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The Sheriff is back in town

January 31, 2010

In line with Obama’s clear rightward shift in rhetoric in his state of the union speech, this weekend Obama is showing us his stuff, his dick swinging foreign policy at the end of a rocket. He’s pulling it out, his patriot missiles, planting them around the Gulf, brushing aside all that diplomacy he previously so strongly championed. In so doing, America again wears the cowboy hat of Reagan-Bush foreign policy. Yee haw! He is also seriously pissing off China with weapons deals with Taiwan.

Oh, but 2010 is looking to be a real exciting year, boys and girls. Pull up a seat at yer teevee and maybe you’ll get to see agin the rockets red glare, bombs burstin in air, giv’n proof in the night shocknawe is still there, in greenscreen!

US boosts missile presence in Gulf as warning to Iran The Obama administration is intensifying pressure on Iran by increasing its missile defences in the Middle East to defend against potential missile strikes in the region by Tehran, it emerged today. The US military has boosted the capability of land-based Patriot defensive missiles in several Arab nations in the Gulf, and one official told the Associated Press the navy was also increasing the presence of ships capable of knocking out hostile missiles in flight.

The move – reported in several US newspapers this morning – appears to be a deliberate attempt by the White House to ratchet up pressure on Iran ahead of attempts to increase sanctions against the country.


The US is reappraising its Iran policy after months of unsuccessful diplomatic moves, and is attempting to win broad international consensus for sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, believed to control a covert nuclear arms programme, the New York Times reported.
Last week, in his state of the union speech, Barack Obama spoke of “consequences” if Iran failed to comply with UN demands to stop nuclear fuel production.

U.S. regrets China’s response to arms sales

China’s official Xinhua news agency said in an English-language commentary that the arms sales “will cause seriously negative effects on China-U.S. exchanges and cooperation in important areas, and ultimately will lead to consequences that neither side wishes to see.”

The sales in effect constitute the second half of a package that former President George W. Bush had approved as early as 2001. The notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean a deal has been concluded. Congress has 30 days to block such sales, though it has never done so.


“The United States will shoulder responsibility for the serious repercussions if it does not immediately reverse the mistaken decision to sell weapons to Taiwan,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei told U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman …

In another Reuters article discussing How China’s anger could hurt ties with the U.S. there is discussion of sanctions on military industrial complex corporations directly involved. The article notes, “China is the single biggest holder of U.S. Treasuries, owning at least $776.4 billion of U.S. government debt at the end of June 2009, according to statistics from Washington. But there have been no signs Beijing will use broader trade penalties or its dollar holdings to punish Washington.”


56 Comments leave one →
  1. Stemella permalink*
    January 31, 2010 10:28 am

    Obama’s budget for 2011 will be released tomorrow. Here is a partial list of some of the 121 proposed program cuts from the official whitehouse blog. This is part of his Freeze initiative.

    * Consolidating 38 Education programs into 11. The current program structure at the Department of Education is fragmented and ineffective. The Department operates dozens of grant programs that impose narrow requirements on districts and fail to demand better outcomes or build a knowledge base of what works. Some of these programs have little evidence of success, while others are demonstrably failing to improve student achievement. As part of the Administration’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization proposal, the Budget therefore proposes to consolidate 38 K-12 programs into 11 new programs that give states and districts more flexibility about means but impose greater accountability for outcomes.

    * Cutting Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America grant programs at the National Park Service. Save America’s Treasures program was started to mark the millennium and was supposed to last for two years. Both programs lack rigorous performance metrics and evaluation efforts so the benefits are unclear.

    * Eliminate the Advanced Earned Income Tax Credit (AEITC). EITC eligible taxpayers with children may file a form with their employers and receive a portion of their EITC throughout the year in their paychecks. Only a tiny number of EITC eligible taxpayers claim the AEITC; 3 percent, or 514,000 taxpayers according to the Government Accountability Office. And the error rate for the program is high: 80 percent of recipients did not comply with at least one program requirement. This ineffective and prone-to-error program should be eliminated.

    * Terminate the Brownfields Economic Development Initiative. While a consistent supporter of the brownfield clean-up on the campaign trail and a strong advocate for expanding economic opportunity in urban areas, the President proposes to eliminate BEDI, a small program duplicative of larger programs. Instead, the Administration consolidates its support for the brownfield clean-up – funding larger programs and thereby reducing overhead costs.

    * End Abandoned Mine Lands Payments to Certified States. The Abandoned Mine Land program was established to restore abandoned coal mine lands. Changes to this program allowed these funds to go to states and tribes who already have cleaned up these mine. Paying states and tribes to clean up mines that are already cleaned up was not the intention of this program, and is why it is being terminated.

    There is more discussion here, Obama Seeks $200M to Help Cities Host 9 / 11 Trials. Yes, Obama will happily slash numerous domestic programs while forking out a cool $200 mill for his show trials.

    Alrighty then.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 1, 2010 1:05 pm

      One has to wonder how much of that cash for security for the show trials is going to end up in the pockets of Guiliani’s consulting company.

