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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 03/22/2009 - 03/29/2009
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Saturday, March 28, 2009

First, kill all the lawyers: Spain considers filing criminal charges against Gonzales, Feith, Addington, Yoo, Bybee, and Haynes


whatever comes of it, it's the right thing to do...
A Spanish court has agreed to consider opening a criminal case against six former Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, over allegations they gave legal cover for torture at Guantanamo Bay, a lawyer in the case said Saturday.


The ex-Bush officials are Gonzales; former undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith; former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff David Addington; Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee; and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes.


[T]he country's record in prosecuting such cases has been spotty at best, with only one suspect extradited to Spain so far.


Even if indictments are eventually handed down against the U.S. officials, it is far from clear whether arrests would ever take place. The officials would have to travel outside the United States and to a country willing to take them into custody before possible extradition to Spain.


Boye said he expected the National Court to take the case forward, and dismissed concerns that it would harm bilateral relations between the two countries.

He said that some of the victims of the alleged torture were Spaniards, strengthening the argument for Spanish jurisdiction.

"When you bring a case like this you can't stop to make political judgments as to how it might affect bilateral relations between countries," he told the AP." It's too important for that."

Boye noted that the case was brought not against interrogators who might have committed crimes but by the lawyers and other high-placed officials who gave cover for their actions.

"Our case is a denunciation of lawyers, by lawyers, because we don't believe our profession should be used to help commit such barbarities," he said.

yes, absolutely... it's too important to let political considerations get in the way... why is that so hard to understand in my own country...?

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Summers, Paulson, Rubin, Geithner, Bernanke, Liddy, and Blankfein are schizoid

chris hedges, writing on truthdig via alternet...
Our elites are imploding. Their fraud and corruption are slowly being exposed as the disparity between their words and our reality becomes wider and more apparent. The rage that is bubbling up across the country will have to be countered by the elite with less subtle forms of control. But unless we grasp the "societal play of forces that operates beneath the surface of political forms" we will be cursed with a more ruthless form of corporate power, one that does away with artifice and the seduction of a consumer society and instead wields power through naked repression.


"The idea that virility consists in the maximum degree of endurance long ago became a screen-image for masochism that, as psychology has demonstrated, aligns itself all too easily with sadism." [Theodor Adorno, "Education After Auschwitz"]

Sadism is as much a part of popular culture as it is of corporate culture. It dominates pornography, runs like an electric current through reality television and trash-talk programs and is at the core of the compliant, corporate collective. Corporatism is about crushing the capacity for moral choice. And it has its logical fruition in Abu Ghraib, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and our lack of compassion for the homeless, our poor, the mentally ill, the unemployed and the sick.


The corporate state holds up as our ideal what Adorno called "the manipulative character." The manipulative character has superb organizational skills and the inability to have authentic human experiences. He or she is an emotional cripple and driven by an overvalued realism. The manipulative character is a systems manager. He or she exclusively trained to sustain the corporate structure, which is why our elites are wasting mind-blowing amounts of our money on corporations like Goldman Sachs and AIG. "He makes a cult of action, activity, of so-called efficiency as such which reappears in the advertising image of the active person," Adorno wrote of this personality type. These manipulative characters, people like Lawrence Summers, Henry Paulson, Robert Rubin, Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, AIG's Edward Liddy and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, along with most of our ruling class, have used corporate money and power to determine the narrow parameters of the debate in our classrooms, on the airwaves and in the halls of Congress while they looted the country.

"It is especially difficult to fight against it," warned Adorno, "because those manipulative people, who actually are incapable of true experience, for that very reason manifest an unresponsiveness that associates them with certain mentally ill or psychotic characters, namely schizoids."

interesting... i've had a lifelong aversion to corporate types of the sort that adorno describes, for most of the same reasons he outlines... i've found most of them to be the sort of people that i simply wouldn't consider having as friends...

in addition, i've noticed that there's an entire sub-category of such individuals i would characterize as " 'manipulative character' wannabes"... these are the people who set out to be the summers, paulson, rubin, geithner types but couldn't quite cut it... you can seem them walking the corridors of organizations everywhere, semi-brain dead, but still pledging fealty to the system that rejected them...

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Friday, March 27, 2009

What is likely to happen under the Geithner plan and what should be considered instead

informed insight and a set of reasonable (although undoubtedly bald-faced heresy to the banksters and super-rich elites) proposals...

james galbraith in washington monthly via alternet...

