.
View A Map of Sri Lanka From Google
maps. Sri Lanki, aka Ceylon, is the Island Southeast of India.
I wonder why the American Press has not done the same. Oh, I forgot, Freedom isn't Free.
|Sunday, 23 December 2007 at 7h 52m 55s|
The bottom is nowhere near
Photo and link courtesy of the New York Times
Click on the image above for a cool interactive graphic that lists the percentage of home mortgages
per county that are sub-prime.
What is intriguing to me, is that almost every single county has at least 20% of the home
mortgages from sub-prime criteria
(Click the pic above, and see for yourself). These loans are very risky, because there is no down
payment money to cushion the two years of payments, teaser interest rates that will spike
in a year, and the mortgage holders have a high ratio of income to house payment. 40% of sub-prime
loan default within 10 years (I heard that from Paul Krugman). There are 51 million morgages. 20%
million is about 10.2 million homes.
Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean 10.2 million securitized mortgages will all become
worthless. Homes which default can be resold, but sometimes not, and not without a loss when the
market prices drop
But what does this mean in terms of monetary loss? Well, 10.2 million times $200,000 (the average
home value) is
102 times 2 with 10 zeroes, 2,040,000,000,000 , 2.04 trillion dollars !!! Keep in mind that
various securities firms (Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs) were reporting losses in the
billions of dollars.
The effects of price deflation and market glut have yet to transpire, and that will come in the
next 5 or 6 years in various markets where the availability of land is not a factor in the housing
price. Thus of the 2,040 billion dollars in the sub-prime real estate, the other 80% of real
estate will still be affected by the price decline on the securitized assets( Securitized assets, are
bundled mortages or financial obligations that yield interest payments on a periodical basis).
Now stay with me on this. If there is a 30% decline in the housing sector for 80% of the above
2,040 billion that is not in a tight housing market like San Francisco and New York City, that is
24% of 2,040 billion dollars in lost value, which is 489.6 billion dollars.
Now if we furthermore
assume half of the remaining 20% (10% of all sub-prime mortgages) will default (which is very
conservative) then we also have to include $200,000 (the average) times 10% of 10.2 million
mortgages in lost value, which comes to 240 billion more. That makes the lump sum a conservative
low ball estimate of $730 billion dollars.
If we take the high end of 40%, then we have to add 4 times 240 to the 489.6, to get 1.5 trillion
Click on the picture for the 20 year history of various real estate markets as bar graphs. COOL!!!
Photo and link courtesy of the New York Times
Now if there are more defaults, or the economy slows down and further squeezes the market, then the
losses get closer to and begin to surmount two trillion dollars, which is about the same amount of
money wasted on the Iraq adventure. Can the out-sourced and down-sized US Economy take a 4
trillion dollar hit without anything to show for it (as in, no infrastructure was built and no
actual capital investment occurred) ?
I guess we will all find out.
[SOURCE: New York Times ]
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