      It’s as if Mr. 23 Dimension Chess is willingly getting punked by just about eveyone right now because of his indecisiveness. Won’t cut defense spending because he’s afraid of being called soft. And he would be. So now we have douchebag extraordinaire John Boehner calling for cuts in defense spending. You’d have to be an absolute moron not to realize the republicans will use some twisted logic to go against whatever he proposes. So when the right thing to do is staring you in the face, why not just do it rather than shying away and then letting the republicans take the lead, however hypocritical their motives may be? At this point I’m wondering how long it will be before the republicans start talking about impeachment for launching drone strikes all over the place or some other continuation of Bush’s policies which are illegal under international law. Certainly wouldn’t put it past them.

      • Stemella permalink*
        February 1, 2010 1:12 pm

        The Massachusetts election results was chum in the water for the sharks to go into full feeding frenzy. I heard that upcoming elections in Illinois may go the same way. They are throwing an anvil at the sinking ship, too dense and vindictive to realize they are also sinking themselves. Meanwhile Obama is tacking farther to the right thinking that will correct his course. It isn’t going to end well for anyone.

        • cometman permalink*
          February 1, 2010 2:35 pm

          Still hasn’t learned the lesson that republican-lite isn’t going to cut it. I was just reading this piece from Michael Hudson – Obama’s Junk Economics. Not too much new in there we haven’t talked about but he did mention that not only are they targeting Obama’s former Senate seat, they’re gunning for some other big ones as well.

          Republicans are setting their eyes on Pres. Obama’s former Senate seat in Illinois, Vice Pres. Biden’s seat in Delaware, and Majority Leader Reid’s seat in Nevada. Losing these and other seats would create a political standoff giving Obama further excuse for not changing course.

          As if he needed any more excuses to do nothing.

  2. Stemella permalink*
    February 1, 2010 8:04 am

    God’s Work is going to have a come to Jeebus moment soon when he gets to guzzle a cool $100 million squid beaks from the tip of the blood funnel.

    Goldman Sachs and the $100 million question

    Goldman Sachs, the world’s richest investment bank, could be about to pay its chief executive a bumper bonus of up to $100 million in defiance of moves by President Obama to take action against such payouts.

    Bankers in Davos for the World Economic Forum (WEF) told The Times yesterday they understood that Lloyd Blankfein and other top Goldman bankers outside Britain were set to receive some of the bank’s biggest-ever payouts. “This is Lloyd thumbing his nose at Obama,” said a banker at one of Goldman’s rivals.

    Goldman Sachs is becoming the focus of an increasingly acrimonious political and financial showdown over the payment of multimillion-pound bonuses.Last week the US President described bonuses paid out by some banks as “the height of irresponsibility” and “shameful”.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 1, 2010 1:06 pm

      Sigh. Mr. God’s Work will get it too. Hopey McChange gets punked again.

  3. cometman permalink*
    February 1, 2010 11:32 am

    Very nice post and good pics too. Was the squidly flag one of yours?

    The hypocrisy of our foreign policy never ceases to amaze. The US tries to strongarm China over Taiwan and yet there is an island just off the coast of the US which the US has coveted for decades and treats in much the same way as China treats Taiwan. In fact the US almost started WW III over Cuba a few decades back.

    China is not going to put up with US belligerence forever. As a matter of fact, it looks like they might like to start building some foreign military bases of their own as a counter to the ones the US keeps building closer and closer to Chinese territory.

    China has signalled to set up foreign military bases including one in Pakistan, a Chinese government website said.

    “Setting up overseas military bases is not an idea we have to shun; on the contrary, it is our right…it is baseless to say that we will not set up any military bases in future because we have never sent troops abroad,” said the report.

    The report also said, “As for the military aspect, we should be able to conduct the retaliatory attack within the country or at the neighbouring area of our potential enemies. We should also be able to put pressure on the potential enemies’ overseas interests. With further development, China will be in great demand of the military protection”.

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 1, 2010 1:24 pm

      Thanks! No, I “borrowed” both of those pics. There was a whole series of altered flags somewhere on the internets and I copied this one.

  4. cometman permalink*
    February 1, 2010 12:53 pm

    Excellent piece by Chris Hedges today on the state of journalism. He argues that the problem is the attempt at “objectivity” which stops with the “he said, she said” type of reporting, while failing to put stories in context, and to ask my favorite question, “Why?”.

    Can’t argue with that. The one that has been really frosting me lately is the portrayal of Obama wanting to take it to the banks because of a few words he uttered in various speeches. Yet we are never reminded that it was Obama and the Democrats who pushed for handing over the money with no strings attached in the first place and nobody ever asks why he might want to make it appear that he is changing course at this point in time or if he is really changing course at all, which he doesn’t appear to be for those who follow things a little more closely than what is presented on the 6 o’ clock news.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 1, 2010 1:11 pm

      Meant to add that Howard Zinn is the kind of historian and journalist the rest of them should aspire to be. I reread a little of “People’s History” the other day and Zinn is simply leaving in the parts that many other historians have omitted. His account of the genocide of the native population after Columbus’ arrival is taken from Columbus’ own writing as well as that of other eyewitnesses at the time, something we rarely hear about in school except in brief passing, but which nevertheless is 100% true.

