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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 02/03/2008 - 02/10/2008
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Harry Reid, my senator and "one of the biggest pussies in U.S. political history"

not cuz i haven't been bombarding his email inbox, i can assure you...
Quietly, while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been inspiring Democrats everywhere with their rolling bitchfest, congressional superduo Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have completed one of the most awesome political collapses since Neville Chamberlain. At long last, the Democratic leaders of Congress have publicly surrendered on the Iraq War, just one year after being swept into power with a firm mandate to end it.

Solidifying his reputation as one of the biggest pussies in U.S. political history, Reid explained his decision to refocus his party's energies on topics other than ending the war by saying he just couldn't fit Iraq into his busy schedule. "We have the presidential election," Reid said recently. "Our time is really squeezed."

There was much public shedding of tears among the Democratic leadership, as Reid, Pelosi and other congressional heavyweights expressed deep sadness that their valiant charge up the hill of change had been thwarted by circumstances beyond their control — that, as much as they would love to continue trying to end the catastrophic Iraq deal, they would now have to wait until, oh, 2009 to try again. "We'll have a new president," said Pelosi. "And I do think at that time we'll take a fresh look at it."

they are pretty pathetic, i must admit...

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"We kind of joked about it as being the 'greatest show on earth'; everyone wanted to come and look at the 'terrorists.' "

I was kidnapped; abducted, forced imprisoned, tortured, threatened with further torture, without charge. Without trial.

Even many soldiers had said to me afterwards...if you weren't a terrorist when you came in here, by the time you leave, I'm sure you would be because of the way you've been treated.

--Bagram detainee Moazzam Begg

Flying in the face of statements members of the Bush Administration have made denying the use, and advocacy, of torture in their war effort, evidence of brutal treatment of captives continues to accumulate.

PBS' Bill Moyers delves into Oscar-nominated documentary "Taxi to the Dark Side," highlighting an Afghan taxi driver who was detained and beaten to death by American forces.

"Go see it," says Moyers. "Not in a while has the truth hit so hard."

In 2002, Dilawar, 22, and his passengers were stopped at Bagram Air Base and held under suspicion of involvement in a rocket attack. Five days later, his death from blunt force trauma would be ruled a homicide, as written on the death certificate, in English, given to Dilawar's family with his body.

Captain Carolyn Wood, overseeing interrogation at Bagram, would be awarded a Bronze Star for "valor" and tapped to begin similar operations at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.

Prisoners were assigned numbers, which were written on sheets of paper hung outside the airlocks in which they were kept, and directly on their bodies.

"Detainees were actually chained with their hands above their heads in these airlocks," says Moazzam Begg. "His number, 421, was something that I could see often, because his back was towards me."

"There were always officers coming and going through the facility," says Eric Lahammer. "We kind of joked about it as being the 'greatest show on earth'; everyone wanted to come and look at the 'terrorists.'"

there is only one thing that can be done to restore the dignity of our country... the bush administration must be removed from office prior to the expiration of its term, and the key members of that administration must be prosecuted for war crimes... there is nothing else we could possibly do to demonstrate that we are serious about reclaiming the bright light that used to shine from our shores...

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Instance No. 1,657,493 of Bush not walking his talk

maybe it's actually no. 1,657,494... dunno... i think i may have missed one back in may 2001...
President Bush drew great applause during his State of the Union address last month when he called on Congress to allow U.S. troops to transfer their unused education benefits to family members. "Our military families serve our nation, they inspire our nation, and tonight our nation honors them," he said.

A week later, however, when Bush submitted his $3.1 trillion federal budget to Congress, he included no funding for such an initiative, which government analysts calculate could cost $1 billion to $2 billion annually.

veterans...? bah... just piece parts for the war machine... to hell with 'em...

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John McCain vs. John McCain

from robert greenwald and bravenewfilms...

brasscheck tv...
President McCain?
Giuliani - the 9/11 ghoul - has been eliminated.

So has Mitt Romney, a high ranking member of a church that until relatively recently was officially racist.

Which leaves us with...this guy.

The Republicans managed to fraudulently put Bush in the White House - twice - and McCain is clearly a water boy for the War Party.

So, are we looking at the next president of the United States?

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What could the plan be?

paul craig roberts via ich...
What could the plan be?

They can steal the election with the Diebold electronic voting machines and proprietary software that no one is allowed to check. There are now enough elections on record with significant divergences between exit polls and vote tallies that a stolen election can be explained away. The Democrats have been house trained to acquiesce to stolen elections. The voters, whose votes are stolen, dismiss the evidence as “conspiracy theories.”

Or what about a well-timed orchestrated “terrorist attack” to drive fearful Americans to the war candidate. False flag events are stock-in-trade. Hitler used the Reichstag fire to turn German democracy into a dictatorship overnight.

heightened vigilance is required... remember, we are the ones we have been waiting for...

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Violent video games

The above photo is of young people playing
Counter-Strike in an internet cafe in
Chico, California, in 2004. I could have
taken a nearly identical photo this after-
noon in one of hundreds of "cibers" (internet
cafes) all over Buenos Aires, throughout
Argentina, and in dozens of other countries.

i know - and have known - several people, some of them close friends, one of them my son, and two of them my grandsons, who like to play "first-person shooters," video games where the person playing kills characters in the games... some of the "deaths" involve large amounts of animated gore and some do not, instead representing "death" symbolically by having the character simply "disappear"...

the argument about whether or not there is a residual psychological impact from engaging for hours at a time in simulated "death" will, of course, rage on... i, for one, can simply not understand how there cannot be at least a desensitization effect... i've seen first-hand that there are definitely behavioral spin-offs to a heavy diet of wwe, but i can't say that about video games... however, watching my two young grandsons spending uncounted hours - in fact most of the time they are not either sleeping, eating, or in school - in front of the tv watching mindless cartoons (ok, i'll admit, i DO occasionally enjoy sponge bob) or playing video games, i have to believe there's an impact there...

here's one view...

Playing video games increases aggression in some children and young adults and normalizes killing, some doctors said.

Research suggests that violent video games can make children feel different. A brain scan of a teenager who has just played what was deemed a nonviolent video game was compared to the scan of a teen who had just spent 30 minutes playing a violent game. Indiana School of Medicine researchers said highlighted areas in the brains showed increased activity in the areas involved in emotional arousal.

"Exposure to violent video games, even E rated video games, increases aggressive thoughts, increases pro-social behavior and increases general arousal," said Dr. Greg Snyder, a psychologist at Omaha's Children's Hospital.

Snyder said exposure to violence in video games can desensitize a teen to the real thing.

Research from Iowa State University, Kansas State University and the National Institutes of Health reached similar conclusions. Compared to teens who played nonviolent games, those who played violent games had a lower heart rate and lower galvanic skin response when they were exposed to videos of real violence, the studies showed.

"The more normal it is, the more likely it is they're going to activate or engage in those behaviors when provoked or even unprovoked," Snyder said.

Tyler White, 17, said he has been playing video games as long as he can remember. He and his friend, Erik Grove, 16, play a game called "Gears of War." Both boys said they enjoy shooting games.

"With a shooting game, you can't actually go out and shoot someone," White said. "The whole thing with video games is, do something you can't already do in real life, at least that's what it is to me."

