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Ashen skies and dirty lies

April 22, 2010

Some stories from news of the day, where it seems the vampire squid and vulcan viking storms are precipitating far too much effluent and particulate swirling and raining down on all of our mere plebian heads

Meet the new Goldman derivatives business

Goldman Sachs is a Symptom. The Fed is like AIG on Cocaine or a Two-Faced Mutant Pig

Papandreou Faces Bond Rout as Fiscal Crisis Worsens, Moody’s Cuts Rating

An antidote: Once-smoggy Mexico City makes a bet on bicycles Now and then a story appears that shows that people can do the right thing for a change.

62 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    April 22, 2010 12:32 pm

    Thanks for putting up a new post.

    In the dirty lies department, Scott Horton has this little blurb about US contracts with Kyrgyzstan. Here’s the link to the prepared remarks he made to Congreess today.

  2. cometman permalink*
    April 22, 2010 1:29 pm

    Good articles in the main post. In that first one the author is right in his assessment of the currently proposed reforms but I don’t think his description of breaking up the banks as “too hard” is accurate. That is precisely what needs to happen.

    All this talk of “leverage” being necessary to provide “needed liquidity” may be true to get the current economic system the world operates under to continue working, but it is that very system which will ruin the world. You cannot create more and more economic activity indefinitely. At some point as technology increases, a point which human beings passed a while ago IMO, the potential exists to provide food, clothing, and shelter adequately for everyone as well as enough luxuries to make life interesting. The fact that these provisions have never been distributed equally is beside the point.

    The impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet is something the financial and corporate world just do not want to address. So full steam ahead until we all fall off the cliff.

  3. artemis54 permalink
    April 22, 2010 2:21 pm

    The Get Out Migration begins

    Alexandra Morton has begun her march to Victoria to demand the removal of salmon farms from BC coastal waters. Alone with her dog in her canoe, Morton is paddling into history.

  4. cometman permalink*
    April 22, 2010 7:24 pm

    Excellent article from David Michael Green regarding Justice Stevens’ retirement which speaks to the notion we were discussing here a few days ago about institutional memory being lost – Of Mice and Men.

    But I often worry that the scariest effect of our times – especially for people who have the mixed fortune of being younger than I am – is not so much that we have already, or might soon, lose entirely a level of decency in our politics, but far worse still, that we will lose the capacity to imagine decency. Such concerns always bring me back to the beautifully rendered nightmare of Orwell’s 1984, where the greatest achievement of the regime was just that – its success in stripping the citizenry of the ability to even verbalize alternative visions.

    I wonder about that today. For anyone who is, say, forty years old or younger in America – quite a large proportion of the population – do they even understand that politics doesn’t have to practiced in the way it has been since Reagan turned the GOP into a party of thugs, and Clinton led the Democrats into their role as thug-enablers? Do they know that it actually was once different, not so long ago? Can an alternative praxis, which is not even theoretical but quite real in recent history, still be envisioned?


    If you doubt this proposition, then ask yourself this question: When was the last time you saw an act of genuine political courage in America? When was the last time you saw someone do the right thing because it was the right thing to do? When was the last time somebody sacrificed a job, or a few bucks, or their status among the freeze-dried, blow-hard, pontificator set of Washington’s chattering class? Let alone something more. When was the last time you observed someone risk their lives, or perhaps decades in jail, for a principle?

  5. Stemella permalink*
    April 23, 2010 8:01 am

    The acts of political courage I’ve seen in the last 10 years have not come from anyone holding public office, but instead from the commoners, the public. Cindy Sheehan’s orignal efforts at Camp Casey come to mind. Most recently, Alex Morton’s walk for the wild salmon. A handful of whistle blowers here and there, the Greek guy who tried to take on Bernie Madoff, they took risks to tell the truth, to shine light on malfeasance.

    That was a very thoughtful piece by Green. Thanks for sharing it.

    • artemis54 permalink
      April 23, 2010 8:33 am

      I find myself very drawn to Dan Choi. Everyone stands on the sidelines and bitches about the timing this, the optics that, Obama the other thing. Fuck all that. Choi knows he is right, he knows the system is wrong, he knows Obama doesn’t have some secret plan in the 11th dimension, and like Alex Morton he just can’t take it any more. When enough is enough, say so and take a stand or you are just more DLC, more old white fake liberal, more mamz. You have already lost when you start playing the silly political games.

      • Stemella permalink*
        April 23, 2010 8:52 am

        Yes, of course. Choi is most certainly an example of someone taking risk, putting himself on the line to force attention to a great cause. His timing is perfect as far as I can see. And you are right, the status quo defenders at klub kumquat, in the punditry and media; they’ve already lost and paint themselves further into a corner with each bitching, whining moan at his insistence of action from <O.

  6. Stemella permalink*
    April 23, 2010 8:06 am

    Another one from the “you can’t make this shit up” file

    SEC porn investigation nets dozens

    Dozens of Securities and Exchange Commission staffers used government computers to access and download explicit images and many of the incidents have occurred since the global financial meltdown began, according to a new watchdog investigation.

    The SEC inspector general conducted 33 probes of employees, 31 of which occurred in the last two and a half years, according to a summary of the cases requested by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) that first surfaced Thursday evening.

    Several of employees held senior positions, earning between $99,300 and $222,418 per year, the inspector general’s summary said. Three of the incidents occurred this year, ten in 2009, 16 in 2008, two in 2007 and one each in 2006 and 2005.

    • cometman permalink*
      April 23, 2010 8:46 am

      When I read the blurb you posted first I thought maybe this was just a matter of people inadvertently clicking on links that led to porn sites and then they were recorded on their computer but after reading the article that clearly was not the case. What the hell is wrong with these people?