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 1, 2010 1:39 pm

      That is a great article. We’ve been witness to that journalistic transformation, especially since the invasion of Iraq with it’s hand picked embeds. Now the only correspondents in the war zones are from Al Jazeera and other foreign press agencies. America doesn’t want sunlight shone on its imperial exploits.

      I was reminded of this trend in recent weeks watching the usually bubble headed Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta reporting live and decently from Haiti. When Gupta watched as medical teams abandoned vulnerable Haitian patients for some mythical concept of “security,” he rivived journalism for CNN as it is supposed to be. Of course once they both return to their headquarters stateside they will revert to their typical talking points and vacuousness.

      The news corporations don’t want to pay people to gather first person news anymore, except for natural disasters, which pull in the eyeballs and ratings. We are doomed without a free and fair press, muckraking and informing.

      • cometman permalink*
        February 1, 2010 2:26 pm

        IIRC, didn’t Cooper actually act like a human being during Katrina too? I remember some reporter or another being commended for not acting like their usual self.

        When things on the ground move to fast for the reporters to be prepped and their isn’t a chance to insert the conventional wisdom into the broadcast, a brief glimmer of humanity shines through. Then it’s all back to normal once they get back to the comfy chairs.

    • artemis54 permalink
      February 1, 2010 3:44 pm

      Besides the he said/she said, there is this constant need to see everything in partisan terms and in terms of the next election. See David Gregory: “Word just in that a comet will strike earth in ten months. How will this affect the Democrats’ chances, Cokie?”

      Or take John King. He was interviewing governor Granholm and teased it with his question would you like to be running as a Democrat this year? “Oh no.” In the actual interview she clarifies that she wouldn’t want to run as an incumbent. She also said that the difference between this administration – from the beginning – and the last was “like night and day” in terms of helping Michigan in particular, but his takeaway summary was that “Obama finally gets it” re jobs.

      If is isn’t about the parties, it isn’t even news. There is more coverage of the International Year of Biodiversity in the Sri Lankan press than the American.

      • cometman permalink*
        February 1, 2010 4:22 pm

        That partisan stuff is truly maddening. I can’t even watch the corporate TV news anymore and about the only exposure I get is when Jon Stewart makes fun of them.

        If certain countries insist in using “enhanced interrogation techniques”, maybe they should just force people to watch US TV news for 48 hours straight or so. If I were a prisoner and given the choice of say, having one of my fingers beaten to a pulp or watching every broadcast of the Situation Room from the last month consecutively, I might just opt for the hammer.

  5. cometman permalink*
    February 1, 2010 1:43 pm

    Angry Hofstra Prof has another barn burner laying out the current state of affairs- An Ugly Week for the Human Race (and Other Living Things) .

    His take on Squobama:

    …classic Obama: breathtakingly tepid nothingburger supposed solutions to serious political problems that piss off the left because they want him to be going the other way, piss off the middle because they want something that works, and piss off the right because not even troglodytes like John McCain are mentally ill enough to satisfy them anymore.

    And where does this all leave us? He echoes the same thoughts I have that when people finally get pissed off enough to do something, it will likely be the right wing nutters leading the charge.

    That’s where things will get very interesting. Unfortunately, that may be ‘interesting’ in the unhappy sense of the ancient Chinese curse. Ask yourself this question: If a rageful and desperate America were to make a sharp ideological turn one way or the other in order to seek solutions to its maladies, which way would it go? To the left, as it did in the 1930s? Or to the right, as certain other countries you may have heard of did during the same decade? I’d say it’s actually an open question, primarily because socialist-hating Americans love their socialist government programs like Medicare and Social Security, and they might even want a lot more of those as the free market system championed by the right assists them in continuing to shed their jobs, houses, security and dignity. Still, if I had to bet, I’d say the other scenario is the more likely.

    Anyhoo, worth reading the whole long article. Another page in the history of the Empire’s fall.

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 1, 2010 2:02 pm

      That is another good one. I ran across it last week and had to laugh at “nothingburger”. I think it was Jon Stewart who referred to Coakley as Candidate McNothington. This all harkens back to good old Doonesbury’s take on the Bush #1 and #2 as asterisks “*” Curiously, now over one year in, GB Trudeau has still not yet drawn an icon of any kind for Obama – less than nothing it seems.

      I haven’t been paying attention, but I guess there is great anticipation
      among Doonesbury fans

      • cometman permalink*
        February 1, 2010 2:29 pm

        Ha! That is a good point- what could he represent Obama with that is less than nothing? Maybe one of these I guess – “<0". Less than zero also appropriately enough closely resembles someone wearing a dunce cap who has fallen over from being socked in the jaw. I think I’m going to start using that one and see if it sticks ;)

  6. Stemella permalink*
    February 1, 2010 1:44 pm

    Simon Johnson has a good idea

    Move your politician’s money

    The essence of our current difficulties is that so many people – both in power and from all walks of life – still actually think our biggest banks are good for their customers and for society as a whole, so we must hold our noses and live with them. This view must be challenged, directly and repeatedly.