The most likely scenario, should the Geithner plan go through, is a combination of looting, fraud, and a renewed speculation in volatile commodity markets such as oil. Ultimately the losses fall on the public anyway, since deposits are largely insured. There is no chance that the banks will simply resume normal long-term lending. To whom would they lend? For what? Against what collateral? And if banks are recapitalized without changing their management, why should we expect them to change the behavior that caused the insolvency in the first place?

The oddest thing about the Geithner program is its failure to act as though the financial crisis is a true crisis -- an integrated, long-term economic threat -- rather than merely a couple of related but temporary problems, one in banking and the other in jobs. In banking, the dominant metaphor is of plumbing: there is a blockage to be cleared. Take a plunger to the toxic assets, it is said, and credit conditions will return to normal. This, then, will make the recession essentially normal, validating the stimulus package. Solve these two problems, and the crisis will end. That's the thinking.

But the plumbing metaphor is misleading. Credit is not a flow. It is not something that can be forced downstream by clearing a pipe. Credit is a contract. It requires a borrower as well as a lender, a customer as well as a bank. And the borrower must meet two conditions. One is creditworthiness, meaning a secure income and, usually, a house with equity in it. Asset prices therefore matter. With a chronic oversupply of houses, prices fall, collateral disappears, and even if borrowers are willing they can't qualify for loans. The other requirement is a willingness to borrow, motivated by what Keynes called the "animal spirits" of entrepreneurial enthusiasm. In a slump, such optimism is scarce. Even if people have collateral, they want the security of cash. And it is precisely because they want cash that they will not deplete their reserves by plunking down a payment on a new car.

The credit flow metaphor implies that people came flocking to the new-car showrooms last November and were turned away because there were no loans to be had. This is not true -- what happened was that people stopped coming in. And they stopped coming in because, suddenly, they felt poor.

Strapped and afraid, people want to be in cash. This is what economists call the liquidity trap. And it gets worse: in these conditions, the normal estimates for multipliers -- the bang for the buck -- may be too high. Government spending on goods and services always increases total spending directly; a dollar of public spending is a dollar of GDP. But if the workers simply save their extra income, or use it to pay debt, that's the end of the line: there is no further effect. For tax cuts (especially for the middle class and up), the new funds are mostly saved or used to pay down debt. Debt reduction may help lay a foundation for better times later on, but it doesn't help now. With smaller multipliers, the public spending package would need to be even larger, in order to fill in all the holes in total demand. Thus financial crisis makes the real crisis worse, and the failure of the bank plan practically assures that the stimulus also will be too small.

In short, if we are in a true collapse of finance, our models will not serve.


That being so, what must now be done? The first thing we need, in the wake of the recovery bill, is more recovery bills. The next efforts should be larger, reflecting the true scale of the emergency. There should be open-ended support for state and local governments, public utilities, transit authorities, public hospitals, schools, and universities for the duration, and generous support for public capital investment in the short and long term. To the extent possible, all the resources being released from the private residential and commercial construction industries should be absorbed into public building projects. There should be comprehensive foreclosure relief, through a moratorium followed by restructuring or by conversion-to-rental, except in cases of speculative investment and borrower fraud.


Second, we should offset the violent drop in the wealth of the elderly population as a whole. ... For an increasing number of the elderly, Social Security and Medicare wealth are all they have.

That means that the entitlement reformers have it backward: instead of cutting Social Security benefits, we should increase them, especially for those at the bottom of the benefit scale. Indeed, in this crisis, precisely because it is universal and efficient, Social Security is an economic recovery ace in the hole. Increasing benefits is a simple, direct, progressive, and highly efficient way to prevent poverty and sustain purchasing power for this vulnerable population. I would also argue for lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare to (say) fifty-five, to permit workers to retire earlier and to free firms from the burden of managing health plans for older workers.


Third, we will soon need a jobs program to put the unemployed to work quickly. Infrastructure spending can help, but major building projects can take years to gear up, and they can, for the most part, provide jobs only for those who have the requisite skills. So the federal government should sponsor projects that employ people to do what they do best, including art, letters, drama, dance, music, scientific research, teaching, conservation, and the nonprofit sector, including community organizing -- why not?

