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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 04/19/2009 - 04/26/2009
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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Should we start running around with our hair on fire over the recent dire pronouncements about Pakistan?


every time we find our government making pronouncements about the dangers to world peace due to what's happening in another country, we would be well advised to stay calm, NOT start running around with our hair on fire, and start looking for more rational and informed perspectives... the u.s. public has been duped so often and so thoroughly over the years, you'd think we would be much more discriminating consumers of our leaders' propaganda and a great deal more suspicious of their motives... sadly, even though i consider myself to be one of the more discriminating, because i wasn't stopping to think about what i was reading over the past few days, i was falling prey myself to the dire picture of pakistan that the media is spooning down our collective throats...

juan cole, one of the more astute observers of this part of the world (i am typing this at my desk early sunday morning in kabul, a mere 100km from the pakistan border), begs to differ from the official line...

Readers have written me asking what I think of the rash of almost apocalyptic pronouncements on the security situation in Pakistan issuing from the New York Times, The Telegraph, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in recent days.


What I see is a Washington that is uncomfortable with anything like democracy and civilian rule in Pakistan; which seems not to realize that the Pakistani Taliban are a small, poorly armed fringe of Pushtuns, who are a minority; and I suspect US policy-makers of secretly desiring to find some pretext for removing Pakistan's nuclear capacity.

All the talk about the Pakistani government falling within 6 months, or of a Taliban takeover, flies in the face of everything we know about the character of Pakistani politics and institutions during the past two years.

My guess the alarmism is being promoted by Pervez Musharraf, who wants to make another military coup; and by civilian politicians in Islamabad, who want to extract more money from the US to fight the Taliban that they are secretly also bribing to attack Afghanistan.

Advice to Obama: Pakistan is being configured for you in ways that benefit some narrow sectional interests. Caveat emptor.

the one thing professor cole barely touches on is pakistan's relationship with and impact on afghanistan... afghanistan is, in many ways, caught in a tug of war with its powerful neighbors, india, iran, and pakistan, and i'm sure china and russia are active behind the scenes as well... pakistan sees afghanistan as not only a territory to be influenced if not outright dominated, but also as a valuable captive market... given the heavy u.s. involvement in afghanistan and pakistan's heavy involvement with afghanistan as well as the u.s., it's hard to imagine that recent u.s. pronouncements about pakistan don't have a plan for afghanistan lurking somewhere in the background...

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Even the SERE experts on torture questioned its value but the Bushies didn't want to hear it

yeah, well, just more fuel for the fire... everything that's coming out now merely validates what we've known all along and basically what's been available in the public domain for years, IF, that is, you've been paying attention...
The military agency that provided advice on harsh interrogation techniques for use against terrorism suspects referred to the application of extreme duress as "torture" in a July 2002 document sent to the Pentagon's chief lawyer and warned that it would produce "unreliable information."

"The unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel," says the document, an unsigned two-page attachment to a memo by the military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency.


The document was included among July 2002 memoranda that described severe techniques used against Americans in past conflicts and the psychological effects of such treatment. JPRA ran the military program known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE), which trains pilots and others to resist hostile questioning.


Daniel Baumgartner, who was the JPRA's chief of staff in 2002 and transmitted the memos and attachments, said the agency "sent a lot of cautionary notes" regarding harsh techniques. "There is a difference between what we do in training and what the administration wanted the information for," he said a telephone interview yesterday. "What the administration decided to do or not to do was up to the guys dealing with offensive prisoner operations. . . . We train our own people for the worst possible outcome . . . and obviously the United States government does not torture its own people."

Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he thinks the attachment was deliberately ignored and perhaps suppressed. Excerpts from the document appeared in a report on the treatment of detainees released this month by Levin's committee. The report says the attachment echoes JPRA warnings issued in late 2001.

