Loyalty without truth
is a trail to tyranny.
|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 ]
|Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 14h 47m 20s|
Sensationalism and schadenfreude
Schadenfreude SHOD-n-froy-duh, noun:
A malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others.
Don't you just love the headline of today's San Fran Comical. Here is the
page story, and the picture that blasts at you from the the front page.
Diana Reggi breaks down at her Albany home as she talks about her son, Remo. The 20-year-old was
gunned down while sitting in a car two years ago.
[SOURCE: San Francisco Chronicle]
Some other award winning stories that actually add to the breadth of the public's knowledge:
- 3 Harrowing, Cold Nights: Father says he tried to keep his kids warm and calm during
ordeal mountain near Chico.
- Google Can Buy DoubleClick: Federal antitrust regulators clear search giant's $3.1
billion purchase of online ad firm
- Huckabee On Giuliani's Heels. Poll: Largely unknown candidate soars to second place in
state GOP presidential race.
- Vallejo House Fire Kills 3. Officials investigating blaze that broke out just after
- Woman's Body Found In Landfill. Slain victim discovered in Milpitas site. Convicted
felon, who may have been personal trainer, arrested.
- Girl With Object In Throat Dies. Tot rushed to the hospital last week dies of her
injuries. Teen boy will now face murder charge.
Are you kidding me? What is relevant about the suffering and pain experienced by other people? Why
is that news?
There are other stories ( MySpace sex phobias, Tacoma's ban on certain types of alcohol) but not
one story on the recent FCC decision to allow one media company own a radio, television, and
newspaper in the same market. Despite the overwhelmingly unananimous public opinions to the
contrary at the 3 hastily erected public forums, FCC boy chairmen Kevin Martin gave the
corporations what they wanted, the will of the people be damned. Here is a
link to that story from Marketwatch.
It's disgusting how they couch this as some egalitarian free market approach. This is creating
media monopoly, and Keven Martin is padding his resume. Watch what his first job is after he
as FCC chairmen next year. Follow the money, and pay attention to the actions of man-servants who
UPDATE:Kevin Martin and the Republicans all like to say they are relaxing the rules because
of declining profits in the newspaper market, and they assert that combining the staffs will save
jobs. Note that these business are not losing money. Profits might be less, but the rate of
profit is still comparable with the average corporation on the S&P 500.
And these people always say they are saving jobs to get what they want. Every single media
consolidation that has occurred since 1980 has caused a round of staff firings, centralization of
news services, and pundit programing because it's cheaper. And since you have a captive audience
because you are the only company in town, who exists to provide alternatives? That's the
And what happens when the internet service providers decide to create traffic lanes on the internet
in order to milk more money from the users? You should know the answer.
|Thursday, 20 December 2007 at 0h 23m 50s|
Private mercenaries at work
And play ...
Last week, Rep. Ted Poe (REPUBLICAN-TX) said on CNN that he did not believe that gang rape
in Iraq of former Halliburton/KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones was “an isolated case of assault.” Poe
then encouraged “other victims” to notify his office.
[SOURCE: Think Progress ]
Some video of the Congressional testimony by one of the women, Jaime Leigh Jones, can be located at
the source below.
Jamie Leigh Jones, now 22, says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green
Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she
left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job.
“Don’t plan on working back in Iraq. There won’t be a position here, and there won’t be a position
in Houston,” Jones says she was told.
[SOURCE: Jesse Lee The Gavel]
Ever notice how news and information distribution is being taken over by journalist blogsites.
News shows are even now sourcing their own information from various blog journalist sources.
People who call themselves journalists that work for traditional media (television, newspapers) are
really no different than you or me, except maybe experience and a better ability to write everyday
than most people. But you too can use the telephone, do the research, fly to the locations, and
cull various connections. Of course it does help when it's your job, and the company backs you up
with funds to do the job. Assuming that is what the conglomerated media do.
Nope, it's hyperbole and trivialization with actual depth of information being replaced by quotes
from various politico's who caress the truth with ambiguity, brought to you by creamed and pomaded
rich people who look at the cameras and read the news like tying a knot in very cold weather.
That's why the blogoshere was able to explode. The number of persons who read and want to know
aren't going to participate in mental depravity. The old media is destroying itself. Media
ownership needs to be diverse in order to offer variety and obtain a functional competition. The
consolidation of media companies into only 10 to 20 across the nation owning 95% necessitates
I've discussed this before in earlier posts, but I'll re-explain. When large blocks of economic
control and wealth consolidate into a small number of equal sized institutions, competition is
expensive and unpredictable. Legal and advertizing costs are much higher. Groups of allies form
to mutual benefit because it is in the best interest of everyone to just keep prices high and divy
up the market. It happens that way historically for a reason. When instead, the number of
competitors is in the tens of thousands, or hundreds, the amount of people involved in
prohibitive. 20 to 50 CEO's and their assistants is small compared to 600 or 6,000. It is
possible to know 50 people. I myself know probably 1000 people and counting this year alone,
although the chances are good that I might not remember 20 to 30% by name.
Collusion between a small number of very large firms is so normative that some persons even realize
the clothes they wear have corporate logos. The European Medieval aristocracy used to have designs
and emblems that represented the line of wealth (the estate) and corporate logos have become and
extension of that historical root. Except nowadays the peasants who tote the emblem of their lords
don't really know they are doing so, because unlike the actual human form of a Baron or King, there
is no human face to a Nike symbol. It manifests its existence in legal forms, with factories in
distant lands and servants who distribute and purchase supplies. Those who man the helm of the
corporate office are just the current navigators, and those who own the boat they sail are filthy
Check out this site, especially the pie charts. The "investment
assets" and "Housing, Liquid Assets, Pension Assets, and Debt" is about 1/5 th of the way down.
the top one percent of households have 44.1% of all privately held stock, 58.0% of financial
securities, and 57.3% of business equity. The top 10% have 85% to 90% of stock, bonds, trust funds,
and business equity, and over 75% of non-home real estate.
|Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 23h 31m 39s|
A Fire is a Friend Indeed
Dick Cheney's office just got burned. A fire started in the closet
DC Fire Chief has just publically stated that he cannot say where the fire started for "security"
The Agence-France Presse pap story is here
Don't you just love the way the story quickly reassures us in paragraph two that terrorists did not
set a fire in Dick Cheney's closet. Now why would a fire start in Dick Cheney's office? Aren't
document shredders working hard
|Wednesday, 19 December 2007 at 0h 45m 49s|
The moon explains the tectonic plates
The Moon affects the liquid envelope of the Earth, and the oceanic tides in particular. The Moon
affects the ocean tides more in some areas than others. For instance, in the channel between the
British Isles and the European continent, the tidal range can be 10 meters, compared to what you
see in the Pacific, where it is below a meter.
The crust of the Earth is also affected. The Moon’s tidal forcing causes significant heating and
dissipation of energy to take place. Part of this energy is heating the Earth, and part of it is
dissipated by forcing the Moon to recede from the Earth over time. There are people who propose
that the tidal effect of the Moon may have helped trigger the convection on the Earth that led to
the multi-plate tectonics. The other planets don’t have the same tectonic cycle. For most of them,
the crust is like a lid that doesn’t move much horizontally, and the magma and heat are blocked by
this lid on the surface. The Earth instead has rolling convective motion that drags the crust, and
then the crust plunges back down into the mantle and gets recycled.
[SOURCE: Bernard Foing Astrobiology Magazine ]
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