  7. Stemella permalink*
    April 23, 2010 8:15 am

    While this isn’t exactly new news to us here, I suppose it has now been validated as fact

    Ratings agencies rolled over for Wall Street

    A Senate panel investigating the causes of the nation’s financial crisis on Thursday unveiled evidence that credit-ratings agencies knowingly gave inflated ratings to complex deals backed by shaky U.S. mortgages in exchange for lucrative fees.


    “They did it for the big fees they got,” Levin told reporters on Thursday after outlining the broad strokes of what he’d pursue Friday when he puts current and former ratings agency officials on the hot seat.

    The documents to be released Friday confirm what a McClatchy investigation revealed in October _ that pressure from top ratings-agency executives to retain market share and the fees that it brought meant that ratings on complex deals were malleable. Some fees were as high as $1.4 million.

    The hearings are playing on C-span right now. Sen Kaufman is grilling someone from Moody’s nicely.

    • cometman permalink*
      April 23, 2010 9:41 am

      I hope Kaufman succeeds in getting his colleagues to listen to him. I tend to trust him more on this issue than just about anyone else right now since he isn’t beholden to anyone and his proposals to fix the system are about the only ones with any real teeth.

      Simon Johnson has been leading the charge to support Kaufman of late and sees a shift in the concensus regarding the big banks.

      The ideology of unfettered finance is crumbling. Whatever you think of the merits of the Goldman case from a legal or short-term perspective, the SEC’s allegation – and Goldman’s response – have further moved the mainstream consensus away from “finance is generally good” to “big banks are frequently scary.”

      Senator Ted Kaufman should get a great deal of credit for his well timed charge on this issue – as I argue in BusinessWeek/Bloomberg. But Lloyd Blankfein also gets an inadvertent assist, quoted in the Financial Times yesterday as saying that the SEC case against Goldman would “hurt America.”

      But he’s talking about the “mainstream” consensus and not the consensus among the bought and paid for lackeys to Wall Street in Congress. I’d love to be wrong but I think he’s more than a little naive in thinking that repeated calls to Congress supporting Kaufman will actually have any influence on them.

      I tend to agree more with the Wall Street insider who wrote to Yves Smith:

      Sorry I’ve been out of touch so long.

      It’s just that I’ve become quite disappointed/disaffected by the whole thing. We have failed and “they” have won. All the good that could have come out of the debacle has been lost… and it has broken my heart. The Powers That Be have no inclination to learn anything or correct any of the imbalances. What is even more soul crushing? They are actively and desperately attempting to wrench things back to the way they were. That would be “Mission Accomplished” and it disgusts me.

      Every day I go to work in the Bubble that is Wall Street. A bunch of self-important ass clowns that think they somehow deserve or have earned their outsized compensation. We move paper from one side of the desk to the other and call it “PnL”… and the idiots in this business think they’re talented enough in doing so that they *deserve* to make $4mm bucks a year for doing so. Its a joke. I suppose what makes it harder to swallow is the fact we had such an amazing opportunity to correct those imbalances… and that opportunity was stolen.


      We have lived through the single greatest injustice in the history of mankind. And it all played out in shockingly clear detail. Yet nothing is going to be done about it. No ill-gotten gains will be disgorged, no rules will be meaningfully changed, and not a single person who caused this will be asked to answer for their misdeeds. The American people have been robbed at gunpoint… and no one cares.

  8. Stemella permalink*
    April 23, 2010 8:46 am

    So where did the link between Lance Link Secret Chimp and us go so wrong?

    Chimpanzees Prefer Fair Play To Reaping An Unjust Reward In other words who put the vampire squid in the primate dna that evolved into homo golden suxian? homo republicanus regressivus? and democraticus neo liberalis?

    Fairness is the basis of the social contract. As citizens we expect that when we contribute our fair share we should receive our just reward. When social benefits are handed out unequally or when prior agreements are not honored it represents a breach of trust. Based on this, Americans were justifiably outraged when, not just one, but two administrations bailed out the wealthiest institutions in the country while tens of thousands of homeowners (many of whom were victims of these same institutions) were evicted and left stranded. It smacked of favoritism, the corruption of politics by corporate money, and it was also just plain unfair. But isn’t that the way the world works? Isn’t it true, as we were so often told as children, that life is unfair?

    The American financial tycoon Andrew Carnegie certainly thought so and today’s economic elite have followed his example. In 1889 he used a perverted form of Darwinism to argue for a “law of competition” that became the cornerstone of his economic vision. His was a world in which might made right and where being too big to fail wasn’t a liability, it was the key to success. In his Gospel of Wealth, Carnegie wrote that this natural law might be hard for the least among us but “it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department.”


    But in comparing this simple behavior in chimpanzees to the complexities of human ethics aren’t we really talking apples and oranges (or, perhaps more appropriately, carrots and grapes)? I don’t think so. When we were children we wouldn’t have understood that using financial derivatives to repackage subprime loans in order to resell them as AAA-rated securities was an unfair thing to do. Few of us today (including members of the commission charged with overseeing the financial services industry) can even understand that now. But we did know it was unfair when our sibling got a bigger piece of pie than we did. We began life with a general moral sense of what was fair and equitable and we built onto the framework from there. Chimpanzees, according to this study, appear to have a similar moral sense. The intricacies of what we judge to be fair or unfair would seem to have more to do with human cognitive complexity than anything intrinsically unique to our species. In other words, what we’re witnessing here is a difference of degree rather than kind.

    What this also suggests is that we’ve been swindled. The Andrew Carnegies of the world have led us to believe that they are an exception to the social contract; fairness and equality may be fine for the little people, but for masters of industry it is best to leave such quaint ideas by the wayside. But he was as wrong about this as he was about the way that evolution operates. As we move to regulate financial markets it might be wise to consider Darwin’s understanding of human society and follow the lead of our ape cousins. By emphasizing cooperation and sympathy with other members of our society we stand a better chance of success than each of us working alone. But if the situation is unfair we should refuse to perpetuate it, even if that means giving up a larger share of the pie for ourselves.