"It's part of a pattern of squelching dissent," said Levin, who added that there were other instances in which internal reviews of detainee treatment were halted or undercut. "They didn't want to hear the downside."

the united states has operated from an ideological perspective for a long, long time, ideology based on such dogmas as free markets, united states exceptionalism, undiluted materialism, our right to appropriate resources for our own use wherever they may be in the world, and the universal applicability of the american way of life... the bush administration, however, made the application of such political and economic ideology an ideology in itself, an ideology to be practiced totally and without reservation, and with special punishment reserved for those who dared to deviate... the nation may have indicated a strong desire to check itself in to re-hab in the last election, but we've still yet to show up for the first treatment session...

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Condi guilty of authorizing torture and lying about it...? D'oh...!

i've done extensive blogging on condi's spin and prevarications on the matter of torture, her denials about her role in it, and her bald-faced lies about the u.s. use of it (see my archive here)... nonetheless, for anyone who's paid the slightest bit of attention, the facts have been plain to see going back at least four years... so, what do we have now...? still more evidence... sigh...

mcclatchy has the scoop...

A newly declassified narrative of the Bush administration's advice to the CIA on harsh interrogations shows that the small group of Justice Department lawyers who wrote memos authorizing harsh interrogation techniques were operating not on their own but with direction from top administration officials, including then-Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

At the same time, the narrative suggests that then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell were largely left out of the decision-making process.

The narrative, posted Wednesday on the Senate Intelligence Committee's Web site and released by its former chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., came as Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters that he'd "follow the evidence wherever it takes us" in deciding whether to prosecute any Bush administration officials who authorized harsh techniques that are widely considered torture.

In a statement accompanying the narrative's release, Rockefeller said the task of declassifying interrogation and detention opinions "is not complete" and urged prompt declassification of other opinions from 2006 and 2007 that he said would show how Bush Justice Department officials interpreted laws governing torture and war crimes.

meanwhile, the tug of war over whether or not to uphold accountability and the rule of law soldiers on...
As the narrative was released, various civil liberties and liberal activist organizations said they planned to present Holder on Thursday with 250,000 petition signatures calling for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to lead a criminal investigation into alleged torture.

Meanwhile, Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut wrote to Obama urging him not to prosecute Bush officials who offered legal advice about CIA interrogations.

While the senators deemed some of the legal analyses "deeply flawed," they said that criminalizing bad legal opinions "would have a deeply chilling effect on the ability of lawyers in any administration to provide their client — the U.S. government — with their best legal advice."

ok... so, what about criminalizing bad legal opinions that were COMMISSIONED BY CRIMINALS...? if you're ASKED to write bad legal opinions, and you KNOW they're bad legal opinions, aren't you accountable if you CHOOSE TO WRITE THEM ANYWAY...? hmmmmmmm...???

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Anybody who thinks the economy is improving, raise your hand

< sound of loud gong > WRONG...! mortgage delinquencies rising FIFTY PERCENT IN ONE MONTH ain't an economy on the mend...

via mish's global economic trend analysis...

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage delinquencies among the most creditworthy homeowners rose 50 percent in a month as borrowers said drops in income or too much debt caused them to fall behind, according to data from federal regulators.

The number of so-called prime borrowers at least 60 days behind on mortgages owned or guaranteed by the companies rose to 743,686 in January, from 497,131 in December, and is almost double the total for October, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said in a report to Congress today.

Of all borrowers who ended up in default, 34 percent told Fannie and Freddie they were earning less money, about 20 percent cited excessive debt as a reason for missing mortgage payments, and 8.1 percent blamed unemployment, FHFA said.

just in case you didn't grab it on the first read-through, that's fifty percent among the MOST CREDITWORTHY HOMEOWNERS...!

let the chart tell the story...


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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Meanwhile, in the "are you shitting me" department...

ya know, i read a headline like this and i just have to shake my head...
Acting CFO of Freddie Mac Found Dead in Apparent Suicide
The acting chief financial officer of troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac committed suicide overnight in his Vienna home, Fairfax police said this morning. David Kellermann, 41, has been Freddie Mac's chief financial officer since September. His body was found in the 1700 block of Raleigh Hill Road.

once upon a time, i might have believed a story like this... now...? you gotta be shittin' me...

