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God’s Work

November 29, 2009

Here is an example of God’s Great Golden Work, illustrated by this story, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein cut the asking price of his Park Avenue apartment by 10 per cent.

Yes, God’s Work Blankfein is showing magnanimous charity in cutting the asking price of his Park Avenue crash pad (is this fucking Green Acres or what?) to $13.5 million from $15 million. You see, he wants to move over to 15 Central Park West, the new and improved most swanky crash pads in Manhattan. One of his former Sux mates successfully flipped an apartment there, doubling his investment from $11 to $21.5 million in less than a year. Nice to see our tax dollars put to such good, I mean God’s, work.

Blankfein’s apartment comes with built in olympic sized floor aquarium for when he feels the need for a dip with his squidmates, and a blacked out walk in closet with hanging perches for when he needs his vampire beauty sleep. There will also be the gate to heaven where he can use his zirconium and platinum encrusted gold pass credit card when he’s feeling the God urge.

It seems it is all in the family over at 15 Central.

In a Goldman Sachs proxy statement for the fiscal year ending 2006, the company disclosed that “Mr. Blankfein intends to purchase for approximately $US27 million a residential apartment and related facilities in a building in which certain Goldman Sachs-managed real estate funds hold an economic interest of approximately 31% in the aggregate.”

The building was 15 Central Park West.

Such a deal.

Meanwhile, Elvin Tim is busy being Santa God’s helper pretending to give a shit about the little people just in time for the holidays.

Treasury wants more lender leeway on loans

“The banks are not doing a good enough job,” the Times quoted Barr saying in a Friday interview. “Some of the firms ought to be embarrassed, and they will be.”

Yes, Timmy’s Elf Shop at Treasury and the Obama Administration are finally getting around to noticing that the loan modification program hasn’t been very effective so far.

More than 650,994 loan revisions had been started through the Obama administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program as of last month, from about 487,081 as of September, according to the Treasury. None of the trial modifications through October had been converted to permanent repayment plans, the Treasury data showed. That failure is getting the administration’s attention.

“We are taking additional steps to enhance servicer transparency and accountability as part of a broader focus on maximizing conversion rates to permanent modifications,” Treasury spokeswoman Meg Reilly said in an e-mail yesterday. The Obama administration plans to announce additional steps tomorrow, including new private-public partnerships and resources for borrowers. source

More PPIPs! Whopee!

They tried low level bribery:

“The administration’s initiative provides a cash incentive of $1,000 to the mortgage servicer once a loan is converted from a trial to a permanent modification plus annual payments of $1,000 for as long as three years provided the loan remains in good standing. ”

Now those so called incentives will be tied to the banks making the modifications permanent. I am underwhelmed with their prospects of Treasury’s reigning in of bankster negligence.

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52 Comments leave one →
  1. Stemella permalink*
    November 29, 2009 9:59 am

    Zen and the Art of Rattus – or The Dysfunction of the US Government

    • cometman permalink*
      November 30, 2009 8:06 am

      Ha! That was awesome and a very apt metaphor for this whole clusterfuck.

  2. Stemella permalink*
    November 29, 2009 11:05 pm

    A very nice educational site, Trailblazing, on the history of science from 1650 to present from the Royal Society, with accompanying pdfs of original source papers.

  3. cometman permalink*
    November 30, 2009 7:29 am

    Great post and photoshop again! (I’m assuming that was yours) You have documented quite nicely the inverse correlation between ear size and the size of the family jewels among financial types which makes them feel the need to overcompensate by stealing all the wealth from the rest of us. I will have to put out a couple links so a wider audience can view it.

    So Blankfein has a powder room in the dump he’s trying to unload? Really?? I can think of several million people who wish he’d go take a permanent powder about now.

    And what’s with this assistant Treasury lackey Mr. Barr? He thinks that these bankers are capable of being embarrassed? He must be new.

    • Stemella permalink*
      November 30, 2009 8:40 am

      Thanks, and yes that is one of mine.

      As to Barr, his bio shows that he never worked for Goldie Sux. He did, however, work for Robert Rubin. He’s an academic and a career govt. kind of guy.

  4. cometman permalink*
    November 30, 2009 7:36 am

    Poor Larry the Cane Toad. It seems Obama is about the only one who thinks this guy still knows his ass from a hole in the ground. He doesn’t come off looking to well in this Boston Globe article today which is currently at the top of the most-emailed list there –Harvard ignored warnings about investments.

    It happened at least once a year, every year. In a roomful of a dozen Harvard University financial officials, Jack Meyer, the hugely successful head of Harvard’s endowment, and Lawrence Summers, then the school’s president, would face off in a heated debate. The topic: cash and how the university was managing – or mismanaging – its basic operating funds.

