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The Mendacity of Hope

November 10, 2009

Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torment of man.
– Friedrich Nietzsche

Hoping that the corporate slatterns from the lesser of two evil political parties would actually keep their promises and provide the citizens of this nation with health care is about as useful jigging for squid in the Sahara.

Hoping that a weak kneed Congress would actually stand up to the defense contractors who finance their campaigns and put a stop to the wars that rage on doesn’t amount to a pisshole in the snow.

Hoping that a president whose largest campaign contributions came from the financial industry would decide to rein in that industry’s excesses and $5 will get you a bottle of Boone’s Farm to drown your sorrows in.

If people want to see their situations improve in this country they are going to need to show a little more will, because the oligarchs sure as hell aren’t going to give us a damn thing voluntarily except their table scraps. Nietzsche knew that real power doesn’t come from hoping really hard. It’s going to take a lot more effort than merely voting for the same old clowns every two years to fix this train wreck of a nation.

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47 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    November 10, 2009 11:30 am

    This oped from the Bangor Daily News on the ills of modern capitalism speaks to the notion that if people want something from the oligarchs, they’re going to have to take it.

    U.S. capitalism in its 2009 incarnation is neither just nor efficient. One need only look at a number of widely accepted measures of economic health. While nearly one of six American workers is unemployed or underemployed, almost a third of our productive facilities stand idle. While homelessness continues to grow, nearly one in seven rental properties stands vacant and foreclosure rates rise.

    Put aside Economics 101 and ask a simple question. Isn’t there something wrong with an economy that fails to steer unemployed workers into the unused plants? And if some policy achieved this purpose, wouldn’t more workers earn enough to rent those vacant homes and apartments?

    `snip`

    In Europe, workers have directly occupied some of the factories being closed amid the recession. Some have seen the social insanity of idle minds and plants and have acted directly where politicians even on the left have stood by.

    • Stemella permalink*
      November 10, 2009 2:30 pm

      Very thoughtful op-ed. It is good that capitalism is getting plenty of critique. I wonder whether we will continue to proceed into a new sort of feudalism and oligarchical warlordism like the old Doce’s of Italy or some pure kind of corporate fascism? My dream of smaller sustainable economies of scale seem so very, very far away.

  2. cometman permalink*
    November 10, 2009 11:49 am

    Dean Baker again brings up the extremely sensible idea of a financial transactions tax to help get us out of the deficit whole we’ve dug. It’s even more sensible once you realize that some in the Beltway are starting to consider an extremely regressive national sales tax.

    We can raise large amounts of money by taxing the speculation of the Wall Street high-flyers while barely affecting the sort of financial dealings that most of us do in our daily lives.

    The logic of a financial transactions tax is simple. It would impose a modest fee on trades of stocks, futures, credit default swaps and other financial instruments. For example, the UK puts a 0.25% tax on the sale or purchase of shares of stock. This has very little impact on people who buy stock with the intent of holding it for a long period of time.

    ~snip~

    By contrast, if someone is interested in buying stock at 1.00pm to sell at 2.00pm, this tax is likely to take a bit hit out of their expected profits. The same applies people who are speculating in futures, credit default swaps and other financial instruments.

    We can raise more than $140bn a year taxing financial transactions, an amount equal to 1% of GDP. Before we look to impose a national sales tax, or value-added tax, as the deficit hawk crew would like, we should insist that we first put in place a set of financial transactions taxes.

    Why is it again that thus guy gets published mostly in the UK and on fairly obscure websites?

  3. cometman permalink*
    November 10, 2009 12:02 pm

    Science gets closer to figuring out how to regenerate lost body parts – Organ Regeneration In Zebrafish: Unraveling The Mechanisms.

    Now researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified an essential cellular pathway in zebrafish that paves the way for limb regeneration by unlocking gene expression patterns last seen during embryonic development. They found that a process known as histone demethylation switches cells at the amputation site from an inactive to an active state, which turns on the genes required to build a copy of the lost limb.

    “This is the first real molecular insight into what is happening during limb regeneration,” says first author Scott Stewart, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, Ph.D., who led the Salk team. “Until now, how amputation is translated into gene activation has been like magic. Finally we have a handle on a process we can actually follow.”