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Roubini calls the market rally for what it is - a dead cat bounce

you can drop a dead cat off of a tall building and it will bounce but it's still dead...
Nouriel Roubini, the so-called "arch bear" economist who predicted the current financial crisis in 2006, added further gloom yesterday after he wrote off recent rises in global stock markets as no more than a dead cat bounce.

While an increasing number of analysts have in recent weeks urged investors to go back into equities, Mr Roubini, a professor at New York University's Stern School of Business who has emerged as one of the most respected economic voices in the wake of the credit crunch, warned yesterday that he didn't yet see a buying opportunity.

He holds little faith in the recent market rallies, which prompted some to suggest a recovery was underway. "I'm still cautious and bearish," he said. "I believe we are closer to a bottom in the stock market than a year ago, but this is a bear market rally."

Anthony Bolton, fund manager at Fidelity International, said last month that a bull phase had started, while analysts at Goldman Sachs have argued in recent weeks that "we are past the low point in the economic cycle".

However, Mr Roubini, dubbed "Dr Doom" for his warnings about financial meltdown, said there would be more bad news in the next few quarters.

let's get on with the financial meltdown, i say...

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Gotta pay top dollar to them all-important senior execs

don't this just rattle your chain a wee bit...?
Sources: Chrysler Financial Refused Government Loan Over Executive Pay Limits
Top officials turned away a $750 million government loan because executives didn't want to abide by new federal limits on pay, sources familiar with the matter say.


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Violence, violence, and more violence permeates our daily lives

david sirota offers up a very thoughtful piece on the violent culture of the united states in today's alternet...
Today, one in every three dollars the government spends goes to defense and security. The killing machine and adventurism that money manufactures has delivered 1 million Iraqi casualties, thousands of American casualties and an implicit promise of future wars -- indeed, of permanent war.

Perpetuating this expenditure, bloodshed and posture in a nation of dwindling resources, humanitarian self-images and anti-interventionist impulses requires a culture constantly selling violence as a necessity. It's not just video games -- it's the nightly news echoing Pentagon propaganda and "hawkish" politicians equating militarism with patriotism and "embedded" journalism cheering on wars and every other suit-and-tie-clad industry constantly forwarding the assumption that killing is a legitimate form of national ambition and self-expression. Is it any wonder that a few crazies apply that ethos to their individual lives, and begin seeing violence as a reasonable means to express their own emotions?

i was moved to respond...
Although, I must say, I completely agree with your assessment. Our national culture is totally constructed on exploitation - of people, of resources, of the planet - and exploitation is inextricably tied to violence. But it's not only the deeper questions about people turning to violence that our superficiality-obsessed society avoids, it is ANY deeper discussion about ANYTHING.

I teach a graduate seminar in leadership and one of the things I say to the students right off the bat is that the corpus of writings on leadership that leap off the shelves at the unwary consumer in every bookstore in the country are nothing more than fast-food recipes containing little in the way of nutritional ingredients and probably not much more in the way of anything natural whatsoever.

What is the level of national discussion about sex? Janet Jackson's nipple? Sarah Palin's daughter's out-of-wedlock pregnancy? There's no "discussion" to be had, merely more titillation.

The recent national obsession with the shooting of the three Somalian pirates was nothing more than violence pornography. The lede in Jonah Goldberg's LA Times editorial was this: "Shooting three Somali pirates was a good start. Now let's shoot some more." Unbelievable or, rather, perhaps TOO believable.

I am typing this as I sit at my desk in Kabul, Afghanistan, the current epicenter of violence, at least from the perspective of our violence-besotted media. But even my Afghan colleagues, inured as they are to violence on a daily basis, scratch their heads over the violent episodes they read about in the U.S. The U.S. is the penultimate, they reason. Why in the world would people there engage in such behavior?