    Through the first half of this decade, Meyer repeatedly warned Summers and other Harvard officials that the school was being too aggressive with billions of dollars in cash, according to people present for the discussions, investing almost all of it with the endowment’s risky mix of stocks, bonds, hedge funds, and private equity. Meyer’s successor, Mohamed El-Erian, would later sound the same warnings to Summers, and to Harvard financial staff and board members.

    “Mohamed was having a heart attack,’’ said one former financial executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering Harvard and Summers. He considered the cash investment a “doubling up’’ of the university’s investment risk.

    But the warnings fell on deaf ears, under Summers’s regime and beyond. And when the market crashed in the fall of 2008, Harvard would pay dearly, as $1.8 billion in cash simply vanished. Indeed, it is still paying, in the form of tighter budgets, deferred expansion plans, and big interest payments on bonds issued to cover the losses.

    If you read the whole thing it paints Summers as the overbearing bully type who pushes everyone into doing what he wants, much like we’ve seen him portrayed elsewhere. Not sure why those traits seem to be in such high demand in DC these days among both parties, especially when the ones asserting their will are so often stupendously wrong.

    • Stemella permalink*
      November 30, 2009 8:24 am

      Don’t forget that someone at Harvard called out Cane Toad much earlier and was summarily fired for it.

      Back in 2002, a new employee of Harvard University’s endowment manager named Iris Mack wrote a letter to the school’s president, Lawrence Summers, that would ultimately get her fired.

      In the letter, dated May 12 of that year, Mack told Summers that she was “deeply troubled and surprised” by things she had seen in her new job as a quantitative analyst at Harvard Management Co.

      She would go on to say, in later e-mails and conversations, that she felt the endowment was taking on too much risk in derivatives investments, and that she suspected some of her colleagues were engaging in insider trading, according to a separate letter written by her lawyer that summarized the correspondence. link

      Just as with Brooksley Born, Larry strong arms people who dare tell the truth about his pomposity and misjudgement, especially if they happen to be female. I will be amazed if he gets ejected from Team Obama before he is ready. He’ll probably take the country back to the brink and then hit the road, leaving the mess for someone else to clean up and manage. That seems to be his pattern.

  5. cometman permalink*
    November 30, 2009 8:34 am

    Nice catch from Washington’s Blog where he notes that Citibank lent $8 billion to Dubai shortly after they were bailed out themselves last year. And again the person who sounded the alarm at the time was one of the very few who seem to be paying any attention at all – Dennis Kucinich.

    Shouldn’t be much longer until they come hat in hand again asking for another bailout. That is if the next bailout is even mentioned publicly.

    • Stemella permalink*
      November 30, 2009 9:18 am

      The establishment has so marginalized Dennis that very few pay him any attention. Of course he’s right. This is such a money laundering operation. It seems the Dubai situation is tenuous at best. You can bet there is a hell of a lot of back room paper shuffling and arm twisting going on right now while the press on the story is subdued to prevent another panic.

      And yes, there will be more bailing out, but it likely will be couched as something else entirely. You nailed it.

  6. Stemella permalink*
    November 30, 2009 8:44 am

    These things should be set up along Wall St. for the capture of our nation’s pirates. Arrrrrr.

  7. cometman permalink*
    November 30, 2009 8:54 am

    From the end of this post from Matt Taibbi I ran across this link from a few years ago which tells quite a bit about where Obama’s loyalties lie. Before the worst even hit he was shilling for the financial industry.

    • Stemella permalink*
      November 30, 2009 9:55 am

      Interesting. That Hamilton Project, a think tank discussed in the second article informs much. Founded by Robert Rubin at the Brookings Institute, it appears to be a stronghold of the neo-liberals. There is no doubt that Obama is kindred, one of them, even though he laughingly refers to himself as “of the left” in the video of his remarks there.

      It looks las though some of them have moved directly into the Obama Administration, for example, Jason Furman. Well regarded by Democrats and Republicans. Worked for Stiglitz and Robert Rubin. Directed this Hamilton Project. Now Deputy Director of the NEC.

      Furman was named Deputy Director of the National Economic Council in the administration of President Barack Obama, whom he’d been advising since the latter stages of the 2008 presidential campaign. Although he generally works with Democrats, he is reported by the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call to be widely respected by Republicans, as well.[1][2]

      Furman’s research and policy focus includes the subjects of taxes, health care and the U.S. Social Security program. Furman’s qualified defense of Wal-Mart’s business model provoked criticism from some labor organizations when he joined Obama’s 2008 campaign. But notable liberals defended Furman, praising his staunch defense of Social Security, his criticism of inequality, and advocacy of universal health insurance.[3]

      In 1996, while he was a graduate student at Harvard, Furman was hired by economist Joseph Stiglitz to serve for a one-year stint as Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy in the Clinton Administration and on staff of the Council of Economic Advisers. He later worked with Stiglitz at the World Bank. Furman was involved in varying degrees with the Presidential campaigns of Al Gore and General Wesley Clark. In 2004, he took a position as Director of Economic Policy for the John Kerry Presidential campaign in 2004.