    We really should refuse to perpetuate it.

    • cometman permalink*
      April 23, 2010 9:57 am

      Perverted form of Darwinism indeed. Carnegie’s libraries are nice I guess but what he did to be able to build them was swindle everybody out of their grapes and give back a few carrots in return.

  9. Stemella permalink*
    April 23, 2010 9:00 am

    Overnight, Greece cried Uncle, it can’t take it anymore.

    Greece Calls for Activation of Financial Rescue

    Describing his country’s economy as “a sinking ship,” the Greek prime minister formally requested an international bailout on Friday, an unprecedented step that will test the bonds of the European Union.

    In a nationally televised address, Prime Minister George Papandreou said two waves of austerity measures introduced by the government over the past few months had failed to convince the markets that Greece would get its finances under control or be able to avert defaulting on a mountain of debt.

    “Now there is the risk of the sacrifices of the Greek people being lost as rates of borrowing continue to rise,” he said, speaking from the Aegean island of Kastellorizo.

    “The time has come for us to ask our partners in the E.U. to activate the mechanism we formulated together,” he said, referring to an emergency aid package arranged two weeks ago. The plan foresees up to €30 billion, or $40 billion, in loans from Greece’s euro-zone partners, as well as up to €15 billion from the International Monetary Fund.

    Simon Johnson provides his analysis of the situation here: Greece, The IMF, And What Comes Next

  10. cometman permalink*
    April 23, 2010 9:10 am

    The anthrax story is in the news again as one of Bruce Ivins’ former colleagues testified before the national Academy of Sciences yesterday. <O has recently threatened to veto any legislation that proposes a new investigation into the mailings.

    First some musical accompaniment to read the links by – Anthrax w/ Out of Sight Out of Mind :)

    Here’s the NYT story.

    A former Army microbiologist who worked for years with Bruce E. Ivins, whom the F.B.I. has blamed for the anthrax letter attacks that killed five people in 2001, told a National Academy of Sciences panel on Thursday that he believed it was impossible that the deadly spores had been produced undetected in Dr. Ivins’s laboratory, as the F.B.I. asserts.

    Asked by reporters after his testimony whether he believed that there was any chance that Dr. Ivins, who committed suicide in 2008, had carried out the attacks, the microbiologist, Henry S. Heine, replied, “Absolutely not.” At the Army’s biodefense laboratory in Maryland, where Dr. Ivins and Dr. Heine worked, he said, “among the senior scientists, no one believes it.”

    More from Heine in Ivins’ local newspaper.

    And via Meryl Nass’ blog which has been covering this issue for several years now, a couple more.

    A podcast audio clip of an interview with Heine here.

    And one more from an military vet who has a PhD in something or other – Was Bruce Ivins hounded to death?

    • cometman permalink*
      April 23, 2010 9:32 am

      Addendum: Since Leahy was one of the recipients of the anthrax letters and has also called for more investigation, and since Dick Cheney seems awfully proud of telling Leahy to go fuck himself, maybe somebody ought to ask Chatterbox Cheney who mailed the letters.

      Pretty sure he knows.

  11. cometman permalink*
    April 23, 2010 11:29 am

    In the midst of yet another oil disaster which is currently fouling whatever may be still left to foul in the Gulf of Mexico, the oligarchs would do well to heed the words of Derrick Jensen – No, We Can’t Have It All.

    I do think he gets a but luddite with some of his pronouncements like the one about doing away with electricity, but the point is clear.

    We all face choices. We can have ice caps and polar bears, or we can have automobiles. We can have dams or we can have salmon. We can have irrigated wine from Mendocino and Sonoma counties, or we can have the Russian and Eel Rivers. We can have oil from beneath the oceans, or we can have whales. We can have cardboard boxes or we can have living forests. We can have computers and cancer clusters from the manufacture of those computers, or we can have neither. We can have electricity and a world devastated by mining, or we can have neither (and don’t give me any nonsense about solar: you’ll need copper for wiring, silicon for photovoltaics, metals and plastics for appliances, which need to be manufactured and then transported to your home, and so on. Even solar electrical energy can never be sustainable because electricity and all its accoutrements require an industrial infrastructure). We can have fruits, vegetables, and coffee brought to the U.S. from Latin America, or we can have at least somewhat intact human and nonhuman communities throughout that region.

    Naomi Klein reports from Bolivia about how we may be able to achieve the necessary changes if only the oligarchs would listen to the rest of the world.

    The Bolivian government got the ball rolling by proposing four big ideas: that nature should be granted rights that protect ecosystems from annihilation (a “Universal Declaration of Mother Earth Rights”); that those who violate those rights and other international environmental agreements should face legal consequences (a “Climate Justice Tribunal”); that poor countries should receive various forms of compensation for a crisis they are facing but had little role in creating (“Climate Debt”); and that there should be a mechanism for people around the world to express their views on these topics (“World People’s Referendum on Climate Change”).

    She also touches on the James Lovelock article we discussed here:

    Bolivia’s enthusiastic commitment to participatory democracy may well prove the summit’s most important contribution.

    That’s because, after the Copenhagen debacle, an exceedingly dangerous talking point went viral: the real culprit of the breakdown was democracy itself. The UN process, giving equal votes to 192 countries, was simply too unwieldy–better to find the solutions in small groups. Even trusted environmental voices like James Lovelock fell prey: “I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war,” he told the Guardian recently. “It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.” But in reality, it is such small groupings–like the invitation-only club that rammed through the Copenhagen Accord–that have caused us to lose ground, weakening already inadequate existing agreements.