Finally, a payroll tax holiday would help restore the purchasing power of working families, as well as make it easier for employers to keep them on the payroll. This is a particularly potent suggestion, because it is large and immediate. And if growth resumes rapidly, it can also be scaled back. There is no error in doing too much that cannot easily be repaired, by doing a bit less.

oh, and about those banksters and super-rich elites...
As these measures take effect, the government must take control of insolvent banks, however large, and get on with the business of reorganizing, re-regulating, decapitating, and recapitalizing them. Depositors should be insured fully to prevent runs, and private risk capital (common and preferred equity and subordinated debt) should take the first loss. Effective compensation limits should be enforced -- it is a good thing that they will encourage those at the top to retire.

good riddance, i say...

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U.S. Afghanistan re-supply air base in Kyrgyzstan may re-open


hmmmm... i wonder what sort of backroom deal is driving this potential reversal...
Kyrgyzstan has offered to resume talks with the US on the possible continuation of the operation of the air base in Manas, a source in the American administration told the media.

“We continue the negotiations with Kyrgyzstan over keeping the military base in Manas. I believe we could reach an agreement on it,” the source said.

The senior US official, whose name was not revealed, added that even if the base is closed, NATO has other logistical options for its mission in Afghanistan.

This is an unexpected development in the story of the controversial military base, which the Central Asian country refused to host any longer in February.

i seriously do not think this would be under consideration by kyrgyzstan if it wasn't getting some sort of ok from russia...

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Afghanistan - "a free-for-all of corruption"... A follow-on to the previous "Talking to the Taliban" post


another perspective that supports what i witness first-hand every day here in kabul, this time from a woman with in-depth experience in afghanistan who runs a co-op in kandahar...

from the la times...

What ensued has been a free-for-all of corruption and abuse of power, with ordinary citizens paying the price. Our cooperative, for example, recently imported some solar energy equipment, which we needed because of the ongoing lack of electricity in Kandahar. We had to pay about $1,200 in bribes at seven different checkpoints on the road from the Pakistani border and at the Kandahar customs house. Judicial decisions are bought and sold, as is public office. Driver's licenses, death certificates and electricity meters come with a heavy surcharge. Lucrative contracts are monopolized by power brokers. The corruption infuriates ordinary Afghans, who do not see such abuses as part of their culture.

The result has been that a country that in 2002 enthusiastically welcomed the young government of Karzai and the international presence is now turning back to the Taliban. This is not out of affinity or ideological bent but because -- as was the case in 1994, when the Taliban first arrived on the scene -- it represents a practical alternative to the reigning chaos.

with the impending release of the obama administration's afghanistan policy (see below), a policy i fear will be sadly deficient and seriously misaligned, it's good to see some of what i consider to be reasonably accurate and informed perspectives creeping into the mainstream media...
Shifting U.S. objectives in Afghanistan away from the Bush administration's promise to build a Western-style democracy, President Barack Obama will announce on Friday that he's deploying thousands of additional American troops and civilians to achieve more modest goals, such as enhancing security and promoting economic development, U.S. officials said.

for the la times writer, quoted above, if indeed this shift comes to pass, it does not bode well... she does, however, have some constructive ideas to propose...
The answer is not to lower the bar but to raise it. What is needed is some of that patented Obama "Yes, we can!" energy.

We can, for example, work to ensure not just the security of the upcoming Afghan elections but a modicum of integrity, by observing, reporting and sanctioning instances of abuse and by distancing ourselves from those Afghan officials illegally exploiting their offices to ensure a Karzai reelection. We can insist on accountability on the part of Afghan officials, especially regarding the expenditure of international funds. We can help Afghans give teeth to what is perhaps the most important feature of American democracy -- one that was signally ignored by the Bush administration's Afghan design: checks-and-balances mechanisms.

Additional troops are desperately needed, and they should be deployed to protect the population rather than focused on hunting high-value targets or trying to seal off Afghanistan's borders. Development assistance, well targeted and monitored, is also crucial. But only with a concurrent full-court press on governance can the most limited U.S. goals in the region be accomplished.

i am very cool on the idea of additional troops, not because they shouldn't be utilized in the way the writer suggests, but because the u.s. is far from re-making its military might into a force of protection and peacekeeping rather than an instrument of death and destruction... if obama is to pull off THAT transition, he's going to need to do some major housecleaning at the pentagon in order to disembowel the "kick ass and take names" mindset that's been the history of the u.s. military, a history that was seriously reinforced through the bush/rumsfeld/gates era and continues to this day...