    Once this is perfected, expect to see the rise of a new gladiator class. Just think of the ratings shows like American Gladiator would get if they traded in their sissy foam rubber mallets for real swords and maces. Not sure how this would affect the would-be Lorena Bobbitts of the world. It could lead to a rise among pissed off women in do-it-yourself vasectomies, but then again knowing that the most unkindest cut of all was less likely to be permanent might just take all the fun out of it.

  4. cometman permalink*
    November 10, 2009 2:02 pm

    Check out this very well written and heart wrenching Rolling Stone article about a group of kids who returned from combat in Iraq and just lost it- The Fort Carson Murder Spree.

    Looks like it was published about the same time as the Ft. Hood shooting happened. I wonder which story will get the most coverage, the Muslim or the white kids?

    Looked through a few of the comments and it’s amazing that so many still try to claim this is just a few bad apples who probably would have gone on a killing spree regardless of their military experience and refuse to blame the institution which trained hundreds of thousands to kill without question and starts wars without giving a reason. We shouldn’t be surprised that when people are trained to kill and given impunity, they aren’t able to simply turn off the ‘kill’ instinct once they get back from the war zone. The longer these unnecessary and illegal wars go on, the worse this problem will get and even more lives will be thrown away for no good reason.

    • Stemella permalink*
      November 10, 2009 3:02 pm

      The military turns people into murderous monsters and doesn’t adequately help them to return to functionality in our fucked up society. I’d never heard of that story before. The murders happened two years ago.

      Here are two older more obscure sources on the story from 08 and 09. Interesting that it is only now being brought to wider attention due to Ft. Hood.

      Fort Carson Ring Linked to G.I. Deaths


      Former Fort Carson soldier sentenced to 60 years in prison

      • cometman permalink*
        November 10, 2009 3:23 pm

        I don’t remember hearing about it before either. I just noticed today earlier that laura had posted about it at her website.

        If newshounds like ourselves haven’t heard about it before, I doubt too many other people have either. But everyone knew about the Ft. Hood guy almost immediately as it got wall to wall coverage on several networks. Pretty clear from the corporate media coverage which ones they feel we’re supposed to be afraid of.

      • cometman permalink*
        November 10, 2009 3:30 pm

        Another ex-military killer scheduled to die tonight.

        Virginia’s governor refused to spare the life of John Allen Muhammad and cleared the way for his execution Tuesday night for the sniper attacks in 2002 that left 10 dead and spread such fear people were afraid to go shopping, cut grass or pump gas.

        Really can’t help but notice the racism inherent in which stories get covered and which don’t.

        • Stemella permalink*
          November 10, 2009 7:22 pm

          And here is another story of US Military agression gone wild

          Tampa police: Marine reservist attacked Greek priest he mistook for terrorist

          as you know, I’m not very generous about the priesthood, but I really feel empathy for poor Alexios. I think it’s high time we import some of those fiesty Greeks over here to get the fight club started. :)

          A Marine reservist armed with a tire iron beat and chased a man he thought was an Arab terrorist and even called 911 to say he was detaining the man, police said.

          But the man he assaulted was actually a Greek Orthodox priest visiting from overseas who spoke limited English, police said.

          That’s why police arrested reservist Jasen D. Bruce on a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

          Police said they’re also investigating whether Bruce, 28, committed a hate crime.

          • cometman permalink*
            November 11, 2009 8:37 am

            That marine sounds like he may have had some substance abuse problems as well. How in the hell do you mistake a guy dressed like a priest asking directions for a terrorist out to get you? He’s lucky the priest didn’t kick his ass.

          • cometman permalink*
            November 11, 2009 10:37 am

            Hmmmm. Speaking of those substance abuse problems, check this out. Looks like this guy was a pharmacist when he wasn’t on duty with the Marines and was a strong advocate for certain types of steroids.

            Not familiar with the source and there is a lot of speculation and insinuation there, but they do seem to have the right guy.

            • Stemella permalink*
              November 11, 2009 1:57 pm

              Interesting find. And creepy. Probably is the same person. Ick.

    • sisdevore permalink
      November 14, 2009 6:56 pm

      I recently finished reading “Shake the Devil Off”–story about an Iraq war vet who gradually lost it, strangling his gf in New Orleans–after they survived Katrina-then dismembering her and finally suiciding by jumping off a building.

      It stares us directly in the face, the huge damage these wars have done to our country and our military. And then everybody gets all hopped up on a Muslim soldier who goes off.

  5. Stemella permalink*
    November 10, 2009 8:47 pm

    Speechless.