    In this context, moving your own money is more than an important gesture, and if enough people get on board, it will make a difference. More likely, thinking hard –and talking with others – about your various monetary transactions also beings to change the rules of the political game. How can politicians claim to be against Too Big To Fail banks when they actually have an account or a credit card or a mortgage at one such offender? Shouldn’t state officials be held accountable for where they park the taxpayers’ funds? Which governor wants to risk reelection while heavily dependent on big banks? Who got what kind of commission last time a government body issued bonds?

    This set of litmus tests can be seized on by left or right – both, in fact, can reasonably claim some inheritance from Jackson and Brandeis. Expect competition from all sides to prove their candidates are less beholden to the dangerous and debunked ideology of Reckless Finance.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 1, 2010 3:06 pm

      Ha! I’d love to hear somebody ask Biden (D: MBNA) about that, among others. That is a very good idea, along with people moving their own money too.

      I have to say that these banksters are so rotten it’s hard not to assume their bullshit hasn’t completed permeated the entire financial system. The other day I went to the credit union where I’ve kept my money for several years now and they offered me a pretty sweet deal on some mortgage changes and I’ll admit that my first reaction was “Where’s the catch?”. I had asked about a refi since rates were so low, which would have entailed adding a few grand in closing costs and resetting the mortgage back to 30 years. I was told that I didn’t have to do a refi and that I could simply do a mortgage adjustment, where for a nominal fee under $200 they would simply switch the mortgage to a lower rate. All I’d have to do is put down 1% of the outstanding loan which would go straight to paying off the principle, something that is also to my benefit. Have to look into this more, but for the time being it seems like the credit union is simply doing this because it doesn’t hurt them and it helps me. But the fact that they may be actually rewarding the loyalty of a halfway decent customer really threw me for a loop. I’ll have to find out more but if this is something that is more widely available and there really is no catch, I think people ought to know about it. The only catch for other people is that you have to have had your mortgage with the credit union to begin with to be eligible for the rate adjustment.

  7. artemis54 permalink
    February 1, 2010 4:48 pm

    Two thoughts on the Americans being held on possible kidnapping charges. First, they’re just idiots. Even if you’re a Baptist from Upper Buttcrack Idaho, what makes you think you can just herd a truckload of minor citizens across a national border with no papers at all. Hello? Have any of these clowns ever tried to get into Canada, or god help them back into the US with their own kids, never mind an extra twenty or thirty of a different ethnicity, speaking a different language? (That’s probably a piece of the problem. I doubt any of them speak French, never mind Creole.)

    The other thing about all the hyperventilating all over the place is that Americans simply have no clue what life is like in the other world where most people live. It isn’t just a matter of The Gap having inconvenient hours. I feel the need to reread Margerite Yourcenar’s The Abyss.

    • artemis54 permalink
      February 1, 2010 9:11 pm

      Paging Charles Dickens.

      The head cheese of this bunch is actually named Drew Ham.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 2, 2010 9:00 am

      Just read up on that story since I hadn’t heard about it before. Definitely stupid, with some good ol’ fashioned “Jeebus told me to so how could it have been wrong” arrogance mixed in for good measure.

      • Stemella permalink*
        February 2, 2010 9:06 am

        They gotta save those voodoo infected, I mean papist, I mean athiest, souls.

        The white man’s burden so clearly described by Kipling and in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness lives on and on in the hearts and on the sleeves of the fundies. No soul can go unsaved.

        Fucking kidnappers and thieves.

  8. cometman permalink*
    February 2, 2010 8:03 am

    Few things from some science websites.

    Check out this neat-o app which shows the scale of the universe.

    The Fermi Paradox asks if there is other intelligent life out there somewhere which probability suggests is likely, then why haven’t we detected them yet. This explanation of the paradox is so simple it makes you wonder why nobody has thought of it before. Scientists have assumed we should be able to pick up the equivalent of an ET radio or TV program, but since we are broadcasting out into space like we used to anymore, probably the ETs aren’t either.

    “The trouble is that we are making ourselves more and more difficult to be heard,” said Dr Drake. “We are broadcasting in much more efficient ways today and are making our signals fainter and fainter.”

    In the past, TV and radio programmes were broadcast from huge ground stations that transmitted signals at thousands of watts. These could be picked up relatively easily across the depths of space, astronomers calculated.

    Now, most TV and radio programmes are transmitted from satellites that typically use only 75 watts and have aerials pointing toward Earth, rather than into space.

    “For good measure, in America we have switched from analogue to digital broadcasting and you are going to do the same in Britain very soon,” Drake added. “When you do that, your transmissions will become four times fainter because digital uses less power.”

    “Very soon we will become undetectable,” he said. In short, in space no one will hear us at all.