      Furman received his MSc from the London School of Economics and a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University. Also at Harvard, Furman earned a bachelor’s in social studies and a master’s in government. He has worked together with former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

    • Stemella permalink*
      November 30, 2009 10:06 am

      And czech this out: Hamilton Project Management Coincidence? hah!

      • cometman permalink*
        November 30, 2009 10:26 am

        That is pretty funny. At first I thought they were related somehow, which wouldn’t have surprised me. And you’d think that people involved in putting up multi-billion dollar high rises in the desert might have enough money to produce a little bit better website. That one looks like something an 8 year old with access to a free website creator and the ‘Corporate Lexicon’s Guide to Meaningless Business Speak’ might come up with.

  8. Stemella permalink*
    November 30, 2009 9:35 am

    Interesting revolving door action taking place here:

    Citigroup Hires Buiter as Chief Economist, Replacing Alexander

    Lewis Alexander left Citi to work for Elvin Geithner.

    Alexander, who had worked at Citigroup since 1999, left in March to become a counselor on domestic finance issues to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. He was paid $2.4 million by Citigroup in 2008 and the first months of 2009, according to his financial-disclosure form filed with the Treasury. In December 2007, he predicted the U.S. would probably avoid a recession.

    Buiter, who I’ve read over at his blog at the Financial Times, Maverecon sounds like Citi’s kind of guy.

    Buiter, 60, starts in January, New York-based Citigroup said today in a statement. He is a professor of political economy at the London school and has been a consultant to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. since 2005, according to the statement. He has a bachelor’s degree from Cambridge University and a doctorate from Yale University.

    Buiter was chief economist for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development from 2000 to 2005, and from 1997 through 2000 he was an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England, Citigroup said. He has been an adviser to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, according to the statement.

    In recent blog posts Buiter has argued that Dubai is no big deal whatsoever.

    • cometman permalink*
      November 30, 2009 9:55 am

      Hmmm. Just read a couple of his posts about Dubai including this one arguing that Dubai’s creditors should not be bailed out. I guess Citi will be doing “God’s Work” soon too judging by this part:

      The government of Dubai is under no legal or moral obligation to provide an ex-post guarantee of the debts of the Dubai World Group and Nakheel. The creditors will have to manage this contingency the way God meant them to: hoping for the best, but living with the restructuring and taking their losses.

      Wonder if he was aware that his new employer was on the hook for $8 billion when he wrote that. Somehow I bet he’ll be singing a different tune if it means Citi goes down the tubes along with his new job.

  9. cometman permalink*
    November 30, 2009 10:45 am

    Looks like the stall tactics have worked in Honduras. The new election has been held and the conservatives won with Zelaya never being allowed to take power again after the coup that ousted him. And while the US never really gave its support to the democratically elected Zelaya after the coup, or even bring itself to admit that it even was a coup, they didn’t waste much time voicing support for the new government.

    The United States was quick to underline its support on Sunday, with State Department spokesman Ian Kelly calling the elections “a necessary and important step forward.”

    Bunch of fucking hypocrites.

  10. cometman permalink*
    November 30, 2009 12:48 pm

    I’ve been avoiding bringing this up because it is so mind numbingly stupid, but I keep seeing the climate change deniers having a field day with this story about hacked emails that suggest some climate scientists were rigging their data and I feel compelled to respond.

    Perhaps those who dispute climate change live in equatorial areas without such distinct seasons and differences in the weather aren’t as noticeable, but for those of us in northern latitudes about all it takes to realize that something isn’t quite right is to look out the window. Of course if you wanted more than anecdotal evidence, try taking a look at the huge expanses of land in China that are turning into desert or all the ice that has gone missing from the Artic regions.

    I suggest a little experiment for the skeptics. If you really think humankind can continue to pump huge amounts of noxious unbreathable gases into the atmosphere with no adverse consequences, the next time the lights in your house go out, turn on your gas generator in the basement and see what happens*.

    * Note to the sarcastically challenged – do NOT EVER do this because you will die.

    • Stemella permalink*
      November 30, 2009 1:27 pm

      Or perhaps they should talk to the people of the Maldives who are soon to lose their land to the rising oceans.

      • cometman permalink*
        December 1, 2009 9:08 am

        That was a really good article and it shows that it is possible to have beneficial development without raping and pillaging the land. The more I see about the people that live there, the more I think they ought to be the ones drafting any new climate policy and the rest of the world should just sit back, shut up, and learn some lessons. They seem to understand the concept of moderation which is a rarity these days.