Why indeed.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dylan Ratigan (formerly) of CNBC's Fast Money 'splains it all for you and then disappears

from co-blogger, jim burke, who, in a past life, was obviously a fan of the pbs show, "where in the world is carmen sandiego"...
Where in the world is Dylan Ratigan? He is the host of CNBC "Fast Money".

Before we play this game, maybe you don't know who this guy is. A little blurb from Wikipedia below.

In Ratigan’s final CNBC broadcast from the floor of the NYSE he reported on what he called “an important story developing” that Goldman Sachs and “a variety of European banks”, in his assessment and that of his guests, essentially “perpetrated securities fraud” and an “insurance fraud scam” against AIG—and, by extension, the government and taxpayers funding that insurance company’s “bailout”—by insuring their questionable investment vehicles and, upon their devaluation, making claims on them to be paid by AIG “at 100 cents on the dollar” despite all of the markdowns “being forced upon every other” entity including the government, banks, shareholders, bond holders, taxpayers and homeowners. [6]

“I think that it should be a bigger political issue than whether somebody bought an airplane. Forget the private jets, forget who got a million dollar bonus. "Fifty billion dollars”, he emphasized, minimizing what he saw as populist side issues to “the real question” of how “government policy makers” are to deal with the “problems of contract law” inherent in the agreements of businesses receiving government assistance during the financial crisis. [7]

“The banks are being asked to take ‘haircuts’ on their toxic assets, why are the Goldmans and the Deutsche Banks of the world not being asked to take haircuts on their toxic credit default swaps? It’s a real question. I will continue to pursue it for sure, I hope others will as well.” Ratigan praised New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s subpoena of AIG to determine the bank payouts as “legitimate inquiry” and looked forward to “a body of lawmakers in Washington D.C. who are going to ask, it appears, some of the same questions that I’m asking.” [8]

Ratigan is the guy who broke the Enron debacle in the media.

Ratigan recently did a radio interview that is absolutely staggering. Listen via the link below and keep in mind this guy was still an active talking head for CNBC.

Pretty much sums it all up.

Now he's gone. CNBC posted the reason as a dispute with the producer. Hmmm, office politics? Seems to me he was axed for leaving the reservation.

Now for the game, yippeee!

Question # 1
If you report for a corporately owned organization (CNBC/GE) and you attack the Bankers and their Politicians, should you expect a merit raise or a visit from Uncle Vito and his pal, Whispering Jimmy?

Question # 2
Upon learning how Whispering Jimmy got his nickname, do you decide to leave your job or continue with your investigation?

Question # 3
Upon leaving your job and shitcanning the investigation, should you leave a forwarding address?

Bonus Question:
Where is Dylan Ratigan?

I am paralyzed with anticipation awaiting answers. This is gonna get weird, I suspect.

muy interesante... thanks, jim...

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The US is bound under the UN Convention against Torture to prosecute it

so, let's get crackin' on it, shall we...?
CIA torture exemption 'illegal'

US President Barack Obama's decision not to prosecute CIA agents who used torture tactics is a violation of international law, a UN expert says.

The UN special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, says the US is bound under the UN Convention against Torture to prosecute those who engage in it.

Mr Obama released four "torture memos" outlining harsh interrogation methods sanctioned by the Bush administration.

Mr Nowak has called for an independent review and compensation for victims.

"The United States, like all other states that are part of the UN convention against torture, is committed to conducting criminal investigations of torture and to bringing all persons against whom there is sound evidence to court," Mr Nowak told the Austrian daily Der Standard.

i'm still trying - and failing - to wrap my feeble brain around the image of someone being waterboarded ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY-THREE TIMES IN ONE MONTH (see previous post)... we cannot, as a nation that purports to adhere to its constitution and respect accountability and the rule of law, allow crimes of this magnitude to go unprosecuted...

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