    Vatican looks to heavens for signs of alien life

    Four hundred years after it locked up Galileo for challenging the view that the Earth was the center of the universe, the Vatican has called in experts to study the possibility of extraterrestrial alien life and its implication for the Catholic Church.

    “The questions of life’s origins and of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe are very suitable and deserve serious consideration,” said the Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, an astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory.

    Methinks the greand poo-bah doesn’t want science to find any truth out there first.

    • cometman permalink*
      November 11, 2009 8:47 am

      ET phone Rome! Haha! I’m with you – I don’t think the pontiff is any any hurry to find out either. They can rationalize it any way they want (and they will) but any discovery of life would render many of the church’s major tenets meaningless.

      On a somewhat related note, it looks like AP writers are developing a sense of humor in recent days. First the “phone Rome” joke and now this in an article about a topless coffee shop in Maine:

      The Grand View Topless Coffee shop in Vassalboro, Maine, is back in business.

      On Tuesday the town planning board gave Donald Crabtree permission to operate the shop out of an office trailer on his Route 3 property.

      The coffee shop reopened Wednesday morning. Crabtree says business is slow, but customers are starting to trickle in.

      • Stemella permalink*
        November 11, 2009 9:11 am

        ET phone Rome. That is hilarious!

        I’m not sure what to think about the trickling in topless coffee shop. One can only imagine the coffee clutch conversations that go on in there. In Mainah!

  6. Stemella permalink*
    November 11, 2009 7:05 am

    The mendacity of dealing with audacious deficit

    Here is the US Debt Clock – Live which is going to hit $12 trillion any day now. Currently $11,988 trillion.

    Here is an interesting discussion of how this deficit may be eventually handled
    The inflation time bomb

    And here is word from the Dark Elvin One on the same topic
    Geithner wants strong dollar, will tackle deficit

    Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Wednesday he believes strongly in the need to maintain a strong dollar and said the United States was determined to get its budget deficit down.

    The dollar’s decline has been a source of concern in the export-heavy region, especially since top exporter China keeps its currency’s value closely managed against the U.S. dollar and so felt less impact on prices for its exports than other Asian nations that let their currencies float freely.

    “I believe deeply that it’s very important to the United States, to the economic health of the United States, that we maintain a strong dollar,” Geithner said in a meeting with Japanese reporters at the U.S. embassy.

    Meanwhile, the dollar hit a new low overnight with DXY at 74.77

    • cometman permalink*
      November 11, 2009 8:53 am

      Maybe Geithner’s been taking advice from some military brass and now he’s determined that he needs to destroy the dollar in order to save it.

  7. Stemella permalink*
    November 11, 2009 7:10 am

    Thomas Frank discusses the problem with the Super Regulator recommended by Chris Dodd’s financial reform bill.

    He asks us to imagine someone like Greenspan in that role. I was going to have some breakfast, but now I think I’ll skip it.

    The Real Danger of ‘One Big Regulator’

    More on Dodd’s bill from McClatchy here: Dodd upsets banks with plan for a single bank overseer

    • cometman permalink*
      November 11, 2009 9:23 am

      It’s a bit confusing to figure out exactly what Frank is getting at. He seems to want one big regulator just as long as it isn’t somebody like Greenspan. Then he says this:

      Had Alan Greenspan somehow been handed the One Big Regulator job back in those days, we might have had no real financial regulation in this country at all.

      But isn’t that exactly what we did get over the last few decades – no real financial regulation at all?

      Dodd’s proposed legislation has quite a few good points in it, and stopping the practice of allowing financial institutions to shop around for the regulator with the least regulation surely has got to stop. I do think there needs to be some consolidation of regulatory agencies, but the overall effectiveness of any plan comes down to the personnel involved and whether they’re given any real power to do anything. It won’t do any good to have a regulatory agency and then strip their power to regulate anything, like Congress did to Brooksley Born. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t trust Dodd or any of these clowns to do anything right.

      And I really hate that weasel Judd Gregg.

      “I think it’s a very serious mistake. It would undermine the availability of credit, especially to people in small business,” said Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., charging that it would be run by “some academics that don’t have any knowledge of the marketplace.”

      Right Judd, because the revolving door policy in DC that lets business people with “knowledge of the marketplace” regulate their own industries has just been tremendous. Asshole. Still not sure why we have to keep giving the time of day to people whose policies have been proven to be horrendous on too many occasions to count.