    I think Lovelock probably realized that if democracy were put on hold while the world addressed climate change, it would have to be nations like Bolivia or the Maldives who called the shots. But if regular people from every nation and not just the oligarchs were to get together to decide on a binding course of action, I don’t think there’s any question that the US and the other big polluters would find themselves on the losing side.

  12. cometman permalink*
    April 23, 2010 11:40 am

    This article from Ellen Brown about computerized front running in the stock markets was interesting mainly for the tidbit about Max Keiser that I hadn’t heard before. Keiser claims to have invented the program or at least the prototype that allows front running to take place.

    He [Keiser] claims to have invented one of the most widely used programs for doing the rigging. Not that that’s what he meant to invent. His patented program was designed to take the manipulation out of markets. It would do this by matching buyers with sellers automatically, eliminating “front running” – brokers buying or selling ahead of large orders coming in from their clients.


    Keiser’s “Virtual Specialist Technology” (VST) was developed for the Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX), a web-based, multiplayer simulation in which players use virtual money to buy and sell “shares” of actors, directors, upcoming films, and film-related options. The program determines the true market price automatically, by comparing “bids” with “asks” and weighting the proportion of each. Keiser and HSX co-founder Michael Burns applied for a patent for a “computer-implemented securities trading system with a virtual specialist function” in 1996, and U.S. patent no. 5960176 was awarded in 1999.

    But things went awry after the crash, when Keiser’s company HSX Holdings sold the VST patent to investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald, over his objection. Cantor Fitzgerald then put the part of the program that would have eliminated front-running on ice, just as drug companies buy up competing patents in order to take them off the market. Instead of preventing front-running, the program was altered so that it actually enhanced that fraudulent practice.


    The ideal solution would fix the problem at its source — the price-setting mechanism itself. Keiser says this could be done by banning HFT and installing his VST computer program in its original design in all the exchanges. The true market price would then be established automatically, foreclosing both human and electronic manipulation. He notes that the shareholders of his former firm have a good claim for voiding out the sale to Cantor Fitzgerald and retrieving the program, since the deal was never consummated and the investors in HSX Holdings have never received a penny for the sale.

    There is just one problem with their legal claim: the paperwork proving it was shipped to Cantor Fitzgerald’s offices in the World Trade Center several months before September 2001. Like free market capitalism itself, it seems, the evidence has gone up in smoke.

    Not sure quite what to make of all that. Keiser is definitely one interesting cat though.

  13. cometman permalink*
    April 26, 2010 7:12 am

    Here are a bunch on the recently released Goldman Sux emails.

    Text of some of the actual emails from a Senate subcommittee – not sure what all the redactions are about.

    From the WSJ – the purpose of this one seems to be to place blame on a few bad apples in an attempt to preserve the reputations of the higher ups. No mention of God’s Work at all but plenty of stuff like this:

    Joshua Birnbaum, a Goldman trader from Oakland, Calif., played a major role in the short, or bearish, bet that led to nearly $4 billion in gross profits for Goldman, these people say. In February, Mr. Birnbaum, then 35 years old, briefly lost his cool and slammed down a phone receiver, say these people, when a more senior bond trader insisted on unwinding some of his trades to cut risk.

    Months later, Mr. Birnbaum argued to the firm’s top brass that Goldman should buy as much as $10 billion in subprime assets, according to an email, even though a plunge in risky home loans was roiling credit markets.

    There is “an extraordinary opportunity for those with dry powder,” he wrote in a late August email to Goldman Co-Presidents Gary Cohn and Jon Winkelried, among others. He was overruled, say people familiar with the matter at the time.

    More from Yves Smith.

    And Zerohedge knocks the piss out of Fab Fabrice with this post. This part from one of his emails is very telling about how the industry works:

    Anyway, not feeling too guilty about this, the real purpose of my job is to make capital markets more efficient and ultimately provide the US consumer will more efficient ways to leverage and finance himself, so there is a humble, noble and ethical reason for my job ;) amazing how good I am in convincing myself !!!

    Lots of wink wink nudge nudge by these assholes about the useful purpose they supposedly serve. Somebody better bring up this email the next time some jackass from one of these banks gets up in front of a camera and tries to tell us how the greater leverage his company provides allows for greater liquidity.

    • Stemella permalink*
      April 26, 2010 8:07 am

      All too reminiscent of those Enron emails, or was it tape recordings?, where they joked about fucking over the little old grannies living on their social security. Fuckers, all.

      Taibbi has a post up now, this at Common Dreams

      Will Goldman Sachs Prove Greed is God?

      From Felix Salmon: The Goldman wars continue presenting a pro Goldie perspective, that has some good links, nonetheless. Felix is clearly a tool of the squid in this.

      From Reuters: Hedge funds wary of deserting wounded Goldman explaining the greed addiction

      and from Simon Johnson
      The Sickening Abuse Of Power At The Heart of Wall Street and he is pissed!

      The big players on Wall Street are powerful like never before – and they use this power to press for information and favors from sympathetic (or scared) government officials. The big banks also appear hell-bent on abusing that power. One consequence will be further destabilizing global financial markets – watch carefully what happens to Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and Spain at the beginning of next week.

      It is time for Congress to step in with a full investigation of the exact flow of information and advice between our major megabanks and key treasury officials. Start by asking tough questions about exactly who exchanged what kind of specific, material, market-moving information with whom this weekend in Washington.

      • cometman permalink*
        April 26, 2010 8:39 am

        If I were an amoral sociopath hedge fund trader like John Paulson I’d stick with Goldman too. And I’m sure there are a lot of people in positions of power who are scared shitless of the Goldies because they know where a lot of bodies are buried.