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Talking to the Taliban


i have not touted my friendship with jean mackenzie, the afghanistan program director of the institute for war and peace reporting, as it's not been relevant to my blogging... that suddenly changed with her rapid emergence into much greater visibility thanks to her excellent insight and reporting on afghanistan via her expanded role writing on a regular basis for the global post... her latest article on the possibility of talks with the taliban was highlighted by juan cole and i'm sure is being widely picked up and passed around...

i'd like to offer a few selections from the article and then a couple snippets from her interview with mullah abdul salaam zaeef, an individual i posted about only a few weeks ago here on this weblog...

i'd suggest following the links and reading both articles... they're some of the most insightful i've read and give a much more three-dimensional picture of the afghanistan i experience every day i am here...

Talking to the Taliban is all the rage.

Whether for or against, upbeat or down, everyone seems to be weighing in on the wisdom or folly of negotiating with the black-turbaned crowd.

President Barack Obama has even suggested that his administration may reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban.

GlobalPost has gained unique access here in Kabul to two former high-ranking officials of the now-deposed Taliban government to hear their view of the possibility of an opening for dialogue.

Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, who was the Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan, and Mullah Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, who served as foreign minister during the Taliban regime, confirmed in separate interviews that such talks were feasible, but that they would need to begin with a fundamental understanding that the view of this conflict looks very different from an Afghan-Taliban perspective.

Both emphasized they do not represent Mullah Omar and the Taliban’s active militant insurgency, but offered valuable insight into the likely debate within the Taliban’s inner circle about the various overtures from Washington to open talks.

Before any serious discussions can take place, they say, the warring parties at least have to agree on what they are fighting about. To date, that fairly obvious goal has been shrouded by rhetoric and misunderstanding.

“We are fighting two wars on one battlefield,” said Mullah Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil, who served as foreign minister during the Taliban regime. “The Taliban are fighting the ‘slaves of America’ while the United States is confronting ‘terrorists.’”

The United States is engaged in a Global War on Terror, battling the jihadists in Afghanistan so that they do not have to confront them on the streets of New York; at least that is how the Bush administration defined the engagement.


The Taliban, for their part, are fighting a holy war of liberation against a foreign, infidel invader that has come to topple their government, impose an alien system on an unwilling people, and further its own interests.

In a March 22 interview with "60 Minutes," Obama was concise about the mission in Afghanistan: “Making sure that Al Qaeda cannot attack the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests and our allies. That's our number one priority.”

This is something that the Taliban are more than willing to talk about, according to Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef.

"The United States has a right to guarantee its own security,” he said, in an interview at his home in a dusty Kabul suburb, where he is under house arrest.

After serving four years in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Zaeef was released and reconciled with the Afghan government.

They have a right to ensure that there is no danger to them from Afghanistan,” Zaeef added in an interview that happened only after negotiating a cordon of officers from the National Security Directorate, Afghanistan’s internal security agency.

here's some snippets from the interview jean is referring to...
Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef is an angry man. I know this from reading snatches of his forthcoming book, “My Life with the Taliban”. But I would never guess it from the affable, bearded giant before me, hunched over his Compaq computer in his multi-storied home in a remote Kabul suburb.

I can’t really blame the man for his rage. I myself am a bit irritated after being rudely accosted by the government security men at the door, who screen all visitors and prevent Zaeef from leaving his home without permission. An Afghan friend who visits Zaeef frequently is often followed when he leaves.

Zaeef, of course, has more serious reasons to despise what he terms the Afghan “puppet government” and the “American invaders” who held him in various detention centers, including Guantanamo, for over four and a half years.

He was the Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan when the twin towers fell in 2001. For weeks he was a fixture on the media scene in Islamabad, holding daily press briefings and trying to get some dialogue going with the Taliban leadership. Then, in early January, 2002, the government of Pakistan handed him over to the Americans, and his life, in his own words, turned into an endless round of humiliation and degradation.

Now Zaeef is not exactly a prisoner, more like a prize insect in a jar. He lives in a comfortable but modest home in Khoshal Khan, in a western corner of Kabul. To get there, you have to skirt an ancient cemetery, which lies, oddly, in the middle of the road, a relic of bygone days when this part of Kabul was not inhabited. The neighborhood has grown up around the graves, many with tattered green martyr flags flapping in the breeze.


With permission from the Afghan government, Zaeef can visit Saudi Arabia, Dubai, or Qatar. But he will not be part of the Afghanistan strategy review in Washington, nor will he be present when the new plan is unveiled in The Hague.