    • triv33 permalink
      December 1, 2009 7:24 am

      Ha! I’ve issued a similar challenge to the wing-nut I regularly argue with. I told him to get a plastic bag, put it on his head and just breath normally. I’m betting that he’s going to snatch that bag off of his head…the earth doesn’t have that option.

  11. Stemella permalink*
    December 1, 2009 6:30 am

    Goldman Staff Packing Pistols to Defend Against Peasants

    As Jim Chanos, who pointed out this Bloomberg piece “Arming Goldman With Pistols Against Public,” remarked, “Well, it appears that Goldman’s Best and Brightest may be hedging their goodwill built up by doing ‘God’s work’.”

    I’ve heard the expression, “Trust in Allah, but tie up your camel,” but I can’t recall an exhortation that links faith with carrying firearms (although I suppose that gap in my knowledge may reflect a cloistered upbringing). The only heavily armed observant types I can think of in the US are the Branch Davidians, and we know how that movie turned out. Goldman has always been a cult, but one has to wonder what models they are now channeling.

    More from the Bloomberg piece

    Cool Hand Lloyd

    No, talk of Goldman and guns plays right into the way Wall- Streeters like to think of themselves. Even those who were bailed out believe they are tough, macho Clint Eastwoods of the financial frontier, protecting the fistful of dollars in one hand with the Glock in the other. The last thing they want is to be so reasonably paid that the peasants have no interest in lynching them.

    And if the proles really do appear brandishing pitchforks at the doors of Park Avenue and the gates of Round Hill Road, you can be sure that the Goldman guys and their families will be holed up in their safe rooms with their firearms. If nothing else, that pistol permit might go part way toward explaining why they won’t be standing outside with the rest of the crowd, broke and humiliated, saying, “Damn, I was on the wrong side of a trade with Goldman again.”

    Note to self: Make next photoshop of Blankfein as a hairless Dirty Harry in adult diapers.

    • cometman permalink*
      December 1, 2009 9:32 am

      You have got to be kidding me. I’d love to see a bunch of pasty white rich boys who rarely leave the country club and need help from their valets to get on their polo ponies defend themselves with a gun against an angry mob. My money’s on the mob, but I would be willing to issue credit default swaps on the unlikely event that the Cane Toad gets off a lucky shot. He is a mean one.

      One small quibble about that Bloomberg article. The author needs to watch Cool Hand Luke a couple times before comparing my favorite movie ever to the clowns at Goldman Sachs. Cool Hand Luke was put in prison for the non-violent offense of getting drunk and cutting the heads off parking meters and didn’t use a weapon. He didn’t need one because “sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand” –

      Unlike Blankfein who most people realize is full of shit, Lucas Jackson’s bluff wasn’t called. Maybe the author just got confused between the Xrist allegory in the movie and Mr. “God’s Work” :)

      Looking forward to your new photoshop!

      • Stemella permalink*
        December 2, 2009 9:56 am

        That’s one of my all time favorites too. Great film and great leading actor. You are right to call out that faulty comparison.

  12. cometman permalink*
    December 1, 2009 10:09 am

    Ok, I know this story isn’t supposed to be funny so why do I keep laughing? – School holds tolerance seminar as 3 boys are arrested in ‘ginger’ attacks.

    The Calabasas middle school that was shaken this month by attacks on redheads was jolted again Monday when news spread that two 12-year-olds and a 13-year-old had been arrested in the bizarre incident.

    Apparently spurred by a Facebook site and inspired by the animated “South Park” television show, “Kick a Ginger Day” brought notoriety to A.E. Wright Middle School, an ordinarily peaceful campus that sponsored a tolerance assembly for students Monday in the wake of the attacks. The “South Park” episode, first shown in 2005, was itself supposed to be a lesson in tolerance but misfired, with harassment of red-haired students taking place at schools across the U.S. and Canada over the last few years.

    It’s the overall stupidity because of a joke that went way over the perpetrators’ heads and what seems like an overreaction on the part of school administrators by bringing in the police and turning this into a national incident which makes the whole thing laughable. Much like this Iranian reporter who was interviewed on Jon Stewart last night found his incarceration for participating in a Daily Show sketch humorous. Sometimes you just have to laugh or go crazy at the insanity of it all.

    No word yet on whether the redheaded youths who were beaten were stepchildren or not.

    • Stemella permalink*
      December 2, 2009 9:57 am

      You laugh because you are sick and twisted. I am laughing too!! :)

  13. cometman permalink*
    December 1, 2009 10:23 am

    Here’s another one from the Daily Show talking about the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall which is very fitting for our little website, especially the last couple minutes of the clip – Legends of the Wall.

    • Stemella permalink*
      December 2, 2009 10:43 am

      Especially in light of Squobama Nobel Peasuprise war hardon speech last night.