After they played the game for about 20 minutes, the teens said they didn't feel more violent.

The video game industry notes that the research also finds that teenagers have similar responses to violence in movies or TV. The industry said no one can prove a definitive link between virtual violence and the real thing.

Ryan Miller, the manager of general operations for Gamers in Omaha, said video games become an easy scapegoat when children turn violent.

"Just like any new media, it gets attacked. When any new genre of music comes out, it gets attacked. TV will, of course, get attacked. I'm sure, way back when, books got attacked," Miller said.

Other research shows that antisocial behavior is not a result of the game, but rather the isolation that results when children play the games along for hours on end.

All sides of the argument agree that parental control is important, whether it's in the purchasing of games or playing them.

here's another from several years ago...
For young men, first-person shooters are the hottest computer games around. That's why the Army spent $10 million developing its own. But there's a catch. Big Brother gets to watch you play.


For anyone who hasn't seen one of these games--known as first-person shooters--here's the gist of them. You're placed in a combat zone, armed with a weapon of your choice and sent out to find and kill other players. Knife them, club them, blow them apart with a shotgun, set them afire, vaporize them with a shoulder-launched missile, drill them through the head with a sniper rifle--the choice is yours.

Depending on the game, blood will spray, mist or spout. Sometimes your kills collapse in crumpled heaps, clutching their throats and twitching convincingly. Sometimes they cry in pain with human voices. Their bodies lie there for a while, so you can feed off them if necessary, restoring your own health. Then you can grab their weapons and set off to find another victim, assuming you don't get killed first.

It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but among young men it's far and away the most popular genre of computer game. Some psychologists and parents worry that such games are desensitizing a large, impressionable segment of the population to violence and teaching them the wrong things. But that depends on your point of view. If, like the U.S. Army, you need people who can become unflappable killers, there's no better way of finding them.

It's why the Army has spent more than $10 million in taxpayer funds developing its very own first-person shooter, and why the Navy, the Air Force and the National Guard are following suit. For anyone who thinks kids aren't learning playing shooter games, read on.


For gamers, the attraction of online play is obvious. In the cyberworld, you're not hunting down slow computer-generated Nazis. You're matching wits with real humans (sometimes real Germans), which somehow makes a kill all the more satisfying.

Moreover, computer graphics and sound have evolved to the point that it is easy to think you're in a tangible world. Your immediate surroundings vanish. Crickets chirp, bushes rustle, bullets whiz by your head and shower you with chips of concrete. Shell casings clatter to the floor. Mortars crump in the distance, and grenades send up gouts of rock and dirt. It's a loud, bloody, violent and altogether alarming world. Yet it is oddly exhilarating.

"I have to laugh when someone says, 'Oh, the people playing these games know it's not real,' " said Dr. Peter Vorberer, a clinical psychologist and head of the University of Southern California's computer game research group. "Of course they think it's real! That's why people play them for hours and hours. They're designed to make you believe it's real. Games are probably the purest example yet of the Internet melding with reality."


Top Counter-Strike teams and top players have developed cult followings, and with that have come fame and fortune. Management teams have sprung up to develop new talent, and cash tournaments are commonplace. Clans from 50 countries attended the World Cyber Games two weekends ago in San Francisco, competing for a $25,000 top prize and lucrative corporate sponsorships.

Team 3D, arguably the best clan in the United States, boasts sponsorships from Subway, Hewlett-Packard, Nvidia (which makes graphics processors) and Sennheiser (which makes audio equipment). The world's No. 1-ranked clan, Schroet Kommando of Sweden, is sponsored by Intel and has its own clothing line. Fatal1ty, a legendary Counter-Strike gamer, also has a clothing line and a Fatal1ty-brand computer motherboard coming out.

In addition, top players make extra money by giving private lessons for anywhere from $50 to $120 an hour, schooling players on strategies, gunnery, weapons selection and squad tactics.

the notion that there's no residual impact or, at minimum, desensitization resulting from the enormous amounts of time spent in this fashion is, to me, ludicrous.

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"Removed" video restored - for a while, anyway

i had a post up the other day, a clip from a local newscast in ohio describing the kind of degrading and quite likely criminal behavior that was inflicted on a perfectly innocent woman by sheriff's deputies in stark county, ohio... the video was subsequently removed from youtube, citing "copyright violation..." it's now back up, at least for the time being...

meanwhile, i've continued to read posts at other weblogs screaming bloody murder about the strip search of a woman in saudi arabia who was "caught" at a starbucks, drinking coffee with a man... commenters to those posts have been quick to engage in islamophobia and to decry the heathen conduct of the "thugs" who live by the koran... my point is, we've got our own "thugs" right here...

i have the same visceral reaction to people in the u.s. attacking the behavior of people of other countries that i do to those who sanctimoniously drive around with bumper stickers reading "free tibet..." should the "thugs" in saudi arabia be stopped...? absolutely... should tibet be free...? no question... but, ferchrissake, people, wake up and smell the coffee, and, once you have, look out your kitchen window to see what's happening in your own backyard...

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Don't kid yourself about what's happening here

so instead, our corporate/government plutocracy offers up indistinguishable candidates, all bought and paid for, attempts to suppress the votes of those who are likely to cast them for the "unapproved," and essentially insures that those with the money and power to decide our fate keep a tight rein on that money and power...

cool, huh...?

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InfraGard: an FBI-sponsored, private, domestic militia, licensed to kill in the event of martial law

dontcha just LOVE reading the news...?
Today, more than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does -- and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials. In return, they provide information to the government, which alarms the ACLU. But there may be more to it than that. One business executive, who showed me his InfraGard card, told me they have permission to "shoot to kill" in the event of martial law. InfraGard is "a child of the FBI," says Michael Hershman, the chairman of the advisory board of the InfraGard National Members Alliance and CEO of the Fairfax Group, an international consulting firm.

InfraGard started in Cleveland back in 1996, when the private sector there cooperated with the FBI to investigate cyber threats.

"Then the FBI cloned it," says Phyllis Schneck, chairman of the board of directors of the InfraGard National Members Alliance, and the prime mover behind the growth of InfraGard over the last several years.

InfraGard itself is still an FBI operation, with FBI agents in each state overseeing the local InfraGard chapters. (There are now eighty-six of them.) The alliance is a nonprofit organization of private sector InfraGard members.

"We are the owners, operators, and experts of our critical infrastructure, from the CEO of a large company in agriculture or high finance to the guy who turns the valve at the water utility," says Schneck, who by day is the vice president of research integration at Secure Computing.

"At its most basic level, InfraGard is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the private sector," the InfraGard website states. "InfraGard chapters are geographically linked with FBI Field Office territories."

In November 2001, InfraGard had around 1,700 members. As of late January, InfraGard had 23,682 members, according to its website,, which adds that "350 of our nation's Fortune 500 have a representative in InfraGard."

To join, each person must be sponsored by "an existing InfraGard member, chapter, or partner organization." The FBI then vets the applicant. On the application form, prospective members are asked which aspect of the critical infrastructure their organization deals with. These include: agriculture, banking and finance, the chemical industry, defense, energy, food, information and telecommunications, law enforcement, public health, and transportation.

been around since 1996, eh...? just another stellar job of investigative reporting by our pathetic news media...