It’s a shame, really. Zaeef is rational and articulate about the problems confronting the Taliban and the international community in Afghanistan. He can put a human face on what too many people consider a movement of whip-wielding, hate-spewing, infidel-bashing radicals who will have to be thoroughly defeated before any settlement can begin.

“You cannot talk to the Taliban from a position of strength,” he says, curled up in his light-colored patu, or wool shawl. “We are Afghans. If we are in a lower position, and the enemy acts tough, we will act ten times tougher.”


But he is not your average fundamentalist. He agrees to sit for photos, while the Taliban banned pictorial or artistic representation of the human face and form. He has an amazing array of technology, including an iPhone, and spends part of each day online. He is intent on producing his memoirs, which, while dishing a huge helping of bitterness to the United States, reflect a thoughtful and kind soul behind the surface acrimony.

He is someone you can talk to, or even argue with, and Alex Strick van Linschoten, who co-edited Zaeef’s book, calls him “one of the sweetest men I know.”

In spite of his nightmare experiences in American prisons, Zaeef is an advocate of a peaceful settlement to the current crisis. He may not be brimming over with love for the foreign soldiers who toppled his government, stomped on his values and killed many of his friends and comrades, but he does not want a prolongation of war.

this world needs more journalists like jean mackenzie...

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Cold fusion

Researchers at a US Navy laboratory have unveiled what they say is "significant" evidence of cold fusion, a potential energy source that has many skeptics in the scientific community.

The scientists on Monday described what they called the first clear visual evidence that low-energy nuclear reaction (LENR), or cold fusion devices can produce neutrons, subatomic particles that scientists say are indicative of nuclear reactions.

"Our finding is very significant," said analytical chemist Pamela Mosier-Boss of the US Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) in San Diego, California.

"To our knowledge, this is the first scientific report of the production of highly energetic neutrons from a LENR device," added the study's co-author in a statement.

The study's results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The city is also the site of an infamous presentation on cold fusion 20 years ago by Martin Fleishmann and Stanley Pons that sent shockwaves across the world.

Despite their claim to cold fusion discovery, the Fleishmann-Pons study soon fell into discredit after other researchers were unable to reproduce the results.

i clearly remember the hoo-ha surrounding the fleishmann-pons debacle from 20 years ago... i wasn't at all convinced that it was either a hoax or a failed experiment, but rather one more case of suppressed technology... interestingly enough, fleishmann and pons also announced their work in utah... let's see what comes out of utah THIS time...

from wikipedia...

Cold fusion (sometimes referred to as low-energy nuclear reaction - LENR – a branch of condensed-matter nuclear science), refers to a postulated nuclear fusion process of unknown mechanism offered to explain a group of disputed experimental results first reported by electrochemists Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons via a press conference.

Cold fusion, under this definition, was first announced in March 1989 when Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons reported producing nuclear fusion in a tabletop experiment involving electrolysis of heavy water on a palladium (Pd) electrode. They reported anomalous heat production ("excess heat") of a magnitude they asserted was clear evidence of nuclear processes. They further reported measuring small amounts of nuclear reaction byproducts, including neutrons and tritium. Much of this physical evidence was at a tiny scale and close to background levels.

These reports raised hopes of a cheap and abundant source of energy but efforts to reproduce their results at numerous other labs were not successful. There have been few mainstream reviews of the field since 1989. In 1989, the majority of a review panel organized by the US Department of Energy (DOE) had found that the evidence for the discovery of a new nuclear process was not persuasive. A second DOE review, convened in 2004 to look at new research, reached conclusions that were similar to those of the 1989 panel.

how very cool would this be if it's true...?

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rumors and denials swirl around Karzai


hmmmmm... as i sit at my desk here in kabul and read the following article from the guardian, i have to ask myself, what's next...? karzai can't be overly thrilled with this, but, on the other hand, afghanistan is crying out for leadership and karzai ain't steppin' up...
The US and its European allies are ­preparing to plant a high-profile figure in the heart of the Kabul government in a direct challenge to the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, the Guardian has learned.

The creation of a new chief executive or prime ministerial role is aimed at bypassing Karzai. In a further dilution of his power, it is proposed that money be diverted from the Kabul government to the provinces. Many US and European officials have become disillusioned with the extent of the corruption and incompetence in the Karzai government, but most now believe there are no credible alternatives, and predict the Afghan president will win re-election in August.