      I saw that clip when it first aired and loved how they poked at the self important MSM, but now it takes on even more meaning as we officially escalate into a whole new warzone in Pakistan. No doubt the drones will soon become manned aircraft with full loads of ordinance.

      Bomb, bomb, bomb and fight your just war Obama and Biden. You will still be a murdering emperors, no different than Bush and Cheney before you.

      • cometman permalink*
        December 2, 2009 12:28 pm

        I’ve been avoiding mentioning this latest “surge” since there really is nothing new- just a continuation of the Bush/Cheney policy. But since the mighty Status Quobama has now spoken and indicated the latest Charge of the Light Brigade will continue unabated, I’ll add my $.02 about one of the things that makes me beat my head against the wall. I’ve seen it mentioned several times by the usual dithering pundits and government officials that the reason we need to send in more cannon fodder is because Karzai’s government is corrupt and can’t get their shit together, they won’t have a blank check forever, blah blah blah fucking blah. But in all this discussion, the Beltway bloviators with their lack of historical memory of anything that happened over two weeks ago seem to have forgotten that Karzai’s “government” was installed by Uncle Sugar about eight goddamned years ago. He is a formerUNOCAL exec hand picked by the US and it has been US troops propping up these marionettes for this whole time. So if this government is so rotten that we need to start slaughtering even more people, isn’t that a reflection on how bad the United States is since the United States are the ones who have been calling the shots??????????

        And yet all that is conveniently forgotten when it comes time for the latest justification for war.

        Shameful that these words never seem to stop being appropriate –

        ‘If any question why we died,
        Tell them, because our fathers lied.’

  14. cometman permalink*
    December 1, 2009 10:32 am

    Nomi Prins does the SEC’s work for them and reveals how some of the largest banks are currently cooking their books.

    After two weeks sifting through over one thousand pages of SEC filings for the largest banks, I have the same concerns. While Washington ponders what to do, or not do, about reforming Wall Street, the nation’s biggest banks, plumped up on government capital and risk-infused trading profits, have been moving stuff around their balance sheets like a multi-billion dollar musical chairs game.

    I was trying to answer the simple question that you’d think regulators should want to know: how much of each bank’s revenue is derived from trading (taking risk) vs. other businesses? And how can you compare it across the industry-so you can contain all that systemic risk? Only, there’s no uniformity across books. And, given the complexity of these mega-merged firms, those questions aren’t easy to answer.

    • Stemella permalink*
      December 2, 2009 11:11 am

      Great summary of innovative accounting. It does sound like Enron all over again. The entire economy seems to be in innovative mode at the moment, innovating or inventing numbers out of thin air and whole cloth.

      Ponzi would be so proud.

  15. cometman permalink*
    December 1, 2009 10:47 am

    Very interesting article about the meltdown in Dubai and how Islamic countries with an aversion to charging interest try to do business in the world of high finance-Dubai FUBAR.

    This bit was pretty funny:

    Well, How does it work?

    Here is how. A board composed of elderly well seasoned religious experts without much if any knowledge or training in basic economic principles, sit down and make up rules as they go. No big deal. Our Fed governing board does the same after all. And the Fed is not regulated or audited either. Not yet anyway.

  16. cometman permalink*
    December 1, 2009 1:27 pm

    This is fucked up. Rick Warren, the gay-hating minister who gave the prayer at Obama’s inauguration, and others members of the religious whackjob group The Family are tied to efforts to allow the Ugandan government to execute gay people. What the fuck is wrong with these people?

    I’d really like to see somebody make a big deal of this one because Obama should have to defend his decision to allow a despicable human being like Rick Warren a platform like he got. Won’t hold my breath though. Seems like Obama only gets taken to task when it’s one of his black acquaintances who says something untoward.

  17. Stemella permalink*
    December 2, 2009 9:51 am

    I’m listening to Joint Economic Committee hearing on proposals that would introduce control to currently unregulated financial markets. One of the witnesses is Brooksely Born. C=span link

    Born suggests that over the counter swaps should be put on an open exchange the way futures are now.

    The ideas being proposed during this hearing are great, but it is doubtful they would ever make it to legislation once the lobbyists get wind of them. If this was a sane government, Born would be working in this administration to work on real reform of this fucked up casino we call this economy.

    It does sound as though this committee does want to address “too big to fail” Born pointed out that too big to fail also includes too interconnected to fail, too big to manage and too big to supervise.

    Break up the fucking zombies already!

  18. cometman permalink*
    December 2, 2009 12:45 pm

    Two good essays at Counterpunch today about the overall uselessness of Barack Obama.

    Paul Craig Roberts with The Obama Puppet.

    The military/security lobby has war and a domestic police state on its agenda, and a mere American president can’t do anything about it.