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In an Israeli-style move, Exxon, the most profitable company ever, freezes $12B belonging to Venezuela's people


Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) has won court orders freezing up to $12 billion in Venezuelan assets around the world as it fights for compensation for operations lost to President Hugo Chavez's nationalization drive.

The largest U.S. company sought the asset freeze to guarantee repayment should it win arbitration over the Cerro Negro heavy oil project.

The move is the boldest challenge yet by an international oil major against any of the governments around the world that have moved to increase their holds on natural resources as energy and commodity prices have soared.

"To me it sounds like a very aggressive tactic," said Stephen Zamora, professor of international law at the University of Houston Law Center.

"I can't really say that I'm aware this has been used in other investment disputes. They may be trying to get the government to settle."

Exxon -- which last week posted the largest ever year's profit by a U.S. company -- said on Thursday it has received court orders in Britain, the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles each freezing up to $12 billion in assets of Venezuela state oil firm PDVSA. An Exxon spokeswoman said the total that could be frozen worldwide was $12 billion.


The move underscores Exxon's reputation for toughness in dealing with foes as varied as governments and fishermen, as it has been willing to wage prolonged legal battles to defend its interests around the world.

you need to read this carefully... besides the "nobody fucks with us" game that exxon's playing, the $12B that's being frozen DOESN'T just belong to the state-owned oil company, it belongs to the venezuelan PEOPLE... these are precisely the assets that chávez has pledged to help his people escape from poverty... of course exxon knows this and is engaging in this unprecedented move for precisely the same reasons that israel is blockading gaza - to stir up unrest among the people such that they will be more inclined to overthrow their government...

and why...? because, in exxon's world, the first duty of the president of a sovereign nation is to protect businesses, corporations, the holders of capital, and the owners of private property... the people of the country need to accept their role as secondary and subservient to those interests... in fact, insuring that ALL of a country's resources are devoted to serving those interests is the lesson that exxon is attempting to force mr. chávez to learn... putting a fine point on it, the insatiable desire for power and money knows no bounds...

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Worthless economic stimulus plan passes

oh, lovely... i'm going to sit down right now and write up a list of everything i'm going to buy with my $600 or whatever they're going to throw at me to help me continue to pretend that we're not being taken to the cleaners by crooks...
The Senate overwhelmingly approved a $171 billion economic stimulus program on Thursday afternoon, sending it to the House for final passage on Thursday evening so that it can be sent quickly to President Bush’s desk.

The 81-to-16 vote came after Senate Democrats agreed to add only payments for senior citizens and disabled veterans to a package already approved overwhelmingly by the House with the backing of President Bush. The Democratic senators had wanted to add more than $40 billion to the House version, a proposal that would have brought the cost of the package to about $204 billion over two years.

But Republican senators held firm, frustrating the Democrats’ efforts to get the 60 votes they needed to end debate. But in settling for a $171 billion package, the Senate Democratic majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, refused to admit defeat.

“We were able to make the House bill better,” he said, pledging to continue to try to corral enough votes to provide more economic stimulus in the months ahead.

“Discretion is the better part of valor,” said Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

“The best thing for us to do is declare a big victory that we’ve achieved, namely getting the rebate checks to 20 million seniors and 250,000 disabled veterans,” Mr. Baucus said.

As passed by the Senate and sent to the House, the program calls for rebates ranging from $300 to $1,200 for most taxpayers, payments of $300 to people who paid no income taxes but earned $3,000 or more from Social Security or veterans’ disability benefits, and various tax incentives for businesses.

i posted on this disgusting scam the other day... like i keep saying, ferchrissake, let's let the whole goddam thing collapse under its own corrupt weight...

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Damn...! Romney's OUT...!

son-of-a-bitch... that leaves huckabee and mccain... i had no love for mitt and am glad to see him go, but the prospect of watching those other two nightmare creatures going at each other for the republican nomination is really scary...
Romney To Drop Out, Sources Say

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will suspend his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, according to sources within his inner circle.

A number of those sources said a decision could come as soon as his speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference this afternoon in Washington, D.C.

so long, mitt... at least your kids will have a little inheritance left...

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Warrantless search and seizure at U.S. Customs

two years ago this coming june 1, my laptop, digital camera, flash drive, and a number of cd's were seized as i was coming through u.s. customs at san francisco international airport... all were returned three weeks later, altho' i'm positive that the contents of my hard drive were copied... it seems like the high-handedness of george's illegal police state is starting to really piss some people off, and that's a good thing...
The seizure of electronics at U.S. borders has prompted protests from travelers who say they now weigh the risk of traveling with sensitive or personal information on their laptops, cameras or cellphones. In some cases, companies have altered their policies to require employees to safeguard corporate secrets by clearing laptop hard drives before international travel.

Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Asian Law Caucus, two civil liberties groups in San Francisco, are filing a lawsuit to force the government to disclose its policies on border searches, including which rules govern the seizing and copying of the contents of electronic devices. They also want to know the boundaries for asking travelers about their political views, religious practices and other activities potentially protected by the First Amendment. The question of whether border agents have a right to search electronic devices at all without suspicion of a crime is already under review in the federal courts.

The lawsuit was inspired by some two dozen cases, 15 of which involved searches of cellphones, laptops, MP3 players and other electronics. Almost all involved travelers of Muslim, Middle Eastern or South Asian background, many of whom, including Mango and the tech engineer, said they are concerned they were singled out because of racial or religious profiling.

i was astounded when i found out that i had no ability to stop them... literally, a huge chunk of my entire life is conducted electronically, and, without my laptop and internet access, i am crippled... but that doesn't matter to our overlords...

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Some perspective on the meltdown of the global financial markets and the FRB

from what i understand, nouriel roubini, the author of this piece, is a well-respected economist who publishes his insights on his weblog, Nouriel Roubini's Global EconoMonitor... he offers a very detailed perspective of what's going on in the u.s. economy at present and how it's likely to continue to ripple out across the world... neither being an economist nor having an interest in learning the details of the workings of global financial markets, roubini nevertheless confirms what i have been feeling intuitively, and it ain't pretty...
To understand the Fed actions [easing the Fed Funds rate by a whopping 125bps in eight days] one has to realize that there is now a rising probability of a "catastrophic" financial and economic outcome, i.e. a vicious circle where a deep recession makes the financial losses more severe and where, in turn, large and growing financial losses and a financial meltdown make the recession even more severe. The Fed is seriously worried about this vicious circle and about the risks of a systemic financial meltdown.

That is the reason the Fed had thrown all caution to the wind - after a year in which it was behind the curve and underplaying the economic and financial risks - and has taken a very aggressive approach to risk management; this is a much more aggressive approach than the Greenspan one in spite of the initial views that the Bernanke Fed would be more cautious than Greenspan in reacting to economic and financial vulnerabilities.

To understand the risks that the financial system is facing today I present the "nightmare" or "catastrophic" scenario that the Fed and financial officials around the world are now worried about. Such a scenario - however extreme - has a rising and significant probability of occurring. Thus, it does not describe a very low probability event but rather an outcome that is quite possible.