A revised role for Karzai has emerged from the White House review of Afghanistan and Pakistan ordered by Barack Obama when he became president. It isto be unveiled at a special conference on Afghanistan at The Hague on March 31.

As well as watering down Karzai's personal authority by installing a senior official at the president's side capable of playing a more efficient executive role, the US and Europeans are seeking to channel resources to the provinces rather than to central government in Kabul.

A diplomat with knowledge of the review said: "Karzai is not delivering. If we are going to support his government, it has to be run properly to ensure the levels of corruption decrease, not increase. The levels of corruption are frightening."

Another diplomat said alternatives to Karzai had been explored and discarded: "No one could be sure that someone else would not turn out to be 10 times worse. It is not a great position."

ok...? got that...? now check the official denial...
The State Department Monday rejected as nonsense a published report that says the United States and key allies want to create a new senior post in the Afghan government to bypass President Hamid Karzai. The comments came as the Obama administration neared completion of a review of U.S. Afghan policy.

Officials here are not volunteering any ringing endorsements of the way President Karzai is handling his job, but they are rejecting the notion that the United States and European allies will push for creation of a new executive post in the Afghan government - a prime minister or a similar mandate - to dilute Mr. Karzai's powers.

this story didn't make it into the guardian because it sprang fully-formed from somebody's vivid imagination... oh, and, btw, the official denial comes from - wait for it - voice of america news...! mmmm-hmmmm...

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Monday, March 23, 2009

O.H.! M.Y.! G.O.D.! What fresh Geithner hell is this...?

now we're offering FINANCING TO PURCHASE TRASH...? please make the bad man stop...!!
U.S. offers financing to woo buyers of toxic assets

The United States offered on Monday financing for private investors to help cleanse banks of up to $1 trillion in toxic assets that are blocking lending and worsening a deep U.S. recession.

Markets rallied on the news, in contrast to a disappointed reaction last month to the bare outline of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's proposed public-private partnerships.

Questions remained about how the toxic assets would be priced and the stakes are high for Geithner as he seeks to convince investors he has a viable plan to get credit flowing again.

check the following quotes to which i have added my own emphasis...
"If the U.S. authorities actually succeed in buying up to $1 trillion of 'toxic assets', it would be considered a significant step," said Mamoru Yamazaki, chief economist with RBS Securities in Tokyo.

"However, the markets will be disappointed if the programs do not move forward due to problems regarding how the asset value is measured."

translation: "if the assets are valued correctly, they'll be worthless and, since everybody ALREADY knows they're worthless, if they're over-valued, nobody's going to touch the shitpile anyway...

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Where the unemployment is

click on image or here to see the full version of the very cool nyt graphic that lets you mouse-over the entire country to see unemployment figures county-by-county...


(thanks to atrios...)

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The gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders

from rolling stone via kevin at cryptogon...
People are pissed off about this financial crisis, and about this bailout, but they’re not pissed off enough. The reality is that the worldwide economic meltdown and the bailout that followed were together a kind of revolution, a coup d’état. They cemented and formalized a political trend that has been snowballing for decades: the gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders, who used money to control elections, buy influence and systematically weaken financial regulations.


The mistake most people make in looking at the financial crisis is thinking of it in terms of money, a habit that might lead you to look at the unfolding mess as a huge bonus-killing downer for the Wall Street class. But if you look at it in purely Machiavellian terms, what you see is a colossal power grab that threatens to turn the federal government into a kind of giant Enron — a huge, impenetrable black box filled with self-dealing insiders whose scheme is the securing of individual profits at the expense of an ocean of unwitting involuntary shareholders, previously known as taxpayers.

nothing that anybody's who's been paying the slightest bit of attention doesn't know...

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Here's one interpretation of Iran's response to Obama's overture... [UPDATE] [UPDATE II]



here's a link to the full text of Khamenei's Speech courtesy of juan cole... believe me, it's a VERY worthwhile read...


i would expect the u.s. media to get all huffy about iran's not-terribly-warm response to obama's overture and to cast it in terms of iran's intransigence...
The Iranian leader's rebuff on Saturday to President Barack Obama's offer for dialogue was swift and sweeping: Words from Washington ring hollow without deep policy changes.