        But somebody needs to stand up to them because much of what they do, contrary to the arguments like the one their own trader made light of, serves no useful purpose whatsoever. If a homebuyer has enough income to afford a 30 year mortgage, they will be loaned the money whether the mortgage gets collateralized eventually or not. And if the banks actually had to hold on to and service the loans they hand out, they would have a lot more incentive to make good loans and then if investors wanted to take advantage they could simply buy shares of the bank. There is no inherent need for these derivatives, the world managed to build houses without them for centuries.

        Good one again from Taibbi. Here’s another good take on Rand and the libertarians from Satyajit Dat via Naked Capitalism. This bit summed up Rand quite well:

        In “Goddess of the Market”, Jennifer Burns identifies the source of her appeal. The very shallowness of her thinking that intellectuals dismissed was inherently attractive to a certain sensibility, especially adolescents.

  14. cometman permalink*
    April 26, 2010 7:29 am

    Intriguing rumor – Greece may spurn Russian deal to go with IMF.

    If this turns out to be true, and makes headlines, expect serious social unrest and possibly the Greek government to fall in short order.

    That’s why this doesn’t make much sense to me. Papandreou can’t be that dumb. He got handed an extremely bad situation when taking power not of his own making and with all the rioting he must be aware of public sentiment. Eschewing a Russian deal to go with the country that brought Goldman to Greece would be political suicide. One thing people don’t realize is that Greece and Russia are both Orthodox countries and there is an allegiance among the citizens because of that. If Russia offered them a decent deal I’d imagine they’d take it. Which makes me think that Russia hasn’t really offered such a deal. We’ll see.

    • Stemella permalink*
      April 26, 2010 8:17 am

      I googled around and only found mention of a recent Russian, Greek and Bulgarian pipe line deal but nothing on the rumored finance deal.

      Yves has a post on Greece this morning. I’ll keep an eye on the Guradian and Financial Times too. So far this morning the Guardian has more on Germany’s stonewalling.

      Greece dead man walking

  15. cometman permalink*
    April 26, 2010 7:41 am


    From the UK press –

    Bull – one.

    Issuer of papal bullshit – zero.

    • Stemella permalink*
      April 26, 2010 8:21 am

      Hoisted on a torotard, eh? Bravo to the toro! Good job mocking the Papal one too. :)

      and wtf at this link on the same page? That’s entertainment!?!?

      Sumo wrestlers make babies cry contest

  16. cometman permalink*
    April 26, 2010 8:12 am

    How’s that surge in Afghanistan working out?

    Looks like the Afghans are getting pretty sick and tired of being randomly blown to smithereens.

    Afghan protesters torched NATO supply vehicles in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, hours after allegations emerged that U.S. and Afghan troops had killed three civilians, including two brothers, in their home.


    …after daybreak, more than 100 people gathered on a main road in Logar to protest the killings and the death in a separate incident of an Islamic scholar, according to Afghan officials. Military operations at night are deeply unpopular, and Afghan officials have called for them to stop. The furious crowd blocked traffic and set fire to at least 10 fuel tankers using hand grenades, said the provincial police chief, Ghulam Mustafa Moisini.


    A relative of the slain men, Abdul Ghani, said that dozens of Afghan and U.S. soldiers appeared at his family’s home about 2 a.m. When they entered, a chaotic scene ensued, and two of his brothers, Haji Abdul Aziz and Abdul Waqil, were shot and killed. Two other brothers, Abdul Wahid and Abdul Hai, were arrested, he said.

    Ghani said that his brothers work as shopkeepers and have no links to the insurgency.

    Not only the families of the victims hate the U.S. forces,” he said. “Everyone is turning against them.”

    This article puts the number of torched tankers at 15.

    But <O will not let these uppity brown people make him look weak on the terrah. So along with the other surge going on in Iraq which hasn’t seemed to stop things from blowing up there, Barry and Congress are in the midst of approving a surge in sanctions against Iran because the sancitons against Iraq back in the 90s worked so well that the US has been bogged down in an unwinnable war there for the better part of a decade.

    In case you needed an explanation for why this is all bullshit of epic proportions, Chris Floyd has one.

  17. Stemella permalink*
    April 26, 2010 8:31 am

    Good article by Krugman and Wells

    Our giant banking crisis

    and a rebuttal to it at Digby

    • cometman permalink*
      April 26, 2010 10:04 am

      Pretty decent piece by Krugman but it was hard to tell what his point was. A lot of “it could be this, it could be that” going on.

      The rebuttal by the friend at Digby was spot on though. Krugman throws in the Swedish crisis of just one more example of what happens when things go bad but in just about everything I’ve read over the last couple years on the topic, the Swedish response to their crisis is held up as a model of success. And the point that Krugman fails to note strongly enough that the asset based economy has been a miserable failure as opposed to a labor based one was also very good.

      I’ll add a little further criticism. The underlying reasoning of the Krugman piece seems to be that we must always have further growth to avoid catastrophe and it’s just a question of what is the best way to avoid crises that decrease growth. This is a flaw that is not just fatal to his reasoning but will be for the entire planet if Krugman’s premise continues.

      And while tristero may praise both Krugman and the critique of his article for their reasoned tones and lack of ad hominem attacks (perhaps because he admittedly doesn’t really grasp what either of them are talking about) , I’ll go ahead and do some speculation that if Bush were still president Krugman would not have pulled nearly as many punches in that article or the ones he writes in the NYT critiquing the current economic situation. Krugman seems to have his nose firmly entrenched between St. Barry’s buttcheeks these days and will eventually support whatever weak tea measures <O throws out there on just about anything. Dodd’s bill as it stands is not real reform but from what I’ve seen Krugman only grudgingly admits that and, much like with the health care bill, still thinks it’s better than nothing and so pushes for its passage. So I thought this part of the rebuttal was particularly good:

      The one thing that may be different — and could lead to real financial reform — is that folks like Sherrod Brown and others may have the power this time around to convert the Republican party of no plus huge public unrest into amendments to the Dodd bill that actually might be real reform. I’m reasonably certain that Obama will sign any bill — so if Brown et al can get a good bill, Obama wouldn’t stand in the way. On the other hand, if we get health care redux, Obama will sign that too — and the media will then continue their horse race, ‘reality tv’ act and obama’s stature will go up, up, and up while the economy remains in peril, peril, peril.