  8. Stemella permalink*
    November 11, 2009 9:08 am

    Dean Baker has another article out, this one on defense spending, unemployment and greenhouse emissions

    Massive Defense Spending Leads to Job Loss

    For some reason, no one has chosen to highlight the job loss associated with higher defense spending. In fact, the job loss attributable to defense spending has probably never been mentioned in a single news story in The New York Times, Washington Post, National Public Radio, or any other major media outlet. It is difficult to find a good explanation for this omission.

    If we want to have a serious discussion of the economic impact of efforts to reduce GHG then the economic impact must be put in context. We know that the oil industry is interested in preserving its profits, not informing voters. However, if the media discuss projections of job loss from efforts to contain global warming without putting them in any context, then the public would be right to question their motives as well.

  9. cometman permalink*
    November 11, 2009 9:39 am

    Good article in the Boston Globe where they actually did a little reporting concerning the government data on the stimulus money – Stimulus job boost in state exaggerated, review finds.

    A lot of the confusion comes from trying to figure out what exactly constitutes a “created job” and many recipients of stimulus money are simply counting people already on their payrolls.

    Some of the errors are striking: The community action agency based in Greenfield reported 90 full-time jobs associated with the $245,000 it got for its preschool Head Start program. That averages out to just $2,700 per full-time job. The agency said it used the money to give roughly 150 staffers cost-of-living raises. The figure reported on the federal report was a mistake, a result of a staffer’s misunderstanding of the filing instructions, said executive director Jane Sanders.

    Then there is this example:

    …the City of Waltham said a $630,500 solar panel installation on the roof of City Hall created 10 jobs – even though the work had yet to begin. Revere spent $485,500 in stimulus funds to install solar panels on the roof of a city school. Revere’s job count? 64.

    I don’t see how this shows any new jobs were created either. It would be one thing if the government was providing funds to start up new solar panel companies for example and also providing funds or tax breaks for various institutions to purchase them – then once orders started coming in you could realistically claim new jobs were created as a direct result. But an existing company installing a few hundred grand worth of solar panels doesn’t seem to be creating any new permanent jobs. I imagine work like that would keep a handful of people busy for a few weeks at best.

    Nice to see the Globe doing some digging though, even if it simply reiterates what most people already know about lies, damn lies and government statistics.

    • Stemella permalink*
      November 11, 2009 3:07 pm

      This has been a nationwide phenomenon, and was also found to be the case in my state, that jobs were more likely saved than generated anew, and even some of those saves were really raises more than anything else. Lots of bloviation involved in the stimulus. The U-6 unemployment numbers, food stamp numbers and welfare numbers are the ones that tell the real story how well that stimulus has worked outside of Wall St and K St.

  10. cometman permalink*
    November 11, 2009 10:53 am

    Good article from TomDispatch on the current US fascination with drone warfare- Drone Race to a Known Future.

  11. cometman permalink*
    November 11, 2009 12:12 pm

    Sometimes it’s difficult to see exactly what some of the economic writers are getting at. Mike Whitney’s article today talks about the prospects not being so bright for the real economy of those of us who work for a living, but the beginning has me a little confused:

    The Fed’s extraordinary intervention into the financial markets makes another Lehman-type meltdown extremely unlikely. But while the financial system has been stabilized with a government blank check and rivers of liquidity, the real economy continues to languish.

    Yeah, they’ve been propped up by loads of cash but I fail to see how that makes another meltdown unlikely. Lehman’s meltdown was caused first of all by all the bad assets they had on their books and secondly by the illegal naked short selling that sent their stock price plummeting. Nothing has been done to curb the latter practice, and those bad assets are still kicking around. And Whitney must have missed this article from Alexander Cockburn where he notes a little noticed loophole that was inserted by lobbyists into legislation that was supposed to bring some regulation and transparency to the derivatives trading that caused this mess:

    Over lunch across town from Capitol Hill, I recently asked that question of a very smart attorney endowed with deep experience in keeping Washington safe for Wall Street. In answer, he pointed to this seven-line paragraph buried in a 26-page amendment to “HR 3795, Over-The-Counter Derivatives Markets Act of 2009,” passed in a voice vote by the House Agriculture Committee the night before. Following the vote, the committee had issued a press release hailing their vote for “strengthening” regulation.