    What is true for humans would probably also be true for aliens, who may already have moved to much more efficient methods of TV and radio broadcasting. Trying to find ET from their favourite shows was going to be harder than we thought, Drake said.

    Lastly, another obituary. Again I’d never heard of this guy until he died but I was familiar with his colleague Fred Hoyle and his work. Cosmologist Geoffrey Burbridge passed away recently , the man who co-wrote the paper that showed we are all made of stardust. Despite his breakthrough paper he, like Hoyle, was considered a bit of a crackpot because he was a Big Bang denier and clung to the steady state model of the universe until his death. Another longer but really interesting article on Burbridge’s work here – Two Against the Big Bang. I’m thinking Burbridge was not a big fan of Penzias and Wilson, whose discovery was what moved most cosmologists into the Big Bang camp.

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 2, 2010 8:59 am

      That scale toy was pretty cool. Nice spacey music too.

      Maybe it doesn’t matter so much if the aliens can no longer hear us. They may not need to. One scientist thinks there are aliens already amongus like fungus, living up our noses.

      Got Aliens in Your Nose?

      Think of that next time you flick a booger ;P

    • artemis54 permalink
      February 2, 2010 10:18 am

      Long live the Steady State! I am part of the minority that still finds the bang objectionable on aesthetic grounds.

      • Stemella permalink*
        February 2, 2010 10:23 am

        Ha! So, instead of a bang it should have been a perfect harmonic fifth instead? ;P

      • cometman permalink*
        February 2, 2010 10:48 am

        Heh. The Big Bang theory definitely still needs some work. When it was first proposed, I think most were content to think that the bang created everything out there. Now with the new multiverse theories which claim that ours may be but one of an enormous number of universes, it definitely brings up the question of what else might be out there that we can’t even see.

        Penzias and Wilson did provide empirical evidence to back up the Big Bang theory. To a point at least. Haha. Because there’s the whole problem with the singularity at the beginning of the theory. You could describe the singularity as a dimensionless point of infinite gravity, which doesn’t make much logical sense if you think about it. A good physicist would tell you that a singularity is basically a synonym for “We don’t yet know what the hell was going on there.”

        Still lots of things like dark matter and dark energy which may prove to be way off base and the steady state people may have more to add to the discussion before all is said and done. Lots of interesting theories out there to explain it all. Who knows, maybe even João Magueijo’s Varying Speed of Light Theory will come into play eventually even though it isn’t very highly regarded right now.

  9. Stemella permalink*
    February 2, 2010 9:02 am

    Here’s another one to elevate the blood pressure.

    Same Blackwater, Different Names

    The change from Blackwater to Xe was announced in February 2009. Less known is that a variety of affiliated companies were also renamed. In the wake of the Nissour Square shooting Xe was barred from Iraq, and the corporate relaunch was supposed to include a de-emphasis on security contracts and a new focus on providing training. However, Xe and its rebranded affiliates still work in Afghanistan, and continue to provide security and training, though they often operate as security subcontractors to other contractors.

    A recent review by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, known as SIGAR, has found that Xe Services has operated under different names. It often acts as a subcontractor, fulfilling training contracts originally won by other companies such as Raytheon, according to a person who has reviewed the SIGAR materials. According to several sources apprised of the contract, in Afghanistan Raytheon worked with the Blackwater entity called Paravant, LLC.

    Peachey, just peachey.

  10. cometman permalink*
    February 2, 2010 9:23 am

    Up heah in Maine there is expression we use for those not so generously endowed with the grey matter – “Numb as a hake.”

    That is also a very apt description of the junior Senator from the land of lobstah. There is a flood of fatuousness just about every time she opens her yap, but this really takes the cake.

  11. cometman permalink*
    February 2, 2010 9:39 am

    George Monbiot isn’t happy with the lack of justice in the UK and so he has put up a new website with a bounty on Tony Blair. People can donate and add to the bounty and there is already a pretty good chunk of change in the pot. Anyone who attempts a citizen’s arrest of the former PM gets 1/4 of the total money donated. Check it out –

  12. artemis54 permalink
    February 2, 2010 10:22 am

    Ah here’s McCain banging the drum against equality in the military, the dirty bastard. Jesus H., why does congress need to debate for months authorizing a two year study to see how the US could possibly do what Canada and Israel did twenty years ago without either their militaries or society in general falling to pieces? Never mind the UK, Brazil, etc etc.

    • artemis54 permalink
      February 2, 2010 10:48 am

      Update: the geezer is on some kind of rampage, accusing Gates (Gates!) of social engineering “by fiat”, being “clearly biased”, trying to defy congress’ constitutional authority, etc. Can’t Cindy McCain control her damned husband?

    • cometman permalink*
      February 2, 2010 12:39 pm

      They need to debate for months so people can have time to forget that they were even considering changing the policy in the first place.

      If you want Congress to do something quickly, mainline some steroids and go hit a home run.

  13. Stemella permalink*
    February 2, 2010 10:29 am

    Chris Floyd concurs with my main post here it seems, regarding Obama’s Wild Weekend: A Worldwide Surge in Warmongering except his post is backed up with far more insight and detail. Give it a read.