Start first with the recession that is now enveloping the US economy. Let us assume - as likely - that this recession - that already started in December 2007 - will be worse than the mild ones - that lasted 8 months - that occurred in 1990-91 and 2001. The recession of 2008 will be more severe for several reasons: first, we have the biggest housing bust in US history with home prices likely to eventually fall 20 to 30%; second, because of a credit bubble that went beyond mortgages and because of reckless financial innovation and securitization the ongoing credit bust will lead to a severe credit crunch; third, US households - whose consumption is over 70% of GDP - have spent well beyond their means for years now piling up a massive amount of debt, both mortgage and otherwise; now that home prices are falling and a severe credit crunch is emerging the retrenchment of private consumption will be serious and protracted. So let us suppose that the recession of 2008 will last at least four quarters and, possibly, up to six quarters. What will be the consequences of it?

Here are the twelve steps or stages of a scenario of systemic financial meltdown associated with this severe economic recession...

ok... and those would be...?
  • First, this is the worst housing recession in US history and there is no sign it will bottom out any time soon. At this point it is clear that US home prices will fall between 20% and 30% from their bubbly peak; that would wipe out between $4 trillion and $6 trillion of household wealth.
  • Second, losses for the financial system from the subprime disaster are now estimated to be as high as $250 to $300 billion. But the financial losses will not be only in subprime mortgages and the related RMBS and CDOs. They are now spreading to near prime and prime mortgages as the same reckless lending practices in subprime (no down-payment, no verification of income, jobs and assets (i.e. NINJA or LIAR loans), interest rate only, negative amortization, teaser rates, etc.) were occurring across the entire spectrum of mortgages; about 60% of all mortgage origination since 2005 through 2007 had these reckless and toxic features.
  • Third, the recession will lead - as it is already doing - to a sharp increase in defaults on other forms of unsecured consumer debt: credit cards, auto loans, student loans. There are dozens of millions of subprime credit cards and subprime auto loans in the US. And again defaults in these consumer debt categories will not be limited to subprime borrowers.
  • Fourth, while there is serious uncertainty about the losses that monolines will undertake on their insurance of RMBS, CDO and other toxic ABS products, it is now clear that such losses are much higher than the $10-15 billion rescue package that regulators are trying to patch up. Some monolines are actually borderline insolvent and none of them deserves at this point a AAA rating regardless of how much realistic recapitalization is provided.
  • Fifth, the commercial real estate loan market will soon enter into a meltdown similar to the subprime one. Lending practices in commercial real estate were as reckless as those in residential real estate.
  • Sixth, it is possible that some large regional or even national bank that is very exposed to mortgages, residential and commercial, will go bankrupt. Thus some big banks may join the 200 plus subprime lenders that have gone bankrupt.
  • Seventh, the banks losses on their portfolio of leveraged loans are already large and growing. The ability of financial institutions to syndicate and securitize their leveraged loans - a good chunk of which were issued to finance very risky and reckless LBOs - is now at serious risk.
  • Eighth, once a severe recession is underway a massive wave of corporate defaults will take place. In a typical year US corporate default rates are about 3.8% (average for 1971-2007); in 2006 and 2007 this figure was a puny 0.6%. And in a typical US recession such default rates surge above 10%.
  • Ninth, the "shadow banking system" (as defined by the PIMCO folks) or more precisely the "shadow financial system" (as it is composed by non-bank financial institutions) will soon get into serious trouble. This shadow financial system is composed of financial institutions that - like banks - borrow short and in liquid forms and lend or invest long in more illiquid assets. This system includes: SIVs, conduits, money market funds, monolines, investment banks, hedge funds and other non-bank financial institutions.
  • Tenth, stock markets in the US and abroad will start pricing a severe US recession - rather than a mild recession - and a sharp global economic slowdown. The fall in stock markets - after the late January 2008 rally fizzles out - will resume as investors will soon realize that the economic downturn is more severe, that the monolines will not be rescued, that financial losses will mount, and that earnings will sharply drop in a recession not just among financial firms but also non financial ones.
  • Eleventh, the worsening credit crunch that is affecting most credit markets and credit derivative markets will lead to a dry-up of liquidity in a variety of financial markets, including otherwise very liquid derivatives markets.
  • Twelfth, a vicious circle of losses, capital reduction, credit contraction, forced liquidation and fire sales of assets at below fundamental prices will ensue leading to a cascading and mounting cycle of losses and further credit contraction. In illiquid market actual market prices are now even lower than the lower fundamental value that they now have given the credit problems in the economy.
however, as ugly as roubini's scenario is, i stick by what i've repeatedly said, most recently in the previous post... let's get this house of cards to fall down sooner rather than later... doing so will present an unparalleled opportunity for change which, if we as global citizens play our cards right, will be for the better...

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A way we can all help to accelerate the long-overdue collapse

from kevin at cryptogon...
In America (and wealthier parts of the “West” in general), people don’t have to blow up a natural gas pipeline and shut down a factory or cut enough fiber to crash the NYSE and the NASDAQ market systems for a few minutes, hours or days. Voluntary simplicity, or, living well on very little money, kicks evil people in the nuts and gouges out their eyes. (Pacifists may think of this as sending the enemy Joy and Happiness if they desire.) Doing this in the U.S. has a force multiplier effect because the U.S. is the largest source of the funds that keep the global ponzi scheme running. When people in wealthy countries opt out, the action causes major economic damage to the machine.

It’s a matter of hacking The Matrix in an efficient and innovative manner to reduce your monthly expenses to a fraction of previous levels. The extraction/domination system in the U.S. has few effective defenses against people who opt out—to the extent possible—by making smart use of available resources. The system assumes that you’ll stay hooked forever on a lifestyle built around profligate waste and going deep into debt to buy crap that you don’t really want, or need. Indeed, most people are content to go through life this way.

i posted on this very same thing the other day... kevin's right... dumping the consumer lifestyle is indeed an act of rebellion which, if a critical mass of people engaged in it, would quickly and seriously cripple the money vacuum created by the monied elites to suck up all the power and resources around the globe...

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Reminder: the "And, yes, I DO take it personally" radio show

the regular, "And, yes, I DO take it personally" radio program will air this morning at 8 a.m. pacific time (u.s.), 11 a.m., eastern time (u.s.), 2 p.m. (argentina), and 4 p.m. gmt (uk)... this will be the last fifteen-minute program and, starting next thursday, 14 february (valentine's day), the show will expand to thirty minutes... the show features me, profmarcus (raphael cruz), and my co-host and co-blogger, brother tim, sharing our perspectives on events of the day and the past week...

you can tune in live here via the superb internet radio service, blog talk radio, or listen to any of our past shows by visiting here... if you're listening live, you can also call in at +(1 646) 200-0056, or stop by via live chat...

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The economic stimulus plan will - no surprise - benefit the super-rich

and leave us peasants - also no surprise - holding the bag...
Congress is about to sell us the biggest fraud in American history.

It's been highly touted as an economic stimulus bill that will help millions of Americans - and has the backing of both President Bush and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In the coming year, individuals would receive rebates of up to $600 and families up to $1,200. There are other goodies, too, including tax write-offs for small businesses and an expansion of the child tax credit.