    President Obama can order the Guantanamo torture chamber closed and kidnapping and rendition and torture to be halted, but no one carries out the order.

    Essentially, Obama is irrelevant.

    President Obama can promise that he is going to bring the troops home, and the military lobby says, “No, you are going to send them to Afghanistan, and in the meantime start a war in Pakistan and maneuver Iran into a position that will provide an excuse for a war there, too. Wars are too profitable for us to let you stop them.”

    And the mere president has to say, “Yes, Sir!”

    I’m sure Roberts doesn’t want to disparage the administration he used to work for too much, but he does harken back to the ‘good old days’ of Reagan and Bush I in this and other articles, seeming to forget that many of the horrendous policies he rails about today were started by St. Ronnie. other than that he’s pretty spot on.

    Secondly, Fran Shor with Obama and the Dying Empire.

    For all Obama’s efforts to use “smart” power to navigate during this period of decline, he cannot, as a member of the political class, acknowledge that decline and eschew, in the process, an imperial agenda. At best, he may try to find ways to bargain with the inevitable death of the empire. But bargaining, as psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross noted in her classic study of death and dying, is a temporary and last-ditch effort to escape the inevitable. For historian Eric Hobsbawm, “the age of empires is dead. We shall have to find another way of organizing the globalized world of the twenty-first century.” And we will have to do it against those elite forces, whether neo-conservative or neo-liberal, that are incapable of ending their self-appointed imperial missions.

    • Stemella permalink*
      December 2, 2009 2:30 pm

      Roberts is good, but I think the second piece by Shor really nails it. I’ve read some other criticism from the Guardian Obama’s Afghanistan strategy oozes with desperation

      Barack Obama’s announcement of an Afghan “surge” is his frantic bid to rescue what promises to be a stumbling re-election campaign that must start in 2011. It oozes with his desperation not to be in Afghanistan. The question is how best to disengage. As in Vietnam and as the Russians found, withdrawal tends to be possible here in Afghanistan only after the generals on the ground have been given a last chance to claim victory.

      The chance is generous. With 30,000 more troops at a staggering cost of $1m per soldier per year, Obama’s generals are charged with giving the Taliban a “knock-out” blow sufficient to send them reeling back into the mountains. This is supposed to allow the Kabul government to establish its sovereignty over its nation or, more plausibly, at least to give Nato a breathing space to escape.

      And about NATO …

      Nato under pressure to back Barack Obama’s Afghanistan surge

      The Nato secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the allies would respond with troop pledges totalling at least 5,000. But European leaders’ warm words for Barack Obama’s speech were not matched by combat commitments and it was not clear where the 5,000 were coming from. At best, a couple of thousand were pledged, raising the non-US contingent to about 40,000, compared with 100,000 US forces.

      Why am I reminded of the Coalition of the willing?

  19. cometman permalink*
    December 2, 2009 1:03 pm

    Here’s something interesting. There have been reports for a while that when increasing amounts of atmospheric CO2 are absorbed by the oceans it acidifies the water and impairs the ability of crustaceans and other animals to form their protective shells. But now a study by researches at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution suggests that increased CO2 may actually allow some species to build stronger shells. The key word here being ‘some’, since the same study showed that certain species did show a reduction in the ability to form shells.

    … in a study published in the Dec. 1 issue of Geology, a team led by former WHOI postdoctoral researcher Justin B. Ries found that seven of the 18 shelled species they observed actually built more shell when exposed to varying levels of increased acidification. This may be because the total amount of dissolved inorganic carbon available to them is actually increased when the ocean becomes more acidic, even though the concentration of carbonate ions is decreased.

    “Most likely the organisms that responded positively were somehow able to manipulate…dissolved inorganic carbon in the fluid from which they precipitated their skeleton in a way that was beneficial to them,” said Ries, now an assistant professor in marine sciences at the University of North Carolina. “They were somehow able to manipulate CO2…to build their skeletons.”

    But since they don’t know exactly how this process works and many species were still adversely affected, Reis’ conclusion seems to be sound.

    “The oceans absorb much of the CO2 that we release to the atmosphere,” Ries says. However, he warns that this natural buffer may ultimately come at a great cost.

    “It’s hard to predict the overall net effect on benthic marine ecosystems, he says. “In the short term, I would guess that the net effect will be negative. In the long term, ecosystems could re-stabilize at a new steady state.

    “The bottom line is that we really need to bring down CO2 levels in the atmosphere.”

  20. Stemella permalink*
    December 2, 2009 3:09 pm

    Rocky road ahead in Venezuela?

    Venezuela Dollar Bonds Plunge on Chavez Bank Takeovers, Threats

    Venezuela’s benchmark dollar bonds plunged, sending yields to a four-month high, after President Hugo Chavez threatened to seize more banks following the government’s takeover of four lenders.

