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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 07/12/2009 - 07/19/2009
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Friday, July 17, 2009

Read Nouriel Roubini's lips: "Simply put I am not forecasting economic growth before year’s end"

from roubini global economics newsletter...
“It has been widely reported today that I have stated that the recession will be over “this year” and that I have “improved” my economic outlook. Despite those reports - however – my views expressed today are no different than the views I have expressed previously. If anything my views were taken out of context.

“I have said on numerous occasions that the recession would last roughly 24 months. Therefore, we are 19 months into that recession. If as I predicted the recession is over by year end, it will have lasted 24 months with a recovery only beginning in 2010. Simply put I am not forecasting economic growth before year’s end.

“Indeed, last year I argued that this will be a long and deep and protracted U-shaped recession that would last 24 months. Meanwhile, the consensus argued that this would be a short and shallow V-shaped 8 months long recession (like those in 1990-91 and 2001). That debate is over today as we are in the 19th month of a severe recession; so the V is out of the window and we are in a deep U-shaped recession. If that recession were to be over by year end – as I have consistently predicted – it would have lasted 24 months and thus been three times longer than the previous two and five times deeper – in terms of cumulative GDP contraction – than the previous two. So, there is nothing new in my remarks today about the recession being over at the end of this year.

“I have also consistently argued – including in my remarks today - that while the consensus predicts that the US economy will go back close to potential growth by next year, I see instead a shallow, below-par and below-trend recovery where growth will average about 1% in the next couple of years when potential is probably closer to 2.75%.

“I have also consistently argued that there is a risk of a double-dip W-shaped recession toward the end of 2010, as a tough policy dilemma will emerge next year: on one side, early exit from monetary and fiscal easing would tip the economy into a new recession as the recovery is anemic and deflationary pressures are dominant. On the other side, maintaining large budget deficits and continued monetization of such deficits would eventually increase long term interest rates (because of concerns about medium term fiscal sustainability and because of an increase in expected inflation) and thus would lead to a crowding out of private demand.

“While the recession will be over by the end of the year the recovery will be weak given the debt overhang in the household sector, the financial system and the corporate sector; and now there is also a massive re-leveraging of the public sector with unsustainable fiscal deficits and public debt accumulation.

“Also, as I fleshed out in detail in recent remarks the labor market is still very weak: I predict a peak unemployment rate of close to 11% in 2010. Such large unemployment rate will have negative effects on labor income and consumption growth; will postpone the bottoming out of the housing sector; will lead to larger defaults and losses on bank loans (residential and commercial mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, leveraged loans); will increase the size of the budget deficit (even before any additional stimulus is implemented); and will increase protectionist pressures.

“So, yes there is light at the end of the tunnel for the US and the global economy; but as I have consistently argued the recession will continue through the end of the year, and the recovery will be weak and at risk of a double dip, as the challenge of getting right the timing and size of the exit strategy for monetary and fiscal policy easing will be daunting."

of course it's not over... all the pollyannas that are claiming it is are simply those desperate to get us back to the insane status quo that produced this unholy mess in the first place... meanwhile, those who make a killing no matter what happens - recession, depression or collapse - are continuing to rake it in...

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The Iranian people aren't going gently into that good night

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from juan cole via al jazeera english...
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran's former president, has made his first public appearance since the country's disputed election, in which he backed opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.

During a sermon at Tehran University, Rafsanjani said the country was "in crisis", and that all Iranians were the losers, following the election result.

As Al Jazeera's Roza Ibragimova reports, the speech came as thousands of opposition supporters staged more demonstrations outside.



professor cole also reports on the size of the public demonstrations, a sizeable number that reports from other media seem to be underestimating...
Borzou Daragahi in Beirut and Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran have just filed a summary of Friday afternoon's events in Tehran. They let slip about two-thirds down the article that opposition sources are claiming that a million protesters filled the capital's streets and that even their political foes admitted that the crowds were enormous. It is easy to over-estimate the size of crowds, but given the government's harsh crackdowns on demonstrators, even 500,000 would have been very impressive.

i sincerely wish that MY fellow citizens were half as tenacious...

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Marital infidelity is a big no-no for everybody but us

in one of my rare forays into the - for me - barely tolerable world of television news, i watched this on rachel maddow last night...



while i'm far from a voyeur that feeds on gossip about illicit affairs, i do find it extremely fascinating that those who attempt to set and enforce so-called standards of "morality" for the rest of us somehow can't be bothered to walk their talk... also fascinating is the group that calls itself "the fellowship" or "the family" that seems to be at ground zero of more and more of the emerging hypocrisy...

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The "New World Order" is apparently the "Same Old Order"

first, the "new wall street world order" emerges, richer than ever - at our expense...
A new order is emerging on Wall Street after the worst crisis since the Great Depression — one in which just a couple of victors are starting to tower over the handful of financial titans that used to dominate the industry.

On Thursday, JPMorgan Chase became the latest big bank to announce stellar second-quarter earnings. Its $2.7 billion profit, after record gains for Goldman Sachs, underscores how the government’s effort to halt a collapse has also set the stage for a narrowing concentration of financial power.

“One theme here is that Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan really have emerged as the winners, as the last of the survivors,” said Robert Reich, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who was secretary of labor in the Clinton administration.

i think it's a very questionable assumption to imply that the "worst crisis since the great depression" is over... i, for one, don't believe it's over nor do i believe it SHOULD be over... all that the trillions in bailout money we've thrown around like parade confetti is intended to do is perpetuate the status quo, the very same circumstances that created this mess in the first goddam place...

oh, and besides goldman and jpmorgan, here's the rest of the usual suspects...