But, as the old adage goes, nothing comes for free. As part of the bill, Congress is set to rush through an increase in the mortgage loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (and Federal Housing Administration insurance, too) - from $417,000 to $729,750 - the first step toward a massive financial disaster in which taxpayers will end up paying through the nose.

Here's how we got to this point. Domestic and international investors hold hundreds of billions of dollars in bad debt, because U.S. investment houses sold them junk securities based on often fraudulent mortgages. Many of these mortgages were sold to unqualified buyers under terms that made widespread foreclosures a certainty once the housing market began to fall.

Investment banks and bond rating agencies sat down and tried to figure out how to describe Americans with insufficient incomes and little for a down payment as great credit risks on loans too big for their incomes. The new rules focused on credit scores, because it was a good excuse to avoid looking at income and down payment, factors that would have restricted this moneymaking fiasco.

Now, thanks to Congress, junk bond investors will be able to pawn off their bad debt to Fannie and Freddie, instead of suing the big investment houses for ripping them off. This shift will certainly doom Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so don't be surprised if we, the taxpayers, have to bail out poor Fannie and Freddie - to the tune of more than $1 trillion.

would we have expected anything less from the criminals that run our government...?

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The Gitmo INSIDE Gitmo

hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, we keep learning more and more and more shit about our secret, criminal government...
Somewhere amid the cactus-studded hills on this sprawling Navy base, separate from the cells where hundreds of men suspected of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban have been locked up for years, is a place even more closely guarded—a jailhouse so protected that its very location is top secret.

For the first time, the top commander of detention operations at Guantanamo has confirmed the existence of the mysterious Camp 7. In an interview with The Associated Press, Rear Adm. Mark Buzby also provided a few details about the maximum-security lockup.

Guantanamo commanders said Camp 7 is for key alleged al-Qaida members, who must be kept apart from other prisoners to prevent them from retaliating against long-term detainees who have talked to interrogators. They also want the location kept secret for fear of terrorist attack.

Many operations have been classified since the detention center opened in January 2002 in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. More than four years passed before the military released even the names of detainees held on this 45-square- mile base in southeast Cuba—and it did so only after the AP filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

Detainees have been held in Camp Echo and Camps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Journalists cleared by the military have been allowed to tour some of these lockups, where 260 men are held, but aren't allowed to speak to detainees. Some lawmakers and other VIPs have passed through, and the International Red Cross has access, on the condition that no details about its visits with detainees be made public.

But Camp 7, where 15 "high-value detainees" are held, is so secret that its very existence was not publicly known until it was mentioned in December by attorneys for Majid Khan, a former Baltimore resident who allegedly plotted to bomb gas stations in the United States. Previously, many observers believed the 15 were being held in Camps 5 or 6, which are maximum-security facilities.

"Under the gag order ... we are prohibited from saying anything more about their camp," lawyer Gitanjali Gutierrez, who met with Khan in October, said Tuesday. Most of the lawyers' notes and memos have been stamped "top secret" by the government.

basically, the thought seems to be that, if nobody knows, you can do anything you goddam well please...

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Well worth posting in full


A Message From The American Corporate Plutocracy

Paul Street ( is a writer and activist in Iowa City, IA. His latest book is Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007). His latest print magazine article is "Largely About Oil: Reflections on Empire, Petroleum, Democracy Failure, and the Occupation of Iraq," Z Magazine (January 2008), read at

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A tale of two headlines: hard to eradicate Afghan opium economy and need for more drones in Afghanistan

headline one...
Opium economy will take 20 years and £1bn to remove

Europe and other major heroin markets should brace themselves for health consequences of harvest, warns UN

headline two...
Pentagon seeks money for unmanned drones

Pentagon's Increased Reliance on Unmanned Drones Evident in Budget

When a missile fired from a U.S. Predator killed a top al-Qaida leader last week it underscored the warfighting power of unmanned aircraft, which are being considered for even greater use in Afghanistan and would consume at least $3.4 billion in the Pentagon's 2009 proposed budget.

well, gosh and go-l-l-l-leee, sports fans... anybody remember this post i put up on 20 january with an excerpt from a story in the nyt back in june 2001...?
The unexpected success of the Taliban in Afghanistan in eradicating three-quarters of the world's crop of opium poppies in one season is leading experts to ask where production is likely to spring up next.

The director of the United Nations Drug Control Program, Pino Arlacchi, said there was no chance that opium from other sources would compensate this year for the loss of Afghan crops, and the prices of opium and heroin will rise substantially, with opium already worth five to seven times its usual price. His program helped convince the Taliban that opium is a disgrace to Islam.

lemme see if i get this straight... the taliban had ERADICATED THREE-QUARTERS OF THE WORLD'S CROP OF OPIUM POPPIES IN LATE 2001 IN AFGHANISTAN PRIOR TO THE U.S. INVASION... in 2006, largely under u.s. control, afghanistan is BACK TO BEING THE WORLD'S NUMBER ONE PRODUCER...

ya don't think the money from the opium economy that will take 20 years and £1bn to remove could be used to finance those drones, do ya...? nah... i'm just a conspiracy theorist who hasn't had his morning coffee...

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Domestic Abu Ghraib - our corrupt police state [UPDATE] [UPDATE II]

brasscheck tv...

This is common treatment for women in US jails

The is absolutely nothing unusual about women being stripped naked and left without covering of any kind in cold jail cells for hours at a time.

It's a popular humiliation technique used in corrupt police departments throughout the country.

If it weren't for this video, a TV local station's news report, and the Internet, no one would know that this particular event ever happened.

Keep in mind that this woman called the police for help after she was assaulted.

The piece of self-propelled human garbage who runs this Sheriff's Department is Timothy A. Swanson.

He says - and I quote - that the thugs who work for him "did everything by the book.

Here's his web site:

and we wonder how something like the atrocities at abu ghraib could have happened...


ah, yes... let's not look at what's happening in ohio, ferchrissake... we'd MUCH RATHER demonize our middle east brethren...
Doesn’t it give you a warm fuzzy feeling that these misogynist thugs are our allies?


here's what it says on the youtube site...

"This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by WKYC-TV"

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How to create an angry American

from ich...

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12 WaPo questionable "News Alerts"

from this morning's email... News Alert: Clinton Triumphs in California News Alert: McCain Wins Missouri News Alert: McCain Is Victorious in California News Alert: Obama Has Strong Showing in Mountain States News Alert: McCain Wins Home State of Arizona News Alert: Obama Wins Connecticut; Huckabee Wins Alabama News Alert: Romney Wins Utah News Alert: Clinton Wins Massachusetts News Alert: Clinton Wins N.Y.; Obama Takes Delaware News Alert: Clinton Wins New York, Massachusetts News Alert: Obama Wins Ill., Mass. Goes to Romney, McCain Victorious in N.J. News Alert: Obama Beats Clinton in Georgia

imho, the time and effort spent in preparing these special alerts (i usually receive 4-6 total from the wapo PER WEEK) would have been better spent informing the wapo readership about how our united states constitution is being destroyed and how none of the candidates are really talking about it... < sigh >

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Evidently, I'm not the only one that thinks United Airlines sucks

i posted on this obscene move the other day... not surprisingly, i'm not alone in how i feel about the disgusting fleece job perpetrated by my former employer...
United Airlines said on Tuesday its new USD$25 fee to check a second bag offers "customers choice, flexibility and low fares," but travelers were not buying the explanation and took to blogs to protest.