    On the contrary, said my friend, “I guarantee you that not a single member, and almost certainly no one else, apart from the traders on Wall Street and the lobbyist who inserted it on their behalf, understood the significance of this paragraph. It means that nothing will change.”

    Seems to me the financial firms are only able to report profits because they’ve been handed trillions of dollars and they have done nothing to change their ways. Whitney explains that all that is really being done by Treasury and the Fed is to artificially pump up asset prices even though the underlying fundamentals show no justification for the prices.

    …the Fed has already revealed how it plans to fight deflation, by opening up the liquidity faucet and pumping up asset prices. This is the rationale behind Bernanke’s zero-percent interest rates, multi-trillion dollar lending facilities, and quantitative easing (QE) programs. Increase asset prices; that’s the whole ball-o-wax.

    He may not say “artificially” or specifically discuss the underlying fundamentals, but that has been widely reported and would seem to be implied by using the phrase “pumping up”. To me that would seem to make another meltdown much more likely, not less.

    Maybe I’m missing something, or maybe the verbiage of decent economic writers begins to suffer after a while due to frustration at having their warnings ignored for so long. Either that or he’s operating under the assumption that while the taxpayers are unlikely to receive another stimulus, the banks definitely will.

    • Stemella permalink*
      November 11, 2009 4:34 pm

      Regarding Whitney and Harrison who he quotes extensively, I agree with you that it seems quite possible there could be another meltdown. I think Taleb expressed it best with his black swan theory. Given that the underlying problems, debt, dishonesty, fraudulence and corruption, toxic assets, cheating and gambling, and lobbying the policy makers with all the above, it is quite possible an unexpected chaotic event could send the whole damn thing tumbling back down the rabbit hole again. That would be especially so if the even were to happen on the downside legs of the many W’s the economy is taking as it lumbers forward.

      I still have to read Cockburn’s article, but wanted to address the first part, first.

      • Stemella permalink*
        November 11, 2009 4:41 pm

        Ok, read Cockburn. Fucking grrrrrr.

  12. cometman permalink*
    November 11, 2009 12:59 pm

    Regeneration of body parts is on the horizon, and now scientists have come up with a way to replicate objects. It doesn’t happen instantaneously like in Star Trek , but it works.

    A group of engineers working on a novel manufacturing technique at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., have come up with a new twist on the popular old saying about dreaming and doing: “If you can slice it, we can build it.”

    That’s because layers mean everything to the environmentally-friendly construction process called Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication, or EBF3, and its operation sounds like something straight out of science fiction.

    “You start with a drawing of the part you want to build, you push a button, and out comes the part,” said Karen Taminger, the technology lead for the Virginia-based research project that is part of NASA’s Fundamental Aeronautics Program.

    She admits that, on the surface, EBF3 reminds many people of a Star Trek replicator in which, for example, Captain Picard announces out loud, “Tea, Earl Grey, hot.” Then there is a brief hum, a flash of light and the stimulating drink appears from a nook in the wall.

    In reality, EBF3 works in a vacuum chamber, where an electron beam is focused on a constantly feeding source of metal, which is melted and then applied as called for by a drawing — one layer at a time — on top of a rotating surface until the part is complete.

    • Stemella permalink*
      November 11, 2009 3:47 pm

      Fascinating (as Spock would say) and both intruiging and worrisome too. On the one hand I could see the remarkable utility, but wonder how it could be ethically abused and how many more jobs would be lost with such techonological ability. I’m no luddite, but I do have sabot tendencies of mistrust. Can’t help it.

      • cometman permalink*
        November 12, 2009 7:34 am

        I don’t blame you. It think we as a species have shown enough times now that we aren’t nearly wise enough to properly implement the technologies we develop yet. Every time we develop something new there are always way too many people who try to figure out how to kill people more efficiently with it.

        I caught some reruns of Cosmos a couple days ago, and granted it came out during the Cold War when people seemed to be a lot more worried about being nuked, but Carl Sagan kept making the point that we may progress very far in the next few decades and centuries if we don’t destroy ourselves first.

        Worth remembering.

        • Stemella permalink*
          November 12, 2009 9:12 am

          Sagan was great, a scientist who loved the imperfect monkeys as well as the stars above, a real humanist. I still have to struggle with the instant reaction wanting to laugh at his delivery, as though he is some kind of scientific Mr. Rogers. The billions and billions thing was a big joke when I was a teenager when Cosmos was a live program.