    Even as progressives were savoring Barack Obama’s “masterful” – indeed, “brain-searing” – performance at the House Republicans’ retreat last Friday, their dazzling champion was busy applying himself with renewed and reckless vigor to that most un-progressive of occupations: saber-rattling around the world. The last few days have certainly seen a remarkable display of bellicosity by the Obama Administration, putting almost every tool in the militarist kit to use: nukes, ships, missiles, money, proxies and war-profiteering. With just a few flicks of the imperial wrist, Obama sent waves of destabilization through some of the most volatile regions on earth.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 2, 2010 12:36 pm

      Good post by Floyd as usual. He had another one recently recapping some highlights from the Nixon administration and pointed out that Nixon would be considered a radical liberal compared to any administration from the last 30 years or so. I didn’t watch the entire performance Floyd refers to but I have seen quite a few clips from it. I may be missing something but from the clips I did see, while it may be nice to hear “<0" call the nutters on their bullshit, the gist of his speech to them seemed to be that if they would just stop flinging poo and foaming at the mouth for two seconds they might realize that he was trying to pass an essentially Republican agenda. Not exactly anything to get excited about.

      I noticed one clip where “<0" mentioned that some republicans faced political suicide for going along with anything "<0" or the Dems proposed. I have to ask, what would "<0" consider passing a republican agenda while stomping all over the people who voted for him expecting something to change? I sincerely doubt there will be any political resuscitation or resurrection to come from that.

  14. cometman permalink*
    February 2, 2010 12:43 pm

    Something worth noting. Mike Whitneytalks about some largely ignored recent testimony from Sheila Bair which sure seems to indicate that Bernanke and the banksters were very well aware of the disastrous mortgage bubble they were creating and allowed it to inflate despite many warnings over several years.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 2, 2010 1:10 pm

      More on Bernanke from Michael Hudson – The Bernanke Disaster. Long one but a good read. The refusal to give up on obviously failed economic ideology is astounding.

      As a trickle-down apologist for high finance, Prof. Bernanke has drawn systematically wrong conclusions as to the causes of the Great Depression. The ideological prejudice behind his view is of course what got him his job in the first place, for as numerous observers have quipped, a precondition for being hired as Fed Chairman is that one does not understand how the financial system actually works. Instead of recognizing that deepening debt, low wages and the siphoning up of wealth to the top of the economic pyramid were primary causes of the Depression, Prof. Bernanke attributes the main problem simply to a lack of liquidity, causing low prices.

      I guess I should say that what is really astounding is the refusal to admit that these economic policies in no way do what they purport to do after so much evidence about the failure of wealth to “trickle down” to the rest of us. The ideology is actually quite successful in enriching the oligarchs, but we’ll never see anyone admit that that is the real purpose.

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 2, 2010 2:19 pm

      A giant skimming operation – kind of like Ponzi! So freaking bleak. President Less Than is standing by all his failed advisors while reverting to marginalizing Volkner after bringing him out for a dog and pony show. Whitney, Hutson, Johnson, Taleb and many others are all correct in their assessment of Bernanke.


  15. cometman permalink*
    February 2, 2010 10:06 pm

    Interesting read about the behind the scenes machinations of rival gangs of banksters – The Battle of the Titans: JPMorgan vs. Goldman Sachs, or Why the Market Was Down for Seven Days in a Row. Volcker is a long time Morgan guy and we know about the GoldSuckers. I don’t take a lot of comfort in the article’s description of the Goldies as guys who will get up and dance the Macarena after they pick your pocket while the Morgans are more sedate and act like they’ve been there before (which they have) when they rob you blind.

    Noting that about 70% of all NYSE trading was of the computerized high frequency type used by the big banks, after “<0" proposed the new Volcker rules:

    The immediate reaction of the market was to drop – and drop, day after day. At least, that appeared to be the reaction of “the market.” Financial analyst Max Keiser suggests a more sinister possibility. Goldman, which has the power to manipulate markets with its high-speed program trades, may be engaging in a Mexican standoff. The veiled threat is, “Back off on the banking reforms, or stand by and watch us continue to crash your markets.” The same manipulations were evident in the bank bailout forced on Congress by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson in September 2008.

    I think we’ve seen enough evidence in recent months to conclude that the above is very likely the case. There was a lot of evidence that naked short selling took Lehman down and as the linked article mentions, still nothing is being done about it. And all this for the mere mention of fairly timid regulation. We’ve talked here before about how the banks could just change the status to avoid proposed rules against proprietary trading. This Naked Capitalism post makes the same point and this one mentions that any legislation will likely be gutted of any serious reform anyhow.

    The biggest shakedown in history continues.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 2, 2010 10:28 pm

      More on Volcker. Sounds like he got the could shoulder when he pitched his plan to congress today.

      One thing to note:

      In his testimony, Mr Volcker, who chairs a presidential advisory board, dismissed industry concern that it was difficult to separate proprietary trading from the buying and selling conducted on behalf of customers.