The airline's new policy -- the first of its kind among major carriers -- has raised the ire of travelers who already feel fleeced by carriers that charge for in-flight goods and services that used to be included in the fare.

The new bag check fee likely will be matched by rival carriers that currently check two bags for free, experts said.

Within hours of United's announcement on Monday, travelers began registering their displeasure.

"I totally agree this is going to hurt the people that can least afford it and who don't know how to play the system. Kind of like the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer," read one flyertalk posting.

"offers 'customers choice, flexibility and low fares'...??" what a load of crap... i usually do at least 8-10 price comparisons when i'm buying an airline ticket, and united is NEVER in the running at the end... in fact, they're ALWAYS the first to be crossed off my list because their ticket prices tend to be 30% higher than the carrier i end up booking my ticket with... unfortunately, i also know way too much about the inner working of the place, and, if they want me to shut up, they're going to have to kill me...

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Dow down almost 3%

anybody who thinks we're anywhere close to hitting bottom in the world financial markets is smokin' some pretty powerful stuff...
The Dow Jones industrials plummeted 2.93 percent and other
indexes also fell sharply, on fresh signs that the United
States economy may be in the early stages of a recession. The
Dow closed with a loss of 370.03 points at 12,265.13 in
preliminary figures. A sharp decline in European markets and
news statistics showing a steep falloff in the service sector
prompted the selling.

the only thing that bernanke and the fed bought with the rate cuts is just a little bit of time... damn little, it appears...

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The inexorable march to the surveillance state

they're not gonna stop until there's a cctv camera watching as we take a shit...
[The FBI] is expected to announce in coming days the awarding of a $1 billion, 10-year contract to help create the database that will compile an array of biometric information -- from palm prints to eye scans.

Kimberly Del Greco, the FBI's Biometric Services section chief, said adding to the database is "important to protect the borders to keep the terrorists out, protect our citizens, our neighbors, our children so they can have good jobs, and have a safe country to live in."

But it's unnerving to privacy experts.

"It's the beginning of the surveillance society where you can be tracked anywhere, any time and all your movements, and eventually all your activities will be tracked and noted and correlated," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Technology and Liberty Project.

The FBI already has 55 million sets of fingerprints on file. In coming years, the bureau wants to compare palm prints, scars and tattoos, iris eye patterns, and facial shapes. The idea is to combine various pieces of biometric information to positively identify a potential suspect.

unnerving...? UNNERVING...?? uhhhhhh... yeah... just a bit...

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Bruce Fein: "Congress has taken the Constitution backward more than three centuries"

another traitorous congressional sellout to a criminal president...
Jan. 28, 2008, is a date that will live in congressional infamy. Congress surrendered the power of the purse over national security affairs to the White House.

President Bush appended a signing statement to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 denying the power of Congress to withhold funds for establishing permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, or to control its oil resources. The statement tacitly averred that Congress was required to appropriate money to support every presidential national security gambit, for example, launching pre-emptive wars anywhere on the planet or breaking and entering homes to gather foreign intelligence.


Yet Congress acquiesced. It did not pass a resolution disputing Mr. Bush. It did not threaten impeachment. It meekly surrendered its national security relevance. Under the precedent it left undisturbed, the president could flout congressional prohibitions on spending funds to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, to invade North Korea, to conduct military offensives in Iraq, to install an anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic, or to assist Taiwan against a Chinese attack.

i simply do not understand how or why our elected members of congress can stand aside and allow this criminal president to systematically and thoroughly shred the constitution of the united states...

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The myth of free trade and neoliberalism, special to "The Mustache of Understanding"

a somewhat lengthy but quite informative article in alternet via truthdig by chalmers johnson, reviewing Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism, by cambridge economist ha-joon chang that, besides debunking neoliberal economic policies and the so-called "washington consensus," excoriates tom friedman...
[The] book is a discursive, well-written account of what [Chang] calls the "Bad Samaritan," "people in the rich countries who preach free markets and free trade to the poor countries in order to capture larger shares of the latter's markets and preempt the emergence of possible competitors. They are saying 'do as we say, not as we did' and act as Bad Samaritans, taking advantage of others who are in trouble."


[Neoliberal policies include] privatizing state-owned enterprises, maintaining low inflation, shrinking the size of the state bureaucracy, balancing the national budget, liberalizing trade, deregulating foreign investment, making the currency freely convertible, reducing corruption, and privatizing pensions. It is called neoliberalism because of its acceptance of rich-country monopolies over intellectual property rights (patents, copyrights, etc.), the granting to a country's central bank of a monopoly to issue bank notes, and its assertion that political democracy is conducive to economic growth, none of which were parts of classical liberalism.

chang's - and johnson's - bottom line...
[F]ree trade, privatization, and [neoliberal] policies are ahistorical, self-serving economic nonsense...


It is time to recognize, particularly in the English-language economic press, that a "level playing field" leads to unfair competition when the players are unequal.

i spend a great deal of time outside the united states... i have worked on economic development projects in so-called "emerging economies," principally in former socialist countries, i reside part-time in argentina, i have traveled extensively throughout latin america, eastern and southeastern europe, and i have seen first-hand the devastation wreaked by neoliberal, world bank and imf policies... following those policies, it is virtually impossible for a country's producers and manufacturers to prosper... how could they when transnational corporations flood the national markets with goods and services, establish a country-wide presence, and operate with an economy of scale that home-grown businesses find it impossible to match...

every time i go to shop, i always look at the fine-print on the labels of the items i purchase because i want to see what corporation is behind the product... 9 times out of ten it is a transnational corporation, unilever, nestle, proctor and gamble, pepsico, coca cola, danone, bayer, etc., etc... sure, if the country is a big enough market, those corporations may license local companies to produce their products in-country which is at least somewhat better than importing everything, but the money still largely flows out of the country... and, if the market is small - macedonia, for instance - most brand-name products on store shelves are 100% imported... (and, yes, there are plenty of knock-offs, but that's a whole 'nother story...)

anyone who espouses free trade and neoliberal economic policies is either grossly ignorant of the realities those policies have created in the developing world or committed to serving his or her own economic interests at the expense of others...

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Pay as you go... Now THERE'S a concept...!

[T]he freewheeling days of credit and risk may have run their course — at least for a while and perhaps much longer — as a period of involuntary thrift unfolds in many households. With the number of jobs shrinking, housing prices falling and debt levels swelling, the same nation that pioneered the no-money-down mortgage suddenly confronts an unfamiliar imperative: more Americans must live within their means.

“We don’t use our credit cards anymore,” said Lisa Merhaut, a professional at a telecommunications company who lives in Leesburg, Va., and whose family last year ran up credit card debt it could not handle.

Today, Ms. Merhaut, 44, manages her money the way her father did. Despite a household income reaching six figures, she uses cash for every purchase. “What we have is what we have,” Ms. Merhaut said. “We have to rely on the money that we’re bringing in.”