      Let them eat assets!!

      • cometman permalink*
        April 26, 2010 10:12 am

        And related to the topic the dire fallout of ever increasing economic growth, I thought this article about the delusions of the mainstream environmental movement and the consequences of inaction was excellent – Deepshit Horizon.

        Well worth reading the whole thing but here’s a snippet from the end:

        This is the deepshit horizon, a point at the edge of environmental oblivion toward which are racing faster than ever, Earth Day or no Earth Day. Indeed, Earth Day seems to have largely become an enabler of denial and self-immolating lies, undermining any ability or will to acknowledge the crises we face. The consequences beyond the deepshit horizon include a planetary die-off of all life, including humans. Beyond the deepshit horizon is a point of no return, involving climatological feedback loops that will be fueled by thawing permafrost and melting polar caps and glaciers. Somewhere out there, within the time frame of several more generations, in the economic frame of perhaps a few more business cycles, a decade or so status quo levels of coal fired energy and a billion cars, out there is mass extinction and an end to the planetary conditions that created and sustain life.

        One minor semantic quibble. I think it’s arrogant to think human beings will or even can destroy the conditions for life. Maybe “life as we know it”, but something will persevere whether we’re here to see it or not.

        • Stemella permalink*
          April 26, 2010 11:48 am

          Deepshit horizon indeed. That was a great article.

          I remember seeing Weyerhauser commercials in the early 80’s that were pure unadulterated bullshit, trying to pull green wool over the public’s eyes. I drove by their mountains of pulp and effluent ponds everyday and knew better. The big polluters are using the same style PR campaigns all these years later, because they work. The sheeple believe that BP and Chevron are saving the planet! Ack!

          Here’s a somewhat related story that also indicates how much worse things have become. Remember Kontiki? Now, there is Plastictiki.

          Boat made of trash prepares to set sail

          The appropriately named Plastiki, which is made from over 12,500 plastic bottles, will set sail from San Francisco and head to Sydney with eco-warrior and banking heir David De Rothschild at the helm.

          He was inspired to set up the expedition after reading a report from the United Nations that said that four out of every five plastic bottles end up in a landfill site instead of being recycled.

          “In the United States alone, 38 billion plastic water bottles end up being thrown away,” Mr De Rothschild told the BBC.

        • artemis54 permalink
          April 26, 2010 11:48 am

          As you know, I am quite disillusioned with the big box groups. 1) They all succumb to the prime directive of any bureaucracy, which is to aggrandize itself at any cost. Surely we are all familiar with that: just a few more Democrats, next year in Jerusalem, etc. 2) The inevitable dilution of effort, the loss of immediacy, the idea that sending a buck has done something.

          I went through all this years ago with WWF and their at the time endless paper mailings, which were the reason I quit them at the time. I don’t know any more, CI is off on its whiz bang interactive magazines, Greenpeace floods youtube.

          Unfortunately they are necesary, what else is there to counter corporate influence? But I would much rather emphazied the groups like cometman has mentioned in Maine. In my case, Alexandra Morton’s work is necessary to save one of the jewels of the planet, the Great Bear Rainforest. But I also support KS Wild and Conservation Northwest, both of which try to at the same time deal with present emergencies and reach out to local communites, groups and individuals to plan long term for forest and river health, future needs in the face of climate change etc.

      • artemis54 permalink
        April 26, 2010 11:03 am

        Obama may be disapponting in a lot of ways, but to listen to the media you would think he is the only person in DC capable of proposing or disposing of anything, the only one with a brain or a plan. All of which may be true, but it’s not supposed to be this way. Nothing is more telling than Miss Graham’s hissy about what order in which to take up voting. My god, you have staff, hundred of them, and supposedly specialized committees to look to details. Does anyone believe we take their little cspan “debates” on the floor seriously?

        I don’t get why the administration sends out Mumbles Geithner and Giggles Gibbs as their only representatives.

        • cometman permalink*
          April 26, 2010 11:51 am

          Heh. I often use “Obama” just like I used “Bush” – as shorthand for the party in charge and/or the government in general but you’re absolutely right in your criticism. It definitely isn’t supposed to be this way. The president gets the bully pulpit and that’s as it should be but the media isn’t obliged to act like he’s the one coming up with all the ideas and Congress isn’t obliged to pass legislation just because the president wants it. If the corporate media would take a look at the few members of Congress worth a shit once in a while or organizations like the center for Biological Diversity and give their ideas a platform people might actually get a little better informed.

          But we can’t have that. Which is why I suspect Barry trots out Mumbles and Giggles so much.

      • Stemella permalink*
        April 26, 2010 11:10 am

        Yep, yep. Krugman above all is an enabler. He will defend the necessity of the oligarchy and their economic models du jour, omitting inconvenient truths, because he is after all, fed by these capitalists and doesn’t want to jeopardize that.

        I liked that rebuttal too. I especially liked the “extend and pretend” theme used to describe what is happening today. It is illusion. There’s no “there” there, no tangible foundation to this country. We’ve already reached many of the same conclusions, but it is nice to see that idea reinforced. It is an idea that is still not acceptable in the mainstream.

        The illusion, the kabukiness of it all, reminds me of a movie I saw this weekend, one recommended a long time ago by one of the zoners, called “Instinct” with Anthony Hopkins. Not the greatest film ever made, but the concepts were very interesting.