          I should go back and listen to some of his programs too. He was such a forward thinker and he had the ability to translate physics and astronomy into accessible language.

  13. cometman permalink*
    November 11, 2009 1:07 pm

    Interesting eye candy – Microbial art.

    So far my favorite is in this gallery. Scroll through to photo 8 and you’ll see a microbe portrait of Charles Darwin!

    • Stemella permalink*
      November 11, 2009 3:35 pm

      Neato! I’m partial to the ammonite in that bunch, though Charles certainly rocked, or slimed! I like the mandalas from team Osaka too. Here’s another one done with bioluminscents in video.

      • cometman permalink*
        November 12, 2009 7:38 am

        Very nice!

  14. cometman permalink*
    November 11, 2009 3:09 pm

    Har har har!!! The Lloyd’s Prayer

    Our Chairman,
    Who Art At Goldman,
    Blankfein Be Thy Name.
    The Rally’s Come. God’s Work Be Done
    On Earth As There’s No Fear Of Correction.

    Give Us This Day Our Daily Gains,
    And Bankrupt Our Competitors
    As You Taught Lehman and Bear Their Lessons.
    And Bring Us Not Under Indictment.
    For Thine Is The Treasury,
    The House And The Senate
    Forever and Ever.

    Goldman.

    • Stemella permalink*
      November 11, 2009 3:36 pm

      Brilliant! :)

  15. Stemella permalink*
    November 11, 2009 3:43 pm

    More bioluminescense in the form of deep jelly

    • cometman permalink*
      November 12, 2009 7:39 am

      Just a pipe dream for now, but one of these days I’d love to get to take a trip in one of those deep sea research subs and take a look around. The animals that live there are just amazing.

  16. Stemella permalink*
    November 12, 2009 7:33 am

    New epistle from Sy Hersh at the New Yorker on AfPak

    Defending the Arsenal

    It also appears that Obama continues to hedge on making a decision on troop deployments. More kabuki.

  17. Stemella permalink*
    November 12, 2009 7:35 am

    Important article from McClatchy on how Obama fucked up Gitmo. Eleventh dimensional chess gone very wrong.

    White House allies say Obama bungled Guantanamo closing

    • cometman permalink*
      November 12, 2009 7:52 am

      He should have had the moving vans at the gates when he announced the closing.

      I like your comment about the chess. I think there are still too many people giving Obama way too much credit for being some kind of great thinker who’s three steps ahead of the rest of us and we simply haven’t caught up to him yet. I really haven’t seen any evidence of that. Sure he’s a lot brighter than the last (p)resident, but that isn’t saying much. I think Arthur Silber was right on the money in that article of his where he said that the politicians and bureaucrats and intelligence people are not smarter than you and they generally aren’t privy to some “special information” that allows them to make better decisions, and that if we all just paid attention a little more we’d realize that and stop deferring to them so much.

  18. Stemella permalink*
    November 12, 2009 7:44 am

    Relating to the poor trickle down effects of the stimulus to the states and mainstreet, Pew Research has a new study out about a number of states that are eating it badly, besides and compared to Californeeya.

    summary here

    Full Pew Report available for reading and downloading at ZH: States’ Deplorable Fiscal Situation Betrays True State Of The Economy Stripped Of Stimulus

    • cometman permalink*
      November 12, 2009 12:32 pm

      Wow, that is not a pretty picture. But the total deficit still pales in comparison to the amount handed out to Wall Street. Just the TARP funds alone were more than three times bigger than what is needed to balance these states’ budgets.

  19. cometman permalink*
    November 12, 2009 9:42 am

    Aaaaargh. Just accidentally deleted my rather lengthy comment about Blackwater. Let’s try again.

    Here’s Jeremy Scahill in The Nation talking about the recent revelation that Blackwater bribed Iraqi officials so they wouldn’t complain about all the civilians Blackwater was murdering. Contrast the amount paid to the puppet government with the amount to buy off the victims.

    In the aftermath of the 2007 Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad by operatives working for Blackwater, top company officials including then-president Gary Jackson “authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support,” according to the New York Times.