“The long collapse in the United States savings rate is over,” said Ethan S. Harris, chief United States economist for Lehman Brothers. “People are going to start saving the old-fashioned way, rather than letting the stock market and rising home values do it for them.”

In 1984, Americans were still saving more than one-tenth of their income, according to the government. A decade later, the rate was down by half. Now, the savings rate is slightly negative, suggesting that on average Americans spend more than their disposable income.

buried 27 paragraphs into the article, this fascinating little tidbit is revealed...
The top fifth of American earners generates half of all consumer spending, noted Dean Maki, chief United States economist at Barclays Capital.

what the article fails to note is that high debt is not only an integral part of the u.s. economy, it is also part and parcel of another phenomenon, whether it's a conscious, planned strategy or simply a natural consequence of the debt itself, to keep americans in bondage, chained to their jobs - no matter how awful they may be - spinning down to their graves on a greased slide of monthly payments...

i was part of that vicious cycle myself until about ten years ago... the freedom i now enjoy by being totally debt-free is a freedom that i never imagined could be so sweet... i live a very simple, uncluttered life with no assets to speak of and few headaches... i remember back in the late 80s when i was struggling mightily to break into that top fifth noted above, i had a major realization... all the "stuff" i was laboring to acquire in reality "owned" me, not the other way around... it took another ten years for that lesson to fully sink in to where i had permanently altered my lifestyle... now i wouldn't have it any other way and i think back and wonder what took me so long...

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Super Tuesday and lots of opportunities for vote tampering

hacking voting machines...? no sweat...

from brasscheck tv...

In your face

It was reported on CNN.

It's been validated by Princeton University computer experts.

Everyone with an IQ over 70 knows...

US electronic voting machines can be hacked easily.

So what's been done about it as we head into the 2008 Presidential election?


Super Tuesday here we come.

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Judge bitch-slaps Bush on Navy's sonar waiver: ""The Navy's current 'emergency' is simply a creature of its own making"

watch out... the poor little dog by the side of the road with the owner's tag that reads "rule of law," a hit-and-run victim of bush's crazed, 7-year plus dui spree, still has some bite left...
The Bush administration overreached when it sought to limit the Navy's obligations under national environmental laws related to sonar training exercises off California, a federal judge ruled yesterday.

In a sharply worded decision that will keep the Navy from continuing a series of 14 planned exercises, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper wrote that the Navy and the administration had improperly declared that an emergency would be created if they had to accept court-mandated steps to minimize risk to whales and other sea mammals. Because no real emergency exists, she said, the White House cannot override her decisions and those of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.


Joel Reynolds, an official at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which obtained an earlier injunction against the Navy blocking the exercises, said in a statement that the court "has affirmed that we do not live under an imperial presidency."

my god... has my view of our country sunk so low that i am forced to CELEBRATE a SINGLE COURT DECISION that stops our CRIMINAL PRESIDENT from executing ONLY ONE ILLEGAL ACT...? she-e-e-e-e-eit... totalmente patético...

p.s. "we do not live under an imperial presidency" is a statement i WISH was true, but, sadly, is far from the case...

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Monday, February 04, 2008

"Sibel Edmonds must be heard"

phil geraldi in the huffpo...
Sibel Edmonds is the FBI translator turned whistleblower who decided to go public late in 2002 and has been seeking to tell her story about high level corruption in the United States government involving Turkey and Israel. What makes her story particularly compelling is that the corruption relates to the theft and sale of United States defense secrets, most particularly nuclear technology. Sibel obtained her information while translating Turkish language telephone intercepts directed against several Turkish lobbying groups who had contact with senior officials in the Bush Administration, both at the Pentagon and in the State Department. Many of the officials involved are apparently the same neoconservatives who cooked the books to enable the rush to war against Iraq and who are continuing to urge more wars in the Middle East, most notably against Iran and Syria. Several of them are close allies of leading Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

To stop Sibel from telling her story, then Attorney General John Ashcroft subjected her to a state secrets privilege gag order after her appearance on CBS's 60 Minutes in October 2002 that not only forbade her providing details of her employment with FBI but also made the ban retroactive so that anything relating to her case would be considered a state secret. Edmonds had been discouraged by her experience with CBS as her most important points wound up on the cutting room floor. Then came the gag order, which she has observed while working assiduously to get bits and pieces of her story out in various ways. In October 2007 she decided to tell all without regard for the consequences, stating that she would provide details of her allegations to any American media outlet that would let her collaborate in the final edit so that her message would not be lost. There were no takers. Last month, The Sunday Times of London decided to pick up her story and has now produced a long feature article called "For Sale: the West's Deadliest Nuclear Secrets" plus two follow-ups. The story was picked up and replayed all over the world, but not by the mainstream media in the United States.

Why should Sibel be heard? Mostly because her story, if true, involves corruption at the highest levels of government coupled with the sale of secrets vital to the security of the United States.

goddam it... will a major u.s. news outlet PLEASE give her a forum...? PLEASE...?

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United Airlines can go directly to hell

there aren't enough foul expletives in the english language to fully express my feelings for united airlines...
United Airlines said on Monday it will charge some passengers a fee to check more than one bag, a move that may generate USD$100 million annually as the carrier attempts to offset high fuel costs.

The airline is the first major carrier to charge a fee to check a second bag. Some experts have long predicted that carriers would take this step to bolster revenue in an ultra-competitive industry.

"I think this is just the very, very, very beginning," said travel expert Terry Trippler of TripplerTravel. "I think it's going to happen throughout the industry throughout the year."

United's new fee of USD$25 will be charged to customers who purchase non-refundable domestic economy tickets and do not have status in frequent flyer programs at United or one of its partners in the Star Alliance. The carrier will not charge passengers to check one bag.

Previously, the cost to those customers of checking two bags was included in the fare. For all customers, the cost to check up to four more bags will be USD$100 per bag. Previously, the charges ranged from USD$85 to USD$125 per bag.

The cost to check items that require special handling -- large, overweight or fragile items -- will now be either USD$100 or USD$200, depending on the item.

i'm not thrilled about any of the airlines, but united is number one on my shit list...

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So, why is a new "top-secret" laboratory at Livermore all over the news?

uhhhhhhh... because somebody wants us to KNOW...?

just askin'...

A high-security laboratory where deadly microbes are being grown by scientists seeking defenses against terrorist attacks began operating in Livermore last week without public announcement, and opponents said Friday that they will go to federal court in an effort to close the facility down.

Built inside the closed campus of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the facility has been controversial ever since it was first proposed by homeland security officials more than five years ago. Tri-Valley CARES, the East Bay watchdog group that has long fought nuclear weapons research there, has led the fight against it with protests and legal actions.

The facility is known as a Biosafety-level 3 laboratory where highly trained workers, high-tech airlocks and extremely rigorous safety measures are required by federal rules in order to contain any of more than 40 potentially lethal disease-causing bacteria, viruses and fungi stored inside.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, an agency of the Energy Department, which oversees the Livermore site, announced Monday only that it had "granted approval" for Livermore to begin operating its new biosafety laboratory.

so much for THAT secret...!