        • cometman permalink*
          April 26, 2010 11:58 am

          Looked it up and that movie looks pretty good. I do like Hopkins quite a bit. If you haven’t seen it already, check out Titus sometime.

          Based on Shakespeare and very well done I thought, especially the visuals. Excellent scenery, costumes, etc. Hopkins is great as a guy losing his shit.

  18. artemis54 permalink
    April 26, 2010 11:32 am

    McCain is on the tube babbling about marijuana smuggling across the border. So legalize it you dumb ignorant fuck. Now he’s blaming it all on Obama.

  19. Stemella permalink*
    April 26, 2010 11:58 am

    More on the Deepshit in the Gulf. They’ve sent in the submersibles, but it is not looking good.

    Robot vessels used to cap Gulf of Mexico oil leak

    Shocking, not, that there is very little coverage of the story in the US press

    • artemis54 permalink
      April 26, 2010 12:15 pm

      Have to muzzle myself facebook. “pray for the lost workers” Well it’s a little late for them, how about praying for the fishery.

      I saw an article this a.m. attributing a million deaths worldwide to Chernobyl. But the efffect is diluted globally, so it’s not a story like Timmy trapped in the well would be.

      Fuck. The needs of the many (for health, clean water, real food) do outweigh the needs of the one for that oil job. Fuck fuck fuck. Well, better here than facebook. I’m afraid of those people.

  20. Stemella permalink*
    April 26, 2010 12:16 pm

    God’s work is now getting sued directly. Goldman, CEO hit with investor lawsuit

    He’s going to testify again before his lackeys in Congress tomorrow. Should be dull and fruitless, but I’ll watch anyway just in case a tentacle slips out of his pants ;P

    • cometman permalink*
      April 26, 2010 12:31 pm

      Keep us posted if you watch. This one alone may not get them but I’m hoping for death by a thousand cuts. God’s Work surely wouldn’t mind being martyred :)

  21. cometman permalink*
    April 26, 2010 12:24 pm

    That was an interesting article about the Plastiki you linked to above. If Rothschild is serious about turning plastic into windmills, etc he shouldn’t have to look to far to find funding for those ideas being a Rothschild an all. Sounds like he’s taking some steps in that direction –

    Mr De Rothschild is particularly enthusiastic about a new material they have developed called srPET. That stands for self-reinforced polyethylene terephthalate, a fully recyclable plastic that he hopes will one day replace fibreglass.

    I’m all for recycling but especially with plastics I think that besides simply recycling, the message needs to get out to stop using plastics so much in the first place. I posted that video several days ago about a technology that could turn plastic bags into carbon nanotubes and wondered whether it was really all that great. One of the things the video mentioned was that the stuff could be used in lithium batteries. A few days ago I read an article that mentioned we’d have to keep raping the planet to get at all the lithium if hundreds of millions of battery powered cars were to hit the roads. There’s always a hitch it seems.

    In a nation with plenty of potable water I see no need for all these plastic bottles. The companies will tell you that consumers demand this crap but to me it seems that the food and beverage companies like them because the reduced weight makes it a lot cheaper to ship stuff half way around the world to get it to consumers. We need to get back to localized economies where so much shipping isn’t necessary and start using glass again. Lot of times I can’t even find a non-plastic container in the store for something I want to buy. Try finding a glass bottle of ketchup.

    One other pet peeve about plastic. I don’t have many intact plastic CD cases but I’ve yet to break one made of recycled cardboard. Why they all aren’t made that way is beyond me.

    • Stemella permalink*
      April 26, 2010 12:59 pm

      I’ve also been trying to convert back to glassware/pyrex for everything food and beverage related. I’m lucky to have a good food coop where I can bring in my own containers for bulk foods, including many condiments. The old ball jars with snap down lids over rubber gaskets are perfect. Conventional grocers are slowly getting there, but they still do sell just about everything in plastic. Trader Joes is one of the better of them on that front.

      I have been glad to see so many more people in my area at least bringing their own bags to the stores and not using paper or plastic so much anymore.

      And that CD case plastic is polystyrene – not recyclable in most places.

      • cometman permalink*
        April 26, 2010 1:14 pm

        I got one of those big jars to make my iced tea in. They work great. If the weather stays nice I may be able to make the first batch of the season this week.

        We have Hannaford’s as one of the two major grocers around here. The store I used to go to had a lot of items sold out of bulk bins which was really nice but it was the biggest one in the area. We moved a few years ago and now the closest Hannaford’s is smaller so they don’t carry as much bulk stuff unfortunately. They do have bulk oatmeal though which the squidlette can’t get enough of. Pretty sure that the other big store Shaw’s doesn’t even bother with bulk but I haven’t been there in years. There is a Whole Foods around but IMO at least they aren’t really all that much better than the bigger Hannaford’s or stores like QFC out west. I wish we had something like a Trader Joe’s. I’ve always heard good things about that store.

        Hannaford’s does a great job with the recyclable bags. They have them hanging at every check out line for sale for about $1 and often they give them away free for some promotion or other. Can’t blame the store at all for people not using them. Now if I could just get the baggers to stop staring at me like I’m some alien life form when I buy one or two items and tell them I don’t need a bag at all :)

        • artemis54 permalink
          April 26, 2010 1:52 pm

          I can’t back it up, but I swear sun tea tastes better. It is probably less bitter because of the lower heat.

  22. artemis54 permalink
    April 26, 2010 1:55 pm

    Jeebus on the rag, Judd Gregg is ranting and raving like a complete lunatic about populism and social justice on the floor of the Senate. He seems to be in some sort of Beck-induced fugue state.

    And Obama wanted this bozo in his cabinet?

  23. Stemella permalink*
    April 27, 2010 7:09 am

    The Goldie Sux hearing is starting 10 am EST. You can see it streamed on C-span 3 here: here

    and God’s Work typed testimony may be read here

    I’ll take notes in case anything noteworthy happens and report back.