      Not sure what Volcker’s exact proposals are but I think it would be very difficult to distinguish between the two and the bankers are very likely crying crocodile tears here. Proprietary trading from what I understand occurs when the bank uses its own money and securities and trades them on the market. Their business of market making occurs when they trade stock for their client accounts with their clients’ money and take their percentage for executing the transaction. Even if Volcker’s rule were to pass, it sure seems like the banks could simply sell their own securities to customers and say it was business on the customer’s behalf. And if they did that they’d be making money on the profit of the sale itself and from charging a fee on top of it. In fact, I remember reading in Michael Lewis’ “Liar’s Poker” that the firm he worked for passed off its own securities that they knew were dogs to clients on a regular basis.

      • Stemella permalink*
        February 3, 2010 9:23 am

        Here’s another assessment of the loopholes in the Volcker Rule discussed by Felix Salmon at Reuters

        More kabuki and the swindle goes on and on.

        If you haven’t seen this (it’s linked over at ZH), Ratigan summarizes where we are quite nicely.

        • cometman permalink*
          February 3, 2010 10:23 am

          That was a good piece by Ratigan. I like him a lot better when he doesn’t dress in the clown suit :) The point he makes about the foreign lending is a particularly good one. I believe what he’s talking about is the carry trade where investors take out loans in one currency at a low interest rate and then use the money to invest in something that pays a higher rate. Basically foreign investors can borrow dollars right now cheaper than they can borrow their own currencies and they are taking full advantage of it. Quite the little racket they have going.

  16. cometman permalink*
    February 3, 2010 9:18 am

    Ha! Funny article on the art of cursing in music – Songs My Mother Never Taught Me.

    How could I have not known about the wonder that is Ian Dury!?!?!?!?! Looked up some of his songs and he was quite the cheesy lounge act back in the day. Me likey. Here’s the song referred to in the article.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 3, 2010 9:24 am

      On a somewhat related note, PZ Meyers thoughts on blog rules and etiquette sounded just about right to me.

      I don’t give a damn about civility. I let people say whatever; my primary criterion for cutting people off is whether they’re boring/obsessive/persistently stupid. If you want to fire up lots of lively discussion and encourage expression of multiple viewpoints, the rule should be hands off — not fussing over ‘tone’ (a word becoming about as distasteful as ‘framing’), not worrying about whether manners should dictate what is allowed to be posted. It does make for a rather Darwinian commenting environment, and some people are harshly self-culled…but the failures here are largely the fragile flowers who need their self-esteem propped up before they can express their opinions, and I don’t miss them at all. All you regulars can take pride in the fact that you are the strong survivors, possessing robust egos and good solid voices, who can handle the challenge of an ungentle tone.

      Boring/obsessive/persistently stupid pretty much sums up everybody I’ve taken issue with on my travels through the interwebs.

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 3, 2010 9:41 am

      Wow, and that was from 1977?

      The Brits are without a doubt the finest cursers, though the Spaniards are pretty good at it too.

      Here’s a lovely young English woman cursing nicely in a more contemporary song.

      • cometman permalink*
        February 3, 2010 10:30 am

        Ha! Nice one!

  17. cometman permalink*
    February 3, 2010 10:07 am

    Anybody catch Frontline last night? Good show on our modern wired age of Entanglement. You can watch it here. It discusses how the technology we use affects the way our we think. Only watched the first hour or so myself but so far the internets will either rot your brain or lead to a whole new way of thinking. Guess we’ll have to wait until a generation or two born into the Entanglement grows up to find out for sure.

    I did think one of the interviewees made a interesting point that our media changed at other times throughout history and while we always lose some things, we gain others. The example he used was the Homeric poets who composed their epics before writing was widespread and sang them from memory. Once writing became more widespread people didn’t need to memorize anymore. That explanation is a little simplistic since it’s doubtful that the majority of people from that time went around memorizing literature and even the poets didn’t simply memorize everything but relied on a lot of stock phrases like “the wine dark sea” to name one example. And the oral tradition did extend into the 20th century, albeit in a very small capacity, as has been well documented by classicist Albert Lord in The Singer of Tales. Got to see Lord give a lecture on this once which was really fascinating. Anyhoo, now that I’ve gotten my classicist nitpicking out of the way, it was still a good point and true in the general sense.

  18. cometman permalink*
    February 3, 2010 1:07 pm

    Timmeh gets spanked again, this time by Wisconsin republican Paul Ryan over the bullshit budget the “<0" administration has come up with. Don't know much about Ryan, but he's right in this case, albeit likely for all the wrong reasons.

  19. cometman permalink*
    February 3, 2010 1:39 pm

    Interesting read about antidepressants – The Depressing News About Antidepressants. Not surprisingly, they don’t really work any better than a placebo which has been known for a while. More studies support this conclusion yet the sales of the pill pushers keep rising.