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Pick up the phone and call Harry Reid, fercryinoutloud

the only thing i've run across today that seems at all worth moving a muscle for (and that includes putting up a post) is this...

i gave the s.o.b. a call from argentina... how about you...?

Dear Friend,

By Wednesday night, the debate over government eavesdropping will end in the Senate.

In less than three days, we will know who stood up for civil liberties and who failed freedom. Help put Senator Reid on notice before the Senate votes.

Our demands are simple and unwavering. Stay true to your oath to protect the Constitution. Stand up against an overreaching executive branch. And, don’t grant blanket immunity to huge corporations that sold out Americans’ privacy.

Call Senator Senator Reid toll-free in Nevada at 1-866-SEN-REID (736-7343), or call his Las Vegas office at (702) 388-5020 and say something like this:

I am calling about the spying bill currently being considered by the Senate. I urge you to fight for a bill that’s constitutional and respects the rule of law. Please vote NO on the current Senate Intelligence Committee spying bill, and keep telecom immunity out of any bill that comes up for a vote.

Please reject any bill that allows for the warrantless surveillance or “bulk collection” of Americans’ phone calls and emails.

When you are finished, log your call here.

Your actions have made a difference in this fight. Together, we have jammed congressional switchboards, flooded the Capitol in a sea of email and buried lawmakers in a mountain of petitions.

After all the twists and turns in this debate, we are finally down to the wire. Every lobbyist, lawyer and organizer at the ACLU is determined to win this fight, whether we have to do it in Congress or in the Courts. But right now it is absolutely essential that the voice of freedom be heard throughout the halls of Congress.

Please call Senator Reid right now.

Help us finish the work we started in December 2005, when the warrantless wiretapping program was first exposed by the New York Times. Together, we will bring the government’s surveillance programs in line with the Constitution and the rule of law.

We will be in touch later this week about next steps in this fast-moving legislation.

Thank you for standing with us.


Caroline Fredrickson, ACLU
Caroline Fredrickson, Director
ACLU Washington Legislative Office

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sunday photoblogging: It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood*

buenos aires has a higher proportion of what i would call truly, jaw-droppingly, gorgeous days than any other place i've lived... the sky is an intense blue, standing in the sun you feel like you're standing directly in front of a roaring fire, but standing in the shade can almost feel chilly, the flowers shine in brilliant colors, the breeze is fresh, and the signature smell of argentina, the asado (bar-be-que), particularly on sunday, permeates the air...

Both photos taken out my kitchen door, Sunday, 12:53 Argentine DST,
3 February. The first photo is a close-up of the topmost blossom at the
center-right of the second photo.

life is good...


you're still missed, fred...

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Taxi to the Dark Side - We're all torturers now

from ich...

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Dental tourism

my dental history since 2003 has been a case in point...
It was fear of the hefty bill as much as fear of the drill that kept American musician Don Clay away from U.S. dental clinics for 30 years.

When a sorely infected tooth eventually drove him to the dentist last month, it was to a clinic in a Mexican border city better known for violent crime and drug cartels.

Shrugging off concerns about hygiene and Mexico's brutal drug war, thousands of Americans are heading to Ciudad Juarez and other Mexican border cities for cheap dental treatment.

"I had to get my teeth fixed. I need a perfect smile to make a successful career in music. Treatment in the United States is so pricey," said Clay, a Texan trying to get a record deal as a hip-hop artist.

U.S. dental treatment costs up to four times as much as in Mexico, making it tough for uninsured Americans to treat common problems such as abscessed teeth or pay for dentures.

A dental crown in the United States costs upward of $600 per tooth, compared to $190 or less in Mexico.

Aspiring Mexican dentists are moving to border cities in droves and are luring American patients away from farther flung discount destinations such as Hungary and Thailand.

Americans have long crossed the border for cheap medicines, flu vaccines, eye surgery or specialist doctors, but dentists are now in highest demand.

a few years ago, i needed some dental work done when i was working in macedonia... i was referred to a young woman who had worked in the u.s. for two years under a dentist in atlantic city... i was vastly impressed, not only by the quality of her work, but also by the thorough explanation she gave of her methods, how she followed the european treatment model rather than the u.s. treatment model, and even her explanation of the type of materials and instruments she used and where she obtained them (germany), something i had never heard from a u.s. dentist... then there was the price... i obtained two crowns for 80 euros or roughly $USD103 each... (that was at the then $USD1/€1.29 exchange rate which has since ballooned to $USD1/€1.48...) from that point through summer 2006, i paid her regular visits every time i was in-country... (as a side note, she told me that she also did dental work for many italians who were working in the country... i later learned that many greeks travel across the border to macedonia specifically for dental services, particularly interesting due to the fact that there is zero love lost between greeks and macedonians...)

after i returned to the u.s. from buenos aires last september, i had a large filling break loose (while eating VERY crunchy, dried, fried peas coated in wasabi, idiot that i am), leaving a gaping hole in a tooth... i knew it needed to be fixed and didn't want to wait until the now-vulnerable inner tooth decayed further, or, worse yet, started to hurt... however, i knew that a visit to a u.s. dentist would set me back at least $200 - probably a conservative estimate - so i kept putting it off... i returned here to buenos aires a week ago yesterday and, on wednesday, i visited my landlady's dentist who lives right around the corner from me, my first experience with an argentine dentist... after asking me right off the bat whether i supported hillary or obama, he made short work of fixing it, did a great job, and charged me $30AR, a little less than $USD10 ($USD1/$3.16AR at the current exchange rate)... he also advised me to lay off the super-crunchy stuff... ;) you can bet who i am going to see for my dental work from now on...

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Parsing the news: al Qaeda - alive, well, and working on WMD

the shameless, ceaseless, fear-mongering machine continues its 24/7/365 operation...
After a U.S. airstrike leveled a small compound in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions in January 2006, President Pervez Musharraf and his intelligence officials announced that several senior Al Qaeda operatives had been killed, and that the top prize was an elusive Egyptian who was believed to be a chemical weapons expert.

But current and former U.S. intelligence officials now believe that the Egyptian, Abu Khabab Masri, is alive and well -- and in charge of resurrecting Al Qaeda's program to develop or obtain weapons of mass destruction.

Given the problems with previous U.S. intelligence assessments of weapons of mass destruction, officials are careful not to overstate Al Qaeda's capabilities, and they emphasize that there is much they don't know because of the difficulty in getting information out of the mountainous area of northwest Pakistan where the network has reestablished itself.

But they say Al Qaeda has regenerated at least some of the robust research and development effort that it lost when the U.S. military bombed its Afghanistan headquarters and training camps in late 2001, and they believe it is once again trying to develop or obtain chemical, biological, radiological and even nuclear weapons to use in attacks on the United States and other enemies.

sources: "Pervez Musharraf and his intelligence officials," "current and former U.S. intelligence officials"...

qualifications: they "believe"; they "emphasize"; they "don't know"; they "say"...

disclaimers: "problems with previous U.S. intelligence assessments"; "difficulty in getting information out of the mountainous area of northwest Pakistan"...

fear-mongering bottom line: "chemical, biological, radiological and EVEN NUCLEAR WEAPONS to use in attacks on the United States..."

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