    ~snip~

    Chavez, who has used Venezuela’s oil wealth to pay for nationalizations of companies in the utilities, metals and cement industries, said today the government is monitoring another group of banks after ordering the seizure of four and jailing their owner on Nov. 20. The government also closed a brokerage and raided another as part of investigations into businessman Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco, who was charged with diverting deposits and making unauthorized stock operations.

    • cometman permalink*
      December 3, 2009 12:20 pm

      I hope it all works out. There is bound to be wailing and gnashing of teeth as Chavez nationalizes some industries and I’m sure there will be rocky stretches even if Chavez’ plan eventually works. But I have to say it’s nice to hear the wealthy wailing this time around. They’ve had enough opportunities to cheer over the last 30+ years as one Latin country after another has had their state assets privatized. Not going to shed too many tears now that the show is on the other foot and frankly it would be nice to hear a little more of this from our “leaders” here in the US:

      “Gentlemen of the oligarchy, the bank that slips will be taken over. This sort of situation allows us to sharpen our swords. The ones that should be taking care now are the private bankers, because I’ve got my eye on them. The public bank sector will have a hegemony.”

      No more bailouts. You fuck up and you’re done.

  21. Stemella permalink*
    December 2, 2009 7:56 pm

    Blackwater/Xe’s Prince begins to spill his beans in this Vanity Fair interview. Turns out he was not only a major contractor, but also an “asset” for the Company. Mercenary be his name. There have to be so many conflicts and broken laws in all of this. Fuck Obama for still using these war criminals and for not throwing the book at this creature from the Blackwater Lagoon.

    Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier, Spy

    But the truth about Prince may be orders of magnitude stranger than fiction. For the past six years, he appears to have led an astonishing double life. Publicly, he has served as Blackwater’s C.E.O. and chairman. Privately, and secretly, he has been doing the C.I.A.’s bidding, helping to craft, fund, and execute operations ranging from inserting personnel into “denied areas”—places U.S. intelligence has trouble penetrating—to assembling hit teams targeting al-Qaeda members and their allies. Prince, according to sources with knowledge of his activities, has been working as a C.I.A. asset: in a word, as a spy. While his company was busy gleaning more than $1.5 billion in government contracts between 2001 and 2009—by acting, among other things, as an overseas Praetorian guard for C.I.A. and State Department officials—Prince became a Mr. Fix-It in the war on terror. His access to paramilitary forces, weapons, and aircraft, and his indefatigable ambition—the very attributes that have galvanized his critics—also made him extremely valuable, some say, to U.S. intelligence. (Full disclosure: In the 1990s, before becoming a journalist for CBS and then NBC News, I was a C.I.A. attorney. My contract was not renewed, under contentious circumstances.)

    But Prince, with a new administration in power, and foes closing in, is finally coming in from the cold. This past fall, though he infrequently grants interviews, he decided it was time to tell his side of the story—to respond to the array of accusations, to reveal exactly what he has been doing in the shadows of the U.S. government, and to present his rationale. He also hoped to convey why he’s going to walk away from it all.

    • cometman permalink*
      December 3, 2009 12:36 pm

      Does Prince really think that will exonerate him somehow? Sounds like one of those “I was just following orders” type of excuses. But it doesn’t excuse the fact that his company and its trigger happy employees were responsible for murdering innocent people all over Iraq.

      I’d be more surprised if Blackwater and all the other mercenary companies over there weren’t involved with the CIA and I’m not sure why he thinks this is some big revelation. And his attempts to paint himself as some kind of selfless do-gooder who paid for some of his missions out of his own pocket is laughable when all the money that is in his pocket comes from bloated government contracts in the first place.

      • Stemella permalink*
        December 3, 2009 2:14 pm

        He’s probably more worried about getting zinged from his former adversaries overseas more than he’s worried about getting in trouble with the law Stateside. It’s not like Obama’s DOJ has held anyone to account from the Bushistas.

        • cometman permalink*
          December 3, 2009 4:28 pm

          I hope one of them does zing him because this whole fiasco with Prince is reminding me more and more of Ollie North. When you get caught doing something nasty, just wrap yourself in the flag, claim you were just following orders from some unspecified higher ups who have wrapped themselves in plausible deniability, and then voila! nobody at all was really to blame.

          Wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see Prince spouting bullshit on Faux News just like North after he retires from “public service”.

  22. Stemella permalink*
    December 2, 2009 8:17 pm

    ZH has a youtube of a great interview with Taibbi in a preview of his latest in Rolling Stone about Obama’s version of Crony Capitalism.

    Digging deeper and peeling the onion. Bless Taibbi and Rolling Stone for continuing to investigate this fundamental issue.