    The thing about all these antidepressants and other pills is that even if they do show some benefit in some patients, nobody knows exactly why. Without knowing why, everyone who takes them is basically just a guinea pig who is paying big money to be experimented upon. I’m no fan of homeopathic cures and I’m all for medical research, but until doctors know how these drugs actually work I don’t see why they should be allowed on the market at all. But instead the drug companies mix a few molecules together and start cramming them down people’s throats and as long as nobody starts bleeding out of too many orifices at once, they get the FDA stamp whether they really do anything or not.

    Pretty crooked little racket the drug companies have going here when the US government can’t even negotiate cheaper prices on a lot of these pills. Just one of many rackets the government is currently aiding and abetting.

    And yet people wonder why so many are depressed.

    Maybe if people weren’t working more hours than ever before with less and less to show for it as the oligarchs at the top extract the wealth from everyone else which they then use to bomb the shit out of any country that won’t hand over their resources freely, there would be a lot fewer depressed people in the world.

    And if that doesn’t work, there’s always –

    • Stemella permalink*
      February 3, 2010 5:17 pm

      I have to agree that the anti-depressants are largely a big pharma racket. I have a cousin who is a long time regular prozac user, who is now so hooked that they are afraid to leave their job for fear of losing the benefits for the subscription.

      I’m sure some of them do work for specific individuals, but docs hand that shit out like candy. I’ve always wondered what would be the long term side effects. When so much medical research is funded by the corporations of interest you really can’t believe too much what you read anymore. Always look for multiple sources if you can find them, that is.

  20. cometman permalink*
    February 3, 2010 1:56 pm

    New securitization regulations proposed by the FDIC. They sound like a pretty good start.

    1. Mortgages must be seasoned 12 months before they can be securitized

    2. The originator must retain at least a 5% interest in the credit risk of the assets sold

    3. The interest of all parties to a transaction must clearly be disclosed, along with their fees

    4. Re-securitizations (meaning CDOs) are not permitted (note a disconnect here; the e-mailed and verbal reports suggested they were banned entirely; the language at the FDIC website seems to indicate that they are allowed in limited circumstances, but any use of synthetic assets, meaning credit default swaps, in a asset-backed CDO is verboten)

    5. Compensation to servicers will include incentives for loss mitigation

    1 and 2 would certainly make mortgage originators think twice before doing any more no-documentation loans. 4 sounds good too although i’d like some more detail.

    Of course this is being proposed by Sheila Bair’s FDIC who Geithner et al can’t stand, so I’d put the chances of this passing (as Congress is already busy gutting Volcker’s more tepid proposals) at slim to none.

  21. Stemella permalink*
    February 3, 2010 5:26 pm

    So, I’m the unfortunate owner of one of Toyota’s recalled weehicles. I owned my prior Toy for over 13 yrs and finally saved up enough to get a new one last year. And now it wants to kill me. Or does it?

    Tomorrow I’m taking it in for the cheap shim fix. I plan to interrogate the dealer and service people thoroughly. My sense is that there is much bullshit going on here. The “<o" transportation sec. LaHood has been a complete rat bastard, fear mongering. Maybe I'm just a too loyal customer, but this is all far too fishy and it really pisses me off.

    Here’s what Ralph Nader thinks about it Ralph Nader faults safety agency in Toyota recall

    • cometman permalink*
      February 4, 2010 10:01 am

      Good luck with talking to the service people. We have a Subaru and I’m not sure if Toyota works the same way, but Subaru seems to have put up a firewall between the customers and the mechanics. You can’t talk to the mechanic any more – any questions you have about repairs have to go through the ditzy front desk people who may or may not know jack shit about cars.

      Jon Stewart had a good bit about the recall a couple days ago. It’s at the beginning of this video if you haven’t seen it already. It’ll make you laugh about the whole ordeal a little bit at least :)

      • Stemella permalink*
        February 4, 2010 4:54 pm

        Thanks. You were correct. The service rep was a bimbetta who wanted to discuss where I’d bought my purse in response to my detailed questions about mechanics. It was a complete brush off. I was told the car was now safe. I haven’t experienced any unusual auto behavior, but I’ll be following the topic closely. If it turns out to be a problem with the electronics and not only mechanics I’m going to demand a new weehicle – perhaps as part of what should become a massive class action suit.

        And I did see that JS clip. He is a very very savvy man. Saves my sanity too along with Colbert.

  22. Stemella permalink*
    February 4, 2010 7:20 am

    About that enhanced interrogation stuff…. I think the smoke of the last dregs of hopium just wafted out the window, reeking of dog fart.

    US doing ‘scientific research’ to boost interrogations

    US interrogation tactics in the global war on terrorism have drawn heavy scrutiny in the United States and overseas because of the past use of techniques like waterboarding that meet international definitions of torture.

    Obama formally abolished such methods shortly after taking office, drawing fire from former vice president Dick Cheney, who described them as critical to thwarting terrorist attacks in the wake of the September 11, 2001 strikes.

    Asked to detail the research, Feinstein replied: “We are not going to discuss specific research projects, but Intelligence Community-sponsored research is performed in accordance with the law and institutional review board processes.”

    Yes, indeedy, the sheriff is back in town.

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