    • cometman permalink*
      April 27, 2010 7:53 am

      Thanks for the link. Just turned it on and got the day started off with a laugh when one of the Goldman lackeys started talking about the company’s “integrity”.

    • cometman permalink*
      April 27, 2010 8:08 am

      Heh. Just heard Mr. Fabulous give his testimony. Wonder if this dumbass realizes everyone’s read his emails already and we know he’s lying?

      • Stemella permalink*
        April 27, 2010 9:19 am

        Oh my god. He is the kind of guy that gives the French a bad name. Such an arrogant fucking tool.

        I’ve been typing up notes. Carl Levin and Ted Kaufman have been great. Shitty deals and all!

        Even Susan Collins, whose voice is like nails on a blackboard, got down to bizness with these squidshits.

        I must say, if I were to listen to this testimony a year ago or so, this all would have been pretty much Greek to me. I have to thank you blogging buddies for helping to educate and improve my overall understanding of this massive fraud we’ve all witnessed.

        I really wish we could witness the remedy together as well. That prospect is anything but certain given what we know of the Congress, the President and his economic team.

        • cometman permalink*
          April 27, 2010 9:33 am

          I’ve learned a ton about all this in the last year or two as well. I had a decent understanding of how some of the various parts operated but I’ve learned a ton about the overall system and how all the pieces fit together. After taking it all in, I keep coming back to the Galbraith quote:

          The process by which banks create money is so simple that the mind is repelled.

          And not that the Senators asking questions today are flying blind, but I feel like we could ask questions as good as if not better than the ones they are asking today. And speaking just for myself, I’d be a lot less polite about it than they are :)

          BTW, I am still trying to finish up a post I’ve been working on. I’ve got all the stuff together, now I just have to write it up. If you have something to put up from your notetaking though go ahead . Otherwise I may just throw the post up unfinished and work on the details later so we have a new thread.

          • Stemella permalink*
            April 27, 2010 9:36 am

            Go ahead and put up yours when it’s ready. My notes are very shorthanded and not post worthy.

    • cometman permalink*
      April 27, 2010 8:27 am

      And now this other douchebag Sparks is trying to think of every way possible not to answer Levin’s question about whether he had an obligation to his client to disclose that Goldman was taking the opposite position in the trades they were pushing. “I don’t understand. I don’t know which email you’re talking about. I don’t recall.” Fuck you zombie Reagan for making this bullshit standard operating procedure.

      • artemis54 permalink
        April 27, 2010 8:30 am

        Levin is having too much fun. Stewart won’t even have to do much editing.

        “I’m talking about your shorts!. How did you cover your shorts in the crap pool?”

        • artemis54 permalink
          April 27, 2010 8:31 am

          “You knew it was a shitty deal.”

          Too good – I’m making popcorn.

          • cometman permalink*
            April 27, 2010 8:44 am

            And now Susan Collins whose voice will probably crack the lens on the camera shortly.

          • cometman permalink*
            April 27, 2010 9:14 am

            Ha! These hearings would be much more popcorn worthy if we could get some of this Ukranian action going on here.

            The chamber of the parliament filled with smoke as smoke bombs were released and Speaker Volodymyr Litvyn took shelter under his umbrella as eggs rained down on him.

  24. Stemella permalink*
    April 27, 2010 9:25 am

    I’m looking forward to McCaskill’s interrogation. In paraphrasing her opening statement she said:

    It is gambling, these synthetic instruments, you are the bookies and the house together. Tranches, residuals, warehousing. You all had less oversight than a pit boss in Vegas. You are all lemmings, chasing compensation and competition and trying to make a killing. Any street gambler would never place the bets that you all did. (Wicked good!)

    Meanwhile, Greece’s and Portugal’s debts have been downgraded to junk status and the markets are falling steeply. (Goldman Sux stocks are still up as they have been all day). I tried to open Zedge, but it is crashed, no doubt from heavy use.

    • artemis54 permalink
      April 27, 2010 9:41 am

      Her first question is hilarious. She’s slinging all this bookie lingo around like some seedy character from Law & Order.

      • artemis54 permalink
        April 27, 2010 9:49 am

        McCaskill back on the “shitty”. This hearing couldn’t even be played on network. I’m wondering if they get deeper into these emails if there are any cocksuckers, cuntlickers or buttfuckers to look forward to.

        • Stemella permalink*
          April 27, 2010 10:00 am

          She is so rapid fire, like a mom busting her teenagers for smoking dope and catching them with a tower of power bong in the middle of the room. All of these guys look so nailed and guilty, sputtering their excuses that the bong is actually a lamp stand they made in art class. And all the smoke? Little Fab Fab must have farted and they lit a match.

          Motherfuckers should be found in those emails too.

          And here comes Sparky sparkplugger again with his “d’oh, which way did they go? I cannot recall” bumbling

  25. Stemella permalink*
    April 27, 2010 10:19 am

    I will accept nothing less than these slimy punks, who are no doubt worth more money in their young lives than I and all of my siblings will ever earn in our entire lifetimes put together, be placed in tanks of piranha and humboldt squid.

    Before that point they will have to go to every household of every family whose lives they negatively impacted with their gambling on shitty deal mortgages and hand each family a huge check with profuse apologies. Then to the squid tank to return to the primordial swamp from which they spawned.

    They believe they’ve done god’s work, that they have done nothing wrong. They own the government and know they will never be held to account. There is no law to bind them. They will walk away being told they had questionable ethics and that is it.

    That isn’t good enough, by a long shot.

  26. artemis54 permalink
    April 27, 2010 10:22 am

    Well this should be interesting. Senator Ensign is certainly in his element when it comes to cheating, lies, and manipulation.

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