But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's response was more than just a dismissive slap at the outreach. It was a broad lesson in the mind-set of Iran's all-powerful theocracy and how it will dictate the pace and tone of any new steps by Obama to chip away at their nearly 30-year diplomatic freeze.

"It's the first stage of the bargaining in classic Iranian style: Be tough and play up your toughness," said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor of regional politics at United Arab Emirates University. "The Iranian leaders are not about concessions at this stage. It's still all about ideology from the Iranian side."

For Khamenei and his inner circle, that means appearing to stay true to the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the political narrative of rejecting the United States. Any quick gestures by the ruling clerics to mend ties with Washington could be perceived by hard-liners as a betrayal of the revolution.

one other interpretation might be that iran, like so many other countries in the world, no longer has any trust or confidence in anything the u.s. says or does, and has no intention of being caught out again by jumping up and down and saying, "oh, boy, oh, boy, the u.s. wants to talk to us again"...


interestingly enough, juan cole shares my view...
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Saturday, "Of course, we have no prior experience of the new president of the American republic or of the new government, and therefore we shall make our judgment based on his actions."

The US corporate media mysteriously interpreted Khamenei's words as a rebuff to Obama, but in light of the phrase I just quoted, I can't understand how they reached that conclusion. Certainly, he did say repeatedly that Iran has had a pretty horrible experience with the United States, and that it would take more than some nice words to change Iranian minds about Washington. You could say that this was a grumpy old man response to Obama's call for engagement. But you can't call it a rebuff, since Khamenei explicitly says that he has no basis for making a judgment about the Obama administration as yet, and will respond to its actual concrete policies.

Interestingly, the French news agency, Agence France Presse, got the story right, entitling their article, "Iran ready to change if US leads way: Khamenei."

And, the Iranian PressTV had an even more enthusiastic headline: "Iran vows response to real US change."

He said that the Iranian public would be offended if anyone addressed it with a discourse of carrots or sticks. That was when he immediately excused Obama from any such charge, saying the latter had a clean slate.

Elsewhere in the address he pledged, in AFP's translation, "If you change your attitude, we will change our attitude."


Khamenei also warned Obama to listen directly to Khamenei's own words: "Contemplate carefully my words. You must under no circumstances give them to Zionists to translate. Rather, consult with righteous persons." Well, the crack about Zionists is unfair, but Khamenei is obviously correct that his speech will be distorted by the Neoconservatives who desperately want the US to go to war against Iran.

I hope Obama will in fact get a good translation and analysis of the speech, which is far more welcoming of a potential change in Washington, and shows far more willingness to negotiate, than the corporate media in the US are reporting.

i didn't THINK i was trying to give a misguided interpretation to what i perceived to be the standard u.s. media propaganda spin...

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Obama v. Cheney on Guantanamo, Prosecutions, Torture

obama on 60 minutes last night...
Commenting on former Vice President Dick Cheney's recent assertion that the closure of Guantánamo will make America more vulnerable to attack, Obama said, "I fundamentally disagree with Dick Cheney. Not surprisingly. You know, I think that Vice President Cheney has been at the head of a movement whose notion is somehow that we can't reconcile our core values, our Constitution, our belief that we don't torture, with our national security interests. I think he's drawing the wrong lesson from history."

"The facts don't bear him out. I think he is, that attitude, that philosophy has done incredible damage to our image and position in the world. I mean, the fact of the matter is after all these years how many convictions actually came out of Guantanamo? How many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney? It hasn't made us safer. What it has been is a great advertisement for anti-American sentiment. Which means that there is constant effective recruitment of Arab fighters and Muslim fighters against U.S. interests all around the world."

juan cole...
It is worth asking how many US soldiers died or were wounded at the hands of ordinary Sunni Arabs who would have been at their day jobs if they hadn't been enraged by the Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo torture. In short, how many US soldiers did Cheney personally murder?

cheney is an evil man and the sooner he no longer has access to a public forum, the better off the world will be...

also, as i sit typing this in kabul, afghanistan, there are three afghans here with me in the office... not a single one of them have any use for the u.s. policies that have attempted to turn the world against islam, have murdered their countrymen on a wholesale basis, and that are keeping many innocent fellow citizens imprisoned in bagram airbase a mere 60 kilometers from here... they are smart people and realize that, in general, the u.s. people should not be confused with their leaders, and that folks like me have as much distaste for the criminal undertakings perpetrated by our government as they do... unlike us, however, afghans know THEIR government is worthless...

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