    And for those who Blackwater murders, with the complicity of the State Department:

    After a drunken Blackwater guard allegedly shot and killed an Iraqi bodyguard inside the Green Zone on Christmas Eve 2006, the Chargé d’Affaires of the US embassy in Iraq initially suggested Blackwater make a $250,000 payment but the Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security said this was too much and could cause Iraqis to “try to get killed so as to set up their family financially.” In the end, the State Department and Blackwater reportedly agreed on a $15,000 payment. During his Congressional testimony in October 2007, Erik Prince corrected that figure, saying Blackwater had actually paid $20,000. In another case, in al Hillah in June 2005, a Blackwater operator killed an “apparently innocent bystander” and the State Department requested that Blackwater pay the family $5,000. “Can you tell me how it was determined that this man’s life was worth $5,000?” Rep. Davis asked Prince. “We don’t determine that value, sir,” Prince responded. “That’s kind of an Iraqi-wide policy. We don’t make that one.”

    Shortly after the Nisour Square shootings, the State Department began contacting the Iraqi victims’ families. Dr. Jawad, whose son and wife were the first victims that day, said US officials asked him how much money he wanted in compensation. “I said their lives are priceless,” Jawad recalled. But the US officials continued pressing him for a dollar amount. He said he told a Department representative “if he could give me my loved ones, I would gladly give him $200 million.” The Iraqi government eventually demanded $8 million in compensation for each victim. In the end, the State Department, on behalf of Blackwater, offered family members between $10-12,500, which many of them refused.

    So I guess the silence of your average puppet bureaucrat is worth at least an order of magnitude more than the average Iraqi’s life. WTF is wrong with these people!?!?!? Our own State Department says that if they paid more, then people would start getting themselves killed on purpose!?!?!?!?! These people are seriously fucked in the head.

    Good video of Scahill’s recent TV interview with Rachel Maddow at the bottom of this article. Note how the one small contract that was taken away from Blackwater was just given to Triple Canopy, another mercenary agency, and then they went ahead and hired a bunch of ex-Blackwater people to carry out the contract anyway.

    • Stemella permalink*
      November 12, 2009 9:58 pm

      Our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is nearly synonymous with that described in Heller’s Catch 22 – surreal in its fuckeduptitude. I saw that interview with Scahill and am so thankful that he has the courage to take on such bad actors as Blackwater and our military and write about it. He is very brave to do what he does. I’m also glad he is still following it and the connections with the new administration.

  20. cometman permalink*
    November 12, 2009 10:01 am

    Peter Galbraith in the news again, this time because he allegedly stands to gain some serious money from Iraqi oil deals. Now with all the corruption and graft going on in Iraq, why would Galbraith get special mention? I’m guessing it’s because he already pissed off people a couple months ago when he brought to light election fraud in Afghanistan and he’s not one of the Kool Kidz anymore, so now more is coming out in an attempt to tarnish him.

    The oil deals he took part in are with the Kurds specifically, and they weren’t for the benefit of the US but for a Norwegian company, and I suspect that has pissed a few people off as well. Here’s Galbraith’s statement from the article:

    “What is true is that I undertook business activities that were entirely consistent with my long-held policy views,” Mr. Galbraith said in his response. “I believe my work with DNO (and other companies) helped create the Kurdistan oil industry which helps provide Kurdistan an economic base for the autonomy its people almost unanimously desire.”

    So he listened to what the Kurds wanted and helped them achieve it, in sharp contrast to what the US is doing in the rest of the country.

    This part from an Iraqi official evidently not affiliated with the Kurds is hilarious:

    Some officials say that his financial ties could raise serious questions about the integrity of the constitutional negotiations themselves. “The idea that an oil company was participating in the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution leaves me speechless,” said Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi, a principal drafter of the law that governed Iraq after the United States ceded control to an Iraqi government on June 28, 2004.

    He’s simply shocked, shocked! that foreign oil companies were meddling in Iraq. Funny how indignant some people can get when the wrong palms get greased.

  21. cometman permalink*
    November 12, 2009 12:16 pm

    Another broadside dripping with sarcasm from Chris Cooper in Maine.

    And how do I define victory, my liberal co-worker sneers? Simply and directly I reply: we own the place. Nobody left whole and conscious has the ability to hinder, harass, trouble or discomfit any white executive or entrepreneur who chooses to show himself in the open air, unfurl a Stars ‘n’ Bars bigger than they fly above the car dealerships in his suburb, piss on the pavement at high noon on their holiest heathen holiday, and proclaim the United States of America a great gift from God Almighty to the brown and backward beings who clutter up this globe.

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