Citigroup Reports $4.3 Billion Earned in Second Quarter

Citigroup posted a second-quarter profit of $4.3 billion on
Friday, beating analysts' forecasts. But its earnings were
lifted primarily by the sale of its Smith Barney unit, which
helped offset a decline in operating revenues as the company
continued to be hobbled by the economic and financial crisis.

Bank of America Posts $2.42 Billion Profit on Trading Gains

Bank of America reported a quarterly profit of $2.42 billion,
or 33 cents per share, beating Wall Street forecasts.

Like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase earlier this week, it
reported a handsome profit from its trading business. But the
company, one of the most troubled big banks, said that
"difficult challenges lie ahead."

dontcha just love the way the nyt qualifies such obscene quarterly profits: "the company continued to be hobbled" and "difficult challenges lie ahead"...?

oh, stop it... i'm tearin' up...

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bagram detainees protest indefinite imprisonment

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i'll probably be heading back to afghanistan in september where i'll be parked in kabul roughly 60 km from bagram...
The prisoners at the largest U.S. detention facility in Afghanistan have refused to leave their cells for at least the past two weeks to protest their indefinite imprisonment, according to lawyers and the families of detainees.

The prison-wide protest, which has been going on since at least July 1, offers a rare glimpse inside a facility that is even more closed off to the public than the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Information about the protest came to light when the International Committee of the Red Cross informed the families of several detainees that scheduled video teleconferences and family visits were being canceled.

Representatives of the ICRC, which monitors the treatment of detainees and arranges the calls, last visited the Bagram prison on July 5, but inmates were unwilling to meet with them.

"We have suspended our video telephone conference and family visit programs because the detainees have informed us they do not wish to participate in the programs for the time being," said Bernard Barrett, a spokesman for the organization.

Although the prisoners are refusing to leave their cells to shower or exercise, they are not engaging in hunger strikes or violence. Ramzi Kassem, an attorney for Yemeni national Amin al-Bakri, said detainees are protesting being held indefinitely without trial or legal recourse.

i have only three words in response to this - obama, obama, obama... he ain't doing anything about it and, if the track record of his administration so far is any guide, he ain't GOING to be doing anything about it, in fact, he may move to make it worse...

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Election - the Afghan reality show

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do ya 'spose a show like this might have given us'ns here in the u.s. a better experience of our own 2008 elections...?
Producers of The Candidate, which airs on the privately owned Tolo TV network, are hoping to help by focusing Afghans on what they want from their political leaders. And Tolo has a successful model for its idea of tele-democracy: its wildly popular Afghan Star show, mimicking American Idol, in which millions of viewers voted via text message every week for their favorite singer. "One of the key successes of Afghan Star was that it demonstrated the concept of voting. So we started to think, how do we do the same thing in terms of elections?" says Tolo chief Jahid Mohseni. "One of the critical problems we have in Afghanistan is that we have a personality approach to politics - it's all about who the person is, his family, or his ethnicity. It's never about policy and it is never about the outcome you want. So we thought a program based on a competition about policies could change that."

Each week, the show's contestants debate a policy topic such as security, education, healthcare and the economy. Although a rotating panel of judges rate the candidates based on presentation, strategy and persuasiveness, it's viewers who get the final say, voting one candidate off the show each week starting with the fourth episode, and culminating a week before the real election. The show's debates have become part of the country's everyday political discussions, blurring the line between reality TV and political reality. "These six candidates are better than the real candidates because they talk about platforms and have a vision for what needs to be done," says presenter Jawed Jurat. Already, he says, some of the real candidates are copying the platforms of their youthful television counterparts.

the re-election of karzai, the most likely outcome of next month's afghanistan national election, will mean only one thing - same old same old - which, for a country like afghanistan, is equivalent to a worst case scenario... like so many other places in the world, afghanistan is crying out for real, authentic leadership, a commodity in dreadfully short supply virtually everywhere...

sigh...

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The great fleecing of the American taxpayer by Goldman Sachs is now official

the lede to matt taibbi's rolling stone article on goldman sachs...
From tech stocks to high gas prices, Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression - and they're about to do it again.

and just to be fair, here's megan mcardle's 10 july takedown of taibbi's article from the atlantic...
It's not that everything he says is wrong, but the bits that are true aren't interesting, and the bits that are interesting aren't true.

however, let's step away from spin and opinion for just a moment and focus on the reality of the just-announced second quarter profit declared by goldman sachs...

from today's nyt article...

Comfortably beating analysts’ forecasts, Goldman Sachs earned second-quarter net profits of $3.44 billion, or $4.93 a share, the bank announced on Tuesday.

The results continue a robust turnaround for the firm since it rode out the final tumultuous months of last year with the aid of a federal rescue. They come just one month after it paid back its $10 billion in federal aid.

what's wrong with this picture...? we bail out the richest of the rich which then turns around and suddenly becomes immensely richer thanks to the largesse of us'ns, the american taxpayers...

full disclosure: personally, i don't care for matt taibbi... his one-man vendetta against "conspiracy theorists" has always seemed to me to be the near-hysterical rantings of someone who can't accept the remotest possibility that things aren't always what they seem... now that he's done a complete about-face and made hay out of his goldman sachs conspiracy theory, all i can say is that he's a hypocritical little shit... unfortunately, where goldman sachs is concerned, i think he's absolutely right, megan mcardle notwithstanding...

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