  23. Stemella permalink*
    December 2, 2009 8:32 pm

    Also bless Bernie Sanders.

    Whaddya do when some friggn’ cocksucker friggn’ crashes the buck? You fuck’em up dude.

    Fuck’em up Bernie. Fuck’em up Dood. Fuckin drill im, Fuckem up dude. Fucken Bernie! :-D

    (oh no, what have I done?!?!?!)

    Bernie Sanders Will Try to Block Ben Bernanke’s Confirmation

    and from his own site

    Sen. Bernie Sanders Wednesday placed a hold on the nomination of Ben Bernanke for a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve. “The American people overwhelmingly voted last year for a change in our national priorities to put the interests of ordinary people ahead of the greed of Wall Street and the wealthy few,” Sanders said. “What the American people did not bargain for was another four years for one of the key architects of the Bush economy.” As head of the central bank since 2006, Bernanke could have demanded that Wall Street provide adequate credit to small and medium-sized businesses to create decent-paying jobs in a productive economy, but he did not. He could have insisted that large bailed-out banks end the usurious practice of charging interest rates of 30 percent or more on credit cards, but he did not. He could have broken up too-big-to-fail financial institutions that took Federal Reserve assistance, but he did not. He could have revealed which banks took more than $2 trillion in taxpayer-backed secret loans, but he did not.

    Somewhere Nassim Taleb is cracking a smile.

  24. Stemella permalink*
    December 3, 2009 8:17 am

    Watching Bernanke’s job review with the Senate Finance Committee on C-Span3

    Chair Chris Dodd has finished his opening remarks where he has shown his true colors and thrown his full support and votes in favor of Badboy Ben. He expressed concern with the overall role of the Fed, but there is no doubt that he’s siding with the banksters to get himself repurchased, I mean re-elected.

    There may be some interesting and entertaining admonishments, but given Dodd’s immediate cave, there is no question that this hearing, like all of them these days, is kabuki. Bernie’s hold will have no effect, Bernanke will be reinstated, is my prediction.

    sigh.

    Status quo uber alles

    • cometman permalink*
      December 3, 2009 12:40 pm

      Do you have any idea how these “holds” in the Senate work? I’ve been hearing about them for a few years now but I don’t really understand how binding they are coming from just one Senator. Glad Bernie is trying at least and fuck all the equivocating douchebags like Dodd, Barney Frank and the rest of them.

      • Stemella permalink*
        December 3, 2009 2:11 pm

        Good news, one of the Republicans, Bunning from KY, who tore Ben a new butthole, has placed a second hold. Bunning was featured in that Frontline piece on Born. He had sided with Summers back then but came around to see it Born’s way. Here’s an article about his hold:

        Bunning places second hold on Bernanke

        Here’s a pretty good description on Sanders’ hold

        The hold Sen. Bernie Sanders placed on the confirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke could mean he serves as acting chairman for some time next year while the Senate leadership assembles 60 votes for approval instead of just 51.

        The Vermont independent has been critical of Bernanke, calling him an architect of the financial and economic crisis and Wednesday he escalated his objection by using the privilege of any senator to block a confirmation.

        Bernanke faces questioning by members of the Senate Banking Committee later in the morning. Sanders is not on the committee but many of the questions posed are likely to be antagonistic, perhaps more so because of Sander’s action.

        Sanders’ hold on the confirmation is likely to push a Senate confirmation vote into next year, beyond the Jan. 31 term of his chairmanship. He would then continue as acting chairman until the confirmation vote. Bernanke’s 14-year term as Fed governor does not expire until Jan. 31, 2010. link

  25. cometman permalink*
    December 3, 2009 12:51 pm

    Ha! Here another tonedeaf bankster who doesn’t know when to shut his freaking piehole.

    Hugh “Skip” McGee, one of Wall Street’s best-paid bankers, has launched an extraordinary attack on staff at his son’s exclusive private school after a teacher allegedly claimed that all investment bankers are dishonest “sleazeballs”.

    Mr Mcgee, who is Barclays Capital’s global head of investment banking, penned a rambling five-page letter to the board of trustees of Houston’s Kinkaid School, asking that the teacher and two other staff members be fired.

    In the letter, Mr McGee, who is alleged to have an eight-figure salary, claims that history teacher Leslie Lovett has a “leftist invective” which “is neither accurate nor part of the approved curriculum”.

    Good luck with that Skippy.

  26. Stemella permalink*
    December 3, 2009 2:24 pm

    Here is Bunning’s asswhooping of Bernanke today

  27. triv33 permalink
    December 4, 2009 7:02 am

    Um…is it snowing?

    • Stemella permalink*
      December 4, 2009 7:47 am

      haha! No, that is the sperm of vampire squid raining down from “God’s Work” heaven. :-D

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